Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

As Covid-19 vaccination rates climb in U.S., some states to resume full business capacities

As the pandemic in the U.S. shows signs of easing up, many states are moving toward resuming aspects of pre-pandemic normalcy. New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut are going to allow many businesses — including restaurants, theaters, barber shops, and museums — to operate at full capacity starting May 19. This will be the first time that usual crowds will be welcome since the start of the pandemic. The New York City subway will also resume its regular 24-hour service on May 17. In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker announced that four of the state's seven mass vaccination sites would be closed by the end of June. Those resources will be reallocated to support regional vaccination sites, especially in the hardest-hit communities, as well as to expand mobile vaccination clinics. 

Latest Ebola outbreak in the DRC declared over

The Ebola outbreak in the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of the Congo is officially over, nearly three months after it began. The WHO and DRC health officials said yesterday that there had been no new cases for 42 days after the last survivor of the disease was discharged from a hospital unit following a negative test. The outbreak, the DRC's 12th overall and fourth in fewer than three years, caused 11 confirmed cases and six deaths overall. Genetic sequencing revealed this outbreak could be linked to a previous outbreak, so officials are still stressing vigilance as the country emerges from the crisis. 

House members gear up for hearings on organ transplantation reform, drug pricing

It's a busy day in Washington as lawmakers meet to discuss ongoing health issues in the U.S. Up first this morning is a hearing in front of a House Oversight and Reform subcommittee on reforming the organ transplantation system so more patients can get the treatment they need. A memo on the hearing says that organ procurement organizations — which are tasked with obtaining organs for transplantation — "have evaded oversight and accountability, and [their] failures are costing thousands of lives a year." Witnesses at the hearing will include patients waiting on organs as well as executives at OPOs.

Also happening this morning is a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing on lowering prescription drug costs. The subcommittee on health will consider several pieces of legislation, including ones on protecting and expanding access to generic drugs. Witnesses include patient advocates as well as policy experts. 

Inside STAT: Critics say colonoscopy study exploited Black patients


A study published last fall that went unnoticed until recently is sparking outrage over the unusually high number of Black patients it enrolled. The study, from Johns Hopkins University, examined the abilities of three specially trained nurse practitioners performing colonoscopies. Of the more than 1,000 patients in the study, 75% were Black. Even though Black people make up nearly 90% of the Baltimore neighborhood where JHU is located, fewer than a third of those treated in the JHU system are Black. Critics say the study raises a specter of the Henrietta Lacks story JHU was infamously involved in, and questioned if patients enrolled in the study were adequately informed that the NPs performing the colonoscopies don't usually carry out the procedure in the U.S. or if the patients were allowed to opt for a doctor instead. The university denies any wrongdoing. STAT's Nicholas St. Fleur has more here

Warren Alpert prize winners recognized for essential RNA discoveries

Messenger RNA has been in the spotlight with Covid-19 vaccine development, and the latest Warren Alpert prize winners are also being recognized for RNA discoveries. University of Rochester biochemist Lynne Maquat and Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Yale University investigator Joan Steitz are winners of the prize given jointly by Harvard Medical School and the Warren Alpert Foundation to scientists, physicians, and researchers for biomedicine breakthroughs. Maquat is being recognized for her work recognizing what goes awry in mRNA production, and how these malfunctions lead to the development of disease. Steitz's work has focused, among other things, on RNA splicing, through which precursor mRNA become more mature mRNA molecules. They will split a $500,000 prize and be recognized at a virtual symposium in October. 

New study finds pharmacy deserts more common in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods

"Pharmacy deserts" are more common in Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, according to a new analysis that found these areas tended to have fewer pharmacies than majority-white areas. Looking at data from 2007-2015 in the 30 most populous U.S. cities, researchers found that, in 2015, for instance, white-majority neighborhoods had 1.15 pharmacies per census area, compared to 0.85 pharmacies in majority-Black and 0.97 pharmacies in Hispanic neighborhoods. Mixed-race neighborhoods tended to fare the best, with an average of 1.23 pharmacies per census area. Although the overall number of pharmacies increased, Black and Hispanic neighborhoods saw fewer new pharmacies open and more pharmacies close. The cities with the most disparities among neighborhoods included Chicago, Boston, Dallas, and Albuquerque. 

Covid-19 in the U.S. 

Cases yesterday: 49,921
Deaths yesterday: 477

What to read around the web today

  • Biden’s Medicaid pressure tactics could put his team at odds with hospitals. STAT+
  • In Appalachia and the Mississippi delta, millions face long drives to stroke care. Kaiser Health News
  • 5 virtual physical therapy startups to watch. STAT+
  • A psychedelic drug passes a big test for PTSD treatment. The New York Times

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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