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Health Care — House panel dings Trump-era officials over pandemic

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George Newall, the last surviving member of the original team that produced “Schoolhouse Rock,” has died. Readers of a certain age know: Three is a magic number.

Today in health, the House committee on the COVID-19 crisis issued its final report in which it blamed the previous administration for mishandling and worsening the early part of the pandemic. 

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Subscribe here or in the box below.

Panel: Trump White House made pandemic response worse

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released its final report on Friday before Republicans take control of the House in the upcoming Congress, providing new findings on how the Trump administration’s actions negatively impacted the U.S. response.

The report from the Democratic-led subcommittee, chaired by Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), highlighted the Trump White House’s “failed stewardship over the pandemic response and persistent pattern of political interference.”

The committee determined that the previous administration failed to adapt its response to the COVID-19 pandemic as public health experts’ understanding of the virus changed — and also failed to coordinate properly with public health officials. 

  • In particular, the report stated that the Trump White House’s focus on certain goals got in the way of mitigating the spread of the virus, such as its emphasis on symptomatic transmission of the virus and bringing back Americans who were overseas at the start of the outbreak.
  • Later on in the pandemic, the committee found the Trump administration’s economic relief efforts were not thorough or equitable, leaving millions of individuals at risk of losing housing and many small and midsized companies without the same measure of relief that was offered to large corporations. 

The overarching determination by the committee was that the U.S. had long underinvested in its public health infrastructure before the pandemic. The panel called for the country to “reinvigorate” its public health capabilities by investing in new tests, treatments and vaccines. 

“I have emphasized during the Select Subcommittee’s tenure that our oversight work must ultimately be forward-looking; the coronavirus crisis will not be the last public health emergency or economic crisis that we confront,” Clyburn said. 

Read more here. 

Mandate repeal shows changing pandemic politics

The elimination of the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate as part of the defense policy bill represents a surprise concession by Democrats and shows how the politics of the pandemic have changed.

  • Vaccine mandates have been championed by the Biden administration, congressional Democrats and blue state governors as an important tool in the fight against the coronavirus.
  • Republicans in both chambers saw the annual defense bill as an opportunity to get rid of the Pentagon’s mandate and threatened to block the $847 billion legislation.
  • By giving in to Republican demands, Democrats acknowledged that the public has moved on, and there’s not much appetite for any sort of virus-fighting rules. 

Background: The Pentagon’s policy took effect in August 2021 during the height of the omicron wave, when the Biden administration was pulling out all the stops to jump-start lagging vaccination rates.  

The White House and the Defense Department said the military’s vaccine mandate was essential in protecting troops from COVID-19. The Pentagon has long mandated certain vaccines, and the coronavirus one was no different. 

Key quote: “The policy that the Department of Defense implemented in August of 2021 … was absolutely the right policy. It saved lives and it made sure our force was as ready as it possibly could be in the face of the pandemic,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, (D-Wash.) said during a House Rules Committee speech.

“As we are here in December 2022, does that August 2021 policy still make sense? Is it still the right policy? We don’t believe that it is, and I don’t believe that it is,” Smith said. 

Read more here

FAUCI BLASTS ‘COWARDLY’ TROLLS HARASSING WIFE, CHILDREN

“These people who troll about, they harass my wife and my children because they can figure out where they live and what their phone number is,” Anthony Fauci said while appearing on the BBC’s “Americast” podcast.

Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the White House, has been the public face of the government’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s set to retire from government service at the end of the month. 

  • Fauci said those close to him have regularly been harassed since his appointment in 2020 to fight COVID-19, while the doctor himself is a target of conspiracies and right-wing hate.
  • However, he said paying attention to hate “takes away from your ability to do your job” and that he tries to avoid it.
  • “I have good security protection, but I really think it’s so cowardly to harass people who are completely uninvolved, including my children,” he said. 

Read more here

NYC RECOMMENDS MASKING INDOORS REGARDLESS OF VACCINE STATUS

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has issued a health advisory recommending that residents wear masks at all times when they are at indoor public spaces regardless of their vaccination status.

