Mail track

As Covid tracking declines, sales of cough drops could help track virus

A sore throat is a common symptom of the omicron variant, so an increase in sales of throat lozenges in a particular country or city could become a useful indicator of covid infections, some experts say.

Bloomberg: Sales of cough drops could be used to map spread of Omicron

As governments around the world begin to limit testing for Covid-19, the humble throat drop may become an indicator of how quickly omicron is spreading. Sales of medicated lozenges and gargles, over-the-counter cough suppressants and painkillers have increased so much that the products are often in short supply around the world, according to manufacturers and sellers. The trend has emerged even in countries where official testing figures appear to show active cases are declining. (Ramli, 3/9)

In other news on the spread of covid —

Politico: Health experts plead with Biden to ‘reverse course’ in global pandemic response

More than 100 experts and advocates in public health, medicine and epidemiology sent the Biden administration a letter on Wednesday pleading with it to do more to control the pandemic around the world, saying the current global efforts of the America have failed. The authors called on the administration to share Covid-19 vaccine technology and increase manufacturing around the world, seek more funding from Congress to support distribution in low- and middle-income countries, and increase access to Covid therapies and rapid tests around the world, according to the letter obtained by POLITICO. (Payne, 3/9)

Axios: COVID cases continue to fall as America moves forward

Coronavirus cases have continued to fall nationally and in nearly every state, and daily deaths are also down. COVID precautions have already been lifted across most of the country as pandemic fatigue runs deep. The virus will likely be with us for the long term, but these improving measures show that Americans are getting on with their lives in a safer way. In the post-Omicron, post-vaccination world, case counts aren’t a very good indicator of the severity of the pandemic — a sentiment the CDC has embraced and incorporated into its official guidelines. (Owens, 3/10)

Bangor Daily News: COVID-19 hospitalizations in Maine drop 70% from pandemic

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 in Maine have continued their steep decline, dropping 70% in the past two months. It’s the latest evidence that COVID-19 is loosening its grip as winter draws to a close, and hospitalizations are increasingly being used as a barometer of the strength of the virus here. There are now 131 Mainers infected with the virus in hospitals across the state as of Wednesday morning, according to the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s down from 143 the previous day and down from the pandemic high of 436, set on January 13. (Burns, 3/9)

In related news on healthcare worker shortages —

NPR: Nurse license delays worsen COVID-19 hospital staffing shortages

Three hours spent waiting. That’s the time Courtney Gramm waited a day, all so she could get her license from the state of California to work as a nurse. This morning was just a snapshot of a long ordeal. “Panic, anxious, frustrated, even mad,” Gramm describes how she felt as she called over and over again. “I just couldn’t get any information from them.” Gramm waited seven months for her nurse practitioner license at a time when COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing in the United States and hospitals were desperate to keep nurses on staff. (Fast, 3/10)

The Wall Street Journal: Lighter Covid-19 caseload brings little relief to New York hospital

The number of patients with Covid-19 has decreased in Faxton-St. Luke’s Healthcare, but its executives say they expect to remain in crisis mode for the foreseeable future due to continued staff shortages and the end of pandemic-related support they used as a crutch. Signs of stress abound: emergency room wait times are up, staffed beds are down, and patients are being transferred hours away for treatments such as gastrointestinal care that were previously offered on site. The hospital nursing home depends on the National Guard to keep its doors open. (Vielkind, 3/9)

KHN: Two years later, Covid leaves Montana public health officials feeling ‘watched’

After covid-19 arrived in Park County, Montana, local health worker Dr. Laurel Desnick became the face of pandemic measures and the center of attention like never before. She was whispered at the grocery store, yelled at on the way home, and called a bully. She and other public health workers say they feel like they’re living in a fishbowl and everything they say will be scrutinized. “You almost feel like you’re being watched,” Desnick said. “It’s not a good feeling.” (Houghton, 3/10)

Bloomberg: 800 rural US hospitals threatened with closure due to soaring costs

Hit by the pandemic, at least 40% of rural hospitals in the United States are at risk of closing, leaving millions of people in smaller, less affluent communities without emergency and critical care facilities nearby. That’s the conclusion of the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform, whose recent study sees 500 hospitals at immediate risk of closing within two years and more than 300 others at high risk within five years. . The policy center’s grim assessment found that the problems have spread across the country and threats will persist even if the pandemic ends, as rising costs outpace revenues. (Coleman-Lochner, 3/9)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage by major news outlets. Sign up for an email subscription.