Friday's health stories

Oct 16, 2020 - Health

Vaccine timeline "to ensure public trust"

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Pfizer says people might start getting COVID-19 vaccines before the end of the year, according to a timeline it laid out Friday.

The state of play: By the end of October, the company said it hopes to know whether the vaccine is effective, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Oct 16, 2020 - Health

Davidson freezes college tuition because of COVID-19

Davidson, the private college in North Carolina, will freeze tuition and fees next year in response to the coronavirus pandemic, President Carol Quillen told students via email.

Why it matters: It's the school's first freeze in 25 years. Davidson has need-blind admission and costs just over $70,000 a year (the school's average financial aid package is roughly $49,000 a year).

Oct 16, 2020 - Health

Trump administration announces deal with CVS, Walgreens to give COVID-19 vaccine to seniors

Photo: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Trump administration announced an agreement on Friday with CVS and Walgreens to distribute coronavirus vaccines to seniors and staff in long-term care facilities for free.

Why it matters: The move could help the president move up in the polls with elderly voters. Seniors, who have been significantly impacted by the virus, helped Trump get elected in 2016, but recent polls have indicated that the group swung sharply against him and toward Joe Biden.

Updated Oct 16, 2020 - Health

U.S. coronavirus updates

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Data: The COVID Tracking Project; Note: Does not include probable deaths from New York City; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The U.S. surpassed 8 million coronavirus cases on Friday, per Johns Hopkins data.

The big picture: Coronavirus infections jumped by almost 17% over the past week as the number of new cases across the country increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C., according to a seven-day average tracked by Axios.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Oct 16, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Operation Warp Speed leader hasn't spoken with Biden team

Moncef Slaoui speaking at the White House. Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images.

Moncef Slaoui knows his job helping lead Operation Warp Speed may not be over by inauguration day, but tells the Axios Re:Cap podcast that hasn't yet spoken with anyone on Team Biden about vaccine development or deployment.

Why it matters: It could behoove the country for an incoming Biden administration to hit the ground running on the inherited pandemic crisis, much like both Barrack Obama and John McCain were invited into financial crisis talks by George W. Bush in the closing months of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Go deeper: Moncef Slaoui on the new vaccine timeline.

Oct 16, 2020 - Podcasts

Operation Warp Speed's Moncef Slaoui on the new vaccine timeline

Pfizer today said it won't apply for an emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine until late November, all but guaranteeing that the FDA won't be asked to consider approval until after the election.

Axios Re:Cap goes deeper with Moncef Slaoui, the White House's top scientific advisor to Operation Warp Speed, the public-private partnership created to get a coronavirus vaccine deployed and developed.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 16, 2020 - Health

A vast majority of Americans love pre-existing conditions protections

Reproduced from KFF; Chart: Axios Visuals

The vast majority — nearly eight in 10 — of Americans don't want to the Supreme Court to overturn the Affordable Care Act's pre-existing conditions protections, according to a KFF poll.

Yes, but: Only 58% of Americans say the same about the law in its entirety, with the gap between the two positions largest among Republicans.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 16, 2020 - Health

How colleges have learned to combat the coronavirus

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Some colleges are creating a blueprint for how to safely remain open during the coronavirus pandemic, relying heavily on regular testing and doing what they can to curb parties and other large gatherings.

Why it matters: College reopenings were tied to several big outbreaks, and young adults will likely be among the last to receive a coronavirus vaccine. So colleges and students need figure out how to live amid the virus.

Oct 16, 2020 - Health

U.S. reports over 63,000 daily COVID-19 cases

A health worker handling a coronavirus test sample Oct. 15 in Roxbury, Mass. Photo: Matt Stone/MediaNews Group/Boston Herald

The U.S. reported 63,172 new coronavirus cases on Thursday, the nation's highest daily count since July 31 when it saw more than 66,000 new cases in a single day, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

Why it matters: Over 37,000 people are currently being hospitalized due to the virus in the U.S., while the country reported 951 new deaths from the virus. COVID-19 infections jumped by almost 17% over the past week as the number of new cases increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C.

Go deeper: The United States' stubbornly high coronavirus death rate

Oct 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Christie says he was in ICU, admits he was "wrong not to wear mask" at White House

Christie arrives before Trump speaks to a news conference in the Briefing Room of the White House on Sept. 27. Photo: Joshua Roberts/Getty Images

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) told the New York Times on Thursday that he spent several days in the intensive care unit after checking into the hospital with COVID-19, and that he was "wrong not to wear a mask" at the White House.

