Overnight Health Care: Schumer, Pelosi want Heroes Act as 'starting point' in new COVID-19 relief talks | Labs warn of possible delays in test results amid surge in demand | Federal government partners with pharmacies for coronavirus vaccine distribution

Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.

The massive surge in COVID-19 infections could, predictably, cause a shortage of testing equipment, leading to delays. Meanwhile, cases are hitting record levels in states across the country, but Congress seems unlikely to pass a relief bill anytime soon. 

We'll start with Congress, where Democrats seem to be digging in:


Schumer, Pelosi want Heroes Act as 'starting point' in new COVID-19 relief talks

Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerCapitol insurrection fallout: A PATRIOT Act 2.0? Schumer calls for DOJ watchdog to probe alleged Trump effort to oust acting AG Student loan forgiveness would be windfall for dentists, doctors and lawyers MORE (D-N.Y.) and Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop More hands needed on the nuclear football Sunday shows preview: All eyes on Biden administration to tackle coronavirus MORE (D-Calif.) on Thursday morning said the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions, or Heroes, Act passed by House Democrats in May should be the “starting point” for negotiations with Senate Republicans and the White House on a new round of coronavirus relief legislation.

Even though Democrats lost seats in the House and face long odds of retaking the Senate majority, Schumer and Pelosi said President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenFive examples of media's sycophancy for Biden on inauguration week Drastic measures for drastic times — caregiver need mobile health apps Boycott sham impeachment MORE’s victory is what counts.

Republicans counter that they themselves have a mandate after Democrats lost seats in the House and underperformed expectations of picking up Senate seats.

Which version of the bill? The House passed two versions of the legislation this year, a $3.4 trillion bill in May and a $2.2 trillion measure in October.

Hours after the press conference, an aide to Schumer said the Senate leader was referring to the $2.2 trillion bill version. A spokesperson for Pelosi confirmed the distinction.

Why that's unlikely: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden attends first church service as president in DC, stops at local bagel shop Harry Reid 'not particularly optimistic' Biden will push to eliminate filibuster Senators spar over validity of Trump impeachment trial MORE (R-Ky.) on Thursday morning said a COVID-19 relief package in the ballpark of $500 billion would be more appropriate.


"My view is the level at which the economy is improving further underscores that we need to do something about the amount that we put on the floor in September and October — highly targeted at what the residual problems are," the GOP leader told reporters.

Read more here.

Related: Biden, Democratic leaders push for lame-duck coronavirus deal

The return of testing delays? Labs warn of possible delays in test results amid surge in demand

The surge in cases could have another unwanted effect: slowing down test results. 

A top association for labs conducting coronavirus testing warned on Thursday that some labs could soon exceed their capacity and have to increase wait times for test results.

“The surge in demand for testing will mean that some members could reach or exceed their current testing capacities in the coming days,” Julie Khani, president of the American Clinical Laboratory Association, said in a statement. “In cases where the number of specimens received exceeds an individual laboratory’s testing capacity, there could be an increase in their average time to deliver results.”

During the summer, delays by as much as seven days for receiving test results significantly hampered the response to the virus.

Why it matters: People need to know if they are positive so that they can isolate and avoid infecting others. If someone has been going about their business for days before receiving the test results, it defeats much of the point of taking the test.

Read more here.

Trump administration partners with pharmacies for wide COVID-19 vaccine distribution

The federal government has reached agreements with pharmacies across the country to distribute a coronavirus vaccine for free when one becomes available.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said the program will reach 60 percent of the pharmacies in every state and U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico, including major chains and independent pharmacies to reach traditionally underserved areas.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said the vast majority of Americans live within five miles of a pharmacy, so the new agreement is aimed at making sure everyone will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine.


The partnership includes chain stores including CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens and pharmacies in supermarkets and big box stores such as Kroger, Publix and Costco. 

There is no COVID-19 vaccine yet, but Pfizer gave the public some cause for optimism this week when it announced interim clinical trial results that showed its vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. The company could send results to the Food and Drug Administration for authorization by the beginning of next month.

Read more here.

Chicago issues 30-day stay at home advisory 

The coronavirus situation is getting bad enough that Chicago is going back to a stay at home advisory, a step further than most other places around the country. 

Chicago Mayor Lori LightfootLori LightfootChicago schools to resume in-person learning next week Chicago mayor says police officers involved in botched raid on Anjanette Young's home 'taken off the street' Top attorney in Chicago resigns over botched police raid of Black woman's home MORE (D), who announced the order in a news conference Thursday afternoon, said the city would also be imposing other restrictions on gatherings and public activities, which she said "calls on all Chicagoans to follow clear measures to protect their community and help us flatten the curve."

