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What We’re Reading: New COVID-19 Response Coordinator; US Smoking Rate Down; Mental Health Support for Ukraine


A new COVID-19 response coordinator will replace Jeff Zients; cigarette smoking rates were down in 2020; mental health providers offer telehealth services to Ukraine.

Jha to Lead US COVID-19 Response

The Biden administration announced Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, will replace Jeff Zients as the country’s COVID-19 response coordinator, STAT News reports. Jha currently serves as the dean of the Brown School of Public Health and in his new role will work alongside the CDC and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to enact the nation’s policies combatting COVID-19 and help communicate them to the American people. Zients oversaw the distribution of the initial COVID-19 vaccines, boosters, rapid tests, and therapies.

Smoking, E-cigarette Use Declined in 2020

New CDC data show that during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of American cigarette smoking dropped to an all-time low, The Associated Press reports. Although more Americans were drinking heavily or using illicit drugs at this time, just 1 in 8 adults said they were current smokers, while e-cigarette use also dropped. Tobacco company price hikes, pandemic lifestyle changes, and public health campaigns all likely played roles in the decline. Some individuals may have also quit after learning the habit could lead to more severe cases of COVID-19.

Mental Health Experts Offer Aid to Ukraine

US-based online mental health experts have been offering their expertise to Ukrainians living under duress of the Russian invasion, providing guidance to parents on how to talk to children about death and help infants in shock, according to new reports from The Washington Post. The professionals are coordinating with nongovernmental organizations and academic institutions to provide guidance in Ukrainian and Russian, while volunteers have to be trained in the specific strategies of psychological first aid. The work also helps to prevent burnout among mental health caregivers operating in the crisis.

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