With help from Lauren Gardner

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More than half of Americans have been infected with Covid-19, new CDC data shows.

Democrats and womens health groups are sounding the alarmon the GOPs campaign to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Providers supplying Covid-19 tools to uninsured Americans are no longer being reimbursed,affecting patients access to care.

WELCOME TO WEDNESDAY PULSEAn aggressive wild turkey is on the loose in the District, spotted on a popular riverside path. Runners of Northeast, you have been warned. Send sightings, news and tips to [email protected] and [email protected].

A message from PhRMA:

New data show that 35% of insured Americans spent more on out-of-pocket costs than they could afford in the past month. Read more about how insurance is leaving patients exposed to deepening inequities.

Driving the Day

An estimated 60 percent of Americans have contracted Covid, with even more children and teens showing antibodies for the virus. | Jon Cherry/Getty Images

60 PERCENT OF AMERICA   Nearly 60 percent of Americans are estimated to have been infected with Covid-19 as of February, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Krista reports.

The numbers were even higher for children. About 75 percent of kids ages 0 to 17 had antibodies from a previous Covid-19 infection, according to the latest evaluation of blood samples conducted from December to February.

The good news (maybe): More than half the country, including most children, have infection-induced antibodies, which means that Americans potential protection from the virus, when coupled with vaccination and boosters, could be stronger than it was just a few months ago.

The bad news: That doesnt mean anyone is protected from reinfection, future variants or long Covid, which already affects tens of millions of Americans.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said on Tuesday that the new data shouldn’t be interpreted as a reason to discontinue vaccinations, particularly in kids. Vaccination rates for kids ages 5 to 11 are particularly low, and as many as 30 percent of children hospitalized with Covid-19 end up in the intensive care unit.

The other not-so-great news: The agency also said a soon-to-be-released CDC study estimates that, from December to February, only one in three Covid cases were reported. In other words, were still only seeing a fraction of the virus movement in daily case numbers.

DEMS RATCHET UP WORRY FOR ROEDemocrats and womens health groups are mounting campaigns warning Americans that a slew of recent red state laws restricting abortion is just the beginning in a GOP effort to overturn Roe v. Wade.

To reach voters in key swing states, Planned Parenthood is launching a national $16 million TV, streaming and digital ad campaign. The ads will run through the summer when the Supreme Court ruling on a challenge to Roe v. Wade is expected.

But abortion rights advocates say they need more. We absolutely need [Bidens] voice now, said Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, who is running for reelection.

Theres a disconnect. Polling shows that Democratic base voters and independents oppose the changes happening in red states, but much of the public is still skeptical that abortion rights could effectively vanish.

Republicans are doing their own work to define the debate, aiming to label Democrats as extremists on the issue. Meanwhile, Democrats insist theyre missing a concerted and coordinated message from party leaders to more forcefully go after Republicans.

UNINSURED AMERICANS LOSE COVID CARE OPTIONS Providers across the country are cutting back on Covid-19 care for uninsured and underinsured Americans after Congress failed to refund two HRSA programs for testing, treatment and vaccines, Krista and Megan Messerly report.

The end of the HRSA programs makes it harder for low-income people who rely on getting tests and vaccines from those providers, threatening to upend progress on mitigating racial disparities in Covid-19 outcomes and take the country back to the pandemics early days. In 2021, uninsured rates were highest among Hispanic and Black American adults, according to CDC data.

It could also prolong the pandemic by allowing the virus to circulate and perhaps provide a haven for new, more dangerous variants as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise nationwide.

The end of the funding has affected small community health centers across the country that act as a safety net for many uninsured Americans, causing some centers to cut back on Covid-19 care or put off new initiatives, like hiring new staff, as they struggle with the extra expenses.

Its truly irresponsible of the government to take away funding for Covid when Covid is far from over and health care systems are already strained, said Coleen Elias, CEO of Community Clinical Services in Lewiston, Maine.

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The vice president has reported no symptoms so far but has started the antiviral Paxlovid. | Hector Vivas/Getty Images

VP HARRIS HAS COVID Vice President Kamala Harris is the latest government official to contract the virus as outbreaks strike the White House and Congress.

The White House said that Harris, 57, who is fully vaccinated and doubly boosted, was experiencing no symptoms. News came late Tuesday that she began a course of the Pfizer antiviral Paxlovid, recommended for people at high risk of severe disease. A White House official pointed POLITICO to CDC guidance that says people in their 50s are at higher risk than younger people, though the guidance doesnt place that age group with people 60 and older.

