First Edition: March 30, 2021

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

Getting A Prescription To Die Remains Tricky Even As Aid-In-Dying Bills Gain Momentum

Linda Heim knew her dad didn’t plan to wait for the cancer to kill him. For decades, he’d lived in Montana, which they’d thought was one of the few places where terminally ill people could get a prescription to end their life. After two years of being sick, Heim’s dad got the diagnosis in 2019: stage 4 kidney cancer. His physician offered treatments that might extend his life by months. Instead, the 81-year-old asked the doctor for help dying. Heim said her parents left the appointment in their hometown of Billings with two takeaways: The legality of medically assisted death was questionable in Montana, and her father’s physician didn’t seem willing to risk his career to put that question to the test. (Houghton, 3/30)

Covid Vaccine Hesitancy Drops Among All Americans, New Survey Shows

A new poll of attitudes toward covid vaccinations shows Americans are growing more enthusiastic about being vaccinated, with the most positive change in the past month occurring among Black Americans. About 55% of Black adults said they had been vaccinated or plan to be soon, up 14 percentage points from February, according to a poll released Tuesday by KFF. The rate now approaches that of Hispanics, at 61%, and whites at 64%. (Asian Americans were not polled in sufficient numbers to compare their responses with other racial and ethnic groups.) (Huetteman, 3/30)

Ask KHN-PolitiFact: How Can Covid Vaccines Be Safe When They Were Developed So Fast?

The development of the first covid vaccines may have seemed to occur at a dizzying pace. After all, scientists identified a new virus and created vaccines to protect against its most severe effects within a year. But the research underpinning these vaccines isn’t that new at all, vaccine experts say. Some of it is decades old. This foundation, combined with technical expertise, urgency and financial resources, enabled scientists to pull off the medical marvel. (Heredia Rodriguez, 3/30)

The New York Times:
Moderna And Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccines Are Very Effective, Report Says

The coronavirus vaccines made by Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are proving highly effective at preventing symptomatic and asymptomatic infections under real-world conditions, federal health researchers reported on Monday. Consistent with clinical trial data, a two-dose regimen prevented 90 percent of infections by two weeks after the second shot. One dose prevented 80 percent of infections by two weeks after vaccination. (Kolata, 3/29)

Pfizer, Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines Highly Effective After First Shot In Real-World Use, U.S. Study Shows

COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer Inc with BioNTech SE and Moderna Inc reduced risk of infection by 80% two weeks or more after the first of two shots, according to data from a real-world U.S. study released on Monday. … The results validate earlier studies that had indicated the vaccines begin to work soon after a first dose, and confirm that they also prevent asymptomatic infections. Some countries dealing with limited vaccine supplies have pushed back schedules for second doses with the hope of getting some protection to more people. U.S. public health officials, however, continue to recommend two doses be given on the schedule authorized by regulators based on clinical trials. (Banerjee and Chander, 3/29)

The Wall Street Journal:
Pfizer, Moderna Covid-19 Vaccines Effective In Real World, CDC Says

In addition, the data indicated the vaccines can reduce the risk of coronavirus infections whether or not they cause symptoms, the CDC said. “This study shows that our national vaccination efforts are working,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said. “The authorized vaccines are the key tool that will help bring an end to this devastating pandemic.” (Hopkins, 3/29)

‘Real World’ Study Shows Pfizer And Moderna Vaccines Were 90% Effective

A new study suggests the messenger RNA vaccines produced by Moderna and the Pfizer-BioNTech partnership appeared to be 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 infection in a real-world setting. … The study followed nearly 4,000 health care workers, first responders, and other essential workers in eight U.S. locations as the first Covid vaccines were rolled out starting in December. Participants were tested weekly to look for all cases of Covid infection, even asymptomatic ones. (Branswell, 3/29)

