Overnight Health Care: New round of vaccine mandates | Health groups call for mandates for all health workers | Rising case count reignites debate over restrictions

Overnight Health Care: New round of vaccine mandates | Health groups call for mandates for all health workers | Rising case count reignites debate over restrictions
© getty

Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care. A snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo has COVID-19, but appears to be doing ok! 

If you have any tips, email us at  nweixel@thehill.com psullivan@thehill.com jcoleman@thehill.com

Follow us on Twitter at @NateWeixel, @PeterSullivan4, and @JustineColeman8. 


Today:  Vaccine mandates are gaining traction, including with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Dozens of health care groups requested vaccine mandates for health care workers, and the Biden administration released guidance saying long COVID-19 could count as a disability. 

We'll start with mandates:

Big day for vaccine mandates from employers, including the VA, California, and New York City

The Department of Veterans Affairs will require its front-line health care workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, a move that comes as vaccine mandates from employers are on the rise.

“I am doing this because it’s the best way to keep our veterans safe, full stop,” Denis McDonoughDenis Richard McDonoughVeteran suicides dropped to lowest level in 12 years Veterans grapple with new Afghanistan: 'Was my service worth it?' VA adds 245K more employees to vaccine mandate MORE, the secretary of Veterans Affairs, told The New York Times in an interview.

The move from the sprawling federal agency is the first time any part of the federal government has mandated COVID-19 vaccines, a step that the Biden administration has generally shied away from.

Calls for more mandates from employers are on the rise, though. New York City announced a mandate for its workers earlier on Monday. 


Big picture: As the vaccination rate in the U.S. lags, even as the delta variant fuels new spikes, many experts say persuasion is reaching its limits and mandates from employers will play an important role.

Read more here

Health groups are also calling for mandates for all health workers to be vaccinated

Leading groups for doctors, nurses and other health care professionals are calling for COVID-19 vaccines to be mandated for health care workers as vaccinations lag amid the spread of the delta variant.

"Due to the recent COVID-19 surge and the availability of safe and effective vaccines, our health care organizations and societies advocate that all health care and long-term care employers require their workers to receive the COVID-19 vaccine," the American Medical Association, American Nurses Association and more than 50 other health care groups said in a statement on Monday. "This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being."

Lagging rates among some health workers: Despite working with vulnerable people, many staff at long-term care facilities are not vaccinated. ProPublica reported last week that only 59 percent of workers at nursing homes and other long-term care facilities had at least one shot, citing government data.

Read more here

Another debate: As cases rise, should vaccinated people wear masks?

Biden administration officials are discussing the potential for tougher guidelines to blunt the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases, but the White House will have to weigh how new measures might affect its overall vaccination push.

The rise in infections around the country has sparked calls from some health experts to reimpose stricter masking guidance and other efforts designed to slow the spread of the virus. Doing so would likely set off criticism from conservatives and spark enforcement issues, as some Republican governors have vowed not to return to restrictions on businesses.

​​“It would be actually surprising and odd if our health and medical experts were not having an active discussion about how to best protect the American people. And there is of course an active discussion about a range of steps that can be taken, as there has been from the first day of this administration,” White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden does not plan to shield Trump docs in Jan. 6 probe The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - Arizona recount to show Trump's loss by even wider margin Watch live: Psaki, Homeland Secretary Mayorkas hold press briefing MORE said Monday.

“A number of months ago, the CDC recommended that people who are fully vaccinated didn’t have to mask or distance. At the time, I thought it was a catastrophic situation and it’s proven to be catastrophic,” said Larry Gostin, a global health law professor at Georgetown University.

Read more here

Biden admin says 'long COVID-19' could qualify as a disability

The Biden administration on Monday released new guidance on how to support those experiencing long-term symptoms of COVID-19 as part of a broader effort to recognize the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The departments of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Justice rolled out guidance making clear that symptoms of “long COVID-19” could qualify as a disability under the federal civil rights law.

The guidance makes clear that long COVID-19 is not automatically a disability and that an “individualized assessment” is necessary to determine whether a person’s long-term symptoms or condition “substantially limits a major life activity.” 

About long COVID-19: Most individuals who contract COVID-19 recover and see symptoms dissipate within a few weeks of experiencing effects from the virus. However, some individuals who have contracted the coronavirus have reported experiencing new or ongoing symptoms a month or more after testing positive for the virus. 

Research released by the nonprofit FAIR Health last month found that a quarter of people who had COVID-19 sought care for new medical problems at least a month after being diagnosed with the virus.

Read more here.

House Democrats expand probe into political interference into CDC during Trump administration


House Democrats on Monday widened their investigation into political interference at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during former President TrumpDonald TrumpGraham says he hopes that Trump runs again Trump says Stacey Abrams 'might be better than existing governor' Kemp Executive privilege fight poses hurdles for Trump MORE's administration based on new documents.

Through letters, Democrats on the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis requested interviews from eight former and current CDC and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials and employees and three former Trump appointees as the probe branches out. 

Along with the letters, the subcommittee also released a new email suggesting that senior officials were informed of and planning to discuss how to respond to Trump adviser Paul Alexander’s email requesting an “immediate stop” to all of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports (MMWR).

A CDC career employee sent the newly released email from Aug. 9 that indicated senior leadership was available to meet and talk about “next steps” following Alexander’s request to halt publication of the MMWR.

Background: The subcommittee, led by Chairman James Clyburn (D-S.C.), has been looking into reports and emails indicating that Trump appointees tried to meddle in the CDC’s coronavirus response, including through efforts to edit and stop scientific reports on COVID-19.

The Trump administration has denied that any political influence affected the reports, traditionally considered to be untouched by politics. 

Read more here


What we’re reading

Covid treatment options remain elusive, despite months of effort and rising delta cases (The Wall Street Journal)

New vaccine mandates are coming for government employees and health care workers (NPR) 

Pandemic leaves Indians mired in massive medical debts (The Associated Press)

The delta variant is the symptom of a bigger threat: vaccine refusal (The New York Times)

State by state

California state, health workers must show proof of vaccination or be tested regularly (Los Angeles Times)

Florida mayor: ‘We are in crisis mode,’ as virus cases surge (The Associated Press)

As holdout Missouri joins nation in monitoring opioid prescriptions, experts worry (Kaiser Health News)

The Hill op-eds

No one wants to say it: We need to mask up again 

Congress must fix loophole that is costing patients at the pharmacy