HEALTH CARE BRIEFING: Trump Ships Rapid Tests in Reopening Push

President Donald Trump warned Americans to expect more coronavirus cases in the weeks ahead, as the U.S. deploys tens of millions of new, rapid tests that don’t require laboratory equipment to analyze.

“As younger and healthier people return to work, and as we massively increase testing capacity, we will identify more cases in asymptomatic individuals in low-risk cases. This should not cause undue alarm,” Trump said at the White House yesterday.“ The total number of cases isn’t the full metric of success,” he added. “Hospitalization capacity and mortality rates are far more instructive metrics.”

The federal government announced that it will be deploying 150 million of the new tests, made by Abbott Laboratories, including 100 million that will be sent to states.

Trump wants governors to use the rapid tests in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and to resume in-person instruction in schools.

The White House will encourage states to use 100 million tests to screen school officials and teachers, check symptomatic children to see if they have contracted the virus, or conduct baseline surveillance. It’s up to states to decide how to use the tests.

The remaining BinaxNOW tests will go to protect populations vulnerable to the virus, including about 18 million for nursing homes, 15 million to assisted living centers and 10 million tests for home health care and hospice. About a quarter of the more than 200,000 pandemic deaths in the U.S. have been connected to long-term care facilities. Read more from Kristen V. Brown and Justin Sink.

House Democrats Unveil $2.2 Trillion Stimulus

Stimulus talks between the Trump administration and congressional Democrats will reach a fork in the road today as both sides either quickly seal a deal or the House moves to pass a Democratic proposal and leave town for pre-election campaigning. The House released its $2.2 trillion proposal last night and the White House greeted initially it with silence.

Its reaction will likely come in a morning call between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that largely determines whether another coronavirus stimulus gets done. While the details of the legislative text adds clarity to the talks, the top-line spending level is no closer to that so far supported by Republicans. President Donald Trump has indicated he could agree to as much as $1.5 trillion in aid — still higher than the $650 billion put forth in a “skinny” aid package by Senate Republicans earlier this month.

Should no deal be forthcoming, House Democrats have said they intend to proceed on their own in voting on the new plan, allowing the party’s candidates in the Nov. 3 elections to highlight a recent vote on coronavirus relief. The last vote was on the bigger, $3.4 trillion Heroes Act back in May. Read more from Erik Wasson and Billy House.

The Democratic plan includes new aid for airlines, restaurants and small businesses that wasn’t in in the original package (H.R. 6800) passed by the House in May, and it has more than double the amount for schools. The bill would provide another round of $1,200 direct relief payments to individuals and $500 per dependent — less than the $1,200 for dependents Democrats originally proposed. It also has $600 per week in extra unemployment benefits through January, the same amount that expired in July and helped disposable incomes surge even as the economy tipped into recession.

Also included is $75 billion for coronavirus testing, contact tracing and isolation measures.

Democrats have also cut spending demands on hazard pay for essential workers, housing assistance, health insurance and the Postal Service. Wasson and House have more.

  • Vaccine Funds: The bill would provide $20 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority for the development and procurement of vaccines and therapeutics. That matches what Robert Kadlec, assistance secretary for preparedness and response, told Senate appropriators HHS needs earlier this month. It also would provide the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention $7 billion for a vaccination campaign and $1 billion for “an evidence-based public awareness campaign on the importance of vaccinations,” according to a summary by the House Appropriations Committee, Jack Fitzpatrick reports.

Also on the Pandemic

Kodak Probed for Documents Relating to U.S. Loan: Three House Democrats sent a letter to the outside directors of Eastman Kodak seeking documents tied to the Trump administration’s $765 million government loan to the former film company to produce ingredients for generic drugs, including those to help treat Covid-19. The letter was sent by House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis Chairman James Clyburn (S.C.), Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (Calif.), and Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (N.Y.), Jarrell Dillard reports.

Gottlieb Says Vaccine Likely ‘Partially Protective’: Coronavirus vaccines now in development are likely to be “partially protective” but won’t prevent everyone who’s inoculated from infection, according to Scott Gottlieb, a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner. He compared the vaccine to a flu vaccine, “where for certain people it will provide full immunity, but for other people it’s not going to provide as much protection. Read more.

Covid Volunteers Should Track Symptoms, FDA Says: Drug companies testing Covid-19 treatments should minimize the burden on volunteers by focusing on key symptoms they have to report day to day, the FDA recommended. The FDA released guidance yesterday to clarify how to assess symptoms, such as a runny nose and fatigue, for any patients who don’t require hospitalization. Read more from Jeannie Baumann.

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What Else to Know

Trump’s Health Plan to Get Scrutiny at Debate: Trump’s embrace of a legal bid seeking to overturn Obamacare will take center stage tonight when he debates Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, a key Republican health adviser said.

Trump recently unveiled the outlines of a health care proposal he’s said would replace the Affordable Care Act and lower health care costs for Americans, but is scant on details, James Capretta, a former associate director for the Office of Management and Budget under George W. Bush, told reporters yesterday. And with the Supreme Court set to consider a White House-backed challenge to the health law just after the November elections, Trump is vulnerable to claims he’ll leave millions without insurance coverage.

“The number one thing that will likely be debated and may come out is whether President Trump has actually presented a health care plan which he’s promised repeatedly over his first term,” Capretta said. A debate that centers around the ACA is likely to favor Biden, who has vowed to build on the landmark health care law. On the other hand, Trump wants to paint Biden’s agenda as an embrace of socialism and government-run health care, Alex Ruoff reports.

Cleveland Clinic Thrives While Its Black Neighbors Fall Behind: Children born in the predominantly Black census tract south of Cedar Avenue have a life expectancy 22 years shorter than those who come into the world in a White-majority suburb a 15-minute drive away. They’re four times more likely to die in the first year of life than a White child in the city and twice as likely to live in poverty as the average Cleveland kid, if they make it past their first birthday.

Which is to say that the Cleveland Clinic, co-host of today’s first U.S. presidential debate, embodies an American paradox exposed again by this year’s pandemic and the national conversation about race that has come alongside it. Read more from Shawn Donnan.

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With assistance from Jack Fitzpatrick

To contact the reporter on this story: Brandon Lee in Washington at blee@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Zachary Sherwood at zsherwood@bgov.com; Giuseppe Macri at gmacri@bgov.com; Michaela Ross at mross@bgov.com

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