First Edition: Feb. 9, 2022 – Kaiser Health News

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Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.
KHN: ‘Somebody Is Gonna Die’: Medi-Cal Patients Struggle To Fill Prescriptions
A month into its debut, California’s new Medicaid prescription drug program is riddled with problems, leaving thousands of patients without medications — often after languishing on hold for up to eight hours on call center phone lines. On Jan. 1, the state handed control of its Medicaid drug program, known as Medi-Cal Rx, to Magellan Health, which is administering prescription drug coverage for California’s 14 million Medicaid patients, most of whom previously got their medications from about two dozen managed-care plans. But Magellan has tripped up implementation. (Young, 2/9)
KHN: The Doctor Will See You Now — In The Hallway 
Nurse Heather Gatchet’s shift in the emergency department at Salem Health’s Salem Hospital in Oregon typically starts at 6 a.m. Before that, she packs her daughter’s lunch, drinks tea, and — to stave off her panic — calls her mom on the way to work. “My mom’s like my cup of coffee,” Gatchet said, her voice breaking, “to mentally psych myself up for what I’m walking into.” Gatchet’s mother reminds her she is good at what she does and she’s loved. After she walks in and sees her colleagues in the break room, Gatchet said, her panic lifts: “This is my team, and it feels safe again.” (Templeton, 2/9)
KHN: Polio, Chickenpox, Measles, Now Covid. It’s Time To Consult History On School Vaccine Mandates 
The rapid spread of omicron across the nation — and the finding that vaccines continue to provide strong protection against severe disease — brings covid-19 one step closer, perhaps, to truly earning its place on the list of diseases that have been tamed by vaccines. These include polio, measles, mumps, rubella, and chickenpox, all of which most kids must generally be vaccinated against before they enter school or day care. Some states have announced covid vaccine requirements for certain students. But not everyone agrees that vaccine mandates for children are the way forward. Sen. Rand Paul, who has opposed vaccine mandates, called omicron “nature’s vaccine.” Seventeen mostly Republican-led states have proactively banned, in some form, covid vaccine requirements for students. Resistance to adopt mandates has profound repercussions, especially as vaccination rates among kids ages 5 to 11 remain alarmingly low — under 15% in some states — even though children 5 and over have been eligible for shots since last fall. (Rosenthal, 2/9)
Washington Examiner: Fauci Says 'Full-Blown Pandemic Phase' Of COVID-19 Coming To End
Dr. Anthony Fauci has some good news: The United States is on its way to exiting the "full-blown" pandemic phase of COVID-19. Fauci, who is President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser, said the U.S. is heading in a positive direction due to vaccination rates, treatments, and prior infections making the virus more manageable as year three of the pandemic plays out. "As we get out of the full-blown pandemic phase of COVID-19, which we are certainly heading out of, these decisions will increasingly be made on a local level rather than centrally decided or mandated. There will also be more people making their own decisions on how they want to deal with the virus," Fauci said in a Financial Times interview published Tuesday. (Adcox, 2/8)
The Washington Post: Covid Deaths Highest In A Year As Omicron Targets The Unvaccinated And Elderly 
Though considered milder than other coronavirus variants, omicron has infected so many people that it has driven the number of daily deaths beyond where it was last spring, before vaccines were widely available, according to Washington Post data. Omicron has been particularly lethal to people over 75, the unvaccinated and the medically vulnerable, according to doctors and public health officials. The soaring death toll also illustrates why experts pleaded with the public to beware of the highly contagious variant even though it is less virulent than others. (Nirappil and Keating, 2/8)
AP: Hospitals Begin To Limp Out Of The Latest COVID-19 Surge
As omicron numbers drop at Denver Health, Dr. Anuj Mehta is reminded of the scene in the 1980 comedy “The Blues Brothers” when John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd pile out of a battered car after a police chase. Suddenly, all the doors pop off the hinges, the front wheels fall off and smoke pours from the engine. “And that’s my fear,” said Mehta, a pulmonary and critical care physician. “I’m worried that as soon as we stop, everything’s just going to fall apart.” (Hollingsworth and Kolpack, 2/8)
CNN: Covid-19 Cases, Hospitalizations Still Too High To Change Mask Guidance, CDC Director Says 
