Overnight Health Care: CDC study links masks to fewer COVID-19 deaths | Relief debate stalls in Senate | Biden faces criticism over push to vaccinate teachers

Welcome to Friday’s Overnight Health Care. Vaccinations aren’t just ramping up among humans. Nine great apes at the San Diego Zoo also got animal coronavirus vaccines. 

Follow us on Twitter at @PeterSullivan4 and @NateWeixel. 

A new CDC study points to the importance of masks, but they won’t be required forever, the White House says, and President BidenJoe BidenPentagon takes heat for extending Guard’s time at Capitol Booker to try to make child tax credit expansion permanent Sullivan says tariffs will not take center stage in talks with China MORE takes some heat over his teacher vaccination push. 

Let’s start with the CDC study:


More evidence that masks work (and restaurant dining could be a problem)

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) links mask mandates to a decline in COVID-19 cases and deaths. 

The study also found that allowing restaurant dining was linked to increases in cases and deaths.


Why it matters: The study provides additional empirical backing for mask mandates and limiting restaurant dining, at a time when some states are opening. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) this week ended his state’s mask mandate, as did Mississippi’s governor. 

CDC Director Rochelle WalenskyRochelle WalenskyThe Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation – Biden: Back to ‘normal’ still means ‘beat the virus’ CDC director: ‘I worry about the day where the vaccine will no longer be free’ Fauci to spring breakers: ‘Don’t put your guard down completely’ MORE said Friday that the data “serves as a warning about prematurely lifting these prevention measures.” 

Read more here.


Masks aren’t forever, but they are for now, says Biden COVID-19 adviser

The senior adviser for the White House’s COVID-19 response team encouraged Americans to keep wearing masks as a preventative measure on Friday, as some states lift their mandates amid declining case numbers.

“The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and public health officials locally, at the state level and nationally are all clear: Wear a mask, not forever, but for now,” Andy Slavitt said during a briefing on Friday. “Wear a mask now so that we can get to a place where you don’t have to.”

“And this is not just the voice of cautious public health experts, it is what businesses who want to remain open and many public officials of both parties who’ve lived through the last year are saying,” Slavitt added.

Texas and Mississippi both lifted their mask mandates and capacity restrictions on businesses on Tuesday, though health experts warn newer, more contagious variants of the coronavirus could cause spikes in infections even as vaccinations increase.

“Progress demonstrates we can defeat COVID-19, but it does not equal success,” Slavitt said. “It may seem tempting in the face of all of this progress to try to rush back to normalcy as if the virus is in the rear-view mirror. It’s not.”

Read more here.


How long will relief bill votes in the Senate keep going? Unclear. 

Democratic drama over unemployment benefits is snagging the Senate’s coronavirus relief debate.

The Senate has been stuck in a state of limbo for hours as senators try to figure out the path forward on 10 weekly unemployment payments.

Senators have filed two competing unemployment proposals: One, from Sen. Rob PortmanRobert (Rob) Jones PortmanOvernight Defense: Top GOP senators demand answers on extended Guard deployment, Capitol fencing | Guard costs estimated at 1M | House panel to take up 2002 war authorization repeal Top GOP senators: Capitol Police failing to justify beefed-up security The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation – Biden: Back to ‘normal’ still means ‘beat the virus’ MORE (R-Ohio), would provide $300 per week through mid-July, a significantly shorter timeline than what’s supported by most Democrats.

The second, from Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Senate confirms Michael Regan as EPA chief | Biden delays Trump changes to lead and copper drinking water rule | Trump FWS faulted for lack of opinions  Climate change will have ‘far-reaching’ impacts on electric grid, watchdog says Senate approves sweeping coronavirus measure in partisan vote MORE (D-Del.), would provide a $300 weekly payment through September.

That’s a change from the House bill, which provided $400 per week through August. But Democrats unveiled the agreement earlier Friday, characterizing it as a deal worked out by their moderate and progressive factions.

In order for Democrats to attach their proposal to the coronavirus bill, they would need the support of all 50 members of their caucus and Vice President Harris to break a tie.

But in a significant snag, Portman told reporters that he believes he can get the support of all 50 GOP senators and Sen. Joe ManchinJoe ManchinThe Hill’s 12:30 Report – Presented by Johns Hopkins University – Biden sets optimistic tone for summer Democrats debate fast-track for infrastructure package Overnight Health Care: Biden to outline path to more normal Fourth of July | Biden signs .9 trillion relief bill into law | Manchin and Collins to support Becerra MORE (D-W.Va.) to vote for his proposal.

“I think so,” Portman said, asked if he has the entire GOP caucus and Manchin.

Read more here


Not everyone happy with the push to vaccinate teachers (especially if it’s at the expense of others’ place in line) 

The Biden administration is defending the president’s decision to prioritize vaccinations for teachers and school staff.

Critics charge it will deepen inequalities around vaccine access and allege President Biden is bowing to pressure from teachers unions.

The plan, announced Tuesday, uses the administration’s partnership with pharmacies to prioritize giving educators at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine this month.

Céline Gounder, an infectious diseases specialist and epidemiologist at New York University who advised the Biden transition team on COVID-19, tweeted that the move “doesn’t make any sense.”

Gounder argued that older, at-risk teachers should already be getting vaccinated under current priority groups. She noted pharmacies are not getting any additional allocations.

Without extra supply, Gounder said pharmacies would be “taking vaccine away from higher-risk persons & communities of color to vaccine young healthy teachers. This is an ANTI-EQUITY move.”

Read more here.


Fauci: Military personnel opting out of vaccine are ‘part of the problem’

Anthony FauciAnthony FauciVideos of grandparents hugging kids go viral The Hill’s Morning Report – Presented by the National Shooting Sports Foundation – Biden: Back to ‘normal’ still means ‘beat the virus’ Fauci: CDC will release new guidance for vaccinated Americans ‘very soon’ MORE, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, on Thursday told U.S. military members that those of them who decide not to get the coronavirus vaccine are inadvertently “part of the problem” of prolonging the pandemic.

While speaking in a town hall with Blue Star Families, a nonprofit organization dedicated to serving military personnel and their families, Fauci told service members that they are “part of the solution to this outbreak.” 

“Because by getting infected, even though you may not know it, you may be inadvertently transmitting the infection to someone else, even though you have no symptoms,” Fauci said during the event, according to CNBC.

“In reality, like it or not, you’re propagating this outbreak,” the White House’s chief medical adviser added. “So instead of being part of the solution, you are innocently and inadvertently being part of the problem by not getting vaccinated.”

Read more here.


What we’re reading

Unemployed workers are hit with another shock: Many owe the government money for health insurance (Washington Post)

A new Democratic plan to expand Medicaid hits a big snag: Republican governors (Vox)

‘This isn’t done’: Experts warn that no matter what our Covid end goal is, we have a ways to go (Stat


State by state

D.C. coronavirus vaccine registration website falters again, despite assurances (Washington Post)

Coronavirus cases plummet at Florida care facilities after vaccines (Tampa Bay Times

Watch joyous moment as hospital’s last patient leaves COVID center in North Carolina (News & Observer)