First Edition: Aug. 12, 2021

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

National Academies’ Report Took Pharma-Friendly Stance After Millions In Gifts From Drugmakers

To several U.S. senators, it looked wasteful, even outrageous. Every year, taxpayers pay for at least $750 million worth of expensive pharmaceuticals that are simply thrown away. Companies ship many of the drugs in “Costco”-size vials, one lawmaker said, that once opened usually cannot be resealed or saved for other patients. Yet pharma gets paid for every drop. So Congress turned to the prestigious National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine for advice, given its reputation for “independent, objective reports” on such matters. The national academies’ influential report, released in February, struck physicians who’ve tracked the issue as distinctly friendly to Big Pharma. It advised against an effort to recoup millions for the discarded drugs. It concluded that Medicare should stop tracking the cost of the drug waste altogether. (Jewett, 8/12)

Getting A Covid Vaccine During Pregnancy Even More Urgent As ICU Beds Fill Up 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is doubling down on its recommendation that people who are pregnant get the covid-19 vaccine, in light of new data underscoring its safety and effectiveness throughout pregnancy. This recommendation comes at a time when doctors across the country are reporting an uptick in the number of unvaccinated pregnant people getting hospitalized with severe cases of covid. (Lopez, 8/12)

Reading, ’Rithmetic And Resisting Covid: The New 3 R’s As Kids Head Back To School 

When kids head back to school this fall, for some it will be the first time they’ve been in a real classroom with other students since the pandemic began. Even if they attended classes in person last year, the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant of covid-19 will require a new safety calculation, particularly for parents of kids younger than 12, who can’t yet get a vaccine. “You have a confluence of three unfortunate events,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. “You have a group of children who are unlikely to have a vaccine available to them when they go back to school; you have the delta variant, which is far more contagious; and you have the winter months, with a cold, dry climate where the virus can spread more easily.” (Andrews, 8/12)

Apple Aims To Push More Patient Data To Doctors. But Who Can Gauge Its Impact On Health?

Soon, Apple announced recently, it will enable doctors to monitor health data from their patients’ phones and watches between visits, part of the push into health care that Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO, has declared will constitute the company’s greatest contribution to mankind. Since 2014, health systems around the country have partnered with Apple to tap into the mountains of data the company’s devices generate from patients. But most are still experimenting with these tools. While some doctors appreciate seeing records of home-monitored blood pressure, exercise and the like between visits, for others the data is more of a burden than an asset. (Kwon, 8/12)

The New York Times:
F.D.A. To Authorize Third Vaccine Dose For People With Weak Immune Systems 

Federal regulators are expected to authorize a third shot of coronavirus vaccine as soon as Thursday for certain people with weakened immune systems, an effort to better protect them as the highly contagious Delta variant sweeps the nation. The decision to expand the emergency use of both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines is meant to help those patients with immune deficiencies who are considered most likely to benefit from an additional shot. It covers people who have had solid organ transplants and others whose immune systems are similarly compromised, according to an official familiar with the plan. (LaFraniere and Weiland, 8/11)

USA Today:
FDA Set To Authorize Third Vaccine Dose For Immunocompromised People, Reports Say

Federal regulators are expected to amend the Emergency Use Authorizations for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to allow for a third shot of coronavirus vaccine as soon as Thursday for some immunocompromised people, multiple reports said Wednesday. An official familiar with the plan told The New York Times that the third shot covers those with solid organ transplants and others whose immune systems are similarly compromised, roughly 10 million Americans.  A May study from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that only 17% of transplant recipients had antibodies after their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, with an additional 35% responding after two shots. (Aspegren and Vargas, 8/12)

Study: Extra COVID Shot Helps Protect Transplant Patients

A third dose of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine substantially improved protection for organ transplant recipients whose weak immune systems don’t always rev up enough with the standard two shots, Canadian researchers reported Wednesday. The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, was small but it’s the most rigorous type of third-dose testing so far for this vulnerable group. (Neergaard, 8/11)

Fox News:
Over 1 Million People Given COVID-19 Booster Shots Ahead Of Regulatory OK: Report

