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Xinjiang Lockdown: Chinese Censors Drown Out Posts About Food and Medicine Shortages

September 12, 2022

(The Guardian) – Chinese censors have reportedly been ordered to flood social media with innocuous posts about Xinjiang to drown out mounting complaints of food and medication shortages in a region under lockdown for more than a month. The Ili Kazakh autonomous prefecture, also known as Yili, is home to about 4.5 million people, and is believed to have been first put into lockdown in early August, without official public announcement, after an outbreak of Covid-19. In recent days social media has hosted reams of post about food shortages, delays or refusals of medical care. But according to a leaked directive published by the China Digital Times, censors were told to “open a campaign of comment flooding” to drown them out. (Read More)

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Covid-19 Is Still Killing Hundreds of Americans Daily

September 12, 2022

(Wall Street Journal) – The U.S. has recently averaged about 320 new Covid-19 deaths each day, and the average was above 400 before the Labor Day holiday weekend, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show. The rate is far below pandemic peaks, including levels above 2,500 a day during the Omicron wave early this year. But the country hasn’t matched lows closer to 200 a day reached during a lull last year. Roughly 85% of people who died from Covid-19 through mid-August this summer were 65 or older, a Wall Street Journal analysis of death-certificate data show. The rate is similar to 2020 peaks, before vaccines were available. Deaths trended younger for much of last year. (Read More)

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Johnson & Johnson And a New War on Consumer Protection

September 12, 2022

(The New Yorker) – Johnson & Johnson has always insisted, including to this magazine, that its baby powder is “safe, asbestos-free, and does not cause cancer”; however, a 2016 investigation by Bloomberg and subsequent revelations by Reuters and the New York Times, based in part on documents that surfaced because of discovery in suits like Berg’s, exposed the possible health risk related to its powders. Following those reports, tens of thousands of people filed suits against the company, alleging that its products had caused their cancers. In 2020, after juries awarded some of those plaintiffs damages that collectively exceeded billions of dollars, Johnson & Johnson announced that it would no longer supply the talc-based version of its product to American stores. And then, quietly, the company embraced a strategy to circumvent juries entirely. Deploying a legal maneuver first used by Koch Industries, Johnson & Johnson, a company valued at nearly half a trillion dollars, with a credit rating higher than that of the United States government, declared bankruptcy. (Read More)

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Famine at Somalia’s Door

September 9, 2022

(Axios) – The United Nations put out a dire warning earlier this week: famine is “at the door in Somalia.” Driving the news: Famine is expected in parts of southern Somalia between October and December unless urgent assistance gets to those most in need, the UN said. Humanitarian groups are urging the international community to act now, saying waiting for a formal famine declaration will be too late. (Read More)

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Superbugs Are a “Second Punch” After Pandemic

September 9, 2022

(Axios) – Superbugs are strengthening their foothold: The COVID-19 pandemic spurred a 15% increase in hospital-related infections and deaths in 2020, per the CDC. Why it matters: The U.S. was already reporting an antimicrobial resistant (AMR) infection every 11 seconds, and a death from them every 15 minutes before the pandemic. Low- and middle-income countries face worse conditions. (Read More)

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Companies Are Dropping Vaccine Mandates

September 9, 2022

(Axios) – Some companies are rolling back mandates for employee COVID vaccination — but few are making official public statements about it. Why it matters: These moves signal that we’ve shifted into a new chapter of the pandemic — and that employers are desperate to get people back to the office. (Read More)

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Push to Double Up on Covid Boosters and Flu Shot May Have a Downside, Experts Caution

September 9, 2022

(STAT News) – The protection generated by influenza vaccines erodes pretty quickly over the course of a flu season. A vaccine dose given in early September may offer limited protection if the flu season doesn’t peak until February or even March, as it did during the unusually late 2021-2022 season. (Read More)

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With Homicide the Leading Cause of Maternal Mortality, New Research Shows Link to Firearms and Intimate Partner Violence

September 9, 2022

(STAT News) – Now, in a study published Thursday, she and two colleagues have tried to address some of the gaps, looking at numbers from 2008 to 2019.  Even the most basic of numbers are troubling. Among female homicide victims whose pregnancy status was known, 20% died in the time leading up to or soon after giving birth, while among suicide victims, that figure was 9%. The research also showed a close link between two public health emergencies, with firearms used in 68% of homicides and 35% of suicides that took place around pregnancy. Another striking trend was that intimate partner violence was a factor not only in 71% of the homicides, but also in 45% of the suicides — figures that were lower in deaths not associated with pregnancy. (Read More)

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A New Report Brings Telehealth Fraud Risk Into Focus

September 9, 2022

(STAT News) – Washington’s attempts to permanently lock in telehealth coverage have been hobbled by a fear that virtual care could drive up Medicare fraud and spending. But a new watchdog report offers early evidence that only a small portion of providers are billing for virtual care in a potentially fraudulent way, suggesting that targeted interventions could crack down on abuse. (Read More)

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Flood-Hit Pakistan Faces Spread of Infectious Diseases

September 9, 2022

(Sci Dev Net) – Amid unprecedented floods which have affected 33 million people and damaged nearly 900 health facilities, Pakistan faces the risk of widespread outbreaks of diseases, including diarrhoea, dengue, malaria, polio and COVID-19. The floods have killed more than 1,300 people since 14 June and injured over 12,000, according to the country’s National Disaster Management Authority. The provinces of Sindh and Balochistan are the worst affected with floodwaters engulfing entire villages and wiping out standing crops. (Read More)

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Zero COVID Has Outlived Its Usefulness. Here’s Why China Is Still Enforcing It.

