April 20, 2021

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Reporter Apoorva Mandavilli Makes Science of Covid Clearer

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You previously worked on a website that focused on the autism spectrum. How did that inform your work?

That was a site that was intended for scientists, but it was read by a lot of nonscientists as well. I think that’s one of the places where I learned to hone this fine balance of being technically accurate and being clear and simple at the same time. Also, I learned the skill of identifying stories and seeing trends. Autism is a pretty small niche, and we had to be able to spot small and interesting things and be able to develop them into full stories. So I’ve had a lot of practice doing that.

You frequently write about the science around the decision to send kids back to school. How are you navigating that in your own life?

I have two kids. My son is in middle school, and my daughter is 8. My kids are in school two days a week. Now they do this hybrid schedule, but I know how much they miss being in school full time. I know how much they miss the company of their friends, and I worry for their physical safety, and I worry for their mental health. I understand the parents all over the world who are desperate to have their kids in school.

How do you disconnect when your beat is Covid?

When I get away from the computer, my kids are right there, demanding my attention, wanting to be read to, fighting, yelling, being annoying and loving. They take up a lot of time. I also watch TV. I am extremely forgiving of my lowbrow tastes. I used to read a lot, and I have not been reading novels at all, which is kind of sad, but I just don’t have the attention span right now. I do a lot of crosswords, and I’m addicted to The Times’s Spelling Bee game.

What is your favorite lowbrow television?

Well, I really enjoyed “Bridgerton.” There was a period of time last spring when I even watched “The O.C.” for a couple of months.

What would readers be surprised to learn about you?

Maybe that I speak multiple languages — I’m fluent in four Indian languages, plus English, and can speak conversational French and Japanese. I grew up in India until I was 17, so English is not my first language.

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