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

Watch out for the dazzle! Wednesday marked the second day residents of Prince George’s County in Maryland were told to avoid a group — a dazzle— of three zebras on the run from a local breeding farm. 

Leading the news, President BidenJoe BidenTrump to offer commentary at heavyweight fight on 9/11 Manchin would support spending plan of at most .5T: report South Dakota governor issues executive order restricting access to abortion medicine MORE will lay out a six-step plan to fight the pandemic tomorrow, redoubling efforts as the delta variant fuels a spike in cases and deaths, largely among the unvaccinated. 

For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan (psullivan@thehill.com), Nathaniel Weixel (nweixel@thehill.com) and Justine Coleman (jcoleman@thehill.com). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4, @NateWeixel and @JustineColeman8.

Let’s get started.

Biden faces pivotal moment with COVID-19 speech  

President Biden is facing rising COVID-19 challenges as he prepares to lay out new steps in the pandemic fight on Thursday. 

The president will use a speech on Thursday to try to demonstrate he has a handle on the situation. 

But after the pandemic receded in the United States earlier in the summer, the highly contagious delta variant has fueled a new spike, rising to roughly 150,000 cases and over 1,000 deaths per day. 

This spike is different from those of last year, in that vaccines are now widely available, meaning the risk is now overwhelmingly for the unvaccinated. 

While experts say there certainly is more the federal government can do, they also say part of the challenge is that a segment of the American population is simply refusing to get the vaccine, allowing the virus to continue to spread.

Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said it is important to “identify what the problem is here, and that is the anti-vaccine movement.”

“This isn’t like what it was last year,” he added. “This is willful.”

What’s coming in the speech? The full details aren’t yet clear, but it’s a six-part plan. 

White House Press Secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiThe Hill’s 12:30 Report – Congress’ September laundry list grows Biden expected to campaign for Newsom in California next week Government should not be the information police MORE said that the six steps Biden will announce Thursday will include “requiring more vaccinations,” as well as boosting testing and “making it safer for kids to go to school.”

Psaki said that while the administration has made progress after fighting the pandemic for months, she acknowledged that “he’s going to lay out these six steps tomorrow because we have more work to do.”

Read more here.

252,000 CHILDREN TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID-19 AS CLASSES RESUME

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association reveals that nearly 252,000 children have tested positive for COVID-19 in the last week as many schools reopen for in-person learning. 

The number represents the largest number of pediatric COVID-19 cases in a week since the beginning of the pandemic. Between Aug. 5 and Sept. 2, more than 750,000 cases of COVID-19 were confirmed among children.

Children made up 26.8 percent of reported weekly COVID-19 cases, higher than the 15.1 percent out of all cases throughout the pandemic.

By comparison, nearly 8,400 cases among young people were noted in a weekly report in June.

By the numbers: More than half of all new pediatric cases have been found in southern states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Almost 300 children are currently hospitalized in Texas, followed by 172 in Florida. Thirty percent of the pediatric hospitalizations are in the two states, where Govs. Greg Abbott (R) and Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisTrump schedules rallies in Iowa, Georgia Miami Herald hits DeSantis on vaccine claims: ‘Profile in selfishness’ Miami mayor on possible White House bid: I think people are ‘thirsting’ for a ‘next-generation candidate’ MORE (R) have banned mask mandates in schools. 

Read more here

WHO calls for COVID-19 booster shot moratorium until 2022

 The World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday called for rich countries to refrain from giving people booster doses of coronavirus vaccines until at least 2022.

WHO Director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last month said wealthy nations should put a pause on boosters until the end of September. But that plea was largely ignored. 

“We have been calling for vaccine equity from the beginning, not after the richest countries have been taken care of,” Tedros said during a news conference. “I will not stay silent when companies and countries that control the global supply of vaccines think the world’s poor should be satisfied with leftovers.”

What’s the goal: Tedros said the WHO’s targets are to support every country vaccinating at least 10 percent of its population by the end of this month, at least 40 percent by the end of this year and 70 percent of the world’s population by the middle of next year.

