Friday, October 2, 2020 | Kaiser Health News

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Longer Looks: Interesting Reads You Might Have Missed

Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to sit back and enjoy. This week’s selections include stories on COVID, dyslexia, selective mutism and mysterious ankle pain.

The Wall Street Journal:
Why Hospitals Can’t Handle Covid Surges: They’re Flying Blind 

El Centro Regional Medical Center was overrun with dozens of Covid-19 patients in May, with nowhere to send the critically ill. The only other hospital in Imperial County, Calif., also was swamped. Chief Executive Adolphe Edward called the state’s emergency medical services director, asking him to intervene. “Please, please help us,” he pleaded. Doctors and nurses at El Centro swapped text messages and made phone calls, blindly searching for openings at other hospitals. (Evans and Berzon, 9/30)

The New York Times:
Ski, Party, Seed A Pandemic: The Travel Rules That Let Covid-19 Take Flight 

They came from across the world to ski in the most famous resorts of the Austrian alps. Jacob Homiller and his college friends flew in from the United States. Jane Witt, a retired lecturer, arrived from London for a family reunion. Annette Garten, the youth director at a tennis club in Hamburg, was celebrating her birthday with her husband and two grown children. They knew in late February and early March that the coronavirus was spreading in nearby northern Italy, and across the other border in Germany, but no one was alarmed. Austrian officials downplayed concerns as tourists crowded into cable cars by day, and après-ski bars at night. (Gebrekidan, Bennhold, Apuzzo and Kirkpatrick, 9/30)

USA Today:
Colleges Are Exploding With COVID And Have Lax Testing. One School Is Keeping Cases Down.

Colby College students stick out here in this New England town. They’re young, often wearing the school’s blue and white, and almost always in a mask, even when common sense or personal convenience would suggest alternative options. Walking to a car or waiting for a bus in town? Colby students wear masks. Running laps around a field? Colby students wear masks. Reading alone in a grassy patch on campus? Colby students wear masks. (Quintana, 10/1)

The Atlantic:
K: The Overlooked Variable That’s Driving The Pandemic 

There’s something strange about this coronavirus pandemic. Even after months of extensive research by the global scientific community, many questions remain open. Why, for instance, was there such an enormous death toll in northern Italy, but not the rest of the country? Just three contiguous regions in northern Italy have 25,000 of the country’s nearly 36,000 total deaths; just one region, Lombardy, has about 17,000 deaths. Almost all of these were concentrated in the first few months of the outbreak. What happened in Quito, Ecuador, in April, when so many thousands died so quickly that bodies were abandoned in the sidewalks and streets? Why, in the spring of 2020, did so few cities account for a substantial portion of global deaths, while many others with similar density, weather, age distribution, and travel patterns were spared? What can we really learn from Sweden, hailed as a great success by some because of its low case counts and deaths as the rest of Europe experiences a second wave, and as a big failure by others because it did not lock down and suffered excessive death rates earlier in the pandemic? Why did widespread predictions of catastrophe in Japan not bear out? The baffling examples go on. (Tufekci, 9/30)

The COVID-19 Charmer: How A Self-Described Felon Convinced Elected Officials To Try To Help Him Profit From The Pandemic 

The video had the feel of a public service announcement, as the two elected leaders sat around a table in Austin and discussed the importance of COVID-19 testing.It was late March, and these men were among those tasked with organizing the response to the emerging coronavirus pandemic: Ruben Becerra, the chief executive of fast-growing Hays County, just south of Austin; and Tommy Calvert, a county commissioner representing a chunk of San Antonio, about 70 miles to the south. Also present was Becerra’s chief of staff, Alex Villalobos. The man hovering around the officials, holding a small needle in his gloved hands, was a convicted felon turned serial entrepreneur named Kyle Hayungs. Hayungs, 37, was seeking telemedicine contracts across the state. He had no official government role, but he did have access to thousands of COVID-19 antibody tests through a company he hoped to make his partner. (Davila, Schwartz and Churchill, 9/25)

The New York Times:
Black Microbiologists Push For Visibility Amid A Pandemic

Black in Microbiology Week will be hosted entirely through virtual platforms like Twitter and Zoom. The event will feature seven days of talks, panels and online discussions, spanning a range of topics under the microbiology umbrella, including the coronavirus, and addressing disparities in medicine, education and career advancement. Everything is free and accessible to the public, and will be live-captioned. Registration is required to attend. “This is really a chance to welcome new voices and amplify those that have not been heard,” said Michael D. L. Johnson, a microbiologist and immunologist at the University of Arizona who will take part in Friday’s Black in Bacteriology panel. (Wu, 9/28)

The Wall Street Journal:
How The Coronavirus Crisis Threatens To Set Back Women’s Careers 

Kate Deisseroth spent two decades building a career as an orthopedic surgeon that now, in the Covid era, looks precarious. As the single mother of twin 10-year-olds in Lebanon, Pa., the Air Force veteran made pre-pandemic life run like clockwork with an intricate schedule of early school drop-off, after-school programs and babysitters who watched her sons when she was called to the hospital for emergencies. That support system all fell away when the pandemic struck and her boys’ school went online. (Weber and Fuhrmans, 9/30)

Also —

Scientific American:
How Decoding Dyslexia Can Help Decode The Mind 

During this school year, thousands of children will begin reading. Despite their best efforts, however, up to a tenth of them will struggle. If we were aware of the early warning signs, we could help these children by using research-based remediation. But dyslexia is poorly understood by the public. Unveiling these misconceptions can help millions of children. It could also help decode the human mind. To shed light on the public view of dyslexia, let us take a moment to play clinician. Consider John and Jack, who suffer from reading difficulties. John confuses letters, like b and d, while Jack struggles to link letters with sounds; he doesn’t recognize that kat sounds like the name of a familiar animal. Which one has a reading disorder? (Berent, 9/27)

The New York Times:
Sometimes It’s Not Just Shyness 

My daughter’s silence in preschool wasn’t prompted by shyness or defiance, nor is she on the autism spectrum. Yet those are common misconceptions surrounding the disorder with which she was diagnosed: selective mutism. Selective mutism, which affects as many as 1 in 140 children (though estimates vary), is characterized by an ability to speak freely in specific situations (at home with parents and siblings) while being unable to speak in others (such as in the classroom, park or even their living room when outsiders are present). (Kordova, 9/28)

The Washington Post:
Ankle Pain Led To Ominous Medical Mystery 

When he turned 42, Ram Gajavelli made himself a promise: he would take better care of his health. But in August 2017, a few months after the software engineer began exercising regularly, his left ankle grew swollen and painful, even though he didn’t remember injuring it. Over the next 18 months, the pain spread to his back, shoulders and feet. Meanwhile several teeth, which had looked normal six months earlier, became riddled with decay. (Boodman, 9/26)

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