Overnight Health Care: Trump refuses to say if he slowed down coronavirus testing | US COVID-19 cases rise, marking ugly contrast with Europe | Trump health officials to testify on continued dangers of coronavirus pandemic

Overnight Health Care: Trump refuses to say if he slowed down coronavirus testing | US COVID-19 cases rise, marking ugly contrast with Europe | Trump health officials to testify on continued dangers of coronavirus pandemic
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Welcome to Monday's Overnight Health Care.

Top health officials will testify in the House on Tuesday, giving an opportunity for Democrats to grill them about the administration's coronavirus response.   

President TrumpDonald TrumpKinzinger says Trump 'winning' because so many Republicans 'have remained silent' Our remote warfare counterterrorism strategy is more risk than reward Far-right rally draws small crowd, large police presence at Capitol MORE refused to say if he actually told staff to slow down COVID-19 testing in order to make it seem like there were fewer cases. And in non-COVID news, LGBTQ advocates filed a lawsuit trying to block a new rule rolling back non-discrimination protections for transgender patients. 


We'll start with Trump:

Trump refuses to say if he slowed down coronavirus testing

President Trump on Monday refused to say whether he told staff to slow down COVID-19 testing to make it look like the U.S. had fewer cases, while White House officials denied he had ever given such an order. 

Trump has been blaming rising numbers of coronavirus cases in the U.S. on increased testing, arguing the country has been doing "too good a job."

“If we did slow it down, we wouldn't show nearly as many cases,” he said in an interview with Scripps News. 

Asked again if he had asked to slow testing down, he replied: “Frankly I think we're way ahead of ourselves if you want to know the truth. We've done too good a job, because every time we go out with 25 million tests, you're going to find more people so then they say ‘oh, we have more cases in the United States.’ The reason we have more cases [is] because we do more testing than any other country by far.” 

Context: Trump generated outrage this weekend when he said at his first campaign rally in months that he told staff to “slow the testing down, please.” Trump aides have said the comments were a joke. At least one governor — Nevada’s Steve Sisolak (D) — told Vice President Pence in a conference calls with other governors that Trump’s comments were not helpful. Pence and other government officials have attributed increases in COVID-19 cases to increased testing, but experts say that is only partly true. 


Read more here

Trump health officials to testify on continued dangers of coronavirus pandemic

Four of the Trump administration's top health officials will testify in front of a House committee on Tuesday, giving House Democrats a rare opportunity to grill administration officials about their response to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Oversight efforts have been stymied by the White House's policy that senior officials are not allowed to testify without permission from chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark MeadowsAllies see rising prospect of Trump 2024 White House bid The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - US prepares vaccine booster plan House panel probing Jan. 6 attack seeks Trump records MORE.

Who will be there: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony FauciAnthony FauciSunday shows preview: Coronavirus dominates as country struggles with delta variant Journalist Zaid Jilani describes removal of animal rights ad that criticizes Fauci Watch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing MORE, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn and the administration's testing czar, Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir. 

What they'll say: The coronavirus pandemic will not end anytime soon, and the upcoming flu season could make it even worse.

"While it remains unclear how long the pandemic will last, COVID-19 activity will likely continue for some time," officials will say Tuesday, according to a joint prepared testimony posted online. 

They will also testify that a vaccine may not be ready as soon as President Trump wants.

"The rigorous clinical testing required to establish vaccine safety and efficacy means that it might take some time for a licensed SARS-CoV-2 vaccine to be available to the general public," according to testimony from NIAID. "The COVID-19 response currently is focused on the proven public health practices of containment and mitigation."

Read more here.

US COVID-19 cases rise, marking ugly contrast with Europe

New U.S. coronavirus cases are rising again in a worrying new sign for the country’s outbreak. 

The number of new cases nationally climbed above 30,000 per day over the weekend, after having leveled off at around 20,000 per day for weeks. 

The new spike is even more striking given the contrast with major European countries that were hit hard by the virus but are now doing much better and have so far been able to keep new cases low. 

The rise in the U.S. also comes as the Trump administration has sought to paint a bright picture on the U.S. outlook.

Just last week, Vice President Pence wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “Cases have stabilized over the past two weeks, with the daily average case rate across the U.S. dropping to 20,000 — down from 30,000 in April and 25,000 in May.”

