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August 2020

Healthcare workers of color get COVID-19 twice as often as white workers

Healthcare workers of color were more likely to care for patients with COVID-19, more likely to report using inadequate or reused protective gear and nearly twice as likely as white colleagues to test positive for the coronavirus, Harvard Medical School researchers found in a new study (Source: “Health Care Workers of Color Nearly Twice as Likely as Whites to Get COVID-19,” Kaiser Health News, Aug. 6, 2020).

The study, which was published in The Lancet, also showed that healthcare workers are at least three times more likely than the general public to report a positive COVID test, with risks rising for workers treating COVID patients.

Dr. Andrew Chan, a senior author and an epidemiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said the study further highlights the problem of structural racism, this time reflected in disparities in front-line roles and personal protective equipment provided to people of color.

“If you think to yourself, ‘Healthcare workers should be on equal footing in the workplace,’ our study really showed that’s definitely not the case,” said Chan, who is also a professor at Harvard Medical School.

Fighting climate change could avoid 4.5 million early deaths in U.S., study finds

The U.S. stands to avoid 4.5 million premature deaths if it works to keep global temperatures from rising by more than 2 degree Celsius, according to new research from Duke University (Source: “U.S. could avoid 4.5M early deaths by fighting climate change, study finds,” The Hill, Aug. 5).

The same study found working to limit climate change could prevent about 3.5 million hospitalizations and emergency room visits and approximately 300 million lost workdays in America.

Drew Shindell, a professor at Duke University, informed lawmakers during testimony Wednesday that action to limit climate change would amount to “over $700 billion per year in benefits to the U.S. from improved health and labor alone, far more than the cost of the energy transition.”

Shindell, who conducted the study alongside researchers at NASA, unveiled the findings during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the economic and health consequences of climate change. 

Trump administration greenlights Medicare telehealth services in rural areas

The Trump administration is taking steps to give telehealth a broader role under Medicare, with an executive order that serves as a call for Congress to make doctor visits via personal technology a permanent fixture of the program (Source: “Trump wants broader role for telehealth services in Medicare,” Associated Press, Aug. 3).

The order President Donald Trump signed on Monday applies to one segment of Medicare recipients — people living in rural communities. But administration officials said it’s intended as a signal to Congress that Trump is ready to back significant legislation that would permanently open up telehealth as an option for all people with Medicare.

Monday’s executive order will also set in motion an experiment under which hospitals in rural communities could receive a more predictable stream of Medicare payments in exchange for delivering better performance on certain measures of quality.