Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson requests emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine | Senate braces for chaotic session as Democrats pursue coronavirus bill | Wisconsin Republicans repeal state mask mandate, emergency order

Overnight Health Care: Johnson & Johnson requests emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine | Senate braces for chaotic session as Democrats pursue coronavirus bill | Wisconsin Republicans repeal state mask mandate, emergency order
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Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.

Johnson & Johnson filed for emergency authorization of its vaccine. Senate Democrats are pushing forward on their coronavirus relief bill, starting with an all night vote-a-rama. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that members of the LGBTQ+ community are at greater risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms and Wisconsin's governor and GOP legislature are set up for a showdown over the state's mask mandate.

We'll start with J&J:



Johnson & Johnson requests emergency use authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine

Some positive news on the vaccine front: Johnson & Johnson on Thursday filed an application for emergency use authorization for its single-shot coronavirus vaccine, bringing it one step closer to helping the U.S. fight the virus.

The next step is for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to convene a meeting of its vaccine advisory panel to review the evidence, which could happen in as little as two weeks.

In a statement the company said it "expects to have product available to ship immediately following authorization," but did not specify how much. 

It still expects to meet its commitment of supplying 100 million doses by the middle of the year. 

The Biden administration maintains it will be able to vaccinate 300 million people by the end of the summer just with supply from Pfizer and Moderna, so additional vaccines from J&J will likely help speed the process. 


Read more here.


Senate braces for chaotic session as Democrats pursue coronavirus bill

The Senate on Thursday began a chaotic, potentially all-night session as Democrats raced to lay the groundwork for passing coronavirus relief legislation.

The Senate is expected to pass a budget resolution by the end of the week that will allow Democrats to bypass the 60-vote filibuster, and the need for Republican support, on their coronavirus package proposal. 

But first, the Senate will need to undergo a marathon session known as a vote-a-rama — the first in more than three years. And unlike the normally tightly-controlled Senate, lawmakers will be able to force a vote on anything and stir up political fodder. 

Bipartisan checks: A bipartisan group of senators offered an amendment to the budget resolution part of the Senate's hours-long vote-a-rama on Thursday, signaling that they want the next round of coronavirus relief checks to Americans to be more targeted.

It passed 99-1.

Though it's nonbinding, the fact that it had such strong support signals that the structure of the checks is an area of likely negotiation as Democrats craft the coronavirus relief package. 

The measure doesn't specify how the next round of checks will be better targeted.

But many of the same senators are in the GOP group of 10 that met with Biden on Monday night to discuss their $618 billion coronavirus proposal. They sent Biden a letter on Thursday where they highlighted concerns about the phase-out structure of the checks.

Read more here.


CDC: LGBT community at greater risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms


Members of the LGBTQ+ community are at greater risk of experiencing severe symptoms of COVID-19, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Thursday.

According to the report, the CDC found that members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely to have underlying health conditions that put them at an increased risk to contract the coronavirus and experience severe symptoms of the disease.

The report used data from the 2017-2019 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a collection of health surveys that gathers demographic and health-related information from noninstitutionalized U.S. residents over the age of 18 to determine health disparities. 

"When age, sex, and survey year are adjusted, sexual minority persons have higher prevalences than do heterosexual persons of self-reported cancer, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart disease (including myocardial infarction, angina, or coronary heart disease), obesity, smoking, diabetes, asthma, hypertension, and stroke," the report states. 

Read more here


Wisconsin Republicans repeal state mask mandate, emergency order


A resolution passed Thursday by Wisconsin's Republican-controlled General Assembly repealed the state's mask mandate and public health emergency aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

But just over an hour later, Gov. Tony EversTony EversWisconsin Senate leader says state will not legalize marijuana The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Tax March - CDC in limbo on J&J vax verdict; Rep. Brady retiring Wisconsin Supreme Court rules against restaurant, bar capacity limits MORE (D) issued a new emergency order and mandate, citing the new threat posed by "more contagious strains of the virus," including the B.1.17 variant, which has been found in Wisconsin and 31 other states.

