First Edition: Aug. 26, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

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Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations. Note to readers: KHN's First Edition will not be published Aug. 29 through Sept. 5. Look for it again in your inbox on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
KHN: Unraveling The Interplay Of Omicron, Reinfections, And Long Covid
The latest covid-19 surge, caused by a shifting mix of quickly evolving omicron subvariants, appears to be waning, with cases and hospitalizations beginning to fall. Like past covid waves, this one will leave a lingering imprint in the form of long covid, an ill-defined catchall term for a set of symptoms that can include debilitating fatigue, difficulty breathing, chest pain, and brain fog. (Szabo, 8/26)
KHN: With More Sizzling Summers, Colorado Changes How Heat Advisories Are Issued 
For all the images of ski resorts and snow-capped peaks, Colorado is experiencing shorter winters and hotter summers that are increasingly putting people at risk for heat-related illnesses. Yet until this year, the National Weather Service hadn’t issued a heat advisory for the Denver metropolitan area in 13 years. That’s because the heat index commonly used by the weather service to gauge the health risks of hot weather relies on temperature and humidity. Colorado’s climate is so dry that reaching the thresholds for that kind of heat advisory is nearly impossible. (Hawryluk, 8/26)
KHN: Hospitals Cut Jobs And Services As Rising Costs Strain Budgets 
Bozeman Health had a problem, one that officials at the health system with hospitals and clinics in southwestern Montana said had been building for months. It had made it through the covid-19 pandemic’s most difficult trials but lost employees and paid a premium for traveling workers to fill the void. Inflation had also driven up operating costs. (Houghton, 8/26)
KHN: KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: The Future Of Public Health, 2022 Edition 
It’s been nearly a year since KHN’s “What the Health?” podcast took a deep dive into public health, and much has changed. Covid, in various versions, is still infecting people around the world, along with other communicable diseases including monkeypox and even polio. Yet public health remains a divisive issue, with politicians and the public alike arguing over how best to protect the community without trampling on individuals’ rights. Earlier this summer, the Commonwealth Fund Commission on a National Public Health System called for a major overhaul of the way the U.S. organizes, funds, and communicates about public health. The report includes specific recommendations for the Biden administration, Congress, state and local public health agencies, and medical and public health professionals. (8/25)
The New York Times: White House Pushes Journals To Drop Paywalls On Publicly Funded Research 
In laying out the new policy, which is set to be fully in place by the start of 2026, the Office of Science and Technology Policy said that the guidance had the potential to save lives and benefit the public on several key priorities — from cancer breakthroughs to clean-energy technology. “The American people fund tens of billions of dollars of cutting-edge research annually,” Dr. Alondra Nelson, the head of the office, said in a statement. “There should be no delay or barrier between the American public and the returns on their investments in research.” (Patel, 8/25)
Stat: White House Directs Agencies To Make Federally Funded Studies Free
“The devil’s in the details,” said New England Journal of Medicine Editor-in-Chief Eric Rubin, who told STAT at least a third of the journal’s estimated 200 articles a year are attached to federal funding, though other funding streams do require open access. “It does threaten the model of a carefully thought-out presentation and carefully getting research. We’re gonna have to think about how we can still do what we think is important.” (Owermohle, 8/25)
CIDRAP: WHO: COVID Deaths For 2022 Pass 1 Million Worldwide
At a World Health Organization (WHO) briefing today, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said COVID-19 deaths for 2022 alone passed 1 million this week, as he pressed countries to do more to vaccinate all healthcare workers, older people, and others at highest risk. Since the pandemic began in early 2020, 6,472,848 deaths have been reported, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard. Tedros said countries in Africa with the lowest rates are making progress with vaccine coverage, and many countries are making good strides in targeting high-priority groups. He said, however, that one third of the world is still unvaccinated, including two thirds of health workers and three quarters of older adults in low-income countries. (8/25)
UN News: World Reaches ‘Tragic Milestone’ Of One Million COVID-19 Deaths So Far In 2022
“We cannot say we are learning to live with COVID-19 when one million people have died with COVID-19 this year alone, when we are two-and-a-half years into the pandemic and have all the tools necessary to prevent these deaths,” said Tedros, speaking during his regular briefing from Geneva. (8/25)
NBC News: Long Covid May Be Keeping Up To 4 Million People Out Of Work, Research Suggests
Up to 4 million people may be out of work because of long Covid in the U.S, according to a report published this week by the Brookings Institution. In lost wages, that could add up to at least $170 billion per year, the report suggests. (Bendix, 8/25)
San Francisco Chronicle: Fewer Than 15,000 Novavax Shots Have Been Given In U.S.
