NYC, big employers taking hard line against vaccine holdouts

New York City, Microsoft, Tyson Foods and the U.S. auto industry joined a cascading number of state and local governments and major employers Tuesday that are taking a hard line against both the surging delta variant and the holdouts who have yet to get vaccinated.

“The goal here is to convince everyone that this is the time. If we’re going to stop the delta variant, the time is now. And that means getting vaccinated right now,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said in announcing that New York will demand people show proof of COVID-19 vaccination at indoor restaurants, shows and gyms.

The hard-line measure — the first such step taken by a big U.S. city — goes into effect in mid-August. Vaccination cards or state and city apps will be accepted as proof of inoculation.

Meanwhile, meat and poultry giant Tyson Foods said it will require all of its approximately 120,000

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U.S. employers ratchet up the pressure on the unvaccinated

Employers are losing patience with unvaccinated workers.

For months, most employers relied on information campaigns, bonuses and other incentives to encourage their workforces to get the COVID-19 shot. Now, a growing number are imposing rules to make it more onerous for employees to refuse, from outright mandates to requiring the unvaccinated to undergo regular testing.

Among employers getting tougher are the federal government, the state governments of California and New York, tech giants Google and Facebook, the Walt Disney Co. and the NFL. Some hospitals, universities, restaurants, bars and other entertainment venues have also started requiring vaccines.

But the new measures are unlikely to affect many of the millions of unvaccinated Americans.

Many of the companies that are requiring shots have mostly office workers who are already largely vaccinated and are reluctant to work alongside those who aren’t.

In contrast, major companies that rely on low-income blue-collar workers — food

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California learns costly pandemic lesson about hospitals

California spent nearly $200 million to set up, operate and staff alternate care sites that ultimately provided little help when the state’s worst coronavirus surge spiraled out of control last winter, forcing exhausted hospital workers to treat patients in tents and cafeterias.

It was a costly way to learn California’s hospital system is far more elastic than was thought at the start of the pandemic. Through desperation and innovation, the system was able to expand enough to accommodate patients even during the dire surge that saw hospitalizations top 20,000 and nearly 700 people die weekly.

“Definitely some hospitals, particularly in the Los Angeles area, were at the breaking point, but we did not see that much use of the alternate care sites relative to what was contemplated,” said Janet Coffman, a health policy professor at University of California, San Francisco. “As dire as the situation was in the winter, it

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71% of nursing homes not assessed for quality, safety during COVID

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in a vast majority of nursing homes nationwide not being assessed to ensure they meet federal quality and safety requirements, a new HHS study found.

State agencies, acting on behalf of CMS, are mandated to complete on-site inspections at least every 15 months, but CMS suspended those inspections between March and August of 2020 to reduce the risk of surveyor transmission.

Despite states being able to resume surveys toward the end of 2020, the pause resulted in a significant backlog. In an analysis of CMS data, HHS found that 10,913 of 15,295 nursing facilities—71%—had gone at least 16 months without a standard survey as of May 31, 2021.

Backlogs ranged from 22% of nursing homes in New Mexico not being surveyed to 96% in Connecticut.

Another issue is that the federal government prioritized surveys focused on infection control during the pandemic, conducting nearly 40,000 more

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Feds join Medicare Advantage upcoding lawsuits against Kaiser

The federal government intervened in six lawsuits alleging that Kaiser Permanente upcoded claims for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, the Justice Department said Friday.

The Oakland, Calif.-based integrated health system allegedly pressured its physicians to augment medical records often months after the care was provided to boost its Medicare reimbursement. Doctors added risk-adjusting diagnoses that patients did not have or were not addressed, the lawsuits claim.

“The federal government pays hundreds of billions of dollars every year to Medicare Advantage Plans,” Matt Kirsch, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Colorado, said in prepared remarks. “The District of Colorado will vigorously pursue investigations with our partners to make sure that money supports necessary healthcare, not fraud.”

Kaiser said it is confident that the company is compliant with MA requirements and will defend itself against the lawsuits alleging otherwise, noting nearly a decade of “strong performance” on CMS’ risk adjustment audits.


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Research looks for possible COVID tie to later Alzheimer’s

Researchers are trying to unravel why some COVID-19 survivors suffer “brain fog” and other problems that can last for months, and new findings suggest some worrisome overlaps with Alzheimer’s disease.

One study of older adults in Argentina found a surprising amount of dementia-like changes in memory and thinking for at least six months after a bout with the coronavirus — regardless of the severity of their infection. Other researchers found Alzheimer’s-related proteins in the blood of New Yorkers whose COVID-19 triggered brain symptoms early on.

The preliminary findings were reported at an Alzheimer’s Association meeting Thursday. Experts stress far more research is needed — and getting underway — to tell if COVID-19 might raise the risk of Alzheimer’s or other brain problems later in life, or if people eventually recover.

The possibilities “are real and troubling,” but it’s too soon to know “whether this is really going to result in

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