Health Care — What’s different about the new COVID case increase

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COVID-19 has hit the Country Music Television Awards, as singer Kelsea Ballerini will have to co-host virtually after getting the virus.

And coronavirus cases are showing signs of rising, but experts hope this time is different.

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.

Why this rise in cases is being treated differently

COVID-19 cases are showing signs of rising again, even as many Americans are eager to move on.

Washington, DC, has been hit with a string of high-profile cases in Congress and the administration, and cases in the city overall are on the rise. New York City and other areas in the northeast are also seeing increases, with Philadelphia announcing on Monday that it will reintroduce a requirement that people wear masks in indoor public places.

But there are important ways that any coming spike in COVID-19 cases, fueled by a subvariant of omicron known as BA.2, is likely to be less damaging than previous surges, experts say. And that may lead the nation to treat a new rise in cases different.

First, it is not clear how steep any spike will be.

While there are now upticks in the Northeast, there are not yet signs of the massive spike that hit over the winter. That omicron variant-fueled spike already infected many people, helping provide them some immunity against the current outbreak, in addition to the immunity provided by vaccines and booster shots.

Second, people who are vaccinated and boosted still have strong protection against severe illness, even if it is possible they contract the virus. A new treatment, the Pfizer pill known as Paxlovid, cuts the risk of hospitalization or death by about 90 percent for people who do get infected.

That combination of vaccines, booster shots, and treatments means that even if cases rise, the hope is hospitalizations and deaths will not rise by as sharp a degree.

Read more here.

Jha takes the pandemic reins

Ashish Jha has officially taken over the White House COVID-19 response, and he started the day with a round of morning show interviews.

He said that extending the federal mask mandate for all transportation networks, which is set to expire next week, is “absolutely” under consideration.

“This is a CDC decision and I think it is absolutely on the table,” White House COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said on NBC’s “Today.”

Jha said that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky will make the decision on extending the mask mandate for transportation networks based on a scientific framework that the agency is developing. He also said that framework will be available in the “next few days.”

Jha said on Monday that he’s “not overly concerned right now” about another surge due to the BA.2 variant. He stressed that there are still very low inflection numbers and low hospitalization numbers.

“I don’t think this is a moment where we have to be excessively concerned,” Jha said.

Read more here.

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PELOSI TESTS NEGATIVE FOR COVID, WILL EXIT ISOLATION

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced on Monday that she has tested negative for COVID-19 and will exit isolation on Tuesday.

Pelosi, who tested positive for the virus on Thursday, said she is exiting isolation at the direction of the Capitol’s attending physician and in accordance with guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for asymptomatic individuals.

A spokesperson for the Speaker announced on Thursday that she had tested positive for COVID-19. The disclosure came moments before Pelosi was set to begin her weekly press conference in the Capitol.

Following procedure: CDC guidance says that individuals who test positive for COVID-19 but remain asymptomatic are able to end isolation after at least five full days.

The health agency then recommends that they take precautions until they hit 10 days after their positive test, including wearing a well-fitted mask, not traveling and avoiding being around people who are more likely to get very sick from the virus.

Read more here.

PHILLY REINSTATES INDOOR MASK MANDATES

The city of Philadelphia has announced it will reinstate its indoor mask mandate later this month as COVID-19 cases climb in the city.

Beginning on April 18, city residents will be required to wear masks inside public spaces such as schools and child care settings, businesses, restaurants, and government buildings.

Philly’s government is also requiring businesses to report any local businesses that have not complied with the city’s new mandate.

“Due to increasing COVID-19 cases, @PhiladelphiaGov will move to Level 2: Mask Precautions beginning today,” the city’s public health department said in a tweet. “In order to provide a one-week education period for businesses, masks will be required in all indoor public spaces as of Monday, April 18, 2022.”

This comes as health officials reported on Monday that the city is averaging 142 daily new cases and 44 new hospitalizations. In Philadelphia, 278,407 city residents have tested positive for the virus since the beginning of the pandemic along with 5,007 coronavirus-related deaths.

Read more here.

Six more lawmakers test positive for COVID

There’s a series of new breakthroughs on Capitol Hill, but not the sort lawmakers want.

At least six more House lawmakers have tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days, adding to the growing number of Washington, DC, figures coming down with the virus.

representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), Frank Pallone Jr. (DN.J.), Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-Del.), Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) have all announced positive COVID-19 test results since Friday.

A number of high-profile political figures have disclosed coronavirus cases in the past week, including top-ranking lawmakers and administration officials, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Attorney General Merrick Garland among them.

The six lawmakers who tested positive for COVID-19 in recent days were all vaccinated and boosted. Blumenauer, Krishnamoorthi, Pallone and Blunt Rochester all announced their positive cases on Friday. Tlaib announced hers on Monday.

Blumenauer said he tested positive for COVID-19 after waking up with a sore throat. The congressman, who has represented Oregon in the lower chamber since 1996, said he was “feeling well” and experiencing “minor cold-like symptoms.”

“I will follow CDC guidance and quarantine. I encourage everyone to get vaccinated and boosted,” he added in a statement.

Krishnamoorthi wrote on Twitter that he felt fine, but would still isolate and follow guidelines from the CDC.

Read more here.

WHAT WE’RE READING

  • WHO says it is analyzing two new Omicron COVID sub-variants (Reuters)
  • New Drug Slashed Deaths Among Patients With Severe Covid, Maker Claims (The New York Times)
  • CVS, feds reach agreement on vaccine portal accessibility (AP)

STATE BY STATE

  • Maryland lawmakers expand who can perform abortions after overriding governor’s veto (NPR)
  • Three Michigan schools have had new COVID outbreaks in the last week (Michigan Advance)
  • Sacramento teachers don’t have to pay for health care for life, a perk they’ll fight to keep (The Sacramento Bee)

OPEDS IN THE HILL

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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