White House unveils COVID-19 testing plan + 5 more updates

Worldwide, COVID-19 cases have surpassed 3 million, with 3,060,152 cases and 212,056 deaths reported as of 8 a.m. CDT April 28. The U.S. has confirmed 988,469 cases and 56,253 deaths.

Six updates:

1. The White House announced a new federal plan for COVID-19 testing, aimed at increasing aid to states. During the April 27 task force news briefing, President Donald Trump said testing capacity will be expanded to allow for 2 million tests per week, with many players in the private sector, such as CVS and Walgreens, also ramping up related production and accessibility.

The plan, which will be "federally supported, state managed, and locally executed," includes three core elements. The first is increasing lab supplies and the ability to collect test samples. The second element is a timely monitoring system that will not only diagnose those who are symptomatic, but also proactively work with higher risk individuals. The third element includes the CDC working with local governments to ensure symptomatic and asymptomatic cases are quickly identified and traced.  

The federal government aims to give states the ability to test at least 2 percent of their populations each month, an administration official told The New York Times, though this exact figure was not mentioned during the media briefing or cited in the White House's official "Testing Blueprint" report.

2. New research has solidified Oxford University's position as a front-runner in the race to create a COVID-19 vaccine, according to The New York Times. In March, researchers at the National Institutes of Health gave six rhesus macaque monkeys a single dose of Oxford's vaccine and then exposed them to SARS-CoV-2. Past exposure to the virus responsible for COVID-19 had consistently sickened other monkeys. However, the vaccinated monkeys remained healthy more than 28 days after exposure. 

The Oxford researchers are now arranging clinical trials of the vaccine, which will include more than 6,000 participants. If the vaccine proves effective in humans, researchers could have the first few million doses ready by September, pending emergency authorization from regulators.

3. Top public health officials are urging Congress to approve $46.5 million in funding for expanded testing and tracing efforts, according to an April 27 letter cited by NPR. Authored by 16 health officials, including former Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt and former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, the letter asks that the next available COVID-19 response legislation include four major provisions: expanding the contact tracing workforce, providing voluntary self-isolation facilities, income support for voluntary self-isolation, and referrals to primary care physicians for COVID-19 testing and tracing. 

4. New York City will hire 1,000 public health workers by the end of May to help track COVID-19 cases and contacts, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced April 27. City contact tracers will gather information via phone from COVID-19 patients, identify their known contacts and connect them to services to support their isolation and medical care. New York City will start hiring for this position immediately.

5. New York is the first state to cancel its Democratic presidential primary, which was slated for June 23, according to The New York Times. State officials announced their decision April 27, saying the risk of COVID-19's spread was too high to justify holding an election that served no significant purpose. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., dropped out of the race earlier this month. His supporters had launched a major campaign to persuade party officials against canceling the primary, which they saw as an opportunity to collect convention delegates.

6. Colorado and Nevada have joined the Western States Pact working to align state policies amid the pandemic. Announced April 27 by both Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, the two states join California, Oregon and Washington as officials there consider modifying stay-at-home orders.

More articles on public health:
Most states not testing enough to safely reopen, analysis suggests
Healthcare Heroes Project spotlights COVID-19 stories from the front lines
COVID-19 deaths in US likely much higher than reported in early weeks of pandemic, new analysis finds

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