Overnight Health Care: Study finds Pfizer vaccine neutralizes Brazilian variant | New CDC guidelines a blow for ailing airline industry | House to vote Wednesday on COVID relief
Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care. If you were worried about President BidenJoe BidenCNN: Bidens' dogs removed from the White House Federal judge rules 'QAnon shaman' too dangerous to be released from jail Pelosi says Capitol riot was one of the most difficult moments of her career MORE's dogs after Major reportedly bit a staff […]

Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care. If you were worried about President BidenJoe BidenCNN: Bidens' dogs removed from the White House Federal judge rules 'QAnon shaman' too dangerous to be released from jail Pelosi says Capitol riot was one of the most difficult moments of her career MORE's dogs after Major reportedly bit a staff member, they will be back in the White House soon.

Follow us on Twitter at @PeterSullivan4 and @NateWeixel.

Pfizer's COVID vaccine had encouraging results against the variant first found in Brazil; Maryland is lifting capacity restrictions; and the CDC did not update its travel guidance, dealing a blow to the airline industry.

We'll start with Pfizer:  

Some hopeful news on the variants: Pfizer vaccine neutralizes Brazilian virus variant in new study

The Pfizer vaccine was able to neutralize a coronavirus variant first identified in Brazil in a new lab study, a positive sign for the vaccine's effectiveness.

Neutralization of the Brazilian variant, known as P.1, was "roughly equivalent" to the original strain of the virus, which the Pfizer vaccine has been shown to be highly effective against, researchers wrote in a letter to The New England Journal of Medicine.

The P.1 variant has provoked some concern given the surge in cases it is fueling in Brazil.

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciReaching immunity: A path forward Republicans call for investigation into impact of school closures on children with disabilities The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation - Relief bill to become law; Cuomo in trouble MORE, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, said in a presentation last week there are "preliminary reports" the variant is more infectious, and that antibodies produced by vaccines "may be less effective." 

The results published Monday from researchers from Pfizer, its German partner BioNTech, and the University of Texas Medical Branch, however, are reassuring. 

The study also found strong neutralization of the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K., though that was already expected. 

Perhaps a more concerning variant: The B.1.351 variant, first identified in South Africa, has raised concern for its potential ability to weaken the effectiveness of vaccines to some degree. The study found neutralization of that variant was "robust but lower." 

Read more here.

 

New CDC guidelines a blow for ailing airline industry

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week delivered a tough blow to the airline industry, which is struggling to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

While the CDC issued a number of recommendations that allow vaccinated and low-risk people more freedom to gather, CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyOvernight Health Care: After a brutal year, is the US getting close to normal? | CDC says it's safe for vaccinated people to gather indoors | Biden to give prime-time address on anniversary of pandemic lockdown Nation takes baby steps to normality after year in lockdown CDC: Vaccinated people can safely gather indoors without masks MORE said Monday that the agency’s advice on travel remains the same for both vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans: Don’t do it.

But some experts called that guidance confusing and the airline industry, while saying it would continue to work with the CDC, stressed its efforts to prevent coronavirus transmission aboard aircraft and its confidence that its approach is safe.

Leana Wen, a public health professor at George Washington University and former Baltimore health commissioner, called the guidance on Monday "far too cautious."

“A lot of families are separated from one another and need to travel to see one another. I’m really befuddled by why the guidance around travel was not changed. Travel is very low risk — imagine if you’re traveling in your individual car or even by plane — whenever everyone is wearing masks, the risk of coronavirus is very low," she said.

Read more here. 

 

US expert panel says lung cancer screenings for smokers should start at 50

A leading panel of experts on Tuesday broadened its recommendations for who should get yearly screenings for lung cancer, saying smokers should now start getting screened at age 50. 

The new recommendations from the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force will nearly double the number of people eligible for the yearly CT scans to try to detect lung cancer early. 

The recommendations are now for people to get screened if they are aged 50 to 80, who have smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day for 20 years, and either still smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. 

Those are broader criteria than the previous recommendations, lowering the age to begin screenings from 55 to 50, and lowering the number of years of smoking history from 30 to 20. 

Under the Affordable Care Act, insurers are required to cover preventive services recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force at no cost to the patient. 

Read more here.

 

Tomorrow: House to vote on COVID relief

The House is now expected to take a final vote on Wednesday morning to clear the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package.

Lawmakers had initially been expected to vote on Tuesday to send the legislation to President Biden for his signature. But the House just received bill processing papers from the Senate on Tuesday morning, which slightly delayed the initially anticipated timeline.

The House will take a procedural vote later Tuesday on the legislation, with a final passage vote on Wednesday morning, Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerRepublicans' stonewall forces Democrats to pull bill honoring Capitol Police Overnight Health Care: After a brutal year, is the US getting close to normal? | CDC says it's safe for vaccinated people to gather indoors | Biden to give prime-time address on anniversary of pandemic lockdown House vote on COVID-19 relief expected by Wednesday MORE's (D-Md.) office said.

The massive package, which runs hundreds of pages, includes a third round of stimulus checks, an extension of the weekly $300 unemployment insurance boost and billions in funding for vaccine distribution and COVID-19 testing efforts.

Read more here.

 

Maryland to lift capacity restrictions, keep mask mandate

Maryland is lifting many of its coronavirus restrictions, including capacity limits on stores, gyms and restaurants, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Tuesday.

Large outdoor spaces such as stadiums and racing facilities, as well as indoor businesses including theaters, live music venues, wedding venues and conference centers will operate at 50 percent capacity, Hogan said.

The state will keep its mask mandate, so face coverings will be required for all indoor facilities open to the public, the public-facing areas of businesses, as well as on mass transit.

Businesses will still be required to maintain physical distancing. That means while bars and restaurants can operate at full capacity, people will need to be seated six feet apart, and will not be allowed to stand and crowd together in a bar.

"The very simple step of wearing masks continues to be the best single mitigation strategy we have to stop the spread of COVID-19," Hogan said at a press conference. 

Local jurisdictions have been allowed to keep stricter rules in place than the state, and while that won't change, the governor said he thinks counties should follow the state policy.

The new order lifting restrictions will take effect at 5 p.m. Friday. 

Read more here.

 

Coming next week: Fauci, other Biden health officials to testify on vaccination effort

Top Biden administration health officials, including Anthony Fauci, will testify in the House for the first time next week about U.S. vaccination efforts.

The March 17 hearing comes at a critical time, as manufacturers are ramping up production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, and states are trying to balance the supply and demand to make sure vaccination efforts are equitable.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will testify along with the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Rochelle Walensky, as well as Peter Marks, who leads the Food and Drug Administration's vaccine center.

 

What we’re reading

Pandemic relief bill fulfills Biden’s promise to expand Obamacare, for two years (New York Times)

Biden’s domestic legacy will disappear unless his next move works (New York Magazine) 

Brazil’s growing coronavirus outbreak poses a threat far beyond its borders (Washington Post)

Israel celebrates 5 millionth coronavirus vaccination (Associated Press) 

 

State by state

Governor: More Minnesotans eligible for coronavirus vaccine (Associated Press) 

Coronavirus cases drop off in LAPD as vaccinations ramp up (Los Angeles Times) 

In Alabama, South Carolina and Louisiana, CVS vaccine appointments go unfilled (Kaiser Health News)

'Mask off' party celebrating Texas Covid rollbacks nixed after outcry from Houston officials (NBC News)  

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