Overnight Health Care: Biden tells federal workers to get vaccinated or submit to testing | President calls on states to offer $100 vaccine incentives | DC brings back indoor mask mandate starting Saturday
Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. Masks are back in Walt Disney World and Disneyland, with both resorts requiring face coverings for those aged 2 and older in indoor portions of the parks.
Today: President Biden is stepping up the push to get people vaccinated, including federal workers, masks are coming back in D.C. and Democrats consider cutting back on new pandemic preparedness funds.
We’ll start with the vaccine move:
Biden tells federal workers: Get vaccinated or submit to testing
President Biden on Thursday is directing all federal employees and onsite contractors to show that they are vaccinated or otherwise submit to regular coronavirus testing, a major step that will likely cause private-sector businesses to follow suit.
Biden is instructing his administration to apply similar standards to all federal government contractors.
“If you want to do business with the fed government, get your workers vaccinated,” Biden said in remarks from the White House Thursday afternoon.
The shift: The White House had previously tried to avoid tipping the scales by endorsing vaccine mandates for employers and other organizations. Thursday’s announcement represents a sizable shift as the White House tries to convince more people to get vaccinated as COVID-19 cases rise due to the spread of the delta variant.
Another step: Biden calls on states to offer $100 vaccine incentives
President Biden on Thursday called on state and local governments to use funds from his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to offer $100 payments to individuals in order to incentivize coronavirus vaccinations.
The payments would be offered to newly vaccinated Americans to provide “an extra incentive to boost vaccination rates, protect communities, and save lives,” the Treasury Department said in an announcement Thursday afternoon.
“Treasury stands ready to give technical assistance to state and local governments so that they may use the funds effectively to support increased vaccination in their communities, and Treasury will partner with the Department of Health and Human Services throughout this effort,” it said.
Biden formally announced the new incentive plan during an address on the coronavirus at the White House.
“I know that paying people to get vaccinated might sound unfair to folks that have gotten vaccinated already but here’s the deal: if incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should use them,” he said. “We all benefit if we can get more people vaccinated.”
DC brings back indoor mask mandate starting Saturday
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Thursday that masks will once again be required indoors in the city beginning Saturday, regardless of coronavirus vaccination status.
The move, which applies to anyone over the age of 2, comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week updated its mask guidance to recommend that even vaccinated people wear masks indoors in public places in areas with high COVID-19 transmission.
D.C. currently falls under that guidance, with the CDC classifying it as having substantial transmission.
“Things have changed throughout the course of [the pandemic], and we have to adapt, too,” Bowser said at a news conference.
Exception: There is an exception for people who are actively eating at a restaurant, Bowser said, and there are no social distancing requirements that go along with the mask order.
The CDC’s move this week was based on new data showing that vaccinated people could in some instances still transmit the virus on to others, even if they themselves are overwhelmingly protected against severe illness.
A dozen GOP governors urge Supreme Court to let states regulate abortion
A dozen Republican governors on Thursday urged the Supreme Court to eliminate federal protections for abortion and instead allow states to regulate the procedure.
Led by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, the group argued in a legal filing that the court’s landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade, which established the constitutional right to abortion, and subsequent rulings unlawfully encroach on states’ rights.
“The judicial constitutionalization of abortion represents an unwarranted intrusion into the sovereign sphere of the States,” they wrote. “Returning to the States the plenary authority to regulate abortion without federal interference would restore the proper (i.e., constitutional) relationship between the States and the Federal Government.”
Which governors: The amicus brief endorsed Mississippi’s effort to have Roe v. Wade overruled next term, and was signed by the Republican governors of Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Texas.
Abortion rights advocates: Abortion rights advocates warn that abortion access would be sharply curtailed across the country if the Supreme Court uses next term’s Mississippi case to overturn Roe v. Wade, particularly in the American South and Midwest.
Follows: The Thursday filing by GOP governors follows a legal brief from Mississippi’s attorney general last week that explicitly urged the justices to overrule Roe next term when the Supreme Court reviews Mississippi’s ban on virtually all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Democrats consider scaling back new funds to fight next pandemic
Congressional Democrats are considering cutting new funds for pandemic preparedness in an upcoming package from the $30 billion proposed by President Biden to as little as $5 billion, sources say, prompting alarm from public health advocates.
As lawmakers look to pack a slew of priorities, from paid leave to universal prekindergarten, into a $3.5 trillion package, some areas are starting to get cut.
But advocates are warning that of all the funding to scale back on, money to prepare for future pandemics should be among the last items on the list, especially after COVID-19 has killed more than 600,000 Americans.
“It’s so stunning because if there was ever a teachable moment that we need to invest in public health, it is now,” Tom Frieden, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the Obama administration, said in an interview. “We will not have another moment like this in our lifetimes.”
The White House proposed $30 billion over four years at the end of March, as part of Biden’s $2.3 trillion American Jobs Plan, to “protect Americans from future pandemics.”
But as the money competes with other priorities in the coming package using the fast-track process known as reconciliation to bypass a GOP filibuster, the funding increase could come down to around $5 billion, though the negotiations are still in flux and the package is far from finalized.
What we’re reading
Current rate of Covid-19 hospitalizations is about three times higher in states that have vaccinated less than half of their residents (CNN)
Experts turn to antibody treatment following swarm of breakthrough COVID-19 infections (ABC News)
Religious objections stand in path of mask, vaccine mandates (Bloomberg Law)
Pfizer court fight could legalize Medicare copays and unleash ‘gold rush’ in sales (Kaiser Health News)
‘Precarious’: This is the state of COVID in Indiana right now as delta variant thrives (Indianapolis Star)
Delta variant fills Kansas hospital beds with COVID patients (The Associated Press)
“On a crash course”: Texas hospitals brace for another COVID-19 surge as delta variant burns through unvaccinated communities (The Texas Tribune)
‘Sellout’: Anti-vax conservatives come for DeSantis (Politico)
Op-eds in The Hill