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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Clear Labs, a California-based startup that provides rapid genetic sequencing for pathogen surveillance, will announce a new $60 million funding round this morning.

Why it matters: Clear Labs' whole genome sequencing can identify the unique genetic code of a pathogen within 24 hours, allowing hospitals or public health agencies to track unusual variants in diseases like COVID-19 as well as food safety threats like salmonella.

How it works: Whole genome sequencing can provide the full genetic code of an organism, meaning doctors can identify not just what might be causing an illness, but how that virus, bacteria, or other pathogen might be mutating.

  • Tracking how a virus might be changing over the course of an outbreak can help doctors link cases together, but it can also show when potentially dangerous mutations — like the the B.1.617.2 variant that emerged in India — are becoming more common.
  • "Unlike legacy diagnostics, we don't stop at a binary yes or no for a pathogen," says Sasan Amini, co-founder and CEO of Clear Labs. "We collect additional pieces of genetic information so the end user has more insight to take action on an outbreak."

Between the lines: Clear Labs' SARS-CoV-2 diagnostic array automates much of the process of whole genome sequencing, providing both diagnostic screening as well as wider genomic surveillance for the same price as a conventional lab PCR test.

  • The Nevada Public Health Laboratory used Clear Labs' technology to identify the emergence of the U.K. variant in the state back in January.
  • Beyond the pandemic, the technology can be used to track outbreaks of food-borne pathogens like salmonella and listeria, which kill an estimated 3,000 people in the U.S. each year.

The bottom line: The drastic drop in cost and increase in speed of genetic sequencing means disease detectives can move nearly as fast as a virus itself.

Go deeper

Sep 2, 2021 - Health

Israeli coronavirus vaccine booster data gives the U.S. hope

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Preliminary Israeli data shows that coronavirus booster shots quickly spike a person's protection against both severe disease and infection, suggesting that the additional shots could help blunt the virus' spread in the U.S. — although it's very unclear how much.

Why it matters: The Biden administration has said that the main rationale for its booster push is to stay ahead of any waning of the vaccines' effectiveness against severe disease. But slowing the spread of the Delta variant would be a welcome bonus.

Sep 1, 2021 - Health

Texas school temporarily closes after two teachers die from COVID-19 in a week

American and Texas state flag. Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A school in Texas closed for the rest of the week on Tuesday after two teachers died from COVID-19 within a week, the Waco Tribune-Herald reports.

State of play: The campus at Connally Junior High School won't open until after Labor Day for deep sanitation, after sixth-grade social studies teacher Natalia Chansler died on Aug. 28, having notified the school three days earlier that she tested positive for COVID-19.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Fauci: "I would vaccinate them in a second" — CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot — FDA panel endorses Pfizer vaccines for 5-11 year olds.
  2. Health: COVID cases fall by 20% — Public health messaging lessons for the next pandemic — Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization, study finds — COVID cases, deaths at meat plants were far higher than previously thought.
  3. Politics: NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate — Judge rejects Southwest pilots' challenge to vaccine mandate — Louisiana lifts mask mandate except for some schools.
  4. Education: Benefits of vaccine for children outweigh risks, FDA says — Education secretary reveals limits to Biden’s mask push on states — LA extends deadline for school employee vaccinations.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.