Category Archives: Health Care

Biden Delivers His Prescription for Fighting the Health, Economic Impacts of Coronavirus Pandemic

Vice President Joe Biden gave his prescription for addressing the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic – a strong contrast to the speech Trump delivered from the Oval Office (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

This is the speech on protecting against the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic that Americans should have heard from the Oval Office:

Remarks by Vice President Joe Biden on Combating Coronavirus (COVID-19)

My fellow Americans:
 
Today, across the nation, many of us are feeling anxious about the rapid spread of COVID-19, known as the coronavirus, and the threat it poses to our health, our loved ones, and our livelihoods.
 
I know people are worried, and my thoughts are with all those who are directly fighting this virus — those infected, families that have suffered a loss, our first responders and health care providers who are putting themselves on the line for others. And I’d like to thank those who are already making sacrifices to protect us— whether that’s self-quarantining or cancelling events or closing campuses. Because whether or not you are infected, or know someone who is infected, or have been in contact with an infected person — this will require a national response. Not just from our elected leaders or our public health officials — from all of us.
 
We all must follow the guidance of health officials and take appropriate precautions — to protect ourselves, and critically, to protect others, especially those who are most at-risk from this disease.
 
It will mean making some radical changes to our personal behaviors: more frequent and more through handwashing and staying home from work if you are ill, but also altering some deeply-ingrained habits, like handshakes and hugs, and avoiding large public gatherings.
 
That is why earlier this week, on the recommendation of officials, my campaign cancelled the election night rally we had planned to hold in Cleveland, Ohio. We will also be re-imagining the format for the large-crowd events we had planned in Chicago and Miami in the coming days. And we will continue to assess and adjust how we conduct our campaign as we move forward, and find new ways to share our message with the public, while putting the health and safety of the American people first.
 
Yesterday, we announced a Public Health Advisory Committee of experts who will counsel our campaign and help guide our decisions on steps to minimize the risk. We will be led by the science.
 
The World Health Organization has now officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Downplaying it, being overly dismissive, or spreading misinformation will only hurt us and further advantage the spread of the disease. But neither should we panic or fall back on xenophobia. Labeling COVID-19 a “foreign virus” does not displace accountability for the mismanagement that we have seen from the Trump Administration.
 
Let me be crystal clear: the coronavirus does not have a political affiliation. It will infect Republicans and Democrats alike. It will not discriminate based on national origin, race, gender, or zip code. It will touch people in positions of power and the most vulnerable in our society.
 
A wall will not stop it. Banning all travel from Europe, or any other part of the world, may slow it — but as we have seen — it will not stop it. And travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics — rather than risk — will be counterproductive. This disease could impact every nation and any person on the planet. And we need a plan about how we are going to aggressively manage it here at home.
 
The American people have the capacity to meet this moment. We will face this with the same spirit that has guided us through previous crises. We will come together as a nation. We will look out for one another and do our part as citizens. We have to harness the ingenuity of our scientists and the resourcefulness of our people. And we have to lead the world to drive a coordinated global strategy, not shut ourselves off from it.
 
Protecting the health and safety of the American people is the most important job of any president — and unfortunately, this virus has laid bare the severe shortcomings of the current Administration. Public fears are being compounded by a pervasive lack of trust in this president, fueled by his adversarial relationship with the truth.
 
Our government’s ability to respond effectively has been undermined by the hollowing-out of our agencies and the disparagement of science. And our ability to drive a global response is dramatically undercut by the damage Trump has done to our credibility and our relationships around the world.
 
We have to get to work immediately to dig ourselves out of this hole. That is why, today, I am releasing a plan to combat and overcome the coronavirus. The full details are on JoeBiden.com laying out the immediate steps we must take to deliver: A decisive public health response to curb the spread of this disease and provide treatment to those in need; and a decisive economic response that delivers real relief to American workers, families, and small businesses — and protects the economy as a whole.
 
I offer it as a roadmap, not for what I will do as president 10 months from now, but for the leadership I believe is required right now, in this moment. President Trump is welcome to adopt it today. 
 
The core principle is simple: public health professionals must be the ones making our public health decisions and communicating with the American people. It would be a step toward reclaiming public trust and confidence in the United States government and toward stopping the fear and chaos that can overtake communities faster than this pandemic. And it’s critical to mounting an effective national response that will save lives, protect our front-line health workers, and slow the spread of this virus.  
 
First, anyone who needs to be tested based on medical guidelines, should be tested—at no charge. The Administration’s failure on testing is colossal. It is a failure of planning, leadership, and execution. The White House should measure and report each day how many tests were ordered, how many tests have been completed, and how many have tested positive. By next week, the number of tests should be in the millions, not the thousands. We should make sure every person in a nursing home, a senior center, or a vulnerable population has easy access to a test. 
 
We should establish hundreds of mobile testing sites — at least 10 per state — and drive-thru testing centers to speed testing and protect health care workers. 
 
The CDC, private labs, universities, and manufacturers should be working in lock-step to get this done, and get it done right. No effort should be spared. No excuses should be made. Tests should be available to all who need them and the government should stop at nothing to make that happen. 
 
We must know the true extent of this outbreak so we can map it, trace it, and contain it. Nor should we hide the true number of infections in hopes of protecting political interests or the stock market. The markets will respond to strong, steady, capable leadership that addresses the root of the problem, not efforts to cover it up.
 
Second, we need to surge our capability to both prevent and treat the coronavirus, and prepare our hospitals to deal with an influx of those needing care. This means not just getting out the testing kits and processing them quickly, but making sure communities have the hospital beds, the staff, the medical supplies, and the personal protective equipment necessary to treat patients.
 
The president should order FEMA to prepare the capacity with local authorities to establish temporary hospitals with hundreds of beds on short notice. The Department of Defense should prepare for the potential deployment of its resources to provide medical facility capacity and logistical support. A week from now, a month from now, we could need an instant, 500-bed hospital to isolate and treat patients in any city in the country. We can do that — but we aren’t ready yet, and the clock is ticking.

As we take these steps, state, federal, and local authorities need to ensure that there is accurate, up-to-date information easily available to every American so everyone can make an informed decision about when to get tested, when to self-quarantine, and when to seek medical treatment. And the federal government should provide states and municipalities with clear guidance about when to trigger more aggressive mitigation policies, such as closing schools.
 
Third, we need to accelerate the development of treatments and a vaccine. Science takes time. It will still be many months before we have a vaccine that can be proven safe for public use and produced in sufficient quantity to make a difference. Therapeutics can and should come sooner. That will save lives. We passed the Cures Act in 2016 to accelerate work at the National Institutes of Health, but now it must have every available resource to speed the process along.
 
We must fast-track clinical trials within the NIH, while closely coordinating with the Food and Drug Administration on trial approvals, so that the science is not hindered by the bureaucracy. And, when we do have a vaccine ready to go, it should also be made widely available, free of charge.  
 
We should also immediately restore the White House National Security Council Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense –with a full-time, dedicated coordinator to oversee the response.
 
Our Administration created that office to better respond to future global health threats after the Ebola crisis in 2014.
 
It was designed for exactly this scenario.
 
President Trump eliminated the office two years ago.
 
Here’s the bottom line: we have to do what is necessary to beat this challenge sooner rather than later.
 
I assure you, if we wait for it to worsen then scramble to catch up, the human and economic toll will be far greater and last far longer.
 
