- Kaiser Health News Original Stories 4
- 'My Children Were Priceless Jewels': Three Families Reflect on the Health Workers They Lost
- Fauci Thanks US Health Workers for Sacrifices but Admits PPE Shortages Drove Up Death Toll
- They Tested Negative for Covid. Still, They Have Long Covid Symptoms.
- KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Health Care as Infrastructure
- Political Cartoon: 'Covid-safe Lemonade?'
- Vaccines 3
- J&J Shot Deemed Safe To Use Despite Reactions In Colorado, North Carolina
- Covid Vaccine Deliveries Are Nearing Public Demand Rates
- 20 Million AstraZeneca Doses Stockpiled In US
- COVID-19 Crisis 2
- Florida's Covid Hospitalizations Spike After Spring Break
- Study Finds Covid Deaths Of Black Women Are 3 Times White Male Rate
From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:
The daughter of an internist in the Bronx, the father of a nurse practitioner in Southern California and the son of a nurse in McAllen, Texas, share how grief over their loved ones' deaths from covid has affected them. (Danielle Renwick, The Guardian, 4/9)
Exclusive: The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says health workers ‘have lived up to the oath they take’ but says shortages of protective gear have contributed to excess deaths. (Jessica Glenza, The Guardian, 4/9)
Despite a negative covid test, people could have been infected with the coronavirus anyway. And some of them might face lingering health issues. (Lydia Zuraw, 4/9)
President Joe Biden’s infrastructure proposal includes items not traditionally considered “infrastructure,” including a $400 billion expansion of home and community-based services for seniors and people with disabilities, and a $50 billion effort to replace water pipes lined with lead. Meanwhile, the politics of covid-19 are turning to how or whether Americans will need to prove they’ve been vaccinated. Joanne Kenen of Politico, Tami Luhby of CNN and Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Plus, Rovner interviews KFF’s Mollyann Brodie about the KFF COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor. (4/8)
Kaiser Health News provides a fresh take on health policy developments with "Political Cartoon: 'Covid-safe Lemonade?'" by Dave Coverly.
Here's today's health policy haiku:
YEAH, PACK THOSE STADIUMS TIGHT
“What, Texas worry?
Covid safety’s tops, like our
- Timothy Kelley
If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.
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Summaries Of The News:
The CDC and state health officials said they didn't find any safety issues after several dozen people suffered immediate adverse reactions ranging from dizziness to nausea.
Two Vaccine Sites Close After Adverse Reactions To Johnson & Johnson Shot
The race to vaccinate hit more roadblocks on Thursday, as several patients at a mass vaccination site in North Carolina suffered immediate reactions to the Johnson & Johnson shot. A day earlier, 11 people had adverse reactions in Denver, ranging from dizziness to nausea. Both sites temporarily shut down. "At this point we have no reason to believe there's anything wrong with the vaccine itself," said Dr. Shauna Gulley, a Centura Health chief clinical officer. "This is a temporary pause of one brand of vaccine so that we can investigate further." (Diaz, 4/8)
Colorado Finds "No Cause For Concern" With Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine
Colorado public health officials announced Thursday that they found no sign of a problem after an unexpected number of reactions to Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine at a mass-inoculation site in Commerce City led to its early closure this week. The site at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park shut down Wednesday afternoon after 11 people experienced reactions such as dizziness and nausea. None of them became seriously ill, but it was an unusual number in less than four hours, since only 10 people had suffered adverse reactions at all previous mass-vaccination events in Colorado. (Wingerter, 4/8)
Raleigh News & Observer:
CDC: No Safety Issues With J&J Vaccine, Adverse Reaction In NC
There are no safety issues with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine used at Wake County’s PNC Arena mass vaccination site after several adverse reactions were reported, according to an investigation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC “did not find any safety issues or reason for concern, and the CDC recommends continuing to administer the vaccine,” the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported late Thursday night. (Wagner and Johnson, 4/8)
In other news about the Johnson & Johnson rollout —
J&J Vaccine Problems Hamper US Military Vaccines Overseas
U.S. military leaders said Thursday that recent problems with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine have made it more difficult to provide shots for forces overseas, and that vaccines have been offered to service members' families or other tier two beneficiaries in only 40% of the military sites outside the U.S. Speaking at a Pentagon press conference, they said they are making up for the Johnson & Johnson shortfall by shipping more Moderna vaccines to forces outside the country. The cold temperature and other requirements for the Pfizer vaccine make it more difficult to send overseas. (Baldor, 4/8)
The Daily Orange:
SU Is Administering Johnson & Johnson Vaccines. Here's What You Need To Know.
Syracuse University administered its first doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to students on Wednesday. SU received an initial allotment of 1,600 doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine from New York state and Onondaga County. New York opened vaccine eligibility for all residents 16 years old and older on Tuesday. Students can sign up to receive a vaccine at the Barnes Center at The Arch online though SU’s patient portal. (Hicks, 4/8)
More Than $2,000 Worth Of Johnson & Johnson Vaccine Stolen In Cape Coral
A person faces grand theft charges after stealing more than $2,000 worth of COVID-19 vaccines from a Cape Coral business. According to the police report, on Wednesday, just after 3 p.m., an officer was called to Physicians’ Primary Care of Southwest Florida on Viscaya Parkway about a theft. The officer found that 10 vials of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine stored in a refrigerator were missing. (Kase, 4/8)
As covid vaccination eligibility expands, some states are experiencing low uptake, with the AP reporting on Trump-supporting Alabama counties as one example. Elsewhere, vaccine-dose errors hit efforts in Montana, but analysis shows over 50% of U.S. rural residents either already have or are likely to get a shot.
America May Be Close To Hitting A Vaccine Wall
There are growing signs that parts of the country may be close to meeting demand for the coronavirus vaccine — well before the U.S. has reached herd immunity. For the last few months, the primary focus of the U.S. has been getting shots to everyone who wants them, as quickly as possible. Soon, that focus will abruptly shift to convincing holdouts to get vaccinated. (Owens, 4/9)
The New York Times:
In Mississippi, 73,000 Vaccine Slots And Few Takers
When it comes to getting the coronavirus vaccine, Mississippi residents have an abundance of options. On Thursday, there were more than 73,000 slots to be had on the state’s scheduling website, up from 68,000 on Tuesday. In some ways, the growing glut of appointments in Mississippi is something to celebrate: It reflects the mounting supplies that have prompted states across the country to open up eligibility to anyone over 16. But public health experts say the pileup of unclaimed appointments in Mississippi exposes something more worrisome: the large number of people who are reluctant to get inoculated. (Jacobs, 4/9)
More Than Half Of Rural Residents Have Received A Covid-19 Vaccine Or Plan To, But Hesitancy Remains High, Analysis Finds
More than half of rural residents in the US have received a Covid-19 vaccine or plan to, but one in five still say they will definitely not get vaccinated, according to an analysis released Friday by the Kaiser Family Foundation. KFF researchers surveyed 1,001 adults living in rural America and found that 54% said they have received a Covid-19 vaccine or plan to. (Mascarenhas, 4/9)
Trump-Loving Alabama County Faces Uphill Vaccination Effort
Tending a thrift store that displays a faded Trump flag in a nearly all-white Alabama county with a long history of going against the grain, Dwight Owensby is among the area’s many skeptics of the COVID-19 vaccine. Owensby, 77, said he doesn’t often watch TV news or read the local paper, and he doesn’t spend much time talking about the pandemic with others — it’s just not a big topic in this rural, heavily forested part of the state. But he suspects the coronavirus pandemic was planned, as a discredited conspiracy theory holds, and he said there’s no way he’s getting any shot. (Reeves, 4/8)
In related news about who's lining up for the shot —
168 Oregonians Out Of 700,000 Fully Vaccinated Got COVID-19, State Says
So far 168 Oregonians have tested positive for the coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated against COVID-19, leaving 19 hospitalized and three dead -- figures so small that officials said they were “good news.” The case count means that of the 700,000 people who reached full immunity, just 0.024% got infected anyway. (Zarkhin, 4/8)
Vaccination Error Means Some Patients May Not Have Gotten Full COVID-19 Dose At Shrine
Some Yellowstone County residents may not have received their full second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Shrine Auditorium vaccination clinic early Wednesday morning, according to RiverStone Health. Those who received a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine between 8 a.m. and 8:45 a.m. Wednesday may not have been given the full dose after a contracted pharmacist from another state may have incorrectly filled syringes, said John Felton, Yellowstone County public health officer during a press conference Thursday. (Hall, 4/8)
NH Union Leader:
4,600 Sign Up As UNH Begins Mass Vaccination On Campus
Treat Hardy wasted no time getting over to the Whittemore Center Thursday morning to line up for the first dose of his COVID-19 vaccine. The University of New Hampshire senior from Hebron is ready for life to return to normal — whatever that looks like, post-pandemic. “Junior and senior year with COVID has been a little bit of a loss,” Hardy said. (Schreiber, 4/8)
The Baltimore Sun:
Walk-Up Appointments Available At M&T Bank COVID Vaccine Site In Baltimore Starting Friday
Walk-up appointments for the COVID-19 vaccine will be made available at the M&T Bank Stadium mass immunization clinic in Baltimore starting Friday. The University of Maryland Medical System, a copartner of the state-run vaccination clinic, said some 200 appointments will be open every day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to increase access to appointments for those who lack internet access or digital skills. Walk-ups will not be available on Orioles day game dates, when heavy traffic is expected in the parking lots near the stadiums. (Miller, 4/7)
The CT Mirror/Connecticut Public Radio:
How People With Disabilities Are Accessing The Coronavirus Vaccine
Kevin Skeggs was smiling under his mask. The 24-year-old sat with his mom in the activity room of the Arc of Litchfield County in Torrington on Friday. Christine Skeggs briefly pulled back her son’s mask to show a big smile. He had a good reason — Kevin had just received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine at a clinic set up by the state for residents with intellectual and developmental disabilities, or IDD. (Oshinskie, 4/7)
In other news from across the country, hucksters tout fake coronavirus cures, and Hollywood thinks it can help correct vaccine misinformation.
