IMPAQ Health News
From our experts to your inbox. Every two weeks.
In this edition, learn about the latest COVID-19 updates in the U.S., new findings about vaccine efficacy, the Biden administration’s health appointees, and more.
COVID-19 has exacerbated existing food security issues and created new ones as unemployment grows. IMPAQ experts have developed an online, interactive data visualization tool that stakeholders can use to identify communities that may face multiple barriers to acquiring food.
Visits to primary care providers declined by 60% in the first few months of the global coronavirus pandemic in 2020. To better understand how individuals feel about receiving in-person health care services, researchers from the American Institutes for Research (AIR) conducted a survey, finding significant differences by race and education level. (IMPAQ is an affiliate of AIR.)
COVID-19 Milestones & Vaccine Updates. This week, the United States surpassed 500,000 deaths related to COVID-19. At the same time, cases and deaths are dropping throughout the country—though experts disagree on the main reasons for the decline. In vaccine news:

  • Supply issues prompted Dr. Anthony Fauci to revise his prediction of when vaccines will be available for the general population, shifting from April to either late May or early June. In the meantime, Pfizer and Moderna executives have pledged to deliver an extra 140 million doses over the next five weeks.

  • Biden officials announced an additional $650 million in funding to expand COVID-19 testing sites, and $815 million to boost manufacturing of testing supplies and materials.

COVID-19 Variant Updates. A new study by the U.K.’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory confirms that in addition to being more transmissible, the U.K. COVID-19 variant is 30%-70% more deadly than the most common version of the virus. At least seven additional new variants that originated in the United States carry mutations similar to those of the U.K. and South African variants, according to a separate study.

  • In a new report, experts from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security detail a number of recommendations to minimize the impact of existing and future COVID-19 variants.

COVID Relief Package and Health Coverage Implications. The House will vote today on President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Over 150 top business executives voiced their support for the bill. 

  • The pandemic’s negative effect on state budgets might create incentives for the 12 Republican-led states that have held out on expanding Medicaid to finally do so, ultimately providing coverage to up to 4 million Americans, according to Kaiser Family Foundation estimates.
Biden Administration Health Appointments
Xavier Becerra, President Biden’s pick for HHS secretary, testified before Senate committees this week. Last week, the White House announced two more nominations for agency leads within HHS:

  • Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI): Liz Fowler, another former Obama administration official, has been tapped to serve as administrator of CMS’ innovation office, a position that does not require congressional approval.
Health Equity in 2021
In the first half of 2020, the average American’s life expectancy dropped by one year, the largest amount since World War II. Excess deaths, in large part due to COVID-19 and drug overdoses, drove the decline. The decline was most severe for non-Hispanic Black men, whose life expectancy dropped by three years. NPR (2/18)
Throughout the pandemic, immigration agents have monitored workplaces and clinics in search of unauthorized workers, spurring mistrust among hundreds of thousands of unauthorized immigrants across the South. Vaccinating members of these populations, who are more likely to live in close quarters and are especially vulnerable to fatal cases of COVID-19, is crucial to achieve herd immunity in Southern U.S. communities. Kaiser Health News (2/16)

Since vaccine distribution began, data have revealed that white Americans are receiving the vaccine at disproportionately higher rates than Black Americans. CVS Health plans to contact individuals in vulnerable groups to provide one-on-one assistance in setting up vaccine appointments and also will hold vaccine clinics in areas deemed as “vaccine deserts.” USA Today (2/19)
Graphic of the Week
With more transmissible COVID-19 variants spreading across the United States, the CDC has updated recommendations on how to wear facemasks to optimize protection.
Upcoming Events, Trainings, & Webinars
Join The Society of Health Policy Young Professionals for a free series of hour-long presentations on all things telehealth: regulatory and congressional perspectives, implications for Medicaid, the ideal state, telepharmacy, and more. Register here.
Tuesday, March 2 (10:00 AM – 5:00 PM ET) – Wednesday, March 3 (10:00 AM – 4:30 PM ET), 2021
This annual conference, delivered by the CMS, convenes leaders from all areas of the health care industry to discuss how patients, advocates, providers, researchers, and other stakeholders can solve the most complicated and widespread challenges in health care quality improvement. Register here.
This year’s annual research Ethics Day conference by the University of Minnesota will convene top national experts to discuss how the COVID-19 pandemic is changing research ethics. Topics will include how to advance ethics and equity, how to reconcile the need for research with the clinical imperative to save lives, and how the pandemic is affecting research design. Register here.
NOTE: The information, analyses, and opinions expressed in the articles, publications, or comments contained therein are those of the authors and should not be considered verified or endorsed by IMPAQ or any of our partners or clients.