Overnight Health Care — Presented by Philip Morris International — Trump to deliver Oval Office statement on coronavirus | WHO declares pandemic | States impose drastic measures | Dems jam GOP with economic package
Welcome to Wednesday’s Overnight Health Care. President Trump will address the coronavirus tonight with a statement from the Oval Office.
Also, WHO declared the coronavirus an epidemic. State and local governments are cracking down on large gatherings to slow the spread of the virus and the federal health officials leading the response effort testified before Congress today.
We’ll start at the White House…
Trump to deliver statement
President Trump will deliver a statement on Wednesday night regarding the coronavirus as the administration mulls how to address the fast-growing health crisis.
When: Trump tweeted that he would deliver remarks from the Oval Office at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
What: The president told reporters during a meeting with banking executives that the statement would involve both health and economic measures being taken to combat the virus, though he would not specify what they would be.
Why: The administration has for weeks attempted to project a sense of control as the coronavirus spread across the country. But health officials have in recent days sounded the alarm about the severity of the virus, warning that things will get worse before they get better.
Read more here… and check back at TheHill.com tonight for the latest.
It’s official… WHO declares coronavirus a pandemic
The World Health Organization (WHO) is officially calling the coronavirus a pandemic.
“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
“We have therefore made the assessment that Covid-19 can be characterized as a pandemic,” he added.
What does it mean? Officials said at a news conference that the label “pandemic” does not automatically trigger any specific official actions, other than underscoring the seriousness and need to step up the fight even more.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of Covid-19 cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” Tedros said.
Public health officials in the U.S. also stepped up their warnings on Wednesday.
Fauci: ‘It’s going to get worse.’
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the president’s task force on coronavirus, told the House Oversight Committee that the outbreak in the U.S. is only “going to get worse.” The hearing was cut short by about an hour and a half after the White House said it needed the witnesses for an emergency meeting.
Key points from the hearing:
- Lawmakers had lots of questions about why the U.S. isn’t matching what South Korea is doing in terms of “drive-through” testing. Asked if the U.S. could replicate that approach, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said: “Not at this time. I think we’re trying to maintain the relationship between individuals and their health care providers.”
- The questions about South Korea’s approach underscores the frustration lawmakers feel with the U.S.’s slow pace of testing. “If you don’t do testing, we don’t know the full scope of the problem,” said Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.).
- Redfield appeared frustrated with the criticism the CDC is getting for the slow pace of testing in the U.S. In testifying before two different panels Tuesday and Wednesday, Redfield has emphasized that it is the CDC’s job to supply public health labs with tests. “We did not develop this test for all of clinical medicine… We count on the private sector to work together with the FDA to bring those tests to bear.”
- Fauci said the time is now for states and localities to take mitigation strategies. He specifically advised against large crowds, like those found at sporting events or concerts. “As a public health official, anything that has large crowds gives risk to spread,” he said.
- Redfield said the CDC is working on mitigation recommendations with four jurisdictions experiencing outbreaks “so rest of the nation can see how to operationalize this.”
- Fauci said COVID-19 is currently 10x more deadly than the flu.
Read more on the hearing here.
The remarks from Fauci also marked how Trump officials have been adopting a more urgent tone.
Top health officials in the Trump administration are increasingly warning the public that the coronavirus outbreak will worsen in the U.S., a notable departure from the message delivered by the president and some aides who had insisted as recently as last week that the virus was contained domestically.
Even as Vice President Pence and others caution Americans that their risk of contracting COVID-19 remains low, the experts on the White House coronavirus task force are striking a more urgent tone.
Surgeon General Jerome Adams offered a stark warning during Tuesday’s briefing as well while urging Americans to assess whether they are at risk or pose a risk to others.
“Unfortunately, we are likely to see more deaths,” he said. “We have not hit the peak of this epidemic quite yet, but if we follow this prescription, then we will decrease the number of people who are impacted, we will decrease the number of people who will die, and we will more quickly get to the end of this situation.”
At the state level, governments are imposing drastic measures to slow the outbreak
State and local governments are taking drastic and unprecedented measures aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus, an acknowledgment that parts of the country are far past the point of containment.
Several cities are prohibiting large gatherings and events, big businesses are telling their workers to stay at home, and more classes are getting canceled at schools and universities.
Those disturbances to everyday life are likely to spread to other cities as an increase in testing reveals undetected cases, public health officials warned.
