Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care. CDC could use the extra promotion: a University of Illinois gymnast celebrated his vault landing by pulling out his COVID-19 vaccine card.
Today: President BidenJoe BidenIran espionage-linked ship attacked at sea Biden exceeds expectations on vaccines — so far Jill Biden to visit Alabama with actress Jennifer Garner MORE announced expanded vaccine eligibility, and urged the country not to let up. The White House reiterated it is not involved in any “vaccine passport” plan, the Arkansas State Legislature voted to overturn Gov. Hutchinson’s veto of a bill banning transgender youth surgery, and California is eyeing June 15 to fully reopen.
We’ll start at the White House:
COVID isn’t over yet, Biden says: US still in ‘life and death race’ with coronavirus
President Biden on Tuesday continued his effort to balance the good news of vaccines with the reality that the U.S. is still in the middle of a pandemic.
During a White House speech, Biden announced that he is moving up his target for all American adults to become eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine by almost two weeks to April 19. The country is on track to surpass his most recent goal of 200 million shots in his first 100 days, he said, as more than 150 million have been administered to date.
Setting expectations: Both the number of shots administered and the new date for expanded eligibility are hallmarks of the Biden administration’s approach to COVID-19 developments: underpromise and over-deliver. The White House has been careful to set achievable goals that have lowered expectations for Biden’s virus response, allowing Biden to exceed them when it becomes clear that enough vaccines will be available to meet a more aggressive target.
And while Biden expects all adults to be eligible to receive vaccines in 13 days, it will take longer for states and cities to actually administer them to the public. Governors have been optimistic about the speed, but when millions of people suddenly become eligible, it could take months for them to actually get shots.
But the bad news: New variants are spreading, and infections and hospitalizations are rising.
“The virus is spreading because we have too many people who see the end in sight, think we’re at the finish line already,” Biden said. “But let me be deadly earnest with you. We aren’t at the finish line. We still have a lot of work to do. We’re still in a life and death race against this virus.”
Reminding the public that he said a “normal” Fourth of July was in reach, Biden said the only question was “how much death, disease and misery are we going to see between now and then?”
We’re getting closer to normal as vaccinations speed up
The accelerating pace of vaccinations across the United States is offering hope that something close to normality is on the horizon.
A significant taming of the pandemic in the U.S. could be just a matter of few weeks, with an average three million people being vaccinated each day and four million alone getting shots on Saturday.
Across the country, more than 75 percent of people 65 or older have received at least one shot, as have more than 40 percent of all adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A majority of states have now opened vaccine eligibility to all adults, and the remainder will do so by a new target date set by President Biden for April 19, a goal moved up from May 1.
Key quote: “We just need a handful more weeks,” said Jason Schwartz, an assistant professor at the Yale School of Public Health.
It’s not over yet, though: Cases have plateaued and are even ticking back up again at a very high level, around 64,000 per day.
The situation is particularly worrisome in the Northeast and Midwest — no place more so than Michigan, which has seen alarming spikes in cases and hospitalizations, with deaths beginning to rise as well.
White House rules out involvement in ‘vaccine passports’
White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden exceeds expectations on vaccines — so far Overnight Energy: Progressives fear infrastructure’s climate plans won’t survive Senate | EPA to propose vehicle emissions standards by July’s end | Poll shows growing partisan divide on climate change Psaki refutes Fox reporter claim on ‘very similar’ Colorado and Georgia laws MORE on Tuesday ruled out the Biden administration playing any role in a “vaccine passport” system as Republican governors in particular balk at the concept.
“The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential. There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential,” Psaki told reporters at a briefing.
The White House has been clear that it would defer to private companies if they wanted to implement some type of vaccine passport system in which individuals would have to provide proof that they received one of the coronavirus shots.
Even though they do not exist yet, and despite the White House assurance that private companies would be in charge, the idea has sparked pushback among conservatives who have raised concerns about potential government overreach that would discriminate against Americans who opt not to get vaccinated and infringe on their privacy rights.
