Health Care — Experts turn wary eye to another COVID winter

Health Care — Experts turn wary eye to another COVID winter

DC’s messy bald eagle power couple has returned.

In health news, experts look out for another COVID winter even as case rates fall and restrictions become all but nonexistent.

Welcome to Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. For The Hill, we’re Nathaniel Weixel and Joseph Choi.

Ahead of holidays, experts anticipate more COVID

Falling coronavirus case levels and the absence of major restrictions might lead many to assume that this holiday season could be the first “normal” one seen since the start of the pandemic, but experts and stakeholders foresee another COVID-19 winter as the specter of the pandemic refuses to dissipate.

National COVID-19 cases have held at low levels since a July peak fueled by the BA.5 omicron subvariant, with the weekly number of cases currently standing at about 261,000. Hospitalizations and deaths have similarly continued to trend downwards.

Another potential surge: Cases could, however, rise again as temperatures drop, vaccination rates stagnate and countries across the Atlantic experience a surge of their own, which has routinely forestold what will happen in the US

“In the US, our cases have been declining overall, but then there are areas where the virus detection in a wastewater is increasing,” Lin Chen, director of the Mount Auburn Travel Medicine Center and an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, told The Hill.

People generally feel more comfortable going out in public thanks to the wide array of coronavirus treatments and vaccines that have been made available, Chen said, leading to more confidence in traveling.

Though travel has picked up throughout 2022 as people move past their COVID-19 wariness, travel and tourism stakeholders are not yet anticipating a return to the same levels that were seen before the pandemic began.

Read more here.

Companies report shortages of amoxicillin

Three of the largest manufacturers of the antibiotic amoxicillin, which is most used to treat bacterial infections in children, are reporting supply concerns.

  • Hikma Pharmaceuticals, Teva Pharmaceutical Industries and Sandoz, the generics division of Novartis, have all reported shortages of various doses of the drug.
  • Amoxicillin comes as a capsule, a tablet, a chewable tablet and as a liquid to be taken by mouth, depending on the age of the patient.

Most of the shortages were reported in the liquid form of the drug, which is used by young children, according to the University of Utah’s drug information service, which tracks medication shortages, though the database shows the companies reported limited supply of all the versions of the drug.

As of Oct. 25, the university’s drug tracker listed 14 of Hikma Pharmaceuticals’ amoxicillin products and nine products from Teva. The tracker listed 16 products from Sandoz as being in shortage.

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman said the agency was aware “of some intermittent supply interruptions of amoxicillin products in the US, and are currently working with the approved manufacturers.”

But FDA doesn’t consider amoxicillin to be in shortage because at least one manufacturer is able to fully supply market demand.

Read more here.


A judge ordered New York City to reinstate 16 sanitation workers fired earlier this year for refusing to comply with a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for city employees.

Judge Ralph Porzio, who sits on the New York Supreme Court in Staten Island, ruled on Tuesday that the city’s health commissioner could not change the workers’ terms of employment, also referencing President Biden saying “the pandemic is over” and Gov. Kathy Hochul (R) ending New York’s state of emergency.

  • “The vaccination mandate for City employees was not just about safety and public health; it was about compliance,” Porzio wrote, also ruling that the mandate violated the employees’ equal protection rights.
  • “If it was about safety and public health, unvaccinated workers would have been placed on leave the moment the order was issued,” he continued. “If it was about safety and public health, the Health Commissioner would have issued city-wide mandates for vaccination for all residents.”

“We have already filed an appeal,” a New York City Law Department spokesperson continued. “In the meantime, the mandate remains in place as this ruling pertains solely to the individual petitioners in this case. We continue to review the court’s decision, which conflicts with numerous other rulings already upholding the mandate.”

Read more here.


Each year, about 795,000 people have a stroke in the US, according to the American Heart Association. About 87 percent are of one type of stroke: ischemic. New analysis suggests that another type may be on the rise, especially in Black populations.

  • A study published in the journal Neurology on Wednesday found that the incidence of stroke caused by subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH), which accounts for 5 to 10 percent of strokes in the US and can have a high fatality rate, rose by an average of 0.7 percent each year between 2007 and 2017 based on data from Florida and New York hospitals.
  • SAH, specifically, occurs when blood gathers in the space that surrounds the brain. It can be caused by the rupture of an aneurysm, where a weak part of a blood vessel bulges outwards.

SAH has some overlap in symptoms with ischemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage in blood vessels to the brain, and a third type, intracerebral hemorrhage stroke, which results from bleeding within the brain tissue.

Both of those types of stroke may commonly present with weakness or numbness on one side of the body or loss of language or speaking ability.

The study also found that while strokes cause by SAH occurred more commonly among women, its incidence increased over time among men, and that it was more common among Black people than those in other racial groups and increased over time among them as well.

Read more here.

Stroke sparks debate over what’s seen as a disability

Pennsylvania Senate candidate John Fetterman’s (D) difficulties from his recent stroke and the media attention they’ve garnered have sparked a debate about what counts as a disability and perceptions on who is able to serve.

Fetterman’s health was center stage at a Tuesday night debate when he faced off against Republican candidate Mehmet Oz — the only such contest between the two competitors in perhaps the nation’s pivotal race for control of the Senate this year.

The Democrat used a closed captioning system throughout the debate to help him understand questions, and he sometimes struggled to form clear sentences. The performance has raised questions anew about whether voters will back Fetterman in next month’s election.

  • “I think that most of us … conjure up an image of what it is to be disabled and oftentimes that is some sort of physical mobility disability,” said Emily Blum, executive director of Disability Lead. “That’s an image that a lot of us are very comfortable with because it’s visible.”
  • “But the vast majority of disabilities are, in fact, invisible,” she continued. “And so we need to change the quote unquote, face of disability to be more representative of that, of mental health disabilities, cognitive, chronic illness. Things that aren’t visible to the eye are what is the face of disability currently.”

Justified or biased: Critics have defended the scrutiny as part of broader questions about Fetterman’s fitness for office during what can be a difficult-to-predict recovery process.

Disability rights advocates, however, say that the media coverage of Fetterman has raised questions over the perception of who is — and isn’t — allowed to lead with a disability in the halls of Congress.

Read more here.


The Hill’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion SummitThursday, Oct. 27 at 1 pm ET/10 am PT

Diversity, equity and inclusion are no longer just feel-good initiatives. They are critical to an organization’s success. Many in the public and private sectors have attempted to spotlight the diversity of our nation and support a culture of inclusion. What more can be done to break down barriers to equity and achieve true inclusion? Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.), EEOC Chair Charlotte Burrows, OneTen Health CEO Maurice Jones, Hinge Health CEO Dan Perez, ZipRecruiter’s Julia Pollak and more join The Hill to discuss steps to meaningful change and a more inclusive society. RSVP today.


  • When it comes to addiction, Americans’ word choices are part of the problem (Stat)
  • Patients with weakened immune systems suffer severe effects, death from monkeypox: CDC (ABC News)
  • Why pediatricians are worried about the end of the federal COVID emergency (NPR)
  • Biden officials worry pandemic exhaustion could lead to bad Covid winter (Washington Post)


  • States opting out of a federal program that tracks teen behavior as youth mental health worsens (Kaiser Health News)
  • Will Question 2 improve dental insurance coverage or just raise costs? There are no easy answers. (Boston Globe)
  • Texas Republicans in tight races open to rape and incest exceptions to abortion ban (Texas Tribune)

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s Health Care page for the latest news and coverage. See you tomorrow!


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