Harris spent much of last week in California and returned to Washington on Monday evening from Los Angeles. She was scheduled to receive the presidential daily briefing from the Oval Office before testing positive.

Harris last saw Biden in-person on April 18, the same day the White House hosted the Easter Egg Roll, the largest White House event since Biden assumed office last year.

Protocol isnt changing. A White House official said the Biden administration didnt believe a new wave would be disruptive to operations, partly because the White House staff is almost universally vaccinated and symptoms so far for those who have tested positive have been mild.

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Many Republicans have abandoned the idea of repealing the Affordable Care Act. | Scott Olson/Getty Images

REPEAL AND REPLACE IS OVER, REFORM IS NOT With Republicans poised to resurge in Congress, one question looms large: Where does the GOP stand today on the Affordable Care Act?

In 2017, with full control of Washington, the GOP couldnt manage a repeal, writes Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health professor John E. McDonough, who was a Senate staffer during the ACAs passage.

Theres zero appetite to try that path again. Instead, conservative strategists and think tanks say the party wants to tweak the law to make coverage less costly for consumers, even if that means less coverage.

Republicans still believe that ACA premiums are too high, networks are too restrictive and cost-sharing too burdensome, said Doug Badger, Heritage Foundation and Galen Institute fellow.

Some of those points could put the GOP in line with Democrats who extended ACA subsidies through the American Rescue Plan and hope to renew them through the Build Back Better legislation, neither of which have garnered Republican support. Of course, those bills were packed with more divisive measures, too, but disagreement on how subsidies are doled out doesnt bode well for bipartisan reform in the future.

Other hot-button health topics are cooling. McDonough writes that the Medicare and Medicaid programs are far less the reform target of Republicans and conservatives than they used to be because both programs are increasingly privatized.

But that doesnt necessarily bode well for either party. McDonough points out that a financial shortfall for Medicare Part A is looming in 2026. And no one wants to touch it.

A message from PhRMA:

Around the Nation

CALIFORNIA STEPS AWAY FROM VACCINE WARS  California lawmakers were on the front lines of the vaccination wars long before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold. Now, they are backing away, reports POLITICOs Victoria Colliver.

In recent weeks, lawmakers have shelved a proposal for private-employer vaccination mandates and a bill to eliminate personal belief exemptions from Covid shot requirements at schools. Another contentious measure to let children 12 and older get vaccinated without a parents consent is yet to be scheduled for a hearing. And Gov. Gavin Newsom has pushed back a proposed public school vaccine mandate to 2023, citing the slow-moving FDA approval process for younger children.

In California and other states, a relative lull in Covid-19 cases has moved the pandemic further into the background, behind public safety, homelessness and economic issues, creating stronger headwinds for vaccination mandates.

Around the World

CANADA TALKS WITH PHARMA OVER IP WAIVER The Canadian government appeared sympathetic to pharmaceutical industry objections to an intellectual property waiver meant to boost Covid-19 vaccine supply for developing nations, internal documents show.

Canada has been publicly ambivalent about the waiver first proposed by India and South Africa, which argue it would help lower-income countries access vaccines faster.

But industry representatives have met several times with government officials to discuss their concerns, POLITICO Canadas Maura Forrest reports. Meeting records show industry reps praising the governments muted response to the idea, while the Canadian trade minister assured them that IP is just one part of the discussion about vaccine access and Canada had made no commitments.

Names in the News

Alicia Daugherty has joined Woebot Health, a company focused on digital therapeutics for behavioral health, as VP of corporate strategy and development. She was previously a managing director at Advisory Board, a health care research and consulting firm.

What We’re Reading

Beijing gets ready to test most of its 21 million residents amid a new outbreak in the Chinese capital, The Associated Press reports.

STATs Helen Branswell reports that vaccine experts are worried the U.S. is sleepwalking toward recommending annual Covid-19 booster shots.

The Bipartisan Policy Center has a new paper on how smarter spending can improve the national response to the opioid crisis.

A message from PhRMA:

According to data just released, insurance isn’t working for too many patients. Despite paying premiums each month, Americans continue to face insurmountable affordability and access issues:

  • Roughly half (49%) of insured patients who take prescription medicines report facing insurance barriers like prior authorization and fail first when trying to access their medicines.
  • More than a third (35%) of insured Americans report spending more in out-of-pocket costs in the last 30 days than they could afford.

Americans need better coverage that puts patients first. Read more in PhRMAs latest Patient Experience Survey.