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Press ReleaseHow to read a news release:  Tips from the editors of JAMA

Two recent opinion pieces in JAMA address the issue of evaluating and communicating scientific information in the constantly changing era of Covid-19.  Journal editors need to maintain standards of scientific integrity as they rapidly process high numbers of time-critical articles.  Readers are faced with a deluge of additional information in the form of news releases, pre-prints, and blog posts – most disseminated with little review.

How should a reader approach news releases?  Unlike peer reviewed articles, news releases are short and designed to grab attention.  They often lack the details to conduct a traditional critical appraisal.  Readers therefore might want to ask the following questions to make a quick assessment of the information reported in a news release:

  • Does the news release report on a single study? 
  • Are main outcomes, absolute risks and patient population reported?
  • How does the information reported relate to other studies?
  • What is the context of the news release? (i.e. from a federal agency or a pharmaceutical company, designed to influence public opinion or report to stockholders)
  • Are the opinions of any independent experts included?
  • Have study results been reported elsewhere? (i.e. preprint, journals)

To learn more about critically reading a news release, check out the 10 review criteria for news stories listed at


Saitz R, Schwitzer G. Communicating Science in the Time of a Pandemic. JAMA. Published online July 13, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.12535

Bauchner H, Fontanarosa PB, Golub RM. Editorial Evaluation and Peer Review During a Pandemic: How Journals Maintain Standards. JAMA. Published online June 26, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.11764 (n.d.) Our Review Criteria.

Image: Youngson, N. (no date). Press Release.  Retrieved from:

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in many US states, here are some trusted sources for tracking the situation in the DMV.

Departments of Public Health:

DC Coronavirus Data - Includes daily numbers tested, positives, and lives lost. Scroll down for the DC Re-Opening Tracker and data by ward, neighborhood, and demographic break outs. Tables include data for cases, quarantine and deaths of public safety personnel. Check the Press Releases area on the home page for a detailed daily summary of Coronavirus Data including trends graphs for transmission and positivity rates, and contact tracing data. Total Positives Map by Ward image for Washington DC

DC Hospital Status Data - Includes daily ICU, ventilator, and bed capacity, COVID hospitalization counts and total patient counts.

Maryland Coronavirus Disease 2019 Outbreak and Data Dashboard - Cases and testing by county, ICU and Acute bed capacities, percentage positive rates and testing volume 7 day averages since March 2020. Cases and deaths by age, gender, race and ethnicity.

Maryland COVID-19 in Congregate Facility Settings (Nursing Homes) - Staff and resident cases and deaths reported by county and facilities.

Virginia Department of Health COVID-19 Dashboard - Includes total counts and graphic representations of cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Demographics tab provides breakouts by age, sex, race and ethnicity. Interactive localities tab provides options for counts or rates, and bar chart generation by health district and locality. Outbreaks tab shows outbreak data by setting/facility type, including long term care and correctional facilities. MIS-C tab tracks cases of Multisymptom Inflammatory Syndrome in Children by health district.

Virginia Department of Health Data Insights - Includes case and testing data by zip code, COVID-like illness visits to EDs by health regions, and modeling data from the UVA COVID-19 Model.  

Other Sources:

COVID-19 Watcher (Cincinnati Children's & University of Cincinnati) - Tool merges county-level COVID-19 data from The New York Times with sources from the U.S. Census Bureau, mapping the data by metropolitan area.

COVID Community Vulnerability Map -  Drill down into communities by zipcode or manipulate the map to view populations most vulnerable for severe outcomes if infected with a COVID-like virus and the socioeconomic factors driving that risk.

Virginia Hospital COVID-19 Dashboard - Virginia Hospital & Healthcare Association provides counts of confirmed cases and pui currently hospitalized, ICU beds and ventilators in use, and hospitals with supply shortages.

State Health Workforce Estimator - From the Mullan Institute for Health Workforce Equity at GW, it provides state-level data for considering different strategic approaches to ensure sufficient heath workforce for COVID-19. A Contact Tracing Workforce Estimator is also available.

