First Edition: February 24, 2020
Health

First Edition: May 6, 2020

Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.


Kaiser Health News:
When Prisons Are ‘Petri Dishes,’ Inmates Can’t Guard Against COVID-19, They Say


On April 6, an inmate named Dennis stayed up late at Indiana’s Plainfield Correctional Facility. He wrote to his wife, Lisa, and told her he was scared. “I can tell you right now, with nearly 100% certainty, that I am going to get this virus,” he wrote. Lisa said Dennis suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which could cause complications if he contracts COVID-19. (Harper, 5/6)


The Associated Press:
Supreme Court Set To Hear Obamacare Case Argued By Phone


The Supreme Court’s third day of hearing arguments by telephone is its first chance at a high-profile case, this one involving the Affordable Care Act. The justices are hearing a dispute Wednesday about Trump administration rules that would allow more employers who cite a religious or moral objection to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women. (Gresko and Sherman, 5/6)


The New York Times:
Trump Pushes Young Republicans Away. Abortion Pulls Them Back.


Jose Francisco Rodriguez supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Mary-Faith Martinez supports a public health care option. Ethan Lucky supports criminal justice reform. Autumn Crawford wants government action on climate change. One thing they have in common? They’re all Republicans. Like millennials, who are now in their mid-20s to 30s, members of Generation Z — born after 1996 — tend to lean left. But there are still plenty of young Republicans, and the generational divide that is so apparent between younger and older Democrats is no less present on the other side of the aisle. It’s just less visible. (Astor, 5/6)


Reuters:
U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Exceed 70,000 As Forecasting Models Predict Grim Summer


U.S. deaths from the novel coronavirus surged past 70,000 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, as a key forecasting model nearly doubled its previous estimate for fatalities. Nearly 1.2 million people in the United States have tested positive for COVID-19 – more than the combined total of the next largest outbreaks in Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. A University of Washington research model here often cited by White House officials on Monday nearly doubled its projected U.S. death toll to over 134,000 by Aug. 4. (Shumaker, 5/5)


The Wall Street Journal:
U.S. Deaths Top 71,000, As Impact On Nursing Homes Mounts


New York state has recorded at least 4,813 confirmed and presumed deaths related to the coronavirus at nursing homes and adult-care facilities, including 71 confirmed fatalities at one facility, according to state data released Monday night. The number has grown quickly. An April 22 tally showed 3,505 deaths in the facilities statewide. The figures included confirmed cases and probable cases from some nursing homes. Globally, the number of deaths rose past 254,000, with 3.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. (Honan, Brody and Calfas, 5/5)


The Wall Street Journal:
The Tricky Math Behind Coronavirus Death Predictions


The near doubling of coronavirus death predictions in a closely followed model this week underscores a frustrating reality for officials weighing how and when to reopen society: Many basic facts about the new coronavirus remain unknown. Epidemiologists have created many computer models to predict surge capacity in the health-care system and guide policy-making. These seek to predict how many people might be infected, how many will die, and when and how transmission might slow or speed up. (Abbott and Overberg, 5/5)


The Hill:
Models Under Scrutiny As Coronavirus Gets More Politicized


Models that estimate the rapid spread or quick extinction of the coronavirus have become the latest partisan flashpoint in a politicized pandemic that has Americans searching for answers — and finding sharply contrasting information… Conservatives contend that [models] are exaggerating the threat posed by the pandemic, spurring an economic catastrophe that will be worse than the virus itself. Those on the left see an administration downplaying the health risk and cherry-picking models that are hopelessly optimistic. (Wilson, 5/5)


The Hill:
White House Plans To Scale Back Coronavirus Task Force 


The White House is in the early stages of winding down its coronavirus task force, Vice President Pence’s office confirmed Tuesday. The surprise decision comes as most states are preparing to loosen restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus, while a number of areas continue to see increases in new COVID-19 cases and deaths. Pence’s office told reporters at a limited briefing that his plan is to scale back the task force’s role by Memorial Day. Pence has been leading the task force since late February. (Samuels and Moreno, 5/5)


