Becerra confirmed to shepherd Biden's ambitious health plans
A lawyer, not a doctor, his main experience with the health care system came through helping to pass the Obama-era Affordable Care Act and defending it when Donald Trump was president. AdBecerra also will also be the point man on Biden's health care agenda, which includes insurance for all Americans, deputizing Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices and tackling persistent racial and ethnic disparities in the health care system. Prescription drugs and health insurance will lead to major legislative battles. “It’s a different time and it’s a time of tremendous opportunity in health care,” he said. But during committee hearings several indicated a willingness to work with on prescription drugs, rural health care and other matters.
China hits Trump officials with sanctions on their way out
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying speaks during the daily press briefing at the Foreign Ministry in Beijing on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (AP Photo/Liu Zheng)WASHINGTON – China imposed sanctions on nearly 30 former Trump administration officials moments after they left office on Wednesday. On Tuesday, Pompeo announced that he had declared China's repression of Muslim ethnic minorities a “genocide," possibly opening the door to new U.S. sanctions against Chinese officials. The Trump administration had steadily ramped up pressure on China since last year but had increasingly so over the past several months. During its last weeks in office, the administration had hit numerous officials with sanctions for their actions on Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the South China Sea.
'Little old West Virginia' sets pace on vaccine rollout
More shots have gone into people’s arms per capita across West Virginia than in any other state, with at least 7.4% of the population receiving the first of two shots, according to state data. “Little old West Virginia, that was thought of for hundreds of years, you know, as a place where maybe we were backward or dark or dingy,” Justice said last week. Instead, it turns out that “West Virginia has been the diamond in the rough,” Justice said on CBS’ "Face the Nation" on Sunday. The federal partnership involving both companies would have allowed Washington officials to dictate the terms of nursing home vaccinations, said Marty Wright, the head of the West Virginia Health Care Association, which represents health care companies. The governor wants in-person learning to resume at as many schools as possible by Tuesday, long before teachers will have received their second vaccine doses.
The Latest: China reports a few new cases of COVID-19
The 311 deaths reported in the week since Jan. 10 were a pandemic one -week high for Nevada, surpassing the 299 deaths reported the previous week, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported. The state health department on Saturday reported 3,621 coronavirus cases and 27 deaths for confirmed totals of 351,665 cases and 2,952 deaths. It ranks third globally with 8.9 million confirmed cases in a nation of 211 million people. India has registered 10.5 million cases, second highest in the world behind the U.S. at 23.5 million. The Department of Health Services reported 8,715 cases and 208 deaths, increasing the pandemic totals to 666,901 confirmed cases and 11,248 confirmed deaths.
Governors complain over pace of COVID-19 vaccine shipments
FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2020, file photo, a droplet falls from a syringe after a health care worker was injected with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Women & Infants Hospital in Providence, R.I. Uncertainty over the pace of federal COVID-19 vaccine allotments triggered anger and confusion Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, in some states where officials worried that expected shipments would not be forthcoming. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)Governors bitterly accused the Trump administration Friday of deceiving the states about the amount of COVID-19 vaccine they can expect to receive as they ramp up vaccinations for senior citizens and others. Late Friday, Oregon health officials said a case of the variant had been diagnose in the Portland area in a patient who had no travel history. “What we’re seeing is fully in line with the dysfunction that has characterized the Trump administration’s entire response to COVID-19.
The Latest: Azar condemns Capitol riot in resignation letter
Security surrounds the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021, ahead of the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Azar says he will resign at noon on Jan. 20, when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in. TSA is also providing officers to help the Secret Service screen people along the parade route and attending Biden’s inauguration Wednesday. Pence’s call comes less than a week before President-elect Joe Biden and Harris are set to take office. President Donald Trump hasn’t reached out to Biden and has repeatedly questioned the legitimacy of Biden’s win.
US cancels ambassador's controversial trip to Taiwan
The State Department cancelled a planned visit to Taiwan by Craft, as well as several other trips planned by senior officials. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)TAIPEI – The U.S. State Department canceled the planned Taiwan visit by its U.N. ambassador that has drawn strong opposition and a warning from China. China had already warned the U.S. would pay a “heavy price" in response to the planned visit. Cabinet official to visit since the U.S. switched formal relations from Taiwan to China in 1979. Wu also noted that current policy moves could be reversed, pointing to the historic meeting between former Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou and Chinese leader in 2015.
US health agency agrees to release withheld COVID vaccines following governors’ request
President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming administration announced that it intended to release the millions of withheld vaccines when they take office after the governors submitted their request to the HHS. Rather than hold onto second vaccine doses, Biden plans to instead accelerate shipment of first doses and use the levers of government power to provide the required second doses in a timely manner. There were about 95,000 active COVID cases in the state on Jan. 11. Michigan health officials are urging patience as the vaccination process unfolds, while the state attempts to secure more doses to meet the need. Read: Michigan health departments urge patience on COVID vaccines: ‘Demand is overwhelming’“It’s a tremendous relief to add vaccination to the resources we have to prevent COVID-19 from causing additional harm, but this process will take time,” says Jimena Loveluck, MSW, health officer with Washtenaw County Health Department.
US shifts to speed COVID shots as cases and deaths rise
WASHINGTON – Facing a slower-than-hoped coronavirus vaccine rollout, the Trump administration abruptly shifted gears Tuesday to speed the delivery of shots to more people. The move to increase the supply of vaccines better aligns the outgoing administration with the new Biden-Harris team. Some critics say the administration's planning should have extended into helping states administer the shots after they were delivered. Biden has set a goal of 100 million shots administered in his first 100 days. Local public health officials were surprised by Tuesday’s announcement and scrambling to figure out how to implement the changes, said Adriane Casalotti of NACCHO, the National Association of County and City Health Officials.