Washington Post Known Coronavirus Deaths and Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia - Deaths, cases, daily and cumulative counts for each state, daily deaths per 100,000 residents, deaths by county and city, and hospitalizations by state.

Additional monitoring sites, data dashboards and calculators are available on the COVID-19 Research Guide Epidemiology page. The Health Care Resources page includes capacity calculators and models for hospital utilization. Check the Literature, Database, and Data Resources page for open data sets.

Himmelfarb Staff Member 3D Prints Face Shields for Health Care Workers

GIF of face shield being printed
Click to watch: 3D printing process


John Lopez, Himmelfarb Library’s Data Technician, has joined an initiative to 3D print face shields for healthcare workers. John shares how he became involved in the project, and what the process entails.

How did you learn about the face shield printing initiative?

I initially read an article about a hospital in Brescia, Italy which was hit hard by the pandemic. They were running out of valves used for their respirators which the manufacturer couldn't provide quickly enough, so a small startup company reversed engineered the valve and began 3D printing them, which the hospital then used. The article quickly became viral just as COVID-19 reached the states.

I began noticing online 3D printing communities around the world organizing similar efforts once Josef Prusa - the founder of Prusa Lab in Prague, Czech Republic - released an open-source face shield design, made available for anyone with a 3D printer to produce. Various iterations were soon released, but the Prusa face shield design proved to be the most effective among health care workers.

image of a face shield
3D-printed face shield

Are you partnering with a particular organization or initiative?

I joined the volunteer effort started by Open Works, a makerspace workshop based in Baltimore who were among the first to mobilize volunteer makers with an organized and efficient plan to provide face shields to local healthcare systems and hospitals. A chain of custody is established via email registration, as each 3D print file is assigned a unique parts number which helps keep track of how many face shields were printed by a volunteer.

What part of the shield is 3D-printed?  What other materials do you need for assembly, and where can you get them? Is there a standard for what material the face shield should be made of (e.g., thickness)?

image of face shield components
Face shield components

image of face shield components

image of face shield components

The face shield is actually a printable headband, as well as a printable chin strap which serves as a mount for the visor; both are included in the 3D print file. An elastic cord, along with the actual clear acrylic visor, are required to complete assembly, both of which are done at Open Works once they receive completed face shields.

PETG is the type of filament material primarily used to print the face shields, which can be purchased on Amazon for example. It's preferred due to its rigidity and because it can be sterilized more efficiently than other types of printing material such as PLA. There is indeed a printing guideline for makers to follow which sets the parameters to prevent the face shield from breaking.

How long does it take to print the shield frames?

The average print time when following the recommended print settings can take up to 6 hours for a single face shield. There are certainly a variety of ways to print faster by tinkering with hardware, such as changing the nozzle size, but it's not encouraged as strength and quality of the model are prioritized over speed.

Are you using the library’s 3D printer?

I'm grateful for my two 3D printers at home since the library's 3D printer service hasn’t been accessible.

Roughly how many have you assembled so far?

Volunteers had been asked to print at least three face shields each during the early weeks of the pandemic. The incredible response from volunteers reached a saturation point in mid-April as thousands of face shields had been made. Since then my focus has been printing ear straps for face masks.

face shield components
Face shield components

Once they’re assembled, how do you get them to their destination?

Once a face shield is done printing, I wear nitrile gloves to remove the part from the print bed and follow the sanitation checklist provided by Open Works. A liability waiver is also signed then sent along with the face shields through USPS.

Is there a website (or several websites) you would recommend people visit for more information?

A good starting point for anyone with a 3D printer looking to join local volunteer efforts in their area

COVID-19 Supply Chain Response: Essential Information

Article re: 3D printed valve parts used in hospitals throughout Italy

Blog post from Josef Prusa about face shield design

Open Works/Makers Unite/We the Builders - the volunteer org I had joined for printing the face shields

The group was mentioned in a recent article from The Economist:

NIH’s 3D Print Exchange now has downloadable designs for PPE and devices, including the Prusa face shield and face mask ear savers:

Prusa Protective Face Shield

Surgical Mask Tension Release Band for Ear Comfort & Extended Use

The expanded Research Guide is a one stop for the latest health care and public health focused news, research, literature resources, and clinical guidelines on COVID-19.  It also includes the latest University news and resources for the GW health care community.

