First Edition: March 18, 2022

Linda Rider

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

It Was Already Hard To Find Evusheld, A Covid Prevention Therapy. Now It’s Even Harder 

As immunocompromised people across the country work to get Evusheld, a potentially lifesaving covid therapy, several hundred providers of the injections were removed from a federal dataset on Wednesday night, making the therapy even harder to locate. White House officials had announced March 15 that a planned purchase of more doses would have to be scaled back without new federal funding. (Recht, 3/17)

Sharing Covid Vax Facts Inside ICE Detention, One Detainee At A Time 

The sounds of wailing ambulances, car horns, and bustling traffic filtered into the high-rise home office of Dr. Daniel Turner-Lloveras in downtown Los Angeles as he settled into a brown leather couch to take a call. On the other end of the line, staring at a mint-green wall inside a plexiglass phone booth with little privacy, sat Pedro Figueroa, 33, a detainee at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Mesa Verde detention facility in Bakersfield, California. “Is it mandatory to get the booster?” Figueroa asked in Spanish. “And why do I need it?” (de Marco, 3/18)

KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: We May Be Done With Covid, But Covid’s Not Done With Us 

Logistics expert Jeff Zients, who has headed the White House covid-19 response team since the start of the Biden administration, is stepping down and will be replaced by popular public health expert Dr. Ashish Jha, who will take a leave from his post as dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University. Meanwhile, White House officials are scrambling to figure out how to get the funding they need to continue their covid control efforts now that the president has signed the big spending bill for the remainder of the federal fiscal year. (3/17)

The Washington Post:
Moderna Seeks FDA Authorization For A Second Booster Dose Of Its Coronavirus Vaccine For All Adults 

Biotechnology company Moderna on Thursday asked the Food and Drug Administration to allow adults 18 and older to receive a second booster shot of the company’s mRNA vaccine amid concerns that immune protection from the vaccines wanes over time. Moderna’s application is substantially broader than what Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, sought earlier in the week — FDA authorization for a second booster shot for adults 65 and older. (Shepherd, 3/17)

USA Today:
Moderna Seeks FDA Authorization For A 4th COVID Vaccine Shot For All Adults

Moderna said its request for emergency use authorization is based partly on recently published data from the U.S. and Israel following the emergence of the omicron variant. The company did not specify what the U.S. and Israeli data showed, but Israel approved a fourth COVID vaccine shot for vulnerable people over the age of 18 in January 2022. Additionally, a study of more than 1 million Israelis over 60 showed that those who got a fourth dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine were half as likely to become infected and four-times less likely to fall severely ill than those who had only three shots. That study has not been peer-reviewed. (Tebor, 3/17)

Israeli Study Points To Modest 4-Dose Vaccine Protection Against Omicron

Four-dose efficacy of mRNA vaccines against symptomatic Omicron COVID-19 infection is modest, according to a research letter yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine that described a small study in Israel. Of 1,050 eligible Israeli healthcare workers, 154 received a fourth dose of Pfizer and 120 received a fourth dose of Moderna. The researchers selected two age-matched controls from the remaining eligible participants for each person vaccinated. (3/17)

The AP Interview: Health Chief Warns Of COVID Funds Shortage

With the nation yearning for a new normal after its long struggle with the coronavirus, U.S. Health Secretary Xavier Becerra warned Thursday that vaccines, tests and treatments will be “stuck on the ground” unless Congress provides the additional funds the White House has demanded. “We have reached a pivot point,” Becerra said in an interview with The Associated Press. “How well we pivot is on us.” (Alonso-Zaldivar, 3/18)

The Hill:
Pelosi Says White House Should Request $45B In New COVID Aid 

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday said she’s advised the Biden administration to seek tens of billions of dollars more in emergency COVID-19 relief, suggesting it will take more than $40 billion to meet the testing, vaccine and therapeutic needs of the U.S. and the larger global community. President Biden had initially asked Congress for $22.5 billion in new funding to fight the ongoing pandemic — a figure that was whittled down to $15.6 billion in the face of Republican opposition on Capitol Hill. (Lillis, 3/17)

