Latest Morning Briefing Stories

Lessons From A Pandemic That Never Materialized: Tests, Protective Gear For Health Workers And Social Distancing Crucial

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Joseph Califano was the new secretary of health, education and welfare in President Jimmy Carter’s administration following a swine flu scare in the 1970s. He offers tips about what America needs to do to “crush the curve.” In other public health news: vulnerable populations may fall through cracks, experts debunk any conspiracy theories about virus’ origin, lawmakers call on FDA to loosen blood donor restrictions, and more.

‘MacGyver It’: Nursing Home Directors Get Creative To Protect Vulnerable Residents

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Dr. Mark Gloth, chief medical officer for one of the industry’s largest nursing home chains asked himself: “‘Why can’t we MacGyver it and put something together that will actually provide an additional level of support for our patients and employees?'” One such plan includes walling off part of a facility with heavy duty plastic to create an isolation area for those who get COVID-19. Other industry news comes from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas and Ohio.

Georgia Governor’s Fear Of Overreach Sparks Criticism From Public Health Officials Asking For Statewide Stay-At-Home Order

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As Georgia struggles with one of the highest COVID-19 death rates among the states, public health officials and the state’s largest daily newspaper, have pleaded for Gov. Brian Kemp to take stronger action. Governors in at least 20 states — both Democrats and Republicans — have ordered residents statewide to stay at home. State, U.S territory and tribal news is also from the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Louisiana, Navajo Nation, Texas, Massachusetts, Ohio, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, as well.

Grocery Stores Install Plastic Shields In Checkout Lines To Protect Cashiers, Customers

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A shopper at a Stop & Shop in Quincy, Massachusetts hailed the idea that’s been cropping up across the country: “We’re supposed to be 6 feet away, but we’re closer to them. So that protection helps, and I feel safer.” News on the food supply also looks at how stressful grocery shopping has become, the high cost of allegedly intentionally coughing on groceries and infection at Amazon’s largest warehouse.

Researchers Investigate If COVID-19 Can Pass To A Fetus In The Womb

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The cases of three infected newborns raise concerns that the virus can be transmitted during pregnancy, but studies are still early. “Is it possible that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted in utero? Yes, especially because virus nucleic acid has been detected in blood samples” from newborns, David Kimberlin and Sergio Stagno of the University of Alabama at Birmingham wrote. “Is it also possible that these results are erroneous? Absolutely.”

New York City Hospitals Reckon With Onslaught Of Patients In Heart Of Country’s Outbreak

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Media outlets go inside the overwhelmed emergency departments at New York City hospitals to show what doctors and other providers are dealing with day in and day out. “I have so many different fears,” said Dr. Sylvie de Souza. “That’s all we can do: just pray, stick together, encourage each other, not get paralyzed by fear.” Meanwhile, across the country, California is carefully watching how New York City handles the surge, with expectations that the Golden State will see a similar number of cases in coming days and weeks.

New More Carefully Controlled Study Shows That Buzzy Malaria Drug Might Not Actually Help In Fighting Coronavirus

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The study shows the importance of doing carefully controlled research despite increasing anxiety over finding a treatment. Scientists say that doesn’t mean the malaria drug doesn’t work, but that people shouldn’t be looking at it as a magical cure. Meanwhile, a conservative business group founded by a prolific Republican political donor is pressuring the White House to greenlight the treatment anyway.

Health Law Expected To Act As Crucial Safety Net Amid Pandemic. Will That Finally Sway Its Doubters?

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Millions of Americans have lost jobs and potentially the health care coverage that went along with them. The Affordable Care Act may serve as a crucial safety net to the country during this turbulent time. While the Trump administration has chipped away at the health law over the years, it might need to adjust its mentality and support the very thing it railed against. In other news on the economic toll of the outbreak: a look at how the recession is just getting started, how the stimulus package won’t mitigate all of the damage, a movement to get older Americans to work in the name of “patriotism,” and more.

Trump Proposes Labeling Regions As High And Low Risk So That Some Places Can Return To Semblance Of Normalcy

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President Donald Trump has signaled his determination to reopen parts of the country in recent days, and the latest proposal would involve a targeted approach that would rely heavily on testing, which has been a weak spot for the country. But public health experts warn against lifting physical distancing restrictions, even in places that haven’t had a surge of cases yet.

There’s A Stockpile Of Nearly 1.5M Masks In A Government Warehouse, But They’re Expired

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Government officials decided to offer the respirators to TSA, an agency whose workers have been hit hard by the outbreak. There are no plans to send them to hospitals who have been desperately asking for protective gear for their health care providers. Meanwhile, health care workers are resorting to making hand-sewn masks that do little to protect them from the coronavirus.

White House Gets Cold Feet Over $1B Price Tag For Ventilators From GM Even As Hospitals Plead For Supplies

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The White House had been planning to announce a venture that would lead to the production of as many as 80,000 ventilators. Then the bill came. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said he didn’t believe hospitals need as many ventilators as they say they do, even as New York approved a risky policy of sharing the equipment between patients and New Jersey starts making plans on how to ration care.

Blood Test Could Help Rectify Shortages Involved With Nasal Swab Method, But Some Scientists Remain Cautious

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While the pinprick blood test would solve the time and shortages issues that are hobbling the traditional method, some scientists say it’s unclear if the rapid tests provide accurate results. Public health experts have been adamant that efficient and wide-spread testing is crucial in the fight against the pandemic, but the U.S. stumbled in rolling out its testing response.

Advocates Irate Over Government’s Unwillingness To Name 140 Nursing Homes Hit By Pandemic

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While the media and public health officials have reported outbreaks at dozens of facilities, other information vital to families’ and doctors’ decisions about how to deal with older patients is going unreported. “That’s just not right. It’s not ethical. It’s not humane,” said John BaRoss, who pulled his mother out of a long-term care facility in West Orange, N.J. Also: At a nursing home in Newark, N.J., all 94 residents are presumed to have the virus.

Opioid Case Against Walmart Was Quashed By DOJ Officials Appointed By Trump: Report

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During the height of the opioid epidemic, Walmart kept filling suspicious prescriptions despite protests from its own pharmacists. Justice Department prosecutors were prepared to file criminal indictments against the company, ProPublica found in its investigation. Walmart executives escalated concerns to political appointees at the agency though, who then ordered attorneys to stand down. In other news, PBS NewsHour reports on the difficulties of pain management in the coronavirus era.