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 coronavirus keeps spreading around the United States. New hot spots are emerging and heating up by the day. The death toll keeps mounting. So how can the U.S. beat back the relentless onslaught of this deadly virus?

Public health experts agree on one powerful weapon that's gotten a lot of attention but apparently still needs a lot more: testing.

A new analysis that researchers at Harvard conducted for NPR finds that more states have begun to do enough testing to keep their outbreaks from getting worse, but most are still falling short.

Like millions of other Americans, Victoria Gray has been sheltering at home with her children as the U.S. struggles through a deadly pandemic, and as protests over police violence have erupted across the country.

But Gray is not like any other American. She's the first person with a genetic disorder to get treated in the United States with the revolutionary gene-editing technique called CRISPR.

All laboratories will now be required to include detailed demographic data when they report the results of coronavirus tests to the federal government, including the age, sex, race and ethnicity of the person tested, the Trump administration announced Thursday.

The new requirement, which will go into effect Aug. 1, is designed to help provide long-sought, crucial information needed to monitor and fight the pandemic nationally.

The head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that a new analysis shows the agency's delayed rollout of coronavirus testing did not hinder the nation's response to the pandemic.

The coronavirus didn't start spreading in the U.S. until late January or early February, the CDC analysis found, and it circulated at low levels for quite some time.

As a result, the availability of earlier widespread testing for the virus would not have been able to spot it, according to CDC Director Robert Redfield.

Salvador Perez got really sick in April. He's 53 and spent weeks isolated in his room in his family's Chicago apartment, suffering through burning fevers, shivering chills, intense chest pain and other symptoms of COVID-19.

"This has been one of the worst experiences of his life," says Perez's daughter, Sheila, who translated from Spanish to English for an interview with NPR. "He didn't think he was going to make it."

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Note: The graphic in this story is no longer being updated. For more recent data, visit our new post on this topic.

To safely phase out social distancing measures, the U.S. needs more diagnostic testing for the coronavirus, experts say. But how much more?

States clamoring for coronavirus tests in recent weeks have been talking about two types.

First, there's a PCR test that detects the virus's genetic material and so can confirm an active infection. And then there's an antibody test, which looks at the body's reaction to that infection and so is useful in identifying people who have been infected with the virus in the past.

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Last night, as President Trump announced new federal guidelines on reopening the country, he said it's governors who will lead the way.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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It's the question on everyone's minds: What will it take for us to come out of this period of extreme social distancing and return to some semblance of normal life?

It turns out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been working on a plan to allow the U.S. to safely begin to scale back those policies. CDC Director Robert Redfield spoke with NPR on Thursday, saying that the plan relies on not only ramped-up testing but "very aggressive" contact tracing of those who do test positive for the coronavirus, and a major scale-up of personnel to do the necessary work.

The federal government Saturday unveiled the first detailed national system for tracking the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

The new COVIDView system will provide weekly updates aimed at monitoring the outbreak across the country, based on the results of tests for the virus, people seeking care for flu-like systems and pneumonia and those diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

One of the nation's most important medical testing companies has acknowledged that it has a backlog of at least 115,000 coronavirus tests, which helps explain why so many desperate doctors and patients haven't been able to get tested.

Quest Diagnostics of Secaucus, N.J., says the backlog occurred because a company lab in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., where the company's coronavirus testing started, got overwhelmed when testing started to ramp up.

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For the first time, scientists have used the gene-editing technique CRISPR to try to edit a gene while the DNA is still inside a person's body.

The groundbreaking procedure involved injecting the microscopic gene-editing tool into the eye of a patient blinded by a rare genetic disorder, in hopes of enabling the volunteer to see. They hope to know within weeks whether the approach is working and, if so, to know within two or three months how much vision will be restored.

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Well, the United States could be entering a new phase in the battle against the coronavirus. More and more cases are being diagnosed in this country, and those numbers may grow as testing for this dangerous new virus ramps up.

Updated at 11:50 a.m. ET

Federal health officials say they have resolved a problem that has hindered wide testing for the new coronavirus in the United States, a crucial practice for fighting the spread of the dangerous new infection.

A problem with one ingredient in test kits that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention distributed to labs around the country had created a frustrating bottleneck in testing, requiring most testing to occur at the CDC in Atlanta.

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President Trump, at a press conference last night, chose the person who will lead the government's response to the coronavirus.

(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)

Updated at 8:25 p.m. ET

Federal health officials issued a blunt message Tuesday: Americans need to start preparing now for the possibility that more aggressive, disruptive measures might be needed to stop the spread of the new coronavirus in the U.S.

The strongly worded warning came in response to outbreaks of the virus outside China, including in Iran, Japan, South Korea and Italy, which officials say have raised the likelihood of outbreaks occurring stateside.

Chunlin Leonhard spends most of her time alone in her room at a hotel at the Travis Air Force Base in California, anxiously reading the latest news about the coronavirus outbreak in China.

"I'm doing about as well as can be hoped for under the circumstances," Leonhard, 55, a New Orleans law professor, says during an interview over Skype.

Updated at 6:34 p.m. ET

A second person in the United States has been infected with a dangerous new coronavirus that is spreading in China, U.S. health officials announced Friday.

A woman in her 60s got infected with the virus while traveling in the Wuhan, China, area in late December and became ill after returning home to Chicago Jan. 13, according to officials from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Illinois and Chicago health departments.

Researchers have conducted a controversial study that involved paying dozens of young women at a hospital near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to get artificially inseminated so their embryos could be flushed out of their bodies and analyzed for research purposes.

The study showed that embryos created that way appear to be as healthy genetically as embryos created through standard in vitro fertilization. Physically, the embryos appear to, possibly, even be healthier, the study found.

When Victoria Gray was just 3 months old, her family discovered something was terribly wrong.

"My grandma was giving me a bath, and I was crying. So they took me to the emergency room to get me checked out," Gray says. "That's when they found out that I was having my first crisis."

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Doctors are reporting the first evidence that genetically edited cells could offer a safe way to treat sickle cell disease, a devastating, incurable disorder that afflicts millions of people around the world.

Billions of cells that were genetically modified with the powerful gene-editing technique called CRISPR have started working, as doctors had hoped, inside the body of the first sickle cell patient to receive the experimental treatment, according to highly anticipated data released Tuesday.

The powerful gene-editing technique known as CRISPR has raised a lot of hope in recent years for its potential to offer new ways to treat many diseases, including cancer. But until now, scientists have released very little information about results of tests in patients.

On Wednesday, researchers revealed data from the first study involving U.S. cancer patients who received cells genetically modified with CRISPR.

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