First Edition: Aug. 13, 2021


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


KHN:
Pfizer CEO To Public: Just Trust Us On The Covid Booster 


Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla was confident in June about the ability of his company’s vaccine to protect against the highly contagious delta variant, as it marched across the globe and filled U.S. hospitals with patients. “I feel quite comfortable that we cover it,” Bourla said. Just weeks later, Pfizer said it would seek authorization for a booster shot, after early trial results showed a third dose potentially increased protection. At the end of July, Pfizer and BioNTech announced findings that four to six months after a second dose, their vaccine’s efficacy dropped to about 84%. Bourla was quick to promote a third dose after the discouraging news, saying he was “very, very confident” that a booster would increase immunity levels in the vaccinated. (Tribble, 8/13)


KHN:
Veterans Push For Medical Marijuana In Conservative South 


Each time Chayse Roth drives home to North Carolina, he notices the highway welcome signs that declare: “Nation’s Most Military Friendly State.” “That’s a powerful thing to claim,” said Roth, a former Marine Corps gunnery sergeant who served multiple deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now he says he’s calling on the state to live up to those words. A Wilmington resident, Roth is advocating for lawmakers to pass a bill that would legalize medical marijuana and allow veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder and other debilitating conditions to use it for treatment. (Pattani, 8/13)


KHN:
How A Hospital And A School District Teamed Up To Help Kids In Emotional Crisis


In 2019, the Rockville Centre school district in Long Island, New York, was shaken by a string of student deaths, including the suicides of a recent graduate and a current student. “When you get these losses, one after the other, you almost can’t get traction on normalcy,” said Noreen Leahy, an assistant superintendent at the school district. To Leahy, the student suicides exposed a children’s mental health crisis brewing for years. She had observed a concerning uptick in depression, anxiety and suicidal ideation among students. Her school district had a team of mental health professionals, but Leahy said they couldn’t provide the kind of long-term care many students needed. (Chatterjee and Herman, 8/13)


KHN:
KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: The Senate Acts


The Senate has set the stage for a busy fall that will include debate on a broad array of health issues, such as prescription drug prices, Medicare expansion and further expansion of the Affordable Care Act. Before leaving for a delayed August break, the chamber passed a bipartisan infrastructure bill and budget resolution with an outline of a $3.5 trillion measure to be crafted when lawmakers return. Whether any of those health issues can make it across the legislative finish line remains to be seen, and the path to success is a narrow one. Meanwhile, covid’s delta variant is spreading rapidly around the U.S., particularly in states with large swaths of unvaccinated people. (8/12)


The New York Times:
Biden Presses Congress To Act On Prescription Drug Prices 


President Biden implored Congress on Thursday to include strict controls on prescription drug prices in the mammoth social policy bill that Democrats plan to draft this fall, hitting on an issue that his predecessor campaigned on but failed to achieve. Mr. Biden said he wanted at least three measures included in the $3.5 trillion social policy bill that Democrats hope to pass using budget rules that would protect it from a Republican filibuster. He wants Medicare to be granted the power to negotiate lower drug prices, pharmaceutical companies to face penalties if they raise prices faster than inflation, and a new cap on how much Medicare recipients have to spend on medications. (Weisman, 8/12)


Fox Business:
Biden Pushes Congress To Allow Medicare To Negotiate Drug Prices


President Biden laid out his vision Thursday for reducing the high cost of prescription drugs, and pushed Congress to pass legislation that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices for millions of Americans. Medicare, at this point, is prohibited by law from negotiating for the best deal in prescription drugs – something the White House says “needs to change.” The president said Medicare should be able to negotiate the price for “subset of expensive drugs that don’t face any competition in the market,” and that Medicare negotiators would be provided a framework for what constitutes a “fair price” for each drug. The White House added that there should be “powerful incentives” to make sure drug companies agree to a reasonable price. (Singman, 8/12)


The Hill:
Biden Calls On Congress To Act On ‘Outrageously’ High Drug Prices 


He also appeared to back a feature of House Democrats’ legislation that would impose a steep tax of up to 95 percent if drug companies refused to come to the table and negotiate. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) is working on his own drug pricing legislation, which is expected to be somewhat less far-reaching than the House bill, in a bid to keep moderate Senate Democrats on board, given that Democrats cannot lose a single vote in the Senate. There had been some doubts as to Biden’s commitment to drug pricing earlier this year when he left it out of his American Families Plan, but the speech on Thursday provided a new jolt of energy to the issue. (Sullivan, 8/12)


