First Edition: Aug. 18, 2021

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

Federal Vaccine Program Hasn’t Helped Those Whose Lives Were Altered By Covid Shot

Angela Marie Wulbrecht jumped at the first chance to get a covid-19 vaccine, driving three hours from her Santa Rosa, California, home to a mass-vaccination site on Jan. 19. Twelve minutes after her Moderna shot, she stumbled into the paramedic tent with soaring blood pressure and a racing heartbeat. And so began a calvary of severe fatigue, brain fog, imbalance and other symptoms that are still with her eight months later. Wulbrecht, 46, had been a nurse for 23 years before the shot. She was healthy, ate a vegan diet and was an accomplished salsa dancer. Since January she’s had to leave her job and missed out on many activities with her husband and 12-year-old daughter, Gabriella. She has spent about $35,000 on out-of-pocket medical bills, despite having insurance. (Allen, 8/18)

Science Shows Mask-Wearing Is Largely Safe For Children 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is one of a handful of Republican governors trying to block school districts from requiring masks in the classroom. Under DeSantis’ direction, the state health department adopted a rule that lets families opt out of locally ordered school mask mandates. The State Board of Education approved another rule that allows parents to secure vouchers for their children to attend a different school if they encounter pushback on their refusal to use masks. The DeSantis administration threatened to penalize school officials financially if they bucked the rules. (Jacobson, 8/18)

Rush To Boosters Sparks Confusion, Differing Recommendations

When the Food and Drug Administration announced last week that a third dose of Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech covid-19 vaccine may boost the immunity of some people who are immunocompromised, officials repeated their stance that fully vaccinated, healthy people do not need another dose. With this caveat: “The FDA is actively engaged in a science-based, rigorous process with our federal partners to consider whether an additional dose may be needed in the future,” said acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock. (Tribble, 8/18)

USA Today:
Delta Variant Accounts For More Than 98% Of US COVID Cases, CDC Says

The delta variant accounts for more than 98.8% of American cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. The report, which compiles data up to Aug. 14, was released as the United States hit 37 million cases since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins University data. August has been the third-worst month for coronavirus cases in 2021. Only January and February reported more cases throughout the entire month. (Aspegren, 8/18)

U.S. Reports More Than 1,000 COVID Deaths In Single Day

The United States reported more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, equating to around 42 fatalities an hour, according to a Reuters tally, as the Delta variant continues to ravage parts of the country with low vaccination rates. Coronavirus-related deaths have spiked in the United States over the past month and are averaging 769 per day, the highest since mid-April, according to the Reuters tally. (Maan and B, 8/18)

The Washington Post:
Rise Of Delta Variant And Waning Immunity Are Fueling Breakthrough Infections, Experts Say 

Officials in the Biden administration responsible for communicating with the public have repeatedly said this has become a “pandemic of the unvaccinated.” Such words may not ring true to people who got their coronavirus shots and still became sick. A growing number of studies suggest that coronavirus vaccines continue to provide strong protection against severe disease and hospitalization, but their ability to prevent mild illness is less robust today than the original clinical trial studies demonstrated a year ago. (Achenbach and Guarino, 8/17)

The New York Times:
Early Data Hints At A Rise In Breakthrough Infections

Since Americans first began rolling up their sleeves for coronavirus vaccines, health officials have said that those who are immunized are very unlikely to become infected, or to suffer serious illness or death. But preliminary data from seven states hint that the arrival of the Delta variant in July may have altered the calculus. Breakthrough infections in vaccinated people accounted for at least one in five newly diagnosed cases in six of these states and higher percentages of total hospitalizations and deaths than had been previously observed in all of them, according to figures gathered by The New York Times. (Mandavilli, 8/17)

Troubling CDC Vaccine Data Convinced Biden Team To Back Booster Shots

Top Biden administration health officials concluded that most Americans will soon need coronavirus booster shots after reviewing a raft of new data from the Centers for Disease Control that showed a worrying drop in vaccine efficacy over time, four administration officials told POLITICO. The evidence, compiled by federal scientists over the past several months, showed a decline in the initial round of protection against Covid-19 infection that’s coincided with a resurgence in cases driven by the more contagious Delta variant. The data looked at vaccine effectiveness in individuals across age groups, with varying medical conditions and who received the shot at different times. It was presented to White House Covid-19 task force officials at a meeting Sunday. (Cancryn, Banco and Owermohle, 8/17)

