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Overnight Health Care: Trump admin makes changes to speed vaccinations | CDC to order negative tests for international travelers | More lawmakers test positive after Capitol siege

Overnight Health Care: Trump admin makes changes to speed vaccinations | CDC to order negative tests for international travelers | More lawmakers test positive after Capitol siege
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Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care.

In its final days, the Trump administration is shaking up how coronavirus vaccines are distributed to states. The CDC will require negative COVID-19 tests from international travelers coming to the U.S., a WHO official warned global herd immunity will not happen this year, and the incoming director of the CDC vowed to tell the truth.

We'll start with vaccine news:

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Trump administration makes sweeping changes to speed up pace of COVID-19 vaccinations

The Trump administration will no longer hold back the second dose of a coronavirus vaccine as part of a host of changes intended to speed up the pace of inoculations and make more vaccines available to the public.

The sweeping changes are a major departure from current administration policy, and some align with a plan unveiled by President-elect Joe Biden to release nearly every available vaccine dose.

The big change:  The Trump administration has been holding back half of the available doses to ensure there is enough supply for everyone who is getting a first dose to later get a second dose as well. That's changing, as the administration will now release every available dose.

"We have gained confidence in the integrity of our distribution system, which has now successfully delivered to over 14,000 locations without a hitch," HHS Secretary Alex Azar told reporters Tuesday. 

Azar said that because of a consistent pace of production, "we can now ship all of the doses that had been held in physical reserve, with second doses being supplied by doses coming off of manufacturing lines." 

Wider availability: States are also being told to open up eligibility to anyone over the age of 65, as well as people under the age of 65 who have high risk conditions. 

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"That is the most effective way to save lives now. In some states, heavy-handed micromanagement of this process has stood in the way of vaccines reaching a broader swath of the vulnerable population more quickly," Azar said. 

Read more here.

 

HHS shakes up vaccine allocation for states

On top of the new guidelines for administering vaccines, administration officials on Tuesday said they are shaking up how states are allocated vaccine doses.

Rather than distribute vaccines based on population, the administration instead will allocate doses based on how quickly they can administer the shots, as well as on the size of the population over age 65, Azar said.

States will have two weeks to prepare for the change, Azar said, which should give them time to improve their reporting to a federal database. 

"This new system gives states a strong incentive to ensure that all vaccinations are being promptly reported, which they're currently not," Azar told reporters during a press briefing. 

The policy change would reward states that inoculate people quickly, and comes as top administration officials have been complaining about the slow pace of vaccinations. 

But current Trump officials will no longer be in charge in two weeks, and it's not clear if the incoming Biden administration supports such a change. Azar said Operation Warp Speed had not yet spoken with the transition team about the change, and a Biden spokesman did not return a request for comment.

 

CDC to order negative COVID-19 tests from international passengers boarding US-bound flights 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now requiring that all international passengers boarding U.S.-bound flights to get a negative COVID-19 test before flying. 

The U.S. put that requirement on those traveling to the U.S. from the United Kingdom a couple of weeks ago due to the new coronavirus strain that was coming out of the area. 

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Now, the order is being expanded to flights from all countries, as the CDC cites new strains.

“Variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus continue to emerge in countries around the world, and there is evidence of increased transmissibility of some of these variants,” the CDC said in a statement. “With the US already in surge status, the testing requirement for air passengers will help slow the spread of the virus as we work to vaccinate the American public.”

The policy takes effect Jan. 26, and will require a negative test result within three days of a flight departing to the U.S. 

Read more here

 

Growing number of lawmakers test positive for COVID-19 after Capitol siege

It's becoming increasingly evident that last week's riot at the Capitol was likely a superspreader event.

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A growing number of lawmakers are testing positive for COVID-19 after being forced to crowd together in a secure space during Wednesday’s mob attack on the Capitol.

