COVID-19 backlash is pushing health officials to resign; 26 states see jump in cases — 6 updates

COVID-19 cases have increased in 26 states over the past two weeks, according to The New York Times.

Six updates:

1. Medicare has spent $1.9 billion on fee-for-service COVID-19 hospitalizations as of mid-May, according to new data from CMS representing 81,227 hospitalizations. On average, Medicare payment for each fee-for-service COVID-19 hospitalization has been $23,094 to $63,721. The agency noted the data is preliminary and will change as CMS processes claims and encounters.

2. Four top health experts urged Congress to support sustainable COVID-19 funding and health policies, especially amid an upcoming flu season, which could place a "tremendous burden" on the U.S. healthcare system, according to a joint HHS statement submitted before the hearing. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD; FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD; and Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee June 23.

Dr. Redfield emphasized the continued need for social distancing, face masks and hand hygiene to reduce transmission. He also urged Americans to embrace flu vaccinations and said, "This single act will save lives."

When asked about the current state of COVID-19 in the U.S., Dr. Fauci said it's a "mixed bag" and "we've been hit badly." He touted New York City's response and adherence to reopening guidelines, but said other areas are experiencing a "disturbing surge of infections" due to increased community spread. More testing and contact tracing is needed to help quell such surges, Dr. Fauci said. Dr. Giroir reiterated concern about co-circulation during flu season and said the U.S. data infrastructure needs to be revamped to ensure that the public has accurate information.

All four officials said they had never been told to slow down COVID-19 testing.

3. The White House has temporarily suspended new work visas for a variety of industries amid the pandemic, though healthcare workers are exempt from the order, according to the Los Angeles Times. Effective June 24, the measure limits immigrants coming to the U.S. for jobs in technology, academia, hotels and construction. Some business leaders have said the order will make it difficult to recruit critically needed workers. Based on fiscal 2019 data, the measure could affect more than 550,000 potential immigrant workers if kept in place for a year.

4. More than 20 public health officials nationwide have recently resigned, retired or been fired after facing backlash from citizens and politicians over COVID-19 policies, a national official told The Washington Post. At times, opponents of lockdown orders or face mask policies have turned to personal attacks on health officials' race, gender, sexual identity or appearance. These attacks have been particularly bad in California, Colorado, Georgia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, according to Marcus Plescia, MD, CMO of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

"I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody resign for the kinds of reasons we’ve seen recently," Dr. Plescia told the Post. "We are very concerned that if it continues to get worse, it’s going to have major implications for who will be willing to have these jobs.

5. More than 8.7 million Americans may have had COVID-19 in March, suggests a study published in Science Translational Medicine. Researchers analyzed outpatient surveillance data for flu-like illness and found a large surge in March that coincided with COVID-19 case counts. The findings suggest that the U.S. may have had a large number of probable symptomatic COVID-19 cases in March, an estimated 80 percent of which likely went undiagnosed.

6. Sanofi Pasteur moved up the start date for its COVID-19 vaccine trial to September, reports STAT. The drugmaker, which is developing the vaccine with GlaxoSmithKline, was originally set to launch the clinical trial in December. 

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 2,312,302 
Deaths: 120,402
Recovered: 640,198

Counts reflect data available as of 9 a.m. CDT June 23.

More articles on public health:
11 states with fastest, slowest spread of COVID-19
Younger adults testing positive for coronavirus in more states
WHO disputes theory that increased testing has led to COVID-19 jump

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