Posted by on September 21, 2022 6:42 pm
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Health Care — Biden walks back ‘pandemic is over’ remark

A portion of highway was temporarily shut down in Florida on Wednesday after a semi-truck was involved in a minor crash, spilling out a sea of Coors Lights onto the road.

Today in health, President Biden sought to explain what he meant when he said on “60 Minutes” that “the pandemic is over,” sparking a wave of backlash and confusion. 

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Biden: Pandemic ‘basically is not where it was’ 

President Biden on Tuesday sought to clarify his comments from days earlier that the coronavirus pandemic “is over,” telling guests at a fundraiser that the COVID-19 situation is not as bad as it was. 

Biden attended a Democratic National Committee fundraiser in New York City ahead of his speech Wednesday to the United Nations General Assembly. At one point, speaking about efforts on the pandemic, Biden referenced his comments to Scott Pelley of CBS last week in which he said the pandemic was “over.” 

Restating himself: Biden acknowledged he was “criticized” for the remarks, adding, “But it basically is not where it was.” 

The president also urged those in attendance to get their booster shots if they have not already. 
Highly contagious variants have spread throughout the globe, making it nearly impossible to fully eradicate COVID-19. 

The White House’s approach: As a result, the Biden administration has focused its messaging on the importance of getting vaccinated and receiving booster shots to increase immunity as well as the wide availability of antiviral pills and other forms of treatment for those who contract the virus. 

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Judge strikes down Head Start vax, mask mandate 

A federal judge in Louisiana on Wednesday struck down a mandate from the Biden administration that required staffers at Head Start child care facilities to be vaccinated and to wear masks. 

U.S. District Judge Terry A. Doughty issued a permanent injunction against federal agencies enforcing Head Start vaccine and masking requirements. 

In his ruling, Doughty found that the plaintiffs had satisfied the requirements to warrant a permanent injunction. He ruled that the plaintiffs — a group of Head Start teachers from across the country along with several state governments — faced a “substantial threat of irreparable injury” if the mandate wasn’t taken down. 
“Plaintiff States will incur the increased cost of training and of enforcing the Head Start Mandate, will be unable to enforce their laws, and will have their police power encroached. The Court finds that this would be an irreparable injury,” Doughty wrote. 

Semi-redundant now: The masking requirement for Head Start grant recipients is one of the only remaining federal mask mandates. Last week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it would be dropping the requirement in the near future to align with current guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

Despite the mask mandate’s continued existence, HHS officials have not been checking for compliance with the rule since February of this year, when updated CDC guidance was issued. 

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WISCONSIN’S GOV EYES STATEWIDE VOTE ON ‘CRIMINAL’ ABORTION BAN 

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) on Wednesday called a special session of the state legislature for October in an effort to enable voters to repeal the state’s 1849 abortion ban through a referendum. 

Evers’s office said Wisconsin voters have no ability to change the ban through a referendum under state law, and urged Republicans, who control the state legislature, to allow voters to bypass the body and repeal the measure if they so choose. 

“On the ceiling of the Governor’s Conference Room in the Capitol is a phrase I’ve often repeated over the last three years: ‘the will of the people is the law of the land,’” Evers said in a statement. 
“Well, right now in Wisconsin, when it comes to reproductive freedom, the will of the people isn’t the law of the land — but it damn well should be,” he continued. 

The state’s nearly two-century-old law — which prohibits abortion except to save the mother’s life — was unenforceable following the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling, but the statute is now the subject of a legal challenge led by the state’s attorney general after the court overturned the landmark 1973 abortion ruling in its June Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision. 

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HHS DECLARES PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY IN PUERTO RICO 

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra declared a public health emergency in Puerto Rico on Wednesday due to the flooding caused by Hurricane Fiona. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has deployed a 15-person task force from its National Disaster Medical System and a 10-person management team to Puerto Rico. 

The agency said staff members from the National Disaster Medical System, the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are prepared to provide services and support if needed. 

“We will do all we can to assist officials in Puerto Rico with responding to the impacts of Hurricane Fiona,” Becerra said in a statement. “We are working closely with territory health authorities and our federal partners and stand ready to provide additional public health and medical support.” 

According to local reports from Puerto Rico, more than a million customers on the island are currently without power. El Nuevo Día, the largest newspaper in Puerto Rico, reported on Wednesday that only about a quarter of customers have access to electricity. 

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Juul sues FDA over documents justifying marketing ban 

Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs is suing the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) over the agency’s refusal to disclose documents supporting its order to remove Juul’s products from the U.S. market. 

In a complaint filed Tuesday in federal court in Washington, D.C., the company alleged the FDA is violating the Freedom of Information Act by refusing to turn over the “scientific disciplinary reviews” underlying the FDA’s sales ban. 

“The agency invoked one of the most widely abused exemptions—the deliberative process privilege—to withhold the majority of those materials,” the lawsuit claimed.  
“But the withheld materials are central to understanding the basis for FDA’s marketing denial order” and whether the agency balanced the public health benefits and risks of Juul’s products as legally required, as well as whether the agency’s reasoning is “scientifically sound.” 

The FDA in late June announced a ban on the sale of Juul e-cigarettes nationwide, saying the company did not prove that keeping its products on the market “would be appropriate for the protection of the public health.” 

The next day, a federal appeals court granted a temporary administrative stay of the decision. 

The FDA then suspended the order about two weeks later, and announced there were additional scientific issues that needed to be reviewed.  

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WHAT WE’RE READING

‘This program’s really saved us’: As Canada offers safer opioids to curb overdoses, will U.S. follow? (Stat) Formula may be right for infants, but experts warn that toddlers don’t need it (Kaiser Health News) Cancer deaths in US declined by 2% every year since 2016, report says (ABC News

STATE BY STATE

A complete guide to Spotlight PA’s investigations of Pennsylvania’s flawed medical marijuana program (Spotlight PA) Georgia’s 988’s rollout exposes more mental health needs (Axios) Arizona Dept. of Health Services encourages Pfizer vaccine amid Moderna shortage (Arizona Public Media

THE HILL OP-EDS

Why Biden’s ‘end of pandemic’ statement is not a big deal Hunger was once a bipartisan issue — will it ever be again? What Right to Try can teach us about cancer moonshots 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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