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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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