First Edition: May 6, 2022

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

Can A Monthly Injection Be The Key To Curbing Addiction? These Experts Say Yes 

Dr. Andrew Herring has a clear goal walking into every appointment with patients seeking medication to treat an opioid use disorder: persuade them to get an injection of extended-release buprenorphine. At his addiction clinic at Highland Hospital, a bustling public facility in the heart of Oakland, Herring promotes administering a shot of buprenorphine in the belly to provide a month of addiction treatment rather than prescribing oral versions that must be taken daily. For him, the shots’ longer-acting protection is a “game changer” and may be his only chance to help a vulnerable patient at risk of overdose. (Gold, 5/6)

Sweeping, Limited, Or No Powers At All? What’s At Stake In The Mask Mandate Appeal 

The definition of “sanitation.” An old court case that involves an underwear manufacturer. Whether people had a fair chance to express their opinions about wearing masks on planes. These disparate factors are in the spotlight as the Biden administration challenges a U.S. District Court ruling that overturned a federal mask mandate on public transportation. The outcome could determine the limits of federal public health officials’ power not only during the covid-19 crisis but also when the next pandemic hits. Sound complicated? It is. (Appleby, 5/6)

A Guide To Help You Keep Up With The Omicron Subvariants 

Two years into the coronavirus pandemic, Americans can be forgiven if they’ve lost track of the latest variants circulating nationally and around the world. We’ve heard of the alpha, beta, gamma, delta, and omicron variants, but a new Greek-letter variant hasn’t come onto the scene in almost half a year. Instead, a seemingly endless stream of “subvariants” of omicron, the most recent Greek-letter variant, has emerged in the past few months.
How different are these subvariants from one another? Can infection by one subvariant protect someone from infection by another subvariant? And how well are the existing coronavirus vaccines — which were developed before omicron’s emergence — doing against the subvariants? (Jacobson, 5/6)

KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: Leaked Abortion Opinion Rocks Washington’s World

People who pay attention to the Supreme Court have been expecting the justices to scale back the right to abortion when they issue their ruling on a Mississippi abortion law by the end of the current session. What no one expected was that a draft of that opinion — which called for a full overturn of the nearly 50-year-old Roe v. Wade decision — would be leaked to Politico. The reaction has been swift and loud from both sides of the divisive debate and could affect the coming midterm elections. (5/5)

FDA Dramatically Narrows Use Of Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine 

The Food and Drug Administration has restricted the use of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine to adults who are unable or unwilling to get the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna mRNA shots. The decision comes after the agency completed an updated risk analysis of developing thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS, a rare and possibly fatal combination of blood clots and low platelet counts one to two weeks after receiving the vaccine, the agency said Thursday. (Foley and Gardner, 5/5)

The New York Times:
The F.D.A. Further Limits The Use Of Johnson & Johnson’s Covid Vaccine.

The F.D.A. said that weighing the risks of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine against the benefits, it had decided to limit its use to adults who cannot access Pfizer’s or Moderna’s vaccines, or for whom those shots are not “clinically appropriate.” One example would be people who experienced an extreme allergic reaction to the other two vaccines, the agency said.It said the vaccine could also be given to adults who “would otherwise not receive a Covid-19 vaccine.” (LaFraniere, 5/6)

The New York Times:
Democrats Plan A Bid To Codify Roe, But Lack The Votes To Succeed 

Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, moved on Thursday to set up a vote next week on a bill to codify abortion rights into federal law, acting quickly in the wake of a leaked Supreme Court draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade, despite clear evidence that the measure lacks the support to be enacted. The plan is little more than an effort to send a political message before the midterm elections and a seismic ruling that could have major legal, cultural and electoral consequences, with deep significance for voters across the political spectrum. (Karni, 5/5)

The Washington Post:
Why Democrats Probably Won’t Get Rid Of The Filibuster For Abortion 

