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May 15, 2020

Here's how states can safely reopen, according to CDC

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    CDC on Thursday released new guidelines on how states can safely reopen bars, restaurants, schools, and workplaces, while an ousted Trump administration official during a House hearing warned that America could see its "darkest winter" in recent times if the administration doesn't improve its response to the new coronavirus epidemic.

    10 takeaways: What health systems must consider as they mull reopening

    US Covid-19 epidemic grows 

    U.S. officials as of Friday morning had reported 1,424,700 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus—up from 1,397,700 cases as of Thursday morning.

    As of Friday morning, officials also had reported 85,843 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 84,109 deaths reported as of Thursday morning.

    CDC issues new guidelines on how to safely reopen businesses

    Although the numbers of Covid-19 cases and related deaths continue to increase throughout the United States, most states are moving forward with plans to reopen nonessential businesses and relax social distancing measures they had put in place to help curb the epidemic. As such, CDC on Thursday released guidelines for how states should approach reopening bars, restaurants, schools, and workplaces amid the epidemic.

    CDC designed the guidelines as decision trees that can function as a checklist of items businesses and schools should consider before reopening. For example, in the agency's recommendations for bars and restaurants, CDC notes that such establishments should feel comfortable reopening if they are encouraging social distancing, following local laws, increasing cleaning, enforcing lenient sick-leave policies, and promoting good hygiene, among other criteria.

    CDC's guidelines for reopening child care programs, mass transit, schools, workplaces, and youth programs and camps are similar to its recommendations for bars and restaurants and echo advice that public health officials have been touting for months, the New York Times reports. For instance, the guidelines highlight the importance of handwashing, monitoring one's health, protecting vulnerable populations, and social distancing. The guidelines also outline how schools and businesses can check people for symptoms of Covid-19.

    In addition, CDC in its recommendations for mass transit suggests that operators restrict routes to and from areas with high coronavirus transmission before they resume full service. Meanwhile, in its recommendations for childcare programs and youth programs and camps, CDC suggests that facilities limit the number of shared toys and supplies available to children and staff.

    CDC in its guidelines also provides links to more resources intended to help guide business owners, school administrators, and others in their decisions to reopen.

    A White House official who spoke with Bloomberg on the condition of anonymity said CDC and the White House's coronavirus task force teamed up to develop the guidelines. According to the Times, CDC published the new guidelines after the White House reportedly rejected a more comprehensive draft of recommendations that White House officials had deemed as too detailed and inflexible.

    Separately, President Trump during a visit to a medical supply distribution center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on Thursday unveiled the White House's plans to expand the Strategic National Stockpile, after the stockpile's supplies ran out in the early weeks of the country's Covid-19 epidemic. The plan aims to ensure the stockpile has a 90-day supply of testing materials and essential drugs.

    In addition, Trump on Thursday signed an executive order authorizing Adam Boehler, CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, to issue targeted loans to boost the production of supplies related to the country's coronavirus response and recovery.

    Ousted Trump admin official says country needs to bolster Covid-19 response   

    Meanwhile, Rick Bright, who had served as the director of HHSBiomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority and claims he was inappropriately removed from the position after raising concerns about the Trump administration's response to the Covid-19 epidemic, on Thursday testified before the House Energy & Commerce Committee's subcommittee on health.

    During his testimony, Bright warned that the United States could face "the darkest winter in modern history" if the administration doesn't improve its response to the epidemic.

    Bright, who is one of the country's top vaccine experts, said the administration must act quickly to ensure patients can access potential Covid-19 treatments as needed. For instance, Bright said the administration should develop a plan to ramp up production of Gilead Sciences' remdesivir and ensure there is less confusion surrounding how potential Covid-19 treatments and vaccines against the new coronavirus will be manufactured and distributed. "If you can imagine the scenario this fall or winter or even early next spring when a vaccine becomes available there isn't one company that can produce enough vaccine for our country or the world. There's going to be limited supplies," he said.

    Further, Bright cast doubt on the Trump administration's claims that a vaccine against the new coronavirus could become available by January 2021. Bright said he believes a vaccine may take longer than 18 months to develop.

    "A lot of optimism is swirling around a 12- to 18-month time frame if everything goes perfectly. We've never seen everything go perfectly," he said.

    Separately, Trump and HHS officials on Thursday pushed back against Bright's claims.

    "I don't know him. I never met him. I don't want to meet him but I watched him, and he looks like an angry, disgruntled employee who, frankly, according to some people, didn't do a very good job," Trump said (Jacobs et al., Bloomberg, 5/14; Bogel-Burroughs, New York Times, 5/15; Stobbe/Dearen, Associated Press, 5/15; Lim, Politico, 5/14; Goldstein, Washington Post, 5/14; Stolberg, New York Times, 5/14; Wolfe/Brice, Reuters, 5/14; Alonso-Zaldivar/Lardner, Associated Press, 5/14; Cohen, Inside Health Policy, 5/14 [subscription required]; New York Times, 5/15).

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