More than 1 million people vaccinated with Pfizer or Moderna’s COVID-19 shots went back for a third dose ahead of any OK from regulators, according to a report citing estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The 1.1 million estimate cited in an internal agency briefing document, reportedly obtained by ABC News, likely represents an underestimate because it excluded recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine who may have returned for a second unauthorized dose. Florida was reported among states with the largest number of people seeking third shots. Other states listed were Ohio, California, Illinois and Tennessee. (Rivas, 8/11)

CDC Recommends Pregnant Women Get COVID-19 Vaccine

The CDC said it has found no safety concerns for pregnant people in either the new analysis or earlier studies. It said miscarriage rates after vaccination were similar to the expected rate. Pregnant women can receive any of the three vaccines given emergency authorization — Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson. The agency had not previously recommended pregnant women get vaccinated but had said that they should discuss vaccination with their health care providers. (Erman, 8/11)

CDC Urges COVID Vaccines During Pregnancy As Delta Surges

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged all pregnant women Wednesday to get the COVID-19 vaccine as hospitals in hot spots around the U.S. see disturbing numbers of unvaccinated mothers-to-be seriously ill with the virus. Expectant women run a higher risk of severe illness and pregnancy complications from the coronavirus, including perhaps miscarriages and stillbirths. But their vaccination rates are low, with only about 23% having received at least one dose, according to CDC data. (Tanner and Stobbe, 8/11)

Studies Detail COVID Childbirth, Breastmilk Vaccine Antibodies

In line with previous research, two studies published today in JAMA Network Open suggested that pregnant women infected with COVID-19 are more likely to have negative outcomes including death, and that vaccine-produced SARS-CoV-2 antibodies are present in breastmilk. Both implications help support the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s announcement today that all pregnant people, or those thinking of becoming pregnant, should get vaccinated. “The vaccines are safe and effective, and it has never been more urgent to increase vaccinations as we face the highly transmissible Delta variant [B1617.2] and see severe outcomes from COVID-19 among unvaccinated pregnant people,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, MPH, in a CDC press release. (McLernon, 8/11)

EU Looking Into New Possible Side-Effects Of MRNA COVID-19 Shots 

Three new conditions reported by a small number of people after vaccination with COVID-19 shots from Pfizer (PFE.N) and Moderna (MRNA.O) are being studied to assess if they may be possible side-effects, Europe’s drugs regulator said on Wednesday. Erythema multiforme, a form of allergic skin reaction; glomerulonephritis or kidney inflammation; and nephrotic syndrome, a renal disorder characterised by heavy urinary protein losses, are being studied by the safety committee of the European Medicines Agency (EMA), according to the regulator. (Aripaka, 8/11)

The Washington Post:
Rand Paul Discloses 16 Months Late That His Wife Bought Stock In Company Behind Covid Treatment 

Sen. Rand Paul revealed Wednesday that his wife bought stock in Gilead Sciences — which makes an antiviral drug used to treat covid-19 — on Feb. 26, 2020, before the threat from the coronavirus was fully understood by the public and before it was classified as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The disclosure, in a filing with the Senate, came 16 months after the 45-day reporting deadline set forth in the Stock Act, which is designed to combat insider trading. Experts in corporate and securities law said the investment, and especially the delayed reporting of it, undermined trust in government and raised questions about whether the Kentucky Republican’s family had sought to profit from nonpublic information about the looming health emergency and plans by the U.S. government to combat it. (Stanley-Becker, 8/11)

Rand Paul Reveals Wife Bought Stock In Company Behind Remdesivir In Late Financial Disclosure

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky revealed Wednesday that his wife in February 2020 purchased up to $15,000 in stock in Gilead Sciences, the maker of the antiviral drug remdesivir. Remdesivir later became the first drug to be approved for treating Covid-19. Paul’s filing with the Senate shows that between $1,000 and $15,000 of Gilead stock was purchased. The STOCK Act – which was enacted in 2012 to outlaw congressional insider trading, or the use of nonpublic information for one’s financial benefit – requires trade disclosures within 45 days. Paul’s reporting came 16 months late. (Fox and LeBlanc, 8/11)