Dems Search For Next Steps On Covid Aid As Headaches Pile Up

After two top Biden administration health officials pleaded with Democrats on Thursday to approve more coronavirus aid funding, Speaker Nancy Pelosi apologized to them in front of her caucus for having to ask at all. Pelosi told Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra and top infectious disease adviser Anthony Fauci she was sorry they needed to come before House members from the president’s own party to call for $15 billion to continue the U.S. fight against Covid, domestically and abroad. (Ferris, Levine and Cancryn, 3/17)

The Hill:
Fauci Says Officials Need More Than $22.5B For COVID-19 Response 

President Biden’s chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said in an interview aired on Thursday that officials need more than the $22.5 billion that the White House originally requested from Congress for the COVID-19 response. In an interview aired on “NBC Nightly News,” NBC’s Miguel Almaguer noted to Fauci that the billions of dollars requested by the White House was a “hefty price tag,” asking if all the money was needed. “I have to tell you, we need more than that,” Fauci answered. Biden’s chief medical adviser said that officials needed adequate funding in order to study possible future variants. (Vakil, 3/17)

Fauci Says U.S. Covid Cases Could Rise As Congress Stalls On Pandemic Funding

The U.S. could soon see Covid-19 cases rise again and vulnerable people are likely to need a fourth vaccine dose, one of President Joe Biden’s top health advisers warned as the White House calls for more money to fight the pandemic. Anthony Fauci, the longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a Biden adviser, said U.K. officials are already warning him of an increase there driven by the BA.2 sub-variant, easing restrictions and waning protection from vaccines, and that the U.S. tends to be a few weeks behind case curves in the U.K. “We have all three of those factors right now in this country,” Fauci said in an interview Thursday. “I would predict that we are going to see a bit of an increase, or at least a flattening out and plateauing of the diminution of cases. And the question is how do we deal with that.” (Wingrove, 3/17)

Is Ashish Jha What The U.S. Covid Response Needs Right Now?

When it comes to discussing the White House’s pandemic response on TV, there’s nobody as qualified as Ashish Jha. Whether he’s on “Sesame Street” or Fox News, the Brown University public health school dean is a pitch-perfect pandemic adviser: clear, affable, and panic-averse. But the scope of his next job — steering the sprawling federal pandemic response — has some experts wondering whether someone with so little experience in government, policy, or logistics can rise to the task. (Facher and Garde, 3/18)

Los Angeles Times:
Study Reveals Likely Reason For ‘Stealth’ Omicron’s Recent Success

The ability to spread more easily from person to person appears to be the superpower that is driving an upstart sibling of the Omicron variant into wide circulation, a group of scientists has surmised. That conclusion about the virus known as “stealth Omicron” is explained in a brief report published this week by the New England Journal of Medicine. It’s based on the team’s finding that the virus, whose official name is BA.2, is only slightly better than the dominant BA.1 at evading the protective effects of COVID-19 vaccines. Both of the Omicron “subvariants” have a common core of genetic mutations. But each has a few that the other doesn’t. For instance, BA.2 lacks a mutation belonging to other versions of Omicron that makes it easy to differentiate them from the Delta variant. (Hence the “stealth” moniker.) (Healy, 3/17)

The New York Times:
With A Flurry Of High-Profile Coronavirus Cases, Washington Is Again On Edge

A flurry of high-profile coronavirus cases in the nation’s capital — including in people who have been around President Biden — has raised new questions about the trajectory of the two-year-old pandemic, even as the White House has signaled confidence in the country’s ability to resume normal activities. On Thursday, Mr. Biden canceled face-to-face meetings with Prime Minister Micheal Martin of Ireland after the prime minister received a positive result from a coronavirus test during a gala event on Wednesday night that both men attended. (Shear, 3/17)

Fox News:
More COVID Deaths Reported In US Counties With Lower Internet Access: Study

U.S. communities with limited internet access had higher COVID-19 mortality rates during the first full year of the pandemic, according to researchers. In a study published earlier this month in the journal JAMA Network Open, University of Chicago authors wrote that for places with more limited access between 2.4 and six deaths per 100,000 people could be prevented, depending on whether they were rural, suburban or urban. “Adopting an asset-based approach, we believe this finding suggests that more awareness is needed about the essential asset of technological access to reliable information, remote work, schooling opportunities, resource purchasing and/or social community. Populations with limited internet access remain understudied and are often excluded in pandemic research,” they noted. (Musto, 3/17)

