Elemental
Your life, sourced by science. A publication from Medium about health and wellness.

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Credit: diyun Zhu / Getty Images

There’s really never a dull moment in a pandemic, and this week was filled with Covid-19 news. Here are three stories from Medium’s Coronavirus Blog to get you caught up.

Takeaways from the FDA’s big Covid-19 vaccine meeting. On Thursday, a committee of vaccine experts met for the first time to discuss standards that would need to be met in order for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)to authorize a Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use. …


The Election & Your Health

A look at what’s at stake

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

As the country careens toward a presidential election in the midst of a raging pandemic, the dueling headlines on public health and politics are a stark indication that, no matter who wins in November, this election will have profound, far-reaching consequences for your physical health and well-being. All this week, Elemental is running a series of stories detailing what’s at stake, from insurance coverage to plans for a pandemic still in progress. Here’s what you should know about the implications of the election on reproductive health and family planning.

The influence of politics over reproductive rights and sexual health is long, complicated, and mostly frustrating, but data shows that the more reproductive rights women have, and the more family planning services they’re able to access, the healthier they and their children are. …


The coronavirus ignores this outdated social distancing measure

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Photo: Orbon Alija/Getty Images

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) just updated its definition of “close contact” with a person infected with Covid-19 — wording that should influence how all of us think about social distancing, and which will change who gets traced and notified when someone tests positive. “Close contact” had been defined as 15 continuous minutes or more within six feet of an infectious individual, whether or not either person wore a mask and regardless of whether the contact occurred indoors or outside, though the CDC says those are important factors that affect transmission.

The new definition: 15 minutes or more of cumulative exposure to infectious individuals, within six feet, in a 24-hour period — such as three five-minute exposures — still regardless of masking and whether the contact was inside or outdoors. …


Election Stress Relief

Try this body scan to find a moment of calm — right now

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Animation: Yana Pan

As we approach Election Day, Elemental is bringing you a progressive body scan for stress relief (also known as progressive muscle relaxation therapy; read more about the science behind it here). Each day, you’ll focus on and relax one part of your body to find a moment of presence and calm. Today, we begin from the ground up, with the feet and lower legs.

Pause.

Take a deep inhale, then sigh it out.

Feel the breath entering the lungs and filling the belly.

Feel the belly expand… the chest… the rib cage.

Exhale and feel your belly soften.

Continue and feel your breath rise and fall like an ocean tide. …


The Election & Your Health

A look at what’s at stake for America’s gaping health disparities

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

As the country careens towards a presidential election in the midst of a raging pandemic, the dueling headlines on public health and politics are a stark indication that, no matter who wins in November, this election will have profound, far-reaching consequences for your physical health and well-being. All this week, Elemental is running a series of stories detailing what’s at stake, from insurance coverage to plans for a pandemic still in progress. Here’s what you should know about the implications of the election on health for people of color and the LGBTQ+ community.

Social determinants of health — including education and access to opportunities, resources available in communities, and the safety and cleanliness of those communities — are all closely tied to politics, and have a significant impact on overall well-being. Because of racist policies and structural inequalities, resource-poor communities tend to be more heavily populated by Black and Hispanic or Latinx people. …


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Illustration: Kieran Blakey

The Nuance

Americans are cleaning more than ever — and all those scented products are worrying consumer-health researchers

Even before the pandemic, Americans were among the world’s most enthusiastic users of scented home-cleaning products. Market research from the industry-tracking firm Statista shows that the United States ranks first in the world in spending on household cleaners; the U.S. spends more on these products than the next three countries on the list, combined.

The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has only intensified the country’s zeal for scented wipes, sprays, detergents, soaps, and sanitizers. …


A physician explains the nature of opportunistic infection

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Photo: Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

In 1971, a professor of epidemiology named Abdel Omran proposed the epidemiological transition theory. He concluded there have been three main “stages” of human health concerns. First, in the pre-modern era, we dealt with widespread pestilence and famine. This time period was characterized by a high mortality rate and a low average life expectancy — around 20 to 40 years. Major causes of death included infections, malnutrition, and complications of childbirth.

Next came stage 2, dubbed “the age of receding pandemics.” Average life expectancy increased, averaging between 30 and 50 years. Infections remained a significant issue, but epidemic peaks became less frequent. Finally, early in the 20th century, we reached stage 3. …


Are your days dragging on or flying by?

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Image: Yulia Reznikov/Getty Images

In his famous thought experiment, a 16-year-old Albert Einstein imagined what it would be like to travel as fast as a beam of light. If he rode alongside, traveling at light speed, he wrote, “I should observe such a beam of light as an electromagnetic field at rest.” For the observer, in this case Einstein, time itself would slow down. This, among other thoughts, would lead Einstein to theorize about how time is relative. Time and speed have an inverse relationship — should you find yourself approaching the speed of light, you’ll note that time slows down.

For those of us clocking our days at a human pace on planet Earth, time is constant. Seconds tick by at the same rate for an American as they do for an Australian — or for an accountant in an office building as they do an angler on the ocean. Time slows down only for astronauts in low earth orbit, no one else. …


Inside the puzzle to reconstruct the history of SARS-CoV-2 and how it spilled over into humans

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Illustration: Bernice Liu

As the Covid-19 pandemic disrupts the lives of billions around the world, two questions continue to linger: Where did the virus come from, and how did it find its way into humans?

Scientists have been hunting for those answers since the first cluster of unusual pneumonia cases emerged in China in December 2019. …


The Election & Your Health

A look at what’s at stake for the Affordable Care Act

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Illustration: Olivia Fields

As the country careens toward a presidential election in the midst of a raging pandemic, the dueling headlines on public health and politics are a stark indication that, no matter who wins in November, this election will have profound, far-reaching consequences for your physical health and well-being. All this week, Elemental is running a series of stories detailing what’s at stake, from insurance coverage to plans for a pandemic still in progress. Here’s what you should know about the implications of the election on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Since the moment it was signed into law by President Barack Obama in March of 2010, opponents of the landmark Affordable Care Act (ACA) have been trying to repeal it. The law is designed to make health insurance affordable and accessible for all Americans. Its basic tenets include coverage of essential health benefits and of people with pre-existing conditions. It also allows children to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until the age of 26, eliminates lifetime and annual coverage limits, and slows the rise of health care costs, among other benefits. In the decade since the act’s passage, the number of uninsured people in the United States has dropped by roughly 20 million. There have been significant increases in doctor visits for low-income people, more people are filling their prescriptions, and average per-person medical debt fell by more than $1,000. …

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