- A new Title X rule would prevent providers from referring patients to doctors or practices where they could be given an abortion.
- As a result, Planned Parenthood, the largest provider under Title X, is withdrawing from its funding.
- Planned Parenthood will continue to operate using funds from other sources, however, patients could see higher out of pocket costs and longer waits for appointments.
- Other organizations, including Maine Family Planning and the Vermont Department of Health, have also refused funding because of the rule, and more could follow.
New Rule in Title X
Planned Parenthood announced Monday that it is bowing out of federal funding under Title X after a new rule would prevent it from referring patients to abortion services.
Planned Parenthood is the largest provider under Title X funding. Since it was enacted in 1970, Title X has given family planning and related healthcare services to low-income patients, many of whom are women. It serves 4 million people annually, with close to 40 percent of its patients being served by Planned Parenthood.
The rule, penned by the Trump Administration, says that Title X providers cannot refer patients to doctors or practices that provide abortions, but makes an exception for cases of medical emergencies. It also allows for patients to receive other information on abortion. It goes on to say that a Title X provider can provide a patient with a list of providers “including some (but not the majority) who perform abortion as part of a comprehensive healthcare practice.”
“However, this list cannot serve as a referral for, nor identify those who provide abortion,” the rule continues. “And Title X providers cannot indicate those on the list who provide abortion.”
Planned Parenthood Refuses Funds
Planned Parenthood called the rule “unethical and dangerous” in a statement on Monday.
“Our patients come to us because they expect the best information and health care available. And we have a commitment to provide that to them,” Acting President Alexis McGill Johnson said. “But the gag rule would make it impossible for us to uphold that commitment. At Planned Parenthood, we refuse to cower to the Trump-Pence administration. We will not be bullied into withholding abortion information from our patients. Our patients deserve to make their own health care decisions, not to be forced to have Donald Trump or Mike Pence make those decisions for them.”
Planned Parenthood said they will remain open without Title X funding and will continue to operate with funds from other sources. The organization received $60 million annually from Title X and was the only Title X provider in some states. Reports say this could result in longer lines and higher out-of-pocket payments for many patients.
Planned Parenthood is not the only organization refusing Title X funds because of this rule. Both Maine Family Planning and the Vermont Department of Health have announced their exit from the program.
“Maine Family Planning withdraws from the Title X program—more in sorrow than in anger–because the Domestic Gag Rule, which the Office of Population Affairs is responsible for implementing, would fundamentally compromise the relationship our patients have with us as trusted providers of this most personal and private health care,” Maine Family Planning said in a statement. “It is simply wrong to deny patients accurate information about and access to abortion care.”
Maryland, Washington, Hawaii, Oregon, Illinois, and New York have also indicated that programs in their state might refuse funding as well.
Trump’s Support and Future of Title X Rule
Despite the dissent, the Trump Administration thinks the rule is beneficial. The White House said President Donald Trump was pleased with the rule in a statement published in May, when it was proposed.
“This important proposal would ensure compliance with the program’s existing statutory prohibition on funding programs in which abortion is a method of family planning,” the statement read. “The new proposed rule would not cut funds from the Title X program. Instead, it would ensure that taxpayers do not indirectly fund abortions.”
These Title X changes could see some hurdles, however. Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association have filed suits to block the rule. In July, district courts took their side, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed it to go into effect. The case is still ongoing and an oral argument in the 9th circuit court is scheduled for September 23.
The House of Representatives also passed a spending bill with language that would block the rule, moving the situation to the hands of the Senate.
See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Politico) (Washington Post)
U.S. Cracks Down on Flying With Emotional Support Animals
- The Department of Transportation announced new rules Wednesday that only allow dogs to be considered “service animals” for the purposes of flying on a plane.
- This means airlines will soon no longer need to accommodate emotional support animals and can block them from getting free airfare as well as cabin space.
- In the past, the department treated service animals and emotional support animals largely the same, despite there being a difference.
