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CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. Photo: Susan Walsh/AP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Thursday declared racism "a serious public health threat."

Driving the news: Walensky highlighted the disproportionate impact of the coronavirus pandemic on communities of color, pointing to case and death counts, as well as economic and social effects.

What she's saying: "[T]he disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19. Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism," Walensky said in a statement.

  • "What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans. As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation," she added.
  • "Racism is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in community."
  • "These social determinants of health have life-long negative effects on the mental and physical health of individuals in communities of color."

What to watch: Walensky said the CDC will continue to study the impact of social determinants on health outcomes and make investments in racial and ethnic minority communities to address disparities related to COVID-19 and other health conditions.

  • The agency also launched a new web portal, "Racism and Health" that "will serve as a hub for the agency’s efforts and a catalyst for greater education and dialogue around these critical issues."

Go deeper: How the winter surge changed COVID disparities

Go deeper

Updated May 10, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Apr 8, 2021 - Health

The world is watching the FDA's AstraZeneca decision

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

AstraZeneca's coronavirus vaccine took yet another public relations hit yesterday, when the European Medicines Agency announced that the shot has a "possible" link to rare blood clots, and they should be listed as a "very rare" side effect of the vaccine.

What we're watching: Even before the link was announced, the U.S. didn't need the AstraZeneca vaccine, based on its existing supply of other shots. But what the Food and Drug Administration decides to do about the vaccine — if the company seeks U.S. authorization — will likely have global ramifications.

Apr 8, 2021 - World

Swiss students fake COVID-19 positives as prank, putting entire class in quarantine

A trio of students at a school in Basel, Switzerland, got more than they bargained for when they faked positive COVID-19 tests in a bid to get out of school, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: The episode highlights the tenuous loopholes in remote schooling students as well as possible issues with Switzerland’s COVID-19 contact tracing app, as the trio falsified SMS messages from the app.

The result: The prank resulted in 25 classmates — plus several teachers — at Basel’s Kirschgarten High School being quarantined for 10 days.

What's next: Although the school won't expel the students for their prank, it is planning to pursue criminal charges for falsifying “health-relevant documents,” reports Reuters.

  • “This is not just a childish prank, this is a serious incident,” said Simon Thiriet, a spokesperson for Basel’s education department.