NBC News:
Why Eight Months? What’s Behind The Timing Of The Covid Booster Shot

Federal health officials are expected Wednesday to present evidence for why people are likely to need Covid-19 boosters eight months after their second doses of a vaccine, according to sources with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The eight-month time frame is most likely based on findings from both the U.S. and abroad looking at how the vaccines have held up over time — and whether they can stand up to the hypertransmissible delta variant of the coronavirus that has overtaken the country. (Edwards and Chuck, 8/17)

TSA Extends Into January Mask Rule For Airline Passengers

Federal officials are extending into January a requirement that people on airline flights and public transportation wear face masks, a rule intended to limit the spread of COVID-19. The Transportation Security Administration’s current order was scheduled to expire Sept. 13. An agency spokesman said Tuesday that the mandate will be extended until Jan. 18. (Koenig, 8/18)

Mask Mandate For U.S. Travelers Extended To Jan. 18 Over Variant

U.S. transportation and health agencies are extending the mask mandate for air passengers and other travelers until mid-January as the delta variant of Covid-19 continues to surge. The sometimes controversial requirement for people to cover their faces on public forms of transportation had been set to expire on Sept. 13. The Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday in an emailed statement it intends to extend that until Jan. 18. “The purpose of TSA’s mask directive is to minimize the spread of Covid-19 on public transportation,” the agency said. (Levin, 8/17)

Houston Chronicle:
Gov. Greg Abbott Tests Positive For COVID After Jam-Packed, Maskless GOP Event

Gov. Greg Abbott has tested positive for COVID-19 but is not experiencing any symptoms, his office announced in a statement to the media. “The governor will isolate in the Governor’s Mansion and continue to test daily,” said Mark Miner, communications director for the governor. “Gov. Abbott is receiving Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment. Gov. Abbott is fully vaccinated against COVID-19, in good health, and currently experiencing no symptoms. Everyone that the governor has been in close contact with today has been notified. Texas first lady Cecilia Abbott tested negative.” (Wallace and Goldenstein, 8/17)

The Hill:
Abbott Says He’s Feeling Well After Positive COVID-19 Test

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said he is feeling well in a video posted on Twitter after it was disclosed that he had tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated. “I test myself every day and today is the first day that I tested positive,” Abbott said. “I also want you to know that I have received the COVID-19 vaccine and that may be one reason why I’m really not feeling any symptoms right now. I have no fever, no aches and pains, no other types of symptoms.” (Choi, 8/17)

Houston Chronicle:
Gov. Abbott’s Mask Mandate Ban Is ‘Discriminatory’, Alleges Lawsuit By Texas Disability Protection Agency

The federally mandated protection and advocacy agency for people with disabilities in Texas on Tuesday evening sued to challenge the ban on mask mandates imposed by Governor Greg Abbott, according to a news release from the agency. The lawsuit, filed by Disability Rights Texas on behalf of 14 students against Abbott and Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, alleges that banning schools from requiring masks is “discriminatory” and violates the federal Americans with Disabilities Act because it presents a barrier to children with disabilities accessing in-person schooling safely. (Zong, 8/17)

Virus Outbreaks Temporarily Close 4 Texas School Districts

As the new school year begins for Texas students and mask mandates are debated in various state courts, at least four school districts have already closed campuses due to COVID-19 outbreaks. …The school district in Gorman, located about 70 miles east of Abilene, had been set to begin the new school year on Wednesday but is now delaying that by a week “due to positive COVID cases within the school community of both faculty and students,” Superintendent Mike Winter said in a statement. … In East Texas, the Bloomburg school district announced it was shut down this week “due to the number of staff members out with COVID.” Classes had started on Aug. 9. (Lozano, 8/17)

Florida State School Board Takes Steps Against Two Districts Over Mask Mandates

Florida’s State Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday at an emergency meeting to recommend investigations into two school districts whose mask mandates defy Gov. Ron DeSantis. The board authorized the state education commissioner “to take all legal steps” against Alachua and Broward counties for requiring people in their school districts to wear masks. (Santiago and Simon, 8/17)

The Washington Post:
Schools In Florida’s Broward And Alachua Counties May Be Punished Because Of Mask Mandates 

