After spending a May day preparing her classroom to reopen for preschoolers, Ana Aguilar was informed that the tots would not have to wear face masks when they came back. What’s more, she had to sign a form agreeing not to sue the school if she caught COVID-19 or suffered any injury from it while working there.

Other teachers signed the form distributed by the Montessori Schools of Irvine, but Aguilar said she felt uncomfortable, although it stipulated that staff members would be masked. At 23, she has a compromised immune system and was also worried that she could pass the coronavirus on to her fiancé and other family members.

Aguilar refused to sign, and a week later she was fired. “They said it was my choice to sign the paper, but it wasn’t really my choice,” said Aguilar, who’s currently jobless and receiving $276 a week in unemployment benefits. “I felt so bullied.”

As employers in California and across the country ask employees to return to the workplace,

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Hiya! I’m Lauren Olsen, your new Newsletter Editor. That’s right — the totally official, no more fill-ins, always-here-for-you Newsletter Editor. As the replacement for editor extraordinaire Brianna Labuskes, I’m here to tackle all your health news needs.

Why yes, you’re right — a pandemic is a heck of a time to take over this job. I’d argue, however, that it’s the best time, because who doesn’t need a hand sorting out all this craziness? So far, 2020 has been like trying to paint the “Mona Lisa” while riding a unicycle in a rainstorm — in other words, a sloppy mess teetering on disaster — but, with any luck, when it’s done we might all manage to smile.

In the meantime, I won’t Louvre you in the lurch. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) Be sure to read each day’s top health news headlines in KHN’s Morning Briefing, compiled by yours truly. Please subscribe, if you haven’t already — and tell your colleagues and friends, too. Have a

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HELENA, Montana — States frustrated by private laboratories’ increasingly long turnarounds for COVID-19 test results are scrambling to find ways to salvage their testing programs.

Montana said Wednesday that it is dropping Quest Diagnostics, one of the nation’s largest diagnostic testing companies. The Secaucus, New Jersey-based company had done all the state’s surveillance COVID-19 testing — drive-thru testing that moves from community to community to help track COVID’s spread. But it told state officials last week that it was at capacity and would be unable to accommodate more tests for two or three weeks.

“We don’t want to be left high and dry again in the event that the national demand for testing puts a state like ours onto the back burner,” Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock said.

Instead, he said, the state is enlisting Montana State University’s lab to process up to 500 tests a day and has finalized a contract with a new private lab, North Carolina-based Mako Medical, for an additional 1,000 tests a day.

California, Florida and other states that work with Quest have started experimenting with separate, expedited lines for people who have symptoms of

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High up near the ceiling, in the dining room of his Seattle-area restaurant, Musa Firat recently installed a “killing zone” — a place where swaths of invisible electromagnetic energy penetrate the air, ready to disarm the coronavirus and other dangerous pathogens that drift upward in tiny, airborne particles.

Firat’s new system draws on a century-old technology for fending off infectious diseases: Energetic waves of ultraviolet light — known as germicidal UV, or GUV — are delivered in the right dose to wipe out viruses, bacteria and other microorganisms.

Research already shows that germicidal UV can effectively inactivate airborne microbes that transmit measles, tuberculosis and SARS-CoV-1, a close relative of the novel coronavirus. Now, with concern mounting that the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may be easily transmitted through microscopic floating particles known as aerosols, some researchers and physicians hope the technology can be recruited yet again to help disinfect high-risk indoor settings.

“I thought it was a great idea, and I want my customers to be safe,” said Firat whose casual eatery, Marlaina’s Mediterranean Kitchen, is 20 minutes south of downtown Seattle.

As the U.S. grapples with how to interrupt the spread of the highly infectious virus, UV

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People who’ve been laid off or furloughed from their jobs now have significantly more time to decide whether to hang on to their employer-sponsored health insurance, according to a recent federal rule.

Under the federal law known as COBRA, people who lose their job-based coverage because of a layoff or a reduction in their hours generally have 60 days to decide whether to continue their health insurance. But under the new rule, that clock doesn’t start ticking until the end of the COVID-19 “outbreak period,” which started March 1 and continues for 60 days after the COVID-19 national emergency ends. That end date hasn’t been determined yet.

By extending the time frame to sign up for COBRA coverage, people have at least 120 days to decide whether they want to elect COBRA, and possibly longer depending on when they lost their jobs.

Take the example of someone who was laid off in April, and imagine that the national emergency ends Aug. 31. Sixty days after that date takes the person to the end of October. Then the regular 60-day COBRA election

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While you, loyal reader, wait for a wonderful new permanent Friday Breeze writer to start breezing, welcome to this week’s rundown brought to you from St. Louis by me, Midwest correspondent Lauren Weber.

I’m sadly here to inform you the news is … still bad. So bad, in fact, that “doomscrolling” — the act of not being able to escape your smartphone feed of misery — was examined by The New York Times.

And that’s because all you need to know about the current state of the coronavirus can be aptly summed up in renowned infectious disease reporter Helen Branswell’s latest piece for Stat, titled “How to Fix the Covid-19 Dumpster Fire in the U.S.

The Week’s Latest

But to be more precise: New coronavirus cases in the U.S. shattered a single-day record with over 75,000 Thursday. That number of daily cases has more than doubled since June 24. Deaths from COVID-19 are rising yet again while hot spots across the Sun

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