COVID-19/coronavirus

Children could face long-term education and health challenges following pandemic, experts warn

After more than a year of isolation, widespread financial insecurity and the loss of an unprecedented amount of classroom time, experts say many of the youngest Americans have fallen behind socially, academically and emotionally in ways that could harm their physical and mental health for years or even decades (Source: “Damage to Children’s Education — And Their Health — Could Last a Lifetime,” Kaiser Health News, July 1).

“This could affect a whole generation for the rest of their lives,” said Dr. Jack Shonkoff, a pediatrician and director of the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University. “All kids will be affected. Some will get through this and be fine. They will learn from it and grow. But lots of kids are going to be in big trouble.”

Many kids will go back to school this fall without having mastered the previous year’s curriculum. Some kids have disappeared from school altogether, and educators worry that more students will drop out. Between school closures and reduced instructional time, the average U.S. child has lost the equivalent of five to nine months of learning during the pandemic, according to a report from McKinsey & Co. that was released in December.

Educational losses have been even greater for some minorities. Black and Hispanic students — whose parents are more likely to have lost jobs and whose schools were less likely to reopen for in-person instruction — missed six to 12 months of learning, according to the McKinsey report.


CDC extends national moratorium on evictions

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has extended a moratorium on evictions until the end of July (Source: “CDC Extends Eviction Moratorium Through July,” National Public Radio, June 24).

The ban had been set to expire next week, raising concerns that there could be a flood of evictions with some 7 million tenants currently behind on their rent.

The Biden administration says the extension is for "one final month" and will allow time for it to take other steps to stabilize housing for those facing eviction and foreclosure. The White House says it is encouraging state and local courts to adopt anti-eviction diversion programs to help delinquent tenants stay housed and avoid legal action.

The federal government will also try to speed up distribution of tens of billions of dollars in emergency rental assistance that's available but has yet to be spent. In addition, a moratorium on foreclosures involving federally backed mortgages has been extended for "a final month," until July 31.


DeWine announces end of COVID state of emergency

After more than a year, Ohio will no longer be in a state of emergency, Gov. Mike DeWine announced Thursday (Source: “Ohio’s state of emergency, more health orders to end tomorrow, DeWine says,” Middletown Journal News, June 17).

The governor declared a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic last March after three Ohioans tested positive for coronavirus.

The state is also lifting more health orders related to nursing homes, including restrictions on visitation, starting Friday. The only requirement that will remain in place is testing unvaccinated staff at nursing homes and assisted living centers for the virus twice a week.


Heart disease, diabetes, other leading causes of death up in 2020, federal data shows

The U.S. saw remarkable increases in the death rates for heart disease, diabetes and some other common killers in 2020, and experts believe a big reason may be that people stayed away from the hospital for fear of catching COVID-19 (Source: “US deaths from heart disease and diabetes climbed amid COVID,” Associated Press, June 9).

The death rates — posted online this week by federal health authorities — add to the growing body of evidence that the number of lives lost directly or indirectly to the coronavirus in the U.S. is far greater than the officially reported COVID-19 death toll of nearly 600,000 in 2020-21.

Earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that nearly 3.4 million Americans died in 2020, an all-time record. Of those deaths, more than 345,000 were directly attributed to COVID-19. The CDC also provided the numbers of deaths for some of the leading causes of mortality, including the nation’s top two killers, heart disease and cancer.

Earlier research done by demographer Kenneth Johnson at the University of New Hampshire found that an unprecedented 25 states, including Ohio, saw more deaths than births overall last year (most states typically have more births than deaths).


EEOC says employers can mandate vaccinations

U.S. companies can mandate that employees must be vaccinated against COVID-19, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission announced last week (Source: “US companies can mandate vaccinations, federal agency says,” USA Today, May 29). 

In a May 28 statement, the agency said that federal EEO laws do not prevent employers from requiring that all employees physically entering a workplace be vaccinated as long as employers comply with the reasonable accommodation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act and other laws.

Employers may also offer incentives to employees to get vaccinated, "as long as the incentives are not coercive," the statement said.


Rural areas of Ohio, U.S. lag behind in COVID-19 vaccine rates

Just 32% of the eligible population in Ohio’s 15 least populous counties are vaccinated, on average, according to an analysis of data from the Ohio Department of Health (Source: “In Ohio and U.S., vaccine coverage lags in rural areas,” Ohio Capital Journal, May 20).

This trails both the statewide and national average (about 48%), adding another piece to a vexing puzzle of vaccine hesitancy.

