Emily Oster Launches Resource for Unbiased COVID-19 Facts

Author Emily Oster's latest project finds her teaming up with researchers and students to launch COVID Explained, a site that aims to provide unbiased, comprehensive information to help people make good decisions.

Emily Oster (economics, Brown Univ.) is perhaps best known for her evidence-based guides to pregnancy (Expecting Better: Why the Conventional Pregnancy Wisdom Is Wrong—and What You Really Need to Know) and early childhood (Cribsheet: A Data-Driven Guide to Better, More Relaxed Parenting, from Birth to Preschool), but her latest project finds her teaming up with Galit Alter (medicine, Harvard Medical Sch.) and researchers and students at institutions including Brown, MIT, Harvard, and Massachusetts General Hospital to launch COVID Explained, a site that aims to provide unbiased, comprehensive information to help people make good decisions.

LJ: What is COVID-Explained?

EO: COVID-Explained is an online resource for people to learn more about the facts behind the COVID-19 virus. The cornerstone is a series of long-form "Explainers" on the path of the virus, treatment, testing and more. Our hope with these is that by giving people real details about how the virus works, it will alleviate some of the fear they are feeling and help them make better decisions. 

We also have some smaller content. This includes entries on current news—what's the deal with this new antigen test? What are "COVID Toes"—and some basic questions like, "How can I safely get take-out?" All together, we aim to be a comprehensive resource for COVID facts.

LJ: What resources are you using to research for the site?

Our team here has a wide varity of expertise. There are folks who are actively researching the virology of COVID on the front lines right now. There are doctors. There are statistics and math experts.  And we have a whole host of undergraduate and graduate students doing research.

Our primary sources are, first, basic facts about virology and immunology. This is where we really started.  Before even getting into the details of COVID, people will make better decisions if they know how viruses work!  And then beyond that we've been reading everything that comes out about COVID, looking into the details of new studies and even reading package inserts for new tests (this is not the most exciting part).  In the end, we try to aggregate to put everything in context. 

LJ: How often are you updating with new information?

EO: We are trying to update every day, with at least some reactions to what people are hearing on the news. And we're constantly rethinking the way the site works, and how we can make it most helpful. Send advice!

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