Michigan governor makes request to purchase 100K doses of COVID-19 vaccine
According to Whitmer, since she and eight other governors sent a letter to the Trump Administration requesting that it distribute the millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses that are being held back, there has been no response. Gretchen Whitmer sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar requesting permission to purchase up to 100,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines for the state. According to Whitmer, since she and eight other governors sent a letter to the Trump Administration requesting that it distribute the millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses that are being held back, there has been no response. “We remain ready to accelerate distribution to get doses into arms,” said Whitmer. After the governors sent the letter, the incoming Biden administration announced that they will release all of the available vaccine doses that the Trump Administration is holding back,” read a statement from Whitmer’s office.
Chinese state media blast latest Pompeo move on Taiwan
FILE - In this Nov. 24, 2020, file photo, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks to the media prior to meeting with Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah at the State Department in Washington. There was no immediate comment from the Chinese government on Pompeo's decision to end State Department restrictions on how U.S. officials can interact with Taiwan, which he said had been implemented to appease the Communist regime in Beijing. Under the one-China policy, the U.S. recognizes Beijing as the government of China and doesn't have diplomatic relations with Taiwan. “We are expressing our gratitude toward the U.S. for speaking out and supporting Taiwan,” Premier Su Tseng-chang told reporters. Pompeo said that the U.S. maintains relationships with unofficial partners around the world, and that Taiwan is no exception.
Pompeo voids restrictions on diplomatic contacts with Taiwan
The Trump administration has sought to strengthen bilateral relations with Taiwan. In August, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar became the first Cabinet member to visit Taiwan since 2014. Pompeo said that the State Department has created complex restrictions when it comes to contacts between the two parties. It has been using its diplomatic clout to stop Taiwan from joining any organizations that require statehood for membership. Pompeo said the U.S. maintains relationships with unofficial partners around the world, and Taiwan is no exception.
With virus surging, Biden to speed release of COVID vaccines
Instead, it would accelerate shipment of first doses and use the levers of government power to provide required second doses in a timely manner. It's seen as a prudent approach, since both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines require a second shot after the first vaccination. Of 21.4 million doses distributed, about 5.9 million have been administered, or just under 28%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Biden announced his plan after eight Democratic governors wrote the Trump administration on Friday urging it to do as much. ___This story has been corrected to show that 21.4 million doses of vaccine have been distributed, not 29.4 million.
Taiwan heralds visit by US ambassador to UN as China fumes
Ambassador to the United Nations Kelly Craft speaks during a news conference at the U.S. State Department in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)TAIPEI – Taiwan said Friday it welcomed the visit of the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in the closing days of the Trump administration, in a move that brought China's renewed condemnation of Washington. Kelly Craft will visit Taipei, the island's capital, on Jan. 13-15, a week before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden. In defiance of China's warnings, Congress and the Trump administration have pushed for more visits by sitting government officials, along with arms sales and political support. ___Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.
The Latest: China city offers rewards to root out untested
Mexico has reported a new daily high in coronavirus cases. ___MEXICO CITY — Mexico continues to see record increases in coronavirus cases, with a 24-hour caseload of 13,734 confirmed infections setting a new high for the second consecutive day. ___CARSON CITY, Nev. -- Nevada officials are reporting the most new coronavirus cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic. Nevada has consistently rewritten its record books for coronavirus cases, deaths and hospitalizations throughout the months-long surge that has spared no county, rural or urban. The Ontario government says coronavirus cases are continuing to rise at an alarming rate.
Governors scramble to speed vaccine effort after slow start
His South Carolina counterpart warned health care workers they have until Jan. 15 to get a shot or move to the back of the line. If health workers aren’t lining up fast enough, he said, it is OK to expand eligibility to lower-priority groups. Across much of the nation, health care workers and nursing home residents are being given priority for the initial, limited supplies of the vaccine at this stage. Henry McMaster of South Carolina warned that health care workers will lose their place in line if they don't move quickly to get their shots. But Cuomo immediately shot down that idea, saying, “We need to get the health care population done first because they are the front line."
The Latest: Australia moves up vaccination start to February
(AP Photo/Mark Baker)CANBERRA, Australia — Australia is advancing the start of its coronavirus vaccination program to mid-February, with plans to inoculate 15% of the population by late March. Mexico’s vaccination effort continues at a glacial rate, with about 7,500 shots administered Wednesday, a rate similar to previous days. John Bel Edwards and public health officials said Wednesday that efforts are being made to speed up vaccinations for the coronavirus. So far, state officials have administered 126,602 of the 522,550 doses the state has received. More than 329,000 people have been vaccinated in Florida — or about 1.5% of the population — almost all of them either health care workers, residents in care homes, or people over the age of 65.
Pfizer to supply US with additional 100M doses of vaccine
(Youngrae Kim/Chicago Tribune via AP, Pool)WASHINGTON – Pfizer said Wednesday it will supply the U.S. government with an additional 100 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine under a new agreement between the pharmaceutical giant and the Trump administration. The government also has an option to purchase an additional 400 million doses. The cost to taxpayers: $1.95 billion for the additional 100 million doses. To aid vaccine production, the government said it is using its authority under a Cold War-era law that allows it to direct private manufacturing. The government began shipping the Pfizer vaccine to states last week, and the one from Moderna this week.
Probe: Trump officials attacked CDC virus reports
Trump administration political appointees tried to block or change more than a dozen government reports that detailed scientific findings about the spread of the coronavirus, according to a House panel investigating the alleged interference. New York political operative and Trump loyalist Michael Caputo was installed as the department's top spokesman during a period of high tension between White House officials and Azar. — Intensely challenged articles that detailed scientific findings on the spread of COVID-19 among children. The HHS public affairs office that Caputo once headed “is not a science or medical program office," wrote Hall. Redfield responded at the time that he had told CDC staffers to ignore Alexander's email, and that he is fully committed to maintaining the independence of the MMWR health reports.
