Health Care

Overnight Health Care: Trump touts accelerated push on vaccines | House set to pass $3 trillion bill | COVID-19 now spreading fastest in small, rural counties

Welcome to Friday’s Overnight Health Care.

President Trump formally introduced the new head of his “Operation Warp Speed,” a public-private partnership to push for a vaccine to prevent COVID-19.

The administration is also standing behind a rapid diagnostic test from Abbott despite new accuracy concerns, and more members have been added to the White House’s coronavirus task force.

We’ll start with vaccines:

Trump touts accelerated push on coronavirus vaccines 

There are a couple of new faces in the administration’s coronavirus response efforts: Former pharmaceutical executive Moncef Slaoui and Army Gen. Gustave Perna are heading up the Operation Warp Speed vaccine development effort.

Slaoui will serve as the project’s chief scientist while Perna will serve as its chief operation officer. Trump joined them in the White House Rose Garden on Friday to tout the effort.  

“When I say quickly, we’re looking to get it by the end of the year if we can, maybe before,” Trump said. 

Trump described the project as “a massive scientific industrial and logistical endeavor unlike anything our country has seen since the Manhattan Project.” He said the project would begin to manufacture vaccines as they go through trials so that a proven vaccine would be ready to distribute once trials are completed.

Read more here.  

Related: Trump says administration is ‘looking at’ making coronavirus vaccine free


House set to pass massive $3T response bill tonight…but there are some defections

At least two progressive House Democrats have announced plans to vote against the $3 trillion coronavirus relief package their party will bring forward for a vote Friday. 

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said in a statement that she will be voting “no” on the bill because, among other things, the legislation does not guarantee “affordable and accessible health care for everyone,” guarantee enough forgivable loans to minority-owned small businesses and doesn’t safeguard pensions. 

“At the core, our response from Congress must match the true scale of this devastating crisis. The Heroes Act —while it contains many important provisions — simply fails to do that,” said Jayapal, who co-chairs the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Health insurance dispute: One of her complaints is that the bill includes premium subsidies so that workers can maintain their health insurance coverage if they are eligible for COBRA, a program that allows employees who have been laid off to stay on their old employer’s health plan.

Jayapal said that the provision would be a giveaway to the health insurance industry, while leaving people who can’t afford to stay on their plan left to “risk it.”

Read more here

Related: Tax provisions in House Democrats’ bill would cost $883 billion: analysis

Bipartisan bill aims to help smallest businesses weather the coronavirus crisis


Trump team confident in Abbot test despite new study

The Trump administration is still confident in a rapid COVID-19 diagnostic used to test President Trump and staff despite a new study showing it may be missing nearly 50 percent of infections. 

“We still have confidence in the test or we wouldn’t have it on the market,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Friday on Fox Business.

Azar said the test may be missing infections because of “user error.”

Azar’s comments come a day after new study from New York University, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found the Abbott ID NOW test missed 48 percent of positive cases when using dry nasal swabs.  

The Food and Drug Administration said it is working with Abbott to analyze the information, and said negative test results that are not consistent with a patient’s symptoms should be confirmed with another test. 

Context: Trump has spoken highly of the Abbott tests, which can deliver results in as little as five minutes, without the uncomfortable deep nasal swab required of other tests. Rapid diagnostic testing will be an important tool for states to use in reopening their economies and preventing another wave of infections, but quality concerns are worrisome. 

Read more here.


White House adds new members to virus task force

The White House on Friday added five new members to the coronavirus task force, signaling a new focus on reopening the economy and developing vaccines.

Who’s new: The additions include Labor Secretary Gene Scalia, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. They also added Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration, and Thomas Engels, administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration.

What it means: Trump has been eager to reopen the country in order to address the lagging economy, which he and his advisors view as a key to his re-election. The White House had initially planned to scale back the work of the task force in early June but Trump backed off those plans last week after public outcry. Still, Trump signaled that the task force would shift its focus to reopening the economy, as well as the development of vaccines and therapeutics.

Read more here.


COVID-19 now spreading fastest in small, rural counties

Small, rural counties that had to date escaped much of the damage from COVID-19 are now seeing an increasing amount of infections, as the pandemic spreads out from urban centers.

A new analysis shows nearly three-quarters of Americans live in counties where the virus is now spreading widely. Another 200 counties have seen significant growth in infection trends in the last week, making them high-prevalence counties — areas where the virus has infected at least one in a thousand people. 

The problem: Many of these counties are now beginning to open, thinking they are in the clear. Those counties also tend to have smaller health care systems that could become more easily overwhelmed if they are hit with a crush of cases. 

As more and more states take their first steps toward reopening businesses, some scientists are worried that the increasingly political lens through which people view the coronavirus will discourage those most at risk of suffering the worst consequences from taking the steps they need to protect themselves.

Read more here.


What we’re reading

Trump Seeks to Force Hospitals to Open Books as They Fight Virus (Bloomberg)

‘We’re just horrified’: why a Springsteen sideman took on nursing homes (New York Times)

Growing friction between White House, CDC hobbles pandemic response (Washington Post)

JetBlue’s founder helped fund a Stanford study that said the coronavirus wasn’t that deadly (Buzzfeed News)


State by state

Study ties ‘Obamacare’ to fewer cancer deaths in some states (NBC News

 F.D.A. halts coronavirus testing program backed by Bill Gates in Seattle area (New York Times)

As Congress weighs COVID liability protections, states shield health providers (Kaiser Health News)

As Florida prepares to enter ‘full phase one’ of reopening, coronavirus deaths reach 1,917 (Click Orlando)

Tags Donald Trump Pramila Jayapal Sonny Perdue

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