Health News Roundup

Many in CT aren’t ‘homeless enough’ to receive state help, and more in this week’s roundup

Motel-dwellers aren’t considered ‘homeless enough’ to warrant state help
Jaqueline Rabe Thomas, The Connecticut Mirror, October 5 
No one knows just how many people call motels and hotels home, though the federal government does require school districts to track homeless students. During the 2019-2020 school year, there were 568 Connecticut children in motels, meaning that one out of every 950 students last school year were living in a motel. Add in the students living in shelters, on the streets, or staying with another family temporarily, and one-in-126 students in the state are homeless. Since the pandemic shut down the state’s economy, calls to 2-1-1 for help with affordable housing have doubled. In an effort to preserve the limited aid to help the neediest residents, the state has tight qualifications for help –  and those living in motels don’t make the cut.
Related: Evictions damage public health. The CDC aims to curb them ― for now. Bram Sable-Smith, Martha Bebinger, Darian Benson, Kaiser Health News, October 2
Hotter days widen racial gap in U.S. schools
Christopher Flavelle, The New York Times, October 5
Rising temperatures are widening the racial achievement gap in U.S. schools, new research suggests, offering the latest evidence that the burdens of climate change fall disproportionately on people of color. Researchers found that students performed worse on standardized tests for every additional day of 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, even after controlling for other factors. Those effects held across 58 countries, suggesting a fundamental link between heat exposure and reduced learning. But when the researchers looked specifically at the U.S., they found something surprising: The detrimental impact of heat seemed to affect only Black and Hispanic students.

Can a recruiter for a COVID-19 vaccine trial overcome distrust?
Eric Boodman, STAT, October 7
Jorge David Gutierrez is recruiting volunteers for a COVID vaccine clinical trial. He is focusing on communities of color that have been historically alienated by American medicine, left out of clinical research, and hit hardest by the pandemic. It hasn’t been easy. In early August, for instance, only 5% of Moderna’s enrollees were Black — less than half their share of the U.S. population. For outreach workers, that meant overcoming people’s deep-seated distrust. To try to prevent coronavirus spread, a lot of that had to happen on Zoom or Facebook, in webinars or virtual town halls. It means discussing everything from their fear of deportation to their understanding of immunology.

Hard lives made harder by COVID: Homeless endure a ‘slow-moving train wreck’
Anna Maria Barry-Jester, Angela Hart, Kaiser Health News, October 8
Early in the pandemic, one of the first things Imperial County, California did to ward off the virus was close the public bathrooms and public cooling centers. In this Southern California desert, that lack of access could amount to a death sentence for people without shelter. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the Governor made promises to address the homelessness crisis. Exactly one month later, he would order a far-reaching statewide shutdown, asking every person in California not working in an essential industry to shelter at home in an effort to stave off COVID-19. It was a complicated ask for the more than 150,000 Californians without a home.

Inequality ‘surrounds you’: A Black doctor returns to hard-hit Louisiana after treating and contracting COVID-19 in New York
Gabrielle Glaser, STAT, October 2
In early June, just as protests over racial injustice were roiling the country, Joseph Gallien checked into his first shift as an emergency medicine physician at Lake Charles Memorial, a hospital in his Louisiana hometown, where half the residents are Black, like him. Months later, Hurricane Laura ripped through, destroying homes and businesses and leaving hundreds of thousands without power, including most wings of the hospital. As Gallien looks back on this year, what strikes him most are the stark racial inequalities of a health care system in which Black Americans are more likely to die at early ages of all causes, including COVID-19 — a system in which the number of Black physicians remains dismayingly small.