Biden, CDC Director Warn Of Virus Rebound If Nation Lets Up

President Joe Biden and a top health official warned that too many Americans are declaring virus victory too quickly, appealing for mask requirements and other restrictions to be maintained or restored to stave off a “fourth surge” of COVID-19. The head of the CDC said she had a feeling of “impending doom” if people keep easing off. The double dose of warnings on Monday came even as Biden laid out hopeful new steps to expand coronavirus vaccinations, with all adults to become eligible over the next five weeks. Biden announced plans to expand the number of retail pharmacies that are administering vaccines, and investments to help Americans get to vaccination sites. But the optimism was tempered by stark warnings about the potential for another wave of cases. (Miller, 3/30)

The Washington Post:
Biden, Health Officials Sound Alarm As Signs Of Covid Surge Proliferate

Even as the nation’s immunization program continued to pick up speed and new research showed coronavirus vaccines are highly effective in real-world conditions, Biden said states should suspend reopening plans and governors who had rescinded mask mandates should reinstate them. “Please, this is not politics,” Biden said. “Reinstate the mandate if you let it down, and businesses should require masks as well. A failure to take this virus seriously — precisely what got us into this mess in the first place — risks more cases and more deaths.” (Bernstein, Eunjung Cha, Guarino and Stanley-Becker, 3/30)

Internal CDC Data Shows Virus Regaining Foothold As Biden Urges States To Pause Reopening

Signs that the country has begun to lose ground against the virus prompted emotional remarks from CDC director Rochelle Walensky at a White House briefing on Monday morning. Walensky said she felt “a sense of impending doom” and told Americans, “Right now, I’m scared.” The visibly shaken CDC director added: “I’m asking you to just hold on a little longer, to get vaccinated when you can.” (Owermohle and Banco, 3/29)

The New York Times:
Biden Pushes Mask Mandate As C.D.C. Director Warns Of ‘Impending Doom’

President Biden, facing a rise in coronavirus cases around the country, called on Monday for governors and mayors to reinstate mask mandates as the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of “impending doom” from a potential fourth surge of the pandemic. The president’s comments came only hours after the C.D.C. director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, appeared to fight back tears as she pleaded with Americans to “hold on a little while longer” and continue following public health advice, like wearing masks and social distancing, to curb the virus’s spread. (LaFraniere and Gay Stolberg, 3/29)

CBS News:
Biden Says 90% Of All U.S. Adults Will Be Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccine By April 19

Mr. Biden on Monday also touted the fact that 100 million vaccine doses had been administered well ahead of his original goal of 100 days. He has since doubled his goal to 200 million doses of the vaccine in his first 100 days. More than 145 million vaccine doses have been administered so far, according to the CDC. To help more Americans access the vaccine, Mr. Biden said he is directing his COVID team to locate vaccination sites within 5 miles of 90% of all Americans. The White House is expanding the number of pharmacies that can administer the vaccine, and by April 19, there will be 12 more federally run vaccination sites. (Linton and Quinn, 3/29)

Roll Call:
Biden Says 90 Percent Of Adults Will Be COVID-19 Vaccine Eligible By April 19 

By April 19, at least 90 percent of U.S. adults will be eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, President Joe Biden announced Monday. Biden had previously announced that he wanted to have all adult Americans eligible to receive vaccines no later than the beginning of May, but many states are moving ahead more quickly whether or not sufficient supply has yet materialized. (Lesniewski, 3/29)

The Drug Pricing Policies Dems May Use To Fund Biden’s Next Big Bill 

Democrats in Congress are already gearing up for their next big legislative push, and drug pricing reforms will be a tempting piggy bank to pay for their extensive wish list. It’s still too early to tell precisely how much money Democrats will need to offset the costs of the economic recovery plan President Biden is hoping to advance. But lobbyists are expecting lawmakers to ask drug makers to pony up significant taxpayer savings to help pay for policy on infrastructure and the social safety net. (Cohrs, 3/30)