Congress gave the Administration $8 billion last week to fight the virus.  We need to know exactly where that money is going, how quickly it is going out the door, and how it is being spent. 

This brings me to the second half of this challenge — the economic dislocation the coronavirus will cause in our country.
 
We must do whatever it takes, spend whatever it takes, to deliver relief for our families and ensure the stability of our economy.
 
Taking immediate, bold measures to help Americans who are hurting economically right now.
 
It means we will need bigger and broader measures to shore up economic demand, protect jobs, keep credit flowing to our job creators, and make sure we have the economic fire power we need to weather this storm and get our people and this economy back to full strength as soon as possible.  

This crisis will hit everyone, but it will hit folks who live paycheck-to-paycheck the hardest, including working people and seniors.
 
Another tax cut to Google or Goldman or millionaires won’t get the job done.
 
Indiscriminate corporate tax subsidies won’t effectively target those who really need help.
 
We need to place our focus on those who will struggle just to get by.
 
People are already losing jobs — we need to replace their wages.

That includes workers in the gig economy who lack unemployment insurance.

Parents who are already struggling with childcare costs — we need to give them relief.
 
Children who rely on school lunches will need food.

And schools will need help ensuring children who do not have easy access to computers can still learn if their schools close. 
 
People who have difficulty paying their rent or mortgage because they’ve been laid off or had their hours cut back — we need to help them stay in their homes.
 
Small businesses that will be devastated as customers stay home and events are canceled — we need to make sure they have access to interest-free loans.
 
It is a national disgrace that millions of our fellow citizens do not have a single day of paid sick leave.
 
We need — both — a permanent plan for paid sick leave and an emergency plan for everyone who needs it due to the outbreak.
 

Beyond these national measures, my plan also calls for the creation of a State and Local Emergency Fund to make sure governors, mayors, and local leaders who are battling coronavirus on the ground have the resources necessary to meet this crisis head on.

These funds could be used at the discretion of local leaders for whatever they most need: expanding critical health infrastructure, hiring additional health care and emergency service personnel, or cushioning the wider economic blow this virus will cause our communities. 
 
We need smart, bold, and compassionate leadership that will help contain the crisis, reduce hardship to our people, and help our economy rebound.
 
But let me be clear: this is just a start. 
 
We must prepare now to take further decisive action, including direct relief, that will be large in scale and focused on the broader health and stability of our economy.
 
But we can only protect the health of our economy, if we do everything in our power to protect the health of our people.

The last point I want to make today is this — we will never fully solve this problem if we are unwilling to look beyond our own borders and engage fully with the world.
 
A disease that starts any place on the planet can be on a plane to any city on earth a few hours later.
 
So we have to confront coronavirus everywhere. 
 
We should be leading a coordinated, global response, just as we did for Ebola, that draws on the incredible capability of the U.S. Agency for International Development and our State Department to assist vulnerable nations in detecting and treating coronavirus wherever it is spreading.
 

We should be investing in rebuilding and strengthening the Global Health Security Agenda, which we launched during our Administration, specifically to mobilize the world against the threat of new infectious diseases.
 
It can be hard to see the concrete value of this work when everything seems well with the world.
 
But by cutting our investments in global health, this Administration has left us woefully ill-prepared for the exact crisis we now face.
 
No President can promise to prevent future outbreaks.
 
But I can promise you that when I’m president, we will prepare better, respond better, and recover better.

We will lead with science.
 
We will listen to experts and heed their advice.
 
We will rebuild American leadership and rally the world to meet global threats.
 
And I will always, always tell you the truth.
 
That is the responsibility of a president.
 
That is what is owed to the American people.
 
Now, and in the difficult days that still lie ahead, I know that this country will summon our spirit of empathy, decency, and unity.
 
Because, in times of crisis, Americans stand as one. 
 
Volunteers raise their hands to help.
 
Neighbors look out for neighbors.
 
Businesses take care of their workers.
 
So we will meet this challenge — together.
 
Thank you all.

NYS Restricts Mass Gatherings, Visits to Nursing Homes & Creates Drive-Thru Testing Facility as Numbers of Coronavirus Cases Rise

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo, touring Northwell Labratory on Long Island, announced the first public drive-through testing facility for coronavirus on the East Coast and new restrictions on gatherings of more than 500 as the number of coronavirus cases rises in the state © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.

With the Trump Administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic in severe disarray, it is falling to states and localities to protect their residents. This is the latest from New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo:

During a novel coronavirus briefing, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the state will institute limits on mass gatherings, directing events with 500 or more individuals in attendance to be cancelled or postponed. Public health experts agree mass gatherings with people making sustained close contact are a place where the novel coronavirus can easily infect many people quickly and continue its spread. As such, events, gatherings, or places of business with less than 500 individuals in attendance will be required to cut capacity by 50 percent, with exceptions being made for spaces where individuals do not make sustained close contact, such as schools, hospitals, public buildings, mass transit, grocery stores and retail stores. These new regulations will go into effect Friday, March 13th at 5pm, with the exception of Broadway Theaters where the limits will go into effect this evening at 5pm.

In an effort to protect some of the most vulnerable New Yorkers, Governor Cuomo also announced only medically necessary visits will be allowed at nursing homes. This policy will be effective Friday at 5pm. The state is also asking nursing homes to set up skyping and other online communication capacity so families can tele-visit their loved ones. Additionally, the state will require health screenings for all nursing home workers each day when they enter a facility and require them to wear surgical masks to guard against any potential asymptomatic spread.

In order to increase testing capacity, the State is contracting with BioReference Laboratories to run an additional 5,000 tests per day on top of what the state is already doing. These additional 5,000 tests per day will come online next week. This additional testing capacity is on top of that of the 28 private labs the Governor announced are partnering with the state in the coming days and weeks. Additionally, the Governor announced the first public drive-through testing facility on the east coast will start testing people tomorrow in New Rochelle. Testing will be done by appointment only. New Rochelle residents who have been quarantined will be tested first. 

Finally, the Governor confirmed 109 additional cases of novel coronavirus, bringing the statewide total to 325 confirmed cases in New York State. Of the 325 total individuals who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:

Albany County: 1 (1 new)

Broome County: 1 (1 new)

Delaware County: 1 (1 new)

Dutchess County: 1 (1 new)

Herkimer County: 1 (1 new)

Monroe County: 1 (1 new)

Nassau County: 41 (13 new)

New York City: 95 (43 new)

Orange County: 1 (1 new)

Rockland County: 7 (1 new)

Saratoga County: 3 (1 new)

Suffolk County: 20 (14 new)

Ulster County: 4 (3 new)

Westchester County: 148 (27 new)

“The spread of this coronavirus is not going to stop on its own, and we know that mass gatherings have been hotspots for the virus to infect large numbers of people quickly,” Governor Cuomo said.”To help contain it, we are instituting limits on large events as well as new measures to protect our most vulnerable populations — including people in nursing homes — and preparing our healthcare system to be able to deal with any future capacity issues. While the context is key and the anxiety is outpacing the facts of this situation, we will continue taking aggressive action to protect public health and prepare for any future spread of this virus.”  

“Our number one priority is protecting the public health and every action the Governor and the State of New York have taken thus far have been in furtherance of that goal,” State Health Department Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. “Public health experts have been clear that limiting large public gatherings where there is potential for close contact is a critical way to slow the spread of this virus. This regulation will help keep people healthy and safe.”

