First Edition: Feb. 1, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

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Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.
KHN: ‘American Diagnosis’ Episode 2: Reclaiming Native Food Traditions To Nourish Indigenous People 
Reagan Wytsalucy was looking for a lost orchard. Martin Reinhardt wanted to know more about and better understand the taste of Indigenous foods before European colonization in North America. They followed different paths, but their goals were similar: to reclaim their food traditions to improve the health and vitality of their communities. Native foodways of hunting, fishing, gathering, and farming have been under threat since the arrival of Europeans. Colonization, forced relocations, and, later, highly processed foods fundamentally reshaped the diet of many Indigenous people. The effects of those changes have rippled through generations. Now, Indigenous people are twice as likely to have diabetes as white Americans, according to a 2017 CDC report. (2/1)
KHN: Faxes And Snail Mail: Will Pandemic-Era Flaws Unleash Improved Health Technology? 
Jamie Taylor received two letters from the Missouri Department of Social Services Family Support Division that began, “Good news,” before stating that she was denied Medicaid coverage. Her income exceeded the state’s limits for the federal-state public health insurance program for people with low incomes. Missouri officials now blame the incongruous greeting for the decidedly bad news on a computer programming error, but it was just the beginning of Taylor’s ongoing saga trying to get assistance from Missouri’s safety net. Taylor, now 41, spent hours on the phone, enduring four-hour hold times and dropped calls, and received delayed mailings of time-sensitive documents to her home in Sikeston. (Sable-Smith, 2/1)
KHN: Colleges Struggle To Recruit Therapists For Students In Crisis 
Early in his first quarter at the University of California-Davis, Ryan Manriquez realized he needed help. A combination of pressures — avoiding covid-19, enduring a breakup, dealing with a disability, trying to keep up with a tough slate of classes — hit him hard. “I felt the impact right away,” said Manriquez, 21. After learning of UC-Davis’ free counseling services, Manriquez showed up at the student health center and lined up an emergency Zoom session the same day. He was referred to other resources within days and eventually settled into weekly group therapy. (Kreidler, 2/1)
The Washington Post: Pfizer-BioNTech Coronavirus Vaccine For Children Under 5 Could Be Available By The End Of February, People With Knowledge Say 
Coronavirus vaccines for children younger than 5 could be available far sooner than expected — perhaps by the end of February — under a plan that would lead to the potential authorization of a two-shot regimen in the coming weeks, people briefed on the situation said Monday. Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, the manufacturers of the vaccine, are expected to submit to the Food and Drug Administration as early as Tuesday a request for emergency-use authorization for the vaccine for children 6 months to 5 years old, which would make it the first vaccine available for that age group. Older children already can receive the shot. (McGinley, Sun and Johnson, 1/31)
NPR: COVID Vaccine For Young Kids Could Be Ready This Month
"The key question is whether the parents of younger children will get their kids vaccinated," Dr. Celine Gounder, a clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Health, said . "Parents are relatively more hesitant to get their young children vaccinated than themselves." (Granitz and Stein, 2/1)
CNN: Novavax Seeks FDA Emergency Use Authorization Of Its Coronavirus Vaccine 
The vaccine can be stored at normal refrigeration temperatures, between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius (about 35 to 46 degrees Fahrenheit), and has a shelf life of about nine months, according to the company. Stanley Erck, Novavax's president and chief executive officer, told CNN in November that if the FDA gives the green light for the EUA, the first 100 million doses of the protein-based vaccine will be ready to ship. (Howard, 1/31)
WTOP: Gaithersburg’s Novavax Officially Files For FDA Vaccine Approval 
Gaithersburg, Maryland-based Novavax, which began developing its protein-based COVID-19 vaccine candidate almost two years ago, has officially filed for approval with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its use in the U.S. The final FDA filing Monday comes months after Novavax had originally intended, and, while it may seem the company is late to the vaccine game, it sees its vaccine filling a void, particularly internationally. It does not require sub-zero storage, making it potentially more accessible to developing countries and remote areas. (Clabaugh, 1/31)
