First Edition: May 23, 2022

Linda Rider

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

The New MADD Movement: Parents Rise Up Against Drug Deaths 

Life as he knew it ended for Matt Capelouto two days before Christmas in 2019, when he found his 20-year-old daughter, Alexandra, dead in her childhood bedroom in Temecula, California. Rage overtook grief when authorities ruled her death an accident. The college sophomore, home for the holidays, had taken half a pill she bought from a dealer on Snapchat. It turned out to be fentanyl, the powerful synthetic opioid that helped drive drug overdose deaths in the U.S. to more than 100,000 last year. “She was poisoned, and nothing was going to happen to the person who did it,” he said. “I couldn’t stand for that.” (Scheier, 5/23)

Custom Caskets For Kids Look Like Something You ‘Would See In A Child’s Room’ 

Calyia Stringer had a smile on her face the day she posed for a photo with a yellow flower in her hand. The toddler beamed with pride as she showed off the bloom before handing it to her godmother, Jatoria Foster. “She was so happy,” Foster said. “That was one of the best memories I have of her.” No one thought the same image would end up on the lid of Calyia’s casket — until the unthinkable happened. The 3-year-old was killed last September when a stray bullet tore through her grandmother’s bedroom in East St. Louis, Illinois. For Calyia’s funeral, her family wanted to remember the happiest moments of her life, so the funeral home decorated her casket with three photos of the girl. (Anthony, 5/23)

Journalists Explore Affordability Of Mental Health Care And Abortion Laws’ Effect On Miscarriages 

KHN correspondent Aneri Pattani discussed why finding affordable mental health care is so difficult on NPR’s “A1” on May 18. … Freelancer Charlotte Huff discussed how Texas abortion laws complicate miscarriage treatment on “Texas Standard” on May 16. (5/21)

Third Possible Case Of Monkeypox Found In The U.S.

Health authorities said they may have found a third case of the monkeypox virus in the United States and are running tests on a patient in South Florida to confirm if the person has contracted the disease, which is staging a rare outbreak outside of Africa. The case in Broward County, Florida, is “related to international travel,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the Florida Department of Health said in a statement on Sunday, “and the person remains isolated.” (Mckay, 5/23)

Monkeypox Virus Shouldn’t Spur Covid-19 Level Of Concern, Joe Biden Says

President Joe Biden sought to reassure Americans that the current monkeypox outbreak was unlikely to cause a pandemic on the scale of Covid-19. “I just don’t think it rises to the level of the kind of concern that existed with Covid-19,” he told reporters Monday in Tokyo at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida. The US has enough small pox vaccine stockpiled to deal with the outbreak, Biden said. Still, he said people should be cautious. (Cook and Jacobs, 5/23)

The Washington Post:
Monkeypox Quarantine Unnecessary In U.S., Biden Says 

President Biden said Monday that he did not believe a quarantine to prevent the spread of monkeypox in the United States would be necessary, saying there are sufficient vaccine doses available to combat any serious flare-up of the disease. Belgium became the first country to impose a quarantine on its residents because of monkeypox, requiring those infected to isolate for 21 days. (Kim, 5/23)

Health Official On Monkeypox: ‘I Feel Like This Is A Virus We Understand’

Biden administration health official Ashish Jha said Sunday he expects that monkeypox will not have widespread impact in the United States. “I feel like this is a virus we understand,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.” Speaking to host Martha Raddatz, the White House coronavirus response coordinator said monkeypox is far different than coronavirus, since it is not something new and treatments already exist for it. (Cohen, 5/22)

NBC News:
As Monkeypox Outbreak Swells, Experts Offer Guesses As To Why Europe Has Seen Unprecedented Spread

From past instances of human-to-human transmission, scientists have learned that the virus spreads through the exchange of large respiratory droplets or via direct contact with bodily fluids, lesions that form during infection, or contaminated items like clothing or bedding. Monkeypox isn’t considered a sexually transmitted infection, but it could be passed during sexual encounters, experts said. Many of the recent cases in Europe are among men who have sex with men, and a Friday alert from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggested that some recent cases started out with lesions around the anus and genitals. “I’m guessing that sexual transmission will be high on the list of potential culprits,” said Dr. Grant McFadden, director of the Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy at Arizona State University. (Bendix, 5/20)

USA Today:
WHO Convenes Meetings, Steps Up Response On ‘Atypical’ Surge In Monkeypox Cases. Here’s What We Know