The Latest: Texas virus death toll rises above 25,000
State health officials reported 272 new deaths due to COVID-19, bringing Texas’ death toll to 25,226. On Saturday, the state reported 9,796 people hospitalized with the virus, an increase of nearly 23% over the last month. ___THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:The United States reached a record of nearly a quarter million coronavirus cases reported in 24 hours. ___BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The United States added a record of nearly a quarter million coronavirus cases in the past day. Almost 17,000 people are hospitalized in California and health officials are scrambling to find enough beds for patients.
Maryland, Virginia donate vaccine doses to Washington, DC
But when the latest shortfall hit the local allotment of new COVID-19 vaccine doses, Washington's neighboring states pitched in to help make up the difference. In a heartening demonstration of interstate collectivism, Maryland and Virginia are each sending 8,000 vaccine doses, more than tripling the amount available for health care workers in the nation's capital. The dosage allotments were based on population, but many of Washington's health care workers live in the intertwined neighboring communities of Maryland and northern Virginia. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser had sent a letter to U.S. health officials claiming the “one-size-fits-all formula for distribution” would prove “woefully insufficient.”Govs. None of the three jurisdictions will receive anywhere close to enough doses in the first batch to cover all their health care workers.
The Latest: S Koreans line up for virus tests as cases surge
The Pentagon has authorized nearly 50 top civilian and military leaders to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the coming weeks to prove to the shots are safe and effective. Indoor restaurant dining will continue to be barred under the new state health department order that takes effect Monday. Laura Kelly is expressing little concern over a smaller-than-expected second shipment of a coronavirus vaccine for the state. The state also reported total 2,341 COVID-19 deaths, adding 88 to the tally since Wednesday. ___BERN — The Swiss government is ordering the closure of restaurants, bars, cultural venues and sports facilities next week because of increasing coronavirus cases.
Snow continues to fall on Northeast US, with vaccines in tow
A woman waits for a Long Island Rail Road train in the Queens borough of New York as snow falls at the start of an oncoming snow storm, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)NEW YORK – Snow continued to fall Thursday during a key period in the coronavirus pandemic, days after the start of the U.S. vaccination campaign and in the thick of a virus surge that has throngs of people seeking tests daily. Snow fell from northern Virginia to parts of New England on Wednesday. But we are on it and following it,” he told Fox News Channel’s “Fox & Friends.”The need for vaccines prompted New Jersey Gov. The National Weather Service reported that parts of Centre County were hit with as much as 13 inches (33 centimeters) of snow by Wednesday night.
US angling to secure more of Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine
Meanwhile, the FDA said late Wednesday that some Pfizer vaccine vials may contain more than the standard five doses. The Trump administration has come under scathing criticism from congressional Democrats after news leaked out last week about the missed opportunity to secure more vaccine. A second vaccine from Moderna appears headed for Food and Drug Administration approval within days, and more vaccine candidates are advancing through clinical trials. Operation Warp Speed has financed the development, manufacture and distribution of millions of doses, with the goal of providing a free vaccine to any American who wants one. Pfizer was not as closely involved with Operation Warp Speed as other manufacturers, preferring to retain control over its own development and manufacturing.
'If not one thing, it's another': Storm rolls into Northeast
A woman waits for a Long Island Rail Road train in the Queens borough of New York as snow falls at the start of an oncoming snow storm, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. Snow was falling from northern Virginia to points north of New York City by late afternoon. “Our theme today ought to be, ‘If it’s not one thing, it’s another,’” New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said as he gave residents storm guidance that's new this year — mask up if you help your neighbors shovel. In New York City, officials braced for the biggest storm in about three years.
The Latest: Kansas mayor resigns over mask mandate threats
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, Pool, File)KANSAS — A western Kansas mayor announced Tuesday that she is resigning, effective immediately, because of threats she has received after she publicly supported a mask mandate. Brian Kemp and Public Health Commissioner Kathleen Toomey visited Savannah as the first four shots were administered to local health care workers. ___TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida’s largest hospital system said it was on track to immunize nearly 20,000 health care workers against COVID-19 as Gov. He traveled to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., on Monday and was given the first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine. Several health care workers at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital in the eastern part of the state also received injections.
Top US officials expected to get COVID-19 vaccine this week
The effort comes after President Donald Trump tweeted on Sunday that White House aides should receive the COVID-19 vaccine “somewhat later in the program.” Still, doses are expected to be administered at the White House, Capitol Hill and other facilities within the week, according to senior administration officials. Public distribution of the shot is initially limited to front-line health workers and people in nursing homes and long-term care facilitiesThe exact number and role of officials set to receive the vaccine is classified, according to senior administration officials. Among those expected to receive initial doses are military aides to the president, Situation Room watch officers, Secret Service agents. Biden said earlier this month that he wants take the vaccine in public under guidance of his chief medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci. “We will follow the guidance of scientists and get vaccines to those most at-risk,” Biden said last week.
EXPLAINER: How much COVID-19 vaccine will be shipped in US
Officials say vaccines should be available to everyone by the middle of next year. For now, only Pfizer's vaccine, which the Food and Drug Administration greenlit Friday, is being shipped. Since the Pfizer vaccine requires two doses, the government is holding back the second shots to ensure people can get them. Colorado, for example, says it's supposed to get 46,800 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the first round, with more expected in the weeks that follow. Officials say they might adjust once they become more confident about the flow of future supplies.