Houston Chronicle:
Gov. Abbott Moves To Strike Down Mask Mandates Enacted By Defiant Local Officials

Gov. Greg Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton on Wednesday filed their first court action to strike down a mask mandate enacted by local officials in defiance of Abbott’s ban on them. Abbott and Paxton asked an appellate court to nullify Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins’ order requiring masks at businesses, schools and county facilities, which Jenkins issued a day after securing a temporary restraining order against Abbott. In a joint statement, the two Republican leaders argued that the sweeping Texas Disaster Act of 1975 “clearly states that the Governor has the power to guide the state through emergencies,” including the COVID-19 pandemic. (Scherer, 8/11)

Defiance Of Texas Ban On Mask Mandates Continues To Grow

Defiance of Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates continued Wednesday as more Texas school districts and communities announced plans to require students to wear face coverings and another county scored a legal victory in its efforts to issue such mandates amid a surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations throughout the state. In the Houston suburb of Spring, the school district’s 33,000 students, along with faculty, staff and visitors will be required to wear masks starting Monday. (Lozano, 8/11)

Houston Chronicle:
Texas Children’s Identifies 25 Cases Of Kids With Both RSV And COVID; Hospitalizations Rising

Texas Children’s Hospital is faced with an alarming problem: There are approximately 45 COVID-19 pediatric hospitalizations, an all-time high for the health system, and many of those patients also have respiratory syncytial virus. The hospital has identified “25 cases and counting” of children with both RSV and COVID-19 at all three of its campuses, said Dr. James Versalovic, interim pediatrician-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital. More than half of those children have been hospitalized. (Wu and Gill, 8/11)

Santa Fe South Schools First To Defy Oklahoma Mask Mandate Ban

Facing an excessive number of student absences and 21 teachers already under quarantine, Santa Fe South Schools Superintendent Chris Brewster is defying state law and invoking a district-wide mask mandate. The Oklahoma City charter district with nearly 3,500 students is the first of the public schools in the state to openly disregard Senate Bill 658, which prohibits school districts from requiring masks unless the governor issues an emergency declaration for their area. Gov. Kevin Stitt has said he has no plans to issue any emergency orders. (Martinez-Keel, 8/11)

PBS NewsHour:
Tensions Over School Mask Mandates Roil This Mississippi Town

As millions of students prepare to enter the academic year, rates of COVID-19 infection are soaring due to the highly contagious delta variant, and hospitalizations and deaths are making a grim climb upward. That is especially true in parts of the United States with low vaccination rates, such as Mississippi, where 35 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. That state is close to the bottom of the list for COVID vaccinations — neighbor Alabama is currently the least vaccinated state in the nation. Public health experts have urged vaccination rates more than double those seen in much of the South to slow the virus’ spread. (Santhanam, 8/11)

Detroit Free Press:
Henry Ford Health Pediatrician Supports Masks For Schoolchildren

The interim chair of pediatrics for Henry Ford Health System is encouraging parents of children whose schools don’t have mask or social-distancing requirements to speak up and encourage those mandates be put in place for the upcoming school year. “I would encourage families to make a plan as they are going back to school. … Go to the school. Talk to the principal. Talk to the superintendent. Encourage them to have that mask and social-distancing mandate,” Dr. Tisa Johnson-Hooper said during a briefing Wednesday. (Hall, 8/11)

Does Mask Wearing Harm Children’s Development? Experts Weigh In 

For young children, the pandemic comes at a crucial time for developing skills important for empathy, safety and more – a phase that some parents worry will be impaired by mask-wearing. “There are sensitive periods in early childhood development in which language development and emotional development are really rapidly developing for the first few years of life,” said Ashley Ruba, a postdoctoral researcher in the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Child Emotion Lab.Being able to use others’ verbal or facial cues to figure out how someone is feeling or pick up on safe or dangerous aspects of environments and people is a critical task for young kids, Ruba added. (Rogers, 8/11)

4 Georgia Districts Stop In-Person Classes Due To COVID

Four tiny Georgia public school districts have temporarily shut down in-person instruction within days of starting school, saying high COVID-19 case counts among students and staff makes it unsafe to continue. Other districts have closed individual schools or sent hundreds of students into quarantine after exposure to people with COVID-19. (Amy, 8/11)

