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Politics: Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — Omicron sets off a flurry of responses

The Latest: Local transmission of virus variant in Scotland

  The Latest: Local transmission of virus variant in Scotland LONDON -- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there is evidence of local transmission of the new omicron variant of the coronavirus after the country reported its first six cases. She told a news conference that not all the cases in Scotland had links to recent travel, adding that this suggests “there might already be some community transmission of this variant in Scotland.” The new cases takes the U.K.’s total to nine after three cases were identified in England over the weekend.The arrival of the variant on British shores prompted Prime Minister Boris Johnson to tighten restrictions on mask-wearing and testing of international arrivals to England.

Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care, where we're following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.

Biden addresses nation on omicron variant as some travel bans to US take effect

  Biden addresses nation on omicron variant as some travel bans to US take effect With the omicron variant prompting new travel restrictions this week, President Joe Biden will address the nation on Monday in remarks about the new COVID-19 variant. "While we have said that travel restrictions can slow the speed of omicron, it cannot prevent it. Here's what it does: It gives us time," Biden said in remarks from the White House. "It gives us time to take more actions. To move quicker, to make sure people understand you have to get the vaccine. You have to get the shot. You have to get the booster.

A petrol attendant stands next to a newspaper headline in Pretoria, South Africa © Associated Press/Denis Farrell A petrol attendant stands next to a newspaper headline in Pretoria, South Africa

We hope everyone got some rest over the past few days! Obviously there was plenty of health care news over the break with the rise of the omicron variant. Much more on that, as we dive in below.

President Biden addressed the nation Monday on the variant, with a message not to panic and above all to get vaccinated and get boosted.

Analysis: Biden faces a familiar foe -- uncertainty

  Analysis: Biden faces a familiar foe -- uncertainty President Joe Biden had hoped to return from the Thanksgiving holiday bearing good news about his moves to get the economy back on track, his administration's effort to fix the supply chain crisis and hopes for a holiday season where Americans could gather safely with families and friends. © MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images US President Joe Biden delivers remarks to provide an update on the Omicron variant in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington, DC on November 29, 2021.

For The Hill, we're Peter Sullivan ([email protected]), Nathaniel Weixel ([email protected]) and Justine Coleman ([email protected]). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @JustineColeman8.

How serious is omicron? It will take weeks to understand new COVID-19 variant, experts say.

  How serious is omicron? It will take weeks to understand new COVID-19 variant, experts say. The new omicron variant presents more questions (and uncertainty) than answers. And it will take a few weeks for data to be collected and tracked.The answer to all three is an unsatisfying “We don’t know yet.

Let's get started.

Biden says omicron variant is 'cause for concern, not a cause for panic'

President Biden © Provided by The Hill President Biden

President Biden sought to project calm and reassure that there are tools to fight the new variant in an address on Monday.

He also said officials would release more guidance on how they plan to fight the spread of COVID-19 this winter, but promised it wouldn't include lockdowns.

"This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic," Biden said in prepared remarks at the White House. "We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we're learning more every single day. And we'll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed. Not chaos and confusion."

Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — FDA advisers back first at-home COVID-19 pill

  Overnight Health Care — Presented by March of Dimes — FDA advisers back first at-home COVID-19 pill Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care, where we're following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.Tomorrow, Roe v. Wade will hang in the balance as the Supreme Court hears arguments on Mississippi's 15-week abortion ban. Read our colleague John Kruzel's preview here. On the COVID-19 front, FDA advisers backed a treatment from Merck, but only narrowly. The vote came as experts work to determine how effective existing vaccines are against the new omicron variant of the virus.For The Hill, we're Peter Sullivan ([email protected]), Nathaniel Weixel ([email protected]

The president acknowledged the U.S. would see confirmed cases of the latest strain of the virus "sooner or later."

And he pleaded with Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19, adding that Anthony Fauci, his top medical adviser on the pandemic, believed the existing vaccines provide at least some protection against the omicron variant.

"If you are vaccinated, but still worried about the new variant, get our booster. If you aren't vaccinated, get that shot. Go get that first shot," Biden said.

