More Americans believe 'the worst is behind us' — 4 COVID-19 updates

COVID-19 related deaths in the U.S. have increased more than tenfold in one month, with 46,785 deaths reported as of 8:30 a.m. CDT April 23, compared to about 4,700 deaths at the start of the month, as reported by NPR.

Since the first case was reported Jan 20, the U.S. has confirmed 842,624 COVID-19 cases as of April 23. Worldwide, 2,649,680 COVID-19 cases and 184,643 deaths have been reported, while 721,531 patients have recovered. 

Four updates: 

1. Nearly a quarter more Americans believe the worst of the pandemic "is behind us" compared to three weeks ago, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. The latest tracking poll was conducted April 15-20 among a random phone sample of 1,202 adults. Fifty-one percent of Americans said the worst is yet to come, down 23 percentage points from the 74 percent of Americans who said the same in an earlier KFF poll conducted March 25-30.

2. HHS on April 22 shared how it will distribute the remaining $40B in federal COVID-19 aid designated for hospitals and other healthcare providers. The agency will distribute $20 billion to children's hospitals and other providers April 24 that have a relatively small share of revenue coming from Medicare. HHS is also distributing $10 billion in funds to hospitals in areas hardest hit by the pandemic, and another $10 billion will go to rural hospitals and clinics. The agency will also allocate $400 million to Indian Health Service facilities and provide additional funding for skilled nursing facilities, dentists and providers that solely take Medicaid. 

3. The House is slated to vote on a $484 billion relief package today that would increase funding for hospitals and small businesses, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Senate on April 21 unanimously passed the measure, which is called the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. President Donald Trump has since said he would sign the bill into law, according to WSJ.

4. The head of the HHS agency working to develop a coronavirus vaccine abruptly left the position April 21, STAT reports. On April 22, Rick Bright, PhD, told The New York Times he was dismissed as the director of the HHS' Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, as well as from his position as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. Dr. Bright said he was asked to direct research money toward hydroxychloroquine, and believes he was removed for urging rigorous vetting of the anti-malaria drug. HHS has confirmed that Dr. Bright will be working at a different job at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Bright allegedly clashed with department leaders for more than a year, five current and former HHS officials told Politico, adding that internal emails show Dr. Bright supported the agency's recent acquisition of millions of anti-malarial drug doses.

Editor's note: This article was updated April 23 at 12:30 p.m. CDT.

More articles on public health:
New site tracks how fast COVID-19 is spreading, state by state
New York to let some hospitals resume elective care; California will test some asymptomatic people + 26 other updates from the hardest-hit states
Messages from 6 hospital leaders to those resisting social distancing: 'As healthcare workers, we urge you to reconsider'

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