What We're Reading: Cost of Overdose Deaths; Lifting School Mask Mandates; Vaccine Benefits for Pregnant Women

A bipartisan congressional report estimates overdose deaths cost the United States $1 trillion yearly; 4 states announce plans to lift their statewide mask mandates for schools; study finds greater risk of pregnancy complications in expectant mothers with moderate COVID-19 symptoms.

US Overdose Deaths Cost Rises to $1 Trillion Annually

A new bipartisan congressional report published today found that drug overdoses, primarily those stemming from synthetic opioids, have cost the United States approximately $1 trillion yearly. ABC News reports that drug overdose deaths have more than doubled in recent years, rising from 44,000 to 2013 to over 100,000 between May 2020 and April 2021. As opioid drugs, particularly fentanyl, continue to drive record overdose deaths, a bipartisan congressional commission advocated for a multipronged strategy and cabinet-level leadership to counter the worsening overdose epidemic.

Four States to Drop Mask Mandates in Schools

NPR reports that 4 states, Oregon, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware, have announced plans this week to lift their respective statewide mask mandates for schools. The loosening COVID-19 restrictions are set to take effect in Connecticut on February 28, the earliest of the 4 states, with Oregon and Delaware noted as the latest to set plans for March 31. The mask mandate in New Jersey will lift for both students and employees beginning March 7, with districts allowed to require masking thereafter to control any spikes in infections.

NIH-Funded Study Highlights Vaccine Benefits for Expectant Mothers

As reported by USA Today, a study funded by the National Institutes of Health highlighted the protective benefits of vaccines for expectant mothers and their babies, in utero and after birth. Including 13,000 expectant mothers in the analysis, of which 2400 were infected, findings indicated that pregnant women with moderate COVID-19 symptoms were at greater risk for pregnancy complications than those not infected or with mild to no symptoms. Complications included higher chances of requiring cesarean section, delivering preterm, and mortality around the time of birth.