Sources and updates, June 4

  • Medicaid coverage losses by state: KFF Health News published a story this week sharing new data on the Americans who lost Medicaid coverage due to the end of a COVID-19 policy that prevented states from kicking people off the insurance during earlier stages of the pandemic. More than 600,000 people in 14 states have lost coverage since April 1, according to reporter Hannah Recht’s analysis. That represents about 36% of the people whose Medicaid eligibility was up for review in these states, though the number is much higher in some states (about 80% in Oklahoma). Recht also published the underlying data from her analysis for other reporters to use.
  • Library of Congress COVID-19 history project: The Library of Congress has announced a new project to collect COVID-19 oral history stories, partnering with the StoryCorps interview archive. Congress has provided funding for the COVID-19 project, which will provide grants to researchers working to document the experiences of specific groups. This project is focusing on frontline workers and the survivors of people who died from COVID-19, but other Americans are welcome to share their stories through the StoryCorps website.
  • Children often cause household COVID-19 spread: Researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Kinsa, a health tech company, used data from smart thermometers to track how the coronavirus spreads inside households. Among about 39,000 instances of household transmission, a child was the initial case 70% of the time. The study suggests that children are major drivers of disease spread, especially during the school year; it also demonstrates the potential utility of smart thermometer data. (For more about Kinsa, see this post from last fall.)
  • Disproportionate COVID-19 impacts within a city: Another study that caught my attention this week: researchers at the University of Texas at Austin and collaborators evaluated how severe COVID-19 impacts differed by ZIP code within the city of Austin. Their analysis found that ZIP codes with more vulnerable populations (based on the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index) had higher rates of COVID-19 cases, but were less likely to have their cases reported. When limited surveillance data are available, the researchers suggest, health agencies should direct resources to more vulnerable communities.
  • Assessing who’s not connected to public sewers: One commonly-cited limitation of wastewater surveillance data is that about one in five U.S. households aren’t connected to public sewers. A new preprint from scientists at Harvard University and Biobot Analytics looks at this issue in more detail, using publicly available datasets describing sewer connectivity. The researchers found that, overall, some demographic groups (such as Native Americans, wealthier people in rural areas, etc.) are less likely to be connected to public sewers, as are some regions (such as Alaska and Navajo Nation). But public datasets have many gaps and biases, making it challenging to thoroughly assess this problem. Lead author QinQin Yu has a Twitter thread with more details.

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