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Emplacement: Accueil / La technologie / Friday, January 28, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

Friday, January 28, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

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KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

From Kaiser Health News - Latest Stories:

Kaiser Health News Original Stories

In Super-Vaxxed Vermont, Covid Strikes — But Packs Far Less Punch

With its highest-in-the-nation vaccination rates, Vermont offers a glimpse of what’s possible as the U.S. learns to live with coronavirus.(Sarah Varney,1/28)

Medicare Patients Win the Right to Appeal Gap in Nursing Home Coverage

If federal officials accept a court’s decision, some patients will get a chance to seek refunds for their nursing home and other expenses.(Susan Jaffe,1/28)

Listen: Generous Deals, and a Few Unwanted Surprises, at Covered California

Southern California correspondent Bernard J. Wolfson answers questions about the health coverage deals available on California’s Affordable Care Act marketplace during Radio Bilingüe’s news program “Línea Abierta.”(1/28)

Resistance to a Boston Hospital’s Expansion Centers on Rising Prices

Mass General Brigham’s $2.3 billion expansion plan is raising state officials’ concerns that it will reduce competition and raise the price of care in Massachusetts. It also signals a national shift from a focus on hospital mergers and purchases of physician practices — which boost the cost of care — to individual hospitals’ expansions to gain a bigger share of the market.(Harris Meyer,1/27)

KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: Record ACA Enrollment Puts Pressure on Congress

Temporary subsidies helped boost enrollment under the Affordable Care Act to a record 14.5 million, according to the Department of Health and Human Services. But unless Democrats in Congress extend those subsidies, many of those new enrollees will be in for a rude surprise just ahead of midterm elections. Meanwhile, the need to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer further crowds an already tight legislative schedule. Joanne Kenen of Politico and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Sarah Karlin-Smith of the Pink Sheet, and Anna Edney of Bloomberg News join KHN’s Julie Rovner to discuss these issues and more. Also this week, Rovner interviews Diana Greene Foster, author of “The Turnaway Study: Ten Years, a Thousand Women, and the Consequences of Having — Or Being Denied — An Abortion.”(1/27)

Here's today's health policy haiku:

GET TO WORK!

Omicron fading —Huge public health challenges.Let's roll up our sleeves!

- Paul Hughes-Cromwick

If you have a health policy haiku to share, please Contact Us and let us know if you want us to include your name. Keep in mind that we give extra points if you link back to a KHN original story.

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Summaries Of The News:

Marketplace

Obamacare Sign-Ups Hit Record

Since the start of November, 14.5 million Americans have signed up for health insurance using Affordable Care Act exchanges, the Biden administration says.

Axios:White House Says Obamacare Sign-Ups Hit Record The White House said Thursday that a record 14.5 million Americans have signed up for health insurance through Obamacare marketplaces since Nov. 1, including more than 10 million enrollments through HealthCare.gov. Last year's stimulus bill contained substantial investments in the program, including increased subsidies for people who don't receive health insurance from an employer or through Medicare or Medicaid. "The American Rescue Plan did more to lower costs and expand access to health care than any action since the passage of the Affordable Care Act," President Biden said in a statement. (Knutson, 1/27)

AP:14.5M Get Health Care Under Obama Law, With Help From Biden“Health care should be a right, not a privilege, for all Americans,” President Joe Biden said Thursday in a statement announcing the numbers. “We are making that right a reality for a record number of people, bringing down costs and increasing access for families across the country.” But progress could prove fleeting if congressional Democrats remain deadlocked over Biden’s social agenda package. Biden’s earlier coronavirus relief bill has been providing generous subsidy increases that benefit new and returning customers by lowering premiums and out-of-pocket costs. The enhanced financial assistance is temporary. It will go away at the end of 2022 without congressional action to extend it additional years or make it permanent, included in the social agenda legislation. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 1/27)

Detroit Free Press:Obamacare Sign-Ups Surge In Michigan, Uninsured Rate At 5.3%More Michiganders signed up for 2022 health insurance during the federal government's recent open enrollment period for the Healthcare.gov marketplace than any year since 2017, and the estimated number of uninsured people in the state continues to hover just above 5%. New sign-up figures released Thursday for Affordable Care Act marketplace plans, also known as Obamacare, show that 303,550 Michiganders signed up for health insurance during the 2022 open enrollment period stretching from Nov. 1 to Jan. 15. (Reindl, 1/27)

Also —

KHN:KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Record ACA Enrollment Puts Pressure On Congress The Biden administration announced that 14.5 million Americans have signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act for 2022. That’s a record, and several states are still enrolling people. But many millions of those newly insured could face significantly higher premiums for 2023 unless Congress extends the temporary subsidies it passed last year. Meanwhile, lawmakers are again working to salvage parts of the president’s Build Back Better social spending bill that failed to garner enough votes to pass the Senate. Separately, lawmakers are looking to remake the federal public health apparatus to better prepare for the next pandemic. (1/27)

KHN:Listen: Generous Deals, And A Few Unwanted Surprises, At Covered CaliforniaKHN Southern California correspondent Bernard J. Wolfson was on “Línea Abierta,” a Radio Bilingüe weekday news program, answering questions for a Spanish-speaking audience about his recent column on health plan enrollment through California’s Affordable Care Act marketplace, Covered California. Wolfson’s column discusses the extraordinary deals available through Covered California. Because of a significant increase in federal tax credits, many people qualify for generous coverage without paying a penny in monthly premiums. Others, with higher incomes, qualify for tax credits large enough to reduce their premiums to easily affordable levels. (1/28)

Supreme Court

With So Much At Stake On High Court, Time Is Of The Essence For A Nominee

The White House has signaled that it intends to move quickly on naming a replacement for Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer. President Biden has said he intends to choose by the end of February, Politico reported, but his history of missing deadlines has caused concern among Democrats.

The Washington Post:White House Plans Fast Push On Breyer Replacement The White House is planning a fast, aggressive effort to nominate the first Black woman to the Supreme Court by the end of February and confirm her swiftly thereafter, reflecting the high stakes of the campaign and the pressure to move quickly in today’s polarized environment. Appearing with retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer at the White House, President Biden on Thursday renewed his pledge to put a Black woman on the high court, saying, “It’s long overdue” and adding, “I will nominate a historic candidate, someone who is worthy of Justice Breyer’s legacy.” (Sullivan, Kim, Barnes and Marimow, 1/27)

Politico:Dems To Biden: Move Fast On SCOTUS; A Tragedy Could Ensue Democrats are preparing a mad-dash confirmation for President Joe Biden’s Supreme Court pick, fearful that with an evenly divided Senate, the door to act could close at any moment. ow, they just need Biden to do something he’s historically struggled with: move fast and send them a name. (Cadelago, Barron-Lopez and Levine, 1/27)

The Hill:McConnell: I'm Going To Give Biden's Supreme Court Nominee 'A Fair Look' Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who famously refused to give the last Democratic Supreme Court nominee a Senate hearing or vote, on Thursday said he’s ready to give President Biden’s pick to the high court “a fair look.”While some conservatives are already taking shots at Biden for pledging to consider only a Black woman to replace retiring liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, McConnell is keeping his powder dry until the nominee is known. (Bolton, 1/27)

Also —

Politico:13 Legal Experts On How Breyer’s Replacement Will Change The Court The news that Justice Stephen Breyer is retiring from the Supreme Court galvanized the legal and political worlds this week. With so much riding on every SCOTUS seat, it’s impossible to ignore how big the consequences might be. But what will really change? Breyer is a moderate liberal justice, to be replaced by a moderate liberal president with the assent of a fully Democratic-controlled Congress. The ideological divide on the Supreme Court will surely remain 6-3. So what, if anything, will be different with a new face in Breyer’s place? What could be different? (1/27)

The Washington Post:4 Issues That Could Come Up In A Ketanji Brown Jackson Confirmation FightThe news that we’ll have a vacancy on the Supreme Court is a little over 24 hours old, but there’s already arguably a favorite: U.S. Appeals Court Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. In fact, Jackson has the distinction of perhaps having been the favorite before this vacancy ever came up. (Blake, 1/27)

The Washington Post:Black Women Cheer Biden’s Pledge To Nominate A Black Woman To The Supreme Court Black women activists, buoyed by news that President Biden will nominate a Black woman to replace retiring Justice Stephen G. Breyer on the Supreme Court, say it’s long overdue and that they are mobilizing to make sure the historic opportunity becomes reality. “I’m excited — and everybody I know is exited,” Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said Thursday after Biden stated his commitment at a White House news conference. “Even though we’ve had people who were ready, who had the qualifications and the exceptional resumes, there’s never been a Black woman. It’s well past time, right?” (Williams, 1/27)

Science And Innovations

Moderna Begins Trial Of HIV Vaccine

The vaccine is based on the same mRNA technology used to create its covid vaccine. On Thursday, it administered the first doses to volunteers at George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, news outlets reported.