The New York Times:
Administration To Phase Out Coronavirus Task Force


Vice President Mike Pence, who has led the task force for two months, said it would probably wrap up its work around the end of the May, and shift management of the public health response back to the federal agencies whose work it was created to coordinate. Other administration officials said that under plans still in discussion, the White House would consult with medical experts on a more informal basis and that Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser, would help oversee a group pushing for progress in developing a vaccine and treatments for the virus. (Weiland, Haberman and Sanger, 5/5)


Reuters:
White House To Wind Down Coronavirus Task Force As Focus Shifts To Aftermath: Trump


Trump said Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, doctors who assumed a high profile during weeks of nationally televised news briefings, would remain advisers after the group is dismantled. Fauci leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Birx was response coordinator for the force. “We can’t keep our country closed for the next five years,” Trump said, when asked why it was time to wind down the task force. (Holland and Mason, 5/5)


The Wall Street Journal:
White House Discussing Phasing Out Coronavirus Task Force


Democrats criticized the decision, arguing that the task force is an essential part of the administration’s coronavirus response. “It is unthinkable that President Trump would shut down the main task force established to coordinate our nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic while we are still in the midst of figuring out the health and economic implications of this pandemic,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D., Md.) said in a statement. “It is a shameful abdication of responsibility.” (Restuccia, 5/5)


Politico:
Trump Says Fauci Will Testify Before Senate, Blasts House ‘Setup’


President Donald Trump on Tuesday confirmed Dr. Anthony Fauci would testify before the Senate in the coming days and defended his decision to block America’s top infectious disease expert from appearing before what he called the “Trump haters” in the House. “The House is a setup. The House is a bunch of Trump haters. They put every Trump hater on the committee. The same old stuff,” the president told reporters outside the White House, adding that Fauci “will be testifying in front of the Senate, and he looks forward to doing that.” (Forgey, 5/5)


Politico:
While Trump Touted Reopening, His Team Was Sounding Alarms


President Donald Trump boasted on May 1 that his success in responding to the coronavirus pandemic has made ventilator, test kit and mask shortages a thing of the past, and that much of the country is ready to quickly send people back to work. “We’ve ensured a ventilator for every patient who needs one,” he said. “The testing and the masks and all of the things, we’ve solved every problem. We solved it quickly.” But that same day, his own health and emergency management officials were privately warning that states were still experiencing shortages of masks, gowns and other medical gear, according to a recording of an interagency meeting between FEMA and HHS officials across the country, conducted by conference call, which was obtained by POLITICO. (Ollstein and Cancryn, 5/6)


The New York Times:
Trump Gives Phoenix Mask Factory Visit A Campaign Feel


President Trump ventured beyond the Mid-Atlantic on Tuesday for the first time in more than two months, turning an official appearance at an Arizona factory producing respirator masks into an event with a campaign rally feel. In his latest show of support for returning to normal life even as the coronavirus continues to spread, Mr. Trump took a day trip to Phoenix to visit a Honeywell International plant that manufactures N95 masks and to hold a round table on Native American issues. (Crowley, 5/5)


The Associated Press:
Trump Tours, Touts Mask Factory — But No Mask For Him


Trump had said he would don a face mask if the factory was “a mask environment,” but in the end he wore only safety goggles during a tour of the Honeywell facility. Nearly all factory workers and members of the press as well as some White House staff and Secret Service agents wore masks. Senior White House staff and Honeywell executives did not. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks when they can’t socially distance, such as in supermarkets, especially in places with high transmission rates. (Miller, Colvin and Superville, 5/6)


Reuters:
Trump Tours New Face-Mask Factory In Arizona But Does Not Wear One


Vice President Mike Pence said on Sunday he erred in not wearing a face mask to the Mayo Clinic last month. His decision not to wear the mask had drawn widespread criticism. The White House did not immediately respond to a query on why Trump did not wear a face mask at the Honeywell plant. Trump has sought to give an optimistic view about the country’s ability to recover from the virus and is eager for states to reopen businesses whose lockdown closings have crushed the economy and left millions unemployed. (Mason, 5/5)


The Wall Street Journal:
Trump Travels To Arizona In First Foray From East Coast Since Coronavirus Lockdown