Biden’s Orphaned AstraZeneca Stockpile Rises To 20 Million Doses
The U.S. stockpile of the controversial AstraZeneca Plc coronavirus vaccine has grown to more than 20 million doses, according to people familiar with the matter, even as the shot looks increasingly unlikely to factor into President Joe Biden’s domestic vaccination campaign. AstraZeneca has yet to request Food and Drug Administration authorization for the two-dose vaccine, and the company faces safety questions abroad and scrutiny from U.S. regulators who’ve already rebuked it for missteps during clinical trials and partial data releases. (Wingrove, 4/8)
The Washington Post:
Law Enforcement Cracks Down On Fake Coronavirus Cures And Vaccines
The Maryland U.S. attorney’s office is cracking down on fraudulent websites pushing fake coronavirus treatments and vaccines. The office announced yesterday that it had seized three websites purporting to be the websites of actual biotechnology companies responding to the coronavirus, but actually were stealing people's personal information and conducting other scams. (Zakrzewski, 4/8)
In other news about the vaccine rollout —
NH Union Leader:
NH To Open COVID-19 Vaccinations To All Adults -- Including Out-Of-Staters
Starting April 19, anyone 16 or older can register for a COVID-19 vaccine in New Hampshire — regardless of residency — Gov. Chris Sununu announced Thursday. The move was a clear about-face from last week, when Sununu pushed back against critics who demanded he let out-of-state college students be vaccinated here. (Landrigan, 4/8)
Pa. Lawmaker Wants To Compel Wolf Administration To Release Details Of Wasted COVID-19 Vaccine Doses
A state lawmaker wants to compel the Wolf administration to make public details on wasted COVID-19 vaccine doses, information it refused to release to Spotlight PA. Although vaccine providers are required to report when and why a dose of vaccine is “compromised,” the Pennsylvania Department of Health last month denied a public records request from Spotlight PA seeking documentation, citing a decades-old law that it has frequently used to shield the public from scrutinizing its pandemic response. The request did not seek any patient information. (Olumhense, 4/9)
Arizona GOP Congressman Introduces No Vaccine Passport Act
Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs introduced legislation Thursday that would ban federal agencies from creating "vaccine passports." Vaccine passports are a method some have purposed to demonstrate whether or not an individual has been vaccinated from the deadly coronavirus. While proponents of such a system have said it would be helpful in reopening businesses and the travel industry, Republicans in Congress have condemned the idea as an invasion of privacy and an opening for government surveillance. (McFall, 4/8)
Health News Florida:
'Completely Ridiculous': Senate President Takes Aim At COVID 'Passports'
Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson made clear Wednesday he supports banning COVID-19 “passports” that would prove people have been vaccinated, despite calls from the cruise industry to allow their use after ships have been docked for more than a year because of the pandemic. “It would be completely ridiculous,” Simpson, R-Trilby, told reporters when asked about the passports, which have become a hot-button political issue for Republicans. “What’s next? If we have a vaccine passport, what all vaccines are we going to require on that passport? And so we have certain freedoms in this country that shouldn’t be breached, and I think that’s one of them.” (Sexton, 4/8)
Air Force Reservist On Covid Front Lines Goes From Securing Body Bags To Delivering Vaccines
This time last year, Col. Brian Biggs of the Air Force Reserve was helping to dispatch refrigerated trucks and body bags to pandemic-ravaged New York City and other places in the Northeast that needed them the most. Now, Biggs’ mission is helping to ensure that needles loaded with the Covid-19 vaccine get into the arms of as many people as possible in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (Siemaszko, 4/9)
The Hollywood Covid-19 Vaccine Script Fighting Misinformation
As doctors and health professionals race against Covid-19 vaccination skepticism, some Hollywood producers, writers and showrunners are betting that inputting vaccines into television storylines can help curb widespread misinformation. Shows across TV networks began integrating Covid-19 into scripts, including questions about social distancing and masking, as the pandemic spread across the U.S. last March. (Subin, 4/8)
One week after the end of college spring break, Southwest Florida's hospitals are reporting big increases in covid patient numbers, as the state's overall daily case numbers hit a total not seen since mid-February.
COVID-Related Hospitalizations Rise Again In Southwest Florida Following Spring Break
The number of COVID-19 patients at all three of Southwest Florida's major hospital systems is rising more than a week after the end of Spring Break celebrations. The Lee County-based Lee Health, the region's largest hospital operator, counted 93 COVID-positive patients on Thursday and 100 cases Wednesday. Two weeks ago, the total number was 55. Lee Health cases peaked in July when it counted more than 300 such patients on any given day. (Gluck, 4/8)
Florida Reports Nearly 8,000 New Coronavirus Cases, Most Since February
Florida reported 7,939 additional coronavirus cases on Thursday, the most in a day since Feb. 11. More than 141,000 coronavirus tests were returned Wednesday, a significantly higher amount than on previous days this week. The positivity rate for new cases was 6.73 percent, slightly lower than recent days. The state’s seven-day average of new cases continues to rise. (Colombini, 4/8)
The Washington Post:
U.S. Cases Involving Contagious Brazil Variant On The Rise, According To CDC Data
As new U.S. coronavirus cases trend upward — with nearly 80,000 new infections reported on Thursday — health officials are warning about the spread of multiple, more transmissible variants, some of which have seeded outbreaks in states such as Michigan and California. On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data on emerging variants, including those first identified in Brazil, Britain and South Africa. The B.1.1.7 variant initially detected in Britain accounts for almost 20,000 cases in all 50 states — and has become the dominant strain, officials say. (Cunningham, 4/9)
The Washington Post:
Rise Of Coronavirus Variants Will Define The Next Phase Of The Pandemic In The U.S.
Variants of the coronavirus are increasingly defining the next phase of the pandemic in the United States, taking hold in ever-greater numbers and eliciting pleas for a change in strategy against the outbreak, according to government officials and experts tracking developments. The highly transmissible B.1.1.7 variant that originated in the United Kingdom now accounts for 27 percent of all cases in this country. It is the most common variant in the United States, Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday — a development that officials predicted months ago. Two other variants, which took root in South Africa and Brazil and also are more transmissible, are cropping up with increasing frequency in parts of the United States. (Bernstein, Cha, McCoy and Dupree, 4/8)
The Baltimore Sun:
Amid Heightened Concern Over Coronavirus Variants, Maryland Reports Elevated Cases, Hospitalizations
As concern about the spread of highly contagious coronavirus variants grows, Maryland reported more than 1,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row, as hospitalizations also crept up, according to state health department data. (Mann, 4/8)
National Guard Urges U.S. To Follow Health Measures As Military Races To Vaccinate Population
National Guard leaders on Thursday called for people in the U.S. to keep adhering to Covid-19 mitigation measures as the military races to vaccinate the population. “We’re excited to follow the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] science that tells us what the smart thing is to continue to protect the civilians around us,” U.S. Air Force Col. Russell Kohl, commander of the 131st Medical Group for the Missouri National Guard, told CNBC when asked if there were concerns of more states relaxing guidance. (Macias, 4/8)
In other medical research news, doctors in Japan have achieved the first living-donor lung tissue transplant for a patient suffering covid lung damage, and the hunt continues for simple and effective treatments for the coronavirus.