Modified vaccine needed? The president said the White House does not believe additional doses of the vaccine will be needed as of now, but officials are in touch with Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson "to develop contingency plans for vaccines or boosters if needed."

"I'm sparing no effort and removing all roadblocks to keep the American people safe," Biden said.

Read more here.

New Poll Shows That Concern About Omicron Variant Is Split Down Party Lines

  New Poll Shows That Concern About Omicron Variant Is Split Down Party Lines Democrats were more than twice as likely as Republicans to agree that the Omicron COVID-19 variant "poses a serious risk to all Americans."A poll released on Tuesday by YouGov found that Democrats were much more likely to be concerned about the new variant than Republicans. Although 80 percent of Democrats said they were "somewhat concerned" or "very concerned" about Omicron, only 35 percent of Republicans agreed.

A MESSAGE FROM MARCH OF DIMES

The U.S. remains among the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth. Help prioritize the health of our nation's moms and babies by joining the #BlanketChange movement today at BlanketChange.org

ONE RESPONSE BIDEN'S REJECTING? LOCKDOWNS

President Biden said Monday that his administration was not recommending further restrictions on businesses or in-person gatherings to combat the coronavirus pandemic amid concerns about the new omicron variant.

Speaking from the Roosevelt Room, Biden described vaccinations as the best possible tool to defeat the virus and any emerging variants. He said his administration would outline a strategy to combat COVID-19 during the winter months later this week.

"On Thursday, I'll be putting forward a detailed strategy outlining how we're going to fight COVID this winter, not with shutdowns or lockdowns but with more widespread vaccinations, boosters, testing and more," he said.

Biden later told reporters that "lockdowns" were off the table "for now" as his administration weighs measures to respond to the omicron variant, much about which remains unknown.

These are the states where the omicron variant has been identified

  These are the states where the omicron variant has been identified The new omicron coronavirus variant has been found in 12 U.S. states just three days days after the first case in the country was announced. The new variant, which was first discovered in South Africa, was announced in late November and has already spread to dozens of countries across the world. One day after Thanksgiving, the Wold Health Organization (WHO) held an emergency meeting on the variant, which it has determined is a "variant ofThe new variant, which was first discovered in South Africa, was announced in late November and has already spread to dozens of countries across the world.

"If people are vaccinated and wear their mask, there is no need for the lockdown," Biden said.

Lockdowns refer to closures of or restrictions on businesses, schools and other in-person gatherings. The U.S. never had a nationwide lockdown like other countries, though health officials recommended certain business closures in cities and states.

Read more here.

CDC strengthens booster recommendation

A healthcare worker administrates a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a student during a vaccination clinic for ages 5 - 11 hosted by Jewel Osco in Wheeling, Ill., on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021 © Provided by The Hill A healthcare worker administrates a dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to a student during a vaccination clinic for ages 5 - 11 hosted by Jewel Osco in Wheeling, Ill., on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2021

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday strengthened its recommendation for all adults to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, citing the risks of the omicron variant.

While booster shots were approved for all adults earlier this month, the previous guidance for younger adults was only that they "may" get a booster if they wanted to. Now, the guidance has been fortified to say all adults "should" get a booster.

"Everyone ages 18 and older should get a booster shot either when they are 6 months after their initial Pfizer or Moderna series or 2 months after their initial J&J vaccine," CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement.

Overnight Health Care — Biden mandate faces Dem resistance

  Overnight Health Care — Biden mandate faces Dem resistance Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care, where we're following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.The developers of a plant-based COVID-19 vaccine said its recent trial showed the vaccine was 71 percent effective against variants, noting the omicron strain was not circulating during the study.Today we're also tracking at least two Senate Democrats who are set to vote against President Biden's vaccine mandate for larger employers, which could come as soon as Wednesday.For The Hill, we're Peter Sullivan ([email protected]), Nathaniel Weixel ([email protected]

"The recent emergence of the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) further emphasizes the importance of vaccination, boosters, and prevention efforts needed to protect against COVID-19," she added.

