Wednesday, November 23, 2022
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 issue:  
👋 I want to hear from you: If you’ve got thoughts about what else I should be covering, or questions about health in the news, send me your questions – I read every message. 📩 

Was this newsletter forwarded to you? Sign up here


Last month, I wrote about how a surge in respiratory illnesses in kids was overwhelming children’s hospitals much sooner than normal. Many of the clinicians I spoke with worked in emergency departments and ICUs that had been at or near capacity since late summer. The precise mix of viruses varied across regions, but all were worried that the onslaught would not slow, especially with flu and covid looming. 

Fast forward to now, and much is the same. Children’s hospitals are still overwhelmed, struggling to care for too many sick kids with a thinned-out workforce. That’s forced hospitals to delay elective surgeries, set up emergency tents and even turn some patients away. Rather than writing a similar version of my October story, I wanted to convey what working in an ICU is like from
someone on the ground. I ended up speaking with Hui-wen Sato, a pediatric ICU nurse at a children’s hospital in Southern California. As both a bedside nurse and a charge nurse, who helps oversee her department and coordinates care, Sato helped me understand the personal and collective toll the surge is taking, and how many nurses feel less supported than ever. 

Jonathan Lambert: What is it like right now in your hospital? 

Hui-wen Sato: We are absolutely seeing a surge of respiratory illness in kids. It’s been going on for six or eight weeks. The bulk is definitely RSV, but we have kids who are coming in with other respiratory illnesses like the common cold, but they either were so young that they got hit really hard, or they have other health issues that made them a little more susceptible to needing more support. We also have a handful of covid kids that have come in. 

JL: Many hospitals are experiencing a shortage of staff, especially nurses. How has this been at your hospital? 

HS: Our capacity has really taken a hit since covid. By and large, everyone is short-staffed. That impacts everything. There might be a long line of patients coming into the ED [emergency department], and we have to transfer patients out of our ICU to a regular medical surgical floor, but if those floors are short-staffed, it impedes our ability to get patients out of our ICU in a timely fashion, which impedes our ability to admit patients from the ED. The overall flow is impaired because capacity is lower. Our hospital has been doing less non-urgent, elective surgeries since we just don’t have as much capacity. 

In our ICU, we physically have 24 beds, but because of our staffing, we only have adequate staff for 20 or 21 occupied beds. Just because there are three more physical beds open doesn’t mean that we can safely staff them. We also typically have to hold space for what we call the code bed, that’s used for a code blue [a hospital-wide alert that a patient needs immediate emergency care, often for a cardiac or respiratory arrest]. We try to keep one bed open for when someone inside the hospital has an emergency, or someone comes through the ED and is terribly, critically ill, not just needing oxygen for RSV but they got slammed by a car and need that bed. 

Because of the respiratory surge, there’s so many who show up in the ED who need oxygen right now. And we take them, but I always have to think about the other things that can happen. There are still car accidents. There are still patients on the regular floors who suddenly have a medical crisis. Those kinds of things don’t stop just because this respiratory surge is happening. How do you plan when you don’t know when those emergencies are going to happen, and you don’t want to come up short, but you’re always short-staffed? 

Read the rest of our interview here.


💠 Why Russia’s anti-Ukraine propaganda includes homophobia: Vladimir Putin and a chorus of other influential Russians have taken recently to inventing a threat and arguing that war — in Ukraine and elsewhere, if necessary — must be waged to stop it. In this same vein, the Russian parliament recently passed new laws aimed at “preventing propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” Special Contributor Stanislav Kucher explains why Russia’s war on the LGBTQ community is now part of its case for war in Ukraine.

The World Cup heats up: The soccer (or football, for non-Americans) World Cup is the most popular sporting event in the world. But this year, it’s under unusual scrutiny. The 2022 tournament is being held in Qatar, in one of the hottest parts of the world – and in the shadow of abuse of migrant workers and discrimination against LGBTQ communities. Science Reporter Dan Vergano, China Reporter Lili Pike and Global Editor Tom Nagorski look at the health, human rights and labor issues surrounding the tournament in our latest 360 story.

💠 A black eye for ‘effective altruism’: The recent collapse of (former) billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried's crypto exchange FTX has sent shockwaves throughout philanthropy’s “effective altruism” movement. Bankman-Fried was a major funder of the movement to rigorously hold charitable donations to external measures of effectiveness and impact, writes Domestic Economics Reporter Matthew Zeitlin. The nonprofit journalism outlet ProPublica said it won’t be receiving the full allotment of its Bankman-Fried funds for reporting on public health threats; FTX was also a major funder of 1Day Sooner, an organization that advocates for human vaccine challenge trials. Read more.

💠 ‘General Frost’ is coming: The first snow of the year fell in Kyiv last week, a stark reminder of what’s in store for the coming months in Ukraine. For Russia, which now controls less Ukrainian territory than it has since the first weeks of the invasion, the best remaining hope may be that it can hold the line through the winter, Global Security Reporter Joshua Keating writes – hoping that “General Frost,” the old nickname for the brutally cold weather that decimated Napoleon and Hitler’s forces, may come through for Moscow one more time.


The Senate voted 62-37 last week to advance historic legislation to protect the right to gay marriage in America. The chamber is expected to take a final vote on the legislation, known as the Respect for Marriage Act, after Thanksgiving.  
The bill is one of 2022′s most surprising legislative developments, write Domestic Policy Reporter Maggie Severns and Data Visualization Reporter Anna Deen. After the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, activists argued that Congress needed to pass a bill enshrining same-sex marriage in case the court overturns Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 Supreme Court case that solidified same-sex marriage as a liberty protected under the 14th Amendment. But few expected the Respect for Marriage Act would actually make it through — despite
strong support from the American public for gay marriage.

Read the full story


👋 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.

📧 Were you forwarded this newsletter?
Sign up here.

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 and Lillian Barkley also contributed to this edition of Grid Health.
Follow us on Twitter
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram
Copyright © 2022 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.