Editor's note

With so much discussion of the new coronavirus, it seems like we all need to become amateur virologists to understand how this pandemic is progressing. This week we had actual virologists explain two key concepts: infectious dose and viral load.

Apple and Google have announced a way to track a smartphone user's contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19; a technology, law and security scholar unpacks the privacy implications of surveillance and tracking systems that may be used as public health tools.

This week’s science and research newsletter also features a fascinating chapter in the science of handwashing, findings on the impact the Deepwater Horizon oil spill had on ocean life and more.

I welcome your comments or question; you can just reply to this email to reach us.

Martin La Monica

Deputy Editor

SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient and imaged using a transmission electron micrograph. NIAID

What we do and do not know about COVID-19’s infectivity and viral load

Marta Gaglia, Tufts University; Seema Lakdawala, University of Pittsburgh

Two phrases you hear a lot these days are viral load and infectious dose. What do they mean? Do they reflect the severity of disease or whether someone will get severely ill? Two experts explain.

Digital footprints. Prasit photo/Moment via Getty Images

Digital surveillance can help bring the coronavirus pandemic under control – but also threatens privacy

Jennifer Daskal, American University

Cellphone data can show who coronavirus patients interacted with, which can help isolate infected people before they feel ill. But how digital contact tracing is implemented matters.

This Sunda pangolin found throughout Southeast Asia is currently considered to be critically endangered. Piekfrosch / German Wikipedia

Study shows pangolins may have passed new coronavirus from bats to humans

Yang Zhang, University of Michigan; Chengxin Zhang, University of Michigan; Wei Zheng, University of Michigan

When a new virus emerges and triggers a pandemic, it is important to trace its origins. Knowing more about how the virus jumped species in the first place can help curb future zoonotic diseases.

Other good finds