January 29, 2023
Chicago 12, Melborne City, USA

First Edition: May 5, 2022


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

As Overdoses Soar, More States Decriminalize Fentanyl Testing Strips 

With time running out in the 2022 legislative session, Georgia lawmakers took up a bill to regulate raw milk. An amendment suddenly got tacked onto the House version of the bill, although the new wording had nothing to do with dairy. The language called for legalizing the use of strips that test drugs for fentanyl, a potent synthetic opioid fueling a wave of fatal overdoses across Georgia and the U.S. The amendment, said Sen. Jen Jordan, an Atlanta Democrat who sponsored it, was “a commonsense solution to save lives.” (Miller, 5/5)

Sex Education Update In Texas Still Lacking, Say Some Students And Educators

Cali Byrd is a junior at Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in Dallas. She remembers in eighth grade a group came to talk to her class about sexually transmitted infections. “They had a bunch of tennis balls and wrote [the names] of STIs on them,” Cali said. “Then they had a couple of kids come up, put on gloves, and said, ‘If he throws the ball to her and she has a glove on, then she’s protected. But if she doesn’t have a glove on, then she’ll get the disease or something.’ It was really weird.” Cali said the instructors never explained what the STIs were, just that people should wear condoms to prevent them. “It really was not helpful,” she said. (Rivera, 5/5)

U.S. Eyes Emergency Contraception Grants If Top Court Cuts Abortion Rights

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration was looking at grants to help fund expanding access to emergency contraception as a possible response if the Supreme Court overturns a 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide, White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said on Wednesday. “What we have done to date … where we have seen restrictions … is created for example the dire need grant awards, which provide funding to expand access to emergency contraception,” Psaki told reporters in a press briefing. (5/4)

The Washington Post:
White House Scrambles For Ways To Protect Abortion 

In the hours after a leaked Supreme Court document signaled the court was poised to overturn Roe v. Wade in the coming weeks, President Biden vowed to fight to protect access to abortion. “We will be ready when any ruling is issued,” Biden said in a statement Tuesday. But in marathon meetings and phone calls among White House officials, government lawyers, outside advisers and federal agency officials, a sobering reality settled in: There’s little the White House can do that will fundamentally alter a post-Roe landscape. (Abutaleb and Pager, 5/4)

USA Today:
How Can Biden Protect Abortion If Roe V. Wade Is Overturned? He Might Need ‘Experimental Options’

Supporters of a woman’s right to choose quickly called on President Joe Biden to protect access to abortion after a leaked draft opinion suggested the Supreme Court is prepared to strike down Roe v. Wade. But legal experts caution that Biden’s options are limited. Most of the steps the administration could take to preserve abortion access would rely heavily on untested legal positions, said Mary Ziegler, a visiting law professor at Harvard University who has studied and written about abortion rights.“They’re experimental options,” Ziegler said, “in the sense that they may or may not work.” (Collins, 5/4)

The New York Times:
With Roe Under Threat, Biden Is An Unlikely Abortion Rights Champion 

For President Biden, the threat to the landmark Roe decision represents a singular challenge as he attempts to put aside a long history of evident discomfort with the issue of abortion to transform himself into a champion of the constitutional right that may soon be erased from the law books. Over the course of a half-century in national politics, Mr. Biden has rarely been the full-throated backer of abortion rights that activists have sought, evolving from an outright critic of Roe early in his career to a seemingly reluctant and largely quiet supporter. While he has used the word “abortion” in written statements as president, he had never spoken the word out loud since taking office until this week when the draft ruling leaked. (Baker, 5/5)

The Hill:
Biden’s Discomfort With Abortion Comes Under Scrutiny 

President Biden’s longtime discomfort with the issue of abortion, fueled by his Catholicism and his personal and complex stance on access, has come under scrutiny this week with the leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion that shows a majority of justices supporting the reversal of Roe v. Wade. The president is often criticized for attempting to balance his faith with his support for abortion access. But Biden hasn’t publicly used the word abortion out loud during his presidency until this week and he also hasn’t called for an end to the filibuster in order for Congress to codify Roe v. Wade as he has for other legislative matters. (Gangitano, 5/5)

