Healthcare

Overnight Health Care — GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate

GOP attorneys general warn of legal battle over Biden's vaccine mandate

 

 

Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care, where we're following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Scientists gave a rainbow-colored fly species the name "Opaluma rupaul" after the famous drag queen "RuPaul's Drag Race."

Two dozen Republican state attorneys general threatened legal action against the Biden administration over his order for all employers with 100 employees or more to require vaccinations or weekly testing.  

For The Hill, we're Peter Sullivan (psullivan@thehill.com), Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@thehill.com) and Justine Coleman (jcoleman@thehill.com). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @JustineColeman8.

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24 GOP AGs warn Biden of legal action over vaccine mandate

 

Twenty-four states threatened to sue the Biden administration on Thursday over the president's new rule to require employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccinations and frequent testing for their workers.

A group of Republican state attorneys general sent a letter to President Biden vowing to take legal action if he did not reverse course, arguing that the mandate would be illegal and unlikely to be successful as a public health measure.

What the letter says: "The vaccines have helped protect millions of Americans, and there are surely others who could benefit from obtaining this treatment," the letter reads. "But convincing those who are hesitant to do so would require you to allow room for discussion and disagreement." 

"Instead, you have offered the American people flimsy legal arguments, contradictory statements, and threatening directives. It is almost as if your goal is to sow division and distrust, rather than promote unity and the public's health." 

In response to: Earlier this month, Biden directed the Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to order employers with 100 employees or more to mandate vaccination or make workers submit to weekly COVID-19 testing. The rule would impact tens of millions of private workers. 

Republicans have issued public outcry against the directive, while Biden has stuck to his guns, defending it as crucial to the government's effort to boost vaccination rates in the face of surging cases and deaths from the disease.

Read more here

 

AT THE SAME TIME: PANDEMIC FRUSTRATIONS ZERO IN ON UNVACCINATED AMERICANS

The growing frustration with the ongoing pandemic is boiling over, with all eyes turned to the unvaccinated as the key to getting through the COVID-19 crisis.

As cases approach winter levels, the U.S. has been left to decide how to deal with and treat the millions who still haven't received their shots, months after they became widely available. 

In response, some have resorted to mocking and joking about the unvaccinated, an approach public health and psychology experts say is unlikely to change the minds of both hard-line activists or the vaccine hesitant.

Experts support stricter actions like mandates to boost the vaccination rate and protect the public, although several also encourage patience while acknowledging the increased irritation. President Biden and others, however, have indicated their "patience is wearing thin."

Leana Wen, an emergency physician and public health professor at George Washington University, called the vaccinated population's exasperation "understandable," as they "did everything right" and got their shots. 

"I think a lot of these individuals are wondering - 'Why are we being punished because of the decisions of others?' " she said. " 'Why are the vaccinated paying the price for the unvaccinated?' "

Read more here

DOJ moves to block Purdue Pharma deal shielding Sacklers

The Department of Justice (DOJ) moved on Wednesday to block Purdue Pharma's controversial bankruptcy deal that shields members of the Sackler family from being sued in future opioid-related lawsuits.  

U.S Trustee for the DOJ William Harrington filed a request for an expedited stay to prevent the OxyContin-maker's agreement that a federal judge signed off on earlier this month from going into effect. The DOJ throughout Purdue Pharma's bankruptcy has blasted the settlement as "unlawful" and "unconstitutional."  

Most state attorneys general have backed the settlement, saying it will lessen ongoing legal battles and allow funding to get to opioid treatment programs more quickly. But the attorneys general in Maryland, D.C. and Washington state have also appealed, ​​arguing that it lets members of the Sackler family avoid responsibility.

What's in the agreement: Through the deal in question, members of the Sackler family would give up ownership of Purdue Pharma and supply more than $4 billion in cash and charitable assets over nine years. The company's assets would be sent to a new company focused on fighting opioid addiction.  

In exchange, the family members would avoid admitting wrongdoing and be granted immunity against future legal claims. 

Purdue's response: In a statement, Purdue Pharma said it understands the views of those against the deal "are deeply held," but emphasized that 95 percent of the company's creditors and 43 states and territories support the plan as "the best option for people and communities suffering from the opioid crisis."

"Now is the time for the remaining objectors to join the overwhelming majority of creditors so that billions of dollars can begin to flow as quickly as possible," the company said. 

Read more here

Idaho to ration care amid COVID-19 surge

Idaho on Thursday announced that it is activating a system for rationing medical care statewide amid a surge in COVID-19 cases that is overwhelming hospitals.

The system, known as Crisis Standards of Care, allows hospitals to prioritize care for healthier people who are more likely to recover. The state said not every hospital would need to ration care and that some would be able to function as normal. 

"Someone who is otherwise healthy and would recover more rapidly may get treated or have access to a ventilator before someone who is not likely to recover," the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said in a statement explaining the system. 

When hospitals are overwhelmed, care for people without COVID-19 is also hurt. Idaho said that is a reason for its decision to activate the new system.

"The situation is dire - we don't have enough resources to adequately treat the patients in our hospitals, whether you are there for COVID-19 or a heart attack or because of a car accident," said Dave Jeppesen, the director of the Idaho health department. 

Big picture: The move in Idaho shows the damage the surge in COVID-19 cases is having on the health care system, particularly in areas with low vaccination rates. 

The overwhelming majority of people in hospitals with COVID-19 are unvaccinated, and Idaho has one of the lowest vaccination rates of any state.

Read more here

CDC STUDY SUGGESTS CHILDREN, TEENS GAINED WEIGHT FASTER DURING PANDEMIC

Children and teenagers saw their body mass index (BMI) increase at almost double the rate during the pandemic, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study, suggesting faster weight gain during COVID-19. 

The CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released Thursday determined that the monthly rate of BMI increase among 2- to 19-year-olds accelerated during the pandemic to reach 0.1 kg/m² per month. Comparatively, during the pre-pandemic period, the rate of increase was 0.052 kg/m² per month.

Who was most affected: All BMI categories except underweight saw "significant increases in their rate of BMI change during the pandemic."

Children and teenagers who were overweight or obese before the pandemic experienced "significantly" higher rates of BMI increases during COVID-19, compared to those considered to have healthier weights. 

Among age groups, children ages 6 to 11 saw the highest increase in the rate of BMI change, reaching 2.5 times as high as the rate before the pandemic. 

Context: The documented weight gain came as children were sent home from schools due to COVID-19, disrupting eating and exercise routines, boosting stress and sometimes impacting their food security. 

Read more here.

WHAT WE'RE READING

  • Parenting a child under 12 in the age of delta: 'It's like a fire alarm every day' (The Washington Post)
  • How Fauci and the NIH Got Ahead of the FDA and CDC in Backing Boosters (Kaiser Health News)
  • Why you should get vaccinated even if you had COVID-19 (The Atlantic)

STATE BY STATE

  • DeSantis flirts with the anti-vaccine crowd (Politico)
  • Idaho rations health care statewide amid massive COVID surge (The Associated Press)
  • Alabama health officer 'can't imagine' hospitals could stay open if not for COVID vaccine (AL.com)

That's it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill's healthcare page for the latest news and coverage. See you Friday.

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