Wall Street Journal: “The budget proposals seek to address the nationwide scarcity of mental-health workers, the mental-health needs in schools and growing demand for emergency services. They represent a rare bipartisan point of agreement for more government action and underscore how dire many think the problem has become.”
An Even Deadlier Pandemic Could Soon Be Here
Zeynep Tufekci: “Bird flu — known more formally as avian influenza — has long hovered on the horizons of scientists’ fears. This pathogen, especially the H5N1 strain, hasn’t often infected humans, but when it has, 56 percent of those known to have contracted it have died. Its inability to spread easily, if at all, from one person to another has kept it from causing a pandemic.”
“But things are changing. The virus, which has long caused outbreaks among poultry, is infecting more and more migratory birds, allowing it to spread more widely, even to various mammals, raising the risk that a new variant could spread to and among people.”
“Alarmingly, it was recently reported that a mutant H5N1 strain was not only infecting minks at a fur farm in Spain but also most likely spreading among them, unprecedented among mammals.”
Biden to End Covid-19 Emergency
“President Joe Biden informed Congress on Monday that he will end the twin national emergencies for addressing COVID-19 on May 11, as most of the world has returned closer to normalcy nearly three years after they were first declared,” the AP reports.
“The move to end the national emergency and public health emergency declarations would formally restructure the federal coronavirus response to treat the virus as an endemic threat to public health that can be managed through agencies’ normal authorities.”
Drug Companies Brace for Chairman Bernie
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) “has long made no secret that he thinks drug companies and health insurers are ripping off Americans. But now he’s chairman of the Senate health committee,” Axios reports.
“Sanders has signaled an early focus of the committee’s work will be drug prices, and manufacturers are bracing for some contentious hearings.”
FDA Eases Blood Donor Restrictions for Gay, Bisexual Men
“The Food and Drug Administration unveiled new guidance Friday to relax blood donor restrictions for gay and bisexual men,” Axios reports.
“The FDA’s plan would ease restrictions that were set during the HIV/AIDS crisis in the 1980s, which several medical and LGBTQ organizations say are discriminatory.”
Obamacare Enrollments Reach Record High
“Enrollments under the Affordable Care Act have reached an all-time high on the federal and state exchanges, helping drive the nation’s uninsured rate down to record lows despite steeper monthly premium costs,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The Biden administration Wednesday provided the most comprehensive look so far at sign-up activity during the ACA’s most recent open-enrollment period, which marks the 10th for the Obama-era health law.”
Most Want Government to Ensure Health Care Coverage
A new Gallup poll finds a 57% majority of U.S. adults believe that the federal government should ensure all Americans have healthcare coverage.
Yet nearly as many, 53%, prefer that the U.S. healthcare system be based on private insurance rather than run by the government.
FDA Weighs Process for Annual Covid Shots
A Food and Drug Administration expert panel this week will consider a process for updating Covid shots that resembles the annual strain selection process for seasonal flu vaccines, Axios reports.
China Braces for Massive Superspreader Event
“Xi Jinping has expressed concern about the spread of Covid-19 to rural China on the eve of the lunar new year, in the Chinese president’s most direct acknowledgment of the worsening health crisis since suddenly abandoning his zero-Covid strategy in early December,” the Financial Times reports.
“China’s lunar new year holiday marks the world’s biggest annual human migration. Officials have forecast that the country’s 1.4 billion people will take 2 billion trips to see family in the coming weeks — about two-thirds of pre-pandemic levels.”
Meanwhile, The Guardian notes Chinese cyber authorities have announced an internet censorship crackdown to ensure there are no “gloomy sentiments” caused by pandemic “rumors” during the lunar new year festival.
Debunking Covid Vaccine Misinformation
Katelyn Jetelina: “We have more evidence than for any other vaccine or disease in the history of humans that the benefits of Covid-19 vaccines greatly outweigh the risks.”
DeSantis Moves to Permanently Ban Covid Protocols
“Despite facing pushback from medical professionals and businesses, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced legislation Tuesday that would make permanent a law to penalize companies that require employees to wear masks or be vaccinated for Covid-19 and added a new ban on medical boards reprimanding doctors for spreading Covid misinformation,” the Miami Herald reports.
Said DeSantis: “This is just nuts that we’re still doing this. We need to be leading on this by making all of these protections permanent in Florida statute as we need to do in the upcoming legislative session.”
China Records 60,000 Covid Deaths
“China said on Saturday it had recorded almost 60,000 Covid-related deaths between December 8 and January 12, and the current wave has already peaked,” the South China Morning Post reports.
“It is the first time China has released a death toll since its abrupt pivot away from the zero-Covid policy last month.”
Most Didn’t Get Latest Booster Shot
“Less than 40 percent of people over 65 have taken the updated booster shot that became available in the fall, according to the CDC, leaving millions with little protection against the latest strain sweeping the U.S.,” Politico reports.
House GOP to Conduct Sweeping Probe of Pandemic
“House Republicans on Monday commissioned a special investigative panel focused on the coronavirus pandemic, hoping to leverage their new, powerful majority to press scientists and federal officials about the origin of the public health crisis and the government’s response to it,” the Washington Post reports.
“Party lawmakers officially chartered the new effort in a sprawling package setting the chamber’s rules for the next two years, awarding it a sweeping mandate — from looking into vaccine development, school closures and other mitigation measures to examining the roughly $5 trillion in emergency federal aid approved since early 2020.”
Not Long Now Before Covid is Endemic in China
“China will soon be in sync with the rest of the world as Covid-19 becomes an endemic disease,” the South China Morning Post reports.
“China is battling unprecedented waves of Covid-19 infections after pivoting from its long-standing zero-Covid policy towards living with the virus. But the death toll remains unknown with Chinese authorities not reporting daily Covid cases since December 25.”
The Most Transmissible Variant Yet
Washington Post: “Three years after the novel coronavirus emerged, a new variant, XBB.1.5, is quickly becoming the dominant strain in parts of the United States because of a potent mix of mutations that makes it easier to spread broadly, including among those who have been previously infected or vaccinated.”
Are Vaccines Fueling New Covid Variants?
Wall Street Journal: “Public-health experts are sounding the alarm about a new Omicron variant dubbed XBB that is rapidly spreading across the Northeast U.S. Some studies suggest it is as different from the original Covid strain from Wuhan as the 2003 SARS virus. Should Americans be worried?”
“It isn’t clear that XBB is any more lethal than other variants, but its mutations enable it to evade antibodies from prior infection and vaccines as well as existing monoclonal antibody treatments. Growing evidence also suggests that repeated vaccinations may make people more susceptible to XBB and could be fueling the virus’s rapid evolution.”
Chinese Health Official Raises Covid Alarm
“A top Chinese public-health official warned of widespread Covid-19 outbreaks across the country’s more vulnerable rural areas as millions of citizens prepare to travel home for the coming Lunar New Year holiday,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
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