Overnight Health Care: Coronavirus death toll passes 150,000 | Louie Gohmert tests positive for COVID-19 | Mnuchin says negotiators 'very far apart' on relief deal

Overnight Health Care: Coronavirus death toll passes 150,000 | Louie Gohmert tests positive for COVID-19 | Mnuchin says negotiators 'very far apart' on relief deal
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Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care.

The U.S. surpassed 150,000 deaths from COVID-19. President TrumpDonald John TrumpJoe Arpaio loses bid for his old position as sheriff Trump brushes off view that Russia denigrating Biden: 'Nobody's been tougher on Russia than I have' Trump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet MORE continued to promote an antimalarial drug as a coronavirus treatment, despite evidence showing otherwise. And it appears Democrats and Republicans are far apart on a compromise for the next relief bill.

Let’s start with the numbers:


Coronavirus death toll passes 150,000

More than 150,000 people in the United States have died from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, while tens of thousands more are struggling in hospitals as the pandemic spreads virtually unchecked in almost every state in the nation.

Six months after the virus was first reported on American soil, it is poised to be the third-leading cause of death this year, behind only heart disease and cancer. It has already killed more people in the United States than the number of Union soldiers who died in the Civil War.

There are few signs the spread is slowing down. The number of new cases confirmed on a daily basis has topped 50,000 on all but two days of the month. The United States is conducting more than 750,000 tests every day, and many of the new cases being identified are among people who show no or few symptoms.

But the virus continues to infect many who suffer far worse outcomes. More than 57,000 people are hospitalized, according to figures released by state health departments and collected by the COVID Tracking Project, an independent group of researchers. More than 1,000 people have died on seven of the past eight days.

Read more here.



Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump order aims to curb US agencies' use of foreign workers after TVA outrage | EPA transition back to the office alarms employees | Hundreds of green groups oppose BLM nominee Interior stresses 'showing up for work' after Grijalva tests positive for coronavirus Trump's junk medicine puts his own supporters at deadly risk MORE tests positive for COVID-19 

GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert (Texas), who has largely opted against wearing a mask around the Capitol, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, according to congressional aides.

Gohmert's positive test immediately led to new criticism on Capitol Hill directed at those who do not wear masks, and has resulted in other lawmakers and staff needing to quarantine because of possible exposure.

The diagnosis came a day after the Texas Republican attended a hearing with Attorney General Bill Barr and other colleagues. 

Gohmert, 66, has spoken about not wearing a mask.

"I don't have the coronavirus, turns out as of yesterday I've never had it. But if I get it, you'll never see me without a mask," he told CNN in June. 

On Tuesday, Barr testified before the House Judiciary Committee. Gohmert was in close proximity with Barr at one point without a mask outside the hearing room. He also initially did not have a mask on inside the hearing room, but pulled his mask over his nose following a reminder from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerBy questioning Barr, Democrats unmasked their policy of betrayal Chris Wallace: Barr hearing 'an embarrassment' for Democrats: 'Just wanted to excoriate him' Apple posts blowout third quarter MORE (D-N.Y.).

A spokesperson for Barr said Wednesday that the attorney general would be tested for the coronavirus following the exposure to Gohmert.

Read more here.

Related: Multiple lawmakers self-quarantine after exposure to Gohmert

Pelosi to require masks on House floor


Mnuchin says GOP, Democrats 'very far apart' on coronavirus relief negotiations

A deal on coronavirus relief remains elusive, even as current benefits are set to expire.


Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinTrump tees up executive orders on economy but won't sign yet Overnight Health Care: Trump to take executive action after coronavirus talks collapse | Vaccine official says he'd resign if pressured politically Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal MORE on Wednesday said both the White House and Republicans were "very far apart” from Democrats on negotiations over the next coronavirus relief package.

“As of now we’re very far apart,” Mnuchin, who is leading negotiations on Capitol Hill, told reporters alongside President Trump at the White House before the president departed for a trip to Texas.

Mnuchin said they are discussing a short-term extension of enhanced unemployment benefits and extending the federal moratorium on evictions before they expire at the end of the week.

“You got to work on the evictions so people don’t get evicted. You work on the payments to the people. The rest of it, we’re so far apart we don’t care,” Trump told reporters after Mnuchin spoke. “We really don’t care. We want to take care of the people.”

