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Overnight Health Care: White House denies Trump has embraced 'herd immunity' strategy on COVID-19 | Penn State doctor: About a third of tested athletes with COVID-19 had heart inflammation | Fauci says Midwestern states should be on alert this Labor Day

Overnight Health Care: White House denies Trump has embraced 'herd immunity' strategy on COVID-19 | Penn State doctor: About a third of tested athletes with COVID-19 had heart inflammation | Fauci says Midwestern states should be on alert this Labor Day
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Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care. 

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight health care: AstraZeneca says its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is up to 90 percent effective It's time for COVID-19 disaster relief ... for mothers Fauci: US could see 'well over 300,000' COVID-19 deaths MORE vouched for the independence of vaccine trials and potential authorization process, and also had a warning for the Midwest. The White House again denied that President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden team wants to understand Trump effort to 'hollow out government agencies' Trump's remaking of the judicial system Overnight Defense: Trump transgender ban 'inflicts concrete harms,' study says | China objects to US admiral's Taiwan visit MORE believes in a strategy of herd immunity, and Penn State doctors found a heart inflammation in football players with COVID.

We'll start at the White House:

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White House denies Trump has embraced 'herd immunity' strategy to COVID-19

The White House on Thursday again denied the administration has ever considered a policy of "herd immunity" for COVID-19 infections.

"The herd immunity so-called theory was something made up in the fanciful minds of the media. That was never something that was ever considered here at the White House," press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters during a briefing. 

McEnany was responding to reports that new White House pandemic adviser Scott Atlas, a fellow at the conservative Hoover Institution who is not an epidemiologist or infectious diseases expert, had advocated for the Trump administration to lift all restrictions aimed at stopping infections from spreading.

Check the tape: White House officials have spent the week denying The Washington Post's report that Atlas has been pushing herd immunity — and that President Trump has been listening. 

Trump seemingly referred to herd immunity during an interview with Fox News on Monday.

“Once you get to a certain number, you know — we use the word herd, right?” Trump told Laura IngrahamLaura Anne IngrahamThe evolution of cable TV news — after Donald Trump Fox News Channel confronts criticism from right-of-center viewers Momentum grows for Biden despite lack of projections MORE. “Once you get to a certain number, it’s going to go away.”

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Read more here.

Penn State doctor: About a third of tested athletes with COVID-19 had heart inflammation

Some unsettling news from the Big 10, though the full implications are not yet clear. 

About a third of student athletes in the Big Ten Conference with the coronavirus who were given cardiac MRI’s had heart inflammation known as myocarditis, according to a Penn State doctor, raising concerns about potentially dangerous complications from the virus even among young athletes. 

“What we have seen when people have been studied, with cardiac MRI scans, symptomatic and asymptomatic COVID infections, is a level of inflammation in cardiac muscle that just is alarming,” Sebastianelli said. “And we don't know why it happens, we don't know who it's happening in, but some of the testing that has occurred across the Big Ten has revealed roughly 30 percent of the athletes reveal this inflammation.”

Caveats: Sebastianelli said it is not clear to him or cardiologists who have been consulted exactly how concerning this finding is, and he suggested some cardiologists do not think it is a major problem.

But the findings mark a concerning unknown that illustrates that there are potential complications from the coronavirus that are not fully understood.

Read more here.

Fauci says Midwestern states should be on alert this Labor Day

The nation's top infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, said Midwestern states in particular should be vigilant during the upcoming Labor Day holiday.

“There are several states that are at risk for surging, namely North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Arkansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois,” Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview with Bloomberg published Thursday.

Fauci has previously warned that past holiday weekends led to spikes in cases as people gather and let down their guard.

Cases rose dramatically following the holiday weekends of Memorial Day and July Fourth, and officials do not want a repeat. Memorial Day marked the beginning of when many states decided to reopen, despite not having contained the spread of the coronavirus. Cases peaked shortly after the July Fourth holiday. 

The Midwest region was spared from the initial wave of infection that decimated the Northeast, and then again missed the spikes that hit the Sun Belt. 

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But while case numbers in the hot spots in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California have started to fall, coronavirus cases in the Midwest are rising. Since Aug. 23, six Midwest states saw single-day records for new cases, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

It's unclear what specifically is behind the rise in cases, but some of the largest outbreaks have been tied to students returning to colleges.  

Read more here.

More from Fauci: 

Fauci says he 'would not hesitate for a moment' to take coronavirus vaccine

Amid growing concerns that the White House will force the Food and Drug Administration to authorize a vaccine for distribution before one is actually safe, Fauci attempted to give the process a vote of confidence. 