Democrats don’t have 50 votes among themselves to change the filibuster for abortion. Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III (W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (Ariz.) explicitly said this week that they opposed changing the filibuster for abortion. The two blocked Democrats’ effort a few months ago to eliminate the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation. “The filibuster is the only protection we have in democracy,” Manchin told reporters this week. “We’ve protected women’s rights with the filibuster.” Sinema called the filibuster and other Senate rules “more important now than ever.” (Phillips, 5/5)

The Washington Post:
Sen. Collins Voices Opposition To Democratic Legislation That Would Create Statutory Right To Abortion 

Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), one of two prominent Republican senators who support abortion rights, said Thursday that she does not support a Democratic measure that would create statutory right to the procedure, arguing that the legislation does not provide sufficient protection to antiabortion health providers. The statement from Collins comes as the Senate is preparing to vote next week on the legislation, known as the Women’s Health Protection Act, and as the Supreme Court appears poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling, which established a woman’s right to an abortion. (Sonmez and DeBonis, 5/5)

The Washington Post:
The Trailer: Four Ways The Leaked Draft Abortion Opinion Has Altered The Midterms 

Democrats are furious, which helps (some) Republicans right now. During the 2020 campaign, plenty of Democrats, President Biden included, adapted to the reality of a Trump-shaped Supreme Court by promising to “codify” Roe at the federal level. They never had a plan to pull that off — which was clear at the time, and is more obvious now that Senate Democrats have scheduled a vote next week on a bill that would create a legal right to abortion. That’s going to become a sideshow, with Democrats far short of the 60 votes needed to break a filibuster and two votes short of the 51 votes needed to eliminate the filibuster. (Weigel, 5/5)

John Roberts Calls Supreme Court Leak ‘Absolutely Appalling’ 

Chief Justice John Roberts said Thursday that the leak of a draft opinion that would strike down Roe v. Wade is “absolutely appalling” and stressed that he hopes “one bad apple” would not change “people’s perception” of the nation’s highest court and workforce. In his first public appearance since the leak on Monday, Roberts also said that if “the person” or “people” behind the leak think it will affect the work of the Supreme Court, they are “foolish.” (de Vogue and Cartaya, 5/5)

The Washington Post:
Chief Justice John Roberts Says Supreme Court Leak Won’t Alter Deliberations 

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told a crowd of judges and lawyers Thursday that the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade is “absolutely appalling,” but will not affect the final outcome of the court’s historic deliberations on the abortion issue. “A leak of this sort — let’s assume that’s what it is — is absolutely appalling, and if the people behind it, or person behind it, thinks that it’s going to have an effect on our decision process, that’s absolutely foolish,” Roberts told the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference meeting here. (Barnes, 5/5)

NBC News:
How The Supreme Court Could Proceed With The Roe Leak Probe

Administration officials said the Justice Department’s view, at this early stage, is that the leak did not constitute a federal crime. Accordingly, neither the FBI nor other federal law enforcement organizations are involved in any investigation, the officials said. Asked about the matter at a news conference Thursday, Attorney General Merrick Garland had nothing to add. “The chief justice has announced that the marshal of the court will be doing the investigation,” he said. (Williams, 5/5_

The Wall Street Journal:
Supreme Court Hunt For Who Leaked Draft Roe V. Wade Opinion Has No Road Map 

The Supreme Court marshal tasked with finding out who leaked a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 abortion-rights case, is a retired Army colonel with untested investigative powers to uncover the breach, which was extraordinary but might not be criminal. Gail Curley, whose public duties include calling the court to order with “Oyez, Oyez, Oyez,” will seek to determine the source who shared the draft, which was published Monday by Politico. (Gurman, 5/5)

Ted Cruz Speculates Clerk Of Sonia Sotomayor ‘Most Likely’ Leaked Roe Draft

Texas Senator Ted Cruz speculated that a liberal law clerk, “most likely” for Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, leaked the high court’s majority draft opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade. … On his podcast Verdict, Cruz and his co-host Michael Knowles discussed the SCOTUS leak and described it as “a big damn deal.” Cruz said he didn’t believe one of Alito’s colleagues was behind the leak, but thinks a clerk from one of three liberal judges is behind the uproar. “I think it is very very likely a law clerk. And it is very very likely a law clerk for one of the three liberal justices,” Cruz said. “If I were to guess, the most likely justice for whom the law clerk is clerking is Sonia Sotomayor because she’s the most partisan of the justices.”

