Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill

Overnight Health Care: CDC recommends face coverings in public | Resistance to social distancing sparks new worries | Controversy over change of national stockpile definition | McConnell signals fourth coronavirus bill
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Welcome to Friday's Overnight Health Care. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that people wear masks or face coverings in public. President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrat calls on White House to withdraw ambassador to Belarus nominee TikTok collected data from mobile devices to track Android users: report Peterson wins Minnesota House primary in crucial swing district MORE on Friday stressed that it would be "voluntary" and made it clear he would not do so.

Also, there's a new controversy after the Department of Health and Human Services changed the description of the Strategic National Stockpile the day after comments from Jared KushnerJared Corey KushnerFederal government pauses Kodak loan pending probes Beirut blast raises urgent questions about America's leadership in the world Lincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' MORE, the president's son-in-law and adviser.

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In Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellMcConnell warns control of Senate 'could go either way' in November On The Money: McConnell says it's time to restart coronavirus talks | New report finds majority of Americans support merger moratorium | Corporate bankruptcies on pace for 10-year high McConnell: Time to restart coronavirus talks MORE (R-Ky.) said there will be a fourth coronavirus stimulus bill, and rural health systems are bracing for a surge of COVID-19 patients.

We'll start at the White House...

 

CDC recommends face coverings outside of the home

President Trump announced on Friday that his administration would recommend Americans wear homemade masks or face coverings to prevent the spread of COVID-19 -- but he repeatedly emphasized that the guidance is "voluntary."

"It's going to be really a voluntary thing," Trump said during a White House briefing with reporters.

"You can do it. You don't have to do it. I'm choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it, and that's OK," he said.

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Why it matters: The new recommendation, issued by the CDC, is a reversal for the agency. At the beginning of the outbreak, the CDC said that healthy people did not need to wear masks because it would not protect them from contracting the disease. 

But research released in recent weeks indicates people can have the virus, not show symptoms and unknowingly spread it to others. The agency also stressed that wearing face coverings is not a replacement for social distancing measures.

Read more here.

Mixed messaging: The first lady meanwhile is urging the public to wear face coverings.

Read more here.

 

More testing at the White House

Any person "in close proximity" to President Trump or Vice President Pence will be tested for the novel coronavirus starting Friday, the White House said.

"As the Physician to the President and White House Operations continue to protect the health and safety of the President and Vice President, starting today anyone who is expected to be in close proximity to either of them will be administered a COVID-19 test to evaluate for pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers status to limit inadvertent transmission," deputy press secretary Judd Deere said Friday.

The individuals will receive the same rapid test that Trump referenced during a press briefing on Thursday.

Read more here.

 

Trump will reimburse hospitals for treating uninsured coronavirus patients

The Trump administration announced Friday that the federal government will reimburse hospitals treating uninsured patients for the novel coronavirus using funds allocated in the recent relief package passed by Congress.

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"Today, I can so proudly announce that hospitals and health care providers treating uninsured coronavirus patients will be reimbursed by the fed government using funds from the economic relief packed Congress passed last month," President Trump said at a White House briefing.

"This should alleviate any concerns uninsured Americans may have seeking the coronavirus treatment," he added.

Timing: The announcement came after the administration said it would not reopen ObamaCare enrollment for uninsured Americans to purchase health care. Pressed on the decision, Trump indicated Thursday that he was considering a plan to cover costs of medical care for uninsured Americans.

Read more here.

 

And there's a new coronavirus controversy...

 

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Trump administration changes definition of national stockpile after Kushner remarks 

Should the federal government help states, like New York, that are running out of supplies? Or should states be left to fend for themselves, with the government only helping as a last resort? 

White House adviser and presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner believes it should be the latter.

The Trump administration quietly changed an online description of the country's Strategic National Stockpile following Thursday's press briefing with Kushner. 

