Overnight Healthcare

Health Care — Biden takes action on federal marijuana convictions

Marijuana plant
The Associated Press/ Richard Vogel

The teaser trailer for the upcoming “Super Mario Bros. Movie” just dropped and it already has fans divided over some of the moviemaking decisions. 

Today in health, President Biden announced he will be pardoning all federal offenses for simple marijuana possession and will also look into rescheduling the drug altogether. Plus: the CDC will no longer report daily COVID numbers.

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Want a copy of this newsletter in your inbox? Subscribe here.

Biden to pardon marijuana possession offenses

President Biden will pardon everyone who has been convicted of simple possession of marijuana under federal law, the White House announced Thursday. 

“There are thousands of people who have prior federal convictions for marijuana possession, who may be denied employment, housing, or educational opportunities as a result. My action will help relieve the collateral consequences arising from these convictions,” Biden said in a statement. 

The pardons will also include people who have been convicted of simple possession in the District of Columbia.  

  • About 6,500 people would be pardoned according to administration officials who previewed the president’s announcement.
  • But the number of people convicted in states is far larger — the impact will be limited if the states do not follow suit.
  • Biden stopped short of calling for full decriminalization, though the announcement is a major push in that direction.  

Rescheduling? In addition, Biden is asking the secretary of Health and Human Services and the attorney general to “expeditiously” review how marijuana is scheduled under federal law.

Marijuana is a Schedule I substance, meaning it is in the same category as drugs like heroin and LSD. According to the federal government, it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical value. Even fentanyl is not Schedule 1. 

Read more here. 

CDC to stop reporting daily COVID-19 cases

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will stop reporting daily COVID-19 cases later this month and switch to weekly reports after more than two years of near-constant daily updates.

  • In an update regarding its coronavirus data and surveillance, the CDC said it was transitioning from daily to weekly reports to allow for more “flexibility” and to reduce the burden on state and local governments. The change in case reporting will take place on Oct. 20.
  • “Data processing cutoffs for jurisdictions will be every Wednesday at 10AM ET for line level case and death data, and Wednesday at 5PM ET for aggregate case and death data,” the CDC stated.

This move to weekly reports could be similar to how the CDC covers the annual flu season. The agency typically updates its influenza data on a weekly basis, with reports containing compiled data on one site as opposed to the COVID-19 dashboard that is currently being used.

This is the latest in a series of recent developments where the federal government has pulled back on the amount of resources and scrutiny being used in the pandemic.

Read more here.

US to divert and screen all travelers from Uganda

The Biden administration on Thursday said it will begin redirecting travelers coming from Uganda to one of five different airports where they can be screened for Ebola. 

Beginning on Friday, all U.S.-bound passengers who have been in Uganda in the 21 days prior to their arrival will be routed to New York JFK, Newark Liberty International, Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta, O’Hare International in Chicago, or Dulles International in Washington, D.C., for enhanced screening “out of an abundance of caution,” according to the U.S. Embassy in Uganda.

  • To date, cases have only been confirmed in Uganda and there have been no probable or confirmed cases of Ebola in the United States.
  • Still, the outbreak is concerning because of its rapid growth and because it is being caused by the Sudan strain, for which there are no approved vaccines or treatments.  

According to an administration official, passengers can expect a temperature check, and fill out a health questionnaire about Ebola. The contact information will be shared with U.S. state and local health departments to follow-up with arrivals in their jurisdiction.

It’s unclear how long the screenings will remain in place. 

Physician and Ebola survivor Craig Spencer said he was worried about what he’s heard so far, and the U.S needs to be doing more to help on the ground. 

SURVEY: ADOLESCENTS FAVOR DISPOSABLE, FLAVORED E-CIGARETTES 

More than 2.5 million U.S. middle and high school students reported that they are using e-cigarettes, according to new government data published Thursday, with the majority of them choosing flavored, disposable e-cigarettes. 

  • According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey, 14.1 percent of high school students and 3.3 percent of middle school students said they vaped in the past 30 days.
  • The numbers appear to be down from pre-pandemic levels, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which conducted the National Youth Tobacco Survey, said not to compare the results to previous years. 

The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration said the results show the continuing challenge facing public health agencies as nontraditional cigarettes continue to be popular among teenagers. 

“This study shows that our nation’s youth continue to be enticed and hooked by an expanding variety of e-cigarette brands delivering flavored nicotine,” said Deirdre Lawrence Kittner, director of the CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health.  

When asked about their “usual brand,” Puff Bar was the most common, followed by Vuse, Hyde, and SMOK. Juul was not mentioned. 

Read more.  

MOST HOLD NEGATIVE VIEWS OF HEALTH CARE COST, EQUITY: GALLUP

More than half of Americans in a new Gallup poll said they have negative views of the cost and equity of health care in the United States. 

  • Three-quarters of respondents in the West Health-Gallup poll released on Thursday gave the U.S. health care system failing grades for affordability. Americans rated the system’s affordability negatively no matter their income, with upward of 70 percent at every income level giving the system failing grades.
  • The poll also showed that 56 percent of Americans rated the U.S. health care system negatively in terms of its provision of equitable care. The percentage was higher among women and Black and Asian American respondents, who were more likely to give the system a failing grade for equity. 

Where the U.S. scored well: U.S. health care did receive more positive reviews on access and quality, with 62 percent rating access to care positively or satisfactorily and 83 percent giving the quality of care higher grades. 

The vast majority of respondents in the poll agreed that there should be limits on health care costs. Regardless of political party, more than 70 percent of Americans said the federal government should place limits on costs. 

Read more here

Seniors top list of COVID-19 deaths this summer: analysis

More seniors than any other age group died from COVID-19 this past summer amid a disease surge fueled by COVID-19 subvariants, according to an analysis published Thursday from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF). 

The foundation analyzed COVID-19 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and found that death rates rose much faster for Americans older than 65, despite widespread vaccine coverage within the group. 

  • Between April and July of 2022, the number of coronavirus-related deaths among seniors rose above 11,000 in July and August. While deaths rose for those under 65 as well, the total was about five to six times smaller for younger Americans.
  • In April of this year, 1,306 under the age of 65 died, according to CDC data. The monthly total for this demographic has officially dipped below that number as of September.
  • Two thousand more people over age 65 died in September than in April. However, this number still represented a drop of about 4,500 deaths from the month of August. 

The share of COVID-19 deaths within the over-65 age group has risen since the beginning of this year, from 24 percent in January to 40 percent in September. 

The organization pointed to this data as an indication of the importance of continued vaccination against the coronavirus. Primary vaccination among seniors was particularly high — 95 percent — but enthusiasm for subsequent boosters has waned. 

Read more here

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • 86% of kids under 17 have antibodies from a past COVID infection, CDC data shows (ABC News
  • More than two dozen abortion clinics closed in the first 100 days post-Roe (The 19th News
  • FDA and Covis release dueling documents over the fate of a controversial drug for premature births (Stat

STATE BY STATE

  • Demand for abortions in Michigan doubles among out-of-state residents (Detroit Free Press
  • Some nursing home residents are still displaced after Hurricane Ian (WUSF
  • Masks still required in Oregon health care facilities this winter, despite recent CDC rules (KGW

THE HILL OP-ED

Ensure access to all vaccines 

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.

Tags CDC COVID-19 cases Craig Spencer e-cigarettes Ebola Marijuana recreational marijuana
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