‘Lives Could Be At Stake’: CDC’s Walensky Warns Of Dire Stakes Surrounding Abortion Access

Alack of access to legal abortion services could directly lead to American deaths, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention argued Wednesday. “Women who are interested in accessing care, termination of their pregnancies, may not have resources to cross state lines,” Rochelle Walensky said. “Those who don’t may take matters in their own hands, and may not get exactly the care they need … I do think lives could be at stake in that situation.” (Facher, 5/4)

Abortion Pill Provider Sees Spike In U.S. Interest After SCOTUS Leak 

A provider of prescription pills that are used to terminate pregnancy at home has seen a spike in interest from U.S. women this week, following news that the Supreme Court would likely reverse a landmark 1973 decision ensuring abortion rights nationwide, nonprofit Aid Access said on Wednesday. The court confirmed that a draft opinion signaling a reversal of the Roe v. Wade ruling, published late on Monday by the news site Politico, was authentic. The court said it did not represent the justices’ final decision, due by the end of June. (Aboulenein, 5/4)

Next Battle Over Access To Abortion Will Focus On Pills 

It took two trips over state lines, navigating icy roads and a patchwork of state laws, for a 32-year-old South Dakota woman to get abortion pills last year. For abortion-seekers like her, such journeys, along with pills sent through the mail, will grow in importance if the Supreme Court follows through with its leaked draft opinion that would overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision and allow individual states to ban the procedure. The woman, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because she was concerned for her family’s safety, said the abortion pills allowed her to end an unexpected and high-risk pregnancy and remain devoted to her two children. (Groves, 5/5)

The Washington Post:
Demand For Abortion Pills Will Soar If Roe V. Wade Is Overturned, Advocates Say 

The end of a national right to abortion could trigger a surge of interest in a method of pregnancy termination that has become popular in states that already restrict the procedure: Abortion pills by mail. Many Republican legislatures have tried banning the pills from being shipped or prescribed. But some women have been able to circumvent the restrictions by getting their pills online from overseas pharmacies that can’t be reached by U.S. laws. The five-day regimen of tablets usually comes in an unassuming envelope, making it hard to police. With the Supreme Court possibly poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, people seeking abortions in the United States will probably flock to these sources, experts say. (Rowland, McGinley and Bogage, 5/4)

Telemedicine Abortion Services Prepare For Surges Where Still Legal

Federal protections around abortion will leap back half a century if the Supreme Court repeals Roe v. Wade, as a leaked draft opinion suggests it will. The reality of how people access abortions, though, has evolved in those 50 years. The majority of U.S. abortions are now induced with medication instead of done surgically, and telemedicine providers of these pills will play a crucial role in serving patients who live in states that sharply limit or ban abortions. It was only in December that the Food and Drug Administration made permanent a rule change allowing patients to receive abortion pills by mail instead of having to visit specially certified providers in person. Now telemedicine abortion providers will have to grapple with how to serve patients across the country as more states are expected to restrict and criminalize abortions. (Goldhill, 5/5)

The Boston Globe:
‘Everyone Who Is Vulnerable In Some Way’ Will Bear The Brunt If Court Overturns Roe, Specialists Say

Teenagers. People of color. Low-income workers. Undocumented immigrants. Victims of domestic violence. If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to abortion, those and other marginalized groups will bear the brunt of the consequences, according to reproductive rights experts. “Everyone who is vulnerable in some way that makes leaving a state more difficult or impossible — that’s who this overturning is going to fall more heavily on,” said Shoshanna Ehrlich, a gender and sexuality studies professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston. (Pan, 5/4)

Gay Marriage, Other Rights At Risk After U.S. Supreme Court Abortion Move

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s draft opinion that would end the recognition of a constitutional right to abortion could imperil other freedoms related to marriage, sexuality and family life including birth control and same-sex nuptials, according to legal experts. The draft ruling, disclosed in a leak that prompted Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday to launch an investigation, would uphold a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy and overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized the procedure nationwide. (Chung, 5/4)

