Wednesday, January 4, 2023
Cameron Hood, Newsletter EditorJonathan Lambert
Public Health Reporter
Happy New Year! Welcome to Grid Health, bringing you stories on the intersections of health and politics, technology, climate change, misinformation and more. In today’s email:  
👋 I want to hear from you: If you’ve got thoughts about what else we should be covering, or questions about health in the news, send me your questions. 📩 

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Believe it or not, the globe is about to enter its fourth year of the coronavirus pandemic

So much has changed since early 2020, when covid was still a “mysterious pneumonia-like illness.” We now have vaccines and treatments and scientists can track the evolution of the coronavirus, predicting how mutations might impact transmissibility or severity. And yet much about the virus — and our collective response to it — remains difficult to predict.  

Will our vaccines and treatments continue to provide protection? Will the coronavirus settle into a more predictable pattern? Will scientists figure out how to treat and prevent long covid? Does the fraying U.S. public health system still have the capacity to fight the pandemic? How should we try to live with this virus?  

There aren’t straightforward answers to any of these questions. I thought it’d be interesting to
ask a bunch of experts some of these questions and present their answers side by side, to give readers a sense of the range of perspectives, disagreements and predictions from those who’ve been following the pandemic closely for three years.  

I heard real hope that this could be the least deadly year of the pandemic yet, given the hard-won immunity the world has built up over the last three years. But I also heard dismay at the high levels of death and illness that have become accepted by many as a “new normal.”  

Check out the full story here


💠 Damar Hamlin and the value of CPR: The on-field collapse and cardiac arrest of NFL safety Damar Hamlin after a tackle shocked “Monday Night Football” viewers nationwide. Hamlin joins the more than 356,000 cardiac arrest cases that happen annually in the U.S. outside hospitals, according to the American Heart Association. Survival in those cases depends on fast action, according to the AHA’s Comilla Sasson, an emergency physician in Denver, who spoke to Science Reporter Dan Vergano about rescue and recovery from cardiac arrest in cases like Hamlin’s

China’s bad covid data: China’s zero-covid policies created a coronavirus tinderbox; it may have just ignited. But accurately tracking cases has become virtually impossible, Katelyn Jetelina, a public health researcher and author of the newsletter Your Local Epidemiologist, told me. In early December, China dismantled much of its testing system, and last week the government stopped reporting daily covid data, forcing epidemiologists to rely on anecdotal reports to understand where in the country the virus is spreading, and the damage left in its wake. 

Rethinking funerals: Since the end of the Civil War, burial and death have been highly regulated by states, with rules written — and often enforced by — the people who run traditional funeral homes. A new wave of funeral innovators is trying to offer cheaper, more eco-friendly ways to handle death, Domestic Policy Reporter Maggie Severns and Copy Editor Lillian Barkley write, from composting human bodies into usable soil to guiding families through holding at-home funeral services. If these innovators succeed, they’ll remake not only laws surrounding funerals but also the funeral industry itself and, more broadly, the way America thinks about death. 

On pathological liars: The term “pathological liar” has been thrown around quite a bit as more of newly elected Rep. George Santos’ life story emerges — information seemingly contradictory to the education and career Santos claimed to have. But pathological lying is closer to a diagnosis of a personality disorder than to a negative personality trait to describe a politician. Misinformation Reporter Khaya Himmelman spoke to Christian Hart, a professor of psychology at Texas Woman’s University, about the difference between a person who lies and pathological liars

The pernicious ‘one-touch’ myth: The story was horrifying — and compelling: A police officer in East Liverpool, Ohio, accidentally overdosed from fentanyl in 2017 after brushing the drug off his uniform with his bare hands. But the viral tale, and a growing number of others like it, aren’t true. It’s impossible to overdose on fentanyl through touch. Khaya explores why the myth of one-touch overdose is so dangerous, and why it refuses to die.   

Title 42 survives, for now: The Supreme Court ruled last week that Title 42, a Trump-era policy put in place by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop the spread of covid-19, can remain in place — at least until the court makes a final ruling this year. Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Ketanji Brown Jackson voted against the Republican-led effort to keep Title 42 in place. In his dissent, Gorsuch, joined by Jackson, wrote that “the current border crisis is not a COVID crisis,” Khaya reports. 


After an indulgent holiday season, many Americans will turn to “Dry January.” The concept of abstaining from alcohol for a month has become a common New Year’s resolution for people looking to change their relationship with alcohol. The limited research on it indicates that it may have some positive health effects, at least for moderate or heavy drinkers, Data Visualization Reporter Alex Leeds Matthews writes. 

This year’s Dry January resolutions come as the nation approaches the fourth year of the covid pandemic. Early on, as lockdowns went into place, many Americans found themselves drinking more – and
alcohol-related deaths spiked in the first year of the pandemic.

Read the full story here


👋 Thanks for reading. Until next week, take care. – Jon

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Cameron Hood, Alex Leeds Matthews and Dave Tepps also contributed to this edition of Grid Health.
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