The Governor also announced that the State is taking measures to create a reserve workforce of health care professionals in the event of a staffing shortage and identify state facilities that can be used as temporary hospitals. The State is asking former doctors, nurses and other health care professionals to reconnect with their former employers and offer to work on an on-call basis in the cases of a staffing shortage. The State is also identifying National Guard medics for reserved staffing and contacting medical schools to identify possible reserve health care professionals. Additionally, the Department of Health is accelerating regulations to get more health care personnel trained so they can work in other areas.

For all schools in communities with the highest rates of positive cases, the state will be taking proactive steps to implement protocols that limit mass contact. Today the Governor announced SUNY Albany will cancel in person classes for the rest of the semester effective tomorrow after a positive case was confirmed today.

Additionally, any business that cannot accommodate rigorous cleaning standards should contact Empire State Development at (212) 803-3100 for a close order.

In Oval Office Speech, Trump Fails to Offer Solutions to Stem Healthcare Crisis Looming With Coronavirus Pandemic or Calm Economic Fears

Trump offers his “historic actions” to address the coronavirus pandemic: payroll tax cut, tax deferral, travel ban from Europe (c) Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.
Trump, in an address to the nation from the  Oval Office, tried to calm fears and most importantly (for him) calm the financial markets after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic and chided nations for underplaying the crisis. Trump spent most of the time self-congratulating himself, calling the crisis “unprecedented” (it’s not), and his actions “historic” (hardly). Trump said nothing about making the health care infrastructure work to save Americans from suffering and needless dying, or for bolstering finances for people who have lost their means of earning money, paying bills, caring for children. His solution, to unilaterally ban travel from Europe (not UK) is absurd. Still no idea how many Americans harbor the infection. He used words like “unprecedented” when this is hardly unprecedented (Spanish flu, Swine flu, Ebola, and months of seeing what happened in China, South Korea, Italy). He kept saying that America will get by because we are the strongest, smartest, best nation that ever existed. Trump’s solution is medieval: pull up the drawbridge, build a wall against foreign invasion. Balderdash. And by the way, YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT: the strong economy was bequeathed by Obama and other predecessors that Trump is frittering away with $1 trillion budget deficits despite (as Trump constantly claims) a historic, strong economy. And what does strong military have to do with coronavirus pandemic? The amount of back-slapping Trump does to himself (“unprecedented steps” which are hardly unprecedented or even dramatic or adequate or on target for the health crisis at hand), and his sychophants, even the “experts” have had to lather praise is disgusting. As for abandoning the partisanship, he means “adore me, go along with whatever I say.” Immediately after, he attacked Nancy Pelosi and Democrats. Here s the speech annotated – Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com.
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT TRUMP
IN ADDRESS TO THE NATION
 
Oval Office
   
9:02 P.M. EDT
 
THE PRESIDENT:  My fellow Americans: Tonight, I want to speak with you about our nation’s unprecedented response to the coronavirus outbreak that started in China and is now spreading throughout the world.
 
Today, the World Health Organization officially announced that this is a global pandemic.

We have been in frequent contact with our allies, and we are marshalling the full power of the federal government and the private sector to protect the American people.

[And yet the European Union was blindsided by Trump’s sudden ban on travel from Europe but not the UK].
 
This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history.  I am confident that by counting and continuing to take these tough measures, we will significantly reduce the threat to our citizens, and we will ultimately and expeditiously defeat this virus.
 
From the beginning of time, nations and people have faced unforeseen challenges, including large-scale and very dangerous health threats.  This is the way it always was and always will be.  It only matters how you respond, and we are responding with great speed and professionalism.

[Hardly ‘unforeseen’ when the outbreak began in December in China and his first response came in March after pooh-poohing.]

Our team is the best anywhere in the world.  At the very start of the outbreak, we instituted sweeping travel restrictions on China and put in place the first federally mandated quarantine in over 50 years.  We declared a public health emergency and issued the highest level of travel warning on other countries as the virus spread its horrible infection. 
 
And taking early intense action, we have seen dramatically fewer cases of the virus in the United States than are now present in Europe. 

  [Except you really don’t know how many Americans are harboring the coronavirus because there hasn’t been adequate testing. And back in January, when Seattle doctor suspected coronavirus, federal agencies refused allowing testing, continued to reject the test kits from W.H.O. and relied on faulty, inadequate tests of its own.]

The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hotspots.  As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe. 

[That is one of Trump’s ‘blame others’ ‘blame them’ ‘blame Europe’ out of his ass comments. He doesn’t know how the infection came here or where it came from. Those cruise goers didn’t come from Europe.]
 
After consulting with our top government health professionals, I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and wellbeing of all Americans.
 
To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days.  The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight.  These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground.
 
There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.  Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing.  These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.
 
At the same time, we are monitoring the situation in China and in South Korea.  And, as their situation improves, we will reevaluate the restrictions and warnings that are currently in place for a possible early opening.

  [There is no travel ban on South Korea.]

Earlier this week, I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments, and to prevent surprise medical billing. 
 
We are cutting massive amounts of red tape to make antiviral therapies available in record time.  These treatments will significantly reduce the impact and reach of the virus.

[Treatment still not likely to be available for a year.]
 
Additionally, last week, I signed into law an $8.3 billion funding bill to help CDC and other government agencies fight the virus and support vaccines, treatments, and distribution of medical supplies.  Testing and testing capabilities are expanding rapidly, day by day.  We are moving very quickly.

[Who will get that money and supplies?  Will Trump steer to “loyal” states and communities like Texas and Florida, and away from places like New York, California, Massachusetts, just as he did with Ukraine’s military aid, George w. Bush did with anti-terror funding after 9/11 and Chris Christie did by shutting down the George Washington bridge to punish Democratic mayors who refused to endorse him?]
 
The vast majority of Americans: The risk is very, very low.  Young and healthy people can expect to recover fully and quickly if they should get the virus.  The highest risk is for elderly population with underlying health conditions.  The elderly population must be very, very careful.

[The problem here is that the ‘young, healthy’ people can transmit the infection to others who are vulnerable.]
 
In particular, we are strongly advising that nursing homes for the elderly suspend all medically unnecessary visits.  In general, older Americans should also avoid nonessential travel in crowded areas. 
 
My administration is coordinating directly with communities with the largest outbreaks, and we have issued guidance on school closures, social distancing, and reducing large gatherings.
 
Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow.
 
Every community faces different risks and it is critical for you to follow the guidelines of your local officials who are working closely with our federal health experts — and they are the best. 

[Here is the key piece: the federal government is failing and useless and has no clue what to do, so Trump needs to rely – and probably blame – state and local officials who are doing their best to keep up with the needs. But key policies need to be made at the federal level. See Nicholas Kristof, “12 Steps to Tackle the Coronavirus” in New York Times of what Trump should have said and done.]
 
For all Americans, it is essential that everyone take extra precautions and practice good hygiene.  Each of us has a role to play in defeating this virus.  Wash your hands, clean often-used surfaces, cover your face and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and most of all, if you are sick or not feeling well, stay home.
 
To ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship, I will soon be taking emergency action, which is unprecedented, to provide financial relief.  This will be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined, or caring for others due to coronavirus.
 
I will be asking Congress to take legislative action to extend this relief.
 
Because of the economic policies that we have put into place over the last three years, we have the greatest economy anywhere in the world, by far. 

  [To the extent the US has in fact has greatest economy in the world, it is largely because of his abuse of tariff wars, sanctions, ending aid to undermine other economies.]

