The Perfect Enemy | Don’t count Covid out just yet
August 17, 2022

Don’t count Covid out just yet

Don’t count Covid out just yet  POLITICO

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Good morning and welcome to Monday’s New York Health Care newsletter, where we keep you posted on what’s coming up this week in health care news, and offer a look back at the important news from last week.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: Shannon is off this week but fear not. POLITICO’s Georgia Rosenberg and Julian Shen-Berro are taking the reins to ensure New York’s health news continues to be delivered to your inbox. Make sure you reach out to them (grosenberg@politico.com","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"mailto:grosenberg@politico.com","_id":"00000182-59ee-d984-a5ae-7deffca00002","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000182-59ee-d984-a5ae-7deffca00003","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>[email protected] and jsberro@politico.com","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"mailto:jsberro@politico.com","_id":"00000182-59ee-d984-a5ae-7deffca00004","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"00000182-59ee-d984-a5ae-7deffca00005","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>[email protected]) with any scoops or announcements. Shannon will be back in your inbox next Monday. 

Beat Memo

New York is in the midst of three public health crises: New York City has become the U.S. epicenter for the monkeypox outbreak; Rockland County is being monitored for possible new polio cases; and the state is still reporting thousands of new Covid-19 cases each day.

“Things come in threes, I guess,” Deputy Commissioner for Public Health Ursula Bauer told a state public health advisory board last week.

But while monkeypox and polio have garnered most headlines coming out of New York in recent weeks, state health officials, like Bauer, are urging New Yorkers to not ignore the threat still posed by the coronavirus.

New York is reporting about 5,000 new daily Covid cases — three times higher than at the same point in 2021 and “almost an order of magnitude higher” than at the same time in 2020, Bauer said. (Though changes in Covid case reporting makes it hard to give a complete apples-to-apples comparison, the best current metric is the seven-day average of cases per 100,000 population.) And the true number of New Yorkers currently being infected with Covid is likely higher due to “huge underreporting” as more people rely on at-home tests, the results of which are often not shared with public health departments.

Newly reported Covid-related hospitalizations are also higher than in previous summers — at roughly 2.5 per 100,000 population, compared with fewer than 0.5 per 100,000, Bauer told the Public Health and Health Planning Council. (More than half of those hospitalizations have involved patients admitted for other reasons, according to state data.) Covid-associated deaths, meanwhile, are “at modestly higher levels” than in previous summers, she said.

Yet, with the availability of vaccines for all age groups and new antiviral treatments, most New Yorkers appear ready to embrace a post-Covid future — even as public health officials are bracing for cases to climb even higher when summer temperatures cool off.

“With BA.5 now the predominant Omicron variant in New York and across the U.S. — with its high transmissibility and its ability to evade prior immunity — and with the lack of interest on the part of the public and protective measures, like masking, we are very worried about the fall,” Bauer said. “Those low points that we had reached in previous summers presaged an uptick in the fall and we are trying to be prepared.”

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What you may have missed

EMERGENCY DECLARATION — POLITICO’s Shannon Young: Gov. Kathy Hochul on Friday declared New York’s monkeypox outbreak a state emergency, issuing an executive order that allows state health officials to more quickly respond to the growing number of cases.

Hochul, who announced the action just after 10 p.m., said it expands the list of providers who can administer monkeypox vaccines to include emergency medical services personnel, pharmacists and midwives. The order also allows physicians and certified nurse practitioners to issue non-patient-specific standing orders for vaccines and requires providers to send vaccine data to the state Department of Health.

“More than one in four monkeypox cases in this country are in New York State, and we need to utilize every tool in our arsenal as we respond,” she said in a statement. The state reported a total of 1,383 confirmed orthopoxvirus/monkeypox cases as of Friday, 1,289 of which were in New York City. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a total of 5,189 cases nationwide as of Friday.