The head of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is standing by the agency's mask guidelines, emphasizing Tuesday that now is not the time to change the recommendations or loosen restrictions aimed at preventing Covid-19. The CDC "still recommends that all schools encourage students to wear well-fitting masks consistently and while indoors. And that's consistent with our guidance that still also recommends that people mask in public indoor settings in areas of high or substantial transmission," CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in a radio interview with WYPR's Tom Hall on Tuesday's edition of the show "Midday." (Howard and Kounang, 2/8)
NBC News: States Are Beginning To Lift Mask Mandates. CDC Data Suggest It's Too Early
According to data from the CDC, people in more than 3,200 counties — or 99 percent of the country — should be wearing masks regardless of their vaccination status. The CDC suggests wearing masks in places where the new case rate is higher than 50 cases per 100,000 or the testing positivity rate exceeds 8 percent. (Chiwaya, 2/8)
The New York Times: New York Is Lifting Mask Mandate, Too 
Gov. Kathy Hochul will drop New York’s stringent indoor mask mandate on Wednesday, ending a requirement that businesses ask customers for proof of full vaccination or require mask-wearing at all times, and marking a turning point in the state’s coronavirus response, according to three people briefed on her decision. The decision will eliminate a rule that prompted legal and interpersonal clashes over mask wearing, especially in conservative parts of New York. It was set to expire on Thursday and would have required renewing. (Ferre-Sadurni and Paybarah, 2/9)
Los Angeles Times: L.A. County Keeps Mask Mandate Even As O.C., Others Drop It
Los Angeles County is probably weeks away from lifting its indoor mask mandate, and at the latest could ease the order by the end of April — unless a new coronavirus variant poses a threat. There are two triggers that could result in L.A. County easing its indoor mask mandate, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer announced Tuesday. The first is the county entering a “moderate” rate of transmission, in which cases fall below 730 a day for two consecutive weeks, Ferrer said. (Lin II and Money, 2/8)
The Washington Post: White House Says No Rift With Blue States Dropping School Mask Mandates
The Biden administration on Tuesday stressed it does not object to decisions by New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Oregon to soon lift mask mandates in schools – noting that the Democratic-led states still allowed decisions on face coverings to be made by parents and local school districts. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the four states permitted school districts to follow guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which continues to recommend universal masking in schools. The administration’s “great concern” was political leaders stopping students from wearing masks even if school districts or their parents require them to do so, she told reporters. (Cheng, 2/9)
USA Today: School Mask Mandates Ending As States Lift Rules Amid Omicron Decline
Fatigue and frustration are setting in two years into the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, and a growing chorus of doctors, parents and state officials are calling for an end to school mask mandates. The issue has long divided Americans across the nation, spurring intense debates and demonstrations at school board meetings, propelling legal battles and emerging as a focal point of state elections. But a national conversation around an "offramp" to masking in schools has accelerated in recent days. As the omicron wave recedes, multiple states have taken action to phase out statewide school mask mandates, and a number of high-profile medical professionals have changed their tunes on the matter. (Hauck, 2/8)
NBC News: Teachers Unions Call For Decisions About Masks In Schools To Be Guided In Science
As more states plan to lift mask mandates in schools, several teachers unions said they are not opposed to the idea of children being unmasked in classrooms but want to ensure those decisions are based on science. The governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Oregon announced plans Monday to remove statewide mask mandates in schools by the end of February or the end of March as the surge of the omicron variant of the coronavirus is declining after record-breaking numbers of new cases around the country disrupted in-person learning and worsened staffing shortages. (Silva and Chow, 2/8)
Fox News: Loudoun County Parents And Children Serve Affidavits To School Board Calling For Them To End Mask Mandate
Parents and children at a school board meeting in Loudoun County, Virginia, served affidavits to board officials on Tuesday evening, calling on them to cease and desist the school district's mask mandate for students and staff. Megan Rafalski, a parent of a student in Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS), said that 65 parents and concerned citizens signed the affidavits. "We're parents who want to be parents and look after our children," Rafalski told Fox News Digital. "We've tried to talk to them, they will not listen, so it’s essentially a list of demands, a list of grievances." (Best, 2/9)
NBC News: Mask Mandates: Will A Mask Protect Me Even If No One Else Is Wearing One?