The World Health Organization on Friday said it was stepping up efforts to understand and combat monkeypox as nearly a dozen countries are investigating “atypical” outbreaks. The organization said the ongoing situation is being discussed at several meetings. “There are about 80 confirmed cases so far, and 50 pending investigations. More cases are likely to be reported as surveillance expands,” the health agency said in a news release. The spike in monkeypox cases in Europe and North America has perplexed public health professionals because the rare disease is typically found in central and west Africa — and human-to-human transmission is usually considered uncommon. (Tebor, Shannon and Weise, 5/21)

Conspiracy Theories That US May Be The Source Of Monkeypox Virus Swirl In China

Chinese social media users are speculating the US could be the source of monkeypox infections now reported in at least a dozen countries, including the UK, Spain and Australia. The viral infection has been highlighted as a trending topic on popular social media platform Weibo for the past three days with a hashtag on the US reporting two suspected monkeypox cases attracting more than 51 million views as of Monday. While Chinese state media has refrained from accusing the US of intentionally spreading monkeypox — an accusation it made about Covid-19 — many social media users haven’t held back. (Lew, 5/23)

CBS News:
Military Plane Carrying 39 Tons Of Baby Formula Arrives In U.S.

Enough specialty infant formula for more than half a million baby bottles arrived Sunday in Indianapolis, the first of several flights carrying infant formula from Europe expected this weekend to relieve the deepening shortage in the U.S. The formula, weighing 78,000 pounds, or 39 tons, was being transported by military plane, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One as President Biden flew from South Korea to Japan. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was in Indianapolis to greet the arrival of the first shipment. (5/22)

ABC News:
Plane Carrying More Than 75,000 Pounds Of Imported Baby Formula Lands In US 

Another shipment of formula will be flying into Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia on a FedEx plane this coming week, the White House announced Sunday afternoon. FedEx has secured a government contract to carry that critical cargo, bringing it from Ramstein Air Base in Germany. From there, the formula will be transported to a Nestlé facility in Pennsylvania via FedEx’s integrated air and ground network. The White House said the flight and trucking “will take place in the coming days.” (Hutzler, 5/22)

The Washington Post:
First Shipment Of Baby Formula From Germany Arrives In Indianapolis 

The Biden administration announced Sunday that it would use the Defense Production Act to give two companies priority on ingredients or equipment necessary to manufacture formula. Abbott Nutrition will be able to make priority orders for sugar and corn syrup. Reckitt will be able to place priority orders for filters that have been constrained during the pandemic. (Wang, Jeong and Johnson, 5/22)

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Homemade Baby Formula Putting Wisconsin Babies In The Hospital

Children’s Wisconsin has seen an increase in the number of babies being admitted due to inappropriate substitutions for baby formula, the hospital said Friday. The hospital frequently sees babies that are malnourished or show a failure to thrive, for reasons including a lack of access to formula, Heather Van Roo, a hospital spokeswoman, said in a statement to the Journal Sentinel. “But we are seeing more kids where inappropriate substitutions of formula is a factor in their hospitalization,” she said. (Shastri, 5/20)

Cincinnati Enquirer:
Baby Formula Shortage Hurting Cincinnati Families Of Color

Laurie Alexander, of West Price Hill, is researching how to get baby formula from outside the United States. She’s three months pregnant, and while she’s breastfed her three babies, she has always had to supplement with formula. The shortage of baby formula now is worrying her, even though her delivery date is six months out and federal officials say help is on the way. “It’s very scary,” Alexander said. “I’m looking at the U.K. and Canada. I’ve been trying to stock up on it early.” The nationwide shortage is alarming parents of babies who need it. In the Cincinnati area, nonprofits that help lower-income moms and women of color say the problem is exacerbated for their clients, who are suffering the most from ever-rising costs with inflation and often, a lack of transportation. (Demio, 5/23)

Dangerous DIY Baby Formula Recipes Go Viral As Parents Get Desperate

As a nationwide baby formula shortage sends parents into crisis mode, social media posts containing dangerous misinformation about homemade formula recipes have gone viral online, racking up views in the millions. Although major networks like Facebook, TikTok and YouTube have taken steps to label photos, videos and posts with contextual information pointing to the harms of such recipes, and in some cases removed them, they have done so inconsistently, allowing the advice to continue spreading and putting children at risk. (Alba, 5/21)

