This week, we take a moment to observe the passing of a grim milestone: 1 million deaths from COVID-19. Learn more about the pandemic’s impact, the baby formula shortage, abortion legislation and a (possible) fountain of youth.
1. One Million
COVID-19 has claimed more than 1 million lives in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic. It’s an unfathomable number of lives lost, and one that does not encapsulate the growing number of Americans who are grieving or facing uncertain futures.
Experts estimate that for every one person who has died of COVID-19, nine close family or friends have been left behind. James Summers, a 37-year-old man who died last October, had nine children who were left reeling from his death. Summers, who was Black, represents a demographic that has been devastated by this pandemic: In the U.S., Black and Latino people have died from COVID-19 at younger ages than white individuals, and lower-income communities have been hardest hit.
Humans are ill-equipped to process large numbers, never mind large-scale suffering. Our desensitization to the grim milestones of the pandemic not only inhibits our response to the virus, but it also alienates those whose lives have been unmoored by the death of a loved one.
2. The Formula Shortage
Caregivers of infants across the country are in a panic to feed their youngsters as a shortage of infant formula worsens — and may not end anytime soon. Manufacturers and producers are anticipating a monthslong wait until a full supply of formula is back on the shelves. The shortage is so severe that the Food and Drug Administration has said it is “doing everything in our power” to improve the supply.
The baby formula shortage began with supply chain issues from the pandemic and worsened when Abbott Nutrition, a major infant formula brand, recalled several of its products. The products were linked to bacterial infections in four babies, which may have contributed to two infant deaths.
3. Try and Fail Again
After a leaked draft of the U.S. Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade shook the country, the Senate tried and failed to pass an abortion rights bill. The largely symbolic Democratic legislation lost in a 49-51 vote, with all Republican senators and one Democrat, Sen. Joe Manchin, voting against it. The Senate rejected similar legislation in February.
The legislation would have gone beyond codifying Roe v. Wade by banning states from enacting many kinds of abortion restrictions, including those currently allowed under Roe that are deemed “medically unnecessary,” like mandatory waiting periods and regulations on clinics, known as TRAP laws. The House passed similar legislation last year.
Perhaps the fountain of youth contained spinal fluid rather than water. New research in mice found that an infusion of spinal fluid from young mice reversed the memory loss typically seen in aging animals. The finding hints at "a whole new era" in the search for treatments for Alzheimer's disease and other age-related conditions that affect a person's memory and thinking.
There’s a mantra that we sometimes rely on when faced with sad or difficult news: “This is how it is, right now.” It offers a message of acceptance and impermanence, and sometimes it’s the reminder we need — especially in the midst of grief and challenging times. – Dr. Matt Mullane
By Claire Cleveland, science writer
Edited by Shannon Mullane, senior editor
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