'Tis the pandemic season: White House parties on amid virus
A U.S. Marine Corps band performs in the Entrance Hall of the White House during the 2020 Christmas preview, Monday, Nov. 30, 2020, in Washington. The D.C. Health Department can’t do much more than track the numbers and hope its virus guidelines are being followed. But the White House and other federal properties are not required to comply with those rules. On Wednesday night, Trump hosted about 200 guests at the White House for the annual Hanukkah celebration. Bowser's government has generally avoided direct confrontations with the Trump White House over virus protocols.
Probe: CDC official says she was ordered to delete emails
At issue is what happened last summer to an email sent to the CDC from a now-departed HHS adviser, Dr. Paul Alexander. She said she was ordered to delete it the following day, a Sunday. Kent testified that she believed the order to delete the email came from Redfield. Redfield said Thursday in a statement that “regarding the email in question, I instructed CDC staff to ignore Dr. Alexander’s comments. “I considered this to be very unusual,” she said, according to the partial transcript released by Clyburn.
Judge refuses to reinstate rule for dispensing abortion pill
– A federal judge in Maryland has denied the Trump administration's request to reinstate a rule that would require women to visit a hospital, clinic or medical office to obtain an abortion pill during the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that public health risks for patients only have grown worse. U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang, who agreed to suspend the rule in July, refused Wednesday to lift or limit the scope of that order. The judge concluded that the rule imposes a “substantial obstacle” to abortion patients and likely is unconstitutional under the pandemic's circumstances. Chuang’s ruling allows health care providers to arrange for mifepristone to be mailed or delivered to patients during the pandemic. “The Trump administration’s argument that this travel mandate for abortion patients no longer poses significant COVID-19 risks is violently out of touch with reality,” ACLU attorney Julia Kaye said in a statement Wednesday.
Trump tries to revive stalled election-eve drug discounts
FILE - In this Oct. 10, 2020, file photo, President Donald Trump speaks from the Blue Room Balcony of the White House to a crowd of supporters in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is trying to revive the president's stalled election-eve plan to send millions of Medicare recipients a $200 prescription discount card. A person familiar with the effort tells The Associated Press that government agencies still face legal questions about the plan. A White House spokesman had no immediate response to a request Wednesday for an update on the status of the cards. President Donald Trump announced the discount cards were coming as part of a Sep. 24 speech calling attention to his unfinished health care agenda.
Biden calls for action on virus as he introduces health team
President-elect Joe Biden speaks during an event at The Queen theater in Wilmington, Del., Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2020, to announce his health care team. – President-elect Joe Biden on Tuesday called for urgent action on the coronavirus pandemic as he introduced a health care team that will be tested at every turn while striving to restore the nation to normalcy. But Becerra, 62, will face questions in his Senate confirmation about whether he possesses sufficient health care and management experience. Accepting his nomination via video link, Becerra called it a “breathtaking opportunity” to help shape the future of health care. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas argued that Becerra was unqualified because he lacked ties to the health care or pharmaceutical industries.
Trump hails vaccine 'miracle,' with millions of doses soon
Trump led Tuesday's White House event celebrating “Operation Warp Speed,” his administration's effort to produce and distribute safe and effective vaccines for COVID-19. Pfizer developed its vaccine outside of “Operation Warp Speed,” but is partnering with the federal government on manufacturing and distribution. Trump administration officials insist that such plans have been developed, with the bulk of the work falling to states and local governments to ensure their most vulnerable populations are vaccinated first. The Food and Drug Administration’s panel of outside vaccine experts is to meet Thursday to conduct a final review of the Pfizer vaccine, and it will meet later this month on the Moderna version. Plans call for distributing and then administering about 40 million doses of the two companies’ vaccines by the end of the year — with the first doses shipping within hours of FDA clearance.
Becerra's big challenge: Vaccinating Americans against virus
As California's attorney general, Becerra leads the nation's largest state justice department, an influential perch from which he's fought Republican efforts to roll back health coverage. Becerra, 62, tweeted Monday that in Congress he helped pass the Affordable Care Act and as California’s attorney general he has defended it. “As Secretary of Health and Human Services, I will build on our progress and ensure every American has access to quality, affordable health care — through this pandemic and beyond,” he wrote. Defending California’s implementation of the Affordable Care Act was a key priority, but he also focused on protecting young immigrants from deportation and defending California’s climate change laws. As attorney general, Becerra helped lead a coalition of fellow state attorneys general who sued over the Trump administration’s child separation policies.
Vaccine rollout could ease crisis, but who gets it first?
In October, a panel advising the federal government suggested setting aside 10% of the vaccine supply to distribute as an extra boost to the states with greater shares of disadvantaged groups. Vulnerable people will face more rationing in states such as New Mexico that have higher shares of vulnerable people. The analysis shows 15 states and Washington, D.C., have the largest shares of vulnerable, low-income minorities. A federal set-aside is not the only way to get vaccine to vulnerable neighborhoods. In their vaccination plans, 18 states have said they will consider race and income as they map out vaccine distribution.
UN chief: Vaccine can't undo damage from global pandemic
(UNTV via AP)TANZANIA – The U.N. chief warned Thursday that the social and economic impact of COVID-19 “is enormous and growing” and said it’s foolish to believe a vaccine can undo damage from the global pandemic that will last for years or even decades. German Chancellor Angela Merkel said additional funding for the ACT-Accelerator is needed and a worthwhile investment, pointing to progress on developing vaccines “which gives us reason for hope." “It is crucial that the vaccine or vaccines to address coronavirus be declared by the United Nations and by the World Health Organization as global public goods,” he said. Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, where COVID-19 was first identified, said vaccines “should be for global public good and accessible and affordable for developing countries." “Our call for the vaccine to be a global public good must be loud and clear,” Ghani said, stressing that the role of multilateral organizations in distributing vaccines “will be critical.”The Afghan leader said not everything about the pandemic is negative.