The U.S. has administered 14,559 of its 626,900 available doses of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine since the shots were cleared for use in mid-July, according to data published Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Vaziri, 8/25)
CIDRAP: Study: Two COVID-19 Rapid Tests Accurately Diagnose Variant Infections
Two COVID-19 rapid antigen tests produce accurate results for infections with the SARS-COV-2 pre-Delta, Delta, and Omicron strains, finds a study yesterday in JAMA Network Open. University of Washington and University of Nevada researchers tested 797 adults who had symptoms characteristic of COVID-19 within the previous 5 days. They assessed the SCoV-2 Ag Detect Rapid Self-Test and BinaxNow COVID-19 Ag Card at multiple sites in King County, Washington. Testing was done from Feb 17, 2021, to Jan 11, 2022. Average participant age was 37.3 years, 58.2% were women, and 52.9% were unvaccinated. (8/25)
Bloomberg: Dr. Anthony Fauci Expected Covid To Be ‘Behind Us’ A Year Into Biden’s Term
White House Chief Medical Adviser Anthony Fauci expected the US would have moved past the Covid-19 pandemic after the first year of the Biden administration, but the disruption from the virus has lingered longer than the infectious disease expert anticipated. (Baumann and Tozzi, 8/25)
AP: Three More GOP-Led States Enact Abortion 'Trigger Laws'
The change will not be dramatic. All of these states except North Dakota already had anti-abortion laws in place that largely blocked patients from accessing the procedure. And the majority of the clinics that provided abortions in those areas have either stopped offering those services or moved to other states where abortion remains legal. (Kruesi, 8/25)
The Washington Post: North Dakota Judge Blocks Abortion Ban From Going Into Effect Friday 
The day before a near-total abortion ban would have taken effect in North Dakota, a judge put that law on hold Thursday afternoon, pending the conclusion of a legal challenge being mounted by the state’s former sole abortion clinic. Burleigh County District Judge Bruce Romanick granted a preliminary injunction in a legal challenge brought by Red River Women’s Clinic, which was North Dakota’s only abortion clinic until it moved just across state lines earlier this month. Although the trigger ban has been blocked, the state will have no abortion clinic for the foreseeable future. (Shepherd, 8/25)
The Hill: White House Says More Abortion Actions Coming 
“Americans across the country and of all backgrounds agree that women should have the right to make their own personal health care decisions and to receive life-saving medical care, without interference from politicians, and the President will continue to take action to protect women’s access to lifesaving health care,” Jean-Pierre said Thursday.   Jean-Pierre did not specify what further actions President Biden could take. (Sullivan, Weixel and Choi, 8/25)
CBS News: Google To Label Clinics That Provide Abortions In Effort To Increase Transparency 
Google has updated its features to better assist those using its tools to seek abortion-specific care, according to a letter released by Sen. Mark Warner that the company sent to him and Rep. Elissa Slotkin on Thursday. (Mandler, 8/25)
The Washington Post: New Restrictions From Major Abortion Funder Could Further Limit Access
New restrictions from one of the country’s largest abortion funding organizations could add new obstacles for many patients in antiabortion states seeking the procedure elsewhere. The National Abortion Federation and its NAF Hotline Fund will now require patients who receive their funding to take both abortion pills in a state where abortion is legal, according to emails sent on Aug. 22 and obtained by The Washington Post. The nonprofit, which is backed largely by billionaire Warren Buffett, helped fund at least 10 percent of all abortions in the U.S. in 2020. The new rules could impact thousands of patients a year, providers say. (Kitchener, 8/25)
AP: Oregon: Surge In Out-Of-State Abortion Patients
Planned Parenthood leaders in Oregon on Thursday said there has been a surge in the number of people traveling from out of state for abortions, including from neighboring Idaho, where most of a near-total abortion ban has taken effect. “We are definitely seeing an uptick as more and more trigger bans are being put into effect and laws are being enacted,” said Anne Udall, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. “We’re seeing people from all over,” Udall said. “Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, Idaho, Florida.” (Rush, 8/26)
The Washington Post: Viral Video Reinforces Growing GOP Political Dilemma On Abortion 
At a hearing, state Rep. Neal Collins (R) recounted the arduous journey faced by a 19-year-old thanks to an abortion ban he himself supported. Collins said the woman’s fetus was not viable, but that attorneys told her doctor they couldn’t extract it because it still had a heartbeat — the standard set in the bill supported by Collins that had gone into effect just the week before. “They discharged that 19-year-old,” Collins said. “The doctor told me at that point there is a 50 percent chance — well, first she’s going to pass this fetus in the toilet. She’s going to have to deal with that on her own. There’s a 50 percent chance — greater than 50 percent chance that she’s going to lose her uterus. There’s a 10 percent chance that she will develop sepsis and herself, die.” Collins added: “That weighs on me. I voted for that bill. These are affecting people.” (Blake, 8/25)