Reuters:
Biden Urges U.S. Congress To Take Steps To Lower Prescription Drug Costs 


Biden on Thursday lauded drugmakers for their life-saving work developing the COVID-19 vaccines. “But we can make a distinction between developing these breakthroughs and jacking up prices on a range of medications for a range of everyday diseases and conditions,” he said in remarks at the White House. Biden said U.S. prescription drug costs were higher than any other nation in the world by two to three times. (Mason and Heavey, 8/12)


NPR:
FDA Authorizes Third COVID-19 Dose For Immunocompromised People


The Food and Drug Administration is authorizing an additional dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for certain people with weakened immune systems caused either by disease, medical treatments or organ transplants. The move comes after studies have shown these people may not have sufficient immunity to head off the more serious complications of COVID-19 after the standard vaccine regimen. Late Thursday night, the FDA amended the emergency use authorizations for both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to allow for an additional dose for certain immunocompromised people, specifically, solid organ transplant recipients or those who are diagnosed with conditions that are considered to have an equivalent level of immunocompromise. The CDC estimates the population to be less than three percent of adults. (Stone and Greenhalgh, 8/13)


USA Today:
FDA: Immunocompromised Should Get COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Shots


“Making the booster shots available to us is imperative,” said Michele Nadeem-Baker, a patient with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, a type of blood cancer. “The immunocompromised community has felt forgotten This gives us hope that we have not been.” A study in people with solid organ transplants, for instance, showed only about 15% had an immune response to the first dose and roughly half mounted one to a second dose. Later research found a quarter of those with no response to the first two doses responded to a third. Even those who had an antibody response had a lower one than those with normal immune systems. (Weintraub, 8/12)


NPR:
Nearly 300,000 More Federal Health Workers Are Ordered To Be Vaccinated


The federal government is dramatically expanding the number of its workers that will be required to be vaccinated for COVID-19. More than 25,000 employees of the Health and Human Services Department will be required to get a COVID-19 vaccine and the Department of Veterans Affairs is expanding its vaccine requirement to more employees, contractors and volunteers, the agencies announced. VA Secretary Denis McDonough told CBS This Morning that the updated mandate at his agency will affect 245,000 employees, in addition to 115,000 previously ordered to be vaccinated. (Shivaram, 8/12)


Politico:
HHS Mandates Covid-19 Vaccinations For Health Care Workforce


The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which consists of more than 6,000 health workers who respond to public health crises around the country, will also be included under the mandate. “Our number one goal is the health and safety of the American public, including our federal workforce, and the vaccines are the best tool we have to protect people from Covid-19, prevent the spread of the Delta variant and save lives,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said.


Navy Times:
VA To Expand COVID Vaccine Mandate For Employees, Contractors, And Even Volunteers


Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough is expanding his previous COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The expanded order, which will be announced Friday, will give “most” Veterans Health Administration employees, volunteers, and contractors eight weeks to provide proof of vaccination or face termination. “We’re now including most VHA employees and volunteers and contractors in the vaccine mandate because it remains the best way to keep Veterans safe, especially as the Delta variant spreads across the country,” McDonough said in a release. (Webb, 8/12)


AP:
Supreme Court Justice Won’t Block College Vaccine Mandate


Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett on Thursday refused to block a plan by Indiana University to require students and employees to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Barrett’s action came in response to an emergency request from eight students, and it marked the first time the high court has weighed in on a vaccine mandate. Some corporations, states and cities have adopted vaccine requirements for workers or even to dine indoors, and others are considering doing so. (8/12)


USA Today:
SCOTUS Declines Indiana University Vaccine Challenge


The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to block a COVID-19 vaccine mandate at Indiana University, clearing the way for school officials to require students and faculty members to be vaccinated. Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected a request from Indiana University students for emergency relief. The case is the first challenge to a vaccine mandate during the coronavirus pandemic. (Phillips and Fritze, 8/12)


San Francisco Chronicle:
San Francisco To Become First Major U.S. City To Mandate Full Vaccination For Many Indoor Activities


San Francisco will become the first major city in the country to require proof of full vaccination against the coronavirus for a variety of indoor activities, including visiting bars, restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues that serve food or beverages. Many bars and restaurants around San Francisco have already taken it upon themselves to ask patrons to show their vaccination cards before they enter — a process that has largely gone well. Nearly 80% of the city’s eligible population has been vaccinated, and officials hope the new rule will push holdouts to finally get the shot. The mandate will take effect Friday, Aug. 20. (Thadani, 8/12)