ABC News:Moderna Launches Clinical Trial For HIV Vaccine That Uses MRNA TechnologyModerna announced Thursday that it's launched early-stage clinical trials of an HIV mRNA vaccine. The biotechnology company has teamed up with the nonprofit ​​International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to develop the shot, which uses the same technology as Moderna's successful COVID-19 vaccine. (Kekatos, 1/27)

KOMO:Moderna To Make MRNA HIV Vaccine In Partnership With AIDS InitiativeModerna says its Phase 1 trial of the vaccine is testing a hypothesis the messenger RNA (mRNA) can induce and guide specific antibody cells towards maturing into broadly neutralizing antibodies (bnAb). "The induction of bnAbs is widely considered to be a goal of HIV vaccination, and this is the first step in that process," says Moderna. Mark Feinberg, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of IAVI, says he and his initiative are "tremendously excited" to be advancing in this new HIV vaccine design using mRNA tech. (Rogers, 1/27)

Engadget:Moderna Begins Early-Stage Trials Of MRNA-Based HIV Vaccine Moderna has begun early-stage clinical trials of an HIV mRNA vaccine, the company announced this week. On Thursday, it administered the first doses of a shot it co-developed with the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative to volunteers at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Like the company’s COVID-19 vaccine, the new treatment uses messenger RNA to “trick” the human body into producing proteins that will trigger an immune response. Moderna hopes the shot will induce a specific class of white blood cells known as B-cells, which can then turn into broadly neutralizing antibodies. Those proteins are “widely considered to be the goal of HIV vaccination, and this is the first step in that process,” according to the company. (Bonifacic, 1/27)

Also —

New Scientist:HIV: Cancer Drug Could One Day Help Cure HIV By Waking Up Dormant VirusesToday, HIV can be kept under control, but for most people, there is no cure because the virus can become dormant so HIV medicines have no effect. That could change in future, now progress has been made in waking up dormant viruses. People with HIV can take antiviral medicines that stop the virus from reproducing, giving them nearly normal lifespans. But HIV inserts copies of its genetic material into human immune cells, which then become dormant. As a result, people have to take the antivirals for the rest of their lives because, if they stop, viruses inside the cells wake up and start infecting more and more immune cells. (Wilson, 1/26)

Covid-19 Crisis

Future Crises Will Be Just As Bad If HHS Doesn't Fix Problems, Watchdog Warns

A GAO report Thursday said the Health and Human Services Department is at "high risk" of mismanaging future pandemics because of "persistent deficiencies” in how it has dealt with this one.

Politico:Government Watchdog Says HHS At 'High Risk' Of Bungling Public Health Crises The Health and Human Services Department has failed to fix long-standing problems in its pandemic response, putting its ability to respond to future emergencies in jeopardy, the Government Accountability Office said in a report Thursday. The watchdog agency included HHS on its “High Risk List” of federal departments and programs susceptible to mismanagement and abuse without significant changes, such as drug and medical product oversight. Three dozen agencies and federal programs are currently on the list. (Owermohle, 1/27)

The Washington Post:Government Watchdog Says HHS Is At ‘High Risk’ Of Botching A Future CrisisInvestigators “found persistent deficiencies” in how the agency has led the response to the coronavirus pandemic and past public health emergencies dating to 2007, the Government Accountability Office concluded, citing continued problems coordinating among public health agencies, collecting infectious-disease surveillance data and securing appropriate testing and medical supplies, among areas it said are unresolved. (Diamond, 1/27)

AP:Watchdog Says Key Federal Health Agency Is Failing On CrisesThe shortfalls include managing the medical supply chain, coordinating with federal and state agencies and providing clear and consistent communication to the public and the health care community, the GAO said. The report is part of the GAO’s evaluation of the government’s pandemic response. It was released as senators of both parties came out with draft legislation this week calling for a close study of the pandemic and an overhaul of HHS’ capabilities. (Alonso-Zaldivar, 1/27)

In other news from HHS —

The Washington Post:Dr. Fauci Is Up Against More Than A Virus [Dr. Anthony Fauci] has not had a day off since the beginning. “I would say I’m in a state of chronic exhaustion.” He quickly adds: “But it’s not exhaustion that’s interfering with my function.” He is a precise man whose tour in the information war has made him extra-vigilant about his words. “I can just see, you know, Laura Ingraham: ‘He’s exhausted! Get rid of him!’” (Zak and Roberts, 1/27)

Omicron Might Have Peaked, But The Pandemic's Not Over — Nor Is Delta

News outlets remind us that 1) delta covid, more severe if less infectious than omicron, is still a persistent threat; 2) the omicron surge may be fading in places, but the pandemic isn't done amid still-spotty immunity; and 3) omicron isn't "over," and the effects of covid on health and care will linger through 2022.

The Atlantic:Delta’s Not Dead YetPour one out for Delta, the SARS-CoV-2 variant that Season 3 of the pandemic seems intent on killing off. After holding star billing through the summer and fall of 2021, Delta’s spent the past several weeks getting absolutely walloped by its feistier cousin Omicron—a virus that’s adept at both blitzing in and out of airways and dodging the antibodies that vaccines and other variants raise. In late November, Delta made up essentially all the SARS-CoV-2 infections that researchers were sequencing in the United States. Now it’s a measly 0.1 percent. As for the rest? It’s an Omicron show. (Wu, 1/27)

The New York Times:Yes, Omicron Is Loosening Its Hold. But The Pandemic Has Not EndedAfter a frenetic few weeks when the Omicron variant of the coronavirus seemed to infect everyone, including the vaccinated and boosted, the United States is finally seeing encouraging signs. As cases decline in some parts of the country, many have begun to hope that this surge is the last big battle with the virus — that because of its unique characteristics, the Omicron variant will usher Americans out of the pandemic. (Mandavilli, 1/27)

Modern Healthcare:Omicron May Have Peaked, But HCA Expects COVID-19 To Linger In 2022HCA Healthcare isn't convinced that the COVID-19 omicron variant is done with it, the for-profit health system's chief executive said on an earnings call Thursday. During the fourth quarter, 5% of patients admitted to its 182 hospitals had COVID-19, the Nashville, Tennessee-based health system reported. That's significantly lower than the 13% of admissions recorded during the previous three months, but those 27,000 patients were still enough to put a damper on fourth quarter earnings, which fell below Wall Street analysts' estimates. (Bannow, 1/27)

In other news about the spread of the coronavirus —

Bloomberg:Covid Cases For U.S. West Coast Dockworkers Top All Of 2021’sAbout 1,700 dockworkers at West Coast ports have tested positive for Covid-19 in January, stretching capacity at the U.S.’s busiest gateway for shipping containers. The number of infections for this month compares with 1,624 for all of 2021, according to the Pacific Maritime Association, which negotiates contacts with the International Longshore and Warehouses Union for 70 companies at 29 ports on the coast. About 80% of January’s reported infections were at the U.S.’s two largest ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. Almost 15,000 ILWU workers are employed at West Coast ports. (Curtis, 1/27)

Oklahoman:Oklahoma Hits All-Time Record For COVID-19 HospitalizationsOklahoma hit an all-time high in COVID-19 hospitalizations on Thursday, recording a three-day average of 2,070 patients. Of those, 561 are in Oklahoma City. That surpassed the state's previous record of 1,994 COVID-19 hospitalizations, which was a single-day total, set in January 2021. The omicron surge has hit hospitals hard. In this wave, hospitals are dealing with record-high hospitalizations on top of worse staffing shortages than they've faced in previous waves. (Branham, 1/27)

The Texas Tribune:Texas ICU Beds Hit Record LowThe number of Texas intensive care unit beds available for adult patients is at an all-time low for the pandemic, with only 259 staffed beds open across the state as of Wednesday, as hospitals fight a historic staffing crisis and more unvaccinated people infected by the omicron variant pour into hospitals. That’s 11 fewer beds than the previous record set in September during the deadly surge of the delta variant of COVID-19, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. An average of 295 available beds has been reported in the last week, which is also lower than previous record averages. (Harper, Zhang and Essig, 1/27)

Salt Lake Tribune:Utah Undercounted COVID Hospitalizations By Scores Of Patients, New Data RevealsAs Utah reported 7,033 new coronavirus cases Thursday and new record for the number of hospitalized patients, state health officials announced they have been undercounting such patients by scores in recent weeks. For example, Wednesday’s hospitalizations — previously reported as a record 776 patients admitted — were actually higher than that. The updated counts show 837 patients were hospitalized as of Wednesday, a record high that was topped once again on Thursday, when UDOH reported 843 Utahns were hospitalized with the coronavirus. (Harkins, Pierce and Alberty, 1/27)

New Orleans Times-Picayune:Omicron Peaks Across Louisiana As Health Experts Gauge How Mardi Gras Will Impact HospitalsThe omicron wave has peaked in Louisiana. In recent days, the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the state have steadily fallen from the all-time high of 81,305 weekly reached the week ending Jan. 8. However, health experts said the declines are driven by sharp drops in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the state's most populous regions, and warned that cases are still rising elsewhere. “When you look at the state as a whole, we have peaked,” said Dr. Joe Kanter, the state's top health officer, at a press briefing Thursday. “But there still are a few regions of the state that are going up and we expect will be peaking very soon.” (Woodruff and Adelson, 1/28)

KHN:In Super-Vaxxed Vermont, Covid Strikes — But Packs Far Less PunchEven Eden, a snow-covered paradise in northern Vermont, is poisoned by omicron. The nearly vertical ascent of new coronavirus cases in recent weeks, before peaking in mid-January, affected nearly every mountain hamlet, every shuttered factory town, every frozen bucolic college campus in this state despite its near-perfect vaccination record. Of all the states, Vermont appeared best prepared for the omicron battle: It is the nation’s most vaccinated state against covid, with nearly 80% of residents fully vaccinated — and 95% of residents age 65 and up, the age group considered most vulnerable to serious risk of covid. (Varney, 1/28)

Indianapolis Star:IU Health To Resume Elective Surgeries In February As Omicron EasesIndiana University Health will soon resume elective surgeries, rescheduling the thousands of procedures that have been delayed for months as COVID-19 and other acutely ill patients have crowded the health system’s 16 hospitals. Some procedures could begin next week, said Dr. Paul Calkins, vice president and associate chief medical executive. At each hospital, deciding which patients to schedule first will be “a bit of a judgment call,” Calkins said. “We’re hoping to get to everybody as quickly as we can.” (Rudavsky, 1/28)

Mast Cells, Clues From 'Chemo Brain' May Help Unmask Long Covid

Reports in Stat and St. Louis Public Radio show how researchers are trying to uncover the secrets behind what causes long covid, with its lingering post-infection effects. Another study shows pulse oximeter readings are an unreliable tool for measuring covid's severity across ethnic groups.

