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Maria Godoy

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Lots of people have questions about getting vaccinated against COVID-19. That includes the millions of Americans with weakened immune systems that put them at higher risk of severe disease if they do get infected with the coronavirus.

The numbers are stark – and startling.

Around the world, almost 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime, according to a new report released by the World Health Organization. That number has remained largely unchanged over the past decade, WHO said.

War is hell. But it's also pretty crummy on the homefront — especially if you're a woman with few options (read, a woman) in World War II-era England. But what if you could cook your way to a better life?

That's the basic premise of The Kitchen Front, the third novel from Jennifer Ryan, and the third to be set in England during World War II. As in her best-selling The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, the story concerns itself with the struggles and resilience of village women, but this time around, the action revolves around a cooking competition.

Each week, we answer "frequently asked questions" about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you'd like us to consider for a future post, email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

I got my COVID-19 vaccine and didn't feel any pain after nor experience any symptoms. Could it be that it didn't work?

South Africa has temporarily suspended its rollout of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University coronavirus vaccine after a small clinical trial revealed the shot provided only minimal protection from mild and moderate illness caused by the virus variant that is widely circulating in the country.

It's time to up your mask game.

With new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus spreading in the U.S., and transmission levels still very high in many places, some public health experts recommend that Americans upgrade from the basic cloth masks that many have been wearing during the pandemic.

"A cloth mask might be 50% effective at blocking viruses and aerosols," says Linsey Marr, a researcher at Virginia Tech who studies airborne virus transmission. "We're at the point now ... that we need better than 50%."

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Many countries around the world are betting on a vaccine from China to help them stop the coronavirus. On Sunday, for example, Brazil gave emergency use authorization to this vaccine made by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac. Countries are embracing the Chinese vaccine despite conflicting reports about how well it works. NPR health correspondent Maria Godoy reports.

As the U.S. grapples with the effects of systemic racism, some in the medical community are questioning whether the tools they use to assess patient health may be contributing to racial health disparities.

Torey Edmonds has lived in the same house in an African-American neighborhood of the East End of Richmond, Va., for all of her 61 years. When she was a little girl, she says her neighborhood was a place of tidy homes with rose bushes and fruit trees, and residents had ready access to shops like beauty salons, movie theaters and several grocery stores.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Wearing a mask protects the wearer, and not just other people, from the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention emphasized in an updated scientific brief issued Tuesday. And the protective benefits of masks are stronger the more people wear masks consistently and correctly, the agency says.

Back in July, President Trump's administration began the formal process of withdrawing the U.S. – and its critical funding – from the World Health Organization. Trump had accused the U.N. agency of conspiring with China to downplay the infectiousness of the novel coronavirus early on. The withdrawal was to be complete in July 2021.

As a candidate, Biden vowed to reverse the decision on his first day in office. Global health experts are counting on President-elect Joe Biden to restore and reimagine the U.S. relationship with the world's leading public health agency.

Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic, often too small for the eye to see. They're created as plastic degrades.

And they're everywhere.

They're in oceans, thanks to plastic garbage. They're in fish. They find their way into the water we drink in various ways, from surface runoff and wastewater effluent to particles deposited from the atmosphere.

Each week, we answer "frequently asked questions" about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you'd like us to consider for a future post, email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

How long do you need to be exposed to someone with COVID-19 before you are at risk for being infected?

In a bid to protect the candidates from the coronavirus, the stage for Wednesday night's vice presidential debate in Salt Lake City will feature plexiglass barriers between Vice President Pence and Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris of California. Concerns about viral spread are heightened in light of the outbreak in the White House.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says the coronavirus can be spread through airborne particles that can linger in the air "for minutes or even hours" — even among people who are more than 6 feet apart.

By now, it's become clear that the coronavirus pandemic is not gender neutral. While men are more likely to die from the virus itself, "in terms of the economic and social fallout, it's really women that are particularly affected," says Silke Staab, a research specialist with U.N. Women.

It's a grim roster of alerts. A woman, age 19, last spotted in July wearing sky blue jeans, a black sweater and black sneakers. A 16-year-girl missing since she left her home one morning in July. A 14-year-girl last seen heading to the supermarket at the end of June; she was wearing blue shoes.

The National Institutes of Health has awarded a grant worth $7.5 million over five years to EcoHealth Alliance, a U.S.-based nonprofit that hunts emerging viruses. The award comes months after NIH revoked an earlier grant to EcoHealth, a move scientists widely decried as the politically motivated quashing of research vital to preventing the next coronavirus pandemic.

Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, mortality rates and life expectancy are far better for white Americans than they are for Black people during normal, non-pandemic years, according to an analysis published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

In a historic public health achievement, the 47 nations of the World Health Organization's Africa region were certified to be free of wild poliovirus on Tuesday.

The declaration comes four years after the continent reported its last case of wild poliovirus, in Nigeria, and 24 years after it launched an ambitious eradication campaign.

But the region's fight against polio isn't over — vaccine-derived polio still poses a threat.

How many children in the world have been exposed to dangerous levels of lead?

That's a pressing question that has had no definitive answer until now. About 1 in 3 children have been exposed to lead at levels shown to damage their health and cognitive development, according to a groundbreaking report that is the first to document the problem globally.

So you want to wear a face mask? Good call.

A growing body of evidence supports the idea that wearing face masks in public, even when you feel well, can help curb the spread of the coronavirus — since people can spread the virus even without showing symptoms. That's the main reason to wear a mask: to protect other people from you.

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