Baby Health in Winter First Edition: February 7, 2020

Baby Health in Winter

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News:
Patients Stuck With Bills After Insurers Don’t Pay As Promised

The more than $34,000 in medical bills that contributed to Darla and Andy Markley’s bankruptcy and loss of their home in Beloit, Wisconsin, grew out of what felt like a broken promise. Darla Markley, 53, said her insurer had sent her a letter preapproving her to have a battery of tests at the Mayo Clinic in neighboring Minnesota after she came down with transverse myelitis, a rare, paralyzing illness that had kept her hospitalized for over a month. (Weber, 2/7)

Kaiser Health News:
Feds Slow Down But Don’t Stop Georgia’s Contentious Effort To Ditch ACA Marketplace

“CMS is committed to working with states to provide the flexibility they need to increase choices for their citizens, promote market stability, and more affordable coverage,” a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, who declined to be identified, wrote in an email to KHN. “We are pleased to see states like Georgia take the lead in health care reform by creating innovative state based solutions.” Federal officials in recent weeks had requested additional information from Georgia, and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp on Wednesday asked for a delay in the evaluation of a large portion of the proposal. (Findlay, 2/7)

Kaiser Health News:
Women Shouldn’t Get A Bill For An IUD … But Sometimes They Do

After a few months on daily contraceptive pills, Erica M. wanted something more reliable. She wanted an intrauterine device, a form of long-acting reversible contraception that doctors call one of the most effective forms of birth control. (Erica’s last name has been withheld due to privacy concerns.) It shouldn’t have been a problem. Erica, 23 at the time, had insurance through work. Under the Affordable Care Act, most health plans must cover all methods of birth control without any cost sharing. In fact, the birth control pills she was using were fully covered — she paid nothing out-of-pocket. (Luthra, 2/7)

The New York Times:
Chinese Doctor, Silenced After Warning Of Outbreak, Dies From Coronavirus

He was the doctor who tried to sound a warning that a troubling cluster of viral infections in a Chinese province could grow out of control — and was then summoned for a middle-of-the-night reprimand over his candor. On Friday, the doctor, Li Wenliang, died after contracting the very illness he had told medical school classmates about in an online chat room, the coronavirus. He joined the more than 600 other Chinese who have died in an outbreak that has now spread across the globe. Dr. Li “had the misfortune to be infected during the fight against the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic, and all-out efforts to save him failed,” the Wuhan City Central Hospital said on Weibo, the Chinese social media service. “We express our deep regret and condolences.” (Buckley, 2/6)

The New York Times:
A Rare Online Revolt Emerges In China Over Death Of Coronavirus Whistle-Blower

They posted videos of the Les Misérables song, “Do You Hear the People Sing.” They invoked article No. 35 of China’s Constitution, which stipulates freedom of speech. They tweeted lines from a poem, “For whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.” The Chinese public have staged what amounts to an online revolt after the death of a doctor, Li Wenliang, who tried to warn of a mysterious virus that has since killed hundreds of people in China, infected tens of thousands and forced the government to corral many of the country’s 1.4 billion people. (Yuan, 2/7)

‘Light A Candle’: Death Of Chinese Doctor Sparks Mourning, Anger

News of Li’s death became the top top-read topic on China’s microblogging site Weibo overnight on Friday, with over 1.5 billion views, and was also heavily discussed in private WeChat messaging groups, where people expressed outrage and sadness. Some Chinese media outlets described him as a “hero who was willing to speak the truth” while other commentators posted poems, photos and drawings saluting him. The World Health Organization said on Twitter that it was “deeply saddened” by news of his death. (2/7)

The Wall Street Journal:
In China, Anger Simmers Over Coronavirus Doctor’s Death

China’s National Supervisory Commission, the country’s top anticorruption body, said Friday that it would send a special team to Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, to investigate the circumstances around Dr. Li’s death. The Wuhan municipal government, meanwhile, published a notice on its website Friday to pay tribute to Dr. Li, expressing profound sorrow and conveying condolences to his family. The National Health Commission and the health commissions of Wuhan and Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital, issued similar statements. (Cheng, 2/7)

