April 15: UF in the News 4/12/21-4/15/21

Serious and Rare: Will the Johnson & Johnson pause do more harm or good? — The New York Times, 4/14/21
The apparent problem with Johnson & Johnson’s Covid-19 vaccine is both serious and rare, which makes it a thorny issue for policymakers to address and for the rest of us to think through. Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, argued that federal officials had to respond aggressively, to protect the long-term credibility of vaccines.

3 Different Futures for the Johnson & Johnson Vaccine — The Atlantic, 4/13/21
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has entered regulatory purgatory. This morning, the CDC and FDA jointly recommended, “out of an abundance of caution,” a nationwide halt to the single shot’s rollout. “This is the system working as intended,” Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida who studies vaccine trials, told me. “We’re paying close attention to even these exceedingly rare outcomes.”

Advances in Deaf Education — Inside Higher Ed, 4/15/21
Colleges and individuals are endeavoring to make education for deaf people more inclusive and accessible by developing technical vocabulary, training interpreters of color and ensuring greater access. UF is hiring more interpreters for deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Within the state, other institutions may have one full-time interpreter, said Jenna Gonzalez, interim director of UF's Disability Resource Center. The university is currently carrying out a search to hire four full-time, directly employed staff.

Fervor Eases as Record SPAC Deal Gets Ho-Hum Response — Bloomberg, 4/13/21
Southeast Asia’s answer to Uber is set to nab the record for biggest deal in the SPAC world, yet traders are holding their applause. Data from Jay Ritter, a University of Florida finance professor recorded from January 2010 through October 2020 is used to give background as to why.

Could the Pandemic Prompt an ‘Epidemic of Loss’ of Women in the Sciences? — The New York Times, 4/13/21
Even before the pandemic, many female scientists felt unsupported in their fields. Now, some are hitting a breaking point. “The confluence of all of these factors creates this perfect storm. People are at their breaking point,” said Michelle Cardel, an obesity researcher at the University of Florida. “My big fear is that we are going to have a secondary epidemic of loss, particularly of early career women in STEM.”

Covid disease damage leading to 'completely new category' of organ transplants — NBC News, 4/12/21
Only a handful of U.S. hospitals were willing to take a chance on organ transplants to treat the sickest Covid-19 patients. Too little was known about the risks of the virus and the lasting damage it might cause, let alone whether such patients could survive the surgery. Mark Buchanan of Roopville, Ga. was turned down at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, said his wife, Melissa, who said doctors advised her to withdraw treatment and allow him to die peacefully. It took calls to several hospitals, plus a favor from a hometown physician, before Buchanan was accepted at the University of Florida Health Shands Hospital, 350 miles away in Gainesville, Florida. He received his new lungs Oct. 28.

A vaccine study in college students will help determine when it’s safe to take masks off — The Washington Post, 4/12/21
The study aims to determine how well the Moderna vaccine prevents inoculated people from becoming unwitting carriers of the virus. “Does the vaccine protect? … That’s always going to happen first. You’re not going to be able to tell: Does it protect against infection? Does it slow transmission?” said Ira Longini, a statistician at the University of Florida who co-wrote the book “Design and Analysis of Vaccine Studies.” “The trials are powered to get a clear answer: Does the vaccine work: yes or no, given the criteria?”

Asian Americans: Speaking Out and Gaining Strength — Governing, 4/12/21
Sharon Austin, a political science professor at UF, contributed this opinion piece about Asian Americans in the U.S. in context of the recent violence against the community. 

How to Stop the Minority-Rule Doom Loop — The Atlantic, 4/12/21
The U.S. is facing the minority-rule doom loop, by which predominantly white conservatives gain more and more power, even as they represent fewer Americans. According to Michael McDonald, a professor at the University of Florida and one of the nation’s foremost experts on voting laws, “We are witnessing the greatest rollback of voting rights in this country since the Jim Crow era.”

600 manatee deaths in Florida raise concerns over sustainable habitat — The Hill, 4/13/21
Environmentalists are increasingly concerned about the sustainability of Florida’s waterways after the deaths of more than 600 manatees so far this year, three times the average rate. A new study has also shown that manatees have been chronically exposed to the key ingredient in pesticides like Roundup, due in large part to fertilizer runoff. The study by University of Florida scientists concluded that the chemical was found in the plasma of over half of the 105 manatees that were analyzed between 2009 and 2019. 

My Family Wants to Visit This Summer. Is Travel Safe Yet? — Time, 4/14/21
Even though airplanes have pretty good filtration systems, travelers encounter lots of other people in fairly tight quarters during the average trip, says Cindy Prins, an associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida. Each of those interactions raises the chances of COVID-19 exposure. Plus, if your family members were unknowingly infected while traveling, or got infected during the trip, they could potentially seed new cases in your area.

Biden proposals may not guarantee all Fortune 500 corporations pay federal income taxes, experts say — The Washington Post, 4/15/21
Faced with criticism over their proposed tax hikes, senior Biden administration officials have in recent days pointed to large American corporations that are paying no federal income taxes. “The administration is posing this as a big and serious problem,” said Mindy Herzfeld, a tax expert at the University of Florida. “Tax experts question whether it is, and it’s also unclear from what they’ve put out whether their plans would address it.”