The declaration will remain in effect for at least 30 days. It came hours after city, state and federal lawmakers, who represent parts of New York City, called for a state of emergency response to the monkeypox outbreak.

… Health Commissioner Mary Bassett last week declared monkeypox an Imminent Threat to Public Health in New York. That declaration will remain in effect through the end of the year.

— Hochul on Friday also quietly extended the state’s disaster emergency due to health care staffing shortages through Aug. 28.

DOH REORG — Shannon reports: The state Department of Health is reorganizing as part of an effort to optimize workflow, increase diversity and “build a healthier, more equitable New York,” Commissioner Mary Bassett announced Friday.

“Our new organizational focus and leadership team structure will better position the Department to shape our priorities and delivery systems to improve health access and outcomes for all New Yorkers,” she said in a statement. “The scope of this Department extends beyond traditional public health and comprises a regulatory function for health care delivery institutions and health insurance programs that provide coverage to over one-third of New Yorkers. In my tenure as commissioner, I intend to do my utmost to fulfill our mandate.”

As part of that reorganization, DOH has established an Office of Aging and Long Term Care, an Office of Health Equity and Human Rights, a chief medical officer and a leadership cabinet. Bassett said she’s also prioritizing agency-wide data sharing, as well as a renewed emphasis on regional offices’ engagement with local health departments.

WEISS SPEAKS — POLITICO’s Julian Shen-Berro: A city contagion expert says he’s being pushed out of his role after he publicly criticized the city’s response to the ongoing monkeypox outbreak. Don Weiss, director of surveillance for the New York City Health Department’s Bureau of Communicable Disease Control, has been reassigned to the Division of Family and Child Health, effective Monday, according to a letter published on Weiss’ personal website.

IN OTHER NEWS:  

— Bassett joined other health officials Friday in calling on the World Health Organization to rename monkeypox. “As we work aggressively to respond to this outbreak in New York and beyond, we must ensure that people feel they can receive treatment and care without judgment — free of stigma,” she tweeted.

Odds and Ends

WE LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU: This roundup is for you! Send news tips, health tips, ideas, criticisms and corrections to [email protected].

NOW WE KNOW — Halloween candy could be in short supply this fall “because of a scarcity of raw ingredients and capacity challenges,” the Washington Post reports.

TODAY’S TIP — SELF offers tips on how “to make your hot workout feel less awful.”

MAKE SURE TO FOLLOW Shannon @ShannonYoung413 on Twitter. For New Jersey health news, check out Daniel Han, @danieljhan_.

STUDY THIS — Via Vice: “Scientists have sequenced the genome of facial herpes, a virus that has infected the majority of humans alive today, for the first time using ancient DNA preserved in people who lived many centuries ago, reports a new study.”

What We’re Reading

“A staffing crisis at residential facilities operated by the state Office for People with Developmental Disabilities is continuing to drive closures of the facilities,” The Times Union reports.

The Associated Press looks at how abortion access is affecting down-ballot campaigns.

The New York Times reports on how “Representative Nicole Malliotakis, the city’s lone Republican House member, has tried to maintain some distance from the Supreme Court ruling on abortion.”

Kaiser Health News reports that “more than two-thirds of hospices nationwide [are] now operating as for-profit entities.”

STAT examines why drug companies aren’t creating new drugs to protect Covid-vulnerable individuals.

Around POLITICO

POLITICO’s Katherine Ellen Foley reports that the Department of Health and Human Services has purchased 66 million doses of a bivalent booster shot from Moderna for the fall and winter, pending regulatory authorization and recommendations, the agency said Friday.

President Joe Biden tested positive for Covid-19 late Saturday morning, the White House physician said, and he is not experiencing any symptoms at this time, Katherine and POLITICO’s David Lim report.

Routine childhood vaccinations dropped again in 2021 in 57 countries served by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, according to a new report from the group, POLITICO’s Daniel Payne reports.

MISSED A ROUNDUP? Get caught up on the New York Health Care Newsletter.