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Overnight Health Care: After a brutal year, is the US getting close to normal? | CDC says it's safe for vaccinated people to gather indoors | Biden to give prime-time address on anniversary of pandemic lockdown

Overnight Health Care: After a brutal year, is the US getting close to normal? | CDC says it's safe for vaccinated people to gather indoors | Biden to give prime-time address on anniversary of pandemic lockdown
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Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care. If you watched the Oprah interview last night, did you notice all those drug ads? Because the British certainly did, as did some members of Congress

Follow us on Twitter at @PeterSullivan4 and @NateWeixel.

President BidenJoe BidenBiden overruled Blinken, top officials on initial refugee cap decision: report Suicide bombing hits Afghan security forces Jim Jordan, Val Demings get in shouting match about police during hearing MORE will address the country in prime time to mark the one year anniversary of COVID-19 restrictions. New CDC guidelines outline what the agency thinks is safe for people to do once they've been vaccinated. But when will everything be "normal" again? Depends on who you ask.

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We'll start with the issue of normality:

After a brutal year, is the US getting close to normal? Or at least normal-ish?

New federal guidelines released Monday saying it is safe for fully vaccinated people to gather indoors with each other without masks is adding hope that a return to normality — or something close to it — might be getting closer as the nation hits one year in a locked-down state.

No one knows exactly when it will be normal again — if ever, given how the coronavirus pandemic has elevated concerns about contagious diseases in general.

There’s also quite a bit of uncertainty going forward, especially as variants of the virus continue to circulate.

Still, experts are more optimistic than they have been since the pandemic began, as political leaders plot a path forward, movie theaters in New York reopen and the Chicago Cubs prepare to welcome fans to Wrigley Field for Opening Day — albeit at a 20 percent capacity.

“I think we're on a trajectory to be in really good shape this summer, certainly in the July timeframe,” said Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research. 

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A couple possible timeframes:

Read more here

 

CDC says it's safe for vaccinated people to gather indoors

Long-awaited guidance from federal health officials on Monday suggested it is safe for vaccinated people to gather together indoors, offering a sneak peek into the post-COVID future.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who are two weeks past their final shot (or the only shot, if it's from Johnson & Johnson) may visit indoors with each other without masks, as well as with unvaccinated members of a single household, at low risk of severe disease.

The CDC also recommends vaccinated individuals do not need to quarantine or get tested if they come into contact with someone with COVID-19 and do not develop symptoms.

But the agency did not update its travel guidance, so it is still trying to discourage people from traveling long distances for family visits even if everyone is vaccinated. 

"Every time we have a surge in travel, we have a surge in cases in this country," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Monday.

The U.S. is still in the midst of a pandemic, and even though cases have been declining on average, the country is averaging close to 60,000 new infections a day.

"Our guidance must balance the risk to people who have been fully vaccinated, the risks to those who have not yet received the vaccine, and the impact on the larger community transmission of COVID-19 with ... the overall benefits of resuming everyday activities and getting back to some of the things we love in life," Walensky said. 

Vaccination messaging: The CDC guidance explicitly linked the lifting of certain restrictions with vaccine uptake, and acknowleged that some of the "zero sum" messaging about life not changing for the vaccinated will have a negative impact.

"Maintaining a requirement to continue all prevention measures after vaccination may disincentivize vaccine uptake," the CDC wrote. "A balanced approach to phasing out certain prevention measures may be a powerful motivator for vaccination."

Read more here.

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Coming Thursday: Biden to give prime-time address on anniversary of pandemic lockdown

President Biden will deliver a prime-time address on Thursday to mark the anniversary of the country effectively locking down due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"He will discuss the many sacrifices the American people have made over the last year, and the grave loss communities and families across the country have suffered," White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden overruled Blinken, top officials on initial refugee cap decision: report Biden watching Derek Chauvin verdict from West Wing Cruz: Biden comments on Chauvin verdict 'grounds for a mistrial' MORE said at a briefing with reporters.

"The president will look forward, highlighting the role Americans will play in beating the virus and moving the country toward getting back to normal."

The speech, which will be Biden's first prime-time address since taking office, will coincide with the one-year mark since then-President TrumpDonald TrumpSt. Louis lawyer who pointed gun at Black Lives Matter protesters considering Senate run Chauvin found guilty as nation exhales US says Iran negotiations are 'positive' MORE restricted travel into the United States. 

Read more here

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House vote on COVID-19 relief expected by Wednesday 

An expected House vote on Tuesday to send the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package to President Biden's desk may not end up happening until Wednesday.

Biden said Monday that he plans to sign the COVID-19 relief bill into law "as soon as I can get it."

But Democratic aides said Monday that the House is still awaiting bill processing papers from the Senate for the massive proposal. Depending on when the House receives those papers, the final vote could still occur on Tuesday or possibly Wednesday.

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerHouse rejects GOP resolution to censure Waters Democrats adopting rule to limit Freedom Caucus delay tactics House Republicans ask Pelosi to reschedule Biden's address to Congress MORE (D-Md.) initially announced Saturday shortly after the Senate passed the bill that the House would vote Tuesday to clear it to the president.

The Senate passed the legislation on Saturday in a 50-49 party-line vote. Democrats adopted changes pursued by centrists that would cap income eligibility for direct stimulus payments to individuals making $80,000 instead of $100,000 like the previous rounds of pandemic relief, as well as keep the weekly supplemental unemployment insurance payments at $300 rather than increasing it to $400 as under the original House version.

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That means the House will have to take a second vote on the legislation to approve the Senate changes.

Read more here.

 

Health insurance group launches largest ad campaign ever

America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the main trade group representing health insurers, on Monday announced its largest ad campaign ever, which it said will be backed by an “eight figure” sum. 

The campaign, called “Care Changes Everything,” includes national TV, radio and digital ads highlighting the role of health insurers in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

One ad touts insurers’ role in “making COVID-19 testing, treatment, and vaccines affordable for everyone.”

The ads come against a backdrop of Democratic control of Washington and proposals opposed by the health insurance industry to create a “public option” to compete alongside private insurance. 

David Merritt, an executive vice president at AHIP, said the ad campaign is not tied to fighting those proposals. 

“It's not a political campaign at all, it truly is an education campaign,” he said. 

“We just think that at this point a positive, proactive message is really, really important for folks to understand the role that we played,” he added. 

 

What we’re reading

Syria's Bashar Assad And His Wife Test Positive For Coronavirus (NPR

Will the U.S. have Covid vaccine doses for everyone by the end of May? Probably (Stat News)

Meet the GOP voters who could decide whether the U.S. reaches herd immunity (Washington Post

 

State by state

D.C. will randomly test 10 percent of students for coronavirus each week (Washington Post)

Hospital, county contradict Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisFlorida Senate appears unlikely to pass transgender sports bill Florida state lawmaker entering race to succeed Hastings DeSantis signs 'anti-riot bill' cracking down on 'public disorder' MORE over Keys vaccines (Tampa Bay Times)

Snowbirds flock south in the winter for warmer weather, using up COVID-19 vaccines in this Arizona desert town (Los Angeles Times)

 

Op-eds in The Hill

Reaching immunity: A path forward

COVID proves clinical trials must proactively recruit people of color

Permanent fixes to the ACA are still needed after the COVID-19 rescue package