Mitch McConnell Encourages Republican Men To Get Vaccinated 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday encouraged “all Republican men” to get the Covid-19 vaccine, as new polls indicate many in the group are skeptical of getting the shot. “I can say as a Republican man, as soon as it was my turn, I took the vaccine. I would encourage all Republican men to do that,” said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, on Monday, when asked what kind of messaging he can push as the GOP leader to help encourage people, specifically Republican men, that the vaccine is safe and they should get it. (Zaslav, 3/29)

Trump Lashes Out At Fauci And Birx After CNN Documentary

Former President Donald Trump on Monday attacked Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, his administration’s top coronavirus advisers, in a highly personal — and at times inaccurate — statement released after the two criticized the administration for its response to the pandemic. “Based on their interviews, I felt it was time to speak up about Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, two self-promoters trying to reinvent history to cover for their bad instincts and faulty recommendations, which I fortunately almost always overturned,” Trump said. “They had bad policy decisions that would have left our country open to China and others, closed to reopening our economy, and years away from an approved vaccine — putting millions of lives at risk.” (Din, 3/29)

Supreme Court Agrees To Hear First Abortion Case With 6-3 Conservative Majority

The Supreme Court on Monday announced it will hear its first abortion case with a newly fortified 6-3 conservative majority, taking up a procedural question of who has the power to defend state abortion restrictions in court. The justices agreed to hear the Kentucky attorney general’s bid to intervene in a lawsuit over a state abortion ban that the governor refused to defend. However, the court refused the Kentucky attorney general’s request to consider whether a lower court decision striking down the ban should be thrown out. (Miranda Ollstein, 3/29)

The New York Times:
World Leaders Call For An International Treaty To Combat Future Pandemics

Citing what they call “the biggest challenge to the global community since the 1940s,” the leaders of 25 countries, the European Union and the World Health Organization on Tuesday floated an international treaty to protect the world from pandemics. In a joint article published in numerous newspapers across the globe, the leaders warn that the current coronavirus pandemic will inevitably be followed by others at some point. They outline a treaty meant to provide universal and equitable access to vaccines, medicines and diagnostics, a suggestion first made in November by Charles Michel, the president of the European Council, the body that represents the leaders of the European Union countries. (Erlanger, 3/30)

Pandemic Treaty Could Be Advanced By May WHO Assembly: WHO’s Tedros

A proposed international treaty on pandemics could be advanced at the World Health Organization’s annual ministerial assembly in May, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Tuesday. The WHO chief said the treaty would help to tackle gaps exposed by COVID-19, strengthen implementation of international health regulations and also provide a framework cooperation in areas such as pandemic prevention and response. (3/30)

Covid-19: World Leaders Unite To Call For Pandemic Treaty, Saying: ‘No One Is Safe Until We Are All Safe’ 

Global leaders have called for a new treaty to help the world prepare for future pandemics, in a warning against rising vaccine nationalism. More than 20 national leaders, including France’s Emmanuel Macron, Britain’s Boris Johnson and Germany’s Angela Merkel, wrote a piece published in several media outlets on Tuesday warning that it is a question of “not if, but when” the next health crisis strikes. (Rahim, 3/30)

The Wall Street Journal:
WHO Report Into Covid-19 Origins Leaves Key Questions Unanswered

A World Health Organization-led team investigating the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic said in a report that data examined during a recent mission to China was insufficient to answer the critical questions of when, where and how the virus began spreading. The long-awaited report, which has yet to be made public but was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal on Monday, calls for closer examination of Chinese hospital records and blood samples from before the first known cases in December 2019, as well as more extensive testing of farms that supplied wild animals to a market linked to many early cases. (Hinshaw, McKay and Page, 3/29)

Where Did Pandemic Originate? WHO Report Out Tuesday Points To Wildlife Farms 

The highly anticipated World Health Organization report on the origins of the coronavirus that sparked a global pandemic is due out Tuesday. NPR has obtained an early copy. According to the report, data suggests that the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan was not the original source of the outbreak. In addition, the report noted that “introduction through a laboratory incident” — a leak from the lab in Wuhan — “was considered to be an extremely unlikely pathway.” (Doucleff and Lohmeyer, 3/29)