Though most health experts agree universal masking, along with vaccinations, remains the best public health strategy against the spread of the virus, people can still benefit from wearing a mask even if no one else around them is. … However, since the omicron variant is so contagious and it is still spreading so widely in the U.S., the protection from the mask may be a bit less, regardless of one's vaccination status, said Cheryl Healton, dean of the New York University School of Global Public Health. (Lovelace Jr., 2/8)
AP: Hawaii Will Not Require Booster Shots For Travel To Islands
Hawaii Gov. David Ige said Tuesday he will not mandate booster shots for travelers coming to the islands, an idea he said last week he was still considering. “In making this decision, we considered declining COVID-19 case counts in Hawaii, the continental U.S. and Europe,“ Ige said in a statement. ”Hospitalizations have also dropped.” (2/8)
The Washington Post: Hawaii In Talks To Drop Covid Travel Restrictions By Spring 
Hawaii’s strict travel program for domestic visitors may be a piece of pandemic history by the spring, the state’s lieutenant governor said Tuesday. Lt. Gov. Josh Green (D) said in a phone interview that discussions are ongoing about eliminating all restrictions on travel in the coming months — barring any more covid surges. (Sampson, 2/8)
The Boston Globe: Wu: Boston Will Wind Down Proof-Of-Vaccine Rules As COVID Numbers Improve
If COVID-19 hospitalizations and case numbers continue to dip, Boston could soon end the rule that requires customers at eat-in restaurants and some other businesses to show proof of vaccination, Mayor Michelle Wu said Tuesday. A little more than three weeks since the controversial mandate went into place, Wu said the city is seeing case numbers rapidly improve. And she laid out three benchmarks the city will use to determine when it might lift the rules that currently cover restaurants, bars, gyms, clubs, and theaters. (Andersen and Kohli, 2/8)
Los Angeles Times: Motion Would Remove Sheriff's Vaccine Mandate Enforcement Powers
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday moved to take COVID-19 vaccine mandate enforcement responsibilities away from Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who has repeatedly said he would not fire deputies who refuse to get vaccinated. “Unfortunately, the Sheriff’s Department is the only department in the county that’s refused to implement this policy,” said Supervisor Janice Hahn, who supported the proposal to change civil service rules to give the enforcement authority to the county’s personnel director. “I think we were left with no other choice.” (Tchekmedyian, 2/8)
The Hill: Air Force Gives 9 Religious Exemption For Vaccine Mandate 
The Air Force on Tuesday said it has granted nine service members religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, making it the second military service to say it has approved such accommodations. Eight of the exemptions were granted after being requested, the Air Force said in its weekly COVID-19 update. One exemption was granted on appeal, meaning that it was originally turned down. (Williams, 2/8)
The Washington Post: Hogan Launches $2 Million Lottery To Encourage Booster Shots
Maryland residents who get a booster shot could win up to $1 million in a lottery that Gov. Larry Hogan announced Tuesday in an effort to sway more people to get another dose. Hogan (R) noted state data that shows people without booster shots are twice as likely to test positive and three times as likely to become hospitalized or die compared with people who received booster shots, conclusions that line up with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studies. A little more than half of Maryland adults have already received booster shots, but Hogan said that’s insufficient given how immunity wanes over time. (Cox, 2/8)
The New York Times: J.&J. Pauses Production Of Its Covid Vaccine Despite Persistent Need 
Johnson & Johnson’s easy-to-deliver Covid-19 shot is the vaccine of choice for much of the developing world. Yet the American company, which has already fallen far behind on its deliveries to poorer countries, late last year quietly shut down the only plant making usable batches of the vaccine, according to people familiar with the decision. The facility, in the Dutch city of Leiden, has instead been making an experimental but potentially more profitable vaccine to protect against an unrelated virus. (Robbins, Nolen, LaFraniere and Weiland, 2/8)
Reuters: Novavax Underdelivers On COVID Vaccine Promises
Novavax Inc has delivered just a small fraction of the 2 billion COVID-19 shots it plans to send around the world in 2022 and has delayed first-quarter shipments in Europe and lower income countries such as the Philippines, public officials involved in their government's vaccine rollouts told Reuters. (O'donnell, Guarascio and Morales, 2/8)
CIDRAP: Babies Born To COVID-Vaccinated Moms Have Antibodies At 6 Months
