Report spotlights inequalities in COVID-related restrictions
COVID-related mobility restrictions such as stay-at-home orders had disproportionate burdens on women, minorities, and lower-income populations, according to a study yesterday in JAMA Network Open.
On average, 90,692.8 US adults answered a weekly survey from Apr 23 to Jul 21, 2020, reporting how they thought the COVID-19 pandemic affected their well-being. Mean mobility reduction was 24.8%, and every 10% reduction was associated with higher odds of unemployment (odds ratio [OR], 1.3), food insufficiency (OR, 1.1), mental health problems (OR, 1.04), and class cancellations with no alternative (OR, 1.1). The other two well-being metrics, inaccessibility to medical care and defaulting on the previous month's home mortgage/rent payment, were not linked with mobility reduction.
Individuals with low household incomes had the highest risk of all six adverse outcomes, ranging from a 1.3 OR for inaccessible medical care (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3 to 1.4) to a 2.6 OR for defaulting on a monthly rent/home mortgage payment (95% CI, 2.4 to 2.8).
Compared with White people, Black people reported a higher risk of food insufficiency (OR, 1.3; 95% CI, 1.2 to 1.4), defaulting on a home mortgage/rent payment (OR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.9 to 2.2), and having canceled classes (OR, 1.3; OR, 1.2 to 1.4). Hispanic respondents and women also showed higher risks when compared with non-Hispanic White people and men, respectively.
Comparing multiple demographic factors showed further insights. For example, Black participants with low income had the highest risks of adverse outcomes across all well-being categories compared with White men with high incomes (eg, rent/mortgage default, men and women, OR, 5.7 and 5.3, respectively). White women with low income had the highest risk of inaccessible medical care (OR, 1.8), while Black women with high incomes were also notably vulnerable (OR, 1.7).
"Blanket public health policies ignoring existing distributions of risk to well-being may be associated with increased race/ethnicity–based, sex-based, and income-based inequities," the researchers conclude.
Most respondents were White (62.8%), married (54.1%), and women (51.6%). Average age was 51.6 years.
Apr 7 JAMA Netw Open study
COVID-related school closures linked with learning loss
An 8-week national school closure in the Netherlands was associated with an equivalent loss in learning, with disproportionate losses in students from lower-educated families, according to a study published yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
To assess the effects of remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, the researchers looked at national test results for spelling, reading, and math from 350,000 Dutch students ages 8 to 11. The national tests occurred before and after the lockdown (January to February plus June 2020), and the researchers included the previous 3 years' test results as a baseline.
During 2020, a learning loss of 3 percentage points, or 0.08 standard deviations, occurred, which the researchers calculated to be equivalent to a learning loss of 8 weeks. Children from families in the lowest-educated homes (8%) were disproportionately affected, with losses up to 60% larger; whereas, the students' sex, school grade, subject, or prior performance had no significant effect.
While the results could not help in determining how other factors affected student test results (eg, less emphasis on test-taking skills, stress associated with taking tests in person during COVID), the researchers compared the test results with a generic oral reading test meant to assess learning readiness. Prior to the pandemic, there was no significant difference between students' performances on both tests, but last year, there was a greater drop (-1.19 vs -3.16, respectively). This suggests the deficit in core subject test scores is due to a lack of knowledge, according to the researchers.
"The Netherlands is interesting as a 'best-case' scenario, with a short lockdown, equitable school funding, and world-leading rates of broadband access," the researchers conclude. "Despite favorable conditions, we find that students made little or no progress while learning from home."
Apr 7 Proc Natl Acad Sci study
CWD turns up on another Minnesota deer farm
Chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been detected on another Minnesota deer farm, which was under quarantine due to links to infections at a farm in another part of the state.
The deer that tested positive is a 3-year-old white-tailed doe housed at a farm in Beltrami County in northwestern Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Board of Animal Health (MBAH). The animal was part of a 77-animal herd that was quarantined in October 2020 owing to links to an earlier detection in Houston County, located in the southeastern part of the state.
Investigators found that the Beltrami County farmer had bought 11 animals from a deer farm in the state's Winona County, which had sold deer to the Houston County farm. Three of the 11 deer recently died, and samples were collected for two, including the doe that yielded the positive sample. A sample couldn't be taken from the third deer because of advanced decomposition. The carcasses were taken to the University of Minnesota for safe disposal.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will conduct precautionary surveillance in the area around the Beltrami County farm to determine if wild deer are infected with CWD.
Linda Glaser, DVM, MBAH assistant director, said the detection is disheartening and that the board will work with the US Department of Agriculture to depopulate the herd. "Our investigation and tracing led us to find this positive animal. However, CWD continues to negatively impact Minnesota farmed cervid producers, and the tools we have to control this disease are so limited."
Apr 7 MBAH statement