Jason Beaubien

Jason Beaubien is NPR's Global Health and Development Correspondent on the Science Desk.

In this role, he reports on a range of issues across the world. He's covered the plight of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, mass cataract surgeries in Ethiopia, abortion in El Salvador, poisonous gold mines in Nigeria, drug-resistant malaria in Myanmar and tuberculosis in Tajikistan. He was part of a team of reporters at NPR that won a Peabody Award in 2015 for their extensive coverage of the West Africa Ebola outbreak. His current beat also examines development issues including why Niger has the highest birth rate in the world, can private schools serve some of the poorest kids on the planet and the links between obesity and economic growth.

Prior to becoming the Global Health and Development Correspondent in 2012, Beaubien spent four years based in Mexico City covering Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. In that role, Beaubien filed stories on politics in Cuba, the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the FMLN victory in El Salvador, the world's richest man and Mexico's brutal drug war.

For his first multi-part series as the Mexico City correspondent, Beaubien drove the length of the U.S./Mexico border making a point to touch his toes in both oceans. The stories chronicled the economic, social and political changes along the violent frontier.

In 2002, Beaubien joined NPR after volunteering to cover a coup attempt in the Ivory Coast. Over the next four years, Beaubien worked as a foreign correspondent in sub-Saharan Africa, visiting 27 countries on the continent. His reporting ranged from poverty on the world's poorest continent, the HIV in the epicenter of the epidemic, and the all-night a cappella contests in South Africa, to Afro-pop stars in Nigeria and a trial of white mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea.

During this time, he covered the famines and wars of Africa, as well as inspiring preachers and Nobel laureates. Beaubien was one of the first journalists to report on the huge exodus of people out of Sudan's Darfur region into Chad, as villagers fled some of the initial attacks by the Janjawid. He reported extensively on the steady deterioration of Zimbabwe and still has a collection of worthless Zimbabwean currency.

In 2006, Beaubien was awarded a Knight-Wallace fellowship at the University of Michigan to study the relationship between the developed and the developing world.

Beaubien grew up in Maine, started his radio career as an intern at NPR Member Station KQED in San Francisco and worked at WBUR in Boston before joining NPR.

During this pandemic, people in the United States are dying at rates unparalleled elsewhere in the world.

A new report in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds that in the past five months, per capita deaths in the U.S., both from COVID-19 and other causes, have been far greater than in 18 other high-income countries.

"It's shocking. It's horrible," says Dr. Ezekiel J. Emanuel, a professor of health policy and medical ethics at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the authors of the study.

In March, Dr. Achintya Moulick found himself at the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus pandemic.

He oversees three CarePoint Health hospitals in northern New Jersey and in the early days of the pandemic, they were swamped. "We had no idea what this infection was all about," he says.

One of the first challenges was screening patients for COVID-19 even before they entered the hospital.

"One day I saw a big line outside the entrance of the hospital," he says. "And they were manually checking everybody's temperature."

This year's Nobel Peace Prize has been given to the U.N. World Food Programme for its efforts to fight hunger and to prevent the use of starvation as a weapon of war.

But did you know that the World Food Programme has a canine mascot named Foxtrot?

About 10% of the global population may have been infected by the coronavirus, according to a senior World Health Organization official.

It's an estimate that's far higher than the total of global confirmed cases reported by governments. At the same time, it would mean that most of the world's population is still vulnerable to getting infected and this pandemic is far from over, the WHO's head of emergencies Dr. Michael Ryan said Monday.

In the largest study ever of transmission patterns for COVID-19, researchers in India tested more than a half-million contacts of 85,000 cases to examine how and to whom the coronavirus is spreading.

The first interesting finding: Children are spreading the virus amongst themselves and also to adults. Second: The greatest risk for infection among the people studied in the two southern Indian states of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh is a long bus or train ride.

The United States is home to the world's best-known technology companies, but so far the use of smartphones to fight the coronavirus has been tepid at best.

Smartphones have the potential to be a powerful tool in tracking the spread of COVID-19. They can tell you exactly how close you've been to other people, for how long and keep a detailed log of everyone you've been around for the last 14 days. Linked to testing systems, they can rapidly alert you if someone you've been in contact with tests positive.

As millions of students return to virtual classes at their dining room tables, some parents who are also trying to work from home have decided to ship their kids off to camp.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Coffee lovers, here's something to be grateful about. Unlike paper towels, disinfectant or yeast, coffee has never been hard to find during the pandemic.