A small Massachusetts General Hospital–based study in JAMA shows more lasting antibodies in infants after COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy, compared with infants whose mothers had natural COVID-19 infections during pregnancy but were not vaccinated. The study looked at 77 vaccinated pregnant mothers, and 12 who had symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection in pregnancy; all vaccination series with mRNA vaccines were completed between weeks 20 and 32 in pregnancy. The babies of vaccinated women had significantly higher immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies in both umbilical cord blood at delivery, and at blood draws at 2 and 6 months postpartum. (2/8)
CBS News: Chinese Scientists Say They've Developed A New, Highly Accurate COVID Test That Gives Results In 4 Minutes 
Chinese scientists say they have developed a new coronavirus test that is as accurate as a PCR lab test but gives results within four minutes. … In a peer-reviewed article published Monday in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, the team said their sensor — which uses microelectronics to analyze genetic material from swabs — is quick and accurate at spotting SARS-COV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. (2/8)
AP: Oklahoma AG OKs Prescribing Ivermectin, Hydroxychloroquine 
Oklahoma Attorney General John O’Connor said Tuesday his office has found no legal basis for medical boards to discipline doctors for prescribing ivermectin or hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved ivermectin for use by people and animals for some parasitic worms, head lice and skin conditions. However, the FDA has not approved its use to treat or prevent COVID-19 in humans. Also, no scientific studies have found the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine effective in preventing or treating COVID-19. (2/9)
AP: Anti-Vax, Pro-Ivermectin Measures Advance In Kansas Senate 
Fellow Republican conservatives rallied Tuesday behind a Kansas physician-legislator who’s under investigation by the state medical board, advancing his measures to protect doctors pursuing potentially dangerous treatments for COVID-19 and to weaken childhood vaccination requirements. (Hanna, 2/8)
ABC News: Pandemic's Impact On Youth Mental Health 'Devastating': Surgeon General 
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told lawmakers on Tuesday that the pandemic has had a "devastating" impact on the mental health of America's young people. "I'm deeply concerned as a parent and as a doctor that the obstacles this generation of young people face are unprecedented and uniquely hard to navigate and the impact that's having on their mental health is devastating," Murthy told the Senate Finance Committee. (Livingston, 2/8)
San Francisco Chronicle: ‘Explosion Of People Dying’ Has Led To Huge Backlog Of Bodies At The Alameda County Coroner’s Office
Standing in the loading dock outside the Alameda County Coroner’s Bureau on a recent morning, Sgt. Erik Bordi took in a grim scene: five biohazard cans, two refrigeration containers stacked with human remains, a gurney ready to load in a truck. He pondered the day’s work ahead. More than 100 bodies sat in coolers at the bureau, and staff had 21 autopsies to perform by the end of the day. A growing backlog of bodies awaiting autopsies has reached a critical point in Alameda County, making it more difficult to close cases amid a sharp rise in COVID-19 deaths, a regional overdose crisis and surging homicides in Oakland. (Swan, 2/8)
Bloomberg: Amazon To Bring Medical Services To 20 More U.S. Cities This Year
Amazon.com Inc. says its medical consultation service is expanding around the U.S., underscoring the company’s determination to become a major player in the health care industry. Amazon Care offers virtual health services nationwide and this year will expand in-person care to 20 more cities, including New York, San Francisco, Miami and Chicago, Amazon said Tuesday in a statement. (2/8)
Stat: Amazon Care Announces Nationwide Expansion Of Health Clinics
Amazon said Tuesday it will open brick-and-mortar health clinics in 20 U.S. cities this year, including New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Miami. The new clinics will be part of the expansion of Amazon Care, the tech giant’s effort to deliver more timely and effective medical care by combining virtual and in-person care options. The company announced plans last year for a nationwide expansion of its virtual offerings. The new clinics will add to its in-person care options currently available in eight other cities from Boston to Dallas. In a press release announcing its plans, Amazon said the Covid-19 pandemic has underscored the need for more flexible approaches to delivering medical services when and where patients need them. (Ross, 2/8)
Politico: Senior Director For Global Health Security Leaving The NSC 
Beth Cameron, the National Security Council senior director for global health security and biodefense, is leaving her post this month after a year working in the Biden administration, according to three people with knowledge of the matter. Cameron helped formulate President Joe Biden’s international strategy for fighting Covid-19 and worked intensively on the administration’s distribution of vaccines across the world. She also worked closely with Eric Lander, the former director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, on a plan to improve U.S. pandemic readiness. Lander resigned Monday after POLITICO detailed reports of bullying and mistreatment of colleagues. (Banco, 2/8)