At least three House members have tested positive in the past 24 hours: Democratic Reps. Bonnie Watson ColemanBonnie Watson ColemanTSA working on additional pipeline security regulations following Colonial Pipeline hack President Biden can prevent over 4,000 people from being sent back to prison Lawmakers roll out legislation to defend pipelines against cyber threats MORE (N.J.), Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalWhite House to Democrats: Get ready to go it alone on infrastructure Black Democrats press leaders for reparations vote this month Jayapal to Dems: Ditch bipartisanship, go it alone on infrastructure MORE (Wash.) and Brad SchneiderBradley (Brad) Scott SchneiderDemocrat says he won't introduce resolution to censure Greene after her apology Greene apologizes for comparing vaccine rules to Holocaust Pelosi signals no further action against Omar MORE (Ill.). All were in the secure space where security officials ushered hundreds of lawmakers to shelter in place as rioters in support of President TrumpDonald TrumpKushner lands book deal, slated for release in 2022 Biden moves to undo Trump trade legacy with EU deal Progressives rave over Harrison's start at DNC MORE rampaged the Capitol.

Lawmakers are revealing their diagnoses voluntarily; it’s not yet clear who else in the room had COVID-19 or has since tested positive after being exposed.

Democrats are furious that several House Republicans in the room were not wearing masks, in violation of rules in place since July requiring masks on the House floor and in surrounding office buildings.

Read more here.

Related: Democrats to levy fines on maskless lawmakers on House floor

 

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Incoming CDC director vows to tell the truth, restore trust

The incoming director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vowed in a New York Times op-ed published Monday to tell the public the truth, “even when the news is bleak.”

Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyStudy: Older Americans saw larger declines in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths after vaccine became available Overnight Health Care: Biden 'very confident' in Fauci amid conservative attacks | House Dems press Biden on global vaccinations | CDC director urges parents to vaccinate adolescents New York plans to loosen school mask rules as soon as Monday MORE, President-elect Joe Biden’s pick to lead the embattled agency, acknowledged the CDC will have to work “very hard to restore public trust.” 

“It has been undermined over the last year. In that time, numerous reports stated that White House officials interfered with official guidance issued by the CDC,” she wrote. 

“As I start my new duties, I will tell the president, Congress and the public what we know when we know it, and I will do so even when the news is bleak, or when the information may not be what those in the administration want to hear.” 

Walensky, chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital, will replace Robert RedfieldRobert RedfieldRedfield says he thinks virus 'evolved' in lab to transmit better Ex-CDC director Redfield says he received death threats from fellow scientists over COVID-19 theory Fauci may have unwittingly made himself a key witness for Trump in 'China Flu' hate-speech case MORE, President Trump’s pick for the job in 2018, who has come under heavy criticism for not defending his agency from attacks by Trump.

Read more here.

 

WHO official warns global herd immunity from COVID-19 won't happen until 2022

An official with the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that herd immunity from COVID-19 vaccines will not happen this year and physical distancing and mask wearing will need to continue into 2022.

WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan said the quick development of vaccines is a testament to scientists around the world, but cautioned that scaling the production on a global basis takes time.

"The vaccines are going to come. They are going to go to all countries, but meanwhile we mustn't forget that there are measures that work," like masks and physical distancing, Swaminathan said during a press briefing Monday.

"It's really important to remind people, both government as well as individuals, on the responsibilities and measures we need to practice for the rest of this year at least, because even as vaccines start protecting the most vulnerable, we're not going to achieve any levels of population immunity, herd immunity, in 2021," she said.

Read more here.

 

What we’re reading 

Why you should still wear a mask and avoid crowds after getting the COVID-19 vaccine (NPR

Scott AtlasScott AtlasDeSantis rips YouTube over removal of pandemic video Clyburn: Documents show Trump officials helped suppress coronavirus CDC reports Fauci defends Birx: 'She had to live in the White House' MORE, controversial former Trump adviser, deletes Twitter account (STAT)

The future of the coronavirus? An annoying childhood infection (The New York Times 

Hospitals to report Covid-19 vaccination data (Wall Street Journal)

 

State by state 

Putting seniors first was the right decision.’ DeSantis defends vaccine rollout (Sun-Sentinel)

Georgia Senate GOP leader has COVID-19; half of House skip test (Atlanta Journal Constitution

As coronavirus hospitalizations stabilize in LA County and state, officials brace for new surge (Mercury News)