Here's the scoop on what's happening this week in Congress
The House and Senate are out of session for the Easter/Passover recess and will return on April 25.
House Chair DeLauro, Senate Chair Leahy, and Ranking Members Rep. Granger and Senator Shelby are expected to meet shortly after the two-week recess to begin discussions aimed at reaching a bipartisan agreement on overall discretionary spending levels for the fiscal year 2023 that begins Oct. 1. Appropriators are hoping to reach spending agreements quicker than they did for FY’22. The FY’22 omnibus package was finally enacted last month — five months after the current FY’22 began.
The House Appropriations Committee is tentatively planning to mark up their 12 spending bills for FY’23 starting the week of June 13 through the end of June. The House is hoping to complete floor action on all 12 bills by the end of July.
This week the CDC issued an annual report entitled “Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance 2020.” The report states that the number of cases of some STIs increased during the first year of the pandemic, continuing a rise seen over the last decade. Syphilis and gonorrhea cases increased in 2020, as screening clinics closed, and people put off regular doctor visits. Fewer chlamydia cases were recorded than in past years, but experts say that decrease was due to reduced testing rather than a true decline in the disease’s prevalence. The report highlighted the cases of congenital syphilis (CS) and how dire the outbreak has become. In 2012, 332 babies were born infected with CS. In 2021, that number had climbed nearly sevenfold, to at least 2,268 with 166 deaths, and thousands of others born with brain damage, bone malformations, blindness, and organ damage. These statistics are heartbreaking given that the CS is totally preventable with treatment. The report can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/std/statistics/2020/default.htm
The Department of Health and Human Service’s report “Sexually Transmitted Infections — National Strategic Plan for the United States – 2021–2025” cites some alarming increases in the rates of sexually transmitted infections, including syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea, amounting to a public health crisis. From 2014 to 2018, the rates of reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis, congenital syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia rose 71%, 185%, 63%, and 19%, respectively. Human papillomavirus (HPV), the most common STI, accounts for 14 million new infections each year. The plan can be found here: https://www.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/STI-National-Strategic-Plan-2021-2025.pdf
Nearly 90 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the US are now a more transmissible subvariant of omicron known as BA.2, according to the CDC. The data, for the week ending April 9, reveals that 86 percent of cases were the BA.2 variant, showing how the variant has risen in the US.
After two months of major decreases in COVID-19 cases across the U.S., the virus is on the rise again, with the Northeast accounting for many of the new cases. “We knew this was coming. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how large an impact this surge of the BA.2 subvariant of Omicron has in the U.S. We’ve got to be careful, but I don’t think this is a moment where we need to be excessively concerned,” said Dr. Ashish Jha the White House’s COVID-19 response coordinator Ashish.
The World Health Organization and the Biden administration are both saying that COVID-19 remains a public health emergency, even as global deaths from the virus have reached the lowest levels since March 2020. Both the WHO and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services first declared COVID-19 a public health emergency in January 2020. More than two years later, the pandemic situation has improved, but global health experts believe the virus is still a major health threat. More needs to be done before the WHO can lift this designation, the organization’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said this week.
Life expectancy in the US fell by nearly two years in 2020 to about 77 years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the sharpest drop compared to 21 other high-income countries. Americans on average are now expected to live for 76.99 years from 78.86 years in 2019, according to a global health study, which looked at national death and population counts in 2019 and 2020 to calculate the mortality rate ratio.
The Biden administration announced that it is extending the nationwide mask requirement for airplanes and public transit for 15 days as it monitors an uptick in COVID-19 cases. The CDC said it was extending the order, which was set to expire on April 18, until May 3 to allow more time to study the BA.2 omicron subvariant that is now responsible for the vast majority of cases in the U.S.
This week the Kentucky Legislature overrode Governor Andrew Beshear’s veto and passed new abortion regulations that local providers said would force them to cease offering the procedure immediately, potentially making Kentucky the first state in decades without legal access to abortion. The bill imposes additional reporting requirements on providers related to medication abortions and stipulates that they can’t dispose of fetal remains as medical waste and must work with a funeral home to provide individual burial or cremation. The bill also bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with an exception for the life or health of the mother, similar to a Mississippi law now being weighed by the Supreme Court.
On April 12, 2022, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law that makes it a felony to perform an abortion, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The law is part of an aggressive push in Republican-led states across the country to scale back abortion rights. The bill, which takes effect 90 days after the Oklahoma legislature adjourns next month, makes an exception only for an abortion performed to save the life of the mother. Abortion rights advocates say the bill will face a legal challenge.
In the wake of increasingly restrictive abortion laws sweeping the U.S., Yelp Inc. is the latest company to cover travel costs for employees who need to leave their home states to get reproductive care. The company has nearly 4,000 workers in the U.S. and just over 200 in Texas, where a bill has banned abortions after six weeks. Yelp will offer its benefit through the company’s insurance provider starting next month, according to a person familiar with the matter. It will also extend coverage to dependents