Modern Healthcare: HHS Running Out Of Money To Pay Providers For Treating Uninsured COVID-19 Patients
The Provider Relief Fund has paid out more than $17 billion to providers treating, testing and vaccinating the uninsured throughout the pandemic. The Health and Human Services Department program has been a lifeline for providers, especially in states such as Texas and Florida with high rates of people who don't have health coverage. But there's only $7.6 billion left and the money will run out in the coming months, an HHS spokesperson said. Congress isn't currently considering making more funding available, meaning providers and patients are likely to soon have to bear the costs themselves. (Hellmann, 2/8)
AP: Appeals Court Rules In Biden’s Favor On Abortion Referrals
Federally funded family planning clinics can continue to make abortion referrals for now, a federal court ruled Tuesday, in a setback for a dozen Republican attorneys general who have sued to restore a Trump-era ban on the practice. The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati denied a request by the 12 states to pause rules for the federal government’s family planning program while their case is heard. The states were eager to stop implementation before the next round of federal grants starts rolling out in March. (Carr Smyth, 2/9)
The Washington Post: Vermont Moves Forward On Becoming First State To Guarantee The Right To Abortion With A Constitutional Amendment 
Vermont lawmakers voted Tuesday to move forward on a constitutional amendment that would guarantee the right to abortion and contraception, the first amendment of its kind in the United States. The Vermont House voted 107 to 41 for the proposed amendment, known as Proposition 5. It now heads to Gov. Phil Scott (R), who has signaled his support for the measure and is required to give public notice before it appears on the ballot in November. Voters in Vermont, where 70 percent of people say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, are expected to approve it. (Kitchener, 2/8)
AP: Wisconsin GOP Looks To Block Abortions If Heartbeat Detected
Wisconsin Republicans have introduced a bill that would prohibit abortions in the state if a fetal heartbeat is detected. The bill would prohibit anyone from performing or attempting to perform an abortion if a fetal heartbeat is present unless the pregnant woman’s life is in danger or she could suffer irreversible physical problems from the pregnancy. If a provider detects a heartbeat the pregnant woman would be required to listen to it. (Richmond, 2/8)
The Washington Post: ‘Dangerously Hot Conditions’ Prompt Rare February Heat Alert In Los Angeles
We may be in the heart of winter, but that isn’t stopping the atmosphere from cooking up some extreme heat for parts of the West Coast. Multiple National Weather Service offices in California have opted to issue excessive heat watches ahead of climbing temperatures beginning Wednesday, an unusual measure that may be a first of its kind for February. The Weather Service warns of “dangerously hot conditions with temperatures up to 90 degrees possible,” noting that visitors from other states unaccustomed to the toasty weather may be at a greater risk for heat-related illnesses. The Super Bowl is Sunday at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, Calif., with the Cincinnati Bengals facing the Los Angeles Rams. (Cappucci and Feuerstein, 2/8)
Philadelphia Inquirer: Recreational Marijuana For Pennsylvania Considered In Hearing
A Republican-controlled Pennsylvania Senate committee on Monday held what was billed as the first of a series of hearings on the potential legalization of recreational marijuana use for adults. During the two-hour Law and Justice Committee hearing in Harrisburg, lawmakers and panelists wrestled with questions about whether legalization would stamp out the black market, make marijuana safer from deadly contaminants, or do anything to prevent users from dipping joints in embalming fluid to get an extra high. Among the main concerns was also how police will enforce laws against driving under the influence. (Brubaker, 2/8)
Anchorage Daily News: Report: Problems Continue To Plague Alaska Psychiatric Institute
Alaska’s only state-run psychiatric institute has failed to meet federal regulations by inconsistently creating and updating treatment plans and not providing active treatment for some patients, the state ombudsman found in a report released Tuesday. The report found that some of the problems that have plagued the Alaska Psychiatric Institute for years – including treatment options that do not meet federal standards and an unsafe working environment – were not resolved as of last year, despite previous promises by the Anchorage facility to improve conditions. (Samuels, 2/8)
CBS News: Male Enhancement Pill Sold Nationwide On Amazon Is Recalled 
Certain boxes of The Red Pill — male sexual enhancement capsules sold nationwide on Amazon — are being recalled because they may contain a hidden ingredient: an unapproved drug for treatment of male erectile dysfunction. (Gibson, 2/8)