Florida education officials determined Tuesday that the Broward and Alachua county school districts violated state law by requiring students without medical exemptions to wear masks and voted unanimously to consider penalties. Penalties that could be imposed on the districts by the Florida Board of Education, appointed by the governor, would be the first since Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) threatened to withhold money from districts that require face coverings, saying parents should decide whether their children wear masks at school. Advancing the fight between DeSantis and school districts, the board decided that the school officials should be investigated and possibly punished, after Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran argued that the districts were not complying with the law. (Kornfield, 8/18)

Task Force Recommends Face Masks For Miami-Dade Students

Florida’s largest school district will likely require students to wear face masks when classrooms open next week, following the recommendation of a task force of medical experts and defying Gov. Ron DeSantis’ attempt to block mandatory mask rules. The Miami-Dade County School Board is expected to approve the measure Wednesday. “My mind is pretty made up on the way to move forward,” Superintendent Alberto Carvalho said. (Frisaro, 8/18)

Fight Over Florida School Masks Grows As Student Cases Surge

More Florida schools are considering defying Governor Ron DeSantis’s ban on mask mandates as virulent strains of Covid-19 forced officials to isolate thousands of students just days into the new school year. Districts who buck the governor’s order should be prepared to face punishment after the state’s education board voted Tuesday to force school districts to comply. The board ordered the state’s education commissioner to “take all legal steps” necessary to compel districts to drop their mask mandates, which could include withholding state funding and removing local officers from their posts. (Levin and Smith, 8/17)

The Washington Post:
More Than 8,000 Florida Students Isolate Or Quarantine For Covid-19 In Hillsborough County

A Florida school board is set to hold an emergency meeting this week to consider a mask mandate as more than 8,000 students and hundreds of employees in its district are in isolation or quarantine because of a surge in coronavirus cases and possible exposure. Hillsborough County Public Schools, which includes Tampa, has 8,400 students and 307 staff members either in isolation because of a positive test or in quarantine after coming into close contact with someone who tested positive, district spokesperson Tanya Arja told The Washington Post on Tuesday. The number of students who are either in isolation or quarantine jumped by nearly 3,000 from the total given by the school district on Monday. (Pietsch and Bella, 8/17)

ABC News:
Education Secretary Says He’s Spoken With Schools Defying Mask Mandate Bans 

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said he’s in touch with superintendents who are actively defying Florida and Texas governors’ orders not to mandate masks in schools and will have their back should they lose state funding. “I have had conversations with superintendents and they have asked if this goes in that direction, how do we get support? My message is, open the schools safely. We got your back,” Cardona told ABC News in an exclusive interview Tuesday after touring P.S. 5 Port Morris, a public school in the Bronx. (Haslett, 8/17)

DeSantis Top Donor Invests In COVID Drug Governor Promotes

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who has been criticized for opposing mask mandates and vaccine passports — is now touting a COVID-19 antibody treatment in which a top donor’s company has invested millions of dollars. DeSantis has been flying around the state promoting Regeneron, a monoclonal antibody treatment that was used on then-President Donald Trump after he tested positive for COVID-19. The governor first began talking about it as a treatment last year. Citadel, a Chicago-based hedge fund, has $15.9 million in shares of Regeneron Pharmaceutical, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Citadel CEO Ken Griffin has donated $10.75 million to a political committee that supports DeSantis — $5.75 million in 2018 and $5 million last April. (Farrington, 8/18)

Arizona Governor Blocks Cash From Schools Mandating Masks

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday upped the pressure on the growing number of public school districts defying a state ban on mask mandates as they try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Republican created a $163 million school grant program using federal virus relief funds he controls, but schools that have mask mandates or have to close because of COVID-19 outbreaks won’t be eligible for the additional $1,800 per student. (Christie, 8/18)

GOP Lawmakers Repudiate Statewide School Mask Mandate

Republican lawmakers repudiated a statewide school mask mandate Tuesday as the Democratic governor warned that the delta variant is sparking Kentucky’s worst COVID-19 outbreak, with more children getting infected and hospitals filling up with unvaccinated virus patients. A GOP-led legislative panel found the school mask regulation — approved recently by the state school board — to be deficient. Lengthy testimony before the party-line vote reflected deep divisions among Kentuckians over mask mandates to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus. (Schreiner, 8/17)

Fox News:
Charleston City Council Meeting On School Mask Mandates Gets Heated

A City Council meeting in South Carolina on Tuesday night that focused on a proposed emergency mask mandate at schools and a report by the city’s racial conciliation commission grew heated and resulted in the council failing to pass the mask ordinance and voting not to receive the commission’s report. The Charleston Post and Courier reported that the mask ordinance called for all children over the age of 2 to wear masks at all public facilities, “including public schools, private schools and daycares.” The report pointed out that the order would have expired in 60 days. (DeMarche, 8/17)

