Trump to declare national emergency; CDC chief agrees to free coronavirus testing

In the COVID-19 pandemic, 1,701 American cases have been reported, along with 40 deaths. Worldwide, 136,929 cases and 5,065 deaths have been reported, as of 10 a.m. CDT, March 13. Globally, 69,643 people have recovered from the illness.

Ten outbreak updates:

1. President Donald Trump is expected to declare a national emergency March 13, Bloomberg reports. The declaration will allow an increase in federal aid for all states. On March 12, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association sent a joint letter urging the president to declare an emergency.

2. "It is a failing. Let's admit it," Anthony Fauci, MD, said of U.S. testing capacity, NBC News reports. The nation failed to meet the necessary testing capacity after a series of kit malfunctions and shortages. However, a "major escalation" in testing access is expected over the next few weeks, Dr. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told USA Today March 13. 

3. A congresswoman pressed the CDC director to agree to providing free COVID-19 testing for the public, Fox 2 Now reports. Rep. Katie Porter, D-Calif., questioned CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, during a March 12 congressional hearing until he agreed that the CDC will pay for testing. The exchange came after Mr. Trump incorrectly said patients could access free COVID-19 treatment March 11.  

4. The FDA granted emergency approval of a COVID-19 test that is 10 times faster than current testing, according to Bloomberg. A version of Switzerland-based Roche's platform can test up to 4,128 patients a day. 

5. Hospitals will run out of beds if COVID-19 cases spike in the U.S., according to a USA Today analysis. Based on data from the American Hospital Association, U.S. Census, CDC and World Health Organization, the analysis found that if cases jump there could be almost six seriously ill patients for every existing hospital bed. However, the analysis assumes all 790,000 beds are empty, though two-thirds are generally filled, meaning the reality could be much worse. 

6. Louisiana has postponed its presidential primary, originally set for April 4, due to the outbreak, according to Politico.

7. President Donald Trump passed new measures to expand COVID-19 testing and named an HHS testing czar, Politico reports. The new measures, which President Trump said should be implemented on a large scale soon, include New York public and private labs conducting their own testing. The administration also named Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, assistant secretary for health and head of the Public Health Service within HHS, "czar" in charge of coordinating CDC and FDA testing efforts.

8. Leaders failed to agree on a COVID-19 aid package, though a deal is expected March 13, Politico reports. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin struggled to agree on policies regarding sick leave for affected employees and their family members.

9. Some patients say they have been turned away after attempting to get tested for COVID-19, though Vice President Mike Pence told CNN that anyone with a physician's order could get tested. A primary care physician in Massachusetts told CNN that Mr. Pence's assertion is incorrect.

10. U.S. stocks rebounded March 13 after the worst drop since "Black Monday" in 1987, USA Today reports. The Dow average rose 700 points a day after plunging 2,352 points, or 10 percent, its worst loss since Oct. 19, 1987. 

This article was updated 11:50 a.m. CDT.

Click here for The coronavirus playbook: How 12 health systems are responding to the pandemic.

More articles on public health:
A look back at swine flu: 8 facts about the world's last pandemic in 2009
How a West Virginia county stemmed an HIV outbreak
5 tips on talking to patients about coronavirus, from NIH Director Dr. Anthony Fauci

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