Thursday, July 8, 2021 – Kaiser Health News

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Political Cartoon: 'Caution'

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PREVENT DEATHS FROM DIABETES

Lower blood sugar,


Eat "finger stickin' good" food.


Take charge! Exercise.

- Micki Jackson

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Summaries Of The News:


Covid Claims 4 Million People. And The Death Toll Is Mounting

The World Health Organization warns nations against reopening too soon, as the global death tally surpasses a heartbreaking 4 million humans. In the U.S., it's estimated that an additional 250,000 lives would've been lost by now if it weren't for vaccinations.


AP:
Global COVID-19 Deaths Hit 4 Million Amid Rush To Vaccinate




The global death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed 4 million Wednesday as the crisis increasingly becomes a race between the vaccine and the highly contagious delta variant. The tally of lives lost over the past year and a half, as compiled from official sources by Johns Hopkins University, is about equal to the number of people killed in battle in all of the world’s wars since 1982, according to estimates from the Peace Research Institute Oslo. (Goodman, 7/8)


Bloomberg:
Covid Deaths Reach 4 Million As Vaccine Disparity Exposes Poor




The global death toll from Covid-19 has reached 4 million, as a growing disparity in vaccine access leaves poorer nations exposed to outbreaks of more infectious strains. Even as rapid vaccine rollouts allow life to start to return to normal in countries like the U.K. and U.S., it’s taken just 82 days for the latest million deaths, compared to 92 days for the previous million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The real toll could be far higher than reported because of inconsistent calculations around the world. (Tam, 7/8)


The Washington Post:
WHO Sounds The Alarm As Global Coronavirus Deaths Top 4 Million




The World Health Organization on Wednesday warned nations against reopening prematurely as global deaths from the coronavirus topped 4 million and the more virulent delta variant was spotted in more than 100 countries, including those with high vaccination rates. “The world is at a perilous point in this pandemic. We have just passed the tragic milestone of 4 million recorded covid-19 deaths, which likely underestimates the overall toll,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing. (Cunningham, 7/8)


AP:
As Global COVID-19 Deaths Top 4 Million, A Suicide In Peru




On the last day of Javier Vilca’s life, his wife stood outside a hospital window with a teddy bear, red balloons and a box of chocolates to celebrate his birthday, and held up a giant, hand-scrawled sign that read: “Don’t give up. You’re the best man in the world.” Minutes later, Vilca, a 43-year-old struggling radio journalist who had battled depression, jumped four stories to his death — the fifth suicide by a COVID-19 patient at Peru’s overwhelmed Honorio Delgado hospital since the pandemic began. Vilca became yet another symbol of the despair caused by the coronavirus and the stark and seemingly growing inequities exposed by COVID-19 on its way to a worldwide death toll of 4 million, a milestone recorded Wednesday by Johns Hopkins University. (Briceno, Cheng and Goodman, 7/8)

In related news about the covid death toll in the United States —


USA Today:
Vaccination Rollout Prevented More Than 250K COVID Deaths In The US




The U.S. has the world's highest reported death toll, at over 600,000, or nearly 1 in 7 deaths, followed by Brazil at more than 520,000. But vaccines, 3 trillion doses of which have been administered, have led to the plummeting of cases and deaths throughout the world. And the numbers are startling: the United States' vaccination program has prevented approximately 279,000 additional deaths and up to 1.25 million additional hospitalizations, according to a new study released by Yale University and the Commonwealth Fund. Nearly 50% of all Americans have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. (Aspegren, 7/8)


CIDRAP:
COVID-19 Surges At US Hospitals May Have Led To 6,000 Deaths 




COVID-19 case surges at the most overwhelmed US hospitals in spring and summer 2020 may have contributed to nearly one in four adult inpatient deaths, according to a study yesterday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Led by researchers from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, the study involved patient- and hospital-level analyses of the Premier Healthcare Database, creation of a weighted COVID-19 caseload-to-bed capacity surge index, and hierarchical modeling. The authors calculated risk-adjusted odds ratios (aORs) for death from Mar 1 to Aug 31, 2020, or release to hospice at 558 hospitals through Oct 31. (Van Beusekom, 7/7)


Millions At Risk In Unvaccinated Clusters Spanning 8 States: Report

A new report identifies undervaccinated pockets in the Midwest and Southwest that leave local residents unprotected from the delta variant and threaten progress nationwide. Meanwhile, a federal surge team arrives in Missouri, which currently ranks 40th among 50 states in vaccination rates. Elsewhere, new cases are also on the rise in Arkansas, Utah, Iowa, Texas and Colorado.


CNN:
Five Undervaccinated Clusters Put The Entire United States At Risk




A new data analysis identifies clusters of unvaccinated people, most of them in the southern United States, that are vulnerable to surges in Covid-19 cases and could become breeding grounds for even more deadly Covid-19 variants. The analysis by researchers at Georgetown University identified 30 clusters of counties with low vaccination rates and significant population sizes. The five most significant of those clusters are sprawled across large swaths of the southeastern United States and a smaller portion in the Midwest. (Cohen and Bonfield, 7/8)


Kansas City Star:
Aid From Federal ‘Surge Response Team’ Arrives In Missouri




A CDC epidemiologist has arrived in southwest Missouri as part of a White House-supported “surge response team” to combat the recent outbreak of the aggressive delta COVID-19 variant. The epidemiologist is working out of Springfield, according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services spokeswoman Lisa Cox. Another federal worker could arrive next week to “support communications,” Cox said. The White House confirmed Wednesday evening that a two-person team has deployed to Missouri at the state and Greene County’s request. The team is committed to the state through August 6. (Kuang and Lowry, 7/7)


AP:
As New York Salutes Health Workers, Missouri Fights A Surge




New York held a ticker-tape parade Wednesday for the health care workers and others who helped the city pull through the darkest days of COVID-19, while authorities in Missouri struggled to beat back a surge blamed on the fast-spreading delta variant and deep resistance to getting vaccinated. The split-screen images could be a glimpse of what public health experts say may lie ahead for the U.S. even as life gets back to something close to normal: outbreaks in corners of the country with low vaccination rates. (Hollinsworth and Hajela, 7/7)


Arkansas Democrat-Gazette:
State Adds 1,000 New Covid Cases For First Time In Almost 5 Months




Arkansas' count of coronavirus cases rose Wednesday by exactly 1,000, the largest single-day increase since February. The number of people hospitalized in the state with covid-19 rose by double-digits for the second consecutive day. After rising by 55 on Tuesday, the number of coronavirus patients in Arkansas hospitals rose Wednesday by 16 to 432, its highest level since March 1. (Davis, 7/7)


Salt Lake Tribune:
In The Midst Of Another COVID-19 Surge, Doctors Plead With Utahns To Get Vaccinated




The number of Utahns hospitalized with COVID-19 has surged in the last two weeks, and leaders from four of the state’s leading hospital systems joined forces Wednesday to urge people to get vaccinated. ”We have a definitive tool to end the pandemic,” said Dr. Kencee Graves, associate chief medical officer for inpatient care at University of Utah Health. “We have a definitive tool to take care of each other, to keep each other save, and that is the vaccine.” The Utah Department of Health reported Wednesday that 260 Utahns were hospitalized with COVID-19. On June 21, 16 days earlier, that number was 150. (Means and Pierce, 7/7)


Des Moines Register:
Iowa COVID-19 Hospitalizations Creep Upward, 14 More Iowans Dead During Week Ending July 7




The number of Iowans hospitalized with COVID-19 is ticking up, though the raw numbers are close to what they were at the start of pandemic last year. The Iowa Department of Public Health reported that 85 people were hospitalized in Iowa with the disease on Wednesday, July 7, after briefly briefly falling 50 two weeks prior. The 46 people hospitalized with COVID-19 on June 24 was the lowest reported since March 27, 2020. The number of new reported cases has remained relatively steady, at just over 500, compared to the prior 7-day period starting at the end June. (Coltrain, 7/7)


Houston Chronicle:
Houston Methodist Sees COVID Delta Variant Infections Double In The Last Week