Our banks and financial institutions are fully capitalized and incredibly strong. 

[Thanks Obama! And Dodd Frank.]

Our unemployment is at a historic low.  This vast economic prosperity gives us flexibility, reserves, and resources to handle any threat that comes our way.
 
[He neglects to mention the $1 trillion budget deficits he has run despite his ‘historic’ strong economy, low unemployment. The fact that 40% of all Americans don’t have $400 available to cover an emergency.]

This is not a financial crisis, this is just a temporary moment of time that we will overcome together as a nation and as a world.  

[The next morning, the Dow plummeted another 2000 points, more than 7%, down to 21,400 from a high of 29,000 just a couple of weeks earlier. Trump was reported to have leveled a tirade at Federal Reserve Chair Powell for failing to cut interest rates even further than the half-point “emergency” cut a week ago.]

However, to provide extra support for American workers, families, and businesses, tonight I am announcing the following additional actions:  I am instructing the Small Business Administration to exercise available authority to provide capital and liquidity to firms affected by the coronavirus. 
 
Effective immediately, the SBA will begin providing economic loans in affected states and territories. These low-interest loans will help small businesses overcome temporary economic disruptions caused by the virus.  To this end, I am asking Congress to increase funding for this program by an additional $50 billion. 
 
Using emergency authority, I will be instructing the Treasury Department to defer tax payments, without interest or penalties, for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted.  This action will provide more than $200 billion of additional liquidity to the economy.

  [How are the individuals and businesses chosen? What will this do to the Treasury’s ability to pay bills? How does starving the federal government of resources help the situation]

Finally, I am calling on Congress to provide Americans with immediate payroll tax relief.  Hopefully they will consider this very strongly.

[Payroll tax only helps people who are earning wages, not the people who are laid off or lose their jobs. The amount of money is so miniscule, people don’t even realize. And how does starving Medicare and Social Security of funding help? Instead, should be requiring paid sick leave, unemployment benefits expanded to people with fewer hours and contract workers. See Nicholas Kristof.]
 
We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus.  We made a life-saving move with early action on China.  Now we must take the same action with Europe.  We will not delay.  I will never hesitate to take any necessary steps to protect the lives, health, and safety of the American people.  I will always put the wellbeing of America first.

[Yet another undeserved pat on the back, and misguided focus on putting up walls instead of gearing up for the spreading epidemic in the country. Some 100 million are projected to get the illness; more than 1 million expected to die. Millions will jam emergency rooms and ICUs. There are only 1 million hospital beds and 700,000 of these are already occupied. People will die of heart attacks and other ailments because they cannot be accommodated. Doctors and nurses and health care workers will get sick or become so overworked they can’t function. Who is available to replace? What is Trump doing about that? Is he setting up mobile clinics, like MASH units? Sending out mobile testing vehicles. Doing drive-by testing as in South Korea which is handling 20,000 tests a day?]  

If we are vigilant — and we can reduce the chance of infection, which we will — we will significantly impede the transmission of the virus.  The virus will not have a chance against us. 
 
No nation is more prepared or more resilient than the United States.  We have the best economy, the most advanced healthcare, and the most talented doctors, scientists, and researchers anywhere in the world.

[More jingoism, American Exceptionalism. America First. Balderdash. Basically his argument is, ‘We will defeat this epidemic because we are The Greatest.’ And by the way, YOU DIDN’T BUILD THAT! Obama and predecessors handed Trump a strong economy, rescued from the depths of the Great Recession. Obama created the Affordable Care Act which covered 30 million more people than before, controlled health care costs, enabled more people to become doctors, nurses, health care workers.]
 
We are all in this together.  We must put politics aside, stop the partisanship, and unify together as one nation and one family. 

 [Biggest joke-on-America ever, since Trump, who wears a MAGA hat on CDC tour, and tells Pence not to praise Washington Governor Jay Inslee (“a snake”, and accuses Democrats and Nancy Pelosi of perpetrating a hoax in raising alarm about coronavirus in order to undermine him. As for abandoning the partisanship, what he really means, as Moscow Mitch always means when he uses the term “compromise” is “Do what we say, don’t criticize or point out why we are inept, corrupt, and out only for ourselves.”]


[Trump assailed Democrats hours after he implored lawmakers to “stop the partisanship.” Then the markets cratered, unassuaged by his economic proposals, New York Times reported.]  

As history has proven time and time again, Americans always rise to the challenge and overcome adversity. 
 
Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine.  Acting with compassion and love, we will heal the sick, care for those in need, help our fellow citizens, and emerge from this challenge stronger and more unified than ever before.

[Such pablum. Trump reads the teleprompter in a monotone, the sentences running one into another. He has no idea what he just said.]
 
God bless you, and God bless America.  Thank you.
 
                         END                 9:12 P.M. EDT

See also:

Cuomo Pleads with CDC to Allow Coronavirus Testing in Private Labs to Better Monitor, Contain Spread

Coronavirus Epidemic: Warren Outlines Decisive Plan to Keep American Families Healthy & Stabilize Economy

Sanders to Trump: Stop Playing Politics with our Health and National Security  

To Help Stem Coronavirus Spread, Counter Price-Gouging NYS To Provide Hand Sanitizer for Free

Governor Andrew Cuomo tours Northwell Health Laboratories on Long Island to urge CDC to allow private labs to test for coronavirus using automated systems to better monitor and contain the spread of COVID-19 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

During a novel coronavirus briefing, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the state will provide alcohol-based hand sanitizer to New Yorkers free of charge. To help combat price-gouging and ensure New Yorkers have access to this vital prevention method, the state will produce up to 100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer each week in 1.7 oz., 7 oz. and gallon bottles. The hand sanitizer will be made available to residents free of charge, and distribution will be prioritized by the most impacted and high risk communities, including the New Rochelle community, and state agencies, including the MTA.

Governor Cuomo also confirmed 37 additional cases of novel coronavirus in New York State since his last update from Sunday, bringing the statewide total to 142 confirmed cases.

The Governor also announced the New York State Department of Health will work with the New York State Education Department to issue guidance for schools with students, teachers or other staff who test positive for novel coronavirus. Under the policy, schools will close for an initial 24-hour period if a student or a teacher or any other staff at the school test positive for the novel coronavirus. This will allow the school to undergo disinfection, and for the State to perform an assessment of the situation and make a determination going forward in that particular school district.

Additionally, the Governor will send a program bill to the legislature today to provide paid sick leave to working New Yorkers and specifically protect those who are required to stay home from work because they are being isolated or quarantined as a result of the novel coronavirus.

“As the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus continues to rise, unscrupulous retailers are exploiting New Yorkers’ anxieties about the virus and charging exorbitant prices for hand sanitizer and other similar products,” Governor Cuomo said. “To solve this problem, the state is producing and deploying hand sanitizer to high impact areas as well as schools, the MTA and other government agencies because you can’t get it on the market and the product that is available is very expensive. The biggest problem we have in this situation is fear, not the virus itself, and I’m once again reminding everyone to focus on the facts because the facts do not warrant the level of anxiety we are seeing.”

