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News

2020

Fatal Opioid Overdoses May Be More Common Than Thought

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Opioids have been blamed for the deaths of at least 400,000 U.S. residents in the past two decades—but research now shows that number could be much higher.

Researchers looked at data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on about 630,000 people who died of drug overdoses between 1999 and 2016. They separated the deaths into two categories: those with and without a specific drug indicated.

For the first category, they analyzed how contributing causes of death (such as injuries and heart problems) and personal characteristics (such as age and gender) correlated with opioid involvement. They then used these analyses to calculate the probability of opioid involvement for each unidentified drug overdose, and they found that the number of opioid deaths is likely 28 percent higher than generally reported.

Read More: Fatal Opioid Overdoses May Be More Common Than Thought

Social distancing has stabilized, but failed to reverse, the spread of COVID-19

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

As policymakers try to restart the economy but also control COVID-19, data scientists at Cornell University and the University of Rochester are studying the impacts of social distancing. While social distancing has effectively slowed the spread of COVID-19, the measures have not reduced the total number of daily new cases.

“The effect is not as large as one would have hoped for going in,” says lead author Aaron Wagner, professor of electrical and computer engineering at Cornell University. As a result, he says, the states now reopening businesses and relaxing restrictions “do not have much headroom” for error. “You’re right on the edge of it starting to blow up again.”

“Policy makers need to be aware of this,” says co-author Elaine Hill, assistant professor of public health sciences at the University of Rochester. “We need more studies to identify the practices that can move us to a place where COVID-19 is actually contracting.”

The study authors suggest that policymakers:

  • Consider a carefully phased relaxation of social distancing, such as first targeting a limited number of businesses and economic activities where duration of human contact is limited: restaurants offering take-out meals, for example, rather than in-restaurant dining; or construction activity where it might be easier to maintain social distancing between workers.
  • Allow enough time for models like the one used in this study to assess the effect of the targeted relaxations before extending them to other areas.
  • Consider augmenting social distancing with other practices, such as universal use of face masks, or contact tracing.
Read More: Social distancing has stabilized, but failed to reverse, the spread of COVID-19

The death toll of the opioid epidemic is higher than originally thought, researchers say

Friday, February 28, 2020

Opioid-related overdoses could be 28 percent higher than reported because of incomplete death records, researchers found in a study published Thursday.

More than 400,000 people in the United States have died of opioid overdoses since the turn of the century, a quarter of them in just the past six years. But University of Rochester researchers found that between 1999 and 2016, about 100,000 more people died from opioids who were not accounted for — potentially obscuring the scope of the opioid epidemic and affecting funding for government programs intended to confront it, Elaine Hill, an economist and senior author of the study, told The Washington Post.

The discrepancies were most pronounced in several states, including Alabama, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Louisiana and Indiana.

“We thought we would find underreporting, but we were definitely not prepared to find how spatially determined it is,” Hill said.

Read More: The death toll of the opioid epidemic is higher than originally thought, researchers say