Allison Aubrey

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Six months ago, COVID-19 was spreading fast in this country. And there was a lot we still didn't know. Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force went on NBC's "Today" in March. And she made this prediction about the death toll.

As we get closer to a COVID-19 vaccine, it's exciting to imagine a day when the virus is gone. But a vaccine will not be a magic bullet. In fact, it may be only about 50% effective.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief of the National Institute of Health and Infectious Disease, has tried to set realistic expectations when discussing the importance of a vaccine. "We don't know yet what the efficacy might be. We don't know if it will be 50% or 60%," Fauci said during a Brown University event in August.

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Updated 4:10 p.m. ET

As students return to the campus of University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign this month, they will be tested for COVID-19. And, then they'll be tested, again.

"We are requiring testing two times per week for access to campus facilities. This is for students, faculty, and staff," explains Rebecca Lee Smith, an associate professor of epidemiology.

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As schools across the country grapple with bringing kids back into the classroom, parents — and teachers — are worried about safety. We asked pediatricians, infectious disease specialists and education experts for help evaluating school district plans.

What we learned: There's no such thing as zero risk, but certain practices can lower the risk of an outbreak at school and keep kids, teachers and families safer.

Parents, teachers and students across the country are gearing up for the new school year. But what school will look like is still a mystery.

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Updated Aug. 12 at 1:15 p.m. ET

How severe is the spread of COVID-19 in your community? If you're confused, you're not alone. Though state and local dashboards provide lots of numbers, from case counts to deaths, it's often unclear how to interpret them — and hard to compare them to other places.

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Millions of Americans have probably had the coronavirus without knowing it.

That's the conclusion of officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many other experts.

"Our best estimate right now is that for every case that was reported, there actually were 10 other infections," Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the CDC, said during a call with reporters Thursday.

One of the hardest things during this pandemic — for kids and adult children — has been staying away from their parents and grandparents.

People 65 years and older are at higher risk for getting a severe case of COVID-19, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And about 80% of deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 have been in people older than 65.

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In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization took time at its daily press conference to address another pressing issue: the wave of protests against police violence and racial injustice. The demonstrations began in the U.S. when George Floyd died on May 25 after a police officer had pressed a knee into his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds while detaining him in Minneapolis.

The protests are now spreading around the world to Europe, Africa and other regions.

Protests against the violent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others are emboldening and expanding the movement to fight racism. But to make progress, many of us may need to adjust our thinking — and our actions. We talked to several African American and Hispanic psychologists and leaders for strategies to fight racism.

This is part of a series looking at pressing coronavirus questions of the week. We'd like to hear what you're curious about. Email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

What risks are there in attending a protest rally?

Modelers say it's difficult to assess how the protests will influence COVID-19 infections. But it's clear that a key ingredient for transmission is present at many of these rallies: close contact.

Updated July 4, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. ET

It has been months of quarantine for many of us. The urge to get out and enjoy the summer is real. But given that coronavirus cases continue to surge in many places, what's safe? We asked a panel of infectious disease and public health experts to rate the risk of summer activities, from backyard gatherings to a day at the pool to sharing a vacation house with another household.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is clarifying its guidance to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, hoping to clear up confusion over whether a person can contract the disease by touching surfaces that have the virus on them. The agency said "usability improvements," including a headline change on its webpage about preventing viral infection, seemed to trigger news stories saying its guidelines have changed.

"Our transmission language has not changed," CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes told NPR.

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Wow, some difficult scenes there from Michigan - all right, let's bring in NPR science correspondent Allison Aubrey.

Hey there, Allison.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Hey there.

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Some states say they're going to gradually reopen over the next few days. Georgia is one of the first. Governor Brian Kemp says some businesses can go back to work tomorrow. President Trump said yesterday, he doesn't think Georgia is ready.

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