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 week’s health related news, we break down the good, the bad and the misleading when it comes to COVID-19, and run down some recent updates on the reproductive health beat.
Coronavirus: The Good
+ Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) introduced the Masks for All Act this week. If passed, the legislation would ensure each person in the country receives three free, reusable face masks. It would also provide N-95 and surgical-grade masks to health care workers.
+ Our ability to detect the virus is becoming better as scientists develop more types of coronavirus tests. With different types of testing available, governments will be better able to make use of available resources, rather than running out of testing equipment.
+ Although a coronavirus vaccine is unlikely to be ready for months, scientists continue to make headway during clinical trials. Researchers at Oxford University and AstraZeneca, a pharmaceutical company, administered a vaccine to 1,000 participants and the World Health Organization is calling the results “good news.” The trial showed the vaccine was able to produce both antibodies and killer T-cells which are both vital parts of the immune response system.
… The Bad
+ The US passed 150,000 coronavirus-related deaths this week, coming only two months after hitting 100,000 deaths. The virus is likely spreading at higher rates than the data shows due to a lack of testing.
+ Researchers continue to learn more about the long term impacts of COVID-19. Strokes, neurological complications and cardiac problems are among the consequences most worrying to doctors.
+ The pandemic is leading to a spike in cases of domestic violence across the globe. Stay-at-home orders and lockdowns create situations that exacerbate abuse by isolating victims and giving abusers more power to surveille and control behavior in the household.
In Alaska, domestic violence is killing more people than COVID-19. In a span of just ten days, there were five domestic violence murders in Western Alaska. Moreover, intimate partner violence disproportionately affects Native Alaskans.
Travel restrictions in the state are preventing domestic violence victims from being able to leave their home in order to seek help from domestic violence shelters. Additionally, domestic violence shelters have had to decrease their capacity to comply with social distancing measures.
… And the Misleading
+ On Monday, July 27, a video published by right-wing media outlet Breitbart News went viral on social media—thanks in part to President Trump tweeting multiple versions of the video. In the video, a group of people in white coats claiming to be “America’s frontline doctors” are seen staging a press conference outside the US Supreme Court.
The video is full of misleading and false claims about the coronavirus, such as “You don’t need masks, there is a cure.” Multiple, peer-reviewed studies have found wearing face masks “are a valuable tool to reduce community transmission.”
Additionally, no cure to the coronavirus has been discovered. The video touts the idea that hydroxychloroquine can cure COVID-19, but the FDA revoked its usage amidst growing evidence showing that it’s ineffective at best and may cause deadly side effects at worst.
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube all removed the video from their platforms, but only after the video had been viewed millions of times. Like the “Plandemic” conspiracy video which spread online in early May, this incident is just another example of how social media creates the perfect environment for harmful misinformation to spread.
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+ Representatives Jan Schankowsky (D-Ill.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), Diana DeGette (D-Co.) and Norma Torres (D-Calif.) have introduced the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act of 2020 to repeal the Helms Amendment and expand abortion access globally.
“The Helms Amendment is a policy deeply rooted in racism. It imposes our arbitrary and medically unnecessary abortion restrictions on international communities, allowing the United States to control the health care and bodily autonomy of billions Black and brown people around the world. Just like the Hyde Amendment, the Helms Amendment puts reproductive and economic freedom out of reach for women of color. But enough is enough, and both amendments must fall if we want to realize true health equity and reproductive justice,” said Congresswoman Schakowsky. “I am proud that my sisters Representatives Lowey, Lee, Speier, Pressley, DeGett and Torres are joining me to introduce the Abortion is Health Care Everywhere Act, which will finally repeal the Helms Amendment. Comprehensive reproductive health care, including safe, legal, and accessible abortion, is a human right.”
+ Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s “Agenda for Women” proposal discusses restoring federal finding for Planned Parenthood—something hundreds of family planning clinics lost under the Trump administration.
“The Obama-Biden Administration fought Republican attacks on funding for Planned Parenthood again and again,” the agenda reads. “As President, Biden will reissue guidance specifying that states cannot refuse Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood and other providers and reverse the Trump Administration’s rule preventing these organizations from obtaining Title X funds.”
+ A federal district court in Tennessee has issued a preliminary injunction blocking parts of Tennessee’s new law that bans abortion at nearly every stage of pregnancy.
“Abortion bans, especially those that ban the procedure before many people even know they are pregnant, threaten the health, rights, and lives of people of color disproportionately,” the ACLU of Tennessee said in a statement. “Additionally, ‘reason bans’ inflict further harm by perpetuating stigma around abortions and stereotypes of Black and Brown communities, Asian Americans, and people with disabilities.”
+ After calling 396 randomly selected OB-GYN offices, researchers from The Ohio State University found that even with almost 95 percent of offices offering IUDs, 92 percent required multiple appointments.
“The need to make—and keep—multiple appointments presents significant barriers to reproductive care, particularly for those women with the fewest resources,” said Jaclyn Serpico, who led the research as a graduate student in health behavior and health promotion and in women’s, gender and sexuality studies. “The challenges are likely greatest for people who can’t take a lot of time off work, young people, people of color and people who live in rural areas.”