Ford Donates 1 Million More Masks For Kentucky Children

Ford Motor Co. has donated another 1 million masks to Kentucky to help ensure schoolchildren have access to face coverings, first lady Britainy Beshear announced. The automaker’s donation comes as the delta variant increases COVID-19 infections among youngsters. A mask mandate is in effect in Kentucky’s K-12 schools. (8/18)

New Mexico Governor Sets Mask Mandate, Requires Vaccination

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Tuesday she will be reinstating a mask mandate for all public indoor spaces in New Mexico as vaccination rates remain stagnant and infections increase. Her latest public order also will require that more people get vaccinated, such as workers at hospitals, nursing homes, juvenile justice facilities, residential treatment centers and other places that the state deems as high-risk. (Bryan, 8/17)

Court: U Of S Carolina Allowed To Mandate Masks On Campus

The South Carolina Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that a mask mandate instituted by the University of South Carolina last month does not violate a state budget proviso banning discriminatory face covering requirements. University officials withdrew the mask rule earlier this month after state Attorney General Alan Wilson opined that the mandate was “likely not consistent with the intent of the Legislature.” (Liu, 8/17)

The Wall Street Journal:
Parents Face Fresh Covid-19 Stress As Schools Start And The Delta Variant Spreads

Many parents who couldn’t wait to send their children back to the classroom are watching Covid-19 cases and wondering: Do we need a backup plan? The rapid rise of the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 is injecting uncertainty into annual back-to-school rituals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said earlier this month that young children are at risk of becoming severely ill and that rates of Covid-19-associated hospitalizations in children under age 5 had tripled in the first half of July. (Morris, 8/17)

The Washington Post:
Alabama Has ‘Negative’ ICU Beds Free As U.S. Hospitals Struggle With Surge Of Cases

There are more intensive care patients in Alabama than there are ICU beds in the state to treat them. The state’s hospital system has a “negative” number of ICU beds available as it enters “uncharted territory,” Alabama Hospital Association President Don Williamson told local television station WSFA. Hospitals in the South have for weeks been overrun by covid-19 patients as cases surged across the Sun Belt. But now, health-care workers across the country are also struggling to manage the waves of cases brought on by the delta variant. (Pietsch, 8/18)

Idaho Warns Of COVID Patient Surge, Hospitals ‘Overwhelmed’

Hospitals are reporting record numbers of COVID-19 patients on ventilators, public health officials have reactivated a “crisis standards of care” task force and epidemiologists are warning that based on the current rate of spread, Idaho could see as many as 30,000 new cases a week by mid-October. Idaho Department of Health and Welfare officials made the announcements during an online news conference Tuesday afternoon. Public health administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch said they were “extremely alarmed” by the surge. (Boone, 8/18)

Unvaccinated Deaths Overwhelm Health Workers In Covid Hot Zones

Bren Ingle watched through a set of twin glass doors as her patient drew his final, halting breaths, a terrifyingly long pause separating each one. She could hear every haunted exhalation he made, a sound halfway between a snore and a scream of pain. It was not her first such vigil. But the knowledge that the patient was unvaccinated made it, somehow, bleaker than the rest. (Facher, 8/18)

Mississippi Girl Dies A Day After Positive Coronavirus Test 

A 13-year-old Mississippi girl has died just one day after testing positive for coronavirus, according to Smith County School District Superintendent Nick Hillman. The girl wasn’t feeling well last Thursday and her mother kept her home, Hillman said. The teenager tested positive Friday and was taken to a hospital. According to Hillman, she died early Saturday while being airlifted to a Jackson-area hospital. “It was just sort of a shocker to everyone,” Hillman told CNN. “She was one of the best kids we ever had.” (Lemos and Almasy, 8/17)

The Boston Globe:
R.I. Toughens Vaccine Mandate For Health Care Workers

If health care workers at state-licensed facilities in Rhode Island aren’t fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Oct. 1, and they don’t have an approved exemption, they won’t be allowed in the building, according to regulations the Department of Health put out Tuesday. The formal regulations are more stringent than Governor Dan McKee’s administration had originally explained when they were unveiled a week ago. (Amaral, 8/17)