ASU Requires Masks; GOP Lawmakers Slam K-12 Schools That Do

Stark differences in approaches to surging Arizona coronavirus cases continued to appear Wednesday as more medical providers and education institutions announced new measures to stop COVID-19 from spreading and Republican state lawmakers urged the governor to punish local school districts that require students to wear masks. The developments come as the number of daily cases has risen in the past two months to levels not seen since the state’s winter peak began to ebb in February. Hospitals are warning they may again face patient surges that stress their systems. (Christie, Tang and Davenport, 8/12)

Univ. Of Arkansas Board Votes To Require Masks On Campuses

The University of Arkansas’ governing board voted Wednesday to require masks on its campuses, as dozens of school districts imposed their own mandates following a judge’s decision to block the state’s mask mandate ban. Arkansas’ COVID-19 hospitalizations reached a new high point for the third day in a row, growing by 11 to 1,446 patients in the state’s hospitals. There are only 14 intensive care unit beds available in the state, according to the Department of Health. The state on Monday broke the record it set in January for the most virus hospitalizations since the pandemic began. (DeMillo, 8/11)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Stanford Among First Universities Requiring Weekly Coronavirus Testing – Even For Vaccinated Students

Stanford will test students for the coronavirus every week, regardless of vaccination status, the university announced Wednesday, making it one of only a few campuses in the country to do so. Citing the ongoing threat of the highly contagious delta variant, officials unveiled several new safety measures in an email to students ahead of the university’s planned return to campus beginning Aug. 15. (Vaziri and Asimov, 8/11)

Tennessee State To Offer $100 To Vaccinated Students

Tennessee State University officials say enrolled students can receive $100 if they can show they’re fully vaccinated. University officials announced this week that students who get vaccinated through one of the campus vaccination sites will also receive a $100 gift card. In addition, vaccinated students living in on-campus housing will be eligible for an additional $50 gift card. The gift cards are available until Aug. 27. (8/12)

The Boston Globe:
Citing Delta Variant Of COVID-19, More Mass. Communities Consider Indoor Mask Orders

A growing number of Massachusetts communities are set to impose local mask mandates as the Delta variant continues to drive up COVID-19 cases and new concerns about protecting public health. Somerville joined the list Wednesday as officials announced they will consider a new mandate requiring people to wear face coverings in indoor public spaces, which could take effect as early as Aug. 20. Other communities that have reintroduced an indoor mask mandate include Belmont, Nantucket, Northampton, Provincetown, and Salem. Doug Kress, Somerville’s health and human services director, in a statement urged residents to get vaccinated if they haven’t done so, which he said will “vastly reduce” their risk of severe or fatal illness if they become infected. (Andersen and Stoico, 8/11)

Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Raiders Say Mask Mandate Will Be Enforced At Allegiant Stadium

As Raider Nation converges on Allegiant Stadium Saturday for the first Raiders game at the $2 billion facility with fans, remember “face mask” is not a penalty in this case. It’s a mandatory rule for all that attend.
The mandate Gov. Steve Sisolak issued last month requiring masks be worn at all times at indoor facilities will apply to the tens of thousands of fans anticipated to attend the preseason game versus the Seattle Seahawks. The Raiders said they’ll follow state and local guidelines and will require fans and employees to wear masks while inside the stadium. Under the directive, event attendees must wear a mask unless actively eating or drinking. (Akers, 8/11)

McDonald’s To Require Covid Vaccinations For Corporate Workers

McDonald’s Corp. is requiring all of its corporate employees in the U.S. to be vaccinated before they return to the office, joining the growing ranks of major companies imposing strict requirements to combat the spread of Covid-19. The fast-food chain also postponed the reopening date for its offices by about a month to Oct. 11, according to an internal note obtained by Bloomberg News. Staffers must be fully vaccinated by Sept. 27 to ensure they have built up immunity for the recommended 14 days before returning, the company said. Masks are required in offices regardless of vaccination status. (Clough, 8/11)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Atlanta Church Requires COVID Vaccines For Worshippers

