The Weekly Pulse: Republican Super-Spreaders, and Minding Our Mental Health

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: minding our mental health in the midst of COVID, Trump’s bout with the virus and what we can learn from it, the repro rundown and your weekly dose of pandemic updates.

COVID-19 Pandemic Updates

The Weekly Pulse: Republican Super-Spreaders, and Minding Our Mental Health
The pandemic is not over—no matter how forcefully President Trump tries to falsely claim the pandemic is winding down. (Pikist)

+ More than 210,000 Americans have died as a result of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. This week, the U.S. also hit its highest daily rate of new coronavirus cases in two months, and there are only three states where the rate of new cases is declining.

As we stress every week, the pandemic is not over—no matter how forcefully President Trump (a.k.a the “single largest driver” of coronavirus misinformation) tries to falsely claim the pandemic is winding down. If anything, the stakes of this crisis are even higher this month as people navigate casting their ballots during a pandemic.

+ The Centers for Disease control again acknowledged the coronavirus is “airborne” on Monday, following weeks of political pressure by the White Houseto downplay its threat. Now, the CDC website says COVID-19 “infections can be spread by exposure to [the] virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours.” The website also cites evidence finding the virus “may be able to infect people who are further than 6 feet away from the person who is infected.” 

The decrease in the CDC’s credibility “comes at the worst time possible,” according to Michael Fraser, chief executive of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. That’s because the CDC will need the public’s trust in order to roll-out a successful COVID-19 vaccine campaign in the coming months (assuming at least one vaccine is approved for use). 

Trump’s Bout with COVID

+ It’s hard to believe just one week ago, the news about Trump’s COVID diagnosis broke. Since then, over 20 people who had been in contact with the president have tested positive, including First Lady Melania Trump, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie—including four White House residence staff.

President Trump was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he received care over the past weekend, although the details released by the White House and the president’s doctors about the severity of his condition were inconsistent

+ Trump’s bout with COVID reflects his administration’s long standing agenda to downplay the pandemic and gaslight the American public. For instance, Trump briefly left the hospital on Sunday to wave at supporters from his motorcade—endangering the lives of the secret service members in his vehicle.

According to the Centers for Disease Control’s guidance, health care personnel should “limit transport and movement of the patient outside of the room to medically essential purposes.” But hey, apparently, rules don’t apply to the president.

+ After being released back to the White House (where he continues to receive medical attention), the president urged the public to “not to be afraid of COVID” on Twitter. But it’s easy for Trump “not to be afraid” when he has access to around-the-clock top-grade medical care, unlike so many Americans.

The tweet feels especially cruel given that we’ve all been avoiding gatherings and wearing masks for months, while the president and his staff have rarely worn masks and held super-spreader events.

Even worse—the Trump administration is actively trying to strike down the ACA, leaving millions of Americans (including 133 million with pre-existing conditions) without insurance during a pandemic.

Trump’s health scare with COVID only adds to his lack of credibility with the American public. If he can’t keep himself safe, how can he keep us safe?

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Minding Mental Health

+ More than a third of American adults have experienced symptoms of anxiety or depression since the onset of the coronavirus. These numbers are alarming, but do not take into consideration gendered impacts of the pandemic. 

A new report from CARE is highlighting an overlooked crisis within the pandemic crisis: women’s mental health. According to Ms. reporting:

“Women were almost three times more likely than men (at 27 percent, compared to 10 percent of men) to report that their mental health had been impacted by the pandemic. Women cited issues such as skyrocketing unpaid care burdens and worries about livelihoods, food, and health care—all of which are causing rising rates of anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues.”

+ With mental health concerns rising, many are turning to the experts for help coping in these trying times—but what are they doing to make it through? 

“We’ve got to do what we tell everyone else to do,” says Dr. Mary Alvord, a psychologist in Rockville, Maryland. “We’ve had to practice what we preach.”

With newly adopted tele-practice, clinicians continue to give their patients similar advice they’ve given since the onset of the pandemic:

  • Get fresh air at least once a day.
  • Find ways to socialize at a distance or virtually
  • Take care of yourself through healthy eating, exercise and plenty of sleep.

“I’ve seen a lot of my colleagues feel burned out, but also grateful we have a skillset that can help take care of people,” says Dr. Nancy Zucker, a psychologist  and director of the Duke Center for Eating Disorders in Durham, North Carolina. “It’s been powerful to know that people need us.”

The Weekly Pulse: Republican Super-Spreaders, and Minding Our Mental Health
March For Our Lives student protest for gun control in March 2018. (Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0)

+ According to new research from the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, almost 23,000 people die by gun suicide in the United States every year—concentrated in rural districts in west and south.

“Nationally, nearly half of suicides involve a firearm. But this congressional district research shows that the national average masks enormous differences between districts,” the Everytown report explains.

Repro Rundown

+ A sigh of relief: The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to reimpose FDA regulations requiring patients seeking medication abortion services to pick up the prescribed medications in person instead of in the mail. This rejection of the Trump administration’s emergency appeal took place Thursday night in the form of a 6-to-2 vote. 

“It is a relief that for the next few weeks the Trump administration cannot force abortion patients to needlessly risk contracting a life-threatening disease as a condition of obtaining care,” said Julia Kaye, lead counsel for American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, in the case. But, she added, “When President Trump is trying to rush through a third Supreme Court justice with the express goal of overturning Roe v. Wade, the court’s delayed ruling in this case gives little comfort that the right to abortion is secure.”

+ On Monday, former Vice President Joe Biden pledged his support for legal abortion, promising to make Roe the “law of the land” if elected in November—but abortion rights activists say that’s not enough. 

“Roe is important, but now we really think of that as the floor not the ceiling,” said Destiny Lopez, co-director of the All* Above All Action Fund, an abortion-rights group, in a telephone interview with CBS News

+ Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats asked the Justice Department for an explanation as to why a 2006 anti-abortion newspaper advertisement signed by Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was omitted from her materials to the committee. Featured in the South Bend Tribune, the advertisement from the St. Joseph County Right to Life anti-abortion group urged for the overturning Roe and described the decision as “barbaric.”

The Weekly Pulse: Republican Super-Spreaders, and Minding Our Mental Health

“The failure to disclose the 2006 letter leads to additional questions about other potentially missing materials,” wrote the Committee in a letter to Assistant Attorney General Beth Williams. “The omission also raises concerns that the process of collecting materials responsive to the [Senate Judiciary Committee questionnaire], like the nomination process itself, has been rushed, for no legitimate reason.”

+ Celebrity Chrissy Teigen’s announcement that she suffered a miscarriage has sparked conversations about the stigma around pregnancy loss and the importance of accessible reproductive health care. Teigen and her husband John Legend lost their third child halfway through the pregnancy.

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About and

Giselle Hengst recently graduated from Vanderbilt University with degrees in Women's & Gender Studies and Medicine, Health, & Society. She is currently an editorial and social media intern at Ms. magazine.
Corinne Ahrens is a recent graduate of The American University where she studied Political Science with a specialization in Gender, Race, & Politics as well as Women's, Gender, & Sexuality Studies. Corinne has been writing for Ms. since October 2019 and is a former Ms. editorial intern. She currently works at Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy in their Philadelphia office.