Los Angeles Times:
L.A. County To Require COVID Masks At Large Outdoor Events

In the latest move aimed at impeding the spread of the coronavirus, Los Angeles County will require face coverings for anyone attending large outdoor events — such as concerts, festivals and sports games — regardless of whether they’ve been vaccinated for COVID-19. The order, which goes into effect at 11:59 p.m. Thursday, applies to outdoor events that attract crowds of more than 10,000 people. In those cases, attendees must “wear face masks at all times, except when actively eating or drinking,” the order states. That’s further defined as “the limited time during which the mask can be removed briefly to eat or drink, after which it must be immediately put back on.” (Money and Lin II, 8/17)

Football With Few Fans Not Tied To County COVID Spread

A new study finds that 528 National Football League (NFL) and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) football games with limited in-person attendance during the 2020-21 season weren’t linked to increased community COVID-19 cases, and another shows that 74% of NCAA men’s basketball spectators correctly wore face coverings. (Van Beusekom, 8/17)

The Boston Globe:
Holyoke Soldiers’ Home Worker Files Federal Suit Alleging ‘Inhumane Conditions’ During COVID Outbreak

A certified nursing assistant at the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, where at least 77 veterans died of COVID-19 amid tragic missteps by management, has filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of dozens of fellow workers, alleging they faced “inhumane conditions” last year as the virus swept through the state-run facility. The civil suit, filed Friday in US District Court in Springfield, named five former officials at the elder care facility as defendants, including former superintendent Bennett Walsh and medical director Dr. David Clinton. Walsh and Clinton already face state charges of criminal neglect in what is believed to be the first US prosecution of nursing home caregivers over their handling of the pandemic. They have pleaded not guilty. (MacQuarrie, Andersen and Krueger, 8/17)

Indianapolis Star:
Cyber Attack Against Indiana COVID Tracing Survey Affects 750,000

A cyber attack company improperly obtained personal information that nearly 750,000 Indiana residents shared with the Indiana State Department of Health when they responded to the state’s online contact tracing survey, state health officials announced Tuesday. The personal information included names, addresses, email, gender, ethnicity and race, and birth dates but no medical or Social Security information, state health officials said. (Rudavsky, 8/17)

The Washington Post:
Chicago Pharmacist Charged With Selling Vaccine Cards On EBay

The Justice Department on Tuesday charged a Chicago pharmacist with selling vaccine cards online — something that law enforcement and health authorities worry will become more widespread as more institutions demand proof of vaccination. Tangtang Zhao, 34, was charged with stealing authentic cards and listing them on eBay for around $10 a card. He had 11 different buyers, the Justice Department alleged, and sold a total of 125 cards. Most of the buyers purchased between eight and 10 cards each, spending nearly $100 or more. (Zapotosky and Diamond, 8/17)

The New York Times:
Sacklers Threaten To Pull Out Of Opioid Settlement Without Broad Legal Immunity

A scion of the Sackler family, the billionaire owners of Purdue Pharma, vowed in court on Tuesday that the family would walk away from a $4.5 billion pledge to help communities nationwide that have been devastated by the opioid epidemic, unless a judge grants it immunity from all current and future civil claims associated with the company. Absent that broad release from liability, said David Sackler, 41, a former board member and grandson of one of the founders, the family would no longer support the deal that the parties have painstakingly negotiated over two years to settle thousands of opioids lawsuits brought by states, cities, tribes and other plaintiffs. (Hoffman, 8/17)

Heir: Sacklers Won’t Settle Unless Freed From Opioid Suits

Members of the family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma won’t contribute billions of dollars to a legal settlement unless they get off the hook for all current and future lawsuits over the company’s activities, one of them told a court Tuesday in a rare public appearance. David Sackler, grandson of one of the brothers who nearly 70 years ago bought the company that later became Purdue, testified at a hearing in federal bankruptcy court in White Plains, New York, that unless the settlement is approved with those protections included, as they currently are, “I believe we would litigate the claims to their final outcomes.” (Mulvihill, 8/17)

BlackBerry Resisted Announcing Major Flaw In Software Powering Cars, Hospital Equipment 

A flaw in software made by BlackBerry has left two hundred million cars, along with critical hospital and factory equipment, vulnerable to hackers — and the company opted to keep it secret for months. On Tuesday, BlackBerry announced that old but still widely used versions of one of its flagship products, an operating system called QNX, contain a vulnerability that could let hackers cripple devices that use it. But other companies affected by the same flaw, dubbed BadAlloc, went public with that news in May. (Swan and Geller, 8/17)

