For The Weekly Pulse (a revisit of an old Ms. column!), we’ve scoured the most trusted journalistic sources—and, of course, our Twitter feeds—to bring you this week’s most important news stories related to health and wellness.
In this edition of The Weekly Pulse, we begin with some pandemic optimism; provide the most recent updates on COVID-19 and its effects on workers; and break down reproductive wins and attacks.
+ The first coronavirus vaccine tested in the U.S. has improved immune system responses, in conjunction with scientists’ predictions. “No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press.
+ Rapid, low-cost saliva tests will soon be a reality. They have the potential to slow outbreaks through early, consistent detection.
“These are like home pregnancy tests but for COVID-19,” said Joseph G. Allen, assistant professor of exposure assessment science at Harvard. “Imagine a test you could take at home every day, that gives you an answer in a few minutes after spitting into a vial and costs only $1 to $5. Such a test would change our ability to slow outbreaks—where early detection is everything.”
+ Some science shows past exposure to “common-cold coronaviruses” may be “playing a protective role” for certain individuals—as studies now show 20 to 50 percent of people who have never been exposed to COVID-19 have memory T (immune) cells.
Allen notes this finding in his piece for the Washington Post, but adds:
We still don’t know why some people fare better than others, or why a few spread the disease to many while others do not spread it at all, but these findings might hold some answers to those questions.
Workers’ Safety Sidelined
+ According to a new study, more than 5.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance due to pandemic-related job loss. While the study only looked at the four-month period between February and May, the increase was higher than any previously recorded annual increase in uninsured adults.
The findings expose the fault lines in the U.S. system of employer-sponsored health care. Furthermore, the Trump administration is pushing for the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act—even while it provides crucial coverage during the pandemic.
+ Meanwhile, those still employed in essential services say employers are putting them at risk and are calling for more protection. In California, Latino workers are more than twice as likely to contract COVID-19—yet the state has done little to enforce safer workplace standards and expand access to testing and health care in the most affected communities.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear he wants the next coronavirus relief package to protect employers from legal liability when employees contract the virus. At the same time, Trump continues to wage his war on public health by attacking Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading expert on infectious disease.
+ On Monday, U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang in Maryland agreed to suspend a previous ruling requiring women to visit a hospital, clinic or other medical center in order to obtain medication abortion—even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Judge Chuang, in-person visitation requirements impose substantial and unnecessary obstacles for abortion care, “Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur, such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm.”
+ District Judge Steve C. Jones has ruled against—and permanently struck down—a harmful Georgia law that bans most abortions after six week by saying the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment of the. U.S. Constitution. Jones wrote in his decision:
“In sum, the undisputed material facts in this case lead to one, indisputable conclusion: that Section 4 of H.B. 481, by prohibiting a woman from terminating her pregnancy upon the detection of a fetal heartbeat, constitutes a pre-viability abortion ban.
“As this ban directly conflicts with binding Supreme Court precedent (i.e., the core holdings in Roe, Casey, and their progeny) and thereby infringes upon a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion prior to viability, the Court is left with no other choice but to declare it unconstitutional.”
Music to our ears.
+ A new study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) reveals more than one in five U.S. women at risk of an unplanned pregnancy would choose and prefer a different method of contraception if cost were not an issue.
“Whether people are able to afford the type of birth control they want to use is a strong indicator of the quality of reproductive healthcare in the U.S.,” says Dr. Kari White, principal investigator of TxPEP and Associate Professor of Social Work and Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin.
“The Supreme Court’s ruling, along with other recent policies that have limited publicly funded services for low-income women, will likely reverse some of the gains in access and affordability we have seen in recent years.”