NBC News:
‘It’s Already Having An Impact’: LGBTQ People Fear Abortion Rights Reversal

Josiah Ramos, a Black transgender man, said he fears that a Supreme Court opinion that would overturn longstanding precedent protecting access to abortion would have a greater effect on transgender and nonbinary people, who already face barriers to care. “We all should have the right to decide what we want to do with our bodies,” said Ramos, 23, who is also the co-director of Black Trans Blessings, a trans-led organization in New York City. “I’m not ready to have a kid,” he added. “So if I, God forbid, was to get pregnant, and I wanted to have an abortion, you’re basically trying to strip my right … and that’s not fair.” (Yurcaba and Bellamy-Walker, 5/4)

The New York Times:
Supreme Court Marshal Takes Up Leak Investigation As Theories Swirl

But while the city’s lobbyists, journalists and political operatives trade theories over encrypted messages and social media, Col. Gail A. Curley, the 11th marshal of the United States Supreme Court has been given the task of rooting out the truth in what Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. called “a singular and egregious breach” of the court’s operations. … The second woman to hold the marshal position at the court, Colonel Curley serves as the chief security officer, facilities administrator and head of contracting for the third branch of the federal government. She manages about 260 employees, including the court’s police force, and is a voice that might be recognizable to anyone who has attended or listened to any of the court’s oral arguments. (Shear and Kanno-Youngs, 5/4)

Roberts Investigation Could Make The Supreme Court Very Uncomfortable

Now that Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered an investigation into the breach of an initial draft majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade, what happens next is a total mystery. There are virtually no precedents for Roberts’ plans to identify the 98-page document’s path from the high court to the pages of POLITICO, a disclosure he termed a “betrayal” of the institution’s trust. Supreme Court leak controversies have occasionally sparked national intrigue and even calls for federal investigations, but those calls haven’t resulted in any significant investigation. (Cheney, 5/4)

NBC News:
Former Supreme Court Law Clerks Worry Roe Leak Could Sow Distrust Among Justices And Staff Members

Former Supreme Court law clerks said this week’s publication of a draft opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade was a disturbing breach of court tradition that could change how the justices do their jobs. … Brian Fitzpatrick, a professor at Vanderbilt Law School who clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia in 2001 and 2002, said that when he heard Politico had gotten hold of the internal document, “I thought it probably wasn’t true,” adding that it seemed “inconceivable” to him. “When I found it was true, I thought we turned a very sad corner,” Fitzpatrick said. “I’m worried this could happen again and again and is a sign of the times.” (Gregorian, 5/4)

The New York Times:
Leak On Roe Heightens The Perception Of A Politicized Supreme Court 

The revelation of a Supreme Court draft opinion that would overrule Roe v. Wade has caused many Americans to express doubts about whether the justices are guided by the law rather than by their political beliefs. In interviews across the country, even some opponents of abortion expressed unease with the way that a majority of the court had coalesced behind the sweeping draft written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. that would undo nearly 50 years of legalized access to abortion nationwide. (Hubler and Wines, 5/4)

The New York Times:
Roberts And Alito, Once Close Allies, Have Taken Divergent Paths

There was a time when Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the author of the leaked draft opinion on abortion that rocked the nation on Monday night, was Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s closest ally on the Supreme Court. The two men are both products of the conservative legal movement, and they were named to the court by President George W. Bush within months of each other. Their voting records were initially indistinguishable. Indeed, when the chief justice had a particularly difficult case, he would often assign the majority opinion to Justice Alito. (Liptak, 5/4)

The Hill:
Alito Becomes Lightning Rod In Abortion War

Conservative Justice Samuel Alito is coming under new scrutiny and criticism after his draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade leaked Monday evening, creating a firestorm in Washington. … “I think he’s going to become a household word,” said Marge Baker, executive vice president for policy at People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group that tracks the Supreme Court. “For the first time, if this decision becomes final, a majority of the court will have taken away a constitutional liberty that’s been recognized for 50 years. That’s the core of this,” she added. (Bolton, 5/5)

