U.S. House panel probes extent of fraud in federal COVID-19 relief programs

U.S. House Oversight chair’s agenda: Hunter Biden, COVID origins, classified documents

U.S. mayors at the White House hear praise from Biden on rebuilding post-pandemic

Prominent physician and COVID vaccine skeptic is charged by Washington state medical board

Dr. Ryan Cole speaks during a panel discussion titled COVID 19: A Second Opinion in the Kennedy Caucus Room of the Russell Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill on January 24, 2022 in Washington, DC. The panel featured scientists and doctors who have been criticized for expressing skepticism about COVID-19 vaccines and for promoting the use of unproven medications for treatment of the disease. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Dr. Ryan Cole of Idaho has until Jan. 30 to respond to charges from the Washington Medical Commission that he violated standards related to COVID-19 and patient care.

Cole, a pathologist whose specialty does not involve direct patient-care experience, has maintained that he didn’t violate any standards while treating patients for COVID-19 via telehealth.

The statement of charges from the Washington Medical Commission says otherwise.

The Washington state medical board’s decision to charge Cole follows a lengthy investigation. It opened the investigation in 2021, in response to multiple complaints about Cole’s conduct in public forums about COVID-19; his disproven and unproven claims about the coronavirus vaccine; and his practice of seeing COVID-19 patients through a website that advertised a willingness to prescribe drugs that do not prevent or treat the disease.

“This has been purely Good Samaritan care for patients desperate for help that was not being offered elsewhere,” he wrote in a letter to the Washington Medical Commission last year. “… I provided free medical care out of a real attempt to help those in need.”

The Washington state board’s charging statement — provided to the Idaho Capital Sun on Wednesday — is the culmination of one of two investigations the commission has opened regarding Cole’s license.

The other case is related to his misdiagnosis of a patient with cancer. In a response to the board in that case, Cole argued that it was not a misdiagnosis but a difference of opinion. That investigation has been forwarded on to the board for possible disciplinary action, according to records obtained by the Sun this month.

The Idaho Board of Medicine has also received complaints about Cole’s practice as a patient care provider and about his public statements regarding COVID-19 treatments, preventions and vaccines. An analysis of documents and dates showed that the Idaho Board of Medicine made the decision not to investigate those complaints before it had reviewed any telehealth patient records. Read more

XBB.1.5 ‘rapidly replacing other COVID subvariants’; global health officials expect surge in cases

A new highly transmissible subvariant of COVID-19 is spreading in the U.S.

CDC lists North Carolina among the heavily impacted states

Global health officials are warning of an expected surge in cases of COVID-19 in the United States and other countries as the latest, most transmissible omicron subvariant continues to circulate.

That new subvariant is called XBB.1.5 and it’s been rapidly growing in the United States. Both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have been monitoring it.

WHO officials convened a virtual press conference last week to discuss the situation with the global pandemic. Maria Van Kerkhove, an epidemiologist who serves as the COVID-19 technical lead for the WHO, feared that another surge is forthcoming because XBB.1.5 is the most transmissible version of the omicron variant.

“It is the most transmissible subvariant that has been detected yet,” Kerkhove said. “The reason for this are the mutations …

“It’s rapidly replacing other subvariants in some countries. Our concern is how transmissible it is,” Kerkhove said. “We do expect further waves of infection around the world, but that doesn’t have to translate into further waves of death because our countermeasures continue to work.”

As of Monday, XBB.1.5 made up 27.6 percent of new cases in the nation, according to the latest data from the CDC.

And XBB, another concerning subvariant, accounted for 4.9 percent. Still, BQ.1.1 made up the most infections in the U.S., at 34.4 percent.

WHO officials previously stated that XBB “is the most antibody-evasive” COVID variant to date, meaning current vaccines may not be as effective against the subvariant.

As for XBB.1.5, there is no data yet on whether the new subvariant of omicron will cause severe disease, Kerkhove said during the press conference last week.

“So this is a sublineage of XBB, which is a recombinant of two BA.2 sublineages,” she said. “XBB.1.5 had been detected in 29 countries so far. There may be more as sequencing becomes less available at a global level. It’s difficult for us to track each of these subvariants of omicron.”

Meanwhile, XBB.1.5 has rapidly spread in the Northeast, “where it now makes up nearly three quarters of cases,” The Washington Post reported. But so far, hospitals in that area “have not raised alarms about people coming in sicker because of the new subvariant,” according to its report.

In fact, the subvariant accounted for over 70 percent of new cases in the region spanning New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, according to CDC data.

CDC’s data tracker revealed 17.3 percent of new cases linked to XBB.1.5 have been identified in the region spanning Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The report doesn’t break out individual states.

Issac Morgan is a reporter for the Florida Phoenix, which first published this report.