USA Today: Sleeping More Can Help With Weight Loss, New Study Finds
A research study published in peer-reviewed JAMA Internal Medicine has found that increasing the number of hours you sleep could help you reduce your weight by cutting your calorie intake. The 80 participants selected for the study had to fit a few criteria. They had to be 21 to 40 years old and get less than 6½ hours of sleep a night. They also had to have a body mass index of 25 to 29.9. Body mass index is the calculation of weight in kilograms divided by height, and the range specified for the study is typically classified as overweight. (Shen, 2/8)
Stat: Researchers Use Ultrasound To Precisely Activate Brain Cells In Mice 
What if you could turn any neuron in the brain on or off whenever you wanted, and for however long you wanted? Researchers say that precise, targeted control of the brain’s circuits could be the key to treating everything from epilepsy to Parkinson’s disease to depression. And they’re already using a variety of tools to work toward that goal, from light to electricity to magnets. Some of these approaches are already being used in patients. A new study from scientists at the Salk Institute suggests there’s another way to stimulate neurons that would be less invasive than current methods while reaching regions deep within the brain — ultrasound. (Wosen, 2/9)
The New York Times: The World Surpasses 400 Million Known Coronavirus Cases And Confronts How To Live With Covid
The world surpassed 400 million known coronavirus cases on Tuesday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, just one month after reaching 300 million. It is a staggering increase driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant as governments and individuals worldwide wrestle with how to confront the next stage of the pandemic. (Astor, 2/9)
The Washington Post: The CDC’s Do-Not-Travel List Now Encompasses More Than Half The World’s Destinations
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has moved seven more countries to its highest-risk category for travel — a list that has grown to include 134 destinations, with many added since the World Health Organization declared omicron a “variant of concern” on Nov. 26. The CDC on Monday gave the Democratic Republic of Congo, Oman, Libya, Japan, Israel, Cuba and Armenia a “Level 4″ warning, which means it is recommending that Americans avoid traveling there, even if vaccinated. (Timsit, 2/8)
AP: Sweden Ends COVID-19 Testing As Pandemic Restrictions Lifted
Sweden has halted wide-scale testing for COVID-19 even among people showing symptoms of an infection, putting an end to the mobile city-square tent sites, drive-in swab centers and home-delivered tests that became ubiquitous during the pandemic and provided essential data for tracking its spread. The move puts the Scandinavian nation at odds with most of Europe, but some experts say it could become the norm as costly testing yields fewer benefits with the easily transmissible but milder omicron variant and as governments begin to consider treating COVID-19 like they do other endemic illnesses. (Keyton, 2/9)
The New York Times: Denmark, Overflowing With Virus Cases, Embraces a ‘Bring It On’ Attitude
Aboard a ferry heading to Denmark’s second-largest city on Friday, Allan Hjorth stood out. He was one of just a few passengers to wear a mask, while hundreds of others left their faces uncovered, enjoying the end of Covid-19 restrictions announced a few days earlier. “The mere fact of wearing a mask makes people feel that something is wrong,” Mr. Hjorth said. He took his own off after a few seconds, and added, “And we, in Denmark, want to believe that we are going back to normal.” (Peltier, 2/8)
Bloomberg: WHO Asks Richer Countries To Pay $16 Billion For Pandemic Plan
The World Health Organization is calling on wealthier nations to donate $16 billion to a program aimed at providing access to Covid-19 vaccines, treatments and tests in low- and middle-income countries. Under the WHO proposal, higher-income nations would donate in proportion to their contribution to world trade, while middle-income countries would need to self-finance $6.5 billion additional costs, the United Nations agency said Wednesday. The organization’s financing plan came after a muted response to its appeal in October to raise $23.4 billion for the ACT-Accelerator plan. Of the $16 billion requested to fund the main program, the WHO raised only $800 million. (Mulier, 2/9)
AP: COVID-19 Protests Threaten Border Trade Between Canada, US 
Canadian lawmakers expressed increasing worry Tuesday about the economic effects of disruptive demonstrations after the busiest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada became partially blocked by truckers protesting vaccine mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions. The blockade at the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, prevented traffic from entering Canada while some U.S.-bound traffic was still moving, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said, calling the bridge “one of the most important border crossings in the world." It carries 25% of all trade between Canada and the United States. (Gillies and Lindeman, 2/8)
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