The Washington Post:
Draft Abortion Ruling Puts Spotlight On Justices’ Confirmation Hearings 

It is not just the increasingly predictable and evasive answers of nominees that are prodding some senators to conclude that Supreme Court hearings have become empty theater. More and more, the confirmation votes themselves seem a foregone conclusion, with senators hewing to the party line and many using their allotted time to launch political broadsides rather than seek information. (Kim, 5/4)

Canadian Abortion Providers Can Treat Americans If Roe Goes Away, Official Says

While it’s not yet clear what resemblance the Supreme Court’s leaked draft opinion will bear to the final version, its current form suggests Justices may soon reverse federal abortion protections. And if that does come to pass, at least one Canadian official says Americans who are able to travel across the northern border will be able access the procedure there. Karina Gould, the minister of families, children and social development, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Tuesday that Canada would allow Americans to obtain abortions. (Treisman, 5/4)

The New York Times:
Do Americans Support Abortion Rights? Depends On The State.

In the states poised to put in new restrictions on abortion, people tend to say that abortion should be mostly or fully illegal, based on a New York Times analysis of large national surveys taken over the last decade. In the 13 states that have enacted so-called trigger laws, which would immediately or very quickly outlaw abortion if Roe were overturned, 43 percent of adults on average say abortion should be legal in most or all cases, while 52 percent say it should be illegal in most or all cases. (Cohn, 5/4)

Poll: Half Of Voters Support Maintaining Roe V. Wade

By a nearly 2-to-1 margin, voters oppose overturning Roe v. Wade, according to a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll conducted immediately after POLITICO published a draft opinion from the Supreme Court that would eviscerate the 1973 precedent guaranteeing federal abortion rights. Half of voters (50 percent) say Roe v. Wade should not be overturned — more than the 28 percent who say it should be overturned. More than 2-in-10 voters, 22 percent, are undecided, according to the poll. (Shepard, 5/4)

The New York Times:
In New England, Republican Governors Vow To Support Abortion Rights.

As Republican-led states across the country move to codify abortion restrictions, the three Republican governors in New England vowed this week to protect abortion rights in their states. If the Supreme Court ultimately overturns Roe v. Wade, said Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, “it would be a massive setback for women in states without responsible laws protecting abortion access and reproductive health services.” Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont reaffirmed his support for an amendment to the State Constitution that would enshrine the right to an abortion. And Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire said, “So long as I am governor, these health care services for women will remain safe and legal.” (Belman, 5/4)

The Boston Globe:
R.I. Supreme Court Rejects Challenge To Reproductive Privacy Act

The Rhode Island Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected a legal challenge to the Reproductive Privacy Act, the law Rhode Island enacted in 2019 to protect abortion rights in case the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The decision comes just two days after news broke that the US Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationally. The Rhode Island Supreme Court rejected a legal challenge brought by Catholics for Life and others, claiming the Reproductive Privacy Act violated the Rhode Island Constitution. The attorney general office disagreed and defended the validity of the law. (Fitzpatrick, 5/4)

The New York Times:
Newsom Accuses Democrats At The National Level Of Sleeping As Abortion Rights Are Eroded. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom of California on Wednesday vowed to protect the right to abortion in the state he leads and issued an impassioned “wake-up call” to the Democratic Party about what he described as a coordinated Republican-led effort to erode more rights that many Americans have for decades assumed were settled, such as the right to interracial marriage. “Don’t think for a second this is where it’s going to stop,” he said, speaking outside of a Planned Parenthood building in Los Angeles, flanked by women wearing pink shirts. “Pay attention, America. They’re coming for you next.” (Cowan, 5/4)

San Francisco Chronicle:
Roe V. Wade: California Could Be Home To Almost 30% Of America’s Abortion Clinics If Ruling Overturned