Like most Americans, Mr. Trump has been mostly stuck at home as the contagion has swept the country. During that time, opinion polls have shown him falling so far behind likely Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden that Republican allies complained he was jeopardizing the party’s chances to win key Senate races, including in Arizona, people familiar with the matter said. (Bender, 5/5)


The New York Times:
Who Is Rick Bright? The Coronavirus Whistle-Blower Who Said The Trump Administration Steered Contracts To Cronies


A federal scientist who says he was ousted from his job amid a dispute over an unproven coronavirus treatment pushed by President Trump said Tuesday that top administration officials repeatedly pressured him to steer millions of dollars in contracts to the clients of a well-connected consultant. Rick Bright, who was director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until his removal in April, said in a formal whistle-blower complaint that he had been protesting “cronyism” and contract abuse since 2017. (Stolberg, 5/5)


The Associated Press:
Senior Scientist Says Administration Ignored Virus Warnings


“I witnessed government leadership rushing blindly into a potentially dangerous situation by bringing in a non-FDA approved chloroquine from Pakistan and India, from facilities that had never been approved by the FDA,” Bright said Tuesday on a call with reporters. “Their eagerness to push blindly forward without sufficient data to put this drug into the hands of Americans was alarming to me and my fellow scientists.” Bright filed the complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, a government agency that investigates retaliation against federal employees who uncover problems. He wants his job back and a full investigation. (Alonso-Zaldivar, Balsamo and Long, 5/6)


Reuters:
Ousted U.S. Whistleblower Says Trump Health Official Played Down Coronavirus Threat


Rick Bright says in the complaint filed with a government watchdog that he warned about the virus in January and was met with hostility from Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and other high-ranking officials in the agency. “Dr. Bright acted with urgency to begin to address this pandemic but encountered resistance from HHS leadership, including Secretary Azar, who appeared intent on downplaying this catastrophic threat,” reads the complaint, which his lawyers filed with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel. (Wolfe, 5/5)


The Washington Post:
HHS Official Rick Bright Alleges He Was Demoted For Resisting Push For Hydroxychloroquine


Bright portrays himself in the 89-page complaint as an administration health official trying to sound the alarm about the virus beginning in early January. He said he called for the rapid development of treatments and vaccines, as well as the stockpiling of additional N95 face masks and ventilators, at a time when HHS political leadership, including Secretary Alex Azar, appeared to him to be underestimating the threat. (Abutaleb and McGinley, 5/5)


The Wall Street Journal:
Vaccine Expert Alleges Top U.S. Health Officials Resisted Coronavirus Warnings


Dr. Bright alleged that HHS supply-chain officials “pushed back” on continuing warnings about mask shortages, according to the complaint, “insisting that there was no indication of a supply chain shortage or of issues with masks, and therefore there was no need to take immediate action.” The officials said the CDC would tell people not to wear masks if they don’t need them, according to the complaint. Dr. Bright said he responded, “Do you really believe that changing a CDC guideline to tell people not to wear masks would reduce the panic people would feel once this virus spreads?” (Armour, Berzon and Grimaldi, 5/5)


The New York Times:
How Kushner’s Volunteer Force Led A Fumbling Hunt For Medical Supplies


This spring, as the United States faced a critical shortage of masks, gloves and other protective equipment to battle the coronavirus pandemic, a South Carolina physician reached out to the Federal Emergency Management Agency with an offer of help. Dr. Jeffrey Hendricks had longtime manufacturing contacts in China and a line on millions of masks from established suppliers. Instead of encountering seasoned FEMA procurement officials, his information was diverted to a team of roughly a dozen young volunteers, recruited by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and overseen by a former assistant to Mr. Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump. (Confessore, Jacobs, Kantor, Kanno-Youngs and Ferre-Sadurni, 5/5)


The Washington Post:
Kushner Coronavirus Effort Said To Be Hampered By Inexperienced Volunteers


About two dozen employees from Boston Consulting Group, Insight, McKinsey and other firms have volunteered their time — some on paid vacation leave from their jobs and others without pay — to aid the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to administration officials and others familiar with the arrangement. Although some of the volunteers have relevant backgrounds and experience, many others were poorly matched with their assigned jobs, including those given the task of securing personal protective equipment (PPE) for hospitals nationwide, according to a complaint filed last month with the House Oversight Committee. (Abutaleb and Parker, 5/5)