Nearly 100 world leaders to speak at UN session on COVID-19
TANZANIA – Nearly 100 world leaders and several dozen ministers are slated to speak at the U.N. General Assembly’s special session starting Thursday on the response to COVID-19 and the best path to recovery from the pandemic which has claimed 1.5 million lives, shattered economies, and left tens of millions of people unemployed in countries rich and poor. “The world is looking to the U.N. for leadership. The two-day special session will not be raising money to finance vaccine immunizations or taking any political action, and there will be no final declaration, just a summary document from Bozkir. “The real point of this special session is to galvanize concrete action to approach our response to COVID-19 in a multilateral and collective way,” General Assembly spokesman Brenden Varma said Wednesday. “The vaccine needs to be treated as a `global public good’ and that will be the basis of the secretary-general’s message” on Thursday, Dujarric said.
US panel: 1st vaccines to health care workers, nursing homes
Panel members are waiting to hear FDA's evaluation and to see more safety and efficacy data before endorsing any particular product. It also includes home health care workers and paramedics. The government estimates people working in health care account for 12% of U.S. COVID-19 cases but only about 0.5% of deaths. Experts say it’s imperative to keep health care workers on their feet so they can administer the shots and tend to the booming number of infected Americans. Still, governors and local officials may have to decide which health care workers or regions get shots first, Schwartz said.
Beware of COVID-19 scams as vaccine approaches FDA approval
Homeland Security investigators are working with Pfizer, Moderna and dozens of other drug companies racing to complete and distribute the vaccine and treatments for the virus. “We're all very excited about the potential vaccine and treatments,” said Steve Francis, assistant director for global trade investigations with Homeland Security Investigations. Homeland Security Investigations started using its 7,000 agents in tandem with border, FDA and FBI officials to investigate scams, seize phony products and arrest hundreds of people. Homeland Security Investigations made more than 1,600 seizures of products worth more than $27 million and made more than 185 arrests. Meanwhile, Homeland Security investigators and others are trying to send the message now to the public before the vaccines are approved and begin distribution.
Biden seeks unity as Trump stokes fading embers of campaign
“We have to turn the election over,” Trump said from the Oval Office, where he joined the meeting by speakerphone. “We won it by a lot.” In fact, the election gave Biden a clear mandate, and no systemic fraud has been uncovered. Judge after judge has dismissed the Trump campaign’s accusations as baseless, and the transition to Biden’s presidency is fully underway. Biden is expected to stay through the weekend in Rehoboth before returning to Wilmington for further work on the transition. Trump will forgo his usual plans to celebrate Thanksgiving at his private club in Florida and will instead remain at the White House.
Trump vents about election as agencies aid Biden transition
So yes it’s already begun.”By Tuesday afternoon, the Biden transition had been in contact with all federal agencies about transition planning, according to a transition official. It also came as an increasing number of Republicans were publicly acknowledging Biden’s victory, after weeks of tolerating Trump’s baseless claims of fraud. At the same time, he warned staffers who are not specifically authorized to interact with the Biden team against contact with the incoming administration. “We are immediately getting them all of the pre-prepared transition briefing materials,” Azar said. “HUD career officials have begun the process of scheduling briefings with the Biden transition team in response to their requests," said a spokesperson for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
US, Taiwan step up economic cooperation in new dialogue
TAIPEI – The U.S. and Taiwan are stepping up cooperation in a newly created economic dialogue, in another move from the outgoing Trump administration to increase official exchanges with the self-ruled island. The two sides signed a five-year agreement establishing the U.S.-Taiwan Economic Prosperity Partnership Dialogue, which is meant to be held annually. The deal falls short of a long-desired bilateral trade agreement, but is a significant step that increases ties between Washington and Taipei. “The U.S.-Taiwan economic dialogue signifies that not only is the United States-Taiwan economic relationship strong, but it continues to deepen and grow,” said Brent Christensen, director of the American Institute in Taipei, the de-facto embassy. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu called the dialogue an “important milestone” and “the highest level regular economic dialogue between the U.S. and Taiwan."
Trump makes late-term bid to lower prescription drug costs
It is adamantly opposed by critics aligned with the pharmaceutical industry who liken it to socialism. The Trump administration disputes that and says its rule could potentially result in 30% savings for patients. It also would allow private insurance plans for workers and their families to get Medicare's lower prices. Trump has taken other action to lower prescription drug costs by opening a legal path for importing medicines from abroad. Also, Medicare drug plans that cap insulin costs at $35 a month are available during open enrollment, currently underway.
'No more room for delay': Biden wants emergency COVID-19 aid
Biden sat with Schumer, Pelosi and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, all wearing masks and spaced out around a bank of tables. “In my Oval Office, mi casa, you casa," Biden said during the brief portion of the meeting that journalists were allowed to witness. Also Friday, McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, proposed that Congress shift $455 billion of unspent small-business lending funds toward a new COVID-19 aid package. Psaki said that Biden, Pelosi and Schumer are already working together to push for a pandemic relief bill before Congress adjourns for the year. Biden won Michigan by more than 150,000 votes, a margin 15 times larger than Trump's victory in the state four years ago.
Pfizer, BioNTech seek emergency use of COVID-19 shots in US
Not far behind is competitor Moderna Inc.’s COVID-19 vaccine. Its early data suggests the shots are as strong as Pfizer’s, and that company expects to also seek emergency authorization within weeks. “We don’t know what that vote’s going to be,” said former FDA vaccine chief Norman Baylor. EMERGENCY USE ISN’T THE SAME AS FULL APPROVALIf there's an emergency green light, “that vaccine is still deemed investigational. A decision on Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine won't affect other COVID-19 vaccine candidates in the pipeline, which will be judged separately.