CBS News: Novavax Could Offer Unvaccinated Americans A New Option, If Regulators Agree
Following a long-awaited submission of data to the Food and Drug Administration last month, Novavax announced Monday that it had formally filed a request for emergency use authorization of its protein-based COVID-19 vaccine in the United States.  If greenlighted by the FDA, Novavax's shots could be the first COVID-19 doses available in the U.S. based on a kind of "protein subunit" technology that has been used for decades in other routine vaccinations. Officials say having this option could help persuade some remaining vaccine holdouts to get the shots, as well as boost the Biden administration's international vaccine donation goals. (Tin, 1/31)
Stat: Moderna Wins Full Approval For Its Covid-19 Vaccine
The ever-evolving landscape of Covid-19 vaccines shifted again on Monday, with Moderna winning full approval for its jab from the Food and Drug Administration, and Novavax submitting a long-awaited application to the agency for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine. The approval of Moderna’s vaccine, Spikevax, makes it the country’s second fully licensed vaccine to protect against SARS-CoV-2. It’s also the first product the Cambridge, Mass., biotech has brought through licensure in the United States. The Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, Comirnaty, became the first to be fully approved in August. (Branswell, 1/31)
The Wall Street Journal: FDA Fully Approves Moderna’s Covid-19 Vaccine
Moderna completed its application for full approval of Spikevax in August 2021, which included results of a 30,000-person clinical trial. A final analysis of that trial found the vaccine, given as two doses 28 days apart, was 93% effective at preventing symptomatic Covid-19 disease, and that efficacy remained durable six months after the second dose. (Loftus, Fidler and Sylvers, 1/31)
Politico: FDA Gives Full Approval To Moderna's Covid-19 Shot 
The approval for people ages 18 and older will make it easier for schools and workplaces to require vaccination against the virus, now that there are two approved products to choose from, including Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid shot. It will also allow Moderna to market its vaccine directly to consumers. (Foley, 1/31)
AP: EPA Restores Rule To Limit Power-Plant Mercury Emissions
In yet another reversal of a Trump-era action, the Environmental Protection Agency said Monday it will resume enforcement of a rule that limits power plant emissions of mercury and other hazardous pollutants. The EPA action restores a 2012 rule imposed under President Barack Obama that was credited with curbing mercury’s devastating neurological damage to children and prevented thousands of premature deaths while reducing the risk of heart attacks and cancer, among other public health benefits. (Daly, 1/31)
The Wall Street Journal: EPA Moves To Restore Obama-Era Rules On Power Plants
The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday moved to restore a federal determination that allowed it to regulate mercury, lead and other toxic metals from coal-fired and oil-fired power plants. Under the Obama administration, the EPA said it had the authority to regulate emissions of mercury and other toxic metals from power plant emissions under the Clean Air Act as long as EPA officials determined it was “appropriate and necessary. ”In 2020, the Trump administration withdrew that determination, saying that regulators made errors when calculating the costs and benefits of the rules. (Stech Ferek, 1/31)
The Hill: Biden To Relaunch 'Cancer Moonshot' Effort At Wednesday Event
President Biden on Wednesday will host a relaunch of the "cancer moonshot" project he oversaw during the Obama administration. Biden will be joined by Vice President Harris and first lady Jill Biden for the event at the White House. Additional details were not immediately available. (Samuels, 1/31)
Bloomberg: Biden White House Appoints Czar To Tackle Homelessness
The White House has named a point person in the Biden administration’s efforts to reverse the alarming rise of homelessness across the U.S. Jeff Olivet will serve as the executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, an office that coordinates the work of 19 federal agencies to address the housing crisis. Olivet is the cofounder of an anti-racist consultancy, Racial Equity Partners. He is also the former chief executive officer of the Center for Social Innovation (now C4 Innovations), a company that provides training and technical guidance for housing groups and social providers to confront racism and other systemic issues. Olivet has experience working directly with homeless people as a street outreach worker, case manager and housing coordinator. (Capps, 1/31)