ABC News:
Why Some Americans Haven’t Gotten COVID Yet And Why It’s Not Inevitable They Ever Will: Experts

Because omicron has shown the ability to cause breakthrough infections despite vaccination status, this has led to fears that everyone will catch the virus at some point. However, it is important to clarify that the COVID vaccines continue to be highly effective in its primary purpose in preventing hospitalization and death. However, public health experts said it’s not inevitable Americans who have not gotten COVID yet eventually will, and that there are several reasons people have been able to avoid infection so far, including certain behaviors such as being serious about masking and social distancing, vaccination rates and maybe even genetics. (Kekatos, 3/18)

Moms Spread COVID-19 To Newborns Less Than 2{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} Of Time, Data Show

SARS-CoV-2 is transmitted from mother to baby before, during, and after childbirth about 1.8{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} of the time, and vaginal births and breastfeeding do not raise the risk, finds a meta-analysis today in BMJ. … Of the 800 COVID-positive fetuses or babies with outcome data, 20 were stillbirths, 23 died during the first 28 days of life, and 8 were early pregnancy losses; 749 babies (93.6{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c}) were alive at the end of follow-up. (3/17)

How To Tell If You Have Long COVID

Waves of fatigue. The inability to smell milk that has gone bad. A racing heartbeat. These are just a few COVID-19 symptoms that can linger after an initial coronavirus infection. Though they may not always amount to the debilitating cases of long COVID-19 that can leave people bedridden or unable to perform daily functions, it’s very common to take weeks to fully recover — a condition I’ve been thinking of as “medium COVID.” I’ve been reporting on COVID-19 since the coronavirus pandemic started, and I thought I knew what an infection would be like for a young, otherwise healthy person like me. I knew there was a risk for long COVID-19, even with mild cases, but in my mind, there were two types of COVID-19: run-of-the-mill cases that didn’t last much longer than their isolation periods required, and long COVID-19, which was relatively rare. Instead, like so many Americans, I found myself caught somewhere in between. (Feldman, 3/17)

Houston Chronicle:
Appeals Court Sides With Texas Schools Over Abbott On Mask Mandate

An appellate court on Thursday sided with Texas school districts in their dispute with state officials over mask mandates, which numerous school systems already have lifted as pandemic conditions have eased. The state’s the 3rd Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court’s orders that granted school districts temporary injunctive relief from the enforcement of an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott prohibiting mask mandates. (Serrano, 3/17)

The Washington Post:
Local Health Officials Report Threats, Vandalism And Harassment During The Pandemic, Study Finds 

Local health officials handling the day-to-day response to the coronavirus crisis have faced hostility like never before, according to a new study of 1,499 episodes of harassment during the first year of the pandemic. Of 583 local health departments surveyed by Johns Hopkins University researchers, 57 percent reported episodes of staff being targeted with personal threats, doxing, vandalism and other forms of harassment from 2020 to 2021. (Rizzo, 3/17)

Fox News:
Caregiver Fatigue In America Rising At Unprecedented Rate: Reports

Covid-19 has added to caregiver fatigue according to health experts. Caregiver fatigue occurs when the caregiver of an individual feels physically and emotionally exhausted, often leading to a change in attitude, negative feelings toward the role and the care recipient and sometimes feelings of resentment, according to health experts. “We encourage families to try to plan ahead. It can be difficult to face an older loved one’s changing needs, but if you have plans in place for how your family/network will support the primary caregiver in both big and everyday ways you’ll be ahead of the curve,” Seniorly Vice President of Partnerships and gerontologist Marlena Del Hierro said in a statement to Fox News. (McGorry, 3/17)

Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Las Vegas Nurses: Don’t Blame Us For Staffing Shortages

For critical care nurse Emily Johnson, working long hours during the pandemic has meant delaying plans to get a master’s degree and missing time at home with three children under the age of 3, two of them foster kids. “My kids are growing up without me,” said Johnson, 33, who works in the burn center at University Medical Center in central Las Vegas. Despite plummeting COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Johnson and other UMC nurses say they aren’t getting a reprieve. After eliminating incentive pay for overtime last month, the hospital is now reimposing a requirement that nurses work mandatory overtime. (Hynes, 3/17)

