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Utah embraced an unproven Covid-19 drug, then raced to course-correct

In a new story, STAT's Andrew Joseph pieces together the saga of how in Utah, the hype — and hope — tied to the antimalarial drug hydroxycholoroquine for Covid-19 outpaced the evidence for its use. Even before President Trump touted the drug as a possible Covid-19 treatment, physicians and officials in Utah were playing up its possible benefits. That led the state to place an $800,000 order for hydroxycholoroquine and the related drug chloroquine. But as experts pushed back on the state's plans, including letting pharmacies dispense the unproven drugs to Covid-19 patients without a prescription, Utah backed down. Read more here

Here's what else is new with Covid-19: 

  • The Trump administration on Friday unveiled an ambitious plan to develop and deliver hundreds of millions of doses of a Covid-19 vaccine by the end of this year. The announcement came even after top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci warned in recent weeks that a realistic timeline for the first doses of a vaccine to be available to the most needy is 12-18 months from now. 
  • Almost exactly a month after announcing a cut to WHO funding, President Trump over the weekend said that he is considering restoring some of those funds. In a tweet, Trump indicated that the U.S. could pay 10% of what it has historically paid the global health agency, but that no final decision had been made and that funding was still frozen. 
  • In graduation speeches delivered virtually on Saturday, former President Barack Obama criticized the current pandemic response. In one, he said, the pandemic "has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing," he said. In another, aimed at high school seniors, he said that a lot of the adults "you used to think were in charge" didn't have the right answers. Nor are a lot of them "even asking the right questions," he added. 

Report underscores the need for more research on kids and Covid-19 ahead of new school year

As states and school districts contemplate whether to reopen schools in the fall, a new report from Johns Hopkins University outlines how knowledge gaps on Covid-19 will complicate their decision-making. The current research suggests that children tend to have less severe forms of the infection, yet the report emphasizes that there is limited evidence to show if students could transmit the virus to one another as well as to staff and teachers. There are also other unanswered questions, such as the effect of the virus on children with asthma and other underlying health conditions. The authors of the report call for a national mandate "to prioritize and quickly fund research to answer these scientific questions" as states work towards reopening schools. 

Instagram launches new initiative for coping during Covid-19

Instagram is launching a new service today to help users better manage their mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. The service, called Guides, is a partnership between the Facebook-owned social media site and health organizations including the National Eating Disorders Association and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, as well as advocacy groups such as the NAACP and Asian Americans Advancing Justice to reach diverse audiences on the platform. The service will include content and resources on dealing with xenophobia, coping with grief, and performing mindfulness exercises. In a statement, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation of America, another partner in the initiative, said that half of Latinos use social media to share Covid-19 content, which is why the new program "will provide essential information and resources to the Latino community effectively and immediately during this national crisis." 

Inside STAT: Life as a Covid-19 contact tracer


As states work to contain the spread of Covid-19, they're relying on an armies of contact tracers to track cases and get in touch with others who may have come in contact with the infected individuals. With limited budgets, health departments have turned to volunteers and public health students to help fill in gaps in the workforce. One such person is 22-year-old Maddie Bender, a graduate student at Yale University who has been working with New Haven's health department as a contact tracer. The job involves some detective work, but a lot of humility of tact, Bender tells STAT contributor Suzanne Sataline, especially since people may not be thrilled to hear from you. “When you get a random call with someone affiliated with the public health school and she knows personal information about you, but is missing crucial information, that can seem both intrusive and callous,” Bender says. Read more here

Scientists call for addressing climate change as a way to fight cancer

Scientists are warning that a lack of progress on addressing climate change could also impede efforts to curb the spread of cancer. Writing in a new commentary, researchers say that, "Climate change and continued reliance on fossil fuels push that noble goal [of eradicating cancer] further from reach." Climate change creates conditions that help some carcinogens — such as air pollutants caused by more frequent wildfires — thrive. Climate change can also create situations that disrupt cancer care, the authors write, such as more extreme weather events that can put a strain on hospitals and laboratories and interrupt the supply chain of necessary medical equipment. The authors also argue that, as the second-biggest consumer of energy in the U.S., the health care industry here has a role to play in working to cut down its carbon emissions by incorporating more energy-efficient CT or MRI machines, for instance. 

Parents are largely OK with their tweens using educational health apps — with some concerns

A new poll from the University of Michigan finds that although few parents of those aged 8-12 say their child uses health apps that provide educational content about health and wellness, the majority of parents would be OK with their tweens using them. The poll surveyed more than 2,000 parents of tweens across the U.S., and 1 in 20 parents said their tween uses a health app on a phone or device that collects health data such as steps taken or calories burned. Nearly 70% said they are concerned about their children being targeted by ads on such apps, and nearly three-quarters said that apps that encourage kids to track meals as a healthy behavior could lead to issues about weight or body image. And while a majority of parents say they want input from health providers about whether such apps are beneficial to use, only 3% have actually sought out their providers' advice.  

What to read around the web today

  • JetBlue’s founder helped fund a Stanford study that said the coronavirus wasn’t that deadly. BuzzFeed News
  • TSA preparing to check passenger temperatures at airports amid coronavirus concerns. The Wall Street Journal
  • The rogue experimenters. The New Yorker
  • Opinion: A pandemic plan was in place. Trump abandoned it — and science — in the face of Covid-19. STAT
  • ‘Straight-up fire’ in his veins: Teen battles new Covid-19 syndrome. The New York Times

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Monday, May 18, 2020


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