This SF Professor Has Been a Knowledge-Soaked Balm Amid the Pandemic. Then His Son Got Sick.

‘My son should do OK, but the illness & the anxiety it causes are miserable’

Matt Charnock
3 min readJan 11, 2022


Photo: Getty Images/David Benito

It’s no secret that we’re big (read: massive) fans of USCF Professor Dr. Robert “Bob” Wachter and his grounding, centering tweet storms that lay out pandemic jargon into digestible threads. Quite a lot of you liked his breakdown of the Omicron variant when it was recorded in San Francisco in December of last year; Wachter was also the individual behind figuring out that at least one out of twelve people in SF are likely asymptomatic with Covid-19.

Wachter occupies a unique niche amongst experts on the pandemic. While others have depended on quasi-fearmongering and merely resharing press releases from public health departments to convey the severity of Covid-19, Wachter’s approach is more nuanced. Kinder, rooted in science; it surrenders to details we simply don’t know yet. It has humility.

He leads with graphs and charts and data and percentage points, rather than hyperbole and hubris.

The sound science he’s so candidly shared on Twitter has existed as a source of respite — a pragmatic reservoir, of sorts, for us to make sense of this “endemic.” But when his son recently tested positive with Covid-19, the narrative became one entrenched in emotion.

“I’ve been tweeting about Covid for nearly 2 years,” Wachter wrote on Saturday. “But this week it became personal when my 28-year-old younger son got it.”

In his twenty-five-tweet-deep thread, Wachter writes his son likely became infected this past Monday after spending time with a friend; the two were watching a movie at home; the friend later tested positive for COVID-19.

Predictably, his son began experiencing Covid-19-like symptoms by Wednesday — and these included a “bad sore throat, chills, aches,” and the sort.



Matt Charnock

SF transplant, coffee shop frequent; tiny living enthusiast. iPhone hasn’t been off silent mode in nine or so years. Former EIC of The Bold Italic.