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By March 4, 2020No Comments

Driving the Day: Axios highlighted how “the coronavirus may soon become a high-stakes reminder of the flaws in the U.S. health care system” especially for the nearly 28 million Americans who don’t have insurance. In fact, the number of uninsured Americans has gone up by 7 million people during Trump’s presidency, but that seemed to be news to him, just like this inevitable crisis. The president said yesterday, “they have a big problem and we’re going to look at the uninsured people that, you know, this came out as a surprise to all of us. It just happened. It shows what can happen in life … [we’re gonna] see if we can help them out.” Seema Verma and Vice President Pence declined to say what was being done for people without insurance.

What to Watch For: Vice President Pence and the coronavirus task force will hold a press briefing at 5:30 PM. At yesterday’s briefing the press was not permitted to audio or video record. The House is scheduled to vote on a coronavirus funding package as soon as today while the Senate remains stalled over vaccine cost issues.

Coronavirus Update 

  • In a speech to the National Association of Counties, President Trump took credit for asking pharma executives to, “do me a favor” and “speed up” development of a coronavirus vaccine. Trump continued to assert that the outbreak was a total surprise “Six weeks ago, eight weeks ago, you never heard of this. All of a sudden it’s got the world aflutter….things happen that you never would even think would happen.” The White House announced that Trump will donate his Q4 2019 salary of $100,000 to coronavirus efforts at HHS and was lavishly praised by Alex Azar for “his leadership and commitment to protecting the American people.”

  • In testimony before the Senate HELP Committee, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn walked back his controversial claim that one million coronavirus test kits would be ready by the end of the week and said that only “up to a million” tests would be ready. In the same hearing, HHS’s recenty named coronavirus coordinator Robert Kadlec told Mitt Romney that U.S. will need 3.5 billion N95 respirator masks in the most severe scenario and currently has only 10 percent of what’s needed. A viral Twitter thread from a woman in Washington state detailed difficulties accessing testing and general confusion among public health authorities in the state and a report from CBS 4 Miami detailed similar problems in Florida. Politico reported that CDC officials denied entry to FDA scientist last month when he came to assist with problems with testing.

  • Concerns over insurance coverage and payment for coronavirus treatment and quarantine continue to grow as the Trump administration floated the idea of paying hospitals 110% of Medicare reimbursement rates to treat virus patients under a disaster recovery program. En route to his visit to NIH, Trump was asked what should be done about uninsured patients. He responded “We’re looking at that whole situation” and “There are many people without insurance, and we’re looking at that situation for those people.” Asked again at NIH how much money should go to hospitals for the uninsured, Trump said “We’re going to look at the uninsured, because they have a big problem. And we’re going to look at the uninsured people that, you know, this came as a surprise to all of us…It shows what can happen in life.” Even extreme conservative members of Congress such as Rep. Ted Yoho expressed support for “socialized medicine” to provide free treatment and testing for the virus.

  • At an afternoon press briefing, Seema Verma confirmed that Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance will cover coronavirus testing as a diagnostic test. Verma and Pence declined to say what was being done for people without insurance. A report from NBC detailed the ways in which Verma’s rollback of nursing home regulations may be putting residents at risk for coronavirus.

  • In the Senate, talks on a coronavirus funding package appear stalled over drug pricing language. Democrats want to ensure that any vaccine or treatment will be affordable for every American who needs it. Senator Bill Cassidy erroneously claimed that the Grassley-Wyden drug bill would make COVID-19 drugs affordable.

  • In the House, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, requested a staff-level briefing on HHS’ efforts to develop a coronavirus vaccine and plans to ensure all Americans can afford the treatment, after Azar in a letter to the Illinois Democrat vowed to work with the private sector to keep prices affordable. Rep. Donna Shalala encouraged the House Democrats not to aggressively go after Trump’s team: “We’ve got to give them some space. Everybody stumbles out of the block.”

  • President Trump has no coronavirus-specific events today. Vice President Pence will meet with airline executives at the White House. The coronavirus task force will hold a press briefing at 5:30 PM. The House and Senate will hold a meeting today on how to protect the Capitol from coronavirus. Members of Congress believe that the virus will affect them but are adamant that Congress will not shut down.

National Headlines
The Atlantic: The Official Coronavirus Numbers Are Wrong, and Everyone Knows It
Axios: Coronavirus could expose the worst parts of the U.S. health system
Bloomberg: It’s Too Late for U.S. to Fight Virus With Domestic Travel Curbs
Bloomberg: Virus Study Finds Most Risk Among Family, Less for Others
Daily Beast: Democrats Plan for Coronavirus Convention Chaos in Milwaukee
Daily Beast: U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Keep Climbing. So Do Fears of Spread.
Huffington Post: The Coronavirus Is Challenging What Our Politicians Think About ‘Medicare For All’
Kaiser Health News: Analysis: One Sure Thing About COVID-19: No Telling How Many People Have It
Mother Jones: Staying Safe from Coronavirus Is a Lot Harder If You Live on the Streets
NBC: ‘We simply do not understand why’: Coronavirus is sparing children, puzzling experts
New York Times: Why the Coronavirus Seems to Hit Men Harder Than Women
New York Times: ‘When Is It Going To End?’: Where Coronavirus Has Turned Deadly In The U.S.
New York Times: Waive Fees for Coronavirus Tests and Treatment, Health Experts Urge
Politico: Coronavirus emergency bill stalled over vaccine cost concerns
ProPublica: U.S. Hospitals Say They’re Ready for Coronavirus. Their Infection Control Violations Say Otherwise.
Roll Call: Coronavirus funding talks held up over drug price language
Stat: The coronavirus could help pharma reset its reputation in Washington
Wall Street Journal: Hospitals, Companies Race to Develop Tests to Spot Coronavirus-Linked Illness
Washington Post: Worries about medical bills and lost pay may hamper coronavirus efforts in the United States
Washington Post: Coronavirus triggers cancellations, closures and contingency planning across the country

