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.

Updated July 28, 2021 at 8:52 PM ET

With the delta variant taking off around the U.S., the federal government Tuesday updated its masking guidelines for fully vaccinated people.

The current COVID-19 surge in the U.S. — fueled by the highly contagious delta variant — will steadily accelerate through the summer and fall, peaking in mid-October, with daily deaths more than triple what they are now.

Updated July 29, 2021 at 12:05 PM ET

This story has been updated throughout to reflect new research.

New data on the delta variant is coming in, and it's not looking good. The currently authorized vaccines are still very protective, especially against hospitalization and death. But when it comes to getting an asymptomatic or mild case of COVID-19, they may not be quite as protective as they were against earlier strains.

After declining steeply for six months, coronavirus cases are once again on the rise, thanks to the delta variant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday that new cases are up by nearly 70% in just a week. Hospitalizations are up by nearly 36%.

There are more than 2 million people across the United States who have no option when it comes to health insurance. They're in what's known as the "coverage gap" — they don't qualify for Medicaid in their state, and make too little money to be eligible for subsidized health plans on the Affordable Care Act insurance exchanges.

Perhaps the only respite pandemic closures brought to my family — which includes two kids under age 6 — was freedom from the constant misery of dripping noses, sneezes and coughs.

Here's one (more) sign the COVID-19 pandemic is on the decline in the United States.

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

"I don't trust them — I don't," says Sandra Wallace. She's 60 and owns a construction company in Arizona. To her, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidance has been inconsistent.

"It's all over the board," she says. "They say one thing one minute and then turn around and say another the next minute."

Updated May 10, 2021 at 2:33 PM ET

Gay and transgender people will be protected from discrimination in health care, the Biden administration announced Monday, effectively reversing a Trump-era rule that went into effect last year.

The Biden administration launched a website and text line on Friday to help people find COVID-19 vaccines near where they live. A national 1-800 hotline in dozens of languages will also soon be announced, according to a senior official from the Department of Health and Human Services.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Signing up for health insurance can be a confusing headache. At the same time, the need for a financial safety net if someone in your family gets sick is incredibly important. With the ongoing pandemic and economic crunch, the stakes are even higher.

Now, during a special enrollment period, the Biden administration is trying to make getting health insurance irresistible — and simpler, too.

Imagine waking up, brushing your teeth, and quickly swabbing your nose to test for the coronavirus — whether you feel sick or not.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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While everyone's hopes are trained on COVID-19 vaccines to lead the way out of the pandemic, public health experts say that other public health tools are still crucial for stopping the virus.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Updated May 3, 2021 at 3:49 PM ET

Updated May 4, 1:20 p.m. ET

Eligibility for the COVID-19 vaccine has rapidly expanded in recent weeks. As of April 19, everyone over age 16 is eligible to get vaccinated in every state. But how are you supposed to sign up?

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Updated 2:20 p.m. ET

The Trump administration is making several big changes to its COVID-19 vaccine distribution strategy, officials announced Tuesday, in a bid to jump-start the rollout and get more Americans vaccinated quickly.

The first change is to call on states to expand immediately the pool of people eligible to receive vaccines to those 65 and older, and those with underlying health conditions that make them more susceptible to COVID-19.

President-elect Joe Biden is planning to take a dramatic step aimed at increasing the amount of vaccine available to states.

His transition team says he'll change a Trump administration policy that kept millions of doses in reserve, only to be shipped when it was time to administer people's second doses.

This time last year, the world was heading into a pandemic that would upend everything and cost 1.9 million lives — and counting. The promise of the new year is that vaccines are finally here and offer a way out.

It's an incredibly difficult time to be a contact tracer in the United States. Just imagine having to call up a stranger a few days before Christmas to tell them they've been exposed to COVID-19 and need to quarantine for 14 days.

For public health workers tasked with making contact tracing calls, "these are very challenging conversations at any time, but the longer the pandemic continues, especially around the holidays, it's difficult to ask folks to quarantine," says Lindsey Mauldin, who oversees Pennsylvania's contact tracing program.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

An important federal advisory committee at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has added its vote of support for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

In an emergency meeting Saturday, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to recommend the first COVID-19 vaccine for use for people 16 or older in the U.S, expressing hope that the vaccine would help curb the spread of the disease that has killed more than 295,000 people in the U.S.

Updated 11:55 a.m. ET

Two drugmakers, Pfizer and Moderna, have announced promising interim results for their vaccine candidates, raising hopes in the U.S. and abroad that the end of the pandemic may be in sight. But, if and when the vaccines are authorized by the Food and Drug Administration, distributing them presents a daunting challenge.

As of Jan. 20, 2021 — Inauguration Day — the federal government is about to get much more involved in health care and the COVID-19 pandemic response. Exactly how much more involved, now that Joe Biden is president-elect, depends on whether Republicans keep control of the Senate. And that likely won't be determined until early January, when Georgia's two Senate run-off races are held.

As coronavirus cases rise swiftly around the country, surpassing both the spring and summer surges, health officials brace for a coming wave of hospitalizations and deaths. Knowing which hospitals in which communities are reaching capacity could be key to an effective response to the growing crisis. That information is gathered by the federal government — but not shared openly with the public.

President Trump has tried to get rid of the Affordable Care Act since the first day of his presidency, but there's one part of Obamacare that he wants to preserve.

"We will always protect patients with preexisting conditions — always," Trump told a campaign crowd on Sunday in Londonderry, N.H. It's a message he has shared repeatedly in the final days and weeks before the presidential election.

Health care was going to be the defining issue of the 2020 election before a pandemic and economic upheaval eclipsed pretty much everything else. But of course, the pandemic has highlighted many health policy issues.

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