Yuki Noguchi

Access Health CEO Jeff Fortenbacher's nonprofit tries to provide better health care by offering lower-cost health insurance and offering counseling and care to low-income and minority patients around Muskegon, Mich., where the rate of full vaccination in that population is at a mere 14%.

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Updated December 27, 2021 at 4:47 PM ET

For many Americans, the hunt for an at-home COVID test can be frustrating right now. In the aftermath of the holidays, drugstore shelves are bare in many places and states that have offered free over-the-counter tests, like Ohio and New Hampshire, ran out within hours.

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Caswell County, where William Crumpton works, runs along the northern edge of North Carolina and is a rural landscape of mostly former tobacco farms and the occasional fast-food restaurant.

"There are wide areas where cellphone signals are just nonexistent," Crumpton says. "Things like satellite radio are even a challenge."

Struggle is nothing new to Foxx Whitford.

He grew up desperately poor in Fairfield, Calif., losing a beloved brother to epilepsy and getting evicted from his home as a child. As a teenager, he joined the Marines to help put himself through college and he completed a harrowing tour in Afghanistan. All of that hardship, he says, prepared him for one of his biggest life challenges: getting into and through nursing school during a pandemic.

New Yorker Charlie Freyre's sinuses had been bothering him for weeks last winter, during a COVID-19 surge in the city. It was before vaccines became widely available.

"I was just trying to stay in my apartment as much as possible," Freyre says, so checking in with his doctor via an online appointment "just seemed like a more convenient option. And you know, it was very straightforward and very easy."

The desperate and frantic pace of hospital work in 2020 in New York, the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic at the time, was more chaotic than anything intensive care nurse Matthew Crecelius had ever seen. "It was like watching a bomb go off in slow motion," he says.

It is official: The pandemic's effect on America's waistline has been rough.

New data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed 16 states now have obesity rates of 35% or higher. That's an increase of four states — Delaware, Iowa, Ohio and Texas — in just a year.

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