Black Women 3 Times More Likely To Die From COVID-19 Than White Men
Since the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic, it's been widely believed that men are more likely to die of COVID-19 than women. Now, research is challenging the notion that the likelihood of dying of the disease largely comes down to biology, finding that coronavirus mortality rates for Black women in the U.S. are more than three times that of White and Asian men. Black women in the U.S. are dying from the virus at a higher rate than any other group, male or female, except Black men, according to an analysis of COVID-19 mortality patterns by race and gender in Georgia and Michigan published this week in the Journal of Internal Medicine. (Gibson, 4/8)
COVID-19 Patient Receives Lung Transplant From Living Donors
Doctors in Japan announced Thursday they have successfully performed the world’s first transplant of lung tissue from living donors to a patient with severe lung damage from COVID-19. The recipient, identified only as a woman from Japan’s western region of Kansai, is recovering after the nearly 11-hour operation on Wednesday, Kyoto University Hospital said in a statement. It said her husband and son, who donated parts of their lungs, are also in stable condition. (Yamaguchi, 4/9)
Health Workers Report 'Long COVID' After Just Mild Illness
Fifteen percent of healthcare workers at a Swedish hospital who recovered from mild COVID-19 at least 8 months before report at least one moderate to severe symptom disrupting their work, home, or social life, according to a research letter published yesterday in JAMA.A team led by scientists at Danderyd Hospital, part of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, conducted the study from April 2020 to January 2021. The research involved obtaining blood samples and administering questionnaires to healthcare workers participating in the ongoing COVID-19 Biomarker and Immunity (COMMUNITY) study. (Van Beusekom, 4/8)
They Tested Negative For Covid. Still, They Have Long Covid Symptoms.
Kristin Novotny once led an active life, with regular CrossFit workouts and football in the front yard with her children — plus a job managing the kitchen at a middle school. Now, the 33-year-old mother of two from De Pere, Wisconsin, has to rest after any activity, even showering. Conversations leave her short of breath. Long after their initial coronavirus infections, patients with a malady known as “long covid” continue to struggle with varied symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, gastrointestinal problems, muscle and joint pain, and neurological issues. Novotny has been contending with these and more, despite testing negative for covid-19 seven months ago. (Zuraw, 4/9)
The New York Times:
Vaccinated Mothers Are Trying To Give Babies Antibodies Via Breast Milk
As soon as Courtney Lynn Koltes returned home from her first Covid-19 vaccine appointment, she pulled out a breast pump. She had quit breastfeeding her daughter about two months earlier because of a medication conflict. But she was off those pills, and she had recently stumbled across research suggesting that antibodies from a vaccinated mother could be passed to her baby through milk. Getting the milk flowing again — a process known as relactation — would not be easy. She planned to pump on every odd-numbered hour from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. But Ms. Koltes and her husband were eager to finally introduce their 4-month-old daughter to family members, and with children not yet eligible for vaccination, she was willing to try. (Murphy, 4/8)
Scientists Hunt For Antiviral Drugs To Fight COVID-19
Antiviral drugs can be a key pandemic-fighting tool, but so far there's only one approved in the U.S. for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Because some people won't get vaccinated, and because there will likely be new variants of the virus, we'll need effective treatments — including antivirals, former FDA commissioners Scott Gottlieb and Mark McClellan wrote earlier this week in the Wall Street Journal. (Snyder, 4/8)
Scientists Work Toward An Elusive Dream: A Simple Pill To Treat Covid-19
The world has vaccines that can prevent most cases of Covid-19. It even has drugs that can help with the most serious symptoms of the disease. Now what it needs is a Tamiflu for SARS-CoV-2. It would be a pill, exquisitely calibrated to target SARS-CoV-2, with tolerable side effects and a low price tag. (Garde, 4/9)
These Viruses Are The Most Likely To Trigger The Next Pandemic, Scientists Predict
The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is the latest pathogen to "spill over" from animals to people, but hundreds of thousands of other viruses lurking in animals could pose a similar threat. Now, a new online tool ranks viruses by their potential to hop from animals to people and cause pandemics. The tool, called SpillOver, essentially creates a "watch list" of newly discovered animal viruses that pose the greatest threat to human health. The researchers hope their open-access tool can be used by other scientists, policymakers and public health officials to prioritize viruses for further study, surveillance and risk-reducing activities, such as possibly developing vaccines or therapeutics before a disease spills over. (Rettner, 4/8)
Racism is a "serious public health threat" according to Director Rochelle Walensky, as she revealed a new "Racism and Health" initiative, which is intended to drive change as well as study the issue.
CDC Director Says Racism Is 'Serious Public Health Threat'
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Thursday declared racism a "serious public health threat," becoming the largest federal agency to do so. "A growing body of research shows that centuries of racism in this country has had a profound and negative impact on communities of color," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement published on the agency's website. (Weixel, 4/8)
CDC Director Declares Racism A 'Serious Public Health Threat'
So what does it mean for the agency? Walensky has charged all of the offices and centers under the CDC to develop interventions and measurable health outcomes in the next year, addressing racism in their respective areas. And she's made clear that is a priority for the entire CDC. The CDC also launched a new web portal, Racism and Health, that's designed to be a hub for public and scientific information and discourse on the subject. The site notes that racism, in both its structural and interpersonal forms, has a negative effect on mental and physical health. (Wamsley, 4/8)
In related news about racism and health care —
The Washington Post:
George Floyd Died Of Low Level Of Oxygen, Medical Expert Testifies; Derek Chauvin Kept Knee On His Neck ‘Majority Of The Time’
The pressure of Derek Chauvin’s knees on George Floyd’s neck and back made it virtually impossible for the handcuffed man to breathe as he was pinned face down on a street and would have killed any healthy person, an expert on the respiratory system testified Thursday. Martin Tobin, a Chicago-area pulmonologist and critical-care doctor who specializes in the science of breathing, testified that the pressure of Chauvin “jamming” his knees into Floyd’s body cut off oxygen and led to brain damage within minutes, sparking an arrhythmia that caused his heart to stop. He characterized Chauvin’s knee as being on Floyd’s neck “the vast majority of the time.” (Bailey, 4/8)
Doctors Challenge 'Drug Overdose' Defense In Derek Chauvin's Murder Trial
Medical experts used anatomical diagrams and charts to testify on Thursday that George Floyd was killed by police pinning him to the ground, not a drug overdose, challenging a key assertion by former police officer Derek Chauvin in his murder trial for Floyd’s deadly arrest. (Allen, 4/8)
San Francisco Chronicle:
Amid Rise In Violence, Asian American Community Leaders Want S.F. To Help Victims
Asian American community advocates urged San Francisco officials on Thursday to fill gaps in public safety and victim services, especially for non-English speakers, amid a rash of violence. Supervisor Gordon Mar held a hearing Thursday to discuss the alarming attacks over the past year that have left Asian Americans injured and traumatized — and in one case resulted in the death of an 84-year-old Thai man. Mar said he was committed to funding public safety, such as victim services, in the upcoming budget. Using his power as chair of the committee that held the hearing, he tasked multiple departments with creating a citywide violence prevention plan by the end of May before another hearing in June. (Moench, 4/8)
The $5 billion in new funding will help with rental assistance, affordable housing and other programs. In other economic news tied to the pandemic, jobless claims were up this week, and some consumers are having trouble getting federal help on their COBRA premiums.
