Tuesday's health stories

Jul 14, 2020 - Health

Moderna's vaccine spurred immune system response to coronavirus

Moderna's stock rose 16% after hours on this news. Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Healthy volunteers who took Moderna's coronavirus vaccine candidate appeared to generate an immune system response to the virus, and there were "no trial-limiting safety concerns," according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Why it matters: The phase one trial is still small and does not definitively determine how effective the vaccine is. But Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, which is running the trial, told the Wall Street Journal that these data make it "pretty clear that this vaccine is capable of inducing quite good [levels] of neutralizing antibodies."

Jul 14, 2020 - Health

Fauci on who to trust amid coronavirus: "Stick with respected medical authorities"

When asked on Tuesday who the public can trust during the coronavirus pandemic, Anthony Fauci said that people "can trust respected medical authorities ... who have a track record of giving information and policy and recommendations based on scientific evidence and good data."

Why it matters: Fauci's comments come as the White House tries to sideline the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director in the middle of the pandemic. Multiple media outlets received a statement on Monday from an unnamed White House official that listed each time Fauci was "wrong on things" in COVID-19's early days.

Jul 14, 2020 - Health

Cleanest trains in memory

A contractor cleans a subway car at the 96th Street station in NYC. Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Transit authorities are busting out every trick in the book to coax riders back on trains and buses.

Why it matters: In regular times, riding on a subway car is dramatically safer than driving a car to the office. But social distancing is next to impossible on mass transit, especially during an airborne pandemic

Jul 14, 2020 - Health

CDC director: U.S. could get coronavirus "under control" in 4–8 weeks if all wear masks

If everyone in the U.S. wore a mask, the coronavirus pandemic could be "under control" within four to eight weeks, Centers for the Disease Control and Prevention director Robert Redfield said in a discussion led by medical journal JAMA on Tuesday.

The big picture: JAMA published an editorial on Tuesday co-authored by Redfield that points to research papers showing that the positivity rate of confirmed cases can decrease in populations with masking. "The time is now. We really need to embrace masking," he said.

Biden welcomes Trump wearing mask in public but warns "it’s not enough"

Joe Biden commended President Trump on Tuesday for choosing to wear a mask in public, but he quickly pivoted to arguing how the move shows just how bad the coronavirus crisis has gotten under Trump's leadership.

Why it matters: By leveling his charge at the top of speech on his $2 trillion plan to combat climate change, Biden sought to keep the focus on Trump’s personal and policy responses to the coronavirus. "Mr. President, ‘open everything now” isn’t a strategy for success, it’s barely a slogan," Biden said.

Lindsey Graham: "We don't have a Dr. Fauci problem"

Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) defended Anthony Fauci at a press conference Tuesday in the wake of attempts by anonymous Trump administration officials to undermine the nation's top infectious diseases expert.

What he's saying: "We don't have a Dr. Fauci problem. We need to be focusing on doing things that get us to where we need to go. So I have all the respect in the world for Dr. Fauci."

Jul 14, 2020 - Health

FCC chair: CARES Act brought 539 telehealth providers online

Photo credit: Axios screenshot

The CARES Act helped shift 539 health care providers online by providing $200 million in funding, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai said Tuesday at an Axios virtual event.

What he's saying: "Since April 13th when we opened up the window to telehealth providers submitting applications, we’ve now distributed funding to 539 applicants, allocated all $200 million of that money to 47 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. And this money is being distributed to a whole variety of institutions: bricks-and-mortar community health centers, mental health and behavioral health facilities and the like. And they’re providing a variety of care towards up to $1 million. It’s already having a huge impact."

Watch the virtual event

Jul 14, 2020 - Health

Oscar Health CEO: Virtual health helped decrease ER overcrowding from COVID

Photo credit: Axios screenshot

Patients who used telehealth during the pandemic contributed to a decrease in emergency room visits by 40% nationwide, and by 80% among those 14 years old and younger, Mario Schlosser, co-founder and CEO of Oscar Health, said Tuesday at an Axios virtual event.

Why it matters: The decrease in ER visits showed many patients were regularly using telehealth services for non-emergencies. Virtual health care visits could become a default for check-ups, prescription refills and behavioral health even after the pandemic subsides, Schlosser added.

Texas GOP moves its convention online

The Texas delegation at the 2016 RNC. Photo: Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Texas Republican Party voted Monday to hold its convention this week online, after the state Supreme Court tossed an attempt to overturn a city order that banned the gathering.

Why it matters: The move ends a conflict between the state party and the city of Houston. The Texas GOP had tried to continue with its in-person convention despite the state's surge in coronavirus cases.

Jul 14, 2020 - Health

4 former CDC heads say Trump's undermining of agency puts lives at risk

CDC director Robert Redfield and President Trump. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Four former directors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blasted the Trump administration's "repeated efforts to subvert" agency guidelines related to reopening schools, accusing the White House in a scathing Washington Post op-ed of undermining science with "partisan potshots."

Why it matters: Former directors Tom Frieden, Jeffrey Koplan and David Satcher and acting head Richard Besser served in parts of the Obama, Bush and Clinton administrations. They said they "cannot recall over our collective tenure a single time when political pressure led to a change in the interpretation of scientific evidence."

Jul 14, 2020 - Sports

The NBA's YouTube generation documents life in Orlando bubble

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The NBA bubble at Walt Disney World demands a documentary and will surely get its own "30 for 30" one day. But as the action begins to unfolds, it's clear that the players, themselves, will be the primary storytellers.

Why it matters: The most unique sporting event in history (just ahead of every other event this year) will be documented by its participants, making it less of a traditional "sports season" and more of a must-see reality show.

PPP was not enough for small businesses

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has left much to be desired for needy small businesses around the U.S., and the overwhelming majority of recipients are about to exhaust their funding and may start laying off employees.

Why it matters: The PPP has been derided by some economists and researchers as inefficient and ineffective, but a new Goldman Sachs survey shows that even for the businesses and employees it helped, it has not been enough.

Jul 14, 2020 - Politics & Policy

How 2020 and the coronavirus are accelerating the future

Bruce Mehlman of Mehlman Castagnetti Rosen & Thomas, who tells Axios he spends about 50 hours every three months on his famous quarterly decks, has delved into all the ways the pandemic is bringing us the future faster.

Bruce's bottom line: If things feel historically disruptive, it's because they are.

Jul 14, 2020 - Health

More Republicans say they're wearing masks

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Nearly two-thirds of Americans — and a noticeably increasing number of Republicans — say they’re wearing a face mask whenever they leave the house, according to the latest installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: A weakening partisan divide over masks, and a broad-based increase in the number of people wearing them, would be a welcome development as most of the country tries to beat back a rapidly growing outbreak.

Jul 14, 2020 - Health

Quest reports longer waits for coronavirus tests results

Photo: John Tlumacki/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Quest Diagnostics said its average turnaround time for a COVID-19 test is now at "seven or more days," up from four to five days at the end of June. Its testing backlog is getting worse because of the high demand in parts of the country where infection is spreading.

Why it matters: Long backlogs make testing less useful — public health officials need to know what their local situation is like now, not what it was like a week ago. Delays are especially problematic if people who are infected continue to go about their lives while they wait for their results.

Jul 14, 2020 - Health

Study: 5.4 million Americans lost health insurance this year

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Roughly 5.4 million adults in the U.S. lost their health insurance from February to May after losing their jobs, according to a new estimate from Families USA, a group that favors the Affordable Care Act.

Why it matters: There are more adults under 65 without insurance in Southern states which are the same states setting new records for single-day coronavirus infections along with rising hospitalizations.