Overnight Health Care: Pence press secretary tests positive for coronavirus | Watchdog recommends ousted vaccine expert be temporarily reinstated | Health care industry loses 1.4 million jobs
Welcome to Friday’s Overnight Health Care.
Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary tested positive for COVID-19,
An independent government watchdog called for Health and Human Services (HHS) to reinstate Rick Bright, the former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and the health industry suffered major job losses.
Pence press secretary Katie Miller tests positive for coronavirus
The coronavirus hit a bit closer to home for White House staffers on Friday.
Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller tested positive, President Trump said. Miller was the second person working at the White House to test positive in the past two days.
Miller is one of Pence’s closest aides and is married to Stephen Miller, one of Trump’s senior advisers.
“She is a wonderful young woman, Katie, she tested very good for a long period of time and then all of a sudden today she tested positive,” Trump told reporters during a roundtable with GOP lawmakers, noting that she is “the press person.”
Trump added that Pence has since tested negative for the coronavirus.
Testing strategy questioned: Miller has since said she is asymptomatic. But she had previously tested negative, and her case was caught after the White House significantly increased the testing of staff from weekly to daily. Meanwhile, Trump has resisted efforts to develop a national strategy to ramp up testing nationwide, and has largely downplayed the significance of frequent tests. Public health experts say the country is nowhere close to conducting enough tests needed before lifting coronavirus-related restrictions.
Watchdog recommends ousted vaccine expert be temporarily reinstated: lawyers
A federal watchdog has found “reasonable grounds” to believe that the administration retaliated against a top public health official who says he was ousted after raising alarms about an unverified coronavirus treatment.
Attorneys for Rick Bright, former head of BARDA, said the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) determined that the HHS “violated the Whistleblower Protection Act by removing Dr. Bright from his position because he made protected disclosures in the best interest of the American public.”
What’s next: Likely nothing. Bright’s attorneys said OSC recommended Bright should be reinstated for 45 days while the agency investigates. But the OSC recommendation is not binding. HHS would not comment about whether it would abide by the recommendation. Spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said the agency “strongly disagrees with the allegations and characterizations in the complaint from Dr. Bright.”
NIH launching study into coronavirus impacts on children
Children have been escaping the worst effects of the coronavirus, but there is no understanding of why that is. Now the National Institutes of Health is trying to find out.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is launching a major study into the coronavirus impacts on children.
Warning sign: At least some children suffer severe symptoms, and in recent weeks hospitals around the world have described a condition they call pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome in dozens or hundreds of children.
Understanding how children contract the disease is also important to understand whether they can pass it on to family members, something experts want to understand as local governments decide whether to reopen schools in the late summer or early fall and how to do so.
Health care industry decimated by coronavirus, loses 1.4 million jobs
Among the staggering job loss figures: The health care industry lost 1.4 million jobs in April.
Overall, the economy lost 20.5 million jobs and the unemployment rate jumped to 14.7 percent.
The number of people without jobs is shocking, especially for a sector that has historically been largely resilient during recessions.
The April numbers follow a loss of 43,000 health care jobs in March.
According to figures from the Labor Department, the hardest-hit areas have been outpatient facilities. More than half a million dental office employees alone lost a job in April, as offices shut down due to physical distancing measures. Physicians’ offices lost more than 240,000 jobs.
Part of the reason: Health facilities across the country paused almost all nonessential services in the last month, shutting off a key source of revenue.
Key House committee chairmen ask leadership to include coronavirus commission in next relief bill
The chairmen of two key committees on Friday urged House leadership to include a provision in the next coronavirus relief package that would create an independent bipartisan commission to review the federal government’s handling of the pandemic.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), the co-chairwoman of the moderate Blue Dog Coalition, have each introduced their own bills in recent weeks to create a commission dedicated to examining the coronavirus response. Their joint letter to House leadership marked a push to consolidate their individual efforts.
Their proposals would all establish a commission that would include members of both parties to study the government’s preparations for the coronavirus outbreak and make recommendations for how to improve the response to any future pandemics.
Republicans not sold on new round of relief checks
Senate Republicans are pouring cold water on including another round of stimulus checks in the next coronavirus relief bill.
The record $2.2 trillion pandemic bill signed into law March 27 mandated one-time payments of $1,200 for people making up to $75,000 a year, but most of the checks have already been distributed.
The White House and Democrats are signaling support for doing at least one more round of checks. GOP senators, however, say they aren’t sold yet on the need for a second round, and several said they are strongly opposed to the idea. Instead of government money, many have said the restarted economy will be enough.
Key quote: “Well people in hell want ice water too,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.), when asked about another round of checks. “I mean, everybody has an idea and a bill, usually to spend more money. It’s like a Labor Day mattress sale around here.”
What we’re reading
‘It’s too early to go back’: Workers fear for their health and finances as states rush to reopen (Washington Post)
Routine vaccinations for U.S. children have plummeted during the COVID-19 pandemic (Stat News)
F.D.A. clears first home saliva test for coronavirus (New York Times)
State by state
The reopening of California has begun (New York Times)
Gov. Baker says Mass. continues to see signs coronavirus surge is slowing (NBC 10 Boston)
As coronavirus shutdowns sink city budgets, Dallas furloughs almost 500 employees (Texas Tribune)