Monday, October 24, 2022 – California Healthline

California Healthline Original Stories
An Abortion Rights Question on the California Ballot Revives the Debate Over ‘Viability’
California voters will decide in November whether to amend the state constitution to explicitly protect abortion rights. But there is disagreement over whether the proposal, Proposition 1, would merely enshrine existing rights or expand them. (April Dembosky, KQED, )
Hundreds Of Sutter Health RNs Going On Strike Today: Hundreds of registered nurses plan to hold a five-day strike over concerns about workplace conditions at Sutter Health’s three Alta Bates Summit Medical Center campuses in Oakland and Berkeley. The strike, which begins at 7 a.m. Monday, is meant to protest “persistent patient care issues, including workplace violence and high turnover rates.” Read more from Bay Area News Group.
Some San Diego Jail Detainees Will Get Health-Monitoring Devices: The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department is launching a pilot program that will outfit 10 of the downtown Central Jail’s most medically at-risk people with a health monitoring device. The goal is to reduce in-custody deaths, which have plagued the department for years. Read more from the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Below, check out the roundup of California Healthline’s coverage. For today’s national health news, read KHN’s Morning Briefing.
Coronavirus
Los Angeles Times: New COVID Subvariants Ticking Up, Causing Worry For Winter Wave
Amid concerns about a potential winter COVID-19 wave, cases linked to newer coronavirus subvariants are starting to creep up in California as officials in both Los Angeles County and the San Francisco Bay Area warn that a lengthy decline in new infections appears to be stalling. Whether this trend in coronavirus cases can be blamed on the rise of the newer strains is unclear — especially since the Omicron subvariant BA.5 remains the dominant version nationwide, as has been the case for months. (Money and Lin II, 10/22)
Bay Area News Group: How New COVID Variants BQ And XBB Are Trying To Outsmart Us
The new variants are coming. And right behind them, our third COVID-19 winter. (Krieger, 10/24)
Palm Springs Desert Sun: COVID-19: Cases Tick Up Slightly In Coachella Valley, Riverside County As Europe Enters New Wave Of Infections
After weeks of consistent declines, COVID-19 cases ticked up slightly in the Coachella Valley and Riverside County, as did countywide hospitalizations. (Sasic, 10/21)
NBC News: Omicron Subvariants Pose A New Threat To People With Immune Deficiencies
People with compromised immune systems face a new winter of discontent as the ever-mutating omicron virus threatens to outrun the preventive monoclonal antibody cocktail that hundreds of thousands of them have relied upon for extra protection against Covid. (Ryan, 10/23)
CNN: CDC Director Tests Positive For Covid-19 
Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, tested positive for Covid-19 Friday. Walensky is experiencing mild symptoms and is up-to-date on her Covid-19 vaccines, according to a statement released by the agency. Walensky received an updated Covid-19 booster in September. (Gumbrecht and Elassar, 10/22)
Covid Treatments and Vaccines
Orange County Register: Patients Died From COVID-19 Drug Treatment At Redlands, Riverside Hospitals, Suits Allege 
Two women have filed lawsuits alleging their husbands died from negligence at Inland Empire hospitals after doctors prescribed  remdesivir to treat COVID-19 and then failed to tell them about dangerous side effects of the anti-viral drug. (Schwebke, 10/23)
San Francisco Chronicle: Californians Are Not Getting The Latest COVID Booster. Here Is Where Uptake Is The Lowest
Have you gotten your bivalent booster yet? If you live in California, chances are the answer is no, according to data from the California Department of Public Health. As of Oct. 18, just 9% of eligible residents statewide — about 2.6 million people — have had a bivalent booster, the first COVID shot directed at the highly infectious omicron variants responsible for almost all new infections in the state. (Neilson, 10/22)
The New York Times: Among Seniors, A Declining Interest In Boosters 
Although Americans over 65 remain the demographic most likely to have received the original series of vaccinations, at 92 percent, their interest in keeping their vaccinations up-to-date is steadily declining, data from the C.D.C. shows. To date, about 71 percent have received the first recommended booster, but only about 44 percent have received the second. (Span, 10/22)
Stat: FDA’s Vaccines Chief Sees Possibility Of More Covid Boosters
Peter Marks, who leads the Food and Drug Administration’s vaccines operation, is still losing sleep over Covid. He thinks it’s conceivable that the booster shot people are getting now may not be the last some will need for the coming year. (Branswell, 10/21)
NBC News: Biden To Get Updated Covid Booster Shot Tuesday
President Joe Biden will get the updated Covid-19 shot Tuesday after he delivers remarks about the pandemic and the administration’s efforts to get people in the U.S. boosted, a White House official said. (Alba, 10/23)