AP:
San Francisco To Require Vaccine Proof At Indoor Venues


Worried that the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus could derail San Francisco’s economic rebound, Mayor London Breed announced Thursday that the city will require proof of full vaccination at indoor restaurants, bars, gyms and entertainment venues to help keep businesses open. “This is to protect kids, is to protect those who can’t get vaccinated, is to make sure that we don’t go backwards, is to make sure that I never have to get up in front of you and say, ‘I’m sorry, I know we just reopened and now the city is closed again because we are seeing too many people die,’ ” Breed said. (Rodriguez and Nguyen, 8/12)


AP:
New Orleans Mayor: Good Times Can Roll — With Vaccines


People who want to enter New Orleans bars, restaurants, music halls — or any other inside venue — will soon have to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus or a recent negative test, according to new rules announced Thursday by the mayor amid a surge in virus cases. Louisiana has become a hot spot for the fourth surge in the pandemic, driven by both low vaccination rates across the state and the highly contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. While New Orleans’ residents are getting vaccinated at slightly higher rates than the U.S. as a whole, the vaccination rate for the entire state is one of the worst in the country. (McGill and Santana, 8/12)


AP:
Arkansas Hospitals Announce Vaccine Requirements For Staff


A growing number of Arkansas hospitals said Thursday they’ll require all staff to get vaccinated against the coronavirus as the state’s COVID-19 hospitalizations dropped after hitting new records three days in a row. CHI St. Vincent and St. Bernards Healthcare System announced they would require employees to be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1. Baptist Memorial Health Care, which operates NEA Baptist in Jonesboro, said it would also require employees at its hospitals in Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi be vaccinated by that date. Conway Regional Health System said its vaccine requirement for staff will take effect Oct. 8. (DeMillo, 8/13)


Modern Healthcare:
CommonSpirit Mandates COVID-19 Vaccinations For All Employees Across 21 States


CommonSpirit Health becomes the latest in a growing list of healthcare providers to require its workforce to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as the number of hospitalizations due to current surge continues to rise. The health system announced Thursday employees at all 140 of its hospitals and more than 1,000 care sites across 21 states must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 1 as a condition of their employment but will make available exemptions for medical or religious reasons. (Ross Johnson, 8/12)


Indianapolis Star:
Eli Lilly To Require Vaccinations For All Employees


Eli Lilly and Co., will require all employees to get the COVID-19 vaccination effective Nov. 15, the company announced Thursday. Lilly said it will consider medical or religious accommodations on an individual basis. “As a science-based company, we have thoroughly reviewed all the data and options available to us,” spokesperson Jen Dial said. “We believe this decision helps keep our employees, families and customers safe and healthy, and ensures we can continue making life-saving medicines for people around the world.” (Huang, 8/12)


Politico:
Nation’s Largest Teachers Union Backs Vaccine Mandates 


The National Education Association endorsed Covid-19 vaccine requirements for school workers on Thursday, aligning itself with the Biden administration’s push to get more Americans inoculated as the disease sends children to the hospital. Teachers and other educators should have the option to submit to regular virus testing, NEA president Becky Pringle said, but she added her 3 million members should embrace vaccination, particularly as children return to classrooms for the new school year. (Perez Jr., 8/12)


AP:
After Some Schools Push Back On Masks, Virginia Orders Them


Students, teachers and staff at public and private K-12 schools must wear a mask while indoors under a new public health order Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration issued Thursday. The move came after a handful of school districts in recent days decided to buck the governor’s interpretation of a state law and opt not to require face coverings, against the current recommendations of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tension over the politically divisive issue has exploded at one school board meeting after other in the past week. (Rankin, 8/13)


AP:
Most Populous Texas County Defies Governor With Mask Mandate


Texas’ most populous county on Thursday joined the legal battle by local officials seeking to override Gov. Greg Abbott’s ban on mask mandates and institute protections against COVID-19 as hospitals around the state continue to swell with patients sickened by the virus. Harris County, where Houston is located, first filed a lawsuit against Abbott’s executive order banning mask mandates by any state, county or local government entity. A few hours later on Thursday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced the county health authority had issued an order requiring that people must wear masks when inside any public school, non-religious private school or licensed child care center in the county. (Lozano, 8/12)


