What We’re Reading: Tracking Health Care Worker COVID-19 Deaths; B.1.1.7 Variant Dominant in US; STD Screening, Testing Drops

April 8, 2021
AJMC Staff

Officials urge the Biden administration to track COVID-19 deaths among health care workers; the B.1.1.7 variant is now the dominant strain in the United States; pandemic results in steep declines in STD testing.

Counting COVID-19-Related Health Care Worker Deaths

According to a year-long investigation by The Guardian and Kaiser Health News (KHN), more than 3600 health care workers died of COVID-19 in the first year of the pandemic. However, the federal government has not comprehensively tracked this data and as the Guardian-KHN project comes to an end, several are calling for the Biden administration to undertake an official count. Health policy experts and union leaders are urging the current administration to fill the data gap left by former President Trump through its failure to create an accurate count of deaths among this group of individuals.

B.1.1.7 Variant Now Dominant in United States

The B.1.1.7 COVID-19 variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, is now the dominant strain in the United States, NBC News reports. Announced by the CDC, the variant is thought to be more contagious and fuels fears that the country is on the cusp of another COVID-19 surge as case numbers and hospitalizations increase. The country’s cases have plateaued at a high level as over 61,000 new cases were reported on April 7, and no continued significant decreases have been reported. The uptick in infections seems to be driven by young people, despite the country vaccinating an average of 3 million people each day.

STD Testing Drops

With a continued focus on testing for COVID-19, public health workers are concerned about a collapse in screening for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that have been on the rise for years, The Associated Press reports. As COVID-19 testing diverted resources and staff away from this preventive practice, testing for diseases like chlamydia and gonorrhea saw sharp declines in many parts of the United States during 2020. The gap made it difficult for health officials to track or control outbreaks which were already at record levels prior to the pandemic. Reduced hours at clinics, staff shortages and labs’ focus on processing COVID-19 testing samples all contributed to the data gap.