The Atlantic:
‘Which Vaccine Did You Get?’ Small Talk Is Back In America 

The vaccines are here, and with them, the promise of getting back to some sort of normal. Over the coming months, many Americans will be returning to offices or schools, traveling to see family and friends, eating cheeseburgers inside sports bars. But the vaccines’ arrival has also provided a more immediate relief: giving people something to talk about. After a year of awkward conversation, the United States has entered vaccine exuberance. People are sharing vaccine selfies, posting photos of their vaccine cards to Instagram, and even just broadcasting tips on where they got appointments or found short lines. “I got my first shot” is news worth hearing. Finally, you have an answer to the dreaded “How’s it going?”: perhaps, “My parents are fully vaccinated as of today. What a relief.” (Bogost, 3/29)

Canadian Company Pursues Compulsory License To Distribute Covid Vaccine

Twice in recent months, a small Canadian company has approached two large drug makers to obtain licenses to manufacture Covid-19 vaccines so the shot could be distributed in low and middle-income countries where supplies are scarce. But a request made to AstraZeneca (AZN) was ignored, while Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) denied the overture, according to executives at Biolyse. So now, the privately held company is asking the Canadian government to sidestep the vaccine patents in what could be a test of the willingness of a wealthy country to help ensure Covid-19 vaccine supplies reach impoverished corners of the globe. (Silverman, 3/29)

USA Today:
COVID-19 Vaccines, Hydroxychloroquine Generate Dozens Of Injury Claims

A federal program charged with compensating people for serious side effects from COVID-19 drugs and vaccines did not pay or reject any claims during the first year of the pandemic. The 106 injury claims for vaccines, hydroxychloroquine and other COVID-19 treatments remained under medical review as of March 15, according to figures from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Health Resources and Services Administration, the agency within HHS that runs the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program, provided data to USA TODAY showing injury claims for 20 types of COVID-19 treatments. (Alltucker, 3/28)

White House Sees No Federal Mandate For COVID-19 Vaccine Verification

The White House said it expected the private sector to take the lead on verification of COVID-19 vaccines, or so-called vaccine passports, and would not issue a federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential. The Biden administration was reviewing the issue and would make recommendations, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday, but she added, “We believe it will be driven by the private sector.” (3/29)

CBS News:
White House Leaves Vaccine “Passports” To Private Sector

“This is going to hit all parts of society, and so naturally, the government is involved,” Andy Slavitt, acting director for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said during a White House COVID-19 briefing Monday. “But unlike other parts of the world, the government here is not viewing its role as the place to create a passport, nor a place to hold the data of — of citizens. We view this as something that the private sector is doing and will do. What’s important to us, and we’re leading an interagency process right now to go through these details, are that some important criteria be met with these credentials.” (Watson, 3/29)

ABC News:
Increased Use Of Vaccine Passports Could Lead To Scams, Experts Warn

“The darknet is booming with activity related to the vaccines,” said Ekram Ahmed, spokesperson for Check Point, a cybersecurity firm. “Cyber criminals are looking to capitalize on the public’s interest to both get the vaccine or avoid the vaccine.” Since the beginning of the pandemic, scams surrounding coronavirus testing, fake protective equipment and fake COVID-19 vaccines have circulated on the internet. Now experts are concerned about a rise in fake vaccine certificates. “Vaccination certificate for Covid (for those who do not want to be vaccinated),” said one ad found on the dark web, according to Check Point. (Romero and Croll, 3/30)

Humanigen Drug Kept Covid Patients Off Ventilators. But Are Data Missing?

