Home Health First Edition: May 22, 2020

First Edition: May 22, 2020

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Today’s early morning highlights from the major news organizations.


Kaiser Health News:
Coronavirus Tests The Value Of Artificial Intelligence In Medicine


Dr. Albert Hsiao and his colleagues at the University of California-San Diego health system had been working for 18 months on an artificial intelligence program designed to help doctors identify pneumonia on a chest X-ray. When the coronavirus hit the United States, they decided to see what it could do. The researchers quickly deployed the application, which dots X-ray images with spots of color where there may be lung damage or other signs of pneumonia. (Gold, 5/22)


Kaiser Health News:
Congress Said COVID-19 Tests Should Be Free — But Who’s Paying?


Hospitals around the country are afraid to send out hundreds of thousands of bills related to COVID-19 testing. That’s because Congress mandated there would be no copays and no out-of-pocket costs for patients. But many employers with self-funded health plans seem to believe they’re exempt from the rules. When testing kits were still scarce, Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, fired up its clinical labs. It almost single-handedly took over testing in much of Tennessee. (Farmer, 5/22)


Kaiser Health News:
The 30-Somethings Who Fled Big Cities To Shelter With Mom And Dad


It took three weeks, but Lawrence and Arlene Maze finally persuaded their younger son, Gregory, of Los Angeles, to get on a flight home to Austin. “He basically shut his business down to come here and has to restart his business when it’s safe,” his father said. “It was a very difficult decision.” Alex Rose, a 33-year-old event producer and recording artist, didn’t need much persuasion. She spent a couple of weeks alone in her 500-square-foot Hollywood apartment, taking long walks to break up the days. In mid-March, her event bookings and performances began to disappear. Then a neighbor showed her video of an arsonist setting trash can fires on their street and she saw the melted cans next to her building. (Jayson, 5/22)


Kaiser Health News:
KHN’s ‘What The Health?’: When It Comes To COVID-19, States Are On Their Own


At least so far, states that reopened their economies are not seeing a major spike in cases of COVID-19. But it remains unclear if that is because the coronavirus is not spreading, because the data is lagging or because the data is being manipulated. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump said he’s taking the controversial antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure after he was exposed to a White House valet who tested positive for the coronavirus. (5/21)


The Wall Street Journal:
Coronavirus Infections Jump By More Than A Million In Less Than Two Weeks


As U.S. states and countries around the world look to boost their economies by loosening restrictions, coronavirus infections continue to spread, with more than a million new infections world-wide in less than two weeks. Globally there are more than 5.1 million recorded cases of the coronavirus, up from 3.85 million two weeks ago, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, and more than 333,000 deaths. In the U.S., there have been nearly 1.58 million confirmed infections. The death toll reached 94,702, including 1,222 deaths recorded between 8 p.m. Wednesday and the same time Thursday, a Wall Street Journal analysis of Johns Hopkins data showed. (Craymer, 5/22)


The Wall Street Journal:
Coronavirus Deaths Were Likely Missed In Michigan, Death Certificates Suggest


Fresh data from Michigan, one of the states hardest hit by the new coronavirus, show that a testing shortfall there is likely fueling a substantial undercount of deaths attributed to Covid-19 and points to the broader challenge of tracking deaths from the disease nationwide. An exclusive Wall Street Journal analysis of death certificates indicates that Michigan could have undercounted hundreds of fatalities connected to Covid-19 during a period in March and April when deaths had surged above normal levels. (Jones and Kamp, 5/21)


Politico:
Cuomo, De Blasio Blame Ignorance, But Not Themselves, In Wake Of Damning Report


Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio deflected blame Thursday in the wake of a bombshell study confirming that New York’s elected leaders stalled when it was time to take action on battling the spread of the coronavirus. An analysis by Columbia University released Wednesday night concluded that if New York acted even one week earlier in ordering people to stay home and mandating social distancing, it would have spared more than 17,000 lives in the New York metro area. (Gronewold, Goldenberg and Durkin, 5/21)


The New York Times:
In Michigan Visit, Trump Forgoes Criticism And Talks About The Economy And The Flood


A day after threatening to withhold federal funding from Michigan, President Trump visited a Ford plant in Ypsilanti and held his fire, delivering a re-election pitch for himself in a battleground state where his campaign advisers have become increasingly concerned that his support is declining. After falsely claiming the state was engaged in voter fraud and had acted illegally by sending out absentee ballot applications to millions of voters, Mr. Trump dropped his criticism of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, and other state officials. (Karni, 5/21)


