Health

Matthew Fentress was just 25 when he passed out while stuffing cannolis as a cook at a senior living facility six years ago. Doctors diagnosed him with viral cardiomyopathy, heart disease that developed after a bout of the flu.

Mental illness can run in families. And Dr. Kafui Dzirasa grew up in one of these families.

His close relatives include people with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. As a medical student, he learned about the ones who'd been committed to psychiatric hospitals or who "went missing" and were discovered in alleyways.

Dzirasa decided to dedicate his career to "figuring out how to make science relevant to ultimately help my own family."

The federal government is preparing to crack down aggressively on hospitals for not reporting complete COVID-19 data daily into a federal data system, according to internal documents obtained by NPR.

The draft guidance, expected to be sent to hospitals this week, also adds new reporting requirements, asking hospitals to provide daily information on influenza cases, along with COVID-19. It's the latest twist in what hospitals describe as a maddening flurry of changing requirements as they deal with the strain of caring for patients during a pandemic.

Jean lost her job as a school bus driver in Chicago during the pandemic. She was managing OK with unemployment money. But then, about two weeks ago, she got a desperate call from her adult son.

"His job had laid him off, and he wasn't able to pay rent," she says. There was an eviction moratorium in Chicago, but Jean says the landlord wanted her son out anyway.

She says the landlord got someone to threaten her son, and to shoot his dog — a German shepherd mix he'd had for years.

Data gathered early in the pandemic showed that communities of color are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 across the United States. But incomplete data left a muddy picture of these disparities.

Today, as the U.S. has surpassed 200,000 COVID-19 deaths, and reached nearly 7 million confirmed cases, racial data is more complete, and the trend is crystal clear: People of color get sick and die of COVID-19 at rates higher than whites and higher than their share of the population.

Updated at 7:00 a.m. ET

More than 100,000 people are taking part in studies to see if one or more COVID-19 vaccine candidates actually work.

It's still unknown when a COVID-19 vaccine might be available in the United States. But when one is first approved, there may only be 10 million to 15 million doses available, which may be enough to cover around 3% to 5% of the U.S. population.

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When COVID-19 claimed its first 100,000 lives in the U.S., Hidalgo County, Texas, seemed to have avoided the worst of it. The county, which sits on the border with Mexico, had just 10 deaths when the U.S. crossed that tragic milestone on May 27.

David Usher, chief financial officer for a 12-bed rural hospital in western Kansas, is sitting on $1.7 million he's scared to spend.

The money lent from the federal government is meant to help hospitals and other health care providers weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet some hospital administrators have called it a payday loan program that is now brutally due for repayment at a time when the institutions still need help.

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has raised the profile of a case that marks the latest existential threat to the Affordable Care Act. The Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the case the week after the general election in November.

Democrats are raising alarms about the future of the law without Ginsburg. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking on ABC's This Week Sunday morning, said that part of the strategy by President Trump and Senate Republicans to quickly fill Ginsburg's seat is to help undermine the ACA.

If you think all the coronavirus news is bad, consider the uplifting story of Don Ramsayer.

The 59-year-old man from Cumming, Ga., is living evidence that doctors in intensive care units quickly figured out how to help more patients survive.

In early August, Ramsayer was helping his son pack up the car for his freshman year at The Citadel, the Military College of South Carolina. Ramsayer had been having night sweats and wasn't feeling that well, but he tried to play it down.

Terri Cheney did not expect she would be weathering the pandemic so well. The author of Modern Madness: An Owner's Manual has been living with mental illness her entire life. She realizes now, this has been good preparation for the impositions of 2020.

"With anxiety," she said, "you're used to feeling unpredictable and always being afraid of what's going to happen. With depression, there's that loss of interest in things, the lack of productivity, and the loss of hope for the future."

If the coronavirus vaccines currently being tested don't pan out, don't expect new drugs to fill the gap any time soon.

Many drugs are in the works, and those that succeed could play a role in reducing symptoms and sometimes saving lives. But, given the way drugs are developed, it's unlikely that any single medicine will be anywhere as potent against the coronavirus as a successful vaccine.