September 9, 2022

(The Atlantic) – Nothing—neither a sinking economy nor the availability of vaccines and improved treatments nor the country’s growing isolation—has persuaded the leadership to change course. The latest wave of lockdowns has largely confined millions to their homes: Just two of those lockdowns, involving the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu and the tech hub of Shenzhen, affected a combined population roughly equivalent to all of Canada’s. The reasons China won’t budge from its strict COVID controls lie deep within the workings of the Chinese Communist Party, especially under its current boss, President Xi Jinping. The zero-COVID policy, a mandate that cases of infection must be kept at or near zero, ceased to be about public health a long time ago. (Read More)

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US May Expand Monkeypox Vaccine Eligibility to Men with HIV

September 9, 2022

(Associated Press) – U.S. officials are considering broadening recommendations for who gets vaccinated against monkeypox, possibly to include many men with HIV or those recently diagnosed with other sexually transmitted diseases. Driving the discussion is a study released Thursday showing that a higher-than-expected share of monkeypox infections are in people with other sexually transmitted infections. (Read More)

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IAEA: Ukraine Power Plant Needs Safe Zone to Avoid Disaster

September 9, 2022

(Associated Press) – The head of the U.N. atomic watchdog says conditions at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant are increasingly precarious and a safety zone around it needs to be established immediately to prevent a nuclear accident. Rafael Mariano Grossi, the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said in a statement Friday that there is little likelihood of re-establishing reliable offsite power lines to the plant and its Ukrainian operator is considering shutting down the only remaining operating reactor. This would leave the plant fully reliant on emergency diesel generators to provide electricity for vital nuclear safety functions. (Read More)

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Facebook Parent Meta Platforms Cuts Responsible Innovation Team

September 8, 2022

(Wall Street Journal) – Meta Platforms Inc. has disbanded its Responsible Innovation team, which was once a prominent piece of its effort to address concerns about the potential downsides of its products. The team had included roughly two dozen engineers, ethicists and others who collaborated with internal product teams and outside privacy specialists, academics and users to identify and address potential concerns about new products and alterations to Facebook and Instagram. (Read More)

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A Key to Long Covid Is Virus Lingering in the Body, Scientists Say

September 8, 2022

(Wall Street Journal) – The virus that causes Covid-19 can remain in some people’s bodies for a long time.  A growing number of scientists think that lingering virus is a root cause of long Covid. New research has found the spike protein of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in the blood of long Covid patients up to a year after infection but not in people who have fully recovered from Covid. Virus has also been found in tissues including the brain, lungs, and lining of the gut, according to scientists and studies. The findings suggest that leftover reservoirs of virus could be provoking the immune system in some people, causing complications such as blood clots and inflammation, which may fuel certain long Covid symptoms, scientists say. (Read More)

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Mental Health Hospital Admissions Have Increased Among Youth

September 8, 2022

(Axios) – Nearly a third of non-newborn pediatric hospital admissions from 2016 to 2020 were linked to mental health needs, according to a new report from the Health Care Cost Institute. Why it matters: A high rate of inpatient mental health care could be a sign of inadequate preventive care and management of mental health needs in younger populations, researchers said. (Read More)

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Feds Try to Stop Unlawful Nursing Home Debt Collections

September 8, 2022

(Associated Press) – Nursing homes and debt collectors are flouting a law that prohibits them from requiring friends and family of care home residents to shoulder the costs of the facilities, according to a federal report issued Thursday. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said friends and family members have had to declare bankruptcy, had their wages garnished and their homes repossessed after signing unenforceable contracts called “admission agreements” with nursing facilities, resulting in them being held liable as third parties for their loved ones’ nursing home stays. (Read More)

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As Masks Are Shed, a Routine Visit to a Medical Office Can Pose Covid Risks for Some Patients

September 7, 2022

(STAT News) – For tens of millions of Americans who are at high risk of severe outcomes from Covid-19, or live with such people — either from age, underlying medical conditions, or immunodeficiency — not much has changed since the spring of 2020. They’re still mostly hunkering down at home. They don’t go out to eat or see a movie or take in a concert. Often the only exception they make is a visit to the doctor’s office. But as the third pandemic fall looms ahead, with mask mandates dropped and isolation requirements relaxed, many high-risk individuals are increasingly anxious about contracting Covid while accessing necessary routine health care. (Read More)

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Stress and Depression Are Better Long Covid Indicators Than Physical Comorbidities, New Study Says

September 7, 2022

(STAT News) – Studies have repeatedly suggested that physical conditions like immunosuppression and hypertension can increase a person’s risk not only for severe Covid but also long Covid. But in a new study, researchers found that psychological stressors such as depression, anxiety, and loneliness were more predictive of Covid patients’ likelihood of experiencing long Covid than classically associated physical factors. (Read More)

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ALS Drug Gets Rare Second Review at High-Stakes FDA Meeting

September 7, 2022

(Associated Press) – A closely watched experimental drug for Lou Gehrig’s disease got an unusual second look from U.S. regulators on Wednesday, following intense pressure to approve the treatment for those with the fatal illness. Patients and their families have rallied behind the drug from Amylyx Pharma, launching an aggressive lobbying campaign and enlisting members of Congress to push the Food and Drug Administration to grant approval. (Read More)

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