Overnight Health Care: Trump defends hydroxychloroquine use after meeting with GOP senators | Trump administration picks US firm to manufacture COVID-19 drugs now made overseas | Study projects US COVID-19 deaths to triple by end of year

Overnight Health Care: Trump defends hydroxychloroquine use after meeting with GOP senators | Trump administration picks US firm to manufacture COVID-19 drugs now made overseas | Study projects US COVID-19 deaths to triple by end of year
© Bonnie Cash

Welcome to Tuesday's Overnight Health Care.

President TrumpDonald TrumpGOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania ​​Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors Iran thinks it has the upper hand in Vienna — here's why it doesn't MORE doubled down on his use of hydroxychloroquine, a new study suggests that the number of Americans who die from COVID-19 will triple by the end of the year, and South Korea is changing its protocols on testing after a study showed people who get "reinfected" with COVID-19 are not contagious. 

We'll start with Trump:


Trump defends hydroxychloroquine use after meeting with GOP senators

President Trump headed to Capitol Hill on Tuesday for a meeting with GOP senators, but it was his controversial use of hydroxychloroquine that drew the focus of questions from reporters after. 

"I think it gives you an additional level of safety," Trump told reporters. "But you can ask many doctors who are in favor of it. Many front-line workers won’t go there unless they have the hydroxy."

"This is an individual decision to make," he added. "But it’s had a great reputation and if it was somebody else other than me people would say, 'Gee isn’t that smart.'"

Warnings: His declaration that he started taking it over a week ago was cause for alarm for medical experts given the drug's unproven efficacy and known potential side effects. 

The FDA issued a warning last month that hydroxychloroquine should not be taken outside of a hospital or clinical trial because of the risk of severe heart problems.

Read more here


Related: FDA head: Taking hydroxychloroquine 'ultimately a decision between a patient and their doctor'

Trump administration picks US firm to manufacture COVID-19 drugs now made overseas 

The Trump administration is awarding a $354 million four-year contract to a Virginia-based company to manufacture generic medicines and pharmaceutical ingredients needed to treat COVID-19. 

Phlow Corp. said in a release it was awarded the federal contract to create “essential medicines at risk of shortage,” including medicines needed for the COVID-19 pandemic response.

The move is aimed at increasing U.S. manufacturing of key pharmaceutical ingredients and reducing the dependence on other countries. 

White House adviser Peter Navarro said the country has “relied on foreign manufacturing and supply chains” for “far too long.” 

Context: The announcement fits with the White House's "America First" priorities. U.S. generic drug production has shifted overseas over the last decade, mainly to countries like China and India. But during the coronavirus pandemic, the countries have retaliated against President Trump's actions by limiting exports to the U.S.   

Read more here

One-third of attendees at Arkansas church events contracted COVID-19 during six-day period in March: CDC

Thirty-eight percent of people who attended events at an Arkansas church over a six-day period in March contracted COVID-19, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Of the 92 people who attended events at a rural Arkansas church between March 6 and March 11, 35 contracted COVID-19, and three died, the CDC said.

An additional 26 cases, including one death, were confirmed among community members who said they had contact with church attendees.

Significance: The new report highlights the potential for widespread transmission at public gatherings in enclosed spaces and within communities, its authors wrote.

“Faith-based organizations that are operating or planning to resume in-person operations, including regular services, funerals or other events, should be aware of the potential for high rates of transmission of [COVID-19],” they added.


Read more here

COVID-19 patients testing positive for second infection not contagious, study shows 

Researchers in Korea found evidence that patients who test positive for COVID-19 a second time aren't capable of infecting others, and may have neutralizing antibodies that protect them from getting sick again.

The findings from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) could have major ramifications for areas looking to reopen their economies, and have led health authorities in the nation to change their protocols for people who have been discharged from isolation.

