Overnight Health Care – Free Test Kit Website Now Live

Welcome to Tuesday night health care, where we follow the latest developments in policies and news concerning your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

A candidate for the Senate in Louisiana posted an ad intended to go viral, showing him smoking marijuana in order to highlight the racial imbalance of marijuana laws and arrests.

The White House launched an unofficial website today to order free COVID-19 tests… and it generally went well, although some issues did arise with people living in apartments or duplexes.

For The Hill, we are Peter Sullivan ([email protected]) and Nathaniel Weixel ([email protected]). Write to us with tips and comments, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4 and @NateWeixel

Let’s start.

You can now order free rapid tests online

After weeks of selling rapid tests at pharmacies, Americans now have an easier option than browsing local retailers: a new government website that sends tests to your home.

COVIDTests.gov went live on Tuesday in a “limited capacity” to resolve any issues before an official launch on Wednesday, the White House said.

Any American can order rapid tests for free through the website, and they will be delivered by the US Postal Service. All that is required is a name and mailing address; no credit card information is required.

But there are important limitations: Each residential address is limited to four tests. And tests will typically take seven to 12 days to ship, the White House said.

President BidenJoe BidenMadame Tussauds unveils new numbers on Biden and Harris US concerned about Russian troop movements to Belarus Putin tests model to invade Ukraine, foiling Biden diplomats MORE faced pressure to expand access to testing given shortages of rapid tests at retailers, as well as long queues at testing sites.

Many experts say that The White House should have acted months ago to set up the type of free rapid test program that is being launched.

With a limit of four tests per address, the website alone won’t provide the kind of frequent testing that many experts have called for.

Other option: As of Saturday, mutuals are equally now required cover up to eight rapid tests per month, although this process can be cumbersome as it often requires people to pay up front and then submit their receipts for reimbursement by their insurer.

Learn more here.

Pfizer says antiviral is effective against omicron

LAB studies show that Paxlovid, Pfizer’s COVID-19 treatment pill, is effective against the omicron variant, the company announced Tuesday.

Pfizer said three separate lab studies have shown that nirmatrelvir, the drug’s primary protease inhibitor, maintains its effectiveness against omicron. A protease inhibitor is a class of drugs that prevent a virus from replicating.

Pfizer announced the results in a press release and said it was submitting them to preprint medical journals.

The emergence of the omicron variant has led to questions about the effectiveness of Paxlovid, as well as other COVID-19 treatments, as the variant has many more mutations than previous strains.

Paxlovid is seen as a major step forward in the fight against the virus, with trials showing it reduces the risk of hospitalization or death by 89% in high-risk patients. Some experts have suggested that because the drug is a protease inhibitor, it won’t be as mutation-limited as other types of treatments.

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration cleared Paxlovid for use in high-risk patients. The fact that Paxlovid is a pill rather than an injection, as in previous treatments, should make it more accessible and easier to take.

Learn more here.

AT LEAST 20 PERCENT OF AMERICANS HAVE BEEN INFECTED WITH CORONAVIRUS

At least 20% of Americans have now been infected with COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Data shows more than 66,400,000 Americans have been infected with the coronavirus since the pandemic began in early 2020. The country has recorded more than 850,000 deaths.

The total number of Americans with COVID-19 could be much higher due to asymptomatic cases.

About 63% of the population is now fully immunized, though that number varies widely by locality — from around 48% in Alabama and Wyoming to nearly 87% in Washington, DC.

The omicron variant now spreading across the country has been shown to be much more transmissible than previous strains, even among vaccinated populations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the variant accounts for 98% of all new infections.

Learn more here.

WHO OFFICIAL: THE WORLD HAS ‘A CHANCE TO END’ THE WORST OF COVID-19 THIS YEAR

If inequities in medicines and vaccines are quickly addressed, the world has a “chance to end” the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic this year, a senior World Health Organization official said on Tuesday. (WHO).

Michael Ryan, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, told a panel hosted by the World Economic Forum that the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, including lockdown measures and deaths caused by COVID-19, would continue if resources like the vaccine were not evenly distributed between corporations and governments, The Associated Press reported.

However, he noted that “we have a chance of ending the public health emergency this year if we do the things we’ve been talking about.”

Ryan blamed “disruption to our social, economic and political systems” for causing the pandemic hardship facing many citizens around the world, “not the virus”, according to the outlet.

“What we need to do is achieve low levels of disease incidence with maximum vaccination of our populations, so that no one has to die,” the WHO official said.

WHO officials have criticized wealthier countries for not doing a better job of prioritizing getting initial doses of vaccines to poorer countries over distributing boosters to their own citizens .

Learn more here.

Supreme Court rejects bid to block mask mandate on planes

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request to block a federal mask mandate for air travel.

The emergency request was filed by a father on behalf of himself and his 4-year-old autistic son, who both claim to be medically unable to wear masks for long periods of time.

Their request was filed in court. Neil GorsuchNeil GorsuchSupreme Court rejects bid to block mask mandate on planesSupreme Court agrees to hear case on suspension of HS coach for on-field prayers Supreme Court, Immunization and Government By Fox News MORE, which handles emergency claims arising in several western states, and referred the case to the full court. The judges dismissed the request with no comment or dissent noted.

Another man, Lucas Wall, joined the father-son challengers, who sought to raise funds and publicity through his legal efforts targeting the federal mandate for transport masks. Last month, Chief Justice John Roberts unilaterally dismissed a separate challenge filed by the group.

The court’s decision comes less than a week after judges voted 6-3 to block a vaccine or testing mandate for most employers.

Learn more here.

WHAT WE READ

  • The public library is the last place to pick up a coronavirus test. Librarians are overwhelmed (Washington Post)
  • As hospitals face blood shortage, senators call for new donor rules for gay and bisexual men (The 19and)
  • People hide that their unvaccinated loved ones died of COVID (Atlantic)
  • Officials are struggling to regulate Covid pop-up testing sites – and are warning patients to beware (Kaiser Health News)

STATE BY STATE

  • Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, Texas nursing facilities are facing worsening staffing shortages (KXAN)
  • California is spending more money on COVID-19 contact tracing, but is it too late? (news from mercury)
  • Illinois’ Cook County is bringing back 3 mass vaccination sites amid appointment shortages (ABC 7)

OP-EDS ON THE HILL

Trump’s tariffs don’t cause post-COVID inflation

That’s all for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s healthcare page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow.

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