Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding

Overnight Health Care — Presented by American Health Care Association — California monitoring 8,400 people for coronavirus | Pence taps career official to coordinate response | Dems insist on guardrails for funding
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Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care. 

The health care news today was dominated by the latest on the coronavirus, including a whistleblower complaint about HHS and more details on the White House team leading the response. Let's jump right in.

 

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California monitoring over 8,400 people for coronavirus

California Gov. Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomGOP online donor platform offering supporters 'Notorious A.C.B.' shirts Newsom signs law allowing transgender inmates to be placed in prison by their gender identity OVERNIGHT ENERGY: California seeks to sell only electric cars by 2035 | EPA threatens to close New York City office after Trump threats to 'anarchist' cities | House energy package sparks criticism from left and right MORE (D) announced Thursday that 33 people in California have tested positive for coronavirus, with officials monitoring more than 8,400 people for the virus.

Newsom said during a press conference that five people who tested positive have since moved out of the state as officials deal with the spreading virus.

One of those people is from an unknown source, raising the concern that the virus is spreading among the general public for the first time in the U.S.

"We knew this was inevitable," Newsom said.

Read more here.

 

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Whistleblower claims HHS did not train workers caring for coronavirus patients: report

A whistleblower claims the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) sent workers to receive the first Americans evacuated from China during the coronavirus outbreak without proper training or protective gear, The Washington Post reported Thursday. 

The complaint was reportedly filed Wednesday with the Office of the Special Counsel. 

The whistleblower is a senior HHS official based in Washington seeking federal protection after alleging they were unfairly reassigned after raising concerns about the safety of these workers, according to the Post. 

The workers did not show symptoms and were not tested for the virus, the Post reported citing the whistleblower's lawyers. 

Read more here.

 

CDC declined to test new coronavirus patient for days, California hospital says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initially declined to test a California patient for coronavirus because of narrow testing criteria, delaying the identification of a new possibly pivotal case, according to officials at the hospital treating the patient.

UC Davis Medical Center wrote in a memo to staff that the patient was transferred from another hospital on Feb. 19 with a suspected viral infection. The hospital requested coronavirus testing, but the CDC initially declined because the patient, who had not recently traveled to countries with outbreaks or been in contact with someone with the virus, did not meet the testing criteria.

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It was not until Sunday that the CDC agreed to do a test, and the results then came back on Wednesday as positive.

In a statement on Thursday afternoon, the CDC said it is concerned by the reports but said their records showed the CDC only learned of the case on Sunday, and requested specimens for testing that same day.

Read more here.

   

Pelosi, Schumer insist on guardrails for coronavirus funds

House Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiAirline industry applauds Democrats for including aid in coronavirus relief package Democrats unveil scaled-down .2T coronavirus relief package Trump tax reveal roils presidential race MORE (D-Calif.) said lawmakers are close to a bipartisan agreement on emergency funding for the coronavirus response, but Democrats are insisting on specific guardrails. 

In a joint statement, Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerDemocrats blast Trump after report reveals he avoided income taxes for 10 years: 'Disgusting' Biden refuses to say whether he would support expanding Supreme Court Schumer says Trump tweet shows court pick meant to kill off ObamaCare MORE (D-N.Y.) said they are insisting that any emergency funding supplemental must be entirely new funding, "not stolen from other accounts."

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Pelosi and Schumer said they want to ensure President TrumpDonald John TrumpCensus Bureau intends to wrap up count on Oct. 5 despite judge's order Top House Republican calls for probe of source of NYT Trump tax documents New Yorkers report receiving ballots with wrong name, voter addresses MORE "cannot transfer these new funds to anything other than the coronavirus and fighting infectious diseases."

Also, they said the eventual vaccine must be made affordable. 

In a press conference, Pelosi went after HHS Secretary Alex Azar for suggesting that the price of a vaccine was out of his control.

Read more here.

 

Pence taps career official to manage response

Vice President Pence on Thursday tapped longtime health official and ambassador-at-large Debbie Birx to serve as the White House coronavirus response coordinator.

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Birx has worked for decades in the medical field, largely focusing on combating and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. The staffing move is likely intended to appease calls from many lawmakers for the Trump administration to appoint a "czar" to oversee the federal response to the coronavirus.

"She has deep experience in coordinating across agencies," Pence's office said in announcing Birx's new role. "She has worked from the research bench to the clinic, but understands the primary focus must always be to reach the individuals most in need. She will bring her infectious disease, immunologic, vaccine research and interagency coordinating capacity to this position.

Birx currently serves as the ambassador-at-large for the State Department coordinating the U.S. efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. An Obama-era appointee, she has held that role since 2014.

More on Birx here.

 

And there was some big non-virus news in the House...

 

Bill banning menthol in cigarettes divides Democrats, with some seeing racial bias

A bill that would ban menthol flavoring in cigarettes is dividing House Democrats, with some arguing it unfairly targets African Americans and could lead police to target communities of color. 