Roe V. Wade Protesters Are Mailing Coat Hangers To The Supreme Court

Abortion-rights advocates are sending coat hangers to the Supreme Court after a leaked document indicated a majority of the justices plan to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which effectively legalized access to abortions across the U.S. After the draft document leaked earlier this week, many people took to social media platforms and forums, including TikTok and Reddit, in which they claimed to have sent coat hangers to the high court in Washington D.C. (Anglesey, 5/5)

ABC News:
High Fence Erected Outside Supreme Court As Abortion-Related Protests Continue 

An imposing, “unscalable” eight-foot-high fence has been erected at the U.S. Supreme Court in the wake of protests over a bombshell draft opinion on abortion. … The protests outside the court’s marble front steps have been largely peaceful, prompting some to question why the new security barrier — reminiscent of the unscalable fencing placed around the U.S. Capitol after the violence of Jan. 6, 2021 — is necessary. (Hutzler, 5/5)

Salt Lake Tribune:
Utahns March In SLC In Support Of Roe V. Wade

Hundreds of Utahns – mostly teenagers and young adults – attended a rally Thursday afternoon on the steps of the state Capitol in response to news that the U.S. Supreme Court may restrict abortion access. The speakers, some of whom were as young as 16, emphasized the importance of bodily autonomy and supporting Utahns in making their own decisions in their lives, while others shared their personal stories about abortion and sexual assault. “The power is with us,” not the courts, one speaker said to a cheering crowd. (Jacobs, 5/6)

Efforts To Enshrine Abortion Rights In New Hampshire Fail

New Hampshire Republicans on Thursday thwarted attempts by Democrats to respond to this week’s leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft by enshrining the right to an abortion in state law. New Hampshire has outlawed abortion after 24 weeks gestation since Jan. 1, thanks to a budget provision Republican Gov. Chris Sununu signed into law last year. Anticipating the Supreme Court action, Democrats have sought to enshrine abortion rights into state law and the state constitution, only to have the bills tabled in the House earlier this year. (Ramer, 5/6)

Abortion Law Fights Between States Are A Possible Outcome Of Removing Roe

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, abortion law soon could be in the hands of states. And if that happens, roughly two dozen states are expected to ban or severely curtail abortion. Some lawmakers also are trying to limit patients’ options even in states without such restrictions. Several weeks ago, for instance, a Missouri state lawmaker introduced a bill that would let private citizens sue someone who helps a person cross state lines to obtain abortion care. Such legislation raises a number of legal questions, NYU law professor Melissa Murray tells Morning Edition. (Treisman, 5/5)

ABC News:
Abortion In US With No Roe V. Wade Would Get Very Complicated, Attorney Kathryn Kolbert Says 

Attorney Kathryn Kolbert has spent a majority of her career thinking about the after-effects on reproductive rights if the Supreme Court was to overturn Roe v. Wade. She believes prohibiting abortions will force some women to turn to unsafe practices to terminate pregnancies that will put their lives in danger. “Women are crafty,” said Kolbert. “I’m not advocating that they break the law, but the reality is, as in the days before Roe, the underground market will operate.” (Yamada and Mielke, 5/5)

Marco Rubio Targets Citi, Amazon With Bill On Abortion-Travel Benefits

Senator Marco Rubio is sending a message to Amazon Inc., The Walt Disney Co., Citigroup Inc. and other U.S. companies that have vowed to pay travel costs for their employees to access abortion services or gender-affirming care for their children: Republicans want to make it more expensive. The Florida Republican, a potential contender for the GOP nomination in 2024, is proposing legislation that would prevent companies from writing off these costs for their employees and their families. The tax code generally allows companies to deduct their business costs, including employee health coverage and other benefits. (Davison and Ceron, 5/5)

