Commentary: The Rise of Intersectionality in Medicine Will Have Serious Consequences

In early October, my alma mater made headlines after it decided to fire chemistry professor Dr. Maitland Jones Jr. after 82 of his students signed a petition noting that his organic chemistry class was “too hard.” The students accused Jones of purposely making the class difficult, citing that their low scores negatively impacted their “well-being,” and their chances of getting into medical school. Instead of evaluating the rigor and substance of Jones’ curriculum, NYU justified its hasty action by noting the class’s unfavorable student reviews. This type of judgment would never pass in the fields of architecture, aerial engineering, or even the food service industry; why is it permissible here?

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Arizona Ends COVID Emergency Declaration

With many of his executive orders enshrined into law, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has opted to end the state’s COVID-19 emergency declaration. 

The governor terminated the declaration as thresholds set by state agencies show the threat of the disease is nowhere near what it once was. 

“Thanks to the hard work of many – health care workers, businesses, public and private sector employees – COVID-19 is no longer an emergency in Arizona,” Ducey said. “This virus isn’t completely gone, but because of the vaccine and other life-saving measures, today, we are better positioned to manage and mitigate it.” 

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Minnesota Senate Passes Nurse Licensure Compact Bill

Woman healthcare worker in purple scrubs and hairnet on

Minnesota taxpayers will pay $157,000 in fiscal year 2023 from its special revenue fund to the Board of Nursing to join the Nurse Licensure Compact if SF 2302 becomes law.

The base of the appropriation is $6,000 in fiscal year 2024 and $6,000 in fiscal year 2025, according to the bill, which the Senate passed in a 35-32 vote Monday. A motion to re-refer the bill to the Civil Law and Data Practices Policy committee was struck down in a 31-36 vote.

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$800M Opioid Settlement to Start Paying Out in 2022

pill bottles spilled onto a table

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined local leaders to announce the next steps of Michigan’s anticipated receipt of $800 million opioid settlements over the next 18 years. 

The settlement includes the nation’s three major pharmaceutical distributors – Cardinal, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen – and opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson.

“I took legal action once I took office to try to recoup money for the devastating impact that the opioid epidemic has had on the communities across our state,” Nessel said in a statement. “I am pleased to see our work pay off with this historic settlement that will bring Michigan communities millions of dollars to support abatement efforts. I know that no amount of money will make whole the thousands of Michigan families impacted by opioids, but this is an important victory in a hard-fought battle.”

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Bill Proposes Minnesota Join 19 States with Co-Pay Caps for Insulin

Two Minnesota DFL legislators announced a bill to cap state-regulated health plans’ co-pays for certain prescription drugs at $25 per month.

The bill Rep. Michael Howard, DFL-Richfield, and Sen. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, if passed, HF 3592, would apply the caps to drugs and medical supplies that treat severe allergic reactions and chronic conditions, such as diabetes and asthma. The bill would become effective in 2023.

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Michigan County to Repeal School Mask Mandate

students working on school work and wearing masks

The Ingham County Health Department will repeal its mask mandate on Feb. 19 at midnight for thousands of students.

“We are at a point in this pandemic in which public health strategies will begin to shift more towards personal responsibility as we learn to live with COVID-19 long-term,” Ingham County Health Officer Linda Vail said in a statement. “As a public health agency, we will continue to support local school districts by recommending evidence-based public health measures, educating on current guidance and practices, and making recommendations for staying safe and healthy.”

The emergency orders issued on Sept. 2, 2021, require masks in schools and details quarantine and isolation rules.

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Group ‘White Coats 4 Black Lives’ Aims to Dismantle Racism in Medicine and Dentistry, Issues ‘Racial Justice Report Card’

woman with microphone speaking to a crowd

On Jan. 26, the group “White Coats 4 Black Lives,” an organization with a mission to “dismantle racism in medicine and fight for the health of Black people,” gave the University of Rochester’s School of Medicine & Dentistry its “Racial Justice Report Card.” 

The result was nine “F” grades based on campus activity and administration policies during the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Founded in 2014, White Coats 4 Black Lives has 75 chapters at universities across the nation and pushes the Black Lives Matter agenda within medical schools. 

