Tuesday's health stories

The Thanksgiving bouncers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

No one really wants this job, but millions of households may need their own Thanksgiving bouncer. The cover charge is a negative COVID test, done ahead of arrival or outside the front door.

Why it matters: Normalizing rapid tests is a practical way to help extended families feel a little more normal around the holiday dinner table.

Jury holds pharmacies responsible in groundbreaking opioids case

Photo: Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A federal jury said Tuesday that Walgreens, CVS and Walmart recklessly distributed pain pills in two Ohio counties and played a hand in the hundreds of overdose deaths that plagued the communities, AP reports.

Why it matters: It's the first verdict for pharmacy companies in a case involving the opioid crisis, per AP. The verdict — with a judge set to rule on damages this spring — could set a precedent for other local governments that seek to hold pharmacies accountable.

Nov 23, 2021 - Health

Biden administration asks appeals court to reinstate vaccine mandate

Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

The Biden administration on Tuesday asked a federal appeals court in Cincinnati to lift a block on a national mandate that requires companies to ensure that employees are vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested weekly.

Why it matters: The government's 52-page motion comes more than a week after a panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans issued a stay on the rule, writing that it "grossly exceeds [the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's] statutory authority" to regulate hazards within the workplace.

Nov 23, 2021 - Health

Private equity firms buy Athenahealth, again

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Private equity firms Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman acquired Athenahealth, an electronic health records vendor for physician practices, for $17 billion.

Why it matters: This is one of the largest leveraged buyouts of the year, and it means the previous private equity firms that took Athenahealth private in 2018 — Veritas Capital and Evergreen Coast Capital, a subsidiary of Elliott Management— tripled their investment.

Nov 23, 2021 - Health

Booster snafu: Shots lagged data by months

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Federal officials waited months before making all American adults eligible for a COVID-19 booster shot — meaning millions of Americans may not have the strongest possible protection as they head into holiday travel.

Why it matters: Critics say the confusing process undermined what has now become a critical effort to stave off another wave of the pandemic.

Axios-Ipsos poll: Thanksgiving roulette

Expand chart
Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Two-in-three Americans will celebrate this Thanksgiving with friends or family outside their immediate households, and about half of those say their gatherings could include unvaccinated people, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: Vaccinations and booster shots are giving more people confidence to resume traditions like sitting around a packed table with masks off. But many are doing so with heightened awareness of what they don't know when it comes to their holiday companions.

Nov 22, 2021 - World

Kenya imposes widespread COVID restrictions on the unvaccinated

Staff members unload China-donated COVID-19 vaccines at an airport in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: Li Yan/Xinhua via Getty Images

Unvaccinated people in Kenya will be denied access to many businesses, restaurants and government offices starting next month, the country's Health Ministry announced Monday.

The big picture: Less than 5% of Kenya's population is fully vaccinated, and the new measures are meant to address a slowdown in vaccinations in certain regions of the country, Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe wrote.

More than 90% of federal workers got COVID shot before deadline

A health care worker preparing a dose of coronavirus vaccine in Oklahoma City, Okla., on Nov. 17. Photo: Nick Oxford/Bloomberg via Getty Images

More than 90% of the 3.5 million federal workers received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by Monday, the deadline set by President Biden in September, a senior administration official told Axios.

Why it matters: The official said the administration hopes that private businesses can use the federal government's worker vaccine mandate as an example to implement their own requirements for workers.

Tina Reed, author of Vitals
Nov 22, 2021 - Health

Experts criticize CDC's language on COVID vaccine boosters

Screenshot: @CDCgov (Twitter)

While public health experts largely cheered the expansion of U.S. COVID booster recommendations to all adults, the language they used raised some eyebrows.

Driving the news: CDC director Rochelle Walensky on Friday accepted a key advisory committee's recommendation that adults "may" get a booster dose. Those at higher risk for poor COVID outcomes have been told they "should" get another shot.

Nov 22, 2021 - Health

U.K. extends COVID booster shots to over-40s

Health Secretary Sajid Javid (C) visiting to a pop-up vaccination site in west London in July. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images

The U.K. government is expanding its COVID-19 vaccine booster program in an attempt to avoid following other European countries in imposing restrictions to counter coronavirus surges, per Bloomberg.

What's happening: Health Secretary Sajid Javid said that everyone over the age of 40 could get a booster shot from Monday.

Nov 22, 2021 - Health

Fauci: Families vaccinated against COVID can enjoy holidays maskless

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies during a Senate hearing earlier this month. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told CNN Sunday that families fully vaccinated against COVID-19 "absolutely" don't need to wear masks when gathering for the holidays.

What he's saying: "That's what I'm going to do with my family," Fauci told CNN's Dana Bash when she asked him if it was possible for fully vaccinated families to gather for Christmas without wearing face masks.