KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: When It Comes To COVID-19, States Are On Their Own

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At least so far, states that reopened their economies are not seeing a major spike in cases of COVID-19. But it remains unclear if that is because the coronavirus is not spreading, because the data is lagging or because the data is being manipulated.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said he's taking the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure after he was exposed to a White House valet who tested positive for the coronavirus. Despite the fact that there is no data to suggest the drug works to prevent infection, the president's endorsement has apparently led to new shortages for patients who take the medication for approved purposes.

This week's panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Alice Miranda Ollstein of Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Kimberly Leonard of Business Insider.

Among the takeaways from this week's podcast:

  • As federal and state officials push to reopen the economy, there have been questions about the coronavirus data they are using. Sometimes they combine the number of diagnostic tests — which show if someone is currently infected with the virus — with the number of antibody tests — which show if a person once had the virus.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has been the lead federal agency in other serious disease outbreaks, is relegated to a backup role on the coronavirus. That points to the difference in trust levels between the public and the White House, which has emphasized the reopening of the economy rather than public health.
  • So much attention is focused on the race to get a successful vaccine. But even if researchers are able to produce one, distribution to millions of Americans will be a logistical problem.
  • Public health officials are pushing hard for Americans to wear face coverings in public, but certain groups are resisting. Polling finds that most Americans don't object to wearing a mask, but it is a significant change in the U.S. culture and also a key change in public health recommendations. That shift has added to the confusion and may have led to some of the resistance.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:

Julie Rovner: Kaiser Health News' and The Guardian's “Lost on the Frontline,” by the staffs of KHN and The Guardian

Kimberly Leonard: Business Insider's “How Coronavirus Will Permanently Change Healthcare, According to 26 Top Industry Leaders,” by Lydia Ramsey, Kimberly Leonard and Blake Dodge

Margot Sanger-Katz: The Atlantic's “Why the Coronavirus Is So Confusing,” by Ed Yong

Alice Miranda Ollstein: Politico's “Politics Could Dictate Who Gets a Coronavirus Vaccine,” by Sarah Owermohle

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