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Even before pandemic struck, more US adults were uninsured

Updated


WASHINGTON (AP) — About 2.5 million more working-age Americans were uninsured last year, even before the coronavirus pandemic struck, according to a government report issued Wednesday.

The study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 14.5% of adults ages 18 to 64 were uninsured in 2019, a statistically significant increase from 2018, when 13.3% lacked coverage.


The increase in the uninsured rate came even as the economy was chugging along in an extended period of low unemployment. The findings suggest that even during good times, the U.S. was losing ground on coverage gains from the Obama-era health care overhaul.

Health insurance coverage has eroded under President Donald Trump, who is still trying to overturn the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare.” By contrast, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wants to expand the ACA and add a new public plan in a push to eventually cover all Americans.



The new numbers come from the CDC’s National Health Interview Survey, which is considered one of the government’s most authoritative reports. Lack of affordable coverage was the top reason given for being uninsured, cited by nearly 3 out of 4 surveyed.


In 2018, 26.3 million adults ages 18 to 64 were uninsured. Last year, that number rose to 28.8 million, CDC said.

The situation has only worsened since COVID-19 began to spread in the U.S. early this year, forcing a sudden economic shutdown that left millions out of work. How much worse is not yet known, because government surveys like the CDC’s have a significant lag time.


Initial estimates from private experts that suggested more than 25 million people could have become uninsured due to pandemic job losses appear to have been too high.

More recent estimates suggest there are 5 million to 10 million newly uninsured. In

Americans over 30 have been drinking more during the coronavirus pandemic, research shows

Americans over 30 have been drinking more during the coronavirus pandemic compared to this time last year, and there could be consequences to their physical and mental health, researchers reported Tuesday.



a group of people in a store: A customer gets rung out at Friendly Discount liquor store in Westbrook on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.


© Gregory Rec/Portland Press Herald/Getty Images
A customer gets rung out at Friendly Discount liquor store in Westbrook on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

Overall frequency of alcohol consumption increased by about 14% from 2019, the researchers reported in the journal JAMA Network Open. That increase averages out to about one additional drinking day per month by 75% of adults.

RAND Corporation sociologist Michael Pollard and colleagues analyzed a nationally representative sample of 1,540 people ages 30 to 80. The participants completed a survey about their drinking habits between April 29 and June 9 of 2019 and then again between May 28 and June 16 of 2020.

The volunteers reported they drank alcohol on more days every week. They also reported increases in the number of drinks they had; the number of heavy drinking days; and the number of alcohol related problems over the last 30 days between 2019 and 2020.

Frequency of drinking increased by 17% among women, 19% among people aged 30 to 59 and by 10% among White people.

Heavy drinking among women increased by 41% — about one additional day of heavy drinking for one in every five women. Nearly one in 10 women, or 39%, reported an increase in alcohol-related problems, the researchers found.

“At times of lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, alcohol consumption can exacerbate health vulnerability, risk-taking behaviors, mental health issues and violence,” the World Health Organization said in April.

The researchers say it’s important to watch for whether the increases in alcohol consumption persist over the pandemic, and whether there will be physical and mental health consequences as a result.

A dangerous combination

The uptick in drinking among adults isn’t necessarily a surprise. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism Director Dr. George Koob said that the US has seen similar increases in alcohol consumption during other times of crisis, like after the 9/11 terrorist attacks and some recent hurricanes.

However, the increase in drinking during this crisis could be especially dangerous. Experts say it may actually increase the risk of Covid-19 spread and severe illness.

Not only is alcohol often consumed in crowded settings, like bars and parties, said Koob; it lowers a person’s inhibitions, making it more likely people will allow close contact and talk more, raising the likelihood they could spread the virus.

Excessive alcohol use has been linked to a weakened immune system and other negative health effects, also.

“About half the people that have acute respiratory distress syndrome are individuals who have misused alcohol,” said Koob. “We worry that if you’re drinking excessively, that could set you up, if you contract the virus, with a more severe respiratory problem.”

Substance use issues could be on the rise

Experts are also concerned about substance use disorder. Increasing levels of alcohol consumption and sales indicate a rise could

Factbox: Trump, Biden Healthcare Differences in Spotlight Amid Pandemic, Supreme Court Fight | Top News

(Reuters) – Healthcare, always a top concern for U.S. voters, has taken on even greater importance amid a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 205,000 Americans and cost millions more their jobs.