What's changing: The CDC said it is lifting the requirements that people need to have a negative test result to return to work or school after recovering from a COVID-19 infection. Under the new protocols, no additional tests are required for patients who have been discharged from isolation.

What it means: The findings are potentially important as states and local governments in the U.S. begin to reopen their economies, and debate what safety standards will be needed. But there's still a lot of unknowns about what "immunity" really means. 

Testing fluke? Virus samples collected from the reinfected patients couldn’t be grown in culture, meaning the patients were "shedding" dead virus particles. But even though the patients weren't contagious, they may still have been sick. Despite antibodies, 44 percent of the "reinfected" population had symptoms such as a cough or sore throat. 


Read more here

Study projects US COVID-19 deaths to triple by end of year

A new study suggests the number of Americans who will die after contracting the novel coronavirus is likely to more than triple by the end of the year, even if current social distancing habits continue for months on end.

The study, conducted by the Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy and Economics Institute at the University of Washington's School of Pharmacy, found that 1.3 percent of those who show symptoms of COVID-19 die, an infection fatality rate that is 13 times higher than a bad influenza season.

"COVID-19 infection is deadlier than flu — we can put that debate to rest," said Anirban Basu, a health economist at the University of Washington who authored the study.

If the infection fatality rate is accurate, and if the coronavirus continues spreading at current rates even before most states open their economies and relax social distancing restrictions, COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, could claim between 350,000 and 1.2 million American lives by the end of this year, Basu found.

Read more here


Lancet knocks Trump for 'factually incorrect' statement in letter warning of WHO funding cuts

It’s not every day a medical journal releases a statement disputing something the president said, but it happened on Tuesday. 

The Lancet medical journal knocked President Trump for a “factually incorrect” statement in his letter warning of World Health Organization (WHO) funding cuts.  

The medical journal released a statement saying Trump’s claim that the journal published reports in December 2019 or earlier about a coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, were wrong. 

“This statement is factually incorrect,” the journal said in a statement posted on Twitter. “The Lancet published no report in December, 2019, referring to a virus or outbreak in Wuhan or anywhere else in China.”

Trump wrote in the letter released Monday night that the WHO “consistently ignored credible reports of the virus spreading in Wuhan in early December 2019 or even earlier, including reports from the Lancet medical journal.”

The Lancet said it first published reports on coronavirus on Jan. 24. 

Not the first time: Last week, the British journal called on Americans to oust Trump in November, and vote for a president who will support science. The unsigned editorial said Trump was eroding away the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to respond to the pandemic.

Read more here

The Hill event

On Thursday, May 21 The Hill hosts Advancing the American Economy, a national virtual summit to discuss a responsible reopening of the US economy. Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven MnuchinThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden to tackle omicron risks with new travel rules Mnuchin and McConnell discuss debt limit during brief meeting Major Russian hacking group linked to ransomware attack on Sinclair: report MORE joins Editor-in-Chief Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackDeGette calls for 'lean and mean' health research agency to tackle diabetes NAACP president pushes for more emails from NFL after Gruden resignation Al Eisele, founding editor of The Hill, dies at 85 MORE for a headline interview followed by an afternoon of discussions with leading CEOs and national health experts. Additional speakers to be announced. Register Now!     

What we’re reading

Nine ways COVID-19 may forever end the health care industry (STAT)

WHO approves call for inquiry into global coronavirus response (CNN.com)

Fewer traffic collisions during shutdown means longer waits for organ donations (Kaiser Health News)

State by state

Maryland reports largest rise yet in coronavirus cases 4 days after reopening (WAMU)

States accused of fudging or bungling COVID-19 testing data (Associated Press)

Florida Health Department officials told manager to delete coronavirus data before reassigning her, emails show (Tampa Bay Times)

The four phases of Massachusetts’ reopening plan, explained (NBC 10

10 more counties in Washington can apply for Phase 2 of COVID-19 recovery (King 5

Op-eds in The Hill

3 ways to combat addiction during and after COVID-19