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Northwoods Congressman Wants to Ban Race-Based Coronavirus Treatments

Tom Tiffany

One of Wisconsin’s Republican congressmen wants to ban racial-scoring in deciding who gets the new coronavirus antiviral pills.

Northwoods U.S. Rep. Tom Tiffany on Thursday introduced legislation that would prohibit the federal government and the states from discriminating against or giving preference to any person based on race when it comes to the distribution of, or access to, medical treatment.

“Denying life-saving medical care to Americans based on skin color is wrong, it is illegal, and it is un-American,” Tiffany said.

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In Wisconsin, Questions About ‘Equity,’ and Race Eligibility for New Coronavirus Pills Remain Unanswered

There are no real explanations as to how race and “equity” will come into play in deciding who gets the new coronavirus antiviral pills.

Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services earlier this month said “equity” would be at the heart of the state’s strategy to distribute the new pills from Pfizer and Merck.

“We are committed to distributing these pills equitably across the state, and access will increase as Wisconsin receives more allocations from the federal government,” DHS said in a statement.

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After Missouri Gov. Parson Lets Emergency COVID Orders Expire, Pandemic Task Force Asks for Reinstatement

Mike Parson

Days after Republican Gov. Mike Parson let emergency COVID-19 orders expire on Dec. 31, Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reported significant increases in COVID-19 infections.

The DHSS dashboard on Monday showed 35,067 new confirmed cases during the last seven days, an 88.8% increase compared to the previous seven-day total. The seven-day positivity rate was 27.3%, an increase of 11.7 percentage points compared to the previous seven-day total. Many health organizations and agencies consider a positivity rate higher than 5 or 10% to be a predictor of rampant spread of sickness, resulting in increased hospitalizations and deaths.

“Thanks to the effectiveness of the vaccine, widespread efforts to mitigate the virus, and our committed health care professionals, past needs to continue the state of emergency are no longer present,” Parson said in a statement on Dec. 30, 2021. “Over the last 22 months, we have coordinated with local, state, and private partners to mitigate COVID-19 and work towards returning to normalcy. We all now know how to best fight and prevent serious illness from this virus. The State stands ready to provide assistance and response, but there is no longer a need for a state of emergency.”

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Commentary: Dismissals of Safe Outpatient Drugs Cause Needless COVID Deaths According to Doctors

For the first nine months of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no officially approved outpatient treatments for combating the disease. From March 2020, when the virus first emerged in the United States, until that November, when the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of monoclonal antibodies, health authorities advised that the infected do little but quarantine themselves, drink plenty of fluids and rest unless hospitalization was necessary.

During those chaotic final months of Donald Trump’s presidency, the medical establishment expressed extreme caution regarding outpatient treatments for the virus, and these warnings were amplified by major media hostile to the president, for example when he touted the anti-malaria medicine hydroxychloroquine.

Although an estimated 12% to 38% of prescriptions are written for FDA-approved drugs used “off-label” (including Botox and Viagra), Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, declared early on that providers should dispense only medicines proven to be safe and effective for COVID patients through “randomized, placebo-controlled trials.” These can take months or years to conduct, and often at great cost.

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Ohio National Guard Called to Help with Hospital Staffing Shortages

Military men in uniform, on the steps of the National Mall in Washington D.C.

More than 1,000 Ohio National Guard members began working in hospitals across the state Monday to help combat what Gov. Mike DeWine called a growing strain caused by the rising number of COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The Ohio Department of Health also has begun working with a staffing company to bring more nurses and other providers from out of state to help ease pressure on current hospital staffs as the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has reached its highest level of the year.

“While the staff will be concentrated in the places where they are most needed, the entire state will feel relief as the arrangement supports the coordination of patient care that has been happening really since the beginning of this pandemic,” DeWine said at a news conference.

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Arizona Overdose Deaths Skyrocket in 2020

Spilled pill bottle on table top with a spoon underneath

New data released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show Arizonans turned to fatal doses of painkillers and other drugs amid the COVID-19 pandemic at a much higher rate than in other years. 