Goldman, JPMorgan Weigh Covering Abortion Travel Amid Uproar

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. are discussing extending abortion benefits to cover travel after an internal debate was reignited this week by the leak of a draft Supreme Court ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade. The finance giants could follow the lead of Citigroup Inc. and pay travel expenses for employees seeking to end pregnancies away from states with restrictive abortion laws, according to people with knowledge of the discussions. Some senior leaders remain wary of the growing criticism by Republican lawmakers. (Natarajan and Abelson, 5/5)

Writers Guild Asks Hollywood Not To Film In States That Ban Abortions

The Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) has urged Hollywood not to shoot films and TV shows in states that ban abortions. The guild’s announcement came after a draft Supreme Court opinion leaked on Monday revealed that the court’s majority was prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade. “In light of the leaked Supreme Court draft opinion on abortion rights, we want to reaffirm our Guild’s commitment to fighting on our members’ behalf against inequality and discrimination,” the labor union said on Twitter Wednesday. WGAW represents writers in film, television, radio and internet programming. (Bartov, 5/5)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Judge Who Overturned California’s Prop. 8 Blasts Draft Roe V. Wade Opinion: ‘It Makes The Justices Look Like Politicians’

Retired Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker has harsh words to describe the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade: “It’s just not a very impressive piece of work.” Walker, who famously overturned California’s Proposition 8 in a 2010 ruling that struck down a voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage, said a leaked version of the draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito has many flaws, but the most obvious is its lack of a clear rationale to undo a 50-year established legal precedent of a woman’s right to obtain an abortion. (Gardiner, 5/5)

ABC News:
‘We’re Not Going Back’: Hillary Clinton Speaks Out On Abortion Rights 

Reproductive rights were top of mind for Hillary Clinton and others at the grand opening of the new Global Embassy for Women in Washington, D.C., on Thursday — just days after an unprecedented Supreme Court leak revealed a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade. “I know this is quite an ironic week for us to be opening the headquarters, but in a way, it’s probably appropriate because no advance is ever permanent,” said Clinton, former first lady and secretary of state, before hosting a panel on the state of women’s rights. “There are always forces at work to turn the clock back, particularly on women and we know there still is a double standard about what is or is not expected and appropriate for how women make the choices in our own lives.” (Stewart, 5/5)

NBC News:
Anti-Abortion Latinos Look Forward To Future Without Roe V. Wade

The leak of a draft Supreme Court opinion that would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark law that legalized abortion nationwide, has emboldened Latinos who are fighting to end abortions in the U.S. “It gives me a lot of hope. … This is the way that I was hoping it would go,” said Maria Oswalt, 27, of Rehumanize International, a nonprofit organization that opposes abortion. “It was shocking, in a good way, to see that the opinion was very unapologetically overturning Roe V. Wade.” (Acevedo and Sesin, 5/6)

USA Today:
How Many Abortions In US? Birth Control Responsible For Declining Rate

Abortion rates in the United States have been falling steadily for decades, long before restrictive statutes began to make the procedure difficult to obtain in some areas. Experts say access to better birth control is one of the main reasons. Abortions in the U.S. peaked in 1981, at a rate of 29.3 per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 44, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since then, the number has fallen by three-fifths. In 2019, the last year for which numbers are available, the rate was 11.4. The decline has been seen in almost all states, regardless of whether abortion access was restricted, according to research by the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights.  (Weise, 5/5)

Detroit Free Press:
Roe V. Wade Draft Leak Leads To Clinic Calls, Plan B Purchase Uptick

Several “what if” questions about birth control have emerged this week after a confirmed draft opinion that the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked to the public. There has been a surge of calls, clinics say. Most are from women who are seeking to learn more about their options, particularly about contraceptive medication, such as Plan B, and devices. “It is causing panic,” Renee Chelian, founder and CEO of Northland Family Planning in Southfield said Thursday, adding that other reproductive health clinics are getting calls, too. “We also have seen a lot of posts on Facebook.” (Witsil, 5/5)

Modern Healthcare:
Roe Reversal Wouldn’t Cause Health Insurers Like Blue Cross Parent HCSC Much Disruption

