Webcast to discuss coronavirus transmission concerns as we head into summer

Bara Vaida

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.

Erin Bromage

As businesses and communities across the country reopen, many Americans continue to have questions about how they can interact safely with one another.

Conflicting advice from President Trump, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about masks and asymptomatic transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has created confusion and made our work to get answers to questions about safety more challenging.

To get some clarity, AHCJ will hold a webcast at noon E.T. on Wednesday, June 17 featuring Erin Bromage, an associate professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth, who will share his knowledge about SARS-CoV-2 spreads. Continue reading

Examining the toll of social distancing on health of seniors

Liz Seegert

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: Neil Moralee via Flickr

Older adults are among the most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus, as story after story of nursing home deaths and other mortality data show. That’s why an overwhelming majority of elders say they’re prepared to self-isolate for many more months if necessary, according to a new survey from NORC at the University of Chicago.

Isolation and loneliness among this population were already challenging issues before COVID-19 hit the U.S. How much worse will it become because of the pandemic? Continue reading

Book on cognitive biases and logical fallacies particularly relevant during pandemic

Tara Haelle

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.

I’m pretty sure Jonathan Howard, M.D., is not psychic — but I’m not 100% sure. After all, almost nothing in science can be stated with 100% certainty. But I could be forgiven for suspecting he had some sort of premonition about the pandemic and the massive challenges it would present to clinicians, researchers, journalists and the public at large, because of the book he published less than two years ago: “Cognitive Errors and Diagnostic Mistakes: A Case-Based Guide to Critical Thinking in Medicine.” (Before you read any further, be aware that I have disclosures related to Howard that will become evident shortly.)

Howard, a psychiatrist at NYU Langone Health, spends a good deal of his free time fighting misinformation and pseudoscience online, especially on Twitter and Facebook. Continue reading

Problems found in initial federal data on COVID-19 in nursing homes

Cheryl Clark

About Cheryl Clark

Cheryl Clark (@CherClarHealth) is AHCJ's core topic leader for patient safety, a MedPage Today contributor and inewsource.org investigative journalist. For most of 27 years, she covered medicine and science for the San Diego Union-Tribune. After taking a buyout in 2008, she became senior quality editor for HealthLeaders Media.

Photo: The National Guard via Flickr

When Seema Verma, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator, announced June 4 that she and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were unveiling COVID-19 data for all the nation’s nursing homes that get federal payment, I thought, “Wow!”

These days, how states are reporting their nursing home COVID cases is varied and random. So this new “unprecedented” federal dataset, “constitutes the backbone of a national COVID-19 virus surveillance system,” Verma said. Continue reading

Ferrets and monkeys and mice, oh my! What’s the best coronavirus animal model?

Tara Haelle

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.

Photo: zoofanatic via Flickr

Mice and rats are the most common lab mammals for scientific research, But depending on the question being asked, and if relevant, the intervention being tested, they are not necessarily always the most appropriate animal to use.

When it comes to studying interventions for human diseases, scientists in translational research must usually find animal models in whom the disease acts as similarly as possible to the way it does in humans. For example, when FDA researcher Tod Merkel conducted a study to test the effectiveness of the acellular pertussis vaccine in preventing infection, he used baboons because the disease process of pertussis is similar in baboons as it is in humans. The research cannot be perfectly translated, but it can come close enough to explain trends that researchers had identified in epidemiological data. Continue reading

More data coming online to track COVID-19 in nursing homes

Liz Seegert

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: Eric.Ray via Flickr

CMS has finally posted a database of reported deaths by facility for approximately 30,000 nursing homes. The data is updated weekly and provides confirmation of the awful toll this disease is taking on our most vulnerable population. As of June 1, more than 40,000 residents and workers in long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19. And that number is most certainly an undercount.

Information is still disjointed, in part because some states include group homes in their reports to CMS, and others only provide data for institutional long term care settings. Assisted living facilities are not part of the dataset since they’re not federally regulated. But any way you look at it, the numbers are staggering. Continue reading