DiscoverFighting Coronavirus, from American Innovations
Fighting Coronavirus, from American Innovations
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Fighting Coronavirus, from American Innovations

Author: Wondery

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When public health is threatened on a mass scale, we have a long history of working together to take on the challenge. As the host of Wondery’s American Innovations, Steven Johnson has told the stories of some of the most crucial breakthroughs in health, medicine, and technology. He’s also the author of one of the seminal books on epidemics, “The Ghost Map.”

On this new weekly series, Steven will speak with experts from the worlds of health and technology about how the current moment compares with past pandemics, and what the coming months might look like. What will it take to develop a COVID-19 vaccine? How will our educational system change? How can crowdsourcing help us battle the spread of the coronavirus? We’ve vanquished more dangerous threats before. Let’s roll up our sleeves and tackle this one together.

13 Episodes
These days, watches don’t just tell time. Smartwatches like Apple Watch and Fitbit measure your heart rate, count your steps, and track your sleep schedule. According to Dr. Michael Snyder, they can also tell you when you’re getting sick – and potentially spot Covid-19 before you’re even symptomatic.On this episode, Steven talks to Dr. Snyder, who runs the Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine at Stanford, about his new study on whether wearables can predict the onset of Covid-19. What has the study learned so far, and what else can your wearables be trained to detect?To participate in Dr. Snyder’s study, visit us by supporting our sponsors!Express VPN - Visit to get three FREE months a one year package.
According to the World Health Organization, we’re not just in the midst of a pandemic. We’re living through an “infodemic,” where misinformation is more readily available than facts.On this episode, Steven talks to Joan Donovan, who studies misinformation in her role as the Director of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at Harvard Kennedy’s Shorenstein Center. Joan shares how conspiracy theories spread and how each of us can practice good information hygiene. It’s not as easy as wearing a mask … but it’s close.
While the U.S. has countless WWI memorials, it has almost none dedicated to the 1918 flu pandemic. But the pandemic claimed six times as many American lives as WWI.On this episode, Steven talks to historian Nancy Bristow, author of American Pandemic: The Lost Worlds of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic, about the blind spot in America’s collective memory. Why did we forget 1918’s pandemic? And how well will future generations remember this one?Support us by supporting our sponsors!Keeps - Get your first month free when you go to
Communication and cooperation across our society are as important as they’ve ever been. This week, Steven talks with Andy Slavitt, the former Medicare and Medicaid chief, who has emerged as one of the most effective communicators during this crisis. Andy and Steven how to find trustworthy news sources, discuss the future of healthcare, and how to make the most of your child’s senior year in isolation. (Hint: Start a podcast together!)Check out Andy Slavitt’s podcast In the Bubble.You can learn more about his new healthcare nonprofit, the United States of Care, here.
If we really want to reopen our economy, we need to do more than just flatten the curve. In the words of Dr. Jim Kim, the former president of the World Bank, we need to “start coming down the mountain.” And to do that, Dr. Kim says there is only one valid solution: “contact tracing,” one of the most low-tech and labor-intensive weapons in our public health arsenal.On this week’s episode, Steven talks to Dr. Kim about how he convinced Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker to invest in contact tracing when other governors wouldn’t even return his calls, and why contact tracing is the best way to contain the spread of Covid-19.
When health care workers began running out of protective equipment, makers around the world powered up their 3D printers and got to work. This week, Steven talks to journalist Clive Thompson about the maker movement, an informal network of sewers, tinkerers, and engineers whose ingenuity is bridging supply gaps and increasing the pace of technological innovation, sometimes in a very retro way. Read Clive Thompson’s article, “When Government Fails, Makers Come to the Rescue,” on Budmen Industry’s templates for 3D face shields.Enter the CoVent-19 Challenge.
Taking Care Of Our Kids

Taking Care Of Our Kids


Let’s face it: we’re worried about our kids. How can we protect their mental health? Should the normal rules around screen time still apply? What will school look like come September? This week, Steven talks with Anya Kamenetz, an education correspondent for NPR and author of the book The Art of Screen Time, to find some answers.
Can Data Save Our Lives?

Can Data Save Our Lives?


Where are new cases being detected? How many beds are available in local hospitals? What’s the growth rate of ICU admissions? These are some of the most urgent questions in the world right now, and they’re being answered by data pioneers like Dr. John Brownstein, the Chief Innovation Officer at Boston Children’s Hospital. Dr. Brownstein talks to host Steven Johnson about his new crowdsourced website,, and how public health data doesn’t just track deaths, but helps prevent them.Contribute to Dr. John Brownstein’s live map of Covid-19 symptoms at
Reading the forecast models that track and predict the spread of the coronavirus can feel like a glimpse into the future. And epidemiologists – the scientists behind these models – have suddenly become the most important figures in this fight. Dr. Tara Smith, an epidemiologist and professor at the Kent State University College of Public Health, talks with Steven about what most people misunderstand about these models, whether there’s an end in sight for social distancing, and why the public health sector is our “invisible shield.”For more stories about challenges and triumphs of science and technology, hosted by Steven Johnson, listen and subscribe to Wondery’s American Innovations at Dr. Tara C. Smith at
Civilization needs cities. The population density of cities has always been key to driving new ideas, new collaborations, and new social movements. But today, as the coronavirus spreads, that density is creating danger. Steven talks with Richard Florida, a bestselling author on cities and urban rebirth, about how cities can protect their way of life, and how they can come out of this crisis even stronger than before.Listen and subscribe to Wondery’s American Innovations at Richard Florida and Steven Pedigo’s 10-Point Preparedness Plan for Cities.
Prospects for a Vaccine

Prospects for a Vaccine


How can we speed up vaccine development for COVID-19? Steven Johnson speaks with Dr. Bruce Gellin, President of Global Immunization at the Sabin Vaccine Institute in Washington D.C.. Dr. Gellin is also a former director of the National Vaccine Program at the Department of Health and Human Services, and he led the creation of HHS’s first pandemic influenza preparedness and response plan.Listen and subscribe to Wondery’s American Innovations at
Premieres March 31st.
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Comments (1)

Sachin Garg

this is really great and insightful podcast, thank you :)

Apr 23rd
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