More than 40 percent of new COVID-19 hospitalizations at Houston Methodist are the Delta variant, researchers said Wednesday, a number expected to rise as travel returns but vaccination rates stagnate nationwide. “The number of Delta variant COVID-19 cases at Houston Methodist has nearly doubled over the last week and is sixfold higher than in May,” said Houston Methodist spokesperson Lisa Merkl. Delta variant cases made up just 20 percent of hospitalizations at the hospital system the week prior. (Wu, 7/7)


KHN:
Delta Variant Surges In Colorado As The Bands Play On




Dr. Rachel LaCount grasped a metal hoop at a playground and spun in circles with her 7-year-old son, turning the distant mesas of the Colorado National Monument into a red-tinged blur. LaCount has lived in this western Colorado city of 64,000 nearly her whole life. As a hospital pathologist, she knows better than most that her hometown has become one of the nation’s top breeding grounds for the delta variant of covid-19. “The delta variant’s super scary,” LaCount said. (Bichell, 7/8)

And a bit of good news from California —


San Francisco Chronicle:
Bay Area COVID Deaths Plunge To Near Zero, Thanks To High Vaccination Rates




COVID-19 deaths have nearly bottomed out in the Bay Area, with an average of one new death reported a day for the nine-county region — the lowest number since the start of the pandemic and a dramatic drop from the winter surge, when nearly 70 people were dying every day. The region reported no deaths Sunday through Tuesday, the first time three consecutive days have passed without a COVID fatality in more than 15 months. Deaths statewide have also dropped sharply, to about 20 a day from a peak of more than 500 in January. Nationally, average daily deaths have declined to about 200, the fewest since late March 2020. (Allday, 7/7)


Dominant Delta, Other Variants Prompt Testing Debate For Breakthrough Cases

Public health experts are weighing any policy changes in light of the uptick in U.S. covid cases in almost half the states.


CNN:
With Delta Variant Spreading, Experts Split On Whether To Test Vaccinated People For Covid-19 




The spread of the Delta coronavirus variant in the United States has some experts questioning whether it should be time to start testing even vaccinated people for the virus. Although health officials have said evidence shows vaccinated people are unlikely to spread the virus to others, Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, says it may be important to watch to make sure the more transmissible Delta variant does not evade the effects of vaccines. (Howard and Enriquez, 7/8)


CNN:
Delta Variant Is 'Covid-19 On Steroids,' Expert Says, With Cases Increasing In Nearly Half Of US States




Twenty four states have seen an uptick of at least 10% in Covid-19 cases over the past week as health experts and the federal government keep pressing for more people to get vaccinated. The rapid spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus has only ratcheted up the pressure. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that the variant, first identified in India, has accounted for more than half of all new Covid-19 infections in the country. (Elamroussi, 7/8)


CIDRAP:
WHO: World At Perilous Point In Pandemic




With the Delta (B1617.2) variant outpacing COVID-19 vaccination in many countries, the world is at a perilous point in the pandemic, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said today. The warning comes a day after the WHO reported that cases have risen for the second week in a row, with nearly all regions reporting illness spikes. (Schnirring, 7/7)

Experts are keeping a close watch on lambda and epsilon —


Quartz:
After Delta, The Lambda Covid-19 Variant Is On Countries' Radar




While the world reels under the effects of the Delta variant, a new Covid-19 mutation is now on the radar of several countries. The Lambda variant, or C.37, believed to have originated from Peru, was designated as a “variant of interest” by the World Health Organization (WHO) on June 14. A variant of interest categorisation is a level below the “variant of concern.” (Kapur and Lahiri, 7/8)


New York Post:
California ‘Epsilon’ Strain Of COVID-19 Could Evade Vaccines: Study




A new study has found that COVID-19 vaccines may be somewhat vulnerable to the California “Epsilon” strain of virus. The variant has three spike protein mutations it uses to weaken current vaccines by up to 70 percent, according to researchers from University of Washington and the San Francisco-based lab Vir Biotechnology. The strain’s mutations break down neutralized antibodies, which are produced by vaccines such as Pfizer and Moderna and protect against infection, according to the study, published in the journal Science on July 1. (O'Neill, 7/7)


Covid May Have Killed More Prisoners Than Officially Counted

The New York Times reports on questions over the death toll from the prison system since some prisoners were released before they died of covid. A report from here at KHN notes that while many inmates are vaccinated, their guards are likely not.


The New York Times:
The Real Toll From Prison Covid Cases May Be Higher Than Reported




Richard Williamson, 86, was rushed from a Florida jail to a hospital last July. Within two weeks, he had died of Covid-19. Hours after Cameron Melius, 26, was released from a Virginia jail in October, he was taken by ambulance to a hospital, where he died. The coronavirus, the authorities said, was a contributing factor. And in New York City, Juan Cruz, 57, who fell ill with Covid-19 while in jail, was moved from a hospital’s jail ward into its regular unit before dying. None of these deaths have been included in official Covid-19 mortality tolls of the jails where the men had been detained. And these cases are not unique. The New York Times identified dozens of people around the country who died under similar circumstances but were not included in official counts. (Turcotte, Sherman, Griesbach and Klein, 7/7)


KHN:
Most Inmates Have Had Their Covid Shots — But Their Guards Likely Haven’t 




When the number of covid-19 cases among inmates in Pennsylvania state prisons last fall topped 1,000 and staff cases hovered in the hundreds, the union representing 11,000 corrections officers began lobbying to get prison staffers to the front of the line for vaccinations. John Eckenrode, president of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association, pressed state officials for months to give prison workers the same status as hospital staff members, first responders and teachers. (Worden, 7/8)


AP:
Michigan Auditor To Review Accuracy Of Nursing Home Deaths




State auditors will review the accuracy of the number of coronavirus deaths linked to nursing homes and other long-term care facilities in Michigan. Auditor General Doug Ringler agreed last week to conduct a comprehensive study at the request of House Oversight Committee Chairman Steven Johnson of Wayland. Johnson is among Republican lawmakers who have questioned if there is an undercount and who have criticized Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for allowing hospitalized COVID-19 patients no longer needing acute care, but still in quarantine, to return to designated units in nursing homes as some hospitals faced surging cases. (Eggert, 7/7)


AP:
Connecticut To Stop Daily Reporting Of COVID-19 Deaths




Connecticut health officials say they will no longer provide daily updates on the number of people who have died in the state from COVID-19-related causes. In releasing its daily report on Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont’s office said the death reports will now come once a week, on Thursdays, with information provided by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. (7/7)

In news about mask-wearing —


San Francisco Chronicle:
California Capitol Reinstates Mask Mandate After COVID Outbreak




California has reinstated a mask mandate for all lawmakers and employees at the state Capitol, regardless of vaccination status, following an outbreak of nine coronavirus cases there. All nine people who contracted the coronavirus are legislative staffers, four of whom were fully vaccinated. Effective immediately, people are required to wear a mask at all times while in the Capitol, Legislative Office Building and district offices, Secretary of the Senate Erika Contreras and Assembly Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert wrote in memos Tuesday. (Vaziri, 7/7)


CBS News:
American Airlines Flight Disrupted By Teens Who Refused To Wear Masks




Passengers aboard an American Airlines flight to the Bahamas spent an unexpected night in Charlotte, North Carolina, after unruly passengers refused to comply with a federal mask mandate. ... The disruptive group of about 30 high school students from Boston was catching a connecting flight in Charlotte to Nassau, according to local media outlet WSOC-TV. The flight was originally scheduled to leave Charlotte about 9: 30 a.m. on Monday, but was delayed due to a mechanical problem and switched to another plane, WSOC-TV reported. (Gibson, 7/7)


CNN:
When Should Vaccinated People Wear Masks Now? An Expert Weighs In 




The Delta variant, a more transmissible -- and potentially more dangerous -- strain of coronavirus, now makes up more half of all new infections in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This variant, combined with low rates of vaccination in many parts of the country, is leading to new surges in Covid-19 cases, which has led to Los Angeles County and St. Louis-area health officials encouraging even people who are fully vaccinated to wear masks indoors. The World Health Organization has issued similar guidance (the CDC has continued to say that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks under most circumstances). (Hetter, 7/8)


Lingering Covid Effects Show Up In Fitbit, Apple Watch Data

Data from wearable health tech devices seem to show that long-term effects from a covid infection include an elevated heart rate that persists for weeks or months. Other reports note that low testosterone in men is linked to a severe covid infection.