Houston Chronicle:
Harris, Fort Bend Counties Join Metro Areas Sparring With Abbott Over COVID-19 Restrictions


In Houston, County Judge Lina Hidalgo required masks in schools and daycares while County Attorney Christian Menefee sued Abbott in state district court, arguing the governor exceeded his authority in prohibiting local officials on July 29 from implementing pandemic restrictions of their own. Fort Bend County Judge K.P. George issued a mask mandate for anyone inside county buildings, though he stopped short of requiring them in schools. (Despart, 8/13)


The Washington Post:
Lawsuits In Texas, Arizona Over School Mask Mandates As Pediatric Cases Rise


The debate over mask and vaccine mandates in schools is fueling lawsuits, rapidly shifting policies and even sidewalk feuds between parents – leaving a wake of chaos and confusion as students return to classrooms amid a surge in coronavirus cases fueled by the more transmissible delta variant. Education groups in Arizona on Thursday evening sued the state over a ban on mask mandates in schools that the state legislature had passed as part of a budget. The lawsuit filed in state Supreme Court in Maricopa County said the legislation was unconstitutional, alleging that it contained “substantive policy provisions that have nothing to do with the budget.” (Pietsch, 8/13)


Politico:
DeSantis Backpedals On Threat To Withhold Salaries Of Defiant School Officials


Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration backed down from its threat to withhold school officials’ salaries if they resist his anti-mask rule, saying instead that the defiant officials should be responsible for the “consequences of their decisions.” The move by the governor’s office represents a tacit acknowledgement that it legally can’t take away the salaries of school board members and others despite previously threatening to. DeSantis could levy hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines against school districts for disobeying his mask orders, but it would be up for the board leaders themselves to cut their own pay. (Atterbury, 8/12)


The Hill:
Hundreds Of Students Forced To Quarantine In Florida County Due To COVID-19 


More than 400 students in Palm Beach County, Fla., were required to quarantine just two days after schools began instruction due to an outbreak of the coronavirus, according to local officials. Palm Beach County School Superintendent Michael Burke said in an interview with MSNBC on Thursday that since school began, 51 students and staff had tested positive for COVID-19, WPTV-TV reported. In total, 440 students have had to isolate. (Vakil, 8/12)


CNN:
A Parent Sent Their Child To School After A Positive Covid-19 Test. More Than 80 Students May Have Been Exposed, Officials Say 


More than 80 students were potentially exposed to Covid-19 on the first day of class in Reno, Nevada, on Monday after a parent sent their child to Marce Herz Middle School, despite both the parent and child receiving a positive Covid-19 test just two days earlier, Washoe County Health District officials said. The exposed students had to quarantine at home and started distance learning on Tuesday, the Washoe County School District said. (Boyette, 8/12)


USA Today:
‘Screw Your Freedom’: Arnold Schwarzenegger Calls Anti-Maskers ‘Schmucks’ In Powerful Rant


Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t mincing words when calling out anti-maskers. The “Terminator” star and former governor of California addressed Americans who are still “in denial” about the severity of the pandemic during an interview with CNN’s Bianna Golodryga on Wednesday. “There is a virus here. It kills people and the only way we prevent it is: get vaccinated, wear masks, do social distancing, washing your hands all the time, and not just to think about, ‘Well my freedom is being kind of disturbed here.’ No, screw your freedom,” Schwarzenegger said. (Ryu, 8/12)


AP:
Idaho Governor Announces Millions For COVID Tests In Schools


Idaho Gov. Brad Little on Thursday said he is directing $30 million to expand COVID-19 testing in K-12 schools. The Republican governor made the announcement at Nampa High School in southwestern Idaho as coronavirus cases spike because of the delta variant just as students prepare to return to class next week. The $30 million is coming from emergency funds set aside by the Legislature to deal with unforeseen events, Little said. “It’s critical now,” he said. “These school districts have got to have some resources.” (Ridler, 8/13)


AP:
States That Had A Grip On COVID Now Seeing A Crush Of Cases


The COVID-19 surge that is sending hospitalizations to all-time highs in parts of the South is also clobbering states like Hawaii and Oregon that were once seen as pandemic success stories. After months in which they kept cases and hospitalizations at manageable levels, they are watching progress slip away as record numbers of patients overwhelm bone-tired health care workers. (Kelleher and Selsky, 8/12)