Reuters:
Trump Visits Ford Plant In Politically Crucial Michigan, Leaves Mask Off For Cameras


Surrounded by Ford executives wearing masks, Trump told reporters he had put one on out of the view of cameras. “I had one on before. I wore one in the back area. I didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it,” Trump said. When asked if Trump was told it was acceptable not to wear a mask in the plant, Ford Executive Chairman Bill Ford said, “It’s up to him.” (Mason and Klayman, 5/21)


The Associated Press:
Pandemic Politics: Maskless Trump Tours Michigan Ford Plant


For a moment, he also teasingly held up a clear shield in front of his face. A statement from Ford said that Bill Ford, the company’s executive chairman, “encouraged President Trump to wear a mask when he arrived” and said the president wore it during “a private viewing of three Ford GTs from over the years” before removing it. The United Auto Workers union noted in a statement that “some in his entourage’” declined face masks and said “it is vitally important that our members continue to follow the protocols that have been put in place to safeguard them, their families and their communities.” (Superville and Lemire, 5/22)


The Washington Post:
Trump And Masks: How The President Subverts The Ritual Of The Political Photo Op


For two days before President Trump’s visit on Thursday to a Ford factory in Michigan, controversy raged over whether he would — or should — wear a surgical mask while he was there. Ford had put out the word that masks were mandatory in the Ypsilanti factory — which is making personal protective equipment — though Trump had previously made it clear that, counter to federal recommendations and Michigan law, he didn’t see masks as his kind of thing. So the Michigan attorney general put out a statement imploring the president to comply. (Farhi, 5/21)


The Wall Street Journal:
Trump’s Swing-State Tour Takes Him To Michigan


The trip was Mr. Trump’s third foray in as many weeks to a key state for the 2020 election, and it perhaps was the most tense politically, coming amid Mr. Trump’s protracted clash with the state’s Democratic governor over her coronavirus-response policies, including stay-at-home orders. It also occurred as Mr. Trump has criticized the state’s plans to send absentee ballot applications to all registered voters and as floods devastated the central part of the state. (Lucey, 5/21)


The New York Times:
As Trump Rails Against Voting By Mail, States Open The Door For It 


By threatening on Wednesday to withhold federal grants to Michigan and Nevada if those states send absentee ballots or applications to voters, President Trump has taken his latest stand against what is increasingly viewed as a necessary option for voting amid a pandemic. What he has not done is stop anyone from getting an absentee ballot. In the face of a pandemic, what was already limited opposition to letting voters mail in their ballots has withered. Eleven of the 16 states that limit who can vote absentee have eased their election rules this spring to let anyone cast an absentee ballot in upcoming primary elections — and in some cases, in November as well. Another state, Texas, is fighting a court order to do so. (Wines, 5/21)


Politico:
Trump Takes Mail-In Voting Grievances To Michigan


After a listening session with African American leaders from the state — in which the group discussed the disproportionate impact the disease has had on Michigan’s black population — the conversation immediately turned to Trump’s fresh threat to withhold federal funds from Michigan if they moved forward with a mail-in voting plan. Trump fielded a reporter’s question on the issue, then spent several minutes detailing a litany of hypothetical mail-in voter fraud examples, without offering evidence that such wrongdoing has occurred. “Who knows who’s signing it? Who knows it gets to your house? Who knows if they don’t pirate?” he said. “Obviously there’s going to be fraud. We’re not babies.” But Trump declined to say what funds he might withhold from Michigan. (McGraw, 5/21)


The Associated Press:
Trump Lashes Out At Scientists Whose Findings Contradict Him


“A Trump enemy statement,” he said of one study. “A political hit job,” he said of another. As President Donald Trump pushes to reopen the country despite warnings from doctors about the consequences of moving too quickly during the coronavirus crisis, he has been lashing out at scientists whose conclusions he doesn’t like. (Colvin, 5/22)


The New York Times:
Prominent Scientists Denounce End To Coronavirus Grant


A group of 77 Nobel laureates has asked for an investigation into the cancellation of a federal grant to EcoHealth Alliance, a group that researches bat coronaviruses in China. The pre-eminent scientists characterized the explanation for the decision by the National Institutes of Health as “preposterous.” The agency said the investigation into the sources of pandemics did not fit “with program goals and agency priorities.” The Nobel recipients said the grant was canceled “just a few days after President Trump responded to a question from a reporter who erroneously claimed that the grant awarded millions of dollars to investigators in Wuhan.” President Trump said the grant would be ended immediately. (Gorman, 5/21)


