Longer Looks: Interesting Reads You Might Have Missed
Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to enjoy. This week's selections include stories on covid, "forever chemicals," infant care, the Woebot app and sickle cell.
Mask Mandates Will Come And Go And Come Again
Masks may be recommended during “cold and flu and COVID-19 season” indefinitely. But guidelines change as situations do. The value of any preventive measure depends on where you are, and where the virus has been surging. Masks are just one of the tools in our kit of interventions. Like any tool, they are not simply good or bad, any more than a bandage or an EpiPen is good or bad. The value of the intervention depends entirely on when and how it’s used. Wearing a life jacket while you’re in a dinghy lost at sea is a great idea. Wearing a life jacket in your living room while watching Pirates of the Caribbean is a less valuable intervention. Likewise, as SARS-CoV-2 grows less ubiquitous, the value of a mask declines in step. As your community gets vaccinated, you can feel more and more comfortable in the knowledge that adding a mask will not add much benefit. (Hamblin, 5/28)
When Will Covid Pandemic Really End? Covax Says Poor Nations Need Vaccines
Some wealthy countries are beginning to kick doses Covax’s way. President Joe Biden announced in mid-May that by June, the U.S. would share 20 million doses from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, and Pfizer, in addition to a stockpile of up to 60 million shots of the vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford, which still hasn’t been authorized in the U.S. An American official said a “substantial portion” would go to Covax, but stressed that no decision had been made. Countries operating under the banner Team Europe have pledged to donate 100 million doses to low- and middle-income countries by the end of the year, mostly through Covax. On June 2, at a virtual summit hosted by Japan, the alliance raised almost $2.4 billion and secured pledges of another 54 million doses. All of that is welcome, but will barely make a dent in plugging the immediate supply gap. (Baker, Paton and Dontoh, 6/3)
The New York Times:
When A Surgeon Became A Covid-19 Patient: ‘I Had Never Faced The Reality Of Death’
Early in the pandemic, as hospitals in New York began postponing operations to make way for the flood of Covid-19 cases, Dr. Tomoaki Kato continued to perform surgery. Patients still needed liver transplants, and some were too sick to wait. At 56, Dr. Kato was healthy and exceptionally fit. He had run the New York City Marathon seven times, and he specialized in operations that were also marathons, lasting 12 or 16 or 20 hours. He was renowned for surgical innovations, deft hands and sheer stamina. At NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, where he was the surgical director of adult and pediatric liver and intestinal transplantation, his boss has called him “our Michael Jordan.” Dr. Kato became ill with Covid-19 in March 2020. (Grady, 6/3)
The Washington Post:
6 Ways Parents Can Help Kids Regain A Sense Of Purpose
When the pandemic prevented a young aspiring cartoonist from attending art camp last summer, she was devastated. But when her mother told her she could go this year, the 12-year-old balked. “I’ll just stay home,” she shrugged. “They’ll probably have to shut down again.” Although some children will dive into school and activities with enthusiasm as the pandemic lets up thanks to an increase in vaccinations, others will be more guarded. ... With time and targeted support, even the most apprehensive child can once again experience full and joyful engagement. Here are six ways parents and caregivers can ease kids back into life and help them regain a sense of purpose. (Fagell, 6/1)
In Wisconsin, Residents Bear The Impacts Of ‘Forever Chemicals’
Craig Koller grew up splashing through backyard creeks and biking gravel trails, sometimes through the Johnson Controls, Inc. fire technology center. Black smoke wafted overhead as it conducted controlled burns to test firefighting foam, producing a dangerous “forever chemical” known as PFAS. As a kid growing up in the northern Wisconsin port city of Marinette, Koller didn’t think much of being around the facility or drinking the city’s water. “How would you have known? There’s no signs (at that time) saying, ‘Stay out: contamination,’ ” Koller, 32, said. But Koller’s formative years in Marinette likely altered his life forever: Right after graduating from high school in 2007, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. (McCracken, 5/25)
ProPublica and the Miami Herald:
A Program Promised To Pay For Brain-Damaged Infants’ Care. Then It Sent Families To Medicaid Instead.
Every other month, Jay Alexander Benitez would be hospitalized with pneumonia or other respiratory infections that stemmed from the profound brain damage he suffered at birth. “It was heartache,” the boy’s mother, Alexandra Benitez, said. “Being in the hospital scared him.” Jay’s pulmonologist said that regular therapy with a nebulizer — a machine that delivers vaporized medication to the lungs to improve breathing — might prevent some of those illnesses. But Benitez said she was forced to wait months before the treatments could begin. (Chang and Miller, 6/1)
The Wall Street Journal:
Special-Needs Trusts: How They Work And What Has Changed
Special-needs trusts have been around for a number of years, but two parts of this picture are changing. First, many people with disabilities and chronic illnesses, thanks to advances in medicine, are living longer lives—and, as such, are outliving their parents and primary caregivers. That makes the need for long-term planning all the more vital. (Ruffenach, 6/3)
The New York Times:
Something Bothering You? Tell It To Woebot.
Digital mental health has become a multibillion-dollar industry and includes more than 10,000 apps, according to an estimate by the American Psychiatric Association. The apps range from guided meditation (Headspace) and mood tracking (MoodKit) to text therapy by licensed counselors (Talkspace, BetterHelp). But Woebot, which was introduced in 2017, is one of only a handful of apps that use artificial intelligence to deploy the principles of cognitive behavioral therapy, a common technique used to treat anxiety and depression. (Brown, 6/1)
The New York Times:
‘On That Edge Of Fear’: One Woman’s Struggle With Sickle Cell Pain
She struggled through the night as she had so many times before, restless from sickle cell pain that felt like knives stabbing her bones. When morning broke, she wept at the edge of her hotel-room bed, her stomach wrenched in a complicated knot of anger, trepidation and hope. It was a gray January morning, and Lisa Craig was in Nashville, three hours from her home in Knoxville, Tenn., preparing to see a sickle cell specialist she hoped could do something so many physicians had been unable to do: bring her painful disease under control. (Eligon, 5/30)
The Washington Post:
What Is The Hyde Amendment? Why It’s In The News And What You Need To Know.
Amid 2021′s wave of abortion challenges, President Biden recently made good on his campaign promise to repeal the Hyde Amendment, a budget rider that bans federal funds from going toward abortion services. On May 28, Biden submitted his 2022 budget request — omitting the Hyde language entirely. Biden’s proposal is the first major threat to the Hyde Amendment since Clinton, who introduced a Hyde-free budget in 1993, when Congress had strong Democratic majorities in both houses. It is also a significant shift for the president, who supported the amendment for decades. Here’s more on the history of the amendment, what it does and what activists on both sides have to say about it. (Branigin, 6/3)