Morning Consult Health: Week in Review & What’s Ahead

Week in Review

U.S. COVID-19 response and shortages

  • At the guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House is preparing to recommend the public wear homemade masks to stifle the spread of COVID-19 by keeping the wearer from potentially infecting others, according to a federal official familiar with the new policy, which is still subject to change. 
  • The Trump administration is grappling to decide how to provide the uninsured population with access to COVID-19 care — though the administration reportedly chose not to open a special enrollment period for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, President Donald Trump suggested mid-week he may reconsider the idea but stopped short of committing. On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said the White House coronavirus task force may dip into the $100 billion that Congress allocated for hospitals in the phase 3 stimulus package to front those costs.
  • Trump expanded the use of the Defense Production Act to address the ongoing shortage of ventilators by authorizing the Health and Human Services Department to aid six manufacturers, such as General Electric Co. and Medtronic PLC, obtain necessary materials for the equipment.
  • The HHS Strategic National Stockpile of medical supplies and personal protective equipment is almost empty, despite the White House’s assurance that the United States can fill critical shortages nationwide, according to two Department of Homeland Security officials tasked with resupplying providers pleading for materials to combat the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • The Defense Department signed an $84.4 million contract for 8,000 ventilators from Combat Medical Systems, Hamilton Medical, VyAire Medical Inc. and Zoll Medical Corp., aiming to deliver 1,400 by early May. 
  • Ford Motor Co. plans to begin producing ventilators the week of April 20, with the goal of producing 50,000 by 100 days from now, working in concert with General Electric’s health care unit.
  • The White House is anticipating a death toll of between 100,000 and 240,000 from COVID-19, assuming that the United States continues practicing social distancing measures to prevent that estimate from rising even more. However, even top officials in the Trump administration are skeptical those projections are accurate.

Testing, treatment and vaccines

  • Moderna Inc., which is working with the National Institutes of Health on the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, may begin the next phase of human clinical trials this spring, according to Moderna Chairman Noubar Afeyan. 
  • The Food and Drug Administration approved the first coronavirus test for antibodies, allowing doctors to confirm whether a patient has been exposed to COVID-19 by studying a drop of blood for the presence of protective antibodies. Cellex’s test provides results in roughly 15 minutes.
  • The Trump administration is pressing regulatory authorities to approve the use of Avigan, a flu treatment, for COVID-19, despite a lack of evidence it would be successful and the drug’s known risks, such as birth defects, according to three officials with knowledge of the matter and internal documents. 
  • Medical device manufacturer Abbott Laboratories plans to supply 50,000 rapid tests for the coronavirus per day, having received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for a test that can be used almost ubiquitously. 
  • Johnson & Johnson expects to begin testing its experimental COVID-19 vaccine on humans by September and is working with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to make the vaccine available for emergency use authorization by early 2021. 

Pharmaceutical industry

  • The FDA said all versions of the heartburn drug Zantac should be pulled from shelves immediately, after the agency confirmed the Sanofi SA product can be contaminated with a potential carcinogen if stored for long periods. 
  • The FDA will not take regulatory action against Novartis AG for allegedly manipulating data in testing the drugmaker’s gene therapy, Zolgensma, which costs $2.1 million per patient. 

Hospital capacity

  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will temporarily authorize hospitals to transfer patients to a range of outside facilities providing “hospital-like care,” including hotels, dormitories and inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, to help ease the burden on hospitals overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. 
  • Two new temporary hospitals in New York City — the USNS Comfort and the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center — will increase the city’s number of available beds by 1,000 and 2,500, respectively, inching closer to New York’s eventual goal of 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 intensive care unit beds. However, as of Thursday, officials said only 20 patients had been transferred to the ship.

What’s Ahead

  • The House and Senate are not in session this week. However, talks of a potential “phase 4” coronavirus stimulus are ongoing, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) efforts are “premature.”
  • On Monday afternoon, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) will participate in a Silicon Flatirons webcast conference on the 21st Century Cures Act.
  • Politico is hosting three webcasts next week on the coronavirus:
    • On Tuesday, the webcast will discuss how the Trump administration is balancing public health concerns with economic concerns.
    • On Wednesday, the subject is major moments in New Jersey related to COVID-19.
    • On Friday, the subject will be the latest global trends and developments on the pandemic.
  • Kellyanne Conway will participate in a webinar hosted by the Meridian International Center on the short and long-term economic impacts of COVID-19 on Tuesday.
  • On Tuesday evening, the Asia Society will host a webcast titled: “Following the Curve: From China to America, A Dialogue with Leading COVID-19 Medical Experts.”
  • On Friday afternoon, the American Bar Association is holding a webcast titled: “Public Health Measures in Response to COVID-19.”

Events Calendar (All Times Local)

Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) participates in a Silicon Flatirons webcast conference on the 21st Century Cures Act 4:00 pm
Politico webcast on how the Trump administration is balancing public health concerns with economic concerns 9:00 am
Kellyanne Conway participates in a Meridian International Center webinar on the short and long-term economic impacts of COVID-19 11:00 am
Asia Society webcast: “Following the Curve: From China to America, A Dialogue with Leading COVID-19 Medical Experts.” 7:30 pm
Politico webcast on major moments in New Jersey related to COVID-19 9:00 am
View full calendar

Watch On-Demand: What New Data Tells Us About the Labor Market, Unemployment and a Recession

For a better understanding of the pandemic’s impact on unemployment and the broader economy, Morning Consult gathered a team of experts to discuss new data examining how prepared consumers are for the economic downturn and what consumer confidence tells us about a potential recession.

A copy of the presentation, a recording of the full webinar, and a copy of our recent white paper on using consumer confidence to track a recession can be accessed here.

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