Politico: Biden’s FDA Pick Makes Major Ethics Pledges To Win Over Elizabeth Warren 
President Joe Biden’s nominee to lead the Food and Drug Administration is making major ethics concessions to Sen. Elizabeth Warren as he tries to lock down critical confirmation votes. Robert Califf, who was first nominated more than two months ago, is agreeing to not seek employment or compensation from any pharmaceutical or medical device company that he interacts with “for four years” following his time in government, according to a letter he sent to the Massachusetts Democrat and obtained by POLITICO. (Barron-Lopez and Cancryn, 1/31)
Stat: More Democrats Flag ‘Questions’ About Biden’s FDA Pick Califf 
Nearly a dozen Democratic senators aren’t yet willing to publicly support President Biden’s Food and Drug Administration pick, Robert Califf, despite his sailing through a key health committee vote earlier this month. It’s a surprising level of uncertainty for Califf, who earned almost unanimous support when he was confirmed to lead the same agency in 2016. And it’s surprising, too, given the power that the FDA has to shape the response to the Covid-19 pandemic — a response for which Biden is increasingly being criticized. The FDA, which is responsible for evaluating the safety of Covid-19 tests, vaccines, and therapeutics, has been without a Senate-confirmed leader for more than a year. (Florko and Cohrs, 2/1)
AP: All-Out Effort To Keep Biden COVID-Free; No 'Normal' Yet
When President Joe Biden met with U.S. governors at the White House on Monday, he was the only one given a glass of water — lest anyone else remove their mask to take a drink. The president was seated more than 10 feet from everyone, including Vice President Kamala Harris and members of his Cabinet. A White House staffer who was wearing a surgical mask when Biden entered the room was quickly handed an N95 version. (Miller, 1/31)
CNBC: Omicron: Vaccinated Are Less Likely To Spread BA.2, Study Finds
The omicron BA.2 subvariant is inherently more contagious and better at evading vaccines than any other Covid strain, but vaccinated people don’t transmit it as easily as the unvaccinated, according to a Danish study published Sunday. The new subvariant, which has rapidly become dominant in Denmark, spread more easily across all groups regardless of sex, age, household size and vaccination status, the study found. The probability for spreading within a household was 39% for BA.2 versus 29% for BA.1, the original omicron strain that was dominant worldwide as of Jan. 19, according to the World Health Organization. (Kimball, 1/31)
AP: Austin To Governors: Guard Troops Must Get COVID-19 Vaccine 
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in letters to seven governors, is reaffirming the need for members of their states’ Army and Air National Guards to get the mandatory COVID-19 vaccine or lose their Guard status. In nearly identical letters signed late last week, Austin tells the governors that the virus “takes our service members out of the fight, temporarily or permanently, and jeopardizes our ability to meet mission requirements,” according to copies obtained Monday by The Associated Press. (Baldor, 1/31)
AP: Mandate To Vaccinate New Orleans Schoolchildren Kicking In 
As school systems across the U.S. struggle to keep classrooms open amid the pandemic, New Orleans is set to become the nation’s first major district to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for children 5 and up, though state regulations will allow parents to opt out easily. Ahead of Tuesday’s deadline, many schools in the city have been holding vaccination events, including one at KIPP Believe school. (Santana, 1/31)
AP: Youngkin, Justice Seek Relief From Health Worker Vax Rule
Warning of hospitals and other health providers facing “an urgent staffing crisis,” the Republican governors of Virginia and West Virginia on Monday asked the Biden administration for a limited waiver to the federal vaccine mandate for health care workers. (Raby and Rankin, 1/31)
The Washington Post: Coronavirus Vaccine Mandates Appear On Way Out At Virginia’s Public Universities After Attorney General’s Opinion
