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Morning Rounds Shraddha Chakradhar

Mounting promises on Covid-19 vaccines are fueling false expectations

The pace at which scientists are working toward a Covid-19 vaccine may be unprecedented, but it will still be months or longer before the average American benefits from these efforts. In a new story, STAT's Helen Branswell details how, even if vaccine candidates are pushed through accelerated testing timelines to prove themselves to be effective by the fall, not everyone who wants to get one will be able to get it. Health care and other frontline workers are likely to be prioritized. “I don't think we're communicating very well at all with the public, because I keep having to tell these people, you know, even if we had a vaccine that showed some evidence of protection by September, we are so far from having a vaccine in people's arms,” says infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm. Read more here

Here's what else is new with Covid-19: 
  • Gilead Sciences is pursuing steps to ensure that its drug remdesivir is available widely around the world, including partnering with companies in Europe and Asia to issue them manufacturing licenses. The company is also negotiating with generic drug makers in India and Pakistan to ensure access to remdesivir in those countries. 
  • Rick Bright, the ousted head of BARDA, has filed a formal whistleblower complaint alleging that he was removed from his position for raising concerns about the Trump administration's handling of the Covid-19 crisis and about nepotism at HHS. An attorney for Bright said that he will testify before a House subcommittee next week. STAT's Nicholas Florko has more on the explosive allegations here
  • Vice President Mike Pence said yesterday that the Trump administration is looking at disbanding its coronavirus task force by the end of the month and transferring coordination of the nation's Covid-19 response to federal agencies. 
  • Scientists at MIT and the Broad Institute have developed a CRISPR-based test for Covid-19, one they say can detect as few as 100 coronavirus particles from a single saliva or nasal swab sample and without the need for many specialty reagents or chemicals. 
  • In a new STAT First Opinion, Massachusetts nurse Jaclyn O’Halloran shares that her hospital's leaders — whether they're failing to check in on how nurses are doing or repeatedly prioritizing physicians' safety over nurses — frighten her more than the coronavirus itself. 

Some kids develop an inflammatory condition, possibly tied to Covid-19

The New York City health department is investigating what it's calling a "multi-system inflammatory syndrome" and its possible connection to Covid-19 after 15 children in the city were hospitalized for it. The report comes after doctors in Europe warned of signs of a pediatric heart condition known as Kawasaki disease as well as symptoms of shock in children possibly infected with Covid-19. The children in New York, ages 2 to 15, showed symptoms of both these conditions, including high fevers and elevated levels of inflammatory markers, as well as other symptoms including rash and GI issues such as diarrhea. And while four of the patients tested positive for currently having Covid-19, six of the negative cases showed evidence that they had been previously infected with the coronavirus. None of the children have died, although a third of them had to be placed on ventilators. 

SCOTUS to hear oral arguments in yearslong battle over religious and moral objections for employers

The Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today in two related cases that could decide whether employers with religious or moral objections to providing birth control have to cover these services for employees. The proceedings, which will be publicly broadcast as an audio livestream for the first time in history, mark a pivotal point in a drawn-out battle dating back to 2013. That year, the Catholic nonprofit Little Sisters of the Poor sued to be exempt from a 2011 HHS mandate that required employers to provide certain health care — including birth control and emergency contraception. In 2017, the Trump administration revised the rule to include an exemption for employers based on religious or moral exemptions. Several states sued from having the exemption go into effect and a federal court struck down the rules in November last year, saying the Trump administration didn't follow necessary procedural hoops when issuing its rule.

Inside STAT: Will employers still pay for health tech benefits in an unemployment crisis?

Employees of the city of Hialeah, Fla. hand out unemployment applications to people in their vehicles. (JOE RAEDLE/GETTY IMAGES)

As Covid-19 takes its toll on the health tech industry, causing layoffs and other cutbacks, a tried-and-tested strategy used by many companies may be in jeopardy. Health tech companies can make their businesses work by selling to employers who will in turn make the companies' products and services available to workers. But as employers let go of workers, is that strategy still effective? STAT's Rebecca Robbins talked to industry leaders and analysts to ask them about whether employers can be counted on to continue to buy health tech services in today's shaky market. STAT Plus subscribers can read more here

Hospital losses from Covid-19 so far could top $200 billion

A new report from the American Hospital Association estimates that hospitals and health systems in the U.S. could have incurred more than $200 billion in losses this year due to the changes brought on by Covid-19. The analysis, which estimated finances between the beginning of March through the end of June, looked at lost revenue from hospitals canceling nonemergency procedures and people forgoing routine care, as well as the extra costs associated with treating Covid-19 patients and purchasing necessary PPE for hospital staff. The AHA's report estimates that the four-month impact of Covid-19 hospitalizations is a loss of nearly $37 billion, while canceled surgeries and services is around $161 billion. Hospitals will continue to need more financial support than what has been allocated in the coronavirus relief package, the report concludes, or risk having to limit access to treatments or close altogether. 

Around 40% of U.S. teens have had sex by the time they're 19

New CDC data reveal that between 2015-2017, around 40% of teenage girls and boys reported ever having had sexual intercourse. Here's more from the report: 

  • Overall trends: Between 2015-2017, 42% of teen girls ages 15-19 reported ever having had sex, while 38% of boys of the same age group said the same. 
  • Yearly trends: The 2015-2017 rates among teen girls were similar to rates observed in previous years going back to 2002. The rate among teen boys represented a decline of 17% since 2002. 
  • Other behaviors: Around 1 in 5 youth ages 15-24 had had their first sexual experience by age 15. The overwhelming majority of girls (78%) and boys (89%) in this age group who had had sex before 20 reported using contraception during their first sexual experience. Condoms were the most commonly used form of contraception among female teens surveyed. 

What to read around the web today

  • States were supposed to team up on reopening. It hasn’t gone as planned. Politico
  • Recommendations to screen all pregnant women for hepatitis C draw pushback. The Wall Street Journal
  • She made every effort to avoid Covid-19 while pregnant. Not a single thing went according to plan. ProPublica
  • A shadow medical safety net, stretched to the limit. The New York Times
  • 'It's gone haywire': When Covid-19 arrived in rural America. Associated Press

Thanks for reading! More tomorrow,


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Wednesday, May 6, 2020


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