On Tuesday, the CDC published research finding the trend holds nationwide: COVID-19 vaccination coverage was lower in rural counties (38.9%) than urban counties (45.7%), according to an analysis of data from adults aged 18-and-up between Dec. 14 and April 10.

For Ohio, the split was slightly broader: 37.2% in rural counties vs. 45.3% in urban counties, according to the CDC.


Ohio updates mask mandate to align with new CDC guidance

Vaccinated Ohioans will no longer need to wear masks under state health orders that will be revised to align with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Source: “Ohio will change mask mandate for vaccinated Ohioans to follow CDC guidance,” Columbus Dispatch, May 14).

The orders will still require masks and social distancing for people who have not been vaccinated, Gov. Mike DeWine said Friday in a statement.

The revised order will stay in place until June 2, when remaining health orders that don't apply to long-term care or data collection will be lifted.

DeWine said Ohioans will have ample time before then to get vaccinated, and the state is awarding cash prizes and college scholarships to individuals who get at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.


Ohio drug overdose deaths top 5,000 in 2020

Drug overdoses killed more Ohioans in 2020 than in at least the previous 14 years, a grim milestone likely made possible by the pandemic (Source: “'Every death is a heartache:' More than 5,000 Ohioans died of a drug overdose in 2020,” Columbus Dispatch, May 7).

At least 5,001 Ohioans died of overdoses last year, according to a Columbus Dispatch analysis of mortality data from the Ohio Department of Health as of Tuesday.  The total number of overdose deaths in 2020 is likely to increase since county coroners have six months to investigate, meaning 2020 overdose deaths could climb further.

The COVID-19 pandemic undeniably contributed to the rise of overdoses in 2020, said Lori Criss, Director of the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services.

The pandemic changed life as Ohioans knew it, forcing many into isolation to stop the spread of the virus. In difficult times, it's more common for people to turn to drugs, or for those in recovery to relapse, Criss said.

Lockdowns across the world also led to one drug flooding the market: fentanyl. Fentanyl was readily available, is easy to transport and is often discreetly hidden in mail. Fentanyl was a factor in 81% of 2020 overdose deaths, Criss said.


U.S. ‘turning the corner’ in COVID-19 pandemic

Across the country, the outlook for the COVID-19 pandemic has improved, putting the United States in its best position against the virus yet (Source: “‘Turning the Corner’: U.S. Covid Outlook Reaches Most Hopeful Point Yet,” New York Times, May 6).

The nation is recording about 49,000 new cases a day, the lowest number since early October, and hospitalizations have plateaued at around 40,000, a similar level as the early fall. Nationwide, deaths are hovering around 700 a day, down from a peak of more than 3,000 in January.

“We’re clearly turning the corner,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Public health experts remain cautious, but said that while they still expect significant local and regional surges in the coming weeks, they do not think they will be as widespread or reach past peaks.

In the past, lulls in the pandemic were short-lived, giving way to the surge across the Sun Belt last summer, and the painful outbreak that stretched across the United States this winter.

But now, there is one crucial difference: More than half of American adults — 148 million people — have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, perhaps the biggest reason experts are optimistic that the improved outlook may last. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths have also fallen at a time when the weather is getting warmer, which, in many places, will allow people to spend more time outdoors, where the virus spreads less easily.


Public health officials concerned about sustaining resources after pandemic passes

After the pandemic is over, public health officials across the U.S. fear that they will be back to scraping together money from a patchwork of sources to provide basic services to their communities — much like after 9/11, SARS and Ebola (Source: “Public Health Experts Worry About Boom-Bust Cycle of Support,” Kaiser Health News/Associated Press, April 19).

Funding for the federal Public Health Emergency Preparedness program, which pays for emergency capabilities for state and local health departments, dropped by about half between the 2003 and 2021 fiscal years, accounting for inflation, according to Trust for America’s Health, a public health research and advocacy organization.

Spending for state public health departments dropped by 16% per capita from 2010 to 2019, and spending for local health departments fell by 18%, Kaiser Health News and the Associated Press found in a July investigation. At least 38,000 public health jobs were lost at the state and local level between the 2008 recession and 2019. Today, many public health workers are hired on a temporary or part-time basis. Some are paid so poorly they qualify for public aid. Those factors reduce departments’ ability to retain people with expertise.

The recently released HPIO Health Value Dashboard found that one reason Ohio ranks poorly for health value compared to most other states and D.C. is that Ohio’s “sparse public health workforce leads to missed opportunities for prevention.”

The report also found that “Ohioans spend a lot on downstream medical care, but investment in public health infrastructure is limited and prevention policies could be stronger.”