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UCSD Researchers Estimate COVID-19 Was Around 2 Months Before First Reports

 March 19, 2021 at 9:37 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 New research gives new insight into where and when the novel coronavirus emerged, Speaker 2: 00:05 Seeing how this virus spreads, you realize that this isn't the fault of a particular geographic region or racial identity. Speaker 1: 00:12 I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS mid-day edition Students look back on a year of virtual learning. Speaker 3: 00:27 It was really like a big change because first you were in school. And now you're like on a computer all day, every day, Monday through Friday. Speaker 1: 00:37 And so I've gone through and what learning looks like going forward. Plus I'll look at the arts and culture scene for this weekend. As businesses start to open that's ahead on midday edition From potential treatments to how it affects the human body. The COVID-19 virus has been characterized by how rapidly our understanding of it has evolved. Now a new report from the UC San Diego school of medicine could change what we know about the origins of COVID-19 and how long it's been circulating among humans. Joining me to discuss this research is senior author Joel worth. I'm an associate professor in the division of infectious diseases and global public health at the UC San Diego school of medicine. Joel, Speaker 2: 01:31 Welcome. Hi, thanks for having me. Speaker 1: 01:34 Your research indicates that the novel coronavirus was circulating months before originally thought what pushed you and your team to further investigate the timeline of this virus? Okay. Speaker 2: 01:44 There were lots of reports, uh, of the virus outside of China and the fall of 2019. And even actually going back, uh, into early 2019 from all over the world. And what we wanted to answer was how far back was it biologically possible for this virus to have been in China and for us not to have seen it and for it not to have left its Mark in the genetic material of the virus itself. So that day of mid, uh, Tober that we say that's really an upper bound could have happened after that, but we really wanted to put an upper limit on how long the virus could have been circulating in China before it was discovered. Speaker 1: 02:25 And what are the major implications of these findings? Speaker 2: 02:28 Well, for one thing, it tells us that this virus was likely around for awhile before it was discovered, which just highlights the difficulty in detecting highly transmissible pathogens that don't have exceptionally high mortality rates. One of the most surprising findings that came out of our study was that when we tried to simulate the beginnings of the coronavirus pandemic, the majority of our simulated epidemics went extinct in seven out of 10 trials. We were unable to generate a pandemic, which means this virus more often than not would have gone extinct on its own. Why do you think this particular Speaker 1: 03:05 Coronavirus became a global Speaker 2: 03:06 Pandemic? The most nefarious thing about SARS cov two is that it can transmit during the asymptomatic period. So we weren't able to contain it because people got on planes and trains and crossed borders, uh, even with no evidence of infection. And by the time we realized that, uh, the virus had early, already firmly ensconced itself, uh, across the globe Speaker 1: 03:32 Was knowing the timeline of the virus, help us understand its origin. Speaker 2: 03:36 Well, in the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about it coming from the market, meaning that that market and Wu Han was the place of cross species transmission. Now, knowing that there are earlier cases in December in Wu Han, that aren't linked to the market and the genetic ancestor predating those. And then our analysis says, well, it could have even been around for a couple of weeks or even up to a month before that time point tells us that we don't really have a good idea of where the first person who got infected was we have a good idea where the first big clusters were, but those first people before you had large, super spreading events, still remain a mystery in order to Speaker 1: 04:20 Come to this conclusion, your team used something called molecular clock evolutionary analysis. Can you explain what this technique is and how it works? Speaker 2: 04:29 Yeah, so the molecular clock is a really important tool for investigating, uh, the history of viruses and their transmission. Basically it allows us to count up mutations that separate viruses sampled over time in this case in China. And by counting up those mutations over time and seeing