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Sunday, February 5, 2023

Overnight Health Care: Fauci clashes with Paul – again | New York reaches $1.1B settlement with opioid distributors | Delta variant accounts for 83 percent of US COVID-19 cases

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Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care. Most attention has gone to Jeff BezosJeffrey (Jeff) Preston BezosBezos: Critics of billionaires’ ‘joyrides’ to space ‘largely right’ Bezos ‘really excited to figure out’ how trip to space changes him Equilibrium/ Sustainability — The gentler side of Shark Week MORE for his space trip. But 82-year-old Wally Funk made history too by becoming the oldest person to launch into space on the Blue Origin.

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

Today: Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulCDC official defends sweeping mask orders for mass transit: ‘Part of our arsenal’ Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Rand Paul introducing measure to repeal public transportation mask mandates MORE escalated his feud with Anthony FauciAnthony FauciJuan Williams: The GOP is criminally reckless on COVID US likely undercounting new COVID-19 cases fueled by delta variant, Gottlieb says Fauci: Smallpox wouldn’t have been eradicated with today’s ‘false information’ MORE, New York settled with opioid distributors, and the delta variant has fully taken hold of the country.

We’ll start with Fauci:

Fauci v. Paul series continues: Fauci says Paul doesn’t know what he’s talking about ‘and I want to say that officially’

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Tuesday escalated his ongoing feud with the nation’s top infectious diseases doctor Anthony Fauci about the role the National Institutes of Health (NIH) played in funding controversial research in Wuhan, China.

The two traded barbs during a tense exchange, triggering a shouting match in which Fauci accused Paul of lying in order to further his agenda. 

During a Senate Health Committee hearing about the federal COVID-19 response, Paul said the NIH funded illegal gain-of-function research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which created a highly dangerous and transmissible virus able to infect humans. Gain-of-function is a controversial method where researchers make a pathogen more infectious, often to develop more effective treatments and vaccines.

It’s an unsubstantiated accusation Paul has made before, and one Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has denied. 

It’s not unusual for conservative Republicans and allies of former President TrumpDonald TrumpGreene gets 12-hour Twitter suspension over COVID-19 misinformation Aides who clashed with Giuliani intentionally gave him wrong time for Trump debate prep: book Overnight Defense: Afghan evacuees to be housed at Virginia base | Biden looks to empty Gitmo MORE to clash with Fauci during hearings; Paul has done so on numerous occasions, as has Rep. Jim JordanJames (Jim) Daniel JordanJim Jordan among McCarthy picks for Jan. 6 panel Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Controversy equals cash for Greene, Gaetz MORE (R-Ohio).

Paul’s accusations: But on Tuesday, Paul stepped up his fight, implying that Fauci had lied to Congress, and that he was fully aware of what the Wuhan lab was doing with grant money that came from NIH. 

He also suggested that Fauci and the NIH could be partly responsible for the pandemic and the deaths of 4 million people worldwide.

Fauci responds: “You are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individuals. I totally resent that,” Fauci said. “And if anybody is lying here senator, it is you,” he added, pointing a finger at Paul.  

Read more here


New York reaches $1.1B settlement with opioid distributors

The state of New York has reached a $1.1 billion settlement agreement with three of the nation’s largest drug distributors after the state accused the companies of contributing to the opioid crisis.  

New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) released the settlement obtained with the McKesson Corporation, Cardinal Health Inc. and AmerisourceBergen Drug Corporation on Tuesday, saying the state is holding the distributors “accountable” for their alleged role in the epidemic.

The three distributors will pay the $1.1 billion to New York state, with more than $1 billion of that being designated to opioid treatment, recovery and prevention. The payments will start in two months and continue over 17 years.

In exchange, New York will file to remove McKesson, Cardinal and AmerisourceBergen from its continuing opioid trial in Suffolk County State Supreme Court. 

“While no amount of money will ever compensate for the millions of addictions, the hundreds of thousands of deaths, or the countless communities decimated by opioids, this money will be vital in preventing any future devastation,” James said in a statement. 

Distributor response: In a joint statement, McKesson, Cardinal and AmerisourceBergen said they saw the settlement as “an important step toward finalizing a broad settlement with states, counties, and political subdivisions.”

“While the companies strongly dispute the allegations at issue in the trial, they believe this resolution will allow the companies to focus their attention and resources on the safe and secure delivery of medications and therapies while delivering meaningful relief to affected communities, and will also support efforts to achieve a broad resolution under the previously disclosed framework,” the distributors said in a joint release. 

Read more here


Delta takes stronger hold: CDC director says delta variant accounts for 83 percent of all COVID-19 cases in US

The delta variant of the novel coronavirus is now responsible for 83 percent of all sequenced COVID-19 cases in the United States, CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyDelta fears grip economy as cases jump across the country Surgeon general backs localized mask mandates Data reveal big opportunity to finish the vaccine job MORE said Tuesday.

That estimate is a major increase from just over two weeks ago. For cases tallied during the week of July 3, the CDC estimated the delta variant accounted for about 50 percent of new infections.

Walensky told the Senate Health Committee that in some parts of the country with low vaccination rates, the percentages are even higher. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that the delta variant could be responsible for up to 90 percent of cases in some areas. 

Arkansas, Missouri, Florida and Louisiana are the four states with the highest per capita new cases per day, according to data from the Covid Act Now tracking site.