As Nurses Quit, States Seek To Train More

Under pressure from short-staffed hospitals and burned-out nurses, lawmakers in several states recently passed bills designed to expand nursing schools. For more than two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed both the importance of nurses and strain on the workforce. Hospitals, long-term care centers and even K-12 schools have been so short-staffed in recent months that they’ve had to cancel procedures, delay moving patients into inpatient beds or reduce other services. This legislative season, that sense of crisis has powered bipartisan efforts to increase nurse training and licensure. The proposals have split somewhat along party lines, with Republican lawmakers in red states emphasizing reduced education regulations and Democrats in blue states emphasizing funding increases. Still, leaders in both parties agree on the need to get more nurses educated and helping patients. (Quinton, 3/17)

Modern Healthcare:
Providers Push For Continued Hospital-At-Home Waiver After Pandemic

Hospital systems are making the case to Congress that Medicare should continue covering hospital-at-home care after the public health emergency, arguing it could improve health outcomes, lower costs and alleviate capacity and staffing issues. More than 200 hospitals have received a waiver from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to participate in the program, but Medicare’s hospital-at-home coverage expires at the end of the public health emergency, which could come as soon as July. Some federal lawmakers are working to extend the waiver for at least two more years, but they’re unlikely to pass legislation before coverage lapses. Meanwhile, some health systems are trying out risk-based home hospital payment models with private payers. Some say they are seeking a more permanent solution via the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation that could allow them to better tailor the program to their patient mix and organization. (Hellmann and Kacik, 3/17)

Modern Healthcare:
Remaining In The Workforce A Challenge For Women In Healthcare

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many women have had to put their careers on hold to look after children who are remote learning, to care for elderly or ill loved ones or to relocate to be closer to family. They’ve left their positions temporarily or permanently as they juggle priorities. Since February 2020, more than 1 million fewer women are in the U.S. workforce, whereas men have regained all of the jobs they lost during the pandemic, according to a National Women’s Law Center analysis of Bureau of Labor Statistics data. In healthcare, where the workforce is 75{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} women, the sector was down 2.8{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} of women’s jobs in November 2021 from January 2020, compared to 0.32{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} of men’s jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Yet, healthcare, like many other sectors, continues to have a high demand for workers. (Christ, 3/17)

Modern Healthcare:
Becerra Eyes Work On Physician Pay, Medicare Advantage Reform

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said Thursday that the department may readjust Medicare Part B premiums next month while it looks to work with Congress on other healthcare reforms in his second year on the job. As Becerra approaches his one-year anniversary in the position, he’s also fighting an uphill battle for more funding from Congress to keep COVID-19 relief and health coverage initiatives alive. HHS is interested in talking to Congress about Medicare Advantage overpayment issues and physician payment reform, Becerra told reporters Thursday. “We can’t let this go over the cliff. Not when we’re on the verge of turning the page,” he said. (Goldman, 3/17)

Crain’s New York Business:
After New York Nursing-Home Audit, Data Practices Under Cuomo Scrutinized

Stakeholders are advocating improvements in the New York State Department of Health’s data practices after an audit released Tuesday found that it understated the number of COVID-related nursing home deaths by at least 4,100 and did not make effective use of data to address nursing-home outbreaks. State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, whose office conducted the audit, said the Health Department should improve the quality of nursing homes’ self-reported data by collaborating more closely with the industry.“ Too often regulatory entities are just seen as being hostile to the industry,” DiNapoli said in an interview. (Kaufman, 3/17)

Cincinnati Enquirer:
17 Cincinnati Area Hospitals Docked For Readmission, Infection Rates

The federal government will reduce Medicare payments to 17 Cincinnati area hospitals with high rates of readmission or inpatient-developed infections and injuries in 2022. The penalties, which are a part of two separate pay-for-performance programs under the Affordable Care Act, include a 1{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} reduction of Medicare payments to hospitals with a high volume of in-house infections, or hospital-acquired injuries, and a separate reduction of up to 3{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} for high readmission. Most penalties don’t reach the full 3{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} reduction, however. Five local hospitals – the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, TriHealth’s McCullough-Hyde Memorial Hospital, and St. Elizabeth Healthcare’s Edgewood, Florence, and Fort Thomas hospitals – were penalized for having high rates of complications classified under the Hospital-Acquired Condition Reduction program, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. (Sutherland, 3/17)