One by one, Virginia’s public universities appear to be falling into line with an opinion from the state’s new Republican attorney general, Jason Miyares, that they are not legally authorized to require students to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. On Monday, Virginia Tech announced it would no longer make coronavirus vaccination a condition of student enrollment. The University of Virginia, meanwhile, said it would no longer threaten to disenroll students this semester who do not get a vaccine booster shot. (Anderson and Lumpkin, 1/31)
Los Angeles Times: UCLA Students Stage Sit-In, Demand Online Options As UC In-Person Return Sparks Division
UCLA students staged a sit-in Monday to demand continued online learning options as the University of California’s reopening of classrooms amid the continuing pandemic sparked widespread division over remote vs. in-person instruction. After a largely in-person fall term, the UC system’s nine undergraduate campuses shifted to remote classes through January as a precaution against the highly contagious Omicron variant. But the return to mostly in-person classes — encouraged by high vaccination rates and signs that the surge has peaked — is anything but smooth. (Watanabe, 1/31)
The Boston Globe: After Much Fanfare, Other Cities Balk At Following Boston’s Proof-Of-Vaccination Mandate
When Mayor Michelle Wu announced in December that she would put in place a proof-of-vaccination mandate for Boston restaurants, gyms, and entertainment venues, officials from several other Massachusetts cities stood with her in a show of support. “I’m so grateful to have regional mayors and municipal health officials here, city councilors, state representatives,” Wu said during a City Hall event, “because fighting this pandemic will require shared action and partnership.” But her call for unity has produced mixed results. (Gardizy, 1/31)
Bloomberg: Denver To End Mask Mandate For Businesses This Week, Mayor Says
Denver will end its mask mandate for businesses Feb. 4 as Covid-19 cases decline, Mayor Michael B. Hancock said Monday, while cautioning “this is still a public health emergency.” Masks are still required at city schools, on public transit and at Denver International Airport, Hancock said during an online briefing. He also appealed for “a little less anger and petulance” over the ongoing restrictions. Scientific modeling suggests “omicron has run out of fuel in our community,” said Bob McDonald, director of the city’s department of public health and environment. (Del Giudice, 1/31)
AP: California Governor Criticized Again For Not Wearing A Mask
California Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing new criticism for shedding his face mask in public, rekindling a politically sensitive issue that has shadowed the Democratic governor since he was caught without a face covering at a 2020 party that defied his own pandemic safety orders. The latest scrutiny came after basketball legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson tweeted a photo of himself with the governor at the NFC championship game Sunday at SoFi Stadium near Los Angeles — both beaming smiles without masks. (Blood, 2/1)
AP: Pennsylvania Adding Long-Term Care Beds To Ease COVID Crunch 
Pennsylvania is setting up four regional support sites with as many as 120 beds to help hospitals and nursing homes under strain from COVID-19, state officials said Monday. The temporary sites will be located in existing skilled nursing facilities in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as in Blair and Clarion counties, and will allow hospitals to more rapidly discharge patients in need of long-term care. (1/31)
Philadelphia Inquirer: Pa. Hospitals Strained By COVID Getting Help From Overflow Sites
Overflow units will open at four Pennsylvania nursing homes, including one in Philadelphia, in the state’s latest effort to ease the burden on hospitals pushed to the brink by an influx of patients infected with omicron, a nationwide staffing shortage, and workers out sick with the virus, the Department of Health announced Monday. Up to 30 additional beds for patients will open at Springs at the Watermark in Philadelphia, as well as at facilities in Pittsburgh, Blair County, and Clarion County, acting Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter said, to “allow for more rapid discharge of patients from hospitals.” (McCarthy and McDaniel, 1/31)
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Georgia COVID Deaths Rising As U.S. Deaths From Omicron Surpass Delta