Politico:
CDC Chief Says He Isn’t Being Muzzled


CDC Director Robert Redfield on Thursday denied reports that the White House rejected his agency’s draft guidelines for reopening the country and wouldn’t commit to resuming regular briefings as states continue lifting coronavirus lockdowns. Redfield, in an interview with POLITICO, said reports of the White House stifling his agency are inaccurate and that the coronavirus task force gave constructive criticism on the draft guidelines that were revised and quietly released this week. (Ehley, 5/21)


The New York Times:
$1.2 Billion From U.S. To Drugmaker To Pursue Coronavirus Vaccine


Expanding its pursuit of an inoculation against the coronavirus, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Thursday it would provide “up to $1.2 billion” to the drug company AstraZeneca to develop a potential vaccine from a laboratory at Oxford University. The deal with AstraZeneca is the fourth and by far the largest vaccine research agreement that the department has disclosed. The money will pay for a Phase 3 clinical trial of a potential vaccine in the United States this summer with about 30,000 volunteers. (Kirkpatrick, 5/21)


The Wall Street Journal:
U.S. To Invest $1.2 Billion To Secure Potential Coronavirus Vaccine From AstraZeneca, Oxford University


Under the deal, the government will bankroll a 30,000-person vaccine trial in the U.S. starting in the summer, plus the ramp-up of manufacturing capacity to make at least 300 million doses. The first doses will be ready in the fall should the vaccine prove effective, it said. Alex Azar, the Health and Human Services secretary, called the deal a “major milestone” in the administration’s effort—code-named “Operation Warp Speed”—to make a safe, effective vaccine widely available to Americans by 2021. (Roland, 5/21)


Reuters:
U.S. Secures 300 Million Doses Of Potential AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine


While not yet proven to be effective against the coronavirus, vaccines are seen by world leaders as the only real way to restart their stalled economies, and even to get an edge over global competitors. After President Donald Trump demanded a vaccine, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agreed to provide up to $1.2 billion to accelerate British drugmaker AstraZeneca’s vaccine development and secure 300 million doses for the United States. (Aakash B, Baulconbridge and Holton, 5/21)


Stat:
The World May Also Be Overestimating The Power Of Covid-19 Vaccines


With a little luck and a lot of science, the world might in the not-too-distant future get vaccines against Covid-19. But those vaccines won’t necessarily prevent all or even most infections. In the public imagination, vaccines are often seen effectively as cure-alls, like inoculations against measles. Rather than those vaccines, however, the Covid-19 vaccines in development may be more like those that protect against influenza — reducing the risk of contracting the disease, and of experiencing severe symptoms should infection occur, a number of experts told STAT. (Branswell, 5/22)


The Associated Press:
UK’s COVID-19 Study Aims To Vaccinate More Than 10,000


British researchers testing an experimental vaccine against the new coronavirus are moving into advanced studies and aim to immunize more than 10,000 people to determine if the shot works. Last month, scientists at Oxford University began immunizing more than 1,000 volunteers with their vaccine candidate in a preliminary trial designed to test the shot’s safety. On Friday, the scientists announced they now aim to vaccinate 10,260 people across Britain, including older people and children. (Cheng and Neergaard, 5/22)


The New York Times:
The Country Enters A Memorial Day Weekend To Remember (Or Forget)


A sailboat race from Cape Cod to the island of Nantucket has marked the unofficial beginning of summer for the last 49 years. But the Figawi regatta, which raises money for veterans over Memorial Day weekend, will not involve any actual boats this year. Instead, organizers will host a virtual cocktail party from a boathouse, among other online events. At first, regulars vowed to sail from Hyannis to Nantucket anyway, said Shelley Hill, executive director of Figawi Charities. “But as time went on and everybody learned more,” she said, “that idea has gone away.” (Stockman, 5/22)


Reuters:
A U.S. Memorial Day Weekend Like No Other, With Parties And Biker Rallies On Hold


