Latest Morning Briefing Stories
Some high-ranking Republicans have been watching the protests warily and reiterating their own decisions to shelter in place. But as the protests grab national attention, some in the GOP reckon with how a movement that most Americans disagree with will impact the elections. But other state Republican lawmakers are joining the protest efforts. Meanwhile, more polls find that a majority of the country think strict restrictions are worth it.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) set his state on an aggressive path toward reopening that starts today, despite a barrage of criticism that the decision to lift restrictions is premature. Meanwhile, states that haven’t been hit has hard as some of the hot spots start considering how to reopen.
There’s a political divide over who is pushing states to reopen and who is keeping stay-at-home orders in place. President Donald Trump’s own messaging has been mixed. While he has pushed for a quick return to normalcy, he also criticized the Georgia governor’s aggressive plan to reopen as “too soon.”
Many health systems report revenue declines of 40% to 50%, and even pay for front-line workers is expected to be cut in some places. In other health care worker news: returning to work after being sick, doctors being sent to help Native American reservations, tracking worker deaths and more.
Last week another 4.4 million Americans sought unemployment benefits after losing their jobs due to the coronavirus-driven shutdowns. The staggering figures suggest that the U.S. unemployment rate has spiked as high as 20%.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar Azar declined to specify how much money would be allotted to help hospitals providing uncompensated care for COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, CMS warns that COVID-19 treatment could cause Medicare reserves to run out and Medicaid waivers are approved to help deal with costs.
“We anticipate April will be significantly worse, and at this point, no one knows how long hospitals will continue on their current path,” said James Blake, author of a new report analyzing hospital revenue.
Only a third of COVID-19 patients placed on a ventilator survive the experience, and doctors are starting to wonder if the life-saving machine should really be used in some cases. In other news: “unprecedented” levels of blood clotting is baffling doctors and some patients attribute plasma therapy to saving their lives.
Lawyers at the Justice Department are still studying whether the president has the legal authority to unilaterally suspend the issuance of green cards. President Donald Trump’s announcement earlier in the week that he was going to suspend all immigration visas drew vocal criticism from business groups whose members rely on guest workers.
After tense negotiations between Democrats and White House representatives, the Senate passed a $484 billion coronavirus relief bill. Democrats claimed a victory in securing more money for health systems and expanded testing, along with the funds to supplement the depleted small business fund. What’s next? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) slams the brakes on any talks of additional stimulus packages even as Democrats pitch a next stop-gap measure.
LabCorp says its nasal swab test will be available first to health care workers and first responders. The kit will cost $119, which consumers will have to pay out of pocket and ask their insurer for reimbursement. “This is not a game-changer, but it’s potentially another piece of the large and rather messy puzzle we’re assembling to test enough people to stop Covid-19,” Dr. Sheldon Campbell, of Yale, tells The New York Times. But experts still caution that the tests can be inaccurate. Meanwhile, without a national strategy, testing across the country is still completely uneven.
Read about the biggest pharmaceutical development and pricing stories from the past week in KHN’s Prescription Drug Watch roundup.
Nearly half of U.S. states have logged double-digit percentage declines in their trust-fund balances since the end of February. Meanwhile, unemployment aid offered by Congress’s $2.2 trillion package creates a tough situation for some businesses whose employees are better off filing for benefits. And some citizens won’t be getting stimulus checks because their spouse is an immigrant.
Even as health-worker shortages undermine efforts to battle the pandemic, providers who aren’t dealing directly with the pandemic are getting swept up into the economic downturn in a way that’s rarely been seen before. Meanwhile, medical staffing companies cut pay for ER workers at the same time as they spent millions in political ads. And media outlets offer glimpses from the front lines as workers tell their stories.
Republicans and Democrats have agreed to allocate $25 billion for testing in the newest stimulus funding legislation. But Democrats want a national system put into place, while Republicans think the money should be given to the states. The deal is also set to include $75 billion in assistance for hospitals. Meanwhile, banks say the new $500 billion plan still won’t be enough to meet the demand from small businesses.
In terms of political vulnerabilities, sometimes a simple statement can balloon into a defining issue of a campaign. For President Donald Trump, the administration’s missteps on testing in the early days of the outbreak may do just that. Meanwhile, as some governors and the president continue to trade accusations over testing, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced that he has obtained 500,000 kits from South Korea, crediting his wife Yumi Hogan in helping lock down the deal.
Tensions have been boiling up across the country over personal protective equipment for health workers and the hospitals that have been trying to control any negative messaging during this time of crisis. Some workers who have been forced to choose between safety and their jobs are distraught that they’re not able to help. Meanwhile, health systems look for ways to safely reuse N95 masks.
President Donald Trump predicts that, once the nation returns to work, economic health “comes back quickly.” Other economists are not forecasting as rosy a picture. “The more unemployment, the more workers lose their jobs, the harder and slower the recovery is going to be,” Claudia Sahm, director of macroeconomic policy at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a think tank, tells The Hill. Other stories on the pandemic’s economic toll report on rent negotiations, small business loan payouts and regional unemployment.
Some hospitals are transforming hooded hair salon dryers into personal negative pressure chambers while others are repurposing sleep apnea machines. Meanwhile, it’s not just ventilators that are on the brink of devastating shortages.
The study will be a randomized, double-blind placebo-controlled study, unlike the research being done on the fly treating severely ill patients. The decision was announced as emerging data show people who are taking hydroxychloroquine are still becoming infected with the virus. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump’s tendency to tout possible cures in the early stages of testing is upending pharma’s traditional PR machine. And Reuters offers an overview of where we stand on drug and vaccines.