Stat:In ‘Chemo Brain,’ Researchers See Clues To Unravel Long Covid's Brain FogBack in the pandemic’s first wave, Michelle Monje was worried about Covid-19’s power to muddle the brain. Seeing the massive inflammatory response to the virus and early signs of what became known as long Covid’s brain fog, she was reminded of “chemo brain,” that mind-numbing side effect cancer patients endure when therapy to burn tumors away also inflames the brain. Monje’s not a virologist or an epidemiologist. She’s a neuro-oncologist at Stanford who has studied the neurobiological underpinnings of cognitive impairment after cancer therapy for 20 years. But like scientists around the world, for the last two years her research has pivoted to include Covid and its far-reaching impact throughout the body. That includes brain fog, when people can’t do simple math, concentrate for more than a few minutes, or find the right words. (Cooney, 1/28)

St. Louis Public Radio:Long COVID’s Mast Cell Connection Long-haul COVID-19 has proven one of the most troubling mysteries in a virus that’s caused no shortage of bafflement. Why do some people hospitalized with the virus develop symptoms that linger for months after infection? And, perhaps more bewilderingly, why do some patients who recover from mild COVID cases also end up saddled with lingering difficulties, including fatigue, shortness of breath and difficulty concentrating? Dr. Leonard Weinstock, a gastroenterologist at Missouri Baptist Medical Center, believes the answer lies in the body’s mast cells. Those cells are activated in response to allergens or toxins. But for some patients, they seem to run amok. Even when there’s seemingly nothing to aggravate them, they go into attack mode, setting off symptoms like hives, swelling and difficulty breathing. (Fenske, 1/27)

Friday, January 28, 2022 | Kaiser Health News

In other covid research —

CIDRAP:Study: Pulse Oximeter Readings Unreliable Indicator Of COVID-19 SeverityA UK study today shows pulse oximeter readings, which measure the level of oxygen in the blood, are an unreliable tool for gauging COVID-19 severity across different ethnic groups. The study was published in the European Respiratory Journal. (1/27)

And more pandemic news —

Modern Healthcare:Hospitals Spent More Than $1B On Remdesivir Last YearHospitals spent more on remdesivir, the antiviral medication used to treat COVID-19, last year than any other drug, a new report shows. It was the first time since 2012 that AbbVie's rheumatoid arthritis biologic Humira didn't top the list, according to Vizient's drug price outlook. Still, Humira was the largest contributor to drug price inflation last year and will likely remain that way until 2023, when multiple biosimilars are expected to hit the market. (Kacik, 1/27)

AP:Indiana Senate Backs Narrow Bill To End Health EmergencyThe Indiana Senate has approved a bill taking administrative steps that Gov. Eric Holcomb has said are needed in order for him to end the statewide COVID-19 public health emergency. Senators voted 34-11 in favor of the bill Thursday. The Republican-dominated Senate’s proposal is limited to those administrative actions, while House Republicans have pushed through a bill that would also severely limit workplace COVID-19 vaccination requirements. (1/27)

AP:Florida Sheriff Fires Deputy Union Head After COVID-19 Fight A Florida sheriff fired the president of his department’s deputies union Thursday, capping a three-year battle that escalated when the union chief accused the sheriff of not providing deputies with adequate protective gear against COVID-19. (Spencer, 1/27)

AP:Two Weeks After COVID, Justice Visits Capitol For SpeechGov. Jim Justice was full of energy and good spirits Thursday when he came to the state Capitol to address lawmakers and others for his State of the State remarks, two weeks after he had to postpone the address because of a positive COVID-19 test. In a packed House floor surrounded by many unmasked people, Justice joked that he’s been known to be late. (Willingham, 1/28)

North Carolina Health News:Two Years Of Pandemic Heavy On Prisoners Thru Omicron Susan Rouse feels lucky that she hasn’t gotten COVID-19 yet. But that’s not the only thing she’s worried about anymore. The 74-year-old from Wake County is incarcerated at Raleigh’s North Carolina Correctional Institution for Women (NCCIW), which, like many of North Carolina’s prisons, experienced a surge in cases as the Omicron variant swept across the state in early January. North Carolina Health News previously reported on the toll the new variant could have on the state’s prison system. Rouse was moved from NCCIW’s minimum security Canary Unit to the prison’s main campus shortly after the Omicron surge began, and the Canary Unit was closed. Even though she is still considered an “honor grade” prisoner, many of the privileges that came with being housed in a minimum security facility – some as simple as being able to get a good night’s sleep, have access to a microwave or work outside the prison – are gone. (Thompson, 1/28)

AP:Senators Say They Were Denied Full Access To Federal Prison Two U.S. senators said Wednesday that they were denied access to parts of a federal prison in Connecticut while trying to examine conditions there in response to correctional officers’ complaints about a staffing shortage and lack of coronavirus precautions. Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 itself were behind the denial, the federal Bureau of Prisons said. (Collins, 1/26)

Biden At-Home Test Program Accused Of Impacting Supply Chain

Pharmacists and state officials are reportedly critical of the Biden administration's billion-test plan for impacting the existing network for supply and distribution of covid tests. A poll in The Hill said over 60% of U.S. adults who've tried to get an at-home test have had difficulty.

Roll Call:Pharmacies, Governors Say Biden Test Program Is Depleting Supply The Biden administration’s program to make 1 billion COVID-19 rapid tests available to Americans across the country appears to be exacerbating pharmacy supply shortages and making it more difficult for Americans to find tests on short notice after a virus exposure, say some pharmacists and state officials. “It’s just a matter of numbers. I mean, there’s just no question that you take a billion tests out of the supply chain, and it’s going to have an impact,” said Kurt Proctor, senior vice president of strategic initiatives at the National Community Pharmacists Association. (Cohen, 1/27)

The Hill:Poll: 62 Percent Who Tried To Find At-Home COVID-19 Test Had DifficultyA new poll finds that more than 60 percent of U.S. adults who tried to get an at-home COVID-19 test reported difficulty doing so, underscoring problems with testing access.The survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 62 percent of U.S. adults who tried to get an at-home coronavirus test in the past month had difficulty, compared to 38 percent who found it easy.(Sullivan, 1/28)

AP:Montana Counties Ready To Distribute Free Rapid COVID TestsMontana counties are preparing to distribute 650,000 rapid COVID-19 tests at no cost to residents, Gov. Greg Gianforte said Thursday. The state health department spent $5.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief money to order the tests earlier this month. (1/27)

The Wall Street Journal:Which At-Home Covid Test Is Best For You? PCR-Like Gadgets Vs. Rapid Antigen Kits It’s Friday and you’ve got a scratchy throat and a mild headache. Time to play “Cold? Covid? Or Just Crazy?”—the only game more popular than Wordle. Or you could open up your medicine cabinet and power-on a small white box. Swab your nose with a Lego-like stick, then slide that into the illuminated gadget. About 20 minutes later, your iPhone buzzes: “COVID-19 Positive.” (Stern, 1/27)

The Washington Post:How To Use Rapid Antigen Tests At Home The federal government in January launched a website so that people in the United States can order free at-home antigen test kits in response to the surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations. But many people remain confused about these rapid tests and how they work. If you’re one of them, don’t worry. We’ll break down just how reliable these tests are and what your next move should be if you’re looking to get tested. (Tan, 1/27)

Also —

CBS News:Millions Of Americans Can't Isolate From COVID In The Home. Here's What Experts SuggestIt's a problem a growing number of Americans have had to face: If someone in your household tests positive for COVID-19, what can you do to protect everyone else at home? As Omicron continues to spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revised its recommendations for Americans living in the same home as others who have tested positive for COVID-19, updating the major changes the agency made late last month to its guidance on isolation and quarantine. (Tin, 1/27)

Axios:Contact Tracing Is Fizzling As The Coronavirus Evolves And Vaccinations Increase States across the country are scaling back their contact tracing efforts, often focusing on vulnerable communities and relying more on Americans to alert close contacts themselves after testing positive for COVID. As vaccines have become available, the virus has become more infectious and life has slowly headed more toward normal, health officials have come to view contact tracing as a relatively inefficient use of resources. (Owens, 1/28)

Vaccines and Covid Treatments

Universal Covid Shot Underway, But It May 'Take Years,' Says Fauci

Media outlets cover developments in covid vaccines, including research into a "pan-coronavirus" shot that can tackle multiple variants of the virus. Moderna, meanwhile, warns that omicron will be a persistent problem this year and that its targeted vaccine won't be ready before summer.

