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Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care, where we’re following the latest moves on policy and news affecting your health. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup. 
One tennis tournament where Novak Djokovic will be allowed to play: the Italian Open. The tennis star was famously barred from participating in the Australian Open for not being vaccinated and won’t be allowed in Britain or France, either.  
The CDC says an anime convention in New York City in late November was not an omicron super spreader event, despite what many feared. 
For The Hill, we’re Peter Sullivan ([email protected]) and Nathaniel Weixel ([email protected]). Write to us with tips and feedback, and follow us on Twitter: @PeterSullivan4 and @NateWeixel 
Let’s get started. 
Anime convention not a superspreader event  
Right when the omicron variant was first detected, public health officials feared an anime convention in New York City would set off a massive spread of the virus; much like a biotech convention in Boston did in February 2020. 
But in one of the more encouraging signs in recent years, that didn’t happen. Indoor mask wearing, a vaccine requirement, booster shots and a high-quality air filtration system in the Javits Center largely prevented the virus’s transmission, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (D) investigation found. 
“These findings reinforce the importance of implementing multiple, simultaneous prevention measures, such as ensuring up-to-date vaccination, mask use, physical distancing, and improved ventilation in limiting SARS-CoV-2 transmission, during large, indoor events,” the CDC said. 
Among 4,560 attendees with available test results, just 119 people tested positive for COVID-19, a rate of only 2.6 percent.  
The anime convention attracted tens of thousands of people from 52 U.S. jurisdictions and 30 countries from Nov. 19-21. The convention required attendees to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine dose and enforced mask-use while indoors. 
Omicron spread: All cases of omicron from the convention were traced back to one group of 23 friends, who were close contacts of someone who tested positive. From that group, 16 of them received a positive test result.  
Read more here.

US upping vaccine help for African countries
The Biden administration is increasing support for COVID-19 vaccinations to 11 countries in sub-Saharan Africa as part of a broader effort to boost vaccination rates.   
The effort from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will focus on getting shots into arms in Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia.  
Experts have urged more action on global vaccinations both for humanitarian reasons and even for the self-interest of wealthier countries like the United States, given that new variants of the virus can develop anywhere and end up threatening the whole world.  
The surge in support, which was first reported by The Washington Post, comes as part of a broader effort, called the Initiative for Global Vaccine Access, that was announced in December with $315 million for vaccine delivery.  
Will White House ask for more funding? Some advocates and Democrats in Congress have been urging the Biden administration to step up its efforts to vaccinate the world, including with support for $17 billion in additional funding for global vaccination efforts, as well as moves to share the know-how for making vaccines and to ramp up manufacturing.   
It remains unclear whether the Biden administration will request more funding for global vaccinations from Congress, after officials signaled a need for $30 billion more in funds focused on domestic needs earlier this week.   
Read more here.  
WHO: DECLINE IN NEW COVID-19 CASES COULD BE TIED TO DROP IN TESTING
A World Health Organization (WHO) epidemiologist said this week that the drop in new COVID-19 cases may in part be a result of changing testing rates and advised people to be cautious before celebrating downward trends. 
“If you look at the overall epidemic curve, there are fewer cases that were reported in the last week than were in the previous week, but we need to look at this very carefully,” Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for the WHO’s COVID-19 response team, said during a live Q&A on Wednesday. 
Kerkhove noted many countries have dropped testing requirements, and called it a concerning development due to the “intense level” of viral circulation that is still occurring. 
Kerkhove said that while recent trends are “certainly” going in the right direction, there are still many cases that are going unreported. Apart from new coronavirus cases, Kerkhove said the continuing increase in COVID-19-related deaths is now a larger concern while noting that death rates are varying in different part of the world. 
Read more here.
ALL MEMBERS OF CONGRESS CAN ATTEND STATE OF THE UNION
The House sergeant-at-arms announced on Thursday that all members of Congress will be allowed to attend the State of the Union next month, after attendance at President BidenJoe BidenTrump-nominated FAA administrator to resign at end of March Senate slips within 48 hours of government shutdown deadline Trump issues endorsements in Texas congressional races MORE’s address to a joint session of Congress last year was limited because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 
House Sergeant-at-Arms William Walker, in a memo to all members of Congress, invited press and credentialed staff, also laid out a number of COVID-19 safety measures all attendees are required to follow in order to listen to the speech in the chamber on March 1. 
Attendees must present a negative COVID-19 test that was taken at the Capitol Visitors Center within one day of the speech and wear a KN95 or N95 mask. 
Walker also said attendees must show proof of a daily negative health screening inventory prior to entry, socially distance during the speech, avoid physical contact with others and use waterless hand cleanser upon entering the chamber. 
Vaccination against the coronavirus is not required for entry to the speech, but Walker said it is “strongly recommended” that attendees are vaccinated and boosted. 
The decision comes after attendance was limited for Biden’s first address to a joint session of Congress last year. Only about 200 individuals were allowed into the chamber, and no senators or representatives were allowed to bring guests to the event. 
Read more here.  

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Officials propose ‘humane’ charge rule
The Biden administration is proposing what it calls a more “fair and humane” version of the “public charge” rule that would eliminate many of the barriers imposed by the Trump administration on noncitizens seeking to qualify for legal status who rely on public benefits. 
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on Thursday proposed a much narrower definition of which public benefits an immigrant may potentially be dependent on, which the government can then use to determine whether that person should be lawfully admitted into the country. 
The Biden administration said it aims to focus primarily on cash benefits. Unlike the Trump administration, the DHS said it no longer intends to consider noncash benefits, like food assistance, Medicaid benefits, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, housing benefits and transportation vouchers. 
The Trump administration in 2019 expanded the definition of “public charge” to make it much easier for immigration officials to deny entry or legal status to people likely to rely on government assistance.  
“The 2019 public charge rule was not consistent with our nation’s values,” DHS Secretary Alejandro MayorkasAlejandro MayorkasOversight Republicans demand documents on Afghanistan withdrawal Overnight Health Care — DC ending mask, vaccine mandates Five big questions after Canadian truckers cleared from US border bridge MORE said in a statement. “Under this proposed rule, we will return to the historical understanding of the term ‘public charge’ and individuals will not be penalized for choosing to access the health benefits and other supplemental government services available to them.” 
Read more here.
WHAT WE’RE READING

See also  Well being officers ratchet up requires boosters amid risk of omicron wave

As politics infects public health, private companies profit (Kaiser Health News) 
Americans are tired of the pandemic. But disease experts preach caution — and endure a ‘kill the messenger’ moment (Washington Post) 
Biden’s new global vaccine push is running out of funds (Politico) 

 

STATE BY STATE

State constitutions vex conservatives’ strategies for a post-Roe world (Kaiser Health News) 
R.I. Attorney General denies Lifespan-Care New England health care merger (Boston Globe) 
California offers cautious blueprint forward as mask orders ease (LA Times) 

 

OPEDS IN THE HILL
 

That’s it for today, thanks for reading. Check out The Hill’s health care page for the latest news and coverage. See you Friday.

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