On virus, Trump and health advisers go their separate ways
“It's extremely unusual for there to be simultaneous contrary messaging,” said John Auerbach, who heads the nonpartisan Trust for America's Health. But Trump continues to ridicule masks and mask-wearing as he insists the U.S. has turned the corner on the virus. “How about California ... where you are supposed to eat with the mask (and) can’t take it off?” Trump said. The health officials do not invoke Trump in their warnings, and they sidestep questions that might lead them into anything that could be perceived as a direct criticism. But their message reflects a different view of reality than what's coming from the president and senior White House officials.
Trump rule says health plans must disclose costs up front
A related Trump administration price disclosure requirement applying to hospitals is facing a federal lawsuit from the industry, alleging coercion and interference with business practices. The idea behind the new regulations on insurers is to empower patients to become better consumers of health care, thereby helping to drive down costs. “The final rule will work to reduce competition and push health care prices higher — not lower — for American families, patients, and taxpayers,” Matt Eyles, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, said in a statement. "This is precisely the opposite of what Americans want in their health care." If the Trump rules withstand legal review, it’s unclear to what degree patients and their families will become a force reshaping the market.
Health contractors vetted stars' politics for US virus ad
This photo combination shows from left: musician Christina Aguilera in Los Angeles, March 29, 2012, comedian George Lopez in Los Angeles, Dec. 25, 2012, and actor Jack Black in Las Vegas, April 25, 2012. Public relations firms hired by the Department of Health and Human Services vetted the political views of hundreds of celebrities, including Aguilera, Lopez, and Black, for a health education advertising campaign on the coronavirus outbreak. That's according to documents released Thursday by a House committee.
US vetted stars' politics to showcase Trump virus response
Director Judd Apatow believes Trump “does not have the intellectual capacity to run as president,” according to a list of more than 200 celebrities compiled by one of the firms. “I have ordered a strategic review of this public health education campaign that will be led by our top public health and communications experts to determine whether the campaign serves important public health purposes,” Azar told the subcommittee, which is investigating the federal government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak. Because public health policy around the coronavirus pandemic has become so politically polarized, it’s unclear how well a confidence-building campaign from the government would play. And Trump has alienated much of the medical establishment with his dismissive comments about basic public health measures, such as wearing masks. Antony and Quaid were among just a few celebrities who were approved for the campaign, according to the documents.
Trump's election-eve drug discounts for seniors get snagged
A White House official had no comment on the status of the prescription cards, which Trump announced with a flourish last month during a health care speech in Charlotte, N.C. We will provide more information about the prescription drug cards soon.”One administration official said the odds are 75-25 the plan will not happen. Among them:— The White House asserted that Medicare could legally send out the discount cards under its authority to conduct “demonstration programs” testing new ideas. The $200 would test if extra cash made seniors more likely to stay on their medications and avoid costly hospitalizations. “It would do relatively little for seniors with truly catastrophic prescription drug expenses,” she said.
Official says vaccine expected in January, countering Trump
A Trump administration official leading the response to the coronavirus pandemic says the U.S. can expect delivery of a vaccine starting in January 2021, despite statements from the president that inoculations could begin this month. President Donald Trump has said at rallies, debates and press conferences that a vaccine could arrive within weeks. Kadlec agrees that supply chain disruptions led to shortages. Of the hundreds of COVID-19 related bills introduced in Congress this year, only a handful seek to resolve supply chain issues; none of those has reached the president. “It is time to reevaluate the complete medical supply chain in the U.S.
Justices say women can get abortion pill by mail, for now
WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Thursday said it would for now continue to allow women to obtain an abortion pill by mail during the COVID-19 pandemic. The action came over the dissent of two conservative justices who would have immediately granted a Trump administration request to reinstate the requirement that women must visit a hospital, clinic or medical office to obtain a pill. The court called for a lower-court judge to take a new look at the issue and rule within 40 days. That would put any further high court action after the Nov. 3 election. The administration has suspended similar in-person visits for other drugs, including opioids in some cases, but refused to relax the rules for getting the abortion pill.
US Health Department's Caputo has cancer, spokesperson says
ALBANY, N.Y. – Michael Caputo, who is on a 60-day leave from his role as spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after accusing government scientists of sedition, has metastatic cancer, a state lawmaker said Thursday. Doctors have diagnosed cancer in the head and neck, David DiPietro, a Republican state assemblyman in western New York who said he was acting as a spokesperson for Caputo, told reporters. Caputo is now home in western New York with his family, the lawmaker said. The Department of Health and Human Services had announced Sept. 16 that Caputo decided to take 60 days “to focus on his health and the well-being of his family." The loyalist of President Donald Trump was installed as assistant secretary for public affairs by the White House in April at a time of tense relations with Health Secretary Alex Azar.
Trump promotes health care 'vision' but gaps remain
Trump spoke at an airport hangar in swing-state North Carolina to a crowd that included white-coated, mask-wearing health care workers. For Trump, health care represents a major piece of unfinished business. Democrats, unable to slow the Republican march to Senate confirmation of a replacement for Ginsburg, are ramping up their election-year health care messaging. The gap narrowed for lowering costs of health care: 48% named Biden, while 42% picked Trump. The scramble to show concrete accomplishments on health care comes as Trump is chafing under criticism that he never delivered a Republican alternative to Obamacare.
