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Amid all the bad news in the world, at least baseball is coming back! The MLB and its players union reached a deal.
The future of COVID-19 funding is very much in doubt amid a funding dispute in Congress.
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WH: No funding will be ‘severe’ hit to response
The White House is warning of “severe consequences” for the country’s COVID-19 response after Congress stripped funding to fight the virus out of a government funding package.
The Biden administration warned that without the additional funding, testing capacity will start declining this month, potentially requiring months of ramp up if a new variant causes another surge.
In May, the supply of monoclonal antibody treatments will run out, and in September, the supply of antiviral pills like Pfizer’s highly effective Paxlovid will be exhausted. The White House previously noted orders need to be placed well in advance.
“Simply put, failing to take action now will have severe consequences for the American people,” a White House official said.
“We requested $22.5 billion for immediate needs to avoid severe disruptions to our COVID response, and we requested Congress provide these funds as emergency resources – as lawmakers have done multiple times on a bipartisan basis under the prior Administration,” the official noted.
It is now unclear how the funds can make it into law. Without the state relief offsets, Senate Republicans object, and with them, some House Democrats object.
House Democrats plan to vote next week on a separate COVID-19 funding bill without the offsets, but that is set to be blocked by Senate Republicans.
JAYAPAL OFFERS SOLUTION TO IMPASSE ON COVID AID: MAKE ALL STATES PAY
The head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is proposing a potential resolution to the impasse over billions of dollars in new pandemic relief the White House deems crucial: Make all 50 states cover the cost.
“That could have been one solution,” Rep. Pramila JayapalPramila JayapalHouse passes sweeping .5 trillion omnibus spending bill House panel refers Amazon to DOJ for potential obstruction of justice ‘Urgent’ COVID-19 funding hangs in balance amid partisan fight MORE (D-Wash.) told reporters during the the Democrats’ annual retreat here. “That’s not what happened.”
Jayapal was among the dozens of Democrats up in arms Wednesday morning when party leaders introduced a massive $1.5 trillion government spending package, including $13.6 billion in emergency funding for Ukraine and another $15.6 billion to address the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The lawmakers’ frustration was not with those figures, but the decision to cover roughly $7 billion of the health care costs by clawing back money previously allotted to states as part of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that President BidenJoe BidenHouse passes bill banning Russian oil imports, authorizing sanctions White House congratulates South Korea’s new president, citing ‘ironclad’ alliance Expected rent spike adds to record inflation MORE signed into law a year ago.
Not every state was asked to chip in; only the roughly 30 states that were scheduled to receive their emergency funds in two blocks, rather than one. In that sense it was not “unspent” funding; it had simply not yet been delivered, Jayapal said.
“That is not unspent money; that is money that all of our states have been back-filling and counting on,” she said, noting that the first U.S. case of COVID-19 was discovered in Washington. “We had to put our entire health apparatus into gear without any assistance. And so we backfilled a lot of the money, expecting that we would get it.”
TSA EXTENDING MASK MANDATE FOR ANOTHER MONTH
The Biden administration will extend the federal mask mandate for all transportation networks through April 18, one month after it is set to expire.
The one-month extension is based off a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an administration official told The Hill.
“During that time, CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor,” the official said.
“This revised framework will be based on the COVID-19 community levels, risk of new variants, national data, and the latest science.”
The Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) mask mandate for travel on airplanes, in airports, on buses and on rail systems is currently set to expire on March 18.
The administration declared last week that wearing a mask indoors is no longer recommended in much of the U.S. as COVID-19 infection numbers have rapidly decreased in recent weeks after the omicron variant caused a winter surge.
The TSA mask mandate initially went into effect with an expiration date of May 2021 and TSA extended it a few times, most recently in December, before it was set to expire just after the new year.
CDC: 2.5M students used tobacco last year
About 2.55 million combined U.S. middle and high school students said they have used tobacco products within the past 30 days, according to the government’s National Youth Tobacco Survey.
More than 5 million high school students and more than 1 million middle schoolers reported using tobacco products at any time in 2021, and the majority said they received the product from a friend.
Those monthly numbers are down considerably from the 4.47 million tobacco users reported in 2020, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration said this year’s figures shouldn’t be compared to previous years because the survey was conducted online because of the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than on school campuses.
The CDC said the survey shows that youth tobacco use “remains a serious public health concern.”
“Youth use of tobacco products is unsafe in any form — combustible, smokeless or electronic,” Karen Hacker, director of the CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, said in a statement.
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Opioid crisis victims give impact statements
Victims of the opioid crisis and those who lost loved ones due to it gave impassioned impact statements to Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family during a virtual court hearing on Thursday.
“Your disease is greed, and you wouldn’t stop making money even when you knew it was morally dreadful,” said Donny Madison, whose son Trent died of a heroin overdose at the age of 22 after becoming addicted to OxyContin, adding, “Money was too good to give up.”
The hearing comes the day after a U.S. bankruptcy judge approved a settlement that will require Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family to pay between $5.5 billion and $6 billion to states and victims affected by the opioid epidemic, as well as for treatment and prevention.
In one particularly haunting moment, Kristy Nelson played the court a recording of the 911 call she placed the day she discovered her son Brian dead from an opioid overdose.
“You will be judged by greater powers than this justice system and this bankruptcy court,” Ryan Hampton, who is in recovery from an addiction to opioids, told the court. “No matter how much money you pay in a settlement or how many millions your family has spent on their reputation, the legacy of the Sackler family can never be changed. You will be remembered as what you are — for destroying generations of promise.”
WHAT WE’RE READING
- There may be a new COVID variant, Deltacron. Here’s what we know about it. (USA Today)
- This season’s flu vaccine was a poor match for the virus, CDC reports (NBC News)
- Covid Year Three Will Be Better, Experts Agree, Unless Rich Countries Ignore The Pandemic Elsewhere (Forbes)
STATE BY STATE
- Texas sues to prevent losing federal funds over its investigations of trans children’s families (The Texas Tribune)
- These Schools Will Require Masks Even After California’s Mandate Ends (New York Times)
- ‘It’s not medical’: Oregon wrestles with how to offer psychedelics outside the health care system (Stat)
OPEDS IN THE HILL
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you Friday.