Federal Preparedness
Bloomberg: Pence Visited School Where Student Is in Coronavirus Quarantine
CNN: Trump Contradicted By Task Force Health Expert About Coronavirus Vaccine Timing
CNN: Spread Of Coronavirus Gives White House A Grave Stress Test
Daily Beast: Student Quarantined Days After Classmates Shook Mike Pence’s Hand, Report Says
National Geographic: U.S. has only a fraction of the medical supplies it needs to combat coronavirus
NPR: CDC Criticized For Its Slow Release Of Coronavirus Testing Kits
NBC: Amid coronavirus outbreak, Trump administration’s proposed rollback of nursing home regulations faces criticism
New York Times: Estimates Fall Short of F.D.A.’s Pledge for 1 Million Coronavirus Tests
New York Times: Pence Says Risk To Americans From Coronavirus Remains Low
Politico: ‘This is the equivalent of war’: Pence faces the toughest test of the Trump era
Politico: Trump’s team shifts tone from preventing coronavirus to containing it
Politico: CDC blocked FDA official from premises
Politico: CDC opens up coronavirus testing, Pence says
Stat: Seeking Help With Coronavirus, Trump Shifts His Tone Toward Pharma
Vox: Trump’s ignorance was on public display during coronavirus meeting with pharmaceutical execs
Wall Street Journal: Trump Administration Considering Paying Hospitals for Treating Uninsured Coronavirus Patients
Washington Post: Trump coronavirus effort undermined by mixed messages and falsehoods

In The States
San Francisco Chronicle: ‘Not A Matter Of If, But When:’ SF Officials Plan For Local Spread Of Coronavirus
San Francisco Chronicle: ‘Uneasy And Frustrated’: California Health Workers Worry As Coronavirus Spreads

Sarasota Herald Tribune: Coronavirus Florida: Mother and son at Sarasota Military Academy under quarantine

New Hampshire
Associated Press: Authorities Confirm New Hampshire’s 1st Case Of Coronavirus
NBC: N.H. coronavirus patient breaks isolation, potentially exposing others

New York
The Hill: New York Insurers Ordered To Waive Costs Associated With Coronavirus Testing
New York Times: Coronavirus in N.Y.: Cuomo Confirms Second Case in the State

Politico: Texas Governor Slams CDC For Releasing San Antonio Coronavirus Patient

KUOW: First responders and medical staff test positive for coronavirus. UW doctors not getting masks
Seattle Times: Officials and shelters prepare for coronavirus in Seattle-area homeless population as illness brings more deaths
Stat: Washington State risks seeing explosion in coronavirus cases without dramatic action, new analysis says
Wall Street Journal: Firefighters In Isolation After Responding To Nursing Home With Virus Outbreak
Wall Street Journal: Coronavirus Spreads in Washington State as Amazon Worker Tests Positive
New York Times: Coronavirus Deaths Tied to Nursing Center Came Earlier Than Anyone Knew

Economic Impacts
Associated Press: An NCAA Tournament with empty arenas? It can’t be ruled out
Bloomberg: Americans Cut Back on Trips to the Store as Virus Spreads
Bloomberg: JPMorgan Tests U.S. Virus Plan With Thousands Working From Home
Business Insider: Google halts international travel for all employees worldwide due to coronavirus concerns
Buzzfeed: Google Cancels I/O, Its Biggest Annual Event, Following Coronavirus Fears
CNBC: Trump demands ‘more easing and cutting’ after Fed slashes rates amid coronavirus outbreak
CNBC: Amazon, Intel, Cisco and Salesforce back out of health-tech conference HIMSS due to coronavirus
Daily Beast: IMF and World Bank Won’t Hold Spring Meetings in Washington Amid Coronavirus Outbreak
New York Times: Is Fiscal Stimulus the Answer to Preventing a Coronavirus Recession?
New York Times: As Coronavirus Disrupts Factories, India Curbs Exports of Key Drugs
Wall Street Journal: Global Stocks Push Higher as Markets Remain Volatile
Wall Street Journal: Federal Reserve Cuts Interest Rates By Half Percentage Point
Wall Street Journal: Makers of Wipes and Hand Sanitizers Step Up Production as Coronavirus Spreads
Washington Post: Trump Calls For Fed Rate Cut As U.S. Deaths Rise; Finance Chiefs Plot Economic Rescue
Washington Post: Long lines, low supplies: Coronavirus chaos sends shoppers into panic-buying mode

Opinion And Analysis
The Atlantic (Ideas): Trump’s Playbook Is Terribly Ill-Suited to a Pandemic
CNN (Opinion): Surgeon general: Be cautious, but not afraid of coronavirus
Los Angeles Times (Column): The coronavirus crisis exposes the stupidity of Trump’s healthcare policies
New York Magazine (Jon Chait): Trump Officials Scared to Anger Trump If They Tell the Truth About the Coronavirus
Politico: Trump Is Turning Coronavirus Into a Useful Enemy
Washington Post (Analysis): Trump’s baffling coronavirus vaccine event

Trump Tweets
“The National Institutes of Health is home to some of the greatest doctors, scientists, and researchers in the world. Thank you for all your doing @NIH, keep up the great work!” [@realDonaldTrump, 3/3/20] “The Federal Reserve is cutting but must further ease and, most importantly, come into line with other countries/competitors. We are not playing on a level field. Not fair to USA. It is finally time for the Federal Reserve to LEAD. More easing and cutting!” [@realDonaldTrump, 3/3/20]