The New York Times:
Fitbits Detect Lasting Changes After Covid-19




In a paper published on Wednesday in the journal JAMA Network Open, researchers studying Fitbit data reported that people who tested positive for Covid-19 displayed behavioral and physiological changes, including an elevated heart rate, that could last for weeks or months. These symptoms lasted longer in people with Covid than in those with other respiratory illnesses, the scientists found. (Anthes, 7/7)


Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Coronavirus Concentrations In Sewage Near Peak Level, Researchers Say




Concentrations of the coronavirus in wastewater in parts of the Las Vegas Valley are approaching levels last seen during the winter peak of the disease in Nevada, even though key COVID-19 metrics like new cases and hospitalizations remain far lower, researchers say.
Two of the seven valley locations where wastewater samples are being regularly tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, are showing virus concentrations close to the peak of the winter surge, according to Daniel Gerrity, principal research microbiologist for the Southern Nevada Water Authority. (Apgar, 7/7)


CIDRAP:
Low Testosterone In Men Tied To Severe COVID-19




New data presented at the European Association of Urology congress this week show that men with low testosterone who were hospitalized for severe COVID-19 during the first wave of infections in Milan, Italy, were more likely to need intensive care and mechanical ventilation, and they had a sixfold increased risk of death. The findings come from San Raffaele University Hospital in Milan, where researchers compared 286 male COVID-19 patients who presented for emergency care, with 305 healthy controls who donated blood at the hospital from February to May 2020. Both groups had hormone testing, and low testosterone was defined as 9.2 nanomoles per liter (nmol/L). (7/7)

Also —


CNN:
Coronavirus Almost Certainly Came From An Animal, Not A Lab Leak, Top Scientists Argue 




The coronavirus pandemic almost certainly originated from an animal, probably at a wildlife market in China, and not from a laboratory leak, a group of virus experts said Wednesday. Theories about a lab leak are almost all based on coincidence, not hard evidence, the group of 20 top experts from the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere said. They had been following discussions -- going all the way to the White House -- about the possibility of a laboratory origin of the virus, and worked together to analyze the evidence. (Fox, 7/7)


Bloomberg:
Covid Origins Mirror SARS’s Genesis In Animals, Study Finds




Early Covid-19 cases traced to markets in Wuhan, China, mirror the initial spread of SARS 17 years earlier, scientists said in a paper that concludes that an animal contagion is the most likely explanation for the pandemic’s genesis. The epidemiological history of the SARS-CoV-2 virus is comparable to previous animal market-associated outbreaks of coronaviruses and offers a simple route for human exposure, Edward Holmes, Andrew Rambaut and 19 other researchers said in a review of the scientific evidence pertaining to the pandemic’s origins. (Gale, 7/7)


Texas Republicans Push Back At Biden's Vaccine Push

Texas' Attorney General Ken Paxton said "not on my watch!" in reaction to President Joe Biden's plan to go door to door to promote covid shots. News outlets from different states investigate reasons for vaccine hesitancy, including politics and concerns of side effects.


Houston Chronicle:
'Not On My Watch': Texas Republicans Buck Biden's Door-To-Door Vaccine Drive




Some Texas Republicans are pushing back against President Joe Biden’s push for greater outreach to get more Americans to receive COVID-19 shots, as vaccination drives in states like Texas have stagnated. “Not on my watch!” Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted in response to the president’s comments on Tuesday that “we need to go community-by-community, neighborhood-by-neighborhood, and oft times door-to-door, literally knocking on doors.” (Wermund, 7/7)


Fox News:
Fauci's 'Get Over This Political Statement' Comment On Vaccines Gets Panned 




Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top disease expert in the U.S., drew ire on social media Wednesday when critics said he seemed to write off vaccine hesitancy as a purely political statement. Fauci gave an interview to MSNBC and talked about how important it is for Americans to get vaccinated. He said vaccines help protect the person receiving the jab, as well as family members and the community. He expressed frustration with those who continue to refuse the shots that he called highly effective and safe. (DeMarche, 7/7)


Mississippi Clarion Ledger:
Mississippi's Dire Vaccine Rate: Are Politics The Cause Or Just A Point Of Conversation?




As COVID-19 vaccination rates climb across the rest of the nation, Mississippi remains in last place despite efforts by state public health officials to target difficult-to-reach populations. They've clamored to near-close disparity gaps, made their way into rural counties, designed outreach for homebound people, rushed to get the vulnerable vaccinated and set up centers to promote equitable access. The fully-vaccinated rate appears to have stalled, however, and there are a number of potential reasons why: education and income levels, medical myths and mistrust, and rural location — maybe even politics. (Haselhorst, 7/7)


Dallas Morning News:
COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy In Texas Due To Concerns About Side Effects, DMN/UT-Tyler Poll Shows




The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations is slowing in Texas and concerns about side effects are a leading cause of hesitancy, according to a poll by The Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler. One in 5 unvaccinated Texans are at least somewhat open to a shot but have not scheduled an appointment for a host of reasons, the poll released Sunday found. About 34% cited side effects as a factor, while 16% said they are “waiting to see” and 11% feel they don’t have enough information. The poll, conducted June 22-29, surveyed 1,090 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.4 percentage points. It surveyed Texas voters on a wide range of state and political issues. (Morris, 7/7)


Dallas Morning News:
Dallas County Reaches Herd Immunity Even As New COVID Cases Continue To Hold Steady, Experts Say




Dallas County crossed a major threshold in its fight to curb the coronavirus pandemic this week, reaching herd immunity on July 4, according to a nonprofit that tracks health data for the county. At least 80% of the county’s residents have either natural immunity from previously contracting COVID-19 or are vaccinated, officials at the Parkland Center for Clinical Innovation said in a statement Wednesday. While celebrating the public health goal, officials at the center and elsewhere stressed continued caution as new strains of the virus — especially the delta variant — continue to take hold here and vaccination rates remain stagnant. (Garcia, 7/7)


CNN:
US Covid-19 Vaccinations: Here's Where The Biggest Coverage Disparities Remain




In May, President Joe Biden’s administration announced a new goal to administer at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine to 70% of adults — and to have 160 million people fully vaccinated — in the United States by July 4. At the time, the pace of vaccinations was well on track to meet, and exceed, this goal. But vaccination rates have slowed to less than half of what they were at the time of the announcement, and the administration fell short of its goal by millions of people. (McPhillips and Krishnakumar, 7/7)


Albuquerque Journal:
NM Health Officials Don’t Plan To Require Vaccine For Schoolchildren




New Mexico does not plan to make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for school attendance when it becomes available, likely later this year, a top state health official said Wednesday. Health Secretary Tracie Collins told members of a legislative panel she’s hopeful federal approval for different COVID-19 vaccinations for children under age 12 will be issued by December – if not sooner. Currently, only those 12 and older are eligible to receive the vaccine and slightly more than 30% of children between ages 12 and 15 had gotten at least one shot as of this week, according to Department of Health data. (Boyd, 7/7)

In updates on vaccine lotteries —


AP:
Colorado Mom Of 4 Is Final $1 Million Vaccine Lottery Winner




A Colorado mother of four has been chosen as the final $1 million vaccine lottery winner, Gov. Jared Polis announced Wednesday. Heidi Russell, a stay-at-home mother expressed her gratitude and shock after finding out about her win. “This prize will be so helpful in raising four kids,” Russell said. “When I told my daughter yesterday, her first comment was ’Yes, my college is paid for.” (7/7)


AP:
WVa Gov Hands Out Third $1M Prize In Vaccine Giveaway




West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice handed out the third $1 million prize for residents who have received coronavirus vaccines. The Republican governor presented Heather Coburn of Princeton with a ceremonial check on Wednesday. Coburn happens to work at a Bluefield car dealership owned by Bill Cole. Cole is a former Republican state Senate president who lost to Justice in the 2016 gubernatorial race. Justice won the race as a Democrat before switching to the GOP a year later. (7/7)


Detroit Free Press:
Michigan COVID-19 Vaccine Lottery: Trial Volunteers Can't Enter




People who volunteered for clinical trials of coronavirus vaccines and got their first dose before Dec. 1 are out of luck when it comes to the state's new MI Shot to Win Sweepstakes. That's because the rules of the contest say only Michigan residents who got the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Dec. 1, 2020, or later are eligible for a chance to win cash prizes and scholarships totaling about $5 million. "Unfortunately, anyone who received their dose prior to Dec. 1 is not eligible for the sweepstakes, which could include those in clinical trials," Mike Nowlin, a spokesperson for the Protect Michigan Commission, told the Free Press in an email message. (Jordan Shamus, 7/7)


To Avoid Pandemic Drug Shortages, The FDA Bent Its Own Rules, Priorities

A report in CIDRAP explains how the Food and Drug Administration tried to prevent drug shortages by "flexing" its rules and expedited new drug applications and supplements. Separately, reports note Pfizer's heart meds are bringing in billions of dollars for the drugmaker.