A small biotech firm, Humanigen, said Monday that its experimental drug reduced the risk of patients hospitalized with Covid-19 being put on ventilators. Shares in the company rose 86% on the news, and Humanigen said it would ask the Food and Drug Administration to grant an emergency use authorization based on the results. But whether or not the drug becomes a new tool to help patients with severe Covid-19 may depend on data and details that Humanigen has not shared, including data from 33 trial subjects who were in the 517-patient study, but were not included in the analysis of the drug’s efficacy. (Herper, 3/29)

COVID-19 Antibodies Appear To Ward Off B117 Better Than B1351

COVID-19 survivors and those vaccinated against coronavirus appear able to fight off infection with the B117 SARS-CoV-2 variant but may not have the same level of protection against the B1351 variant, according to two new studies. In the first study, published late last week in Nature Medicine, researchers at Institut Pasteur in Paris isolated infectious B117, the variant first identified in the United Kingdom, and B1351, first discovered in South Africa, from the nasal swabs of symptomatic COVID-19 patients. Like some other emerging variants, B117 and B1351 are more infectious than previously dominant varieties, leading to fears that they could evade natural and vaccine-induced immunity. (Van Beusekom, 3/29)

Pre-Symptomatic Cases Tied To Substantial Portion Of COVID-19 Spread

Close contacts of symptomatic COVID-19 index cases have a 3.8-fold greater likelihood of getting infected with COVID-19 than if they were exposed to an asymptomatic index case, but pre-symptomatic transmissions accounted for almost 40% of secondary cases, according to a study published late last week in Clinical Infectious Diseases. The researchers looked at four provinces and one municipality in China, collecting information on transmission events for lab-confirmed cases. From Jan 5 to Apr 7, 2020, 393 symptomatic index cases led to 128 out of 3,136 infections among close contacts (4.1%), while the 185 asymptomatic index cases led to 12 infections out of 1,078 close contacts (1.1%). A shared household and meal sharing were associated with 8.27 and 2.90 increased risks of transmission, respectively, regardless of whether the index case-patient had symptoms. (3/29)

The Atlantic:
How MRNA Technology Could Change The World 

Synthetic mRNA, the ingenious technology behind the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, might seem like a sudden breakthrough, or a new discovery. One year ago, almost nobody in the world knew what an mRNA vaccine was, for the good reason that no country in the world had ever approved one. Months later, the same technology powered the two fastest vaccine trials in the history of science. (Thompson, 3/29)

Uniqure Probe Clears Hemophilia B Gene Therapy As Cause Of Cancer Case

Uniqure, the Dutch gene therapy company, said Monday that its one-time treatment for hemophilia B was not responsible for a previously reported case of liver cancer that put the program on clinical hold. Findings from the investigation, conducted by an independent lab, were submitted to the Food and Drug Administration last week along with a request to restart the program, the company said. (Feuerstein, 3/29)

The Hill:
Study Finds Adolescents More Likely To Become Addicted To Marijuana, Prescription Drugs

Adolescents and teenagers who try marijuana or misuse prescription drugs are more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder than young adults who are at least 18 years old, according to a new analysis of federal data. The study, led by researchers at the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), underscores the vulnerability of adolescents to substance abuse disorders and the importance of screening for substance misuse among younger populations. (Weixel, 3/29)

Congressional Lawmakers Urge FTC To Investigate Insulin Makers Over Their Pricing 

In the latest flare up over the cost of insulin, several Congressional lawmakers want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate the three big manufacturers of the diabetes treatment for “exploiting” their market power and repeatedly raising prices. The lawmakers, who are all Democrats, cited instances in which the companies — Eli Lilly (LLY), Novo Nordisk (NVO), and Sanofi (SNY) — raised prices nearly simultaneously. As an example, two of the insulin makers increased prices by 16% within a day of each other. In fact, there were at least 13 such cases involving Sanofi and Novo Nordisk between 2009 and 2019, and Lilly often followed suit, they claimed. (Silverman, 3/29)

