On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Why doctors struggle to identify treatments for long COVID
Patient safety reporter Karen Weintraub reports. Plus, President Joe Biden praises inflation legislation despite concerning numbers, the Jan. 6 House panel sets a date for its next hearing, money reporter Terry Collins explains how coding boot camps offer a career switch and a package explodes at Northeastern University.
Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.
Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Wednesday, the 14th of September, 2022. Today, a closer look at long COVID, plus an inflation check-in, and more.
Here are some of the top headlines:
- Ukrainian troops kept pressure on retreating Russian forces yesterday. Ukraine in recent days has retaken towns right along Russia’s border in the country’s northeast.
- Armenia and Azerbaijan accused each other of new rounds of shelling this morning. Fighting on the countries’ shared border sparked yesterday with about a hundred troops killed in all.
- Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin will leave Buckingham Palace for the last time today. It’s being moved to the Houses of Parliament where the late monarch will lie in state for four days.
Long COVID. We’re only just beginning to learn what it is, but people suffering from long-term symptoms related to the virus face a variety of experiences making it hard to treat. And doctors still don’t have all the answers. Producer, PJ Elliott, spoke with health reporter, Karen Weintraub, to look at the challenge of treating a condition with so many varied problems.
One of the big issues with long COVID is we still don’t really know what it is. It’s this wide range of symptoms, everything from complete exhaustion, people having trouble literally walking to the bathroom from their bed, to a lingering cough, to lung problems from having been hospitalized with COVID, to a loss of sense of smell, to exercise intolerance, people who even walk into the bathroom get exhausted. So it’s just this crazy, large range of symptoms, all of which could be caused by something else. So they have to filter out what exactly is long COVID versus something else, and that’s been a big challenge even just coming up with a specific definition.
What’s being done to learn more about long COVID?
There are a lot of studies looking at people with long COVID and trying to distinguish them from people who don’t have long COVID or who have different symptoms of long COVID. The big issue for patients right now is there are not many trials of potential drugs. There are a lot of different options that people have thrown out that might help. Even the antiviral Paxlovid that you take when you’re infected with COVID might help people if they have, say, lingering virus inside their body. But there are no large-scale trials that we know of that, or a vaccination which also might help people clear a virus out of their body, or treatments for blood clots, or things like that that might help but really have not been tested at large scale yet.
Who are the patients that have long COVID?
It’s actually a huge percentage of people with COVID. Early estimates were about 30%. About a third of people who had COVID had lingering symptoms three months later. Some people I’ve talked to have it two years later. Most people do get better with time, but some people are still lingering. It’s not clear how many. The government estimates are anywhere from 7.7 million to 23 million Americans, so there’s a huge range of possible people who are affected. Again, it could be something seemingly minor, like a loss of sense of smell and taste, which, again, doesn’t seem like a big deal, but can be dangerous if the gas is left on and can also really limit the quality of your life. If you can’t taste your food, you can’t enjoy eating anymore. Or sometimes people have weird off-tastes, so everything tastes metallic and they don’t want to eat. So there are a lot of things like that that, again, may not seem so debilitating but really do affect somebody’s quality of life. Then there are the people who are just completely bedbound and can’t work. Again, there’s a wide range.
Nationwide inflation continues, and consumer prices are not fading as quickly as some had hoped. Inflation in August remained near 40-year highs, according to a government report out yesterday. The Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index showed that overall prices increased 8.3% from a year earlier, down from an 8.5% rise in July and a 40-year high of 9.1% in June. That’s despite forecasts of a sharper decline, though. Inflation did ease, but the drop from a year earlier was not as large as economists predicted. And two other key measurements actually rose. They are the month-over-month change in prices and a measure of inflation that does not include volatile food and energy costs. Disappointing results sent stock and bond prices tumbling, and there are fears that the US economy could slip into recession despite a strong jobs market and falling gas prices.
President Joe Biden yesterday celebrated the Inflation Reduction Act. He and congressional Democrats have said the bill will help ease the pressure on Americans’ wallets. The legislation includes a wide set of measures to tackle climate change and health care costs.
President Joe Biden:
Exactly four weeks ago today I signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law, the single most important legislation passed in the Congress to combat inflation and one of the most significant laws in our nation’s history in my view. I said it then and I’ll keep saying it. With this law, the American people won and special interests lost.