The New York Times:
China Tightens Wuhan Lockdown In ‘Wartime’ Battle With Coronavirus

The Chinese authorities resorted to increasingly extreme measures in Wuhan on Thursday to try to halt the spread of the deadly coronavirus, ordering house-to-house searches, rounding up the sick and warehousing them in enormous quarantine centers. The urgent, seemingly improvised steps come amid a worsening humanitarian crisis in Wuhan, one exacerbated by tactics that have left this city of 11 million with a death rate from the coronavirus of 4.1 percent as of Thursday — staggeringly higher than the rest of the country’s rate of 0.17 percent. (Qin, Myers and Yu, 2/6)

The Associated Press:
New Virus Has Infected More Than 31,400 People Globally

A viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 31,400 people globally. The latest figures reported by health authorities as of Friday in Beijing:— China: 636 deaths and 31,161 confirmed cases on the mainland. In addition, Hong Kong has had 22 cases, including one death. Macao has had 10 cases. Most of the deaths have been in central Hubei province, where illnesses from the new type of coronavirus were first detected in December. (2/7)

The New York Times:
China Begins Testing An Antiviral Drug In Coronavirus Patients

China is forging ahead in the search for treatments for people sickened by the new coronavirus that has infected more than 28,000 people in a countrywide epidemic, killed more than 500 and seeded smaller outbreaks in 24 other nations. The need is urgent: There are no approved treatments for illnesses caused by coronaviruses. On Thursday, China began enrolling patients in a clinical trial of remdesivir, an antiviral medicine made by Gilead, the American pharmaceutical giant. (Grady, 2/6)

The Associated Press:
Experts Scramble, But New Virus Vaccine May Not Come In Time

The flu-like virus that exploded from China has researchers worldwide once again scrambling to find a vaccine against a surprise health threat, with no guarantee one will arrive in time. Just days after Chinese scientists shared the genetic map of the culprit coronavirus, researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health had engineered a possible key ingredient for a vaccine they hope to begin testing by April. (Neergaard, 2/6)

In Coronavirus Vaccine, Outbreak Expert Sees ‘Hardest Problem’ Of His Career

As China struggles to contain an epidemic caused by a new coronavirus, science is racing to develop vaccines to blunt the outbreak’s impact. Central to the effort is CEPI — the Oslo, Norway-based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations — a global partnership created to spearhead development of vaccines in just this type of emergency. Two weeks after China announced on Jan. 7 that a new coronavirus had ignited a fast-growing outbreak of pneumonia cases in the city of Wuhan, CEPI announced funding for three efforts to develop a vaccine to protect against the virus, currently known as 2019-nCoV. A week later, it added a fourth. (Branswell, 2/6)

The Wall Street Journal:
World Health Authorities Warn Virus Hasn’t Peaked After China’s Deadliest Day

Separately, Singapore—home to the second-largest number of cases outside mainland China—reported two new infections, including one with no apparent link to China. The city-state warned the public to be “prepared for the possibility of new infection clusters involving locals within the community,” and that future cases might not arise from recent travel to China or contact with travelers from that country. (Lin and Woo, 2/6)

The New York Times:
W.H.O. Fights A Pandemic Besides Coronavirus: An ‘Infodemic’

With the threat of the coronavirus growing, Aleksandra Kuzmanovic sat at her computer in Geneva on Monday and sent out an important public health email. She works for the World Health Organization and her aim was to assess and stop a global spread — not of the dangerous virus but of hazardous false information. She wanted to halt what her colleagues at the health agency are calling an “infodemic.” (Richtel, 2/6)

The Wall Street Journal:
Beijing Faults U.S. Stance On Coronavirus

Beijing has publicly criticized the U.S. for days over its response to the dangerous coronavirus, despite working in the background with American authorities and accepting U.S. aid to contain its spread in China. In an indication the tension and rhetoric aren’t derailing relations, China took a step Thursday toward implementing a trade deal the two counties signed last month, saying it would cut tariffs on some U.S. goods. (Areddy, 2/6)