If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe V. Wade this summer, as a recently leaked draft opinion indicates it will, clinic shutdowns across the country could mean that California ends up being home to nearly 30% of all abortion clinics in the U.S., despite having just 12% of its population. The Chronicle examined data on nearly 800 clinics that were open and providing abortions in 2021. The data was collected by UCSF’s Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health program, or ANSIRH. According to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice policy organization, 26 U.S. states are likely or certain to pass near-total or total bans on abortion immediately if Roe is overturned. (Neilson, 5/4)

Roe Draft Supercharges Battle For State Control 

With the Supreme Court poised to strike down Roe v. Wade, the next battle over abortion rights in America won’t be fought in Washington. Instead, it will be state-by-state trench warfare — particularly in a small universe of swing states that are poised to play an oversized role in the midterm election and the presidential race to come. (Montellaro and Otterbein, 5/4)

The Hill:
Abortion Fight Puts Spotlight On Governors

The leaked draft of a Supreme Court opinion striking down landmark precedents that protect the right to an abortion has upended the nation’s capital and the battle for control of the U.S. House and Senate. But it has increased pressure to an even greater degree on Democrats and Republicans vying to win governor’s mansions and state legislative chambers across the country, where the outcomes of this November’s midterm elections will determine just how far abortion rights advocates and opponents can advance their positions in the coming years. (Wilson, 5/4)

More Than A Show Vote? Senate Dems Weigh Their Roe Plans 

Senate Democrats are gearing up for an abortion-rights vote next week in response to the breach of a draft opinion that showed a Supreme Court majority prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade. They fully expect it to fall short of even 50 votes. In the wake of POLITICO’s report on the draft opinion, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer teed up a bill that would enshrine federal protections for abortion access, despite nearly identical legislation failing in the Senate at the end of February. And even as progressives on and off the Hill clamor for action to codify Roe before the Supreme Court has a chance to eliminate it, no one is expecting a different outcome now. (Levine and Ollstein, 5/4)

The Hill:
Gaetz Faces Backlash For ‘Over-Educated’ Women Remark 

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) is facing backlash after questioning how many “over-educated, under-loved” women have participated in protests supporting abortion rights after a draft ruling from the Supreme Court showed that the bench is poised to roll back Roe v. Wade. “How many of the women rallying against overturning Roe are over-educated, under-loved millennials who sadly return from protests to a lonely microwave dinner with their cats, and no bumble matches?” Gaetz wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning. (Schnell, 5/4)

The New York Times:
Corporate America Doesn’t Want To Talk Abortion, But It May Have To

Some political and cultural events set off a cascade of emails from brands — sneaker, makeup and food companies telling their customers that they stand with them in a stressful time, or reminding them to vote. But after a draft opinion obtained by Politico revealed the Supreme Court’s intention to overturn Roe v. Wade, the overwhelming reaction from corporate leaders was silence. “This is an issue that many companies have shied away from,” said Miriam Warren, Yelp’s chief diversity officer. (Goldberg, Gupta and Hirsch, 5/4)

USA Today:
Pregnancy-Related Deaths Could Rise 20% Or More In States That Outlaw Abortion, Experts Say

In the 26 states poised to either restrict or outlaw abortions if Roe v. Wade is overturned this summer, the number of pregnancy-related maternal deaths could rise 20% or more, according to some calculations. Currently in the United States, about 700 women die each year either during pregnancy, during delivery or soon afterward, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Denying people abortions increases deaths because staying pregnant is more dangerous than having an abortion,” said Amanda Stevenson, a sociology professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder. (Weise, 5/4)

Louisville Courier Journal:
Roe V. Wade: Will Kentucky Women Suffer And Die In Illegal Abortions?

