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Influence of Luck

Experts braced for SARS-CoV-2 variant-fueled increases in COVID-19 cases in the US in the winter, but the New York Times writes that those waves largely did not arrive — but that that was mostly due to luck.

The first known case in the US of COVID-19 due to the B.1.1.7 variant — the variant first identified in the UK — was uncovered in late December, and other variants, originating from both outside the US and inside, were not far behind, the Times adds. At the time, the US was experiencing a surge in cases following the winter holidays and vaccination efforts had barely begun.

But a combination of factors such as mask-wearing and social distancing appears to have bought the US time to begin those vaccinations, the Times writes. At the same time, it notes that the B.1.1.7 variant — which now accounts for about three-quarters of COVID-19 cases in the US — is susceptible to vaccines.

"I think we got lucky, to be honest," Yale University's Nathan Grubaugh tells the Times. "We're being rescued by the vaccine."

The Scan

Not as High as Hoped

The Associated Press says initial results from a trial of CureVac's SARS-CoV-2 vaccine suggests low effectiveness in preventing COVID-19.

Finding Freshwater DNA

A new research project plans to use eDNA sampling to analyze freshwater rivers across the world, the Guardian reports.

Rise in Payments

Kaiser Health News investigates the rise of payments made by medical device companies to surgeons that could be in violation of anti-kickback laws.

Nature Papers Present Ginkgo Biloba Genome Assembly, Collection of Polygenic Indexes, More

In Nature this week: a nearly complete Ginkgo biloba genome assembly, polygenic indexes for dozens of phenotypes, and more.