The New York Times:
Trump’s Inspector General Pick Vows Independence From The White House


President Trump’s nominee to serve as the special inspector general for the Treasury Department’s $500 billion pandemic recovery fund vowed on Tuesday to be fair and impartial in his efforts to combat misuse of the bailout money, telling a Senate committee that he would resign if the White House pressured him to overlook wrongdoing. During two hours of intense questioning at his confirmation hearing, Brian D. Miller, who currently serves as a White House lawyer, tried to defuse fears that he would not be independent enough for the prominent oversight role and to alleviate concerns among senators and watchdog groups that he put Mr. Trump’s interests ahead of those of American taxpayers. (Rappeport, 5/5)


The Associated Press:
Trump Pick To Oversee Virus Spending Pledges Impartiality


Brian Miller, a lawyer in the White House counsel’s office, told the Senate Banking Committee during his confirmation hearing that “independence is vital” for the special inspector general for pandemic recovery. The post would place him in charge of overseeing a roughly $500 billion Treasury fund for industry created as part of the economic rescue law approved in late March. In written testimony, Miller pledged to be vigilant in protecting the integrity and independence of his office and vowed “to seek the truth in all matters that come before me and to use my authority and resources to uncover fraud, waste and abuse.″ (Daly and Jalonick, 5/6)


The Wall Street Journal:
Trump Nominee Tells Senate Panel He Will Act Independently In Auditing Coronavirus Stimulus


“Do you plan to gain presidential approval before investigating contracts, issuing reports or communicating with Congress?” Sen. Nevada Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto asked Mr. Miller in the hearing. “No, senator,” Mr. Miller replied. Asked if he would immediately notify Congress if the White House or any agency asked him to withhold information, Mr. Miller responded, “Yes, senator.” (Kiernan, 5/5)


Stat:
Gilead Signals Steps To Widen Global Access To Remdesivir


Amid questions about access to remdesivir, its treatment for Covid-19, Gilead Sciences (GILD) says it is pursuing several steps, including licensing agreements with several unnamed companies, to ensure the medicine is supplied to countries beyond the U.S. Although details were scant, the drug maker indicated there are plans to issue voluntary licenses with “leading chemical and pharmaceutical” manufacturers to produce remdesivir for Europe, Asia and the developing world through 2022. Similarly, negotiations are under way to issue licenses to several generic drug makers in India and Pakistan in order to supply the drug to developing countries. (Silverman, 5/5)


The Wall Street Journal:
Gilead Seeks Deals With Other Drugmakers To Boost Supply Of Covid-19 Drug


Gilead Sciences Inc. said Tuesday it will join with other drugmakers to manufacture and sell its Covid-19 treatment remdesivir outside of the U.S., farming out production of the medicine to ensure supply meets global demand. Gilead said it is in discussions with pharmaceutical- and chemical-manufacturing companies to license the rights to make the drug remdesivir for Europe, Asia and in the developing world through at least 2022. (Walker, 5/5)


Bloomberg:
Regeneron Covid-19 Antibody Treatment Could Be Available By Fall


Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. said an experimental antibody treatment for Covid-19 could be available as soon as this fall, an expedited timeline for a drug that’s scheduled to be studied in humans for the first time in June. To meet the fall time line will “depend on a lot of factors,” including whether the treatment works as well as hoped, “and there is obviously a lot of risk,” Regeneron Chief Scientific Officer George Yancopoulos said Tuesday on a conference call with investors. “We’ve sort of done it before but now we are trying to take it to the next level.” (Court, 5/5)


Bloomberg:
Coronavirus Vaccine: Pfizer Starts US Trials


Pfizer Inc. has administered the first U.S. patients with its experimental vaccines to fight the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, part of a bid to shave years off of the typical time it takes to develop a new inoculation. The trials are being conducted at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, the drugmaker said Tuesday. “The short, less than four-month time-frame in which we’ve been able to move from preclinical studies to human testing is extraordinary,” Chief Executive Officer Albert Bourla said in a statement. (Koons, 5/5)