With the possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned, health insurance companies will likely be forced to navigate a new set of patchwork, state-by-state regulations related to abortion. About half the states are expected to tightly restrict or completely ban abortion if the Supreme Court reverses the long-standing precedent, likely ushering in more restrictions on whether insurance companies can cover abortions. Some states already have laws restricting coverage of abortion by private insurance plans. Other states, like Illinois, require insurers to cover most reproductive services, including abortion. (Davis, 5/5)

Governments Have Undercounted The COVID-19 Death Toll By Millions, WHO Says

The COVID-19 pandemic directly or indirectly caused 14.9 million deaths in 2020 and 2021, the World Health Organization said on Thursday, in its newest attempt to quantify the outbreak’s terrible toll. That’s around 2.7 times more than the 5.42 million COVID-19 deaths the WHO says were previously reported through official channels in the same 2-year period. (Chappell, 5/5)

WHO: Nearly 15M Died As Result Of Covid-19 In First Two Years Of Pandemic

Nearly 15 million people died as a result of Covid-19 in the first two years of the pandemic, the World Health Organization estimated in a report released Thursday. That figure is 2.7 times higher than the 5.4 million deaths that governments around the world reported to the global health agency for that period. The WHO analysis used mathematical modeling to calculate “excess mortality” for 2020 and 2021 — ascribing to the pandemic deaths that were over and above what had been seen in the years leading up to the emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. That means the estimate, 14.9 million, includes both deaths caused by Covid and those that resulted from the fact that the tsunami of Covid cases at times rendered health systems incapable of meeting other needs. (Branswell, 5/5)

The Boston Globe:
BU Professor: True Death Toll Of COVID-19 Pandemic Could Now Be As High As 1.22 Million In United States

A Boston University professor estimated Thursday that the death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States could now be as high as 1.22 million, substantially higher than the nearly 1 million that official counts are approaching. “We passed the million mark some time ago,” said Andrew C. Stokes, an assistant professor in the Department of Global Health at the Boston University School of Public Health.He said the additional deaths in his count reflected deaths from COVID-19 that were not recorded due to “pervasive underreporting,” as well as deaths caused by “indirect mechanisms” such as interruptions in health care, people delaying care, and economic hardship and food insecurity. (Finucane, 5/5)

White House Documents Detail A Looming Squeeze On Covid-19 Boosters

The White House could run out of Covid-19 vaccines if it moves forward with plans to encourage all adults to get a second Covid-19 vaccine booster dose by roughly Sept. 1, according to a tranche of budget documents sent to Congress that have not previously been made public. Although Food and Drug Administration officials have hinted that all American adults may be encouraged to get second boosters this fall, right now, second booster doses are only available to people over the age of 50. The budget documents make it clear that if the administration does want to push second boosters, it will need more money to make it happen: it needs at least 87 million more vaccines for adult boosters, and another 5 million more for first boosters for kids. (Cohrs, 5/6)

Two Doses Of J&J, Pfizer Vaccines Effective Against Omicron Variant

A study of more than 160,000 COVID-19 tests of South African healthcare workers concludes that two doses of the Johnson & Johnson (J&J) and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines are about 71% effective against hospitalization caused by Omicron 1 to 2 months after the second dose, with little waning at 5 months or longer. (5/5)

Studies Show Promise For 2 New COVID Vaccine Platforms

Two studies based on phase 3 clinical trials published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine show promising results for two novel COVID-19 vaccine platforms—a plant-based coronavirus-like particle vaccine, and a receptor-binding domain (RBD)–dimer-based vaccine. And neither vaccine requires extreme cold chain storage, which makes them appealing candidates for low- and middle-income countries, a key component of global COVID-19 vaccination efforts. (Soucheray, 5/5)

The New York Times:
Can Covid Lead To Impotence? 

