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On March 23, 2020, with the deadly coronavirus reported in 167 countries and territories, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres called for a global ceasefire to support a public health response. It was the first global ceasefire appeal since the agency was founded in 1945, in the aftermath of World War II. "The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war," Guterres said. "End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Masks are the emblem of the mystery man hero — think Zorro and Batman, the centerpiece of theatrical costume as in Japanese Noh plays and Phantom of the Opera. In their cultural context, masks are powerful ceremonial artifacts that obliterate the wearer's personality and change him or her into another being entirely.

The age of COVID adds yet another layer of meaning. When breath, the embodiment of life, becomes the carrier of death, a mask becomes literally a matter of life and death.

Each week, we answer frequently asked questions about life during the coronavirus crisis. If you have a question you'd like us to consider for a future post, email us at goatsandsoda@npr.org with the subject line: "Weekly Coronavirus Questions." See an archive of our FAQs here.

Early in the pandemic, one bit of encouraging news was that children weren't as vulnerable to COVID-19 as adults.

But doctors who treat children with cancer had special concerns.

These kids have impaired white blood cells — the ones that fight infection. That can be a result of the cancer itself or of cancer treatments like chemotherapy. So when it comes to common respiratory infections like the flu, children with cancer tend to show more severe symptoms.

Would COVID also be more severe in this population?

Sahar Education, a small, U.S.-based nonprofit that works in Afghanistan, was in the process of building a new boarding school for girls in the northern part of the country – until the Taliban regained control of the capital on Aug. 15.

That's when Sahar decided to pause all operations. It stopped construction of the school and removed anything from its website that might reveal the identities of its students and staff.

Updated August 30, 2021 at 7:01 PM ET

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Like most Americans, I learned to ride a bike as a kid. I still remember the glee after learning how to ride a bike on a subdivision road where I grew up in Florida. I had cracked the mysteries of balance, and now I had the giddy pleasure of my newfound freedom.

But girls around the world don't always get to experience the joy of a first bike ride. In some countries, conservative societies frown upon women and girls who ride bikes – it's not considered dignified or appropriate — and gives a girl too much independence.

Tori Cooper recently became the first Black transgender woman to serve on the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and she hopes her historic appointment helps shine a light on the disparities in health care for the Black trans community.

"I never expected that those folks would know who I am or have any idea about the work that's being done," she tells NPR.

What if the U.S. decided to vaccinate the rest of the world against COVID-19?

That's what more than 175 health experts proposed to President Biden in an Aug. 10 letter sent to senior White House officials and shared with The Washington Post.

Israel was the first country on Earth to fully vaccinate a majority of its citizens against COVID-19. Now it has one of the world's highest daily infection rates — an average of nearly 7,500 confirmed cases a day, double what it was two weeks ago. Nearly one in every 150 people in Israel today has the virus.

What happened, and what can be learned about the vaccine's impact on a highly vaccinated country? Here are six lessons learned — and one looming question for the future of the pandemic.

How is Afghanistan's health system faring amid the Taliban takeover?

To get a perspective, NPR spoke on Thursday with Filipe Ribeiro, the country representative for Doctors Without Borders, to find out where things stand for patients and health workers in the organization's hospitals and clinics across Afghanistan.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Eleven days ago, Dr. Akbari was at her clinic in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif when she got a call that made her drop everything. It was a member of the Taliban who had been threatening her from afar for months because she had given a birth control shot to his 13-year-old bride.

"This time, his voice was actually really soft," recalls Akbari. "He said, 'We're entering the city. Soon we'll come and get you.' "

In September, the U.S. will start offering a third COVID-19 shot to all adults vaccinated with Pfizer and Moderna, even though these vaccines still offer high protection against hospitalization and death from the delta variant.

Is it OK to lie to get a booster shot? What about to get a vaccine for your not quite 12-year-old? Last week we published a post exploring the medical, practical and ethical consequences of lying. And we asked our readers to weigh in: Is it unethical to get a vaccine when the government says it's not your turn. Some of you gave us a "Heck yes, it's unethical!" Others are willing to break, or at least bend, the vaccine rules if you 1.