Barclays economist, Pooja Sriram, told USA TODAY that supply chain bottlenecks have eased and retailers’ bloated inventories should lead to price discounts, but she also said that continued worker shortages should keep pressure on wages, in turn, nudging prices higher.
The House committee to investigating the January 6th Capitol attack will hold another hearing on September 28th, but the panel’s chair, Democratic Congressman Bennie Thompson, said yesterday, after a meeting of committee members, that the hearing’s subject has not yet been decided. He also said the committee has not decided yet whether to invite former President Donald Trump or former Vice President Mike Pence to testify. The next hearing’s scheduling comes after research last month into several subjects, including how often members of Trump’s cabinet discussed removing him from office, and efforts to organize fake electors.
The next hearing comes after a blockbuster round of hearings in June and July. The committee held eight hearings, featuring testimony from former Trump aides. They described how Trump knew the mob he spurred to the Capitol included people carrying guns. During hearings, lawyers and campaign staffers have testified about Trump’s efforts to overthrow the 2020 election, and former administration and campaign officials said they repeatedly told Trump he lost. Former Attorney General William Barr, for example, said he told Trump the election was not stolen.
AG William Barr:
I had three discussions with the president that I can recall. One was on November 23rd, one was on December 1st, and one was on December 14th. I’ve been through sort of the give and take of those discussions. In that context, I made it clear I did not agree with the idea of saying the election was stolen and putting out this stuff, which I told the president was (beep), and I didn’t want to be a part of it. That’s one of the reasons that went into me deciding to leave when I did. I observed, I think it was on December 1st, that you can’t live in a world where the incumbent administration stays in power based on its view, unsupported by specific evidence, that there was fraud in the election.
In June, committee chair, Congressman Bennie Thompson, called the January 6th Capitol storming an attempted coup.
Congressman Bennie Thompson:
Donald Trump lost the presidential election in 2020. The American people voted him out of office. It was not because of a rigged system. It was not because of voter fraud. He lost in the courts just as he did at the ballot box, and in this country, that’s the end of the line. But for Donald Trump, that was only the beginning of what became a sprawling, multi-step conspiracy aimed at overturning the presidential election, aimed at throwing out the votes of millions of Americans, your votes, your voice in our democracy and replacing the will of the American people with his will to remain in power after his turn ended.
The committee’s final report is expected later this fall.
If you’re looking for a career change, maybe coding is for you. Tech reporter, Terry Collins, and PJ Elliott have more on coding boot camps that could make tech jobs a reality for people switching fields.
Intense software developer programs, also known as tech coding boot camps, typically provide a shorter career route than most college courses. Some boot camps offer courses on software engineering, web development, and others, ranging from 24 weeks or even up to a year. There are thousand of boot camps through private programs, nonprofits, colleges, universities offering professional and continuing education courses across the country. They’re all offered in an effort to bring more employees into the in-demand tech sector, which contributed around $1.8 trillion to the US’s overall economy and about 9.3 of the total country’s gross domestic product.
Most coding boot camps are similar to traditional vocational training programs that teach skills like becoming a mechanic or a welder. There are notable boot camps, including Tech Elevator, the Flatiron School, Launch Academy, Caltech, and Fullstack Academy, just to name a few. There are also coding boot camps at major schools, including UCLA, Cal Berkeley, University of Texas at Austin, North Carolina, and the University of Arizona. Roughly about 25,000 students in the US and Canada graduate annually from full-time immersive boot camps that last as early as 10 weeks and longer with an average tuition of about $14,000, said Course Report, an institution that covers this. In another study conducted by the Council on Integrity in Results Reporting, which monitor coding boot camps, about 71% of graduates found jobs within 180 days.
A package exploded on Northeastern University’s campus in Boston last night, injuring a staff member. The package was delivered just before 7:00 p.m. and detonated when staff members opened it, according to a university spokesperson. Student Jacob Isaacs was on campus.
I didn’t hear any explosions. I don’t think any of the other students did. But we heard the fire alarm, and so we assumed we should leave. One of the ladder trucks hoisted a ladder up to the roof of the building, and a firefighter, with what I believe was an axe, went on top of the building.
An investigation is still ongoing, and local police are working with representatives from the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Classes in the surrounding area were canceled, but the university sent out an alert saying that the campus is expected to be open today.
Thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us every morning on whatever your favorite podcast app is. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.
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