The New York Times:
As Coronavirus Spreads, Mask Makers Go Into Overdrive

The relentless whir of machines echoing across a cavernous French factory floor this week is an unexpected result of the deadly virus that has nearly paralyzed cities in China and other parts of Asia. The company, Kolmi Hopen, happens to make an item that is suddenly one of the world’s hottest commodities: the medical face mask. The factory, in Angers, typically makes around 170 million masks a year, but in the last week orders arrived for a staggering half a billion, flooding the sales department’s inboxes at the rate of one every two minutes. (Alderman, 2/6)

The Wall Street Journal:
How China Built Two Coronavirus Hospitals In Just Over A Week

China on Thursday completed the second of two new hospitals in Wuhan, the city at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak, in a matter of days to help combat the fast-spreading virus. The outbreak is straining the resources of Wuhan’s front-line hospital staff, who have been forced to turn patients away because of a lack of beds and basic supplies. (Wang, Shu and Umlauf, 2/6)

China Virus Forces White Collar Class To Work From Home

In a nation unaccustomed to widespread working from home, China’s coronavirus epidemic is forcing millions of white-collar workers to get used to business outside the office. With millions of companies keeping staff away to curb contagion, demand is surging for chat apps that employees are adjusting to use from living rooms, kitchens and home offices. (Horwitz, Yang and Tham, 2/7)

The New York Times:
‘I Keep Hearing Painful Coughs’: Life On Quarantined Cruise Ship

Things were looking up on Thursday for the more than 2,000 passengers quarantined on a cruise ship in Yokohama, Japan: Meals were coming on a more regular schedule. The internet was upgraded to a wider bandwidth. And there was even official approval to breathe some fresh air. Still, on the second day of a planned two-week quarantine, there was persistent concern about the spreading coronavirus and dread about long days ahead stuck inside the cabins. (Kwai, 2/6)

Hong Kong Residents Hoard Toilet Paper, Noodles As Coronavirus Fears Mount

Panicky Hong Kong residents scooped loads of tissues and noodles into supermarket trolleys on Friday despite government assurances that supplies would be maintained during an outbreak of a new coronavirus that emerged in mainland China last month. Hong Kong has had 24 cases of the virus, and one of only two deaths outside mainland China where almost 640 people have died in the outbreak. (2/7)

Los Angeles Times:
Five Hospitalized As Coronavirus Quarantine Begins In San Diego

Shortly after touching down in San Diego, four of 167 passengers on a quarantine flight that landed Wednesday morning at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar were transported to local hospitals after showing symptoms of coronavirus infection, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Wednesday night. By Thursday evening, a fifth person had been hospitalized. (Sisson, 2/6)

The Associated Press:
Officials: Texas, Nebraska Arrivals Shouldn’t Be Ill

Hundreds of Americans being evacuated from China over a viral outbreak will be quarantined in Texas and Nebraska, officials said Thursday, stressing that it was unlikely that anyone will arrive there with signs of illness. Officials said about 70 Americans will be flown into Omaha and quarantined at a nearby Nebraska National Guard training base. In Texas, Lackland Air For Base in San Antonio was preparing to quarantine as many as 250 people who could arrive as soon as Friday, said Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control’s division of high consequence pathogens and pathology. (Funk, 2/6)

The Washington Post:
Americans Quarantined For Coronavirus On Military Bases Share Experiences

Jarred Evans has explored every inch of the Air Force barracks where he has lived under federal quarantine for the past eight days. He has measured out its exact length: 0.45 miles. He has run through every stairwell, hallway and parking lot row hundreds of times, trying to keep in shape and stay sane. “It’s all in the mind. You have to stay mentally strong,” said Evans, 27, who was playing American football professionally in Wuhan, China, before he became one of 195 evacuees now living at the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, Calif. (Wan, Sun and Satija, 2/6)

