WHO funding up in air; COVID-19 testing is rising — 5 national updates

The U.S. has reported 1,487,447 COVID-19 cases and 89,567 related deaths as of 9:30 a.m. CDT May 18. Globally, there have been 4,744,216 reported cases and 315,740 deaths, while 1,747,403 have recovered.

Five updates: 

1. Plans regarding U.S. funding for the World Health Organization are currently ambiguous after several conflicting reports. On May 15, Fox News reported that the White House planned to restore some funding after obtaining a draft letter addressed to WHO's Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus, PhD. The letter said the Trump administration would "agree to pay up to what China pays in assessed contributions." On May 16, President Trump responded to a tweet from Fox commentator Lou Dobbs, saying this was just one of numerous proposals being considered in which the U.S. "would pay 10 percent of what we have been paying over many years, matching much lower China payments."

President Trump hasn't yet made an official decision, and the funds are still frozen. However, he appeared skeptical of the internal proposal to match China's contributions, officials told The Wall Street Journal. Funding for WHO was initially frozen pending an investigation in April, President Trump had said April 14. The president is expected to make a decision as soon as this week.

2. The number of daily COVID-19 tests performed in the U.S. is steadily rising, but still falls short of what some health experts say is needed to contain the virus, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. At present, the U.S. is performing about 422,024 tests daily, up from 158,169 tests a month prior. One projection from the Cambridge, Mass.-based Harvard Global Health Institute estimates the U.S. needs to conduct 900,000 tests daily to safely ease social distancing measures. In total, the U.S. has performed 11.5 million tests as of May 17.

3. Texas reported its largest COVID-19 case count increase in one day, with 1,801 new infections confirmed May 16, The Hill reports. Potter and Randall counties reported 734 of the new cases, largely from targeted testing of employees at meat plants, according to a tweet from the Texas Department of State Health Services. Some nonessential businesses have been allowed to reopen, though under certain limitations. As of May 18, Texas has reported 48,396 COVID-19 cases.

4. The White House officially revealed Operation Warp Speed May 15. The program aims to drastically reduce the time it takes to get a COVID-19 vaccine to U.S. residents. Moncef Slaoui, PhD, the former head of GlaxoSmithKline's vaccine division, will oversee the effort. During a May 15 media briefing, Dr. Slaoui said he recently reviewed early clinical trial data on one COVID-19 vaccine that makes him "even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020." Anthony Fauci, MD, the nation's top infectious disease physician, has previously said it could take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine to hit the market.

5. A White House official has blamed the CDC for setting the U.S. back in its COVID-19 response, while a CDC senior official has quickly responded to the statement, according to CNN. White House Trade Adviser Peter Navarro said May 17 on NBC's "Meet the Press" that the CDC "let the country down" after experiencing numerous testing issues in the pandemic's early days.  

"We should remind Mr. Navarro that the CDC is a federal agency part of the administration. The CDC director is an appointed position, and Dr. Redfield was appointed by President Trump," a senior CDC official told CNN May 17.  

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