Health Care

Overnight Health Care: CDC director calls on Michigan to ‘close things down’ amid surge in cases | Regeneron says antibody therapy prevents COVID-19 infections

Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care. Sean Spicer got his vaccine and took a selfie … even as some have been calling for prominent conservatives to encourage people to get vaccinated.

If you have any tips, email us at, and Follow us on Twitter at @NateWeixel, @PeterSullivan4, and @JustineColeman8 

Today: Biden health officials had their strongest words yet for Michigan’s Democratic governor amid a COVID-19 surge. Anthony Fauci said not to be overly concerned with some people getting infected after being fully vaccinated, and the WHO warned the global pandemic could get worse because of “complacency.”  

We’ll start with Michigan:

CDC director calls on Michigan to ‘close things down’ amid surge in cases

As Michigan’s governor calls for more vaccine doses for her state, the Biden administration has a different response in mind: Close things down. 

CDC director Rochelle Walensky addressed the growing spread of COVID-19 in the Wolverine State by saying sending more vaccines to the state won’t solve the problem, as immunizations take two to six weeks to affect coronavirus statistics. 

CDC’s take: “When you have an acute situation, an extraordinary number of cases like we have in Michigan, the answer is not necessarily to give vaccines — in fact we know the vaccine will have a delayed response,” she said.

“The answer to that is to really close things down, to go back to our basics, to go back to where we were last spring, last summer … to flatten the curve, decrease contact with one another, to test to the extent we have available, to contact trace,” she said during a White House COVID-19 response team briefing. 

Gov. Whitmer’s take: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) had called for more shots to go to the Wolverine State last week, saying that the federal strategy should be “squelching where the hot spots are.”

“I made the case for a surge strategy,” Whitmer said at a briefing on Friday. “At this point, that’s not being deployed, but I am not giving up.”

Read more about the CDC’s take here.

And ICYMI here’s more on the strategy debate between Biden health officials and Michigan leaders.


Regeneron says antibody therapy prevents COVID-19 infections

Good news on the coronavirus therapeutics front: Regeneron says its antibody cocktail prevents symptomatic COVID-19. 

While much of the attention has been focused on vaccines, experts say therapeutic treatments are just as important to ending the pandemic, which has killed more than 562,000 Americans. To that end, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals said it is planning to ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow its antibody cocktail to be used as a preventive treatment for COVID-19.

New results from a clinical trial conducted with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found the drug reduced the risk of symptomatic infection by 81 percent in people who were not infected at the start of the trial, Regeneron said.

Details: The trial enrolled 1,505 people who were not infected with the virus but lived in the same household as someone who recently tested positive. The patients were randomized to receive either one dose of the antibody therapy or a placebo administered as injections.

The drug provided 72 percent protection against symptomatic infections in the first week and 93 percent protection in subsequent weeks, Regeneron said.

Helpful results: The trial tested the antibody treatment for use as a “passive vaccine,” which involves directly injecting antibodies into the body. Traditional vaccines rely on a person’s immune system to activate and develop its own antibodies.

That means the treatment may provide immediate benefits, in contrast to active vaccines, which take weeks to provide protection. In addition, using injections rather than an infusion could make administering it more convenient than the currently authorized use for antibody drugs. 

Read more here.


WHO warns global COVID-19 pandemic ‘growing exponentially’

Top World Health Organization (WHO) officials on Monday warned against “complacency” in fighting COVID-19 amid a troubling spike in cases worldwide.

There were 4.4 million new cases recorded in the last week, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, the seventh week in a row of increasing cases. That’s compared to about 500,000 cases per week a year ago. Deaths have been rising for four weeks.

“It is growing exponentially,” Van Kerkhove said of cases on a global basis.

Vaccines aren’t the only response: While vaccinations are rolling out and offer hope for gaining control of the pandemic, many countries, especially lower-income ones, have vaccinated only a small fraction of their population, amid a scramble for limited doses on a global scale.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries and individuals to maintain other precautions like masking, distancing and testing. 

Global situation affects the US too: If the virus is circulating anywhere in high numbers, it provides opportunities for new variants of the virus to develop.

Read more here


Fauci says some ‘breakthrough’ infections after vaccinations ‘inevitable’

It seems like common sense, but the nation’s top infectious disease expert wants to make sure people understand that a vaccine with 95 percent efficacy is not 100 percent effective.

Anthony Fauci on Monday said it is inevitable that some people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 will still get a “breakthrough” infection, because no vaccine is 100 percent effective.

What this means: A breakthrough infection is when a person contracts an illness despite being vaccinated against it. Fauci noted that there will be hundreds, and maybe thousands of instances of completely vaccinated people getting infected with COVID-19. 

The key is to compare the small number of infections to the tens, and eventually hundreds, of millions of people who’ve been vaccinated, Fauci said. And even if a vaccine fails to protect against infection, it often protects against serious disease.

“We see this with all vaccines, in clinical trials, in the real world,” Fauci said during a virtual White House briefing. “No vaccine is 100 percent efficacious, or effective, which means that you will always see breakthrough infections, regardless of the efficacy of your vaccine.”

Read more here.


For Black Maternal Health Week: Medicaid postpartum coverage expanded for Illinois mothers up to a year after giving birth

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has approved expanded Medicaid postpartum coverage for mothers in Illinois, making it the first state to provide continuous coverage for up to a year after a birth. 

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services approved eligibility for new mothers to be covered beyond 60 days after giving birth, which went into effect today.

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra also announced that $12 million in funding will be made available over four years through the Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies (RMOMS) program.

“This is a first step, and these are two very important announcements that will significantly impact the health of mothers and expectant mothers in Illinois and in our rural communities as well,” Becerra said. 

Illinois could lead the way: This comes as the Biden administration has vowed to expand health care access and reduce maternal mortality rates, which are higher among Black mothers.

Read more here.


What we’re reading

Biden faces pressure from Pelosi, Sanders over whether to double down on Obamacare or expand Medicare (Washington Post)

More colleges make Covid vaccines mandatory for students (CNBC)

When a cardiologist flagged the lack of diversity at premier medical journals, the silence was telling (Stat News


State by state

Massachusetts governor: No Plans Yet to Change Guidance on Outdoor Mask-Wearing (NBC 10)

‘We’re bursting at the seams.’ Frontline workers overwhelmed amid Michigan’s COVID-19 surge (WXYZ)


The Hill op-eds

FDA needs better data to treat women and chronic pain

Tags Anthony Fauci Gretchen Whitmer overnight health care Rochelle Walensky Sean Spicer Xavier Becerra

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