CNN:Universal Vaccine Could Be The Future Of The Coronavirus Fight Scientists are working to develop a "pan-coronavirus" vaccine -- one that offers protection against multiple variants of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. The hope is that such a vaccine could pave the way for the development of a universal coronavirus vaccine, which could head off any coronavirus -- not only emerging variants that cause Covid-19, but also some common colds and even the menacing threat of novel coronaviruses we haven't identified yet. But such vaccines are "going to take years to develop," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a White House briefing on Wednesday. (Howard, 1/27)

PBS NewsHour:3 Things To Expect On COVID Vaccines This Year, According To Moderna’s Chief Medical OfficerDespite early projections that the latest surge in coronavirus cases might soon fizzle out, the chief medical officer for pharmaceutical giant Moderna predicted Thursday that the United States may still be contending with the omicron variant later this year, and that Americans may benefit from omicron-tailored booster shots. Dr. Paul Burton told the PBS NewsHour’s chief correspondent and substitute anchor Amna Nawaz that the variant, which accounts for nearly all new infections in the U.S. and has dominated much of the world, will not vanish after the current surge in cases subsides. (Santhanam, 1/27)

NBC News:Moderna's Omicron Booster Won't Be Ready Before SummerModerna plans to seek authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for its omicron-specific Covid-19 vaccine booster by the summer, the company’s chief medical officer said Thursday — a time frame that means that the targeted vaccine may not be available to the public until the second half of the year. Dr. Paul Burton, Moderna’s chief medical officer, told NBC News that the company is thinking ahead to the second half of 2022 when omicron may still be circulating widely. (Lovelace Jr., 1/27)

CNN:Should You Wait For An Omicron-Specific Booster? Pfizer and BioNTech announced Tuesday that they're beginning a clinical trial for an Omicron-specific Covid-19 vaccine, and Moderna revealed Wednesday that it has entered Phase 2 of its own trial of a vaccine that targets the variant, which is by far the dominant one in the United States right now. About 50% of eligible Americans have received a booster shot, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the Pfizer and Moderna news might raise questions regardless. For those who have yet to get inoculated, should they wait until there is an Omicron-specific vaccine? What if someone has already had Covid-19 during the Omicron surge, do they still need a booster? And what does this mean for people who've already gotten a booster, or those who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine and then subsequently got a dose of another kind? (Chakraborty, 1/27)

In other news about the vaccination effort —

The Wall Street Journal:Covid-19 Vaccine Booster Shot Cuts Omicron Death Risk By 95%, U.K. Study Shows Three shots of vaccine cut the risk of death from Covid-19 by 95% in those age 50 and older during the Omicron surge in the U.K., according to an early study that showed immunity from vaccination held up well against the worst effects of the disease even among older people who are most at risk. The analysis, by the U.K. Health Security Agency, offers a glimpse of how effective vaccination is against death from Omicron in a highly boosted population. The U.K. government in December hurried to offer boosters to everyone 16 and older, expanding a campaign that up to that point had only applied to people 50 and older, and those with certain health conditions. (Roland, 1/27)

CIDRAP:Similar Immune Response After Same, Different COVID-19 Vaccine BoosterAmong 457 adult participants in an ongoing phase 1/2 clinical trial who completed primary COVID-19 vaccination with the Moderna, Johnson & Johnson (J&J), or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines, a booster dose with either the same (homologous) or a different brand (heterologous) induced an immune response and was safe. Baylor College of Medicine researchers led the open-label trial, published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM). (1/27)

Houston Chronicle:Houston's New Vaccine Jackpot Offers 12 Gift Cards For $1,000, $38K In Prizes For Getting COVID ShotsHouston will offer cash prizes totaling $38,000 to residents who get inoculated against COVID-19 in the coming months, the city’s latest effort to jump-start stagnating vaccine demand. Since the life-saving promise of vaccines has not yet lured 30 percent of Houstonians to local clinics, health officials hope cash will. Twelve people will be awarded $1,000 gift cards for getting the jab at any city-run clinic. Two winners will be chosen by raffle every Friday for six weeks. (Mishanec, 1/27)

Also —

Politico:Trump Plan Favored Giving Vaccines To Israel, Taiwan Over Poorer Countries In planning for global vaccine distribution, the Trump administration created a secret list prioritizing friends like Israel and Taiwan over low- and moderate-income countries, according to interviews with five current and former officials who described the document to POLITICO. The list, detailed here for the first time, shows that U.S. officials initially planned to apportion the life-saving shots based on political preferences rather than serving the neediest first, which global health advocates have advocated for over the past two years. (Banco, 1/27)

Stat:Some Are Hesitant On Covid Vaccines — But All-In On Unproven TreatmentsGov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has refused to say whether he’s received a booster shot. He’s suggested, misleadingly, that Covid-19 vaccines cause infertility. He hired a surgeon general who has questioned the data surrounding vaccines and called those who refuse to be immunized “brave.” But when it comes to experimental Covid therapeutics, DeSantis and his government are all-in — even when outside researchers, the Food and Drug Administration, and the medicines’ own manufacturers say they don’t work. (Facher, 1/27)

Pandemic Policymaking

White House Considering New Slimmed-Down Covid Paid Leave Plan

The Build Back Better plan included 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers, and reports suggest the White House may again be considering a scaled-down version. Stateline and Modern Healthcare report on time off and raises for incentivizing frontline workers.

Politico:White House Mulling Scaled-Down, Covid-Related Paid Leave Plan The White House is exploring a push for a coronavirus-related paid leave program akin to that enacted in an earlier round of pandemic relief, three people familiar with the conversations said Thursday. It would be much more narrowly tailored than the 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers Biden proposed in his original social spending package, Build Back Better. When opposition from moderates crumbled efforts to pass the legislation, hopes for that program — or even a dramatically scaled-down version — collapsed. (Mueller, 1/27)

Stateline:If You're A Frontline Worker, States Might Give You A RaiseBoth Republican and Democratic governors are pushing this year for higher pay—and in some cases, more training—for teachers, police officers, health care workers and other professionals who’ve proved essential during the coronavirus pandemic. They’re framing their proposals both as a “thank you” to frontline workers and as an effort to recruit and retain them during a tight labor market. And because of a booming economy and federal COVID-19 relief aid, governors have plenty of money to spend. “Right now we don’t have to choose—we are able to be fiscally responsible while making record investments in our people and in our future,” Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear, a Democrat, said during his budget address this month. (Quinton, 1/27)

Modern Healthcare:Novant Health Targets More Paid PTO As An Incentive To StayNovant Health is giving full-time workers an extra week of paid vacation, or the cash equivalent, as a reward for working through the last three years of the pandemic. It follows a trend of salary increases, bonuses and incentives to retain workers by hospitals across the country, but might not get at the heart of why some health professionals are leaving. "Like any other health system, we're faced with the same talent shortages that that exist," said Carman Canales, senior vice president and chief people officer at Novant. "We want to pay as much attention to keeping our existing talent here, as much as we're paying attention to inviting others to join us." (Gillespie, 1/27)

In related news about health workers —

Modern Healthcare:California Healthcare Workers Win Fight To Stay Home While Asymptomatic With COVID-19Healthcare workers at St. Francis Medical Center in Lynwood, California who have tested positive for COVID-19 or who have been exposed to the virus will no longer be asked to return to work immediately while asymptomatic. In a deal with SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West, the Prime Healthcare-operated hospital reversed a policy this week under which asymptomatic employees could be asked to go back to work without observing quarantine or isolation periods or receiving a negative COVID-19 test. Instead, the hospital will follow the CDC's most recent guidelines, which recommend that healthcare workers who are asymptomatic can return to work after five days of isolation, a Prime Healthcare spokesperson said. (Christ, 1/27)

AP:New Mexico Nursing Shortage Prompts Call For More Funding New Mexico didn’t have enough nurses even before the pandemic and nursing advocates renewed their push Thursday for lawmakers to boost funding to increase capacity at nursing schools around the state to remedy a situation made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. Legislative analysts have estimated that New Mexico needs more than 6,200 nurses to meet demand. (Bryan, 1/27)

Covid Rules Eased In San Francisco; Boston Vax Mandate Paused By Judge

San Francisco is easing its mandate for masking in gyms and offices, if people are vaccinated, and will relax vaccine proof requirements for indoor sports arenas, restaurants and bars. Meanwhile in Boston, a judge ruled some unionized city workers won't have to get vaccinated under a mandate. Media outlets cover other moves toward and away from mandates across the country.

Los Angeles Times:San Francisco Eases Mask, Vaccination Proof Rules As Omicron RecedesSan Francisco will ease its COVID-19 mask order for vaccinated gym members and office workers, and will relax rules requiring proof of vaccination when entering large indoor sports arenas, restaurants, bars and gyms, allowing unvaccinated people to enter if they show proof of a recent negative test. The move comes as the Omicron surge is flattening after weeks of record-setting infections. San Francisco has one of California’s most robust rates of vaccination and has a relatively high booster rate. (Lin II, 1/27)

AP:Judge Pauses COVID Vaccine Mandate For Certain City Workers Boston’s vaccination mandate won’t go into effect on Monday for some city workers, following a judge’s order Thursday. A Massachusetts Appeals Court judge issued a temporary stay on the mandate for unionized firefighters and certain unionized police officers challenging it. The judge ruled the vaccine mandate will be paused pending a review of a lower court order. (1/27)

The Hill:Mississippi Bill Would Bar Requiring Vaccination For Employees With 'Sincerely Held Religious Objection' Mississippi's Republican-controlled state House on Thursday passed a bill that would bar public and private employers from requiring workers with a “sincerely held religious objection” to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The proposed bill, HB 1509, would also prohibit a number of government entities, including state agencies, public colleges and city and county governments from withholding services or denying employment to unvaccinated people. (Oshin, 1/27)

In other news about covid mandates —

Las Vegas Review-Journal:Culinary Union Members Call On Health District To Investigate Hotel And Casinos For Violating State LawCulinary union members called for justice and daily room cleanings during a rally Thursday in front of the Southern Nevada Health District. Hundreds of guest room attendants and other hotel and casino workers gathered in the parking lot around 5:30 p.m., demanding the department investigate employers for violating a law that in part requires hotels and other lodging facilities in Clark and Washoe counties to have daily room cleanings. Union leaders said they’ve heard from workers that daily room cleanings have not been happening. The law, which was approved in August 2020 and was amended in June, requires daily room cleanings, enhanced cleaning, hand washing, masks and training, and testing and contact tracing. It covers more than 300,000 workers in Nevada, according to the union. (Wilson, 1/27)