Even with all 50 states taking steps to reopen their economies, this Memorial Day weekend will not resemble any in decades. In many places, beaches and parks will be open, but groups will asked to stay six feet apart; restaurants will only be serving customers outside; and bars will be closed in what is customarily one of the year’s biggest drinking weekends. “A Memorial Day party would be great,” said Michael Williamson of the Michigan State University Black Alumni, who is organizing an online kickoff party for his local chapter on Friday night. “Bars and clubs aren’t open right now, so we are doing everything virtual.” (Layne, 5/21)


The Wall Street Journal:
States Don’t Agree On How To Determine When It Is Safe To Reopen


After months of lockdowns, all states have now eased restrictions in some capacity, and many are relying on data to tell them when it is safe to move to the next phase of reopening. But each state has its own idea of what that data should be. The Wall Street Journal reviewed the metrics outlined by 10 states that have significant case numbers and published clearly defined reopening plans. The differences in the data they consider—and the conclusions they draw from it—show a stark divide in the governments’ priorities. (Huth, 5/21)


The Hill:
COVID-19 Spreading Through Southern, Midwestern States


The coronavirus pandemic continues its deadly march through rural counties and small towns across the country, led by flareups in Southern and Midwestern states that are becoming new epicenters of the outbreak. Almost 80 percent of Americans now live in counties where the virus is spreading widely, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution demographer William Frey. In the last week, 176 counties have started to see substantial spread of the virus. The vast majority of those, 159, are smaller exurban or rural counties. (Wilson, 5/21)


The Associated Press:
Nation’s Capital Aims To Start Reopening May 29


After weeks of insisting the Washington, D.C., area is not ready to end its pandemic-induced lockdown, Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser now says the numbers are pointing to the start of a gradual reopening process at the end of the month. Bowser on Thursday penciled in Friday, May 29 as a potential start date for phase 1 of the District of Columbia’s proposed three-phase reopening plan. That includes restaurants allowing outdoor patio seating, non-essential businesses offering curbside pickup and hair salons and barbers operating by appointment at limited capacity. (Khalil, 5/22)


The New York Times:
Beach Towns Have A Message For New York City Residents: Go Away


In the Hamptons, the locals have put up barricades to limit parking and deployed enforcement officers to ticket outsiders. Jersey Shore towns have banned short-term leases and Airbnb rentals. The Suffolk County executive’s office taunted Mayor Bill de Blasio: “Do your job. Figure out a plan to safely reopen your beaches.” Since the coronavirus pandemic began, tensions have repeatedly flared over whether too many New York City residents have decamped to outlying vacation areas, potentially taking the virus with them. But now the region appears on the brink of a full-fledged (and nasty) battle over beaches, touched off by the city’s decision to keep its shoreline closed. (Kilgannon, 5/22)


The New York Times:
Church That Defied Coronavirus Restrictions Is Burned To Ground 


The burning of a church in northern Mississippi this week is being investigated as arson because of a spray-painted message at the scene that seemed to criticize the church’s defiance of coronavirus restrictions. First Pentecostal Church had sued the city of Holly Springs, Miss., which is about an hour southeast of Memphis, arguing that its stay-at-home order had violated the church’s right to free speech and interfered with its members’ ability to worship. (Bogel-Burroughs, 5/22)


The Washington Post:
Catholics And Lutherans In Minnesota Plan To Buck Their State’s Governor And Reopen Churches May 26


Leaders of two of Minnesota’s largest faith groups are planning to resume indoor worship services next week in defiance of the governor’s order, saying it’s “extreme and prejudicial” to put religious gatherings in a reopening category similar to that of tattoo parlors or hair salons and subject them to limits stricter than those placed on retail stores. In a conference-call news conference Thursday, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, Catholic leader for the state, and the Rev. Lucas Woodford, president of the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, said they were fine with restrictions earlier in the pandemic. (Boorstein, 5/21)


Reuters:
Divided By COVID-19: Democratic U.S. Areas Hit Three Times As Hard As Republican Ones


As America’s response to the coronavirus pandemic splits along partisan lines, a Reuters analysis may help explain why: Death rates in Democratic areas are triple those in Republican ones. By Wednesday, U.S. counties that voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election reported 39 coronavirus deaths per 100,000 residents, according to an analysis of demographic and public health data. (Sullivan, 5/21)


The New York Times:
Police Face Backlash Over Virus Rules. Enter ‘Violence Interrupters.’