Of the 142 total individuals in New York State who tested positive for the virus, the geographic breakdown is as follows:

Westchester: 98 (16 new cases)

New York City: 19 (7 new cases)

Nassau: 17 (12 new cases)

Rockland: 4 (2 new cases)

Saratoga: 2

Suffolk: 1

Ulster: 1

DOCCS, through its correctional industries entity known as Corcraft, will produce an alcohol-based formula recognized by the World Health Organization and has begun production at Great Meadow Correctional Facility in Comstock, Washington County, this week. Through this ongoing effort, the Department will be able to produce up to 100,000 gallons of hand sanitizer per week. Corcraft, which produces dozens of products, uses the manufacturing process to assist in the department’s overall mission to prepare offenders for release through skill development, work ethic, respect and responsibility.   

Local governments seeking to obtain additional stocks of hand sanitizer should work with their County’s Emergency Manager and local Health Department to submit requests directly into NY Responds, the state’s web-based system which enables both local governments and state agencies to submit and share vital emergency-related information and resource requests.

Reportedly, some retailers are charging approximately 10 times what major retailers charge for hand sanitizer. On eBay a pack of five 2.5-ounce Germ-X hand sanitizer bottles were selling for $500 – by comparison, two 30-ounce bottles of Germ-X were offered online by Walmart for less than $8.

The Department of Corrections and Community Supervision also began a new screening protocol for COVID-19 for visitors to each of the State’s 52 correctional facilities to help avoid the introduction of COVID-19 into the Department’s facilities. Upon arrival to the facility, visitors will be asked a series of questions regarding any illness or symptoms they may be currently experiencing; travel outside of the United States within the past four weeks, including that of family members; and any direct exposure to an individual diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in the past four weeks.

DOCCS Acting Commissioner Anthony J. Annucci said, “Between increased demand and the price gouging currently taking place in the market, there is a very real need for hand sanitizer for New York residents. DOCCS is proud to meet the Governor’s call to action and do our part in stemming the spread of COVID-19 across the state.”

Governor Andrew Cuomo, flanked by Dr. Howard A. Zucker, the state’s Health Commissioner, and Northwell Health’s CEO Michael J. Dowling at Northwell Health Laboratories on Long Island, urged CDC to allow private labs to test for coronavirus using automated systems to better monitor and contain the spread of COVID-19 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Last night, the Governor announced that Northwell Laboratories has been authorized to test under Wadsworth’s emergency use authorization. Manual testing of 75 to 80 samples per day has begun at Northwell, but automated testing still needs to be approved by the federal administration so the lab can perform thousands of tests per day. Additionally, NY Presbyterian Hospital is ready to start running 50 to 60 tests daily once it receives federal approval for testing. The Governor again today urged the federal administration to approve the use of the state’s coronavirus test by private labs, such as NY Presbyterian.

See: Cuomo Pleads with CDC to Allow Coronavirus Testing in Private Labs to Better Monitor, Contain Spread

Prevention tips from the New York State Department of Health:

While there is currently no vaccine to prevent this virus, these simple steps can help stop the spread of this and other respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

The Department of Health has additional information on COVID-19: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/coronavirus/

Cuomo Pleads with CDC to Allow Coronavirus Testing in Private Labs to Better Monitor, Contain Spread

Governor Andrew Cuomo tours Northwell Labs with Dr. Dwayne Breining, the Executive Director, Dr. Howard A. Zucker, the state’s Health Commissioner, and Northwell Health’s CEO Michael J. Dowling © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News-Photos-Features.com

Update: After tour of Northwell Labs, Governor Cuomo announced FDA approval for Northwell to test novel coronavirus: “After days of advocating the FDA and the federal government to expand testing capacity for the novel coronavirus in New York State and working with Northwell and Wadsworth to expedite the process, we just received word that Northwell Laboratories has been authorized to test under Wadsworth’s emergency use authorization. Manual testing of 75 to 80 samples per day will begin at Northwell immediately, but we still need automated testing approved so we can perform thousands per day.

“While this approval is a good first step, the FDA must increase the testing capacity for the State and private labs, because the more tests we run, the more positive people we will find and the better we can control and contain the virus. It’s one thing for the federal government not to have the testing capacity in place themselves – that was bad enough – but there’s no excuse for them not to be authorizing existing labs to do the work.” 

New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo took the Center for Disease Control and federal government to task for failing to authorize private laboratories to test for the coronavirus, and for failing to authorize automated testing which could increase exponentially the number of people tested.

Testing is critical to finding people infected with the coronavirus in order to contain the spread of the infection, he said during a tour of Northwell Health Laboratories on Long Island, where as many as 1000 tests could be done a day using state-of-the-art automated testing devices which can analyze as many as 120 samples at one time.

Northwell’s laboratory is the most sophisticated lab in New York State and one of the most advanced in the nation. But  as yet, CDC  has not authorized private labs to do the tests, and has not authorized the automated testing systems that Northwell has, Cuomo said.

Governor Andrew Cuomo, flanked by Dr. Howard A. Zucker, the state’s Health Commissioner, and Northwell Health’s CEO Michael J. Dowling at Northwell Health Laboratories on Long Island, urged CDC to allow private labs to test for coronavirus using automated systems to better monitor and contain the spread of COVID-19 © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“CDC has not authorized the use of this lab, which is just outrageous and ludicrous,” the Governor scolded. “CDC, wake up, let the state’s test. Let private labs test. Let’s increase as quickly as possible our testing capacity so we identify the positive people so we can isolate them and we’re successful in our containment.”

The state is “continuing to test people and are working with hospitals and local governments to give them the resources they need to contain the spread of this virus,” Governor Cuomo said. “We mobilized quickly but the federal government has been slow off the mark and they continue to be slow. That’s unacceptable – we need them to approve these private labs today so we can stay ahead of this evolving situation. Worse than the virus right now is the fear pandemic – and getting these additional facilities online will ensure we have more facts that will help keep people calm.”

The Northwell Lab on Long Island would be the first private lab in the state to handle coronavirus testing.

“This is an extraordinary facility,” the Governor said, flanked by his state Health Commissioner Howard A. Zucker, and Northwell Health CEO Michael J. Dowling.

“We are trying to contain spread of virus and to do that, we are testing as many as possible, to  find the positives and isolate them.” If the spread of infection is not contained, he warned, more disastrous measures, such as China and Italy have been forced to undertake – massive quarantines of millions of people – “would be very disruptive to society and the economy.”

Cuomo said that the level of fear surrounding coronavirus (the disease associated with the virus is COVID-19) is unwarranted. “There is more fear, anxiety than facts would justify. This isn’t Ebola, or SARS. This is a virus we have a lot of information on. Johns Hopkins has been tracking 100,000 cases and what happens.”

Most people who become infected will experience mild symptoms like a cold or flu and can recover at home. But for vulnerable populations – the elderly, people who have medical conditions – the disease is dangerous and can be deadly.

The best “weapon” against the disease is to reduce situations that create density.

Cuomo said he is speaking with business leaders across the state to encourage them to offer liberal sick leave so that people who are sick, who feel symptoms, stay home but are still paid; he also is encouraging businesses as well as state and local government offices,  to stagger workers in shifts if possible; and to allow work-at-home where feasible.

Individuals also have a role in keeping themselves safe, he said – wash hands frequently, don’t shake hands, just as in any flu season. He advises people who take mass transit to let a train pass if the cars are too packed, and to move to less crowded cars.  “Reduce density, proximity.”

The single best thing government can do is to test. “The more positives we identify, the more we can isolate to stop the spread.”

The Governor confirmed 16 additional cases of novel coronavirus in New York State since his last update yesterday, bringing the statewide total to 105 confirmed cases on Sunday morning. Of the new cases, 12 are in Westchester County, one in New York City in the Bronx, one in Nassau, one in Suffolk, and one in Ulster.