The death of liberal Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, meanwhile, has raised the stakes of the upcoming legal battle over Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act, when the high court hears the Trump administration’s effort to repeal the law days after the Nov. 3 election.

Here is a look at some of the vast differences on healthcare policy between Republican President Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden:

Trump has ceded much of the response to the pandemic to the states, rather than pursuing a national effort to expand testing, coordinate contact tracing and acquire protective equipment in bulk. He has also sent mixed messages on masks, which public health experts have said are crucial to slowing the spread of the virus.

Since the spring, Trump has pressed governors to reopen their states and has called on public schools to return to in-person instruction, arguing that the “cure cannot be worse than the disease.” He has often downplayed the deadliness of the virus and at times publicly undermined his administration’s own experts.

Trump signed into law several relief bills that have delivered trillions of dollars to individuals and businesses, though congressional Democrats have demanded more spending. The administration also launched “Operation Warp Speed,” an effort to support development of a coronavirus vaccine.

Biden has vowed to “listen to the science,” even saying he would consider another national economic shutdown if experts recommend it. He has called for a national mask standard, though he has acknowledged he may not have the authority to mandate their use.

His coronavirus plan calls for scaling up testing and contact tracing and promises to appoint a “supply commander” to oversee supply lines of critical equipment.

Biden has also proposed reopening insurance marketplaces for people who lost coverage through their jobs, expanding paid sick leave, and increasing pay for frontline workers. He has questioned whether Trump may try to politicize the vaccine process to boost his own re-election chances.

After years of failed attempts by Republican lawmakers to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Trump has turned to other tools to undermine the sweeping healthcare law: executive power and the courts.

The Justice Department is backing a lawsuit brought by several Republican-led states seeking to overturn the entire ACA, a case the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear on Nov. 10 – one week after Election Day.

Justice Ginsburg’s death has deepened concerns among Democrats that the court, which previously upheld the law 5-4 in 2012, might rule against the ACA. Under the law, more than 20 million Americans have gained insurance coverage.

The Trump administration has not proposed a comprehensive replacement, despite Trump’s vow to deliver a better, less-costly healthcare system. On Thursday, he signed two executive orders as part of what he called

What you need to know about catching up during the COVID-19 pandemic

<span class="caption">Getting children vaccinated can protect them and others from potentially deadly diseases.</span> <span class="attribution"><a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/photo-essay-in-a-mother-child-care-center-in-the-suburban-news-photo/151061313" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:BSIP/UIG via Getty Images">BSIP/UIG via Getty Images</a></span>
Getting children vaccinated can protect them and others from potentially deadly diseases. BSIP/UIG via Getty Images

This spring, after stay-at-home orders were announced and schools shut down across the nation, many families stopped going to their pediatrician. As a result, kids have fallen behind on important childhood vaccinations.

Vaccination rates declined starkly after mid-March, with up to 60% reductions in some areas of the country. Nationwide, vaccination rates dropped by 22% among Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program recipients under 2.

Now that kids are coming back to pediatricians like me, many parents have questions about catching up.

Why is it a problem that my child is behind on vaccines?

Vaccines protect your child from serious communicable diseases including brain infections, pneumonia, bloodstream infections and, in the case of the HPV and hepatitis B vaccines, even some types of cancer. The vaccine schedule we use was created to maximize your child’s protection throughout life.

In addition to protecting your child, vaccines protect others by decreasing the circulation of dangerous germs in our communities – we call this “herd immunity.”

Herd immunity is especially important to protect people who can’t get certain vaccines for medical reasons. When enough people are vaccinated, a disease can disappear altogether. For example, close to 95% of people need to be vaccinated against measles to stop transmission of that virus. When the number of people who are adequately vaccinated drops too low, the whole community is at risk of an outbreak.

With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing across the country, the last thing we need is an outbreak of another deadly disease.

How do I figure out what my child needs to catch up?

This depends on your child’s age and which vaccines they’ve already received. The best way to figure out what your child needs is to call your pediatrician’s office and ask. There is a clear “catch-up schedule” that we use to figure out which vaccines a child needs and when they can be given.

Many parents worry that getting too many shots at once could be dangerous. However, the amount of material contained in each vaccine is very, very small compared with all the different germs and substances our kids breathe in, eat and drink every day, not to mention what they’re exposed to when they scrape a knee or elbow.

There really is no such thing as too many shots at once under current guidelines, although some shots can’t be given together on the same day.

What if my child is not feeling well when the pediatrician wants to give the vaccines?