Racial Equity In Vaccination? Dialysis Centers Can Help With That

Frankie Shaw was diabetic by age 22, had a stroke at 35, and for the last five years has been on dialysis, a grueling treatment regime that requires either multiple visits to a clinic each week or hours a day, multiple days a week on a home machine. Over the past year, fear of COVID-19 dogged Shaw, who’s now 44 and a retail store manager. Friends died; her twin brother was recently hospitalized with it and still has difficulty breathing. That terrified Shaw, who also has hypertension. “Just imagine if I had COVID, or if I didn’t have anything to help boost my immune system to help fight it off? “Shaw’s situation is pretty typical of the 550,000 people in the U.S. on dialysis. (Noguchi, 3/30)

Modern Healthcare:
Black Patients Have Worse Safety Outcomes, Receive Care In Less Safe Hospitals

Black Americans are more likely to receive care in hospitals with worst patient safety outcomes than white Americans, and also experience more adverse events after a surgery, according to new research. The Urban Institute study released Monday found Black patients were significantly less likely to be admitted into hospitals classified as “high quality,” which was defined as hospitals that had better rates of safety than the median total on each quality measure. For instance, Black patients were 25.5% less likely than white patients to receive care in a hospital effective at preventing postoperative respiratory failure, and 41.7% less likely than white patients to be admitted to a hospital that was effective at preventing perioperative pulmonary embolisms. (Gillespie, 3/29)

Modern Healthcare:
Hospitals Look To Build New Relationships During Vaccine Rollout

Well before the rollout of the first approved COVID-19 vaccine, questions loomed over how those tasked with its administration planned to ensure access for member of communities hardest hit by the pandemic. Yet, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that as of March 25, only 8% of Blacks, 9% of Latinos, 5% of Asians, less than 2% of Native Americans and Alaskan Natives, and just .6% of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders have received at least one dose compared to 66% of white individuals. Hospitals have taken a leading role in trying to address this disparity. (Johnson, 3/29)

Modern Healthcare:
Stressing The Already Burdened Pediatric Behavioral Health System

Emily Hangen said it only took a few weeks after her family began isolating in their home in Winslow, Ariz., for her to notice changes in her four children. “There were behavioral issues, incidents of acting out, being angry, sleeping more or sleeping less depending on the child,” Hangen recalls. “We had one that just wanted to eat and one that didn’t want to eat at all—overall depression. ”While Hangen’s oldest child was receiving counseling services for issues with depression diagnosed prior to the pandemic, getting behavioral healthcare support for her other three children has been a major problem. (Johnson, 3/29)

Modern Healthcare:
Mental Health Access For Children Needs Attention

Jennifer Pannone needed help. The resident of Schenectady, N.Y., was pregnant, a global pandemic was unfolding and her fiancé had committed suicide weeks earlier, on New Year’s Day 2020. Despite getting support from a local health system, including more than 50 referrals to behavioral health specialists, she has not been able to find a specialist who was accepting new patients. (Johnson, 3/29)

Former Lilly Lobbyist Sues Firm For Alleged Discrimination And Harassment

A former top lobbyist at Eli Lilly (LLY) has filed a lawsuit accusing an executive and a senior manager at the drug maker of sexual harassment and discrimination, as well as retaliation against several women in its Washington, D.C., office. In her lawsuit, Sonya Elling alleged that Leigh Ann Pusey, a senior vice president for corporate affairs, repeatedly made sexist remarks, undermined her authority, and subjected her to a sexually hostile work environment. Eventually, it alleges, Pusey forced her to resign following a “veiled threat” to fire her in the form of a warning to improve her job performance, which was “riddled with misrepresentations.” (Silverman, 3/29)

