Checking Up On Health

Medical Monday: A weekly post of healthcare- and technology-related policy news, views and commentaries.

Almost one month past the Biden administration’s July 4 target date for having 70% of Americans inoculated with at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine, the percentage was finally achieved today. The administration reported 468,000 vaccine doses had been administered in the past day, including 320,000 first-dose vaccinations, up from 257,000 in the previous week. Source: Bloomberg 

Delta’s dawn: The “delta” COVID-19 strain is spreading rapidly, and is thought to contain genetic changes that allow it to spread twice as fast as earlier strains. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated masking guidelines amid the spread of the variant. First seen in India, it affects both vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals and the CDC has recommended both groups wear masks in areas of high COVID-19 transmission.

Long haulers: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has added “long COVID” to the list of qualifying disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The 31st anniversary of the ADA was celebrated July 26. “Long COVID,” the site explain,s is when “Some people continue to experience symptoms that can last weeks or months after first developing COVID-19.  This can happen to anyone who has had COVID-19, even if the initial illness was mild.” I wrote about these “long haulers” back in January.

COVID-19 and kids: As school starts up again with in-person classes for the new year, many school districts are requiring students to mask up.  Michael Ungar writes in Psychology Today: “We’ve known for decades that children’s emotional well-being depends in part on neurological development, which comes from watching faces and recognizing emotions. How all this works isn’t entirely clear, but … there is enough evidence to suggest that normal child development needs children to see people expressing their emotions. With widespread masking, we may unintentionally be disadvantaging younger children from developing the necessary skills to discern emotions and the neurological changes that make it possible to distinguish one face from another.”

Younger and fitter. At the start of 2021, people 65 and older made up 53% of COVID-19-related hospitalizations and people 18-49 made up 20.5%, according to data from COVID-Net, a CDC surveillance system that draws data from numerous states, representing roughly 10% of the population. Today, people 65-plus make up 26% of COVID-19-related hospitalizations while those 18-49 make up 41%.

Delayed care: Risks are greater in hospitals because nowadays many COVID-19 patients are hospitalized along with patients who delayed or deferred elective procedures, are finally receiving care, and are in poorer health because of those delays. Stanford (Calif.) Healthcare, for example, is seeing “sicker” patients, reporting higher volumes of critically ill non-COVID-19 patients. COVID-19 long-haulers are also accounting for a significant portion of the patients, Becker’s Hospital Review reports. Nearly one-quarter of people who had COVID-19 still have at least one condition.

Who’s sick? Florida and Texas accounted for one in three COVID-19 cases reported nationwide last week, Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator, said. Most cases are driven by the delta variant and in communities with lower vaccination rates. Forty-nine percent of Florida’s population was fully vaccinated, along with 44% of Texas residents, according to CDC data. Nearly 39% of Georgia’s population is fully vaccinated. The seven states with the lowest vaccination rates represent about 8.5% of the U.S. population but account for more than 17% of cases.

Georgia by the numbers: Georgia’s Department of Public Health provides a racial breakdown of the Georgians who have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. About 52% are white, 25% are black, 7% are Asian and 11% are “other.” Fifty-four percent are female.

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