20 most read stories about Ars Technica from 2020

Let’s just state the obvious: 2020 stinks. It has been a horrible year for so much measurement, no matter where you live on this celestial sphere. So this time we’re going to do something a little different for our 20 most read stories. We will have two lists: the top 5 stories related to COVID-19 and everything else. So, if you had more COVID coverage than you could handle, please skip it with our blessing. If not, let’s go:

2020 in review, COVID section

5. Here is what the WHO says your mask should have to prevent the spread of COVID-19

One thing we have been proud of throughout our 22-year history is to educate people. When we launched the market in late 1998, it meant covering things like Celeron’s overclocking. In 2020, we did the same thing, but with COVID-19. So it is appropriate that the first countdown story just for COVID talks about how to choose a good mask.

Early in the time of the pandemic, there were confusing messages on masks, and it was not until late spring that the World Health Organization issued guidelines for masking the public. “This is a new new study, commissioned by the WHO, which we did not have a month ago,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO technical manager in response to COVID-19. In short, three-layer masks are best, with hydrophobic material on the outside and hydrophilic materials on the inside.

4. SARS-CoV-2 looks like a hybrid virus of two different species

To treat a new coronavirus, you need to touch the coronavirus. Or as Jay Timmer said,

One of the longest-running questions about this pandemic is simply: where did it come from? How did a virus that had apparently never infected a human before suddenly appear in our species, equipped with what was supposed to flood the country from China in a few months?

What we learned from studying SARS-Covid-2 will help us when the next pandemic occurs. We hope to have at least another century until that happens.

3. The results of the COVID-19 remdesivir test have been published and this is good news

In our current moment in 2020, this story by Jonathan Gitlin is a great illustration of how treatment modalities evolve as more research is done and data is accumulated. In the early days of the pandemic, remdesivir, an antiviral drug developed in response to an Ebola outbreak, seemed like a promising course of treatment. And in the study we reported in May, that was certainly the case: study participants infected with COVID-19 saw their recovery time decrease from an average of 15 days to 11.

But then it didn’t turn out that remdesivir was the penetrating treatment we had all hoped for. In fact, a large global study that reported results in October found that remdesivir does not do much to treat COVID-19. “Between the two groups, the WHO found that remdesivir did not reduce mortality. It also did not change the number of patients who progressed to the need for mechanical ventilation, nor did it change the proportion of patients discharged after seven days of hospitalization,” Beth Mole wrote.

2. CDC’s failed coronavirus tests contaminated with coronavirus, feds confirm

Another from the early days of the pandemic. In this case, it is a story that hinted at the difficulties faced by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As COVID-19 was in the initial phase of a march across the U.S. in February, the CDC sent laboratory test kits to states. There was one of the main problems: the kits themselves were contaminated with SARS-CoV-2.

“It was simply tragic,” said Scott Becker, executive director of the Public Health Laboratory Association. “All the while we were sitting and waiting, I really felt like we were here at one of the most critical crossings in the history of public health, and the biggest tool in our tool was missing.”

1. Don’t panic: A comprehensive Ars Technica guide to coronavirus

This was also the most read story of the year (and one of the most read stories of the past decade on Ars). Updated over 20 times over a month, this guide has been an invaluable resource for our readers in the early stages of a pandemic.

Almost 10 months after the initial announcement, after the first subjects were vaccinated, we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. It may be weak, but it is there and approaching. Let’s end this section of the 2020 summary with a reminder from our comprehensive guide.

You should be concerned and take this seriously. But you shouldn’t panic.