Health Care — Pelosi among burst of new DC COVID-19 cases

The Hill illustration, Madeline Monroe/Greg Nash

The White House is brushing off concerns that President Biden could contract COVID-19 as more figures on Capitol Hill and the White House become infected, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

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. Someone forward you this newsletter? Subscribe here.

Pelosi tests positive

The COVID-19 outbreak hitting official Washington has reached Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Pelosi’s deputy chief of staff, Drew Hammill, announced Pelosi’s diagnosis in a statement, saying the speaker is showing no symptoms associated with the virus.

“After testing negative this week, Speaker Pelosi received a positive test result for COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic. The speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted, and is thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided,” Hammill also wrote in a tweet.

“The Speaker will quarantine consistent with CDC guidance, and encourages everyone to get vaccinated, boosted and test regularly,” he said.

Pelosi was at the White House on Wednesday alongside President Biden for the signing of a Postal Service reform bill.

The diagnosis also arrives as the house is preparing to leave Washington for an 18-day recess around the Easter holiday. A number of lawmakers have scheduled overseas trips during the break, including Pelosi, who had reportedly planned to visit Taiwan on Sunday — a trip prompting threats of retaliation from Beijing.

Pelosi’s positive test comes as Democrats, after more than two years promoting strict COVID-19 public health precautions, are shifting away from those measures as cases of the omicron variant recede around the country. From the White House, Biden is planning to remove controversial emergency restrictions on immigration, put in place by his predecessor, while Pelosi has recently relaxed mask mandates around the Capitol complex.

Read more here.

White House dismisses COVID-19 risk for Biden

The White House on Thursday dismissed any concerns that President Biden is at risk of contracting COVID-19 after he spent time the day before with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who tested positive early Thursday.

Biden and Pelosi were together at the White House, at times in very close contact, on Wednesday for the marking of the Affordable Care Act in which former President Obama was also present.

But White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday the president was not considered a close contact of Pelosi’s as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because they spent less than 15 minutes in close proximity to each other.

“The way a close contact is defined, it’s not arbitrary, it’s not something made up by the White House, its CDC guidelines and how they define it is being within six feet for a cumulative total of 15 minutes over a 24-hour period. They weren’t. All of their interactions were publicly available, I think you saw them, and that’s how that assessment is made,” Psaki said.

Biden was last tested on Wednesday evening – in which he tested negative – as part of his regular cadence.

Psaki said unless his physicians indicate otherwise, Biden would be tested as he normally would, adding that the White House continues to implement “stringent protocols” which includes testing people who are going to be traveling or in the Oval Office with Biden.

Read more here.

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LIFE EXPECTANCY DECLINED IN 2021

A new analysis found life expectancy in the United States continued to decrease in 2021, though not as significantly as in 2020.

The study, posted online Tuesday but not yet peer-reviewed, predicts life expectancy dropped to 76.60 years in 2021 from 76.99 years in 2020.

It is the second year in a row the life expectancy significantly dropped, with the study pointing out in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic, the life expectancy in the US was 78.86 years.

The significant drops amid the coronavirus pandemic come as more than 900,000 Americans have died from the virus in the past two years.

However, the drop in life expectancy that occurred in 2020 and 2021 varied among different racial and ethnic groups.

The study found the drop in life expectancy in 2021 was driven by white Americans, a change from 2020, when Hispanic and Black individuals’ life expectancy fell the most.

Last year saw white Americans’ life expectancy decline by 0.34 years, a drop that disproportionately affected men. The Hispanic population saw a statistically insignificant increase, while Black individuals had an increase of 0.42 years.

Read more here.

WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENTS’ DINNER A GO DESPITE COVID-19 CASES

The president of the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) says it’s full-steam ahead for its annual dinner, despite reports of another recent high-profile gala becoming a COVID-19 “superspreader” event.

“We’re on,” Steven Portnoy, the group’s president and a CBS News Radio correspondent, told ITK on Thursday, saying there’s no talk of canceling or postponing the April 30 dinner.

Washington has been buzzing about the fate of the lawmaker-, celebrity- and journalist-filled correspondents’ dinner — typically one of the city’s splashiest social events — after several prominent figures said this week that they had tested positive for COVID-19 following last weekend’s black-tie Gridiron Club dinner.

Attorney General Merrick Garland, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Vice President Harris’s communications director Jamal Simmons, Valerie Biden Owens, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said they had all received positive tests after attending Saturday’s VIP Gridiron soiree.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) announced Thursday that she had also tested positive for COVID-19.

Portnoy stressed that the WHCA dinner at the Washington Hilton, poised to be headlined by “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, is moving forward with pandemic-related precautions put in place months ago.

Read more here.

VIRTUAL EVENT ANNOUNCEMENT

The Hill’s Future of Jobs Summit — Tuesday, April 12 at 1:00 PM ET

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked a revolution in work. Two years later, workers and employers are still looking for answers to questions surrounding the future of jobs. How can companies stay ahead of the curve and what does that mean for upskilling and transitioning workers into new, in-demand jobs? Join us for The Hill’s Future of jobs summit as we discuss the evolving workforce of tomorrow. RSVP today.

Whitmer asks state Supreme Court to rule on abortion

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) announced on Thursday that she is requesting that the state’s Supreme Court make a decision on the constitutionality of abortion.

According to Whitmer’s office, she is using a power she has as governor known as an “executive message” to request that Michigan’s Supreme Court take the question of whether the procedure is constitutional out of the state’s trial courts and make its own decision.

“If Roe is overturned, abortion could become illegal in Michigan in nearly any circumstance—including in cases of rape and incest—and deprive Michigan women of the ability to make critical health care decisions for themselves,” Whitmer, who is up for reelection this year, said in a statement to reporters on Thursday.

“This is no longer theoretical: it is reality. That’s why I am filing a lawsuit and using my executive authority to urge the Michigan Supreme Court to immediately resolve whether Michigan’s state constitution protects the right to abortion.”

As Republicans seek to overturn Roe v. Wade, Democratic-led state governments have moved to ensure abortion access in their own states.

Earlier this week, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed legislation guaranteeing abortion access in his state.

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • US likely to see a surge of Covid-19 in the fall, Fauci says (CNN)
  • New COVID-19 variant XE identified: What to know and why experts say not to be alarmed (ABC News)
  • What One Million COVID Dead Mean for the US’s Future (Scientific American)

STATE BY STATE

  • Nebraska senators defeat Abortion Ban bill with late night vote (KOLN)
  • $11M for North Carolina Work-Based Rehab Raises Concerns (Kaiser Health News)
  • gov. DeSantis signs bill outlining new visitation rules at hospitals, long-term care facilities (WINK)

OPEDS IN THE HILL

E-cigarette companies found a loophole in synthetic nicotine — it won’t stop the FDA

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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