Overnight Health Care — Presented by PCMA — Trump hopes to reopen economy by Easter | GOP senators expect stimulus vote Wednesday | House Dems eye two more stimulus bills | Trump says he gets along ‘very well’ with Fauci
Welcome to Tuesday’s Overnight Health Care.
Congress and the White House seem to be on the verge of reaching a deal on a multi-trillion dollar stimulus package to try to blunt the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic, with a vote expected on Wednesday. In the White House, President Trump says he is intent on “opening up” the economy by Easter.
We’ll start with the president…
Trump says he hopes to have economy reopen by Easter
President Trump on Tuesday said he hopes to have the country “opened up” by Easter — Sunday, April 12 — his most concrete goal to date for easing restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Trump in a Fox News virtual town hall doubled down on his push to reopen businesses in a matter of weeks in order to reinvigorate an economy stunned by the growing pandemic.
“You can destroy a country this way, by closing it down, where it literally goes from being the most prosperous,” Trump said.
Trump over the last two days has repeatedly argued it could be worse to let the economy slide onto a deep recession or depression than to keep strict guidelines in place to control the spread of the coronavirus.
Why that’s problematic: Public health experts say the timing is much too short. His decision to set a specific date came after days of discussion among advisers, but the truncated time frame breaks with public health experts and some lawmakers who have said containing the virus should take precedence.
To reinforce the questions with Trump’s plan…
Fauci says Trump’s Easter goal for lifting coronavirus restrictions should be ‘flexible’
Dr. Anthony Fauci on Tuesday said President Trump’s stated timeline of lifting restrictions on parts of the country by Easter Sunday should be “flexible.”
Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a prominent member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, added it is important for public health officials to gauge how widespread coronavirus is in parts of the country that haven’t reported significant numbers of cases.
“That’s really very flexible,” Fauci told reporters at the White House when asked about the president’s timeline, which he floated earlier Tuesday during a Fox News virtual town hall on the coronavirus pandemic.
“You can look at a date but you’ve got to be very flexible and on a literally day-by-day and week-by-week basis. You need to evaluate the feasibility of what you’re trying to do.”
And lawmakers are debating Trump’s proposal…
Trump triggers congressional debate over reopening economy
President Trump’s push to relax social-distancing restrictions and reopen businesses by Easter has ignited a fierce debate on Capitol Hill — and among people around the country — over whether aggressive efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic have been too draconian or not severe enough.
The fight is mostly playing out along party lines, with pro-business Republicans desperate for American life to get back to normal. They argue the economic toll from the “Great Shutdown of 2020” will be far worse than the lives lost from the deadly virus.
Democrats, for the most part, have made the case that more stringent and aggressive public-health measures are needed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has already infected more than 53,000 people in the U.S. and killed at least 675, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Doctors, nurses and hospitals issue open letter urging public to stay home
The leading organizations of doctors, nurses and hospitals in the United States issued an open letter on Tuesday urging the public to stay home to fight the spread of coronavirus.
“Staying at home in this urgent moment is our best defense to turn the tide against COVID-19,” states the joint letter from the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association. “Physicians, nurses and health care workers are staying at work for you. Please stay at home for us.”
Experts say that people staying at home and avoiding contact with others is crucial to slowing the spread of the disease and preventing hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with a spike in patients.
More from the White House…
Trump faces mounting pressure to unleash Defense Production Act
President Trump is resisting growing pressure to use his authority under a defense law to increase production of urgently needed supplies to fight the coronavirus.
Governors in some of the hardest-hit states, as well as hospitals, doctors and lawmakers on Capitol Hill, are urging Trump to immediately use his powers under the 1950 Defense Production Act (DPA) to direct industries to ramp up the manufacturing of crucial items like masks for health care workers and ventilators for patients.
But Trump has rejected those calls, arguing that such steps would lead to the government intervening too much in the private sector. Instead, he said he is relying on voluntary commitments from companies.
Trump says he gets along ‘very well’ with Fauci
Trump shot down any reports of a rift between him and one of his top health officials, Anthony Fauci, after Fauci was absent from the White House briefing on Monday and a Fox News town hall Tuesday.
Fauci “has other things to do,” Trump said. “We get along very well. I think it’s been very good.” Fauci has been a regular presence at White House briefings on the coronavirus outbreak but his absence from Monday evening’s press briefing sparked speculation.
At times, Fauci’s public remarks have cut against Trump’s own, though he has been careful to avoid any direct criticism of the president and Trump has praised him for his knowledge.
Fauci was present for Tuesday’s White House press briefing.
More from the administration
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Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, lawmakers are close to a deal on a stimulus package…
GOP senators expect stimulus vote to be Wednesday
Republican senators say they don’t expect a vote on a $2 trillion stimulus package until Wednesday as negotiators continue to refine language in the sprawling bill.
One senior Republican senator said “legislative drafting is going to go late into the night.”
A second lawmaker said the emerging consensus within the Senate GOP conference is that while a miracle might happen and a vote is possible tonight, it’s more likely that it occurs Wednesday.