One woman was beheaded after her boyfriend tried unsuccessfully to give her an abortion, then dumped her body in a field. The remains of other women who died in botched abortions were tossed in a well, left by the side of a highway, ditched in a Louisville parking lot and abandoned in a La Grange motel room. As the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to overturn Roe v. Wade — a leaked draft decision leaves its legality to individual states — The Courier Journal examined what life was like for women in Kentucky in the 100 years before abortion was recognized as a constitutional right. (Wolfson, 5/4)

The Washington Post:
Your Phone Could Reveal If You’Ve Had An Abortion

When someone gets an abortion, they may decide not to share information with friends and family members. But chances are their smartphone knows. The leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion proposing to overturn Roe v. Wade raises a data privacy flash point: If abortion becomes criminal in some states, might a person’s data trail be treated as evidence? (Fowler and Hunger, 5/4)

The Washington Post:
Duke’s Klotman Is Under Consideration As The Next NIH Head

Mary Klotman, a Duke University scientist and senior leader, is a strong contender to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health, according to three people with knowledge of the selection. A physician known for her research into HIV, Klotman has served as dean of the Duke University School of Medicine since 2017. She has had conversations with several senior administration officials, said the three people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the selection. (Abutaleb, Diamond and Johnson, 5/4)

Houston Chronicle:
Dr. Mary Klotman, Duke University School Of Medicine Dean, In Running To Be Director Of NIH

Dr. Mary Klotman, a Duke University scientist and spouse of Baylor College of Medicine president Dr. Paul Klotman, is in the running to become the next director of the National Institutes of Health. She had several conversations with senior administration officials, as first reported by the Washington Post. Dr. Mary Klotman couldn’t immediately be reached for comment, but Dr. Paul Klotman confirmed she was in the running with the Chronicle. “I am not sure that the NIH could find a more qualified candidate with her background as a scientist, a dean and an academic leader,” Dr. Paul Klotman said. (Carballo, 5/4)

The Washington Post:
Blinken Tests Positive For Coronavirus, State Department Says 

Secretary of State Antony Blinken has tested positive for the coronavirus, the State Department announced Wednesday, becoming the latest member of President Biden’s Cabinet to contract the virus. Blinken tested positive Wednesday afternoon and “is experiencing only mild symptoms,” the State Department said. He is “fully vaccinated and boosted” and will maintain a virtual work schedule while isolating at home for an unspecified length of time, it added. (Sonmez and Hudson, 5/4)

The New York Times:
Virus Cases Grow After White House Correspondents Dinner 

On Saturday, the comedian Trevor Noah stood before a ballroom of 2,600 journalists, celebrities and political elites at the White House Correspondents Dinner, and asked: What are we doing here? … By Wednesday, Mr. Noah’s chiding remarks at what he called “the nation’s most distinguished superspreader event” were beginning to appear prophetic as a growing number of attendees, including a string of journalists and Antony J. Blinken, the secretary of state, said they had tested positive for the virus. Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Wednesday that President Biden had tested negative on Tuesday after attending the dinner unmasked. Ms. Psaki added that Mr. Blinken was not considered a close contact to Mr. Biden and “has not seen the president in several days.” (Cameron, 5/4)

NBC News:
Covid’s Toll In U.S. Reaches 1 Million Deaths, A Once Unfathomable Number

The U.S. on Wednesday surpassed 1 million Covid-19 deaths, according to data compiled by NBC News — a once unthinkable scale of loss even for the country with the world’s highest recorded toll from the virus. The number — equivalent to the population of San Jose, California, the 10th largest city in the U.S. — was reached at stunning speed: 27 months after the country confirmed its first case of the virus.  (Chuck and Siemaszko, 5/4)

Omicron As Severe As Previous COVID Variants, Large Study Finds 

The Omicron variant of the SARS-CoV2 virus is intrinsically as severe as previous variants, unlike assumptions made in previous studies that it was more transmissible but less severe, a large study in the United States has found. “We found that the risks of hospitalization and mortality were nearly identical between periods,” said four scientists who conducted the study based on records of 130,000 COVID-19 patients, referring to times in the past two years when different variants were dominant across the world. (5/5)

FDA: “No Evidence” Second Pfizer COVID Pill Stops Repeat Symptoms, Contradicting CEO