In Washington state, where there are almost 270 confirmed cases, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) on Wednesday announced a ban in three counties on gatherings of more than 250 people, the most drastic step taken yet by a state to contain the outbreak.
But it’s not just Washington: Inslee noted the rest of the U.S. could face in the coming weeks what Washington is facing now. More state and cities are likely to impose restrictions on gathering and other social distancing measures as testing ramps up and more cases are confirmed.
San Francisco and Seattle are among the cities that have banned large gatherings of 1,000 people or more.
Read more on the tougher measures being taken here.
Closer to home (for Overnight Health Care)… Washington, DC declares state of emergency over coronavirus
Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency Wednesday after 6 additional cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus were confirmed, bringing the District’s tally to 10 cases.
The declaration allows Bowser to require medical quarantines, request federal disaster funds and address price gouging.
Bowser said the city health department is renting a facility that can quarantine up to 50 people at a time, though the specific location was not disclosed Wednesday.
The announcement came hours after the city recommended all non-essential gatherings of 1,000 or more in the city be canceled.
Meanwhile in Congress…
House Democrats jam GOP with coronavirus bill
House Democrats’ surprise move to vote this week on a second coronavirus bill has intensified the pressure on Senate Republicans to follow suit, even as both chambers head into a week-long recess when the global pandemic is expected to worsen.
Leaders of both parties are scrambling to address the economic fallout of the crisis as new cases have popped up around the country, sparking widespread public anxiety and economic upheaval. But House Democrats are charging ahead more aggressively, scheduling a vote Thursday on a sweeping package designed to temper the financial toll on coronavirus victims.
Shortly after that vote, House lawmakers will jump on planes and trains and decamp to their districts for what is scheduled to be a 10-day break from the Capitol, leaving Senate Republicans with the difficult question of whether to consider the House package, take up one of their own, or punt the issue until after the break.
More on the political maneuvering at the Capitol here.
Trouble for Trump’s payroll tax cut:
President Trump’s push to cut the payroll tax as part of an effort to revive the economy is facing steep headwinds on Capitol Hill.
And on the campaign trail…
Biden campaign announces public health panel to advise on coronavirus
Joe Biden’s presidential campaign announced Wednesday it is forming a “Public Health Advisory Committee” to advise on steps that Biden, his staff and his supporters can take to reduce the threat to reduce the threat of the novel coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Biden is also expected to deliver remarks on the virus that causes COVID-19 on Thursday.
Who’s on board:
Dr. Zeke Emanuel, the vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania’s medical school
Dr. Rebecca Katz, an associate professor in Georgetown University’s department of microbiology and immunology
Dr. David Kessler, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration
Lisa Monaco, the former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser to President Obama
Dr. Vivek Murthy, the former surgeon general
Dr. Irwin Redlener, a clinical professor at the Columbia University Mailman Public School of Health.
More on the announcement here.
‘Virtual’ campaign events
Former Vice President Joe Biden is switching to so-called “virtual” campaign events in Florida and Illinois amid mounting concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.
The announcement came a day after Biden and his chief rival Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) canceled planned rallies in Cleveland, Ohio, due to the outbreak.
More on the fallout from the outbreak…
- The NCAA announced Thursday that its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, known as March Madness, will be played in nearly empty venues due to the concerns of the spread of the coronavirus.
- The House and Senate sergeant-at-arms are preparing to announce that they will suspend tours of the Capitol amid growing concerns about the coronavirus.
- Stocks plunged on Wednesday as deepening concern about the potential economic toll of the coronavirus outbreak and uncertainty over the prospects for federal stimulus pushed Wall Street into bear market territory. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed with a loss of 1,466 points, falling 5.9 percent. The S&P 500 index fell 4.9 percent while the Nasdaq composite fell 4.7 percent.
What we’re reading
What does the coronavirus do to the body? (New York Times)
CDC developing serologic tests that could reveal full scope of U.S. coronavirus outbreak (Stat News)
Biden wins and puts the brakes on Medicare For All (Forbes)
State by state
First cases of coronavirus confirmed in Michigan; Whitmer declares state of emergency (WXYZ)
Coronavirus cases spread across California as events are canceled and warnings become more urgent (Los Angeles Times)
The Hill op-eds
Coronavirus raises legal issue of public safety or personal liberty
Americans need hard data to quell coronavirus panic
Americans with disabilities must be counted in 2020 Census
Political promises won’t lower insulin prices
Has Dr. Anthony Fauci made Trump irrelevant to the coronavirus crisis?
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