For a respiratory disease, Covid-19 causes some peculiar symptoms. It can diminish the senses of smell and taste, leave patients with discolored “Covid toes,” or even cause a swollen, bumpy “Covid tongue.” Now scientists are examining a possible link to an altogether unexpected consequence of Covid: erectile dysfunction. A connection has been reported in hundreds of papers by scientists in Europe and North America, as well as in Egypt, Turkey, Iran and Thailand. (Rabin, 5/5)

Evidence Mounts For Need To Study Pfizer’s Paxlovid For Long COVID, Researchers Say 

Additional reports of patients with long COVID who were helped by Pfizer Inc’s oral antiviral treatment Paxlovid offer fresh impetus for conducting clinical trials to test the medicine for the debilitating condition, U.S. researchers said on Thursday. Three new case studies follow earlier reports of long COVID patients who experienced relief of their symptoms after taking the treatment, which is currently only authorized for high-risk people early after onset of COVID symptoms. (Steenhuysen, 5/5)

The Atlantic:
Paxlovid Mouth Is Real—And Gross

More than two years into this pandemic, we finally have an antiviral treatment that works pretty darn well. Paxlovid cuts a vulnerable adult’s chances of hospitalization or death from COVID by nearly 90 percent if taken in the first few days of an infection. For adults without risk-heightening factors, it reduces that likelihood by 70 percent. Also, it might make your mouth taste like absolute garbage the whole time you’re taking the pills. In Pfizer’s clinical trials, about 5.6 percent of patients reported an “altered sense of taste,” called dysgeusia in the medical literature. A Pfizer spokesperson assured me that “most events were mild” and “very few patients discontinued study as a result”; the outer packaging of the drug doesn’t mention it at all, and the patient fact sheet breezes past it. But Paxlovid-takers told me it’s absolutely dysgeusting. (Gutman, 5/5)

Bill Allowing Preteen Vaccines Without Parental OK Advances

A California measure that would allow children age 12 and up to be vaccinated without their parents’ consent, including against the coronavirus, cleared its first legislative hurdle Thursday. If the proposal becomes law, California would allow the youngest age group of any state to be vaccinated without parental permission. Minors age 12 to 17 in California currently cannot be vaccinated without permission from their parents or guardians, unless the vaccine is specifically to prevent a sexually transmitted disease. California state law already allows people 12 and older to consent to the Hepatitis B and Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines. (Thompson, 5/5)

Travel Industry Urges White House To End COVID Testing For U.S. Entry

Over 260 travel industry and business organizations are calling on the Biden administration to end its COVID testing requirement for vaccinated international passengers entering the U.S. The travel industry has taken multiple blows over the last two years due to the pandemic and emerging variants. Companies are looking to rebound despite another rise in cases. (Chen, 5/5)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Here’s How Many San Francisco Police Officers Have Been Fired For Refusing To Get COVID Vaccines

Ten San Francisco police officers have been fired to date for failing to receive COVID-19 vaccines, and 13 others may soon follow, according to records provided by the city’s Department of Human Resources. The potential 23 firings represents only about 1% of the department’s roughly 1,723 sworn members, but comes at a time when police officials say they’re facing staffing shortages. (Cassidy, 5/5)

Detroit Free Press:
Kalamazoo Superintendent Says Mask-Optional Prom Spread COVID

The superintendent of Kalamazoo public schools is blaming a high school prom held last month at the Fetzer Center on the Western Michigan University campus for spreading the coronavirus. “Unfortunately, it ended up being a superspreader event causing multiple seniors to get sick and miss school,” Kalamazoo Public Schools Superintendent Rita Raichoudhuri told The Free Press left messages with Loy Norrix High School, which held the prom, and Kalamazoo Public Schools officials. The district’s COVID-19 count showed 20 reported cases among students the week prior to prom. After prom, the district reported 104 new cases in less than two weeks. (Witsil, 5/5)

COVID Coverage For All Dries Up Even As Hospital Costs Rise

For the first time, the U.S. came close to providing health care for all during the coronavirus pandemic — but for just one condition, COVID-19.Now, things are reverting to the way they were as federal money for COVID care of the uninsured dries up, creating a potential barrier to timely access. … “We haven’t turned anybody away yet,” said Dr. Mark Loafman, chair of family and community medicine at Cook County Health in Chicago. “But I think it’s just a matter of time … People don’t get cancer treatment or blood pressure treatment every day in America because they can’t afford it.” (Hollingsworth and Alonso-Zaldivar, 5/6)

