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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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On Tuesday, September 15, Axios co-founder Mike Allen and health care reporter Caitlin Owens hosted a conversation on the state of medicine and chronic pain, exploring how policymakers and professionals are approaching responsible long-term pain management, featuring Rep. Michael Burgess (R-Texas), Arthritis Foundation President & CEO Ann Palmer and Director of the Office of Pain Policy at the National Institutes of Health Dr. Linda Porter.

Rep. Burgess discussed the difference between Congress addressing the opioid crisis in 2017 and its failure to reach an agreement on the COVID stimulus.

  • On the opioid crisis response in 2017: "[That was] the way Congress is supposed to work. This was the legislative process being built from the ground up rather than top down."
  • How COVID-19 has exacerbating existing problems around resources in health care: "The downstream effects [are] disrupted cash flow for hospitals, medical practices, clinics. All of that has sort of compounded the chronic problems of lack of adequate resources."

Dr. Porter highlighted the effect of the pandemic on patients who experience chronic pain and discussed the recent spike in opioid overdoses:

  • On chronic pain during the pandemic: "If [patients] stop or slow treatments, their pain can get worse. Pain can be exacerbated by depression, which I think, given the isolation has been a big factor for people during COVID."
  • On patients struggling with opioid use disorders: "The rate of [opioid] overdose has vastly increased since COVID started...It's harder for [patients] because there may be a loss of jobs, a loss of income. And so all these things begin to contribute even more so to their opioid use disorder."

Ann Palmer unpacked the many ways that chronic pain impacts everyday life for patients.

  • "Pain prevents people from participating in life, may lead to a more sedentary lifestyle and the comorbidities associated with that, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure. It certainly leads to sleeplessness, and thus fatigue.

This event was a part two of a two-part series. You can watch part one here.

Thank you Pfizer & Lilly for sponsoring this event.

Go deeper

Updated Nov 13, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: The future of health care in America

On Friday, November 12, Axios's Sam Baker hosted a conversation on how to expand health insurance access and increasing pandemic concerns, featuring Sen. Tina Smith (D-Minn.) and President of The Foundation for Research on Equal Opportunity Avik Roy.

Sen. Smith discussed how the pandemic has exposed and exacerbated inequalities in American health care and highlighted the increasing need to expand telehealth options for vulnerable populations.

  • How telehealth can make mental health care more accessible: "The upsurge in depression, anxiety and also suicidal ideation are going up dramatically. These are things that telehealth can also help, not as a complete substitution for in-person care, but as a way of making care more accessible."

Avik Roy unpacked the current health care debate, focusing on the question of how to achieve universal coverage, how government subsidies support employer-based coverage, and where the Republican party stands on health care issues.

  • On the distinction between universal coverage and single-payer systems: "A lot of people on both sides of the debate don't appreciate that universal coverage is not the same thing as single payer government-run health care...a lot of countries in Europe, or at least a number of them, have achieved universal coverage with private insurance companies or private insurers."
  • Where the Republican party stands on health care: "There's no consensus among Republicans as to what they think about health care...there are those who say, let's repeal Obamacare and go back to the old pre-Obamacare system, then there are people in the middle who I think don't like being hammered on their lack of a plan or solution for the uninsured or for the affordability of health insurance."

Axios co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei hosted a View from the Top segment with CEO of OptumHealth Services at UnitedHealth Group Heather Cianfrocco and discussed making health care more accessible and affordable.

  • On lessons from the pandemic: "What we learned from the pandemic was that the things that already didn't work in the system were even more broken. But then we learned that as we come together with private-public partnerships, we can advance very quickly."

Closed captioning available below:

Thank you United Health Group for sponsoring this event.

Coronavirus hospitalizations top 100,000 for the first time

Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking ProjectHarvard Global Health Institute; Cartogram: Danielle Alberti and Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

More than 100,000 Americans are now in the hospital with coronavirus infections — a new record, an indication that the pandemic is continuing to get worse and a reminder that the virus is still very dangerous.

Why it matters: Hospitalizations are a way to measure severe illnesses — and severe illnesses are on the rise across the U.S. In some areas, health systems and health care workers are already overwhelmed, and outbreaks are only getting worse.

J&J and Merck to partner for COVID vaccine production to boost supply

Empty vials that contained a dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine against the COVID-19. Photo: Phill Magakoe/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden will announce Tuesday that pharmaceutical giant Merck will help Johnson & Johnson manufacture its newly authorized coronavirus vaccine to boost supply, a senior administration official tells Axios.

The big picture: The development has the potential to vastly increase supply, possibly doubling what the J&J could make on its own, the official said. The company has run into challenges while trying to expand its vaccine production to a global scale.