Category Archives: Infectious diseases

Biden administration pledges open access to briefings after AHCJ raises concerns

About Felice J. Freyer

Felice J. Freyer is AHCJ's vice president and chair of the organization's Right to Know Committee. She is a health care reporter for The Boston Globe.

A spokesman for President Biden’s administration has pledged that any legitimate reporter who signs up with the White House press office will be invited to briefings and provided with embargoed background materials.

The promise came after AHCJ’s Right to Know Committee protested the practice of holding small group briefings with select reporters.

The press official denied that there had been any attempt to exclude people and objected to characterizing the press briefings as “closed.” Instead, he said, the White House press staff is working on updating its mailing lists. Continue reading

When writing about SARS-CoV-2 variants, utilize metaphors

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 outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

An electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of lab-cultured cells.

Photo: NIAID via FlickrAn electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (round gold objects) emerging from the surface of lab-cultured cells.

Writing about how the various COVID-19 vaccines work and the challenges that may lie with emerging genetic variants of SARS-CoV-2 can be challenging for journalists, as it requires explaining the technicalities of genetics in layman’s terms.

Independent journalist Marla Broadfoot, who has a doctorate in genetics and molecular biology, suggests using metaphors and asking sources to elaborate on favorite metaphors they’ve used to explain virus genetics and the COVID-19 vaccine to family and friends. Continue reading

New York AG finds COVID-19 nursing home deaths vastly underreported

About Liz Seegert

Liz Seegert (@lseegert), is AHCJ’s topic editor on aging. Her work has appeared in NextAvenue.com, Journal of Active Aging, Cancer Today, Kaiser Health News, the Connecticut Health I-Team and other outlets. She is a senior fellow at the Center for Health Policy and Media Engagement at George Washington University and co-produces the HealthCetera podcast.

Photo: Zeev Barkan via Flickr

Deaths among nursing home residents in New York state have been underreported by as much as 50%, according to a new report from New York State Attorney General Letitia James. James has been investigating nursing homes’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic since March following allegations of patient neglect and other concerning conduct that may have jeopardized the health and safety of residents and facility employees throughout the state.

Among the report’s findings: many more nursing home residents died from COVID-19 than was reflected in data published by the New York State Department of Health (DOH). Continue reading

An example of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy reporting done right

About Tara Haelle

Tara Haelle (@TaraHaelle) is AHCJ's medical studies core topic leader, guiding journalists through the jargon-filled shorthand of science and research and enabling them to translate the evidence into accurate information.

PfizerVaccine_Blog_Studies_Haelle

Photo: Self Magazine via Flickr

I’ve written previously on Covering Health about the potential harms of reporting on surveys and polls about people’s intent to get the COVID-19 vaccine. In late September, the FDA had not yet authorized any vaccines, so any poll or survey questions were theoretical. Now that vaccines are in distribution, however, does that change things?

Well, yes and no. At that time, I also wrote that vaccine hesitancy wasn’t what we needed to worry about— instead, it was access and equity. Continue reading

Resources for covering the COVID-19 and variants story

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 outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

There is a growing amount of concern in the U.S. about SARS-CoV-2 variants and the possibility they may diminish the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

The story is evolving. On Jan. 25, the Minnesota Department of Health said a variant, first found in Brazil, was found in a patient in Minnesota. On Jan. 28, the CDC announced that a variant, first found in South Africa, was found in South Carolina.  Both variants have shown a potential to reduce vaccine effectiveness. [See this piece by AHCJ’s Tara Haelle on understanding the nuances of vaccine efficacy.] Continue reading

Biden releases national strategy intended to beat COVID-19 pandemic

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 outlets that include the National Journal, Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg News, McClatchy News Service, MSNBC, NPR, Politico and The Washington Post.

President Joe Biden wears a mask in a social media image announcing a mask mandate on federal property, launching his “100 Day Masking Challenge” as part of our efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

President Joe Biden wears a mask in a social media image announcing a mask mandate on federal property, launching his “100 Day Masking Challenge” as part of the country’s efforts to flatten the COVID-19 curve.

On Jan. 21, President Biden published a 200-page national plan for combating the COVID-19 pandemic and preparing for the next one.

It is a stark contrast to former President Trump, whose coronavirus task force never created a national plan for responding to the pandemic and instead left it up to states and their health departments to determine strategies for ending the pandemic, resulting in a patchwork of plans that did little to stop the pandemic.

Biden put federal heft behind his national plan, directing agencies to focus on seven goals: Continue reading