Overnight Health Care: Trump says US won't close over second COVID-19 wave | Mnuchin sees 'strong likelihood' of needing another COVID-19 relief bill | Why the US has the most reported coronavirus cases in the world

Overnight Health Care: Trump says US won't close over second COVID-19 wave | Mnuchin sees 'strong likelihood' of needing another COVID-19 relief bill | Why the US has the most reported coronavirus cases in the world
© Getty Images

Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.

President TrumpDonald John Trump Trump responds to calls to tear down monuments with creation of 'National Garden' of statues Trump: Children are taught in school to 'hate their own country' Trump accuses those tearing down statues of wanting to 'overthrow the American Revolution' MORE said the country would not shut down if there was a second wave of coronavirus infections in the fall. 

The Senate is preparing to adjourn for a Memorial Day recess without addressing any coronavirus relief legislation, and the Chamber of Commerce thinks talks may drag on into July. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Today, we'll kick off the newsletter with Trump in Michigan:

Trump says US won't close over second COVID-19 wave

President Trump said Thursday during a visit to a Ford plant in Michigan that the United States would not shut down in the case of a second coronavirus wave.

“People say that’s a very distinct possibility. It's standard. And we're going to put out the fires. We're not going to close the country. We’re going to put out the fires,” Trump told reporters when asked if he was concerned about a second wave of COVID-19. 

Trump expressed confidence in the country’s ability to contain future outbreaks.   

“Whether it’s an ember or a flame, we’re going to put it out. But we’re not closing our country,” the president continued.

Worth noting: The ultimate decisions on shutting down states have been made by governors throughout the pandemic with guidance from the White House. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Read more here.

Related: Doctors push Trump to quickly reopen country in letter organized by conservatives

Getting ready for some more money flowing? Mnuchin sees 'strong likelihood' of needing another COVID-19 relief bill 

Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinOn The Money: Breaking down the June jobs report | The biggest threats facing the recovery | What will the next stimulus bill include? On The Money: Economy adds 4.8M jobs in June | Unemployment to average 6.1 percent through 2030: CBO | Mnuchin says no regrets on pushing to reopen Treasury approves 0 million loan to company being sued for overcharging Pentagon MORE on Thursday said there is a "strong likelihood" that another coronavirus relief bill will be needed as more states start to reopen and the economy struggles to stabilize.

"We're going to carefully review the next few weeks," Mnuchin said in an interview with The Hill's Bob CusackRobert (Bob) CusackThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Thousands expected for George Floyd's Houston visitation The Hill's Morning Report - Capitol Hill weighs action on racial justice as protests carry on The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead MORE during a virtual event. "I think there is a strong likelihood we will need another bill, but we just have $3 trillion we're pumping into the economy."

"We're going to step back for a few weeks and think very clearly how we need to spend more money and if we need to do that," he added.

GOP divisions on moving forward: House Democrats last week passed a $3 trillion relief package, the HEROES Act, but Senate Republicans have said that bill is dead on arrival in their chamber.

Some GOP senators have indicated they want to move quickly on another measure, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPublic awareness campaigns will protect the public during COVID-19 Democrats: A moment in history, use it wisely 'Comrade' Trump gets 'endorsement' from Putin in new mock ad by Lincoln Project MORE (R-Ky.) has signaled a desire to move more slowly in order to first evaluate what is and isn't working from previous relief bills that were signed into law.

Read more here

But Senate leadership has paused any action on coronavirus relief, and has instead been working on other business, including probes into matters to do with Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenCan Republicans handle the aftermath of Donald Trump? Biden seeks to supplant Trump in Georgia Trump's Mount Rushmore stunt will backfire MORE and others in the Obama administration. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has shown no interest in hurrying.

Chamber of Commerce expects next coronavirus relief bill by July 4

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, one of the country’s biggest business lobbying groups, said that it expects Congress will be able to wrap up work on its next coronavirus relief bill by Independence Day.

“We ought to be able to get a phase four bill done by the 4th of July,” Chamber Executive Vice President Neil Bradley said in a briefing with reporters.

The timing for negotiating and passing a new coronavirus relief bill — and whether it would even happen — has been hotly debated. 

ADVERTISEMENT

The GOP-controlled Senate has no interest in taking up the $3 trillion bill passed by the Democratic-controlled House, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has called it a "liberal wish list."

So what's next? 

On Thursday, the Chamber laid out four top priorities for the next bill, which largely include issues set down by McConnell. Topping the list is some form of liability protection provision for businesses to ensure that workers cannot sue them over COVID-19-related liabilities.

