From Kaiser Health News

States Search for Ways to Deal With COVID-19 Testing Backlogs

July 23, 2020

States frustrated by private laboratories’ increasingly long turnarounds for COVID-19 test results are scrambling to find ways to salvage their testing programs.

Montana said Wednesday that it is dropping Quest Diagnostics, one of the nation’s largest diagnostic testing companies. The Secaucus, New Jersey-based company had done all the state’s surveillance COVID-19 testing — drive-thru testing that moves from community to community to help track COVID’s spread. But it told state officials last week that it was at capacity and would be unable to accommodate more tests for two or three weeks.

States frustrated by private laboratories’ increasingly long turnarounds for COVID-19 test results are scrambling to find ways to salvage their testing programs.

Montana said Wednesday that it is dropping Quest Diagnostics, one of the nation’s largest diagnostic testing companies. The Secaucus, New Jersey-based company had done all the state’s surveillance COVID-19 testing — drive-thru testing that moves from community to community to help track COVID’s spread. But it told state officials last week that it was at capacity and would be unable to accommodate more tests for two or three weeks.

“We don’t want to be left high and dry again in the event that the national demand for testing puts a state like ours onto the back burner,” Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock said….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

A Coronavirus Vaccine: Where Does It Stand?

July 16, 2020

More than four months into the coronavirus pandemic, how close are the U.S. and the world to a safe and effective vaccine? Scientists say they see steady progress and are expressing cautious optimism that a vaccine could be ready by spring.

As of early July, roughly 160 vaccine projects were underway worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

More than four months into the coronavirus pandemic, how close are the U.S. and the world to a safe and effective vaccine? Scientists say they see steady progress and are expressing cautious optimism that a vaccine could be ready by spring.

As of early July, roughly 160 vaccine projects were underway worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Generally, a vaccine trial has several phases. In an initial phase, the vaccine is given to 20 to 100 healthy volunteers. The focus in this phase is to make sure the vaccine is safe, and to note any side effects.

In the second phase, there are hundreds of volunteers. In addition to monitoring safety, researchers try to determine whether shots produce an immune-system response….

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High Court Allows Employers to Opt Out of ACA’s Mandate on Birth Control Coverage

July 8, 2020

The Supreme Court Wednesday settled — at least for now — a decade’s worth of litigation over the women’s health provisions of the Affordable Care Act, ruling 7-2 that employers with a “religious or moral objection” to providing contraceptive coverage to their employees may opt out without penalty.

The Trump administration was within its rights to exempt religious nonprofit agencies, like the lead plaintiff in the case — the Roman Catholic order Little Sisters of the Poor — from having to facilitate in any way contraceptive coverage for their employees. Wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in the majority opinion: “We hold today that the [government] had the statutory authority to craft that exemption, as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption.”

The Supreme Court Wednesday settled — at least for now — a decade’s worth of litigation over the women’s health provisions of the Affordable Care Act, ruling 7-2 that employers with a “religious or moral objection” to providing contraceptive coverage to their employees may opt out without penalty.

The Trump administration was within its rights to exempt religious nonprofit agencies, like the lead plaintiff in the case — the Roman Catholic order Little Sisters of the Poor — from having to facilitate in any way contraceptive coverage for their employees. Wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in the majority opinion: “We hold today that the [government] had the statutory authority to craft that exemption, as well as the contemporaneously issued moral exemption.”

But the decision did more than settle a long-standing dispute over how the birth control requirement should affect religious nonprofit organizations. It also provided an exemption for any employer with a “moral” objection, potentially dramatically expanding the universe of women who would be on their own to find and fund birth control….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

In Hard-Hit Areas, COVID’s Ripple Effects Strain Mental Health Care Systems

June 4, 2020

In late March, Marcell’s girlfriend took him to the emergency room at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital, about 11 miles south of Detroit.

“I had [acute] paranoia and depression off the roof,” said Marcell, 46, who asked to be identified only by his first name because he wanted to maintain confidentiality about some aspects of his illness.

Marcell’s depression was so profound, he said, he didn’t want to move and was considering suicide.

In late March, Marcell’s girlfriend took him to the emergency room at Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital, about 11 miles south of Detroit.

“I had [acute] paranoia and depression off the roof,” said Marcell, 46, who asked to be identified only by his first name because he wanted to maintain confidentiality about some aspects of his illness.

Marcell’s depression was so profound, he said, he didn’t want to move and was considering suicide.

“Things were getting overwhelming and really rough. I wanted to end it,” he said.

Marcell, diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder seven years ago, had been this route before but never during a pandemic. The Detroit area was a coronavirus hot spot, slamming hospitals, attracting concerns from federal public health officials and recording more than 1,000 deaths in Wayne County as of May 28. Michigan ranks fourth among states for deaths from COVID-19….

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Antibody Tests Were Hailed as Way to End Lockdowns. Instead, They Cause Confusion

May 28, 2020

Aspen was an early COVID-19 hot spot in Colorado, with a cluster of cases in March linked to tourists visiting for its world-famous skiing. Tests were in short supply, making it difficult to know how the virus was spreading.

So in April, when the Pitkin County Public Health Department announced it had obtained 1,000 COVID-19 antibody tests that it would offer residents at no charge, it seemed like an exciting opportunity to evaluate the efforts underway to stop the spread of the virus.

Aspen was an early COVID-19 hot spot in Colorado, with a cluster of cases in March linked to tourists visiting for its world-famous skiing. Tests were in short supply, making it difficult to know how the virus was spreading.

So in April, when the Pitkin County Public Health Department announced it had obtained 1,000 COVID-19 antibody tests that it would offer residents at no charge, it seemed like an exciting opportunity to evaluate the efforts underway to stop the spread of the virus.

“This test will allow us to get the epidemiological data that we’ve been looking for,” Aspen Ambulance District director Gabe Muething said during an April 9 community meeting held online….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article