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Arizona deemed ‘hot spot of the world’ amid virus surge

Five months after President Donald Trump hailed Arizona as a model for how it dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts warned Wednesday that the state has become “the hot spot of the world” and that health restrictions the governor has been hesitant to impose could have tamped down the crisis.

“It’s way worse than July already, and it’s going to continue to get worse. We’re probably two weeks behind LA in terms of our situation,” Will Humble, head of the Arizona Public Health Association, said referring to Los Angeles County, where a COVID-19 surge has created a shortage of oxygen and led ambulance crews to stop transporting patients they can’t revive in the field.

Health officials in Arizona reported a triple-digit number of new virus-related deaths for the second day in a row and more than 7,200 daily cases, with hospitals strained by a record number of patients.

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Six healthcare policies Democrats could push with control of the Senate

The prospects for President-elect Joe Biden’s healthcare agenda are rosier after Democrats won two Senate seats after Tuesday’s special election in Georgia.

News outlets have called that Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff have won races against Republican incumbent senators. Democrats after Jan. 20 will control the 50-50 Senate because they will hold the tie-breaking vote in the White House.

Democrats will have much more latitude to pursue their healthcare agenda with a trifecta government because they could use a tool called budget reconciliation to pass certain types of legislation with a simple Senate majority instead of the usual 60-vote threshold. The process has limits, but some of Biden’s priorities could potentially be accomplished.

The more favorable dynamic doesn’t mean advancing healthcare priorities will be easy. Unless some Republicans cooperate, Democrats couldn’t afford to lose a single vote in the Senate on a budget reconciliation measure and would have

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U.S. could soon give 1 million vaccinations a day

The U.S. could soon be giving at least a million COVID-19 vaccinations a day despite the sluggish start, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday, even as he warned of a dangerous next few weeks as the coronavirus surges.

The slow pace is frustrating health officials and a desperate public alike, with only about a third of the first supplies shipped to states used as of Tuesday morning, just over three weeks into the vaccination campaign.

“Any time you start a big program, there’s always glitches. I think the glitches have been worked out,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert told The Associated Press.

Vaccinations have already begun speeding up, reaching roughly half a million injections a day, he pointed out.

Now, with the holidays over, “once you get rolling and get some momentum, I think we can achieve 1 million a day or even more,” Fauci said. He called President-elect Joe

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Maryland announces health insurance enrollment period

Maryland is holding a new special enrollment period for the uninsured to get health insurance though the state’s health benefit exchange.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday the new enrollment period begins immediately and will run until March 15.

It’s being opened due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the recent rise in the positivity rate throughout the state.

Coverage dates will vary based on when a Marylander enrolls in a plan. Coverage starts Jan. 1 for people who enroll between now and Jan. 15. Those who enroll between Jan. 16 and Feb. 15 will have coverage start Feb. 1. Coverage will start March 1 for people who enroll between Feb. 16 and March 15.

The last COVID-19 special enrollment period ran from the onset of the pandemic in March through Dec.15. It was one of the longest in the country.

Nearly 107,000 Marylanders enrolled in 2020 health coverage through the

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Aetna’s exclusion of Walgreens impacts low-income patients

A December decision by insurer Aetna to drop Walgreens from its Illinois Medicaid plan is making it harder for thousands of low-income Chicago residents to get their prescriptions filled.

The Chicago Tribune reports Aetna’s decision to exclude the Walgreens chain from its Aetna Better Health of Illinois pharmacy network affects about 400,000 state residents. Many of them are poor and critics say they are already disproportionately those suffering from COVID-19 and unemployment.

In a written statement, Aetna, which owns Walgreens’ rival CVS, responded it has nearly 2,000 in-network pharmacies statewide for Medicaid members, including independent pharmacies and those in national and regional chains such as Walmart and Jewel-Osco.

However, Dr. Thomas Huggett, who practices medicine on Chicago’s West Side, said he has patients who have to travel about three miles to a CVS to get a prescription filled.

Aetna has 271 in-network pharmacies for Medicaid patients in Chicago alone, according

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The vaccines are here, but we can’t let our guard down

The vaccines are here, but we can’t let our guard down

The article “Pandemic backlash jeopardizes public health powers, leaders” hit close to home. I’m vice chairman of an Atlanta-area board of health, but I feel powerless. 

Dave, a close friend, died of COVID-19 in November. We met in 2011. He was a SCORE Association volunteer, doing free mentoring for small businesses. He was sharp, a retired banker. I was also retired, a former healthcare executive. I began mentoring businesses with him. Dave eventually stopped volunteering, but we remained close. 

When Dave came down with COVID, he called me. Dave was in good health. He said he had the virus for a week, but that it just felt like a cold. However, a few days later, Dave was brought to a hospital by ambulance and put on a ventilator. He later died.

Yes, vaccines are now being administered.

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