When Iesha Sekou began passing out surgical masks and disposable gloves in Harlem early in the pandemic, some people laughed and said she was taking things too far. It was an unfamiliar role for Ms. Sekou, the founder of a nonprofit that usually works to prevent gang violence. But as deaths from the virus mounted in predominantly black neighborhoods like the one where Ms. Sekou’s group operates, people started chasing her and her workers down the street to get supplies, she said. (Southall, 5/22)


The Wall Street Journal:
New York City Police Alter Coronavirus Enforcement


As New York City’s outdoor season begins with Memorial Day, police are shifting the focus of their enforcement of social-distancing rules, limiting an emphasis on punitive measures and concentrating on breaking up large groups. New York Police Department officers have been tasked with enforcing emergency measures to contain the new coronavirus in New York City since Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency on March 13 as the city emerged as the center of the pandemic in the U.S. (Chapman, 5/21)


The Associated Press:
US Begins Crackdown On Unvetted Virus Blood Tests


U.S. regulators are moving ahead with a crackdown on scores of antibody tests for the coronavirus that have not yet been shown to work. The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday published a list of more than two dozen test makers that have failed to file applications to remain on the market or already pulled their products. The agency said in a statement that it expects the tests “will not be marketed or distributed.” It was unclear if any of the companies would face additional penalties. (Perrone, 5/21)


USA Today:
FDA Investigates Lab As Tens Of Thousands Of COVID-19 Test Results In Florida Are Questioned


Federal regulators are investigating a Texas laboratory that a Florida hospital chain dropped last week because of delayed and unreliable COVID-19 test results. AdventHealth, which has 45 hospitals in nine states, terminated its Florida contract with MicroGen DX due to concerns about the validity of some of the 60,000 tests MicroGen had processed for the system because the lab left them at room temperature for days, according to an AdventHealth statement. (Gallion and O’lDonnell, 5/21)


NPR:
Scientists Warn CDC Testing Data Could Create Misleading Picture Of Pandemic


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged that it is mixing the results of two different kinds of tests in the agency’s tally of testing for the coronavirus, raising concerns among some scientists that it could be creating an inaccurate picture of the state of the pandemic in the United States. The CDC combines the results of genetic tests that spot people who are actively infected, mostly by using a process known as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, with results from another, known as serology testing, which looks for antibodies in people’s blood. Antibody testing is used to identify people who were previously infected. (Stein, 5/21)


The New York Times:
These Labs Rushed To Test For Coronavirus. They Had Few Takers.


When a stay-at-home order in March all but closed the revered labs of the gene-editing pioneer Jennifer Doudna, her team at the University of California, Berkeley dropped everything and started testing for the coronavirus. They expected their institute to be inundated with samples since it was offering the service for free, with support from philanthropies. But there were few takers. (Thomas, 5/21)


The Wall Street Journal:
Nursing Homes Don’t Have To Report Pre-May Covid-19 Deaths To U.S. Officials


A recently launched federal effort to collect data on the impact of the coronavirus in nursing homes will leave the full toll unclear, because a new rule doesn’t require facilities to report deaths and infections that occurred before early May. The new rule, issued May 8, compels nursing homes to submit data on coronavirus cases and associated deaths to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a form posted on the CDC website, the information only has to go back to the week leading up to their first filing, which was supposed to occur by May 17, while older data is optional. Nursing homes will provide current data at least weekly going forward. (Wilde Mathews, 5/21)


ProPublica/Chicago Tribune:
More Than 1 In 5 Illinoisans Living In State Homes For Adults With Disabilities Have Tested Positive For The Coronavirus


While much of the attention related to COVID-19’s impact on vulnerable populations has focused on deaths at nursing homes, infection rates are remarkably high in another kind of residential setting: state-operated centers for adults with cognitive or behavioral disabilities. As of Thursday, more than 1 in 5 people living in these developmental centers had tested positive for the novel coronavirus, state data shows. That’s more than double the infection rate seen in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, where confirmed cases account for about 7% of residents, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health. (Smith Richards and Cohen, 5/22)


The Washington Post:
More Evidence Emerges On Why Covid-19 Is So Much Worse Than The Flu


Researchers who examined the lungs of patients killed by covid-19 found evidence that it attacks the lining of blood vessels there, a critical difference from the lungs of people who died of the flu, according to a report published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Critical parts of the lungs of patients infected by the novel coronavirus also suffered many microscopic blood clots and appeared to respond to the attack by growing tiny new blood vessels, the researchers reported. (Bernstein, 5/21)


The Washington Post:
Virus ‘Does Not Spread Easily’ From Contaminated Surfaces Or Animals, Revised CDC Website States