Overdose deaths in Arizona increased 33% to 2,743 from February 2020 to April 2021. Overdoses across the country increased 34% over the same time period. The change is a sharp uptick from years prior. From January 2015 to January 2020, the overdose death rate increased by 18%. 

According to CDC data, synthetic opioids such as Fentanyl accounted for nearly two-thirds of overdose deaths. Fentanyl is multiple times more potent than typical painkillers such as Oxycontin. The powerful opioid has become a popular drug to manufacture for the black market to smuggle across the southern border into California and Arizona, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency.

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Ohio Ranks As One of the Least Safe States in Terms of COVID

Man getting COVID vaccine

With rankings near the bottom in five key categories, Ohio stands as one of the least safe states during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recently released report.

WalletHub, a personal finance website, ranked Ohio the fifth-least safe state in the nation based on data from five key areas, including COVID-19 transmission, positive tests, hospitalizations, deaths and the percentage of the eligible population vaccinated.

Ohio’s highest ranking was in transmission rate, which still ranked 35th. Its death rate was 41st, while vaccination rate (42nd), positive test rate (43rd) and hospitalization rate (44th) were among the worst in the country.

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Newly Released Documents Show Fauci Was ‘Untruthful’ About Wuhan Coronavirus Research, Infectious Disease Expert Says

A trove of newly released documents detailing U.S.-funded coronavirus research in China prior to the COVID-19 pandemic shows that Dr. Anthony Fauci was “untruthful” when he claimed that his agency did not finance gain-of-research in Wuhan, an infectious disease expert said Sunday.

Documents published by The Intercept on Sunday show that Fauci’s organization, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), provided federal funds to the U.S. nonprofit group EcoHealth Alliance and the Wuhan Institute of Virology to construct laboratory-generated SARS and MERS-related coronaviruses that demonstrated enhanced pathogenicity in humanized mice cells, according to Rutgers University professor of chemical biology Richard Ebright.

“The documents make it clear that assertions by the [National Institutes of Health] Director, Francis Collins, and the NIAID Director, Anthony Fauci, that the NIH did not support gain-of-function research or potential pandemic pathogen enhancement at WIV are untruthful,” Ebright said in a tweet Sunday evening.

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European Union Health Agencies See ‘No Urgent Need’ for COVID-19 Boosters Among Fully Vaccinated

The two leading European health agencies determined Thursday that COVID-19 booster shots are not necessary for fully vaccinated individuals who do not have compromised immune systems.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the European Medicines Agency issued a statement saying the current priority should be vaccinating all eligible individuals. Booster shots should be considered only for those with compromised immune systems.

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Report: Top Health Officials Tell White House to Pause Vaccine Booster Plan

Top U.S. health officials told the White House pandemic coordinator on Thursday to scale back the Biden administration’s plan to administer the coronavirus booster shots to individuals in September, The New York Times reported.

Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey D. Zients that they need more time to collect and analyze the necessary data relating to the booster shots, The New York Times reported.

The doctors told Zients that their agencies might be able to determine whether to recommend boosters for recipients of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the coming weeks, according to the Times.

The two doctors presented their argument to Zients at a meeting on Thursday. It is unclear how Zients responded to the news.

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Gov. Whitmer Obtains $13 Million for Michigan Rural Hospitals

Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) secured a $13 million grant from the federal government to support COVID-19 testing and mitigation in 51 small, rural hospitals.

“Our top priority is supporting the brave professionals on the frontlines of our health care industry in every corner of our state to ensure that they have what they need to protect themselves, their family, and their neighbors,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This funding will help rural hospitals continue serving their communities by expanding their COVID-19 testing capacity and mitigation efforts. I want to thank the nurses, doctors, and all medical professionals who continue to go above and beyond to keep people safe each and every day.”

Rural hospitals with fewer than 50 staff will be able to use the funds from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration for testing equipment, personnel, temporary structures, or education. Mitigation strategies must follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) community mitigation framework, including education, contact tracing, communication, and outreach. Each hospital will receive about $257,000 that must be spent within 18 months of receipt.