The highly contagious omicron variant has pushed the daily average U.S. COVID-19 death toll higher than last fall’s delta wave as the nation nears a chilling milestone of 900,000 coronavirus deaths. The average number of deaths reported each day in Georgia has been growing, too. But it remains unclear if Georgia will surpass the peak that followed the devastating surge of the earlier delta variant. Two health experts interviewed by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution Monday seemed divided on whether the state has yet to reach its peak number of deaths or if the death toll has already begun to wane. (Trubey and Oliviero, 2/1)
Salt Lake Tribune: Utah Reports More Than 10,000 New COVID-19 Cases Monday
As a statewide test shortage continues to obscure true case counts, Utah reported 10,272 new COVID-19 diagnoses Monday, as well a near-record number of patients hospitalized with the virus. Since Friday, daily diagnoses have reached their lowest point in recent weeks, but it’s not clear whether that’s due to lower transmission levels or Utahns following state officials’ recommendation not to get tested after an influx of patients overwhelmed the state’s testing sites in mid-January. (Alberty, 1/31)
Politico: Navy Secretary Del Toro Tests Positive For Covid 
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a statement released Monday. Del Toro returned from official travel on Friday afternoon, the statement said, and had received negative tests on Jan. 21 and the morning of Jan. 28. He was Pascagoula, Miss., last week, where he toured Ingalls Shipbuilding. Mississippi Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo and Sens. Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith also took part in the shipyard tour. (Ward, 1/31)
ABC News: New York City Will Offer Free, At-Home Delivery Of COVID-19 Antiviral Pills
New York City has begun offering free, same day at-home delivery of COVID-19 antiviral pills to eligible residents although supplies remain limited. The program was announced by Mayor Eric Adams at a press conference Sunday at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. (Kekatos, 1/31)
Lansing State Journal: Meijer To Offer Free At-Home PCR Testing At Pharmacy Locations
Meijer announced plans Monday to offer at-home COVID-19 PCR tests free to customers throughout the Midwest at its locations with pharmacies. The Grand Rapids-based grocery store chain is partnering with eTrueNorth, a Texas-based health care technology company, to provide at-home versions of the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, which experts believe to be the most accurate COVID-19 exam. According to a press release, Meijer is the first retail pharmacy to offer PCR tests at no charge. (Weber, 1/31)
Seattle Times: COVID Testing Company Faked Test Results, Lied To Patients, WA AG Lawsuit Says
An Illinois-based coronavirus testing company with at least 13 sites in Washington, faked or delayed test results (or provided none at all), lied to patients and failed to properly store test samples, according to a lawsuit filed Monday by Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, describes how the company, Center for COVID Control, expanded to about 300 U.S. locations and allegedly took advantage of residents at a time when frequent testing was in high demand as a “critical tool in the fight against COVID-19.” (Takahama, 1/31)
The Mercury News: Santa Clara County Officials Announce Stricter Testing Rules For Healthcare Providers
Santa Clara County on Monday began requiring healthcare providers to offer patients a COVID-19 test within 24 hours in an attempt to shift more testing responsibility to hospitals and clinics who the county says haven’t been doing their part. “The county has been carrying a disproportionate burden of testing throughout the pandemic,” said Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody at a press conference Monday. “By a very wide margin.” The new stricter guideline narrows the county’s previous rules in September 2020 that required providers to get back to members by the end of the following day after a request for a test. (Greschler, 1/31)
The Washington Post: Joe Rogan Says He’ll Do Better Research On Covid, Give Listeners Opposing Views: ‘I Don’t Always Get It Right’
As a growing number of musicians yanked their work from the streaming service Spotify over misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, podcaster Joe Rogan posted a video this weekend admitting he could do more to better inform his millions of listeners, particularly when it comes to covid-19. Rogan, in a nearly 10-minute video Sunday night on Instagram, said he’ll make two changes to his show, “The Joe Rogan Experience,” to accomplish that. The first: have mainstream experts give their viewpoints after guests espousing more fringe opinions. (Edwards, 1/31)
