Sponsored by    


Morning Rounds Elizabeth Cooney

Some Americans say Covid-19 tests are hard to find

When the CDC said last week that schools can return to in-person learning without vaccinating teachers, its guidance relied on masks, social distancing, and other familiar strategies to keep K-12 education safe, including diagnostic testing. The agency stopped short of recommending screening tests. Either test can be hard to find. Whether they had symptoms or not, nearly a quarter of Americans who said they wanted to get tested for the coronavirus couldn’t, according to the latest survey from STAT and The Harris Poll. The reasons varied: A testing site was not nearby, the wait for a test was too long, transportation was unavailable, it was unclear where to go for a test, or more than one of these hurdles. The issue cited most often was the wait.

Special enrollment period for health coverage opens

People who qualify for Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) have a chance to sign up for coverage in a new special enrollment period that started yesterday. The opportunity comes in response to job losses during the coronavirus pandemic and follows an executive order from President Biden to expand access to health care. The marketplace will remain open through May 15. Marketplace plans cover treatment for preexisting medical conditions and can’t terminate coverage due to a change in health status, including diagnosis or treatment of Covid-19. There are also other times when people qualify for special enrollment if they lose or expect to lose health coverage from their employers or the employer of a family member.

Covid vaccine refusal declines among health care workers

More health care workers are being vaccinated against Covid-19 and fewer say they would decline it, according to an updated survey of more than 2,500 people. In December, 15% said they would refuse the vaccine, but that dropped to 11% by the end of January. The refusal rate was highest among allied health professionals, including health technicians, EMS personnel, and home health workers, followed by administrative and operational staff working in health care settings, and then physicians, nurses, and dentists. Black and Latinx health care workers both showed a refusal rate of 12%, followed by white health care workers at 10%. Two things that would change their minds: if their workplace mandated it and if they could see more evidence of efficacy. 

Inside STAT: As the pandemic ushered in isolation and hardship, overdose deaths reached new heights

Case worker Megan McAllister checks in on clients in Philadelphia. (HANNAH YOON FOR STAT)

Drug overdose deaths started spiking last spring, as the coronavirus forced shutdowns, and more recent statistics show the crisis has only deepened. The pandemic has ushered in stress, isolation, and economic upheaval — all known triggers for addiction and relapse — while robbing many people of treatment options and support systems. Addiction specialists across the country say the collision of the Covid-19 pandemic with a preexisting drug epidemic made deadlier by the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl has been devastating for their patients. Many have simply disappeared; some have died; others have relapsed. “While everyone’s focus is appropriately on the pandemic, we can’t lose sight of these other huge issues,” Robert Rodriguez of Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital tells STAT’s Usha Lee McFarling. Read more.

A hint at how Covid might affect the brain

Looking at Covid-19 patients, it seems clear the virus affects the brain. Some patients with severe disease experience confusion and altered consciousness while “brain fog” can follow people who recover from even mild illness. Brain autopsies haven’t revealed the inflammation, neural changes, or viral genetic material doctors would expect to see, but a new analysis of brain tissue from 15 patients who died of Covid-19 and two who didn’t offers a possible explanation. Neuropathologists found megakaryocytes — large cells that are platelet progenitors — in five Covid brains but not the non-Covid ones. These cells also show up in the lungs and other organs in Covid patients, and the scientists suggest they could block blood flow, “potentially resulting in an atypical form of neurologic impairment.”

1 in 3 parents say dental care for their children is hard to find during Covid

About a third of parents report trouble getting a dentist appointment for their children during the pandemic, a new national poll says, a problem three times as common among children with Medicaid as among children with private dental insurance. Some dentists don’t ever see Medicaid patients and some children receive dental care through schools or public dental clinics, many of which closed during the pandemic, further limiting options. As for parents who didn’t try to get an appointment, 4 out of 10 were concerned about infection. But two-thirds of all parents now think it’s safe. A bright spot: More than a quarter of parents say their children are doing better at brushing, flossing, fluoride rinsing, or avoiding sugary drinks.

Covid-19 cases in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 50,292
Deaths yesterday
: 950
Vaccine doses distributed, per CDC: 70,057,800
Total doses administered: 52,884,356


Correction: An item in Friday’s newsletter incorrectly identified Michael Gregory as an author of a study about differences between human and Neanderthal brains. Gregory, who studies Neanderthal genetics in the brain at the National Institute of Mental Health, was not involved in the study.

What to read around the web today

  • Guinea tracks potential Ebola contacts, says can overcome new outbreak. Reuters
  • Anatomy of a conspiracy: With Covid, China took a leading role. Associated Press
  • WHO formally authorizes the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine. New York Times
  • Solitary confinement may worsen Covid-19 transmission in prisons. Undark
  • Opinion: The NIH needs to ensure that women are equally represented in grant funding decisions. STAT

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Have a news tip or comment?

Email Me



View All

STAT Summit

STAT Summit

2021 STAT Health Tech Summit

May 11 & 12


Video Chat

Video Chat

Facing the crisis of drug-resistant germs

Feb. 18


Video Chat

Video Chat

The pandemic's toll on mental health

Feb. 25

Tuesday, February 16, 2021


Facebook   Twitter   YouTube   Instagram

1 Exchange Pl, Suite 201, Boston, MA 02109
©2021, All Rights Reserved.
I no longer wish to receive STAT emails
Update Email Preferences | Contact Us