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Critics Denounce New CDC Guidance Urging Mask Usage, Vaccine or Not

Guy wearing a mask

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed course Tuesday, reversing its previous COVID-19 guidance by urging Americans to wear masks, regardless of their vaccination status. Critics quickly denounced the reversal, saying it undermines vaccine confidence.

The CDC said all students and teachers should wear masks, even if they are vaccinated, and that all Americans, including those with the vaccine, should wear masks in public places where the virus has a significant presence. The agency cited the delta variant of COVID, which is more transmissible.

The CDC had previously announced in May that vaccinated individuals did not have to wear masks. The White House fended off questions from reporters at the White House press briefing on the reasoning behind that reversal.

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Columbus Schools Will Require Masks When Ohio Students Return

Woman sitting alone with a mask on.

Ohio’s largest school district will require all students, staff and visitors to wear masks inside buildings and on buses this fall, but an Ohio lawmaker has introduced a bill that prohibits schools from requiring masks.

The Columbus City Schools Board of Education said in a news release it relied on recommendations from The American Academy of Pediatrics and guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with talks with Columbus Public Health, to reach the decision.

“Safely returning to in-person instruction in the fall is a priority, and masks provide and extra layer of protection in reducing transmission of the COVID-19 virus,” Superintendent Talisa Dixon said Wednesday in a news release. “Throughout this pandemic, we have relied on the guidance of our public health officials. We feel that this was the best decision for our district and community.”

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Michigan Could Get $800 Million from Opioid Settlement

Close up of white pills

Michigan could receive $800 million under a proposed multibillion-dollar national opioid settlement, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

The settlement would involve Johnson & Johnson and the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country: Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen.

The historic agreement would resolve the claims of state and local governments nationwide and require industry changes.

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Georgia to Issue Licenses to Companies for Medical Marijuana Production

Zane Bader

The Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission will pick six companies to start producing the plant for medical uses in the state.

Nearly 70 companies applied for licenses to grow marijuana and convert it to oil to treat various illnesses. Once the commission approves them, the companies could be looking at paying up to $200,000 in licensing fees to the state. They will have one year to get product to thousands of Georgians who have been waiting for more than five years.

Patients with a Low THC Oil Registry card legally can purchase up to 20 fluid ounces of the THC oil from licensed dispensaries or pharmacies under legislation signed into law by former Gov. Nathan Deal in 2015. However, without guidelines and a medical marijuana marketplace, the 14,000 registered patients in Georgia have no way of legally obtaining the oil.

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Feds Won’t Investigate Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s COVID-19 Nursing Home Policy

Old woman sitting on brown bench

The U.S. Department of Justice won’t investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s nursing home policies.

The initial inquiry was opened under former President Donald Trump’s administration, which requested data from Michigan.

Now, 11 months later under Joe Biden’s administration, the probe won’t happen. Democrat Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel refused to investigate as well.

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CDC: Students Should Return to In-Person Classes

A classroom of students in class

The Center for Disease Control updated federal COVID guidance Friday with several major changes as schools around the country grapple with policies for students’ return in the fall.

The CDC urged schools to allow students to return to in-person classes whether or not they are vaccinated as most studies showed significant learning loss during remote-only or hybrid teaching models.

The agency also said teachers and students should wear masks unless they have gotten the vaccine, a recommendation that is certain to drive controversy.

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FDA Asks for Internal Review of Approval Process for Alzheimer’s Drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is asking for an internal review of its own approval process that gave a greenlight to a drug to treat Alzhiemer’s, a move that could shed more light on the controversial chain of decision-making that led to the drug’s being okayed for use.

The FDA last month approved drug company BioGen’s product Aduhelm, the first medicine greenlit in the U.S. to slow the cognitive decline of those living with Alzhiemer’s.

Yet that decision was shrouded in controversy: The approval went against the advice of an outside panel of FDA experts and even led to the resignation of several of those experts in protest.

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Arizona Department of Health Services Report Shows That Half of Arizonans Are Vaccinated

Half of all Arizonans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services’ most recent data released Thursday morning. 