Joeller Stanton used to be an assistant teacher at a private school in Baltimore and made about $30,000 a year. In mid-March, when the pandemic was just starting, her school closed for what was supposed to be two weeks. "Up to that point, we were under the impression that it wasn't that serious, that everything was going to be OK," Stanton recalls.

When 28-year-old Katie Kinsey moved from Washington, D.C., to Los Angeles in early March, she didn't expect the pandemic would affect her directly, at least not right away. But that's exactly what happened.

She was still settling in and didn't have a primary care doctor when she got sick with symptoms of what she feared was COVID-19.

Out-of-body experiences are all about rhythm, a team reported Wednesday in the journal Nature.

In mice and one person, scientists were able to reproduce the altered state often associated with ketamine by inducing certain brain cells to fire together in a slow, rhythmic fashion.

Working as a fast-food cashier in Los Angeles, Juan Quezada spends a lot of his time these days telling customers how to wear a mask.

"They cover their mouth but not their nose," he says. "And we're like, 'You gotta put your mask on right.' "

Victor Coronado felt lightheaded one morning last month when he stood up to grab an iced tea. The right side of his body suddenly felt heavy. He heard himself slur his words. "That's when I knew I was going to have a stroke," he recalls.

Coronado was rushed to Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, the hospital nearest his home on Chicago's South Side. Doctors there pumped medicine into his veins to break up the clot that had traveled to his brain.

Office designers are scrambling now to try to get more members of the workforce safely back to their desks. Clear plastic sneeze guards have become familiar, as have floors taped off at 6-foot increments. But by 2025 or so, after the immediate threat of the coronavirus has likely passed, which short-term fixes will be part of the new normal? And what other design changes could be coming our way?

As we get closer to a COVID-19 vaccine, it's exciting to imagine a day when the virus is gone. But a vaccine will not be a magic bullet. In fact, it may be only about 50% effective.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief of the National Institute of Health and Infectious Disease, has tried to set realistic expectations when discussing the importance of a vaccine. "We don't know yet what the efficacy might be. We don't know if it will be 50% or 60%," Fauci said during a Brown University event in August.

Black patients are some of the most reluctant to participate in clinical trials, according to FDA statistics.

Nurses at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, Calif., were on edge as early as March, when patients with COVID-19 began to show up in areas of the hospital that were not set aside to care for them.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had advised hospitals to isolate COVID-19 patients to limit staff's exposure and help conserve high-level personal protective equipment that's been in short supply.

Cynthia Maclin cannot get out of bed most days.

Chronic lung disease leaves her short of breath and ended her 45-year career as a medical administrator. COVID-19 cases are on the rise in her hometown of Chicago, and Maclin has already lost eight friends and family members to the virus, including the father of her two daughters. For the first time, this month, she's also unable to pay rent.

In America's four largest cities, at least half of people say they have experienced the loss of a job or a reduction in wages or work hours in their household since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. That's the finding of a new poll published Wednesday by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Some mighty mice have overcome one of the major obstacles to interplanetary space flight: muscle and bone loss.

The mice got a drug that prevented the usual decreases in muscle and bone mass during a month on the International Space Station, a team reports in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

For most of her 34 years, Stephanie Parker didn't recognize she had an eating disorder.

At age 6, she recalls, she stopped eating and drinking at school — behavior that won her mother's praise. "It could have started sooner; I just don't have the memory," says Parker. In middle school, she ate abnormally large quantities, then starved herself again in the years after.

Several vaccines are currently in large-scale studies to see if they can prevent COVID-19, and more are on the way.

What a strange summer it's been.

Dr. Scott Atlas has literally written the book on magnetic resonance imaging. He has also co-authored numerous scientific studies on the economics of medical imaging technology.

Hopefully, summer won't end the way it began. Memorial Day celebrations helped set off a wave of coronavirus infections across much of the South and West. Gatherings around the Fourth of July seemed to keep those hot spots aflame.

Now Labor Day arrives as those regions are cooling off from COVID-19, and public health experts are calling on Americans to stay vigilant while celebrating the holiday weekend.

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