how quickly they happen, we can estimate the age of a virus that we never saw the ancestor say all of the viruses that were in China. Speaker 1: 05:00 And can this data be used to prevent the spread of highly transmissible diseases Speaker 2: 05:05 In the future? Well, we're using this technique right now to track, uh, the variance of SARS Coby to around the world, looking at their emergence and spread. So it's as important to the beginning of the pandemic as it is to today. Uh, you know, the Speaker 1: 05:21 Surgeons of this virus have been politicized with racist rhetoric, notably from former president Trump followed by an increase in violence and racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans as a scientist. I wonder if you have some thoughts on how focusing on the science can help us overcome the racist blaming that's taken place in the land. Speaker 2: 05:42 Absolutely. It's quite unfortunate. And seeing how this virus spreads and how readily it's spread you realize that this isn't the fault of a particular geographic region or people has really taken over the world and doesn't respect national borders or racial identity. It's also important how we've named this virus SARS cov two, um, after, uh, the type of virus it is and the type of illness it causes, we used to name viruses, uh, after locations. And there's been a concerted move away from that in the field. Um, partly to respect, uh, that viruses aren't the fault of one particular region or people when early example of corrective naming was with the syndrome, brave virus, which is a haunted virus found in the four corners region. And in order to avoid stigmatizing any given population, uh, they gave it the no name virus rather than, uh, identifying a particular geography or, uh, people that lived there. Speaker 1: 06:50 You from everything that you know about viruses is this one acting like a normal natural virus. Speaker 2: 06:55 Yes. Uh, I have no specific reason to suspect that this virus came out of a lab. Coronavirus has jumped into humans all the time, and this is a very unfortunate, but apparently a natural phenomenon that we as humans are going to have to increasingly prepare to live with. Speaker 1: 07:17 I've been speaking with Joel worth. I'm an associate professor in the division of infectious diseases and global public health at the UC San Diego school of medicine. Joel, thank you very much for joining us. Speaker 2: 07:28 Thank you for having me. [inaudible] Speaker 1: 07:45 Distance learning during the pandemic has only worse than the achievement gap between students from marginalized communities and those growing up in privilege, but could there be some long-term benefits to this experience as part of our series pandemic life one year on KPBS reporter Joe Hong explores COVID nineteens lasting impact on the school day, it was really like a big change because first you were in school and now you're like on a computer all day, every day, Monday through Friday, Speaker 4: 08:16 Reese is a seventh grader currently attending Rancho Del Ray middle school in Chula Vista, like the vast majority of students in San Diego County. He spent the past year attending school through a computer screen, but he's also struggled with the added stress of being separated from his family for most of the year. His mother who previously lived as an undocumented immigrant in San Diego has lived in Tijuana since 2016. They barely seen each other during the pandemic, Speaker 1: 08:37 Not being with my mom for six months since like 2016 to, uh, would be, uh, hard for me because I don't have my mom next to me like, so we can go out, go places, go shopping. Speaker 4: 08:51 Luis has been living with family, friends since 2016, but even with their, his grades have plummeted during distance learning Luis and his guardians insist he's doing all the work, but when he turns it in his teachers, aren't counting it. Speaker 5: 09:03 No I'm not doing too good because they're giving me F's and D's for all my work that I turned in and they're saying that they're missing and that they're not turned in. When I saw that I turned him and I turned them off. Speaker 4: 09:14 Luis has tried for months to get his grades fixed, but with no success, experts say Luis's experience speaks to a huge underlying problem with distance learning. The lack of face-to-face contact between students and teachers has created in many cases, a lack of trust and at least the perception that educators only care about the grade book and not the struggles of students. Christopher Nellum is the interim executive director at education trust West and education think tank based in the Bay area. He says rebuilding personal connections needs to be the