Roll Call:
Texas Lags Nation In Health Insurance Coverage Rate In Census Data 

While health insurance coverage has broadly expanded across the country since implementation of the Affordable Care Act of 2010, many impoverished communities continue to lag behind, according to census data released Thursday. Overall, the nation’s uninsured population fell to 8.7 percent in 2020, from 15 percent in 2013. In Texas, however, American Community Survey results released Thursday show the uninsured rate was twice the national average — 17.3 percent, which was 3 percentage points more than the state with the next-highest uninsured rate, Oklahoma. (Macagnone, 3/17)

California Lawmakers Vote To Make Abortions Cheaper 

California lawmakers on Thursday voted to make abortions much cheaper for people on private health insurance plans, bringing California closer to becoming the fourth state in the country to ban insurance fees for the procedure. Thursday’s vote is part of lawmakers’ strategy to make reproductive care more accessible in preparation for a potential U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer that could overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that banned states from outlawing abortions. … The Assembly approved a bill that would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for abortions on private health plans. While the bill would reduce the cost of abortions, it would also slightly increase monthly premiums for patients and their employers. (Beam, 3/17)

San Francisco Chronicle:
New California Bill Would Create A Fund To Aid Women Traveling To California For Abortion Care

As other states move to limit or ban abortion, a Bay Area lawmaker proposed Thursday to establish a state fund to assist women traveling to California to obtain abortions. The legislation, SB1142, “sends a clear message to the rest of the nation,” said state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. “We are fully committed to ensuring that California women and those who may seek refuge here have access to all reproductive services, including abortion.” (Egelko, 3/17)

Washington State Prohibits Texas-Style Abortion Lawsuits

A Washington state measure that prohibits legal action against people seeking an abortion and those who aid them was signed into law Thursday by the governor, in a move designed to rebut recent actions by conservative states. “We know this bill is necessary because this is a perilous time for the ability of people to have the freedom of choice that they have enjoyed for decades,” said Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat. (La Corte, 3/17)

Tenn. Senate Leader Won’t Support Texas-Style Abortion Bill 

Tennessee’s Senate Speaker Randy McNally on Thursday said he does not support legislation that would ban abortions and allow almost anyone to file civil lawsuits against violators and collect damages. Earlier this week, Tennessee became the latest GOP-led state to introduce legislation mimicking a law currently enacted in Texas law and its novel citizen-enforcement provision. (Kruesi, 3/17)

NBC News:
Biden Administration Meets With Florida LGBTQ Students Over ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Bill

Biden administration officials held a closed-door meeting Thursday with several Florida LGBTQ students and their families about the state’s so-called Don’t Say Gay bill, the Education Department said. The legislation — officially named the Parental Rights in Education Act — would prohibit “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in Florida primary schools. Its passage in Florida’s House and Senate in recent weeks sparked national debate. (Lavietes, 3/17)

Houston Chronicle:
‘One Pill Can Kill’: Authorities Warn Of Fentanyl’s Dangers In Public Campaign Targeting Houston, State

With fentanyl showing up in Harris County and the state at “an alarming rate,” authorities have launched a public awareness campaign on billboards and elsewhere to warn of the dangers of the synthetic opioid, often sold in counterfeit pills that can contain lethal doses. Representatives of government and public health agencies said at a press conference Thursday that the campaign aims to sound the alarm about the increasing illegal trade and the impact of fentanyl, along with the upward trend of the counterfeit pills. “One pill can kill” and “Fentanyl can kill: The first time could be your last time” are among some of the messages displayed on the billboards. They come as a record number of people are dying from overdoses in Texas, with the fentanyl driving what has been nationally recognized as an epidemic. (Tallet, 3/17)

San Francisco Chronicle:
San Francisco Issues Dire Warning After Spike In Fentanyl Overdoses Among People Using Cocaine

San Francisco health officials issued a dire warning Thursday following what they said was a recent spike in fentanyl overdoses, specifically among people who ingested the powerful opioid when they thought they were using cocaine. Over the past two weeks, the city’s health department said it was alerted to three fatal fentanyl overdoses in San Francisco among people “who intended to use only cocaine but were unintentionally exposed to fentanyl.” The health department also reported nine similar, nonfatal overdoses in two groups of people. There were an estimated 474 deaths from fentanyl in 2021, the health department said. (Whiting, 3/17)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Judge Overturns Conviction Of Woman Who Gave Birth To Stillborn Child After Drug Use