Backstory/confusion: Booster shots have been a subject of debate among experts for months, with some saying they are not needed.

The Biden administration originally planned to roll out boosters for all adults in September, but a Food and Drug Administration advisory committee that month rejected a recommendation for boosters for all, instead initially limiting them to older and high risk people.

Read more here.

A MESSAGE FROM MARCH OF DIMES

The U.S. remains among the most dangerous developed nations for childbirth. Help prioritize the health of our nation's moms and babies by joining the #BlanketChange movement today at BlanketChange.org

Federal workers who don't meet vaccine mandate won't face discipline until January

Employees protest vaccine mandates in Los Angeles © Provided by The Hill Employees protest vaccine mandates in Los Angeles

Federal workers who do not comply with the Biden administration's coronavirus vaccine requirement will not face serious penalties such as suspension or removal until January.

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Monday directed federal agencies to engage in education and counseling of workers who have not met the vaccine requirement through the holiday season, with further enforcement actions put off until next year.

"Given that tremendous progress, we encourage your agencies to continue with robust education and counseling efforts through this holiday season as the first step in an enforcement process, with no subsequent enforcement actions, beyond that education and counseling and, if warranted, a letter of reprimand, for most employees who have not yet complied with the vaccination requirement until the new calendar year begins in January," OMB Deputy Director for Management Jason Miller and Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja wrote in an email to agencies obtained by The Hill.

Not a cliff: The deadline for federal workers to comply with the mandate was Nov. 22, though White House officials had made it clear that federal employees who were not compliant would not be immediately reprimanded after the deadline. Still, officials had not set out a specific timeline for enforcement actions until Monday.

The White House said last week that 92 percent of federal government workers have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine and 4.5 percent have a pending or approved exemption request.

Read more here.

ADMINISTRATION'S HEALTH WORKER VACCINE MANDATE TAKES LEGAL BLOW

A federal court on Monday temporarily halted the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health workers at hospitals that receive federal funding.

The ruling by a Missouri-based federal judge applies to health care employees in the 10 states that sued to block the administration's Nov. 5 rule. Those states are Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp, a Trump appointee, appeared persuaded by the states' argument that the mandate would lead to staffing shortages.

"The scale falls clearly in favor of healthcare facilities operating with some unvaccinated employees, staff, trainees, students, volunteers and contractors, rather than the swift, irremediable impact of requiring healthcare facilities to choose between two undesirable choices - providing substandard care or providing no healthcare at all," Schelp wrote in a 32-page order.

Life experience: In most cities, states or businesses with vaccine mandates already in place, widespread labor shortages were feared, but rarely came to fruition.

Read more here.

WHAT WE'RE READING

  • What we know and don't know about the Omicron variant (CNN)
  • Democrats go on the offense with Biden's agenda to avoid a repeat of Obamacare battle (NPR)
  • As antiviral pills arrive, can testing keep up? (The New York Times)

STATE BY STATE

  • Michigan hits new record for adult COVID-19 hospitalizations; 80% of beds full (Detroit News)
  • COVID-19 booster shots are available, but appointments are scarce (Boston Globe)
  • To protest COVID mandates, this California town declared itself a 'constitutional republic' (Los Angeles Times)

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

  • Omicron is already global, tests for international flights are far better than African travel ban
  • Time to think beyond the vax? Reflections from a COVID-stricken doc
  • The opioid crackdown leaves chronic pain patients in limbo

That's it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill's health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you Tuesday.

Overnight Health Care — Biden mandate faces Dem resistance .
Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care, where we're following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup.The developers of a plant-based COVID-19 vaccine said its recent trial showed the vaccine was 71 percent effective against variants, noting the omicron strain was not circulating during the study.Today we're also tracking at least two Senate Democrats who are set to vote against President Biden's vaccine mandate for larger employers, which could come as soon as Wednesday.For The Hill, we're Peter Sullivan ([email protected]), Nathaniel Weixel ([email protected]

See also