top priority when in-person learning presumes. Speaker 5: 09:43 Sure. We have to be focused on the academics, but in order for young people to be successful, they have to feel whole and feel taken care of and feel like the folks that they're around, who they're engaging with. Speaker 4: 09:57 It's also become clear that distance learning has widened an already large achievement gap between low income students of color and their wealthier white peers, Kate Chasen lives in Tierrasanta less than 20 miles up the highway from Louise. But the reality is during the pandemic had been worlds apart. Speaker 6: 10:11 I don't even know how to play honestly, but yeah, Speaker 5: 10:18 [inaudible] Speaker 4: 10:18 Kate is a junior at Canyon Hills high school, formerly known as Sarah high school school has been stressful for her, but she's maintained high grades. She's also been able to continue her cello lessons virtually. Speaker 6: 10:28 Yeah, luckily I've been doing okay and getting my work in and I've had straight A's thus far. So Speaker 4: 10:33 Kate says she wants to study public policy in college and she's even done involved in activism, work, raising awareness for teen mental health. She said her future goals have kept her motive. Speaker 6: 10:42 I know it's kind of cheesy, but like the college search. Um, so I'm looking at really competitive schools and you need competitive grades in order to get into those schools. Speaker 4: 10:52 One expert says advantage and motivated students like Kate have fared better in the virtual classroom, but only as long as they have access to technology and a stable environment. Mins one Wong is a professor of learning design and technology at San Diego state university. She said a silver lining to the pandemic experiences. Teachers have become more proficient at using technology. She sees an opportunity for them to use their new skill sets to better help struggling students, even after schools reopened. Speaker 5: 11:16 I think after the pandemic teach some teachers, my going to hybrid mode, if that's a possibility and they would definitely, they can do, we'll definitely reach out to students who need more help by having a zoom session or any other online conferences. Speaker 4: 11:33 And while Kate has done well during distance learning, she struggled with the social isolation and anxiety, but she's completely aware of her privilege. Speaker 6: 11:40 I already had a laptop going into the pandemic. My family has wifi that has good bandwidth. So three of us could be on a zoom call at a time. Like, um, even just like my parents can come home at the end of the night and I can be, and I can be comfortable knowing that they Speaker 5: 11:54 Are making enough money for us to survive, uh, schools across San Diego County scheduled to reopen Kate. So she and her classmates will work to make sure schools have the mental health resources to support students as they returned to the classroom. Joe Hong KPBS news, Speaker 1: 12:17 Listening to KPBS midday edition I'm Jade Hindman. If you've been missing in person arch, this weekend's arts and culture, pics are a feast for the census, even smell joining me is KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dickson Evans with some options for finding art and music this weekend. I Julia. Speaker 7: 12:36 Hi Jane. Thanks for having me. Speaker 1: 12:38 So now that we have returned to the red tears, San Diego museum of art finally reopened for the public tomorrow. What's a work you'd recommend. We check out. Speaker 7: 12:47 Yeah, there's actually a new work by contemporary artists, Colleen Smith, it's immersive and includes a video piece and it takes up the entirety of one of those upstairs rooms and the museum Smith tick as her inspiration and influential 1602 work by Juan Sanchez, cotton. It's called still life with quince cabbage, melon and cucumber. It's one of those hyper realistic food, still lifes, but Smith was inspired by the way, the realness kind of melted away. The more you looked at it, I spoke to Colleen Smith in July Speaker 5: 13:27 Because you can't see very much. You don't see where the string is hanging deep in what the light source is, let alone where it. Speaker 7: 13:37 And another thing that struck her was the angles of the shelf. There also impossible, and this, this heavy black void in the back. So she constructed in her studio to the best of her ability, the shelf that Katon had painted for the, for her video. And she was also inspired by Cotons highly detailed studio inventory. He left after he joined a monastery and it made her want to create a, a work that documented her own studio in some way, recording the day-to-day sounds and shadows there. There's also women's