The News page includes breaking news, regularly updated newsfeeds like Kaiser Health News and NEJM’s Physician First Watch, and podcasts. Check out JAMA’s regular Q&A’s on COVID-19 for CME credit and CDC’s weekly COCA calls.

The Literature, Database and Data Resources page has portals developed by trusted publishers like BMJ, Springer Nature, and Wiley, and targeted search services like NLM’s LitCovid. Datasets include those that populate Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Dashboard and sequence data from NLM Genbank.

Additional pages support clinical, laboratory, and infection control services, and resources for specific medical specialties. Among these are Airway & Management guidelines by Dr. Jeffrey Berger, GW Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care Medicine, and a Critical Care Primer on resources for non-ICU clinicians called on to support ICU patients, developed by Laura Abate at Himmelfarb.  Also access Master Protocols from University of Washington and UCSF here.

Public health and emergency management resources include tracking maps and dashboards, as well as critical resources from CDC and WHO (daily situation summaries and guidance). State and local public health department COVID-19 information and emergency management agencies are also listed.

The guide will be updated regularly and we encourage you to share any resources we’ve missed by emailing  As always, our team of health sciences librarians is here to assist you with using any of these resources or other information needs at this time. Email us or chat us Monday-Thursday from 8:30am-8pm and Friday 8:30am-5pm.

Most of us are aware of the critical information resources on COVID-19 provided by the CDC and WHO. Many trusted publishers and literature search services in the health sciences now have devoted sites with resources for health care and public health professionals. These resources and more are now available on Himmelfarb’s Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Research Guide.

Here’s a sampling of resources on the guide:

Along with these resources you can find trusted sources for news, clinical guidelines, drug trials, health department information, and protective measures for health care professionals on the Research Guide

Do you know of resources not included on our guide that you would like to recommend? Send them to or

The Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) has declared March 8-14, 2020 to be Patient Safety Awareness Week.  The annual event promotes safety in the healthcare system for both patients and healthcare workers. Medical harm remains a leading cause of death worldwide with the World Health Organization estimating 2.6 million deaths annually from unsafe care in hospitals.

The Institute provides a number of supporting resources on its website:

Patient Safety Essentials Toolkit

Leading a Culture of Safety: A Blueprint for Success

It also makes available a Safety Culture Assessment tool for organizations.

IHI is offering a free virtual learning hour, Principles for Improving Patient Safety Measurement, on Tuesday, March 10th from noon to 1pm.

You can find more resources on IHI’s Patient Safety page, including how to earn the Certified Professional in Patient Safety credential.

Here are some Himmelfarb Library resources on patient safety:

AccessMedicine. Patient Safety Modules [multimedia]

Banja JD. Patient Safety Ethics : How Vigilance, Mindfulness, Compliance, and Humility Can Make Healthcare Safer . Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press; 2019.

Fondahn E, Lane M, Vannucci A. The Washington Manual of Patient Safety and Quality Improvement . Philadelphia, [Pennsylvania: Wolters Kluwer; 2016.

Journal of Patient Safety and Risk Management. London: SAGE Publications; 2018.

Wachter RM, Gupta K. Understanding Patient Safety . Third edition. New York: McGraw-Hill Education; 2018.

Waterson P. Patient Safety Culture : Theory, Methods, and Application . Farnham, Surrey, England ;: Ashgate Publishing Limited; 2014.


GW COVID-19 responseThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is closely monitoring an outbreak caused by a new coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. The outbreak has resulted in hundreds of confirmed cases in China and additional cases in a growing number of other countries, including the first confirmed case in the US.

