Healthcare

Overnight Health Care — US tops 900K COVID-19 deaths

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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. 

A new poll asked Italians about different ways to eat Italian food. Hint: Don’t put pineapple on pizza.  

Today, we delve into new CDC research, and the U.S. marks a shocking 900,000 COVID-19 deaths, on the way towards 1 million.  

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

Let’s get started. 

US passes 900K COVID-19 deaths

The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 topped 900,000 people, fueled by the highly contagious omicron variant, less than two months after the nation passed 800,000. 

Despite three widely available vaccines that effectively prevent severe illness and death, only 64 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

The vaccination campaign has been beset by inequities, misinformation and political sabotage, and the unvaccinated are the ones suffering the most. More people have died in the 13 months since the vaccines have been available than before.  

Data from the CDC show the total number of deaths involving COVID-19 in 2020 was 385,343.  

The U.S. has one of the highest per capita rates of recorded COVID-19 cases in the world, with about 15,000 cases per 100,000 people, according to a New York Times tracker.  

While increasing evidence shows omicron may be less likely to cause death or serious illness than the delta variant, the sheer infectiousness and the speed at which it spreads has overwhelmed hospitals, primarily with people who have not been vaccinated. 

Read more here. 

More vaccinated adults hospitalized with omicron

A higher proportion of adults hospitalized with COVID-19 during the period of omicron dominance were fully vaccinated compared to the period of delta dominance, according to a new analysis. Still those people were also less likely to be severely ill or die. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis of a single hospital in Los Angeles found there were more hospitalizations during omicron compared to delta, but that among omicron-period patients, vaccination — particularly vaccination plus a booster dose — was associated with lower likelihood of admission to an intensive care unit. 

Among adults at least 65 years old hospitalized during omicron, vaccination was also associated with a lower likelihood of death while hospitalized.  

“COVID-19 vaccination, particularly a booster dose, continues to be critical in mitigating the health care burden of the omicron variant,” the CDC concluded in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 

Omicron-period hospitalizations overall were associated with a lower likelihood of ICU admission, mechanical ventilation and death while hospitalized, compared with delta-period hospitalizations.  

With COVID or because of it? According to the CDC, that distinction doesn’t really matter.  “Even patients with positive SARS-CoV-2 test results admitted for non-COVID-19 conditions require isolation rooms and use of personal protective equipment and might transmit infection to health care workers, exacerbating staff shortages.” 

Read more here. 

IOWA ANNOUNCES PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY END DATE

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) announced on Thursday that the state’s public health emergency proclamation for COVID-19 will end in February. 

“We cannot continue to suspend duly enacted laws and treat COVID-19 as a public health emergency indefinitely. After two years, it’s no longer feasible or necessary. The flu and other infectious illnesses are part of our everyday lives, and coronavirus can be managed similarly,” Reynolds said in a statement 

“State agencies will now manage COVID-19 as part of normal daily business, and reallocate resources that have been solely dedicated to the response effort to serve other important needs for Iowans,” she added. 

The governor’s office announced that the proclamation will end on Feb. 15. Only 16 of the hundreds of provisions under the proclamation are still active, according to the announcement, with those remaining focused on workforce issues that the governor’s office said can be handled without the emergency executive powers. 

The state’s two COVID-19 websites will be decommissioned, but data regarding weekly COVID-19 cases, positive tests since March 2020, deaths since March 2020 and vaccine information will remain on the state’s health department website, according to the announcement. 

The Iowa Department of Public Health will “report relevant COVID-19 information weekly on its website, similar to how flu activity is reported,” the governor’s office said. 

Read more here.  

PAUL PROMISES INVESTIGATION OF FAUCI IF REPUBLICANS TAKE SENATE

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) says he plans to subpoena Anthony Fauci‘s records if Republicans retake the Senate in November’s midterm elections and he becomes chairman of a committee. 

Paul stands to become chairman of the Senate Health Committee if Republicans flip the 50-50 upper chamber. The committee’s current ranking member, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), is retiring. 

“If we win in November, if I’m chairman of a committee, if I have subpoena power, we’ll go after every one of [Fauci’s] records,” Paul said during an interview with conservative podcast host Lisa Boothe. “We’ll have an investigator go through this piece-by-piece because we don’t need this to happen again.” 

During congressional hearings, Paul, a libertarian ophthalmologist, has repeatedly antagonized the nation’s top infectious diseases doctor over the benefits of masks, vaccinations and the origins of COVID-19.  

Read more here.

CDC: masks work, some better than others  

People who said they always wore some type of face mask indoors were less likely to test positive for COVID-19 compared to those who did not. 

High-quality N95 respirators and KN95 masks were better at stopping infections than other masks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday.  

According to the study, surgical masks reduced the odds of testing positive for COVID-19 by about 66 percent compared to no masks at all. People who reported wearing N95 respirators while indoors were about 83 percent less likely to test positive compared with those who said they never wore a mask inside, the CDC found. 

Takeaway: “These findings reinforce that in addition to being up to date with recommended COVID-19 vaccinations, consistently wearing a face mask or respirator in indoor public settings reduces the risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the CDC wrote in the study, which was conducted by researchers at the California Department of Public Health. 

“Using a respirator offers the highest level of personal protection against acquiring infection, although it is most important to wear a mask or respirator that is comfortable and can be used consistently,” the CDC added. 

Read more here.

 

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • How Denmark Decided COVID Isn’t a Critical Threat to Society (The Atlantic)  
  • COVID-19 jeopardizes medal hopes for some Olympic athletes in Beijing (NPR)  
  • Animal study suggests Omicron boosters may not provide a benefit (Stat) 

 

STATE BY STATE

  • Former UVA employees fired due to previous COVID-19 vaccine mandate can reapply (NBC 29)  
  • A Missouri health official is the latest vaccine proponent to be pushed out. (New York Times)  
  • ‘At our peak’: Idaho COVID positivity rate from omicron falls, but is health crisis over? (Idaho Statesman)  

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

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