Flu and RSV Outbreaks
The New York Times: A ‘Tripledemic’? Flu And Other Infections Return As Covid Cases Rise 
With few to no restrictions in place and travel and socializing back in full swing, an expected winter rise in Covid cases appears poised to collide with a resurgent influenza season, causing a “twindemic” — or even a “tripledemic,” with a third pathogen, respiratory syncytial virus, or R.S.V., in the mix. (Mandavilli, 10/23)
Axios: Respiratory Virus Cases In Children Surging "Like Never Before"
Respiratory illnesses in children are overwhelming hospitals across the United States right now. The unseasonably high numbers of respiratory illness in kids has put a strain on hospitals that are already preparing for the typical wintertime surge of patients ill from viruses. (Scribner, 10/21)
NPR: Children's Hospitals Grapple With A Nationwide Surge In RSV Infections
RSV symptoms are similar to a cold and can be harmless in adults, but the CDC says children under the age of 5 are the most affected group. According to the agency's data, each year approximately 58,000 children in that age range are hospitalized for RSV. The next most vulnerable group are adults over 65, in whom the infection causes 14,000 deaths a year. (Romo, 10/24)
ABC News: Experts Warn Of Severe Upcoming Flu Season As Pediatric Hospitals Already Feel The Crush
Pediatric bed capacity in hospitals is the highest it has been in two years. Around the country, hospitals are being inundated with pediatric patients sick with respiratory illnesses filling up to 71% of the estimated 40,000 available hospital beds, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports. (Benadjaoud and Egan, 10/22)
CNN: RSV In Children: Symptoms, Treatment And What Parents Should Know
In September, an 8-month-old baby came into Dr. Juanita Mora’s office in Chicago with an infection the doctor hadn’t expected to see for another two months: RSV. Like her peers across the country, the allergist and immunologist has been treating little ones with this cold-like virus well before the season usually starts. (Christensen, 10/24)
Abortion
San Francisco Chronicle: This Swing District Congressman Is The Rare Democrat Who Doesn’t Want To Talk About Abortion
Rep. Josh Harder is doing something virtually unheard of by Democrats this year: He doesn’t talk much about abortion. Or about Donald Trump. Or the Jan. 6 hearings. It’s not that he doesn’t care about those things — or has positions out of line with the Democratic Party — it’s that most of the people in his working-class San Joaquin Valley-based district have more pressing issues to worry about. Like the price of gasoline and the availability of water for agriculture. (Garofoli, 10/23)
Roll Call: New Pentagon Abortion Policy Likely To Trigger Legislative War
A day-old Pentagon policy on female servicemembers' access to reproductive health services is already triggering election-year sniping among lawmakers and figures to loom large in forthcoming legislation. (Donnelly, 10/21)
The Guardian: Abortion Bans Create ‘Insurmountable Barriers’ For Incarcerated Women In US
The Prison Policy Initiative found that an average of 58,000 people are pregnant each year when they enter local jails or prisons. In many of the states that already have the highest female state imprisonment rates, they also now have strict abortion laws ban the procedure almost entirely. As a result, the overturn of Roe v Wade is expected to make the lives of pregnant incarcerated people who are seeking abortions increasingly difficult. (Yang, 10/21)
The 19th: States Are Banning Abortion, But Only A Small Minority Of Constituents Want That
In states that have passed abortion bans, only 13 percent of people are in favor of the procedure being completely restricted, a new analysis of a recent 19th News/SurveyMonkey poll shows. Despite huge differences in the legality of abortion across the United States in the months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, there is little difference in support for abortion being legal in all or most cases. There is, however, a persistent gender gap in opinion: Women are more likely to support accessible abortion than men, no matter the restrictions in their state of residence. In states that have banned abortion, Black Americans are significantly less likely to back restrictions than White Americans. (Mithani, 10/24)
Nursing Homes
USA Today: Biden Administration Vows Tougher Oversight Of Poor-Performing Nursing Homes With Safety Issues
The Biden administration announced plans Friday to toughen oversight of the nation's poorest-performing nursing homes with escalating fines and terminating federal funding for the homes that fail to improve. (Alltucker, 10/21)
AP: Failing US Nursing Homes To Face Tougher Federal Penalties
The worst-of-the-worst nursing homes will face tougher penalties if conditions don’t improve at their facilities, the Biden administration announced Friday. The intensified scrutiny on some nursing homes, where more than a million people are housed, comes nearly two years after COVID-19 exposed subpar care and extreme staffing shortages that had long festered in the facilities. Nursing home residents have been significantly more likely to die from COVID-19; as of February, more than 200,000 nursing home staffers or residents had died from the virus. (Seitz, 10/21)
