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Overnight Health Care: NIH chief: Trump has not met with task force in 'quite some time' | CDC reports 300,000 more deaths than expected this year | UK to start challenge trials for vaccine

Overnight Health Care: NIH chief: Trump has not met with task force in 'quite some time' | CDC reports 300,000 more deaths than expected this year | UK to start challenge trials for vaccine
© Greg Nash

Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden adds to vote margin over Trump after Milwaukee County recount Krebs says allegations of foreign interference in 2020 election 'farcical'  Republicans ready to become deficit hawks again under a President Biden MORE has not been meeting with the White House coronavirus task force, ObamaCare premiums are down, and Britain is starting "challenge trials" for a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

We'll start with the task force news:

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NIH chief: Trump has not met with White House COVID-19 task force in 'quite some time'

The growing influence of Scott Atlas over President Trump and the waning influence of other task force members continues. 

President Trump has not met with the White House coronavirus task force in "quite some time," the head of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) said Tuesday.

NIH Director Francis Collins told NPR's "Morning Edition" that Trump instead gets his information from Vice President Pence and task force member Scott Atlas, neither of whom are infectious disease experts.

"I think the president primarily is getting his information from the vice president, from Dr. Atlas," Collins said. 

"Obviously, it's a bit of a chaotic time with the election. ... There's not a direct connection between the task force members and the president as there was a few months ago, but this seems to be a different time with different priorities." 

Atlas is a neuroradiologist and a fellow at the Hoover Institute, a conservative think tank. He was added to the task force over the summer after appearing frequently on Fox News. 

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White House weighs in: Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters that Pence is the leader of the task force, and Trump gets his updates from Pence. 

Read more here.

CDC reports 300,000 more deaths than expected this year, likely due to COVID-19

Nearly 300,000 more people have died so far this year than would be expected in a normal year, likely due to COVID-19 or the pandemic’s indirect impacts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Deaths of people in the 25-44 age group was 25.6 percent higher than expected when compared to similar time periods in previous years, the highest increase for any age group, according to a report published Tuesday. Along racial and ethnic lines, Hispanic or Latino people saw the highest percentage increase in numbers of deaths compared with previous years at 54 percent.

The count of “excess deaths” — deaths that exceed the numbers from previous years — has been used throughout the pandemic to try to determine how many people have died from COVID-19.

The CDC report found that between late January to October 3, the U.S. had 299,000 more deaths than the typical number during the same time period in previous years.

Read more here.

They’re taking some risks in the UK: Britain to infect healthy volunteers with coronavirus for vaccine trials

British scientists on Tuesday announced plans to launch the first COVID-19 human challenge trials in which researchers will intentionally infect a sample of healthy volunteers with the virus in order to speed up the testing of potential vaccines. 

According to The Washington Post, the research, scheduled to begin in January, will be led by scientists at Imperial College London and funded by the British government. 

Fewer than 100 volunteers between the ages of 18 and 30 will have a laboratory-grown strain of COVID-19 blown into their noses and will be quarantined in a private unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London, where they will undergo regular testing over a two- to three-week period.

According to the Post, the study aims to determine the minimal amount of virus necessary to cause an active infection in the volunteers’ upper respiratory system.

Later in the spring, the scientists hope to add more volunteers, who will be treated with candidate vaccines and then exposed to the virus to see how well the vaccines protect them.

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Read more here.

Remember when ObamaCare premium hikes were a big story? Well, now key ObamaCare premiums dropped for the third straight year 

Average ObamaCare premiums will decline by 2 percent for the 2021 year for a benchmark plan, the Trump administration announced, marking the third straight year of declines.

Premiums for the benchmark plan have declined by 8 percent on the HealthCare.gov platform over the three-year period since the 2018 plan year, the administration said.

Political balancing act: The announcement from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is an indication of how the Trump administration is claiming credit for its stewardship of the Affordable Care Act while at the same time backing a lawsuit to scrap the law.

President Trump also made clear last month that he still wants ObamaCare struck down.

“Obamacare will be replaced with a MUCH better, and FAR cheaper, alternative if it is terminated in the Supreme Court. Would be a big WIN for the USA!” he tweeted.

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The administration argues, however, that as long as law is still on the books, it is being managed well.

Read more here

Cuomo: Travel within Tri-State area should be avoided due to COVID-19 spike

New York Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCardinal Dolan hails Supreme Court decision on churches, COVID-19 Cuomo blames new conservative majority for high court's COVID-19 decision Vaccine skepticism emerges as early test for Biden MORE (D) has expanded the state's travel advisory. Amid rising cases of COVID-19 in New York and around the country, Cuomo added Arizona and Maryland to the state's COVID-19 travel advisory, bringing the number of states on the list up to 40.

The advisory requires people traveling to New York from certain states to quarantine for 14 days. States are placed on the list if they have a positive test rate that exceeds 10 per 100,000 residents or a positivity rate of 10 percent or higher over a 7-day period. 

Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania also meet the travel advisory criteria, but Cuomo acknowledged placing them on the list would not be effective but Cuomo discouraged any non-essential travel to those three states.

“We are now in a situation where 43 states meet the criteria for our travel advisory," Cuomo said in a statement. "This is really a bizarre outcome, considering New York once had the highest infection rate."

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Read more here.

What we’re reading

Overdose deaths appear to rise amid coronavirus pandemic in U.S. (Associated Press

Dr. Scott Gottlieb: U.S. about ‘a week away from a rapid acceleration’ of coronavirus cases (CNBC

Antibody treatments, though promising, will be in short supply (New York Times)

The next wave of the coronavirus is gaining steam (Axios

State by state

Coronavirus spreading ‘uncontrollably’ in much of U.S. — but not California. Here’s why (San Francisco Chronicle)

Coronavirus in Ohio: In-person school at stake as COVID-19 spreads; state hits record for hospitalizations (Cincinnati Enquirer)

Iowa can't spend $20 million in coronavirus aid on computer system, regulators say (The Gazette

UVA health still squeezing money from patients — by seizing their home equity (Kaiser Health News)

The Hill op-eds

COVID-19 vaccine barriers: Efficacy, availability and acceptability