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

KHN and PolitiFact:
Florida Gov. DeSantis Falsely Claims Bivalent Booster Boosts Chances Of Covid Infection 

As he proposed to extend the state’s ban on mandates for covid vaccines and face masks, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis lobbed a flurry of criticism at President Joe Biden and “the medical establishment.”  “They were not following the science,” DeSantis said at a Jan. 17 press conference in Panama City Beach. “Almost every study now has said with these new boosters, you’re more likely to get infected with the bivalent booster.” (Reyes, 1/26)

KHN:
More Californians Are Dying At Home. Another Covid ‘New Normal’?

The covid-19 pandemic has spurred a surge in the proportion of Californians who are dying at home rather than in a hospital or nursing home, accelerating a slow but steady rise that dates back at least two decades. The recent upsurge in at-home deaths started in 2020, the first year of the pandemic, and the rate has continued to climb, outlasting the rigid lockdowns at hospitals and nursing homes that might help explain the initial shift. Nearly 40% of deaths in California during the first 10 months of 2022 took place at home, up from about 36% for all of 2019, according to death certificate data from the California Department of Public Health. By comparison, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data shows that about 26% of Californians died at home in 1999, the earliest year for which data on at-home deaths is accessible in the agency’s public database. (Reese, 1/26)


The Hill:
A Record Of Over 16 Million People Signed Up For Insurance Through Obamacare 


More than 16.3 million people enrolled in a health plan through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) during the most recent open enrollment period, marking the highest number of enrollees since the program was signed into law 10 years ago. This record amount of enrollments occurred between Nov. 1 and Jan. 15 and represented nearly 2 million more people than the number that enrolled the previous year. According to the White House, 3.6 million people, or 22 percent of those who signed up in this enrollment period, were new to the Marketplace. (Choi, 1/25)


CNN:
ACA Sign-Ups Soar To Record 16.3 Million For 2023


Sign-ups on the federal exchange, healthcare.gov, have skyrocketed nearly 50% since the Biden administration took office in 2021, thanks in large part to enhanced federal premium subsidies and increased outreach efforts. Plan selections are up 13% from this time last year. … The spike in coverage helped drive the nation’s uninsured rate to an all-time low of 8% in the first quarter of 2022. (Luhby, 1/25)


The New York Times:
Obamacare Sign-Ups Top 16 Million For 2023, Setting Another Record 


President Biden cheered the development in a statement, saying, “Today, we received further proof that our efforts are delivering record-breaking results.” The Biden administration has taken other steps to encourage enrollment in the plans, including increasing advertising and enrollment assistance and providing a longer window for sign-ups than during President Donald J. Trump’s administration. But it appears the money is mattering more than anything else. (Sanger-Katz, 1/25)


Miami Herald:
Florida Sees Record Obamacare Enrollment, Leads The Country 


Florida led the way with the highest number of people in the country who signed up for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, with more than 3.2 million people enrolling, or 20 percent of the country’s totals. … In Florida, enrollment ballooned to 3.2 million, a 19% jump over last year’s open enrollment period under the health law, commonly known as Obamacare. The 3.2 million represents 20 percent of all enrollees nationwide, even though Florida, the third most populous state in the country with 22 million people, accounts for only about 7 percent of the U.S. population. (Marchante, 1/26)


The Washington Post:
In Wake Of Baby Formula Crisis, Top FDA Food Safety Official Frank Yiannas Resigns 


Less than two months after an outside group offered a scathing indictment of the Food and Drug Administration’s structure and culture and recommended major restructuring, the agency’s top food safety official resigned, citing shortcomings in the FDA’s ability to handle foodborne illness crises, including the recent baby formula shortage. Frank Yiannas, the deputy commissioner for the office of food policy and response, will leave his post next month, he wrote to FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf on Wednesday. “The decentralized structure of the foods program that you and I both inherited significantly impaired FDA’s ability to operate as an integrated food team and protect the public,” Yiannas wrote in the letter obtained by The Washington Post. (Reiley and Bogage, 1/25)


AP:
FDA Food Safety Official Resigns, Cites Structural Issues 


Frank Yiannas’ notice comes less than a week before FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf is expected to release a response to a scathing report calling for an overhaul of the way the agency regulates human and animal foods. Currently, no single official has full oversight of FDA’s sprawling food operations. Yiannas called for the appointment of a “fully empowered and experienced” deputy commissioner for foods, with direct oversight of those issues. Advocacy groups and several former FDA officials have also called for such a position. (Aleccia, 1/26)