The New York Times:
With Crispr, A Possible Quick Test For The Coronavirus


A team of scientists has developed an experimental prototype for a fairly quick, cheap test to diagnose the coronavirus that gives results as simply as a pregnancy test does. The test is based on a gene-editing technology known as Crispr, and the researchers estimated that the materials for each test would cost about $6. “We’re excited that this could be a solution that people won’t have to rely on a sophisticated and expensive laboratory to run,” said Feng Zhang, a researcher at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., and one of the pioneers of Crispr technology. (Zimmer, 5/5)


Politico:
Bubble Bursts On Cuomo’s Hope Of ‘Immunity’ Testing


As his state was being ravaged by the worst coronavirus outbreak in the country in early April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered a glimpse of hope to those looking for a quick restart of New York’s economy: An antibody test, developed in a state laboratory, may be able to confirm immunity for a vast number of New Yorkers. By last week, Cuomo and other officials had retreated from the approach, pointing instead to other metrics that may indicate the best way to avoid future waves of the virus. Cuomo is now describing the immunity idea as little more than a “theory.” (Gronewold and Young, 5/5)


The Associated Press:
‘It’s Gone Haywire’: When COVID Arrived In Rural America


The reverend approached the makeshift pulpit and asked the Lord to help him make some sense of the scene before him: two caskets, side by side, in a small-town cemetery busier now than ever before. Rev. Willard O. Weston had already eulogized other neighbors lost to COVID-19, and he would do more. But this one stood as a symbol to him of all they had lost. The pair of caskets, one powder blue, one white and gold, contained a couple married 30 years who died two days apart, at separate hospitals hours from each other, unaware of the other’s fate. The day was dark. There was no wind, not even a breeze. It felt to some like the earth had paused for this. (Galofaro, 5/6)


The Associated Press:
US Infection Rate Rising Outside New York As States Open Up


Take the New York metropolitan area’s progress against the coronavirus out of the equation and the numbers show the rest of the U.S. is moving in the wrong direction, with the known infection rate rising even as states move to lift their lockdowns, an Associated Press analysis found Tuesday. New confirmed infections per day in the U.S. exceed 20,000, and deaths per day are well over 1,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. And public health officials warn that the failure to flatten the curve and drive down the infection rate in places could lead to many more deaths — perhaps tens of thousands — as people are allowed to venture out and businesses reopen. (Forster, Johnson and Stobbe, 5/6)


The New York Times:
With New Hot Spots Emerging, No Sign Of A Respite


In New York City, the daily onslaught of death from the coronavirus has dropped to half of what it was. In Chicago, a makeshift hospital in a lakefront convention center is closing, deemed no longer needed. And in New Orleans, new cases have dwindled to a handful each day. Yet across America, those signs of progress obscure a darker reality. The country is still in the firm grip of a pandemic with little hope of release. (Bosman, Smith and Harmon, 5/5)


The Washington Post:
Americans Remain Deeply Wary Of Reopening The Country, New Poll Shows


Americans remain deeply wary of eating at restaurants, shopping at stores and taking other steps to return to normalcy, a poll shows, even as the White House is contemplating shutting down its coronavirus task force. With several covid-19 models taking a wrenching turn toward bleaker death forecasts in recent days because of reopening moves in some states, most Americans say they worry about getting the virus themselves and they oppose ending the restrictions meant to slow its spread, according to the Washington Post-University of Maryland poll. (Zapotosky, Wan, Balz and Guskin, 5/5)


The Wall Street Journal:
In Nebraska, A City With Many Essential Workers Charts Its Own Way To Fight Coronavirus


In this small city near the Platte River, the largest employers are deemed essential and the region’s workforce continues to fill its meatpacking plants and manufacturing floors. Local officials have now confirmed hundreds of coronavirus cases, with more than 200 linked to a local JBS USA beef plant and another 40 to area nursing homes. There were 1,228 Covid-19 cases as of Tuesday in a city of roughly 51,000, according to the regional health department. That puts its per capita rate of infection well above that of New York, the hardest-hit state in the nation by the coronavirus pandemic. (Ailworth, 5/6)


