Lauren Sommer

Lauren Sommer covers climate change for NPR's Science Desk, from the scientists on the front lines of documenting the warming climate to the way those changes are reshaping communities and ecosystems around the world.

Prior to joining NPR, Sommer spent more than a decade covering climate and environment for KQED Public Radio in San Francisco. During her time there, she delved into the impacts of California's historic drought during dry years and reported on destructive floods during wet years, and covered how communities responded to record-breaking wildfires.

Sommer has also examined California's ambitious effort to cut carbon emissions across its economy and investigated the legacy of its oil industry. On the lighter side, she ran from charging elephant seals and searched for frogs in Sierra Nevada lakes.

She was also host of KQED's macrophotography nature series Deep Look, which searched for universal truths in tiny organisms like black-widow spiders and parasites. Sommer has received a national Edward R. Murrow for use of sound, as well as awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Based at NPR's San Francisco bureau, Sommer grew up in the West, minus a stint on the East Coast to attend Cornell University.

With coronavirus testing still lagging behind targets, health officials are searching for other ways to assess the spread of the outbreak. One possibility? Looking at what we flush.

The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is often spread through sneezes and coughs, but it also leaves the human body through our waste. Scientists around the world are now testing sewage for the virus, using it as a collective sample to measure infection levels among thousands of people.

In early February, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was looking for ways to stop the novel coronavirus before it got out of control in the United States.

As coronavirus numbers have ticked steadily upwards in some U.S. states and cities, officials have watched one specific figure to see whether they're facing a flattening curve or runaway outbreak: the doubling rate.

Simply put, it's how many days it takes for the number of coronavirus cases, hospitalizations or deaths to double. The shorter the time frame, the steeper the curve and the faster the growth.

With tests scarce, epidemiologists are looking at hospitalizations as an indicator of how the novel coronavirus is spreading. But in some of the areas of the country worst-hit by COVID-19, states and counties aren't releasing that data.

The result is an incomplete picture of where the pandemic is surging, even in hotspots such as Washington and California.