Previously, according to the federal public health emergency website, the Strategic National Stockpile was described as "the nation's largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies for use in a public health emergency severe enough to cause local supplies to run out."

That definition disappeared from the site on Friday. 

The new, one-paragraph description says the stockpile is meant as a "short-term stopgap."

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Read more here.

 

That sparked criticism from Democrats, who called for an investigation

Four Democratic senators sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) office of inspector general saying that the change in language -- which caught widespread attention on Friday -- raised concerns about "potential improper interference ... to advance a political agenda."

Sens. Tammy DuckworthLadda (Tammy) Tammy DuckworthHillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg hails Harris's VP nomination Women on Biden's rumored VP short list tweet support for choice of Harris MORE (D-Ill.), Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoSenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw MORE (D-Hawaii), Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenKamala Harris: The conventional (and predictable) pick all along On The Money: McConnell says it's time to restart coronavirus talks | New report finds majority of Americans support merger moratorium | Corporate bankruptcies on pace for 10-year high Hillicon Valley: Facebook removed over 22 million posts for hate speech in second quarter | Republicans introduce bill to defend universities against hackers targeting COVID-19 research | Facebook's Sandberg backs Harris as VP pick MORE (D-Mass.) and Ed MarkeyEdward (Ed) John MarkeySens. Markey, Cruz clash over coronavirus relief: 'It's not a goddamn joke Ted' Sanders offers bill to tax billionaires' wealth gains during pandemic Senate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic MORE (D-Mass.) signed the letter, which called for the inspector general to investigate the matter.

Read more here.

 

Trump defended Kushner in a heated exchange with a reporter

President Trump defended his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner on Friday for suggesting the federal stockpile of medical resources was not for states, lashing out at a reporter for asking about the comments and accusing her of having a "nasty tone."

CBS News reporter Weijia Jiang asked Trump what Kushner meant when he referred to the national stockpile as "our stockpile" and implied it wasn't for states while appearing at the administration's daily coronavirus press conference the previous day.

"You know what 'our' means? United States of America," Trump told Jiang, labeling her inquiry as a "gotcha" question. "We take that – 'our' – and we distribute it to the states."

Read more on the exchange here.

 

More from the administration

Trump says he opposes mail-in voting for November

Oil giants meet at White House amid talk of buying strategic reserves

Bank executives sought guidance on small business loan program from Ivanka Trump: report

  

Over in the states...

 

Social distancing works, but resistance prompts worries

Social distancing efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus are working, according to preliminary data, but there's also a problem: There are still communities that aren't doing enough, and some that started too late. 

State and local governments around the country have closed businesses and mandated social distancing for weeks, which experts say is key to slowing the spread of the virus and preventing an influx of patients from overwhelming the health care system. 

But the aggressiveness of those measures varies from state to state, and the impact of the coronavirus will be felt at different times in different places across the country. 

Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, said it is clear that social distancing measures are working, but he is concerned that the entire country is not following them.

"It worked in California, in Seattle, that's great. ... We are a very mobile country and there are still places where they are not doing physical distancing at all," Benjamin said.

More from The Hill's Nathaniel Weixel here.

 

Cuomo signs order for New York to commandeer ventilators, protective gear 

New York is getting desperate for medical equipment; Gov. Andrew CuomoAndrew CuomoCalifornia Dems back Yang after he expresses disappointment over initial DNC lineup New York may be undercounting coronavirus deaths in nursing homes: AP Cuomo calls on NYPD to 'step up' in enforcing coronavirus regulations at bars MORE (D) said the state does not have enough ventilators or personal protective equipment for health workers.

Acknowledging this, Cuomo on Friday signed an executive order saying the state can take ventilators and PPE from hospitals and medical institutions and redistribute the items to places that are in dire need.

The governor said at his daily press conference that the National Guard will transport the ventilators, masks and other equipment to hard-hit parts of the state like New York City.

