Lauren Weber
Lauren Weber
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Lack of Antigen Test Reporting Leaves Country ‘Blind to the Pandemic’

Lack of Antigen Test Reporting Leaves Country ‘Blind to the Pandemic’

September 16, 2020More than 20 states either don’t release or have incomplete data on the rapid antigen tests now considered key to containing the coronavirus, which has sickened more than 6 million Americans. The lapses leave officials and the public in the dark about the true scope of the pandemic as untold numbers of cases go uncounted.The gap will only widen as tens of millions of antigen tests sweep the country. Federal officials are prioritizing the tests to quickly detect COVID-19’s spread over slower, but more accurate, PCR tests.Relying on patchy data on COVID testing carries...

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Lauren Weber
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Sep 16
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Politics Slows Flow of US Pandemic Relief Funds to Public Health Agencies

Politics Slows Flow of US Pandemic Relief Funds to Public Health Agencies

This story also ran on .As the coronavirus began to spread through Minneapolis this spring, Health Commissioner Gretchen Musicant tore up her budget to find funds to combat the crisis. Money for test kits. Money to administer tests. Money to hire contact tracers. Yet even more money for a service that helps tracers communicate with residents in dozens of languages.While Musicant diverted workers from violence prevention and other core programs to the COVID-19 response, state officials debated how to distribute $1.87 billion Minnesota received in federal aid.Jun 29A series examining how the...

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Lauren Weber
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Aug 17
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Must-Reads of the Week

Must-Reads of the Week

Want to read the best and most provocative stories from the week? Welcome to the Friday Breeze, where we compile them all — so you’re set with your weekend reading.While you, loyal reader, wait for a wonderful new permanent Friday Breeze writer to start breezing, welcome to this week’s rundown brought to you from St. Louis by me, Midwest correspondent Lauren Weber.I’m sadly here to inform you the news is … still bad. So bad, in fact, that “” — the act of not being able to escape your smartphone feed of misery — was examined by The New York Times.And that’s because all you need to know about...

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Lauren Weber
Jul 17
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Hollowed-Out Public Health System Faces More Cuts Amid Virus

Hollowed-Out Public Health System Faces More Cuts Amid Virus

July 1, 2020This story also ran on .The U.S. public health system has been starved for decades and lacks the resources to confront the worst health crisis in a century.Marshaled against a virus that has sickened at least 2.6 million in the U.S., killed more than 126,000 people and cost tens of millions of jobs and $3 trillion in federal rescue money, state and local government health workers on the ground are sometimes paid so little that they qualify for public aid.They track the coronavirus on paper records shared via fax. Working seven-day weeks for months on end, they fear pay freezes,...

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Lauren Weber
Jul 1
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Un sistema de salud pública devastado enfrenta más recortes en medio del virus

Un sistema de salud pública devastado enfrenta más recortes en medio del virus

Noticias en español es una sección de Kaiser Health News que contiene traducciones de artículos de gran interés para la comunidad hispanohablante, y contenido original enfocado en la población hispana que vive en los Estados Unidos.Este contenido puede usarse de manera gratuita ().El sistema de salud pública de los Estados Unidos ha subsistido en la precariedad durante décadas y carece de los recursos necesarios para enfrentar la peor crisis de salud en un siglo.Mientras enfrentan juntos una pandemia que ha enfermado al menos a 2.3 millones de personas en el país, y matado a más de 120,000,...

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Lauren Weber
Jul 1
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Hospital Executive Charged In $1.4B Rural Hospital Billing Scheme

Hospital Executive Charged In $1.4B Rural Hospital Billing Scheme

A Miami entrepreneur who led a rural hospital empire was charged in an unsealed Monday in what federal prosecutors called a $1.4 billion fraudulent lab-billing scheme.In the indictment, prosecutors said Jorge A. Perez, 60, and nine others exploited federal regulations that allow some rural hospitals to charge substantially higher rates for laboratory testing than other providers. The indictment, filed in U.S. District Court in Jacksonville, Florida, alleges Perez and the other defendants sought out struggling rural hospitals and then contracted with outside labs, in far-off cities and...

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Lauren Weber
Jun 30
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Public Health Officials Face Wave Of Threats, Pressure Amid Coronavirus Response

Public Health Officials Face Wave Of Threats, Pressure Amid Coronavirus Response

June 12, 2020Emily Brown was stretched thin.As the director of the Rio Grande County Public Health Department in rural Colorado, she was working 12- and 14-hour days, struggling to respond to the pandemic with only five full-time employees for more than 11,000 residents. Case counts were rising.She was already at odds with county commissioners, who were pushing to loosen public health restrictions in late May, against her advice. She had previously clashed with them over data releases and had haggled over a variance regarding reopening businesses.But she reasoned that standing up for public...

