Selena Simmons-Duffin

Selena Simmons-Duffin reports on health policy for NPR.

She has worked at NPR for ten years as a show editor and producer, with one stopover at WAMU in 2017 as part of a staff exchange. For four months, she reported local Washington, DC, health stories, including a secretive maternity ward closure and a gesundheit machine.

Before coming to All Things Considered in 2016, Simmons-Duffin spent six years on Morning Edition working shifts at all hours and directing the show. She also drove the full length of the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014 for the "Borderland" series.

She won a Gracie Award in 2015 for creating a video called "Talking While Female," and a 2014 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Award for producing a series on why you should love your microbes.

Simmons-Duffin attended Stanford University, where she majored in English. She took time off from college to do HIV/AIDS-related work in East Africa. She started out in radio at Stanford's radio station, KZSU, and went on to study documentary radio at the Salt Institute, before coming to NPR as an intern in 2009.

She lives in Washington, DC, with her spouse and kids.

If there's a time that people particularly need access to good health care and health insurance, it's during a global pandemic.

But in the U.S. 33.5 million people so far have had to file for unemployment benefits — and most people in the nation get their health insurance through their jobs. An analysis from the Kaiser Family Foundation published Wednesday estimates that 27 million people have recently lost their health coverage.

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Note: This story was originally published on April 28. We've updated it throughout to reflect updates and new data from several states.

In late April, NPR surveyed all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia to ask them about their contact tracing workforce. That survey showed that states had, or planned to have, around 36,000 workers in total focused on contact tracing, a key strategy to contain the spread of the coronavirus and prevent outbreaks.

Attorneys general from 20 states sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Wednesday calling on the agency to further ease rules on gay and bisexual men donating blood.

"The discriminatory restrictions against blood donations by healthy gay and bisexual Americans have persisted for far too long," they write.

The Trump administration is having to backtrack on when it can provide data on the race of COVID-19 patients.

First things first: It's not yet time to end social distancing and go back to work and church and concerts and handshakes.

Public health experts say social distancing appears to be working, and letting up these measures too soon could be disastrous. Until there is a sustained reduction in new cases — and the coronavirus' spread is clearly slowing — we need to stay the course.

When the call came from the local health department in northeast Nebraska, Katie Berger was waiting. She had already gotten a text from the salon where she'd gotten her hair done recently, telling her that one of the stylists had COVID-19. She knew she was at risk.

It's the question on everyone's minds: What will it take for us to come out of this period of extreme social distancing and return to some semblance of normal life?

It turns out that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been working on a plan to allow the U.S. to safely begin to scale back those policies. CDC Director Robert Redfield spoke with NPR on Thursday, saying that the plan relies on not only ramped-up testing but "very aggressive" contact tracing of those who do test positive for the coronavirus, and a major scale-up of personnel to do the necessary work.

Updated at 7:52 p.m. ET

Hospitals are trying to make their own disinfectant from in-house chemicals, running low on toilet paper and food, and trying to source face masks from nail salons.

If you're stocking up on fever reducers and cough medicine as the coronavirus spreads around the country, you may want to hang on to those receipts.

To stop the spread of the coronavirus, health officials have a favorite refrain: After being in a city or region where there have been a lot of COVID-19 cases, spend 14 days in quarantine even if you feel perfectly fine — don't leave your house. Coming from New York? 14-day quarantine. Arriving in Hawaii?

Three major health insurance providers have now pledged to shield patients from high medical bills if they need treatment for COVID-19. Insurers Cigna and Humana announced Monday that they would waive consumer costs associated with COVID-19 treatment.

Most of the gargantuan sum of money in the coronavirus bill Congress just passed is dealing with the economic crisis, not the public health one.

"Most of the bill is on emergency relief to people and unemployment insurance," says Loren Adler, associate director of USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy. "The health care provisions are, in some sense, secondary."

When Dr. Judy Salerno, who is in her 60s, got word that the New York State health department was looking for retired physicians to volunteer in the coronavirus crisis, she didn't hesitate.

"As I look to what's ahead for New York City, where I live, I'm thinking that if I can use my skills in some way that I will be helpful, I will step up," she says.

It's Monday, March 16, there are about 4,500 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States. I head to work, attend meetings. My daughter's school is closed for two weeks.

If you or someone in your household is sick with a fever and cough, you may be dealing with another symptom: the fear that you have coronavirus.

What are you supposed to do?

First of all, don't panic. Remember that it's still flu and cold season in the U.S., and seasonal allergies are starting up, too. Unless your symptoms are getting dramatically worse or you feel short of breath, you may not need to seek medical treatment (though it's OK to call your doctor and ask).

The coronavirus funding bill signed into law by the president Friday puts much more money toward treating and preventing the spread of COVID-19 than his administration requested from Congress last week.

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President Trump took full advantage of the large television audience for his State of the Union speech on Tuesday to make his case for reelection in November, touting the strong economy and delighting Republicans in the room with a series of made-for-TV moments.

Some people spend $200 a month on the golf course or on a fancy cable TV package, says David Westbrook, a hospital executive in Kansas City, Mo. His splurge? He pays Dr. John Dunlap $133 a month for what he considers exceptional primary care.

"I have the resources to spend a little extra money on my health care to my primary care physician relationship," Westbrook says. "Because I have that access — and am very proactive in managing my personal health — I think I'm going to be healthier."

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Surprise medical billing was supposed to be the easy health care fix that Washington could get done this year. In May, President Trump urged Congress to come up with a solution.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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Updated at 4:30 p.m. ET

President Trump gave a speech and signed an executive order on health care Thursday, casting the "Medicare for All" proposals from his Democratic rivals as harmful to seniors.

His speech, which had been billed as a policy discussion, had the tone of a campaign rally. Trump spoke from The Villages, a huge retirement community in Florida outside Orlando, a deep-red part of a key swing state.

In gridlocked Washington, both Democrats and Republicans have signaled there's potential for a deal when it comes to lowering prescription drug prices. Now, there's an idea both Congressional Democrats and the White House seem to like: They want to base U.S. prices on something called an international price index.

Bridget Desmukes was surprised when Dr. Rita Driggers, Desmukes' OB-GYN in Washington, D.C., recommended low-dose aspirin at her first prenatal appointment this past spring. She knew about daily low-dose aspirin being prescribed to people recovering from a heart attack or stroke. But for pregnant women?

Good news came out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Wednesday: Preliminary data shows reported drug overdoses declined 4.2% in 2018, after rising precipitously for decades.

The federal government's rule designed to support health workers who opt out of providing care that violates their moral or religious beliefs will not go into effect in July as scheduled. The effective date has been delayed by four months, according to court orders.

Moral and religious objections to providing health care sometimes arise in medicine: A medical assistant might not agree with blood transfusions. A nurse might not want to assist in sex reassignment surgery.

When the first HIV drug, AZT, came to market in 1987, it cost $10,000 a year.

That price makes Peter Staley laugh today. "It sounds quaint and cheap now, but $10,000 a year at that time was the highest price ever set for any drug in history," he says.

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