Healthcare

Overnight Health Care — Presented by Rare Access Action Project — US surpasses 50 million COVID-19 cases

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

Spoiler alert. After a post-workout death scene from the “Sex and the City” reboot sent Peloton’s shares to a 52-week low, the exercise bike company responded with a spot showing a certain character still alive. 

The U.S. passed 50 million COVID-19 cases as hospitals in some states are getting more strained. 

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.

Let’s get started.

COVID-19 cases surpass 50 million in US 

The United States on Monday passed 50 million recorded COVID-19 cases, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. 

The grim milestone underscores the toll of the virus in the U.S., where it continues to fuel surges and leave a striking death toll, largely among the unvaccinated. 

Case counts nationally have risen to around 120,000 per day, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Some experts have been deemphasizing case counts as a metric, given that some are usually mild breakthrough cases that occur after someone has been vaccinated. 

But hospitalizations and deaths are also recording alarming trends, largely among the unvaccinated. 

About 1,200 people die from the virus every day, and 65,000 are in the hospital, according to a tracker from The New York Times. A total of about 800,000 people have died from the virus in the U.S. 

Those numbers have been rising again recently as the weather gets colder in northern parts of the country, and people move indoors. 

The omicron variant of the virus poses an additional threat. Cases, hospitalizations and deaths are already on the rise, despite the new variant not yet gaining a predominant foothold in the U.S., where the delta variant still dominates. 

Read more here

MINNESOTA WARNS OF ‘OVERWHELMED’ HOSPITALS IN AD

Things are getting dire for Minnesota hospitals. 

Hospital leaders warned in a full-page newspaper ad that they are “overwhelmed” amid a COVID-19 surge and are urging the public to take action. 

“Our emergency departments are overfilled, and we have patients in every bed in our hospitals,” write the leaders of nine hospital systems in the state, including the Mayo Clinic and North Memorial Health. 

The hospitals warn that because their capacity is strained, care for non-coronavirus medical events, like heart attacks, is also threatened.

“Now, an ominous question looms: will you be able to get care from your local community hospital without delay? Today, that’s uncertain,” they write in the ad, which is running in major newspapers across the state.   

Big picture: Minnesota has the third-most per capita COVID-19 cases in the country, according to the COVID Act Now tracking site, behind New Hampshire and Rhode Island. 

Other states are also facing strains at their medical facilities. Massachusetts hospitals, for example, are cutting back on some elective surgeries. 

Read more here.

A MESSAGE FROM RAAP

Tell Congress to protect rare disease patients

Right now, politicians need a win, and rare disease patients are going to lose. Congress is putting huge cost increases on the development of treatments for rare diseases – from 400-800%. Learn more.

High court won’t block NY health worker mandate 

The Supreme Court is seen at sunset on June 7

A divided Supreme Court on Monday turned away a pair of religious-based requests to temporarily block New York state’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.

The order was unsigned, though the court’s three most conservative justices indicated they would have ruled for the religious-based objectors.

A group of doctors, nurses and health care personnel sought religious exemptions from the mandate New York enacted this summer in response to rising infection rates amid the coronavirus delta variant.

New York’s rule includes exemptions from the mandate for certain medical conditions, but provides for no religious exemptions. The objectors say taking the vaccines violates their religious beliefs due to the use of abortion-derived fetal cell lines for production or testing.

Justice Neil Gorsuch, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, wrote separately to dissent from the court’s denial. Justice Clarence Thomas indicated he too would have granted the request.

Flashback: The challengers’ emergency request to the justices came after losing at the New York-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit.

The court’s move Monday follows a similar ruling in October in which a divided court left intact a vaccine requirement for Maine health care workers over a religious objection.

Read more here.

Massachusetts giving out at-home rapid tests

coronavirus COVID-19 community spread rate slow wall street journal new cases confirmed death rate shutting down bars public spaces death rate 14 million congress stimulus

Massachusetts will distribute more than 2 million at-home COVID-19 tests to some of the state’s most vulnerable communities as the region braces for a winter spike in cases, Gov. Charlie Baker (R) said Monday.

Baker said his administration has secured 2.1 million over-the-counter rapid tests from iHealth Labs that will be delivered to the 100 towns with the highest percentage of families below the poverty level. Those municipalities account for nearly 3.7 million Massachusetts residents.

“Like vaccines, these rapid at-home tests are potentially a game changer as we continue to battle COVID here in the Commonwealth. The big problem in many cases for many people have been costs and supply,” Baker said. 

Massachusetts is paying $5 per test, and the tests come in packs of two.

Baker said the commonwealth is also finalizing plans to allow municipalities and other public entities to directly purchase tests from test manufacturers at fixed, state-negotiated prices beginning in January.

Different approach: Other states, including Colorado and neighboring New Hampshire, have also worked to distribute free rapid tests to residents. But rather than mailing tests to individuals, the free tests will be sent to cities and towns for distribution to the public. 

Nationally, the Biden administration is facing calls to make rapid testing more affordable and accessible. Officials have announced a plan for Americans with private insurance to be reimbursed for the costs of the tests, but it has faced criticism for being too cumbersome and adding unnecessary barriers.  

Read more here.

PROOF OF VACCINATION REQUIRED TO INDOOR DINE IN PHILLY

Philadelphia will soon require proof of coronavirus vaccination to enter restaurants, bars and a number of other venues, the city announced Monday

The mandate will go into effect Jan. 3 and require customers and employees to show proof they’ve received two shots of Pfizer or Moderna’s vaccine or one shot of Johnson and Johnson. 

The rule also applies to other places where food or drink are being served including sports venues, movie theaters, bowling alleys, catering halls, casinos and food courts. It will not be required for  essential places such as schools, daycares, hospitals, grocery stores, soup kitchens, convenience stores or other places that serve vulnerable populations. 

The city will give people an option to use a negative COVID-19 test from the past 24 hours for the first two weeks of the mandate, but that exemption will end Jan. 17. 

Children under the age of 5, who are currently ineligible for vaccines, as well as people with medical and religious exemptions will be permitted to dine indoors if they are carrying a negative test for venues that seat more than 1,000 people

City officials also said children ages 5 to 11, who more recently became eligible for vaccines, will only need to show proof of one shot by Jan. 3, but would need to complete the vaccination series by Feb. 3.

Read more here

A MESSAGE FROM RAAP

Tell Congress to protect rare disease patients

Right now, politicians need a win, and rare disease patients are going to lose. Congress is putting huge cost increases on the development of treatments for rare diseases – from 400-800%. Learn more.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • One year of vaccines: Many lives saved, many needlessly lost (Associated Press)
  • Inside the making of Biden’s omicron playbook (NBC)
  • The Trump administration violated federal law by silencing staffers during the COVID-19 outbreak (Buzzfeed News)

STATE BY STATE

  • Interview: Gov. Polis leaves mask mandates to local officials, says the state shouldn’t ‘tell people what to wear’ (Colorado Public Radio)
  • Florida Department of Health rejects complaint against Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo (Tallahassee Democrat)
  • COVID pushes northern Indiana hospitals past capacity, as doctors warn of ‘dangerous path’ (South Bend Tribune)

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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