McConnell has said the inclusion of such a provision was a “red line” for the next bill.

Read more here

Why the US has the most reported coronavirus cases in the world

President Trump said Tuesday the fact that the United States has the most coronavirus cases in the world is a “badge of honor” because it shows how much testing the country is doing.

ADVERTISEMENT

While there are many factors at play when comparing how countries have fared in the coronavirus pandemic, public health experts say Trump’s explanation left out a key factor: The U.S. has so many cases because it was initially slow to respond to the outbreak and ramp up testing and other containment tools.

Experts say the U.S. is not alone in being hit hard by the virus because of a slow response, and it’s not off-the-charts worse in comparison to other countries when comparing the case load on a per-person basis. Rather, the U.S. is similar to Italy, Spain and the United Kingdom — countries that have also been dealt a heavy blow from the virus.

“We're probably grouped in with other worse countries,” said Ron Waldman, a professor at George Washington University’s school of public health. “Certainly Italy got killed, Spain got killed, Belgium, the U.K.”

Read more here

COVID-19 spreading through Southern, Midwestern states

The coronavirus pandemic continues its deadly march through rural counties and small towns across the country, led by flareups in Southern and Midwestern states that are becoming new epicenters of the outbreak.

Almost 80 percent of Americans now live in counties where the virus is spreading widely, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution demographer William Frey. 

ADVERTISEMENT

In the last week, 176 counties have started to see substantial spread of the virus. The vast majority of those, 159, are smaller exurban or rural counties. The increased transmission in those areas shows the virus's spread outward from its initial hubs in major cities like New York, Detroit, San Francisco, Seattle and New Orleans and into neighboring regions

Not out of the woods: But the virus is also starting to attack some cities that avoided an initial wave. Highly populated areas like Tampa and St. Petersburg, Fla., are now reporting dozens of new cases. Collin County, Texas, in the Dallas metroplex, and Wake County, N.C., are also showing signs of broader spread.

Read more here

Related: Alabama loosens more coronavirus restrictions as cases climb

DC could begin phased reopening May 29

Washington, D.C., could lift its stay-at-home order and begin a phased reopening of certain businesses as soon as May 29, Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) said Thursday.

Bowser said the city will be in a position to begin reopening certain businesses, with restrictions, if the spread of coronavirus continues to wane. She will make a final decision next Tuesday.

A report from a task force formed to advise Bowser on D.C.'s reopening recommended a four-phase approach, with the final phase being the "new normal." The plan calls for no mass gatherings of more than 250 people until a vaccine or cure is available.

What can open: In the first phase, barbers and hair salons would be open by appointment only. Hotels would also open with safeguards in place. Restaurants would be open for outdoor seating, but with physical distancing requirements in place and no parties greater than six. The task force recommended bars and nightclubs remain closed through the first two phases.

Read more here

Surgeon general: US now better prepared for reopening but not 'without risk

Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Thursday that the U.S. is now better prepared to reopen and has more tools to fight the virus than it did a few weeks ago, though he acknowledged reopening is not "without risk."

"While we're not saying it is without risk to reopen, we certainly feel like we have more tools available at the local and at the state levels and at the federal level — when you look at the national stockpile — to be able to respond quickly if we see a resurgence, and to not have as high of a peak as we had previously," Adams told The Hill's Steve Clemons during a virtual event.

Adams said the country is better prepared to reopen compared to a few weeks ago because hospitals have more protective equipment and ventilators; the public is practicing better safeguards like staying six feet apart, washing hands and wearing masks; and the shutdowns have helped slow the rate of infection to avoid overwhelming the health care system.

Read more here

What we’re reading 

‘How could the CDC make that mistake?’ (The Atlantic)

These labs rushed to test for coronavirus. Few took them up on it. (The New York Times)

After a COVID-19 diagnosis, an antibody test offered me a little comfort (STAT)

Analysis: get ready for the vaccine — they’re never simple (Kaiser Health News)

State by state

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson unveils aggressive plan to ramp up COVID-19 testing to 7,500 per day (ABC 9)

Florida knew a COVID-19 pandemic was likely. State leaders didn’t warn the public (Miami Herald)

Texas businesses returning during coronavirus are unlikely to spur fast economic recovery (Texas Tribune)

Coronavirus in Ohio: Daily cases jump markedly as bowling alleys, banquet halls get OK to reopen (Columbus Dispatch)

The Hill op-eds
Hydroxychloroquine-gate and Trump's war on medical science