Overnight Health Care: Trump says testing may be 'overrated' | Ousted official warns national virus plan needed | NIH begins studying drug combo touted by Trump

Overnight Health Care: Trump says testing may be 'overrated' | Ousted official warns national virus plan needed | NIH begins studying drug combo touted by Trump
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Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. 

President TrumpDonald TrumpFacebook temporarily bans ads for weapons accessories following Capitol riots Sasse, in fiery op-ed, says QAnon is destroying GOP Section 230 worked after the insurrection, but not before: How to regulate social media MORE riffed about the high numbers of positive COVID-19 cases, saying it was because of testing. But he also said testing might be "overrated." Meanwhile, ousted vaccine expert Rick Bright testified about the lack of a coordinated virus response.

We'll start off with Trump:


Trump says testing may be 'frankly overrated'

President Trump on Thursday suggested the practice of widespread coronavirus testing may be "overrated," even as health experts insist it is critical to safely loosen restrictions and reopen businesses.

Trump boasted about the United States's testing capabilities during remarks at a Pennsylvania medical equipment distribution center, where he announced the country has administered 10 million tests since the outbreak began.

"We have the best testing in the world," Trump told employees at Owens & Minor Inc. in Allentown. “Could be that testing’s, frankly, overrated. Maybe it is overrated."

Large numbers: The U.S. has more than 1.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases, by far the most of any country in the world based on released statistics. But Trump suggested the soaring infection numbers were merely a reflection of America’s testing capacity. He noted that the more people get tested, the more positive cases appear. 

“When you test, you have a case. When you test you find something is wrong with people. If we didn’t do any testing, we would have very few cases. They don’t want to write that. It’s common sense. We test much more."

Read more here.


Related: Trump goes without mask on trip to Pennsylvania PPE factory 

While Trump was musing about testing numbers, a member of his administration was testifying in Congress about the lack of coordination: 

Ousted health official warns US needs national plan to beat coronavirus

Rick Bright, a former top federal vaccine doctor, warned Congress that the country faces the "darkest winter in modern history" without a national coordinated response in place before fall.

“If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities,” Bright told the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health.

"Our window of opportunity is closing," Bright said. "Without better planning, 2020 could be the darkest winter in modern history."

Bright testified for nearly four hours. He told lawmakers that Americans "deserve" to hear the truth.

The hearing came just a little over a week after Bright filed a whistleblower complaint alleging that his refusal to broadly promote the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 directly resulted in his ouster from the agency.

Partisan questioning: Democrats focused their questions both on Bright's criticisms of the Trump administration's response as well as how he thinks they can do better. Republicans questioned his past support for hydroxychloroquine, and whether he was really the innocent voice of reason he was making himself out to be. But many of the GOP complaints were about the hearing itself, rather than Bright's testimony.

Next steps: Bright also warned that it might take longer for the world to develop an effective vaccine for COVID-19, underscoring the need for a national plan. Bright called for increasing production of essential equipment and establishing a national test strategy as well as a national standard for procuring supplies. 

Read more here.

More on Bright: Bright says his warnings on supply shortages were ignored

Bright says it will likely take longer than 18 months to get coronavirus vaccine

Trump, Azar rebuke testimony of ousted vaccine official


NIH begins studying hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin as COVID-19 treatment

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has started a clinical trial to evaluate whether a drug combination promoted by President Trump as a potential COVID-19 treatment is effective.

The trial will study the use of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, and azithromycin, an antibiotic, in 2,000 adult COVID-19 patients.

“We urgently need a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19. Repurposing existing drugs is an attractive option because these medications have undergone extensive testing, allowing them to move quickly into clinical trials and accelerating their potential approval for COVID-19 treatment,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  

“Although there is anecdotal evidence that hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin may benefit people with COVID-19, we need solid data from a large randomized, controlled clinical trial to determine whether this experimental treatment is safe and can improve clinical outcomes,” he added.

The goal of the study is to determine whether the drug combination can prevent hospitalization and death from COVID-19.

Read more here


Sanders calls for Senate to 'improve' House Democrats' coronavirus bill

House Democrats are voting on a massive $3 trillion relief package tomorrow, but over in the Senate, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSenate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster 'Almost Heaven, West Virginia' — Joe Manchin and a 50-50 Senate Biden to seek minimum wage in COVID-19 proposal MORE (I-Vt.) says the bill needs to better address health and economic security of Americans. 

"Clearly, in these unprecedented times, we need to substantially increase funding for state and local governments, provide hazard pay for essential workers and save the Postal Service. I applaud the Speaker for including these, and many other, important provisions in her bill," Sanders said in a statement.

"In my view, however, the Senate must improve this legislation if we are to adequately address the two most urgent needs facing working families right now: health care and economic security," he added.

Changes: Sanders wants to expand Medicare coverage rather than subsidizing private insurance known as COBRA, and he wants to guarantee paychecks up to $90,000. 

Politics: From the other direction, Republicans, who control the Senate, say the package is just a liberal wish list. But Sanders is trying to pull from the other direction as well. 

Read more here.


House Rules Committee approves remote voting during pandemic

The House Rules Committee on Thursday advanced a measure that will allow lawmakers to vote and hold meetings remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.

The full House is slated to adopt the rules changes on Friday, when lawmakers are also planning to vote on Democrats’ $3 trillion coronavirus relief package.

Enacting the changes will allow House Democrats to revive legislative and oversight work that has largely been on hold for the last two months due to safety concerns about gathering all 430 members and their staffs together in the Capitol during the pandemic.

Read more here.

Trump hails Wisconsin court overturning governor's stay-at-home order

President Trump on Thursday cheered the Wisconsin Supreme Court's decision to overturn Gov. Tony Evers's (D) stay-at-home order intended to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

"The people want to get on with their lives. The place is bustling!" Trump tweeted.

The president described the court's decision as a second "win" in as many days for Republicans after the party won a special election to fill the House seat previously held by Rep. Sean DuffySean DuffyCNN's Ana Navarro to host Biden roundtable on making 'Trump a one-term president' Bottom line McCarthy blasts Pelosi's comments on Trump's weight MORE (R).

The state Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled 4-3 in favor of Republican state lawmakers, who argued that Evers had overreached with the stay-at-home order and had pressed the governor to relax restrictions.

Evers imposed the stringent measures in March as the virus spread across the U.S. It was set to expire on May 26, and the governor had already started allowing some businesses to reopen with modifications.

Evers will now have to get future statewide restrictions approved by the state legislature, which is controlled by Republicans.

Read more here

What we’re reading

Coronavirus drives health insurers back to Obamacare (Politico)

EPA opts against limits on water contaminant tied to fetal damage (The New York Times)

National study finds convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 is safe (The Wall Street Journal

State by state

Coronavirus in Texas: Governor to announce more reopening plans (Texas Tribune

Coronavirus Florida: Miami-Dade, Broward cleared for reopening (Herald-Tribune)

Gov. Baker says Mass. is ramping up testing efforts for possible fall coronavirus surge (NBC 10

The Hill op-eds

There are flaws in our nation's diagnostic capabilities

COVID-19: Essential workers deserve workers' comp

COVID-19 is threat to our biomedical research enterprise