voices singing about nature. It's not something with a plot per se. You can spend just a few minutes with the video or you can spend the full half hour of it. And Khatami painting is also installed in the room. The exhibition opened March 14th of last year. So it's had a full year of not really getting a lot of visitors and it's definitely a work to see in person Speaker 1: 14:34 San Diego museum of art is open to the public with COVID precautions, of course, 10 to five on Saturday, noon to five on Sunday. And Colleen Smith's installation will be on view through September. Uh, and now for some Afro-Cuban jazz. Tell us about the live in show queen bees, art and culture center is presenting tonight. Speaker 7: 14:55 Yeah. So queen bees is hosting an outdoor concert and it features queen bees, music, director, saxophonist, Charlie arbelaez and friends he'll perform Afro Cuban jazz with trombonist, Matt hall, keyboard of serving Flores. Bassist will Lyle drummer, Johnny seal and percussionist Charlie Chavez arbelaez who hosts their regular jazz Botanica jam session. On Tuesday nights. He takes inspiration from the likes of dizzy Gillespie Chano Pozo Mongo, Santa Maria, and more. And we're listening to Charlie. Arbelaez performing at queen bees. Speaker 3: 15:45 [inaudible] Speaker 7: 15:45 They're taking over the parking lot next to their North park venue for this outdoor show, but you can also buy a ticket to live stream the event from home. Speaker 1: 15:55 All right, Charlie, [inaudible] performs. Afro-Cuban jazz at queen bees in North park tonight at 7:00 PM. Best practice gallery in Barrio. Logan has a new solo exhibition on view from a Takata based artists. Tell us about this. Speaker 7: 16:09 So Shanta Penn Ulyssa is an interdisciplinary artist. She lives in Takata and this exhibition is called there's something about the weather of this place. So you can imagine it's really rooted in place, this specific place of the United States, Mexico border. And Penalosa coated some canvases with fresh white paint and set them outside to collect falling Ash from wildfires. She also made a photography work capturing changes to the cloud formations that would have happened in the exact duration of a border crossing. And she's even created a scent to the fuse in the gallery that evokes the smells of a border crossing. So hold all your smell of vision jokes. You have to go and check this one out in person. And I think that the centerpiece of this, this show is a looped performance work. It's a video called [inaudible] where penniless says sits in a chair on a rooftop, right at the edge of the border. It's the very last street into [inaudible] and she is eye level with a border patrol truck. You're kind of taken inside her mind as she narrates that experience. Speaker 1: 17:24 And Shantelle Penalosa is on view at best practice in Barrio Logan through April 17th, gallery hours are Saturdays from 11 to two or by appointment. And finally the Spreckels Oregon society is celebrating a full year of virtual performances as well as 336 years of Bach. Tell us about this special performance. Speaker 7: 17:46 Yeah. So civic organists, Raul Ramirez used to play a live concert every Sunday afternoon in Balboa park at the Oregon pavilion. And he's been recording weekly streaming concerts instead during the entire pandemic. And he also does a bilingual live chat. They record these in secret. So as not to attract a crowd to Balboa park, which I kind of love, it's like pipe, organ, spy intrigue. And in addition to that mystery, they, this week, they're also celebrating Johann Sebastian Bach's birthday. Ramirez will perform some of Bach's most beloved works, including the iconic Toccata and fugue in D Speaker 3: 18:48 [inaudible]. Speaker 1: 18:52 The Spreckels Oregon weekly streaming concert is Sunday at 2:00 PM. Online for more arts events or to sign up for Julia's weekly KPBS arts newsletter go to I've been speaking with KPBS arts editor and producer Julia Dixon Evans. Julia, thank you so much. Thanks Jane. Have a good weekend. You too.

Researchers at UC San Diego estimate that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was likely circulating undetected for at most two months before the first human cases of COVID-19. Plus, distance learning during the pandemic has only worsened students' achievement gap from marginalized communities and those growing up in privilege. But could there be some long-term benefits to this experience? And this weekend in the arts: Cauleen Smith at the San Diego Museum of Art, outdoor Afro-Cuban jazz at Queen Bee’s, a year of virtual civic organ concerts and "There's Something About the Weather of This Place," at Best Practice gallery in Barrio Logan.