Category Archives: Infectious diseases

Reports show how journalists can cover school-based COVID-19 testing

About Joseph Burns

Joseph Burns (@jburns18), a Massachusetts-based independent journalist, is AHCJ’s topic leader on health insurance. He welcomes questions and suggestions on insurance resources and tip sheets at joseph@healthjournalism.org.

Source: K-12 School Opening Tracker from Burbio, a company that collects and publishes data on school closings and other community events. The map shows where schools are closed based on local media reports and website audits. Larger circles indicate longer closings. Reprinted with permission.

Now that schools have reopened, staying free from COVID-19 infections has become a challenge for teachers and students nationwide and has raised questions among journalists about whether schools can apply the lessons learned last year.

Recent reporting from Burbio, a company that collects and reports data on school closures from 1,200 U.S. districts, including the 200 largest, shows that by Sept. 6, COVID infections forced more than 1,400 in-person schools to close (an increase from 698 in the previous week) in 278 districts (an increase from 158 one week earlier) in 35 states (up from 25 the week previous). Continue reading

Prepare for another complicated flu season, with chance of a ‘twindemic’

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

3D print of influenza virus by NIH Image Gallery via Flickr.

As flu season nears, infectious disease and public health experts are even more worried than they were in 2020 about the possibility of a “twindemic” of both the delta variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and an influenza virus.

As of early September, hospitals in many states were already overwhelmed with patients sick from COVID-19, while the behavioral restrictions that prevented a severe flu season (i.e., masking, and social distancing) had been lifted in large swaths of the country. Continue reading

Building trust first helped journalist report on COVID-19 in prisons

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo by SoulRider.222 via Flickr.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on prison populations, where there have been almost 400,000 positive cases across the country and 2,700 inmates have died.

Lisa Armstrong has been delving into the spread of COVID-19 and its painful impact. She has been supported in her work through grants from Type Investigations, The Carter Center and the Fund for Investigative Journalism/Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism. She has written about the spread of the coronavirus in New York state prisons and Miami jails and produced a documentary for CBS News about the role mental health care provided by for-profit companies has played in an increase in suicides in state prisons. Continue reading

Story ideas for covering the delta variant and return to K-12 classrooms

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo by Nenad Stojkovic via Flickr

As children return to school in the coming weeks, it is increasingly clear it will not be the return to normal that many people had envisioned at the beginning of this summer.

The transmissibility of the delta variant of the coronavirus – one infected person can infect up to seven people – and the fact that kids younger than 12 remain unvaccinated, mean school systems may have to update their COVID-19 mitigation measures developed for reopening in the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021.

On Aug. 5, the CDC released updated guidelines to schools for reopening plans, due to the delta variant, that include prioritizing in-person learning, vaccination for all eligible staff and students, universal masking of students, staff and visitors, physical distancing of students in classrooms by at least 3 feet, regular testing to screen for asymptomatic infection, improvements in ventilation and disinfection of surfaces in schools. (The CDC guidelines are recommendations, not requirements.) Continue reading

Put risk in context in covering latest on Delta variant and CDC mask guidance

About Bara Vaida

Bara Vaida (@barav) is AHCJ's core topic leader on infectious diseases. An independent journalist, she has written extensively about health policy and infectious diseases. Her work has appeared in the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico, The Washington Post and other outlets.

Photo: Petra Wessman ia Flickr

I am sure many of you are scrambling to cover the latest about the Delta variant and the leak of data that informed the CDC’s change in mask guidance this week.

The data – leaked to the New York Times and the Washington Post Thursday evening (July 29) – showed those vaccinated can still be contagious, and there are more vaccinated people becoming infected than expected: 35,000 a week of 162 million vaccinated.

It sounds scary, but the key thing to remember in your reporting is to put risks in context: “Vaccinated people can transmit Delta if infected, however the majority of transmission is still by UNVACCINATED – that is where the focus should be,” said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and an excellent health communicator, on Twitter Friday, July 30. Continue reading