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.

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30 mins ago - Health

Ex-FDA chief predicts CDC mask guidance will have "negligible impact"

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.

School masking reemerges as pandemic fault line across Florida

Families protest masks outside the Hillsborough County school board meeting. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

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.

3 hours ago - Health

The new mask logic

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

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.

4 hours ago - Health

Understanding the unvaccinated

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Data: Axios-Ipsos Poll; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

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 weighing tailored vaccine mandates

Vice President Kamala Harris resumed wearing a mask indoors on Tuesday. Photo: Ken Cedeno/CNP/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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.

Maryland man accused of threatening to kill Fauci and his family

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during a May Senate hearing in Washington, D.C. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

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.

Updated 16 hours ago - Health

CDC: Vaccinated people in COVID hotspots should resume wearing masks

CDC director Rochelle Walensky and top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci at a Senate HELP committee hearing. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite-Pool/Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued updated guidance on Tuesday recommending that vaccinated people wear masks in indoor, public settings if they are in parts of the U.S. with substantial to high transmission, among other circumstances.

Why it matters: The guidance, a reversal from recommendations made two months ago, comes as the Delta variant continues to drive up case rates across the country. Millions of people in the U.S. — either by choice or who are ineligible — remain unvaccinated and at risk of serious infection.

18 hours ago - Health

Cal State universities mandate COVID-19 vaccination for students, faculty

Students and parents walk on campus during move-in day at San Diego State University in San Diego, California on Aug. 21. Photo: Bing Guan/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The California State University system announced Tuesday it will require students, faculty and staff on-campus this fall to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Why it matters: The school system is the nation's largest four-year public university system, with about 485,550 students on 23 campuses. Tuesday's decision came without the Food and Drug Administration's full approval of the vaccine.

20 hours ago - Health

Biogen pulled Aduhelm paper after JAMA demanded edits

Biogen has yet to publish aducanumab trial results in a peer-reviewed journal. Photo: Biogen

Biogen recently submitted a paper to JAMA, a top medical research journal, that analyzed results from the clinical trials of its new Alzheimer's drug, Aduhelm. However, Biogen later withdrew the paper because JAMA considered rejecting it unless edits were made, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

Why it matters: The FDA's decision to approve Aduhelm has been mired in controversy; experts say there simply isn't strong enough data to show the drug works. And it appears medical journal reviewers also weren't sold on Biogen's interpretation of the data.

Jul 27, 2021 - Health

Study: Expanding Medicare eligibility may shrink racial disparities

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Medicare helps to reduce racial and ethnic disparities and close gaps in insurance coverage, a new study in JAMA Network shows.

Why it matters: This raises the possibility that expanding the program could further reduce health disparities — a timely idea, as Senate Democrats debate lowering the Medicare eligibility age and broadening its benefits.

Jul 27, 2021 - Health

Companies won't stress to find opioids settlement cash

Data: Company filings; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

Since 2016, the four companies involved in the latest opioid settlement — Johnson & Johnson, McKesson, AmerisourceBergen and Cardinal Health — have funneled a combined $100 billion to shareholders through stock buybacks and dividends.

Why it matters: If that's any indication, those companies won't have much trouble paying off a combined $26 billion settlement agreement.

Jul 27, 2021 - Health

The floodgates have opened for vaccine mandates

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

State governments, private businesses and even part of the federal government are suddenly embracing mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for their employees.

Why it matters: Vaccine mandates have been relatively uncommon in the U.S. But with vaccination rates stagnating and the Delta variant driving yet another wave of cases, there's been a new groundswell of support for such requirements.

Jul 27, 2021 - Health

Scoop: Pelosi’s new COVID plans

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi enters the Rose Garden on Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is expected to extend proxy voting through the fall — and potentially until the end of the year — Democratic lawmakers and aides tell Axios.

Why it matters: The spread of the Delta variant has alarmed both members and staffers anxious about interacting with the unvaccinated. Pelosi’s anticipated move — continuing an emergency COVID-19 measure enacted last year so lawmakers could vote remotely — is aimed at allaying those concerns.

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