The coronavirus primarily spreads from person to person and not easily from a contaminated surface. That is the takeaway from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which this month updated its “How COVID-19 Spreads” website. The revised guidance now states, in headline-size type, “The virus spreads easily between people.” It also notes that the coronavirus, which causes the disease covid-19, “is spreading very easily and sustainably between people.” (Guarino and Achenbach, 5/21)


CNN:
Sweden Is Still Nowhere Near ‘Herd Immunity,’ Even Though It Didn’t Go Into Lockdown 


Sweden has revealed that despite adopting more relaxed measures to control coronavirus, only 7.3% of people in Stockholm had developed the antibodies needed to fight the disease by late April. The figure, which Sweden’s Public Health Authority confirmed to CNN, is roughly similar to other countries that have data and well below the 70-90% needed to create “herd immunity” in a population. It comes after the country adopted a very different strategy to stop the spread of coronavirus to other countries by only imposing very light restrictions on daily life. (Kennedy, 5/21)


CNN:
CDC Says 35% Of Coronavirus Infections Are Asymptomatic


In new guidance for mathematical modelers and public health officials, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is estimating that about a third of coronavirus infections are asymptomatic. The CDC also says its “best estimate” is that 0.4% of people who show symptoms and have Covid-19 will die, and the agency estimates that 40% of coronavirus transmission is occurring before people feel sick. (Azad, 5/22)


The Wall Street Journal:
What Are The Symptoms Of Covid-19? Some Countries Don’t Recognize Them All, Posing Risks To Reopening


As lockdowns ease across the world, keeping the new coronavirus at bay will depend on people seeking a test or self-isolating if they suspect they have symptoms. But, five months after the virus emerged, national health authorities don’t agree on how to define those symptoms. In countries that describe the symptoms more narrowly, including the U.K. and up to last month the U.S., some people with the disease may have been unable to get tested and may have unknowingly spread the disease by mingling in the community. (Sugden, 5/22)


Reuters:
Next U.S. Coronavirus Rescue Package Not Too Far Off, McConnell Says


U.S. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said on Thursday another stimulus package to deal with the impact of the coronavirus was “not too far off.” “I think there is a high likelihood we will do another rescue package,” McConnell told Fox News Channel in an interview. “But we need to be able to measure the impact of what we’ve already done, what we did right, what we did wrong … We’re not quite ready to intelligently lay down the next step, but it’s not too far off.” (5/21)


The Associated Press:
GOP Weighs Jobless Aid Cuts To Urge Americans Back To Work


Reconsideration of jobless aid is fast becoming the focus of congressional debate over the next virus aid package. After the Senate decided to take a “pause” on new pandemic proposals, senators faced mounting pressure to act before leaving town for a weeklong Memorial Day break. Republicans are staking out plans to phase out coronavirus-related unemployment benefits to encourage Americans to go back to work.. The Senate also began efforts to fast-track an extension of a popular small business lending program. (Mascaro, 5/22)


Politico:
Gardner Brawls With Hickenlooper Over Threat To Block Recess


After threatening to block the Memorial Day recess, Cory Gardner will get one of his signature bills on the Senate floor. Yet his likely opponent this November says he’s still a pushover to Mitch McConnell. The Senate recessed on Thursday afternoon after Gardner called the idea of leaving Washington “unfathomable” without more action on coronavirus. But Gardner and several other Republicans facing tough reelection races did see some movement on their key priorities. (Everett, 5/21)


Politico:
McConnell Warns House Democrats Over Proxy Voting On Floor


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday slammed the House’s new rule to allow proxy voting on the chamber floor — and hinted that he might not take up legislation passed under this procedure. The Kentucky Republican’s comments are the latest GOP salvo against the plan, pushed through the House last week on a party-line vote by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). It will first be used when the House returns next week to take up a Senate-passed reauthorization of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. (Desiderio and Bresnahahn, 5/21)


Politico:
McConnell Calls On Barr To Investigate Planned Parenthood Loans


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republicans are demanding that Attorney General William Barr investigate Planned Parenthood centers that got emergency small business loans under a government program intended to avert layoffs. In a letter Thursday to Barr, 27 GOP senators led by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) and McConnell said Planned Parenthood affiliates received about $80 million in loans under the so-called Paycheck Protection Program but should have been ineligible — a claim that Planned Parenthood disputes. (Warmbrodt, 5/21)


