What We’re Reading: Biden Pushes Health Initiatives; Air Pollution’s Impact on Americans of Color; US COVID-19 Cases Drop

President Biden outlined new health initiatives in his first speech to a joint session of Congress; data show the disproportionate impact of air pollution on communities of color; COVID-19 case rates decline in half of US states.

Biden Announces Ambitious Family, Health Initiatives

In his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Joe Biden outlined an agenda to expand family leave, child care, and health care funded by tax increases on the wealthiest Americans, The New York Times reports. The $1.8 trillion social spending plan will accompany previous proposals to improve the nation’s infrastructure. The president also pushed for more visionary health research and a nationwide effort to end cancer. According to CBS News, a new health research agency to be created would be similar to the Defense Department’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In his speech, the president lauded the nation’s vaccine rollout and recent loosening of transmission guidelines announced by the CDC.

Air Pollution Disproportionately Affects Communities of Color

A new study published in Science Advances found that nearly every source of particulate matter 2.5 (PM2.5) emissions disproportionately affects Americans of color, regardless of state or income level, The Washington Post reports. PM2.5 includes soot and is the largest environmental cause of human mortality. The analysis illustrates how decisions about where to build highways and industrial plants decades ago continue to harm the health of Black, Latino, and Asian Americans. Researchers suggest that targeting locally important sources for mitigation may help improve this trend and that findings can help guide stakeholders to design policies to efficiently reduce environmental inequity.

Half of US States Report Drops in COVID-19 Cases

In the last 2 weeks, COVID-19 cases have significantly declined in more than half of US states, according to The New York Times. The drop comes as federal health officials suggest the virus’ trajectory is improving in the country, although uneven distribution of vaccinations remains a challenge in persuading some Americans to get vaccinated. As of April 28, the United States averaged over 52,000 new cases a day, marking a 26% decline from 2 weeks prior and comparable to levels reported in mid-October before the winter surge. Both hospitalizations and deaths have declined across the country since the nation’s peak in January. Notably, Michigan is seeing a rapid improvement with cases down 40% after its most recent outbreak.

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