US experts vow ‘no cutting corners’ as vaccine tests expand
President Donald Trump is pushing for a faster timeline, which many experts say is risky and may not allow for adequate testing. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn pledged that career scientists, not politicians, will decide whether any coronavirus vaccine meets clearly stated standards that it works and is safe. In one of the largest studies yet, Johnson & Johnson aims to enroll 60,000 volunteers to test its single-dose approach in the U.S., South Africa, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. J&J’s vaccine is made with slightly different technology than others in late-stage testing, modeled on an Ebola vaccine the company created. Going forward, “we need uniformity throughout the country.”In a testy exchange, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky insisted public health officials were wrong that a lockdown could change the course of the pandemic.
China sends more warplanes as Taiwan honors late leader
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen speaks during a memorial service for the late former Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui in Taipei, Taiwan on Saturday, Sept. 19, 2020. On Saturday, Beijing dispatched 19 more warplanes, two of which were bombers, according to Taiwan's Defense Ministry. Lee had built a separate Taiwanese political identity, distinct from mainland China, which claims Taiwan as part of its own territory to be reunited by force if necessary. The Trump administration has taken multiple steps in recent months to strengthen its engagement with Taiwan, angering China. Krach is the second high-level official to visit Taiwan in two months, following U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar in August.
China flies 18 warplanes near Taiwan during US envoy's visit
In this photo released by the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Taiwan's Foreign Minister Joseph Wu pose for a selfie with U.S. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach, right, during a meeting in Taipei, Taiwan, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020. Taiwan’s defense ministry said two bombers and 16 fighter jets from China crossed into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone. Cabinet official to visit since the U.S. switched formal relations from Taiwan to China in 1979. China has increasingly relied on military threats and diplomatic isolation to pressure Taiwan.
US envoy begins second recent high-level visit to Taiwan
Under Secretary of State Keith Krach, second right, reacts as he is greeted after disembarking from a plane upon arrival at the airport in Taipei. Krach is in Taiwan on Thursday for the second visit by a high-level American official in two months, prompting a stern warning and threat of possible retaliation from China. Under Secretary of State Keith Krach arrived in Taiwan on Thursday for the second visit by a high-level American official in two months, prompting a stern warning and threat of possible retaliation from China. Beijing considers Taiwan its own and opposes all official contacts between other countries and the self-governing island. Cabinet official to visit since the U.S. switched formal relations from Taiwan to China in 1979.
Feds outline sweeping plan to provide free COVID-19 vaccine
Imperial College is working on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. The Pentagon is involved with the distribution of vaccines, but civilian health workers will be the ones giving shots. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)WASHINGTON – The federal government outlined a sweeping plan Wednesday to make vaccines for COVID-19 available for free to all Americans, even as polls show a strong undercurrent of skepticism rippling across the land. “Americans should know that the vaccine development process is being driven completely by science and the data.”That could be a tough sell. In the AP poll, 1 in 5 Americans said they would not get a coronavirus vaccine, and 31% said they were unsure.
Trump aide's no-holds-barred style sparks new COVID-19 furor
Michael Caputo, the top spokesman at the Department of Health and Human Services, can be heard on an agency podcast asserting that Democrats don't want a coronavirus vaccine in order to punish President Donald Trump. Caputo was named the top HHS spokesman in April, during a tense period in relations between the White House and HHS Secretary Alex Azar. “There are people in the United States government on the Democrats' side ... (who) do not want a vaccine,” he said. “They don’t want a vaccine until November 4th,” he added, citing the day after the presidential election. They don’t want a vaccine now because of politics, sir.”___Associated Press news researcher Jennifer Farrar contributed to this report.
Democrats to probe whether officials meddled with CDC data
A House subcommittee examining President Donald Trumps response to the coronavirus pandemic is launching an investigation into reports that political appointees have meddled with routine government scientific data to better align with Trumps public statements. Scott Applewhite, File)WASHINGTON – A House subcommittee examining President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic is launching an investigation into reports that political appointees have meddled with routine government scientific data to better align with Trump’s public statements. Known as MMWR, the report has long been a sacred government information resource for doctors, scientists and researchers tracking outbreaks. The officials pressured CDC to change the reports, at times retroactively, to better align them with Trump’s often rosier public statements about the coronavirus, Politico reported. Caputo is a longtime friend and fierce defender of Trump who worked on his presidential campaign.
China warns US over US-Taiwan economic talks
Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment Keith Krach is planning to visit the island later this week for an economic and commercial dialogue with Taiwan's government. A visit by Krach is likely to inspire further anger from China. China considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its own territory, and strongly opposes any official contacts between other nations and the island. Tensions are high between the U.S. and China over issues including trade, cybersecurity, technology and Hong Kong's new national security law. Trump blames China for the pandemic, and he and his administration have repeatedly accused the country of hiding crucial information about the virus from the global community.
Survey: Opioid misuse decreases, serious mental illness increases among Americans
The annual survey was released on Friday by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and includes data on mental health and substance use among Americans. Serious mental illness is also reportedly increasing among adults 18-49 years old. The report concluded that substance abuse and mental disorders are common among throughout the U.S. Those with serious mental illness are more likely to misuse substance, as individuals misusing substances are likely to experience mental health issues, according to the survey. “Increases in marijuana and methamphetamine use and in serious mental illness are very concerning, and we expect that these challenges will be exacerbated by this year’s pandemic," Azar said. “The NSDUH data provide a foundation that helps to focus resources to address the important areas of mental health and substance use issues in our nation,” said Dr. Elinore McCance-Katz, assistant secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use.
White House faces skepticism over prospects for a vaccine
(AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)Could the U.S. really see a coronavirus vaccine before Election Day? White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany gave assurances Thursday that Trump will not in any way sacrifice safety" when it comes to a vaccine. Still, to some public health experts, the timing smacked of a political stunt by a president facing a tough re-election. I think its almost a certainty, said Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. I think its very irresponsible how people are trying to politicize notions of delivering a vaccine to the American people, he told CBS.
