What We’re Reading: Texas Investigates Transgender Care; Pregnancy-Related Deaths Rise; Omicron Subvariant Data

Texas' governor orders investigations over providing gender-affirming health care to transgender children; pregnancy-related deaths increased during the pandemic, especially for Black people; data from South Africa confirm that the new Omicron subvariant is more transmissible but not more severe.

Texas Investigates Gender-Affirming Care as Child Abuse

Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to investigate health care professionals, teachers, and parents who have direct contact with transgender children receiving gender-affirming treatment, as reported by The Hill. The investigations carry criminal penalties for child abuse and failure to report child abuse. The move comes after state Attorney General Ken Paxton said that gender-affirming care, including hormone therapy, puberty blockers, and sex reassignment procedures, are abuse. Transgender children are known to have a higher risk of mental health issues, including depression and suicide, if they do not receive gender-affirming health care, according to medical professionals, LGBTQ+ organizations, and transgender activists.

Pregnancy-Related Deaths Rise During Pandemic

A government report found that pregnancy-related deaths went up during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the data also showed a yearslong trend of deaths disproportionately occurring among Black women, according to the Associated Press. In 2020, there were a total of 861 pregnancy-related deaths, representing about 24 deaths per 100,000 births. The numbers reflect mothers who had died during pregnancy, childbirth, or the first year after childbirth. The rate was up from 20 deaths per 100,000 births in 2019. Among Black people, there were 55 deaths per 100,000 births, which was almost triple the rate of maternal death among White people. The report that the data stem from did not include reasons for the trend and researchers did not examine how COVID-19, which is known to increase risks of severe illness in pregnant people, may have contributed.

Data Show Omicron Subvariant Is More Infectious, Not More Severe

Africa’s top public health body has found that the Omicron BA.2 subvariant of COVID-19 is more infectious than the original BA.1 subvariant, but may not be more severe, according to a report from Reuters. Data from South Africa have indicated that the severity of cases presenting with the new variant is about the same as that in patients who are presenting with the original Omicron variant. South Africa was one of the first countries to detect the Omicron variant. Although cases of Omicron are past their peak in the country, the daily number of new infections in the region has stabilized at around 3000 per day, which is higher than the levels seen at the end of the previous waves of COVID-19 infections.