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Overnight Health Care: Mask-wearing becomes political even as some governors ease resistance | Fauci defends coronavirus lockdowns | Research links climate change to premature births

Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. 

The U.S. has surpassed 118,000 coronavirus deaths, and there are more than 2.1 million cases in the country. 

Mask wearing has become a political statement, even as public health experts agree on the benefits. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciWhite House says rally attendees assume ‘personal risk’ Ready Responders CEO Justin Dangel stresses importance of Medicaid population; Fauci says he won’t attend Trump rally this weekend Fauci says he wouldn’t go to Trump’s Tulsa rally over coronavirus concerns MORE says the lockdown helped save millions of lives, and a new poll shows the public still distrusts the drug industry.

We’ll start with masks: 

Mask-wearing becomes political even as some governors ease resistance

Some state and local leaders are softening their resistance to issuing public masking requirements as emerging research shows face coverings can slow the spread of COVID-19, even as others are doubling down on their opposition.

The debate over whether to require face coverings in public has become increasingly politicized in recent weeks, even as COVID-19 cases have gone up in the Sun Belt and some other parts of the country as lockdowns have greatly eased.

Governors in southern, conservative states have been reluctant to issue statewide mandates on public mask-wearing, and in some cases have prevented local governments from taking stronger actions. 

“We want to make sure that individual liberty is not infringed upon by government and hence government cannot require individuals to wear a mask,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said Wednesday in an interview with Waco television station KWTX. 

Abbott, who frequently recommends mask-wearing, has resisted calls from local leaders to require it, and had also prohibited them from enforcing local orders with civil or criminal penalties.

However, two Texas counties on Wednesday announced businesses must impose a mask rule on staff and customers or face fines of up to $1,000, which Abbott said would be allowed under his executive order.

Other states: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) also announced on Wednesday that local governments in his state could require mask wearing in public, but he again declined to make it a statewide mandate. Also refusing to issue statewide policies: Florida, Nebraska, South Carolina and Alabama, among others.
New mandates: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) and California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomColumbus statue to be removed from California state Capitol The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by Facebook – Bending the COVID-19 curve proves temporary for many states Surging coronavirus cases raise fears of new lockdowns MORE (D) announced masking requirements for their states Thursday. Newsom is especially notable, as his order occurred after the top public health official in Orange County quit after being harassed and threatened over a local mask requirement.

Read more here

Fauci defends coronavirus lockdowns as saving ‘millions of lives’

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said Wednesday that lockdowns meant to stem the spread of the coronavirus saved “millions of lives” in an interview.

“When you give advice about what should you be doing — should you be out there, should you be shutting down earlier versus later? I mean, people get confused. And they say, ‘Wow, you know, we shut down and we caused a great disruption in society. We caused great economic pain, loss of jobs,'” Fauci said in an interview with the Department of Health and Human Services’ “Learning Curve” podcast.

“But if you look at the data, now that papers have come out literally two days ago, the fact that we shut down when we did and the rest of the world did, has saved hundreds of millions of infections and millions of lives,” he added.

A study published in Nature last week indicated shutdowns and stay-at-home orders prevented roughly 60 million coronavirus infections in the U.S.

Read more here

Nearly 90 percent of Americans think pharmaceutical industry will use coronavirus to raise drug prices: poll

Americans still don’t trust the drug industry. 

Nearly nearly in 10 are concerned that the pharmaceutical industry will leverage the coronavirus pandemic to raise drug prices, according to a new West Health/Gallup poll released Thursday.

The survey found that 88 percent of Americans are worried about a rise in drug prices, with 55 percent saying they are “very” concerned and 33 percent saying they are “somewhat” concerned.

The level of concern is mostly similar across various demographics but is split along party lines. Sixty-six percent of Democrats say they are very concerned, compared with 49 percent of Republicans and 52 percent of Independents.

Another 79 percent say they are very or somewhat concerned about their health insurance premiums rising and 84 percent say they are very or somewhat concerned about the general cost of care rising.

Read more here.

And this won’t help ease their worries: 

Appeals court says Trump administration can’t force drugmakers to disclose prices

A federal appeals court on Wednesday said the Trump administration lacks the authority to force drugmakers to disclose the list prices of their medicines in television ads. 

The ruling is a blow to the administration’s long-derailed drug pricing agenda, and denies President TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project launches new ad hitting Trump over China policies Trump criticizes Bolton as memoir excerpts offer scathing account of White House Bolton book portrays ‘stunningly uninformed’ Trump MORE an election year victory. 

The underlying issue is a 2019 rule from the Department of Health and Human Services, which would have required drug manufacturers in TV commercials to state the list price of a 30-day supply of any drug that is covered through Medicare and Medicaid and costs at least $35 a month.

The administration argued that forcing drugmakers to disclose their prices in direct-to-consumer TV advertising could shame companies into lowering their prices. 

Lawsuit: Predictably, the drug industry sued. Their argument: the rule would confuse consumers because a drug’s list price — which doesn’t reflect the discounts negotiated with insurers or through patient assistance programs — is often higher than what the patient actually pays.

Last summer, a federal judge sided with the drug companies and blocked the rule from being implemented, just one day before it was set to take effect. 

The administration appealed last August. 

What’s next: Congress could act, but their efforts so far have been unsuccessful. 

Research links climate change to premature, underweight or stillborn babies

A new study has found that pregnant women exposed to air pollution and high temperatures are more likely to give birth to preterm, stillborn or underweight children.

The review, published in JAMA Network Open, examined more than 32 million births and found an association between climate change effects such as heat, ozone and fine particulate matter, and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

Researchers also found that minority women, particularly black mothers, were impacted the most.

The study, published Thursday, comes amid nationwide protests over the killings of black men at the hands of police, and mounting tensions over systemic racial disparities. It also adds to the growing body of evidence that as global temperatures rise and pollution spreads, minority communities are disproportionately impacted.

Read more here.

What we’re reading

Blood types may play role in which COVID patients get sickest (CBS News

Fauci will oppose any rush to announce COVID-19 vaccine before ‘scientifically sound’ (McClatchy)

Scientists take aim at another coronavirus study in a major journal (New York Times

Early data show no uptick in COVID-19 transmission from protests (Wall Street Journal)

Trump says COVID-19 is ‘dying out.’ Experts fear his dismissiveness could prolong the crisis (Stat News

State by state

Florida shows signs as next coronavirus epicenter as cases spike across the country (CNN.com)

Oklahoma among the states with highest coronavirus case growth (Axios)

Record-breaking 987 new virus cases in South Carolina (WCNC)

The Hill op-eds

A call to revise CDC guidelines for reopening

Health care workforce challenges require transformative thinking on equity, pay 

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