Los Angeles Times: Science Podcasters Call Spotify's Support Of Joe Rogan A 'Slap In The Face'
Key people behind a popular science podcast on Spotify said Monday they were upset by the way Spotify has handled misinformation on Joe Rogan’s podcast and plan to limit their production on new episodes. “Spotify’s support of Joe Rogan’s podcast has felt like a slap in the face,” Wendy Zukerman, host and executive producer of “Science Vs” and Blythe Terrell, Science Vs’ editor, wrote in a letter to Spotify’s CEO Daniel Ek. Zukerman and Terrell said they believe Spotify’s rules regarding misinformation do not go far enough. (Lee, 1/31)
AP: Protesters Rally Against Missouri's New Health Director 
Protesters on Monday pushed Missouri senators to vote down Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s new state health director over concerns that he’s overstepping in his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, despite his repeated assurances that he opposes mandates. At least 100 critics met in the state Capitol to rally against Department of Health and Senior Services Director Don Kauerauf. (Ballentine, 2/1)
Politico: Medical Boards Get Pushback As They Try To Punish Doctors For Covid Misinformation 
Medical boards and other regulators across the country are scrambling to penalize doctors who spread misinformation about vaccines or promote unproven cures for Covid-19. But they are unsure whether they’ll prevail over actions by state lawmakers who believe the boards are overreaching. In Maui, the state medical board filed complaints against the state's chief health officer and another physician after they supported Covid-19 treatments federal health officials warned against. In Florida, the nominee for state surgeon general refused to directly answer on the effectiveness and safety of the coronavirus vaccine — and that’s after a local doctor filed a complaint to the state’s medical boards. In Idaho, local GOP officials appointed a pathologist who promoted unproven virus treatments to a local public health board, despite complaints from his peers to state regulators. (Tahir, 2/1)
Hearst Television: Man With Kidney Failure Removed From Organ Transplant List For Not Getting COVID-19 Vaccine
A South Carolina man has been declared inactive on a kidney transplant list after he said he has no plans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Jason Wilson has had kidney failure since he was 10 years old. For a while, his condition improved, he said. But about two years ago, he began dialysis and was placed on Medical University of South Carolina Health's list for a kidney transplant. It was on Nov. 1 that he got a letter from the health system that said he would be moved to inactive status if he didn't get the COVID-19 vaccine by Jan. 1, 2022. "If you do not wish to be vaccinated, we will move you to inactive status until we are able to verify proof of completed vaccination," it read, in part. (1/31)
Modern Healthcare: Cardinal Health To Pay $13M To Settle Kickback Allegations
Cardinal Health will pay $13.1 million to settle allegations that it paid kickbacks to physicians to get them to purchase specialty drugs through Cardinal, the Justice Department announced Monday. The Dublin, Ohio-based wholesale distributor allegedly gave doctors upfront cash discounts to use Cardinal for their pharmaceutical purchases, which violated the anti-kickback statutes, the DOJ said. Upfront rebates must be tied to specific purchases and should be clawed back if the buyer misses the quota, investigators warned, noting that Cardinal failed to follow those regulations. (Kacik, 1/31)
NPR: Cervical Cancer Kills Black Women At A Disproportionately Higher Rate Than Whites
For many women, cervical cancer — while scary — is largely preventable, and if caught early, has a five-year survival rate of over 90%. Despite the usually favorable prognosis, an estimated 4,290 U.S. women died of cervical cancer in 2021. Black women, like Williams, are more likely to have a late-stage diagnosis of the disease and are almost one-and-a-half times more likely to die of cervical cancer than white women, according to a joint report by the Southern Rural Black Women's Initiative for Economic and Social Justice (SRBWI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW). The study, based in rural Georgia, found "glaring racial disparities" in cervical cancer deaths at a rate that only worsened with age. (Wise, 1/31)
Modern Healthcare: Maine Home Health Managers Indicted For Suppressing Wages During Pandemic