Of Arizona’s population of 7,189,020, the ADHS said that the 50% mark was hit with Thursday’s update that 3,594,004 people have now received at least one dose of vaccine. Of those, 3,186,689 people are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as of July 8, with a total of 6,590,483 vaccine doses administered in the Grand Canyon state. 

Arizona vaccine distribution peaked in April and began to downturn in May. The ADHS opened several state-run vaccination sites in Maricopa, Pima, and Yuma counties, all of which closed by the end of June. 

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Study: Ohio COVID-19 Vaccine Lottery Failed to Increase Rates

Giving away millions of federal tax dollars and hundreds of thousands of dollars in college scholarships did nothing to improve Ohio’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, a recent study concluded.

Those results have Democratic leaders saying the state needs to do more to address vaccine hesitancy and deal with what they call root causes of Ohio’s stagnant vaccination rate.

The study, conducted by the Boston University School of Medicine using information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, concluded reports that the state’s Vax-a-Million lottery program increased rates failed to factor in vaccinations expanded to ages 12-15.

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Georgia Long-Term Care Facilities Face Financial Hardship from Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a financial toll on Georgia’s long-term care facilities, officials said.

Devon Barill, communications director for the Georgia Health Care Association and Georgia Center for Assisted Living (GHCA/GCAL), said the facilities have faced increased expenses and revenue losses from caring for the state’s most vulnerable population.

While COVID-19 can lead to severe complications in older people and those with underlying issues, the congregated facilities are often home to the elderly and people who require supportive care.

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Study: Michigan’s Vaccine Lottery Unlikely to Boost Lagging COVID-19 Injections

COVID Vaccine sticker

After Michigan missed President Joe Biden’s vaccine deadline of 70% injected with a first COVID-19 vaccine by July 4, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer bet big on a vaccine lottery, tossing in $5 million of taxpayer-funded prizes.

In the meantime, the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency estimates Michigan won’t reach the 70% benchmark for another year.

As of July 5, the state averaged 4,174 daily doses but only 1,740 first doses (0.1%) of the population.

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Michigan State Auditor to Review Nursing Home COVID-19 Deaths

State Auditor Doug Ringler says he will review how many Michiganders died from COVID-19 in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Ringler wrote the June letter to House Oversight Chair Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, over the concerns of inaccurately counted COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

“We will be working with various departments’ databases to address your concerns, which will impact the timing of our work,” Ringler wrote. 

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Largest Health Care Union to Fight Mandatory Vaccine Requirements for Workers

Doctor giving vaccination to patient

The president of the largest union of health care workers in the U.S. says it will fight companies requiring its members to have mandatory COVID-19 shots as a condition of employment.

The announcement came one day after Houston Methodist announced that 153 employees had been fired or resigned for refusing to get the shots as a condition of employment. Those suing argue requiring employees to receive a vaccine approved only through Emergency Use Authorization violates federal law. After a recent court dismissal, their attorney vowed to take the case all the way to the Supreme Court.

George Gresham, president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, is weighing the organization’s legal options.

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Kemp Ends Georgia’s Public Health State of Emergency as of July 1

Georgia’s public health state of emergency will end on July 1 under an executive order signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Kemp first declared a public health state of emergency on March 14, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The declaration helps the state easily access supplies and other resources needed to combat the spread of the coronavirus. It lifts certain medical and commercial transportation regulations.

Tuesday’s order extends the declaration by one day and one minute.

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Virginia Emergency Ending Could Affect Masks, Remaining COVID-19 Regulations

Young boy getting vaccination

Gov. Ralph Northam intends to let the COVID-19 pandemic state of emergency expire June 30, which could affect mask wearing throughout the commonwealth and the remaining restrictions on businesses.

Virginia law normally prohibits a person from covering one’s face with the intent of concealing one’s identity in public spaces, which was put on hold during the state of emergency. According to the Virginia code, a person can only wear a mask in certain situations, which include a legitimate medical reason when advised by a physician or during a health-related state of emergency when the governor expressly waives this section of law.

With the governor ending the state of emergency, it’s unclear whether wearing a mask in public could be grounds for prosecution absent a doctor’s note. The governor has said a person would not be prosecuted for wearing a mask and that he has been in contact with police groups that told him police would not arrest anyone for wearing a mask. The provision that states a person would only be guilty when intending to conceal his or her identity with the mask could be difficult to prove when a person is simply following guidelines from the governor’s office and the Center for Disease Control.