AP: WHO: Monkeypox Cases Drop 21%, Reversing Month-Long Increase
The number of monkeypox cases reported globally dropped 21% in the last week, reversing a month-long trend of rising infections and signaling that Europe’s outbreak may be starting to decline, the World Health Organization said Thursday. The U.N. health agency reported 5,907 new weekly cases and said two countries, Iran and Indonesia, reported their first cases. To date, more than 45,000 monkeypox cases have been reported in 98 countries since late April. (8/25)
San Francisco Chronicle: Monkeypox: SF ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ Outbreak Is Slowing Down
After about two months of rapid spread, San Francisco appears to be turning a corner on monkeypox, with early data showing the local epidemic may be slowing down. The number of new cases reported each week hit a high of 143 the week of July 24 and has tapered each week since, first to 87 cases, then 54 and then, last week, to fewer than five, according to figures provided by the San Francisco Department of Public Health. (Ho, 8/24)
Los Angeles Times: Monkeypox Cases Begin To Slow In L.A. County
“Although a month ago we were seeing a doubling of monkeypox cases in as few as nine days, we are now seeing a leveling in the number of new cases per week. And our doubling time has increased to 16 days,” said Dr. Rita Singhal, chief medical officer for the L.A. County Department of Public Health. (Toohey, Lin II and Money, 8/25)
CIDRAP: Monkeypox Epicenter Moves From Europe To Americas 
Today World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said monkeypox transmission has dropped in Europe, which was the initial epicenter of the current outbreak, but now rising cases are rising in the Americas, making the region the main hot spot. … Following the United States, Spain, Brazil, Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, the Netherlands, and Peru have the most cases, accounting for 88.9% of the global case count. (Soucheray, 8/25)
The Hill: Fauci Compares Monkeypox Outbreak To HIV Epidemic, Advises Against Making The Same Assumptions
The White House’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci advised against making the same assumptions about the current monkeypox outbreak that were made during the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Fauci and H. Clifford Lane, deputy director for clinical research and special projects at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), published a piece in the New England Journal of Medicine on Thursday in which they reflected on the similarities between the monkeypox outbreak and the HIV/AIDS epidemic, which both men spent much of their careers studying. (Choi, 8/25)
New England Journal of Medicine: Monkeypox — Past As Prologue 
If one compares the situations at the start of the AIDS, Covid-19, and current global monkeypox outbreaks, certain interesting similarities and differences are apparent. (H. Clifford Lane, MD, and Anthony S. Fauci, MD, 8/25)
Bloomberg: Monkeypox Virus Mushrooms Into Global Contagion In Just Four Months
From just a handful of infections in early May, monkeypox has escalated into a global public health emergency, with more than 45,000 cases scattered across 100 or more countries, mostly in Europe and North America. (Gale and Pong, 8/26)
The Washington Post: What Is Tomato Flu, The New Viral Infection Spreading In India?
A new, highly contagious viral infection that has been dubbed “tomato flu” is spreading among children in India, the country’s Health Ministry said this week. … The infection gets its name from the “eruption of red and painful blisters throughout the body that gradually enlarge to the size of a tomato,” according to an article published last week in the British medical journal Lancet. The blisters resemble those seen on young monkeypox patients. The disease — which appears to spread through close contact and is not considered life-threatening — could be an aftereffect of chikungunya or dengue rather than a viral infection, according to the article. (Jeong, 8/25)
Stat: Pfizer's Experimental RSV Vaccine Protects Older Adults In Study
Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, called the data exciting. “This vaccine will be of enormous benefit to the elderly in preventing severe and occasionally fatal respiratory tract infections,” Offit predicted. “The vaccine will also be important as a maternal vaccine to protect babies in the first six months of life.” (Herper, 8/25)
NBC News: Pfizer's RSV Vaccine Protects Against Severe Illness In Older Adults
Pfizer’s experimental vaccine for a respiratory virus called RSV was nearly 86% effective in preventing severe illness in a late-stage clinical trial of older adults, the company announced in a release Thursday. (Lovelace Jr., 8/25)
Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Confirms First Human West Nile Virus Cases Of The Year
Public health officials on Thursday confirmed Los Angeles County’s first human cases of West Nile virus of the year. (Martinez, 8/25)
Reuters: E.Coli Infections In Four U.S. States Rise To 84; Majority Wendy's Customers 
The E.coli bacteria outbreak in four Midwest states from an unknown source has affected 47 more people, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday, with a majority of the total 84 reported to have sandwiches at Wendy's. The agency said 52 people of the 62 it interviewed reported to have eaten sandwiches with romaine lettuce at a Wendy's restaurant in the week before they fell ill. (8/26)
