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.

A coalition of LGBTQ clinics and organizations are suing to block a Trump administration rule that aims to strip "sex discrimination" protections for transgender people from laws that govern health care. The rule, issued in final form by the Department of Health and Human Services on June 12, is distinct from last week's landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that bars discrimination against LGBTQ people in the workplace.

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An NPR survey of state health departments shows that the national coronavirus contact tracing workforce has tripled in the past six weeks, from 11,142 workers to 37,110. Yet given their current case counts, only seven states and the District of Columbia are staffed to the level that public health researchers say is needed to contain outbreaks.

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Updated at 7:29 p.m. ET

The Trump administration on Friday finalized a rule that would remove nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people when it comes to health care and health insurance.

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Liz McLemore was laid off from her digital marketing job in early March, and her health insurance coverage disappeared along with it.

"I've always been a saver, so I wasn't as concerned about the monthly money coming in," says McLemore, who's 42 and lives in Inglewood, Calif. "But I really was concerned about the [health] insurance."

The Trump administration's testing czar announced Monday that he will be leaving that position in mid-June.

Adm. Brett Giroir told a meeting of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS that he will be "demobilized" from his role overseeing coronavirus testing at FEMA in a few weeks and going back to his regular post at the Department of Health and Human Services.

An HHS spokesperson confirmed the plan for Giroir to stand down from his role and indicated that there are no plans to appoint a new "head of efforts" for coronavirus testing.

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Many people have lost their health insurance along with their jobs during the pandemic. NPR's health policy correspondent answers listener questions on how to navigate the health care system now.

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Today, President Trump officially unveiled his plan to fast-track a coronavirus vaccine.

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Since the coronavirus hit the U.S., millions of Americans have lost jobs — and often the health coverage that came with those jobs. More still have had their work hours reduced or have received drastic pay cuts, so monthly premiums that may have been manageable before are now out of reach.

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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.

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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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