July 24, 2020

HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Thursday renewed the federal government's public health emergency declaration for America's coronavirus epidemic, as the country's total number of reported coronavirus cases surged by more than one million in just 15 days—surpassing a total of four million.

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US new coronavirus cases surpass 4M, deaths top 143K

U.S. officials as of Friday morning had reported 4,050,100 total cases of the new coronavirus since the country's epidemic first began—up from 3,980,100 cases reported as of Thursday morning.

Data from the New York Times shows that Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Washington, D.C.; and 37 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases rise over the past 14 days: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

According to audio obtained by the Center for Public Integrity, Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the White House's coronavirus task force, during a private call with state and local health officials on Wednesday said there's been a particularly concerning rise in new coronavirus cases in 12 U.S. cities: Baltimore, Cleveland, Columbus, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Miami, Minneapolis, Nashville, New Orleans, Pittsburgh, San Jose, and St. Louis.

Birx said the federal government is "tracking" those increases "very closely" and "working with the state officials." She added that officials in areas where their positivity rates of coronavirus tests have increased should "(make) sure they're being aggressive about mitigation efforts."

Meanwhile, the Times' data shows that the average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past two weeks remained mostly stable in Guam and 12 states: Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, and Utah.

Arizona saw its average daily numbers of newly confirmed cases decrease over the past 14 days, according to the Times' data.

Data shows that growth in America's national coronavirus-related death rate also has been rising in recent weeks.

According to the Times, Puerto Rico and 24 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported deaths linked to the coronavirus rise over the past 14 days: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin.

On Wednesday, California and Florida each reported record-high single-day increases in their numbers of deaths linked to the coronavirus, The Hill reports. Overall, officials as of Friday morning had reported 144,283 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 143,167 deaths reported as of Thursday morning.

The number of U.S. patients hospitalized for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, also has been rising and hit a new peak this week. According to data from The Atlantic's Covid Tracking Project, the number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients in America reached 59,628 on Tuesday, surpassing the epidemic's previous peak of 59,539 patients, which occurred on April 15, Vox reports.

Azar renews public health emergency for coronavirus epidemic

As America's coronavirus epidemic continued to worsen, health care groups in recent weeks called on the Trump administration to renew the federal government's public health emergency declaration over the epidemic, which had been scheduled to expire on Saturday.

Under the declaration, the administration has loosened certain telehealth restrictions, waived certain Medicare requirements, granted emergency authorizations for coronavirus tests and potential treatments, and allowed state and local health departments to access federal funding and use federally funded personnel to respond to the epidemic.

The declaration also has allowed the administration to provide health care providers with new funding and payment boosts. For example, the administration under the declaration has increased federal Medicaid matching funds for states, implemented a 20% Medicare inpatient add-on payment for care provided to patients with Covid-19, and required health insurers to cover medically necessary coronavirus tests without cost-sharing requirements.

On Thursday, Azar renewed the public health emergency declaration, which will last for another 90 days. The current declaration is set to expire in October, but the administration can choose to terminate the declaration earlier if officials determine the public health emergency has ended or to extend the declaration again  (Scott/Barclay, Vox, 7/24; Axios, 7/23; Klein, CNN, 7/23; Weixel, The Hill, 7/23; Stein, Inside Health Policy, 7/23 [subscription required]; Roubein, Politico, 7/23; Cohrs, Modern Healthcare, 7/23; New York Times, 7/24; Wamsley, NPR, 7/23).

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