The Washington Post:
HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge Details How Biden Stimulus Bill Will Target Homelessness
Housing Secretary Marcia L. Fudge on Thursday unveiled nearly $5 billion in new grants to states and local governments across the country for rental assistance, the development of affordable housing and other services to help people experiencing or on the verge of homelessness. The infusion of money to reduce homelessness, part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that President Biden signed last month, is the latest example of how the administration is using the American Rescue Plan to enact a sweeping anti-poverty agenda amid the pandemic. (Jan, 4/8)
In related news about covid's economic toll —
US Jobless Claims Up To 744K As Virus Still Forces Layoffs
The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose last week to 744,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more people are vaccinated against COVID-19, consumers gain confidence and the government distributes aid throughout the economy. The Labor Department said Thursday that applications increased by 16,000 from 728,000 a week earlier. Jobless claims have declined sharply since the virus slammed into the economy in March of last year. But they remain stubbornly high by historical standards: Before the pandemic erupted, weekly applications typically remained below 220,000 a week. (Wiseman, 4/8)
Snags In Free COBRA Insurance May Leave Unemployed Footing Big Bills
Linda, a lawyer from California who was laid off from her job in January, is like millions of others in the Covid pandemic who are living without health insurance. But she discovered that the government would fully subsidize her COBRA health insurance premiums from April until September, thanks to a provision in the latest stimulus package. ... But when Linda emailed her previous insurer in April asking if she was free to go to the doctor for treatment of her infection, she was surprised to be told that the government subsidy isn’t available yet. ″[F]orms and processes have not yet been provided nor finalized by the IRS or DOL,” she was told, according to the email seen by CNBC. “Until notified otherwise, we must operate as ‘business as usual.’” (Nova, 4/8)
Report Spotlights Inequalities In COVID-Related Restrictions
COVID-related mobility restrictions such as stay-at-home orders had disproportionate burdens on women, minorities, and lower-income populations, according to a study yesterday in JAMA Network Open. ... Individuals with low household incomes had the highest risk of all six adverse outcomes, which included inaccessible medical care or defaulting on a monthly rent/home mortgage payment. (4/8)
The New York Times:
A Novel Effort To See How Poverty Affects Young Brains
New monthly payments in the pandemic relief package have the potential to lift millions of American children out of poverty. Some scientists believe the payments could change children’s lives even more fundamentally — via their brains. It’s well established that growing up in poverty correlates with disparities in educational achievement, health and employment. But an emerging branch of neuroscience asks how poverty affects the developing brain. (Katsnelson, 4/7)
A new study looks at the problems for women getting proper care for pregnancy. Medicaid often provides health care once a woman is pregnant, but in those important months before conception and after the birth of her baby, a woman may not have access to the federal-state program. Some states, including Florida, are looking at extending coverage after the woman delivers her child.
Study: 1 In 3 Women With Prenatal Medicaid Lack Coverage Before Or After Pregnancy
While many pregnant women gain coverage through Medicaid, ensuring they have insurance after giving birth remains a significant challenge, according to a new study. Researchers at the Urban Institute, a left-leaning think tank, found that 26.8% of new mothers covered for prenatal care through Medicaid were uninsured prior to becoming pregnant. In addition, 21.9% became uninsured again within two to six months of their child's birth, the study found. (Minemyer, 4/7)
Group Of Bipartisan Lawmakers Want To Boost Support For Extending Medicaid For Mothers
For decades, women in Florida who give birth and don’t have health insurance have been eligible for two months of Medicaid, the public health program, but now, a group of lawmakers in the state House of Representatives from both parties are working together to extend that 60 days of Medicaid coverage after birth. (Zaragovia, 4/8)
MACPAC Wants To Cut Medicaid Spending On High-Cost Specialty Drugs
The Medicaid and CHIP Payment and Access Commission is poised to recommend changes to how Medicaid pays for high-cost specialty drugs. At MACPAC's April meeting on Thursday, commissioners signaled they would recommend Congress increase the minimum rebate percentage and additional inflationary rebate on drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration through the accelerated approval program. According to the draft recommendations, the increased minimum rebate percentage and additional inflationary rebate would apply to a drug until the drugmaker completes the confirmatory trial and gets full FDA approval. (Brady, 4/8)
Lawmaker Aims To Stop Oklahoma Gov. Stitt From Privatizing Medicaid
An Oklahoma state lawmaker introduced legislation Wednesday to stop Gov. Kevin Stitt from overhauling Oklahoma's Medicaid program. Rep. Marcus McEntire introduced legislation for the Oklahoma Health Care Authority to implement internal managed care as opposed to outsourcing care management for most Medicaid recipients to four major insurance companies. In other words, McEntire, R-Duncan, wants to reform the Health Care Authority so the agency better manages health care for Medicaid recipients in-house. (Forman, 4/8)
And in news on Medicare payments --
CMS Wants To Bump Pay For Hospices, SNFs Next Year
Hospices and skilled nursing facilities are likely to get a pay bump in 2022, CMS said Thursday. The agency plans to increase hospice payments by 2.3%, or $530 million, in 2022. The proposed aggregate cap for hospice payments is just under $31,390. According to a CMS fact sheet, CMS also plans to update the labor shares for continuous home care, route home care, inpatient respite care, and general inpatient care. (Brady, 4/8)
A Dutch study says school closures hurt learning, one of many that have reached that seemingly obvious conclusion. But questions are being raised whether measuring that learning loss harms children.
COVID-Related School Closures Linked With Learning Loss
An 8-week national school closure in the Netherlands was associated with an equivalent loss in learning, with disproportionate losses in students from lower-educated families, according to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. To assess the effects of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers looked at national test results for spelling, reading, and math from 350,000 Dutch students ages 8 to 11. The national tests occurred before and after the lockdown (January to February plus June 2020), and the researchers included the previous 3 years' test results as a baseline. (4/8)
The New York Times:
Does It Hurt Children To Measure Pandemic Learning Loss?
Studies continue to show that amid the school closures and economic and health hardships of the past year, many young children have missed out on mastering fundamental reading and math skills. The Biden administration has told most states that unlike in 2020, they should plan on testing students this year, in part to measure the “educational inequities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic.” But others are pushing back, especially on behalf of the Black, Hispanic and low-income children who, research shows, have fallen further behind over the past year. They fear that a focus on “learning loss” could incite a moral panic that paints an entire generation as broken, and say that relatively simple, common-sense solutions can help students get back up to speed. (Goldstein, 4/8)
In other school news —
Some Wisconsin Schools Shed Mask Requirements After Court Ruling
A week after the state Supreme Court threw out Wisconsin's mask requirement, some schools are no longer requiring face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This week the Paris Consolidated School District in Kenosha County stopped requiring masks. District Administrator Roger Gahart emailed families Monday, explaining that since the district never had its own mask policy, the end of the statewide mandate meant masks became optional in the district. "Our district is simply leaving the choice of wearing face masks or not wearing face masks up to the people," Gahart said in an emailed statement. (Linnane and Marley, 4/8)
Los Angeles Times:
Parents Sue LAUSD, Push For Wider Reopening, No COVID Tests
A group of parents — who say their children have been illegally shortchanged by Los Angeles Unified School District’s return-to-school plan — is seeking a court order to force the district to reopen “to the greatest extent possible” within seven days. The lawsuit, filed late Wednesday, asks the court to prohibit L.A. Unified from using a six-foot distancing standard in classrooms, while also seeking to bar the district from requiring students to take regular coronavirus tests as a condition for returning to campus. (Blume, 4/8)
Salt Lake Tribune:
Salt Lake City Is Going To Start Classes An Hour Later So High Schoolers Can Sleep In
When the new academic year begins in August, all three traditional high schools in the Salt Lake City School District — East, West and Highland — will push their start times back by an hour. And district officials say their hope is that students take advantage of the new schedule to get a little more sleep. “That’s a pretty significant gain, so I’m happy with that,” said Arundhati Oommen, a junior at West High and a student member of the district’s board of education. (Tanner, 4/9)
In other news, a baby comes home from the hospital after 700 days, and a woman discovers she is pregnant the old-fashioned way after getting pregnant through a medical procedure.
