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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Cerberus Capital Management has agreed to sell control of community hospital group Steward Health Care back to the company, as first reported by the New York Times and confirmed by Axios.

Why it matters: This would make Steward one of the country's largest physician-owned and operated companies. It also marks the end of a 10-year ownership period for Cerberus, which was most recently marked by threats to shutter a Pennsylvania hospital in March, despite the pandemic, if the facility didn't receive state bailout funds.

  • The bottom line: Dallas-based Steward has 37 hospitals across nine states, employing more than 42,000 people, plus a network of 42 skilled nursing facilities and over 25 urgent care centers.

Go deeper

Updated Aug 4, 2020 - Axios Events

Watch: How hospitals have responded to the pandemic

On Tuesday, August 4 Axios health care reporter Caitlin Owens hosted a virtual event on how hospitals have been responding to the coronavirus pandemic, from getting PPE to building the future of resilient health systems, featuring Atrium Health CEO Eugene Woods, K Health co-founder & CEO Allon Bloch and Columbia University Medical Center professor and FemInEm founder Dr. Dara Kass.

Allon Bloch argued that a rise in the usage of telemedicine presents an opportunity for people to reimagine how the U.S. health care system can be more efficient and cost-effective.

  • On integrating more data analysis into medicine: "There's a massive opportunity to give people a much more nuanced approach to medicine, a much more personalized one, based on information [from] their own personal history or from similar situations...It's a little bit overlooked in medicine."
  • On how telemedicine can positively impact the health care system: "There's a lot of people that are either not insured or underinsured. They have really high deductibles. They can't afford doctors...[telemedicine] can give people access to really high quality primary care at a much lower cost."

Eugene Woods discussed his company's "virtual hospitals" and how this model has the potential to reduce overflow into physical hospitals.

  • On his company's "virtual hospital" treating COVID-19 patients: "We've treated about 13,000 patients in our virtual hospital and only three percent have had to be transferred or admitted from the virtual hospital into [a physical] hospital."
  • On reducing disparities in COVID-19 testing: "[Coronavirus] has laid bare the racial disparities that have existed in these communities for decades...Back in March, we realized there were disparities in terms of testing. So we have roving medical vans and went into those [affected] communities. We so far have hit about 55 different community host sites."

Dr. Dara Kass unpacked her experience of working in the ICUs in New York City during the initial COVID-19 outbreak, and how safety measures like masks and social distancing impacted the rate and spread of the virus.

  • How wearing masks reduces the volume of COVID-19 patients coming to the ICU: "We saw the effects of our work of social distancing and wearing masks as early as April take effect pretty dramatically...We also saw the peak come down as almost as quickly as it went up."
  • How this crisis compounds existing gender inequities: "Our child care crisis was bad before, pay inequity was bad before — it's exacerbated by this at this moment. We're worried about frontline healthcare workers now, not even being able to go back to work because of the fact that child care will be inaccessible and schools are probably not going to open."

Thank you Philips for sponsoring this event.

Updated 2 hours ago - Health

NYC firefighters union urges members to defy mayor's vaccine mandate

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

The president of New York City's firefighters union told reporters Wednesday that he's advised unvaccinated members to ignore Mayor Bill de Blasio's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers, per Reuters.

Why it matters: Under de Blasio's order that's due to take effect Friday, unvaccinated city employees would be placed on unpaid leave. But Uniformed Firefighters Association head Andrew Ansbro said he told members that "if they choose to remain unvaccinated, they must still report for duty," according to Reuters.

4 hours ago - Health

Study: Common antidepressant guards against COVID hospitalization

A COVID-19 intensive Care Unit in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on May 27, 2021. Photo: Fabio Teixeira/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The readily available antidepressant fluvoxamine significantly reduced COVID-related hospitalizations, according to a large study published Wednesday.

Why it matters: The clinical trial suggests that a cheap, readily available drug could dramatically reduce serious illness and death when prescribed early.