The number of employers requiring workers to get vaccinated is growing across the nation. Add to that at least one Georgia church. The 107-year-old Greater Piney Grove Baptist Church in DeKalb now requires worshippers to show proof of full vaccination, take a temperature check and sign a waiver before they are allowed to attend in-person services. They also must register in advance to attend. The Glenwood Avenue church, which has about 3,000 members started asking for proof of vaccination several weeks ago, even before the rise of the delta variant, said the Rev. William E. Flippin Sr., senior pastor.
He’s worried about people who are unvaccinated getting sick and also spreading the virus to others. (Poole, 8/11)

Mississippi Opening Field Hospital Amid Surge Of COVID Cases

Mississippi will open a 50-bed field hospital and the federal government will send medical professionals to help treat patients as COVID-19 cases continue surging in a state with one of the lowest vaccination rates in the U.S., officials said Wednesday. Many Mississippi hospitals face a crunch for space and staffing. The state health officer, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, expressed frustration Wednesday about people ignoring recommendations to get vaccinated and wear masks to slow the spread of the virus. Masks are required in some schools and optional in others, but some parents say mask mandates infringe on children’s freedom. (Pettus, 8/11)

Des Moines Register:
Iowa COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Climb With August Surge

The number of COVID-19 patients in Iowa hospitals is surging, according to federal data. On Wednesday, 328 adults and three children were in Iowa’s hospitals with confirmed cases of the disease, an increase of more than 50% over the number of people hospitalized a week ago, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Another 80 adults and eight children were suspected to have the disease, but their infections weren’t confirmed, according to the data. (Coltrain and Leys, 8/11)

New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Inside Ochsner’s COVID Units, ‘Rows And Rows’ Of Coronavirus Patients Fight To Survive

The sixth floor of Ochsner Medical Center in Old Jefferson was once where patients awaited heart transplants and recovered from heart surgery. Now, in converted negative-pressure rooms that suck air in but don’t let aerosolized virus particles out, teams of six yellow-gowned workers flip the sickest coronavirus patients from back to stomach every 12 hours, hoping to relieve some pressure from their strained lungs. In between, monitors beep and nurses give the patients baths and administer medication. Often intubated, paralyzed and sedated, what looks to be a peaceful sleep is actually an eerily quiet struggle to survive. (Woodruff, 8/11)

California Justices Won’t Limit Governor’s Emergency Powers

The California Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to consider reining in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s emergency powers during the coronavirus pandemic, leaving in place a lower court’s ruling that the governor acted within his authority. The justices unanimously denied the petition for review filed by Republican Assemblymen James Gallagher and Kevin Kiley, without giving an explanation beyond the one-line order. (Thompson, 8/12)

The Washington Post:
Anti-Vaxxers Have Made ‘I Am Legend,’ A Movie About Zombie Vampires, A Part Of The Vaccine Conversation

“I Am Legend,” Francis Lawrence’s post-apocalyptic thriller in which a virus genetically re-engineered to cure cancer instead destroys mankind, is famously not a documentary. You’d be hard-pressed to find people who believe its lead actor, Will Smith, to be an actual virologist for the U.S. Army. And yet as recently as earlier this week, it behooved one of the “I Am Legend” screenwriters to clarify that the 2007 film is, in fact, a work of fiction: “Oh. My. God,” tweeted Akiva Goldsman, who co-wrote the adapted screenplay with Mark Protosevich. “It’s a movie. I made that up. It’s. Not. Real.” (Rao, 8/11)

Modern Healthcare:
Scripps Health Cyberattack Cost The Company $113 Million

Scripps Health estimates the spring malware attack that temporarily took a portion of its network offline has cost the company almost $113 million so far. The San Diego-based health system said the $113 million loss through mid-year covers revenue lost and incremental expenses from responding to the crisis, which included shutting down many of its systems, launching an investigation, instituting emergency downtime procedures and notifying federal law enforcement agencies. (Bannow, 8/11)