US Suicides Dropped Last Year, Defying Pandemic Expectations
The number of U.S. suicides fell nearly 6% last year amid the coronavirus pandemic — the largest annual decline in at least four decades, according to preliminary government data. Death certificates are still coming in and the count could rise. But officials expect a substantial decline will endure, despite worries that COVID-19 could lead to more suicides. It is hard to say exactly why suicide deaths dropped so much, but one factor may be a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and national disasters, some experts suggested. (Stobbe, 4/8)
In other public health news —
The Washington Post:
July 4 Parade In D.C. Cancelled Amid Coronavirus Pandemic
The National Park Service announced Thursday that the Independence Day parade in the nation’s capital will be canceled for a second year because of the coronavirus pandemic. The event would have commemorated the nation’s 245th birthday. (Moyer, 4/8)
The Washington Post:
Woman Conceives Baby While Pregnant
Rebecca Roberts and her partner struggled with infertility for more than a year, so when they got a positive result with an at-home pregnancy test, they were overjoyed. ... But her excitement abruptly shifted to shock five weeks later at the 12-week ultrasound appointment, when the sonographer spotted something astonishing: It appeared as though Roberts was suddenly carrying two babies — one of which was considerably less-developed than the other. The room fell silent. ... Her pregnancy was diagnosed as superfetation, a rare condition in which a woman who is already pregnant conceives another baby. (Page, 4/8)
Baby Heads Home After Nearly 700 Days In Hospital
A Michigan baby is now home with her family after a hospital stay that lasted 694 days. Valentina Garnetti was diagnosed in utero with hypoplastic left heart syndrome -- a condition that affects normal blood flow through the heart and causes the left side of the heart to not form correctly. The 1-year-old remained in University of Michigan's CS Mott Children's Hospital in Ann Arbor since the day she was born. (Pelletiere, 4/9)
A Year After COVID-19 Superspreader, Family Finds Closure
With dish soap, brushes and plastic water jugs in hand, Carole Rae Woodmansee’s four children cleaned the gravestone their mother shares with their father, Jim. Each scrub shined engraved letters spelling out their mother’s name and the days of her birth and death: March 27, 1939, and March 27, 2020.Carole passed away on her 81st birthday. That morning marked a year since she died of complications of COVID-19 after contracting it during a choir practice that sickened 53 people and killed two — a superspreader event that would become one of the most pivotal transmission episodes in understanding the virus. (Valdes, 4/9)
The New York Times:
Has The Era Of Overzealous Cleaning Finally Come To An End?
When the coronavirus began to spread in the United States last spring, many experts warned of the danger posed by surfaces. Researchers reported that the virus could survive for days on plastic or stainless steel, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised that if someone touched one of these contaminated surfaces — and then touched their eyes, nose or mouth — they could become infected. ... But the era of “hygiene theater” may have come to an unofficial end this week, when the C.D.C. updated its surface cleaning guidelines and noted that the risk of contracting the virus from touching a contaminated surface was less than 1 in 10,000. (Anthes, 4/8)
In other news about health care workers, Congress is urged to increase funding for training for pediatricians, and a nurse at an assisted-living center was charged with assault after breaking the fingers of a patient.
Fauci Thanks US Health Workers For Sacrifices But Admits PPE Shortages Drove Up Death Toll
Dr. Anthony Fauci thanked America’s health care workers, who “every single day put themselves at risk” during the pandemic, even as he acknowledged that PPE shortages had contributed to the deaths of more than 3,600 of them. “We rightfully refer to these people without hyperbole — that they are true heroes and heroines,” he said in an exclusive interview with The Guardian. The deaths of so many health workers from covid-19 are “a reflection of what health care workers have done historically, but putting themselves in harm’s way by living up to the oath they take when they become physicians and nurses,” said Fauci. (Glenza, 4/9)
Becker's Hospital Review:
Congress Urged To Boost Funding For Training Of Pediatric Healthcare Workers
Twenty organizations, including the American Healthcare Association and Academic Pediatric Association, are urging Congress to increase funding for a program that's trained half of all U.S. pediatric residents. The Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education program was created by Congress in 1999 to support the training of pediatric healthcare workers and expands access to care for children. But per-trainee funding of the program lags that of other federal programs supporting physician training, according to a letter from American Hospital Association and other supporters. (Paavola, 4/8)
NH Union Leader:
New Boston Nurse Charged With Breaking Fingers Of Patient
A nurse at the Rose Meadow Farm assisted living facility has been charged with breaking the fingers of a resident as the resident clutched the call bell, authorities announced Thursday. Nancy A. Waller, 65, of New Boston was arrested Thursday and charged with second-degree assault, simple assault and two counts of abuse of a facility patient, Deputy Attorney General Jane Young said in a statement. (4/8)
‘My Children Were Priceless Jewels’: Three Families Reflect On The Health Workers They Lost
The daughter of an internist in the Bronx, the father of a nurse practitioner in Southern California and the son of a nurse in McAllen, Texas, share how grief over their loved ones’ deaths from covid-19 has affected them. These health care workers were profiled in KHN and The Guardian’s yearlong “Lost on the Frontline” project. (Renwick, 4/9)
Slain South Carolina Doctor Wrote Of Faith, Life's Fragility
Robert Lesslie, the South Carolina physician and author who authorities say was killed along with three family members and a repairman by former NFL player Phillip Adams, frequently wrote of the fragility of life and a deep-seated Christian faith that guided him personally and professionally. “I know without a doubt that life is fragile,” the 70-year-old doctor wrote in one of his books, a collection of missives he termed “inspiring true stories” from his medical work. “I have come to understand that humility may be the greatest virtue. And I am convinced we need to take the time to say the things we deeply feel to the people we deeply care about.” (Kinnard, 4/9)
The sheer volume of used and discarded masks, gowns and other protective gear generated by the pandemic might cause a problem. In other health care industry news, Michigan hospitals curb elective surgeries because of yet another covid surge there.
Burlington Free Press:
After COVID, Another Crisis: Medical Waste From PPE, Shots, Testing
The very materials protecting us from COVID-19 infection over the last year could ultimately cause long-term harm to public health and the planet. Growing quietly in the background amid the chaos to respond to and contain the virus is the issue of medical waste – and its sheer volume – generated by the pandemic. A year after the virus hit the U.S., more than 390 million COVID-19 tests have been given. That's 390 million swabs, plus their packaging. In the country's more than 6,000 hospitals, healthcare workers have gone through multiple masks, gloves and protective gowns each day. (Barndollar, 4/8)
Crain's Detroit Business:
Michigan Hospitals Start Reducing Elective Procedures In Wake Of COVID-19 Patient Surge
Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor is the first hospital in Southeast Michigan to slow elective surgeries and other procedures due to the latest surge in COVID-19 patient admissions, hospital officials confirmed Thursday. Henry Ford Macomb also has decided to limit elective procedures Thursday and Friday because the hospital is full. Bob Riney, president of hospital operations at Henry Ford Health System, said administrators will evaluate patient volume over the weekend. Riney said Henry Ford's other four Southeast Michigan hospitals continue to provide full slate of services. (Greene, 4/8)
Cigna And Oscar Expand Their Small Business Partnership
The two companies' small business insurance plan is now available across Tennessee, Connecticut, California and the Atlanta area. The insurers aim to sell their health plan to companies with 100 employees or less. Their plan includes integrated medical, behavioral and pharmacy services and broad access to high-performing doctor and hospital networks, the companies said. As in other Oscar plans, members will receive support from a concierge team to understand their benefits and find care. They will also have access to round-the-clock telemedicine at no cost and other digital tools to support their care. The insurers first partnered last year and entered Los Angeles and Orange County at the same time. (Tepper, 4/8)
KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Health Care As Infrastructure
Health care makes some surprising appearances in President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, even though more health proposals are expected in a second proposal later this month. The bill that would help rebuild roads, bridges and broadband capabilities also includes $400 billion to help pay for home and community-based care and boost the wages of those who do that very taxing work. An additional $50 billion is earmarked for replacing water service lines that still contain lead, an ongoing health hazard. (4/8)
In pharmaceutical news —
Australian Study Links Rapid Flu Tests To Reduction In Antibiotic Prescribing
Antibiotics were initiated less frequently, and antivirals used more frequently, in patients diagnosed as having influenza using rapid polymerase chain reaction (RPCR) tests compared with standard multiplex PCR (MPCR) tests, Australian researchers reported yesterday in BMC Infectious Diseases. In the retrospective cohort study, the researchers compared outcomes in patients with positive influenza RPCR and MPCR tests at Prince of Wales Hospital in Sydney during the 2017 flu season, examining test turnaround times, antibiotic initiation, oseltamivir initiation, and hospital length of stay (LOS) for both emergency department and inpatient hospital stay. (4/8)
Digital Pharmacy Startup Thirty Madison Taps Former Lilly Exec As President
After nearly three decades working at two of the world’s pharmaceutical giants, Michelle Carnahan is going digital. The former senior vice president of general medicines for Sanofi’s North America division has stepped into a new role as the president of Thirty Madison, a digital pharmacy that sells medications online and delivers them to your door. (Brodwin, 4/8)
Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis is suing the federal government over cruise line prohibitions. News is also from Texas, Maryland, Indiana and Louisiana.
