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Infectious disease

An unprecedented situation

by Bibiana Campos Seijo
March 21, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 11


“This is serious. Take it seriously.” These are the words of German chancellor Angela Merkel speaking to her nation in a televised address on March 18. Her speech reiterated the gravity of the situation the world faces because of the COVID-19 pandemic and committed the German government to helping everyone who needed it.

The truth is, we are living in an unprecedented situation—for many, a time of anxiety and uncertainty. With reason. It is the stuff of movies: mandates of self-isolation, closures of schools, shortness of supplies, and a lack of testing kits for hospital staff, who are also fearful of running out of medical equipment.

C&EN has made this story and all of its coverage of the coronavirus epidemic freely available during the outbreak to keep the public informed. To support our journalism, become a member of ACS or sign up for C&EN's weekly newsletter.

At C&EN, we are committed to bringing you the latest about the coronavirus pandemic. So far, C&EN’s staff remain safe and sound. Our newsroom is distributed across a number of locations around the world, and for years we have invested in the tools and technologies to enable the group to operate remotely. This has meant that as the COVID-19 crisis worsened, we were able to pretty early on make the decision that staff would work from home and continue to provide news and information to our members without disruption.

Like many other news organizations, we are concentrating on providing comprehensive coverage about the pandemic; in our case, we are focusing specifically on how it is affecting the chemical enterprise. We are also trying to combat misinformation and ensure that members of the public have access to a source they can trust. For this reason, we decided in late January to make all our coronavirus-related content freely available as a public service for the duration of the epidemic.

For ease of access, we have collected all our coverage at Here you can find all kinds of COVID-19-related stories, including a study identifying several approved and well-studied small molecules that could be repurposed as COVID-19 treatments, how we know which household disinfectants may be effective against the disease, and a podcast episode on how the pandemic could disrupt the drug supply.

We are also planning a series of COVID-19-related daily chats on Twitter for March 24 until March 27 to discuss the disruption due to the pandemic, including how it is impacting employment and industrial chemists, how faculty and students are coping, and how to manage the switch to online teaching. Star guests will include C&EN columnists Chemjobber and Jen Heemstra, teaching professor Maria Gallardo-Williams, and PhD candidate Fay Lin.

C&EN’s efforts are just one piece of the American Chemical Society’s response to the crisis. ACS Publications, together with a group of publishers, responded to a call by the US Office of Science and Technology Policy to drop paywalls to all research and data on COVID-19 and allow for reuse. CAS is offering its scientific information expertise to organizations working on COVID-19 vaccines and therapies. Among the free assistance it’s offering: helping researchers get answers and analyses quickly; providing access to CAS solutions; creating custom, curated data sets relevant to a target of interest; and collaborating with CAS scientists on challenging formulations.

The American Association of Chemistry Teachers has also made some of its resources free until the end of March, including activities, simulations, and videos aimed at elementary to high school and general chemistry students.

By now, you’ll have heard that the ACS spring national meeting in Philadelphia has been canceled.

ACS has announced the launch of a virtual science-sharing platform called SciMeetings to allow presenters to share the research they were planning to deliver in Philadelphia so it can be read and cited. Some ACS divisions are also working to provide virtual symposia and talks. The chemical science community is taking it seriously, Dr. Merkel.

Views expressed on this page are those of the author and not necessarily those of ACS.


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