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Health Care — Biden to take precautions at correspondents’ dinner

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Today in health care, debate is swirling around the safety of the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner this weekend. President Biden is still planning to go, but with some added precautions

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Peter SullivanNathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Biden to skip portion of correspondents’ dinner

President Biden will take added precautions while at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner this weekend amid concerns about exposure to COVID-19 but White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden feels the event is worth attending. 

Biden may wear a mask when he is not delivering remarks at the annual event on Saturday, and he will not attend the dinner portion, Psaki said. 

The president will arrive for the speaking program, during which the White House Correspondents Association will award scholarships and recognize journalists covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Comedian Trevor Noah is also slated to speak at the event at the Washington Hilton. 

“He’s made the decision he wants to attend, in a safe way, the White House Correspondents Dinner, to showcase his support for the free press, for the work of all of you, for the work of your colleagues around the world to not only share accurate information about COVID but also report on the war in Ukraine and all of the work that happens every single day,” Psaki said at a briefing. 

Big picture: The dinner, which did not take place in 2020 or 2021 due to the pandemic, is returning this year despite some lingering concerns about the potential for it to spread the virus as a contagious variant circulates around the country. 

Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases effort, told news outlets Wednesday that he had decided not to attend because of personal concerns about health and safety. 

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House committee grills McKinsey over opioids

House Democrats on Wednesday questioned the consulting firm McKinsey & Company over its simultaneous work with both the Food and Drug Administration and Purdue Pharma along with the firm’s potential role in exacerbating the opioid epidemic. 

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said she was seeking to “promote accountability and seek justice for the millions of families whose lives have been ravaged by this epidemic,” in her opening remarks. 

Earlier this month, the committee released a report alleging a years-long conflict of interest stemming from McKinsey’s consulting work with federal agencies, which occured at the same time it was working with pharmaceutical companies. 

Purdue Pharma, one of the firm’s clients, allegedly “tasked McKinsey with providing advice on how to influence the regulatory decisions of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA),” according to the committee’s report. 

Maloney called the advice that was uncovered “shocking beyond belief.” 

McKinsey’s global managing partner Bob Sternfels adamantly denied the accusation in the report while addressing the committee on Wednesday. 

“McKinsey did not, did not serve both the FDA and Purdue on opioid-related matters. As both McKinsey and the FDA have made clear, our work for the FDA focused on administrative and operational topics, including improvements to organization structure, business processes and technology,” said Sternfels. 

Read more here.  

WHO CHIEF: WORLD ‘BLIND’ TO COVID TRANSMISSION, EVOLUTION 

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) director-general is pressing countries to maintain COVID-19 surveillance and share information on its transmission and sequencing, saying reduced testing abroad “makes us increasingly blind to patterns of transmission and evolution.” 

Speaking on Tuesday during a press conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that while COVID-19 cases and deaths continue to decline, the world needed to welcome the news “with some caution.” 

“This makes us increasingly blind to patterns of transmission and evolution. But this virus won’t go away just because countries stop looking for it. It’s still spreading, it’s still changing, and it’s still killing,” Tedros said. 

“The threat of a dangerous new variant remains very real – and although deaths are declining, we still don’t understand the long-term consequences of infection in those who survive,” he added. “When it comes to a deadly virus, ignorance is not bliss. WHO continues to call on all countries to maintain surveillance.” 

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POLL: 45% SAY IT’S TOO EARLY TO END TRANSPORTATION MASK MANDATE 

Almost half of the Americans surveyed in a new poll released more than a week after a federal judge struck down the federal mask mandate on transportation systems like trains and planes say it is too early for the requirement to end. 

The Politico-Morning Consult poll found that 45 percent of respondents say it is too early to end the mask mandate on modes of transportation. 

In comparison, 20 percent of people polled say it is the right time to end the federal requirement and another 16 percent say the mask mandate on transportation systems should have already ended. 

A separate 12 percent say mask mandates should never have been in place on transportation. 

More than half of those surveyed — 57 percent — say they support the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) extension of the federal requirement until May 3, while 36 percent say they opposed it.

Read more here

EU eases from emergency phase of pandemic 

The European Commission, which is the executive arm of the European Union, announced on Wednesday that the bloc would move away from its emergency phase of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

In a statement about the change, the commission still called upon the EU’s member countries to increase vaccination, monitoring COVID-19, testing, travel rules and vaccines and treatments as the bloc transitions to a new phase.  

“We are entering a new phase of the pandemic, as we move from emergency mode to a more sustainable management of COVID-19,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said. “Yet, we must remain vigilant. Infection numbers are still high in the EU and many people are still dying from COVID-19 worldwide.”  

“Moreover, new variants can emerge and spread fast. But we know the way forward,” she added. ”We need to further step-up vaccination and boosting, and targeted testing — and we need to continue to coordinate our responses closely in the EU.” 

Read more here

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • Covid’s circling the White House. What are the risks to someone like Biden? (Stat
  • Before Washington’s ‘Nerd Prom,’ Lots of Risk-Benefit Calculation (New York Times)  
  • U.S. no longer in ‘full-blown’ pandemic phase, Fauci says (Washington Post)   

STATE BY STATE

  • ‘It’s insanity’: Providers end Covid care for uninsured in the wake of congressional inaction (Politico)  
  • Hit with $7,146 for two hospital bills, a family sought health care in Mexico (NPR)
  • Abortion numbers rise in Kansas, but patient counts from Texas and Oklahoma drop (Topeka Capital Journal

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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Tags Biden Carolyn Maloney Jen Psaki Trevor Noah

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