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January 2021

Ohio COVID-19 deaths top 10,000

Coronavirus deaths during the 10-month-old pandemic hit five figures on Friday as the state reported 67 additional fatalities to raise the death toll to 10,057 (Source: ”Grim milestone: Ohio surpasses 10,000 COVID-19 deaths,” Columbus Dispatch, Jan. 15).

With a large majority of the deaths among seniors, the state targeted its opening salvos of vaccine doses to at-risk Ohioans in skilled-care nursing homes and then to other older Ohioans.

COVID-19 deaths accelerated throughout December and into January, with more than one-third of all fatalities being reported in the past six weeks.

Study: COVID drops U.S. life expectancy by a year, even more for people of color

The COVID-19 pandemic reduced life expectancy in the United States in 2020 by more than a year, from roughly 78.5 years to 77.5 years, with even larger drops for Latino and Black people, a new study found (Source: “COVID-19 reduced U.S. life expectancy, particularly among minorities,” United Press International, Jan. 14).

According to analysis published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,  life expectancy for Black people in the United States could fall by more than two years, while it may drop by more than three years for Latino people. For white people, it could fall by less than a year, according to the researchers.

The virus killed more than 336,000 people in the United States last year, due in part to higher fatality rates among Black and Latino people, compared to white people, the researchers said.

Researchers close in on potential treatment for meth addiction

Researchers think they may have found the first medication treatment for meth addiction, a significant step toward stemming the increase in overdose deaths seen in recent years (Source: “Study identifies first potential treatment for meth addiction,” The Hill, Jan. 13).

A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that a combination of two medications may be a safe and effective treatment for adults with moderate or severe methamphetamine use disorder.

The phase three clinical trial studied the effects of the combination of Naltrexone, which is approved to treat alcohol and opioid use disorder, and Wellbutrin, an antidepressant, on adults with moderate or severe methamphetamine use disorder. It compared the effects to a control group of patients receiving placebos.

Patients receiving the drug combination responded at a significantly higher rate than those in the control group and reported fewer cravings and improvements in their lives.

“We’re very excited about the results because until now, despite a lot of research that has gone into the field, there has not been any successful trials for the treatment of methamphetamine addiction that involve medications,” said Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, which conducted the trial.

DeWine announces plan for next phase of COVID-19 vaccine distribution

Gov. Mike DeWine on Thursday announced plans to begin distribution of COVID-19 vaccines to more groups of Ohioans later this month, starting with those ages 80 and older (Souce: “DeWine announces new distribution steps,” Youngstown Vindicator, Jan. 8).

In addition to Ohioans who are older, school employees also will be able to get the vaccine.

Vaccinations continue now in nursing homes and among front-line healthcare workers. This includes healthcare workers and personnel routinely involved in the care of COVID-19 patients, emergency medical responders and those who live and/or work in congregate settings, such as nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.

DeWine said the age 80 and older group includes up to 450,000 residents, and the vaccinations may come from several sources, including physicians, hospitals and local health departments. He said he expects to have roughly 100,000 doses for elderly Ohioans over the first several weeks.

On Friday, the Ohio Department of Health reported 9,535 additional positive tests for COVID-19 in Ohio, bringing the statewide total since the start of the pandemic to 762,603. Death reports from COVID-19 rose by 82 on Friday, bringing the total to 9,544 deaths of Ohioans with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic.

CDC: Drug overdose death rates accelerating amid pandemic

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the overdose epidemic has accelerated across the country and in Ohio (Source: “Overdose deaths remain high in Ohio, U.S. in 2020,” (Willoughby) News Herald, Jan. 2).

According to a recently released U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report, more than 81,000 overdose deaths reported between June 2019 and May 2020 were the most-ever reported in the country during a 12-month period.

The CDC stated that while overdose deaths were already increasing in the months preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, these latest figures “suggest an acceleration of overdose deaths during the pandemic.”

Ohio saw its most-ever overdose deaths in a single month in May. According to Harm Reduction Ohio’s analysis of the Ohio Department of Health’s preliminary mortality data, there were at least 557 overdose deaths that month. There were at least 487 overdose deaths in the state in June (a monthly record) and at least 446 in July (another monthly record).

ACA, Medicaid expansion reduce income inequality, study finds

Coverage gains made and subsidies offered under the Affordable Care Act reduced income inequality by more than 10% in 2019, according to a new study (Source: “ACA's coverage gains decreased income inequality: study,” Fierce Healthcare, Jan. 7).

The study from the left-leaning think tank Urban Institute, backed by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and published in Health Affairs, found that for a typical person in the bottom 10th percentile of income, those who enrolled in a plan under the ACA saw their incomes increase by an average of 18.8%.

In states that expanded Medicaid, their incomes rose by an average of 22%, the study found. The study also found that coverage gains led to reductions in income inequality within and between age and racial groups.