COVID-19 Federal Responses: Friday, May 8, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Friday, May 8, 2020

Dr. Deborah Birx will coordinate the federal government’s distribution of Gilead Sciences’ remdesivir treatment for COVID-19. Remdesivir showed promising results in reducing the time it takes patients to recover from COVID-19. However, there are not enough treatments to meet the demand, and Gilead is taking steps to increase production. Meanwhile, the federal government will determine how remdesivir is distributed throughout the healthcare system.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published its newest unemployment report. According to the BLS, the unemployment rate is now at 14.7 percent, which is the highest it has been since the Great Depression. More than 20 million jobs were lost in April. Of those job losses, 1.4 million were in the healthcare sector. The BLS classifies most of the reported job losses (18.1 million) as “temporary layoffs.”

News reports indicate the White House has shelved CDC’s recommendations about how states and communities can reopen from the current lockdown. Although the administration has not issued any formal change in guidance, administration officials are confirming the reports to media outlets when asked. Dr. Birx has told media outlets that the guidelines are undergoing further revisions to make them less prescriptive. Perhaps this means the administration will re-issue the guidance once the revisions are complete.

Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), is awarding nearly $583 million to 1,385 HRSA-funded community health centers across all 50 states to assist with the costs of testing patients for COVID-19. According to HHS, nearly 88% of health centers report testing patients, with more than 65% offering walk-up or drive-up testing. Health centers are currently providing more than 100,000 weekly COVID-19 tests in their local communities.

The Treasury Department will allow employers to claim the employee retention tax credit for furloughed employees – if they continue to offer those employees health insurance benefits.

The Assistant Secretary of HHS, Admiral Brett Giroir, will join the World Health Organization Board of Directors.  

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a new emergency use authorization (EUA) for a COVID-19 test that uses the new CRISPR gene-editing technology. The test, manufactured by Sherlock BioSciences, Inc., can produce results within an hour. The FDA continues to search for and take action against scammers on the Internet selling unproven medical products.  

The FDA also clarified that it will allow companies to create tests that allow patients to collect their own samples for home testing.

The FDA published information about the effectiveness of 12 antibody tests.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not consider grants that students receive from their colleges or universities as taxable income. The CARES Act required some of the funding it provided to higher education institutions to be awarded directly to students in the form of grants. The IRS is clarifying that these grants will not be considered income for tax purposes. The IRS is also clarifying that students cannot claim a tuition and fees deduction for expenses related to shifting to online learning.