CIDRAP:
FDA Went Flexible To Mitigate Shortages During COVID-19




The COVID-19 pandemic caused the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to flex regulations and priorities to prevent drug shortages, expediting more than 100 original abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs) and 150 ANDA supplements for COVID-related products, according to the FDA's "Drug Shortages for Calendar Year 2020" report, released late last month. The agency reported 43 new shortages but prevented 199, compared with 2019's 51 new shortages and 154 prevented shortages. On the other hand, 2020 had 86 ongoing shortages, compared with 76 in 2019. (McLernon, 7/7)


Axios:
Pfizer's Rare Heart Disease Drug Vyndaqel Is Becoming A Blockbuster 




Heart medications Vyndaqel and Vyndamax generated $1.3 billion of global revenue last year for Pfizer and already brought in $453 million in the first quarter of this year. Why it matters: The blockbuster drugs could grow significantly more if Pfizer wins its pending lawsuit and is allowed to pay the out-of-pocket expenses of Medicare patients who are prescribed the $225,000-a-year treatment. (Herman, 7/8)

In legal developments —


AP:
Pharmacy Exec Resentenced To 14 Years In Meningitis Outbreak




A founder of a now-defunct Massachusetts pharmaceutical facility responsible for a deadly meningitis outbreak will spend 14 and a half years behind bars, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, lengthening his initial punishment of nine years that was tossed out by an appeals court. Barry Cadden, who was president and co-owner of the now-closed New England Compounding Center, showed little emotion as he was sentenced for a second time after being convicted of fraud and other crimes in the 2012 outbreak that killed 100 people and sickened hundreds of others. (Richer, 7/7)


Axios:
Industry Awaits Ruling Of Pfizer's Medicare Anti-Kickback Lawsuit 




A federal judge will soon determine whether Pfizer can pay Medicare patients' out-of-pocket expenses for one of its heart medications that is priced at $225,000 per year. Why it matters: A ruling in Pfizer's favor would legalize something that is viewed as a kickback under current law, and would jeopardize taxpayer coffers by spurring a "gold rush" of pharmaceutical companies to cover Medicare copays for expensive drugs. (Herman, 7/8)


Death Rates Dipping For Some Of The Most Common Cancers

A new report finds the biggest improvements among the rate of people dying from lung cancer and melanoma. But death rates against major cancers, like colorectal or breast, are either flat or higher.


Stat:
Report: Death Rates Are Declining For Many Common Cancers In U.S.




Death rates are declining for more than half of the most common forms of cancer in the U.S., according to a sweeping annual analysis released Thursday. The new report — released by the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and other collaborators — found that between 2014 and 2018, death rates dropped for 11 out of 19 of the most common cancers among men and 14 of the 20 most prevalent cancers among women. (Gaffney, 7/8)


Axios:
Cancer Mortality In U.S. Declines Overall As Some Disease Persists 




Death rates for lung cancer and melanoma continued to drop for men and women in the U.S. between 2014 and 2018, according to an annual report with the National Cancer Institute. Yes, but: For several other major cancers, however, like colorectal, breast and prostate, death rates increased — or saw previous improvements stall. State of play: American deaths from cancer — the second-leading cause of death in the U.S. — have been on the decline for years. But it's not the same across the board, particularly when it comes to cancers related to obesity. (Fernandez, 7/8)


USA Today:
Cancer Death Rates Slow But Rising Obesity Rates Could Slow Progress




U.S. cancer death rates for men, women and communities of color are falling, but obesity and unequal access to care could threaten hard-fought gains over the past two decades, a new report shows. The annual American Cancer Society report, which measures cancer cases and deaths through 2018, paints a mixed picture of the nation's effort to combat the second leading cause of death, said Farhad Islami, the report's lead author and American Cancer Society's scientific director of cancer disparity research. (Alltucker, 7/8)

In other cancer research —


Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Study Finds Plasma Effective For Patients With COVID, Blood Cancer




Plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, one of the first effective therapies to emerge against the pandemic, significantly reduces deaths among people unfortunate enough to suffer from both the new coronavirus and a blood cancer, according to a recent study. From early in the pandemic, patients whose immune systems had been weakened by a blood cancer such as lymphoma or multiple myeloma, were considered one of the groups at highest risk for severe illness from COVID-19. (Johnson, 7/7)


The Philadelphia Inquirer:
A Little-Known Problem With Tattoos: The Ink Can Complicate Breast Cancer Screening




Two years ago, when Gina Pozzi was 45, her annual mammograms suggested that she had breast cancer, the disease that killed her mother at age 47. In addition to showing a suspicious spot in Pozzi’s right breast, the X-rays revealed white specks in her armpit lymph nodes that looked like calcium deposits — possibly a sign that cancer had spread beyond her breast. “When cancer hits you in the lymph nodes, it’s a game-changer,” said Pozzi, who lives in Allentown. “That’s what happened with my mom. The cancer came back and went to her lymph nodes.” (McCullough, 7/7)

Also —


CNN:
Minnesota Republican Congressman Announces Reoccurrence Of Kidney Cancer




Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn announced a reoccurrence of his kidney cancer on Wednesday. The Minnesota lawmaker was first diagnosed with stage IV kidney cancer on February 15, 2019, and had been receiving care at Rochester's Mayo Clinic. "Over the weekend, recent tests conducted at the Mayo Clinic revealed a reoccurrence of my kidney cancer. The new diagnosis was surprising considering that just 14 weeks ago no cancer was detected," Hagedorn said in a statement. (Grayer and Diaz, 7/7)


CNN:
Val Kilmer Talks 'Still Recovering' From Throat Cancer In Documentary Trailer




Val Kilmer says he has tried for years to find his voice and he's still using it, even after losing it to cancer. The trailer for his documentary, "Val," has dropped and looks to offer an intimate portrait of the esteemed actor. ... Kilmer had initially denied he was ill before he went public with his cancer diagnosis in 2017. He now speaks using the aid of a medical device. (France, 7/7)


Mississippi Clarion Ledger:
UMMC To Offer Free Cervical, Breast Cancer Screening For Women In August




The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s pathology department and Cancer Center and Research Institute will offer free cervical, breast and oral cancer screenings for uninsured and underinsured women aged 21-64 in August. The screenings will take place on Aug. 21 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.  at the Cancer Center and Research Institute, 350 Woodrow Wilson Blvd. in Jackson. (Haselhorst, 7/7)


Northwest Heat Wave Blamed On Climate Change

Reports say the recent record-breaking temperatures and hundreds of heat-related deaths in the northwest would be "virtually impossible" without human influence on climate. A separate study says climate change is linked to 5 million deaths yearly.


