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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Gov. Whitmer Obtains $13 Million for Michigan Rural Hospitals

Gretchen Whitmer

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) secured a $13 million grant from the federal government to support COVID-19 testing and mitigation in 51 small, rural hospitals.

“Our top priority is supporting the brave professionals on the frontlines of our health care industry in every corner of our state to ensure that they have what they need to protect themselves, their family, and their neighbors,” Whitmer said in a statement. “This funding will help rural hospitals continue serving their communities by expanding their COVID-19 testing capacity and mitigation efforts. I want to thank the nurses, doctors, and all medical professionals who continue to go above and beyond to keep people safe each and every day.”

Rural hospitals with fewer than 50 staff will be able to use the funds from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration for testing equipment, personnel, temporary structures, or education. Mitigation strategies must follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) community mitigation framework, including education, contact tracing, communication, and outreach. Each hospital will receive about $257,000 that must be spent within 18 months of receipt.

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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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Michigan Could Get $800 Million from Opioid Settlement

Close up of white pills

Michigan could receive $800 million under a proposed multibillion-dollar national opioid settlement, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

The settlement would involve Johnson & Johnson and the three largest pharmaceutical distributors in the country: Cardinal Health, McKesson, and AmerisourceBergen.

The historic agreement would resolve the claims of state and local governments nationwide and require industry changes.

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Feds Won’t Investigate Michigan Gov. Whitmer’s COVID-19 Nursing Home Policy

Old woman sitting on brown bench

The U.S. Department of Justice won’t investigate Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s nursing home policies.

The initial inquiry was opened under former President Donald Trump’s administration, which requested data from Michigan.

Now, 11 months later under Joe Biden’s administration, the probe won’t happen. Democrat Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel refused to investigate as well.

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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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Michigan State Auditor to Review Nursing Home COVID-19 Deaths

State Auditor Doug Ringler says he will review how many Michiganders died from COVID-19 in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

Ringler wrote the June letter to House Oversight Chair Steve Johnson, R-Wayland, over the concerns of inaccurately counted COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes.

“We will be working with various departments’ databases to address your concerns, which will impact the timing of our work,” Ringler wrote. 

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Study: Michigan’s Vaccine Lottery Unlikely to Boost Lagging COVID-19 Injections

COVID Vaccine sticker

After Michigan missed President Joe Biden’s vaccine deadline of 70% injected with a first COVID-19 vaccine by July 4, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer bet big on a vaccine lottery, tossing in $5 million of taxpayer-funded prizes.

In the meantime, the Michigan Senate Fiscal Agency estimates Michigan won’t reach the 70% benchmark for another year.

As of July 5, the state averaged 4,174 daily doses but only 1,740 first doses (0.1%) of the population.

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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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Michigan to Fully Open Tuesday

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has once again ditched her COVID-19 reopening plan, announcing the state will drop its COVID-19 restrictions on June 22. Her previous plan dropped restrictions on July 1.

“Today is a day that we have all been looking forward to, as we can safely get back to normal day-to-day activities and put this pandemic behind us,” Whitmer said in a statement.

Whitmer thanked those who received vaccinations. She also thanked medical staff and other frontline workers. 

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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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Michigan State Health Director Backs COVID-19 Nursing Home Death Numbers Despite Undercounting Allegations

The Michigan House Oversight Committee on Thursday heard opposing testimony related to whether Michigan is undercounting COVID-19 nursing home deaths.

For over a year, Republicans have alleged Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order to place COVID-19 infected patients into nursing homes with non-infected seniors contributed to an excess number of deaths than otherwise would have happened. In March, more than 50 lawmakers asked the federal government to investigate Whitmer’s policy. The death data from Michigan’s nursing homes could be compared to states with similar senior populations that didn’t pursue similar nursing home policy. 

Steve Delie, an attorney for the Mackinac Center For Public Policy, sued the Michigan Department for Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on behalf of reporter Charlie LeDuff, testified before the committee on Thursday. Delie argued the nursing home and long-term care COVID-19 death count in Michigan isn’t accurate, saying MDHHS enacted an accountability check between March 1 and June 30 of 2020, where it located 648 deaths out of a pool of 1,468 vital records deaths that could be traced back to a nursing home facility.

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Pandemic Resurgence in Michigan Prompts Whitmer to Ask for Two-Week Shutdown of Indoor Dining, School Sports, in-Person Learning

Closed storefront

 A surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan has prompted Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to promote a two-week, voluntary lockdown of indoor dining, suspension of school sports and a full return to remote education.

Although she noted more than five million doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered, the governor added the pandemic continued to wreak havoc in the state.

For example, Michigan hospitals reported 3,508 COVID-19 patients on Thursday. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released data on Thursday that revealed the state’s COVID-19 positivity rate was 492.1 cases per 100,000 people, the highest positivity case rate in the nation.

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National Mental Health Crisis Emerges Among Youth During Pandemic Lockdowns: Reports

Children and young adults are experiencing increased mental health issues, and suicide also is on the rise within the age group at least in part because of ongoing state shutdowns, according to several reports.

Within months of governors and local authorities shuttering schools, children were increasingly brought to emergency room doctors and specialists, according to a by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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Commentary: Lowering the Cost of Prescription Medicines for Seniors Is Not Impossible

Earlier this year James Payne, a 73-year-old retired attorney in Utah, was so fed up with the high cost of a blood thinner medication he takes, he researched prices in Canada, where he found it was cheaper.

“Under Medicare, I am now paying $225 for a three-month supply,” Payne explained. “That’s $25 more than I was paying last year. Under my employer’s insurance I was only paying $20.” Payne says he is not sure why the costs are so much higher and continue to climb under Medicare, but he thinks there must be ways to make life-saving medications more affordable.

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Whitmer Extends Order Allowing Pharmacies to Administer Emergency Refills

Michigan pharmacies will be able to continue to dispense emergency refills for up to 60 days’ worth of medication after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended an executive order designed to make accessing medications easier during the coronavirus pandemic.

The order allows pharmacists to dispense emergency refills of up to 60 days’ worth of medication, as well as requires an insurer to cover early refills for up to 90 days’ worth of supply. The executive order also allows pharmacists to dispense treatments for COVID-19 according to government protocols.

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