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.
This week was the worst week ever for the coronavirus.
Yet, with coronavirus cases on the rise in 42 states, President Trump and Vice President Pence continue to hold in-person, non-socially distanced campaign events.
Locally and globally, the right to an abortion is under attack.
And experts warn people to prepare themselves for the toll winter, a worsening pandemic and a contentious election may take on mental health.
White House: “We Are Not Going To Control the Pandemic”
+ On Sunday, almost a week before Election Day, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows signaled the White House’s plan to contain the current COVID-19 case surge across the country: Wave a white flag of defeat.
“We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas,” said Meadows.
- Before walking out of a 60 Minutes interview due to Lesley Stahl’s “tough questions” (in her own words), Trump told Stahl: “We have done a great job with COVID” (to which Stahl replied, “Sir, excuse me. Cases are up in about 40 states”).
- After multiple people contracted the coronavirus during Amy Coney Barrett’s nomination ceremony in early October—including the president himself—the Trump team opted not to conduct contact tracing to contain the outbreak. Instead, on Monday, the president convened supporters yet again—this time in an evening ceremony on the White House balcony—to swear in Barrett. Justice Clarence Thomas gave Barrett the constitutional oath, without a mask. (ICYMI: Justice Thomas’s wife, Ginni Thomas, is a far-fight conspiracy theorist who is using her personal Facebook to amplify debunked claims of corruption by Joe Biden.)
- The Trump campaign continues to hold rallies, leaving a “trail of coronavirus outbreaks in his wake.” Even worse, at a rally on Tuesday night in Omaha, attendees were stranded for hours after buses failed to pick them up once the event was over. Temperatures dipped below freezing, resulting in seven attendees requiring hospitalization for health problems—including hypothermia. At least 30 people received medical attention following the event.
- Members of Pence’s team have tested positive for the virus, but rather than follow CDC guidelines to quarantine for fourteen days, the White House has declared Pence an “essential worker” in order to justify his continuing to campaign. (He’s not.)
+ While the president and vice president continue to flout CDC guidelines, hospitals across the country are becoming overwhelmed. Over the past month, the U.S. has seen an approximately 46 percent increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations. Hospitals across the country are nearing or exceeding capacity, demonstrating the urgent need for a coordinated national response to the pandemic and funding for health care costs.
On Friday, over 92,000 coronavirus infections were reported across the country, setting the highest single-day record since the start of the pandemic.
+ The Trump administration is set to announce Medicaid and Medicare will cover the cost of vaccines that receive emergency use authorization from the FDA. While this plan stops short of making sure everyone has access to a free vaccine, it’s a step in the right direction.
+ The urgency for a vaccine is becoming more pressing as we learn more about the long-term effects of COVID-19. According to researchers, severe COVID cases may cause negative cognitive outcomes that are equivalent to ten years of brain aging.
Luckily, people like 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu are working on the problem. Chebrolu recently won the Young Scientist Challenge for her discovery of a potential COVID-19 treatment—as if we needed more proof of the importance of women and girls of color in science.
+ A new study found infection rates decreased by half when comparing counties with mask mandates and those without. As we’ve known for months now, masks work. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S.’s leading expert on infectious diseases, supports a national mask mandate.
As Winter, Election and Pandemic Overlap—Take Care of Yourself
+ Mental health experts are worried about the overlap of the pandemic and regular seasonal depression. Seasonal affective disorder describes the depressed mood and changes in behavior some experience when days get shorter and the weather turns colder. In short, it’s a type of depression that occurs for four to five months out of the year.
As we’ve reported in past weeks, mental health has declined during the pandemic—especially for women and people of color—due to economic uncertainty and isolation, which can exacerbate the symptoms of depression.
And, as we near the presidential election, people are reporting heightened levels of anxiety. In fact, an American Psychological Association survey found 68 percent of Americans say the election is a “significant source of stress.” That’s an increase from the 2016 election, where only 52 percent of respondents agreed with that statement.
+ Fortunately, there are tools we can use to manage our mental health. Although therapy remains inaccessible to too many, there are concrete actions people can take to mind their mental health, according to mental health experts.
- Practice mindfulness when you feel stressed by taking a few moments to focus on your senses. What are you seeing, hearing, smelling or feeling? When you focus on your physical senses, your brain isn’t focusing on worrying.
- Avoid “doomscrolling” on social media by putting down your phone, especially before bedtime.
- Be aware we won’t know the outcome of the election for days or weeks while votes are counted. Experts say to go easy on yourself—self-compassion is essential in a society where we are expected to be happy all the time.
- Exercising can help you feel less anxious. Over and over again, research has shown that exercise is good for both your mental and physical health.
- Do nothing. No, really—spending time doing nothing can be beneficial. By spending time sitting down or taking a walk (without listening to a podcast or talking on the phone), you allow your brain much-needed break.
Repro Rundown: Abortion Under Attack
+ This week, Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill appealed a district court’s preliminary injunction that temporarily blocks the FDA from enforcing unnecessary restrictions upon patients looking to access mifepristone—a medication abortion drug.
According to Hill, “While the COVID-19 pandemic burdens many facets of life, it does not target abortion or reduce the need for proper safety protocols concerning abortion-inducing drugs.” But this simply is not true.
In June, a federal judge ruled that “in-person requirements” impose a “substantial obstacle” for those seeking a medication abortion during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Geneva Consensus Declaration—sponsored and signed by more than 30 countries during a virtual international ceremonial last Thursday—the declaration aims to affirm the “strength of the family and of a successful and flourishing society” and “to express the essential priority of protecting the right to life.”
It also states that countries are committed to reaffirming that there is “no international right to abortion, nor any international obligation on the part of States to finance or facilitate abortion.”
This, despite the UN Human Rights Committee’s assertion that access to abortion and prevention of maternal mortality are human rights.
+ According to a new report, hundreds of scam ‘crisis pregnancy centers’ are offering unproven ‘abortion reversal’ methods that claim to help stop medication abortions.
In 2019, the number of providers that offered “abortion pill reversal” increased by 30 percent and more than 200 consulting pregnancy centers also “support” the practice by referring people to a hotline that “counsels,” offers free ultrasounds and provides what the report calls “long-term support to reversal clients.” No conclusive medical evidence exists to prove that “abortion pill reversals” work.
+ Latinx voters are once again being targeted by anti-abortion, misinformation campaigns via Facebook and WhatsApp. The groups have taken to creating memes that falsely outline Joe Biden and Kamala Harris’s positions on abortion.
One meme includes the image of a crying newborn next to photos of Biden and Harris with text in Spanish that translates to: “These candidates support an abortion five minutes before birth and if it survives the abortion, they approve of killing the baby.”
“This is part of an ongoing campaign with far-right groups associated with the Catholic Church, focusing on pulling Latinx voters to the Republican side,” said Sam Woolley, project director for propaganda research at the Center for Media Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin—adding that he saw similar misinformation in 2016 and 2018 likewise targeting religious Latinx voters around abortion.
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