A mother who acknowledged using drugs before she gave birth to a stillborn child was sentenced to 11 years in prison by a Kings County judge in 2018 after pleading no contest to manslaughter to avoid a murder charge. Now another judge, with support from Attorney General Rob Bonta, has overturned the conviction and prison sentence, saying the crime she admitted committing is not recognized by law.“ There is no crime in California of manslaughter of a fetus,” Superior Court Judge Valerie Chrissakis said Wednesday. She ordered Adora Perez released from prison, where she has been held for nearly four years, and returned to Kings County Jail for a new hearing before her original judge on whether she should be tried for murder, which under state law can include the intentional or reckless killing of a fetus. But Bonta and women’s-rights advocates dispute that charge as well. (Egelko, 3/17)

Kentucky House Passes Bill To Legalize Medical Marijuana 

The Kentucky House endorsed legalizing medical marijuana, passing a bill Thursday to strictly regulate the use of cannabis for a list of eligible medical conditions. The high-profile measure cleared the Republican-dominated House on a 59-34 vote after a long, sometimes-emotional debate. The years-long debate now shifts to the GOP-led state Senate on whether Kentucky should join the majority of states allowing medical marijuana. (Schreiner, 3/17)

Part Of Indiana’s New Vaping Tax Cut Before Taking Effect

Indiana’s new tax on vaping is being cut even before it takes effect despite protests from anti-smoking advocates. Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a bill this week that included provisions cutting the 25{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} tax that wholesalers were to be charged for closed-system vaping cartridges such as Juul devices to 15{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c}. State lawmakers approved the higher rate last year for Indiana’s first tax on electronic cigarettes to start in July 2022. (3/17)

Philadelphia Inquirer:
Pennsylvania’s Sudden Move To Recall Marijuana Vapes Raised Questions. Were These Products Harmful All Along?

For years, the Pennsylvania Department of Health allowed the state’s medical marijuana companies to sell hundreds of medicines that the agency now considers potentially unsafe. Something changed in November when regulators started a process that led last month to a massive recall and ban of 670 types of cannabis concentrates for vaping — $12 million worth — that they had previously approved for sale in Pennsylvania’s roughly 150 marijuana dispensaries. The move blindsided patients and an industry dominated by companies hyper-focused on broader legalization of marijuana. And regulators declined to explain the action beyond saying the medicines contained “added ingredients that have not been approved for inhalation” by the FDA. (Brubaker, 3/17)

Settlement Sets Better Treatment For Mentally Ill Inmates 

The Montana State Prison will no longer be allowed to punish inmates with severe mental illnesses for behavior caused by their illnesses by putting them in solitary confinement or setting unreasonable behavioral expectations, under a settlement to a federal lawsuit announced this week. “This settlement represents huge gains for the humane treatment of inmates with severe mental illness,” Bernadette Franks-Ongoy, executive director of Disability Rights Montana, which filed the lawsuit against the Department of Corrections in 2015. (Hanson, 3/17)

NH House Votes To Repeal Paid Family Medical Leave Program 

The New Hampshire House on Thursday voted to repeal the state’s paid family medical leave program less than a year after it was signed into law, saying that it’s no longer needed because private insurance carriers have now filed similar plans in the state. The vote to repeal passed on a vote of 172-164 in the Republican-led House. (3/17)

Anchorage Daily News:
Historic Split Of Alaska’s Health Department Will Become Final Within Days Unless Senate Moves Fast

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s sweeping proposal to divide Alaska’s massive health department into two agencies via an executive order appears poised to go into effect this summer unless the Legislature makes a last-minute decision to meet in joint session by Saturday. State Senate leaders say there are no plans for a joint session, despite pressure from House leaders to “disapprove” the split — the only way the Legislature can take action. Dunleavy in January issued Executive Order 21, a 100-plus-page document that divides the unwieldy Alaska Department of Health and Social Services into a Department of Health and a Department of Family and Community Services. The administration contends the Alaska Constitution allows the governor to make such a sweeping reorganization rather than proposing a bill that’s subject to legislative review and amendments. (Hollander and Brooks, 3/17)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
3 Wisconsin Children Have Died From Influenza, First This Flu Season

