Why it matters: The U.S. faces a range of health care flashpoints — unaffordable drugs, opioids, vaping — as we debate whether to adopt universal care. For now, the Affordable Care Act is the law of the land, but Republicans want to issue it a final death blow.
🏥 Hospitals: The second quarter for Universal Health Services was so profitable that it returned $189 million in federal coronavirus bailout funds. But executives cautioned higher COVID cases may lead to labor shortages.
Providers can breathe a sigh of relief: Congress isn't planning on repurposing unspent money from the pandemic provider relief fund, at least not yet.
Driving the news: The White House finally reached an infrastructure deal with a bipartisan group of senators yesterday, paid for in part with health care policies.
The recent surge of COVID-19 cases is strengthening the case for more frequent testing.
Why it matters: The more contagious Delta variant threatens the fuller reopening of offices and schools in the fall. But regular testing — especially with cheap and almost instantaneous tests — could help catch cases before they have a chance to spread.
Pfizer said yesterday that it expects to sell nearly $34 billion worth of coronavirus vaccines this year — and there could be billions more behind that, if people who have gotten the shot ultimately need boosters.
Why it matters: It's unclear whether, when and for whom a coronavirus vaccine booster will be necessary. Pfizer has a lot of money riding on those answers, and executives are already making the case that many Americans will need a third dose.
Republican lawmakers across the United States are speaking out in opposition to Tuesday's recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that fully vaccinated people wear face masks in areas with high COVID transmission rates.
Why it matters: The Delta variant is driving up case rates across the country, with roughly 46% of counties across the U.S. currently classified as areas with high transmission rates.
The White House Office of Management and Budget told federal agencies they must require masks to be worn indoors regardless of vaccination status, according to an email reviewed by Axios.
State of play: OMB deputy director Jason Miller wrote that consistent with new mask guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "in areas of substantial or high community transmission," employees, contractors and visitors must wear a mask inside federal buildings.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revised its COVID-19 testing guidance for fully vaccinated people, recommending tests after exposure even if they don't show any symptoms.
Flashback: The agency previously said that fully vaccinated people did not need tests after coming into contact with an infected person unless they experienced symptoms.
State employees in New York will be required to either get vaccinated or submit to regular coronavirus testing starting on Labor Day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced on Wednesday.
The big picture: The announcement comes as some areas have reimposed coronavirus restrictions, as country continues to grapple with the spread of the highly-transmissive Delta variant.
Pfizer expects revenue from the COVID-19 vaccine, co-developed by BioNTech, will reach $33.5 billion this year — a 29% jump from the previously estimated $26 billion.
Why it matters: This vaccine, which has dramatically slowed the coronavirus pandemic, is on pace to be the world's top-selling drug of all time, by far. And now Pfizer is pushing for people to get a third "booster" shot of its vaccine to combat the growing Delta variant.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) plans to use money from his reelection campaign to run radio ads on over 100 Kentucky stations in the coming days to promote getting vaccinated for COVID-19, Reuters reports.
Why it matters: The most hardcore opponents of vaccination — the group who say they'll never get one — tend to be older, whiter and more Republican, according to an analysis of our Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.
Fully vaccinated travelers from the European Union and the U.S. will no longer need to quarantine when arriving in England, effective Aug. 2 at 4 a.m. local time, the U.K. government announced Wednesday.
Why it matters: It's a reflection of the British government's confidence in its highly successful COVID-19 vaccine rollout, despite the spread of the Delta variant. The move stands in stark contrast to the Biden administration's continued refusal to lift restrictions for travelers from the U.K. and Europe.
Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb said on CNBC Wednesday that he believes the updated CDC mask guidance will have a "negligible impact" on the spread of the Delta variant, arguing that "we're not going to get enough bang for our buck" by telling vaccinated people to wear masks at all times.
Why it matters: Vaccinated people's risk of serious illness is still extremely low. But because there are simply too many unvaccinated Americans, the Biden administration is asking vaccinated people to shoulder some of the burden by resuming wearing masks, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.
Despite Hillsborough County's COVID positivity rate hitting an all-time high, many families and students are demanding that masks stay optional for the coming school year.
What’s happening: Public testimony at the county's school board meeting on Tuesday was largely dominated by people opposed to a mask mandate, even though no mask decision was on the agenda.
The Biden administration is essentially asking vaccinated Americans to help save the unvaccinated from themselves.
The big picture: America's "pandemic of the unvaccinated" has gotten bad enough that vaccine mandates are starting to catch on, and masks are coming back — in some cases, even for the vaccinated.
The most hardcore opponents of coronavirus vaccination — the group who say they'll never get one — tend to be older, whiter and more Republican than the unvaccinated Americans who are still persuadable, according to an analysis of our Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.
Why it matters: As the Delta variant triggers more COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths, mostly among the unvaccinated, the Biden administration and even some high-profile GOP political and media figures are trying to figure out how to nudge the country's vaccination rate higher.
Biden administration officials are debating how to expand vaccine mandates for some federal civilian health care workers as they prepare to put more testing pressure — and requirements — on the rest of the federal workforce.
Why it matters: With the Delta variant surging across the country, officials are exploring ways to persuade or pressure Americans hesitant or downright opposed to getting a coronavirus vaccine.
A Maryland man has been arrested on suspicion of sending repeated threats to harm Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, according to a newly unsealed criminal complaint.
Why it matters: Having advised two administrations on the COVID-19 pandemic, Fauci has become a target for conspiracy theorists and others with a political agenda. He had to have security stepped up in the spring of 2020 due to threats made to him — as noted in the complaint against Thomas Patrick Connally, Jr., 56.