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Morning Rounds Elizabeth Cooney

Today's the last day —  until 11:59 p.m. ET — to enter our 2021 STAT Madness competition to choose the most exciting biomedical discovery or innovation of the past year. Details here

Biden vows the U.S. ‘can overcome’ Covid-19

President Biden delivers his inauguration address on Wednesday at the U.S. Capitol. (PATRICK SEMANSKY, Pool/AP)

In his inaugural address yesterday, President Biden underscored his focus on Covid-19, highlighting the pandemic’s immense death toll and issuing a forceful pledge that the country can bring the pandemic to an end. The U.S. “can overcome the deadly virus,” Biden said, before warning, “We’re entering what may be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus.” Biden’s new administration, which has promised that scientists and public health leaders will shape pandemic-response policy, planned a series of executive orders aimed at shifting the U.S. response to Covid-19. Chief among them: a long-expected move to remain part of the WHO. Late yesterday the president froze a spate of last-minute Trump administration regulations — including a change to the FDA’s authority over medical devices and a tweak to certain Medicare drug coverage rules issued only Tuesday.

And for more on Biden's Covid-19 response, STAT's Rachel Cohrs has a rundown of the 10 people leading his team, while STAT’s Lev Facher exclusively reports that the president has dissolved a Covid-19 panel that advised his transition.

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine protects against U.K. variant, too

Here’s some good vaccine news, even as states report shortages: The Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech appears to work just as well against the fast-spreading variant first seen in the U.K. as it does against earlier forms of the coronavirus, the companies reported in a study yesterday. The paper from company scientists, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, is a welcome signal that existing vaccines don’t seem to be weakened by the variant B.1.1.7. Scientists are also testing vaccines against other variants of concern, which contain different mutations. “The efficacy of the vaccine is so good and so high that we have a little bit of a cushion,” Rochelle Walensky, incoming CDC director, said Tuesday in an interview with the editor of JAMA.

Patients with inactive cancer also at risk for worse Covid-19 course

Cancer patients are at increased risk for severe illness from Covid-19 infections, even if their cancer is in remission, a new study first published as a preprint warns, and the risk is even higher for Black cancer patients. In a study of 4,800 people who tested positive for Covid-19, cancer patients had higher rates of hospitalizations (55% vs. 29%), intensive care unit admissions (26% vs. 12%), and death after 30 days (13% vs. 2%). Patients with active cancer fared worse than patients with cancer in remission, but both groups had worse illness than people with no history of cancer. Black cancer patients were more than twice as likely to test positive for Covid-19, underscoring the disproportionate burden of the coronavirus on people of color.

Inside STAT: Teladoc's already planning for post-pandemic virtual care

Teladoc is teeing itself up to remain a dominant digital health provider long after the worst of the pandemic subsides. The telehealth giant has seen its business boom with the flood of patients turning to virtual appointments. In a post-pandemic world, though, Teladoc will face challenges as in-person clinics and hospitals reopen their doors. To capitalize on its success and grow its member base ahead of time, the company is adding new high-profile clients, increasing its average deal size, and selling itself as a one-stop shop for multiple health needs. If 2020 provides any indication of where things are going for Teladoc in the years ahead, the future is rosy. STAT’s Erin Brodwin explains why.

In older mice, reducing inflammation reversed cognitive decline

Aging and inflammation go hand in hand. Overactive inflammatory responses lead to conditions more common in people over 65: atherosclerosis, metabolic syndrome, cancer, and frailty. In the brain, inflammation is also tied to cognitive decline. Myeloid cells that should clear debris no longer do so, but instead go into inflammatory overdrive that contributes to neurodegeneration. A new study in aging mice and older human cells shows that treating myeloid cells with a drug that suppresses a pro-inflammatory signaling molecule corrected glucose metabolism, controlled inflammation, and restored cognition — as measured by tests of mouse memory and spatial navigation. “Our study suggests that cognitive aging is not a static or irrevocable condition but can be reversed,” the authors write.

Disparities in lupus prevalence surface in new analysis

Systemic lupus erythematosus has varied symptoms but no single test, making it hard to measure how many people have it and whether disparities exist beyond women being more likely to have the autoimmune disease. A new analysis of data pulled from CDC-funded state registries estimates the rate is nine times higher for females than males and is highest among American Indians/Alaska Natives and Black females. Calculated as cases per 100,000 people, among American Indian/Alaska Native women, the rate was 271, followed by 231 for Black women, 121 for Hispanic women, 85 for white women, and 84 for Asian/Pacific Islander women. The pattern is similar for men: 54 among American Indian/Alaska natives, 27 for Black men, 18 for Hispanic men, 11 for Asian/Pacific Islander men, and 9 for white men.

Covid-19 in the U.S.

Cases yesterday: 225,776
Deaths yesterday: 3,115

What to read around the web today

  • 'We have no space': LA County funeral director describes virus's toll. NPR
  • NYC reschedules 23,000 vaccine appointments due to shortage. Bloomberg
  • Much of Texas remains overrun by the virus, threatening U.S. progress. New York Times
  • Oxford-AstraZeneca’s Covid-19 vaccine helps U.K. lead race to reach nursing homes. Wall Street Journal 
  • Europe’s new mask ask: Ditch the cloth ones for medical-grade coverings. Washington Post 

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,

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Thursday, January 21, 2021

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