Politico:
Pair Of Lawsuits Kick Off State-Federal Battle Over Abortion Pills


A widely anticipated legal battle over whether federal policies supersede state laws began Wednesday with a pair of lawsuits seeking to stop restrictions on abortion pills in two states. The challenges — targeting laws in North Carolina and West Virginia that block patients from receiving abortion pills by mail or from retail pharmacies or ban the use of the pills entirely — will likely have national implications, as more than a dozen states have imposed laws limiting how, when and where patients can obtain abortion pills. (Ollstein and Gardner, 1/25)


AP:
New Lawsuits Target State Restrictions On Abortion Pills 


The cases were brought by a North Carolina physician who prescribes the pill, mifepristone, and GenBioPro, which makes a generic version of the drug and sued in West Virginia. While the federal court lawsuits target specific state laws, they represent key legal tests that could eventually determine access to abortion for millions of women. Medication recently overtook in-clinic procedures as the most common form of abortion in the U.S. (Perrone, 1/25)


Roll Call:
Lawsuits Show Focus Of Abortion Battle Shifting To Medication 


Of the three cases, the third — Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration — could have the broadest impact. In November, conservative legal advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom challenged the FDA’s approval of mifepristone, citing concerns about its safety. ADF is seeking an emergency ruling to pull approval of the drug nationwide. “If the FDA were forced to withdraw its approval that would mean that mifepristone would be taken off the shelves nationwide and would therefore decimate access to abortion to people across the country regardless of where they live or the laws of their state,” said Jennifer Dalven, director of the reproductive freedom project at the American Civil Liberties Union, speaking in a press call last week. (Raman, 1/25)


AP:
Washington Lawmakers Hear Testimony On 7 Abortion Bills 


Abortion rights proposals have been front and center in Olympia, Washington, this week as state lawmakers heard hours of public testimony on seven proposals that would reinforce abortion access. The emphasis on four legislative committees hearing testimony on abortion bills Tuesday was intended to demonstrate majority Democrats’ support for abortion rights following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, The Seattle Times reported. (1/26)


Politico:
New Booster Works Against Dominant Covid Strain 


A new CDC study has found that the Covid-19 bivalent booster reduces the risk of symptomatic infection from the most common subvariant circulating in the U.S. right now by about half. Additional new data, set to be published on the CDC website on Wednesday, also shows that individuals who received an updated vaccine reduced their risk of death by nearly 13 fold, when compared to the unvaccinated, and by two fold when compared to those with at least one monovalent vaccine but no updated booster. (Mahr, 1/25)


USA Today:
COVID Vaccines Protect Against Omicron Subvariant XBB, CDC Finds


Officials had argued that a “bivalent” booster — addressing two forms of the virus instead of one — would be more protective than the original “monovalent” vaccine as the virus continues to evolve. The new study found that, despite the mismatch in variants, the booster remains protective against XBB. “There is incremental or additional protection from getting the bivalent on top of those past monovalent doses,” said Ruth Link-Gelles, the paper’s first author, on Wednesday in a CDC call with media. (Weintraub, 1/25)


Reuters:
Roche Launches New Test To Detect Fast Spreading Omicron Sub-Variant


Roche has launched a new PCR test to detect a fast-spreading sub-variant of the Omicron variant of Coronavirus, the Swiss drugmaker said on Thursday. The new test specifically targets the XBB.1.5 Omicron variant and will help researchers closely track the virus’s lineage and provide insights into the epidemiology and impact it has on public health, the company added. (1/26)


The New York Times:
N.I.H. Did Not Properly Track A Group Studying Coronaviruses, Report Finds 


The National Institutes of Health made significant errors in its oversight of grants to a nonprofit group that has come under fire from congressional Republicans for its research collaborations in China, an internal federal watchdog agency said on Wednesday. The findings, outlined in a 64-page report describing missed deadlines, confusing protocols and misspent funds, reinforced concerns about the federal government’s system for monitoring research with potentially risky pathogens. (Mueller and Stolberg, 1/25)


Roll Call:
Broad Focus Planned For Revamped COVID Panel Under GOP Majority


The new chair of the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic is planning a wide focus on future pandemic preparedness and the impacts of the pandemic on the economy, education and the national supply chain. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Ohio, who serves on the Ways and Means Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, categorized the panel’s mission as an “after-action review” and “lessons learned.” He also plans to continue work on the origins of COVID-19 he started through the intelligence committee. (Clason, 1/25)


San Francisco Chronicle:
California Law That Targets COVID Misinformation Halted By Court


Judge William B. Schubb of the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of California granted the motion filed by a group of doctors for a preliminary injunction. Schubb said that, because the “scientific consensus” (on COVID, in this case) is ill-defined and vague, the physician plaintiffs in the lawsuit are “unable to determine if their intended conduct contradicts the scientific consensus, and accordingly ‘what is prohibited by the law.” (Parker, 1/25)


NBC News:
Could Getting Covid Raise Cholesterol?