The department cited an increase in respiratory viral illnesses and the high levels of hospitalizations being reported. 

  • Along with indoor public spaces, the department also advised that masks be worn when people are sick and unable to separate from others.
  • Those who test positive for COVID-19 should wear a mask at all times when out in public, the department said. 

“The holiday season is about togetherness and there is a way to gather safely — even as respiratory viruses in our city are unusually high,” New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said in a statement. 

Individuals who have a high risk of developing a severe illness should also consider taking other precautions when out in public, the department said.

People who are pregnant, over the age of 65, have weakened immune systems or are not up to date on their vaccines are advised to consider avoiding large indoor gatherings and asking those around them to mask as well when gathering together. 

Read more here.

CDC expands use of updated COVID-19 vaccines for kids

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday signed off on the use of bivalent COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months through 5 years. 

The move, following the Food and Drug Administration’s greenlight on Thursday, will allow the updated vaccines to be administered to the youngest population starting immediately. 

While the vaccines are authorized in adults as a booster only, it’s a little more complicated for young kids.

  • Children ages 6 months through 5 years who previously completed a two-dose Moderna primary series are eligible to receive a Moderna bivalent booster two months after their final primary series dose.
  • Children ages 6 months through 4 years who are currently completing a three-dose Pfizer primary series will receive a Pfizer bivalent vaccine as their third primary dose. 

Read more here

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • A rural hospital’s excruciating choice: $3.2 million a year or inpatient care? (The New York Times) 
  • Is lecanemab the Alzheimer’s drug that will finally make a difference? (NPR) 
  • Hospital financial decisions play a role in the critical shortage of pediatric beds for RSV patients: “It really has to do with dollars” (Kaiser Health News)

STATE BY STATE

  • DeSantis plans to hold COVID vaccine makers accountable for side effects (WFLA) 
  • Delayed Texas maternal mortality report to be released next week, state says (Texas Tribune) 
  • Oregon governor extends emergency order as respiratory viruses rise among children and adults (Oregon Public Broadcasting) 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you next week.



George Newall, the last surviving member of the original team that produced “Schoolhouse Rock,” has died. Readers of a certain age know: Three is a magic number.

Today in health, the House committee on the COVID-19 crisis issued its final report in which it blamed the previous administration for mishandling and worsening the early part of the pandemic. 

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Subscribe here or in the box below.

Panel: Trump White House made pandemic response worse

The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released its final report on Friday before Republicans take control of the House in the upcoming Congress, providing new findings on how the Trump administration’s actions negatively impacted the U.S. response.

The report from the Democratic-led subcommittee, chaired by Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), highlighted the Trump White House’s “failed stewardship over the pandemic response and persistent pattern of political interference.”

The committee determined that the previous administration failed to adapt its response to the COVID-19 pandemic as public health experts’ understanding of the virus changed — and also failed to coordinate properly with public health officials. 

  • In particular, the report stated that the Trump White House’s focus on certain goals got in the way of mitigating the spread of the virus, such as its emphasis on symptomatic transmission of the virus and bringing back Americans who were overseas at the start of the outbreak.
  • Later on in the pandemic, the committee found the Trump administration’s economic relief efforts were not thorough or equitable, leaving millions of individuals at risk of losing housing and many small and midsized companies without the same measure of relief that was offered to large corporations. 

The overarching determination by the committee was that the U.S. had long underinvested in its public health infrastructure before the pandemic. The panel called for the country to “reinvigorate” its public health capabilities by investing in new tests, treatments and vaccines. 

“I have emphasized during the Select Subcommittee’s tenure that our oversight work must ultimately be forward-looking; the coronavirus crisis will not be the last public health emergency or economic crisis that we confront,” Clyburn said. 

Read more here. 

Mandate repeal shows changing pandemic politics

The elimination of the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate as part of the defense policy bill represents a surprise concession by Democrats and shows how the politics of the pandemic have changed.

