Plans in Pennsylvania and New Jersey are central to President Joe Biden’s covid-relief strategy and aim to help people who lost their jobs after the original enrollment periods.


Philadelphia Inquirer:
Health Insurance Marketplaces Reopening In Pa., N.J. To Help With COVID-19 Relief


Pennsylvania will reopen its health insurance marketplace, dubbed Pennie, for a special enrollment period Feb. 15 through May 15 to allow people affected by the coronavirus pandemic to select a new plan. The move is in line with President Joe Biden’s decision to reopen the federal marketplace, healthcare.gov, as part of his COVID-19 relief efforts. New Jersey’s marketplace, Get Covered NJ, will also remain open through May 15. (Gantz, 2/3)

In news from Maine, North Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana —


Bangor Daily News:
Penobscot County Will Have A Mental Health Specialist Ride Along With Sheriff’s Deputies


A $750,000 federal grant will allow the Penobscot County Sheriff’s Office to have a mental health clinician ride along with sheriff’s deputies and check in with people after their release from the Penobscot County Jail. It’s one of a handful of measures the U.S. Department of Justice grant will fund to improve services for people living with mental illness — both jail inmates and those outside. Penobscot County was one of 29 cities, counties and health departments across the country to receive the grant. It was the only recipient in Maine. (Harrison, 2/4)


North Carolina Health News:
Domestic Violence, Abuse Spiked Last Year 


Reports of domestic violence [in North Carolina] spiked in the last year, confirming what advocates and providers had feared and anticipated at the start of the pandemic. Sheriff’s offices across the state saw higher incidents of domestic violence, according to public records requests made out to each county sheriff’s office. In total, these counties reported almost 2,000 additional cases in 2020 over the 2019 tally. The virus has wreaked additional havoc on victims who seek help, North Carolina researchers and providers said, by making it more difficult to access services. (Critchfield, 2/4)


Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Panel OKs Bill To Limit COVID-19 Lawsuits In Georgia


A proposal to protect businesses from COVID-19-related lawsuits for another year cleared its first hurdle in the General Assembly on Wednesday. The House Special Committee on Access to the Civil Justice System approved House Bill 112. The bill would limit the ability of people to sue businesses and health care providers if they are diagnosed with the disease. Lawmakers approved such limits last summer, but they expire in July. HB 112 would extend the lawsuit protection until July 2022. Under the law, companies are shielded from legal liability unless they show “gross negligence, willful and wanton misconduct, reckless infliction of harm, or intentional infliction of harm.” (Wickert, 2/3)


New Orleans Times-Picayune:
‘It’s A Slam Upon Our State’: Sen. Bill Cassidy Rebukes Joe Biden Over ‘Cancer Alley’ Remarks


He said “environmental justice” will take center stage as his administration works to improve the health and well-being of communities of color, especially “the hard-hit areas like Cancer Alley in Louisiana or the Route 9 corridor in the state of Delaware,” Biden said. While the executive orders didn’t specify how the Biden administration plans to address Louisiana’s petrochemical belt, local environmental activists said the president is clearly concerned about the disproportionate impact of pollution on the state’s mostly Black and low-income communities — a matter they say is rarely discussed by Louisiana politicians. (Baurick, 2/3)

In news from Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California and Alaska —


Salt Lake Tribune:
Camp Last Hope In Salt Lake City Dispersing Ahead Of Planned Health Department Sweep


The tents at one of the largest and most organized homeless encampments Salt Lake City has seen in recent years began coming down this week ahead of a Salt Lake County Health Department “cleanup” planned for Thursday morning. Organizers have spent the last few days helping disperse many of the more than 100 unsheltered individuals who have been living at Camp Last Hope — which is located in an industrial area in Utah’s capital city near 900 South and 500 West — to shelter, detox or smaller camps throughout the city. Ty Bellamy, a community organizer with the Black Lives for Humanity Movement, said she was “heartbroken” to see the end of “everything that we’ve built there, what it was for the first month it was there, how peaceful, how clean, how beautiful, how safe.” But she said the work to help unsheltered communities will continue. (Stevens, 2/4)


PBS NewsHour:
Arizona Lawmakers Renew Push To Criminalize Abortions In Latest Challenge To Roe V. Wade


Abortion has been at the forefront of conservative politics since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, in which the court ruled that the Constitution protects a woman’s liberty to choose to have an abortion without excessive government restriction. Now, with a 6-3 conservative majority in the nation’s highest court, reproductive rights advocates are worried that right will be chipped away as anti-abortion politicians push legal boundaries to challenge the decision. An Arizona bill proposed on the 48th anniversary of the landmark ruling is among the most direct challenges to Roe in nearly half a century: It calls for the decision to be ignored altogether. (Jones, 2/3)


Las Vegas Review-Journal:
Clark County Restaurants, Hotels Still High On COVID Exposure List


Clark County residents most frequently visited restaurants, hotels and medical facilities before being diagnosed with COVID-19, according to new data released Wednesday. For the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, the Southern Nevada Health District voluntarily published a list of the county’s most common “possible exposure sites” on its website. The data does not show where a person is known to have contracted COVID-19. Instead, it represents where an infected person traveled in the 14 days prior to them becoming symptomatic or getting tested. (Scott Davidson, 2/3)

KHN:
A Recipe For Trouble? Reversal Of California Outdoor Dining Ban Has Heads Spinning

Outdoor dining is resuming in California under state and local orders issued last week — but with covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths still far higher than they were when the bans took effect, restaurant owners and workers are wary of reopening their patios and parking lots. Los Angeles County’s outdoor dining ban began Nov. 25, and a statewide ban, part of a broader stay-at-home order, took effect Dec. 5. No clear data from contact tracing could justify outdoor dining bans, public health officials acknowledged. (Almendrala, 2/4)


Anchorage Daily News:
Trident Seafoods Had Just One Medical Professional On Duty At Its Massive Akutan Plant When COVID-19 Broke Out


The urgent job posting from a company contracted to provide medical care at the Trident Seafoods plant in the tiny Alaska village of Akutan on a hard-to-reach island appealed to the wilderness lover: “Are you interested in an Alaskan ADVENTURE? Seasonal positions available! If you are energetic, professional and would be interested in a remote setting, this assignment might be the spot for you!” In reality, the job involved serving as a nurse practitioner for North America’s largest seafood processing facility, idled since mid-January amid a coronavirus outbreak that has infected nearly half its 700 workers. Trident officials say they had nothing to do with the ad. (Hollander, 2/3)


This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.