The Washington Post:
Pacific Northwest Heat Wave Was ‘Virtually Impossible’ Without Human Influence




By all estimates, last week’s heat wave in the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia was essentially unprecedented. Seattle hit 108 degrees, Portland spiked to 116 and Canada broke its national temperature record three days in a row, hitting 121 degrees on June 29. Hundreds of excess deaths were blamed on the brutal heat, which established records by margins of 10 degrees or more in spots. This was not “just another heat wave,” Christopher Burt, an expert on world weather extremes, wrote in a Facebook message, but rather “the most anomalous extreme heat event ever observed on Earth since records began two centuries ago.” (Cappucci, 7/7)


The New York Times:
Climate Change Influenced Western Heat Wave, Analysis Finds




The extraordinary heat wave that scorched the Pacific Northwest last week would almost certainly not have occurred without global warming, an international team of climate researchers said Wednesday. Temperatures were so extreme — including readings of 116 degrees Fahrenheit in Portland, Ore., and a Canadian record of 121 in British Columbia — that the researchers had difficulty saying just how rare the heat wave was. But they estimated that in any given year there was only a 0.1 percent chance of such an intense heat wave occurring. (Fountain, 7/7)


Bloomberg:
Climate Change Linked To 5 Million Deaths A Year, New Study Shows




The extraordinarily hot and cold temperatures that are becoming more common as climate change accelerates are responsible for 5 million deaths globally every year. Extreme weather accounted for 9.4% of all deaths globally between 2000 and 2019, according to researchers who on Wednesday published the first study linking changes in temperatures to annual increases in mortality. While most deaths have been caused by exposure to the cold, the trend is likely to reverse as the planet warms, they said. (Millan Lombrana, 7/7)

The heat wave isn't relenting —


ABC News:
Oregon's Heat Wave Death Toll Reaches 107 In 'Mass Casualty' Event 




Oregon's record-breaking heat wave reached a death toll of 107 on Tuesday, according to officials. The victims range in age from 37 to 97, according to the Oregon State Medical Examiner, as the state has been reeling from scorching triple-digit temperatures from June 25 to June 30. ... Some of the dead were found inside their homes without air conditioning or fans, according to local ABC affiliate KATU. Portland recorded a high of 116 on Monday, June 28. (Lenthang, 7/7)


The Washington Post:
Another Intense Heat Wave To Roast Western U.S., Southwest Canada




Last week, Lytton, a small town in British Columbia, Canada, broke its nation’s all-time temperature reading three days in a row as temperatures soared as high as 121 degrees. Days later, the village largely burned to the ground as extreme wildfires spewed smoke and ash 55,000 feet into the sky. Now, southwest Canada and much of the western United States are bracing for another bout of exceptional heat amid a pattern that could once again place records in jeopardy. Death Valley, Calif., might spike to 130 degrees. (Cappuci, 7/6)

In other public health news —


AP:
US Agency Offers $307 Million For Rural Water Projects




The U.S. Department of Agriculture will issue up to $307 million in grants and low-interest loans in an effort to modernize rural water infrastructure, officials announced Wednesday. The programs are aimed at towns with less than 10,000 people in 34 states and the territory of Puerto Rico. Officials made the announcement at a wastewater treatment center in the Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, north of Santa Fe, where employees have worked to keep the aging plant running for its thousands of residents along the Rio Grande. (Attanasio, 7/8)


Fox News:
Viruses Most Common Cause Of Myocarditis In Kids, American Heart Association Says




While myocarditis has been in the headlines lately due to rare occurrences in mRNA COVID-19 vaccine recipients, it’s viruses that are the most common cause of the condition in children, the American Heart Association (AHA) said. And while many cases resolve on their own, a statement from the group, which was published in Circulation, addressed treatment guidelines in recovering patients. (Hein, 7/7)


Philadelphia Inquirer:
Pa.’s Amazon Workers Have Almost Twice As Many Serious Injuries As Other Warehouse Workers Here




Amazon’s local warehouse workers suffer serious injuries more often than employees at other warehouses, fueling criticism from labor groups as the retail giant rapidly expands across the Philadelphia region. With the pandemic pushing consumers to shop online, Amazon has snatched up facilities and posted thousands of job openings locally, by far the most of any employer. But injury records suggest the jobs can be more dangerous than comparable warehouses. Critics contend the company pressures employees to work at a fast pace without enough breaks. (Hetrick and Williams, 7/8)


Gates Foundation's Future Hammered Out, With Health Charity Work At Stake

As part of their divorce negotiations, Bill and Melinda French Gates agree to continue jointly running their foundation for the next two years. If that arrangement is unsuccessful, he can buy her out after that period.


The New York Times:
Bill Gates Can Remove Melinda French Gates From Foundation In Two Years 




Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates have at times referred to the foundation they established together as their “fourth child.” If over the next two years they can’t find a way to work together following their planned divorce, Mr. Gates will get full custody. That was one of the most important takeaways from a series of announcements about the future of the world’s largest charitable foundation made on Wednesday by its chief executive, Mark Suzman, overshadowing an injection of $15 billion in resources that will be added to the $50 billion previously amassed in its endowment over two decades. (Kulish, 7/7)


CNN:
Bill Gates Could Oust Melinda French Gates From Their Foundation In 2023




Bill Gates and Melinda French Gates are giving themselves a two-year trial period to see if they can co-parent the massive charitable foundation that they have treated as another one of their children. When the couple announced their divorce two months ago, they said they would both stay on as co-chairs of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But on Wednesday, the foundation's CEO announced a contingency plan "to ensure the continuity of the foundation's work." (Morrow, 7/7)


Fox Business:
Bill And Melinda Gates Foundation Outlines Leadership Contingency Plan Amid Divorce 




In order to support the contingency plan, the foundation will add new trustees to its board, who will "bring new perspectives, help guide resource allocation and strategic direction, and ensure the stability and sustainability of the foundation." Bill, Melinda and Warren Buffett currently serve as the organization's three trustees, though Buffet is stepping away from his position. The foundation's CEO Mark Suzman and chief operating officer and legal officer Connie Collingsworth will lead the executive leadership team as it works in consultation with both inside and outside experts as well as Bill and Melinda to develop recommendations for the number of new trustees and the selection process.  (Manfredi, 7/7)


ABC News:
Gates Foundation Sets 2-Year, Post-Divorce Power Share Trial




If French Gates resigns, Gates would essentially buy her out of the foundation, one of the world's largest private charitable organizations, and she would receive resources from him to do her own philanthropic work. The resources received would be separate from the foundation's endowment, according to the announcement. (Hadero, 7/7)


More States Have Cleared The Way For Purdue Pharma's Bankruptcy Plan

Fifteen states have dropped their objections to the OxyContin maker's reorganization plan, moving the company closer to transforming itself into a new entity that helps combat the opioid epidemic through its own profits, AP reported.


NPR:
15 States Drop Opposition To Controversial Purdue Pharma Oxycontin Bankruptcy




Fifteen states that led the effort to block a controversial bankruptcy plan for Oxycontin-maker Purdue Pharma have abandoned the fight. That's according to court documents filed by a mediator late Wednesday night as part of a federal bankruptcy proceeding in White Plains NY. Among the states that have agreed to sign on to the bankruptcy deal are Massachusetts and New York, whose attorneys general had mounted fierce legal opposition to the deal. (Mann, 7/8)


AP:
More States Agree To Settlement Plan For Opioid-Maker Purdue




More than a dozen states have dropped their longstanding objections to OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma’s reorganization plan, edging the company closer to resolving its bankruptcy case and transforming itself into a new entity that helps combat the U.S. opioid epidemic through its own profits. The agreement from multiple state attorneys general, including those who had most aggressively opposed Purdue’s original settlement proposal, was disclosed late Wednesday night in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, N.Y. It followed weeks of intense mediations that resulted in changes to Purdue’s original exit plan. (Mulvihill, 7/8)

In other news about the opioid epidemic —


TechCrunch:
Opioid Addiction Treatment Apps Found Sharing Sensitive Data With Third Parties




Several widely used opioid treatment recovery apps are accessing and sharing sensitive user data with third parties, a new investigation has found. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and efforts to reduce transmission in the U.S, telehealth services and apps offering opioid addiction treatment have surged in popularity. This rise of app-based services comes as addiction treatment facilities face budget cuts and closures, which has seen both investor and government interest turn to telehealth as a tool to combat the growing addiction crisis. (Page, 7/7)


AP:
Evers Defends His Signing Of Opioid Bill Despite Concerns




Gov. Tony Evers on Tuesday defended signing a bill that he believes is partially unconstitutional and that every Democrat except one in the Legislature opposed, saying the measure will speed disbursement of settlement money with opioid manufacturers. Evers’ decision to sign drew bipartisan praise at a news conference Tuesday in Waukesha, from Republican Waukesha County Executive Paul Farrow and Democratic Milwaukee County Executive David Crowley. (Bauer, 7/6)


NPR:
Overdoses Involving Cocaine And Fentanyl Are On The Rise




On a recent Thursday evening, three dozen people gathered in the backyard at Nowadays, a trendy club in Queens, N.Y., to learn how to use naloxone, a nasal spray that reverses overdoses from opioids. The training was organized by a group of nightlife and health care professionals called Last Night A DJ Saved My Life. Some in attendance showed up because they had seen posts on social media saying that fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that's about 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine, was being cut into cocaine, putting unsuspecting party goers at risk. (Lewis, 7/7)


AP:
Mom Complains Of Suboxone In Son's McDonald's Happy Meal Box




Police have charged two Maine people with drug crimes after a mother complained that she found a medication used to treat opioid use disorder in her son’s Happy Meal box at McDonald’s. Auburn police said Wednesday they reviewed video surveillance footage and concluded the incident was the result of an accident by an employee. They said the employee had the medication, Suboxone, in a shirt pocket and bent over to retrieve something when it fell out, landing in the Happy Meal box. (7/7)


Tulane University School Of Medicine Put On Probation Amid Racism Claims

During probation, a school is at risk of losing its accreditation if it doesn't fix the issues by the next review cycle, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, which issued the citation, has said previously. Aetna, Cleveland Clinic, UnitedHealth and more are also in the news.