Three children in Wisconsin have died from influenza, the state health department announced Thursday. The news release reporting the first pediatric flu deaths this season did not say how old the children were or where in Wisconsin they lived. Flu seasons are typically tracked October through May in the United States. After an unusually mild 2020-21 season — which state health officials attribute to people staying at home because of the COVID-19 pandemic — flu numbers have bounced back in Wisconsin, but still are not as high as past years. (Heim, 3/17)

US Adult Smoking Rate Fell During First Year Of Pandemic 

The first year of the COVID-19 pandemic saw more Americans drinking heavily or using illicit drugs — but apparently not smoking. U.S. cigarette smoking dropped to a new all-time low in 2020, with 1 in 8 adults saying they were current smokers, according to survey data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adult e-cigarette use also dropped, the CDC reported. (Stobbe, 3/17)

The Boston Globe:
Frequent Daytime Napping By Older Adults Linked To Increased Risk Of Alzheimer’s, Study Says

A new study from researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston links excessive daytime napping by older adults to a heightened risk of developing Alzheimer’s, the disease that causes severe cognitive decline. The study was published Thursday in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, the hospital said in a statement. “The vicious cycle we observed between daytime sleep and Alzheimer’s disease offers a basis for better understanding the role of sleep in the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease in older adults,” Dr. Peng Li, a lead author of the study who works in the Medical Biodynamics Program at the Brigham’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, said in the statement. (Andersen and Fox, 3/17)

More Than 30 Companies To Start Making Pfizer’s COVID Pill 

Nearly three dozen companies worldwide will soon start making generic versions of Pfizer’s coronavirus pill, the U.N.-backed Medicines Patent Pool that negotiated the deal said Thursday. The Medicines Patent Pool said in a statement that agreements signed with 35 companies should help make Pfizer’s antiviral nirmatrelvir, or Paxlovid, available to more than half of the world’s population. (3/17)

The Washington Post:
At Least 43 Attacks On Health-Care Facilities And Patients In Ukraine, WHO Says 

The World Health Organization has verified at least “43 attacks on health care” — including assaults on patients, health-care workers, facilities or infrastructure — since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the agency’s director general, told reporters Wednesday. More than 300 health-care facilities are in combat zones or areas that Russia now controls, while 600 other facilities are within about six miles of the conflict line, he said. (Simon, Timsit and Jeong, 3/17)

The New York Times:
An American Who Traveled To Ukraine For His Partner’s Treatment Is Killed

A 68-year-old American man was killed in a Russian assault on the city of Chernihiv, a city northwest of Kyiv, the local authorities in the city reported on Thursday. The local police said the man, James Whitney Hill, was killed by heavy artillery attacks on unarmed civilians in the city. … Mr. Hill, who went by the name Jimmy or Jim to friends, and his partner, Ira, who is Ukrainian, had traveled to Chernihiv in December so that she could be treated for multiple sclerosis, friends of Mr. Hill told a local news broadcaster in Idaho this month. They had become trapped at a regional hospital there. (Specia and Schwirtz, 3/17)

The Washington Post:
Mental Health Experts Worldwide Provide Support For Ukrainians

The crisis in Ukraine has unleashed a network of online mental health experts, some refashioning routine virtual care in response to the war; others providing psychological first aid for refugees or support for local therapists who suddenly find themselves on the front line of an evolving mental health crisis. “We all — many, many professionals around the world — have mobilized to work with what’s going on there, with extensive psychological trauma,” said Galina Itskovich, a Brooklyn-based developmental psychotherapist who has been working with parents and professionals in Ukraine for several years. “We have a grass-roots movement here, getting connected very quickly.” (Sellers, 3/18)

The New York Times:
Who Killed Three Aid Workers For Doctors Without Borders In Ethiopia?

As the fight intensified in northern Ethiopia in June last year, three aid workers from Doctors Without Borders jumped into their four-wheel drive and raced across the battle-scarred landscape, searching for casualties. Hours later they vanished. The aid workers stopped answering their satellite phone. A tracking device showed their vehicle making a sudden U-turn, then stopping. Colleagues frantically tried to locate them. (Marks and Walsh, 3/17)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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CBD Shop Owners share medical benefits of medical marijuana

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