Of the 105 total individuals in New York State who tested positive for the virus, 82 are in Westchester; 12 are in New York City; five are in Nassau; one in Suffolk; two in Rockland; one in Ulster and two in Saratoga counties.

Cuomo criticized the CDC for being unprepared, even as the outbreak became clear in China by December (“It is delusional not to expect people to come from China”), and only recently allowing states to do their own testing. New York has the Wadsworth lab, but now is asking the CDC to authorize the state to utilize private labs, like Northwell Laboratories.

Technicians at the $60 million Northwell Laboratory on Long Island, the most sophisticated private lab in the state and one of the most advanced in the country. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Not to be using this laboratory, not to be using the other private labs around the state makes no sense whatsoever. Not to be using automated testing, which means rather than a person manually handling a test tube and a test, the machines we saw that handle 120 samples at a time place them in a machine, the machine runs the test. Of course you should be using that technology. And it’s one thing for the CDC not to have the testing capacity in place themselves, but that was bad enough. For the CDC not to be authorizing existing labs to do the work, there’s no excuse for that.” 

Cuomo also criticized the federal government for creating unnecessary confusion, which fuels fear. “The President of the United States says anyone who wants a test can have a test. Vice President of the United States says we don’t have the testing capacity. People say, how can you say both things? You can’t say both things. We don’t have the testing capacity that we need. Not everyone who wants a test can have a test.

“We have to prioritize the people who get the tests to fit our capacity, right. You can’t ask more people to come in and get tested until you know you have the capacity to test them. The number of people coming in for a test must equal the number of tests you can perform. That’s why in New York we have a standard protocol that’s in place all across the state, prioritizing who can get tested to fit our testing capacity. 

A state of the art machine like this at Northwell Labs, Long Island, automates the analysis of 120 test samples at one time, vastly increasing the capacity to test individuals suspected of carrying the coronavirus © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Once we increase our testing capacity and we can perform more tests, then we can change the prioritization of those people coming in for the tests. We have a statewide protocol because we don’t want people shopping tests. I don’t want someone from Nassau driving to Suffolk, driving to Manhattan, driving to Westchester because you have different rules on who can get a test. Everyone, everywhere in this state has the same rules, doesn’t matter where you go. Hopefully, the CDC acts responsibly and acts quickly and we raise the capacity, we bring a great facility like this online with the automated testing. We can then get testing per day to about 1000 tests. And then we can calibrate the prioritization to the capacity.”

The $60 million Northwell Laboratory on Long Island, is the most sophisticated private lab in the state and one of the most advanced in the country. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

 The Governor also addressed price gouging, which is happening across the state and the nation, “symptomatic of fear.”

“It’s unethical, exploitative of fear and illegal,” he said. “To make a few extra bucks on hand sanitizer, they would jeopardize their license to do business. There is an increased penalty for price gouging.” He said that consumers can call a hot line, that state police  are investigating and the state Attorney General has the power to prosecute.

The state’s Division of Consumer Protection has created an online consumer complaint form, where New Yorkers can report suspected price gouging or concerns about improper delivery of quantity. (Consumers who wish to file a complaint can visit https://www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/.)

Also, travel insurance companies and travel agents will offer New York residents and businesses the ability to purchase coverage when making travel plans that would allow them to cancel a trip for any reason, including for reasons related to COVID-19.

The Department of Financial Services issued guidance allowing travel agents and travel insurers to offer this type of coverage after DFS received consumer complaints that such polices were not available in New York State. This new action is designed to provide reassurance to New York businesses and residents who are seeking to make plans that may involve travel to locations that are not currently under travel advisories due to COVID-19.

Six global and national insurance companies have agreed to offer “cancel for any reason” coverage to travelers, including: Allianz, Nationwide, Starr Indemnity, Berkshire, Crum & Forster, and Zurich.

DFS also directed New York State travel insurance issuers to proactively reach out to individuals and businesses who bought their policies to let them know what is covered. (Read a copy of the DFS Insurance Guidance Letter)

Yesterday, the Governor announced that he declared a state of emergency to help New York more quickly and effectively contain the spread of the virus. The state of emergency declaration allows, among other things:

Expedited procurement of cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer and other essential resources

Allowing qualified professionals other than doctors and nurses to conduct testing

Expedited procurement of testing supplies and equipment

Expedited personnel onboarding

Expedited leasing of lab space

Allowing EMS personnel to transport patients to quarantine locations other than just hospitals

Providing clear basis for price gouging and enforcement investigation   

 “We do not want to have to do massive close downs, massive quarantines, and we don’t want members of the vulnerable population getting sick. That is why we are doing what we are doing,” Cuomo said.

“So in sum, CDC let’s move, authorize the State to authorize private labs, get this most sophisticated lab in the State, one of the most sophisticated labs in the country, get this lab to work. Why you wouldn’t makes absolutely no sense.

“And to New Yorkers, we understand the facts. Keep this in perspective. We don’t want a lot of people getting this virus. We don’t want to take more drastic measures. But, if you get the virus, you will get sick, you will recover, you most likely won’t even go to the hospital. And the only the people who we really have to worry about are the vulnerable populations – senior citizens, people with compromised immune systems.

“So keep it all in perspective. I know there’s a whole frenzy about it, the facts do not justify the frenzy, period. The biggest problem we have in this situation is fear, not the virus. The virus we can handle. It’s the fear. And the fear is just unwarranted.”

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© 2020 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures. ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

Democratic Race for 2020: Sanders Issues ‘Reproductive Health Care and Justice for All’ Plan

Senator Bernie Sanders has released his “Reproductive Health Care and Justice for All” plan. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. In what can be described as an love letter to Senator Elizabeth Warren’s supporters, Senator Bernie Sanders has released his “Reproductive Health Care and Justice for All” plan. But you decide how many of these provisions would ever be enacted. This is from the Sanders campaign:

WASHINGTON – Senator Bernie Sanders released a major tenet of his presidential platform: Reproductive Health Care and Justice for All. The latest policy plan builds on the Senator’s wide-ranging agenda for quality and affordable health care for all people. The plan centers on two primary prongs — ensuring universal and affordable access to reproductive health care, and a comprehensive action plan to address the crisis of maternal mortality in communities of color across the country. 

“There has been no time in the history of this country when women, especially Black women, have had the reproductive freedom and justice that they deserve. In my administration, that will finally change,” said Senator Bernie Sanders. “We must once and for all put an end to the unacceptable crisis of Black maternal mortality, and ensure every woman in this country — no matter where they’re from — has the basic right to quality healthcare.”

Sen. Sanders continued, “When I am in the White House, we will fight back against the Republican assault on abortion rights across this country and defend a woman’s fundamental right to control her own body. As President, there will be no doubt that in the United States of America, abortion is a constitutional right. Period.”

The Reproductive Health Care and Justice for All plan reflects the fact that issues of justice must be addressed holistically and intersectionally. The plan will be implemented in tandem with a comprehensive, progressive agenda to end racial disparities in our economic, criminal justice, environmental, education, and health care systems.  

The full and detailed plan can be found here. The following is a summary of key policies and action items as part of Reproductive Health Care and Justice for All.

As President, Bernie Sanders will:

Use executive authority to reverse President Trump’s anti-choice actions.  