Vaccination has been uneven across states, and only about half of all eligible people nationwide are fully vaccinated.

Health officials have described the latest stage of the coronavirus as a “pandemic of the unvaccinated” while emphasizing that those who have had their shots are relatively safe.

Read more here 


Abortion rights group endorsing 12 House Democrats ahead of midterms

NARAL Pro-Choice America has endorsed 12 House Democrats for reelection ahead of the 2022 midterm races.

The abortion rights group said in a statement that the incumbents have “demonstrated their unwavering commitment to fighting for reproductive freedom.”

“We know these leaders will fight to safeguard abortion access and take bold action to make sure all of our families and communities thrive,” Christian LoBue, NARAL Pro-Choice America chief campaigns and advocacy officer, said in a statement.

Who’s endorsed: NARAL endorsed Georgia Democratic Reps. Lucy McBathLucia (Lucy) Kay McBathFormer Georgia ethics official to challenge McBath Gun violence: Save the thoughts and prayers, it’s time for Senate action Sunday shows preview: US hails Israel-Hamas cease-fire; ‘vast differences’ remain between Biden, GOP on infrastructure MORE and Carolyn Bourdeaux, as well as Texas Democratic Reps. Colin Allred and Lizzie Fletcher and California Reps. Katie Porter (D) and Mike Levin (D).

The group also backs Reps. Cindy AxneCindy AxneHouse GOP campaign arm hits vulnerable Democrats on inflation in July 4 ad campaign Exclusive: Conservative group targets vulnerable Democrats over abortion Democrats face new pressure to raise taxes MORE (D-Iowa), Haley StevensHaley Maria StevensHouse GOP campaign arm hits vulnerable Democrats on inflation in July 4 ad campaign Exclusive: Conservative group targets vulnerable Democrats over abortion Five takeaways on the House’s return to budget earmarks MORE (D-Mich.), Susie LeeSuzanne (Susie) Kelley LeeMORE (D-Nev.), Susan WildSusan WildDemocrats face daunting hurdles despite promising start Overnight Health Care: Surgeon general issues health misinformation advisory | WHO chief: ‘Premature’ to rule out COVID-19 lab leak theory Vulnerable House Democrats call for Medicare drug price negotiation in reconciliation plan MORE (D-Pa.), Kim SchrierKimberly (Kim) Merle SchrierCutting critical family support won’t solve the labor crisis Omar feuds with Jewish Democrats The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation – At 50 days in charge, Democrats hail American Rescue Plan as major win MORE (D-Wash.) and Peter DeFazioPeter Anthony DeFazioExpanding the IRS is latest front in Washington war on small businesses FAA: New manufacturing issue discovered in undelivered Boeing 787 Dreamliners Photos of the Week: Therapy dog, Surfside memorial and Chinese dancers MORE (D-Ore.)

Background: Abortion rights are front and center in the midterms as GOP-led states consider hundreds of bills rolling back abortion access.

These legislatures have pushed for bills restricting abortion in the hopes of getting the conservative majority in the Supreme Court to override Roe v. Wade. 

Read more here


Duckworth, Pressley introduce bill to provide paid family leave for those who experience miscarriage

Sen. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthDemocrat unveils bill to allow only House members to serve as Speaker Schumer, Tim Scott lead as Senate fundraising pace heats up Here’s what Congress is reading at the beach this summer MORE (D-Ill.) and Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyHaiti Caucus: Forging path out of crisis will not be quick, but necessary to avoid false ‘democracy’ New polls show Democratic race to replace Fudge tightening in Ohio Democrats own the environment that has led to surging crime rates MORE (D-Mass.) introduced a bill on Tuesday that calls for employers to provide at least three days of paid leave for workers who experience a miscarriage.

The bill, dubbed the Support Through Loss Act, aims to invest $45 million a year to the National Institutes of Health for federal research into miscarriages and pregnancy loss.

It would also require that the Department of Health and Human Services, including the CDC, develop and spread public information regarding pregnancy loss, such as statistics on the matter and treatment options.

According to the CDC, about one in 100 pregnancies at 20 weeks of carrying and later are affected by stillbirth. Roughly 24,000 babies are stillborn in the U.S. per year.

The lawmakers wrote that while pregnancy loss is “an experience shared across communities,” it can sometimes feel like an “isolating experience” because of the lack of truthful information.

“Our bill sends a message to families that they are not alone, and would support those experiencing the loss of a pregnancy by providing them with the resources, workforce supports, and care necessary to recover and heal,” Pressley said in a statement.

Read more here


What we’re reading

Sen. Wyden: $3.5T budget may have to trim but it can set a path to ‘ambitious goals’ (Kaiser Health News)

States are sitting on millions of surplus Covid-19 vaccine doses as expiration dates approach (STAT)

Summer travel options outside the U.S. are still up in the air as COVID cases rise (NPR)


State by state

California makes it easier for low-income residents to get and keep free health coverage (Kaiser Health News)

‘COVID-19 is unfortunately here to stay’: Experts say they suspect Delta variant is driving large number of breakthrough cases in Provincetown (Boston Globe)

Overdose deaths in Washington expected to break record in 2021 (KATU)

The demise of Cardinal Innovations: How a state-mandated mental health organization failed in slow motion. (North Carolina Health News)


Op-eds in The Hill

After 2020, pandemic preparedness budget cuts should be unthinkable

Guess who undermined public confidence in vaccines?


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