Pocket worthyStories to fuel your mind

Ed Yong: Must-Read Stories of the Pandemic

Stand-out stories that help make sense of the coronavirus pandemic, curated by science journalist Ed Yong.

Pocket Collections

Read when you’ve got time to spare.

Ed Yong spent much of 2020 covering the coronavirus pandemic, writing more than two dozen features about the virus and our often-bungled response to it for The Atlantic—including Pocket’s most-read article of 2020. He has curated a list of a few of the exceptional pieces that he most admired on the pandemic beat this year—pivotal writing that landed at critical moments, clear explainers that helped translate our evolving understanding of COVID-19, and unforgettable stories that stood above others for their beauty and lyricism.

Ed curated this collection in November 2020. In December, Pocket hosted a special live event with Ed Yong to discuss How the Pandemic Will End and more of his 2020 coronavirus coverage. [Watch here]

The Months of Magical Thinking: As the Coronavirus Swept Over China, Some Experts Were in Denial

Helen Branswell

EY: “Helen Branswell is perhaps the most respected veteran of the infectious disease beat—a tireless reporter who was covering the pandemic from its very first week. In this piece, she shows that even seasoned public health experts underestimated the COVID-19 threat early on. It’s an important historical marker that the world should learn from when thinking about pandemics of the future.”

‘I Wish I Could Do Something for You,’ My Doctor Said

Mara GayThe New York Times
The New York Times

We Need to Talk About What Coronavirus Recoveries Look Like by Fiona Lowenstein via The New York Times

EY: “I remember the seismic impact of these pieces, which blew away the lingering myth that COVID-19 only affected the elderly, and clearly showed that even young, healthy people could be debilitated by the disease. These important op-eds also hinted at the existence of the group who would eventually become known as long-haulers.”

They Say Coronavirus Isn't Airborne—but It's Definitely Borne By Air

Roxanne Khamsi

EY: “Roxanne Khamsi has been one of the very best pandemic journalists, repeatedly finding important stories well ahead of anyone else. Her piece on whether the new virus is airborne, and the tricky scientific debates around that seemingly simple word, came out months before the matter was furiously debated by the scientific community.”

This Overlooked Variable Is the Key to the Pandemic

Zeynep Tufekci
The Atlantic

EY: “Zeynep Tufekci has been consistently right about the pandemic from the beginning, calling attention to the need for masks and better ventilation well before either became commonly discussed. This piece—an explanation of the superspreading problem and what to do about it—is her crowning achievement. It’s a masterpiece of science writing, taking difficult concepts and suffusing them with clarity and urgency.”

The Covid Drug Wars That Pitted Doctor vs. Doctor

Susan Dominus
The New York Times

EY: “Faced by an entirely new disease and strained emergency rooms, doctors were pulled between the need to try something, anything, right now and the need to accumulate evidence about what treatments actually work. This is a tough topic, but one that’s masterfully and compassionately handled by Susan Dominus, surely one of the most formidable magazine writers working today.”

What Happened in Room 10?

Katie Engelhart
California Sunday Magazine

EY: “When COVID-19 first arrived in the U.S., nursing homes took the brunt of its assault. This astonishing piece details what happened in the first American hotspot—the Life Care Center of Kirkland. Extraordinarily gripping, it conveys how scared, confused, and unprepared parts of the country were for a pandemic.”

I’m an E.R. Doctor in New York. None of Us Will Ever Be the Same.

Helen Ouyang
The New York Times

EY: “More than perhaps any other piece, this haunting account of what the new coronavirus does to hospitals has stuck in my mind. Helen Ouyang juxtaposes her first-hand experiences in New York with the similar ordeals endured by colleagues in Lombardy. It is an extraordinary piece of writing, and a grim harbinger of what hospitals throughout the U.S. would face at the end of the year.”

The Storm Inside

Sarah Kaplan
The Washington Post

EY: “At least 250,000 Americans have died of COVID-19—a huge number that elides unfathomable tragedy into cold digits. Sarah Kaplan cuts through the habituation, and tells the story of just one of those deaths—Keith Redding, and the people who now grieve him.”

The Uncounted Dead

Maggie Koerth

EY: “While pundits argued about whether COVID-19 deaths are overcounted or undercounted, Maggie Koerth showed why it’s the latter in this deeply moving piece. It effortlessly moves from personal tragedy to statistical shenanigan, allowing both to illuminate the other.”

It’s Not Too Late to Save Black Lives

Julia Craven

EY: “COVID-19 disproportionately infected and killed Black communities in the U.S.. Julia Craven beautifully explains why in this piece, in which she juxtaposes the poignant stories of two women against a sweeping look at America’s centuries-old legacy of racism.”

Quarantine Fatigue Is Real

Julia Marcus
The Atlantic

EY: “The U.S. has an unfortunate tendency to castigate individuals for societal failures, offering blame and shame instead of guidance. Julia Marcus has led the charge to resist that instinct. Consistently, she has offered sensible and much-needed advice on navigating risk, and urged everyone else to lean towards compassion and empathy instead of judgement and punishment.”

The Difference Between Feeling Safe and Being Safe

Amanda Mull
The Atlantic

EY: “For years, Amanda Mull’s work at The Atlantic has redefined my conception of what health journalism can be. This piece is a good example—a thought-provoking and often profound look at why feeling safe and being safe are so very different, and why that difference has mattered so much during this pandemic.”

What the Coronavirus Means for Climate Change

Meehan Crist
The New York Times

EY: “In the spring, as the world sheltered in place, many pieces were written about whether distancing would blunt the sting of climate change. This is not one of those pieces. Meehan Crist, one of the most thoughtful writers I know, offers something more profound—a sweeping, forward-looking look at two of the most pressing problems of our time.”

The End of the Pandemic Is Now in Sight

Sarah Zhang
The Atlantic

EY: “Finally, hope. With the announcement of positive results for several vaccines, the pandemic endgame is now upon us—and in record time. This is the stirring story of the scientific achievement of the year, as told by one of the most accomplished science writers working today.”