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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Good morning. Elizabeth Cooney here to help you start your day. You can reach me at elizabeth.cooney@statnews.com.

The latest on Covid-19

The world continues to reel from the widening Covid-19 pandemic, with case counts climbing, canceled seasons mounting in sports (March Madness, NHL, MLB) and culture (darkened Broadway, art museums, concert halls), and rhetoric heating up on all sides.

  • Local schools in Ohio, Maryland, and elsewhere in the U.S are trending the way of colleges and closing their doors.
  • Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders countered Trump’s travel ban talk with their own coronavirus speeches. “This administration has left us woefully unprepared for the exact crisis we now face,” Biden said. From Sanders: “We have an administration ... whose incompetence and recklessness have threatened the lives of many, many people in this country.” And STAT's Matt Herper observes why Trump's words deepened panic instead of quelling it.
  • More to the point, FDA and HHS have joined the American Red Cross in calling on blood donors to step up to fill in for blood drives that have been canceled. Type O and platelets are especially needed, the organization said. Appointments can be made through the Red Cross.
  • Looking backward and forward, two data scientists opine for STAT that just as the levees of New Orleans stood little chance against the wrath of Hurricane Katrina, our overly complex and inflexible electronic health record systems aren’t ready for an average Sunday afternoon, let alone Covid-19.

Two dead, four hospitalized after receiving OpenBiome stool transplants

Two people died and four were hospitalized after they received stool transplants from OpenBiome, the FDA and the commercial stool bank said, Kate Sheridan reports in STAT Plus. Eight patients in all may have been affected. In the six patients who are still alive, OpenBiome identified the type of bacteria present in the stool that caused the infections. In those who died, neither the agency nor the company can definitively say that the transplants caused those deaths. Less than a year ago, the FDA revealed the first two deaths conclusively related to the procedure. The treatments have been lauded as potentially lifesaving for recurrent C. difficile infections, which kill about 12,800 Americans each year.

Children consider suicide more than their caregivers think

About 8 in every 100 kids who are 9 or 10 years old think about suicide or act on those ideas, a new study of nearly 8,000 children across the U.S. concludes. Their caregivers were aware of fewer suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempts — 107 attempts reported by kids versus 39 by adults  — raising alarm that such distress might be overlooked. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in children 10 to 14 years old, and over the last 10 years, emergency visits and hospital stays for children who thought about or tried to die by suicide have doubled. The strongest risk factors are kids' psychological problems and family conflict. Also a risk: more screen time.

Inside STAT: The sound of a heartbeat

Elisabeth Tilly meets Jon Hochstein. (Courtesy PenFed Credit Union) 

The young medical student handed her a stethoscope, opened his shirt, and pointed to where she should place it. Hesitantly, she pressed it to his skin and broke into tears. The heart Elisabeth Tilly heard inside the chest of a 25-year-old stranger once beat inside her son. Christopher, age 8, was killed by a truck barreling through a crosswalk in front of his elementary school. Jon Hochstein, then 4 years old, was fighting for his life. Tilly didn’t want to donate Christopher’s organs because she thought he’d need them in heaven. But then she saw Hochstein’s tiny legs poking out from under his sheets and changed her mind. For more than 20 years, the two families never connected. STAT contributor Karen Weintraub tells us how they finally did.

Binge drinkers need help, but few docs ask about their behaviors

Binge drinking is bad. We know this. It ups the odds for violence, for fetal alcohol syndrome, and for such diseases as breast cancer. That makes it an obvious health issue, but a recent CDC survey revealed that although more than three-quarters of patients were asked about their alcohol habits at routine checkups, less than half were asked about binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks on an occasion for men and four or more drinks for women. And of those people who were asked and fit the binge-drinking criteria, most weren’t offered any help. Alcohol screening combined with brief counseling do work to reduce binge drinking, research has shown, but only if people get them.

Will Trump’s insulin plan save seniors money?

The Trump administration claims its newest plan to cap insulin copays could solve seniors’ woes with the high cost of insulin. But the reality is more complicated, STAT’s Nicholas Florko explains in something of an understatement. The pilot program sounds simple enough: It would allow certain private Medicare plans to cap how much seniors can spend for insulin at $35 a month. But then it gets counterintuitive. Maybe most seniors are already protected from high insulin costs. Maybe they won’t save very much. And maybe it will hurt others. “This plan would leave most people with diabetes who rely on insulin in the position of having to suffer, sacrifice, and ration,” said Elizabeth Pfiester of T1International, an advocacy group.

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

  • Juul co-founder Monsees steps down as adviser, board member (Bloomberg)
  • Fired cancer scientist says ‘good people are being crushed’ by overzealous probes into possible Chinese ties (Science)
  • Beth Israel is working with Johnson & Johnson on a coronavirus vaccine (Boston Globe)
  • Listen: Voices from the coronavirus pandemic, in Italy, New York, and the high seas (STAT)
  • Pandemic tests clout of cruise industry and its long-standing ties to Trump (Washington Post)

Thanks for reading! More on Monday,

Shraddha

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Friday, March 13, 2020

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