COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, May 11, 2020

COVID-19 Federal Responses: Monday, May 11, 2020

Over the weekend, two White House staff members tested positive for COVID-19. President Trump and Vice President Pence have since begun receiving daily testing and have not tested positive themselves.

  • Three top agency officials have chosen to self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution because they were in contact with the infected staffers. Those officials are Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.
  • Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) will also self-isolate for 14 days after one of his staff members tested positive.
  • The HELP Committee will hold a high-profile hearing Tuesday, May 12 on how to reopen the country. Drs. Hahn, Redfield and Fauci are all scheduled to testify in addition to the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Admiral Brett Giroir. The hearing will now be held virtually instead of in person.

HHS will provide some doses of the remdesivir treatment to states to distribute. According to the announcement, Gilead Sciences is supplying approximately 607,000 vials of the experimental treatment over the next six weeks to treat an estimated 78,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. The donation to the United States is part of 1.5 million vials of remdesivir the company is donating worldwide.

The Trump Administration outlined how it will distribute $11 billion in CARES Act funding to states to improve their testing capacity.

The CDC data shows that COVID-19 mortality is declining. It also shows that testing, hospitalizations and mortality are down for flu-like and COVID-19-like illnesses. 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said he is open to working with Congress to pass legislation that makes it easier for certain types of businesses to convert their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans into grants.

On May 12, the Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the need for liability protections for businesses as they reopen.

TRICARE is updating its telehealth requirements to expand the availability of audio-only telehealth services.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published its schedule of public stakeholder calls and webinars for this week.

The White House is recommending that all nursing home residents and staff be tested for COVID-19 within the next two weeks. CMS Administrator Seema Verma published an open letter to nursing homes highlighting the new federal guidance, requirements and resources available for nursing homes. 

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued an overview of the federal budget in the month of April. The CBO report says federal revenues from taxes were down by 55 percent. April is usually the busiest tax filing month, but the administration extended the tax filing deadline by three months. If federal revenues generally remained unchanged and no significant additional emergency funding is provided, the CBO projects the federal deficit would be roughly $3.7 trillion in fiscal year 2020 and $2.1 trillion next year.

The FDA granted an emergency use authorization for another antibody test. This product, manufactured by Abbot Labs, will provide 30 million tests in May and up to 60 million in June.

The Department of Homeland Security is warning vaccine researchers about the threat of cyber-attacks from China, Iran and other countries.

NOTE: Information coming out of the Capital is beginning to slow. Starting the week of May 18, we will begin providing federal updates for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – unless there is breaking news.