Los Angeles Times:California Settlement Limits ICE From Re-Detaining Immigrants Freed Because Of COVIDImmigration authorities must preserve coronavirus safety measures that allow for social distancing and vaccination mandates for staff and detainees at two California detention facilities, according to a class-action lawsuit settlement reached Thursday. The settlement also limits the authority of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to re-detain hundreds of immigrants who were released as a result of the lawsuit. The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups filed the lawsuit in April 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, to challenge unsafe conditions at the Mesa Verde ICE Processing Facility in Bakersfield and the Yuba County Jail, north of Sacramento. (Castillo, 1/27)

New Hampshire Public Radio:N.H. Lawmakers’ Spread Of COVID-19 Misinformation Shows No Sign Of StoppingAs Speaker Sherman Packard testified before the House Health and Human Services Committee Tuesday on his proposal to bar the state from enforcing federal vaccine mandates, his comments seemed like an effort to establish the Republican-led House’s doctrine on vaccine policy: “We reject mandates, but we work to accommodate those people who would have a legitimate reason, whether it be religious, medical, or actual fear of this vaccine,” Packard said. “I know there are some people out there who have legitimate fear of this vaccine.” (Rogers, 1/28)

Also —

The Washington Post:Sarah Palin, Unvaccinated And Having Tested Positive, Again Dines Out, Flouting NYC Health MeasuresFormer Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who is unvaccinated and revealed this week that she tested positive for the coronavirus, dined again at a New York City restaurant Wednesday night, flouting local health and safety measures calling for positive cases to isolate. Elio’s, an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side, has faced blowback after Palin dined indoors at the establishment on Saturday, in violation of the city’s dining mandate for people to show proof of vaccination. ... Palin was seen dining at a heated outdoor area of the restaurant. The city’s vaccine requirement does not apply for outdoor dining. (Bella, 1/27)

Politico:NYC Mayor Blasts Palin For Dining While Infected With Covid-19 New York City Mayor Eric Adams criticized Sarah Palin on Thursday for visiting multiple Manhattan restaurants while infected with Covid-19.Palin sat for at least three al fresco meals over the last week while ignoring the city's rules and recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus. On Thursday, the mayor's office said her behavior was putting New Yorkers at risk. (Anuta, 1/27)

The Washington Post:Marvel Star Evangeline Lilly Attended Anti-Coronavirus Vaccine Mandate Rally Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly — known for her role on the TV series “Lost” and as the Wasp in Marvel’s films — said she went to an anti-vaccine-mandate rally in D.C. last weekend to support “bodily sovereignty.” The demonstration, which took place on the National Mall, appeared to be the same event where political scion and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. referenced Anne Frank in a speech to imply that Jews had more freedoms during the Holocaust than unvaccinated Americans do today. (Kennedy later apologized after he was widely rebuked, including by the Auschwitz Memorial.) (Cheng, 1/28)

The Hill:Jewish Groups Sound The Alarm As Anti-Vaccine Mandate Movement Invokes Holocaust Jewish groups are on high alert after a spate of recent incidents in which individuals opposed to COVID-19 vaccine mandates have invoked the Holocaust to argue against vaccinations.The most notable example came last weekend when Robert F. Kennedy Jr. at an anti-vaccine mandate rally in Washington, D.C. appeared to suggest that unvaccinated Americans have fewer freedoms than Anne Frank.(Schnell, 1/27)

AP:Anti-Mask Anger Forces Colorado Children's Museum To Close A Colorado children’s museum is the latest casualty of harassment by people angry over mask mandates designed to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The Children’s Museum of Denver at Marsico Campus, for decades a popular downtown attraction primarily devoted to those age 8 and under, temporarily closed on Wednesday because of escalating harassment of staff by adult visitors angry over a mandate requiring anyone age 2 and older to wear a mask in indoor public spaces. (Anderson, 1/27)

The Boston Globe:Father Of Unvaccinated Man Denied Heart Transplant Says His Son Has Received A Heart PumpThe family of a Massachusetts man who claims he’s been denied a heart transplant because he’s not vaccinated against COVID-19 is speaking out this week, saying they are devastated over a hospital policy that says he isn’t eligible to have the procedure. David Ferguson Jr., known as D.J., has been receiving treatment at hospitals around Boston since late November after suffering complications from atrial fibrillation and deteriorating heart failure, according to a fundraising appeal set up by his mother, Tracey Ferguson. The 31-year-old was told by Brigham & Women’s Hospital officials that he is ineligible for the transplant, according to the fundraising post, because he has not been vaccinated against the deadly virus. (Bowker, 1/27)

Medicare

For First Time, Grants For Medicaid, CHIP Target Those Who Are Pregnant

Modern Healthcare reports that state and local governments, not-for-profits, schools and more can now apply to receive up to $1.5 million each over three years to help more kids get health coverage.

Modern Healthcare:CMS: $49M In Grants To Boost Medicaid, CHIP EnrollmentThe Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services opened $49.4 million in grant funding Thursday to advance Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program enrollment and retention among kids, parents and pregnant individuals. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said during a Thursday call with reporters that this is the first time Medicaid and CHIP enrollment retention grants have targeted pregnant individuals as well. Organizations including state and local governments, tribal organizations, not-for-profits, schools and more can apply to receive up to $1.5 million each over three years to help more children gain health coverage. Applications will be open until March 28. (Goldman, 1/27)

In other Medicaid and Medicare news —

Kansas City Star:Republicans Seek To Block KanCare Changes Through 2026 Kansas Republicans, seeking to limit Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s authority in an election year or beyond, want to bar the state from making any material changes to its Medicaid program until 2026 and block the administration from renegotiating key contracts that expire next year. “Idea is to give the next administration a clean slate to put whomever’s stamp on (the contracts),” Rep. Brenda Landwehr, a Wichita Republican said. The “whomever” Republicans would like to see is Attorney General Derek Schmidt, the only GOP candidate currently running against Kelly. While the bill freezes Medicaid until 2026, an amendment contemplated by Landwehr would allow changes with legislative permission. (Bernard, 1/27)

News 5 Cleveland:Changes Coming To How Ohio Medicaid Users Pick PlansIf you are one of the roughly one in four Ohioans who get their health coverage through the state’s Medicaid program there are changes coming your way this year that will require you to play an active role in selecting your coverage each year from here on out. The “Next Generation” overhaul set to launch in July gets rid of the automatic re-enrollment and has been three years in the making. (Kosich, 1/27)

KHN:Medicare Patients Win The Right To Appeal Gap In Nursing Home Coverage A three-judge federal appeals court panel in Connecticut has likely ended an 11-year fight against a frustrating and confusing rule that left hundreds of thousands of Medicare beneficiaries without coverage for nursing home care, and no way to challenge a denial. The Jan. 25 ruling, which came in response to a 2011 class-action lawsuit eventually joined by 14 beneficiaries against the Department of Health and Human Services, will guarantee patients the right to appeal to Medicare for nursing home coverage if they were admitted to a hospital as an inpatient but were switched to observation care, an outpatient service. (Jaffe, 1/28)

FiercePharma:Biogen Boosts Aduhelm Confirmatory Trial Amid Fight For Wider Medicare CoverageBiogen plans to power up an FDA-mandated postmarketing study of Alzheimer’s disease drug Aduhelm—a trial that could be the main revenue source for the controversial medicine for years to come if a Medicare coverage policy is finalized. The Aduhelm confirmatory trial, dubbed ENVISION, will enroll 1,500 early Alzheimer’s patients instead of the previously announced 1,300, Biogen said. The planned increase is meant to “further strengthen the data the study will provide,” the company added. (Liu, 1/27)

In related news —

AP:Delay Of Washington's Long-Term Care Program Signed Into LawWashington Gov. Jay Inslee on Thursday signed into law an 18-month delay of the state’s new long-term care program that creates a defined benefit to help offset the costs of such care. His signature comes a day after lawmakers gave final approval to the move amid concerns about the program’s solvency and criticisms about elements of the underlying law, including people close to retirement who would pay in but not receive the benefit. (La Corte, 1/28)

Health Industry

Chiefs Fans Raise Over $300K For Buffalo Children's Hospital

Many of the donations were for $13 – the same amount of seconds it took the Chiefs to tie the game against the Buffalo Bills, CBS reported. In Massachusetts, Mass General Brigham defended a $2.3 billion expansion plan after criticism from regulators over excessive spending.

CBS News:Chiefs Fans Help Raise More Than $300,000 For Buffalo Children's Hospital After Dramatic Win Over Bills Since the Kansas City Chiefs' dramatic overtime victory over the Buffalo Bills last Sunday, Chiefs fans have helped raise more than $300,000 in donations to a local children's hospital in Western New York. Many of the donations were for $13 – the same amount of seconds it took the Chiefs to tie the game against the Bills. On Thursday, Oishei Children's Hospital tweeted their gratitude to Chiefs fans, saying it received $312,800 from over 15,800 donors. "This team works hard caring for the kids in WNY & your donations help ensure they have all the tools needed to be ready to help," the hospital said. (Brito, 1/27)

In other health care industry news —

The Boston Globe:Mass General Brigham Fights Back Against Criticisms Of ExpansionMass General Brigham defended plans on Thursday to undertake a $2.3 billion expansion, writing to state regulators that concerns about the project’s effects on health care spending were overstated and that a state agency criticizing the projects had overstepped its authority. In documents filed with the Department of Public Health, the state’s largest health system outlined the case for its expansion, which includes opening ambulatory sites in Westborough, Westwood, and Woburn, and building multi-million dollar additions at Massachusetts General Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital. (Bartlett, 1/27)

Axios:Uber Plans ‘One-Stop Shop’ For Health Logistics In news that will surprise those that didn't know Uber Health was a thing, the company recently picked up Michael Cantor as its first chief medical officer. Uber made its name shuttling people from bars and restaurants, but the company sees a future in connecting parts of the health care ecosystem. The new appointment underscores the company’s commitment to investing in the health care sector. (Brodwin, 1/28)