AP:
Officials: Tidal Wave Of Virus Cases Hits Alabama Hospitals


A “tidal wave” of COVID-19 cases is putting severe stress on Alabama hospitals, medical officials said Thursday, adding the state will likely soon surpass the previous record for hospitalizations. “We need Alabamians to understand we are in a difficult position right now. We are seeing case numbers again as high as we have ever seen,” State Health Officer Scott Harris said in a weekly briefing with reporters. “That has put a severe stress on our hospital situation. We have only 5% of our ICU beds available statewide. many facilities, particularly in the southern part of the state do not have available ICU beds at this time.” (Chandler, 8/13)


AP:
Mississippi Breaks Its 1-Day COVID Hospitalization Record


Mississippi has broken its single-day records of COVID-19 hospitalizations, intensive-care use and new coronavirus cases. The state Health Department said Thursday that 1,490 people were hospitalized Wednesday and 388 were in intensive care because of COVID-19. It also said 4,412 new cases were confirmed. (Pettus, 8/12)


CBS News:
Lollapalooza Has Shown “No Evidence” Of Being A COVID Superspreader Event, Chicago Health Official Says 


An estimated 385,000 crowd at the annual Lollapalooza music festival this year did not play a substantial role in spreading COVID-19, Chicago’s public health commissioner Allison Arwady said Thursday — two weeks after the first day of the event. “There have been no unexpected findings at this point and NO evidence at this point of ‘super-spreader’ event or substantial impact to Chicago’s COVID-19 epidemiology,” Arwady tweeted, adding that the city would have already seen a surge in cases if there would be one. “I do not think we will see anything that will suggest it was any sort of super spreader event,” she said. (Powell, 8/13)


Fox News:
CDC: Kids’ Long COVID Often Involves Fatigue, Headache


Children experiencing lingering symptoms weeks to months after initial COVID-19 infection, or so-called long COVID, most often face fatigue and headache, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said during a White House briefing. Walensky said the health agency is examining the condition among kids, and noted the rates appear to be lower than that among adults, at about 2%-3%, and efforts will continue as the delta variant sweeps the U.S. and exacerbates the country’s case count. (Rivas, 8/12)


Fox News:
Pfizer COVID-19 Vaccine Just 42% Effective Against Infection Amid Delta Spread, Preprint Suggests


Early findings posted ahead of rigorous peer review suggested the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine declined to 42% effectiveness against infection amid sweeping spread of the delta variant, with the Moderna vaccine declining to 76%. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic and Cambridge-based biotech company nference posted the retrospective study in medrxiv this week, drawing from tens of thousands PCR tests conducted at the Mayo Clinic and affiliated hospitals across nearly half a dozen states. (Rivas, 8/12)


The New York Times:
F.D.A. Approves GHB, A ‘Date Rape’ Drug, For Narcolepsy Patients 


In the 1960s, the drug was given to women during childbirth to dampen their consciousness. In the 1990s, an illicit version made headlines as a “date rape” drug, linked to dozens of deaths and sexual assaults. And for the last two decades, a pharmaceutical-grade slurry of gamma-hydroxybutyrate, or GHB, has been tightly regulated as a treatment for narcolepsy, a disorder known for its sudden sleep attacks. Now, the Food and Drug Administration has approved the drug for a new use: treating “idiopathic hypersomnia,” a mysterious condition in which people sleep nine or more hours a day, yet never feel rested. (Hughes, 8/12)


CIDRAP:
Clinical Trial Shows Promise For Monoclonal Antibody Malaria Preventive


For the first time, researchers yesterday reported that a monoclonal antibody can prevent malaria in humans. A team based at the National Institute Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Vaccine Research Centers published their phase 1 clinical trial results yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The monoclonal antibody, called CIS43LS, was developed from a neutralizing antibody isolated from the blood of a volunteer who had received an investigational malaria vaccine. Researchers examined whether the monoclonal antibody could safely prompt high-level protection against experimental exposure to infected mosquitoes. (8/12)


AP:
Purdue Pharma Director Grilled On Proposed Opioid Settlement


Purdue Pharma’s quest to settle thousands of lawsuits over the toll of OxyContin and its other prescription opioid painkillers entered its final phase Thursday with the grudging support of many of those who have claims against the company. But the lingering opposition from some state attorneys general took center stage in the first day of a confirmation hearing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court about the company’s reorganization plan. (Mulvihill, 8/12)