The Wall Street Journal:
Scientists Link China Coronavirus To Intersection Of Humans And Wildlife

Scientists tracking how the deadly new coronavirus leapt from animals to humans said the likely source of the infection is bats, underscoring the health risks associated with humans’ increasing push into the habitats of wild animals. The 2019 novel coronavirus marks the third leap of its kind in 20 years following the SARS virus, which moved from bats to a mammal called a civet and then to humans beginning in 2002, and the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which was transmitted from camels in 2012. (Camero, 2/6)

The Wall Street Journal:
Plagues From The Animal Kingdom

Earlier this week, the still-rising death toll in mainland China from the coronavirus surpassed the 349 fatalities recorded during the 2003 SARS epidemic. Although both viruses are believed to have originated in bats, they don’t behave in the same way. SARS spread slowly, but its mortality rate was 9.6%, compared with about 2% for the swift-moving coronavirus. Statistics tell only one part of the story, however. Advances in the genetic sequencing of diseases have revealed that a vast hinterland of growth and adaptation precedes the appearance of a new disease. Cancer, for example, predates human beings themselves: Last year scientists announced that they had discovered traces of bone cancer in the fossil of a 240-million-year-old shell-less turtle from the Triassic period. (Foreman, 2/6)

The Associated Press:
FDA Crackdown On Vaping Flavors Has Blind Spot: Disposables

The U.S. government on Thursday began enforcing restrictions on flavored electronic cigarettes aimed at curbing underage vaping. But some teenagers may be one step ahead of the rules. Parents, researchers and students warn that some young people have already moved on to a newer kind of vape that isn’t covered by the flavor ban. (Perrone, 2/6)

The Wall Street Journal:
Juul Raises $700 Million From Investors

Juul Labs Inc. has raised more than $700 million in convertible debt to fund its operations, according to people familiar with the matter, as the e-cigarette maker confronts increasing financial and regulatory pressures. The fundraising round comes after several investors have slashed their valuation of the San Francisco company. Altria Group Inc. last week took a second big charge on its investment and now holds it at a price that values Juul at $12 billion, down from $38 billion in late 2018. (Maloney, 2/6)

Big Retail May Be Next To Disrupt Health Care

Move aside, Big Tech. If 2017 was the year technology giants like Apple set their sights on the $3.5 trillion U.S. health care market, 2020 is shaping up to be the year in which a new set of entrants join the race. Retail and telecom giants including AT&T, Best Buy, and Walmart are turning key assets like wireless networks, mobile workers, and foot traffic into health care tools. (Brodwin, 2/6)

The Wall Street Journal:
N.J. Jury Orders J&J To Pay $750 Million In Punitive Damages In Latest Baby Powder Verdict

A New Jersey state jury on Thursday ordered Johnson & Johnson to pay $750 million in punitive damages to four people who said their use of the company’s talcum powders caused a rare cancer, the latest legal loss for the health-care giant. The judge presiding over the trial, Ana C. Viscomi of New Jersey Superior Court, citing state law, said she planned to reduce the punitive award to $186.5 million, or about five times the $37.3 million in compensatory damages awarded by a separate jury in the first phase of the case last year. (Loftus, 2/6)

The Associated Press:
Kansas Fight Over Abortion Has Debate Turned ‘On Its Head’

Kansas legislators considering a proposed amendment to the state constitution on abortion are raising the spectre of women being forced back into going to unsafe and unclean “back alley” clinics if their measure does not pass. But in a twist away from what’s typical in such debates, anti-abortion lawmakers were making the argument Thursday as the House gave first-round approval to the proposed amendment. The measure would overturn a Kansas Supreme Court decision last year declaring access to abortion a “fundamental right” under the state’s Bill of Rights. (Hanna, 2/6)

The Associated Press:
Abortion Measure Clears Another Key Hurdle In Florida

Republican lawmakers in Florida moved closer to enacting legislation to require parental consent before a minor can get an abortion, clearing a key hurdle Thursday in the state Legislature. After a civil but passionate hourlong debate, the Senate voted 23-17 along party lines to endorse the measure, which now awaits action in the state House. Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has said he supports the effort in the GOP-led Legislature. (Caina Calvan, 2/6)