Modern Healthcare:
CVS Health Launches Virtual Primary Care For Aetna Members

Aetna will begin providing virtual primary care to some policyholders, parent company CVS Health announced Tuesday. The new service, Aetna Virtual Primary Care, is available under self-funded employer plans and provides eligible members with remote and in-person healthcare. “Aetna Virtual Primary Care gives our members the power of choice and convenience, making it easier for people to get and stay healthy, even when balancing the demands of work and life,” Aetna President Dan Finke said in a news release. (Christ, 6/11)

Modern Healthcare:
Demographics Impact Survival Rate For Liver Transplant Patients

Black patients have lower liver transplant survival rates than white or Hispanic patients, and researchers are concerned that the survival rate disparity between these groups has only widened over time. On average between 2002 and 2018, Black patients had a 15% higher chance of dying after a liver transplant than white or Hispanic patients, according to a study by Keck Medicine of USC. While researchers assumed outcomes for Black liver transplant recipients would improve in the years following a 2002 landmark study detailing the disparity, Brian Lee, a study author and liver transplant specialist with Keck Medicine, said he was surprised to find that the opposite was true. (Devereaux, 8/11)

OxyContin Maker’s Settlement Goes To Judge For Confirmation

Purdue Pharma’s quest to settle thousands of lawsuits over the toll of OxyContin and its other prescription opioid painkillers is entering its final phase with the grudging support of most of those who have claims against the company. Nearly two years after seeking bankruptcy protection, the company is scheduled to appear before a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge to ask for approval of its plan to reorganize into a new entity no longer controlled by members of the wealthy Sackler family, and with profits dedicated to abating the opioid crisis. (Mulvihill, 8/12)

Modern Healthcare:
U.S. Sets New Record For Drug Overdose Deaths At 95,000

Overdose deaths skyrocketed during the pandemic reaching a record 95,000 last year, new federal projections show. The COVID-19 pandemic worsened the ongoing opioid crisis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed in a report Wednesday. Overdose deaths increased 31% from January 2020 to January 2021 compared to the previous 12-month period, which took place prior to the coronavirus pandemic. The findings are provisional and may be revised. (Ross Johnson, 8/11)

The Washington Post:
Naloxone Supply Issues Threaten Worsening Drug Overdose Crisis 

An affordable antidote for opioid overdoses has become more difficult to obtain amid a fatal epidemic, in what advocates have called a “perfect storm” with deadly consequences. After a manufacturing issue halted Pfizer’s production of the single-dose injectable naloxone in April, groups that distribute a significant amount of the lifesaving medicine say they are facing an unprecedented obstacle to reverse drug overdoses as they reach an all-time high. Organizers say the insufficient supply has been felt unequally across the country. (Kornfield, 8/11)

FDA Objects To CBD As Diet Supplement, Extending Uncertainty

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration objected to an application from Charlotte’s Web Holdings Inc. for a CBD product to be sold as a dietary ingredient, leaving a cloud of uncertainty over the booming industry for the cannabis-derived substance. The company’s bid to sell its full-spectrum hemp extract with CBD as a dietary supplement won’t be considered because of the FDA’s own prior decision to treat CBD as a drug, according to a letter posted on the agency’s website Wednesday. This shouldn’t disrupt the business of Charlotte’s Web or prevent other companies from continuing to sell such products, which already exist in a gray area without the agency’s oversight. (Kary, 8/11)

Heat Wave Hits Northwest, Sending People To Cooling Centers

People headed to cooling centers Wednesday as the Pacific Northwest began sweltering under another major, multiday heat wave just over a month after record-shattering hot weather killed hundreds of the region’s most vulnerable people. Temperatures soared to 97 degrees Fahrenheit (36.1 Celsius) by the evening in Portland, Oregon. In a “worst-case scenario,” the temperature could reach as high as 111 F (44 C) in some parts of western Oregon this week before a weekend cooldown, the National Weather Service said. It’s more likely temperatures will rise to 100 F (38 C) or above for three consecutive days, peaking around 105 F (40.5 C) on Thursday. (Flaccus, 8/12)