Covid may increase the risk for high cholesterol for up to a year after infection, two recent studies suggest, prompting some doctors to take a closer look at the apparent trend. “It’s something that we need to pay more attention to,” said Dr. Ashish Sarraju, a cardiologist with the Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation section at the Cleveland Clinic, adding that the latest research is “provocative.” (Edwards, 1/25)


Reuters:
Half Of U.S. Mass Attacks Sparked By Personal, Workplace Disputes, Report Finds


Half of the mass attacks in the United States from 2016-2020 were sparked by personal, domestic or workplace disputes, according to a new U.S. Secret Service report that aims to prevent violence by identifying warning signs. The attackers were overwhelmingly men, often with histories of mental health symptoms, financial insecurity or engaging in domestic violence. Guns were typically the weapon of choice. (1/25)


The Washington Post:
Many Mass Attackers Motivated By Personal And Work Grievances, Report Says


The report, released by the Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center on Wednesday, examined 173 targeted attacks carried out by 180 perpetrators between 2016 and 2020 in public or semipublic locations. It defines a mass attack as an act of violence in which three or more people, excluding the perpetrator, were killed or injured. The researchers found that three-quarters of the perpetrators had displayed behaviors or communicated in a way that concerned others before the attack. About 29 percent of attackers were described either by themselves or others as “withdrawn, loners or anti-social,” the report said, and more than half had experienced mental health symptoms before the attack. (Cho, 1/26)


ABC News:
As US Reels From Multiple Mass Shootings, Can Loneliness Be A Trigger For Violence? 


There is a loneliness epidemic in the United States — and it experts told ABC News it may be triggering violence. In California, there have been three shootings in as many days, tied to a perpetrator who may have exhibited signs of social isolation and/or violent behavior, according to authorities. In Monterey Park, police documents revealed the 72-year-old suspect had been divorced from his wife since 2006, lived alone in Hemet — about 30 miles Southeast of Riverside — and was angry and resentful. (Kekatos, 1/26)


BBC News:
Why Number Of US Mass Shootings Has Risen Sharply 


Data shows that all types of gun violence – from homicide to suicide to mass shootings – are on a mostly upwards trajectory in the US. In 2019, the total number of gun-related deaths in the US was 33,599. In 2022, the number of deaths rose to 44,290 – a 31% increase. Most of these deaths are suicides by a firearm, followed by homicides. While mass shootings often draw alarm, they make up a small fraction of gun-related deaths – in 2020, mass shooting victims made up 1.1% of overall firearm deaths. (1/25)


USA Today:
What Causes SIDS? Genetics Study Suggests It’s More Than Unsafe Sleep


The cause of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, continues to be a medical mystery but a new study suggests genetics may play a role. Over the course of 39 years, researchers found siblings of infants who died of SIDS had a four-fold higher risk of dying suddenly compared to the general population, according to the report published in JAMA Network Open. (Rodriguez, 1/25)


NBC News:
Autism Rates Have Tripled. Is It More Common Or Are We Better At Diagnosis?


Autism rates tripled among children in the New York and New Jersey metropolitan area from 2000 to 2016, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Pediatrics. The authors, a team from Rutgers University, calculated the trend by analyzing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates of the number of children who’ve been identified as having autism spectrum disorder by age 8. (Bendix, 1/26)


Fox News:
Dire Shortage Of Infectious Disease Specialists In US, For ‘Complex’ Reasons


The United States is experiencing a dire shortage of infectious disease specialists, according to the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), a medical association based in Arlington, Virginia. “Infectious disease (ID) physicians have repeatedly demonstrated their importance during critical worldwide crises, such as with HIV/AIDS, the COVID-19 pandemic and Mpox (previously Monkeypox),” Dr. Cindy Whitener told Fox News Digital. (Sudhakar, 1/25)


CBS News:
Texas Doctors Separate Conjoined Twins After 11-Hour “Historic Surgery”


