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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

I'm going to be joining STAT's executive editor Rick Berke in a conversation to recap this year — through news featured in this newsletter. STAT+ subscribers can tune in to the event happening later this afternoon here

Pfizer and Moderna decline invitations to White House Covid-19 ‘Vaccine Summit’

Executives from Pfizer and Moderna, the two companies likely to soon have a Covid-19 vaccine approved in the U.S., have declined an invitation to the White House's Covid-19 vaccine summit happening today, STAT's Lev Facher first reported. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla and Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel will not be in attendance, and neither will others from their companies, two sources familiar with the event told STAT. And while many of the other invited companies — including CVS, Walgreens, FedEx and UPS — are still likely to be present, it's likely they'll send lower-ranking officers to the event, which is largely being viewed by industry and at least one Trump administration official as a public relations stunt. Read more here.

EPA refrains from tightening rules around soot pollution that is linked to Covid-19 deaths 

The Trump administration yesterday declined to strengthen rules that would have helped cut back on a pollutant known as PM 2.5. These tiny particles can be inhaled and are produced from dust, soot, or other waste from industrial manufacturing or automobiles. Research, including from the EPA's own scientists, has previously shown that high levels of PM 2.5 leads to thousands of premature deaths annually. And earlier this year, a large study showed that those living in counties with high levels of this pollutant were 15% more likely to die of Covid-19 than those in counties with even slightly lower levels of the particulate matter. The American Lung Association criticized yesterday's decision, calling on President-elect Biden to make "slashing particle pollution a priority."

Senate committee hearing on outpatient Covid-19 care to feature anti-vaccine doctor

A Senate committee on homeland security and government affairs is holding a hearing this morning on early outpatient treatment for those with Covid-19. The hearing comes as hospitals across the U.S. have reached or are quickly reaching ICU capacity following a predicted surge in cases after Thanksgiving in the U.S. One invited speaker turning heads: physician Jane Orient, who has a reputation as an anti-vaxxer and who told the New York Times she plans to use her time today to ask for guidelines for using the antimalarial hydroxycholoroquine for Covid-19 patients. The drug hasn't shown efficacy and the FDA revoked emergency use for Covid-19 patients. 

Also happening in D.C. today: A House subcommittee meeting to discuss how an inability to pay for abortion impacts those who are seeking the procedure. The Hyde Amendment, for instance, prohibits federal funding for abortion, which means that federal employees and those on Medicaid have to pay out of pocket for an abortion. 

Inside STAT: Biden’s health picks signal a bottom-up approach to the Covid-19 pandemic


President-elect Biden's pandemic-response strategy is taking clearer shape this week, with several surprising appointments unveiled. And according to interviews with Democratic congressional aides and pandemic-response experts, Biden's selections underscore that he has prioritized leadership and managerial ability — and not necessarily medical expertise. The choice of California Attorney General Xavier Becerra for HHS secretary, for instance, may suggest that Biden is hoping for someone to take the long view on health care issues, looking past the Covid-19 pandemic and to more systematic challenges like preserving the Affordable Care Act or tackling the high cost of drugs. STAT's Lev Facher has more here

Pollution from U.S. health care industry is the highest among wealthy nations 

Greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S. health care sector were the highest among wealthy nations in 2018, according to new research. Previous estimates have found that emissions from health care facilities in the U.S. — as well as those from industries that produce medical goods — account for nearly a quarter of global emissions from the health sector. Researchers also found that between 2010-2018, the health sector's emissions rose by 6%. The health effects from the emissions and toxic air pollution led to a combined average loss of 388,000 years due to early death or disability, the study also estimates. The findings run contrary to the sector's mission of "first, do no harm," the authors write, adding that the industry as a whole ought to take steps to measure and reduce their carbon pollution. 

Mentions of mental health in rap have grown over the past decade

A new study finds that mentions of mental health have increased in rap music. Looking at 125 popular rap songs — Billboard's top 25 rap songs for five different years between 1998 and 2018 — scientists found that 28% of them referenced anxiety, and 1 in 5 referenced depression or used a metaphor for mental health. These trends grew over the 20-year study period: For instance, the share of songs mentioning depression doubled to 32% in 2018. Scientists also checked lyrics against known stressors for mental health, and found that environmental conditions (such as a reference to a person's neighborhood or upbringing) and love life were most likely referenced in songs with lyrics on mental health. Although the study didn't look at the implications, the authors call for more research into whether rap could help reduce stigma against mental health. 

Covid-19 in the U.S. 

Cases yesterday: 192,299
Deaths yesterday: 1,404

What to read around the web today

  • America expected a pandemic baby boom. It got an egg-freezing one instead. The Lily
  • Is American dietetics a white-bread world? These dietitians think so. The New York Times
  • Months of limbo at OpenBiome put fecal matter transplants on hold across the country. STAT+
  • A child’s death in the heartland changes community views about Covid. Kaiser Health News
  • Turning point’: UK giving 1st doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Associated Press

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Tuesday, December 8, 2020


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