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Michigan to Fully Open Tuesday

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has once again ditched her COVID-19 reopening plan, announcing the state will drop its COVID-19 restrictions on June 22. Her previous plan dropped restrictions on July 1.

“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Whitmer thanked those who received vaccinations. She also thanked medical staff and other frontline workers. 

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U.S. Government Allocates $3.2 Billion for COVID-19 Antiviral Pills

Department of Health & Human Services

The Department of Health and Human Services will invest $3.2 billion to develop and manufacture COVID-19 antiviral medicines, it announced Thursday.

The initiative, funded as part of the American Rescue Plan, is designed to accelerate research into antivirals as well as build platforms for urgent response to future viral threats, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a statement Thursday. Specifically, the plan expands antiviral clinical trials, forms partnerships between health agencies and pharmaceutical companies, and funds “drug discovery groups” tasked with innovating new antiviral medicines.

“New antivirals that prevent serious COVID-19 illness and death, especially oral drugs that could be taken at home early in the course of disease, would be powerful tools for battling the pandemic and saving lives,” said chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci in the statement.

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Report: Vax-A-Million Lottery Not Spurring Vaccinations Growth

Millions of dollars, college scholarships and other cash and prize incentives may not be enough to encourage more people around the country to get the COVID-19 vaccination, at least if numbers in Ohio are any indication.

The Associated Press reported the number of new Ohioans receiving at least the first dose of a vaccine fell by nearly half after the state announced its first $1 million and college scholarship winners. After Gov. Mike DeWine’s announcement of the vaccine lottery in early May, the report said vaccination numbers increased by 43% over the previous week.

The report said the number of people receiving the vaccine from May 27 through June 2 dropped about 43%. March and April were the state’s highest months for the number of vaccines, according to The AP.

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Michigan State Health Director Backs COVID-19 Nursing Home Death Numbers Despite Undercounting Allegations

The Michigan House Oversight Committee on Thursday heard opposing testimony related to whether Michigan is undercounting COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

For over a year, Republicans have alleged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order to place COVID-19 infected patients into nursing homes with non-infected seniors contributed to an excess number of deaths than otherwise would have happened. In March, more than 50 lawmakers asked the federal government to investigate Whitmer’s policy. The death data from Michigan’s nursing homes could be compared to states with similar senior populations that didn’t pursue similar nursing home policy. 

Steve Delie, an attorney for the Mackinac Center For Public Policy, sued the Michigan Department for Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on behalf of reporter Charlie LeDuff, testified before the committee on Thursday. Delie argued the nursing home and long-term care COVID-19 death count in Michigan isn’t accurate, saying MDHHS enacted an accountability check between March 1 and June 30 of 2020, where it located 648 deaths out of a pool of 1,468 vital records deaths that could be traced back to a nursing home facility.

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Minnesota’s COVID-19 Hospitalizations Drop Below 400

Doctors talking with masks on

COVID-19 hospitalizations fell below 400 in Minnesota for the first time since March, state health officials reported Friday.

About 396 people are hospitalized with COVID-19 statewide, Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) data reports. Of those, 116 are in an intensive care unit.

Hospitalizations peaked at 699 in early 2021, but have fallen following the first vaccine injection of 2.8 million Minnesotans, or 63% of state residents ages 16 and older. COVID-19 disproportionately killed older people. About 90% of Minnesotan’s COVID-19 deaths were seniors ages 65 and older.

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Minnesota to End Statewide Mask Mandate Friday

Gov. Tim Walz on Thursday announced the end of Minnesota’s statewide mask requirement starting Friday, aligning Minnesota with new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on face coverings.

“So, those peacetime emergencies are done and the business mitigations are coming to an end. I want to be clear it’s not the end of the pandemic, but it is the end of the pandemic for a  lot of vaccinated folks,” he told reporters.

Minnesotans who aren’t fully vaccinated are strongly recommended to wear face coverings indoors.