The Hill:
Senators Want Answers About Amazon’s Biometric Data Collection


A bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Amazon Friday raising questions about its collection of biometric data. The lawmakers are particularly interested in the expansion of the company’s palm print scanners program, Amazon One. The scanners are used at Amazon stores to let customers pay without having to take out cards or cash if they enroll in the program. (Rodrigo, 8/13)


Houston Chronicle:
DEA Suspends Operations, Seizes Millions Of Pills From Sugar Land Company


The Drug Enforcement Administration on Wednesday shut down operations at a Sugar Land pharmaceutical company and seized millions of controlled pills after the company reportedly violated regulations, the agency said. Investigators with the DEA Houston Division served immediate suspension orders to Woodfield Distribution, LLC, and Woodfield Pharmaceuticals, LLC, for failing to control the diversion of controlled substances and creating “imminent danger to public health and safety,” according to authorities. … The company illegally imported more than 200 million opioid pills and failed to account for more than 5 million pills, the DEA said. (Bauman, 8/12)


Modern Healthcare:
ProMedica Can Exclude McLaren St. Luke’s From Its Provider Network, Court Rules


ProMedica won a court fight over excluding an Ohio hospital from its insurance subsidiary’s provider network Tuesday. The federal court ruling means its insurer Paramount does not have to accept McLaren St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee, Ohio, into its network. The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati vacated a preliminary injunction that forced Paramount to keep St. Luke’s in its health plans in December. Paramount removed McLarenSt. Luke’s from its network after the hospital merged with Grand Blanc, Michigan-based McLaren Health Care. McLaren St. Luke’s subsequently filed an antitrust case against Paramount and ProMedica. (Christ, 8/12)


Modern Healthcare:
UnitedHealth Affiliates To Pay $15.6M To Settle Mental Health Parity Lawsuits


United Healthcare Insurance Co. and United Behavioral Health will pay more than $15.6 million to settle allegations that the companies violated the federal mental health parity law by overly restricting mental health coverage and reimbursement, the U.S. Labor Department and New York Attorney General’s Office announced Thursday. The companies will pay $13.6 million to up to 135,000 patients who were wrongfully denied coverage or were overcharged for treatment since at least 2013. They also will pay nearly $2.1 million in penalties to settle private litigation and investigations by the Labor Department and New York Attorney General. (Kacik, 8/12)


NBC News:
Nearly 200 Million People In The U.S. Are Under Some Form Of Heat Advisory


Extreme heat continued to grip much of the U.S. on Thursday, with parts of the country facing the prospect of triple-digit temperatures and nearly 200 million people across 34 states under some kind of heat-related advisory. In the mid-Atlantic, the Northeast and New England, baking temperatures and exceptionally high humidity Thursday are forecast to make temperatures in the 90s feel upward of 100 degrees in major cities like Washington, New York, Philadelphia and Boston. (Wong and Prociv, 8/12)


AP:
Northwest Heat Wave: Volunteers Get Water To The Vulnerable


Volunteers scrambled to hand out water, portable fans, popsicles and information about cooling shelters Thursday to homeless people living in isolated encampments on the outskirts of Portland, Oregon, as the Pacific Northwest sweated through a heat wave gripping the normally temperate region. Authorities trying to provide relief to the vulnerable, including low-income older people and those living outdoors, are mindful of a record-shattering heat wave in late June that killed hundreds in Oregon, Washington and British Columbia when the thermometer went as high as 116 degrees Fahrenheit (47 C). (Flaccus, 8/13)


The Washington Post:
Dixie Fire Leaves Greenville, Calif., Evacuees In Limbo 


More than a week later, Greenville residents remain in a state of suspended animation. As the Dixie Fire has exploded into the largest single wildfire in California history — consuming more than 500,000 acres in a wildfire season that’s on track to shatter last year’s records — Greenville residents are forbidden to return home. (Iati, 8/12)


KQED:
Free Air Filters For Lower-Income People With Asthma: How Bay Area Homes Can Sign Up


The Bay Area Air Quality Management District, through a partnership with Regional Asthma Management and Prevention, or RAMP, will provide home air purifiers to 2,000 lower-income residents in six Bay Area counties who have been diagnosed with asthma. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, speaking Wednesday at the Roots Community Health Center in East Oakland, said the program will help lower-income communities and communities of color. “These air filters will not only address air quality, which is being challenged by the wildfire season, but also will lessen the spread of COVID-19, a double benefit for those who have been most impacted,” Schaaf said. (Fitzgerald Rodriguez, 8/12)