President Trump went even further during a Fox News interview last week, telling Sean HannitySean Patrick Hannity90 percent of full-time Fox Corp. employees say they're fully vaccinated: executive The Memo: California recall exposes the limit of Trump's GOP Republicans divided on Trump's strength as possible 2024 candidate MORE that the virus will “fade away” even without a vaccine, despite the thousands of new cases in the country per day.

Read more here.

Related: Texas governor says coronavirus spread 'unacceptable' but imposes no new requirements

Louisiana pushes back next reopening phase by four weeks as coronavirus cases spike

WHO: More testing doesn't explain COVID-19 spikes in US


About the administration's explanation for more U.S. cases….the WHO is not buying it. 

A top official at the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday that a spike in the number of U.S. coronavirus cases is not solely the result of increased testing, a sign the virus is spreading widely in states across the country.

Some have pointed to an increase in tests, which identify a larger number of asymptomatic and low-symptomatic COVID-19 cases, as the reason for the recent spikes.

But most of those states are also seeing an increase in the percentage of tests that come back positive, indicating the virus is spreading quickly. If the virus were stable, the percentage of positive tests would be declining.

"What is clear is that the increase [in cases] is not entirely explained through just increased testing. There is some evidence of increased hospitalizations. But this was always a possibility when restrictions were lifted," said Mike Ryan, who directs the WHO's emergency program overseeing the response to the pandemic.

Read more here.

Democrats: Trump has yet to spend nearly $14B for COVID-19 tests, contact tracing


The Trump administration has yet to distribute nearly $14 billion intended to help state and local governments improve coronavirus testing and contact tracing, according to two top Democrats.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Health Committee ranking member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said the administration needs to "immediately" distribute the funding.

Background: Congress in April provided more than $25 billion to increase testing and contact tracing capacity, as well as $2 billion to provide free COVID-19 testing for the uninsured by paying providers’ claims for tests and other services associated with getting a test, like an office or emergency room visit. 

Schumer and Murray said the administration has no plans for how to distribute more than $8 billion out of that $25 billion, leaving communities without needed resources.

"The United States is at a critical juncture in its fight against COVID-19, and now is the time for an aggressive and fast response. This administration will put our country at grave risk if it tries to declare an early victory, leave lifesaving work undone, and leave resources our communities desperately need sitting untouched," the lawmakers wrote.

Read more here

Emergency department visits for life-threatening conditions decline amid pandemic: study

Emergency department visits for life-threatening conditions including heart attacks dropped in the 10 weeks following the declaration of the COVID-19 public health emergency, according to an analysis published Monday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Visits dropped 23 percent for heart attacks, 20 percent for strokes and 10 percent for uncontrolled high blood sugar, according to the report. 

“The substantial reduction in [emergency department] visits for these life-threatening conditions might be explained by many pandemic-related factors including fear of exposure to COVID-19, unintended consequences of public health recommendations to minimize non-urgent health care, stay-at-home orders, or other reasons,” the authors of the report wrote.

It is “biologically implausible” or unlikely for visits to decline because fewer people are experiencing heart attacks, strokes or high blood sugar, they wrote.

Read more here

LGBTQ advocates sue Trump administration over rollback of non-discrimination protections

In non COVID-news, a lawsuit from advocacy groups and health clinics argues the Trump administration doesn't have the authority to allow health providers to discriminate against LGBTQ patients, and seeks to block a new rule from taking effect.

"A person’s access to health care should not be contingent on their sex, gender identity, transgender status, sexual orientation, race, national origin, age, disability, or religion," the complaint said. 

"Yet, in the midst of a global pandemic, the Trump Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services has sought to diminish protections from discrimination in health care," according to the complaint.

The filing comes a week after the Supreme Court ruled in 6-3 decision that employers are prohibited from firing or discriminating against anyone who is gay or transgender. 

While unrelated to the administration's health care rule, the groups argue that the Supreme Court's definition of "sex discrimination" applies to health care as well, and are confident that the courts will support that argument.

Read more here.

What we’re reading

Young people in the US South and West are increasingly getting coronavirus (CNN

‘They just dumped him like trash’: Nursing homes evict vulnerable residents (The New York Times

Amid COVID-19, federal minority health experts are conspicuously silent (STAT)

State by state

A dozen Texas bars temporarily lose alcohol permits for allegedly breaking coronavirus protocols (CNN)

Texas governor warns coronavirus is spreading at an "unacceptable rate" (Axios

Social gatherings help fuel rising coronavirus spread in parts of California (LA Times

Op-eds in The Hill

Racism's plague on public health

Get the 'F' out of the FDA