Sources and updates, June 19

  • Curative provides testing trends and commentary to reporters: Last week, I talked to Isaac Turner, chief technology officer at Curative, a COVID-19 testing company with more than 15,000 locations across the country. Curative staff keep a close eye on trends in test positivity and cycle threshold values (a measure of how infectious someone with COVID-19 may be), and share this information with health agencies. While the company doesn’t have a public dashboard, they’re eager to share data with reporters on request and discuss testing trends. For example, Turner told me that in recent weeks, there has been “almost no surge in testing” even though COVID-19 cases have clearly risen across the country. To reach out, you can contact PIO Alana at
  • Walgreens COVID-19 testing dashboard: Another source for testing trends, as government sources become less reliable, is the Walgreens dashboard—incorporating data from COVID-19 PCR testing at more than 5,000 Walgreens locations across the country. In partnership with Aegis Services, many of these test samples are sequenced or identified as specific variants via S-gene target failure. The Walgreens dashboard has a shorter lag time than the CDC’s variant prevalence estimates, so it may be a useful way to see trends in advance.
  • Kids under 5 can finally get vaccinated: As of yesterday, the CDC has formally recommended versions of both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines for children under age 5 after they received emergency use authorization from the FDA. This youngest age group can finally get vaccinated! I usually like to watch the FDA advisory committee meetings where new vaccines are discussed, but didn’t have the bandwidth to watch or report on the meetings this week; if you’d like to read up on them, I recommend the Your Local Epidemiologist and STAT News recaps.
  • Estimating lives saved by universal healthcare: A major new paper this week, by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health, estimates that if the U.S. had a single-payer universal healthcare system, the country may have saved 212,000 lives during the first year of the pandemic. They arrived at this estimate by analyzing data on Americans who lost their health insurance in 2020 or were already uninsured, combined with the impact of being uninsured on COVID-19 mortality. A universal healthcare system would have also saved over $100 billion in healthcare costs in 2020, the researchers found. Read more at Scientific American.
  • Long COVID may be less likely after an Omicron case: Another new study that caught my attention this week: researchers at King’s College London used the U.K.’s excellent statistics on Long COVID prevalence to compare the risks of long-term symptoms after a Delta infection to the risks after an Omicron infection. They found that the risk of Long COVID after an Omicron infection was about half the risk after a Delta infection, which is potentially pretty good news! Still, it’s still concerning that so many people are at risk for Long COVID after an Omicron infection considering the high case numbers driven by this variant, some outside researchers told NPR.
  • CDC study on COVID-19 risk for people with disabilities: And one more notable study: CDC researchers examined COVID-19 hospitalization rates among Medicare beneficiaries, comparing those who were on this healthcare plan due to disability to those on the plan due to age. They found that disability beneficiaries had 50% higher hospitalization rates, with the risk for hospitalization increasing with age in both groups. Also: Native American Medicare beneficiaries had the highest hospitalization rate of any racial or ethnic group.

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