Four Maine home health agency managers were indicted by a federal grand jury last week for suppressing wages of personal support specialists in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic. The felony indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine said that the managers — Faysal Kalayaf Manahe, Yaser Aali, Ammar Alkinani and Quasim Saesah — conspired to suppress wages and limit job mobility of essential workers by agreeing to fix workers' rates and not hire workers from each other's companies in April 2020. (Christ, 1/31)
Boston Globe: In The Heart Of The Booming Biotech Industry, Workers Are In Short Supply
It’s almost like Massachusetts has too many biotechs. The industry is hotter than ever, with companies routinely raising millions of dollars in venture capital, startups blooming on a weekly basis, and developers planning more lab space seemingly by the day. But the pipeline of qualified workers to fill all of the added jobs can’t keep up with the burgeoning demand. The market for biotech talent in Massachusetts has long been robust, but lately the crunch has turned critical. That’s causing some in the industry to worry that it will not only inhibit growth, but also affect the quality of work as key positions become harder to fill and lower-level workers jump from company to company in search of a better compensation package. (Gardizy, 1/31)
Politico: Crisis Text Line Ends Data-Sharing Relationship With For-Profit Spinoff 
The nonprofit mental-health hotline Crisis Text Line ended its data-sharing relationship with a for-profit spinoff Monday, three days after POLITICO reported on ethics and privacy concerns the arrangement had raised. It was a quick turnabout for Crisis Text Line, a nearly decade-old charity that has drawn praise for applying Silicon Valley’s data-mining tactics — backed by tens of millions of dollars in tech industry money — to human problems such as suicidal thoughts, anxiety and emotional abuse. (Hendel, 1/31)
AP: Universal Health Care Bill Fails To Pass In California 
A bill that would have created the nation’s only government-funded universal health care system died in the California Assembly on Monday as Democrats could not gather enough support to bring it for a vote ahead of a legislative deadline. The bill had to pass by midnight on Monday to have a chance at becoming law this year. Democrats needed 41 votes for that to happen, a threshold that did not seem impossible given that they control 56 of the 80 seats in the state Assembly and universal health care has long been a priority for the party. (Beam, 2/1)
The Wall Street Journal: California Single-Payer Healthcare Plan Shelved At Last Minute
A bill that would have established the first single-payer healthcare system in the U.S. was pulled from consideration hours before a planned vote in the California Assembly Monday after its author concluded there wasn’t enough support for it to pass. The bill would have eliminated most private insurance in the nation’s most populous state in favor of a system called CalCare that would cover all residents, regardless of income or immigration status. A companion bill to fund the program, which now won’t be voted on, would have raised an estimated $163 billion from increased payroll taxes and income taxes on the wealthy, as well as a tax on gross receipts for certain businesses. (Mai-Duc, 1/31)
AP: California Moves To Toughen State's Nursing Home Oversight 
California lawmakers on Monday moved to strengthen the state’s oversight of nursing homes, barring anyone from operating a skilled nursing facility without a license. Democratic Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi said his bill would give the California Department of Public Health stronger authority to block unqualified and unethical owners by shutting down what he said is an increasing number of for-profit nursing home chains operating unlicensed nursing homes. (Thompson, 1/31)
Los Angeles Times: California Moves Forward On Plans To Shut Down Death Row
Nearly three years after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order that halted executions in California, the state is accelerating an effort to move incarcerated people off death row and into other prisons. California voters in 2016 approved Proposition 66, an initiative to speed up executions in the state’s complicated death row system. Another provision of the ballot measure allowed for death row inmates to be housed in other prisons, where they are required to work and pay 70% of their income to registered victims. (Wiley and Winton, 1/31)
AP: Bill To Put Teachers On State Health Insurance Advances 
