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Texas' new abortion law is one of the strictest in the U.S., but with a twist

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed one of the strictest anti-abortion bills in the country into law yesterday. Like other similar bills passed in recent years across the U.S., the Texas law will prohibit abortions starting at six weeks into pregnancy, before many people even know they are pregnant. In a stark departure from other states' laws, however, Texas will leave enforcement up to private citizens: Anyone who knows someone who has had an abortion can sue the abortion provider or anyone who helped the person get the procedure. Even those outside Texas can sue doctors, and get up to $10,000 in financial damages. The law is set to go into effect in September, but, like with other similarly stringent abortion laws elsewhere, is likely to face a legal challenge. 

Hepatitis infections have continued to rise in recent years

Hepatitis A and C infections in the U.S. are on the rise, according to new CDC data. There was a more than 1,300% increase in hepatitis A infections between 2015-2019, and a 63% increase in hepatitis C infections over the same time period. Injection drug use was a major reason for both these spikes. The report, based on 2019 data, also a found a discrepancy between the number of reported infections and the projected true number of cases for these diseases. There were roughly 18,900 acute cases of hepatitis A in 2019, but the CDC estimates the number of infections to be closer to 38,000. For hepatitis C, the number of reported cases two years ago was around 4,100, but the estimate is likely 57,500 cases. 

More than 4 million would be insured if states chose to expand Medicaid

More than 4 million people would gain insurance if the U.S. states that have yet to expand Medicaid move to do so under President Biden's American Rescue Plan, according to a new Commonwealth Fund report. The American Rescue Plan offers financial incentives, such as paying 90% of the coverage cost for newly eligible adults, to the 14 states that haven't yet expanded Medicaid eligibility, which only takes into account household income and not other factors the way regular Medicaid eligibility does. In addition to the added 4.5 million who would be newly eligible for Medicaid, expansion of the program would also increase the number of Medicaid recipients to nearly 7 million by 2022. Texas, Florida, and Georgia would be among the states to see the biggest increase in enrollment. 

Inside STAT: California could be first in nation to set biosecurity standards for DNA synthesis companies


For decades, scientists have been building synthetic genes — tiny building blocks of nucleic acids to help with a host of research in the absence of or in lieu of the real thing. At the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, even, researchers raced to get synthetic versions of the coronavirus' genes to study diagnostics and to test possible treatments. But left unchecked, these synthetic tools could very well be a biosafety risk. A bill being voted on today by California lawmakers could change that. If approved, synthetic gene companies would be tasked with adopting screening protocols to keep dangerous DNA tools out the wrong hands. It would also make California the first state in the U.S. to adopt such biosafety standards. STAT's Megan Molteni has more here

Majority of LGBTQ+ youth report poor mental health over the course of the pandemic

The Trevor Project just released its third annual national survey on the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth in the U.S., which finds that a majority of those surveyed report poor mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic. Here's more from the survey, which collected responses from nearly 35,000 youth ages 13-24: 

  • Overall trends: 70% of those surveyed said their mental state was poor always or most of the time during the pandemic. Yet, fewer than half who said they wanted mental health care said they were not able to get it. 
  • Suicidal ideations: 42% of respondents said they had seriously considered suicide in the 12 months prior to being surveyed. More than half of trans and nonbinary youth reported such ideations. Native American, Latinx, and Black youth were most likely to have attempted suicide. 
  • Depression and anxiety: 72% of those surveyed — and more than three-quarters of those who are trans and nonbinary — reported generalized anxiety in the two weeks prior to being surveyed. Nearly two-thirds of respondents said the same about major depressive disorder. 

Study shows vast racial disparities in department chair positions at medical schools

An analysis of nearly 40 years of data on racial and ethnic representation among academic department chairs finds that white faculty members are overrepresented and that other racial groups have only made incremental gains. Scientists looked at data from MD-granting schools in the U.S. between 1980-2019. More than 90% of medical department chairs in 1980 were white, whereas fewer than 2% of chairs back then were Black, Hispanic, or Asian. In 2019, white department chairs made up around 80% of the overall group, while 10% of department chairs were Asian. Black and Hispanic faculty occupied fewer than 4% of department chair positions. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 29,293
Deaths yesterday: 655
In this week’s episode of STAT’s “First Opinion Podcast,” Chelsea Clinton joins First Opinion editor Pat Skettett to discuss her work in public health, starting with the dangers of fracking to maternal and cardiovascular health. Listen here.
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (Español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

What to read around the web today

  • Emergent was aware of vaccine manufacturing issues even as it collected $27 million a month from U.S. STAT+
  • What can and can’t be learned from a doctor in China who pioneered masks. The New York Times
  • Deadly fungi are the newest emerging microbe threat all over the world. Scientific American
  • Republican lawmakers tell Biden to reverse ‘disastrous decision’ to support Covid-19 IP waiver. STAT+
  • Trans during a plague: The pitfalls and unexpected positives of pandemic life. Los Angeles Magazine

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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