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— A controversial Trump-era health border policy runs out this week. People around the world are waiting to see whether the CDC finally ends Title 42.
— USAID needs billions to continue its Covid-19 vaccination work. Without it, Americans are at risk.
— Biden’s 2023 budget is expected to be released today. Let’s see what makes the cut and what doesn’t. …
WELCOME TO MONDAY PULSE — A little Pulse PSA for you today … Sarah and I will be moderating at POLITICO’s first health care summit on Thursday. Please join us! Details follow, and as always, send your tips and news to [email protected] and [email protected].
POLITICO will host its inaugural health care summit on Thursday, March 31, as the U.S. enters its third year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Through a series of interviews and panel discussions, summit participants — including providers, policymakers, regulators and patient representatives — will discuss the policies, political dynamics and tech trends shaping the sector. For details, or to attend in person or watch online, click here.
DIVISIVE BORDER ORDER ON THE BRINK — A controversial public health order the Trump and Biden administrations have used to expel nearly 2 million migrants from the U.S. during the pandemic expires on Wednesday, Krista reports.
The administration has come under increasing pressure in recent weeks not to renew the policy, enacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention during the pandemic’s early days.
Lawmakers, public health experts and immigration advocates say that, given America’s falling infection rates and widespread relaxation of restrictions, using the law to keep people out of the U.S. immigration system and turn away individuals who seek asylum here is no longer justified.
The pressure campaign to end the law, known as Title 42, comes at a fraught moment for the administration as it juggles a series of competing interests: the desires to signal that America is moving on from the pandemic even as the Omicron BA.2 subvariant spreads and to avoid an influx of would-be asylum seekers while welcoming refugees from the war in Ukraine.
Events this month have also ratcheted up the pressure. On March 4, a D.C. Circuit Court judge questioned what, if any, public health purpose the policy serves at this stage in the pandemic. A week later, the CDC, in response to a separate court ruling in Texas, ended the order for unaccompanied minors but kept it in place for adults and families. Since then, Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion have also run up against Title 42 — and, in some cases, have been exempted.
If the administration does not renew the policy this week, how they’ll handle the influx of migrants expected to follow is unclear. But experts say that’s s no justification for keeping the public health order in place.
“From a public health point of view — in terms of providing protection to people residing in the United States — this does nothing. Nothing,” said Ron Waldman, a former CDC epidemiologist and professor emeritus at George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health. “The CDC as a public health agency needs to be guided first and foremost by the science. I believe in this case that they are wrong on the science.”
USAID VACCINE FUNDS RUNNING DRY — With a $4 billion-plus request stalled in Congress, the U.S. Agency for International Development says it’s planning for the possibility that it might run out of the money needed to keep vaccinating the world’s vulnerable populations, POLITICO’s Erin Banco writes.
That’s not only a grim development for the swathes of people still waiting for their first shot; it could be bad news for the U.S. population that’s already been hit hard by new variants that have emerged overseas.
“Getting first and foremost to those folks who are at highest risk of a severe outcome from the disease, particularly with the immunocompromised populations — those are the populations that are likely the highest risk of potentially producing new variants,” says Jeremy Konyndyk, the executive director of the agency’s Covid-19 task force. “The more that we can expedite coverage of those populations, the shorter the lifespan of their infections.”
The lack of funding threatens to undermine Biden’s June 2021 pledge to help end the pandemic worldwide by providing an “arsenal” of vaccines. And it would limit USAID’s ability to fulfill its mission — to help save lives — at a time when millions of people are still unprotected and at risk of getting Covid.
President Joe Biden is expected to hold his second global vaccine summit in April when he’ll ask other countries to ramp up their vaccine and cash donations to help support the effort — a move that could occur before the White House and Congress reach a deal on supplemental funding.
IT’S BUDGET DAY — It doesn’t feel wise to make any big predictions about what we’ll see in Biden’s 2023 budget, expected to be released today. Over the weekend, news leaked that the plan would include a new minimum tax targeting billionaires. Bloomberg reported last week the administration will seek more than $813 billion in defense and national security spending.
Everyone will be watching, especially those in the health space looking for more commitments to fight this pandemic and the next one. On Tuesday, we’ll hash out what Biden did — and didn’t — include for you.
If you can’t wait that long, you can join POLITICO at 3:30 p.m. ET as our policy reporters, including Morning Money author Kate Davidson, discuss Biden’s budget request and prospects for fiscal 2023. Register now.
A LOT OF PARENTS REALLY DIDN’T LIKE MASKS — If kids ever have to go back to wearing masks in U.S. schools, it’s not going to be easy.
About 4 in 10 parents believe their child’s overall school experience was harmed by having to wear masks during the last year, according to a new POLITICO-Harvard survey. Forty-six percent said it hurt their child’s social interaction, and 39 percent said it hurt their mental and emotional health, POLITICO’s Dan Goldberg writes.
Parents are also split on whether masking in schools this year was even necessary: 51 percent said wearing a mask helped keep their child safe from Covid-19 and variants like Omicron, while 47 percent said it didn’t help.
ADAMS SAYS NO FOUL IN EXEMPTING ATHLETES FROM VAX — New York City Mayor Eric Adams said he saw “no double standard” in waiving a vaccine requirement for local athletes and performers, while city workers are still required to get the shot, POLITICO’s Danielle Muoio Dunn reports.
Adams said he made the call so athletes and performers weren’t at a disadvantage when out-of-town players were exempt from the requirement.
More than 1,000 city workers have been fired for not complying with the requirement, labor leaders say, and some suggest they may sue the city over the decision.
“I made a decision based on the information that I received from my health team, and I have the obligation to make those decisions on how I’m going to move my city forward,” said Adams. “You may consider it a double standard. I consider it an analysis that I made,and I’m comfortable with my decision.”
15 STATES REPORT COVID-19 LOWS — Covid-19 infection numbers continue to fall across the country, POLITICO’s Ming Li reports. As of March 21, the national seven-day average of cases and deaths were down 12 and 2 percent, respectively.
Fifteen states saw their lowest case count of the year, with Nebraska reporting the lowest rate of fewer than two Covid-19 cases per 100,000 residents. Idaho and Alaska reported the highest infection rates, while Arizona and Missouri reported the highest death rates.
See the full DataPoint graphic here.
BIDEN’S SCALED-BACK SCIENCE AGENDA — In March, President Joe Biden’s long-standing promise to expand medical research got some traction when he signed a government spending bill that allotted $1 billion to the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health.
But that was $5.5 billion less than what he asked Congress one year ago, and major details about how the new initiative will work are still being ironed out, write POLITICO’s Tucker Doherty and Sarah.
Among the largest pieces of unfinished business is where ARPA-H will be housed. Biden wants to see it live under the NIH, but critics of that plan, including patient advocates and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, argue it should be independent and free from that notoriously slow-moving and risk-averse behemoth.
Meanwhile, Biden’s cancer moonshot, which would significantly fast-track cancer research, is still in limbo.
The American Clinical Laboratory Association has named Susan Van Meter as its new president. She previously worked at AdvaMedDx as executive director.
More like what-we’ll-be-watching. NBC News and MSNBC will air the first episode of their investigation into how the U.S. government’s Covid-19 spending has led to historic levels of fraud at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBC Nightly News.
And here’s more good accountability reporting: A small lab that received $187 million in federal funding delivered unreliable Covid-19 results before it was stripped of its license, reports The Washington Post.