The Associated Press:
Virginia Lawmakers Pass Protections For LGBTQ People

Virginia lawmakers passed comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation Thursday that advocates said makes the state the first in the South to enact such protections for LGBTQ people. The measures advanced on bipartisan votes, 59-35 in the House and 30-9 in the Senate as newly empowered Democrats continued to advance bills that Republicans blocked for years. Each chamber still must take up the other’s measure in procedural votes before the legislation can be sent to the governor, who supports it, for final approval. (2/6)

The Washington Post:
Virginia Embraces Gay Rights With First-In-The-South Protections

“Its sends a message that the commonwealth is a safe and welcoming place for all people,” said Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), who was Virginia’s first openly gay legislator when he joined the House of Delegates in 2004. Today, the General Assembly has a five-member LGBT Caucus, including Del. Danica A. Roem (D-Prince William), the first openly transgender state lawmaker elected in the country. (Vozzella, 2/6)

The Associated Press:
Auditor: More Than $4M Stolen From Mississippi Welfare Funds

Mississippi’s state auditor said Thursday that investigators believe at least $4 million in federal welfare money was stolen by the former head of the state welfare agency and others in the nation’s poorest state. At least $48,000 of that paid for a luxury drug rehabilitation program for a former pro wrestler, according to indictments issued Wednesday, which also alleged a politically connected nonprofit administrator and her son took more than $4 million __ including more than $2 million invested in two Florida medical companies. (2/6)

The Hill:
Five New Measles Cases Reported In Los Angeles Area

Five cases of measles were confirmed in Los Angeles County on Wednesday, with the local Department of Public Health warning that the local outbreak included four residents and an “unimmunized, international visitor.” The department listed 33 public places where that confirmed case was known to have been between Jan. 26 and Sunday. (Budryk, 2/6)

The Washington Post:
Akron Children’s Hospital Surgeon Robert Parry Becomes An Artist After Surgery, Lifting The Spirits Of Young Patients

One of the most traumatic days of Susan McFrederick’s life was watching her son, Witt, get wheeled away for surgery to fix a ruptured intestine hours after he was born in 2011. But after the operation at Akron Children’s Hospital in Ohio, McFrederick, a mother of six, and her husband, Rodd McFrederick, burst into tears for a different reason: Across the incision on their newborn son’s belly was a sweet winter scene, hand-drawn on his bandages. (Free, 2/5)

The Associated Press:
San Francisco To Open Tent ‘Sobering’ Center For Meth Users

A center for people experiencing methamphetamine-induced psychosis will open in San Francisco to help them get sober in a safe place, the latest effort to address the city’s rising drug overdoses and rampant street drug use. The center, believed to be the first in the U.S. specifically for people who are high on methamphetamine, will open late this spring on a city-owned parking lot in the Tenderloin neighborhood, where streets are littered with syringes and addicts congregate, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday. (2/6)

The New York Times:
Young Father Was Investigated 4 Times. Then His Newborn Died.

The young father was arrested after his 6-week-old son was found lifeless in his crib in the Bronx one morning last week. Investigators had found undated video on a baby monitor of him pressing down on a pillow over the tiny boy’s head and charged him with murder. But it was not the first time the authorities had heard about the father, Teshawn Watkins. (Southall, 2/7)

The Washington Post:
Adventist To Manage Howard University Hospital

Howard University Hospital has signed an agreement with Adventist HealthCare to manage the hospital’s operation as an initial step toward a possible acquisition and replacement of the troubled medical center, officials announced Thursday. Wayne A.I. Frederick, Howard University Hospital’s president, said that he wanted to reassure the community that the new arrangement will strengthen the teaching hospital’s historical mission of training African American physicians and preparing undergraduates for medical school while providing care for some of the city’s poorest residents. (Kunkle and Douglas-Gabriel, 2/6)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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