Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Less pollution due to Covid lockdowns could have prevented more than 30,000 deaths

Lockdowns to combat the spread of Covid-19 may have saved up to 32,000 lives due to lowered emissions from vehicles and coal-powered electricity plants. Researchers looked at 252 regions around the world and found that nitrogen dioxide emissions were reduced the most in China, where they estimated roughly 21,000 lives were likely saved from the harmful effects of air pollution. The results varied globally: Nitrogen dioxide emissions decreased by roughly a quarter in Europe through early July last year, and could have led to roughly 6,600 fewer deaths from this type of pollution. 

CDC investigating rare heart problems in youth

The CDC is investigating several dozen reports that have found that a small number of teenagers and young adults are experiencing heart problems after being vaccinated against Covid-19, the New York Times reports. The CDC report didn't disclose how many people had experienced a case of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that limits its ability to pump blood normally, but found the problem occurred more often in males than females. The report also found the issue was more frequently reported after the second dose of a Covid shot. The CDC is advising clinicians who treat young people to be on the lookout for early signs of myocarditis. 

Study finds Oregon law helped expand access to abortion care

An Oregon law that went into effect in 2018 has expanded access to abortion care, according to a new study. Researchers looked at 2018-2019 data and found that Oregon's Reproductive Health Equity Act, which uses state funds to pay for abortion care, reimbursed funds for 625 abortions, most of which were for first-trimester pregnancies and for people in metropolitan areas. The study also found that on average, patients traveled around eight miles to access care. Only 5% of those who obtained an abortion in Oregon had to travel more than 50 miles, compared to 18% of individuals nationwide who must travel this distance to an abortion provider.

Inside STAT: He's a Nobel laureate. Critics say he was misleading on Covid


The pandemic has revealed an abundance of armchair experts. But epidemiologists see a particularly worrisome case study in Michael Levitt, a Stanford biophysicist and Nobel laureate who has framed himself as a Covid-19 expert when interacting with everyone from the Israeli Prime Minister to his 90,000-some Twitter followers. His critics say he's broadcast misleading claims that dangerously downplayed Covid-19—and poses an ethical conundrum for the scientific institutions with which he's affiliated. STAT's Eric Boodman's has the full story here.

Gluten intake not associated with a decrease in cognitive function

As more people in the U.S. switch to a gluten-free diet, popular belief has linked a low-gluten diet to increase cognitive benefit. But a new study finds no evidence of such an association. Scientists looked at more than 20 years of data from more than 13,000 women who didn't have a history of celiac disease. The analysis found no statistically significant differences in cognitive scores — including learning and working memory — between those who had the lowest daily gluten intake and those with the highest. The caveats: The study only included women who were of middle age, and the findings may not be generalizable. 

More screen time in toddlers is associated with less time reading books, study finds

Kids who have a lot of screen time when they are younger are less likely to read print books later, according to new research. Scientists looked at data from nearly 2,500 mother-child pairs in Calgary, Canada, and found that those kids whose mothers reported higher levels of screen time at age 2 were less likely to spend time reading books at age 3 and by age 5, were spending more than average time in front of screens. Health providers and educators should be trained to better help families engaged in device-free time with kids to support more reading habits, the authors of the study suggest. 

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 12,853
Deaths yesterday: 190

Vaccine doses distributed, per CDC357,250,375
Total doses administered: 285,720,586

What to read around the web today

  • Turning to tech to cure loneliness. The New Yorker
  • Health care providers hope to cash in through Congress’ new earmark process. STAT+
  • Intelligence on sick staff at Wuhan lab fuels debate on Covid-19 origin. The Wall Street Journal
  • The poor, the rich: In a sick India, all are on their own. Associated Press
  • Covid-19 vaccine makers are looking beyond the spike protein. The Atlantic

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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