Policy Updates 10/21/2022

  1. COVID

End Of Federal Covid Funding Will Seriously Impact California: The U.S. government has spent billions battling the covid-19 pandemic, but the Biden administration has announced that it expects to end the purchase and free distribution of everything from COVID tests to vaccines because cases are dropping and funding is drying up. The implications for California residents – and those in other states – are significant. Read more from Bay Area News Group.

The Washington Post: White Covid Deaths Increasing In U.S., Surpassing Death Rate Of Blacks
A Post analysis of covid death data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from April 2020 through this summer found the racial disparity vanished at the end of last year, becoming roughly equal. And at times during that same period, the overall age-adjusted death rate for White people slightly surpassed that of Black and Latino people. (Johnson and Keating, 10/19)

Study: COVID Booster Outreach Would Help Tame Winter Surge
With booster uptake for the COVID vaccine low and federal funding for vaccination campaigns drying up, the goal of high coverage as winter approaches seems to be slipping out of reach. A Yale team modeled the effects that an accelerated vaccination campaign could potentially have in the coming months. According to the researchers, even a moderately successful campaign could prevent more than 75,000 deaths and 745,000 hospitalizations and save $44 billion in health costs in the next six months alone.


  1. Health Care Enterprise

KHN: Labor Tries City-By-City Push In California For $25 Minimum Wage At Private Medical Facilities
A class of health care facility support staff, including nursing assistants, security guards, and janitors, has worked alongside doctors and nurses throughout the covid-19 pandemic keeping patients and medical buildings safe and clean. It’s an unassuming line of work that some people consider a calling. (Bluth, 10/21)

Labor Tries City-by-City Push for $25 Minimum Wage at Private Medical Facilities

Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West is testing the waters on a $25 minimum wage for support staff at health care facilities in Southern California. Opposition from hospitals and health facilities is driving an expensive battle. (Rachel Bluth, 10/20 )

  1. Public Health

Politico: ‘No Quick Fixes’: Walensky’s Push For Change At CDC Meets Reality
The CDC’s new push to get information about health crises out faster to Americans is already running up against its limited authority, congressional inaction and the agency’s own entrenched culture. (Mahr and Banco, 10/21)

CalMatters: Public Health Workforce: Is Funding Increase Enough?
A two-year search for a laboratory director. Sixty-three retirements or resignations of county public health leaders since the COVID-19 pandemic began. More than 100 current public health nursing vacancies. It’s evident that California’s public health workforce is tired, strained and under-resourced after a prolonged response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but what’s not clear is exactly how hamstrung it has become — and how prepared it is for a future emergency. (Hwang, 10/19)

  1. Children’s Health

CIDRAP: Study: 7% Of Children Hospitalized With COVID-19 Had Neurologic Problems
A team led by Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt researchers assessed length of hospital stay, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, 30-day readmission, death, and medical costs of 15,137 COVID-19 patients aged 2 months to 18 years released from 52 children's hospitals from March 2020 to March 2022. A total of 37.1% of the patients had a pre-existing complex chronic condition, and 9.8% had one or more neurologic complex chronic conditions. (10/20)

CIDRAP: ACIP Adds COVID Vaccine To Pediatric Immunization Schedule
The vote came a day after ACIP approved adding COVID vaccines to the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, which provides free vaccines to children who don't have health insurance or who can't afford them. (10/20)

Bloomberg: Low-Income Kids Should Get Free Covid Shots, CDC Panel Says
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted unanimously to recommend Covid-19 shots from Moderna Inc. and Pfizer Inc.’s shot for children six months to 18-years-old. (Rutherford, John Milton and Baumann, 10/19)

  1. Reproductive Health

NPR: Health Department Medical Detectives Find 84% Of U.S. Maternal Deaths Are Preventable
For several weeks a year, the work of nurse-midwife Karen Sheffield-Abdullah is really detective work. She and a team of other medical investigators with the North Carolina public health department scour the hospital records and coroner reports of new moms who died after giving birth. (Dembosky, 10/21)

KHN: Listen: Why Childbirth Is So Dangerous For Many Young Teens
The new laws criminalizing abortion in many conservative states are expected to boost birth rates among teenage moms, whose bodies often aren’t built for safe childbirth. On this episode of NPR’s “Weekend Edition Sunday,” KHN senior correspondent Sarah Varney talks with host Ayesha Rascoe about the dangers that pregnancy poses for adolescents. (Varney, 10/17)