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official said Wednesday that there is “no evidence” that a second round of the Pfizer COVID pill Paxlovid will help patients who suffer a relapse in symptoms. The FDA’s comments contradict Pfizer chief executive officer Albert Bourla, who said patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms after their first treatment can take more of the pill. “There is no evidence of benefit at this time for a longer course of treatment or repeating a treatment course of Paxlovid,” John Farley, director of the Office of Infectious Diseases in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, said in a statement. (Scribner, 5/4)

Pfizer’s Advice On Retaking Covid Drug Contradicted By FDA

There is “no evidence” that a second course of Pfizer Inc.’s Paxlovid will help Covid-19 patients whose symptoms return after an initial course of the antiviral, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration official said a day after Pfizer executives advocated the idea. Doctors and virologists have been struggling to understand a number of patient reports of viral rebounds after completion of a five-day course of the Covid treatment. In an interview Tuesday, Pfizer Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said doctors could prescribe a second course of treatment to patients who suffer a rebound. (Langreth, 5/4)

The New York Times:
A New Subvariant Is Spreading Rapidly In The United States

First came Omicron, then came its highly contagious subvariant, BA.2. That subvariant gave rise to its own subvariants, whose share of new coronavirus cases in the United States is growing. The coronavirus is constantly mutating. While some variants seem to vanish, causing little ripples of surges in their wake, others have kept driving large outbreaks. Experts say a new form, BA.2.12.1, is spreading rapidly and will likely in the next weeks become the dominant form of the virus in the United States. There’s no indication yet that causes more severe disease. (Paz, 5/5)

COVID Cases Jump In Northeast, Pacific Northwest

COVID cases are rising in all but four states and Washington, D.C., as Omicron and new, potentially more transmissible versions of the Omicron variant, sweep across the U.S. COVID rates in the Northeast are reaching some of their highest levels in three months. But the South may be in for a new wave come summer. A South African study found two of the new Omicron subvariants are able to evade antibodies from previous infections and vaccinations. (Reed and Beheraj, 5/5)

Los Angeles Times:
Coronavirus Gains In California Spark New Concerns 

Coronavirus cases are continuing to increase in California, prompting one health official to warn that the state is heading into the next wave of the pandemic. California has seen its coronavirus case rate rise by 10% in the past week, from 5,700 new cases a day to 6,300. Health experts note, however, that the official numbers may be a significant undercount, given the now-widespread availability of at-home tests — the results of which are not reliably reported to health agencies. And while still at relatively low levels, statewide coronavirus-positive hospitalizations have risen for eight consecutive days: from 950 to just above 1,100. (Lin II and Money, 5/4)

The Washington Post:
Carnival Cruise Passengers Stuck In Seattle After Covid Outbreak 

A Carnival Cruise Line ship that docked in Seattle on Tuesday had an undisclosed number of passengers test positive for coronavirus onboard, with some reporting to local media that the company was ill-equipped to handle the latest outbreak. (Diller, 5/4)

Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Decatur Schools Urges Mask Wearing Again Due To Uptick In COVID Cases

City Schools of Decatur is asking staff and students to wear masks due to rising COVID-19 cases over the past two weeks. But the district is stopping short of a mandate due to a new Georgia law. “As we can see, COVID is a disease we will continue to live with and as we see spikes in our community, we must continue to adjust our mitigation strategies accordingly,” Superintendent Maggie Fehrman said in a letter sent to the school community on Wednesday. (Reyes, 5/5)

Study Suggests Double-Masking For COVID-19 Hurts More Than Helps

A study yesterday in Physics of Fluid shows that wearing two face coverings to protect against COVID-19 does not offer more respiratory protection, and may offer a false sense of protection for the wearer. Researchers from Florida State University and Johns Hopkins University used fluid dynamics simulation models to show how improperly fitted masks—even when layered—force flow from a simulated cough out of the perimeter gaps (sides, top, and bottom) of masks. (5/4)