Dallas Morning News:Texas Doctors Condemn Closure Of Dallas Clinic For Transgender ChildrenMore than 400 doctors and health care professionals signed a letter addressed to two Dallas hospitals decrying the closure of the state’s only comprehensive medical program for transgender children, The Dallas Morning News has learned. Addressed to leadership at the University of Texas Southwestern and Children’s Health and sent in late November, the letter urges the hospitals to reverse course on shuttering the clinic. The News exclusively obtained the letter from sources involved in its drafting. “As Texan health care providers, we are writing to you to express grave concerns regarding recent news that there are plans to shut down the Genecis clinic, which provides treatment for transgender and gender-diverse youth,” the letter’s signers said. (Wolf and McGaughy, 1/27)

Axios:The Pitch: Subscribe N' Save On Medical Costs In recent months, subscription health care service businesses have attracted significant attention from venture capitalists, according to a recent PitchBook report. Venture capitalists have been pouring money into subscription startups, including Crossover Health, Tia Clinic and Oak Street Health. Like One Medical and Forward, these companies promise to save users under the assumption that their models will save on downstream medical costs by connecting patients to more consistent care. (Brodwin, 1/27)

Also —

Modern Healthcare:Female Clinicians Spend More Time With Patients And Earn Less Because Of It, Study ShowsFemale clinicians spend more time filling out patients' electronic health records and thus treat fewer patients, according to a new study that highlights the economic effects of a volume-over-value payment model on women in the workforce. The EHR vendor Athenahealth analyzed how 14,520 clinicians used its record systems over a five-month period last year and discovered that female clinicians see fewer people per week than their male counterparts because they devote more time to documenting patient encounters. Female and male clinicians spend the same amount of time filling out patient records per week, but female clinicians see approximately 18% fewer patients, the study found. (Hartnett, 1/27)

Medscape:Doc Accused Of Killing 22 Patients In The ICUOn Dec. 5, 2017, Danny Mollette, age 74, was brought to the emergency department of Mount Carmel West Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio, in critical condition. Staff inserted a breathing tube and sent him to the intensive care unit. Mollette, who had diabetes, previously had been hospitalized for treatment of a gangrenous foot. When he arrived in the ICU, he was suffering from acute renal failure and low blood pressure, and had had two heart stoppages, according to a 2020 Ohio Board of Pharmacy report. (Meyer, 1/27)

AP:Medical Center Donates Used Equipment To Student Nursing LabUsed medical equipment like wheelchairs, vital signs machines and medication carts will find new life in a nursing simulation laboratory at Fairmont State University. Fairmont Medical Center donated those items and others that can no longer be used in clinical settings but will be useful to students who are not in direct patient care. Fairmont Medical Center is a campus of West Virginia University Medicine J.W. Ruby Memorial Hospital. (1/28)

Pharmaceuticals

Pre-Surgery Immunotherapy Linked To Better Liver Cancer Outcomes

A third of patients enrolled in a study who received immunotherapy treatment before surgical interventions had their liver tumors die off. Separately, reports say two new, little-known drugs are adding to the overdose crisis. AbbVie is also in the news over a Humira trade secrets investigation.

Fox News:Immunotherapy Before Surgery Killed Off Liver Tumors In One-Third Of Patients, Study FindsLiver tumors died off in a third of patients enrolled in a study who received immunotherapy treatment before surgery, according to Mount Sinai researchers in New York City. The study was recently published in The Lancet Gastroenterology & Hepatology. Liver cancer is one of the deadliest and most common cancers, the study’s senior author and associate professor of medicine (hematology and medical oncology) at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Dr. Thomas Marron, told Fox News in an interview. (McGorry, 1/27)

In other pharmaceutical and biotech industry news —

AP:Two Powerful Drugs Now Adding To US Overdose Crisis Emerging reports show that two little-known drugs are making lethal new contributions to America’s drug overdose crisis. Para-fluorofentanyl and metonitazene are being seen more often by medical examiners looking into overdose deaths, according to a government report published Thursday. They often are taken with — or mixed with — illicit fentanyl, the drug mainly responsible for the more than 100,000 U.S. overdose deaths in the last year. (Stobbe, 1/27)

Stat:U.S. International Trade Commission Will Investigate AbbVie Claims That Rival Stole SecretsThe U.S. International Trade Commission agreed to investigate whether two companies misappropriated trade secrets in connection with plans to eventually market a biosimilar version of Humira, a best-selling biologic medicine sold by AbbVie (ABBV) for treating rheumatoid arthritis and other ailments. The decision follows a complaint filed last month by AbbVie, which is bracing for a clutch of biosimilar competitors next year and which hopes to thwart Alvotech and its partner, Teva Pharmaceuticals (TEVA), from selling a version of Humira even sooner. Alvotech is awaiting regulatory approval for its drug after pandemic travel restrictions delayed plant inspections by the Food and Drug Administration. (Silverman, 1/27)

Stat:Biogen Sells Stake In Samsung Venture For $2.3 Billion Biogen is selling its stake in a pharmaceutical joint venture with the South Korean conglomerate Samsung for $2.3 billion, the company said Thursday, bolstering the drugmaker’s balance sheet. Under the agreement, Samsung Biologics is acquiring Biogen’s ownership in Samsung Bioepis, which manufactures off-patent versions of biologic medicines called biosimilars. Biogen will get $1 billion in cash once the deal closes, followed by $1.25 billion paid out over two years. The joint venture, founded in 2012, has six approved biosimilars and five more in development. (Garde and Feuerstein, 1/27)

Stat:As Biotech Stocks Plummet, An Industry Is Being Reshaped By The FalloutBiotech investors, once the envy of Wall Street, have slipped into despondency. After a double-digit decline in 2021, the sector has fallen another 20% in the new year, erasing billions in value and leading even the most seasoned investors to question whether biotech has further to fall. “I’m 51 and I had retirement in my head. I just went through a life-changing two years and got very wealthy,” said the principal of a mid-sized biotech fund, speaking on condition of anonymity to be candid. Now, “my screens have been red in biotech for nine months … There’s nowhere to hide.” (Feuerstein, Garde and Herper, 1/28)

In news about research animals —

NPR:All NIH Chimps Currently Eligible To Go To A Sanctuary Have Moved ThereThe vast majority of the 85 or so government-supported chimps remaining at research facilities have chronic, progressive health problems such as heart disease or diabetes that make the animals too fragile and ill to ever move, say officials at the National Institutes of Health. Nine of these remaining chimps are probably healthy enough to relocate to Chimp Haven, but they're currently ineligible to go because each is part of a socially bonded pair with another, sicker chimp. When the sicker chimps die, however, their companions will be reassessed and may make the move. (Greenfieldboyce, 1/27)

Public Health

Study Shows Late-Stage Colon Cancer Found In More Younger Adults

The University of Colorado School of Medicine study found more younger adults with colon cancer, including cases in 20- to 29-year-olds. In other news, the U.S. blood shortage continues, and a study found a link between vitamin D and fish oil supplements and preventing autoimmune disease.

USA Today:Colon Cancer Found In More Younger Adults. 'Get Screened,' Doctor SaysA growing number of young adults are being diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer, according to a new peer-reviewed study. Researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine examined data from 100,000 people with adenocarcinoma, an aggressive form of cancer that's more likely to be caught in later stages. Some of the reasons for a rise in young adults could be linked to obesity, diet and environmental factors, according to the study. The study revealed that young patients ages 20 to 29 have seen the highest spike in rates of diagnosed colon cancer cases. That age group is also more likely to have a distant, less treatable form of cancer when officially diagnosed. (Gleeson, 1/27)

In other public health news —

Bloomberg:Blood Shortage 2022: US Hospitals Plead For Donations After Dropping In PandemicU.S. hospitals face a critical shortage of blood supplies, adding to the pressure on the health-care system already strained by surging Covid-19 cases. Ongoing blood shortages “could significantly jeopardize the ability of health care providers” to care for patients, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association said in a joint statement Thursday. “The need for blood has increased while staffing shortages and high rates of Covid-19 in communities have diminished donations,” the groups said. They said people shouldn’t be discouraged from donating if they can’t get appointments right away because the need is ongoing. (Muller, 1/27)

CNN:Vitamin D And Fish Oil Supplements May Help Prevent Autoimmune Disease, Study Says Taking daily vitamin D and fish oil supplements may help protect older adults from developing autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, thyroid diseases and polymyalgia rheumatica, an inflammatory disease that causes muscle pain and stiffness in the shoulders and hips, a new study found. People age 50 and older taking 2,000 IU (International Units) of vitamin D3 for over five years had a 22% lower relative rate of confirmed autoimmune diagnoses, said study author Dr. Karen Costenbader, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in the division of Rheumatology, Inflammation and Immunity and the director of the lupus program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. (LaMotte, 1/27)

Fox News:Men Concerned About Fertility Should Limit Cell Phone Use To Protect Sperm Quality, Study SaysMen may want to limit their cell phone use if they are concerned about fertility, according to a recent metanalysis published this past November in Environmental Research, which found the radiofrequency electromagnetic waves (RF-EMWs) emitted by cell phones decrease sperm quality by reducing their motility, viability, and concentration. ​​"Male cell-phone users should strive to reduce mobile phone use to protect their sperm quality," said Yun Hak Kim, lead researcher and an assistant professor at Pusan National University. (Sudhakar, 1/27)