Stat: FDA Panel Votes That Premature Birth Drug Should Be Withdrawn
After an extraordinary three-day hearing, an expert panel of advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration voted on Wednesday to uphold an effort by the regulator to withdraw a controversial drug for preventing premature births. (Silverman, 10/19)

Axios: Controversy Over Preterm Birth Drug Reflects Broader Issues With FDA Approval Process
A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel's recommendation to pull an early birth drug from the market is only the latest controversy surrounding a popular program aimed at getting promising new treatments to patients faster. (Owens, 10/20)

Axios: COVID Played A Role In 1 In 4 Maternal Deaths In 2020 And 2021
COVID-19 contributed to a quarter of maternal deaths in the first two years of the pandemic, with Black pregnant women experiencing a mortality rate nearly three times higher than their white peers, according to an oversight report to Congress released on Wednesday. (Moreno, 10/19)

AP: COVID-19 Linked To Increase In US Pregnancy-Related Deaths
COVID-19 drove a dramatic increase in the number of women who died from pregnancy or childbirth complications in the U.S. last year, a crisis that has disproportionately claimed Black and Hispanic women as victims, according to a government report released Wednesday. The report lays out grim trends across the country for expectant mothers and their newborn babies. (Seitz, 10/19)

NBC News: Babies Born To Black Mothers Die Far More Often Than Those With White Mothers
The findings showed that death rates were four times higher among newborns up to 28 days old who were born to Black mothers who used fertility technologies involving eggs or embryos. That death rate was 1.6% among babies born to Black mothers, compared with just 0.3% for babies born to white mothers. (Bendix, 10/19)

AP: Race Gap Seen In US Infant Deaths After Fertility Treatment
Black-white disparities exist in fertility medicine, reflected in life-and-death outcomes for babies, according to a large study of U.S. births. The study, published Wednesday in the journal Pediatrics, is the broadest look yet at racial gaps for women who use in vitro fertilization, fertility drugs or other fertility treatments. Researchers found higher death rates for infants born to Black women who used such treatments than white women who did the same — a gap that is much wider than in babies born without those treatments. (Johnson, 10/19)

  1. Individuals with Disabilities

Advancing Health Equity For People With Intellectual And Developmental Disabilities

 The New York Times: These Doctors Admit They Don’t Want Patients With Disabilities
The doctors also explained why they could be so eager to get rid of these patients, focusing on the shrinking amount of time doctors are allotted to spend with individual patients. “Seeing patients at a 15-minute clip is absolutely ridiculous,” one doctor said. “To have someone say, ‘Well we’re still going to see those patients with mild to moderate disability in those time frames’ — it’s just unreasonable and it’s unacceptable to me.” (Kolata, 10/19)
  1. Mental Health


Communication Access In Mental Health And Substance Use Treatment Facilities For Deaf American Sign Language Users



Tyler G. James et al.

Narcan Becoming More Available At Libraries: 

Beginning this week, Narcan, a naloxone nasal spray that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose, is now accessible through the Kern County Library. "Anyone can come in — any age group — and get the Narcan spray," said associate Fahra Daredia. And on Tuesday, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a proposal to explore supplying naloxone in libraries. Read more from The Bakersfield Californian and Los Angeles Times.

KQED: Breaking The Cycle: How Parental Mental Health Affects Kids — And What To Do About It
When Mariana Pimentel thinks about her childhood in a small town in Mexico, she remembers being surrounded by anger and desperation. Her parents worked long hours to support Pimentel and her brothers and sisters, so they were often absent. When they were home, her parents communicated by yelling. (Torres, 10/18)

AP: Biden Administration Seeks To Expand 24/7 Mental Health Care
The government announced plans Tuesday to award millions of dollars in grants to expand all-hours mental health and substance abuse care in more communities around the country. “Today we’re talking about providing to Americans 24/7 support for crisis care,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said. “That’s something that’s only been available to some, in some places. But depending on your income and ZIP code, you could be totally out of luck. That’s going to start to change.” (Seitz, 10/19)