Driving the news: Christie, 58, appears to have contracted COVID-19 in the White House coronavirus outbreak, which saw positive tests from President Trump, first lady Melania Trump and more than a dozen others.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Oct 15, 2020 - World

Special report: Europe braces for monster 2nd coronavirus wave

Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

The pandemic has come storming back to Europe, and hope of a return to normality is being replaced by a much more ominous prospect: the return to lockdown.

The big picture: Case counts in countries like France and Spain have skyrocketed past the numbers seen during the spring peak. While that’s partially due to more widespread testing, it’s now clear that deaths are climbing too.

Trump baselessly accuses Fauci of being a "Democrat"

President Trump again criticized Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, during a campaign rally in North Carolina on Thursday, claiming without evidence that the NIAID director is "a Democrat," and accusing him of downplaying the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Since the onset of the pandemic, Trump has repeatedly undermined Fauci, who has five decades of public service, describes himself as apolitical and is not registered with either party. In public statements and tweets, Trump has accused Fauci of blundering the government's response to the virus.

Trump says he doesn't get COVID-19 tests "every day"

President Trump told Fox Business on Thursday that he's tested for the coronavirus "a lot," but "not every day."

Why it matters: The White House relied heavily on testing as a protective measure against COVID-19, but critics began raising questions about that strategy after the president and at least a dozen other staffers and members of the press corps tested positive earlier this month.

Oct 15, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Harris pauses campaign travel after aide tests positive for coronavirus

Photo: Erin Schaff/Pool/Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) will pause her travel through Sunday after her communications director tested positive for the coronavirus, the Biden campaign announced Thursday.

The state of play: The campaign said that the vice presidential nominee, who tested negative for the virus on Wednesday, was "not in close contact" with the aide, Liz Allen, under CDC guidelines. She will still pause her travel "out of an abundance of caution and in line with [the] campaign's commitment to the highest levels of precaution," the campaign said.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 15, 2020 - Health

Medicaid enrollment projected to spike

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

States expect Medicaid enrollment to jump by 8.4% in fiscal year 2021, compared to 6.3% growth in fiscal year 2020, according to a new KFF brief. This growth is expected to be primarily driven by enrollment.

The big picture: The program is serving as a safety net for the millions of Americans who have lost access to their employer health insurance during the pandemic.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
Oct 15, 2020 - Health

Outpatient visits bounce back

Reproduced from The Commonwealth Fund; Chart: Axios Visuals

Outpatient visits have returned to their pre-pandemic levels after declining by nearly 60%, according to a new analysis by the Commonwealth Fund.

Why it matters: The massive drop-off in people seeking medical care was bad both for providers and for patients, many of whom delayed care for conditions that may have worsened.

Oct 15, 2020 - Health

Overdose deaths spiked in the first few months of 2020

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Overdose deaths increased by about 10% in the first three months of 2020, compared to the same time period last year, preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

What's next: The agency estimates the U.S. will suffer more than 75,500 drug-related deaths in 2020, surpassing last year's record.

Oct 15, 2020 - Health

How a conservative Supreme Court could save the ACA

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Even a solidly conservative Supreme Court could find a pretty easy path to preserve most of the Affordable Care Act — if it wants to.

The big picture: It’s too early to make any predictions about what the court will do, and no ACA lawsuit is ever entirely about the law. They have all been colored by the bitter political battles surrounding the ACA.

The coronavirus is surging again

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Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Note: After a database error, Missouri has not reported cases since Oct. 10; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise/Axios

Coronavirus infections jumped by almost 17% over the past week as the number of new cases increased in 38 states and Washington, D.C.

Why it matters: The U.S. is headed solidly in the wrong direction — and at a dangerous time, as experts say the fall and winter will likely make the pandemic worse. They had hoped we could get cases under control before then, but that seems unrealistic.

Oct 15, 2020 - World

European countries push to combat coronavirus second wave without lockdowns

Police conduct coronavirus regulations checks in Hamburg, Germany. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced new measures Thursday, as the country reported a record number of new cases. Photo: Axel Heimken/picture alliance via Getty Images

Germany on Thursday became the latest European country to announce new restrictions this week amid record coronavirus case numbers. But governments are seeking to avoid a second round of nationwide lockdowns.

Why it matters: Widespread lockdowns to contain the spread of the virus have devastated economies around the world.

Oct 15, 2020 - Health

UnitedHealth's profit declines as more people see doctors

A health care worker prepares to care for a coronavirus patient in a hospital ICU. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

UnitedHealth Group's profit in the third quarter dipped 10% as people sought health care at rates "more closely approaching normal," executives said on an earnings call today.

Yes, but: UnitedHealth's quarterly earnings still hit $3.2 billion, and even though the health insurance division is paying more in medical claims, more people also are going to doctors' practices, urgent care facilities and surgery centers owned by UnitedHealth.