- The rule change has been celebrated by airline groups and passengers who argue that emotional support animals are often used as a way to game the system and transport an animal for free.
- However, critics of the rule said it would be better to more strictly regulate what qualifies as an emotional support animal and to require training that is more in-line with what service animals go through.
No More Peacocks on Planes
The U.S. Department of Transportation announced new rules on Wednesday that more clearly define what qualifies as a service animal, allowing airlines to turn away hundreds of thousands of animals classified as emotional support animals.
In the past, the Department of Transportation (DOT) treated service animals and emotional support animals largely the same, despite there being a difference. Service animals are trained to help someone with a disability; with certain types of animals being defined under the Americans With Disabilities Act. Emotional support animals are prescribed by a mental health professional and have no training requirements.
For U.S. airlines, there will now be a fundamental difference. According to the DOT’s new rules, airlines will only be required to allow “a dog, regardless of breed or type, that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a qualified individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
Rule Has Long Been in the Works
This new rule wasn’t a spur of the moment decision. For years airlines have asked the DOT to regulate the issue out of concern that people were passing off their pets as emotional support animals. With the lack of regulation about what an ’emotional support animal’ actually is, there was little recourse for airlines.
Rules around emotional support animals have proven to be much more relaxed. In fact, there are mental health companies that will give such a classification online without ever physically seeing the patient or the animal. On top of people trying to get their pets onto flights for free, according to the DOT, airlines were fed up with “requests to transport unusual species of animals onboard aircraft.”
These animals often lacked specific training to be transported in planes, in a cramped space, and surrounded by people for hours on end, leading to animals misbehaving on planes.
According to American Airlines, between 2016 and 2017, the number of emotional support animals being brought on planes went from 481,000 to over 750,000.
The new rule isn’t a blank check for service animal owners.
Under the new rule, airlines are allowed to block certain service dogs from being on a plane if they’re obnoxious to passengers – a rare occurrence considering how well-trained the dogs are.
Additionally, they can ask that owners fill out a new form “attesting to the animal’s training and good behavior, and certifying the animal’s good health.”
Another stand-out in the new ruling was the decision to exclude other highly trained service animals. The DOT considered expanding the rules to allow more than just dogs to be qualified as service animals, which are by far the most common type of service animal.
However, The American With Disabilities Act (ADA) also includes miniature horses as service animals. Those horses can often be smaller than some of the largest breed of dogs. Still, there’s nothing in the ADA that conflicts with the DOT’s decision, as it allows for some restrictions to be placed on miniature horses.
While the ADA only recognizes dogs and miniature horses, there are other intelligent animals that have been used as service animals, such as Capuchin monkeys. These monkeys are increasingly used as service animals because of their dexterity for people with mobility impairments.
Airlines and Services Speak Out
Airlines for America, a trade group for U.S. airlines, was happy with the new rule.
“The Department of Transportation’s final rule will protect the traveling public and airline crewmembers from untrained animals in the cabin, as well as improve air travel accessibility for passengers with disabilities that travel with trained service dogs,” it said in a statement.
American Airlines made a similar statement, with a spokesperson telling outlets: “This new rule reflects a respect for individuals with disabilities who travel with legitimate service animals, which we share while providing clear and practical guidelines that will eliminate the abuse of the system that has been a source of concern for our team members and customers.”
CertaPet, a company that will screen animals and provides letters saying they are emotional support, said in a statement that the rule is “a great disservice to those facing mental health challenges that get emotional support from their animal.”
The company thinks a better approach would have been to more strictly regulate what qualifies as an emotional support animal and to require training more in-line with what service animals go through.
We understand that there have been incidents that have discredited emotional support animals and the service they provide, but those situations could be prevented by increased regulation,” CertaPet added.
“We think emotional support peacocks are ridiculous too.”
The new rules aren’t in place quite yet. They’re set to go into effect 30 days after they enter the Federal Registrar, which still hasn’t happened. Additionally, this ruling doesn’t preclude airlines from freely allowing emotional support animals on their flights.