Himmelfarb Library has links to the latest information from CDC, World Health Organization, and the National Library of Medicine’s Disaster Information Management Resource Center on the Emergency Preparedness and Response Resources Research Guide. This guide will continue to be updated as the situation coronavirus imagedevelops.

Research Guide: Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

If you are planning to travel internationally, consult the CDC Traveler’s Health page. Currently travelers are being asked to avoid non-essential travel to Wuhan. There are further recommendations and precautions if you plan to travel to China or are traveling to Asia for Lunar New Year celebrations.

Additionally from the CDC:

If you traveled to China in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. 

Further important instructions are on the Traveler’s Health page.

Healthcare providers should immediately notify their local or state health department in the event of a patient under investigation for 2019-nCoV. Information for the Washington, DC Department of Health is below. For other localities, check the Directory of Local Health Departments (NACCHO).

Government of the District of Columbia Department of Health
899 N Capitol St Ne
Washington, DC 20002-4263
Phone: (202) 442-5955

Image source: AJC1. (2013) Novel coronavirus nCoV. flickr.

Stop/Unethical - Think/Grey - Go/EthicalA scientist wrongfully imprisoned?  Or, a scientist who ignored ethical principles and scientific standards?

Dr. He Jiankui earned a PhD from Rice University in 2010, did postdoctoral work at Stanford University, and returned to China in 2012 to work in the Southern University of Science and Technology.  In 2018, Dr. Jiankui confirmed reports that he had edited the genomes of embryos using CRISPR, transferred them to women's uteruses, and that a set of twin girls had been born.  Subsequently, Dr. Jiankui was placed on unpaid leave and eventually dismissed from Southern University of Science and Technology.  In late 2019, Dr. Jiankui was sentenced to three years in prison and fined about $430,000 U.S. dollars for having "forged ethical review documents and misled doctors into unknowingly implanting gene-edited embryos into two women."

So what happened?  Did Dr. Jiankui go too far, too fast?  Or, did China stifle a cutting edge researcher?  Read these articles to understand the science, ethics, and researchers involved in this story:

For more discussion, check out additional articles in Dr. Chuck Macri’s Genetics Journal Club


The TOXNET database is retiring on December 16, 2019.  Much of TOXNET's information will remain accessible and will be incorporated into other resources including PubChemPubMed, and NCBI's Bookshelf:

  • PubChem will incorporate the Hazardous Substances Data Bank (HSDB), ChemIDPlus, and the Chemical Carcinogenesis Research Information System (CCRIS); the CCRIS includes information from 1985-2011 and is no longer updated.
  • PubMed will incorporate information from TOXLINE, the Developmental and Reproductive Toxicology Database (DART)
  • Bookshelf will incorporate LactMed and LiverTox

Some TOXNET resources have been retired but related resources remain accessible:

A sad face drawn in a frosted car window.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), an onset of depressive symptoms during winter months, affects an estimate of .4%-2.9% of the population. The causes of SAD are still unclear, however everything from genetics to diminished light may play a factor. While its seasonal nature means SAD symptoms abate in the Spring, that doesn’t mean you have to slog through the winter with symptoms like loss of interest, hypersomnia, or irritability. There are many treatments available, from light therapy to antidepressants.

Pjrek et al. (2019) conducted a systematic review of randomized controlled trials exploring the efficacy of bright light therapy (BLT) as a treatment for SAD. Their review found that these trials proved BLT an effective treatment for SAD, though these trials included smaller sample sizes and larger clinical trials would be preferable.

If you want to try BLT at home, The Cut published a list of the 6 best light therapy lamps available on Amazon. They range in price from $65 to $230 for a large floor lamp. The Strategist from New York Magazine also published their list of recommendations, and it includes two pairs of light therapy glasses! Light therapy glasses work just like light therapy lamps, but are more compact and portable.

Did you know? Light therapy can also help with morning drowsiness and even relieve jet lag symptoms.

Image Source: McCasland, J. (2013). Battling the winter blues [online image]. Retrieved December 11, 2019 from

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