Modern Healthcare:
Malpractice Premiums Peak In 2020, AMA Survey Shows

Medical liability insurance premiums have started to tick up after holding relatively steady over the past decade, a new report found. More than a quarter of physician practices’ malpractice premiums increased in 2019 and 2020, up from around 13% to 15% from 2011 to 2018, according to the American Medical Association’s annual rate surveys that monitor general surgery, obstetrics and internal medicine. More than 5% of physician practices saw their premiums jump more than 10% in 2020; 25.9% experienced up to a 9.9% increase, which was the highest share over the past decade. The 2020 premiums were set prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers noted. (Kacik, 3/29)

Modern Healthcare:
States Can Restart Normal Hospital Survey Activities Effective March 23

State survey agencies can restart normal hospital survey activities effective March 23, CMS said Friday. The agency had limited 30-day hospital surveys to complaint surveys involving immediate jeopardy, noncompliance with Medicare hospital conditions of participation and the need for immediate action to protect the health and safety of patients. CMS had paused hospital recertification surveys for most hospitals and enforcement actions for deficiencies near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a memo, all non-immediate jeopardy complaints received since Jan. 20 must be investigated within 45 days. Hospitals must also file their plans of correction for deficiencies noted in surveys since Jan. 20. (Brady, 3/29)

The New York Times:
Schools In Long Beach, Calif., Start Reopening This Week

Elementary students returned to classrooms in Long Beach, Calif., on Monday and campuses from Los Angeles to Boston prepared for significant expansions of in-person instruction as a majority of the nation’s districts have now begun to reopen school buildings, many of which have been closed for more than a year. On Monday, Burbio, which monitors some 1,200 districts including the largest 200 in the country, reported that 53.1 percent of students were in schools offering daily, in-person classes, and that for the first time, the proportion of students attending school virtually or in hybrid classes had dropped. (Hubler, 3/29)

The New York Times:
In San Francisco, Turmoil Over Reopening Schools Turns A City Against Itself

The pandemic has brought grinding frustrations for parents, educators and students across the country. But perhaps no place has matched San Francisco in its level of infighting, public outrage and halting efforts to reopen schools. In February, the city sued its own school system, which has been entirely remote for a year, and board of education, charging they were violating state law by not resuming in-person instruction. (Fuller and Taylor, 3/29)

Tennessee Gov Revives K-12 Mental Health Trust Fund Push

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is reviving a proposal to put $250 million into a trust fund that would help expand mental health services for school-aged children. The Republican announced the plan Monday at a news conference alongside fellow GOP leaders in the Legislature. Lee proposed the idea in early 2020, but removed it and other items from his budget plan when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. (3/30)

The Wall Street Journal:
HHS Flags Covid-19 Aid Paid To California Clinic

Federal officials have flagged to investigators payments to a California outpatient clinic that received more government funds for treating uninsured Covid-19 patients than all but one medical provider in the U.S., a person familiar with the matter said. Elite Care Medical Group Inc. has received about $81 million under a relief program meant to ease financial strains on hospitals and doctors caring for Covid-19 patients who can’t pay their own bills, according to government data updated March 25. The Department of Health and Human Services reimburses providers for their care, including emergency room visits and the use of ventilators, at rates set for Medicare patients. (Evans, 3/29)

NBC News:
Arkansas Passes Bill To Ban Gender-Affirming Care For Trans Youth

The Arkansas Senate passed a bill Monday that would ban access to gender-affirming care for transgender minors, including reversible puberty blockers and hormones. The bill now heads to Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican. Unless he vetoes it, Arkansas will become the first state to ban gender-affirming care for trans youth. (Yurcaba, 3/29)

Roll Call:
DC Didn’t Qualify For A FEMA Mass Vaccine Site Because It’s Not Part Of A Larger State 

The District of Columbia has “a high social vulnerability” when it comes to COVID-19, but the city did not qualify for a mass vaccination site because it isn’t part of a larger state, acting director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency Bob Fitton told reporters on Friday. FEMA currently has 21 mass vaccination sites scattered across the country to help quickly get shots in arms. These sites, which were set up after the Biden administration took office, can inoculate thousands of people per day. Many of the sites are near cities with high minority populations and many people who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. (Cohen, 3/29)

