Welcome to Friday’s Overnight Health Care.
The CDC reversed its controversial guidance on testing of potentially asymptomatic people. President TrumpDonald John TrumpHR McMaster says president’s policy to withdraw troops from Afghanistan is ‘unwise’ Cast of ‘Parks and Rec’ reunite for virtual town hall to address Wisconsin voters Biden says Trump should step down over coronavirus response MORE said he expects enough vaccines to be available for every American by April. And experts warn wildfire smoke could make COVID-19 illness worse.
Let’s start with the CDC:
CDC reverses guidance on COVID-19 testing for asymptomatic people
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday revised controversial guidance that previously stated people without COVID-19 symptoms don’t necessarily need to be tested.
In updated guidance, the agency said: “If you have been in close contact, such as within 6 feet of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 15 minutes and don’t have symptoms you need a test.”
“Please consult with your healthcare provider or public health official. Testing is recommended for all close contacts of persons with SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the CDC added.
The agency faced significant backlash from public health officials, local health departments and members of Congress when it changed its guidance last month to state that people without symptoms “don’t necessarily need a test” even if they have had close contact with confirmed cases.
That language was deleted Friday and replaced with new text under a “clarifications” heading.
Why it matters: Local health departments argued not testing contacts of confirmed cases without symptoms would hurt contact tracing efforts. They urged the CDC to reverse the guidance, arguing that leaving it in place would force them to go against CDC advice.
CDC tells Congress it urgently needs $6 billion for vaccine distribution
This could be a problem: The CDC says it needs $6 billion for coronavirus vaccine distribution, but there’s no clear path for Congress to enact it.
The CDC had previously privately informed Congress of the need for more funds, according to congressional aides, but CDC Director Robert Redfield made the request public for the first time at a Senate hearing on Wednesday, calling it “urgent.”
“Right now we’ve leveraged about $600 million, but we do not have the resources to support 64 jurisdictions to get this plan operational, so to me it’s an urgency,” Redfield said.
“The time is now for us to be able to get those resources out to the state, and we currently don’t have those resources,” he added.
The problem: The need for vaccine distribution funding raises the stakes for Congress to come together on a broader coronavirus deal. While both parties support the vaccine funding, there is no clear path for enacting it outside of a larger deal, which has been stalled for months.
Trump says enough COVID-19 vaccines will be ready for every American by April
President Trump said Friday he expects there will be enough COVID-19 vaccines for every American by April.
“We’ll have manufactured at least 100 million vaccine doses before the end of the year and likely much more than that,” Trump said during a press briefing Friday.
“Hundreds of millions of doses will be available every month, and we expect to have enough vaccines for every American by April.”
No COVID-19 vaccine has been proven safe and effective yet by the Food & Drug Administration. But the U.S. has invested in seven potential vaccines, three of which are in phase three trials that will determine safety and effectiveness.
Dr. Anthony FauciAnthony FauciControversial CDC guidelines were written by HHS officials, not scientists: report Overnight Health Care: Ex-Pence aide backs Biden over virus response | Trump’s sharp words put CDC director on hot seat | Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers Trump coronavirus adviser threatens to sue Stanford researchers MORE, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has said the federal government should know by November whether any of the vaccines is safe and effective, with distribution to the general public between the first and third quarters of 2021.
Study examines danger of in-flight COVID-19 transmission
One person with COVID-19 infected 15 others during a long-haul flight from London to Vietnam in early March, according to a new analysis.
The study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was released ahead of its final publication in November, is one of the first to analyze the dangers of in-flight transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
The researchers identified a 27 year-old woman in business class as the primary source of the outbreak. The woman first developed a sore throat and cough on Feb. 29. She boarded the plane on March 1, and continued to experience those symptoms throughout the 10-hour flight.
She developed a fever, fatigue and shortness of breath upon arrival and was diagnosed with COVID-19 five days later.
The woman was the only symptomatic person on the flight, but researchers found she had infected 12 people in business class, two passengers in economy, and one flight attendant.
Concerning note: Transmission was clustered in business class, where seats are already more widely spaced than in economy class, and infection spread much further than the existing two-row or six-foot rule recommended for COVID-19 prevention.
Experts warn wildfire smoke could worsen COVID-19
Wildfires that have left parts of California and other Western states with some of the worst air quality in the world are posing a major threat to people with asthma and other underlying health conditions who are already at greater risk of serious COVID-19 complications.
Exposure to wildfire smoke can weaken immune systems and cause respiratory illnesses, and experts worry that combining those effects with the coronavirus could lead to more severe cases, even death.
As the pandemic continues to take its toll, having killed nearly 200,000 people in the U.S., the western part of the country is facing dual crises that could have a compounding effect.
“At the levels of air pollution we’re seeing in the Northwest now, it’s a matter of concern for everyone,” said David Hill, a spokesperson for the American Lung Association.
“So, certainly by itself, we’d be concerned. But with COVID circulating, having worse air quality might make it more likely for them to get infected and have worse disease with COVID-19,” he added.
Why it matters: Wildfires have been burning in Western states for weeks, and at least 34 people have died, according to the Associated Press. When wildfires burn they release pollutants that can worsen air quality, including one known as particulate matter, which inflames the lungs and has also been linked to heart issues. But it could be even more damaging when a disease like COVID-19, which affects the lungs among other organs, is spreading.
What we’re reading:
A deal on drug prices undone by White House insistence on ‘Trump cards’ (The New York Times)
McMaster professor embroiled in White House controversy over reports he attempted to muzzle scientists (Globe and Mail)
Republicans killed the ObamaCare mandate. New data shows it didn’t really matter. (The New York Times)
GOP candidates turn to their families to deflect Democratic attacks on health care (CNN)
State by state
Maryland lab stops use of much-touted coronavirus tests from South Korea after spate of false positive results (Baltimore Sun)
Six months into COVID-19 pandemic, Alabama sees some respite in hospitalizations (Montgomery Advertiser)
When COVID testing was scarce, CDC director pulled strings to get Adam Laxalt tested (Reno Gazette Journal)