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Overnight Health Care: White House blocks Fauci from testifying before Congress | FDA to authorize emergency use of new coronavirus treatment | GOP divided over state aid during coronavirus pandemic

Overnight Health Care: White House blocks Fauci from testifying before Congress | FDA to authorize emergency use of new coronavirus treatment | GOP divided over state aid during coronavirus pandemic
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Welcome to Friday's Overnight Health Care.

The U.S. is approaching 1.1 million coronavirus cases, with more than 64,000 deaths. 

But the increase in cases nationally may not necessarily be bad news, as it means the country is ramping up its testing capacity. The more tests that are completed, the more positive cases there will be. 

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Still, the month of May is not looking promising for bending the infection curve even as states like Texas begin to reopen. 

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized a COVID-19 treatment manufactured by Gilead Sciences, Inc., and Republicans are not sure if they want to direct stimulus money to states.

We'll start with latest news from Congress:

 

White House blocks Fauci from testifying before Congress

Democrats want to investigate the administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but the White House isn't making it easy. 

House Democrats wanted Anthony FauciAnthony FauciScott Atlas resigns as coronavirus adviser to Trump Hospitals brace for COVID-19 surge Rand Paul says Fauci owes parents and students an apology over pandemic measures MORE's testimony next week on the coronavirus crisis, but the White House on Friday blocked the nation's top infectious disease expert from appearing before Congress.

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Democrats had invited Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, to appear before an Appropriations subcommittee examining the Trump administration's response to the global pandemic.

The White House said it would be "counter-productive" to have officials involved in efforts to defeat the novel coronavirus testify at congressional hearings at this time, but that the administration would work with Congress to make them available at the appropriate time. 

Read more here

 

April was a brutal month with the coronavirus. May might not be much better. 

More than 53,000 Americans lost their lives to the coronavirus in April, marking the worst single month for public health in the nation's history and inviting comparisons to the 1918 Spanish flu, which killed more than 50 million people worldwide.

But public health experts say the nation’s stutter-step response has failed to adequately bend the curve of new cases, putting tens if not hundreds of thousands of Americans at risk.

While other nations have begun to see the number of new cases decrease, the United States has at best reached a plateau that will perpetuate the disease’s spread for months to come.

More than a thousand Americans died every day in April, according to The Covid Tracking Project, an independent consortium of journalists and data scientists. 

The daily death toll topped 2,000 on 10 occasions, including over the last three days of the month. On Wednesday, 2,700 Americans died — the single largest one-day tally so far.

Read more here

 

FDA to authorize emergency use of new coronavirus treatment

The Trump administration is fast-tracking authorization of the drug remdesivir as a treatment for severe cases of COVID-19.

The FDA on Friday announced that the drug will receive an "emergency use authorization" after it showed promising results during a clinical trial.

Early results released this week showed the drug had modest success in reducing the time COVID-19 patients were in the hospital. Patients with advanced COVID-19 who received remdesivir recovered in 11 days compared to 15 days for patients on a placebo.

Caveat: Remdesivir is still being studied, and the authorization is not the same as being approved for use, but it will allow the drug to be administered by prescription while it is still being studied. The emergency authorization means there are no approved alternatives, and the drug is better than no treatment at all. Thus far it has only been used for the most severe cases of COVID-19, and is only administered through an IV.

What's next: Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day said the company hopes to expand usage for patients earlier in the course of illness, before they're are hospitalized. He said the company has about 140,000 treatment courses currently, and is working to manufacture 1 million treatment courses by December. 

Read more here

 

GOP divided over state aid during coronavirus pandemic

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The next big fight in the coronavirus response is over state and local aid, but the GOP is divided on the issue. 

The issue quickly became a flashpoint between Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellSenate approves two energy regulators, completing panel On The Money: Biden announces key members of economic team | GOP open to Yellen as Treasury secretary, opposed to budget pick | GAO: Labor Department 'improperly presented' jobless data Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary MORE (R-Ky.) and Democrats, but there are also signs of fractures emerging among GOP lawmakers — posing a challenge for Republicans as they work to solidify their negotiating stance for the next relief bill.

Congress allocated $150 billion for state and municipal governments as part of the $2.2 trillion rescue package signed into law March 27. But Republicans are split on whether to loosen restrictions on how that money and any future funds can be spent, or if they should even support additional funding given GOP concerns about “state bailouts.”

“I think we have to look and hard and see what is working, what is not working,” Sen. John ThuneJohn Randolph ThuneMurkowski: Trump should concede White House race Senate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate MORE (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, told Fox News when asked about state aid.

The stakes: Kentucky is predicting it could face a $500 million shortfall, Arizona has said it is facing a roughly $1.1 billion budget hole, and Cuomo has warned of a 20 percent cut to schools, hospitals and local governments without more assistance from Washington. Unlike the federal government, every state, with the exception of Vermont, is required to balance its budget.

Read more here

 

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Texas set to reopen under political shadow

Coming Friday: Texas is set to start reopening, and it could have some big political implications in the state. 

Restaurants and retailers will begin to open under an order from Gov. Greg Abbott (R), whose directive will override local coronavirus lockdown orders. 

Republicans are generally more supportive of efforts to reopen, and Democrats are calling for what they say should be a more cautious, science-based approach.

Races to watch: Sen. John CornynJohn CornynSenate GOP open to confirming Yellen to be Biden's Treasury secretary Biden budget pick sparks battle with GOP Senate Trump's NATO ambassador pledges 'seamless' transition to Biden administration MORE (R-Texas) is also up for reelection, and the state will host a number of competitive House races that could help determine the next majority.

“This is going to be the defining issue,” Abhi Rahman, communications director for the Texas Democratic Party, said of the coronavirus and the decision on reopening. “Health care in general is the No. 1 issue for Texas Democrats and Texans across the board at every level of government.”

Read more here

 

Non-coronavirus news: Advocates in Missouri close in on Medicaid expansion ballot question

Missouri residents are likely to vote on Medicaid expansion this fall after health advocates on Friday said they have secured enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot for November.

The group Healthcare for Missouri said it submitted nearly 350,000 signatures, almost double the 172,000 required for a state ballot initiative.

The signatures will go through a verification process by the state, but the group said it was confident there were more than enough to qualify.

Advocates want to expand Medicaid to Missouri residents under the age of 65 who earn less than $18,000 a year. Expansion would benefit an estimated 230,000 residents, proponents said.

It would also help rural hospitals, whose officials say Medicaid expansion is key to preventing their facilities from running out of money. Ten rural hospitals have closed in Missouri since 2014.

Read more here

 

What we’re reading: 

Lawmaker asks HHS to ensure Gilead’s remdesivir is affordable if U.S. taxpayers funded R&D (Stat News)

Reopened restaurants reveal dining’s ‘new normal’: masked waiters, e-menus and booth dividers (Washington Post)

WHO defends its initial coronavirus response: ‘The world had enough time to intervene’ (CNBC)

Crowded prisons are festering 'petri dishes' for coronavirus, observers warn (NPR  

 

State by state:

Most enlistees not eligible to join California Health Corps (Associated Press)

Georgia verifies 1K new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours (Atlanta Journal Constitution

New Jersey is now reporting more virus deaths than New York (New York Times)