Sources and updates, March 19

  • Long-term effects of COVID-19 on kids: The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) recently published a report about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted children and families. It includes a variety of health impacts (physical, behavioral, mental), interventions taken by schools and other institutions, access to healthcare coverage, impacts of COVID-related economic policies, and recommendations for addressing this issue in the future. The report’s authors note that, for “almost every outcome” related to health and well-being, COVID-19’s impacts were worse for Black, Hispanic/Latino, Native American, and low-income families.
  • Shorter sleep duration during the pandemic: On a similar topic: the CDC’s Preventing Chronic Disease journal recently published an article about teenagers’ sleep habits during the pandemic. The study used data from the 2021 Adolescent Behaviors and Experiences Survey, a nationally-representative survey of high school students. About three-quarters of students surveyed slept for less than eight hours a night, and students who slept less were more likely to report that doing their schoolwork became more difficult during the pandemic. While shorter sleep was becoming an issue before COVID-19, this study shows how COVID-related stress may have exacerbated the problem.
  • Maternal mortality keeps getting worse: This week, the CDC released its most recent, official statistics on maternal mortality in the U.S. The new data reflect deaths in 2021, and show that mortality rates rose to about 33 deaths per 100,000 births, compared to rates closer to 20 per 100,000 births in 2020 and 2019. Mortality rates were more than 2.5 times higher for Black women compared to white women. For more recent data (and additional demographic figures), see this story and GitHub repository from MuckRock, also shared in last week’s newsletter.
  • WHO updates its variant tracking system: The World Health Organization announced on Thursday that it will start classifying subvariants of Omicron as distinct Variants of Interest (VOIs) and Variants of Concern (VOCs), and will assign new Greek-letter names to VOCs. Omicron lineages have accounted for the vast majority of coronavirus circulating globally since early 2022, but all subvariants have previously been clustered under that one Greek-letter name. Now, the WHO will give us new names as needed, hopefully making future variants a bit easier to talk about. The WHO also updated its definitions for classifying new subvariants as VOCs or VOIs.
  • Wastewater monitoring continues to expand: Two updates about local wastewater surveillance programs caught my attention this week. First, the City of Chicago’s public health department has announced it will start monitoring wastewater for polio, in collaboration with the University of Illinois, state health department, and national CDC. And second, two local agencies in the Bay Area, California recently started testing wastewater for traces of drugs, including fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, and nicotine. We’ll likely see more announcements like this across the U.S. as agencies continue to expand their wastewater surveillance programs beyond COVID-19.

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