Codify Roe v. Wade in legislative statute, require all judicial nominees to support Roe v. Wade as settled law, and require preclearance for state abortion laws to ensure that state laws do not impose undue restrictions and barriers for abortion services.  

Protect and expand funding for Planned Parenthood, and repeal the Hyde and Helms Amendments.  

Ban state Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws that put undue and unnecessary burdens and regulations on doctors who provide abortion services with the goal of restricting access.  

Ensure anti-choice crisis pregnancy centers do not receive federal funds.  

Ensure that all communities have access to nearby abortion care.   

Make birth control available over-the-counter, in addition to free under Medicare for All.  

Ban ineffective abstinence-only sex education.  

Increase access to and funding for reproductive services and facilities in communities of color, eliminate “contraceptive deserts,” and increase funding to hospitals where Black mothers and parents receive care.  

Work with women of color-led community organizations to develop and coordinate policy.    

Educate health care providers and medical school students on providing culturally competent care.  

Ban discrimination by health care providers, and provide a right of action for patients discriminated against.  

Establish standard protocols to rapidly address postpartum hemorrhage, a leading cause of maternal mortality in Black women.  

Require hospitals that receive federal funding to hire culturally competent care liaisons to field complaints, and provide training to all labor and delivery staff, including nurses, doctors, and clerks.
 

Ensure there are sufficient OBGYN physicians, midwives, lactation consultants and doulas in medically underserved communities of color.   

Create and expand programs for Black maternal mortality liaisons, patient advocates, care coordinators, and social workers at hospitals serving at-risk women of color.  

Expand the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program for pregnant mothers, infants, and children.  

Democratic Race for 2020: Biden Issues Plan to End Opioid Crisis, Ensure Access to Treatment and Recovery

Vice President Joe Biden, running for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, has released his plan for ending the opioid crisis and ensuring access to effective treatment and recovery for substance use disorders. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The vigorous contest of Democrats seeking the 2020 presidential nomination has produced excellent policy proposals to address major issues. Vice President Joe Biden has released his plan for ending the opioid crisis and ensuring access to effective treatment and recovery for substance use disorders. This is from the Biden Campaign:

Millions of families are impacted by the opioid crisis. It’s ravaging communities coast to coast, from New Hampshire to California. The challenge of substance use disorders is not limited to opioids. Millions of individuals are affected by misuse of other substances such as alcohol or methamphetamine. Latest estimates indicate that, in 2018, almost 68,000 Americans died from a drug overdose – almost 47,000 of which involved an opioid. And, the impacts of this crisis reverberate in our classrooms and neighborhoods, in small towns and big cities.
 
Biden will tackle this crisis by making sure people have access to high quality health care – including substance use disorder treatment and mental health services. That’s what Obamacare did by designating substance use disorder treatment and mental health services as essential benefits that insurers must cover, and by expanding Medicaid, the nation’s largest payer for mental health services which also plays an increasingly growing role as a payer for substance use disorder services.
 
But President Trump wants to repeal Obamacare, including its Medicaid expansion. Repeal would be disastrous for communities and families combating the opioid crisis. It is not realistic to think that grant money will fill the hole that eliminating Obamacare and its Medicaid expansion would create.
 
Step one of Biden’s plan to tackle the opioid epidemic and substance use disorders is to defeat Trump and then protect and build on Obamacare. And, Biden will pursue a comprehensive, public health approach to deal with opioid and other substance use disorders. His plan will:

Hold accountable big pharmaceutical companies, executives, and others responsible for their role in triggering the opioid crisis.

Make effective prevention, treatment, and recovery services available to all, including through a $125 billion federal investment.

Stop overprescribing while improving access to effective and needed pain management.

Reform the criminal justice system so that no one is incarcerated for drug use alone.

Stem the flow of illicit drugs, like fentanyl and heroin, into the United States – especially from China and Mexico.


HOLD ACCOUNTABLE BIG PHARMA COMPANIES, EXECUTIVES, AND OTHERS RESPONSIBLE FOR THEIR ROLE IN TRIGGERING THE OPIOID CRISIS
 
Biden will demand accountability from pharmaceutical companies and others responsible for the opioid crisis, including manufacturers, distributors, and “pill mill operators.” Pharmaceutical executives should be held personally responsible, including criminally liable where appropriate. Specifically, Biden will:

Direct the U.S. Justice Department to make actions that spurred this crisis a top investigative and, where appropriate, civil and criminal enforcement priority. Biden will make sure the Department has all the necessary resources to complete this work. Building on the efforts of the Obama-Biden Administration, Biden will also ensure the Food and Drug Administration takes action when new information reveals harms from previously approved drugs (including the risk of diversion, or the use of drugs by an individual other than the one to whom the drug was prescribed), ensures compliance with risk mitigation strategies, and punishes drug companies for deceptive practices. And, he will appoint an Opioid Crisis Accountability Coordinator to coordinate efforts across federal agencies and support the enforcement efforts of state and local partners.

Direct the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to step up its efforts to identify suspicious shipments and protect communities. Opioids distributors knowingly shipped millions of pills to towns with hundreds of residents, helping trigger the opioid epidemic. Biden will empower the DEA to stop drug shipments from pharmaceutical companies and their distributors that create risks of diversion and misuse. Biden will work with Congress to allow the DEA to act expeditiously when a pharmaceutical distributor fails to adequately monitor shipments that could pose an “imminent danger” to vulnerable communities and increase penalties for companies that fail to take action to stop suspicious shipments. In addition, Biden will direct the DEA to improve data collection on wholesalers and pharmacies, including prescribing patterns and suspicious order reports, and to disseminate its analysis to distributors to prevent problems before they become disasters.

Ban drug manufacturers from providing payments or incentives to physicians and other prescribers. Pharmaceutical companies work hard to persuade doctors and other medical personnel to prescribe their products. These companies essentially pay providers to prescribe opioids and other drugs by, for example, paying providers to speak at or attend conferences, or consult for their companies. By banning these practices, Biden will ensure that patients’ lives do not take a backseat to doctors’ bottom lines.

Terminating pharmaceutical corporations’ tax break for advertisement spending. Drug corporations spent an estimated $6 billion in 2016 alone on prescription drug advertisements to increase their sales, a more than four-fold increase from just $1.3 billion in 1997. The American Medical Association has even expressed “concerns among physicians about the negative impact of commercially driven promotions, and the role that marketing costs play in fueling escalating drug prices.” Currently, drug corporations may count spending on these ads as a deduction to reduce the amount of taxes they owe. But taxpayers should not have to foot the bill for these ads. As President, Biden will end this tax deduction for all prescription drug ads, as proposed by Senator Jeanne Shaheen.

 
MAKE EFFECTIVE PREVENTION, TREATMENT, AND RECOVERY SERVICES AVAILABLE TO ALL WHO NEED THEM
 
Biden has long recognized and led on efforts to make clear that substance use disorders are diseases, not a lifestyle choice, and that we need to change how we talk about and treat substance use disorders to align with this fact.
 
He knows that the most important step we can take to address substance use disorders is to ensure that Americans have access to affordable, high-quality health care, including treatment for mental illnesses and substance use disorder. That’s why Biden has plan to build on the Affordable Care Act and achieve universal coverage. In addition, Biden will redouble efforts to ensure insurance companies stop discriminating against people with behavioral health conditions and instead provide the coverage for treatment of mental illness and substance use disorders that patients and families need. Congress passed a bipartisan parity law 12 years ago requiring that this discrimination stop, but the enforcement of parity has been insufficient. As Vice President, Biden championed efforts to implement the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. As President, he will finish the job by appointing officials who will hold insurers accountable, enforcing our parity laws to the fullest extent. He will also direct federal agencies to issue guidance making clear how state officials and the public can file a complaint when their insurers – or Medicaid – are not living up to their parity obligations.
 