The infants, AmieLynn Rose and JamieLynn Rae Finley, “are recovering well,” officials at the hospital, Cook Children’s Medical Center, wrote in a news release describing what they called a “historic surgery.” AmieLynn and JamieLynn were born prematurely to parents and Fort Worth residents Amanda Arciniega and James Finley, at the nearby Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital on Oct. 3. (Mae Czachor, 1/25)


The Wall Street Journal:
Juul In Deal Talks With Three Tobacco Giants 


Juul Labs Inc. is in early-stage talks with three tobacco giants as the e-cigarette maker seeks a potential sale, investment or partnership, according to people familiar with the matter. In recent weeks, Juul executives have had separate discussions with Philip Morris International Inc., Japan Tobacco Group and Altria Group Inc., the people said. A deal isn’t imminent, the people said, and the discussions might not result in a sale or partnership. Altria owns a 35% stake in Juul. … Big tobacco companies are jockeying for position to grab up pieces of the U.S. e-cigarette market as federal regulators reshape the industry, deciding which competitors can stay and which must go.(Maloney and Cooper, 1/25)


Reuters:
U.S. FDA Joins Global Regulators Probing Tainted Overseas Cough Syrup 


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Wednesday it is working with the World Health Organization and foreign regulatory authorities to support an investigation into the source of contaminated cough syrups that have killed more than 300 children in Africa and Asia. In a statement, the FDA said it had no indication that contaminated syrups had entered the U.S. drug supply chain, but it is “investigating the potential impact and scope of this hazard on FDA-regulated products.” The agency recommended consumers only take medicines which were made to be sold in the United States, especially for children. (Wingrove, 1/25)


Reuters:
FDA Classifies Recall Of Getinge’s Heart Devices As Most Serious


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday classified the recall of Swedish medical equipment maker Getinge’s heart devices as its most serious type since their use could lead to death. Datascope, a unit of Getinge, had recalled 4,454 therapeutic devices in December following a death and four serious injuries from their use. The devices are designed to help the heart pump more blood. (1/26)


CIDRAP:
FDA Panel Recommends Rezafungin As New Candida Treatment 


The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) antimicrobial drugs advisory committee yesterday recommended the approval of rezafungin for the treatment of candidemia and invasive candidiasis in adults, the first new drug to treat the conditions in over a decade. (Schnirring, 1/25)


AP:
Oregon Primate Research Facility Under Scrutiny After Deaths


A state lawmaker in Oregon is using thousands of pages of redacted documents he sought for more than a year to launch legislation demanding more accountability and oversight of a primate research facility with a long history of complaints. Incidents at the Oregon National Primate Research Center, associated with Oregon’s largest hospital, include one in which two monkeys died after being placed into a scalding cage-washing system. Other animals perished from neglect. Workers have low morale, some have been drinking on the job, and dozens have complained about dysfunctional leadership, the documents show. (Selsky, 1/25)


The New York Times:
G.O.P. State Lawmakers Push A Growing Wave Of Anti-Transgender Bills 


Over the past three years, Republican state lawmakers have put forward a barrage of bills to regulate the lives of transgender youths, restricting the sports teams they can play on, bathrooms they can use and medical care they can receive. But even by those standards, the start of the 2023 legislative season stands out for the aggressiveness with which lawmakers are pushing into new territory. (Astor, 1/25)


The Washington Post:
Family Sues Colo. Nursing Home After Woman Walked Out And Froze To Death


Mary Jo Staub screamed last February as she pounded her hands on the glass outside the Colorado assisted-living center where she lived, according to surveillance footage cited in a lawsuit. Standing in freezing temperatures, the 97-year-old banged on the doors, waiting for someone to unlock them. Staub had been in the cold for an hour when she collapsed to the concrete, according to the lawsuit filed last week. By the time an employee at the center spotted her and called police, more than five hours had passed since Staub wandered outside after midnight, the lawsuit says. She was dead. (Somasundaram, 1/26)


AP:
Mexico Issues Alert Over Social Media Tranquilizer Craze 


Health authorities in Mexico issued an alert Wednesday over an internet “challenge” in which groups of students at three schools in Mexico have taken tranquilizers vying to see who can stay awake longer. The Health Department called on the public to report any store selling clonazepam, a tranquilizer, without a prescription. The alert came one week after eight students at a Mexico City middle school were treated after taking a “controlled medication.” Some were hospitalized. (1/25)


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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