Rob Stein

Rob Stein is a correspondent and senior editor on NPR's science desk.

An award-winning science journalist with more than 30 years of experience, Stein mostly covers health and medicine. He tends to focus on stories that illustrate the intersection of science, health, politics, social trends, ethics, and federal science policy. He tracks genetics, stem cells, cancer research, women's health issues, and other science, medical, and health policy news.

Before NPR, Stein worked at The Washington Post for 16 years, first as the newspaper's science editor and then as a national health reporter. Earlier in his career, Stein spent about four years as an editor at NPR's science desk. Before that, he was a science reporter for United Press International (UPI) in Boston and the science editor of the international wire service in Washington.

Stein's work has been honored by many organizations, including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Association for Cancer Research, and the Association of Health Care Journalists. He was twice part of NPR teams that won Peabody Awards.

Stein frequently represents NPR, speaking at universities, international meetings and other venues, including the University of Cambridge in Britain, the World Conference of Science Journalists in South Korea, and the Aspen Institute in Washington, DC.

Stein is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He completed a journalism fellowship at the Harvard School of Public Health, a program in science and religion at the University of Cambridge, and a summer science writer's workshop at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass.

The devastating fall and winter wave of coronavirus infections that is causing so much misery across the U.S. appears to have finally peaked, according to several researchers who are closely tracking the virus.

While another surge remains possible, especially with new, more infectious variants on the horizon, the number of new daily infections in the current wave appears to have hit a high in the past week or two and has been steadily declining in most states since, the researchers say.

The coronavirus pandemic appears to have shortened the average life expectancy in the United States, according to new research, and the impact is most dire for racial and ethnic minorities.

The deaths caused by COVID-19 have reduced overall life expectancy by 1.13 years, according to the analysis by researchers at the University of Southern California and Princeton University.

That would be the largest single-year decline in life expectancy in the past 40 years and cut U.S. life expectancy to 77.48 years — the lowest it's been since 2003, the researchers say.

Americans are being more careful to avoid catching and spreading the coronavirus but are still not being careful enough to slow the pandemic, especially with worrisome, apparently more contagious new variants looming.

That's the conclusion of the latest findings, released Friday, from the largest national survey tracking behavior during the coronavirus pandemic.

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to take a dramatic step aimed at increasing the amount of vaccine available to states.

His transition team says he'll change a Trump administration policy that kept millions of doses in reserve, only to be shipped when it was time to administer people's second doses.

The nation is at a pivotal moment in the fight against the pandemic. Vaccines are finally starting to roll out, but the virus is spreading faster than ever — and killing thousands of Americans daily. And it will be months before enough people get inoculated to stop it.

That means it's critical to continue the measures that can limit the toll: mask-wearing, hunkering down, hand-washing, testing and contact tracing.

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Even though hope is on the way with vaccines, the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across the country. And while it remains unclear how much of an impact Thanksgiving had on the pandemic, experts are bracing for what's coming over the next holidays and beyond.

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday authorized the first coronavirus test that people will be able to buy at a local store without a prescription and use for immediate results at home to find out if they're positive or negative.

The test will cost about $30 and be available by January, according to the Australian company that makes it, Ellume.

The last thing a lot of people want to do these days is get on a plane. But even a pandemic would not stop Victoria Gray. She jumped at the chance to head to the airport this summer.

"It was one of those things I was waiting to get a chance to do," says Gray.

She had never flown before because she was born with sickle cell disease. She feared the altitude change might trigger one of the worst complications of the devastating genetic disease — a sudden attack of excruciating pain.

While Democrats remain more likely than Republicans to support new measures aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19, a majority of U.S. adults from both political parties now agree more steps are needed to fight the pandemic, according to the latest results from a large ongoing survey.

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Federal health officials are likely to shorten their recommendation for how long people should quarantine to reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus from the current 14 days to as few as seven.

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With the pandemic out of control in the United States, the nation's precarious coronavirus testing system is starting to strain again.

More than 10 million people have now been confirmed to be infected with the coronavirus in the United States as the spread of the virus accelerates at an alarming pace across the nation.

The U.S. now accounts for about one-fifth of all of the 50 million infections worldwide, more than any other nation. The data comes from Johns Hopkins University.

Support for President Trump increased in 2020 in many of the U.S. counties that lost lives at the highest rate to COVID-19, according to an NPR analysis.

Of the 100 counties with the highest COVID-19 death rates per capita, 68 had a higher proportion of votes cast for Trump this cycle than they did in 2016. This includes both Republican-leaning counties and counties that supported Joe Biden.

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More Americans may be wearing masks than early last spring, but other recommended behaviors to stop the pandemic's spread haven't kept pace, according to a new federal survey. And young people are the least likely to take needed steps to stop the virus, the data suggest.

The proportion of U.S. adults reporting wearing face masks increased from 78% in April to 89% in June, according to the nationally representative survey released by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tuesday.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding its definition of what it means to be a close contact of someone infected with the coronavirus. NPR health correspondent Rob Stein has the details and joins us now.

People are getting the results of coronavirus tests in the U.S. faster than they were in the spring, but testing still takes far too long to help with effective disease control measures such as contact tracing and quarantining, according to the results of a large national survey.

Doctors and public health experts are concerned that Saturday may be too soon for President Trump to resume activities, both for his own health and the safety of those around him.

Updated 1:20 p.m. ET

The spread of the coronavirus inside the White House is a stark reminder of the danger of relying on testing to prevent outbreaks, experts say.

"I think the takeaway is clear: Testing alone is not a sufficient strategy to prevent spread of the virus," says Daniel Green, an assistant professor of pathology and cell biology at Columbia University.

"A negative test does not give free license to forgo all other safety measures," Green says.

Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

The coronavirus can be very serious for anyone at any age but is especially concerning for a man of President Trump's age, 74.

A new generation of faster, cheaper coronavirus tests is starting to hit the market. And some experts say these technologies could finally give the U.S. the ability to adopt a new, more effective testing strategy.

"On the horizon — the not too distant horizon — there are a whole series of testing modalities coming on line," says Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown School of Public Health. "And that gives us hope we can really expand our testing capacity in the nation."

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Wednesday that he has received death threats and his daughters have been harassed as a result of his high-profile statements about the coronavirus pandemic.

"Getting death threats for me and my family and harassing my daughters to the point where I have to get security is just, I mean, it's amazing," Fauci said.

Americans continue to wait in long lines to get tested for the coronavirus. Many then face frustration and anxiety waiting days — sometimes even weeks — to get their results.

Could technology finally solve the testing woes that have hobbled the nation's ability to fight the pandemic? The National Institutes of Health hopes so.

When the coronavirus pandemic began, public health experts had high hopes for the United States. After all, the U.S. literally invented the tactics that have been used for decades to quash outbreaks around the world: Quickly identify everyone who gets infected. Track down everyone exposed to the virus. Test everyone. Isolate the sick and quarantine the exposed to stop the virus from spreading.

Jack Grehan, who was born with hemophilia, used to inject himself every couple of days with a protein he needs for his blood to clot. But not anymore.

"It's been absolutely brilliant and life-changing for me," says Grehan, 26, of Billinge in North West England. He received an experimental gene therapy in 2017 that, at least for now, has eliminated his need for regular injections. "I can just go about my day and not have to worry."

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