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Lauren Weber
Jun 12
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The Elevator Arises As The Latest Logjam In Getting Back To Work

The Elevator Arises As The Latest Logjam In Getting Back To Work

This story also ran on .When the American Medical Association moved its headquarters to a famous Chicago skyscraper in 2013, the floor-to-ceiling views from the 47th-floor conference space were a spectacular selling point.But now, those glimpses of the Chicago River at the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed landmark, now known as AMA Plaza, come with a trade-off: navigating the elevator in the time of COVID-19.Once the epitome of efficiency for moving masses of people quickly to where they needed to go, the elevator is the antithesis of social distancing and a risk-multiplying bottleneck. As...

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Lauren Weber
Jun 9
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‘When It Starts Getting Into Your Local Hospital, It Becomes Real’

‘When It Starts Getting Into Your Local Hospital, It Becomes Real’

This story also ran on .The folding chairs outside the windows appeared late last month, after the maintenance staff at St. James Parish Hospital labeled each window with a patient room number so families and friends could at least see their loved ones battling COVID-19.Yet even this small solace the Louisiana rural hospital can offer is tainted for clinical nurse educator Leslie Fisher. She has to remind the family members to take shifts to properly social distance from one another — even when their loved ones could be in their final moments.The difficult conversations feel unceasingly...

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Lauren Weber
Apr 8
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As The Country Disinfects, Diabetes Patients Can’t Find Rubbing Alcohol

As The Country Disinfects, Diabetes Patients Can’t Find Rubbing Alcohol

This story also ran on .While the masses hunt for toilet paper, and other people with diabetes are on a different mission: scouring stores for the rubbing alcohol or alcohol swabs needed to manage their disease.Gregory stopped in Carlie C’s, Dollar General and then Harris Teeter in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in pursuit of this vital component of her medical routine.“We’re all supposed to be staying at home, and I’m out going to 10 different stores,” said Gregory, 33, whose for COVID-19 complications. “That’s also not safe.”Rubbing alcohol and alcohol swabs or wipes are the latest...

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Lauren Weber
Apr 3
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Coronavirus Puts Prisons In Tight Spot Amid Staff Shortages, Threats Of Lockdown

Coronavirus Puts Prisons In Tight Spot Amid Staff Shortages, Threats Of Lockdown

[UPDATED at 4:30 p.m. ET on March 13]Federal prison union officials and inmate advocates warn that the combination of chronic understaffing, a new leave policy and the realities of coronavirus quarantines could lead to the first nationwide federal prison lockdown since 1995.As coronavirus races across the country, staffing challenges are particularly complicated in the nation’s jails and prisons where conditions create a tinderbox for contagion. There is no such thing as teleworking for a correctional officer tasked with guarding inmates.Union leaders for the Council of Prison Locals worry...

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Lauren Weber
Mar 12
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No Quick Fix: Missouri Finds Managing Pain Without Opioids Isn’t Fast Or Easy

No Quick Fix: Missouri Finds Managing Pain Without Opioids Isn’t Fast Or Easy

This story also ran on .ST. LOUIS — Missouri began offering chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy for Medicaid patients in April, the latest state to try an alternative to opioids for those battling chronic pain.Yet only about 500 of the state’s adult Medicaid users accessed the program through December, at a cost of $190,000, according to Josh Moore, the Missouri Medicaid pharmacy director. While the numbers may reflect an undercount because of lags in submitting claims, the jointly funded federal-state program known in the state as MO HealthNet...

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Lauren Weber
Feb 13
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Patients Stuck With Bills After Insurers Don’t Pay As Promised

Patients Stuck With Bills After Insurers Don’t Pay As Promised

This story also ran on .The more than $34,000 in medical bills that contributed to Darla and Andy Markley’s bankruptcy and loss of their home in Beloit, Wisconsin, grew out of what felt like a broken promise.Darla Markley, 53, said her insurer had sent her a letter preapproving her to have a battery of tests at the Mayo Clinic in neighboring Minnesota after she came down with transverse myelitis, a rare, paralyzing illness that had kept her hospitalized for over a month. But after the tests found she also had beriberi, a vitamin deficiency, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield judged that the...

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Lauren Weber
Feb 11
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