Latest example: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday issued an executive order prohibiting vaccine passports, saying a system to track those who have been inoculated against COVID-19 infringes on citizens’ rights.
Arkansas lawmakers override Hutchinson veto on transgender youth bill
Arkanasas became the first state to ban bans gender-affirming treatment to transgender youth on Tuesday after the state legislature overwhelmingly voted to override Gov. Asa HutchinsonAsa HutchinsonOvernight Health Care: Biden says US still in ‘life and death race’ with virus | White House rules out involvement in ‘vaccine passports’ | Arkansas lawmakers override Hutchinson veto on transgender bill Arkansas lawmakers override Hutchinson veto on transgender youth bill The Hill’s Morning Report – Biden, McConnell agree on vaccines, clash over infrastructure MORE’s (R) veto.
The majority-Republican state House voted 72 to 25 to approve the controversial bill that bans providing gender confirming hormone treatment, puberty blockers or surgery to those under 18. The Senate followed shortly after with a 25-8 vote rejecting Hutchinson’s veto.
The override vote came a day after the governor denounced the bill as a form of government overreach.
Advocates and experts have condemned the vetoed bill, saying it’s a form of discrimination, but proponents of the bill said it will benefit the health and safety of children in the state.
What’s next: The American Civil Liberties Union has promised to file a lawsuit preventing the law from being enforced.
California aims to reopen fully on June 15
California is planning to lift almost all coronavirus restrictions and fully open its economy on June 15, Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomOvernight Health Care: Biden says US still in ‘life and death race’ with virus | White House rules out involvement in ‘vaccine passports’ | Arkansas lawmakers override Hutchinson veto on transgender bill Vaccination pace picks up steam; normality appears closer Caitlyn Jenner exploring bid for California governor: report MORE (D) said Tuesday.
Newsom said he anticipates “an abundance” of vaccines from the federal government through the rest of April and into May and expects that more than 30 million people will have received at least one shot by the end of this month.
The governor said 20 million people had been vaccinated as of Tuesday, and the state had met his goal of delivering 4 million shots to the hardest-hit, most vulnerable communities.
“We can confidently say by June 15, we can open up for business as usual,” Newsom said at a press conference. “We’ll be getting rid of the colored tiers, we’ll be getting rid of the blueprint as you know it today, if we continue the good work.”
He said he is keeping the state’s mask mandate, and has no plans to remove it in the near future.
In a statement, Newsom and health officials said “all sectors” may return to normal operations “in compliance with Cal/OSHA requirements and with common-sense public health policies in place, such as required masking, testing and with vaccinations encouraged. Large-scale indoor events, such as conventions, will be allowed to occur with testing or vaccination verification requirements.”
Oxford pauses COVID vaccine trial in children
Oxford University researchers have paused a clinical trial testing the coronavirus vaccine developed with AstraZeneca in children as young as six years old.
In a statement, the university said it is awaiting the results of a safety review from UK regulators, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
An Oxford spokesperson said there are no safety concerns, but the trial is paused while MHRA is reviewing links between the vaccine and rare blood clots.
“Whilst there are no safety concerns in the pediatric clinical trial, we await additional information from the MHRA on its review of rare cases of thrombosis/thrombocytopenia that have been reported in adults, before giving any further vaccinations in the trial. Parents and children should continue to attend all scheduled visits and can contact the trial sites if they have any questions.”
What we’re reading
Many children with serious inflammatory syndrome had no COVID symptoms (New York Times)
Regulators walk fine line assessing AstraZeneca vaccine (Politico)
What Covid means for the athlete’s heart (Kaiser Health News)
U.S. bet big on Covid vaccine manufacturer even as problems mounted (New York Times)
State by state
Missouri ‘voted for this lie,’ says state rep trying to block Medicaid expansion (Kaiser Health News)
Boston’s hospital chiefs moonlight on corporate boards at rates far beyond the national level (Boston Globe)
California once again delays launch of a closely watched prescription drug purchasing program (STAT)