“Chicago has reached a critical point in the second surge of COVID-19, demanding that we undertake this multi-faceted and comprehensive effort to stop the virus in its tracks,” Lightfoot said. 


The measures, scheduled to take effect 6 a.m. Monday, urge Chicago residents to only leave their homes for essential activities, such as school or grocery shopping, not hold gatherings with anyone outside of a person’s immediate household, avoid all nonessential travel and to not gather in person with friends and extended family on holidays such as Thanksgiving. 

Read more here

Some optimistic comments: Fauci says coronavirus won't be a pandemic for 'a lot longer' thanks to vaccines 

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciFive examples of media's sycophancy for Biden on inauguration week Las Vegas-area district moves to partially reopen schools amid surge in student suicides Fauci: Receiving powder-filled envelope was 'very, very disturbing' MORE said Thursday the global coronavirus outbreak will not be a pandemic for "a lot longer" because of the development of vaccines, striking a hopeful note even as the situation worsens in the short term. 

"Certainly it's not going to be pandemic for a lot longer because I believe the vaccines are going to turn that around," Fauci said at an event hosted by the think tank Chatham House. 

Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said that while the virus will likely cease raging across the globe as it is now, it could circulate quietly below the surface, at least in certain areas.

"Putting it to rest doesn't mean eradicating it," he said. "I doubt we're going to eradicate this, I think we need to plan that this is something we may need to maintain control over chronically, it may be something that becomes endemic that we have to just be careful about."


Read more here

North Dakota nurses call for mask mandate, reject policy allowing COVID-19-positive workers to stay on job

A North Dakota nurses union is rejecting a policy that would allow COVID-19-positive nurses to continue treating patients at coronavirus units of hospitals and nursing homes if they are not symptomatic.

In a statement released Wednesday, the North Dakota Nurses Association said the policy does not address the root of the problem and called for a statewide mask mandate and other public health measures to be implemented first. 

"NDNA recommends that all other public health measures to reduce the demand on the health care system and address staffing shortages are deployed before implementing this particular strategy," the union said.

North Dakota is currently the worst-hit state in the country in terms of coronavirus cases per 100,000 residents, and one of 15 states without a mask mandate. North Dakota health department data said Thursday there were fewer than 10 percent of staffed hospital beds available.

Read more here.

Virtual Event Announcement: Wednesday 11/18

The Future of Diabetes Care

1 in 10 Americans live with diabetes. Join The Hill Virtually Live for two events on Wednesday, November 18 to explore the future of diabetes care. At noon eastern, Diabetes Caucus Co-Chairs Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGette'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack Pelosi names 9 impeachment managers Bipartisan lawmakers call for expedited diabetes research MORE (D-Colo.) and Tom ReedTom ReedGOP senators praise Biden's inauguration speech The Hill's 12:30 Report: House moves toward second impeachment LIVE COVERAGE: House votes to impeach Trump after Capitol insurrection MORE (R-N.Y.) join us to discuss the future of healthcare reform for patients with diabetes. How can we align incentives and restructure our nation’s healthcare system so that it works for everyone, including those with chronic conditions?

 And at 2:00 PM ET, we'll explore the innovative digital technologies that are revolutionizing diabetes management and monitoring. What barriers stand in the way of access to technological advances in diabetes care and how can policymakers reform systems to create more equitable access to medical technologies? Rep. Michael BurgessMichael Clifton BurgessK Street navigates virtual inauguration week READ: The Republicans who voted to challenge election results OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Westerman tapped as top Republican on House Natural Resources Committee | McMorris Rodgers wins race for top GOP spot on Energy and Commerce | EPA joins conservative social network Parler MORE, M.D. (R-Texas), Rep. Robin KellyRobin Lynne KellyDemocrats press to bar lawmakers from carrying guns in the Capitol House Democrats pick Aguilar as No. 6 leader in next Congress Lawmakers push for improved diabetes care through tech advancements MORE (D-Ill.) and a stand-out line of experts sit down with The Hill's Steve Clemons.

What we’re reading: 

Nursing homes still see dangerously long waits for COVID test results (Kaiser Health News)

Trump, stewing over election loss, silent as virus surges (Associated Press)

As coronavirus soars, hospitals hope to avoid an agonizing choice: who gets care and who goes home (The Washington Post)

Placebo patients will get Pfizer’s COVID vaccine. The timing is complicated. (STAT News )  State by state: 

NYC schools may close again, a grim sign of a global dilemma (The New York Times)

Public option health insurance in Connecticut is a key priority for Democrats in 2021 (The CT Mirror)

North Dakota allows Covid-positive healthcare workers to stay on job as nurses warn it's 'irresponsible' (NBC News

The Hill op-eds

Will the Supreme Court take ObamaCare off life support?