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Overnight Health Care: New wave of COVID-19 cases builds in US | Florida to lift all coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, bars | Trump stirs questions with $200 drug coupon plan

Overnight Health Care: New wave of COVID-19 cases builds in US | Florida to lift all coronavirus restrictions on restaurants, bars | Trump stirs questions with $200 drug coupon plan
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Welcome to Friday's Overnight Health Care.

COVID-19 infections are on the rise, even as many Americans are back at work and school. Florida is letting restaurants and bars open without restrictions, and Trump's sudden interest in sending seniors drug coupons is raising all sorts of questions.

We'll start with the coronavirus big picture:

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New wave of COVID-19 cases builds in US

The U.S. has never gotten control over the coronavirus. The pandemic has killed more than 200,000 people in America, but efforts that could slow the spread and truly lower the case count have never been fully embraced. So here we are. 

Confirmed COVID-19 cases are rising again in the United States, building a new crescendo of disease that is likely to exceed earlier waves of infection in a pandemic.

As Americans venture back to school, to the workplace and — in spite of warnings from public health officials — to bars and restaurants, cases have begun to rise in the last two weeks. The United States has averaged about 40,000 new cases a day over the past week, up from a recent low of about 34,000 cases a day earlier this month.

The country is now averaging about the same number of new infections on a daily basis as it was in June, when case counts were building to an ominous peak. The average number of people who are dying on a daily basis stands at about 700, the same level as early July.

Highest risk: Alarm bells are flashing in states such as Wisconsin, which recorded more than 12,000 new cases in the past week alone, and Minnesota, where 5,700 people were infected last week after a late summer lull. The models also show Chicago, Michigan cities such as Grand Rapids and Flint, and states including Montana, Colorado, Utah and parts of Arizona at increased risk of substantial spread.

Running the numbers: The number of cases confirmed over the last week has risen in 39 states and the District of Columbia, according to The Hill’s analysis of state data. Just five states — Alabama, Hawaii, Indiana, Louisiana and Virginia — have seen the number of confirmed cases decline for two consecutive weeks.

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Read more here.

But meanwhile:

Florida to lift all COVID-19 restrictions on restaurants, bars

Florida is lifting all coronavirus restrictions on restaurants and bars effective immediately, with Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisTrump jokes he'll 'find a way' to fire Gov. DeSantis if he loses Florida Exclusive poll: Biden up in Mich., Pa., tied with Trump in Fla. The Hill's Campaign Report: Trump, Biden hit campaign trail in Florida MORE (R) saying he is also prohibiting local governments from closing businesses or imposing any restrictions without justification.

"There will not be limitations from the state of Florida," DeSantis said during a press conference Friday. "I think this will be very, very important to the industry. Some of the local [governments] can do reasonable regulations, but you can’t say no after six months and just have people twisting in the wind.”

Up to now, restaurants and bars in Florida could serve customers indoors at 50 percent of legal occupancy. DeSantis said that if a local government wants to put capacity restrictions between 50 percent and 100 percent, officials will need to show the economic and health justifications for doing so.

Previously, local governments could go further than state-level restrictions, and some counties have kept restaurants and bars closed even after the state allowed them to reopen. 

Read more here.

Trump stirs questions with $200 drug coupon plan

President TrumpDonald John TrumpJudge rules to not release Russia probe documents over Trump tweets Trump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo Obama to campaign for Biden in Florida MORE’s announcement that his administration will be mailing $200 drug coupons to 33 million seniors on Medicare set off a flurry of questions in the health policy world. 

It was unclear exactly where the nearly $7 billion would come from, and health officials on a call with reporters on Friday did not provide a clear answer, saying the White House would provide more details in the future. The White House does not have the constitutional authority to spend taxpayer money, something only Congress can do.

An administration official earlier said the money would come from the savings in Trump's "most favored nation" drug pricing proposal— which has not been implemented. 

Democrats also pushed back against what they called a “gimmick” aimed at winning over seniors’ votes, as it comes less than six weeks before the election.

“After failing to take real action to lower seniors’ prescription drug prices, President Trump wants to steal from the Medicare Trust Fund for a desperately transparent political gimmick,” said Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiTrump and advisers considering firing FBI director after election: WaPo On The Money: Power players play chess match on COVID-19 aid | Pelosi bullish, Trump tempers optimism | Analysis: Nearly 1M have run out of jobless benefits Overnight Health Care: CDC expands definition of 'close contact' after COVID-19 report | GOP coronavirus bill blocked in Senate | OxyContin maker agrees to B settlement with Trump administration MORE (D-Calif.). “The Administration’s claim to be using imaginary savings from non-existent drug price reforms means that Trump’s coupons come at Medicare’s expense, and that seniors and taxpayers are paying the price for this stunt.”

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CDC forecasts additional 20,000 coronavirus deaths by Oct. 17 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now predicts more than 20,000 additional deaths will be reported by Oct. 17, according to an ensemble forecast published Thursday.

The CDC projects there will be between 214,000 to 226,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by that date. The previous ensemble forecast published last week projected up to 218,000 coronavirus deaths by Oct. 10.

As of Friday morning, there are 202,800 reported deaths in the U.S., according to a count by Johns Hopkins.

The ensemble forecast this week also predicts that 140,000 to 370,000 new cases will be reported by Oct. 17. As of Friday the U.S. has reported 6.9 million cases, according to Johns Hopkins. 

Read more here

Governor and first lady of Virginia test positive for COVID-19

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Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) and first lady Pamela Northam have tested positive for the coronavirus, the governor's office announced Friday.

The Northams were tested Thursday afternoon after learning that a member of their official residence staff “who works closely within the couple’s living quarters” had tested positive for the virus on Wednesday. They said they will isolate for the next 10 days and evaluate their symptoms, per state health guidelines.

The governor is not experiencing symptoms, while the first lady is experiencing mild symptoms. The Northams are working with state health officials to trace their close contacts.

Read more here.

What we’re reading: 

Here come the tortoises: In the race for a Covid-19 vaccine, slow starters could still win out (Stat News)

Ranking countries’ likelihood of securing a coronavirus vaccine (Politico

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As debate over Sweden’s covid-19 response continues, cases in the country are on the rise (Washington Post

Republicans blasted Obama’s use of an obscure Medicare law. Now Trump’s using it on $200 drug coupons — and the GOP is silent (Stat News)

State by state: 

Criminal charges brought in coronavirus outbreak that killed dozens at Massachusetts veterans home (Washington Post)

Iowa hits new all-time high for COVID-19 outbreaks at long term care facilities (KCRG

In Los Angeles, Latinos hit hard by pandemic’s economic storm (Kaiser Health News)