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The new Apple Watch Series 6. Photo: Apple

The newest version of the Apple Watch is part of a slew of devices that enable people to monitor their health away from a doctor's office.

Why it matters: The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift to health monitoring in the home, and companies are rushing to meet the demand.

What's happening: Apple on Tuesday announced its Watch Series 6, with a focus on the device's health capabilities.

  • Already able to detect heart rate, perform an electrocardiogram and track physical activity, the new version can now determine blood oxygen levels through LED clusters and photodiodes.
  • Blood oxygen saturation can be a useful indicator of health, especially during the pandemic. Many severe cases of COVID-19 are marked by alarmingly low blood oxygen levels, even before patients begin experiencing respiratory distress.

Details: The new Apple Watch is one of many remote health monitoring devices being rolled out by tech and health companies alike.

  • The change is being driven by more accurate devices as well as a shift in patients themselves, who increasingly want to optimize wellness, not just avoid illness.
  • "This is a golden moment for distributed medicine and at-home diagnostics," says Siddarth Satish, the CEO of Gauss, a machine-vision startup that developed the first completely at-home COVID-19 test with the biotech company Cellex.

Yes, but: It's still not clear exactly how many of these devices "ultimately fit into a user’s care continuum," notes Erin Brodwin in STAT News.

Go deeper: Apple just significantly deepened its bet on services

Go deeper

Bryan Walsh, author of Future
Dec 16, 2020 - Health

How mass rapid tests could help curb the pandemic

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Vastly expanded approval and distribution of rapid, at-home tests represents a powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19 — and just possibly, the future of disease diagnostics.

Why it matters: Vaccines will take time to arrest the spread of the coronavirus — even without problems around distribution and acceptance. Some experts believe mass rapid testing could quickly identify who is really at risk of spreading COVID-19 and turn around the out-of-control pandemic in the U.S.

31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Beto not even best Dem against Abbott

Beto O'Rourke speaks at a rally at the Texas State Capitol in June. Photo: Sergio Flores/Getty Images

Actor Matthew McConaughey’s nine-point lead in a theoretical matchup against Greg Abbott shows just how vulnerable the hard-right Texas governor could be in a general election.

Why it matters: Abbott has won conservative accolades for his abortion, mask and vaccine bans. Axios reported Sunday that former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to announce a gubernatorial challenge — but a recent poll shows he’s not even the most popular Democrat in the state.

32 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Delayed maps upend midterm campaigns

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Midterm candidates are panicking about how the congressional maps will ultimately be drawn, with several strategists telling Axios campaigns are in limbo.

Why it matters: Candidates are unsure if the district they're targeting will remain intact or be reshaped by the process. The uncertainty is especially vexing to Democrats, who are vying to maintain their narrow margin in the House.

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