Prisons Didn’t Prescribe Many Covid Treatments, Even When They Had Them

Federal prisons used just a fraction of the antiviral drugs they were allocated to keep incarcerated people from getting seriously ill or dying of Covid-19, according to new internal records from the Bureau of Prisons. Prison officials have only prescribed 363 doses of antivirals since the first such drug proven to work, Gilead’s remdesivir, was authorized in May 2020. At least 55,000 of the roughly 137,000 people held in federal prisons have contracted Covid-19; roughly 300 have died. (Florko, 5/5)

Audit: Urgent Response Lacking In Outbreak At Veterans Home 

Sluggishness, poor compliance with existing rules and little help from state public health officials crippled the response by Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration to a November 2020 COVID-19 outbreak at a northern Illinois veterans home that claimed 36 lives, according to a state audit released Thursday. The review by Auditor General Frank Mautino contends the Illinois Department of Public Health “did not identify and respond to the seriousness of the outbreak.” For nearly two weeks after the problem was identified Nov. 1 at the LaSalle Veterans Home, IDPH officials failed to visit the site and offered no assistance. LaSalle staff testing for the virus was slow and poorly coordinated, the review said. (O’Connor, 5/5)

Fox News:
COVID-19 Subvariant XE: What To Know

It’s nicknamed Frankenstein, but experts say that shouldn’t scare you. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently issued a preliminary report on the new COVID-19 “Frankenstein” subvariant called XE, which is a mix of the omicron BA.1 variant and the “stealth” variant BA.2, with the agency declaring it’s still part of the omicron variant, but not a variant of interest or concern yet, according to a recent Euronews report. The XE strain was first detected in the United Kingdom on January 19, with now over 1,000 cases spreading by community transmission, with the majority in the east of England, London, and South East London, per the report. (Sudhakar, 5/5)

USA Today:
Pig Heart Transplant: Pig Virus May Have Had Role In Patient’s Death

The death of David Bennett Sr., who received a pig heart in place of his own, may have been hastened by another thing he got from the pig: a common virus. In Bennett’s weakened state, the virus called pig cytomegalovirus or CMV might have been one of several factors that contributed to his eventual demise, according to Dr. Muhammad Mohiuddin, who co-led the University of Maryland Medicine team, that performed the Jan. 7 transplant. Bennett died two months after receiving the pig heart, which itself was a last-ditch effort to save his life. (Weintraub, 5/5)

Modern Healthcare:
HBCUs Partner To Recruit Black Organ Donors

The nation’s four historically Black medical schools have formed a partnership aiming to diversify the pool of organ donors and to recruit more Black workers in the organ transplantation field. The Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science, Howard University College of Medicine, Meharry Medical College, Morehouse School of Medicine have teamed up with the Organ Donation Advocacy Group and the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, they announced Thursday. (Hartnett, 5/5)

Modern Healthcare:
Hospitals See Growing Financial Impact From 340B Discount Restrictions

The mounting number of drugmakers imposing restrictions on 340B discounts has led safety net hospitals to expect a larger financial impact, according to survey results published Thursday. Disproportionate share hospitals, rural referral centers and sole community hospitals expect to lose a median of $2.2 million a year in contract pharmacy savings due to 340B discount limits, according to a survey of 550 hospitals conducted for the hospital group 340B Health in March. For 10% of those hospitals, losses are expected to be at least $21 million. Critical access hospitals expect to lose a median of $448,000 a year, up from $220,000 in December. (Goldman, 5/5)

Study Uncovers Clues To Rise In Uterine Cancer Death Rates 

A rare but aggressive kind of uterine cancer appears to be driving an increase in U.S. deaths from the disease, particularly among Black women, researchers reported Thursday. Over eight years, deaths from the aggressive type rose by 2.7% per year, while deaths were stable for the less aggressive kind, their study found. Black women had more than twice the rate of deaths from uterine cancer overall, and of the more aggressive type, when compared to other racial and ethnic groups. (Johnson, 5/5)