USA Today:
6th Child Dies From Hepatitis Outbreak In 36 States; CDC Seeks Answers

A spreading hepatitis outbreak that killed six children has infectious disease experts  scrambling to find answers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the sixth death last week. The CDC said the outbreak of the liver disease has expanded to 180 reported youth patients across 36 states and territories over the past seven months. The number of cases increased by 71 in two weeks, but the CDC said most of those were “retrospective” patients who may have been ill weeks or months earlier. “Not all are recent, and some may ultimately wind up not being linked to this current investigation,” the CDC said in a statement. The agency said testing ruled out some of the viruses that commonly cause hepatitis. (Bacon, 5/22)

Mexico Reports First Death Of Child From Mysterious Severe Hepatitis

Mexican authorities confirmed on Friday the first death of a child from a severe form of hepatitis with unknown origin in the country, marking the first death in Latin America as cases spread worldwide. The three-year-old child, originally from the central state of Hidalgo, was transferred to a hospital in Mexico City, but died this week, the Hidalgo Health Secretariat said. (5/20)

The Wall Street Journal:
With State Abortion Restrictions Looming, Some Officials Promise Not To Enforce Them

A new wave of abortion restrictions is expected in half of the U.S. if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. Some local officials are pledging not to enforce them, potentially creating uneven legal landscapes within conservative states that are home to more liberal urban areas. District attorneys in metropolitan areas including Atlanta, New Orleans, Dallas and San Antonio have said they won’t prosecute abortion providers or others, including those who assist a woman in obtaining the procedure. Current state attorneys general who are up for re-election in Michigan and Wisconsin, as well as Democratic candidates for that office in Georgia and Arizona have likewise pledged not to enforce any laws banning abortion in their states. (Kusisto, 5/22)

Dallas Morning News:
John Cornyn Supports Allowing Exceptions To Texas Abortion Law For Rape, Incest

Sen. John Cornyn on Friday said he would permit exceptions for cases of rape and incest in laws restricting abortion that will be triggered in Texas if Roe vs. Wade is abolished.
“I would permit those exceptions, but I understand others have strongly held feelings to the contrary,” Cornyn said during a recording of Lone Star Politics, a political show produced by KXAS (NBC 5) and The Dallas Morning News. Cornyn, who is against abortion, stressed that he respects the right of the Legislature to pass abortion-related laws. And he supports the view that Roe vs. Wade should be scrapped. Earlier this month a leaked draft opinion foreshadowed that the U.S. Supreme Court is poised to strike down the law, which in 1973 legalized abortions. (Jeffers Jr., 5/21)

Poll Shows Most Oklahoma Voters Don’t Want Total Abortion Ban

Less than one-third of Oklahoma voters want a ban on all abortions and only Republicans are deeply divided on the question, according to a poll taken before the state Legislature approved bills this year aimed at shutting down most abortions. The poll, taken by Amber Integrated in December of 500 registered Oklahoma voters, shows 31{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} would support a total ban on abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade; 55{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} of the Oklahoma voters surveyed did not want a total ban and another 14{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} were unsure. (Casteel, 5/22)

The 19th:
Massachusetts Lawmakers Want To Make Medication Abortion Available At Colleges

As abortion access is thrown into uncertainty around the nation, Massachusetts lawmakers are pushing for legislation that would require health centers at public colleges and universities to offer medication abortions. Lawmakers and advocates who support the bills say medication abortion should be accessible on campus because college students may not know where to find abortion providers, often lack transportation to visit them and have class schedules that make traveling for care difficult. (Nittle, 5/20)

Florida’s Firewall Against Abortion Restrictions Is In Peril

Florida’s Supreme Court, forged by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, could decide the fate of abortion rights in the state. That’s because Florida’s abortion rights are not just intertwined with federal court rulings but also rely on a decadesold Florida Supreme Court decision that extends privacy rights to abortion. Those rights are enshrined in the Florida Constitution, and the state Supreme Court has previously cited it to overturn restrictive abortion laws, including one requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortions. But the current Florida Supreme Court is dominated by conservatives, including three appointed by DeSantis, and some fear the state justices could interpret the privacy rights differently. (Fineout, 5/22)