The New York Times:
New York Must Offer Vaccine To All Prisoners Immediately, Judge Rules

New York must immediately begin to offer Covid vaccines to all incarcerated people in the state’s prisons and jails, a judge ruled on Monday, making the state one of few in the nation to provide doses to such a broad population behind bars. The order, the first involving any of the country’s largest correctional systems, comes as the coronavirus continues to roar through facilities in New York. At least 1,100 people living behind prison walls have tested positive for the virus since the start of last month, and five have died. (Closson, 3/29)

Arizona Senate Revokes Mask Mandate After Governor’s Action

The Republican-controlled Arizona Senate voted Monday to rescind its mandatory mask policy and the House speaker made the same move on his own authority. The Senate vote on the rules designed to limit the spread of the coronavirus got no support from minority Democrats. All 16 Republicans voted for the rule change. Face masks are now optional, and members continue to have the option of voting from their offices. (Christie, 3/29)

Native American Health Clinics Offering Vaccine To Visitors

The Indian Health Service announced Monday that it is shifting its vaccine distribution system to target individual hospitals and clinics with high demand for shots and taper supplies to hubs where most eligible patients have received doses. The U.S. agency is part of a two-pronged national effort to immunize Indigenous communities that also relies on state health agencies. Native Americans have been disproportionately sickened and killed by the pandemic, and are also now at the forefront of federal efforts to deploy vaccine shots in the United States. (Lee, 3/30)

The Wall Street Journal:
Canada Urges Halt In Use Of AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine In People Under 55

Canadian authorities recommended Monday a halt on administering the AstraZeneca PLC Covid-19 vaccine on people under the age of 55 in light of evidence from Europe on potentially serious side effects targeting younger women. The change in guidance marked a sharp shift from Canadian health officials, who up until now have said the AstraZeneca vaccine was safe for people of all ages—a point they emphasized earlier this month when governments in Europe paused the vaccine’s use amid worries over blood clotting. This also marks the latest setback for the British-Swedish drugmaker, which has faced pushback from governments, regulators and the public about the rollout of its vaccine. (Vieira and Mackrael, 3/29)

UK Wants To Vaccinate All Adults Before Sharing Vaccine With Other Countries

Britain will focus on vaccinating the whole of its adult population before it can to provide any surplus shots to other countries such as its close neighbour Ireland, British business minister Kwasi Kwarteng said on Tuesday. More than 30 million Britons have received their first COVID-19 shots in the fastest vaccine rollout in Europe, with the aim of offering shots to all adults by the end of July. However, Britain has found itself involved in a public spat with the European Union, where the vaccination programme has been much slower, over the supply of doses. (3/30)

The New York Times:
Cautiously, Britain Begins Relaxing Strict Lockdown Rules

Across Germany and France, shops are closing, travel is being restricted, and the authorities are ordering people back into their homes. But in Britain, the government moved on Monday to relax its strict national lockdown, allowing people to gather outdoors in groups of up to six people. The latest cautious steps, announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, widened the gulf between how Britain and much of Europe have handled the latest phase of the pandemic. From the rate of vaccinations to new cases of the virus and hospital admissions, the two seem to be moving in opposite directions. (Landler and Castle, 3/29)

Turkey Reinstates Restrictions After Sharp Virus Cases Rise

Turkey is reinstating weekend lockdowns in most of Turkey’s provinces and will also impose restrictions over the Muslim holy month of Ramadan following a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases. Virus infections in Turkey have soared less than a month after the country divided its 81 provinces into four color-coded categories and relaxed restrictions in some provinces under a “controlled normalization” effort. The number of confirmed daily infections have since almost tripled to around 30,000, matching the record numbers that were reported in December. The country is also reporting around 150 deaths per day, up from around 65 at the start of the month. (Fraser, 3/30)

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