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One year later: A light at the end of the tunnel

Hot Topics | March 12th, 2021

Yesterday the world solemnly observed the one-year anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic. While pandemic start and end dates are not clear cut, on March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Roll Call reporters Lauren Clason and Mary Ellen McIntire said it best when earlier this week they wrote: “More than 500,000 American deaths and trillions of taxpayer dollars later, the virus has reshaped the health care landscape for years to come.”

Headlines such as “America’s nightmarish year is finally ending” from Axios and “Planning for a post-pandemic Congress underway” from Roll Call suggest we are finally heading for the exit. As we start to think about life after the pandemic, we’ll continue bringing you the updates and policies that will come to define the future of America’s healthcare system.

Taking a victory lap

  • Yesterday President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (a.k.a. the COVID-19 relief bill or ARP) into law. A few hours after the signing ceremony, Biden addressed the nation during prime-time to announce he will direct states to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to all Americans by May 1, and that the country may be able to “mark our independence from this virus” by the Fourth of July. (Axios) Next week the president is planning a “Help is Here” tour that will see the president and his surrogates tour the country to convince the American public the ARP is a net positive. (Axios, Roll Call, The Washington Post)
    • Read more: Axios sums up the provisions of the $1.9 trillion bill.
    • Read more: The White House launched a website that helps Americans understand how the ARP will impact their bottom line. (The White House)

Guide to new COVID guidance

  • For Americans who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19: The CDC has issued interim public health guidelines that allow Americans who are fully vaccinated to relax certain precautions. However, all Americans should continue masking and practice social distancing in congregate and higher-risk settings. (STAT, The Hill, Axios)
  • Nursing home visits: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued new guidance allowing nursing homes to resume indoor visits regardless of the vaccination status of the resident or visitor (barring exceptional circumstances). (The Hill)

New guidelines = more lung screenings

  • The US Preventative Services Task Force issued new lung cancer screening recommendations that call for a major expansion of who should be screened for lung cancer. The recommendation is an update to guidance from 2013, and was based on a systematic review to assess the benefits and risks of low-dose computed tomography (LDCT) screenings to find the optimum age to begin routine lung cancer screenings. Under the new recommendations, about 15 million additional Americans would be screened for lung cancer, which is nearly twice the current number undergoing routine screenings. (The Washington Post, The Hill)

Protect our patents

  • Letters from PhRMA and BIO make it clear the pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical industries want the Biden administration reject a proposal pending before the World Trade Organization (WTO) that would temporarily waive their COVID-19 vaccine patents. The World Health Organization has called for patent rights to be waived in a bid to increase supply, a move the WTO is considering following a request from South Africa and India. (STAT, Associated Press)

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