“I mean I will look at the data and I would assume and I’m pretty sure it’s going to be the case that a vaccine would not be approved for the American public unless it was indeed both safe and effective. And I keep emphasizing both safe and effective. If that’s the case, Jim, I would not hesitate for a moment to take the vaccine myself and recommend it for my family,” he told CNN anchor Jim Sciutto on Thursday. 

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Fauci, a high-profile member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said a possible vaccine for the coronavirus could be approved as soon as November or December, but said it is “unlikely, not impossible” that one could come out in October.

Fauci dismissed concerns that the FDA was being pressured to roll out a vaccine too quickly, saying trials are being independently conducted and the agency has been clear it will make its determinations solely based on available data.

“I mean the FDA has been very explicit that they are going to make a decision based on the data as it comes in. These trials have these independent data and safety monitoring boards that intermittently look at the data,” he said. “So I think that we can have some confidence and have faith in what the FDA is saying. They’re saying very explicitly that they’re going to be making the decision based on the scientific data. And we hope that that’s going to be the case.”

Read more here.

Justice Dept. stokes fears of political probe of nursing home COVID rules

The Justice Department is coming under fire for what critics see as a politically motivated investigation into coronavirus deaths in state-run nursing homes.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is weighing whether to investigate if four Democratic-led states violated the civil rights of nursing home residents by requiring that homes not turn away other residents for readmission who had COVID-19.

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The four states had issued rules to ensure that nursing home residents with COVID-19 who were not sick enough to have to stay in hospitals were readmitted to their homes.

Nursing home advocates and former DOJ officials have slammed the investigation as a nakedly partisan attack on Democratic governors.

What's going on: The DOJ said it was considering an investigation under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act, a 40-year-old federal statute meant to protect Americans in government-run institutions such as jails, prisons, mental health facilities and state-owned nursing homes. The agency sent letters to four Democrats, Govs. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCuomo calls a sheriff who won't enforce mask mandate a 'dictator' New York City to reopen field hospital as COVID-19 cases spike White House largely silent on health precautions for Thanksgiving MORE of New York, Phil Murphy of New Jersey, Tom WolfTom WolfSay 'no thanks' to Thanksgiving mandates Judge dismisses Trump camp's Pennsylvania lawsuit in scathing ruling The Memo: Experts fear damage from Trump's election pushback MORE of Pennsylvania and Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerMichigan county board approves resolution in support of impeaching Whitmer Say 'no thanks' to Thanksgiving mandates Overnight Health Care: Trump announces two moves aimed at lowering drug prices | Sturgis rally blamed for COVID-19 spread in Minnesota | Stanford faculty condemn Scott Atlas MORE of Michigan.

Notably, DOJ said it was “evaluating whether to initiate investigations,” meaning that it had not actually launched a probe.

However, just 6 percent of all nursing homes in the country are publicly run, raising questions about the scope of any potential investigation.

The timing of the announcement, which came in the middle of the Republican National Convention and just over two months before Election Day, also raised concerns that the DOJ was being weaponized for political purposes.

Read more here.

Mexico, US have had most front-line worker deaths from COVID-19

Mexico and the United States account for nearly a third of all health care workers who have died from COVID-19, according to a new report by Amnesty International.

Mexico alone has registered 1,320 health worker deaths during the pandemic, about a fifth of the worldwide total. U.S. deaths among front-line workers have hit 1,077.

The two North American countries were followed by the United Kingdom with 649 health worker deaths, Brazil with 634, and Russia with 631, the Amnesty report said.

“For over seven thousand people to die while trying to save others is a crisis on a staggering scale. Every health worker has the right to be safe at work, and it is a scandal that so many are paying the ultimate price,” said Steve Cockburn, head of economic and social justice at Amnesty International, in a statement.

Read more here

What we’re reading

Iceland has very good news about coronavirus immunity (Bloomberg)

GOP senators urge the FDA to ban the abortion pill (HuffPost)

Dozens of U.S. hospitals poised to defy FDA’s directive on COVID plasma (Kaiser Health News)

State by state

University of South Carolina records 1,026 COVID cases (NBC News)

Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the UAE Embassy in Washington, DC - Trump, Biden clash over transition holdup, pandemic plans Group of Florida mayors calls on DeSantis to issue mask mandate DeSantis promises to keep Florida open despite recent coronavirus case surge MORE wanted the Bucs to allow fans for home opener (Tampa Bay Times)

Despite mass testing, University of Illinois sees coronavirus cases rise (NPR)

Governor Kim Reynolds doesn’t rule out raising the drinking age as COVID-19 cases surge among young people (KWWL)

Op-eds in The Hill

Stop the sale of bogus supplements as a cure or treatment for COVID-19

Restore our lives using medical science, data and common sense

As nursing goes, so goes public health