It’s recommended to check with your airline before expecting your emotional support animal will get free airfare.
Former Presidents Pledge To Get COVID-19 Vaccine Publicly To Prove It’s Safe
- Former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton have pledged to take a coronavirus vaccine once it is made available to the general public.
- Their promise comes as a vaccine is on the horizon, but many are unwilling to take it. According to a Gallop poll, 42% of Americans do not want to take the vaccine, with many feeling uneasy about how quickly it has been developed and others wanting to wait and see how safe it is.
- The three former presidents hope their willingness to take it will boost public trust in the vaccine. Facebook is also engaging in efforts to promote that trust by removing posts with misinformation about coronavirus vaccines.
- The timing for a vaccine could not be any more crucial. On Wednesday the U.S. broke two devastating records, reporting over 2,800 deaths in a day and 100,000 hospitalizations.
Presidents Pledge To Take Vaccine
The three most recent former U.S. presidents have pledged to take the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available to the general public.
During an interview Barack Obama did on the Joe Madison Show that was published Wednesday, the 44th president said that as long as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases thinks it’s safe, so does he.
“I promise you that when it’s been made for people who are less at risk, I will be taking it,” he added. “I may end up taking it on TV or having it filmed, just so that people know that I trust this science.”
Representatives for George W. Bush and Bill Clinton told CNN that both would be willing to participate in any effort to encourage people to vaccinate themselves against the deadly coronavirus, which has sickened 14 million Americans and killed over 274,000.
“A few weeks ago President Bush asked me to let Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx know that, when the time is right, he wants to do what he can to help encourage his fellow citizens to get vaccinated,” Bush’s Chief of Staff Freddy Ford told CNN. “First, the vaccines need to be deemed safe and administered to the priority populations. Then, President Bush will get in line for his, and will gladly do so on camera.”
Angel Urena, Clinton’s press secretary, said that he will “definitely take a vaccine as soon as available to him, based on the priorities determined by public health officials. And he will do it in a public setting if it will help urge all Americans to do the same.”
Americans Skeptical of Vaccine
This comes as a vaccine for COVID-19 is on the horizon. Both Pfizer and Moderna have submitted their vaccines for FDA approval and expect to get the go-ahead in just a few weeks. Healthcare workers and vulnerable populations could get shots this month, but many Americans are unwilling to get this vaccine.
A mid-November Gallup poll asked participants: “If an FDA-approved vaccine to prevent coronavirus/COVID-19 was available right now at no cost, would you agree to be vaccinated?”
In response, 58% said they would, and 42% said they would not. This shows slightly more interest in the vaccine now than in the fall, when Americans were at a 50/50 split on the subject. However, it shows less enthusiasm than in the summer, when 66% of people said they would get the vaccine and only 36% said they would not.
As far as why so many people would turn down the vaccine, 37% of those who said ‘no’ claimed they felt the vaccine timeline and development was rushed. Another 26% said they wanted to wait to confirm it was safe, while 10% said they wanted to wait to see how effective it is. Many of these people could likely come around and choose to take the vaccine later on. Still, 12% of those who responded ‘no’ said that they do not trust vaccines in general.
Combatting Vaccine Hesitancy
Health officials are working hard on messaging that aims to limit vaccine hesitancy. During a Wednesday appearance on Fox News, Dr. Fauci criticized the fast pace in which the U.K. approved Pfizer’s vaccine, claiming that a turnaround that fast will lead to people questioning whether or not they should take it.
“If you go quickly and you do it superficially, people are not going to want to get vaccinated,” he explained. “We have the gold standard of a regulatory approach with the FDA. The U.K. did not do it as carefully and they got a couple of days ahead, I don’t think that makes much difference.”
Social media companies like Facebook are also working on vaccine messaging. On Thursday, the company put out a blog post promising to remove COVID-19 vaccine misinformation. This could involve taking down conspiracy theories and false claims about the safety, efficacy, ingredients or side effects of the vaccines.
