IHA Daily Briefing: Jan. 13

Thursday, January 13, 2022
CMS Vax Mandate Upheld, OSHA Mandate Overturned
National Blood Crisis Declared by Red Cross
HHS Minority Health Month to Focus on Vaccination
Illinois COVID-19 Updates
Briefly Noted

CMS Vax Mandate Upheld, OSHA Mandate Overturned
Today, the Supreme Court upheld the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) rule requiring healthcare workers in facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding to be vaccinated for COVID-19, unless they receive an approved religious or medical exemption.

In a narrow ruling, passed by a 5-4 vote with Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett dissenting, the Supreme Court allowed the CMS Vaccination Mandate to proceed.

According to the Court “[t]he challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it. At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have.  Because the latter principle governs in these cases, the applications for a stay…are granted.”

However, in a 6-3 vote, with liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissenting, the Court overturned the OSHA rule which would have required companies with 100 or more employees to have their workers either get vaccinated or be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.

According to the Court "[a]lthough Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly…. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category."

In their dissent, the three dissenting Justices stated that OSHA was well within its authority and expertise to impose the mandates, unlike the Court, which they said was "lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes."

Specifically, the dissenting Justices stated “[a]s disease and death continue to mount, this court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible. Without legal basis, the court usurps a decision that rightfully belongs to others. It undercuts the capacity of the responsible federal officials, acting well within the scope of their authority, to protect American workers from grave danger."

National Blood Crisis Declared by Red Cross
The American Red Crisis says it’s facing a national blood crisis, with less than a one-day supply of critical blood types in recent weeks.

The organization reports it is experiencing the worst blood shortage in over a decade, and said dangerously low blood supply levels have forced some hospitals to defer patients from major surgery and required doctors to make difficult decisions about who receives blood transfusions and who must wait.

Supplying 40% of the nation’s blood supply, the Red Cross says it has had to limit blood product distributions to hospitals as a result of the shortage. In fact, according to the organizations some hospitals may not receive one in four blood products they need.

The Red Cross said that the blood shortage is driven by a 62% drop in college and high school blood drives due to the COVID-19 pandemic; ongoing blood drive cancellations due to illness, weather and staffing limitations; and other factors, including the surge of COVID-19 cases and flu season.

Information on hosting a blood drive can be found at the American Red Cross website.

HHS Minority Health Month to Focus on Vaccination
The U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Minority Health (OMG) announced the theme for April’s National Minority Health Month 2022 will be “Give Your Community a Boost!”

As OMH seeks to highlight the importance of improving the health of racial and ethnic minorities and reducing health disparities, this year’s National Minority Health Month focuses on the continued importance of COVID-19 vaccination, including boosters, as one of the strongest tools available to end the CVOID-19 pandemic that has disproportionately impacted communities of color.

Illinois COVID-19 Updates
Gov. JB Pritzker said yesterday he is sending more than 2,000 additional healthcare workers to Illinois hospitals in need of staffing support. Similarly, today President Joe Biden announced plans to deploy military medical teams to several states to assist hospitals during the current COVID-19 surge.

At this time, Illinois is not one of the six states identified to receive the federal medical support set to be deployed next week; however, the state recently confirmed that a team from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is headed to the Rockford region.

The Illinois Dept. of Public Health (IDPH) today reported 37,048 new confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases, including 142 additional deaths.

As of Jan. 12, 7,380 individuals in Illinois were reported to be in the hospital with COVID-19. Of those, 1,177 patients were in the ICU and 670 patients were on ventilators.

The preliminary seven-day statewide positivity for cases as a percent of total tests is 11.5%. The preliminary seven-day statewide test positivity is 16.2%.

The seven-day rolling average of vaccines administered daily in Illinois is 51,776 doses. IDPH reports that 74.9% of adults (18 years and older) have been fully vaccinated, while 84.2% have received at least one vaccination dose. For the Illinois population 12 years and older, 73.5% have been fully vaccinated, while 82.6% have received at least one vaccination dose. For the Illinois population 5 years and older, 69.1% have been fully vaccinated and 78.3% have received at least one dose.

Today, the Chicago Dept. of Public Health sent a health alert stating COVID-19 test positivity and cases have decreased in Chicago. With the Omicron variant noted to be the predominant strain of all COVID-19 cases in Chicago, the seven-day rolling average for daily COVID-19 cases in Chicago is 5,070, with a seven-day rolling average for test positive at 18.2 percent. This is a decrease from the previous week’s seven-day average of 5,470 cases and 20.8 percent. The seven-day rolling average for daily deaths related to COVID-19 is 20, which is an increase from last week’s reported seven-day rolling average of 14 deaths per day.

Briefly Noted
The Illinois General Assembly has canceled its three scheduled session days for next week citing the rise in COVID-19 cases. However, statements from legislative leaders in both chambers indicated that committees will continue to meet remotely.

A new Northwestern Medicine study of fatal opioid overdose data between 1999 and 2019 in adults 55 and older found a 1,886 percent increase in deaths in this age group during that time, from 518 deaths in 1999 to 10,292 deaths in 2019.

The annual American Cancer Society report on cancer statistics shows cancer mortality rates have dropped over nearly two decades, largely due to “major progress” in early detection and treatment.