The Atlantic:Can Medieval Sleeping Habits Fix America’s Insomnia?One day, I was researching my nocturnal issues when I discovered a cottage industry of writers and sleep hackers who claim that sleep is a nightmare because of the industrial revolution, of all things. Essays in The Guardian, CNN, The New York Times, and The New York Times Magazine recommended an old fix for restlessness called “segmented sleep.” In premodern Europe, and perhaps centuries earlier, people routinely went to sleep around nightfall and woke up around midnight—only to go back to sleep a few hours later, until morning. They slept sort of like I do, but they were Zen about it. Then, the hackers claim, modernity came along and ruined everything by pressuring everybody to sleep in one big chunk. (Thompson, 1/27)

In abortion news —

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:Study On Irregular Periods Opens Discussions Around Abortion AccessA new research paper on menstrual irregularity shows more than one in five women have highly irregular cycles that are linked to certain common health conditions and even the person's race, a finding that poses major implications for people living in states that are trying to ban abortions at six weeks or earlier. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the National Institutes of Health published their study late last month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, in which they analyzed a total of 1.6 million menstrual cycles, using anonymized data self-reported through a smartphone app by 267,000 people. They found 22% of the people in their study had menstrual cycles that vary by a week or more, a finding that is consistent with other research on the topic, said Jenna Nobles, a UW-Madison demographer who led the study. Nearly all the study's subjects identified as women, she said. (Shastri, 1/27)

The Washington Post:How Hard Is It To Get A Court-Approved Abortion? For One Teen, It Came Down To GPAWhen a 17-year-old identified as “Jane Doe” applied to get a court-approved abortion in Florida earlier this month, she laid out her reasons: She was not financially stable and wanted to be able to live on her own before having a child, she said, according to court documents. She hoped to join the military, then go on to college and become a nurse. She told a judge how she planned to get the procedure: Her boyfriend would drive her to the clinic, she said, and his mom would help pay for the abortion. (Branigin, 1/27)

State Watch

Meningitis Might Have Been Spread At Parties At Michigan State University

Health officials are warning that people who attended two college fraternity events on Jan. 20 and 22 may have been exposed to rare bacterial meningococcal meningitis and should start antibiotics immediately.

Detroit Free Press:Student With Meningitis Exposed Others At These MSU, U-M Frat EventsAnyone who attended two college fraternity events — one Jan. 20 in Ann Arbor and another Jan. 22 in East Lansing — may have been exposed to meningococcal meningitis and should start antibiotic treatment immediately, health officials warned Thursday. A case of the rare and serious bacterial infection, which can cause swelling of the membranes around the spinal cord and brain and may lead to death, was confirmed in a University of Michigan student who attended an event 10:30 p.m.-12 a.m. Jan. 20 at the Delta Kappa Epsilon residence, 800 Oxford Road, Ann Arbor. (Jordan Shamus, 1/27)

AP:Meningitis Case Prompts Antibiotic Distribution In E LansingMichigan State University and health officials are distributing antibiotics to people who attended a fraternity party after a person at the party tested positive for bacterial meningitis. The Ingham County Health Department and the university are holding distribution clinics for the antibiotic tablets Friday and Saturday from 1-5 p.m. at the MSU Room on the third floor of the MSU Union Building. (1/28)

In other news from across the U.S. —

AP:Lawmakers Disagree Over Fine For Smoking In Car With KidsTwo West Virginia state senators disagreed Thursday over whether penalizing adults for smoking with children in the car would be a violation of “parental rights.” Senate Bill 139 would make it a misdemeanor to smoke in the car with a child under 16 present. The violation would be punishable by up to a $25 fine. (Willingham, 1/27)

AP:Appeals Court Mulls Arguments On South Carolina Abortion Law An appellate court heard arguments Thursday in Planned Parenthood’s legal challenge to South Carolina’s new abortion law, with attorneys for the state arguing the nonprofit doesn’t have standing to bring the case. The nonprofit group, which immediately challenged the law after Republican Gov. Henry McMaster signed it last year, countered that it stood on legal bedrock. (Kinnard, 1/27)

WUSF Public Media:After A Walkout By State Democrats, A Senate Panel Backs Ladapo As Surgeon General After a walkout by Democrats who said they weren’t getting answers, a Senate committee Wednesday signed off on the confirmation of controversial state Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo. Democrats peppered Ladapo with questions about issues such as his views on COVID-19 vaccinations and wearing masks, before Minority Leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation, announced that Democrats on the Health Policy Committee would not vote on the confirmation. “We don’t feel that we are getting any answers met,” Book said. “We know that there is a long agenda today with a lot of bills. So the Florida Senate Democrats in this committee now are going to abstain, walk out and come back when we have more business to attend to.” (Saunders and Urban, 1/27)

Health News Florida:A Bill Extending COVID Protections For Health Providers Is Ready For The House Floor With the Senate already passing the measure, the Florida House could be poised to take up a proposal that would extend COVID-19 legal protections for hospitals, nursing homes and other health-care providers. The House Judiciary Committee voted 15-5 on Wednesday to approve its version of the bill (HB 7021), sponsored by Health & Human Services Chairwoman Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland. The measure is now ready to go to the full House. (1/27)

AP:Mott Foundation Gives MSU $25M For Flint-Based ResearchThe Charles Stewart Mott Foundation donated $25 million to Michigan State University to expand public health in Flint, Michigan, it was announced on Wednesday. The grant will bolster MSU’s public health program in Flint, adding 18 tenure-track faculty members, along with other support, University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said at a media conference. (Nichols, 1/26)

Global Watch

Winter Olympics Poised To Begin, In Shadow Of Covid And Strict Rules

On Wednesday, U.S. bobsled team member Josh Williamson tested positive for covid, meaning he can't travel to the Games, and in China itself, authorities are fighting to prevent flare-ups of the virus caused by omicron, including previous lockdowns of whole cities.

The Washington Post:Positive Coronavirus Tests Could End Olympic Dreams Before Athletes Leave For BeijingU.S. Olympic bobsled team member Josh Williamson announced Wednesday on Instagram that he had tested positive for the coronavirus, preventing him from traveling to Beijing for the Winter Games on Thursday with the rest of Team USA. ... The Olympics do not begin until Feb. 4 and the four-man bobsled competition — in which Williamson, a brakeman, is expected to compete — does not start until Feb. 15, giving him time to test negative and join his teammates in Beijing. But his positive test shows how the pandemic could end Olympic hopes for some athletes before the Games even begin, perhaps unfairly. (Bonesteel, 1/27)

The Wall Street Journal:Welcome To Beijing’s Covid Olympics: ‘The Situation Is Going To Be Strict For A While’ China appears to have brought two recent large coronavirus outbreaks under control and has turned its focus to Beijing, where health authorities are ramping up testing and tightening containment protocols as the Chinese capital prepares for the Lunar New Year and the Winter Olympics. Chinese authorities this week lifted a roughly monthlong lockdown of the central Chinese city of Xi’an, where a Delta outbreak had spread last month. The port city of Tianjin, which neighbors Beijing, declared victory over an Omicron outbreak, lifting most of the restrictions on its citizens. (Hua, 1/27)

In other global news about the coronavirus —

The Washington Post:They Were Fined For Breaking U.K. Lockdown Rules. They Say Boris Johnson Should Be Punished, TooAfter the death of a close friend, Kieron McArdle was struggling, and three friends came over to help him celebrate his 50th birthday in his backyard in Coleshill, a town in Warwickshire, England. Less than an hour later, the police were banging on the front door. McArdle was fined $134, which he said he was content to pay, as he understood he had violated the ban on social gatherings in place at the time, in March of last year. But he’s incredulous about the scandal of a string of parties — including a birthday celebration — at the British prime minister’s Downing Street office and residence over the past two years. (Adam, 1/27)

AP:Philippines Lifts Ban On Foreign Tourists As Outbreak EasesThe Philippines will lift a ban on the entry of foreign tourists and businesspeople next month after nearly two years, in a move to revive the battered tourism industry as the latest coronavirus outbreak started to ease, officials said Friday. (1/28)

Reuters:Paris Hospitals Chief Sparks Debate On Whether Unvaccinated Patients Should Pay For Treatment The head of the Paris hospitals system has set off a fierce debate by questioning whether people who refuse to be vaccinated against COVID-19 should continue to have their treatment covered by public health insurance. Under France's universal healthcare system, all COVID-19 patients who end up in intensive care are fully covered for their treatment, which costs about 3,000 euros ($3,340) per day and typically lasts a week to 10 days. (De Clercq, 1/27)

Weekend Reading

Longer Looks: Interesting Reads You Might Have Missed

Each week, KHN finds longer stories for you to enjoy. This week's selections include stories on covid, meditation, bone density, senior health, skin tags, and more.