New Orleans Times-Picayune:
Tulane School Of Medicine Put On Probation By Accrediting Agency After Bias Complaints




The Tulane University School of Medicine graduate medical program, which trains newly-minted doctors during their residencies at hospitals across New Orleans, was put on probation by a national oversight panel last week. The panel did not state the reason for probation. But the rare step was taken after allegations of racial and gender discrimination erupted within the institution earlier this year. Tulane drew national attention after the dismissal of Dr. Princess Dennar, a Black female doctor, four months after she filed a discrimination lawsuit against the school. (Woodruff, 7/7)


The Lens:
Tulane School Of Medicine Placed On Probation By Accreditor Amid Allegations Of Racism, Lack Of Diversity




Graduate medical education programs at the Tulane University School of Medicine were placed on probation by a national accreditor, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, (ACGME) last week. The probation follows a public fight over allegations of racism in the school’s graduate program this February stemming from the suspension of Dr. Princess Dennar, who is Black, from her position overseeing a residency program. The school was informed of the decision on July 2, according to an email sent to the School of Medicine by Lee Hamm, the school’s dean. In the email, Hamm wrote that “given issues of confidentiality, we are limited in the information we can share about the ACGME’s decision.” (Kiefer, 7/6)

In other health industry news —


Modern Healthcare:
Aetna Enacts Cataract Surgery Pre-Authorization Rule




Aetna now requires all patients to receive pre-approval for cataract surgery. The Hartford, Conn.-based insurer said it had spent the past few months reaching out to opthamologists in its networks to inform them of the policy change, which took effect July 1. "We also reached out to the American Ophthalmological Society and American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery to explain the rationale for and discuss this new policy, ensuring them that we'd work collaboratively to make sure that their patients and our members would have timely access to appropriate, necessary care, with special attention during the first few weeks of this new policy," a spokesperson said in a statement. (Tepper, 7/7)


Modern Healthcare:
Cleveland Clinic To Pay $21 Million False Claims Settlement




Cleveland Clinic has agreed to pay $21.25 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that its Akron General Health System improperly paid physician groups for patient referrals and submitted false claims to Medicare, according to the Justice Department. Akron General's former director of internal audit Beverly Brouse acted as the whistleblower, suing the health system under the False Claims Act in 2015 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. DOJ and Cleveland Clinic reached the settlement in May. (Christ, 7/7)


Modern Healthcare:
UnitedHealth's Limits On Out-Of-Network Care Reacts To Surprise Billing Ban




UnitedHealth Group's decision to end some out-of-network coverage caught providers by surprise, with many speculating the move is part of a broader set of policies by the nation's largest insurer aimed at controlling costs and lowering provider reimbursement. Starting July 1, UnitedHealthcare no longer pays out-of-network claims when fully insured customers seek non-emergency care outside of their local coverage area. Patients seeking treatment from "step down" facilities away from where they live, including skilled nursing homes, residential treatment facilities, inpatient rehabilitation programs and more, are subject to the new rule. Coverage areas typically include the entire state and surrounding states where patients reside. (Tepper, 7/7)


AP:
Scholarship Programs To Assist Health, Science Students




Tennessee State University and two other historically Black colleges and universities will benefit from scholarship and grant programs being started by a medical products company. Baxter International Inc. is giving $1.2 million to support Black students pursuing health and science degrees, Tennessee State said. (7/8)


KHN:
A Family Wellness Check: California Invests In Treating Parents And Children Together




When a parent takes an infant to the Children’s Health Center in San Francisco for a routine checkup, a pediatrician will check the baby’s vitals and ask how the child is doing at home. Then Janelle Bercun, a licensed clinical social worker, who is also in the room, will look at Mom or Dad and pipe up: What is this like for you? Your frustrations? Joys? Challenges? And she stays to work with the parent long after the pediatrician has left. (Young, 7/8)

And in health tech news —


Stat:
Sonde's Voice Health Tracking Comes To Qualcomm's Smartphone Chips




Vocal biomarker startup Sonde has been quietly plotting a way to make tracking respiratory and mental health as simple as chatting to a smartphone voice assistant. The Boston-based company, which was founded in 2015, has raised $19 million for its technology that uses brief voice recordings to reveal the progression of health conditions. On Thursday, Sonde announced a new partnership with chip manufacturing giant Qualcomm that could potentially bring the technology to millions of smartphones, which could prove a crucial test of whether its tech is ready for prime time. (Aguilar, 7/8)


Modern Healthcare:
Innovation Institute Incubator To Co-Develop Automation Tools With Olive




The Innovation Institute, a for-profit company owned by six not-for-profit health systems, has entered into a co-development agreement with robotic process automation company Olive. The partnership, announced Tuesday, is run through the Innovation Institute's healthcare incubator subsidiary, called the Innovation Lab. The Innovation Lab will work with Olive to co-develop and commercialize new products using Olive's existing automation toolset, drawing on problems identified by clinicians, back-office staff and other employees who work at the health systems in the Innovation Institute's network. The Innovation Lab will also support pilots of the new products at the health systems. (Kim Cohen, 7/7)


Olympics To Happen Under Covid State Of Emergency, Likely Without Fans

Japan declared a new pandemic state of emergency, which will last though the Olympics. The move means it's likely that no fans will be permitted at events. Separate reports say Japan is battling to remove vaccine bottlenecks that are slowing rollout efforts.


The Wall Street Journal:
Tokyo Olympics To Be Held Under Covid-19 State Of Emergency 




Japan declared a new state of emergency due to Covid-19 that will continue through the Summer Olympics, making it likely the organizers will drop plans to allow some spectators at the Games. Japan and some other countries in Asia that have been slow to roll out vaccinations are experiencing new waves of infection, exacerbated by the more contagious Delta variant. On Thursday, Tokyo reported 896 new cases, up 27% from a week earlier. (Gale, 7/8)


The New York Times:
Fans At Tokyo Olympics Likely To Be Barred Amid Covid Emergency 




The Japanese government declared a new state of emergency in Tokyo on Thursday after a sudden spike in coronavirus cases, wreaking fresh havoc on preparations for an Olympic Games that organizers have insisted can be held safely amid a pandemic. The decision could force officials to abandon plans announced late last month to allow domestic spectators at Olympic events, a move that had been met with public opposition over concerns that the Games would become a petri dish for new variants of the virus. (Dooley, 7/8)


AP:
Japan To Declare Virus Emergency Lasting Through Olympics




The Games already will take place without foreign spectators, but the planned six-week state of emergency likely ends chances of a local audience. A decision about fans is expected later Thursday when local organizers meet with the International Olympic Committee and other representatives. Tokyo is currently under less-stringent measures that focus on shortened hours for bars and restaurants but have proven less effective at slowing the spread of the coronavirus. (Yamaguchi, 7/8)


Bloomberg:
As Olympics Near, Japan Races To Sort Vaccine Bottlenecks




Several of Japan’s biggest municipalities, including parts of Tokyo and Osaka, have stopped taking new reservations for Covid-19 vaccinations in the latest hiccup for the country’s effort to vaccinate its people, with the Tokyo Olympics just over two weeks away. The bottlenecks in distribution are sowing confusion among vaccine seekers, complicating a vaccination campaign that has sped up rapidly in recent weeks after criticism over a slow start. (Mizuta and Du, 7/8)

In other Olympics updates —


AP:
Official Dropped From Fiji Olympic Team After Positive Test




An official due to travel to Tokyo with the Fiji Olympic team has been withdrawn after testing positive for COVID-19. The Fiji Association of Sports and National Olympic Committee confirmed the positive test Thursday but did not say what role the official held. (7/7)


Indonesian Sinovac Vaccine Trials Scientist Dies Of Suspected Covid

Novilia Sjafri Bachtiar was the lead scientist for trials of China's covid vaccine, in a country where it has been widely used. Other reports note that the CoronaVac vaccine has proved inferior to Pfizer's covid shot where both shots were used simultaneously.


