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The overwhelming aftershocks of the pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic will wreak havoc on the U.S. health care system long after it ends — whenever that may be.

Why it matters: The pre-pandemic health care system was already full of holes, many of which have been exposed and exacerbated over the past several months, and many Americans will be stuck with that system as they grapple with the long-term consequences of the pandemic.


The big picture: The pandemic has caused a crushing wave of mental health problems, exposed longstanding racial disparities, caused people to delay care for other conditions, and likely created new long-term health problems for many coronavirus survivors.

Mental and behavioral health issues are especially concerning, experts say.

  • The number of people looking for help with anxiety or depression has dramatically increased since last year, according to a new report from the advocacy group Mental Health America.
  • “Severe depression, severe anxiety, psychosis that’s already emerged — they aren’t going to go away just because one of the precipitating factors goes away, like the pandemic,” MHA president and CEO Paul Gionfriddo said.
  • Tens of thousands of Americans were overdosing on opioids every year, and the epidemic appears to have gotten worse during the pandemic, the WSJ recently reported.

Between the lines: The pandemic has painfully exposed deep racial disparities within the health care system and beyond, which will only continue to hurt people of color.

  • Mental health services are often inaccessible and unaffordable — especially in the communities that have already faced the worst impacts of both the virus and the economic collapse.

What's next: While the government and private insurers have tried to pick up all or most of the costs of coronavirus treatment, patients with long-term side effects will have to navigate the same patchwork system that has made chronic conditions so expensive for years.

  • Meanwhile, there could be a spike in demand for care for unrelated health conditions that went undiagnosed or untreated during the pandemic. Cancer screenings, for example, plummeted at the height of the pandemic, worrying medical experts.
  • “There’s really almost no way that doesn’t turn into increased mortality,” with the full effects likely to play out over a decade, Ned Sharpless, director of the National Cancer Institute, told the Wall Street Journal.

The bottom line: Even as we prepare to endure what’s likely to be a very painful winter, all signs point to a host of future problems that we’d be wise to begin addressing today.

The questions the COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to answer

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.

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Podcast: Behind the Faces of COVID

America yesterday lost 2,762 people to COVID-19, per the CDC, bringing the total pandemic toll to 272,525. That's more than the population of Des Moines, Iowa. Or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Or Toledo, Ohio.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Alex Goldstein, creator of the @FacesofCOVID Twitter account, about sharing the stories behind the statistics.

WSJ: Pfizer to ship half as many COVID vaccines this year, citing supply chain issues

Pfizer and BioNTech have halved their original estimate for how many coronavirus vaccines will be shipped globally by the end of this year, citing supply-chain issues, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Why it matters: The U.K. government has ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine — enough to inoculate some 20 million people. The companies now expect to ship 50 million vaccines by the end of 2020, instead of 100 million, per WSJ.

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Warner Bros. to release all 2021 movies on HBO Max and in theaters at same time

In a move that will undoubtedly shape the future of cinema for years to come, Warner Bros. said Thursday that it will release its entire 2021 film slate on HBO Max, the streaming service owned by its parent AT&T, at the same time that the films debut in theaters.

Why it matters: It's the latest and most aggressive effort by a movie studio to get its titles in front of audiences at home during the pandemic. The move is a major blow to movie exhibitors, which are already struggling to survive the pandemic.

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Trump refuses to say whether he has confidence in Barr

President Trump declined to say on Thursday whether he still has confidence in Attorney General Bill Barr, after insisting that Barr "hasn't done anything" to investigate his unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud.

Why it matters: Trump has weighed firing Barr in recent days, seething about the attorney general's statement this week that the Justice Department has not uncovered evidence of widespread voter fraud that would change the outcome of the election.

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Biden taps Brian Deese to lead National Economic Council

President-elect Joe Biden announced Thursday that he has selected Brian Deese, a former Obama climate aide and head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, to serve as director of the National Economic Council.

Why it matters: The influential position does not require Senate confirmation, but Deese's time working for BlackRock, the world's largest asset manager and an investor in fossil fuels, has made him a target of criticism from progressives.

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How institutions that control vast wealth fall through U.S. regulatory cracks

Financial regulation is not exactly simple anywhere in the world. But one country stands out for the sheer amount of complexity and confusion in its regulatory regime — the U.S.

Why it matters: Important companies fall through the cracks, largely unregulated, while others contend with a vast array of regulatory bodies, none of which are remotely predictable.

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Trump nominee Christopher Waller confirmed to Fed board

The Senate voted 48-47 on Thursday to confirm Trump nominee Christopher Waller to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors — filling one of the two vacant slots on the influential economic body.

Why it matters: It's one of the last marks left on the Fed board by Trump, who has nominated five of its six members.

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