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Health Politics

Highlights from today’s Coronavirus Task Force and President Trump’s executive order to prohibit the hoarding of medical supplies

American Wire
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PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

“We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” announced President Trump with conviction at the start of his press briefing Monday evening. 

As the Senate continues to debate sections of what would be the largest fiscal stimulus in history, Vice President Mike Pence confirmed the largely-anticipated package will include payroll subsidies to small businesses, direct payments of $3,000 to the average family of four, unemployment benefits, and assistance to hospitals and major industries. 

“We encourage Congress to act, and ask governors to engage their delegations,” said Pence.

FEMA has distributed eight million N95 masks and 13.3 million surgical masks across the country, focusing on areas with the greatest need, and has received 6.5 million donated masks. Seventy-three pallets of personal protection equipment (PPE) have been shipped to New York City, and 36 pallets to Washington.

Under Section 4512 of the Defense Production Act, President Trump signed an executive order prohibiting the hoarding of vital medical equipment and supplies such as “hand sanitizers, face masks and personal protection equipment.” The secretary of Health and Human Services is now authorized to designate certain medical supplies as scarce, making it a crime to stockpile these supplies in excessive quantities, sell at excessive prices, or otherwise conduct fraudulent schemes related to the pandemic.

Clinical trials in New York will begin for existing drugs that may prove effective against the virus.  At Trump’s direction, the federal government is currently working to obtain large quantities of Chloroquine, a drug that has proved effective against malaria. President Trump said that there is “very little semblance” of the coronavirus in countries where malaria is prevalent. Approximately 10,000 units of hydroxychloroquine, in combination with Zithromax, will be distributed to New York early tomorrow morning.

According to Dr. Deborah Brix, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, self-swabbing nasal tests will be available sometime this week. The tests, which can be collected in clinics and drive-through sites, will reduce the risk to healthcare providers and minimize the drain on PPE. 

Based on high-input lab investigations, the New York metro areas of New Jersey, New York City and parts of Long Island have an attack rate close to one in 1,000. According to Dr. Brix, 28% of submitted specimens in these areas tested positive for coronavirus, compared to less than 8% elsewhere. 

PHOTO CREDIT: Eric Baradat/AFP/Getty Images

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