Third virus vaccine reaches major hurdle: final US testing
AstraZeneca announced Monday its vaccine candidate has entered the final testing stage in the U.S. Final testing, experts stress, must be in large numbers of people to know if theyre safe enough for mass vaccinations. Instead, theyre made with the genetic code for the aptly named spike protein that coats the surface of the coronavirus. Chinas government authorized emergency use of CanSino Biologics adenovirus shots in the military ahead of any final testing. Competitor SinoPharm has announced plans for final testing in some other countries.
Preparing for pandemic: California woman tests positive for coronavirus with no clear link to source
DETROIT – With new information emerging about the coronavirus case in Sacramento County, California there is a positive development here in Michigan. “My concern from the moment I heard it is that individuals at HHS are not taking the complaints of HHS employees seriously,” Gomez said in an interview. Without referring directly to the complaint, Gomez questioned HHS Secretary Alex Azar about the situation during a congressional hearing Thursday. If one of the HHS workers had become infected, that person could then have unwittingly infected others, Gomez said. The whistleblower complaint was first reported by The Washington Post.
Only half of Americans plan to get a flu shot this year
Only 52% of U.S. adults said they planned to get a flu shot this season. But even if you get sick, a flu shot will reduce the number of days you are sick and drastically lower the chances you will be hospitalized or die from flu. She compared getting a flu shot to using a child's car seat. Older people account for most flu-related hospitalizations, yet only 68% of long-term care workers who interact with that high-risk population got a flu shot. That's low compared to the overall estimated rate among health care workers: 81% said they had their shot last flu season.
Trump now says not all vaping is bad
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Donald Trump seemed to strike a different tone on vaping in a tweet Friday evening after announcing earlier in the week an effort to ban almost all flavored vaping products. "While I like the Vaping alternative to Cigarettes, we need to make sure this alternative is SAFE for ALL!" "Let's get counterfeits off the market, and keep young children from Vaping!" A similar trend could be starting to play out regarding vaping, which Trump came out strongly against earlier this week. Trump, when asked on Thursday by reporters if he and the first lady had discussed vaping with their 13-year-old son, Barron, said, "We haven't told him anything, except don't vape.
Trump to propose ban on flavorings used in e-cigarettes
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump said Wednesday his administration will propose banning thousands of flavors used in e-cigarettes to combat a recent surge in underage vaping. Trump said vaping has become such a problem that he wants parents to be aware of what's happening. Trump's first public comments on vaping come as health authorities investigate hundreds of breathing illnesses reported in people who have used e-cigarettes and other vaping devices. The proposal announced by Trump officials would only apply to nicotine vaping products, which are regulated by the FDA. The FDA has had the authority to ban vaping flavors since 2016, but has resisted calls to take that step.
Surgeon General warns pregnant women, youth about pot risks
Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams has a warning for pregnant women and teens when it comes to weed. "In pregnant women, marijuana is now actually the most commonly used illicit drug," he said. This is Adams' first advisory this year and his third since being named surgeon general in 2017. The advisory is also the first on marijuana since one issued by Surgeon General C. Everett Koop in 1982, Azar said. That percentage rose overall from 3.4% of pregnant women in 2002 to 7% in 2017, according to a study published in the medical journal JAMA in June.
Trump admin opens door to allow drug importation from Canada
Shutterstock/CNN(CNN) - The Trump administration took hesitant first steps Wednesday to allow the importation of certain drugs from Canada and other countries. The Department of Health & Human Services, which has long raised safety concerns over importation, released a Safe Drug Importation Plan that describes two ways certain drugs from abroad could enter the U.S. It marks a major turnaround for HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who called importation a "gimmick" in the past. Both Azar and acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Ned Sharpless noted hurdles lie ahead before importation could actually happen. Under one scenario, states, pharmacists or drug wholesalers could submit plans to the agency for test projects on how they would import drugs approved by Health Canada.
US drug overdose deaths fell slightly in 2018
Wikimedia Commons(CNN) - U.S. drug overdose deaths declined 5.1% in 2018, according to preliminary data released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics. The slight decline in drug overdose deaths marked the first such drop in decades. The agency estimates there were 68,557 drug overdose deaths in 2018. An estimated 47,590 involved opioids, including oxycodone, hydrocodone and morphine, and 31,897 involved synthetic opioids, including fentanyl and tramadol. "While the declining trend of overdose deaths is an encouraging sign, by no means have we declared victory against the epidemic or addiction in general.
Judge nixes administration rule to require drug prices in TV ads
CNN imageWASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal judge has nixed a regulation that was a centerpiece of the Trump administration's efforts to bring down drug prices. "No matter how vexing the problem of spiraling drug costs may be, HHS cannot do more than what Congress has authorized," Mehta wrote. Lowering drug prices has been a central focus of President Donald Trump, as well as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Experts, however, have questioned the usefulness of providing the list prices of medicine in ads, as most people with insurance pay far less. He has since lambasted his former industry peers for high drug costs.
Fewer measles cases reported last week, but don't declare victory
Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesThe number of measles cases reported in the United States has fallen the last few weeks, but experts say it's not time to declare victory. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Monday that the number of measles cases this year reached 1,109 across 28 states as of Thursday. While it's a smaller number of new cases than was typical in the spring, this year's outbreak hit the greatest number of measles cases reported in the United States since 1992 and since the measles virus was eliminated from the country in the year 2000. "We haven't seen measles epidemics in the United States for over 20 years." Because although measles cases have declined, they haven't disappeared," he said.