The need for a coronavirus vaccine has never been greater. On Wednesday, for the first time since the pandemic began, hospitalizations for COVID-19 topped 100,000, which is a 26% jump from two weeks ago. The U.S. also reported over 2,800 deaths, another pandemic record. Some experts believe the country is on track to regularly surpass 2,000 or 3,000 deaths a day, and even approach 4,000.
COVID-19 May Have Been in the U.S. December 2019, New Study Shows
- A new government report found that the coronavirus may have been in the United States in December 2019, weeks before the first confirmed case.
- For the study, the CDC looked at over 7,000 blood samples taken in nine states between December 13, 2019 and January 12, 2020.
- Researches found COVID-19 antibodies in 106 of those samples, with at least one sample per state having antibodies.
- These findings are in line with several other studies in the U.S. and well other countries which have found that the coronavirus was likely spreading globally before health officials were aware of it.
Report Shows Potential U.S. Cases in December
COVID-19 may have made its way to the United States in December of 2019, weeks earlier than previously thought, according to a new government study.
That study was published Monday in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal. The first coronavirus case was reported in Wuhan, China at the end of December. The first case in the United States was not reported until mid-January, but health experts have long wondered if the disease had been spreading sooner than that.
For the study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention looked at 7,389 blood donations collected by the American Red Cross between December 13, 2019 and January 17, 2020 from donors across nine states. Of those samples, antibodies showed up in 106. Antibodies came up from people in each state, with 39 coming from California, Oregon and Washington and the other 67 coming from Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan, Connecticut or Rhode Island.
Further testing was done on a majority of these samples to confirm that these antibodies were related to this specific outbreak and not part of other common coronaviruses. The data showed that they “were obviously from SARSCoV-2 infected individuals.”
“The findings of this report suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infections may have been present in the U.S. in December 2019, earlier than previously recognized,” the authors wrote.
The study provides major context about the virus and the way it may have been spreading, completely unknown to public health officials for quite some time. The authors of the study believe this information will kelp experts better understand the pandemic, how it started, and how it can be mitigated.
“Understanding the dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 pandemic from early introduction throughout further progression will advance understanding of the epidemiology of this novel virus and inform allocation of resources and public health prevention interventions to mitigate morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19,” the report said.
While the study provides incredible insight into the start of the coronavirus, the authors did also note there are limitations to what can be learned from it. For example, the data in the study should not be used to measure the magnitude of infections on a state or national level. It also cannot determine if these people came into contact with the virus from traveling, community spread, or another means of transmission. Though, a previous study of blood donors indicated that only around 3% had traveled outside of the U.S. in the 28 days prior to their donation.
Other Studies Suggest Earlier Spread
This is not the first study to suggest that COVID-19 was spreading this widely so soon. Dr. Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist explained on Twitter that this news matches up with a wastewater analysis, which found that the virus was potentially in Europe, specifically in Northern Italy, in mid-December. It also matches early indicator data that found excess flu illnesses in the province Wuhan is in during early December.
Additionally, a separate report published in the Clinical Infectious Diseases journal last week found that the United States may have had significantly more COVID-19 cases than recorded. Since so many cases go unreported and undetected because many have no or mild symptoms, the study aimed to find the true number of cases the country may have seen at this point.
“To estimate the cumulative incidence SARS-CoV-2 infections, symptomatic illnesses, and hospitalizations, we adapted a simple probabilistic multiplier model,” the study explained. “Laboratory-confirmed case counts that were reported nationally were adjusted for sources of under-detection based on testing practices in inpatient and outpatient settings and assay sensitivity.”
The authors found that only one out of every 2.5 hospitalized infections and one out of every seven non-hospitalized illnesses may have been nationally reported. This means that between February 27 and September 30, there may have been 52.9 million total infections in the U.S.
These cases, however, are unconfirmed and based on the model created. Currently, the U.S. has seen 13.6 million confirmed cases and lost 268,626 lives to the coronavirus.