  • Vaccine mandates have been championed by the Biden administration, congressional Democrats and blue state governors as an important tool in the fight against the coronavirus.
  • Republicans in both chambers saw the annual defense bill as an opportunity to get rid of the Pentagon’s mandate and threatened to block the $847 billion legislation.
  • By giving in to Republican demands, Democrats acknowledged that the public has moved on, and there’s not much appetite for any sort of virus-fighting rules. 

Background: The Pentagon’s policy took effect in August 2021 during the height of the omicron wave, when the Biden administration was pulling out all the stops to jump-start lagging vaccination rates.  

The White House and the Defense Department said the military’s vaccine mandate was essential in protecting troops from COVID-19. The Pentagon has long mandated certain vaccines, and the coronavirus one was no different. 

Key quote: “The policy that the Department of Defense implemented in August of 2021 … was absolutely the right policy. It saved lives and it made sure our force was as ready as it possibly could be in the face of the pandemic,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, (D-Wash.) said during a House Rules Committee speech.

“As we are here in December 2022, does that August 2021 policy still make sense? Is it still the right policy? We don’t believe that it is, and I don’t believe that it is,” Smith said. 

Read more here

FAUCI BLASTS ‘COWARDLY’ TROLLS HARASSING WIFE, CHILDREN

“These people who troll about, they harass my wife and my children because they can figure out where they live and what their phone number is,” Anthony Fauci said while appearing on the BBC’s “Americast” podcast.

Fauci, the chief medical adviser to the White House, has been the public face of the government’s efforts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He’s set to retire from government service at the end of the month. 

  • Fauci said those close to him have regularly been harassed since his appointment in 2020 to fight COVID-19, while the doctor himself is a target of conspiracies and right-wing hate.
  • However, he said paying attention to hate “takes away from your ability to do your job” and that he tries to avoid it.
  • “I have good security protection, but I really think it’s so cowardly to harass people who are completely uninvolved, including my children,” he said. 

Read more here

NYC RECOMMENDS MASKING INDOORS REGARDLESS OF VACCINE STATUS

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has issued a health advisory recommending that residents wear masks at all times when they are at indoor public spaces regardless of their vaccination status.

The department cited an increase in respiratory viral illnesses and the high levels of hospitalizations being reported. 

  • Along with indoor public spaces, the department also advised that masks be worn when people are sick and unable to separate from others.
  • Those who test positive for COVID-19 should wear a mask at all times when out in public, the department said. 

“The holiday season is about togetherness and there is a way to gather safely — even as respiratory viruses in our city are unusually high,” New York City Health Commissioner Ashwin Vasan said in a statement. 

Individuals who have a high risk of developing a severe illness should also consider taking other precautions when out in public, the department said.

People who are pregnant, over the age of 65, have weakened immune systems or are not up to date on their vaccines are advised to consider avoiding large indoor gatherings and asking those around them to mask as well when gathering together. 

Read more here.

CDC expands use of updated COVID-19 vaccines for kids

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday signed off on the use of bivalent COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months through 5 years. 

The move, following the Food and Drug Administration’s greenlight on Thursday, will allow the updated vaccines to be administered to the youngest population starting immediately. 

While the vaccines are authorized in adults as a booster only, it’s a little more complicated for young kids.

  • Children ages 6 months through 5 years who previously completed a two-dose Moderna primary series are eligible to receive a Moderna bivalent booster two months after their final primary series dose.
  • Children ages 6 months through 4 years who are currently completing a three-dose Pfizer primary series will receive a Pfizer bivalent vaccine as their third primary dose. 

Read more here

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • A rural hospital’s excruciating choice: $3.2 million a year or inpatient care? (The New York Times) 
  • Is lecanemab the Alzheimer’s drug that will finally make a difference? (NPR) 
  • Hospital financial decisions play a role in the critical shortage of pediatric beds for RSV patients: “It really has to do with dollars” (Kaiser Health News)

STATE BY STATE

  • DeSantis plans to hold COVID vaccine makers accountable for side effects (WFLA) 
  • Delayed Texas maternal mortality report to be released next week, state says (Texas Tribune) 
  • Oregon governor extends emergency order as respiratory viruses rise among children and adults (Oregon Public Broadcasting) 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you next week.

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