Contraception ‘Should Not Be Legal,’ Says Trump-Backed Candidate Eubanks

Jacky Eubanks, a Trump-endorsed candidate for Michigan’s legislature, said she would vote to make contraception illegal. … Eubanks, who is running for Michigan’s 63rd House district, backed a ban on contraception during an interview with right-wing news outlet Church Militant. … Eubanks continued to blast contraception as leading people to believe in “the false sense of security that they can have consequence-free sex.” She said a ban on contraception would also convince people to wait until marriage to have sexual relations. (Stanton, 5/21)

The Atlantic:
How The End Of Roe Would Change Prenatal Care

Even now, laws in more than a dozen states that restrict abortion past 20 weeks are changing the use of the second-trimester anatomy scans. “People are moving those tests backward, doing them earlier than is optimal,” says Laura Hercher, a genetic counselor at Sarah Lawrence College who recently conducted a survey of genetic counselors in abortion-restrictive states. But the earlier the scan, the less doctors can see. Certain brain structures, such as the cavum septum pellucidum, might not develop until week 20, says Chloe Zera, an obstetrician in Massachusetts. Being unable to find this structure could indicate a brain anomaly, or just that the scan was done too early. Doctors might also pick up evidence of a heart defect but not know how severe or fixable it is. At 20 weeks, the heart is only the size of a dime. (Zhang, 5/20)

Detroit Free Press:
Masks Urged In 22 Michigan Counties, CDC Warns

The number of Michigan counties where risk from COVID-19 is high has grown to 22 this week, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as a new wave of cases and hospitalizations sweeps the state and the nation. “There’s a lot of infections across America,” Dr. Ashish Jha, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said earlier this week. “What’s driving that? What is primarily driving that is these incredibly contagious subvariants” of the omicron variant, BA.2 and BA.2.12.1. “They are more contagious with more immune escape, and they are driving a lot of the increases in infection that we’re seeing across the nation right now. And that is … a huge challenge.” (Jordan Shamus, 5/20)

The Washington Post:
D.C.-Area Schools Face Rising Covid Cases, Aren’t Restoring Strict Rules 

School districts in the Washington region are contending with the national surge in covid cases that has resulted in the highest numbers since the winter omicron surge and left more students at home quarantining. But this latest spike in cases arrives after most districts have already lifted masking requirements and shortened quarantine protocols — and, following federal health guidelines, the region’s school leaders say they are not reconsidering a complete overhaul of covid policies in the final stretch of the academic year. Prince George’s County is the only school district — and one of the few big districts in the country — that still has a mask mandate. (Stein, Natanson and Asbury, 5/22)

The Boston Globe:
COVID-19 Is Worse Than Official Data Show, Former R.I. Health Department Official Says

A former high-level employee at the Rhode Island Department of Health says that COVID-19 cases have been on the rise for months in Rhode Island, but the information has been hidden in the official data and ignored by Governor Daniel McKee, whom he accuses of incompetence. Julian Drix, who was the acting co-director of the Health Department’s Health Equity Institute and in charge of the coordinated COVID response for Central Falls and Pawtucket, told the Globe on Friday that McKee’s administration dismantled the infrastructure that helped Rhode Island respond to and prevent the spread of COVID-19. Now, Drix says, Rhode Island is more vulnerable during this surge — and the problems exposed by the pandemic are straining the health care system. (Milkovits, 5/20)

People With Low Body Weight Show Less Waning COVID Vaccine Immunity

A new study shows significantly less antibody waning 6 months after two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in people with low body weight, suggesting that those adults could wait longer than 6 months for a booster dose. The study appears in JAMA Network Open. The small study involved 50 South Korean young adult healthcare workers who received the standard series of Pfizer vaccine and had not had a previous infection with COVID-19. Eighty percent of participants were women. (5/20)

The New York Times:
Long Covid Symptoms And Treatment: What We Know So Far

There is little consensus on the exact definition of long Covid, also known by the medical term PASC, or post-acute sequelae of Covid-19. While the World Health Organization says long Covid starts three months after the original bout of illness or positive test result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sets the timeline at just after one month. (Sheikh and Belluck, 5/21)

Fox News:
Army Nears 100{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} Vaccination, Claims Only 1{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} Refusal Among Troops