The Washington Post:
Florida Gov. DeSantis Sues CDC, Biden Administration To Get Cruises Sailing
Making good on an earlier threat, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said Thursday that the state has filed a lawsuit against the federal government demanding that cruises be allowed to resume from the United States immediately. “We don’t believe the federal government has the right to mothball a major industry for over a year based on very little evidence and very little data,” DeSantis said in a news conference at Miami’s seaport. “I think we have a good chance for success.” (Sampson, 4/8)
Health News Florida:
Florida Still Tops Nation In ACA Enrollment
Florida continues to lead the nation in the number of people taking advantage of a special enrollment period for coverage under the Affordable Care Act, with 146,250 people obtaining health insurance between Feb. 15 and March 31. Nationwide, more than 500,000 people obtained Obamacare coverage during that period, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (4/8)
Health News Florida:
Dueling House, Senate Health Care Budgets Include 'Some Ifs'
Florida lawmakers might be getting a $10 billion influx of money from Washington and an infusion of additional state tax dollars, but the Republican-controlled House and Senate passed dueling budgets this week that would slash funding for hospitals and other health care providers and do little to help people with disabilities get off a waiting list for services. The House on Thursday passed a $97 billion budget proposal for the coming fiscal year that includes $42.1 billion for health and human services. The Senate passed a smaller overall budget at $95 billion, but it would direct $42.3 billion to health and human services. (4/8)
In updates from Texas —
Gov. Abbott Demands US Government Shut Down Migrant Youth Facility Amid Abuse Allegations
Gov. Greg Abbott called on the federal government to shut down the temporary facility housing migrant children at the Freeman Coliseum on Wednesday, saying two state agencies have received several complaints alleging child abuse and neglect. The Texas Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services each received separate tips Wednesday morning, Abbott said at a quickly called news conference in front of the coliseum. (Hardaway, 4/8)
Dallas Morning News:
Texas Senate OKs Sweeping Protections Against COVID-19 Lawsuits For Businesses, Health Care Providers
With strong bipartisan support, a sweeping bill that would bar lawsuits over COVID-19 deaths and injuries — if Texas businesses, health care providers and institutions made good faith efforts to follow governments’ pandemic protocols — flew out of the Senate on Thursday. The proposed liability shield would be retroactive to the start of the coronavirus crisis and lifted once it ends, meaning the protections could last for months or even years. It “allows Texas to continue reopening safely and will bolster the global economy-leading [state] economy by giving businesses the assurance that they will not be forced to spend their hard-earned resources fighting frivolous lawsuits,” said bill author Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills. (Garrett and Morris, 4/8)
In news from Maryland, Indiana and Louisiana —
The Washington Post:
Maryland Lawmakers Want Counseling For Children Without Parental Consent
In voting to make Maryland one of five states that allows preteens to get mental health treatment without parental consent, Del. Kumar P. Barve said he was honoring an uncle he never met. His mother’s twin brother died by suicide in the 1940s, Barve told colleagues in the General Assembly on Thursday. (Wiggins, 4/8)
Indiana Budget: Cigarette Tax Nixed, Mental Health Funding Increased
Senate Republicans dedicated more money for mental health resources and students living in poverty in their version of the 2-year $35.8 billion budget Thursday, a proposal that Senate Democrats praised as at least a step forward. Still, Democrats had concerns about the lack of a cigarette tax increase, absence of action to address teacher pay and what they see as an inequitable school-funding formula. They unsuccessfully tried to amend the budget and likely will try again before it passes the full Senate. (Lange and Herron, 4/8)
New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Why Is Louisiana Unhealthy? New State Database Aims To Connect Environment, Behavior To Health
After a year in which the coronavirus laid bare health disparities among people of different backgrounds, the Louisiana Department of Health released a new dashboard that aims to shed light on the state’s dismal health care outcomes. For years, Louisiana has sat at or near the bottom of nearly every measurable health metric, ranking well below the national average when it comes to behavioral health, low birth weight, high cholesterol and early death. What is less understood is why residents in the state have such poor health. (Woodruff, 4/8)
Russia and Slovakia are in a dispute over the Russian Sputnik vaccine. News on vaccination programs is also from Germany, Italy and Japan.
The New York Times:
Slovakia Claims A Bait-And-Switch With The Russian Vaccines It Ordered
Russia’s vaccine diplomacy suffered a setback on Thursday when Slovakia, one of the few countries in Europe to order its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine, said that the doses it purchased differed from a version reviewed favorably by a respected British medical journal. A statement by Slovakia’s drug regulator questioning the Russian vaccine suggested potentially serious quality-control problems in the manufacture of Sputnik V and threatened recent progress made by Russia in winning acceptance for its product. (Higgins, 4/8)
Russia Wants Slovakia To Return Its Sputnik V Vaccines
Russia asked Slovakia on Thursday to return its Sputnik V vaccines it has received “due to multiple contract violations.” The official Twitter account of the Sputnik V vaccine said Slovakia’s drug regulator “in violation of existing contract and in an act of sabotage” tested Sputnik V “in a laboratory which is not part of the EU’s Official Medicines Control Laboratory network.” (Janicek, 4/8)
Germany Mulls Possible Order Of Russian COVID-19 Vaccine
Germany’s health minister said Thursday that the European Union doesn’t plan to order Russia’s Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine but his country will hold talks with Russia on whether an individual order makes sense. The EU’s executive Commission said Wednesday it won’t place orders for Sputnik V on member countries’ behalf, as it did with other manufacturers, Health Minister Jens Spahn told WDR public radio. (Moulson, 4/8)
The Washington Post:
Has Italy Been Vaccinating The Wrong People? Its Daily Coronavirus Death Tolls Suggest So.
Looking at the day-by-day chart tracking Italy's relentless coronavirus death toll, it would be impossible to tell that the country has been armed since late December with vaccines. At a point when the pandemic has become a race between those vaccines and a more lethal variant, most Western European nations have managed to push down their death rate through a combination of lockdowns and vaccinations. Italy’s death rate, though, is much the same as it was 3 1/2 months ago, despite receiving the same proportion of doses as other European Union members. On Wednesday, the country reported another 627 victims of the virus, the highest daily figure since early January. The question of what’s gone wrong in Italy is now perplexing a hard-hit nation that had thought it was over the worst. (Harlan and Noack, 4/8)
Japan To Raise Virus Steps In Tokyo, 3 Months Ahead Of Games
Japan is set to strengthen anti-virus measures in Tokyo on Friday to curb the rapid spread of a more contagious coronavirus variant just three months before the Olympics begin in the capital where most people are not yet vaccinated. Experts on a government panel gave preliminary approval to the emergency measures that would include binding orders in Tokyo, in Kyoto in western Japan and in the southern island prefecture of Okinawa. The measures expected to be announced later Friday by Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga would start Monday and last until early May. (Yamaguchi, 4/9)
The Washington Post:
Nearly 20 Percent Of The U.S. Population Is Fully Vaccinated, Widening The Global Gap
In the United States, the good vaccine news keeps coming. For much of the world, things look bleak. As of Thursday, just short of 20 percent of the U.S. population was fully vaccinated, giving some 66 million people a strong measure of protection against a disease that has already killed more than 500,000 Americans. By contrast, Covax — a World Health Organization-backed push for equitable distribution — aims to secure enough doses to cover up to 20 percent of the people in participating countries by the end of 2021, but it may not meet that relatively modest goal, experts warn. (Rauhala, 4/8)
Travel Restrictions By Country: Here's Where Americans Can Go This Summer
You've got your COVID vaccine, and the CDC says it's OK to travel this summer, even internationally. But you're likely to find that your overseas options are limited by border restrictions in many countries. If you don't do your homework before traveling, you could wind up stranded in a foreign airport or quarantined in your hotel room for two weeks. (Muller, 4/9)
In global pharmaceutical news —
Brazilian Judge Temporarily Suspends Pharmaceutical Patent Extensions
A Brazilian Supreme Court judge suspended extensions for pharmaceutical patents in the country, and although the decision is only temporary, the move still holds the potential for opening the door to numerous lower-cost generic medicines. The decision came in a closely watched case that has pitted the pharmaceutical industry against consumer advocates over patent rights and the extent to which many prescription drugs are affordable. At issue is the constitutionality of a provision in the country’s intellectual property law allowing lengthy extensions on patents. (Silverman, 4/8)
Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to sit back and enjoy. This week's selections include stories on mental health, covid, addiction, HIV, homelessness, menopause, coffee drinking and more.
