Bedtime stories in the age of COVID: An Introduction to TWIV

This Week in Virology. The podcast about viruses. The kind that make you sick. A refrain I hear more than once a week since I started listening to this excellent podcast all about the coronavirus. No. That’s not right. This podcast is all about viruses; the kind that make you sick.

In late March, I realized my regular sources were not enough to keep me informed about the growing pandemic. At that time, the World Health Organization had not declared a pandemic, but I was calling coronavirus endemic (community transmissions—transmissions that could not be traced to a source of the virus—were common). The legal definitions did not matter to me, I knew we were stuck with coronavirus and the resulting infection: COVID-19, until we get a vaccine. I needed a better source of information.

Podcasts are the best thing since the Internet and—like the coronavirus—they are endemic, but if you want to catch a good one you must look for it. Planet Money was my podcast of choice for the 2008 financial crisis. The daily episodes were brief, but each one detailed an aspect of the crisis that ad-driven, time constrained, media would not cover. I found myself correcting headlines, and that was a good thing.

Some of the best podcasts from that era have become ad-driven profit centers for their creators, others scrape by on the support of their fanbase. TWiV is the later, and that is why you should listen to it.

TWiV started in 2008 to cover West Nile Virus. In case you forgot that one is transmitted by mosquitos. Around episode 580 TWiV started covering coronavirus. My experience with Vincent Racaniello and his regular crew started with TWiV Special: Conversation with a COVID-19 patient, Ian Lipkin which I found with a search of my Spotify podcast feed. Ian Lipkin was a science consultant to the film Contagion. That he had coronavirus and could talk about it intrigued me. New to the subject, I had to pause a few times to search for some terms. Sixty-minutes later, TWiV had me hooked.

Virology is a deep subject, much deeper than your regular sources of information can handle, but there has never been a time like this; when you can hear directly from the experts engaged in the history being made. Every day, for the next two or three years, is going to be a day you could catch coronavirus and possibly develop COVID-19. I know. You want to ignore it; you want it to go away; you want it to be over. I know I do.

I worry more about those around me. Especially those tuned into the death rhetoric of the right. I think it was a week after I started listening to TWiV that Dan Patrick, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, suggested that grandma and grandpa would be willing to die to get this pandemic over and let their children and grandchildren get back to work. How sick is that? Have you thought about it? Have you thought about your parent, in an ICU with three or ten other patients, a tube down their throat, unable to speak, unable to move, sedated, or on quantities of morphine that blanks them from reality, dying. Alone. What type of future is that? What would that future conversation with your child look like?

“Well son. When I was your age, my father died of COVID-19. I couldn’t be there to say goodbye because I was working fifty-hours a week. It didn’t matter that I had to be on the job. I couldn’t go to the hospital because they had a thousand patients and wouldn’t let anyone inside that was not positive for the antibodies. So, I collected my paycheck, and thanked my father every night for making that sacrifice. You see son, because of men like your grandfather were willing to die in 2020 the coronavirus is not a big deal today.”

Enough of the cult-of-death. You should listen to TWiV and here is a gentle guide to getting started. A way to catch-up on the important fact as they happened. Of course, you could just jump in at the latest episode. This team is great at what they are doing.

I would start where I did with TWiV Special: Conversation with a COVID-19 patient, Ian Lipkin. The situation has not changed much since this was recorded and listening to these two experts discuss Ian’s health is a treat.

Next listen to the very next episode TWiV 595: Coronavirus update – Daniel Griffin MD in the parking lot. This is your introduction to a doctor working on the front-line in New York. It’s scary, but insightful.

Now that you are familiar with the regular crew you can skip ahead to episode TWiV 610: Coronavirus FAQ many of the answers I had to dig for over the past few weeks were answered in this episode. This one is a lot like going to a town hall where the smartest people in the room answer your questions.

If you want to dig deeper, here are some other suggestions:

Episode 600, a huge milestone for a podcast, but not for the TWiV crew. They get straight to work with another update from Daniel Griffin. Of note, aviation grade oxygen is better than medical grade oxygen. This is important, because hospitals were running out of oxygen, and aviation oxygen was suggested as a replacement. Keep that one in your trivia bucket. You may need it in October or November.

If you are feeling geeky, TWiV 604: Oral poliovaccine to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection is a deep dive into using oral polio vaccine as a stop-gap preventive. Your body making antibodies for polio could have the benefit of preventing a COVID-19 infection. I think I worded that correctly. Maybe not. Either way, who knew?

Mayday’s TWiV 608: Daniel Griffin’s COVID-19 clinical report is an excellent resource. Here are the details of those pulmonary embolisms and some commentary on Remdesivir. So many of the headlines in May have been wrong and if you listened to this podcast on May 1, you would have known it. Of note, Daniel Griffin has avoided the virus. Proof that it is possible to be safe if you have the equipment and take precautions.

Listen to this podcast. I check for a new episode before bed. If there is a new one, I send it to my bedroom Echo. Bedtime stories in the age of COVID.

Science


Troy Williams

Troy Williams is a technology and science fiction nerd. The Fundamentals, was his first work of science fiction and there are many more stories in The Fundamental’s Universe. At his day job, he is a web and application developer experienced at coding and managing projects as small as an individual’s website to large enterprise integrations.

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