The New York Times:
What We Think We Know About Metabolism May Be Wrong


Everyone knows conventional wisdom about metabolism: People put pounds on year after year from their 20s onward because their metabolisms slow down, especially around middle age. Women have slower metabolisms than men. That’s why they have a harder time controlling their weight. Menopause only makes things worse, slowing women’s metabolisms even more. All wrong, according to a paper published Thursday in Science. Using data from nearly 6,500 people, ranging in age from 8 days to 95 years, researchers discovered that there are four distinct periods of life, as far as metabolism goes. They also found that there are no real differences between the metabolic rates of men and women after controlling for other factors. (Kolata, 8/12)


The Washington Post:
Plant-Based Diet Is Best Way To Avoid Heart Disease: Report 


There is constant squabbling over the virtues of various diets, but a new report published in Cardiovascular Research makes one thing clear: The best way to avoid heart disease is to eat whole and plant-based foods. This is important because people are eating themselves to death: According to the 2017 Global Burden of Disease study, poor food choices account for almost 50 percent of all cardiovascular disease fatalities. (Rosenbloom, 8/12)


The Washington Post:
ACLU Sues D.C. Officers Over Use Of Chemical Irritants And Stun Grenades During Racial Justice Protests


The ACLU of D.C. is suing the District and eight unnamed D.C. police officers for spraying chemical irritants and firing stun grenades at racial justice protesters and two photojournalists near Black Lives Matter Plaza last summer. The federal lawsuit filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Washington on behalf of Oyoma Asinor and Bryan Dozier, two independent photojournalists, seeks a trial by jury and compensation for their injuries. (Silverman, 8/12)


Houston Chronicle:
Texas Abortion Clinics Brace For Near Shutdown As New Law Is Enacted: ‘We Have To Comply’


The National Abortion Federation has told doctors in Texas it will stop referring patients and sending money to clinics that offer abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. In North Texas, the Texas Equal Action Fund will likely “pause” its ride share program that helps women reach abortion appointments. Dr. Bhavik Kumar, an abortion provider for Planned Parenthood, has cleared his schedule to fit in as many patients as he can before the end of the month. (Blackman, 8/12)


NBC News:
Washington State Has First Live ‘Murder Hornet’ Sighting Of 2021


For the second time this year, a “murder hornet” has been spotted in Washington state, officials said Thursday. But it’s the first confirmed report of a live Asian giant hornet in the state in 2021, the state department of agriculture said. The sighting in Whatcom County was reported Wednesday. Earlier this summer, a dead insect was found north of Seattle. (Helsel, 8/13)


Reuters:
Indonesian Ferry Turns Floating Isolation Centre For COVID-19 Patients 


A vehicle with a flashing siren and “Makassar COVID Hunter” written on the side pulls up to a ship docked at a jetty in the Indonesian port city of Makassar, and masked COVID-19 patients carrying bags board the boat. This ship, called the KM Umsini, used to ply a route ferrying up to 2,000 passengers between Indonesia’s island cities. Now, it has been turned into an isolation centre for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms, amid the spread of the highly infectious Delta coronavirus variant. (Muchtar, 8/12)


Reuters:
Peru Study Finds Sinopharm COVID Vaccine 50.4% Effective Against Infections


A two-dose COVID-19 vaccine from China’s Sinopharm was 50.4% effective in preventing infections in health workers in Peru when it was seeing a surge in cases fuelled by virus variants, and booster shots can be considered, a study found. The study involving Sinopharm’s BBIBP-CorV vaccine, which looked at data from February through June at a time when Peru was fighting a brutal second-wave of infections fuelled by the Lambda and Gamma variants of the coronavirus, was conducted on nearly 400,000 frontline health workers in live conditions. (Rochabrun and Liu, 8/13)


Bloomberg:
Israel Approves Third Vaccine Dose For Those Over 50


Israel approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech booster vaccine for those over the age of 50 from Friday, as the country grapples with its fourth wave of Covid-19. Israel’s Covid-19 national experts advisory team had recommended that the age of eligibility be lowered to 50 from 60, and it was accepted by the Ministry of Health, according to a government statement. Healthcare workers, prisoners, prison wardens and some high-risk patients under the age of 50 will also be offered the third shot. (Avis, 8/13)


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