The measure, which the House will vote on Friday, is opposed by some members of the Congressional Black Caucus. House Majority Whip Rep. Jim ClyburnJames (Jim) Enos ClyburnMcEnany says Trump will accept result of 'free and fair election' Fauci, Black Lives Matter founders included on Time's 100 Most Influential People list Azar to testify before House coronavirus subcommittee MORE (D-S.C.), a prominent CBC member, also has concerns with the bill, he told reporters Thursday. 

The bill, sponsored by Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.) and Rep. Donna ShalalaDonna Edna ShalalaOn The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Anxious Democrats amp up pressure for vote on COVID-19 aid Shakespeare Theatre Company goes virtual for 'Will on the Hill...or Won't They?' MORE (D-Fla.), a former health secretary, is meant to reduce youth vaping rates by banning flavors like mint and mango in e-cigarettes. But it also bans flavors in all tobacco products, including menthol in cigarettes.

Congress shouldn't "tell full-grown adults, those over 21, what they can and cannot do with a legal product," said Rep. A. Donald McEachinAston (Donale) Donald McEachinOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Biden pledges carbon-free power by 2035 in T environment plan | Trump administration has been underestimating costs of carbon pollution, government watchdog finds | Trump to move forward with rollback of bedrock environmental law Trump to move forward with rollback of bedrock environmental law Sanders-Biden climate task force calls for carbon-free power by 2035 MORE (D-Va.), a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, who also cited concerns about policing communities of color.

"I'm not a smoker, so I would never smoke. But you know, for those who do, they ought to be able to smoke what they want to smoke," he said.

Why it matters: Research shows tobacco companies targeted African Americans in their advertising of menthol cigarettes, leading to higher rates of use compared to white people. But that's exactly why other members of the CBC support a ban. 

"Our work to end the smoking epidemic is not simply a matter of public health," said Rep. Ayanna PressleyAyanna PressleyEnding the Hyde Amendment is no longer on the backburner Fauci, Black Lives Matter founders included on Time's 100 Most Influential People list Trump attacks Omar for criticizing US: 'How did you do where you came from?' MORE (D-Mass.), a member of the CBC, at a hearing in December.

"This is and always has been an issue of racial justice." 

Read more here

 

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Top Trump advisers discuss GOP need to act on health care at retreat with senators 

Two top advisers to President Trump on Wednesday discussed with GOP senators the need for Republicans to lower drug prices and act on health care costs ahead of the election, according to people familiar with the meeting. 

The discussion came at a retreat for GOP senators on Wednesday, where Trump's campaign manager Brad ParscaleBradley (Brad) James ParscaleMORE and adviser Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerAbraham Accords: New hope for peace in Middle East Tenants in Kushner building file lawsuit alleging dangerous living conditions Trump hosts Israel, UAE, Bahrain for historic signing MORE spoke. 

Kushner made a favorable mention of Sen. Chuck GrassleyCharles (Chuck) Ernest GrassleyGOP lawmakers distance themselves from Trump comments on transfer of power The Hill's 12:30 Report: Ginsburg lies in repose Top GOP senators say Hunter Biden's work 'cast a shadow' over Obama Ukraine policy MORE (R-Iowa) and his work on drug prices, according to a source familiar with the meeting. The White House is supporting a bill from Grassley and Sen. Ron WydenRonald (Ron) Lee WydenHillicon Valley: Subpoenas for Facebook, Google and Twitter on the cards | Wray rebuffs mail-in voting conspiracies | Reps. raise mass surveillance concerns On The Money: Anxious Democrats push for vote on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi, Mnuchin ready to restart talks | Weekly jobless claims increase | Senate treads close to shutdown deadline Democratic senators ask inspector general to investigate IRS use of location tracking service MORE (D-Ore.) to lower drug prices, but many GOP senators have pushed back on that measure as well, warning it comes too close to "price controls."

Much of the discussion was more general and focused on the need to act from an electoral perspective, the sources said. 

"Read the polls, for the American people it's drug costs and price of health care overall," Sen. Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyCoushatta tribe begins long road to recovery after Hurricane Laura Senators offer disaster tax relief bill Bottom line MORE (R-La.) told The Hill when asked about the meeting. 

Read more here.

 

What we're reading 

Most Coronavirus cases are mild. That's good and bad news. (New York Times)

A single coronavirus case exposes a bigger problem: The scope of undetected U.S. spread is unknown (Stat News)

1 in 3 Americans worry about being able to afford health care, NBC News/Commonwealth Fund survey says (NBC News

GoodRx saves money on meds--it also shares data with Google, Facebook, and others (Consumer Reports)

 

State by state

Anti-Medicare for All ad campaign launches in South Carolina (Politico)

A 13-year-old's death highlights Puerto Rico's post-Maria health care crisis (Vox.com)

Abbott says the homeless need mental health care. Advocates say Medicaid expansion would help (Texas Tribune)

 

The Hill op-eds

Xi Jinping, coronavirus and the new cold war

5 ways we can prepare for coronavirus