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A summary of important health news from the past week

How the Pandemic Is Changing Our Exercise Habits

By Gretchen Reynolds

As expected, a recent study has found that the quarantine has led to a decrease in steps and physical activity in the general society. At the beginning of the pandemic with shocking lockdown orders, most people’s physical activity drastically dropped to minimal movement. Although over the course of a couple weeks, google searches of “exercise” spiked as people began to search for creative ways to add physical activity back into their day-to-day activities. Our incidental physical activity of walking throughout the day, commuting to work, or walking around in our daily activities has dropped, society has turned to purposeful movement either outside at a distance from others, or in their homes in order to keep our bodies moving. In general, the recent JAMA research study has found that even though we may be trying to supplement with purposeful physical activity, besides the 65+ population, our daily physical activity and step count has decreased drastically since the lockdown began.

Halloween During COVID-19: Safe Ways to Get Spooky

By: Cathy Cassata

With Halloween quickly approaching, many are wondering how to get in the spooky spirit while still keeping their families safe amidst the pandemic. While doctors and health officials do not recommend traditional trick-or-treating, hay rides, costume parties, or haunted houses, there are still activities that you can do to celebrate Halloween: decorating your house, having a costume photoshoot, a scary movie night, organizing a scavenger hunt, and more!

White House Blocked C.D.C. From Requiring Masks on Public Transportation

By Sheila Kaplan 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention drafted an order last month requiring all passengers on public and commercial transportation to wear masks. According to two federal health officials, this order was blocked by the White House. This federal mask mandate was aimed at curbing the spread of the Coronavirus. It was supported by the secretary of health and human services; however, The White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, refused to discuss it. The task force argued that the decision to require masks should be left up to state and local governments. Many public health leaders believe that wearing masks is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of the virus, especially in crowded, public places like transportation venues. Citizens feel that the Trump administration has turned the idea of wearing masks into a political discussion. 

The Case for Funding Psychedelics to Treat Mental Health

By: Sigal Samuel

The ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on our mental health. Virus induced losses of life, jobs, and social connection have been attributed to increasing rates of depression and anxiety globally. The pandemic has exposed a kink in our existing tools for addressing mental health issues and disrupted access to mental health services. And the effectiveness of traditional drugs like antidepressant is now being questioned. A recent report by Harvard Medical School finds that they are more effective than a placebo, but not significantly more effective. But over the past decade, multiple studies have investigated the effectiveness of psychedelics for treating depression and anxiety. Psilocybin has been studied for treating end-of-life anxiety in cancer patients and ecstasy has been studied for use in PTSD patients, to name a few.

As wildfires ravage the West, contaminated water raises health concerns

By: Priyanka Runwal

Years after the 2017 Tubbs Fire occurred in northern California, residents are still experiencing deathly aftermaths. Research has suggested that fires like Tubbs are likely to contaminate water by heating up the plastic pipes, leaching chemicals into the water. The fire also causes damaged water systems to absorb the smoke and pollutants, such as carcinogenic compounds like benzene, from the surrounding air into the pipes. Exposure to such compounds may lead to cancer in the long-term, and short-term benzene exposure has been associated with light-headedness or nausea. Health officials in California have issued “do not drink, do not boil” and “do not use” advisory and are working to figure out which compounds are unsafe as wildfires have become more common recently with climate change.