In some places in the world right now, getting tested for COVID-19 remains difficult or nearly impossible. In Rwanda, you might just get tested randomly as you're going down the street.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Today the Trump administration formally notified the United Nations that it is pulling out of the World Health Organization. For more on this move, NPR's global health correspondent Jason Beaubien joins us now.

Hey, Jason.

Chile looked as if it were well prepared to deal with the new coronavirus.

It's a rich country — classified as high income by the World Bank. Life expectancy is roughly 80 years — better than the United States'. It has a solid, modern health care system, and when the outbreak began spreading, officials made sure they had plenty of ventilators and intensive care beds at the ready.

Why the coronavirus appears to affect children differently than it affects adults is one of the great mysteries of the current pandemic.

And it's a question that Rosalind Eggo, an assistant professor of mathematical modeling from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and her colleagues have tried to answer.

"What we found was that people under 20 were about half as susceptible to infection as people over 20," Eggo says.

Efforts are underway in Washington to revamp U.S. foreign aid in the wake of the coronavirus.

Proposals from both the White House and the Senate would shift billions of dollars in foreign assistance, consolidate control over U.S. humanitarian aid in the State Department and — according to one former top aid official — undermine the lifesaving work of USAID.

Two new papers published in the journal Nature say that lockdowns put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus were highly effective, prevented tens of millions of infections and saved millions of lives.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

This afternoon, President Trump said he is severing U.S. ties with the World Health Organization over the U.N. agency's handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

Over the past month, Hong Kong has averaged one new confirmed coronavirus case a day.

Taiwan has reported only one case in the past three weeks. The situation is similar in Vietnam. Although the number of coronavirus cases continues to grow globally, there are places that have managed to successfully control COVID-19.

New Zealand's triumph

The World Health Organization says it is temporarily halting its clinical trials that use hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients over published concerns that the drug may do more harm than good.

The move comes after the medical journal The Lancet reported on Friday that patients getting hydroxychloroquine were dying at higher rates than other coronavirus patients.

The World Health Organization's annual oversight convention will be held by teleconference beginning Monday, as the worst pandemic in modern history continues around the globe.

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You might have never heard the phrase "contact tracing" until recently.

Updated on May 13 at 12:30 p.m.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Haiti has doubled over the past week, according to the Haitian Ministry of Health.

As of May 13, there were 219 cases, up from 108 a week earlier. Cases are now being reported from all 10 departments, the local version of states, although the bulk of confirmed infections are in and around the capital Port-au-Prince.

Early on in the coronavirus pandemic, Singapore was praised as a shining example of how to handle the new virus. The World Health Organization pointed out that Singapore's aggressive contact tracing allowed the city-state to quickly identify and isolate any new cases. It quickly shut down clusters of cases and kept most of its economy — and its schools — open. Through the beginning of April, Singapore had recorded fewer than 600 cases.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Robert Redfield, says contact tracing will be vital in the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States.

Poor countries have advice to offer.

Contact tracing is used all over the world, including in the U.S. The idea is to track down anyone in recent contact with a newly diagnosed patient, then monitor the health of these contacts. In the developing world, it's been a valuable tool in fighting infectious diseases like Ebola and tuberculosis. Public health workers there have lots of experience.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

The worst outbreaks of COVID-19 so far have been in colder parts of the Northern Hemisphere during winter or early spring. Will warmer weather slow the transmission?

Could the Southern Hemisphere see outbreaks intensify as that part of the globe moves into winter?

And is it possible that transmission might be naturally interrupted as it is each year for the seasonal flu?

These are some of the key questions about COVID-19 that scientists are trying to answer.

There are now so few coronavirus cases in China that some days, authorities don't see any local transmission. China has gone from reporting thousands of cases a day in February to reporting one or two a day now. Over the past week, officials with China's National Health Commission reported just five new domestic cases. The total of new cases was higher, but almost all of them were imported cases in travelers who had recently returned from abroad.

One of the new staples of the coronavirus outbreak here in the U.S. has been the nightly briefings from the White House coronavirus task force. A regular at the lectern, and often the only woman on stage, is Dr. Deborah Birx. In her role as coronavirus response coordinator, she has become one of the most prominent voices of the administration around this crisis.

Earlier this year, when the first reports of the coronavirus started to come out of China, global health officials said they were very worried about what would happen if the virus started spreading in Africa, where many health systems are already struggling.

Well, now the coronavirus is spreading in Africa.

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