Did George Floyd, Daniel Prude Change 911 Mental Health Call Response?
Nearly 8 in 10 voters support diverting 911 calls related to mental health and substance use to trained, non-police responders, according to a June survey by the Alliance for Safety and Justice. In turn, a growing numbers of localities are exploring mental health emergency response programs that do not involve police officers. At least three are now operating civilian programs dispatched through 911, and many more are drafting or piloting programs. However, while advocacy groups have praised the work as an important first step, some, including in New York City, have raised concerns around how pilot programs have been designed and the role still given to police in them. (Miller and Hauck, 4/5)
The Broken Front Line
In Los Angeles County, as in many parts of the U.S., for-profit companies operate the ambulance system. The contract for the north part of LA is held by American Medical Response, the largest ambulance company in the nation. Along with paramedics from the fire department, EMTs employed by American Medical Response handle all of the emergency medical calls in this “exclusive operating area,” a roughly 1,500-square-mile dominion that includes the cities of Palmdale and Lancaster, a smattering of quarries and aerospace factories, and swaths of the Mojave desert. Spending as little as possible is crucial for all parties involved. The government, which pays for the majority of ambulance trips in many parts of the country, wants to save money. And AMR, of course, makes more if it keeps costs down. Diaz is particularly attuned to this dynamic: He represents around 350 AMR employees as president of an EMT union’s local. (Kofman, 4/7)
A City Wrestled Down An Addiction Crisis. Then Came COVID-19
Larrecsa Cox steered past the used tire shop, where a young man had collapsed a few days before, the syringe he’d used to shoot heroin still clenched in his fist. She wound toward his house in the hills outside of town. The man had been revived by paramedics, and Cox leads a team with a mission of finding every overdose survivor to save them from the next one. ... As the COVID-19 pandemic killed more than a half-million Americans, it also quietly inflamed what was before it one of the country’s greatest public health crises: addiction. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 88,000 people died of drug overdoses in the 12 months ending in August 2020 — the latest figures available. That is the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in a year. (Galofaro, 4/8)
The New York Times:
The City Losing Its Children To H.I.V.
One day in February 2019, Nazeer Shah carried his 1-year-old daughter, Eman, into a medical clinic [in Ratodero, Pakistan]. The doctor there, Imran Arbani, was immediately alarmed: The girl was limp and lethargic, her head flopped over on her father’s shoulder. Her breathing was shallow and fast. She was asleep, hard to rouse, except when she woke to cough. She drooled from her mouth. Her tongue was covered with a thick white coating, which Arbani recognized as thrush, a condition that usually indicates a weakened immune system. At around 11 pounds, she was frighteningly underweight. (Ouyang, 4/2)
Forgotten Memories Of Traumatic Events Get Some Backing From Brain-Imaging Studies
When adults claim to have suddenly recalled painful events from their childhood, are those memories likely to be accurate? This question is the basis of the “memory wars” that have roiled psychology for decades. ... Warnings about the reliability of a forgotten traumatic event that is later recalled—known formally as a delayed memory—have been endorsed by leading mental health organizations such as the American Psychiatric Association (APA). The skepticism is based on a body of research showing that memory is unreliable and that simple manipulations in the lab can make people believe they had an experience that never happened. ... But clinicians who also do research have been publishing peer-reviewed studies of dissociative amnesia in leading journals for decades. A study published in February in the American Journal of Psychiatry, the flagship journal of the APA, highlights the considerable scientific evidence that bolsters the arguments of trauma therapists. (Kendall, 4/6)
Clowning Is Serious Business For Doctor To Homeless In Brazil's 'Crackland'
In his white doctor's jacket, psychiatrist Flavio Falcone could not get homeless drug addicts to talk.But costumed as a jester with a bright red nose, he has become an icon in Brazil's "cracolandia," or crackland: a dangerous wasteland of about eight blocks in the historic center of Sao Paulo where addicts twitch and pushers roam. Falcone's patients know him as The Clown, not as a doctor. He treats a growing number of Brazilians, driven onto the street by the COVID-19 pandemic which has devastated the country's economy. Early government support, a lifeline for many, has also wavered. (Perobelli, 4/7)
The Wall Street Journal:
Could You Go For A Month Without Coffee?
Ramadan was still more than a month away when Shabana Mir began her strict, step-by-step plan in mid-March to wean herself off coffee before the Muslim month of fasting begins.The Illinois-based professor of anthropology started by trading in her usual 16-ounce cup of regular coffee for half-decaf brews. From there she slowly cut back her daily coffee consumption, bit by bit. ... Caffeine withdrawal can be debilitating for some during the first few days of Ramadan, during which Muslims don’t eat or drink from dawn to dusk. That means no coffee when people most need it: in the morning to kick off the day, or for a mid-afternoon pick-up. So to prevent a phenomenon called “First of Ramadan Headaches,” Muslims like Ms. Mir undertake weeks of careful preparation. (Abdulrahim, 4/7)
The New York Times:
Why Modern Medicine Keeps Overlooking Menopause
Sometime around age 40, the changes begin. Maybe hair frizzes. Perhaps nails become brittle. The tummy might sprout an additional layer of fat. Periods may get shorter, or longer, or heavier, or lighter, or could become wildly unpredictable. ... There are at least 34 symptoms of perimenopause — a stretch of time that can last anywhere from a couple of months to 14 years, when the body transitions toward menopause. (Menopause — literally: the ceasing of menstruation — occurs when it has been one year since the last period.) ... But the medical industry hasn’t figured out how to provide proper care during or after this transition, or even which kind of doctor should do so, Dr. Stephanie S. Faubion says. (Davis, 4/6)
The Wall Street Journal:
Goaded By A Robot, Students Took Greater Risk Than They Otherwise Would
Can a robot encourage risk-taking behavior? A new study, titled “The Robot Made Me Do It,” suggests it may be possible. The researchers looked to see if a 3-foot, 9-inch robot named Pepper could influence students’ inclination to make risky decisions in a laboratory setting. Better understanding how people interact with robots, especially the influence the machines may exert in certain contexts, could be increasingly important as robots start to become more present in everyday life—including delivering packages, giving directions at airports and motivating rehabilitation patients during physical therapy. (Ward, 4/4)
The Washington Post:
Free Films Festival Tells Stories Of Global Health
Movies can improve your mood or expand your horizons. But can they help improve your health? At the World Health Organization’s “Health for All Film Festival,” the answer is yes. The virtual festival features health-themed shorts from around the world — and thanks to the Internet, you can dive in from your laptop or phone. The WHO commissioned short films in three categories for the 2021 festival: universal health coverage, health emergencies, and better health and well-being. Worldwide, nearly 1,200 filmmakers responded. More than 40 percent tackled the coronavirus pandemic, the agency says. But the films, all under eight minutes in length, cover all types of health-related topics. (Blakemore, 4/3)
Take It From Dr. Temple Grandin: 'Explore And Experiment'
For Dr. Temple Grandin, curiosity and exploring have always come naturally. “As a kid, my sister and I had rock collections where we would bust rocks apart to see what they look like inside,” Grandin told “Good Morning America.” ... Grandin recalls from an early age being frustrated with not being able to speak. Like many people with autism, she experienced delays with developing verbal communication skills. “I can remember the frustration of not being able to talk and it was absolutely terrible,” she said. (Linendoll and Singh, 4/5)
Editorial pages confront these public health topics.
