Allison Aubrey

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Updated Aug. 12 at 1:15 p.m. ET

How severe is the spread of COVID-19 in your community? If you're confused, you're not alone. Though state and local dashboards provide lots of numbers, from case counts to deaths, it's often unclear how to interpret them — and hard to compare them to other places.

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Wow, some difficult scenes there from Michigan - all right, let's bring in NPR science correspondent Allison Aubrey.

Hey there, Allison.

ALLISON AUBREY, BYLINE: Hey there.

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Some states say they're going to gradually reopen over the next few days. Georgia is one of the first. Governor Brian Kemp says some businesses can go back to work tomorrow. President Trump said yesterday, he doesn't think Georgia is ready.

First things first: It's not yet time to end social distancing and go back to work and church and concerts and handshakes.

Public health experts say social distancing appears to be working, and letting up these measures too soon could be disastrous. Until there is a sustained reduction in new cases — and the coronavirus' spread is clearly slowing — we need to stay the course.

A new analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that people with chronic conditions including diabetes, lung disease and heart disease appear to be at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19.

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Ford has teamed up with 3M and GE Healthcare to speed up the production of personal protective gear for health care workers and of ventilators for people in acute respiratory distress amid the coronavirus epidemic.

"We see the need and we want to jump in and help," Jim Baumbick, vice president for enterprise product line management at Ford Motor Co., told reporters during a teleconference Tuesday morning announcing the new efforts.

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New preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping create a picture of the spectrum of illness caused by COVID-19 in the U.S.

The findings echo what's been documented in China: The risk of serious disease and death is higher in older age groups. But they aren't the only age groups at risk.

By now, you've heard the advice that to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., we need to practice social distancing. But if you're confused as to what that looks like in practice, we've got some answers.

On Monday, the White House announced new guidelines for the next two weeks, urging Americans to avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people; to avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, or social visits; and not to go out to restaurants or bars.

The way the world says hello is changing. Quickly.

In lieu of the germ-rich exchange of the handshake, alternative salutations are taking hold.

In Tanzania, President John Magufuli introduced a low-touch greeting when he met with the opposition leader from Zanzibar Seif Sharif Hamad, reports Eyder Peralta, NPR's correspondent in east Africa. It takes the form of a catchy, two-part salute, using both hands and feet.

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