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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Happy Juneteenth! We hope you'll be inspired to take time today to learn about the holiday and reflect on paths forward. Like many others, we at STAT are grappling with systemic racism in this country, especially its impact on health disparities. There are lots of resources out there, and here's one piece of media the STAT staff is tuning into. 

Trump says Covid-19 is ‘dying out.’ Experts fear his dismissiveness could prolong the crisis

Even as the U.S. is seeing 750 deaths daily from Covid-19, President Trump has been projecting a false sense of optimism. In a local television interview in Oklahoma on Wednesday, President Trump said the virus was "dying out," and told the Wall Street Journal that coronavirus testing "was overrated," but experts warn the conflicting directives are unlikely to be helpful and could complicate local governments' attempts at curbing the virus' spread. “The science behind how people process public warnings in a crisis supports this: You have to have people speaking with one voice,” medical anthropologist Monica Schoch-Spana tells STAT. “You need a chorus.” Read more here

Here's what else is going on with Covid-19: 

  • National Cancer Institute Director Ned Sharpless is worried that the trend of patients and physicians postponing essential cancer care will swap the ongoing pandemic for another public health crisis in the form of increased cancer cases and deaths. An NCI analysis estimated, for instance, that pandemic-related delays in breast and colon cancer diagnoses and treatment could lead to 10,000 more deaths over the next decade. “We’re very worried about the consequences of … delaying therapy on our patients," Sharpless tells STAT's Elizabeth Cooney.
  • A small survey of Covid-19 patients in Italy finds that the loss of taste and smell may be common symptoms among those in early stages of infection. More than half the patients in the 204-person survey reported losing their sense of taste, while around 40% lost their sense of smell or both taste and smell in the time between when they first realized they had symptoms and when a lab test confirmed infection. 
  • More people in the U.S. have now died of Covid-19 than Americans died in World War I, and the authors of a new First Opinion argue that 70%-99% of the deaths from the coronavirus could have been prevented if the U.S. had implemented some of the same measures as other countries with fewer fatalities. "This has been a needless tragedy," they write.

Senators ask government watchdog to investigate for-profit study review boards

Three U.S. senators are asking the Government Accountability Office to open an investigation into for-profit institutional review boards, which are tasked with ensuring that research involving humans is conducted ethically. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) sent a letter to the head of the GAO saying that their preliminary investigation in November 2019 found that studies reviewed by commercial IRBs had "significant vulnerabilities" — including conflicts of interest and having participants pay to participate in trials — that may end up putting patients at risk. Their investigation was based on questioning two large commercial IRBs, WCG Clinical and Advarra. The letter to the GAO asks the agency to investigate a series of questions, including differences in the outcomes of studies reviewed by academic versus commercial IRBs. 

Covid-19 disparities also extend to knowledge about the disease

Although the vast majority who took part in a new study knew about Covid-19's symptoms and how it could spread, Black and Hispanic people tended to be less aware than white individuals. Nearly 5,200 people were surveyed between March 29 and April 13, especially in places that were Covid-19 hot spots. Nearly 90% of white individuals surveyed knew the virus could spread through contaminated surfaces, for instance, compared to 83% of Hispanic people and 79% of Black individuals. At the same time, Black and Hispanic individuals also reported more hand-washing than white respondents And consistent with previous reporting, Black respondents were also more likely to report having been infected or knowing someone who had Covid-19 than white respondents.

Inside STAT: A geneticist advocates for diversity — and fixing his industry in the process


Tshaka Cunningham, executive director of the nonprofit Faith Based Genetic Research Institute. (Pete Marovich/American Reportage for STAT)

Genetics companies including 23andMe have released statements in recent weeks acknowledging that the pool of data they rely on for their tests are largely from white people and that diversity in their field is lacking. Geneticist Tshaka Cunningham is working to fix that, and is one of the featured guests on this week's episode of STAT's podcast "The Readout LOUD." Cunningham travels to Black churches around the country to talk about the value of genetic research, and as a co-founder of a startup called TruGenomix, he’s working to recruit more diverse cohorts to build a genetic test for gauging risk of developing PTSD. Read the transcript of the conversation with Cunningham — on questions he gets from the churchgoers, compensation for genetic data, and more — here.

One billion children worldwide are victims of violence

A new report from the WHO and other global agencies finds that about a billion children each year are affected by physical, sexual, or psychological violence because countries aren't taking sufficient steps to address the problem. The report looked at 155 countries worldwide, and concludes that although the vast majority of countries had laws to protect children against violence, fewer than half were strongly enforcing them. Progress on seven strategies for preventing violence against children is also uneven: More than half of countries reported improving access to schools, while only about a third of countries said that victims had access to support services.  

Sedentary behavior associated with increased risk of dying from cancer

A new study adds further weight to how a sedentary lifestyle may be associated with a higher risk of dying from cancer. Researchers measured the movement of more than 8,000 adults using an accelerometer they wore on their hip for a week, and followed them for an average of around five years. Of those who died during the follow-up, scientists found that the most sedentary individuals — defined as being inactive for 13 hours daily — had an 82% higher risk of cancer mortality. But replacing just 30 minutes of sedentary activity with a moderately intense activity such as biking was associated with a 31% reduction in the risk of dying from cancer. A less intensive activity such as walking was associated with an 8% drop in cancer mortality risk. 

What to read around the web today

  • In mice, scientists decode how the brain recognizes scent. STAT
  • Experts are calling for a top science journal to retract a paper on face masks and Covid-19. BuzzFeed News
  • What Minnesota’s protests are revealing about Covid-19 spread. Wired
  • Climate change tied to pregnancy risks, affecting Black mothers most. The New York Times
  • The Trump administration paid millions for test tubes — and got unusable mini soda bottles. ProPublica

Happy Father's Day on Sunday to all the fathers and father figures out there! I'll be back next week, 


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Friday, June 19, 2020


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