Reuters:Wanted: Volunteers To Catch COVID In The Name Of Science The world's first medical trial authorised to deliberately expose participants to the coronavirus is seeking more volunteers as it steps up efforts to help develop better vaccines. The Oxford University trial was launched last April, three months after Britain became the first country to approve what are known as challenge trials for humans involving COVID-19. (1/26)

The Atlantic:Where Are All The COVID-Booster Incentives?So what about carrots? During the initial vaccine rollout, incentives were hot: Two dozen states were sweetening the immunization pot with million-dollar lotteries, a chance to drive your car on the Talladega Superspeedway, TikTok contests for $250 gift cards, tickets to baseball games, $100,000 scholarships, hunting and fishing licenses, a pontoon boat, a free beer at a local brewery, or just $100 to spend however you wanted. But even as booster shots could help lessen the burden of Omicron and future variants, governments have largely abandoned these ambitious incentive programs. I reached out to the 24 states that offered incentives last year, and of the 15 that responded, 13 aren’t offering financial incentives for boosters. Arkansas still hands out a $20 lottery ticket to anyone who gets a shot—including a booster—while New York is offering the unboosted a chance to win free ski passes. (Requarth, 1/24)

The Washington Post:Meditation And Biofeedback Are The New Trend In ‘Anxiety Tech’ Usually “mental-health tech” means an app with some screen-based features such as messaging, games or journaling. Now a new batch of products is focusing on something different: your body. Take the Orb, a $229 grapefruit-size ball from Israeli start-up Reflect Innovation, which sits in your hands and measures your heart rate and finger sweat while you try to relax. Then there’s the $79 Zen, from French company Morphée, which looks exactly like a rock but is actually an audio device that plays the company’s proprietary meditation content. And Dutch company Alphabeats built a $28.99-a-year stress-reduction app that combines music and “biofeedback,” which occurs when you practice controlling your body’s functions such as breath or heart rate. (Hunter, 1/26)

The Washington Post:Here Are Some Ways To Keep Your Bones In The Best Possible Shape In the past 18 months, some of your medical care — including supporting your bone health — may have fallen by the wayside. In the first few months of the pandemic, for exam­ple, about a third of health-care providers in one survey said they had pushed off bone density screenings. Even before the pandemic, an esti­mated 10 million Americans older than 50 had osteoporosis, a disease in which bone loss can hike fracture risk, according to some data. An additional 43 million people in the United States, including 16 million men­, had low bone mass (osteo­penia), putting them at increased risk for osteoporosis. (Levine, 1/24)

The Washington Post:How To Prevent Falls And Provide Comfort In A New Home For SeniorsFor the millions of seniors in the United States (predicted to grow from around 58 million to around 88 million by 2050), life transitions such as experiencing widowhood, having a partner with dementia or downsizing after decades in the same home can be a huge challenge. One way to ease the adjustment is to ensure that any new home is comfortable, safe and adaptable to physical limitations. (Erasmus, 1/25)

The Washington Post:What To Do About Skin Tags, Moles And Other Bumps While you’ve been spending more time with yourself during the pandemic, you may have noticed a new lump or bump (or two or three) on your skin. Meanwhile, you may have seen ads on social media for devices or products that claim to help you get rid of skin tags, warts or moles on your own — and wondered if you should try the DIY approach. The answer is: It depends on what and where the growth is. (Colino, 1/26)

The Washington Post:A Newborn Lost Large Parts Of His Brain. Today, He’s An Athletic College GradKellie Carr and her 13-year-old son, Daniel, sat in the waiting room of a pediatric neurology clinic for yet another doctor’s appointment in 2012. For years, she struggled to find out what was causing his weakened right side. It wasn’t an obvious deficit, by any means, and anyone not paying close attention would see a normal, healthy teenage boy. At that point, no one had any idea that Daniel had suffered a massive stroke as a newborn and lost large parts of his brain as a result. “It was the largest stroke I’d ever seen in a child who hadn’t died or suffered extreme physical and mental disability,” said Nico Dosenbach, the pediatric neurologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who finally diagnosed him using a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan. (Kim, 1/22)

Editorials And Opinions

Different Takes: Should We Develop An Omicron Vaccine?; Kids Should Stop Masking In School After Omicron

Opinion writers weigh in on these covid issues.

Bloomberg:Should You Get A Vaccine Targeting Omicron? New Covid Jab Has To Meet 3 Tests The omicron variant may be infecting people who’ve already had Covid, as well as those who have been fully vaccinated, at a far higher rate than previously thought. But does that mean an omicron-specific vaccine is warranted? After all, the strain has been shown to be much milder and such a targeted vaccine might not work against some new post-omicron variant. (Therese Raphael and Sam Fazeli, 1/27)

The New York Times:Mandatory School Masking Should End After The Omicron SurgeElissa Perkins, the director of infectious disease management in the emergency department of the Boston Medical Center, told me she spent most of 2020 “imploring everybody I could in every forum that I could to mask.” In the beginning, she said, this was to flatten the curve, and later to protect the vulnerable. But masking, she said, “was intended to be a short-term intervention,” and she believes we haven’t talked enough about the drawbacks of mandating them for kids long-term. (Michelle Goldberg, 1/28)

Los Angeles Times:We Pleaded For Social Distancing Here In San Quentin. The State Refused, And Now COVID Is RagingI am fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19. I do everything I can to follow the CDC’s guidelines for protecting myself against infection. Yet I fear catching COVID-19 a second time from the sick people all around me in San Quentin State Prison. I am one of 300 plaintiffs who sued the state of California, seeking a court order that would have forced prison officials to ease overcrowding and house one person to each cell, instead of two. Our goal was to increase social distancing in the enclosed, unventilated housing units that are packed at well more than 100% of intended capacity. (Juan Moreno Haines, 1/28)

The Baltimore Sun:University Of Maryland’s ‘Heavy-Handed’ Booster Mandate Not Warranted By Science When historians look back at the COVID-19 pandemic, one of many confounding details will be the enthusiasm with which colleges and universities imposed ever-expanding draconian measures on their low-risk student body. Hundreds of U.S. colleges required all faculty, staff, and students to be vaccinated upon Emergency Use Authorization of COVID vaccines. Yet students remain masked indoors (and sometimes out), subject to random asymptomatic testing and limited in their social life. (Chrissa Carlson, 1/28)

The Washington Post:Gov. DeSantis Knows These Covid Treatments Don’t Work. He’s Pushing Them AnywayIf a loved one were sick with the omicron variant and in a hospital, and someone offered a drug that the Food and Drug Administration had prohibited because it didn’t work against omicron, and the manufacturer agreed the treatment wasn’t effective, and the American Medical Association also agreed, and scientific studies showed it wasn’t working, would you urge them to take it anyway? What would you think of the person who offered it? (1/27)

Chicago Tribune:Mask Rules At Chicago’s Museums Have Been Harsh On My Special-Needs Child As I showed the worker our five tickets to the Museum of Science and Industry, he looked at my unmasked son and asked how old he was. “Three years old,” I responded. The employee informed me that people over the age of 2 must wear a face covering, unless they request special accommodations in advance, or they won’t be allowed inside. My son was born with a genetic disorder called tuberous sclerosis complex. It causes the brain to develop irregularly, often resulting in cognitive delays and sensory issues, which make my son unwilling to cover his face and unable to understand the ramifications. I explained all of this to museum staff members. They listened sympathetically, but he couldn’t stay. “I’m sorry,” they explained. “It’s our policy.” Thus continued my family’s often-fraught journey through the diverse patchwork of COVID-19 mask rules. (Brian Smith, 1/27)

Viewpoints: ACT For ALS Paves Way For New Therapies; UNOS Updates Improve Transplant Equity

Editorial writers delve into these public health topics.

The Star Tribune:Finally, A Step In The Right Direction For ALS For those currently living with ALS and for the hundreds of passionate ALS advocates like me who were involved, President Joe Biden did his best Santa impression and delivered an incredible gift to us just in time for the holidays. On Dec. 23, he signed the Accelerating Access to Critical Therapies for ALS (ACT for ALS) bill into law, giving those fighting ALS some real hope for the first time in a long, long time. (Lori Larson Heller, 1/25)

Stat:Maximizing Kidney Transplant Equity Means Minimizing Geography For decades, geography heavily influenced who received kidney and other organ transplants in the United States and who didn’t. An assessment released late last year of a new national policy, which takes a more logical approach to allocating kidneys, indicates that the days when an individual’s place of residence dictates whether they live are on the wane. This is good news for those needing a kidney, who make up the vast majority of patients on the transplant waitlist. (Vincent Casingal, 1/28)

Stat:Med Tech Companies: Take A Wise Approach To Value-Based Care ContractsThe frequency and intensity of discussions around the transition from fee-for-service to value-based care continue to increase at the payer and provider level. Little has been said about how medical technology companies should navigate this coming change. Into that vacuum has crept an abundance of misperceptions. Perhaps the most dangerous one is a belief that simply structuring the terms of contracts as performance and risk-share guarantees will lead to success. (James Biggins, 1/27)

Bloomberg:Antibiotic-Resistant Germs Could Be Worse Than CovidTwo years and 5.6 million deaths into the worst pandemic in a century, I know what you’re thinking: When can we have a real global health crisis? Well, seek no further: A far more nightmarish catastrophe is already brewing in patients’ bodies, hospitals and other places where deadly microbes gather, writes Therese Raphael. And it’s not just one disease but a microscopic Hydra of bugs, all evolving to become more resistant to lifesaving medicines. (Mark Gongloff, 1/27)

Stat:Break The Doctor-Patient Visit Stranglehold On Health Care Innovation The electric engine, invented in 1834, was touted as the productivity booster that would revolutionize manufacturing. Yet it took three decades before it had a real impact. When factories replaced steam engines with electric motors but left in place systems built around the old steam-based drivetrain, electricity offered no new efficiencies. It wasn’t until factories were designed from the ground up, with production lines intentionally built for the electric era, that manufacturers made enormous productivity gains — up to 90% — with the introduction of new production lines. In health care, the equivalent of replacing the steam engine with the electric motor is removing the stranglehold of the doctor-patient visit. (Jennifer Goldsack and Soujanya (Chinni) Pulluru, 1/28)

Stat:Doctors Were Complicit In Holocaust Atrocities. New Ones Need To Know ThatThe liberation of the concentration camp at Auschwitz on Jan. 27, 1945, revealed many horrors. Among them were the atrocities perpetrated by doctors who took ethics very seriously, albeit with an unusual code of ethics with the State as the “patient.” When SS physician Fritz Klein was asked by a prisoner-physician how he reconciled his actions in concentration camps with his ethical obligations as a physician, he answered, “Out of respect for human life, I would remove a purulent appendix from a diseased body. The Jews are the purulent appendix in the body of Europe.” (Hedy S. Wald, Herwig Czech and Shmuel P. Reis, 1/27)

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