Reuters:
New York To Work With Gates Foundation To ‘Reimagine’ Schools: Governor


New York will work with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to “reimagine” the state’s school system as part of broader reforms in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Governor Andrew Cuomo told a daily briefing on Tuesday. Cuomo, who has emerged as a leading national voice on states’ efforts to battle the crisis, said he believed people were starting to see the pandemic as a rare opportunity to make large-scale changes. (Layne and Singh, 5/5)


The New York Times:
Protesters Say The NYPD Uses Social Distancing To Justify Coronavirus Crackdown


Ann Northrop has not left her home often during the coronavirus epidemic. “I’m old,” the 72-year-old from Manhattan said. “I don’t want to get sick.” But Ms. Northrop still showed up to a small protest on Sunday to criticize New York officials for allowing a religious organization that opposes gay rights to treat coronavirus patients. She felt safe, she said, because her fellow protesters wore face coverings and stood several feet apart. (Paybarah, 5/5)


The Washington Post:
Video Of Violent Donni Wright Arrest In NYC Sparks Anger And Frustration Over Social Distancing Enforcement


A video of a violent weekend arrest in Manhattan that left a man injured and an officer taken off patrol duty came as frustration and anger build over how social distancing orders are being enforced. As New York state remains the hardest-hit area of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak, tensions are especially high in New York City, which accounts for roughly half of the more than 321,000 confirmed cases and over 25,000 deaths statewide. (Bellware, 5/5)


Politico:
States Cut Medicaid As Millions Of Jobless Workers Look To Safety Net


States facing sudden drops in tax revenue amid the pandemic are announcing deep cuts to their Medicaid programs just as millions of newly jobless Americans are surging onto the rolls. And state officials are worried that they’ll have to slash benefits for patients and payments to health providers in the safety net insurance program for the poor unless they get more federal aid. State Medicaid programs in the last economic crisis cut everything from dental services to podiatry care — and reduced payments to hospitals and doctors in order to balance out spending on other needs like roads, schools and prisons. (Roubein and Goldberg, 5/5)


Politico:
9 States Seek $36B In Federal Advances For Unemployment Claims


Nine states have told the Department of Labor they plan to ask for $36 billion in federal advances to cover the astronomical cost of unemployment payouts amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to new information provided to POLITICO Tuesday night by federal officials. Illinois, which had fiscal problems before the coronavirus, tops the list with an $11 billion request in May and June. (Murphy, 5/5)


The Associated Press:
Pelosi Pushes Ahead On Massive Virus Bill, But GOP Wary


Even in absentia, House Democrats are seeking to drive the debate on the fifth coronavirus response bill, promising to produce a mega-package stuffed with Democratic priorities even as a chorus of GOP leaders voices hesitation about more spending. Pelosi promises that the Democratic-controlled House will deliver legislation to help state and local governments through the COVID-19 crisis, along with additional money for direct payments to individuals, unemployment insurance and a third installment of aid to small businesses. The amount of funding is to be determined. (Taylor, 5/6)


The Washington Post:
Protect And Compensate Federal Workers On The Coronavirus Front Lines, Senators Say 


Stronger steps are needed to protect and compensate federal employees in front-line positions at risk of exposure to the coronavirus, a group of senators said in a letter sent Tuesday to senior Trump administration officials. Federal agencies also should be further pushed to allow full-time telework by all employees eligible to work remotely and to keep employees in paid status if they cannot telework but must stay home because they personally are at high risk, says a letter from Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and 18 other senators, most of them Democrats. (Yoder, 5/5)


The New York Times:
Senators Descend On Quiet Capitol, Sacrificing Pomp For Safety’s Sake


Lawmakers donned face masks. Congressional employees’ desks were ensconced in plexiglass shields. The floors and sidewalks of Capitol Hill were marked with circular panels emblazoned with images of feet to show lawmakers and aides where to stand to keep a safe social distance — like dance-step diagrams, but for trying to avert the transmission of a lethal virus. With the Senate back in Washington for a session that Congress’s top doctor said carried health risks given the continued spread of the coronavirus, the chamber has quickly resumed a semblance of its routine, but with some trappings that cast an eerie pall on the proceedings. (Cochrane, 5/5)