Cuomo said the state had its biggest one-day increase in coronavirus deaths since the outbreak began, with 562 deaths over the last 24 hours. There are more than 102,000 confirmed cases in the state, including 2,900 deaths. 

Upstate: The pushback against Cuomo from Upstate lawmakers was swift. They want to make sure their own hospitals have enough equipment. "#UpstateLivesMatter," tweeted Rep. Elise StefanikElise Marie StefanikHouse Republicans introduce legislation to give states 0 million for elections The 'pitcher of warm spit' — Veepstakes and the fate of Mike Pence The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden, Obama reunite for socially distanced conversation MORE (R), who represents much of the northern tier of the state, from the Vermont border to Lake Ontario.  

"Our #Ny21 hospitals have served downstaters in need of care during COVID-19. Our North Country manufacturers continue to work to supply PPEs & donate to downstate. Our first responders and Upstate National Guard are serving their fellow NYers!," Stefanik tweeted.

Read more here.

 

Rural America braces for coronavirus 

Rural health systems are bracing for a surge in patients suffering from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, that could overwhelm small and underfunded hospitals in areas where populations are particularly vulnerable to serious symptoms.

The coronavirus outbreaks in the United States have been the most intense in major cities and suburbs like New York, New Orleans, Detroit, Seattle and the Washington, D.C., area. But experts in rural health say they know the virus is headed their way, and they worry that smaller communities are even less prepared to handle an influx of cases than their big-city colleagues.

More on the impact on rural America here.

 

Read more: Here's when the coronavirus will peak in your state

 

More from states, cities:

Alabama county received 5,000 rotted masks from national stockpile

De Blasio: NYC can 'only get to Monday or Tuesday' with current ventilator supply

Colorado, Pennsylvania governors urge people to wear masks in public

Newsom announces partnership with FEMA to find shelter for most vulnerable homeless populations

Wisconsin governor urges legislature to allow all-mail primary in May

Crime rates drop across the nation amid coronavirus

Texas women forced to travel 20 times farther for abortion under coronavirus ban: report

 

Over in Congress...

 

McConnell says there will be a fourth coronavirus bill

Get ready for some more high stakes negotiating! 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Friday that there will be a fourth coronavirus bill and that health care should be a top priority as lawmakers draft the legislation.

McConnell, in an interview with The Associated Press, said that "there will be a next measure."

"[It] should be more a targeted response to what we got wrong and what we didn't do enough for -- and at the top of the list there would have to be the health care part of it," he said.

Pivot from Pelosi? McConnell's movement toward a fourth bill comes as Pelosi appeared to scale back her ambitions for the next package, saying that things like improvements to drinking water systems and expanded access to broadband may have to wait.

Pelosi told CNBC that the next bill should focus on more funding for direct payments to individuals, unemployment insurance, small-business loans and protective equipment for doctors and other medical professionals.

Read more on McConnell's comments here.

 

And more on Pelosi here: Speaker scales back coronavirus infrastructure proposal

 

Romney warns Trump: Don't interfere with coronavirus relief oversight

Sen. Mitt RomneyWillard (Mitt) Mitt RomneyDavis: The Hall of Shame for GOP senators who remain silent on Donald Trump Trump slams 'rogue' Sasse after criticism of executive actions From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters MORE (R-Utah) on Friday released a letter with Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - At loggerheads, Congress, White House to let jobless payout lapse Overnight Defense: Senate poised to pass defense bill with requirement to change Confederate base names | Key senator backs Germany drawdown | Space Force chooses 'semper supra' as motto Democrats call for expedited hearing for Trump's public lands nominee MORE (D-Mont.) calling on President Trump to comply with the oversight requirements Congress attached to the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package signed into law last week.

"With trillions of taxpayer dollars being spent, it is critically important for the Administration to ensure full transparency and willingness for independent oversight," Romney and Tester wrote in the April 3 letter to Trump.

