Overnight Health Care – CDC will not change mask recommendation

Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care, where we follow the latest policy and news initiatives affecting your health. Sign up here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

It’s Justine’s last day with us at The Hill, and her last time is co-author of this newsletter. We’ll miss her! And wish her good luck in new endeavors.

In today’s news, the CDC can adjust its “advice” on masks to recognize that some are better than others, but director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle Walensky Overnight Health Care – Biden officials take the heat at the Senate hearing Biden health officials slammed in hearing for confusing pandemic messages Watch live: Fauci, Walensky testify before Senate panel MORE said the Agency’s overall guidance will not change.

For The Hill we are Peter Sullivan (psullivan@thehill.com), Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@thehill.com) and Justine Coleman (jcoleman@thehill.com). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @ PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @ JustineColeman8.

Let’s get started.

Walensky: The mask instructions do not change

Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Wednesday that the agency does not plan to change its mask guide to advise Americans to wear higher-quality masks in the midst of the omicron rise.

The CDC director said during a White House briefing that her agency currently recommends that “any mask is better than no mask” to combat the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The guide does not advise Americans to wear a particular type of mask, such as a medical grade KN95 or N95 instead of a fabric mask, though Walensky said the CDC plans to update its website to help Americans choose their face coverage.

“We urge all Americans to wear a well-fitting mask to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID 19,” she said. “And the recommendation is not going to change.”

Walensky acknowledged that the CDC’s website “needs updating right now” to include information on the “different levels of protection that different masks provide,” including the improved filtering of KN95 and N95 masks.

Increase availability? There may still be other stakes on stitches. At the same briefing, coronavirus coordinator in the White House Jeff ZientsJeff Zients White House: No plans to change the definition of ‘fully vaccinated’ Five areas where Biden faces pressure to do more on COVID-19 FDA approves second COVID-19 pill, from Merck MORE said the White House is “strongly considering options” to improve access to high-quality masks for all Americans.

Read more here.

Dems pushes bills to send N95s to all Americans

Congress Democrats have called for more action in connection with testing, and now there is also a call for more on masks.

Dens. Bernie SandersBernie Sanders President Biden blames everyone else for rising inflation. Historic health care expansion comes to a head in California America is less secure with an isolationist foreign policy MORE (I-Vt.) And more than 50 Democratic lawmakers on Wednesday enacted legislation to send high-quality masks to all Americans in the midst of a push to get the public to wear better masks given the omicron rise.

The legislation would send every person in the country a package of three N95 masks, which provide significantly better protection than the fabric masks many people have worn.

It would appropriately $ 5 billion to increase the production and distribution of the masks and use the U.S. Postal Service to distribute them along with pickup locations at places like schools and public transit stations.

Some leading health experts have also pressured the Biden administration to do more to make high-quality masks available to the public. The Omicron variant is so transferable that regular fabric masks become much less effective.

Read more here.


The White House Chief Medical Officer Anthony FauciAnthony FauciOvernight Health Care – Biden officials take heat at Senate hearing Biden health officials slammed at hearing for confusing pandemic messages Hot mic catches Fauci calling GOP senator ‘an idiot’ MORE said Tuesday that “almost everyone” will eventually become infected with the omicron variant of coronavirus.

“Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of transferability efficiency, will eventually find just about everyone,” Fauci told the Center for Strategic and International Studies during a “brand chat.”

“Those who have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted would be exposed. Some, perhaps many of them, will be infected, but will most likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense that they will not be hospitalized and die, “he added.

Fauci’s comment follows a similar remark, Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration, made at a Senate hearing on Tuesday when she said “it’s hard to deal with what’s actually happening right now, which is that most people will get COVID. ”

Important warning: During a briefing at the White House on Wednesday, Fauci added a strong warning: “Virtually everyone will end up being exposed and likely to be infected, but if you are vaccinated and if you are boosted, chances are you will get sick. very, very low. ”

Fauci’s point underscores the calls from health officials who call for the inoculation of those people who remain unvaccinated of their choice. It is not meant to be fatalistic, but realistic. Although individuals who have been vaccinated or have previously been infected with COVID-19 may receive omicron, hospitalizations and deaths are significantly higher among those who are unvaccinated.

Read more here.

Schools to get more tests in the middle of the climb

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced plans to increase COVID-19 tests available to schools by 10 million each month to help keep them physically open amid a new wave of cases driven by the omicron variant .

The White House said the administration would send 5 million free, rapid tests to K-12 schools each month. The additional tests are designed to help schools implement test screening and “test to stay” programs, which involve the use of regular tests instead of quarantine for students who have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for viruses.

In addition, the White House announced that the administration would make 5 million laboratory-based PCR tests available each month so that schools can perform tests in classrooms. The tests would be funded by the $ 1.9 trillion law on coronavirus relief.

Calls to stay open: President BidenJoe BidenMcConnell: Rounds ‘told the truth’ about the 2020 election Abrams thanks Biden for speaking in Georgia, supports call to change Senate rules Overnight Health Care – Biden officials take heat at Senate hearing MORE has insisted that schools can and should remain physically open in the United States during the current wave of COVID-19 cases, and said last week that they have the necessary resources to keep students safe.

“Today, the Biden-Harris administration is doubling our commitment to keep all schools safely open to full-time in-person learning by taking new steps to increase access to COVID-19 testing in schools,” reads a White Paper House advertising. the new steps on Wednesday.

Despite Biden’s encouragement to keep schools open, some districts have temporarily moved to distance learning amid a rise in cases.

Under pressure: The Biden administration is under pressure to do more to increase the availability of COVID-19 tests after the country experienced a shortage of tests and increased demand during the holiday season.

Read more here.


A pre-pressure study released on Tuesday estimated that patients infected with the omicron variant had “significantly reduced risk” of serious outcomes than delta patients, which is in line with previous research suggesting that omicron cases may cause less serious illness.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, used modeling to determine that the omicron strain was about half as likely to send patients to California hospitals as the delta variant. Patients admitted with the omicron strain were also more likely to have shorter hospital stays than delta patients.

The study involved more than 52,000 omicron patients and nearly 17,000 delta patients in Kaiser Permanente Southern California’s healthcare system between November 30 and January 1, with both variants spreading.

What Walensky said: Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), called the results of the study “consistent with what we see from omicron in other countries, including South Africa and the United Kingdom”

Still, Walensky warned that the high portability of omicron has caused an exponential increase in COVID-19 cases, which regardless of its severity puts pressure on hospitals.

“The sudden and steep increase in cases due to omicron results in unprecedented daily case numbers, illness, absenteeism and strains on our healthcare system,” she continued.

Read more here.


  • Sky-high COVID-19 cases renew US debate over mask mandates (Associated Press)
  • COVID hospitalization rates are as bad as they appear (Atlantic Ocean)
  • Omicron creates a ‘crisis, red-tier situation’ in healthcare (NBC News)
  • Cruises use quarantine vessels to isolate coronavirus-positive crew members (Washington Post)


  • Ohio prioritizes COVID test supplies to schools, universities, as demand remains high (Dayton Daily News)
  • Maine’s frontline healthcare workers more strained than ever during omicron rise (Portland Press Herald)
  • With hospitals shut down, California tells COVID-positive medical staff to stay on the job (Los Angeles Times)
  • Alaska reports daily COVID registrations as Anchorage hospitals feel a pinch of omicron (Alaska Public Media)


That was it for today, thank you for reading along. Check out The Hill’s health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you on Thursday.


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