For most kids, it is perfectly safe to get vaccines when they have a mild illness – including a fever. Also, vaccines are no less effective if given when your child is sick.

It’s understandable that getting a lot of shots at once when your child isn’t feeling well can be upsetting for the child. You can talk to your pediatrician about which shots are most critical and ask

Seymour gym closes amid pandemic



a sign above a storefront on a brick building: CW Fitness, a Seymour gym in business for four years, closed its doors on Sunday. Sept. 27, 2020. The gym located in the Klarides Village Shopping Center on Bank Street, is the latest business to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.


© Provided by Connecticut Post

CW Fitness, a Seymour gym in business for four years, closed its doors on Sunday. Sept. 27, 2020. The gym located in the Klarides Village Shopping Center on Bank Street, is the latest business to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.


SEYMOUR — CW Fitness, a Valley gym in business for four years, closed its doors on Sunday.

The gym located in the Klarides Village Shopping Center on Bank Street, is the latest business to close because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Owner Chris Wares announced the closing on the gym’s Facebook page. On Monday morning, there was sign on the door that thanked members for “four great years.”

Wares said, “2020 has changed the fitness industry along with many others. I see full service big box, membership gyms being a thing of the past very soon.”

Ware went on Facebook Live to thank members and ask for their patience on information on refunds.

“I’m going to make everything right,” he said.

He said said there is a “chance” that a new owner may take over the business.

“If that’s the case, everything will be honored,” he said.

He asked members to check CW Fitness Facebook page or provide their email address for updates.

Connecticut gyms, sports clubs and fitness studios closed for months because of COVID-19, were allowed to reopen in June with strict social distancing requirements.

The guidelines state “establishments that require customers to wear a mask while exercising must maintain 6 feet of space between equipment. Establishments that do not require customers to wear a mask while exercising must maintain 12 feet of space between equipment.”

CW Fitness required people to wear masks while not using working out and to wipe down machines before and after use. The Seymour gym also moved some of the machines into an indoor basketball court to provide more distancing.

Although some gyms reopened, few people returned.

A recent survey by RunRepeat, found only about 31 percent of gym members have returned since the COVID-19 lockdown. The survey also found that nearly 60 percent have either canceled or are considering canceling their gym memberships.

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What’s It Like To Visit the Dentist During the Pandemic?

Health

I never feared going to have my teeth cleaned. Then the pandemic hit.


dentist chair

Photo via Getty Images

Way back when, during the simpler days of December, I made a routine appointment for a teeth cleaning. It was the sort of thing I didn’t think twice about at the time, but as the months raced by it began to take on the outsize importance of an existential question: Was I willing to risk getting COVID-19, or giving it to those around me, in the name of improving my gum health? I was caught between two poles: the knowledge that Massachusetts had one of the lowest transmission rates in the country, and my sheer horror—after months holed up at home without going anywhere unless my mouth remained duly covered—of sitting in an enclosed space with a stranger while my jaws hung open for 20 minutes straight.

As the date rapidly approached in mid-August, I leaned toward canceling. It just didn’t seem worth it, but then my dentist’s office called and walked me through the prescreening protocol. It was the same list of hygiene-theater questions we’ve all heard—Had I been running a fever? Had I been around anyone who’d tested positive?—and so forth, as though there is anyone in America this net would catch. Either you’re asymptomatic and have no idea you’re infected, or you’re a buffoon or someone who doesn’t care about other people’s safety, in which case the screening probably won’t be enough to stop you. At the end of the call, though, the scheduler caught me off-guard with six little words: “So, are you going to come?” I was still unsure: Six months into this pandemic, I remained utterly incapable of assessing risk meaningfully. Was a dentist’s office safe? As much as I fear the consequences of not getting my teeth cleaned, maybe it really wasn’t that important. Or maybe it was just important enough.

It’s the sort of constant decision-making paralysis so many of us have suffered during quarantine, and could be the reason why a a recent survey done by the American Dental Association found that less than 36 percent of Massachusetts dentists reported experiencing business as usual in August. But for me, it was combined with my lifelong struggle to make choices with the best possible outcome for the highest number of people. If you read that sentence and thought, “That sounds like it would lead to you never making a decision,” you are correct. It is a horrible way to live, and I don’t recommend it. During the pandemic alone, I have argued with myself over everything from whether shopping online or in person is more ethical to whether I could justify visiting the library. Having lived inside this particular mind for a good long time, though, I have developed an important strategy: I let myself go down whatever feverish neural pathways my brain decides are