$450B relief package held up over testing; White House may suspend immigration — 6 COVID-19 updates

Mackenzie Bean and Gabrielle Masson - Print  | 

The U.S. has reported 787,960 COVID-19 cases and 42,364 related deaths as of 8:45 a.m. CDT April 21. 

Worldwide, 2,498,355 COVID-19 cases and 171,652 deaths have been confirmed, while 658,802 patients have recovered. 

Six updates:

1. A more than $450 billion bipartisan bill to provide more funding for hospitals and the government's small business loan program has been held up over disagreements on the nation's testing strategy, according to The Wall Street Journal. Democrats want to include a measure requiring the White House to create a national testing strategy, while Republicans want states to create their own plans. The relief package is expected to include about $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses, $75 billion in funding for hospitals and $25 billion for testing. Senate leaders are set to meet April 21 to discuss the relief package with the hope that they can come to an agreement and approve the funds without the need for a formal Senate vote, which would require senators to return to Washington early.

The stalemate over additional COVID-19 funding reflects broader tensions between states and the White House on testing capacity. Governors have repeatedly called for more funding to boost testing during the pandemic. President Donald Trump spoke of the nation's heightened testing capacity during an April 20 media briefing, saying the White House has provided each governor with a list of labs where they can find additional testing capacity. 

2. President Trump shared plans to sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the U.S. in an April 20 tweet. The move would represent an extension on travel restrictions the White House has already enacted during the pandemic for most of Europe, China, Canada, Mexico and Iran, according to The Hill

3. The global COVID-19 death count is short by at least 28,000 deaths, according to The New York Times analysis of mortality data for 11 countries from the past month. The publication noted that the disparity between official death counts and actual deaths likely reflects testing limitations, not intentional underreporting. 

4. The CDC said COVID-19 reports from public health departments are often incomplete in response to medical professionals' demand for the release of racial demographic data, according to STAT. Almost 400 medical professionals and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law have urged HHS to release daily racial and ethnic data on COVID-19 tests, cases and outcomes, citing both the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Affordable Care Act, which ban discrimination in healthcare. They argue that the lack of data is equivalent to denial of proper care.

As of April 15, black Americans made up about 30 percent of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the CDC.

5. The New York State Nurses Association filed lawsuits April 20 against two hospitals and the state health department over COVID-19 working conditions. The suits, filed against the New York State Department of Health, and New York City-based Montefiore Medical Center and Westchester Medical Center, claim the entities haven't sufficiently protected nurses exposed to COVID-19.  

6. Some governors are relaxing social distancing restrictions, according to The New York Times. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said certain businesses can reopen April 24. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee's office said "the vast majority of businesses in 89 counties" can reopen May 1. Businesses in Ohio are expected to reopen May 1 as well, according to Gov. Mike DeWine. Some retail businesses in South Carolina can reopen if they follow social distancing guidelines, Gov. Henry McMaster said, while public beaches will also open April 21. Texas reopened state parks April 20 and retail stores can open as "retail to go" April 24, according to Gov. Greg Abbott.

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