Fox News:
Taking Ibuprofen With Certain High Blood Pressure Medications May Damage Kidneys, Study Says

Patients who are prescribed a diuretic and a renin-angiotensin system (RSA) inhibitor, such as an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor or angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB), to control their hypertension (high blood pressure), should avoid taking ibuprofen, according to new research published in the journal Mathematical Biosciences. Diuretics and RSA inhibitors are available by prescription under a variety of pharmaceutical brand names while painkillers such as ibuprofen are mostly available over-the-counter under different name brands such as Advil or Motrin. (McGorry, 5/5)

Press Association:
A Week Off Social Media Reduces Depression And Anxiety – Research

Taking a break from social media for as little as a week can reduce depression and anxiety, according to new research. People who took a break from platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for seven days reported an increased sense of wellbeing, a study by the University of Bath found. Researchers split a sample of 154 people aged 18 to 72 into two groups – one of which was banned from social media while the other was not. On average, participants used social media for eight hours a week. Participants were quizzed on their baseline levels of anxiety and depression, and their sense of wellbeing, using three recognised tests. (de la Mare, 5/6)

Walgreens, Florida Settle Opioid Costs Lawsuit For $683M

The Walgreens pharmacy chain has reached a $683 million settlement with the state of Florida in a lawsuit accusing the company of improperly dispensing millions of painkillers that contributed to the opioid crisis, state officials said Thursday. State Attorney General Ashley Moody said the deal was struck after four weeks of government evidence was presented at trial. Walgreens was the 12th and final defendant to settle with Florida, which will bring in more than $3 billion for the state to tackle opioid addiction and overdoses. (Anderson, 5/5)

MN Senate Passes Bill To Distribute $300M From Opioid Suit

The Minnesota Senate on Thursday voted unanimously to create a framework for distributing about $300 million that the state is receiving as part of a settlement with opioid distributors and manufacturers. Counties and cities across Minnesota will be receiving a portion of the settlement, including more than $42 million to Hennepin County, the state’s most populous county, $10 million to the city of Minneapolis and $8 million to St. Paul. (Ibrahim, 5/5)

Mysterious Case Of Hepatitis Diagnosed In North Dakota Child

North Dakota has become the latest in a growing number of states that is investigating a mysterious case of hepatitis in a child where all the usual causes have been ruled out. The child from Grand Forks County is recovering at home after a brief stay in the hospital, North Dakota Health Department officials said Thursday. (5/5)

The Washington Post:
Unusual Cases Of Hepatitis In Children: Your Questions, Answered

The Alabama children’s symptoms ranged from gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhea to upper respiratory symptoms, according to the CDC. Eight showed yellowing of the whites of their eyes. Seven had enlarged livers and one had encephalopathy, or evidence of impact on the brain, the CDC said. Three of the children suffered liver failure, and two needed liver transplants. All have either recovered or are recovering. (Seller, 5/5)

Alabama’s New Transgender Care Felony Faces Federal Test

A federal judge will hear arguments Thursday on a challenge to Alabama’s plan to outlaw the use of gender-affirming medications to treat transgender youth. U.S. District Judge Liles Burke has scheduled a hearing on a request to block the law’s enforcement while it’s challenged in court. The law, which would otherwise take effect on Sunday, makes it a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison for medical providers to give puberty blockers and hormones to people under age 19 to help affirm their gender identity. (Chandler, 5/5)

Connecticut Confirms Its First Tick-Borne Powassan Case Of 2022

Yesterday the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CDPH) confirmed the state’s first Powassan virus infection of the year, in a man in his 50s from Windham. The state logged three cases of the sometimes-deadly tick-borne disease last year. The man became ill on Mar 4 and was hospitalized for symptoms of central nervous system involvement after a tick bite, the CDPH said in a news release. Tests by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the presence of Powassan virus. The man is now recovering at home. (5/5)

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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