Modern Healthcare: CMS Nursing Home Crackdown Targets Poorest Performers
“Poor-performing nursing homes have the opportunity to improve, but if they fail to do so, the changes we are making to CMS’ Special Focus Facilities Program will hold these facilities accountable for the health and safety of their residents,” CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure said in a news release. (Devereaux, 10/21)
Health Care Industry
Sacramento Bee: Kaiser’s Mental Health Providers Ratify Contract, End Strike
Kaiser Permanente’s mental health providers voted 1,561 to 36 to ratify a new labor contract that they said would radically improve the company’s ability to hire and retain people working in their field. (Anderson, 10/21)
CNN: California Mental Health Workers Vote To End 10-Week Strike 
The wage increases included in the four-year Kaiser Permanente deal were relatively modest – a 4% retroactive pay increase for the last year and a 3% raise for each of the next three years. But the union says it won its main bargaining goals of better working conditions that will improve patient care and stop the rapid turnover of staff. (Isidore, 10/21)
CapRadio: Labor Tries City-By-City Push 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. Tony Ramirez, 39, a critical care technician at Garfield Medical Center in Monterey Park, California, finds more fulfillment in helping people in need than he once did editing technical documents for Disneyland. Before the pandemic, he would reposition and bathe patients and sometimes monitor their vital signs. After covid struck, he took on more duties, providing CPR or grabbing medications during an emergency, placing leads to monitor heart rhythms, and conducting post-mortem work. “We started doing that,” Ramirez said, “because of the influx of covid patients running very ill and in very intense situations.” (Bluth, 10/23)
The Bakersfield Californian: Nurse Jacqui Helps Breast Cancer Patients Navigate A Maze Of Care
As the nurse navigator at AIS’ Breast Center, Jacqueline Engstrand's job is to guide patients through the sometimes confusing, sometimes scary maze of exams, blood screens, tech scans, procedures, prescriptions, instructions and emotions many patients must, in essence, navigate, as they embark upon a journey to save their own lives. (Mayer, 10/22)
Drug Crisis
San Francisco Chronicle: Imperiled S.F. Drug Rehab Program Gets A New Operator As Nonprofit Tries To Steady Its Finances
A financially troubled San Francisco nonprofit has found a new operator to take over one of its imperiled drug treatment programs, but the fate of a few others is still up in the air. Chuan Teng, the interim CEO of PRC, told The Chronicle on Friday that another nonprofit, HealthRight 360, will take over the 10-bed Acceptance Place program in the coming months. HealthRight 360 confirmed the arrangement, which will require the program to relocate. (Morris, 10/21)
The New York Times: Biden Administration Offers Plan To Get Addiction-Fighting Medicine To Pregnant Women 
The Biden administration will use federal courts and health programs to expand the use of medication to treat substance use disorders in pregnant women, according to a report by the White House released Friday. The plan is part of the administration’s broader effort to combat a drug crisis that now kills more than 100,000 Americans annually. (Baumgaertner, 10/21)
Stateline: A New Paramedic Policy May Guide Overdose Patients Into Treatment
As the number of opioid overdose deaths continues to surge across the United States, some experts stress the urgency of providing the addiction treatment medication buprenorphine to drug users as soon as possible, on the scene of an overdose. (Vestal, 10/21)
Health Care Survey The 2022 CHCF California Health Policy Survey
This recent statewide survey found that one in four Californians had trouble paying a medical bill in the last 12 months. The survey also captures Californians' health care priorities for the governor and legislature to address.
Listening to Black Californians How the Health Care System Undermines Black Californians’ Pursuit of Good Health
CHCF commissioned a study that listens deeply to Black Californians talking about their experiences with racism and health care. This report summarizes in-depth interviews with 100 Black Californians and 18 focus groups, as well as a statewide survey of 3,325 adult Black Californians.
Mental Health Mental Health in California
Using the most recent data available, CHCF’s 2022 Almanac provides an overview of mental health statewide: disease prevalence, suicide rates, supply and use of treatment providers, and mental health in the criminal justice system.
© California Healthline 1998-2022. All Rights Reserved.
California Healthline is a service of the California Health Care Foundation produced by Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation.
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