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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Hospitals across the country are facing a massive shortage of staff

As Covid-19 cases surge across the U.S., hospitals in at least half the states are in dire need of doctors, nurses, and other medical staff. The situation has gotten so bad that patients are being transferred to hospitals hundreds of miles away from where they came in for an available bed — from Texas to Arizona, for instance, or central Missouri to Iowa. And with such dire staffing shortages — 20% of the 240 hospitals in the Ohio Hospital Association are reporting shortages, for instance — the medical supplies that many hospitals spent months stocking up on are of little use. “Care is about more than a room with a hospital bed. It’s about medical professionals taking care of patients,” John Henderson, chief executive of the Texas Organization of Rural & Community Hospitals, tells STAT. “If you don’t have the staff to do that, people are going to die.”

Latest Ebola outbreak in the DRC declared over

There are no current active outbreaks of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo after officials declared that the 11th outbreak of the disease in the country is now over. This outbreak in the northwestern province of Équateur was identified at the beginning of June this year, just as another, longer outbreak in the North Kivu region of the country was winding down. In total, this last outbreak saw 119 confirmed cases of illness (with another 11 probable cases), and 55 deaths. Among the big challenges confronting this last outbreak was its coincidence with the Covid-19 pandemic, which officials said strained resources and made it difficult for experts and supplies to move around the country. Even though the outbreak has ended, the WHO says there may be possible flare-ups in the coming months and urged continued vigilance. 

New Wyss Institute alliance hopes to bring synthetic RNA tech to market

Harvard University's Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineered has teamed up with venture capital firm Northpond Labs to establish a new Laboratory for Bioengineering Research and Innovation. The five-year, $12 million venture will help advance an RNA synthesis platform developed at the Wyss Institute. The platform has helped create small RNA molecules that can be used in therapies or genome engineering tools. A separate $3 million investment from Northpond is also setting up an innovation fund for projects that don't necessarily have a clear path to being commercialized. This fund will support early projects in synthetic biology, DNA and protein synthesis, and biological manufacturing. 

Inside STAT: Biden adviser says scientists should lead communications on Covid-19


President-elect Biden (ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES)

Celine Gounder, a member of President-elect Biden's coronavirus task force, is pushing for federal scientists — and not political appointees — to be the ones to help spread public health measures and information about Covid-19. “It may not be exciting in a sexy TV way, but it’s exciting to me that this is a return to science,” she tells STAT's Lev Facher. Favoring scientists would be a marked shift from the current administration's strategy, which has sidelined scientific experts in favor of Vice President Mike Pence or HHS Secretary Alex Azar. Gounder suggested someone like the CDC's Nancy Messonnier, who Bill Gates said “should have been the visible face” of the CDC during the pandemic. Read more here.

Suicidal thoughts during pregnancy and postpartum are on the rise

Suicidal ideation among individuals during pregnancy and in the first year after giving birth has increased in recent years. In a study of nearly 600,000 individuals, scientists found that suicidal ideation — although still rare — increased from a rate of 0.1% per 100 individuals in 2006 to 0.5% per 100 individuals in 2017. Intentional self-harm also increased slightly, as did diagnoses of suicidality along with other mental health conditions such as depression and bipolar disorder. Increases in suicidal ideation during pregnancy and postpartum were higher among Black individuals, those with lower incomes, and younger mothers. Policymakers and clinicians ought to ensure universal screening for suicidal thoughts among pregnant and postpartum individuals, the authors suggest.

Report outlines gaps in heart failure care in Europe

The pharma-backed Heart Failure Policy Network is out with a new report outlining gaps in care for this condition in Europe, where it affects more than 15 million people. The analysis looked at heart failure care in 11 European countries, including Belgium, Spain, and Germany, and found that most governments lack online registries to document failures in care for this condition. Many countries are also facing a shortage of heart failure specialists, the report finds. The HFPN also put forth five actions to improve heart failure care, including increasing awareness of heart failure among the public and health providers and implementing an accredited heart failure specialist nurse role. 

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

  • The last children of Down syndrome. The Atlantic
  • 'He’s a destructive force': Health officials want Scott Atlas banished. The Daily Beast
  • Doctors’ association execs joined Newsom at lobbyist’s birthday bash. CalMatters 
  • Desperately trying to wipe the virus away. The Washington Post
  • Oxford Covid vaccine could build immunity in older people – study. The Guardian

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

Shraddha

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Thursday, November 19, 2020

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