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Pandemic Resurgence in Michigan Prompts Whitmer to Ask for Two-Week Shutdown of Indoor Dining, School Sports, in-Person Learning

Closed storefront

 A surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan has prompted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to promote a two-week, voluntary lockdown of indoor dining, suspension of school sports and a full return to remote education.

Although she noted more than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, the governor added the pandemic continued to wreak havoc in the state.

For example, Michigan hospitals reported 3,508 COVID-19 patients on Thursday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released data on Thursday that revealed the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate was 492.1 cases per 100,000 people, the highest positivity case rate in the nation.

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Bill Aims to Ban Minnesota Vaccine Passports

Senator Michelle Benson

As Minnesota returns to a semblance of normalcy with an increasing number of injected COVID-19 vaccines, one Republican aims to ban “vaccine passports.”

 SF 1589 aims to ban forced COVID-19 vaccinations, forced digital contact tracing, and required proof of COVID-19 vaccination before entering a government business.

“Your personal health information should not be made public. I stand against the special interests that want your private health information,” Senate Health Committee Chair Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, posted on Facebook.

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Measure Granting Tennessee School Boards Sole Authority to Close Schools Heads to Lee’s Desk

Gov. Bill Lee

A bill that will give local school boards the sole authority to close schools was approved Thursday by the Tennessee House and is on its way to Gov. Bill Lee.

Senate Bill 103, which passed the House, 85-2, makes it clear local school boards can close public or charter schools in the state, not the governor through executive orders or local health departments.

The bill, sponsored in the House by Rep. Kevin Vaughan, R-Collierville, aimed to clarify who had the authority because during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was unclear in some locales whether the county health department or local school board held the authority.

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Ohio Shows Worst Unemployment Recovery in Nation

Ohio had the slowest weekly unemployment claims recovery in the nation last week, based on a new report from the personal finance website WalletHub.

The report compared all 50 states and the District of Columbia over three metrics: changes in claims during the latest week compared with 2019 and 2020 and changes in claims filed from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic versus the previous year.

Based on the data, Ohio ranked 51st out of 51 in recovery over the latest week and 37th since the pandemic began. Ohio ranked behind Colorado, West Virginia, Mississippi and Virginia in weekly recovery.

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More Than 1,300 COVID-19 Vaccine Doses Expire in Shelby County

Around 1,315 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine scheduled to be administered in Shelby County expired as winter weather closed vaccination sites this week, the Shelby County Health Department announced Friday.

Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said the health department was not informed the doses were about to expire. The department contracts with a pharmacy, and the pharmacist is responsible for managing the vaccine and thawing doses in the appropriate timeline for use. The vaccine spoilage was first reported by the Commercial Appeal.

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National Mental Health Crisis Emerges Among Youth During Pandemic Lockdowns: Reports

Children and young adults are experiencing increased mental health issues, and suicide also is on the rise within the age group at least in part because of ongoing state shutdowns, according to several reports.

Within months of governors and local authorities shuttering schools, children were increasingly brought to emergency room doctors and specialists, according to a by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Commentary: Lowering the Cost of Prescription Medicines for Seniors Is Not Impossible

Earlier this year James Payne, a 73-year-old retired attorney in Utah, was so fed up with the high cost of a blood thinner medication he takes, he researched prices in Canada, where he found it was cheaper.

“Under Medicare, I am now paying $225 for a three-month supply,” Payne explained. “That’s $25 more than I was paying last year. Under my employer’s insurance I was only paying $20.” Payne says he is not sure why the costs are so much higher and continue to climb under Medicare, but he thinks there must be ways to make life-saving medications more affordable.

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Whitmer Extends Order Allowing Pharmacies to Administer Emergency Refills

Michigan pharmacies will be able to continue to dispense emergency refills for up to 60 days’ worth of medication after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended an executive order designed to make accessing medications easier during the coronavirus pandemic.

The order allows pharmacists to dispense emergency refills of up to 60 days’ worth of medication, as well as requires an insurer to cover early refills for up to 90 days’ worth of supply. The executive order also allows pharmacists to dispense treatments for COVID-19 according to government protocols.

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