Virus

Get the Data: Hollowed-Out Public Health System Faces More Cuts Amid Virus

There is no comprehensive data on government public health spending and staffing in the U.S., and KHN and the Associated Press spent months gathering different datasets, each measuring a slightly different concept of “public health,” into a unique repository of public health data at the local, county and state levels.

Now, we’re releasing our public health infrastructure data on Github for journalists, researchers and interested readers to use.

The U.S. public health system has been starved for decades and lacks the resources to confront the worst health crisis in a century. Since 2010, spending for state public health departments has dropped by 16% per capita and spending for local health departments has fallen by 18%, according to a KHN and AP analysis of government spending on public health. At least 38,000 state and local public health jobs have disappeared since the 2008 recession, leaving a skeletal workforce for what was

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KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Trump Twists on Virus Response

Can’t see the audio player? Click here to listen on SoundCloud.

President Donald Trump — who has spent the past six months trying to play down the coronavirus pandemic — seems to have pivoted. In back-to-back briefings on July 21 and 22, Trump cautioned that the U.S. is in a dangerous place vis-a-vis the pandemic. He urged the public to wear masks — although he has rarely worn one in public.

Meanwhile, Republicans in the Senate are scrambling to put together a package for the next COVID-19 relief bill, facing a July 31 deadline, when some of the benefits passed in the spring expire. House Democrats passed their bill in May.

This week’s panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Joanne Kenen of Politico, Margot Sanger-Katz of The New York Times and Tami Luhby of CNN.

Among the takeaways from this week’s podcast:

  • Although Trump’s renewed emphasis on
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Ex-West Virginia Health Chief Says Cuts Hurt Virus Response

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The former West Virginia public health leader forced out by the governor says decades-old computer systems and cuts to staff over a period of years had made a challenging job even harder during a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Republican Gov. Jim Justice demanded Dr. Cathy Slemp’s resignation on June 24. He complained about discrepancies in the number of active cases and accused Slemp of not doing her job. He has refused to elaborate.

In her first comments about what happened, Slemp declined in a series of interviews to directly discuss the governor’s decision, saying she wanted to focus on improving the public health system. She defended how the data was handled and she detailed how money dwindled over the years. That meant fewer staff members, and they were hobbled by outdated technology that slowed their everyday work and their focus on the coronavirus.

Among the challenges: a computer

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COVID Catch-22: They Got A Big ER Bill Because Hospitals Couldn’t Test For Virus

Fresh off a Caribbean cruise in early March, John Campbell developed a cough and fever of 104 degrees. He went to his primary care physician and got a flu test, which came up negative.

Then things got strange. Campbell said the doctor then turned to him and said, “I’ve called the ER next door, and you need to go there. This is a matter of public health. They’re expecting you.”

It was March 3, and no one had an inkling yet of just how bad the COVID-19 pandemic would become in the U.S.

At the JFK Medical Center near his home in Boynton Beach, Florida, staffers met him in protective gear, then ran a battery of tests — including bloodwork, a chest X-ray and an electrocardiogram — before sending him home. But because he had not traveled to China — a leading criterion at the time for coronavirus testing —

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