Legislation allowing Idaho K-12 teachers and other school workers to take home more of their paychecks by giving school districts an opportunity to leave private health care carriers and join the state’s self-funded health insurance plan cleared a Senate panel on Monday and headed to the full Senate. The Senate Education Committee voted to approve the plan that backers said is needed to help the state hire and retain teachers and other school workers by reducing premiums and lowering deductibles. Backers also said it could reduce reliance on school levies some school districts use that can raise property taxes. (Ridler, 1/31)
Billings Gazette: Jury Finds Billings Care Home Negligent In Death Of Patient
Ajury has found Canyon Creek Memory Care in Billings was negligent in the 2018 death of resident Owen Daniel Shively. Shively arrived at the care center on Dec. 13 and was assaulted by another patient Dec. 17 and died five days later. The patient pushed the 72-year-old Shively to the floor causing a fatal skull fracture, the victim’s family stated in a lawsuit. A Billings District Court jury on Jan. 28 awarded Tana Shively, the victim’s spouse, $310,000. The jury found that Canyon Creek was negligent in not managing the violent patient who pushed Shively, and that the negligence led to his death. (1/31)
AP: US Military To Appeal Hawaii's Order To Drain Fuel Tanks 
A top U.S. military official said Monday the Defense Department will appeal Hawaii’s order that it drain fuel from a massive tank farm that leaked petroleum into the Navy’s water system and contaminated Pearl Harbor’s tap water. Even so, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said in a statement the military continues to take actions “consistent with” Hawaii’s order to drain the tanks at the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. (McAvoy, 2/1)
Reuters: U.S. CDC Warns Against Travel To Mexico, Brazil, Singapore Over COVID-19
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday advised against travel to a dozen countries because of high rates of coronavirus infection, including Mexico, Brazil, Singapore, Ecuador, Kosovo, Philippines and Paraguay. The CDC now lists nearly 130 countries and territories with COVID-19 cases as "Level Four: Very High." It also added Anguilla, French Guiana, Moldova and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to its highest level on Monday. (Shepardson, 1/31)
The Washington Post: U.S. Bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor Tests Positive For Coronavirus At Beijing Olympics
Elana Meyers Taylor, the most decorated American female Olympic bobsledder in history, revealed in a social media post that she tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday within the “closed loop” here, jeopardizing her ability to compete — although bobsled’s late placement on the Beijing 2022 schedule offers a shred of hope. (Sheinin, 2/1)
CNN: Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister, Tests Positive For Covid-19
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tested positive for Covid-19, he announced Monday, as his nation continues to face a surge in cases due to the Omicron variant, as well as rowdy protests in the capital over pandemic health restrictions. "This morning, I tested positive for COVID-19," tweeted Trudeau, who is fully vaccinated and boosted. "I'm feeling fine — and I'll continue to work remotely this week while following public health guidelines. Everyone, please get vaccinated and get boosted." (Newton, 1/31)
The New York Times: Report on Downing Street Parties Deepens Crisis for Boris Johnson
A long-awaited report on parties in Downing Street during the pandemic dealt Prime Minister Boris Johnson a stinging blow on Monday, condemning him for failed leadership and painting a damning picture of “excessive” workplace drinking in the inner sanctum of the British government. Mr. Johnson had hoped the release of the 11-page document would allow him to put a festering scandal over illicit parties behind him. But instead he was battered in Parliament, facing a new round of questions about his personal participation in social gatherings that appear to have violated lockdown rules meant to stop the spread of Covid-19. (Landler and Castle, 1/31)
AP: Denmark Ends Most COVID-19 Restrictions 
Denmark on Tuesday became one of the first European Union countries to scrap most pandemic restrictions as the Scandinavian country no longer considers the COVID-19 outbreak “a socially critical disease.” The reason for that is that while the omicron variant is surging in Denmark, it’s not placing a heavy burden on the health system and the country has a high vaccination rate, officials have said. (2/1)
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