Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. The NFL is walking up the line of vaccine mandates, but isn't quite crossing it.
Today: Biden administration officials said there are no changes coming to the CDC's mask guidance. The Missouri Supreme Court unanimously ruled in support of Medicaid expansion, and Mississippi wants the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade
Mississippi’s attorney general urged the Supreme Court in a Thursday brief to overrule Roe v. Wade next term when the justices review Mississippi’s ban on virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Calling the court’s precedent on abortion “egregiously wrong,” Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R) explicitly set the dispute over Mississippi’s restrictive law on a collision course with the landmark 1973 decision in Roe that first articulated the constitutional right to abortion.
“This Court should overrule Roe and Casey,” Fitch wrote, referring also to the court’s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. “Roe and Casey are egregiously wrong. They have proven hopelessly unworkable. … And nothing but a full break from those cases can stem the harms they have caused.”
Background: The Supreme Court agreed earlier this year to hear arguments over a Mississippi law that bans mostly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
With a 6-3 conservative majority in the court since Justice Amy Coney BarrettAmy Coney BarrettAre COVID-19 vaccine mandates a strategy to end the pandemic? New Hampshire state representative leaves GOP over opposition to vaccine mandate Barrett: Supreme Court 'not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks' MORE’s confirmation, Republicans hope the justices will override the landmark abortion rights case.
Biden officials: No change to masking guidance right now
The Biden administration is not issuing updated masking guidance as coronavirus cases tick up across the country, officials said Thursday, but they acknowledged there are regular conversations between the White House and public health officials about how to combat the virus amid concerns about new variants.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that top White House aides have had initial talks with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials about whether they should update masking guidance to encourage vaccinated Americans to use face coverings in certain settings as the more transmissible delta variant spreads.
CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyPfizer results offer hope amid worsening pandemic for children FDA panel endorses COVID-19 booster shots for older Americans, rejects widespread use Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing MORE on Thursday told reporters there has been no change to the agency's guidance, but that "we are always looking at the data as the data come in."
"If you're in an area that has a high case rate and low rates of vaccination where delta cases are rising, you should certainly be wearing a mask if you are unvaccinated," said Walensky, who added that those who are vaccinated can make the personal choice to wear a mask if they choose.
House GOP leaders say vaccine works but shouldn't be mandated
House GOP leaders on Thursday expressed confidence in the COVID-19 vaccine's effectiveness against the virus but said it shouldn’t be mandated for Americans as cases surge in pockets of the U.S.
The GOP Doctors Caucus, along with the conference leaders, avoided directly instructing Americans to get their COVID-19 shots at the press conference but did encourage hesitant Americans to discuss vaccines with their doctors and then come to a “personal decision.”
“We urge all Americans to talk to their doctors about the risks of COVID, talk to their doctors about the benefits of getting vaccinated and then come to a decision that's right for them about the vaccine,” Rep. Andy HarrisAndrew (Andy) Peter HarrisRepublicans demanding Blinken impeachment are forgetting one thing — the Constitution Sixth House GOP lawmaker issued K metal detector fine Overnight Health Care: Biden officials says no change to masking guidance right now | Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion | Mississippi's attorney general asks Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade MORE (R-Md.) said.
Another member of the GOP Doctors Caucus, Rep. Greg Murphy (R-N.C.), said all of the physicians present “want people vaccinated,” but as a medicine with potential side effects, the vaccine should not be mandated.
Background: The press conference comes as the delta variant sweeps through unvaccinated communities, filling hospitals in some places. States across the country have seen a rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths, but those suffering are almost all people who have not been vaccinated.
Those people also tend to be conservative and vote Republican, according to numerous polls. The states with the highest jumps in cases are largely states where majorities backed former President TrumpDonald TrumpUN meeting with US, France canceled over scheduling issue Trump sues NYT, Mary Trump over story on tax history McConnell, Shelby offer government funding bill without debt ceiling MORE in the last election.
As those statistics have risen, Republican office holders increasingly have been talking publicly about vaccines this week.
House Minority Whip Steve ScaliseStephen (Steve) Joseph ScaliseHouse passes bill to prevent shutdown and suspend debt limit Democrats to nix B for Israel's Iron Dome from bill to avert shutdown Louisiana delegation split over debt hike bill with disaster aid MORE (R-La.), who got his first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine days ago amid concerns about the delta strain, said he “would encourage people to get the vaccine,” saying the caucus has “expressed confidence in the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.”
Scalise’s comments get a boost from Fauci, who praised the GOP encouraging vaccines as 'a very good thing'
Anthony FauciAnthony FauciThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Government shutdown fears increase as leaders dig in Pfizer results offer hope amid worsening pandemic for children The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Alibaba - Democrats return to disappointment on immigration MORE said Republicans who are now encouraging Americans to get vaccinated are doing “a very good thing” to help stop the spread of COVID-19 as well as misinformation about vaccines.
In an interview with The Hill, Fauci said he was glad to hear some top GOP leaders be more outspoken in recent days about the importance of receiving a life-saving vaccine.
The top immunologist was especially pleased by House Minority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) new remarks. Scalise revealed that he got his initial dose of Pfizer this past weekend, citing an uptick in cases linked to the delta variant. He called the shot “safe and effective.”
Missouri Supreme Court rules in favor of Medicaid expansion
The Missouri Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of supporters of Medicaid expansion in the state, overturning a lower court ruling that had blocked it.
The unanimous ruling was quickly praised by supporters of Medicaid expansion, who said it would mean that expansion can finally go forward in the state after a long battle.
“As a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling, Missourians across the state will finally be able to realize the health and economic benefits of Medicaid expansion," the Missouri Budget Project said in a statement. "State after state has shown that in addition to providing insurance to those eligible, expansion is a fiscal and economic boon to state economies and budgets."
An estimated 275,000 people in Missouri could gain coverage under the expansion of Medicaid's eligibility.
Voters passed a ballot question last year approving the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, but GOP Gov. Mike Parson (R) said in May he would not implement it after Republicans in the state legislature declined to provide funding for it.
Supporters then sued to seek implementation.
What we’re reading
Delta variant sweeps through states that dialed back health powers (Politico)
Wildfire smoke drives people in low-vaccinated areas indoors, raising outbreak fears (Kaiser Health News)
Public health officials have tools to beat back Covid again. Does anyone want to use them? (Stat News)
Vaccinations rise in some states with soaring infections (The Associated Press)
State by state
Texas has seen nearly 9,000 COVID-19 deaths since February. All but 43 were unvaccinated people. (The Texas Tribune)
Gov. defends agency’s vaccine chief firing, outreach rollback (The Associated Press)
DeSantis vows to keep fighting CDC over cruise ships (Politico)
Op-eds in The Hill