Sesen Bio Drug Trial Marked By Misconduct, Other Issues, Documents Show

The clinical trial of a cancer drug rejected by the Food and Drug Administration last week was marked by thousands of violations of study rules, damning investigator misconduct, and worrying signs of toxicity the company did not publicly disclose, according to hundreds of pages of internal documents obtained by STAT and confirmed by three people familiar with the matter. Sesen Bio, a small biotech company that developed the bladder cancer drug, spent all of this year telling investors that its treatment was on its way to approval. After the FDA rejected it, CEO Thomas Cannell, fielding analyst questions on a Monday morning conference call, deemed it “a very surprising turn of events.” (Garde, 8/18)

Modern Healthcare:
Dignity Health, Anthem Blue Cross Ink New California Contract

Dignity Health and Anthem Blue Cross of California signed a new contract that will keep more than two dozen Dignity facilities across the Golden State in the insurer’s network, the companies announced Monday. Negotiations had stalled between Dignity, which is part of Chicago-based CommonSpirit Health and is the largest hospital provider in California, and Anthem Blue Cross. The dispute affected more than 1 million Anthem commercial PPO, EPO, HMO and POS members, as well as some Medicaid and Medicare Advantage policyholders when the contract expired July 15. The new agreement is retroactive to July 15 and extends to April 30, 2025. (Kacik, 8/17)

Louisville Courier Journal:
Massive Construction Contract Awarded To Build New Louisville VA Hospital

A massive contract has been awarded to construct Louisville’s new Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. An $840 million contract to Walsh-Turner Joint Venture II has been approved to build the medical center, according to a release from the Robley Rex VA Medical Center, the veterans’ hospital that the new facility will replace. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Louisville District will work with the Department of Veterans Affairs on the project, slated to be built at 4906 Brownsboro Road. (Aulbach, 8/17)

Modern Healthcare:
Molina Wins Four-Year Nevada Medicaid Contract

Nevada awarded Molina Healthcare a Medicaid managed care contract, the company announced Tuesday. The four-year contract starts in January and Nevada can opt to renew it for another two years. The insurer will also offer health coverage through Nevada Health Link, the states insurance exchange. “We are honored that Nevada has awarded Molina the opportunity to serve the state’s most vulnerable citizens,” Molina Healthcare CEO Joe Zubretsky said in a news release. “Molina looks forward to advancing the state’s goals of improving care management, member access, and overall health equity for its Medicaid members.” (Brady, 8/17)

Verily Makes Its First Major Acquisition As It Looks To Transform Clinical Trials 

On the heels of a series of prominent recent hires, Verily announced plans on Tuesday to make its first major acquisition by buying SignalPath, a North Carolina company which developed a clinical trial management platform. Verily, an Alphabet spinout founded in 2015, plans to use the acquisition to increase its appeal to clinical trial sites and to speed its efforts on decentralized research, Amy Abernethy, whom Verily hired in June to serve as president of its clinical research business, told STAT. (Brodwin, 8/17)

The Washington Post:
Risk Of Children Swallowing Small Magnets Leads To Rare Mandatory Recall

Federal safety regulators announced Tuesday a recall for two brands of high-powered magnet sets — a surprise ending to a nearly decade-long court battle that pitted business interests against the pleas of doctors alarmed by the number of children injured after ingesting the tiny magnetic pieces. The Consumer Product Safety Commission said it was pulling from the market Zen Magnets and Neoballs, which are made up of numerous rare-earth magnetic balls usually sold as desk toys. (Frankel, 8/17)

Los Angeles Times:
Twitter Will Begin Letting Users Report Misinformation

Twitter Inc. is adding an option for users to report misinformation to the company, but says the expanded ability to flag tweets won’t necessarily lead to more fact-checking or labels on problematic posts. The test, available in only a few markets, will let users notify the company about alleged misinformation in the same way they can alert Twitter to spam or abuse. But the social media company, which doesn’t have a robust fact-checking operation, won’t review the legitimacy of each identified tweet or respond to users with updates as it does with other types of reports. (Wagner, 8/17)

