NFL Superstar J. J. Watt got some Twitter love today after offering his help in paying the funeral expenses for a fan’s grandfather.
Today in health care, President Biden tested positive for COVID-19 for the first time, with the White House saying he’ll still be able to work while dealing with “mild” symptoms.
Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan, Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi. Subscribe here.
Biden says he’s ‘doing well’ after COVID diagnosis
President Biden in a video message on Thursday said he is “doing well” and experiencing only mild symptoms after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
“I’m doing well, I’m getting a lot of work done, I’m going to continue to get it done, and in the meantime, thanks for your concern,” Biden said in the 20-second video posted to his Twitter account. “Keep the faith. It’s going to be OK.”
The White House revealed earlier Thursday that Biden, who is 79 and fully vaccinated, tested positive for the novel coronavirus that morning and is experiencing “very mild symptoms.”
His physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, said the president has a runny nose, fatigue, and an occasional dry cough. Biden is taking the antiviral therapy Paxlovid.
All is well, they say: The White House made an effort on Thursday to show that Biden — whose age has prompted questions about his health despite his vaccination status — continues to carry out his presidential duties.
Biden’s Twitter account shared a photo of him working at a desk in the White House residence.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden would call into meetings by phone or Zoom.
“The president has been working from the residence like so many of us have during this pandemic,” she said at Thursday’s briefing.
Read more here.
MAKING USE OF THE MOMENT
White House officials on Thursday used President Biden’s positive test for COVID-19 to stress the importance of getting vaccinated against the virus as a new variant spread across the country.
“Because the president is fully vaccinated, double boosted, his risk of serious illness is dramatically lower,” Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, told reporters at a press briefing.
“We have worked very hard over the last 18 months to make sure we have plenty of vaccines, plenty of therapies, that people can get tested on a regular basis… and we all know from medicine that early treatment is always better,” Jha added.
White House stresses vaccines and treatments: When asked about the president’s risk of serious illness and his condition, Jha repeatedly returned to the importance of Biden having gotten two vaccine shots, plus two booster shots to guard against the virus.
“The good news is — and this was always the point — the good news is his immune system is very well protected given the four vaccine shots he’s gotten. He’s getting treatment. He’s feeling fine. His words,” Jha said.
Takeaway for the public: Jha urged Americans, especially those over 50, to get their shot to reduce their risk of serious symptoms as BA.5, a subvariant of the omicron strain of the coronavirus that is driving an uptick in cases across the country.
Read more here.
BA.5 NOW MAKES UP NEARLY 80 PERCENT OF NEW COVID CASES: CDC
The more infectious BA.5 omicron subvariant now makes up almost 80 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., as case rates continue to trend upward.
About 78 percent of coronavirus cases in the U.S. are caused by the BA.5 subvariant, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The rise of BA.5 has spurred concerns over its enhanced ability to evade protection given by vaccines and prior infections from other variants.
Currently available vaccines are still believed to be effective in reducing the risk of hospitalizations and deaths from BA.5, but the shot’s ability to prevent infection is thought to be less potent against this subvariant.
As BA.5 has grown in prevalence, the rate of COVID-19 infections has steadily begun to rise again. The case rate had stagnated for several weeks, with the seven-day moving average for daily cases hovering around 100,000 for much of June.
This metric began to trend up beginning in July and now stands at about 126,000.
Read more here.
NURSES UNION TO BIDEN OFFICIALS: TIGHTEN COVID RESTRICTIONS
The country’s largest union of registered nurses called on the Biden administration to take action against rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations amid the surge of immune-evasive Omicron subvariant BA.5 in a letter on Wednesday, the day before President Biden tested positive for the coronavirus.
In their letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Nurses United (NNU) critiqued the agency’s standards on masking and quarantining, calling the current guidelines “ insufficient to prevent transmission of Covid-19.”
The latest CDC recommendations, NNU contends, tell Americans to mask up too late and leave quarantine too early — missteps they say “will prolong the pandemic.”
A CDC metric that suggests indoor masking only when risk levels in a community reach a “high” point skips critical preventative windows, when risks are lower, the nurses said.
“Waiting until hospitalizations are increasing before recommending universal masking indoors in public means that the opportunity to prevent those hospitalizations was missed.”
Read more here.
House passes bill to protect access to contraceptives
The House passed a bill on Thursday to safeguard access to contraceptives, less than a month after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said the bench should overturn the landmark case protecting forms of birth control.
The legislation, titled the Right to Contraception Act, passed in a 228-195 vote. Eight Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the measure, and two Republicans voted present.
The GOP yes votes: Reps. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio), John Katko (N.Y.), Adam Kinzinger (Ill.), Nancy Mace (S.C.), Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla.) and Fred Upton (Mich.). Reps. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) and Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) voted present. Six Republicans did not vote.
It remains unclear if the bill will garner the GOP votes it needs to clear the evenly divided Senate.
The measure seeks to codify access to contraceptives on the federal level, allowing individuals to obtain and use birth control and safeguarding a health care provider’s ability to supply such products.
Contraceptives protected under the legislation include oral and emergency medications, intrauterine devices and condoms.
Additionally, the bill authorizes the attorney general, health care providers and other individuals to take civil action against any states that violate the provisions of the bill
Read more here.
WHAT WE’RE READING
What to know about Paxlovid, the COVID drug President Biden is using to speed recovery (NPR)How does Biden’s case of Covid-19 compare to Trump’s? (Politico) There aren’t nearly enough Native American physicians. A crash course in medicine seeks to change that (Stat)
STATE BY STATE
GOP AGs ask Google not to limit anti-abortion center results (Associated Press)NC attorney general won’t move to enforce state’s 20-week abortion ban (WRAL) New York resident tests positive for polio, first reported U.S. case in nearly a decade (NBC News)
OP-EDS IN THE HILL
The more we learn about long COVID, the more reasons we have to get vaxxed and mask up
That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.
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