Becker's Hospital Review: Best Hospitals, Health Systems To Work For By State
Forbes released its "America's Best Employers by State" list Aug. 24, and 262 hospitals and health systems made the cut. Forbes, in collaboration with market research company Statista, surveyed 70,000 employees working for businesses with more than 500 employees. A total of 1,382 employers were ranked from varying industries, up to 101 per state. Employers could be ranked more than once if they operate in more than one state. (Kayser, 8/25)
Becker's Hospital Review: 10 States With Highest Coding Rates For Social-Determinants-Of-Health Diagnoses
The most used codes were those for homelessness; disappearance and death of family members; problems related to living alone; problems related to living in a residential institution; and problems in relationship with a spouse or partner. (Cass, 8/25)
Stat: Why Amazon And Others Are In A Bidding War For Home Health Tech 
The bidding war over Signify Health — a health technology business that could fetch multibillion-dollar offers from Amazon, CVS, and UnitedHealth Group — is not about its dazzling software or a blockbuster AI algorithm. The crush of corporate interest, experts said, stems from something much bigger: the opportunity to move medical services back into the home. (Ross and Palmer, 8/25)
Modern Healthcare: Radiation Oncology Model Indefinitely Delayed
The federal government indefinitely delayed the start of the controversial radiation oncology model in a final rule published Thursday. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will propose a new start date at least six months in advance under the final rule. CMS proposed the extended delay in April after the agency and Congress pushed its start date back several times. The model was originally slated to roll out Jan. 1, 2021. … The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which will manage the mandatory initiative, wants to test whether prospective, site-neutral, episode-based payments for radiotherapy can save money. (Goldman, 8/25)
The Colorado Sun: Colorado Will Provide Free Education To Students Across Health Care Jobs
A state effort to ease Colorado’s dire shortage of health care workers will offer tuition-free training for several thousand students, providing a much-needed boost to hospitals and clinics. (Breunlin, 8/25)
Becker's Hospital Review: Vanderbilt, Public Schools Team Up To Mentor Future Nurses
Vanderbilt University Medical Center, based in Nashville, Tenn., will partner with Metro Nashville Public Schools to lead monthly conversations with high school seniors about what it takes to become a registered nurse. (Twenter, 8/25)
Houston Chronicle: Amid Health Care Worker Shortage, UTHealth Has A $10.5M Solution
The University of Texas Health Science Center opened a new public psychiatric hospital in March across the street from the Harris County Psychiatric Center, just east of Texas 288, to provide relief to the state’s overburdened mental health system by adding more beds. But building the hospital was the easy part. The real challenge was finding workers to staff it. (Carballo, 8/25)
AP: Watson Case Revives Old Fight For Massage Therapy Industry
Michelle Krause still grapples with the challenge of acknowledging she’s a massage therapist when she first meets someone, dreading their reaction or misguided comments even after 18 years in the profession. … Krause was among hundreds of therapists from across the country who gathered for the American Massage Therapy Association’s three-day national convention, which began Thursday. It was an opportunity to talk about a job made more difficult amid the pandemic, the 2021 attack on three Atlanta-area massage businesses in which eight people were killed and the lingering stain of NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson’s ongoing case that has perpetuated the sex worker stigma around the industry. (Walker, 8/25)
AP: Court Loosens Rules On Where Malpractice Cases Can Be Filed 
Pennsylvania’s highest court on Thursday reversed its own two-decade-old rule that required medical malpractice cases to be filed in the county where the alleged harm occurred, a win for civil plaintiffs and the lawyers who represent them but a potentially costly change for health care providers. The decision by the state Supreme Court is likely to mean the number of such lawsuits will increase in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, where jurors are considered to be more sympathetic to patients and more likely to produce larger verdicts. (Scolforo, 8/25)
Modern Healthcare: DOJ Joins Cigna Medicare Advantage Fraud Case
The whistleblower lawsuit, filed in 2017 in a New York federal court by a former service provider for Cigna’s Medicare Advantage subsidiary HealthSpring, accuses Cigna of bilking the federal government out of $1.4 billion by submitting improper diagnostic codes from 2012 to 2019. The codes were allegedly based on health conditions that did not exist in the patient or were not found in any medical record. (Kacik, 8/25)
Modern Healthcare: Centene Washington State Medicaid Fraud Case Settled 
Centene will pay $33 million to settle allegations its now-defunct pharmacy benefit manager overcharged the Washington state Medicaid program for drugs. (Tepper, 8/25)
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