The Associated Press:
States With Few Virus Cases Get Big Share Of Relief Aid


Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Wyoming are not epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet these four states scored big this spring when Congress pumped out direct federal aid, while the two hardest-hit states, New York and New Jersey, got comparatively little given the vast numbers of cases and deaths they have seen. An Associated Press analysis shows that some states with small populations like these took in an out-sized share of the $150 billion in federal money that was designed to address coronavirus-related expenses, when measured by the number of positive tests for the COVID-19 disease. (Mulvihill, 5/5)


The Wall Street Journal:
Justice Department Eyes Fraud In Lending Program For Small Businesses Hit By Coronavirus Crisis


Federal prosecutors are mounting a broad search for fraud in emergency lending programs designed to assist businesses battered by the coronavirus crisis, a top Justice Department official said Tuesday. The Justice Department “has a lot of leads and there are multiple ongoing investigations of individuals and small businesses,” Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski said in an interview. Prosecutors also will apply scrutiny to the activities of banks, which are charged with disbursing the funds in some of the programs, he added. (Michaels, 5/5)


The New York Times:
Pair Is Arrested On First Fraud Charges Tied To Small-Business Loan Program


Two New England men were arrested on Tuesday on charges of attempting to defraud the government’s small-business lending program, marking the first federal fraud charges related to the $660 billion program that was aimed at helping businesses hurt by the coronavirus pandemic but has been riddled with problems. The case against the men, David Staveley of Andover, Mass., and David Butziger of Warwick, R.I., is part of the Justice Department’s broad effort to fight coronavirus-related crimes, including health care fraud, hoarding, price gouging and scams devised to steal money both from people and from federal economic assistance programs for businesses in need of aid. (Benner, 5/5)


The New York Times:
He Was Ready To Retire. But The Coronavirus Took Him.


Just off Wyoming Street in Pennsylvania’s hilly, working-class city of Hazleton, Laury Sorensen and her husband, Emil, lugged groceries from a pickup truck upstairs to her parents’ wood-frame home. They sought to spare Ms. Sorensen’s father, Rafael Benjamin, a trip to the supermarket in a time of infectious plague. He ran enough risk working for Cargill Meat Solutions in an industrial park outside the city. The Pennsylvania governor had issued a shutdown order but exempted Cargill, which packages meat in plastic wrap. (Powell, 5/5)


The New York Times:
Irish Return An Old Favor, Helping Native Americans Battling The Virus


More than 170 years ago, the Choctaw Nation sent $170 to starving Irish families during the potato famine. A sculpture in County Cork commemorates the generosity of the tribe, itself poor. In recent decades, ties between Ireland and the Choctaws have grown. Now hundreds of Irish people are repaying that old kindness, giving to a charity drive for two Native American tribes suffering in the Covid-19 pandemic. As of Tuesday, the fund-raiser has raised more than $1.8 million to help supply clean water, food and health supplies to people in the Navajo Nation and the Hopi Reservation, with hundreds of thousands of dollars coming from Irish donors, according to the organizers. (O’Loughlin and Zaveri, 5/5)


Politico:
A New Study Shows Just How Badly Black Americans Have Been Hit By Covid-19


Counties across the country with a disproportionate number of African American residents accounted for 52 percent of diagnoses and 58 percent of coronavirus deaths nationally, according to a new study released Tuesday. The study, conducted by epidemiologists and clinician-researchers at four universities in conjunction with the nonprofit AIDS research organization amFar and PATH’s Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, attempts to fill in the blanks as states report piecemeal data on race and ethnicity. (Barron-Lopez, 5/5)


The Washington Post:
Researchers Hypothesize That A Highly Contagious Strain Of The Coronavirus Is Spreading, But Other Experts Remain Skeptical


A research paper from scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, not yet peer-reviewed, reports that one strain of the novel coronavirus has emerged in Europe and become dominant around the planet, leading the researchers to believe the virus has mutated to become more contagious. The bold hypothesis, however, was immediately met with skepticism by many infectious-disease experts, and there is no scientific consensus that any of the innumerable mutations in the virus so far have changed the general contagiousness or lethality of covid-19, the disease caused the coronavirus. (Kaplan and Achenbach, 5/5)


This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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