🐻 Fat Bear Week is upon us. Voting starts Wednesday, and last year’s champion “Otis” will look to defend his title.
In health news, the Biden administration announced new funding for family planning clinics.
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. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.
Officials provide $6M in reproductive health grants
The Biden administration will provide more than $6 million in new Title X grants and other grants to protect access to reproductive health care, according to a memo released from the White House on Tuesday.
The funding will be provided through the Department of Health and Human Services and is also intended to improve service delivery, promote the adoption of healthy behaviors and reduce existing health disparities.
Title X provides contraception, STD testing and other services to nearly 2 million low-income people each year.
The announcement is part of the administration’s response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade and more than a dozen states moving to outlaw abortion.
It comes after the Biden administration rolled back a Trump-era policy that banned Title X providers from referring patients for abortions.
According to the memo from White House Gender Policy Council director Jen Klein, the Department of Education will also release guidance to universities, which will reiterate the Title IX requirement that institutions must protect their students from discrimination based on pregnancy, including pregnancy termination.
VA wades into abortion battle with new rule
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is wading into tense territory with a new rule essentially making the agency an abortion provider, facing the wrath of GOP lawmakers and likely legal challenges.
The VA has already started providing abortions to pregnant veterans and VA beneficiaries in limited circumstances set out in the rule, which took effect when it was published on Sept. 9.
The landmark rule quickly raised questions about the infrastructure to handle demand, and the legal consequences of performing the services in red states where abortion is banned or severely restricted.
The VA’s rule would allow abortions for those who became pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or if a pregnancy endangered the “life and health” of the person seeking an abortion.
There are still questions about how “health” will be interpreted. VA officials have said it will be up to veterans and doctors to determine whether health is endangered on a case-by-case basis.
Republicans have questioned the legality of the rule and promised to give the department a tough time if the GOP regains control of Congress in the fall.
HALF IN NEW SURVEY PLAN TO GET FLU SHOT THIS SEASON
Half of U.S. adults plan to get the flu shot this year as scientists warn of a potentially severe upcoming flu season, according to a survey released Wednesday.
The survey from the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases found
49 percent of respondents said they plan to get a flu shot during the 2022-23 flu season, although almost 7 in 10 said they recognized that a flu vaccine is the best measure to take against flu-related hospitalization and death.
The survey also found that 58 percent said they would wear a mask at least sometimes during flu season, which the foundation said marks a stark contrast from preventative flu behavior before the COVID-19 pandemic.
But more than 40 percent said they are unsure or do not plan to get the vaccine this year. The top reasons for those who said they would not get it are that they do not think it works well and they are worried about possible side effects.
Pandemic lockdowns and other preventative measures caused the past two flu seasons to be relatively mild, but health experts have warned that this year’s season could be exceptionally severe. With fewer people than normal getting the flu over the past two years, fewer people are likely to be immune from the virus this year.
CDC DROPPING COUNTRY-BY-COUNTRY COVID ADVISORY LIST
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) removed its country-by-country list of COVID-19 travel advisories on Monday.
The CDC said in a statement to The Hill that its ability to accurately assess the risk for most places that Americans visit has become limited as fewer countries are testing and reporting COVID-19 cases.
The agency will only post a travel health notice for a country if a situation like a “concerning” COVID-19 variant occurs.
“Regardless of their travel destination, all international travelers should stay up to date on their COVID-19 vaccines and follow recommendations found on CDC’s COVID-19 International Travel webpage,” the statement reads.
Much of the country and the world has fully returned to normal activities in recent months, as COVID-19 cases are causing fewer hospitalizations and deaths than earlier in the pandemic.
According to federal data, 3.32 percent of counties in the U.S. are currently considered to be at high risk for COVID, about 23 percent have are at a medium risk level and 74 percent are at a low risk level.
The seven-day rolling average of cases in the U.S. is still above 40,000 for the past week, and the average number of deaths is above 300, but both numbers have been gradually dropping.
Fauci: I needed to be ‘much more careful’ on messaging
Chief White House medical adviser Anthony Fauci on Tuesday said he should have been “much more careful” in his messaging on COVID-19 early on in the pandemic, including doing a better conveying the uncertainty present at that time.
Fauci, who will be stepping down from government work in December, reflected on the first months of the coronavirus outbreak while speaking at a seminar hosted by the University of Southern California’s Center for Health Journalism. The longtime director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spoke with Washington Post national health reporter Dan Diamond.
Diamond asked Fauci if there was anything he wished he would have done differently throughout the pandemic given the risk for information becoming “gobbled” by social media, as Fauci put it.
“You know, the answer is yes, Dan. I mean, my goodness, no one’s perfect. Certainly I am not,” Fauci said. “When I go back in the early months, I probably should have tried to be much, much more careful in getting the message to repeat — the uncertainty of what we’re going through.”
He recalled how in the very early days in the pandemic, he had advised that lifestyle changes were not necessary at the time when cases were extremely low, while also adding the caveat that conditions could “change rapidly and we need to be prepared.”
Fauci bemoaned that the only remarks that were “thrown back” at him from that time were his recommendations that things did not have to change.
“Well, as a matter of fact, that was true. But if you wanted to say — if we knew then that this virus under the radar screen was transmitting in a way that was not fully appreciated and any of us would have said, ‘Hey, you know, we’ve had five cases in the country. We need to shut down.’ People would have looked at us like we were crazy,” he said.
WHAT WE’RE READING
Get a Ph.D. in health policy — from a single Powerpoint slide (Stat)
Nursing home surprise: advantage plans may shorten stays to less time than Medicare covers (Kaiser Health News)
After promising data, experts say many questions remain over an experimental Alzheimer’s drug (CNN)
STATE BY STATE
COVID in California: Winter coronavirus surge likely in U.S., scientists say (San Francisco Chronicle)
1 dead after Legionnaires’ disease cluster found in Vermont (WCAX)
After years of increases, Massachusetts health insurance rates set to rise another 7.6 percent (Boston Globe)
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.