Lawsuit Seeks To Block Arizona Ban On Down Syndrome Abortion

Abortion-rights advocates filed a lawsuit Tuesday seeking to overturn a new Arizona law that would ban abortions because of Down syndrome or other genetic abnormalities, the latest legal fight over reproductive rights under a judiciary that moved to the right during Donald Trump’s presidency. The lawsuit also challenges a “personhood” provision that confers all the rights of people on fertilized eggs, embryos and fetuses. The law is set to take effect Sept. 29 if it’s not blocked by a judge. (Cooper, 8/17)

Bay Area News Group:
Newsom Says Mandatory Statewide Water Restrictions For California May Be On The Way

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday that he may put mandatory water restrictions in place in as soon as six weeks from now as the state’s historic drought continues to worsen. The declaration came as the governor and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael Regan inspected recovery efforts at Big Basin Redwoods State Park in the Santa Cruz Mountains one year after a massive wildfire burned through the park’s ancient redwoods. Asked if he was going to require cities to meet mandatory water conservation targets, as former Gov. Jerry Brown did statewide during the last drought from 2012 to 2016, Newsom noted that he already called for 15% voluntary conservation, but that could change soon. (Rogers, 8/17)

Former Rep. Doug Ose Drops Out Of California Recall After Heart Attack

Former Rep. Doug Ose has ended his California gubernatorial campaign after suffering a heart attack just weeks ahead of the election. “While I’m told I should expect a full recovery, additional procedures and potentially surgery are required, and it has become clear that I must now focus my attention on rehabilitation and healing,” Ose said in a statement. “Sometimes you have to do things that you don’t want to do. It is what is: my campaign for governor is over.” (White, 8/17)

New Zealand’s Delta Cases Linked To Australia’s Worsening Crisis

New Zealand began a strict nationwide lockdown as it faces an outbreak of the delta variant, which on Wednesday was linked to the worsening Covid-19 crisis in neighboring Australia as cases in New South Wales rose to a record high of more than 600. A further six cases have been identified in New Zealand, all connected to the single delta infection discovered Tuesday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told reporters in Wellington. That was the first community case detected in the nation since February, with genome testing of the original case showing a clear link to the outbreak in Australia’s New South Wales state. (Withers and Scott, 8/17)

The New York Times:
Pope Francis Encourages Covid Vaccines In Media Campaign

Getting vaccinated against Covid-19 is “an act of love,” Pope Francis says in a public service ad that will start circulating online and on television on Wednesday. Working with the Ad Council, a nonprofit group, in its first campaign to extend beyond the United States, the pope encourages people around the world to get inoculated. The ad shows the pope, speaking in Spanish with English subtitles, with church officials from the United States, Mexico, Brazil and other countries describing vaccination as a moral responsibility. (Hsu, 8/17)

U.K. Authorizes Moderna Covid-19 Vaccine For Use In Adolescents

Britain’s drug regulator authorized Moderna Inc.’s Covid-19 shot for children as young as 12, though few are likely to receive it in the near term as the country remains an outlier in its policy on vaccinating kids. The U.K. Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency extended the existing conditional marketing authorization for the Spikevax shot to 12- to 17-year-olds, the regulator said in a statement Tuesday. It is up to the government’s advisory committee — the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation — to decide if and when the vaccine will be offered to this age group. (Ring, 8/17)

Injured In Haiti’s Quake Continue To Show Up At Hospitals

The problems in Haiti may be summed up by the public hospital in L’Asile, deep in a remote stretch of countryside in the nation’s southwest area. Here, a full four days after a powerful earthquake hit this region the hardest, people are still showing up from isolated villages with broken arms and legs. Hospital director Sonel Fevry said five such patients showed up Tuesday, the same day officials raised the disaster’s death toll by more than 500. Grinding poverty, poor roads and faith in natural medicine all conspire to make the problems worse. “We do what we can, remove the necrotized tissue and give them antibiotics and try to get them a splint,” Fevry said, adding that road access to the facility in the department of Nippes is difficult and not everyone can make it. (Stevenson and Sanon, 8/18)

Fox News:
WHO ‘Extremely Concerned’ About Afghanistan Crisis

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it is “extremely concerned” over the “evolving security and humanitarian situation” in Afghanistan and called for health workers to be “respected and supported.” “@WHOEMRO [World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean Office] is extremely concerned over the evolving security and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan,” the agency tweeted Monday. “Our sincere condolences go to the families of innocent civilians who have lost their lives.” The agency noted the “situation is deteriorating rapidly.” (Hein, 8/17)

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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