July 20, 2020

White House reportedly seeks to block new funding for coronavirus testing

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    Congressional leaders this week are planning to work on a new coronavirus relief package as some state and local officials say they don't have the resources needed to keep up with America's surging epidemic—but Trump administration officials over the weekend reportedly pressed lawmakers to not include new funding for coronavirus testing and contact tracing in the bill.

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    US new coronavirus cases surpass 3.7M, deaths top 140K

    The news comes as U.S. officials on Saturday reported more than 70,000 new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row.

    As of Monday morning, U.S. officials had reported 3,784,900 total cases of the new coronavirus since the country's epidemic first began—up from 3,588,400 cases reported as of Friday morning.

    Data from the New York Times shows that Puerto Rico; the U.S. Virgin Islands; Washington, D.C.; and 40 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases rise over the past 14 days: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

    Kentucky, Louisiana, Oregon, and South Carolina on Sunday each reported record-high increases in their numbers of new coronavirus cases, the Washington Post reports.

    Meanwhile, the Times' data shows that the average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past two weeks remained mostly stable in eight states: Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota, and Vermont.

    Delaware and Maine saw their average daily numbers of newly confirmed cases decrease over the past 14 days, according to the Times' data.

    While growth in America's national coronavirus-related death rate had declined in June, data has shown that rate's been rising in recent weeks.

    According to the Times' data, Puerto Rico and 25 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported deaths linked to the coronavirus rise over the past 14 days: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, and Wisconsin.

    Overall, officials as of Monday morning had reported a total of 140,373 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 138,268 deaths reported as of Friday morning.

    The number of reported U.S. deaths linked to the coronavirus accounts for nearly 25% of the more than 602,000 reported deaths linked to the virus worldwide, Forbes reports.

    Congress set to work on new coronavirus relief package

    As America's coronavirus epidemic continues to surge, some state and local officials are saying they don't have the resources needed to effectively combat the virus.

    For example, some officials have raised concerns over coronavirus testing backlogs and limited testing supplies.

    Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) during an interview on NBC News' "Meet the Press" on Sunday said, "The national testing scene is a complete disgrace," adding that some out-of-state private labs have taken up to nine days to return coronavirus test results.

    According to the Wall Street Journal, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) are expected to meet with President Trump on Monday to discuss a new coronavirus relief package that could include funding to support the country's coronavirus response and offset the epidemic's economic effects.

    McConnell said he plans to release a proposal for the new relief package this week. People familiar with the proposal said it will seek to extend the Paycheck Protection Program Congress established earlier this year, which is intended to provide support to small businesses, and include new funding for coronavirus testing and to help schools prepare their facilities to reopen.

    The proposal also is expected to include certain liability protections for hospitals, hotels, restaurants, universities, and school districts related to the new coronavirus. Trump and some federal lawmakers, including both Democrats and Republicans, have voiced support for such protections.

    Democrats have said they'd also like the new relief package to extend through January 2021 the $600 per week bump in unemployment benefits that Congress enacted earlier this year, which is currently set to expire at the end of July. However, Republicans and the Trump administration have pushed back against such an extension, saying the boost discourages people from returning to work.

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Democrats and Republicans will need to reach an agreement on unemployment benefits and whether to provide another round of $1,200 stimulus checks to many Americans before moving forward with a new relief package.

    Trump admin reportedly presses lawmakers not to include certain coronavirus response funding

    But the coronavirus relief package could face resistance from the Trump administration if includes new funding to support coronavirus testing, contact tracking, and more.

    The Times reports that sources familiar with McConnell's upcoming proposal said it includes $10 billion for CDC, roughly $15 billion for NIH, $5.5 billion in funding for the Department of State and $20 billion for the Department of Defense (DOD) to help them address the epidemic and potentially dole out vaccines against the virus, and $25 billion in grants to help states conduct coronavirus testing and contact tracing. According to the Times, a person familiar with the proposal said those amounts still were in flux.

    However, Trump administration officials over the weekend pushed for Senate Republicans not to include new funding for coronavirus testing and contact tracing or for federal health agencies in the bill and to lower proposed funding for DOD to $5 billion, according to one person involved in the discussions, the Washington Post reports. According to the Post, some administration officials reportedly said the federal government already has approved billions of dollars in funding to assist states with coronavirus testing, and they believe some of that funding hasn't yet been spent.

    The Post reports that a White House spokesperson declined the Post's request for comment on the matter.

    The Times reports that a senior administration official who spoke with the Times on a condition of anonymity on Saturday said discussions on the new relief package were just starting, and White House officials are committed to making sure there are "appropriate levels across all agencies to address this crisis" (Elias, CNBC, 7/18; Togoh, Forbes, 7/19; Hawkins et al., Washington Post, 7/19; Duehren, Wall Street Journal, 7/19; Levine, Politico, 7/15; Treene, Axios, 7/19; Cohrs, Modern Healthcare, 7/17; Cochrane, New York Times, 7/18; Werner/Stein, Washington Post, 7/18; New York Times, 7/17).

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