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Overnight Health Care: White House asks governors for help with J&J vaccine | FDA authorizes two rapid, at-home tests | Michigan identifies first case of Brazilian COVID variant as virus surges

Overnight Health Care: White House asks governors for help with J&J vaccine | FDA authorizes two rapid, at-home tests | Michigan identifies first case of Brazilian COVID variant as virus surges
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Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care. Good news: It's opening day for baseball season! Bad news: There's already been a COVID-related postponement. Teams are still playing in the middle of a pandemic.

If you have any tips, email us at nweixel@thehill.com , psullivan@thehill.com and jcoleman@thehill.com follow us on Twitter at @NateWeixel, @PeterSullivan4, and @JustineColeman8 

Today: President BidenJoe Biden28 Senate Democrats sign statement urging Israel-Hamas ceasefire Franklin Graham says Trump comeback would 'be a very tough thing to do' Schools face new pressures to reopen for in-person learning MORE wants governors to help sell the public on the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the FDA finally authorized quick, at-home COVID tests, and Pfizer's vaccine is effective for at least six months.

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We'll start with Biden:

White House asks governors for help with Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The White House is looking to governors to boost confidence in the Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccine as the company ramps up supply in the U.S. 

Several state leaders have taken the one-dose shot in recent weeks, and some have said it was an intentional decision to show the newest vaccine available to the public is safe and effective.

The decisions came after White House aides told staffers from governors’ offices last month to encourage their bosses to get vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson shot, according to two people on a recent call.

There have certainly been some bumps for J&J: The Johnson & Johnson vaccine particularly needs a confidence boost this week, after it was reported that human error at a manufacturing plant ruined 15 million doses. The snafu did not cause issues with any doses already shipped or administered, and Johnson & Johnson maintained it still expects to meet its goal of delivering 100 million doses to the U.S. by the end of June.

Read more here

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FDA authorizes two rapid, at-home COVID-19 tests in major move

Rapid testing advocates have been waiting a long time for a day like Wednesday, when late at night the Food and Drug Administration announced the authorization of two rapid at-home tests. 

The authorizations of the Quidel QuickVue and Abbott BinaxNOW tests will allow people to swab themselves at home and get results in minutes. The Quidel test delivers results in 10 minutes and the Abbott test requires 15 minutes.

While the FDA has previously taken some steps toward authorizing at-home tests, advocates hailed the new authorizations as a major breakthrough because the tests are simple, do not require a prescription and can be mass-produced by two major companies to be widely available.

An Abbott spokesperson said the company has the ability to make "tens of millions per month."

There’s been a months-long push on this issue: Michael Mina, a Harvard expert who has been pushing the FDA for months to do more to authorize simple, rapid tests, hailed the announcement on Twitter as "BIG NEWS!!"

"Simple, streamlined rapid tests will be available in US," he wrote.

Read more here

Biden administration unveils network of community leaders to urge COVID-19 vaccinations

President Biden’s administration launched a network of community leaders tasked with boosting COVID-19 vaccine confidence in their communities. 

More than 275 founding members have formed the COVID-19 Community Corps that the administration plans to activate as part of its public education campaign on the virus, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced.

“It is about reminding our fellow person of their power and that we see them, that they matter, and that we’re going to help each other out,” Vice President Harris said on Thursday in a virtual meeting with the founding members.

Who’s participating: The members range from sports leagues like MLB, NFL and NASCAR to organizations like the NAACP and GLAAD. The network also includes rural, union, Hispanic, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Native and tribal, veteran, business and faith leaders. 

What will members do: Officials plan to provide “consistent and accurate information” on COVID-19 and the vaccine to these ”trusted messengers” for them to share with their family, friends and community and to promote vaccinations. 

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Read more here

Pfizer: Trial suggests COVID-19 vaccine effective against South African variant

Pfizer and BioNTech said on Thursday that a recent trial suggests that protection from the companies' COVID-19 vaccine lasts at least six months, and may also be effective against the coronavirus variant first found in South Africa.

The companies in a press release said data from a 12,000 person trial in South Africa, where the B.1.351 strain is prevalent, found that their vaccine was 100 percent effective at preventing cases of the disease.

The variant has raised concerns across the world, as it has proved to be resistant to some of the protections generated by therapeutics and vaccines. 

The trial also found that safety and efficacy of the vaccine hold up over time. There were no serious safety concerns observed in trial participants six months after being immunized, and overall effectiveness was more than 91 percent against disease with any symptoms for six months, the companies said.

Read more here

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Michigan identifies first case of Brazilian COVID variant as virus surges statewide 

Michigan has identified its first case of the P.1 coronavirus variant that was first discovered in Brazil, health officials announced Thursday.

The confirmation of yet another variant in the state underscores the urgency to vaccinate as many Michiganders as quickly as possible, as the state is in the middle of the country's biggest surge of new infections.

The variant was found in a woman in Bay County. The case was diagnosed in early March and she has recovered, state officials said.

Infections climbing: Michigan is in rough shape. The state is averaging nearly 57 new cases for every 100,000 people. The positivity rate hit 12 percent on Thursday, and continues to climb. Hospitalizations are also rising. While the most vulnerable age groups have been vaccinated, there are a lot of people who have not been, but still act as if the pandemic is over.

Lifting restrictions: The state still has a mask mandate, but people may not necessarily be following it. Travel is increasing, and Gov. Gretchen WhitmerGretchen WhitmerCompany continues operating pipeline through Michigan despite governor's order Michigan Republican offers bill to fine fact-checkers for errors Michigan to end remote work after reaching 55 percent vaccination rate MORE (D) has allowed indoor dining up to 50 percent capacity. According to experts, many of the infections in Michigan have been driven by outbreaks linked to large social gatherings, so the increase in more contagious variants gives people very little room for error. 

Read more here.

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US maternal death rate climbed in 2019 with enduring racial disparities: federal data

The U.S. recorded a climb in its maternal death rate from 2018 to 2019, and racial disparities in the data remained, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report published Thursday.

The National Center for Health Statistics documented 754 maternal deaths in the country in 2019, reaching 20.1 deaths per 100,000 live births. This represents an increase from the 2018 levels of 17.4 fatalities per 100,000 live births. 

When broken down by race, non-Hispanic Black women had 44 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019, amounting to 2.5 times more than non-Hispanic white women and 3.5 times more than Hispanic women. 

As the age of the mother increased, the maternal mortality rate rose, with those aged 40 and more having six times the rate compared with women under 25. 

Read more here.

What we’re reading

False barriers: these things should not prevent you from getting a COVID vaccine (ProPublica

Resistance from health experts and business owners could doom ‘vaccine passports’ even before they launch (STAT)

Backed by millions in public and private cash, rapid covid tests are coming to stores near you (Kaiser Health News)

State by state

Majority of Florida’s long-term care staffers refused coronavirus vaccine (Tampa Bay Times)

Virus surge in Michigan is a ‘Gut Punch’ to Hopes of Pandemic’s End (New York Times)

 GOP lawmakers repeal Kansas mask mandate, lawsuits expected against local orders (Kansas City Star 

The Hill op-eds

The CDC must rescind a misguided policy tying asylum seekers to COVID

Post-COVID equity must include closing racial gaps in housing