Health Care

Overnight Health Care: Shifting CDC testing guidance sparks backlash | Democrats offer lower price tag for COVID-19 aid but stalemate persists | Trump administration to purchase 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests


Welcome to Thursday’s Overnight Health Care. 

CDC Director Robert Redfield attempted to clarify the agency’s new guidance on testing, but his clarification seemed to create confusion. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she’s going to restart negotiations with the White House on coronavirus relief, and the administration is planning to purchase nearly every one of Abbott’s new rapid COVID-19 tests.

We’ll start with the CDC:

Shifting CDC testing guidance sparks backlash

Public health experts warn that the Trump administration’s change to testing guidance is a step backward in the COVID-19 response that could lead to more cases, outbreaks and deaths.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) altered its guidance this week to say people who have been exposed to COVID-19 “don’t necessarily need a test” if they don’t have symptoms, threatening contact tracing efforts which seek to stop lines of transmission. 

The change alarmed public health officials and experts, who note that about 40 percent of people with COVID-19 are asymptomatic, meaning they will never show symptoms of the virus and won’t know they have it without testing, but can spread it to others who may become seriously ill or die. 

CDC Director Robert Redfield attempted to clarify the changes Thursday by saying people who had been in close contact with confirmed COVID-19 cases “may be considered” for testing. However, the changed guidance remains on the agency’s website.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — the CDC’s parent agency — doubled down on the changes and Redfield’s Thursday statement, saying “It amplifies the policy. It in no way changes the policy,” he said

The new guidance was widely criticized by public health experts and doctors as dangerous and not supported by science. 

“Months into this pandemic, we know COVID-19 is spread by asymptomatic people,” American Medical Association President Susan Bailey said in a statement Thursday. “Suggesting that people without symptoms, who have known exposure to COVID-positive individuals, do not need testing is a recipe for community spread and more spikes in coronavirus.” 

Read more here. 

Related: CDC director clarifies change in coronavirus testing guidelines after backlash

Democrats offer lower price tag for COVID-19 aid but stalemate persists

Democrats and the Trump administration restarted COVID-19 relief negotiations, but made little to no progress Thursday as the two sides remain far apart on hundreds of billions of dollars in emergency aid for states, renters, the unemployed and the hungry.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she offered White House chief of staff Mark Meadows a concession by proposing a $2.2 trillion price tag for the entire package, down from the Democrats’ most recent demand of $2.4 trillion floated earlier this month.

Meadows, however, didn’t bite, Pelosi said, leaving negotiators where they’ve been for more than a month: at an impasse.

Thursday’s 25-minute phone call marked the first time the negotiators have spoken since the emergency coronavirus talks broke down on Aug. 7, largely over stark disagreements over the amount of funding for unemployment benefits and help for state and local governments struggling to meet needs and balance budgets amid the pandemic.

Even as Pelosi touted the new $2.2 trillion offer, she warned that the party isn’t ready to accept anything much lower.


US faces long road on COVID-19 amid signs of improvement

Things are getting a bit better in the U.S. on coronavirus, but they’re still not good. 

Though the situation is not as bad as it was in July, when cases peaked around 70,000 per day, the virus is still circulating around United States at a very high level, with around 40,000 new cases per day, according to the COVID Tracking Project. 

And while some other countries are now seeing resurgences, the U.S. is faring far worse than the rest of the developed world. The European Union, for example, with about 100 million more people than the U.S., has well less than half the daily new cases, according to Our World in Data. 

Marta Wosińska, a health expert at Duke University who works on the Covid Exit Strategy, a project tracking the spread of the virus in the U.S., said many states are “doing better than they were, but they’re still in this dark red zone.”

“Obviously you could do much better,” she added. “This is a very high level of spread.”

Read more here

Trump administration to purchase 150 million rapid COVID-19 tests

The Trump administration plans to purchase nearly all of the new rapid COVID-19 tests that Abbott Labs will manufacture this year, a White House official confirmed.

Abbott’s BinaxNOW is a potentially breakthrough new tool that can deliver results in just 15 minutes. It is entirely self-contained, meaning there is no extra lab equipment needed to run the test, and large volumes of tests can be performed simultaneously. 

The size of a credit card, BinaxNOW will cost $5 and will come with a free mobile app that will let people who test negative display a temporary, date-stamped health pass that is renewed each time a new test is taken.

Implications: The move represents a significant expansion of the current U.S. testing capabilities, which have often not been able to keep up with demand. Under FDA’s emergency authorization, which came Wednesday, it can be administered at patient care facilities by a range of health-care workers, including physicians, school nurses and pharmacists, with minimal training. 

Read more here.

Cuomo says NY colleges with 100 coronavirus cases must ‘go remote’ for two weeks

Colleges in New York must switch to remote learning for two weeks if they experience an outbreak of 100 or more COVID-19 cases or equal to 5 percent of their population, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Thursday. 

“As college students return to campus, schools must be prepared for all possibilities,” Cuomo tweeted. 

Universities across the country have reopened campuses in the past few weeks, though many have closed again after experiencing outbreaks among students.

“We should anticipate clusters,” Cuomo told reporters on a conference call. “When you have large congregations of people, anticipate a cluster. Be prepared for it. Get ahead of it.”

Read more here

Hogan authorizes all Maryland counties to reopen schools

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said Thursday he will authorize all counties in the state to reopen schools for in-person classes.

Hogan said Maryland’s coronavirus metrics have steadily improved to the point where it should be safe to send children to school in person.

Hogan said he wasn’t going to force schools to open, but would provide financial incentives to encourage them to do so.

“I think we’re going to go back and put pressure on them… it’s not acceptable to say you’re just going to shut for the rest of the year,” he said.

Read more here.

Virtual Event: Science & American Advancement — Monday, August 31

Science and advancement go hand-in-hand. However, the way science works, not by straight lines, but sometimes by accident, can frustrate strict timelines and investment efforts. Why is continued scientific investment so important? Can science overcome many of the challenges it faces today in order to lead us to a brighter future? The Hill will bring policy-makers and thought leaders together to look at the historical contributions science has made to American advancement and the status of the scientific community today, featuring Former NSF Director France Córdova, Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Rep. Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN), Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar and more. RSVP today:

What we’re reading

We’re not budging’: Efforts to restart coronavirus talks sputter (Politico)

Trump has launched an all-out attack on the FDA. Will its scientific integrity survive? (Stat News)

As coronavirus infections rise, masks in Paris become mandatory in all public places (NPR)

This $5 rapid test is a potential game-changer in Covid testing (CNN)

State by state

Newly reported Ohio coronavirus cases up 1,244, an increase Gov. Mike DeWine attributes to kids in school (

COVID-19 deaths among young and working age Latinos skyrocket in California, study finds (NBC News)  

Gov. Reynolds closes bars in 6 Iowa counties following increase in COVID-19 cases (KCRG

Gov. Kay Ivey extends Alabama’s statewide mask order again (

Tags Andrew Cuomo Kay Ivey Mark Meadows Mike DeWine Mikie Sherrill Nancy Pelosi Trey Hollingsworth

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