The U.S. Army reports that it nears a 100{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} COVID-19 vaccination rate among troops, claiming the service has issued 3,411 general officer reprimands to soldiers who refused the order to be vaccinated. The active forces have recorded a 97{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} completion of vaccination regimen, with that number to hit 98{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} after additional troops complete their current booster regimen. The Pentagon in Aug. 2021 issued a vaccine mandate for the armed forces, with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordering each branch to fully vaccinate active duty, Guard and Reserve troops. Troops in various military branches had months to comply with the order, with each branch setting its own deadline to complete the regimen. (Aitken, 5/22)

Pfizer To Refund $290,000 In Four States Over Misleading Copay Coupons

Amid controversy over the use of patient coupons, Pfizer has agreed to refund $290,000 to settle charges of misleading roughly 5,000 people in Colorado, Kansas, Vermont, and Arizona who spent much more than expected when they used coupons supplied by the drug maker. The company will also pay a total of $120,000 to the states to cover legal costs, among other things. This is only the latest instance in which Pfizer has been cited over such allegations. Three years ago, the company paid $975,000 to settle charges of misleading consumers in Oregon and, in 2018, it reached a $700,000 settlement with New York State. In each episode, consumers were told they would “pay no more than” a small amount of money — typically, from $15 to $25 — for certain drugs, but were actually required to pay more due to limits on total savings that were not prominently disclosed. (Silverman, 5/22)

Oklahoma Legislature OKs Revamp To Medicaid Program

Oklahoma legislators on Friday approved plans to revamp the state’s Medicaid program into a value-based health care model that incentivizes providers to improve patient health. The plan includes some elements of the Medicaid managed care plan the Stitt administration tried to implement last year, but lawmakers were directly involved in crafting the details this time. The Oklahoma Supreme Court last year ruled the Oklahoma Health Care Authority, which oversees the state’s Medicaid program, exceeded its authority in trying to implement managed care. (Forman, 5/21)

ABC News:
Jif Peanut Butter Products Recalled Due To Possible Salmonella Concerns 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are investigating an outbreak of salmonella infections that is possibly linked to Jif peanut butter products. The J.M. Smucker Company issued a voluntary recall for its creamy, crunchy, natural and reduced fat peanut butter products that were distributed nationwide, with lot code numbers 1274425 to 2140425, the FDA announced Friday. (Meltzer, 5/22)

Las Vegas Review-Journal:
185K Pounds Of Bacon Products Recalled After Nationwide Distribution

An Iowa company has recalled about 185,610 pounds of ready-to-eat bacon topping products that might be contaminated with metal, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture news release Friday. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service said it expects there to be additional products containing the bacon and urges consumers to check back frequently to view updated lists and labels. The product was produced on various dates between Feb. 21 and 23 and March 3 and 5. (Garcia, 5/20)

The Washington Post:
World Health Assembly Clouded By Pandemic Treaty Backlash

Global health leaders gathered in Geneva on Sunday to discuss the pandemic are facing another viral problem: a visceral, passionate online backlash that falsely accuses the World Health Organization of conspiring to take power from national governments. The World Health Assembly, the decision-making body of the WHO’s 194 member states, is holding its first fully in-person event in two years as some coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted. While the assembly, now in its 75th year, is usually considered a dry, technocratic event, this year it is being framed by conspiracy theorists as a key moment in the battle between democracy and tyranny. (Taylor, 5/22)

European Regulator Suspends Generic Drugs After Finding Flawed Studies

In the latest dust-up over the safety of medicines, the European Medicines Agency recommended suspending marketing authorization for dozens of generic drugs after finding problems with tests conducted by a contract research organization. Specifically, the regulator pointed to “serious concerns” about the quality and reliability of data in bioequivalence studies run by Synchron Research Services, which is based in Ahmedabad, India. Bioequivalence studies are conducted to show that a generic medicine releases the same amount of an active ingredient in the body as a brand-name medicine. (Silverman, 5/20)

Fox News:
British Health Report To Recommend Raising Smoking Age To 21

English health officials have suggested the country should raise the legal smoking age from 18 to 21 as part of an initiative to discourage smoking and mostly eliminate it by 2030. The British government in 2019 set the new deadline after a green paper report indicated that the then-current timeline of ending smoking by 2025 seemed unlikely. The report found that 14{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} of adults smoked. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that the goal is to bring that number to below 5{fe463f59fb70c5c01486843be1d66c13e664ed3ae921464fa884afebcc0ffe6c} over the next eight years, and raising the legal age for smoking to 21 could prove a crucial part to that plan. (Aitken, 5/21)

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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