Tensions are high right now. As the delta variant spreads like wildfire across the U.S., vaccination rates are still low in many places and parents and school staff are anxiously wondering what will happen when schools start up again. Should there be more mask mandates? Will businesses have to close again? Will big gatherings be banned?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

An earthquake ravaged areas of Haiti. Government workers are starting to use heavy equipment to demolish collapsed buildings where it's clear no more survivors will be found.

(SOUNDBITE OF DEMOLITION AMBIENCE)

Admitting this makes me feel like a bad mom, but it's the truth: I don't enjoy "kid-friendly" places. At birthday parties, zoos and play areas, I'm either completely bored or utterly overstimulated. The noise, the lights, the chaos! After an hour or two, I'd leave, say, the children's science museum exhausted, on edge and feeling like a small piece of my soul had died back at the snack bar after spending $10 on a slice of cheese pizza.

In a letter we shared last week, Baltimore-based doctor Edward Kenyi appealed to his mother, who lives in South Sudan, to get a COVID-19 vaccine. He pleaded with her to take COVID seriously and trust her son over the "rumors and stories from WhatsApp group messages" that spread false information about microchips and infertility related to vaccination.

All passengers and workers on commercial air flights in Canada will soon have to prove they've been vaccinated against the coronavirus. Canada's government will also require all federal workers to be vaccinated, citing a "dynamic public health situation" due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do you get someone to wear a mask?

The question is back on many people's minds as cases of the delta variant rise among unvaccinated and vaccinated people and pressures mount to mask up.

Despite mask mandates, social pressure and even rewards — giving gift cards to kids who wear their masks properly, for example — the country remains divided on mask-wearing. President Biden condemned anti-masking behavior at a press conference Thursday at the White House.

Updated August 18, 2021 at 11:47 AM ET

BEIJING – The client dinner in July began like any other: with copious amounts of alcohol and no other women present.

"Look how good I am to you," the female employee later recalled her male manager telling their clients when she arrived at the meal. "I brought you a beautiful girl," she remembered him saying.

She says the last thing she remembered that night was crying while her manager lay on top of her.

Since 2015, NPR has been following the efforts of a charity in Northern India that has an interesting solution to the problem of child marriage. It's called the Veerni Institute and it offers village girls who are child brides — or who are at risk of being married off young — the chance to continue their high school education. The institute runs what is effectively a boarding school for these girls in the city of Jodhpur.

In a leaked report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made a surprising claim about the delta variant of the coronavirus: It "is as transmissible as: - Chicken Pox," the agency wrote in a slideshow presentation leaked to The Washington Post on July 26.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Today, authorities began distributing coronavirus vaccines to more than a million Rohingya refugees who spent years crowded in camps in southern Bangladesh after fleeing a military crackdown in Myanmar. NPR's Lauren Frayer reports from Mumbai.

The vast majority of COVID-19 vaccines have gone straight from drug companies to affluent countries such as the United States. Worldwide only about 1% have made it to low-income countries.

And here's what's happening all across the United States: Millions of vaccine doses at risk of spoiling are sitting on freezer shelves, with no easy way to get them to countries desperately waiting for shots.

NPR's Sarah McCammon speaks with Dr. Matt McCarthy, author of Superbugs: The Race to Stop an Epidemic, about the threat of new COVID-19 variants and the recent rise in cases throughout the country.

When Sedjro Ahouansou was a kid growing up in the West African country of Benin, he loved eating a traditional dish called piron, a starchy accompaniment made of cassava flour that's served with meat and savory foods.

Now a chef, Ahouansou serves the dish at his restaurant Chill N Grill in Cotonou, Benin's largest city – only he's reinvented it as a Japanese-style dessert. He adds fluffy white coconut flakes to the piron, shapes it like a maki roll and fills it with warm fried pineapple.

Vaccines are not readily available in many countries. Yet when a limited supply does arrive, people are not always interested. On March 25, South Sudan received 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through the COVAX program, the global effort to provide vaccines to poorer countries. They were free to all comers. But there was no rush to get the vaccines.

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