Congress Moves Toward Reforming The FDA’s Accelerated Approvals

House lawmakers are moving a little closer toward cracking down on drugmakers that game the FDA’s accelerated approval pathway, but their latest legislation is friendlier to industry than previous drafts. The House Energy and Commerce Committee announced Wednesday that its sweeping user fee authorization bill will include a revised policy from Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) that would make it easier for the Food and Drug Administration to rescind its approval for drugs cleared through the pathway when drug makers don’t complete required follow-up studies. (Florko, 5/4)

FDA Warns Miami University Contract Testing Lab Over Falsified Data

A contract testing laboratory run by Miami University was scolded by the Food and Drug Administration for failing to ensure that drugs are appropriately tested and preventing data from being changed or omitted. In an April 20 warning letter, the agency noted the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry failed to follow good manufacturing practices as it went about testing the raw material used to make heparin, which is relied on to prevent and treat blood clots. The letter, which was posted to the FDA website this week, followed an inspection conducted by the agency last November. (Silverman, 5/4)

The Wall Street Journal:
Telehealth Startup Cerebral To Stop Prescribing Adderall For New Patients 

Cerebral Inc. executives told its clinicians that the company will pause prescribing controlled substances such as Adderall to treat attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in new patients beginning Monday, the company said. Cerebral’s co-founder and chief executive, Kyle Robertson, made the announcement in an email sent to staff on Wednesday, adding that the company will continue to treat existing ADHD patients. (Winkler, 5/4)

The Wall Street Journal:
J&J Sues Drug-Benefit Middleman Over Use Of Drug-Cost Assistance Program 

Johnson & Johnson filed a lawsuit Wednesday accusing a drug-benefit middleman firm of improperly exploiting a J&J program that pays out-of-pocket costs for patients who use some of the company’s pricier prescription drugs. J&J, of New Brunswick, N.J., said in the lawsuit that it has paid at least $100 million more in copay assistance than it otherwise would have as a result of the services provided by the firm, SaveOnSP, which has offices in Buffalo, N.Y. (Loftus, 5/4)

Modern Healthcare:
Insurers Offer Housing Aid To Foster Youths To Improve Health Outcomes

Foster children and young people transitioning out of the child welfare system frequently encounter obstacles to adequate housing, which some healthcare providers and health insurance companies are trying to address with novel programs. This interest in foster youths stems from the increased focus on social determinants of health, including housing, over the past decade. In addition to the potential societal good, these organizations see opportunities to keep children connected to the healthcare system, which could lead to adverse health outcomes and higher spending. (Devereaux, 5/4)

LA Hospital Sued For Racism In Death Of Black Mother 

The husband of a Black woman who died hours after childbirth in 2016 sued Cedars-Sinai Medical Center on Wednesday, saying she bled to death because of a culture of racism at the renowned Los Angeles hospital. Charles Johnson IV said he discovered the disparity in care women of color receive at Cedars compared to white women during depositions in his wrongful death lawsuit that is scheduled to go to trial next week in Los Angeles Superior Court. (Melley, 5/5)

CBS News:
Justice Department Charges 12 Medical Professionals For Allegedly Fueling The Opioid Epidemic In Appalachian Region

Over a dozen defendants across eight federal districts have been charged in connection with the illegal prescription and distribution of 5.1 million opioid pills, the Justice Department announced Wednesday. The various law enforcement actions were the result of the department’s Appalachian Regional Prescription Opioid (ARPO) Strike Force, a multiagency approach that targets the unlawful prescription of opioid drugs across the Appalachian region. According to Assistant Attorney General Kenneth Polite, who was part of Wednesday’s criminal announcement in Cincinnati, Ohio, over 75,000 Americans died last year due to opioid overdoses.  (Legare, 5/4)

UN: Record Number Of People Without Enough To Eat In 2021

The United Nations said Wednesday that the number of people without enough to eat on a daily basis reached all-time high last year and is poised to hit “appalling” new levels as the Ukraine war affects global food production. Almost 193 million people in 53 countries suffered acute food insecurity in 2021 due to what the U.N. said was a “toxic triple combination” of conflict, weather extremes and the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. (5/5)

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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