Wednesday, March 8, 2023
Cameron Hood, Newsletter EditorJonathan Lambert
Public Health Reporter
Welcome to Grid Health, bringing you stories on the intersections of health and politics, technology, climate change, misinformation and more. In this week’s issue:  
👋 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 them. 📩 

Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Sign up here


With covid now an afterthought rather than an emergency in the minds of many Americans, politicians and pundits are rushing to have the final word on who handled the crisis well — and who dropped the ball. 

These recent declarations of pandemic winners and losers often ignore the iterative and uncertain nature of science in favor of blunt headlines and slogans bolstered by cherry-picked studies,
as I wrote a few days ago. And they often elide scientists’ and policymakers’ honest grappling with major decisions in the face of limited and evolving data. 

“The Mask Mandates Did Nothing. Will Any Lessons Be Learned?” New York Times columnist Bret Stephens
declared last month, flattening a highly nuanced, heavily caveated scientific study of mask-wearing into a single talking point. And after reports this week that the Energy Department concluded with “low confidence” that a lab leak in China likely caused the pandemic, several prominent Republicans touted it as ruling out a natural origin. They included Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who tweeted that “China is responsible for COVID.” 

It’s not going to stop any time soon: At a House subcommittee hearing today on covid’s origins, Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) touted the Energy Department report without noting that the agency itself characterized its conclusion as “low confidence,” and suggested that the SARS-CoV-2 virus contains features that could not have evolved naturally – despite strong evidence to the contrary, including analyses of SARS-2 itself and the discovery of related viruses.  

Such black-and-white pronouncements can muddy the public’s understanding of what worked (like vaccines), what didn’t (ivermectin) and the wide gray area around other measures, like mask mandates or school closures, that scientists are still evaluating. Three years into the pandemic, the United States’ political war over covid has eroded public trust in science, with the biggest drop — more than 20 percentage points — among Republicans. That polarization makes responding to the next crisis, whether it’s a pandemic or something else, even harder. 

“Those who have dogmatic positions and are playing to the politics can be extreme, use hyperbole and be definitive in their pronouncements,” said Timothy Caulfield, research director of the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta. “Those who are trying to be close to what the science actually says have to have all these caveats and hedge what they say, and it’s just like [they’re] going to gunfight with a knife.” 

🩺 Read my full story.  


💠 U.S. gun violence may be scaring off international students: It’s an all-too-familiar series of events: A gunman opens fire in a school or mall or market somewhere in the United States. Hours later, the stories of those who perished flash on the news: innocents all, caught up in senseless acts of violence as they went about their days. And as Deputy Global Editor Nikhil Kumar writes, recent surveys and anecdotal accounts suggest that international students are increasingly factoring in safety issues when they consider coming to the U.S. 

California’s billion-dollar fight against homelessness: Nearly a third of people experiencing homelessness in the U.S. live in California. Between 2018 and 2021, the state has spent $9.6 billion to fight the problem, Domestic Economics Reporter Matthew Zeitlin writes. It’s part of a larger shift of responsibility of the homelessness crisis from federal and local governments to the state. But California’s “Housing First” approach to homelessness — getting people into homes — is made difficult by the sheer cost of housing in California and the difficulty in building more. 

Britain’s great produce shortage: Grocers across the U.K. are rationing the sale of a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables in a country that has rarely had trouble keeping its supermarket shelves well stocked, Nikhil writes. Climate change, the war in Ukraine, the way Britain sources its vegetables and an overall economic trauma made worse by the U.K.’s divorce from the European Union have combined to drive the shortage – which has sharpened concerns about the nation’s economic road ahead

Baby boomers’ housing dilemma: Eight in 10 baby boomers would rather age in place than move to a senior care facility. But most houses weren’t designed for older adults. Data Visualization Reporter Anna Deen looks at the scope of the problem, from boomers’ ability to pay for renovations to make their homes more accessible to regional differences in housing stock. 


Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly’s announcement Wednesday that it plans to cut the price of its most commonly prescribed insulin by 70 percent underscores the meteoric rise in the price of the medicine in the United States and a growing political debate over how to address drug pricing, as Science Editor Lauren Morello and I explored in a pair of stories this week, with help from Anna and Newsletter Editor Cameron Hood

Millions of Americans with diabetes depend on the lifesaving drug. But the cost of the four most popular insulin formulations
has tripled over the past decade, according to the American Diabetes Association, making the drug unaffordable for many patients who depend on it. But insulin, which was discovered more than a century ago, is far more affordable in many other countries, as data from a Rand Corporation analysis shows.  

💉 Read more about
international price differences and Eli Lilly's announcement.


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

💌 Like this newsletter? Share it! It’s the best way for us to reach new readers and grow our audience.

📩 Be sure to move this newsletter into your primary inbox, so it always goes to the right place for you.

📧 Was this newsletter forwarded to you?
Sign up for it here. And see all of our newsletters, including our flagship daily newsletter, Grid Today.

How would you describe this edition? 
Tell us what you think.
Cameron Hood, Lauren Morello and Lillian Barkley also contributed to this edition.
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
Copyright © 2023 Media Investment Projects OpCo LLC. All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you opted in via our website.

Our mailing address is:
Suite 890 of the South Tower at 400/444 North Capitol Street, N.W
Washington, DC 20003-3758

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list.