Bloomberg:
Sinovac’s CoronaVac Inferior To Pfizer Covid Vaccine In Chile Study




Sinovac Biotech Ltd.’s vaccine was less potent than Pfizer Inc.’s shot at stopping Covid-19 in Chile where the two shots were used simultaneously, the first real-world analysis comparing a China-made inoculation against an mRNA has found. Researchers found CoronaVac was 66% effective in preventing Covid-19 among fully vaccinated adults, versus 93% for the jab made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech SE. (Gale, 7/8)


Reuters:
Two Weeks Into Lockdown, Sydney Has Its Worst Day For Virus Cases This Year




Australia's New South Wales (NSW) state on Thursday reported its biggest daily rise in locally acquired cases of COVID-19 this year as officials struggle to stamp out a growing cluster of the highly infectious Delta variant. The spike in cases after two weeks of a hard lockdown in Sydney, Australia's largest city, raised the prospect of a further extension in restrictions, with officials blaming illegal family visits for a continuing rise in infections. (Jose, 7/8)


Reuters:
UK PM Johnson's New COVID Gamble Worries Some Scientists




Anne Cori, an Imperial College epidemiologist behind one of the models that informed Johnson's initial decision to delay "freedom day", said it was premature to declare that the country can live with rising cases. Another delay to removing restrictions would be beneficial, she told Reuters. "I think delaying buys time, and we have interventions in the pipeline that may help reduce transmissibility," Cori said, referring to booster shots and the possible vaccination of children, a step Britain has yet to decide to take. (Smout, 7/8)

In other global developments —


CIDRAP:
WHO: Few Global Flu Detections, Mainly Influenza B




Global flu activity in the middle 2 weeks of June remained below expected levels in both hemispheres, with little activity except for a slight increase in influenza B, especially in China, the WHO said in its latest global update. Sporadic detections were reported in western and eastern Africa, as well as in India. (7/7)


The Washington Post:
Syrian Civilians At Grave Risk If U.N. Aid Deliveries Are Halted




Parts of northern Syria will quickly face a massive and deadly humanitarian crisis if the U.N. Security Council fails this week to extend a resolution allowing the United Nations to deliver aid across the Turkish-Syrian border, according to relief workers, Syrian civilians and the Biden administration. The resolution, which allows the United Nations to coordinate aid shipments to Syria through only one border crossing, is set to expire Saturday. Millions of Syrians dependent on the U.N.-led relief effort would immediately be put at risk if it lapses, aid workers say. (Fahim and DeYoung, 7/7)


Research Roundup: Covid; Obesity; Cancer; TB; Cyclospora; Chikungunya

Each week, KHN compiles a selection of recently released health policy studies and briefs.


CIDRAP:
Swiss Study: Almost 40% Of Patients Had Long COVID After 7 To 9 Months




Seven to 9 months postacute COVID-19 infection, 39.0% of 410 adults still had symptoms of long COVID-19, according to a study yesterday in the Annals of Internal Medicine. The researchers included symptomatic outpatients in Geneva enrolled from Mar 18 to May 15, 2020. Of those who responded to follow-up at 7 to 9 months post-infection, 39.0% still had symptoms, of which half experienced one or two symptoms (27.6% and 26.4%, respectively). (7/7)


CIDRAP:
Pain Associated With Worse COVID-19 In Sickle Cell Disease




A history of pain in sickle cell disease (SCD) patients—the disease's most common complication—is associated with worse COVID-19 outcomes in children and adults, according to a Blood Advances study yesterday. SCD-related organ comorbidities were also related to worse COVID-19 outcomes in children. The researchers looked at 750 international patients with COVID-19 and SCD from March 2020 to 2021. Almost half (48.5%) were children, median age 11, and the remaining were adults, median age 31. About 91% were Black and 7% were Latino. (7/2)


CIDRAP:
COVID Risk From Patient Encounters Appears Low In Emergency Responders




COVID incidence for emergency medical service (EMS) workers was not affected by work encounters with a COVID-19 patient, according to an Emerging Infectious Diseases study yesterday. The researchers looked at EMS responses in King County, Washington, from Feb 16 to Jul 31, 2020, and found that about 1% of all encounters were with a COVID-19 patient (1,115), of which about one in six needed an aerosol-generating procedure (AGP), the most common being nonrebreather masks. (Over the study period, EMS workers received COVID-related protocols, including personal protective equipment guidelines. For instance, anytime an AGP was performed, the workers needed to don N95 respirators.) (7/2)

In other research news —


ScienceDaily:
Impulsiveness Tied To Faster Eating In Children, Can Lead To Obesity




Children who eat slower are less likely to be extroverted and impulsive, according to a new study co-led by the University at Buffalo and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The research, which sought to uncover the relationship between temperament and eating behaviors in early childhood, also found that kids who were highly responsive to external food cues (the urge to eat when food is seen, smelled or tasted) were more likely to experience frustration and discomfort and have difficulties self-soothing. (University at Buffalo, 7/7)


ScienceDaily/Nature Communications:
New Research Optimizes Body's Own Immune System To Fight Cancer 




A groundbreaking study led by engineering and medical researchers at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities shows how engineered immune cells used in new cancer therapies can overcome physical barriers to allow a patient's own immune system to fight tumors. The research could improve cancer therapies in the future for millions of people worldwide. The research is published in Nature Communications, a peer-reviewed, open access, scientific journal published by Nature Research. (5/14)


CIDRAP:
WHO Recommends New Rapid Molecular Tests For TB




The World Health Organization (WHO) today issued an update to its consolidated guidelines on the detection of tuberculosis (TB) and drug-resistant TB. The update includes three new classes of rapid molecular tests recommended by the WHO: moderate-complexity automated NAATs (nucleic acid amplification tests) for the initial detection of TB and resistance to rifampicin and isoniazid, low-complexity automated NAATs for detection of resistance to isoniazid and second-line anti-TB agents, and high-complexity hybridization-based NAATs for the detection of pyrazinamide resistance. An accompanying operational handbook aims to help facilitate implementation and roll-out of the tests by national TB programs. (7/7)


CIDRAP:
FDA Announces Plan To Prevent Cyclospora-Related Foodborne Disease




The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday published a new prevention, response, and research action plan to help the agency prevent Cyclospora contamination of foods, and respond quickly to outbreaks. Cyclospora is a parasite that can cause intestinal illness in people when ingested. It was first identified in domestically grown herbs in the United States in 2018. Since then, infections have been rising, and there have been 6,000 domestically acquired cases of Cyclospora over the past 3 years. (7/2)


CIDRAP:
Valneva Receives FDA Breakthrough Designation For Chikungunya Vaccine




Valneva, a pharmaceutical company based in France, today announced that its candidate single-dose vaccine against chikungunya virus—called VLA1553—has received breakthrough therapy designation by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a step that will expedite the review process. In a statement, Juan Carlos Jaramillo, MD, the company's chief medical officer, said, "Chikungunya is a major, growing public health threat and VLA1553 targets long lasting protection against the chikungunya virus with a single shot. We will continue to work closely with the FDA to bring a preventative solution to the market as soon as possible." (7/7)


Perspectives: Are Enough Olympians Vaccinated?; Will India's New Health Minister Increase Inoculations?

Opinion writers weigh in on covid, the delta variant and vaccines.


San Diego Union-Tribune:
For The Tokyo Olympics, 80% Of Athletes Are Vaccinated. Is That Enough? 