Trump sparked controversy last week when he signaled in a signing statement attached to the $2.2 trillion law that his White House would supervise reports to Congress from the special inspector general for coronavirus relief.

Romney and Tester called on the president to report his administration's plans for spending the funds to Congress.

Read more here.

 

More from Congress

Top conservatives pen letter to Trump with concerns on fourth coronavirus relief bill

Lawmakers call on Trump administration to address Puerto Rico's vulnerability to COVID-19

Democrats fear coronavirus impact on November turnout

Sanders calls for $2,000 monthly payments, suspending some bills amid pandemic

GOP senators begin informal talks on new coronavirus stimulus

 

And more bad news on the economy...

 

Economy sheds 701K jobs in March

The U.S. lost 701,000 jobs in March as the growing coronavirus pandemic devastated the American economy and ended more than a decade of uninterrupted employment growth, according to data released Friday by the Labor Department.

The first wave in a surge of layoffs driven by COVID-19 snapped a record-breaking 113-month streak of consecutive monthly job gains that began in October 2010, according to the March jobs report. The unemployment rate rose to 4.4 percent from 3.5 percent in February, the largest one-month jump since January 1975.

The new numbers are the latest window into the steep economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

Why the numbers could be worse: The March jobs report shows the initial stages of the pandemic-driven economic collapse but it will likely take another month to gauge the full extent of the damage. The data for the March report was compiled shortly before a flood of jobless claims crushed state unemployment websites and municipal budgets.

Read more here.

 

As for relief efforts, the small business loan program launched today, and there was quite a bit of confusion

The Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) on Friday rolled out applications for small businesses to receive forgivable loans for payroll and other basic expenses amid the economic toll of the coronavirus.

But banks, credit unions and other lenders say the $349 billion program lacks clear guidelines to handle a looming wave of loan applications that could overwhelm the system while leaving some firms in the lurch.

"The guidance was released hours before this program is set to begin and there are still a number of unanswered questions which will very likely complicate quick fulfillment of these critical loans," said Jim Nussle, president and CEO of the Credit Union National Association, a trade group for credit unions.

A lot of money: The amount allocated for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is more than 12 times the $28.1 billion in loans originated by the SBA in all of 2019, threatening to overwhelm agency staffers.

Read more here

 

A start: Trump officials though said billions of dollars in loans have already been processed, but not all banks have started accepting applications.

More on that here.

 

More on the economic fallout: Wall Street caps dismal week with more losses

 

More from The Hill's coronavirus coverage

Biden fights for attention in coronavirus news cycle

Lawmakers call for investigation into aircraft carrier captain's firing

Sailors cheer Navy captain who was removed after pleading for help with coronavirus outbreak

Pentagon may treat coronavirus patients aboard Navy hospital ship

Walmart to limit number of customers, creates in-store social distancing measures

Reese Witherspoon's clothing company donating dresses to teachers to show thanks amid coronavirus

Crime rates drop across the nation amid coronavirus

Hannity blasts criticism of Fox News: 'I have taken this seriously'

Queen Elizabeth to deliver rare TV address on coronavirus

The Rock goes viral singing 'Moana' song to teach daughter how to wash her hands amid coronavirus

 

What we're reading: 

White House and CDC in turf battle over guidance on broad use of face masks to fight coronavirus (The Washington Post

How Tea Party budget battles left the national emergency medical stockpile unprepared for coronavirus (ProPublica

Americans are underestimating how long coronavirus disruptions will last, health experts say (Stat News)

Trump administration uses wartime powers to be first in line on medical supplies (Kaiser Health News)

 

State by state 

Over 500 more Florida coronavirus cases reported; deaths reach 163 (Fox 13)

States demand ventilators as feds ration limited supply (Associated Press)

Cuomo Says New York Has Seen 'Highest Single Increase' In Deaths From Coronavirus (NPR)

Rural counties consider an alternative type of social distancing -- kicking Chicago out of Illinois (ProPublica)