Asked later whether they were considering a short-term bill, Trump replied, referencing unemployment benefits and evictions: “We’re focused on those two things, we want to take care of them now. The rest we can discuss later.” The president also accused Democrats of seeking “big bail-out money” for Democrat-run cities.

Read more here

Related: Meadows says benefits to expire as negotiators struggle to get deal



Maryland tightens mask requirement, issues travel advisory for hot spot states

Maryland is tightening its facemask requirement, and will begin requiring people to wear masks outdoors when in public in an effort to prevent a spike in coronavirus cases, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced Wednesday.

Beginning July 31, Hogan said the state's mask order will be expanded to anyone who is outdoors and unable to consistently be at least six feet away from others.

It will also include restaurants, houses of worship, gyms, casinos, stores and office buildings. 

Hogan also issued a health advisory, telling Maryland residents not to travel to states where the positivity rate is greater than 10 percent. Unlike neighboring D.C. however, Hogan is not issuing a quarantine order for people who travel to those hard hit areas.

Bars aren't the problem: Hogan said unlike other states, data show indoor dining at bars and restaurants isn't really part of the problem. Hogan said contact tracing data has shown the top activity of those who have tested positive recently was attending family gatherings. The next highest on the list was house parties.


Read more here.

Related: North Carolina to ban sale of alcohol after 11 PM


Trump on promoting doctor who defended hydroxychloroquine: 'All I want to do is save lives'

President Trump on Wednesday defended his retweet of a video containing false claims about the coronavirus pandemic, saying that he was "very impressed" with one of the doctors in the video due to her statements about hydroxychloroquine.

Speaking with reporters outside the White House, the president claimed that he was not evaluating the scientific claims made in the video, including that hydroxychloroquine could cure COVID-19, while continuing to heap praise on Stella Immanuel, a controversial Houston-area doctor featured in the video.

"I was very impressed with her and other doctors who stood with her," Trump said. "I think she made sense, but I know nothing about it."

"With hydroxy, all I want to do is save lives," the president added. "All I want to do is save lives."

Why it matters: Several studies have shown that hydroxychloroquine is not effective at treating COVID-19 and can in some cases cause adverse effects in patients.

Read more here


Fauci responds: Just the facts 

In an interview with MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Fauci called the video of individuals discussing hydroxychloroquine “a bunch of people spouting something that isn't true."

He said the best way to combat rampant disinformation is to show the facts.

"The only recourse you have is to be very, very clear in presenting the scientific data that essentially contradicts that." 

Read more here.


Study links spring school closures to decrease in COVID-19 cases, deaths

A study published Wednesday associates widespread school closures in the spring with fewer COVID-19 cases and deaths in the following days and weeks.

School closures may have been associated with 1.37 million fewer cases of COVID-19 over a 26-day period and 40,600 fewer deaths over a 16-day period, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study comes amid a debate in the U.S. over when and how schools should reopen in the fall. The Trump administration has pressed for schools to fully reopen, arguing that kids are least likely to experience severe COVID-19 illness. The administration is also keen to get the economy moving again and sees school openings as a key factor.

It is not clear, however, what role children play in spreading the virus to adults.

The authors warned that the study results should not necessarily be applied to making decisions about reopening in the fall, noting that infection control practices recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) like spacing desks 6 feet apart and requiring mask-wearing were not in place in the spring.

“It is possible school-related spread may be mitigated with infection-control interventions recommended by the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics,” the authors wrote. 

Read more here.


What we’re reading

Public health experts fear a hasty FDA signoff on vaccine (Kaiser Health News

A viral epidemic splintering into deadly pieces (The New York Times

No evidence that doctor group in viral video got near COVID ‘front lines’ (Medpage Today)


State by state

California again breaks record for coronavirus deaths (Los Angeles Times)

Democrats demand DeSantis explain why Florida isn’t following White House COVID plan (Miami Herald)

Where mask-wearing isn’t gospel: churches grapple with reopening in Colo. (Kaiser Health News)


Op-eds in The Hill

Trump's too little, too late coronavirus pivot

Beware of seductive narratives about the coronavirus

The hydroxychloroquine debacle: Playing doctor on social media platforms