The last 18 months have seen more tragedy and division than any time in recent memory. Internationally, countries have closed borders, blamed the spread of COVID-19 on each other, and even withheld critical supplies and vaccine doses from each other. The nations of the world are isolated and divided on numerous important topics, but we are starting to see an international trend in the reduced number of cases and distribution of vaccines. The 2020 Olympic Games were postponed to this month in March 2020, and it looked like the delayed 2021 Games were in jeopardy until recently. (Ronald Stolberg, 7/7)


Bloomberg:
Modi Dumps Health Minister As India Awaits Huge Progress On Vaccinations




Narendra Modi has rearranged his cabinet, but the changes give no indication of a meaningful sharing of power. Within the trappings of a parliamentary democracy, India’s prime minister will probably continue with his trademark presidential style of governance. For the country of 1.4 billion people, though, the most immediate question is: Can the new Team Modi get everyone inoculated quickly, reopen schools and bring back jobs? Replacing Health Minister Harsh Vardhan with Mansukh Mandaviya, a 49-year-old politician from Modi’s home state of Gujarat, is the most significant element of Wednesday night’s reshuffle. It’s being seen as the closest the Indian government would ever come to acknowledging its callous unpreparedness for the deadly second wave of the pandemic that has killed nearly 250,000 people. (Andy Mukherjee, 7/8)


The Boston Globe:
Respect The Delta Variant, But Don’t Fear It — Unless You’re Not Vaccinated 




The arrival of the Delta variant has opened another chapter in the COVID-19 pandemic. Delta emerged in India this spring and was responsible for the devastating surge in April through June that caused more than 15 million infections and 200,000 deaths — according to the official numbers, which all experts agree are grossly understated. Since then, Delta has spread to Britain and Europe, and is catalyzing surges in Africa. Delta is the dominant strain within the United States; Los Angeles is now recommending that everyone wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status in response to the rise in Delta variant cases. (Shan Soe-Lin and Robert Hecht, 7/7)


Bloomberg:
Delta Variant: 'Follow The Science' Is No Remedy For Covid Confusion 




The delta variant is the new pandemic scare story. Its spread into the U.S. hasn’t led to a surge in deaths or packed hospital wards, but the news of its existence rained on the Fourth of July parades. Public health specialists have responded with a baffling spray of contradictory recommendations, conflicting information and seemingly inconsistent scientific facts. The result, as in earlier phases of the Covid-19 scourge, has been needless confusion and rage. Should vaccinated people wear masks? It depends whom you ask. Can economic life return to normal? Expert opinions vary. (Faye Flam, 7/7)


Scientific American:
What Fighting COVID And Fighting Drug Addiction Have In Common 




The Jazz Age Lawn Party, which usually occurs twice a summer on Governor’s Island, in New York, has become a delightful tradition. Typically, it features live music, social dancing, dance performances and many gorgeous 1920s-style dresses and dapper suits on two weekends in June and August. This year, it became an inadvertent example of why we need better health communication and policy on COVID-19. Because it had been canceled last year, many folks at this year’s June event were especially eager to do the Charleston, the Peabody and otherwise swing their way into the 2020s, which are already echoing the 1920s in eerie ways. (Maia Szalavitz, 7/7)


Viewpoints: PASTEUR Act Essential In Fight Against Superbugs; Downside Of Aduhelm's Accelerated Approval

Editorial writers delve into these various public health issues.


Roll Call:
To Win The Fight Against Superbugs, It’s Time To Netflix And Pill 




With the introduction of multiple highly effective vaccines against COVID-19, we have begun to round a corner on the current pandemic. But another crisis looms — and this one could claim more lives worldwide and change medicine as we know it. Bacteria and fungi are mutating to resist our current antibiotics: This has always been a fact of evolution. However, in the century since antibiotics were first discovered, widespread use of these drugs in humans and animals has accelerated the natural evolutionary process. Soon, the world may have no effective antibiotics left to fight certain infections. Already, strains of totally drug-resistant tuberculosis and gonorrhea have been isolated from patients. The continued emergence and spread of such strains could result in a deadly pandemic of drug-resistant superbugs, which could kill millions of people a year by 2050, according to one economic analysis. (Francesca Tomasi, Kevin Ma, and Megan McCurry, 7/8)


The Washington Post:
Why We May Never Know Whether The $56,000 Alzheimer’s Drug Actually Works 




The Food and Drug Administration’s approval in June of a drug purporting to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease was widely celebrated, but it also touched off alarms. There were worries in the scientific community about the drug’s mixed results in studies — the FDA’s own expert advisory panel was nearly unanimous in opposing its approval. And the annual $56,000 price tag of the infusion drug, Aduhelm, was decried for potentially adding costs in the tens of billions of dollars to Medicare and Medicaid programs. But lost in this discussion is the underlying problem with using the FDA’s “accelerated” pathway to approve drugs for conditions such as Alzheimer’s, a slow, degenerative disease. Though patients will start taking it, if the past is any guide, the world may have to wait many years to find out whether Aduhelm is actually effective — and may never know for sure. (Elisabeth Rosenthal, 7/7)


San Diego Union-Tribune:
Taxing Soda And Other Sugary Drinks Can Boost Community Health. California Should Allow It. 




In 2018, the California Legislature imposed a statewide ban on local soda taxes, preventing local governments from taxing sugary drinks until 2031. At the time, the editorial boards of the Los Angeles Times and The Sacramento Bee described the deal as “extortion” by the soda industry. The maneuver put corporations over communities, and Assembly Bill 1163 sought to restore local control — until it was held at the committee level in April. The bill’s author, Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, D-North Hollywood, described the legislative process as the soda industry “gaming the political system.” Public health groups are encouraging the state’s largely progressive Legislature to stand up to Big Soda and revive the measure by any means necessary. (Melissa Campos, 7/7)


NBC News:
Pinterest Bans Weight Loss Ads. That Won't End Anti-Fat Messaging, But It's A Good Start.




Thanks to the onslaught of terrible news last week — from Bill Cosby’s sudden release from prison to the ocean being on fire, again — you may have missed the smallest glimmer of good news in the fight against anti-fatness and diet culture. I know I almost did. Turns out, Pinterest has moved to ban weight loss ads from its platform, and Norway passed a law requiring labels on retouched photos posted to social media. Are these relatively small moves in a world saturated with anti-fat messages? Sure. But is it possible this means some corners of society are finally recognizing the real harm that diet culture and unrealistic beauty standards perpetuate? Absolutely. (Kate Bernyk, 7/7)


Stat:
It's Past Time To Give Uterine Fibroids The Attention They Deserve 




In 2007, the late Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio) wrote an op-ed calling for passage of her bill to increase research funding and public education for uterine fibroids. She stressed the need for “new and better ways to treat or even cure uterine fibroids.” Fourteen years later, her bill still has not passed and this extremely common gynecological condition remains an overlooked and underfunded public health issue. Fibroids are non-cancerous tumors that grow in the wall of the uterus. Most American women will develop them at some point in their lives. An estimated 26 million Americans have fibroids, and of those, about 15 million suffer from debilitating symptoms, including heavy menstrual bleeding, intense pelvic pressure or pain, bladder problems, and fertility issues. (Tanika Gray Valbrun, 7/8)


USA Today:
Merger May Improve Cancer Care For Minorities. Why Is FTC Blocking It?




America has been waging a war on cancer since President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act in 1971, and to his credit President Joe Biden has set a goal of ending cancer during his tenure. He has also pledged to make racial equity a core policy value. However, recent action by the Federal Trade Commission runs counter to both goals. The FTC is working to block the merger of biotech companies Illumina and Grail, which lead the way in the early detection of cancer using blood samples and the technology needed to process the tests. Blocking the merger is a mistake that will harm future cancer patients, particularly those in minority communities. (Ja'Ron Smith, 7/6)


Dallas Morning News:
UT Southwestern Will Run Dallas’ Desperately Needed Public Psychiatric Hospital




In May, Texas lawmakers continued to invest in mental health by allocating nearly $400 million to the state psychiatric hospital system, including $45 million to plan and acquire land for a hospital in North Texas. This was welcome news in Dallas, which lacks its own state psychiatric hospital despite being the third largest city in Texas. For years, the state has indicated that it wanted to partner with UT Southwestern Medical Center to plan hospital construction. But our region is getting an even better deal. UTSW President Dr. Daniel Podolsky told us the prestigious academic medical center will actually operate the 200-bed, state-owned hospital, with state and UTSW officials looking at potential sites in and near Dallas’ medical district. (7/7)

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