Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Fauci and other health leaders to update senators on Covid-19 response

Top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci, CDC director Robert Redfield, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn, and assistant health secretary Brett Giroir will be back in front of a Senate panel this morning to provide an update on the U.S. response to Covid-19. All eyes have been on the CDC in recent days as the agency released guidance that seemed to suggest it had determined that aerosol transmission is a major way that SARS-CoV-2 is spread — only to reverse course and say that guidance had been posted in error. 

Here's what else is happening with the pandemic: 

  • The U.S. has officially recorded 200,000 Covid-19 deaths, reaching that dubious milestone faster than any other country. “The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering, in some respects stunning,” Fauci told CNN, while some medical groups urged continued precautions, including mask wearing, as the U.S. heads into flu season. 
  • A group of 34 Democratic lawmakers yesterday introduced the Science and Transparency Over Politics, or STOP, Act, which would create a task force to investigate any political interference in public health agencies' response to the pandemic. 
  • The Washington Post reports that the FDA is expected to issue new guidance on what it would take for the agency to approve a Covid-19 vaccine. The guidance includes tougher standards — such as following participants in late-stage trials for a median of at least two months —  that mean a vaccine is highly unlikely to be approved before election day on Nov. 3. 
  • Access to fast and cheap Covid-19 testing is a still a problem for many parts of the U.S., and the writers of a new First Opinion for STAT write that ensuring access to tests that meets these characteristics — even if they're not as accurate as the current gold standard of PCR tests — will be essential to staving off a second wave of the coronavirus. "This will provide essential information for staying up and running this fall and into the winter as we await the development and deployment of safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines," they write. 

CDC reports on the mental health of U.S. adults

Three new reports from the CDC outline the state of mental health among U.S. adults in 2019. More than 1 in 7 U.S. adults experienced some level of anxiety during 2019 — before the pandemic — while nearly 1 in 5 reported depression. Here's more about these reports:

  • Anxiety: When asked about their anxiety symptoms in the two weeks prior to being surveyed, nearly 10% of adults reported mild anxiety, while around 3% reported severe forms of anxiety. Women and those aged 18-29 were most likely to report being anxious. 
  • Depression: Nearly 12% of respondents reported mild depression symptoms in the two weeks prior to being surveyed, while nearly 3% reported severe depression. White and Black adults were most likely to report depression than other racial groups. 
  • Treatment: Around 1 in 5 U.S. adults reported getting any mental health treatment last year. Around 16% said they had taken some medication, while around 10% reporting getting counseling. 

In another health bet, Amazon expands virtual care program for employees

Amazon Care, a virtual health service that allows users to download an app to then text or video-call with a health care practitioner, has now been rolled out to all of Amazon's employees in Washington state. The service was thus far in a pilot phase. In addition to digitally connecting with providers, Amazon Care's app also allows users to refill prescriptions online that are then delivered by the tech giant's courier service. Providers from Care Medical, the private practice providing the medical services as part of Amazon Care, can also be dispatched to patients' homes to conduct in-person exams and some treatments. STAT Plus subscribers can read more here

Inside STAT: MIT researcher held up as model of how algorithms can benefit humanity

MIT researcher Regina Barzilay received a new prize from the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence. (MIT CSAIL)

MIT's Regina Barzilay was just announced as the inaugural winner of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence's $1 million award honoring an individual who has developed AI for the good of society. Unlike other major AI awards, which recognize scientific achievement, this award — sponsored by Chinese company Squirrel AI — aims to counter much of the negative concerns about AI. And with Barzilay, the award may achieve that goal. After a breast cancer diagnosis in 2014, Barzilay helped develop a technology being deployed with mammograms at Massachusetts General Hospital — a deep learning model that assesses breast-cancer risk and earlier this summer was used to predict her own risk. STAT's Rebecca Robbins has more here

More than 2 million U.S. women live in areas devoid of proper maternity care

Maternity care deserts — areas without hospitals that offer obstetric care, birth centers, or a specialized provider — continue to be a problem in the U.S., according to a new March of Dimes report, even as U.S. women die of pregnancy complications at rates higher than women in other high-income nations. More than 2.2 million women of childbearing age live in such deserts, according to the report, and an additional 4.8 million live in areas with limited access to maternity care. Women in the rural U.S. are especially at risk of giving birth without proper access to care: There are more than four times as many rural counties that are maternity care deserts than urban counties, and only 8% of obstetrics providers report working in rural areas. At the same time, 1 in 3 women of childbearing age in a maternity care desert lives in an urban setting.  

Tweets about preprints are largely confined to the scientific community

The vast majority of non-peer-reviewed scientific research shared on Twitter is circulated among people in academia, according to a new study that analyzed 1,800 of the most tweeted and downloaded papers on the preprint server bioRxiv from 2013 to 2020. But the study found that other measures suggest a much lower proportion of academics engage with these papers. Among non-scientists, the analysis found that 10% of preprints seemed to garner attention from white nationalists and other far-right groups, especially for papers concerning behavioral traits and population genetics. This study suggests social media engagement of preprint data stays within homogenous circles and points to why scientists ought to "build a following beyond their professional bubble" and contextualize their research, the authors write. 

What to read around the web today

  • Ginsburg’s replacement could play a pivotal role in shaping health care access. The 19th
  • The U.S. National Academy of Sciences can now kick out harassers. So why hasn’t it? Nature
  • The mental health struggle of America’s Black teachers. Elemental
  • New, secretive data system shaping federal pandemic response. The Center for Public Integrity
  • Finland to deploy coronavirus-sniffing dogs at Helsinki Airport. The Washington Post

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Wednesday, September 23, 2020


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