Northwest Sizzles As Heat Wave Hits Many Parts Of US

Volunteers and county employees set up cots and stacked hundreds of bottles of water in an air-conditioned cooling center in a vacant building in Portland, Oregon, one of many such places being set up as the Northwest sees another stretch of sizzling temperatures. Scorching weather also hit other parts of the country this week. The weather service said heat advisories and warnings would be in effect from the Midwest to the Northeast and mid-Atlantic through at least Friday. (Flaccus, 8/12)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Bay Area Air Quality Advisory Issued For Thursday As Wildfire Smoke Drifts South

Smoke drifting from wildfires burning in Northern California and southern Oregon will trigger an air quality advisory for the Bay Area on Thursday, though officials stopped short of issuing a Spare the Air alert. Skies could be smoky and hazy across the region Thursday as winds push the smoke billowing from wildfires south, according to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. (Fracassa, 8/11)

The New York Times:
Hidden Toll Of The Northwest Heat Wave: Hundreds Of Extra Deaths 

During the deadly heat wave that blanketed Oregon and Washington in late June, about 600 more people died than would have been typical, a review of mortality data for the week of the crisis shows. The number is three times as high as the states’ official estimates of heat-related deaths so far. It suggests that the true toll of the heat wave, which affected states and provinces across the Pacific Northwest, may be much larger than previously reported. This week, the region is once again steeling itself for extreme heat. (Popovich and Choi-Schagrin, 8/11)

The New York Times:
High School Coaches Charged With Murder in Teen’s Heat-Related Death

Two high school basketball coaches in Georgia have been charged with murder in connection with the death of a teenager who collapsed after running drills during a practice held in nearly 100-degree heat and later died. On Wednesday morning, days before the second anniversary of the death of the teenager, 16-year-old Imani Bell, lawyers for the Bell family announced the charges in a news conference in Atlanta. (Murphy, 8/11)

The Boston Globe:
Brown University Agrees To Stop Rejecting Students Who Take Mental Health Leave

Brown University is changing its policies on undergraduate student leaves of absence after settling a Justice Department finding that the school violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by not allowing students who took medical leave for mental health reasons to return to school — even though they were ready to return to campus life. The settlement, which was made public Tuesday, protects the rights of students with mental health disabilities to have equal access to Brown’s educational programs, according to the US Attorney’s Office. It’s based on an investigation and compliance review that the Justice Department conducted in response to a student complaint regarding the university’s policies. (Gagosz, 8/11)

The Washington Post:
Family Of U-Md. Student Who Died Of Adenovirus Sues University, Former Officials

The family of a University of Maryland freshman who died in 2018 of complications from adenovirus says the university and two former officials were responsible, according to a multimillion-dollar lawsuit filed Wednesday in Prince George’s County. The suit, which also names former university president Wallace D. Loh and former Health Center director David R. McBride, claims U-Md. failed to inform students that the adenovirus was present on campus until Olivia Paregol, 18, died of complications in November. The delay in communication left students such as Paregol, who had a weakened immune system, particularly vulnerable, the suit says. (Lumpkin, 8/11)

U.S. Kids Get Majority Of Their Calories From Ultra-Processed Junk Foods

Kids and teens in the U.S. get the majority of their calories from ultra-processed foods like frozen pizza, microwavable meals, chips and cookies, a new study has found. Two-thirds — or 67% — of calories consumed by children and adolescents in 2018 came from ultra-processed foods, a jump from 61% in 1999, according to a peer-reviewed study published in the medical journal JAMA. The research, which analyzed the diets of 33,795 youths age 2 to 19 across the U.S., noted the “overall poorer nutrient profile” of the ultra-processed foods. (Nuñez, 8/11)

Eleven More Sick In Breaded Chicken Salmonella Outbreak

In an investigation update on a Salmonella Enteritidis outbreak linked to frozen and breaded stuffed chicken products, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today reported 11 more illnesses and 2 more affected states. The newly reported infections raise the total to 28 cases from 8 states. Patient ages range from 3 to 84. Among 24 people with available information, 11 were hospitalized. No deaths were reported. The latest illness onset was Jun 28. (8/11)

Houston Chronicle:
Texas Declares Gender-Affirming Surgery A Form Of Child Abuse, Per Gov. Abbott’s Request

