Maria Godoy

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From a political and legal standpoint, the battle over whether mask wearing should be enforced in schools is still raging. But from a scientific standpoint, there's little debate: Masks really do help curb the spread of the coronavirus in school.

It's the kind of news story that keeps parents of school-age children up at night: Kids go to school, dutifully wear masks, and still half the class ends up infected with the coronavirus.

That's what happened this past spring at an elementary school in Marin County, Calif. The school seemed to be taking all the right precautions against COVID-19 transmission. Teachers and students were required to be masked while indoors. Student desks were spaced 6 feet apart. Doors and windows were left open.

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Many kids going back to school are still too young to be vaccinated, and so parents are asking what schools should be doing to minimize the risks to their children. NPR health correspondent Maria Godoy has some answers.

Which masks are best to keep kids safe? It's a question on many parents' minds as students return to in-person school amid a huge wave of coronavirus infections. Masking is a key safety measure in schools for all kids, especially for children too young to be eligible for any COVID-19 vaccine.

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Booster shots or not? Federal health advisers are debating whether some people, especially those with weakened immune systems, need a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. NPR's Maria Godoy has more.

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At 72, Dolores Fontalvo is part friendly neighbor, part psychologist. She's also a linchpin in the state of Maryland's successful effort to narrow the vaccination gap between its white and Latino residents.

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Vaccination rates are rising among Latinos in this country. Why is that when they're stuck in other communities? NPR's Maria Godoy went to Langley Park, Md., to find out what's been working there.

(CROSSTALK)

A small new study offers a glimmer of hope that giving organ transplant recipients a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine could boost their protection against the coronavirus.

That's important because prior research has shown that nearly half of organ transplant recipients failed to show any antibody response even after two doses of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine.

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Laura Burns was thrilled when she got her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine three months ago. The 71-year-old thought that with vaccination, she might finally be closer to being able to see her family in Europe again.

"I have not seen them now for two years, and that's including my stepdaughter. It's very, very ... that's hard," says Burns, who lives in Austin, Texas.

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You got your shot and you're ready to get back to normal life. But what does that mean anymore? While being fully vaccinated doesn't mean it's suddenly safe to party like it's 2019, most interactions pose a much lower risk than they did before you got jabbed.

Remember, you don't reach full vaccination until at least two weeks after getting your second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine. So what kind of precautions do you still need to take after that?

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Do you need to wear a mask when you're outside? There's still a federal mask mandate in place. But the CDC is expected to update its guidance on masks later today. NPR health correspondent Maria Godoy is following this story. Good morning, Maria.

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Lots of people have questions about getting vaccinated against COVID-19. That includes the millions of Americans with weakened immune systems that put them at higher risk of severe disease if they do get infected with the coronavirus.

The numbers are stark – and startling.

Around the world, almost 1 in 3 women have experienced physical or sexual violence at least once in their lifetime, according to a new report released by the World Health Organization. That number has remained largely unchanged over the past decade, WHO said.

This week, health care providers began administering the first doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. — the third vaccine authorized by the Food and Drug Administration to help stop the coronavirus pandemic.

That's welcome news in a country that still faces high levels of circulating virus in most regions, and a demand for vaccine that still far outstrips supply.

War is hell. But it's also pretty crummy on the homefront — especially if you're a woman with few options (read, a woman) in World War II-era England. But what if you could cook your way to a better life?

That's the basic premise of The Kitchen Front, the third novel from Jennifer Ryan, and the third to be set in England during World War II. As in her best-selling The Chilbury Ladies' Choir, the story concerns itself with the struggles and resilience of village women, but this time around, the action revolves around a cooking competition.

Each week, we answer "frequently asked questions" about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you'd like us to consider for a future post, email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions."

I got my COVID-19 vaccine and didn't feel any pain after nor experience any symptoms. Could it be that it didn't work?

South Africa has temporarily suspended its rollout of the AstraZeneca-Oxford University coronavirus vaccine after a small clinical trial revealed the shot provided only minimal protection from mild and moderate illness caused by the virus variant that is widely circulating in the country.

It's time to up your mask game.

With new, more contagious strains of the coronavirus spreading in the U.S., and transmission levels still very high in many places, some public health experts recommend that Americans upgrade from the basic cloth masks that many have been wearing during the pandemic.

"A cloth mask might be 50% effective at blocking viruses and aerosols," says Linsey Marr, a researcher at Virginia Tech who studies airborne virus transmission. "We're at the point now ... that we need better than 50%."

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Many countries around the world are betting on a vaccine from China to help them stop the coronavirus. On Sunday, for example, Brazil gave emergency use authorization to this vaccine made by the Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac. Countries are embracing the Chinese vaccine despite conflicting reports about how well it works. NPR health correspondent Maria Godoy reports.

As the U.S. grapples with the effects of systemic racism, some in the medical community are questioning whether the tools they use to assess patient health may be contributing to racial health disparities.

Torey Edmonds has lived in the same house in an African-American neighborhood of the East End of Richmond, Va., for all of her 61 years. When she was a little girl, she says her neighborhood was a place of tidy homes with rose bushes and fruit trees, and residents had ready access to shops like beauty salons, movie theaters and several grocery stores.

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