The New York Times:
Many Jobs May Vanish Forever As Layoffs Mount


Even as states begin to reopen for business, a further 2.4 million workers joined the nation’s unemployment rolls last week, and there is growing concern among economists that many of the lost jobs are gone for good. The Labor Department’s report of new jobless claims, released Thursday, brought the total to 38.6 million since mid-March, when the coronavirus outbreak forced widespread shutdowns. While workers and their employers have expressed optimism that most of the joblessness will be temporary, many who are studying the pandemic’s impact are increasingly worried about the employment situation. (Cohen, 5/21)


The Associated Press:
Nearly 39 Million Have Lost Jobs In US Since Virus Took Hold


The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits in the two months since the coronavirus took hold in the U.S. has swelled to nearly 39 million, the government reported Thursday, even as states from coast to coast gradually reopen their economies and let people go back to work. More than 2.4 million people filed for unemployment last week in the latest wave of layoffs from the business shutdowns that have brought the economy to its knees, the Labor Department said. That brings the running total to a staggering 38.6 million, a job-market collapse unprecedented in its speed. (Rugaber and Kirka, 5/22)


NPR:
Food Banks Get The Love, But SNAP Does More To Fight Hunger


Millions of newly impoverished people are turning to the charitable organizations known as food banks. Mile-long lines of cars, waiting for bags of free food, have become one of the most striking images of the current economic crisis. Donations are up, too, including from a new billion-dollar government effort called the Farmers to Families Food Box Program. (Charles, 5/22)


The New York Times:
Facebook Starts Planning For Permanent Remote Work From Home


Facebook said on Thursday that it would allow many employees to work from home permanently. But there’s a catch: They may not be able to keep their big Silicon Valley salaries in more affordable parts of the country. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, told workers during a staff meeting that was livestreamed on his Facebook page that within a decade as many as half of the company’s more than 48,000 employees would work from home. (Conger, 5/21)


The Hill:
Eighth Amazon Warehouse Worker Dies Of Coronavirus 


Amazon announced Thursday that another one of its warehouse workers died from complications associated with the coronavirus. The recent death marks eight employees the tech giant has lost because of the disease. The employee who passed was a woman who had been with the company since November 2018. She was staffed at Amazon’s fulfillment center just outside of Cleveland in North Randall, Ohio, according to NBC News. (Johnson, 5/21)


The New York Times:
‘Working People Want Real Change’: A Union Chief Sounds Off On The Crisis


Growing up as the oldest girl among 10 siblings in a large Catholic family in Detroit, Mary Kay Henry learned the power of collective action at an early age. Sometimes, she and her older brother would have to get all their siblings ready for school, packing lunches, getting kids dressed and shepherding everyone on to the bus. “When there’s a group that shares a mission and everybody has a job to do, things that seem impossible are possible,” she said. “That’s my guiding star.” (Gelles, 5/22)


The New York Times:
What Happened To The Great American Logistics Machine?


It started with silence, or something close to silence, or perhaps it was simply the absence of a low-level hum that nobody knew was humming until it stopped. In the quiet we realized that, until the pandemic arrived, we had lived in a vast, elaborate, whirring contraption that delivered culture and commerce at spectacular speeds, with astonishing efficiency. Logistics — the science of making Thing A and delivering it to Point B — had become a national art form, the corporate answer to jazz, stand-up comedy and end-zone dances. America was like an operating system that upgraded itself so regularly that its design and endless enhancements were taken for granted. (Segal, 5/22)


The Washington Post:
Being A Pig Farmer Was Already Hard. Then Came Coronavirus.


Al Wulfekuhle was just a kid when he started raising pigs, helping his dad run the family farm in an eastern Iowa town even smaller than this one. By the time he was 19, he was running his own place, called to a profession that wasn’t glamorous or even remotely easy but made him feel like he was doing something important. “It’s a noble profession, being a farmer,” he said. “You’re essential because you’re trying to feed the world.” When Wulfekuhle was starting out, business was good, prices were high. (Bailey, 5/21)


The Wall Street Journal:
What It Takes To Become A Contact Tracer On The Trail Of The Coronavirus


As layoffs continue to mount, one job is in demand in almost all 50 states and urgently requires workers. To safely reopen the U.S. economy, the nation needs an army of contact tracers—at least 184,000 of them, according to one estimate by researchers at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said as many as 17,000 tracers will be hired in the coming months in New York state alone. (Dill, 5/21)


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