The new mask mandate will run through March 20, and the emergency order will be effective for 60 days.

The move by Evers sets up a new clash with state Republicans, who voted to repeal the mask mandate because they said Evers overstepped his authority.

The vote would have made Wisconsin one of only 10 states without a mask requirement. 

"Every step of the way, our statewide strategies to contain this virus and prevent the spread have been met with lawsuits, political rhetoric and obstruction. Unfortunately, that happened again today," Evers said in a video message announcing the new order. 

Not anti-mask, BUT: Wisconsin state House Speaker Robin Vos (R) said he supports mask requirements in certain "appropriate" areas like hospitals, nursing homes, prisons and public schools, but not statewide. Vos, in a joint statement with state Senate Majority Leader Devin LeMahieu (R), said Evers "has abused his limited authority for far too long by repeatedly issuing unlawful orders beyond his 60-day emergency powers. The Assembly and Senate voted to end the executive overreach and restore our constituents’ voice in the legislative process." 


Read more here.


Congressional investigators find ‘dangerously high’ levels of heavy metals in some baby food 

A congressional investigation found “dangerously high” levels of heavy metals in some baby foods.

A staff report from the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy released Thursday found that some internal company standards “permit dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals.”

The panel said Nurture Inc., which sells baby food under the brand HappyBABY, Beech-Nut Nutrition Company, Hain Celestial and Gerber responded to its requests for internal documents and test results, noting that arsenic, lead and cadmium was present in baby foods made by all of the companies.

The report also criticized the Trump administration for ignoring “a secret industry presentation to federal regulators revealing increased risks of toxic heavy metals in baby foods.”

Investigators found that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) received a secret slide presentation from Hain that said its corporate policy to test only ingredients and not final products under-represents the level of heavy metals in baby foods. The agency reportedly took no action in response.

“In 100% of the Hain baby foods tested, inorganic arsenic levels were higher in the finished baby food than the company estimated they would be based on individual ingredient testing,” the report said.

Read more here.


The Hill Virtual Event Announcement: Tues., Feb. 9 at 1 p.m. ET — Complex Generics & The Prescription Drug Landscape

Nearly 60 million Americans have difficulty affording their prescription drug medicines even with insurance, putting their health and financial priorities at odds. Complex generics have the potential to generate significant savings for patients and the health care system. But market dynamics and regulatory complexities are seen as significant hurdles. Reps. Peter WelchPeter Francis WelchDemocrats gear up for major push to lower drug prices Lawmakers debate role of prescription drugs and generics in health care costs The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by TikTok - Senate trial will have drama, but no surprise ending MORE (D-VT) and Brett GuthrieSteven (Brett) Brett GuthrieLawmakers press federal agencies on scope of SolarWinds attack Biden convenes bipartisan meeting on cancer research Lawmakers debate role of prescription drugs and generics in health care costs MORE (R-Ky.), FDA's Dr. Sally Choe and more join The Hill's Steve Clemons to discuss how complex generic medical alternatives can impact and potentially enhance the American healthcare system. RSVP today


What we’re reading

Frontrunner emerges for Biden’s Medicare and Medicaid chief (Politico)

'Cruel’ digital race for vaccines leaves many seniors behind (Kaiser Health News)

UK government to test mixing COVID vaccines in new trial (ABC News

Republicans target Democrats and teachers unions over school closures in bid to regain suburban foothold (CNN)


State by state

Indiana ‘finds’ 1,500 additional COVID-19 deaths (The Indianapolis Star)

Missouri health officials detail problems facing vaccination rollout (Missourian

Florida grocery store bucks mask mandate; owner says COVID death toll is 'hogwash' (NBC News)  


The Hill op-eds

Excuses against taking COVID-19 vaccine don't add up

Two lessons can help meet Biden's public health pledges