SNAP, airlines among final hurdles to deal
Disagreements over food stamps and assistance for airlines are among the final hurdles to a congressional deal on a massive stimulus package aimed at combating the coronavirus and bolstering the economy.
Negotiators had said they were close to an agreement, but GOP senators and White House officials emerged from a closed-door meeting saying they were still working to draft and agree on the text of the bill, which is expected to be hundreds of pages long.
Among the stickier provisions is a Democratic push to increase funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, which helps low-income individuals buy food.
More on the package: White House pushing to include health price transparency in coronavirus package
Once they pass the bill, the Senate may not be in session for a while…
Senate eyes quick exit after vote on coronavirus stimulus package
Senators are floating a quick exit from Washington, D.C., after they pass a massive coronavirus stimulus bill that is being finalized Tuesday.
The expectation among senators is that once the chamber passes the legislation, likely on Wednesday, they will not be in session for at least three weeks.
The question of whether senators would remain in the Capitol gained extra urgency this week after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) became the first known senator to test positive for the virus.
Concerns about the spread of the coronavirus within the Senate are particularly acute because many senators are above 60 and considered an at-risk group. Even as Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has encouraged senators to practice social distancing, several have been seen in tight scrums with their colleagues or standing shoulder to shoulder on the floor.
Meanwhile over in the House…
Democratic leaders eye at least two more coronavirus relief bills
Even as lawmakers in both chambers are racing this week to enact a massive coronavirus relief package — the third in as many weeks — House Democratic leaders are telling members to expect at least two more stimulus measures in the weeks and months ahead.
On a marathon conference call with the House Democratic Caucus Tuesday afternoon, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told lawmakers there will likely be a fourth and fifth phase of pandemic relief, according to a source on the call.
More from Congress
Trump officials advise people leaving New York to self-quarantine for 14 days
The Trump administration is advising that individuals leaving New York self-quarantine for 14 days to avoid spreading the coronavirus to other parts of the country.
Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, made the recommendation during a press conference as cases in New York continue to increase rapidly. Vice President Pence echoed the guidance later in the briefing.
“Everybody who was in New York should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread to others, no matter where they have gone, whether it’s Florida, North Carolina, or out to…Long Island,” Birx said.
New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., with more than 25,000 cases. They are doubling every three days.
Birx’s remarks follow an order from Florida’s governor…
Florida governor orders anyone who has traveled to NYC area in past three weeks to self-isolate
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) ordered anyone in the state who has traveled to the greater New York City area over the past three weeks to self-isolate on Tuesday as the number of coronavirus cases continues to rise.
Many New York City-area inhabitants own winter or retirement homes in Florida and travel to and from those areas on a regular basis.
“Anybody traveling from the New York City area to the state of Florida, or has traveled in the last three weeks is going to need to self-isolate, and they’re going to need to report the contacts that they’ve had, any close contacts in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said in a televised briefing.
The elderly and those with underlying health conditions are particularly susceptible to the disease. People over the age of 60 make up 23 percent of Florida’s population.
On the campaign trail
More on the outbreak
Italy’s suffering offers potential terrifying coronavirus preview for US
A tsunami of coronavirus victims that is overwhelming health systems in Italy offers a frightening preview of what could lie ahead for the United States as case counts grow and hospitals run out of space and equipment to treat those with severe symptoms.
The strain is so great in Italy that the nation’s doctors have begun rationing care, making heart-wrenching decisions about who gets treatment and who is left to die. Obituary pages in local newspapers are running dozens of pages. Piles of coffins are stacked in parking lots.
The Hill’s Reid Wilson looks at what is happening in Italy and what it could mean for the U.S.
Tokyo Olympics postponed for one year
Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, and International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach agreed on Tuesday to postpone this summer’s Olympics by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced on Tuesday.
The Tokyo Games are now scheduled for the summer of 2021, marking the first time the Olympics have been postponed during peacetime.
More from outside the US
And in some non-coronavirus health care news…
Chances for drug pricing, surprise billing action fade until November
Surprise billing and drug pricing dominated much of the health care discussion for months, but now amid coronavirus, their prospects are fading.
Why? The coronavirus response package is going to renew a range of expiring health care programs, such as community health center funding, until Nov. 30, sources say.
Those programs were previously scheduled to expire on May 22, and lawmakers in both parties had been hoping to attach drug pricing and surprise billing legislation when those programs were renewed in May.
But without the May deadline to force action, it becomes much harder for lawmakers to come together to pass drug pricing or surprise billing legislation.
The Nov. 30 deadline could still force action then, but it is hard to predict the political dynamic after the election.
What we’re reading
To End The Coronavirus Crisis We Need Widespread Testing, Experts Say (NPR)
Social distancing, politicized: Trump allies are urging an end to isolation, worrying public health experts (Stat News)
States Say Some Doctors Stockpile Trial Coronavirus Drugs, for Themselves (New York Times)
State by state
Death of juvenile in California from coronavirus believed to be first in US of someone that age (CNN)
Coronavirus updates in Texas: Quarantine ending for cruise ship evacuees at Lackland Air Force Base (Texas Tribune)