Gender-reaffirming surgery, a procedure to alter a person’s genitalia to match their gender identity that has long been a target of Texas Republicans, will now be considered a form of child abuse, the Texas Department for Family and Protective Services on Wednesday declared. The state agency made the determination after Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday directed the agency, tasked with protecting children from abuse, to “please issue a determination of whether genital mutilation of a child for purposes of gender transitioning through reassignment surgery constitutes child abuse.” (Zong, 8/11)

Fox News:
Virginia School Board Approves Controversial Transgender Policy

A northern Virginia school board voted Wednesday evening to approve a new policy expanding the rights of transgender students. In what was seen as a victory for LGBTQ advocates, the Loudoun County School Board approved the policy by a 7-to-2 vote following hours of debate and after minor amendments were made. “LCPS’ number one priority is to foster the success of all students and ensure they feel safe, secure, accepted, and ready to learn at school,” Loudoun County Public Schools said in a statement. “The school division will continue to do its due diligence in creating that environment and remaining open and transparent with all LCPS partners, community members, and stakeholders.” (Aaro, 8/12)

Mosquitoes Carrying West Nile Virus Found In Louisville

Mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus have been found in four Louisville zip codes, health officials said. Fogging operations are planned Thursday in specific neighborhoods if the weather permits, the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness said in a statement. (8/12)

The Washington Post:
Millions Of Coronavirus Vaccine Doses Around The World Face Expiration 

In Israel, 80,000 expiring Pfizer-BioNTech doses were set to be tossed at the end of July; 73,000 doses from various manufacturers have been disposed of in Poland; and 160,000 Sputnik V doses nearing expiration were returned from Slovakia to Russia, their final status unknown. In the United States, North Carolina alone is estimated to have 800,000 doses soon to expire. According to data compiled by the World Health Organization, approximately 469,868 doses from various manufacturers had expired in Africa as of Aug. 9. (Taylor and Paquette, 8/11)

Australian Capital Locks Down After 1 Infection

Australia’s capital will go into lockdown for a week from Thursday after a single case of COVID-19 was detected and the virus was found in wastewater. Canberra joins Sydney, Melbourne and several cities in New South Wales state that are locked down due to the delta variant. (8/12)

Mexico Covid Cases Rise By Record As Pandemic Surges Anew

Mexico saw a record rise in Covid-19 cases Wednesday as the spread of the pandemic accelerates after several months of relief from the virus. Cases rose 22,711 to 3,020,596, according to Health Ministry data. Deaths increased by 727. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has reiterated that while cases are increasing, the proportion of severe illness that leads to death is lower than it was during the winter peak. At a morning press conference, the president touted the vaccine campaign and encouraged people to get a shot. (Quinn, 8/11)

Coronavirus Surge Pushes Cuba’s Healthcare System To Brink

Cuba is bringing back hundreds of doctors working abroad and converting hotels into isolation centers and hospitals in order to battle a COVID-19 crisis that is overwhelming healthcare and mortuary services in parts of the Caribbean island. The country, which managed to contain infections for most of last year, is now facing one of the worst outbreaks worldwide, fueled by the spread of the more-infectious Delta variant, even as it races to vaccinate its population. (Marsh, 8/11)

Puerto Rico Requires Vaccinations In Food, Drink Sector

Puerto Rico’s governor announced Wednesday that employees of restaurants or other enclosed places that serve food or drinks will have to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, and customers will have to show a vaccination card or a negative virus test. The new rules, which take effect Aug. 23, come as the U.S. territory faces a spike in coronavirus infections blamed largely on the delta variant. Those who do not comply face up to six months in jail or up to a $5,000 fine. (Coto, 8/11)

The Washington Post:
‘Fortress New Zealand’ Could Welcome Back International Travelers Next Year — But Only If They’re Vaccinated

New Zealand, one of the last countries successfully pursuing a zero-tolerance approach to the novel coronavirus, said Thursday it could open its borders for quarantine-free travel early next year. But only the vaccinated need apply. The island nation sealed its borders about 1½ years ago and requires two-week stays in quarantine facilities for returning nationals. Only the odd American billionaire, some Pacific Islanders and residents of neighboring Australia have made it in to what has been called “Fortress New Zealand” in recent times. (Pannett, 8/12)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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