Almost 90 percent of high-income countries vaccinated at least 10 percent of their populations, and more than 70 percent have vaccinated at least 40 percent of their populations.

But “not a single low-income country has reached either target,” Tedros said.

Why it matters: Much of the developing world still doesn’t have access to the vaccines, despite global commitments and promises. Wealthy countries, including the U.S., are pushing ahead with boosters anyways. The Biden administration is debating internally with health officials about the details; experts have raised serious concerns about the ethics and whether the evidence even shows that the extra shots are necessary. But based on White House comments, the end goal is for boosters to start rolling out Sept. 20. 

Read more here.

COVAX EXPECTS VACCINE DELIVERIES TO FALL 30 PERCENT BELOW TARGET

In related news, the program that’s aimed at getting vaccines to poor countries doesn’t have enough supply.

The COVAX program estimates that its global COVID-19 vaccine deliveries will fall almost 30 percent below its goal of sending out 2 billion doses by the end of the year. 

The World Health Organization (WHO), the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness predicted that by the end of 2021, about 1.4 billion doses would be available for the program designed to make shots more accessible to lower-income nations.

This year’s fourth quarter is expected to see an uptick in vaccine deliveries, but it will not be enough to fulfill the original target for the year, the international organizations forecast. The current “most likely scenario” is that another 1.1 billion doses will be provided between September and the end of the year. 

Under the most likely forecast, COVAX would reach 2 billion doses available for delivery between January and February.

Why: The international organizations attributed the predicted shortfall to several factors, including restrictions on exports from the Serum Institute of India — a key supplier for vaccines — and problems increasing manufacturing at vaccine facilities, particularly those that supply Johnson & Johnson and the AstraZeneca vaccines. 

Lags in regulatory approval for other vaccines created by U.S. company Novavax and Chinese firm Clover have also contributed to the lack of expected doses.  

Read more here 

Sanders says House Democrats’ proposal falls short on Medicare dental benefits

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday criticized a proposal from House Democrats for taking too many years to provide dental benefits to seniors on Medicare, comments that illustrate an intraparty debate as Democrats craft their coming $3.5 trillion package.

The proposal released by Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee Tuesday would not begin Medicare dental benefits until 2028.

“Do I think we should take such a long time to implement the dental provisions? No I don’t,” Sanders said on a press call when asked about the House proposal.

The big picture, Medicare vs. ACA: The comments are part of long-running jockeying between Democrats over which priorities will get more money in the coming $3.5 trillion reconciliation package. There is not enough funding to give every health priority all that its backers want, and delaying dental benefits until 2028, in addition to giving time for implementation, also saves money.

Sanders and other progressives are making expanding Medicare to include dental, hearing and vision a major priority.

Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiManchin would support spending plan of at most .5T: report Overnight Health Care — US hits new vaccine milestone White House pitches House Democrats on messaging for .5T spending plan MORE (D-Calif.), on the other hand, has a top priority of extending enhanced Affordable Care Act subsidies that give people greater help in affording their premiums, bolstering the health care law that is one of her signature achievements. 

Read more here

WHAT WE’RE READING

    • Delta and disasters push FEMA close to the breaking point (Politico)
    • People who got Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus shot feel left behind in push for boosters (The Washington Post)
    • COVID-19 surge in the US: The summer of hope ends in gloom (The Associated Press)
    • As a delta wave peaks in some states, others brace for what’s next (The Wall Street Journal)
    • Democrats discuss scaling back a key caregiving initiative by half — or more (HuffPost)

STATE BY STATE

  • 7th Mississippi child dies of COVID, eight pregnant women lose lives to virus in a month (Mississippi Clarion Ledger)
  • “I am angry today:” Jeffco’s top health official halts mobile COVID-19 vaccination clinics after medical staff harassed (The Denver Post)
  • Metro Council urges Nashville health department to reinstate indoor mask mandate (Nashville Tennessean)
  • Southern New Mexico congresswoman still pushes Ivermectin for Covid despite FDA, CDC warnings (KVIA)

OP-EDS IN THE HILL

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s healthcare page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you Wednesday.

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