Why Does the Science Around COVID-19 Keep Changing?

Actress and activist Sophia Bush sits down with experts to get the answers to our audience’s most pressing questions about today’s most confusing topics, with emphasis on the straightforward facts you, ahem, need to know. Read more stories from Need To Know

One of the most challenging aspects of this extraordinarily challenging year has been trying to quickly learn about something totally novel—the science of the coronavirus pandemic—while the people we need to educate us are learning about it in real time, too. It’s been confusing, chaotic, and even scary—the information forever seems to be shifting in a way that can make it feel impossible to gain a solid understanding of what’s happening.

On the latest episode of the Well+Good YouTube series Need To KnowSophia Bush asks molecular biologist Raven Baxter, PhD, aka “Raven the Science Maven,” why science sometimes seems murky when it comes to COVID-19. “Because we ask a lot of questions!” says Dr. Baxter. Essentially, she explains, science starts with a basic question and then responds to that question’s answer with another question. This process never stops unless, say, something becomes a “law” (like gravity). In other words, science should always be evolving, and that’s especially true when it involves something new that’s being studied by many, many people all at once. “You should be concerned if science isn’t changing,” she says.

One of the things science has been warning the public about since the initial onslaught of COVID-19 is that the fall would bring a deadly “second wave.” Now that we’re smack dab in the middle of the season, Dr. Baxter explains what this means, and whether or not this particular science-informed prediction came true. “A wave in a pandemic is essentially just an increase in the number of a cases that we’re seeing of a particular disease,” she says. And while case counts are definitely rising in many places, Dr. Baxter says not to panic. Instead, she explains, it’s important to keep practicing precautions—such as wearing your mask, staying socially distanced, and washing your hands—and stay tuned into local health authorities, who should inform you of COVID-19 spikes in your region.

Another variable that may feel confusing is whether or not the coronavirus is mutating, and Dr. Baxter’s answer is actually quite interesting. Watch the video to find out what scientists asking that exact question have discovered and remember, as Dr. Baxter says, “Science is your friend.” Especially when it comes to cracking the code on COVID-19.

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