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: Honoring the life and legacy of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg; a rundown of recent attacks to reproductive health and rights; the U.S. heads into the fall with 200,000 COVID-19 deaths; and what the heck is happening at the CDC?!
Repro Rundown: Honoring the Life and Legacy Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
+ Friday marks one week since hearing the gut-wrenching news that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, the “Great Dissenter,” and a true champion for justice and equality—had died.
“I am heartbroken that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a truly historic champion for gender equality, has passed,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority. “Her work for gender equality will live forever. Over her decades long career, RBG fought for and achieved major, historic gains for gender equality.”
+ In her honor, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) dedicated a full-page ad—both print and online—in publications across the country. According previous Ms. reporting, “The page celebrates Justice Ginsburg’s life work, which established the foundation for the current legal prohibitions against sex discrimination and helped lay the groundwork for future women’s rights and gender equity advocacy.”
+ Immediately following her death, many are still in mourning. However, with the Trump administration poised to fill the SCOTUS vacancy and secure a new 6-3 conservative majority, this sadness has morphed to anger and fear. Ramming through a nominee before the election would be an enormous threat to abortion rights and a cause for concern for the future of Roe v. Wade.
“It is hard to put into words just how much Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg did to advance women’s equality and make this country a better place. Feminists will stop any right-wing effort to stack the Court before the election. It is time to hear what the voters have to say. Any efforts to pack the Supreme Court and ignore the will of the American people will be extremely costly to the GOP,” said Kathy Spillar, executive director of the Feminist Majority.
Namely, what do voters have to say? Wait till after the elections.
+ Massachusetts lawmakers are looking to protect Roe by passing the Roe Act, designed to “expand access to safe abortion, ensuring that anyone, regardless of age, income, or insurance, can access a safe, legal abortion in the Commonwealth.”
Unfortunately, the bill has been held up in committee for 18 months and the lack of progress has been frustrating, but lawmakers “feel that now more than ever the Roe Act needs to be put in place.”
+ On Wednesday, President Trump announced he will sign a “Born Alive” executive order that he says would “ensure all babies born alive, including those born prematurely or that survive abortions, receive medical care. While the need for such a law is nonexistent—the U.S. government recorded only 143 deaths between 2003 and 2014 involving infants born alive during attempted abortions—it’s an obvious attempt to appeal to conservative, religious voters.
The Born-Alive Infant Protection Act has been introduced multiple times in Congress since 2002 with no success.
+ NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia has released the findings of a “decade-long study examining the strategies of ‘fake’ abortion clinics known as “crisis pregnancy centers.’” The study identified 59 “fake” clinics throughout the Commonwealth, but only 16 licensed abortion providers.
“These 59 fake clinics have and continue to manipulate and lie to their unsuspecting and desperate clients. Despite anti-abortion politicians nationwide attempting to shutter real reproductive health care providers—while funding those based on unsafe, medically inaccurate information and biased agendas—we never back down from standing up for Virginians and the truth. We are exposing these clinics for what they are: fake,” said Tarina Keene, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia.
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Pandemic Updates: U.S. Heads into the Fall with 200,000 COVID-19 Deaths
+ The U.S. has passed yet another unimaginably horrific milestone with 200,000 lives lost due to COVID-19. The current occupant of the White House called the news “a shame”—despite the fact that he could have prevented many of these deaths by encouraging people to follow simple public health measures like social distancing requirements and mask mandates.
In an interview with NPR, Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, pointed out, “COVID-19 will likely be the third-leading cause of death” in the U.S. “By the end of the year we will likely have seen more deaths from COVID-19 than we saw from diabetes, influenza and pneumonia, kidney disease and suicide combined in 2017.”
+ With Climate Week 2020 underway, it’s hard to ignore how this pandemic and climate change are intertwined. Both are threatening human life and exacerbating the severity of one another. For instance, a report by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) warned fires in western states are “complicating the response” to the COVID-19 crisis.
Residents in Oregon, California and Washington are advised to stay indoors to avoid the negative effects of smoke inhalation—but that also makes it hard to properly socially distance, giving the virus more opportunities for transmission. The rate of positive COVID-19 cases sharply increased after declining for the previous six weeks in Oregon.
Additionally, smoke is causing outdoor testing sites to temporarily shut down, leading to a slow down in COVID-19 testing. Similarly, public health experts are concerned about hurricane season leading to an increase in coronavirus cases due to crowding in grocery stores and emergency shelters.
+ Amidst school reopenings, the lack of a nationally-coordinated effort to track cases in schools is making it difficult for experts to understand how the virus is spreading. The COVID Monitor, an independent data project, has so far has confirmed 27,424 positive cases in schools. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), over 587,000 children have contracted COVID-19 so far, representing over 10 percent of total cases in the U.S. Although complications and fatality rates are low among children, they may infect other family members.
As schools transition to in-person learning, public health officials are also weary of a “twindemic” caused by the overlap of the pandemic and regular flu season. A new study found those with both COVID-19 and the flu are twice as likely to die as those with only COVID-19. The AAP recommends everyone over the age of 6 months should get the flu vaccine. Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice chair of the AAP’s Committee on Infectious Diseases, warned, “We must take this seriously and implement the public health measures we know can help; that includes wearing masks, avoiding large crowds, and maintaining social distance.”
What the Heck is Happening at the CDC!?
+ If you’re confused about all the news surrounding the The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), you’re not alone. Last week, we reported on President Trump’s attacks on CDC Director Dr. Redfield, who expressed support for masks during a Senate hearing. Additionally, federal officials disclosed to the New York Times that political pressure and interference from Trump’s coronavirus task force led the CDC to publish misleading testing guidelines.
+ This week brings more concerning news surrounding the politicization of the agency’s decision making process. On September 18, the CDC updated its coronavirus web page to say it’s “possible” for the virus to spread “through respiratory droplets or small particles, such as those in aerosols, produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks or breathes.” But then, on September 21, the CDC removed the new language and Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious disease, said the September 18 update was due to a mistake. Butler called it “a failure of process at CDC.”
Regardless of the alarming situation enveloping the CDC, most public health experts and scientists conclude the coronavirus is airborne. To put it another way, aerosols—the liquid or solid particles that linger in the atmosphere—we breathe out can infect other nearby individuals when they breathe in. Wearing a mask helps keep those aerosols out of the air, thereby protecting others from becoming infected. Acknowledging that the virus can spread via aerosols and not just through larger respiratory droplets transmitted when two people are in close proximity is essential to driving policy to improve air ventilation in schools and other buildings.
+ As if all this isn’t enough, President Trump is also continuing to politicize the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), saying the White House “may or may not approve” more stringent guidelines for the authorization of emergency use for coronavirus vaccines. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) said he is “not going to trust the federal government’s opinion” on whether a coronavirus vaccine is safe or not. Instead, New York state health officials will review and approve a vaccine before he recommends New Yorkers receive it.
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