Latest Morning Briefing Stories
Families and loved ones of veterans living demand answers as to why VA facilities, like the New Jersey Veterans Home at Paramus, are being so hard hit. “The whole place is sick now,” said Mitchell Haber, whose 91-year-old father, Arnold, an Army veteran, died last month.
Lifting social distancing restrictions aren’t going to fix the economy with a flip of a switch. There will be businesses that won’t be able to rebound from the closures, shifting dynamics between workers and employers and a general weariness from American consumers to engage with services again. Meanwhile, White House advisers warn unemployment numbers are likely to get worse before they get better.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and other Democratic leaders are putting finishing touches on their next relief package, but Senate Republicans have not budged from their wait-and-see stance. While the White House begins informal talks with both sides, advisers say they are not in a rush to pass anything yet. Meanwhile, the previous stimulus efforts are having mixed results.
When the government issues regulations it tends to consider the financial cost versus the human lives that could be impacted. For example in 1972, a member of a Nixon administration task force on regulating the auto industry valued a life’s worth at $885,000 in today’s dollars; in 1998 debate over safety bars on trucks, the Department of Transportation’s value of a life reached $2.5 million. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump tries to strike an optimistic tone, even as cases and deaths climb. And Americans struggle to adjust to this strange period of time.
The coronavirus death toll exceeds 11,000 in nursing homes, which say the requested money would be used for protective equipment, hazard pay and lost revenue. News on the industry also reports on liability protections, a behind-the-scenes look at how infection spread in Maryland facilities, a lawsuit in Arizona to reveal data, a Massachusetts law shielding facilities, one family’s struggle for information, higher wages promised in Illinois and Louisiana’s changing efforts to name facilities with outbreaks, as well.
For the seventh-straight week, more than 3 million jobless claims were filed, bringing the total number of Americans out of work during the coronavirus outbreak to over 33 million. Yet some economists see evidence that the U.S. labor losses are nearing the bottom of the curve. And many laid-off workers are optimistic that they can return to their pre-pandemic jobs, according to a new survey.
“The American people need their government,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said recently. “They need their government to act strongly, boldly and wisely.” Meanwhile, lawmakers are barreling toward a stalemate over the next relief legislation, with Democrats wanting to protect workers and Republicans pushing for corporate liability protections. But whatever else makes it into the package, small cities and counties say it needs to include help for them.
Gilead is being closely watched by lawmakers, investors and the rest of the country to see if it will choose a different path than its history suggests when it comes to pricing remdesivir–the only treatment so far that has been shown to cut hospitalization times for COVID-19 patients.
New Mexico Mayors Louie Bonaguidi and Martin “Modey” Hicks both had to shut down their towns. One was relieved by the governor’s decision, while the other was fighting mad. The two reactions reflect a growing divide as mayors, state officials and governors try to navigate their constituents out of lock down. Meanwhile, related news includes how many states that are taking steps to reopen don’t meet White House guidelines for doing so, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo weighs in on the risks of opening too early.
As states struggle not to collapse beneath the economic burden of the pandemic, they’re eyeing their Medicaid programs — often the largest budget item for a state — as a way to stanch the bleeding. Meanwhile, states are also asking Congress for help to cover astronomical unemployment claims.
Wide-spread testing has long been the Achilles’ heel of the U.S. response efforts. Shortages, false negatives, and inaccurate kits have plagued efforts to provide quick and easy results to Americans. But scientists hope a new test can be the answer to that problem. In other testing news: antibody tests, false negatives and states’ ongoing efforts to ramp up screenings.
Amid talk about compressed development schedules and trials, public health experts are worried Americans are getting a false sense of optimism around just when they can expect a vaccine. Even if the vaccine is proven safe and effective in the fall, that doesn’t mean Americans are going to have access to it this year.
The New York Times reports on how President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner recruited inexperienced, untrained people to help distribute the government’s supply of medical equipment and gear. Those volunteers were often told to prioritize assistance and tips from political allies of Trump.
Rick Bright, the ousted head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, has filed a formal whistleblower complaint alleging he was involuntarily transferred to a lower position because he raised concerns about the Trump administration’s COVID-19 response and about nepotism within HHS.
President Donald Trump and other officials toured a Honeywell plant in Phoenix, Arizona with goggles as their only protective equipment. Mask-wearing has become a hot button political topic as some White House officials continue to buck the Trump administration’s own guidelines to wear them. Meanwhile, ICE teams up with Amazon and others to curb the flood of counterfeit masks.
Read about the biggest pharmaceutical development and pricing stories from the past week in KHN’s Prescription Drug Watch roundup.
The negotiations over the next relief package are likely to be anything but smooth. Republicans are pushing for liability protections for businesses in the next round of talks, a “red line” for them that Democrats reject. But Democrats hope to put the pressure on the Senate with a new bill this week. In other news from Capitol Hill: health benefits, burial funds, aid for providers and more.
The agency originally relaxed its review standards at the beginning of the pandemic, but scientists have been calling for officials to step back in. A recent study found that only three out of 14 antibody tests deliver consistently reliable results, and even the best have flaws.
Meanwhile, patient advocates say legal liability is the last safety net to keep facilities accountable. “If you take the power of suing away from the families, then anything goes,” said Stella Kazantzas, whose husband is among the more than 20,000 patients who have died in nursing homes since the outbreak. In other news on senior facilities: advocates push for a stronger federal response; CMS will form a commission on safety; an elderly social worker dies; veterans’ homes and those in home care struggle; and overall staffing levels drop.
Senators were called back to Washington even as the House decided to keep members at home. But don’t expect any quick action on another coronavirus stimulus package, Capitol Hill watchers say. Disagreement over business liability and ongoing issues with prior hospital and small business emergency funding are among the obstacles in the way of a new bill.