KHN: Kids’ Mental Health Care Leaves Parents In Debt And In The Shadows
Rachel and her husband adopted Marcus out of Guatemalan foster care as a 7-month-old infant and brought him home to Lansing, Michigan. With a round face framed by a full head of dark hair, Marcus was giggly and verbal — learning names of sea animals off flashcards, impressing other adults. But in preschool, Marcus began resisting school, throwing himself on the ground, or pretending to be sick — refusals that got more intense and difficult to deal with. His parents sought therapy for him. Rachel and her husband had some savings for retirement, college, and emergencies; at first, the cost of Marcus’ therapy was not an issue. “We didn’t realize where it was going,” Rachel said. (Noguchi, 10/19)

Improving Behavioral Health Services for Youth
In October, the Wall Street Journal reported on the benefits of using targeted, time-limited interventions to address behavioral health issues, including anxiety and depression. One of the featured interventions was Project YES, a single-session mental health tool for youth who might otherwise go without support. A recent issue of Transforming Care focuses on Project YES and other innovations designed to expand youth access to mental health supports and build resilience.

Fentanyl Crisis Spreading Across California: 

Drug overdose deaths in California involving the potent synthetic opioid fentanyl increased 45% between 2020 and 2021, but it wasn’t just San Francisco contributing to that spike. Fentanyl-involved overdose deaths also increased in the smaller and more rural counties of the state. Read more from The San Francisco Chronicle.

  1. Influenza

CNBC: People Of Color Face Higher Risk Of Flu Hospitalization, CDC Says
People of color are hospitalized with the flu at far higher rates than white Americans, according to a large multiyear study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (Kimball, 10/18)

Stat: CDC: Signs Point To An Early Start For Flu Season
Flu transmission has been low since the start of the pandemic, but an odd spurt of activity in April, May, and even early June of 2022 — which coincided with the onset of an early and robust flu season in Australia — suggests that flu may be making its way back. (Branswell, 10/17)

  1. Transgender Care

KQED: California Becomes First Sanctuary State For Transgender Youth Seeking Medical Care
California is the first state in the nation to create a sanctuary for transgender youth seeking gender-affirming medical care. Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a new law in September that ensures transgender kids from elsewhere can safely access hormones or puberty blockers here. The legislation also shields families from child abuse investigations or from being criminally prosecuted for seeking gender-affirming care. (McClurg, 10/18)

Los Angeles Times: California Is A 'Sanctuary State' For Trans Kids, But Moving Isn't Easy
Rachel Gonzales, 39, has thought a lot about what she would do if child welfare agents came to her home in Dallas to investigate whether her 12-year-old daughter is receiving gender-affirming care. She’s hired an attorney, given all three of her children the phone number, and told them to call the lawyer if anyone shows up when she and her husband are away from home. But Gonzales is not making plans to move west from Texas, even after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law recently making California a “sanctuary” for families with transgender children. (Bierman, 10/18)

Improving Health Care for Trans Youth
Bills targeting the rights of LGBTQ+ people are under consideration in state legislatures across the country. Many aim to make it more difficult for transgender people to get health care — something that’s already a challenge for many, particularly trans youth. On The Dose podcast, Austin Johnson, an assistant professor of sociology at Kenyon College, says that one way to expand access to care for transgender youth is to “make sure you center trans experience, center trans people’s understandings of their health care, education, and family life, and rely on . . . scholarship that is led by trans people.”



  1. Hearing Aids

KHN: Say What? Hearing Aids Available Over-The-Counter For As Low As $199, And Without A Prescription
Starting Monday, consumers will be able to buy hearing aids directly off store shelves and at dramatically lower prices as a 2017 federal law finally takes effect. Where for decades it cost thousands of dollars to get a device that could be purchased only with a prescription from an audiologist or other hearing professional, now a new category of over-the-counter aids are selling for hundreds of dollars. Walmart says it will sell a hearing aid for as little as $199. (Galewitz, 10/17)

  1. Baby Formula

The Wall Street Journal: Families Still Struggle To Find Baby Formula Nearly One Year After Shortages Began
Many U.S. households are still struggling to find baby formula, almost a year since supplies thinned on store shelves and eight months after a nationwide recall. Adults in roughly one-third of households with infant children who typically use formula had trouble obtaining it last month, according to a recent survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. Nearly one in five of affected households has less than a week of formula on hand, the survey showed. (Newman and Peterson, 10/17)