My Family's Health Scare Taught Me The Value Of Affordable Health Care
I learned what it feels like to have health insurance the day my mother was rushed to the hospital. I remember our fear and worry. I remember my father moving swiftly, decisively. And I remember that there was no question or hesitation to take my mother to the hospital. My father, a construction worker with a sixth-grade education, had health insurance through his union, Laborers' Local 185 in Northern California. It meant we didn't have to make a choice between my mother's health and our family's financial stability. Growing up, my family didn't have much, but we did have access to health care -- and importantly, the peace of mind that comes with it. (Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, 4/6)
The U.S. Should Make It Easier For Foreign-Trained Health Professionals To Work Here
When people ask if they should call me “doctor,” I’ve always answered, “Please, call me Lubab.” Titles don’t matter to me. But what does matter to me is for America to acknowledge my medical training and the skills I honed as a physician in Iraq and to let me work here as a doctor, especially after having toiled on the frontlines of Covid-19 care alongside thousands of other foreign-trained health professionals: physicians, nurses, medical assistants, and others. We helped saved countless lives. (Lubab al-Quraishi, 4/9)
The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Should The Pa. Senate Pass A Bill To Expand Nurse Practitioner Care?
In February, Pennsylvania State Sen. Camera Bartolotta (R., Washington) reintroduced a bill to loosen requirements for physician oversight of nurse practitioners who offer primary care. The first version passed the Senate in 2017 but then stalled in the House. While its proponents argue the change would expand high-quality primary care, especially in underserved parts of Pennsylvania, others object that the current rules around nurse practitioner-physician partnerships are in the best interest of patients. The Inquirer turned to two health-care researchers and the president of the Pennsylvania chapter of the American College of Physicians to debate: Is it time for Pennsylvania to pass Senate Bill 25 and expand nurse practitioner practice? (Kihwan Bae, Edward Timmons and Lawrence Ward, 4/8)
Obamacare Survives Donald Trump, Repeal, Replace And COVID-19 Pandemic
Mark Twain famously responded that a report of his death "was an exaggeration." He had nothing on Obamacare. At one time or another during his tenure, President Donald Trump declared the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act dead, ended, terminated and obliterated. "What we really have left is the carcass of Obamacare," Trump told Fox News a year ago. It was, in his words, a disaster and a joke. "Has anybody heard of Obamacare?" Trump mocked at a campaign stop in September. Actually, that would be a most definitive yes — particularly for the 20 million Americans who have health insurance today thanks to the 11-year-old federal sponsored health insurance program that was a signature achievement of President Barack Obama. (4/9)
Dallas Morning News:
This Set Of Bills Will Stabilize Texas’ Health Care Safety Net
Last legislative session, Texas made significant strides to our health care system, including eliminating surprise billing, increasing women’s health funding, and securing landmark waivers from the federal government to stabilize our health care safety net. My House colleagues and I are committed to building upon those successes this session by introducing Healthy Families, Healthy Texas, a bipartisan legislative package to ensure health care in the Lone Star State is accessible and affordable for all 29 million Texans. Healthy Families, Healthy Texas aims to improve the health of Texas mothers, create greater access to affordable health care coverage, and develop alternatives to the federal health insurance exchange. This is a bipartisan effort to better coordinate the continuum of care for Texans across the state. (Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, 4/8)
The Washington Post:
Why I Vetoed The GOP's Bill Restricting Transgender Youth Health Care
For over 40 years, I have been fighting to build the Republican Party by advancing the principles of limited government and individual liberty. Thanks to that focus, the GOP has become the majority party in Arkansas. Now, I am being attacked by some of my Republican colleagues for not being pure enough on social issues and for vetoing a bill that limited access to health care for transgender youth. Make no mistake: I am pro-life. I believe there are some issues where the stakes are so high that government must play a role in private life. I have fought my share of battles in defending the role of faith in our society. At the same time, while governor, I have lowered taxes, balanced the budget and defended the Second Amendment. Yet the reaction of some of my conservative friends now makes me wish they would remember President Ronald Reagan’s admonition that if someone agrees with you 80 percent of the time then they are your friend and ally — not the enemy. (Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, 4/8)
New England Journal of Medicine:
Effect Of Oxygen Therapy On Mortality In The ICU
Oxygen therapy is a key component of supportive care for patients who have hypoxemic respiratory failure and are being treated in the intensive care unit (ICU). Yet, although oxygen can be lifesaving for patients with severe hypoxemia, overzealous oxygen administration may be harmful. Furthermore, data to inform the use of oxygen therapy in patients with acute hypoxemia have been limited. (Dr. Paul J. Young, 4/8)
Opinion writers tackle these covid issues.
Covid Masks Save American Lives. They Still Can (And Should) Post-Pandemic.
As an emergency physician, there are many things that I will not miss when the Covid-19 pandemic is finally brought under control. I will not miss having to wear full personal protective equipment (two masks, face shield, gown, two sets of gloves) for every hospital shift. I will not miss having to tell a patient's family that they are unable to visit their loved one in the emergency department. I will not miss wondering whether I am bringing the virus home to my family. Most of all, I will not miss treating the rooms full of people, gasping for breath from this virus, hoping the few effective treatments available will save their lives. I do hope, though, that a few things stick with us after SARS-CoV-2 becomes less of a threat. Respect for masks is at the top of that list. (Dr. Megan Ranney, 4.9)
Healthcare Will Pay For Provider Burnout After COVID-19
Like many people, I'm beginning to venture out to medical practices for long overdue visits. I always ask my providers how they're doing. They tell me the truth—maybe because I'm also a doctor and somebody who is focused on helping medical practices thrive. One provider told me she's selling her medical practice and retiring early, in her late 50s, after losing her mother and a close friend to COVID-19. Another was in the room with me physically, but barely there mentally. And another who used to love talking about her practice with me only wanted to talk about her weekends in the mountains. (Dr. Halee Fisher-Wright, 4/9)
Los Angeles Times:
Stop Grousing About Vaccine ‘Passports’ — They’re The Key To Reopening Society
It was a bright yellow booklet I carried everywhere, and at some national borders it was scrutinized even more carefully than my government-issued passport. It was my vaccine certificate, showing the dates I’d received shots or screenings for more than half a dozen diseases. ... Immunization rules were rigorously enforced because those diseases were endemic in the countries I visited. Today, COVID-19 is more than endemic; it’s a pandemic, of course. And that’s what makes the political debate over COVID vaccine “passports” so bizarre. Make no mistake: In the United States, the debate is being driven almost entirely by ideology and partisan politics. Conservatives and Republicans have embraced opposition to vaccination requirements as the newest flashpoint in their culture war. (Michael Hiltzik, 4/5)
How Humility Can Help Save Us From Covid-19
“I was wrong.” That simple statement should have been at the top of the soundtrack for our first pandemic year. But it was rarely uttered, replaced instead by confident soundbites. That was too bad, because the admission “I was wrong” and the humility it reflects can help save us from Covid-19. (Eric D. Katz, 4/8)
San Diego Union-Tribune:
Vaccine Mandates Sure To Spur Lawsuits. But Long History Shows They Are Legal.
The power of collective bargaining laws complicates the question of whether public employees can be required to get COVID-19 vaccinations before returning to their workplaces. It’s a big reason why San Diego Unified officials have urged all employees to get vaccinated but never made it mandatory. Private employers, however, do have the right to require their workers to take the COVID-19 vaccine, subject to a handful of legally protected exceptions for disabilities and religious beliefs. That was the Dec. 16 guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in keeping with more than a century of court rulings — dating to a 1905 Massachusetts case involving mandatory smallpox vaccinations in which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld vaccine laws that were “reasonably required for the safety of the public” while noting that individual liberty was not absolute. The California Supreme Court and Legislature have also upheld private employers’ right to make workers follow their edicts so long as they don’t constitute discrimination involving race, national origin, sex, age, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or religion. (4/8)
The New York Times:
Racism Makes Me Question Everything. I Got The Covid Vaccine Anyway.
Last summer, when Covid-19 vaccines were in development, friends on text threads and Zoom calls asked if I’d get one. My response was always the same: Sure, I’ll be right in line — after 100 million of y’all go first. I told them I’d seen too many zombie movies. But my hesitancy was actually grounded in a less cinematic reality.: I just don’t trust America enough. This mistrust comes from an awareness of the ubiquity of American anti-Blackness — a dynamic that can, um, modify your sense of reality. That’s what happened, for instance, with the persistent myth of Tommy Hilfiger’s racist comments. (Damon Young, 4/9)