In addition, Biden will work to make sure that people experiencing substance use disorders have access to quality facilities and providers. As President, he will ensure that the new public option, Medicare, Medicaid, the Indian Health Service, the Military Health System, and the Veterans Health Administration accelerate integration of substance use disorder care into standard health care practice. Biden will double funding for community health centers and expand the supply of health care providers, for example by growing the National Health Service Corps. And, he will protect rural hospitals from payment cuts, give them the flexibility they need to remain open, and invest in telehealth so people in remote areas can still have access to mental health and substance use disorder specialists.

Finally, Biden will make sure federal funds are specifically targeted at improving access to treatment and recovery for opioid and other substance use disorders, and at preventing these disorders in the first place. As Vice President, Biden championed passage of the 21st Century Cures Act, which included $1 billion in funding for states to address the opioid epidemic. That was a down payment. To deal with the immense scope of the opioid and substance use disorder crisis, Biden will dramatically scale up the resources available, with an unprecedented investment of $125 billion over ten years. Funds will be used to:

Pursue comprehensive strategies to expand access to treatment, particularly in rural and urban communities with high rates of substance use disorders and a lack of access to substance use disorder treatment services. Biden will invest $75 billion in flexible grants to states and localities for prevention, treatment, and recovery efforts. State and local agencies will also be able to use funds to enhance data systems allowing them to better target resources to individuals and communities most in need of support. As a condition for receiving funding, grant recipients will have to provide long-term, comprehensive strategic plans that address the multifaceted nature of the substance use disorder crisis. Funds may be used to:

Invest in evidence-based, cost-effective prevention programs in schools and communities to reduce the development of substance use disorders.

Mitigate harms from opioid and other drug use, including overdoses. Local communities will be able to use the funds to implement evidence-based programs designed to stop the spread of diseases like hepatitis C and HIV, including syringe service programs, or to scale up innovative programs like the safe station initiative started in Manchester, New Hampshire, which allows those seeking help to go to fire stations in order to be connected to treatment and recovery services.

Expand access to ongoing treatment and recovery services. Communities will be able to use funds to increase access to substance use disorder and mental health treatment and other services to support long-term recovery, including peer support networks and recovery coaches, and better integrate primary care and behavioral health. Recognizing the strong evidence that social supports, including family support, may have a positive impact on the treatment of HIV, Biden will support the development of family-centered models for substance use disorder treatment and recovery.

Make Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) available to all who need it, reaching universal access no later than 2025. MAT (also referred to as MOUD or Medications for Opioid Use Disorder) is regarded as the gold standard of care for individuals with opioid use disorder. Yet, less than 50% of substance use disorder facilities around the country offer even one of the FDA-approved medications. The 21st Century Cures Act, legislation Biden championed as Vice President, provided resources to states designed to expand access to MAT.  Biden will build on this in order to ensure universal access to MAT for all who need it, including by:

Providing $20 billion for grants to dramatically expand capacity to administer MAT across the country, especially in underserved areas, including establishing new facilities and developing training programs to increase the number of professionals able to administer MAT.

Stopping insurance companies from erecting barriers to coverage of MAT. For example, insurers have imposed “fail first” protocols which require prescribers to certify that other therapies were tried before covering MAT. Insurers also may require that physicians obtain “prior authorization” for MAT before prescribing it.   

Removing undue restrictions on prescribing medications for substance use disorder. For example, drugs containing buprenorphine were approved by the FDA in 2002 but a relatively small number of doctors or medical personnel are certified to prescribe them. Biden will ensure that any undue restrictions on prescribing are lifted and review methadone treatment regulations.

Help first responders and community health providers respond to overdoses. Biden will invest $10 billion to provide local communities with the tools needed to prevent overdoses and respond to emergencies emanating from this crisis. 

Ensure local communities have a sufficient supply of overdose prevention drugs. Naloxone (also known as Narcan) is a medication that can reverse an opioid overdose, making it a critical tool in the fight to save lives. Biden will expand grants to states for the purchase of Naloxone to be distributed to local community actors called upon to respond to overdoses, including first responders, public health providers, and the staff at homeless shelters and public libraries.

Demand that drug companies charge a fair price for overdose drugs, including Naloxone. The Biden Administration will aggressively negotiate a reduction in the drug’s price, on behalf of the federal government, and state and local communities.

Support first responders. Police officers and firefighters are often the first on the scene of an overdose. Biden will ensure they are equipped not just with naloxone, but also with the mental health and resilience support anyone would need after being exposed again and again to such trauma.

Invest in community-based prevention programs and a major public education effort to eliminate the stigma surrounding substance use disorder treatment. Biden will invest $5 billion in community-based prevention efforts and public education initiatives including training educators to recognize the signs of mental health problems and substance use disorders and refer them to appropriate services. Funds will also support evidence-based education programs for young people on mental health and substance use disorders.

Expand the pipeline of medical personnel to treat substance use disorders. Building on legislation like the Opioid Workforce Act of 2019, Biden will work with Congress to invest $5 billion to expand medical residencies and access to education and training for medical personnel in substance use disorder diagnosis and treatment. Funding will support training for primary care providers, as well as other members of the health care team, to build an integrated system of care.

Invest in research by doubling funding for the NIH HEAL (Helping to End Addiction Long-Term) Initiative. This $10 billion investment will support efforts to improve treatments for chronic pain.

Provide targeted interventions for particular populations. Biden will invest $10 billion in efforts specifically designed to support populations with unique situations or needs. Biden will ensure a portion of this funding for state and local governments is set aside for Tribal governments. In addition to expanding veterans’ access to substance use disorder and mental health treatment, Biden will direct his Secretary of Veterans Affairs to ensure VA medical personnel are sufficiently trained in safe prescribing practices and pain treatment. Biden will call upon the public health and criminal justice systems to provide evidence-based substance use disorder treatment, including MAT, for people during their incarceration and after their release. Finally, Biden will expand investments to help children suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome or Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome, and to ensure their mothers have access to effective treatment and care.


STOP OVERPRESCRIBING WHILE IMPROVING ACCESS TO EFFECTIVE AND NEEDED PAIN MANAGEMENT
 
An essential part of our national strategy to address the opioid epidemic must be stopping pharmaceutical companies’ practices that lead to overprescribing. Yet at the same time, physicians still must effectively treat pain. Chronic pain is a growing public health challenge with wide-ranging impacts: keeping individuals out of the workforce, negatively affecting their mental and physical health, contributing to suicidal ideation, and otherwise limiting their quality of life. Biden believes we need to pursue two joint goals: eliminate overprescribing of prescription opioids for pain, and improve the effectiveness of and access to alternative treatment for pain. Biden will:

Support development of less addictive pain medications and alternative pain treatments, and improve standards of quality for treatment. We need pain medications that are less addictive and more effective. Biden will invest in NIH research to develop these new medications. By doubling funding for NIH’s HEAL program, Biden will accelerate research regarding alternative treatments and therapies and help providers and patients better understand the options and access alternatives. And, he will direct the FDA to give priority to new pain medications with a documented reduced risk of addiction. 

Expand coverage for alternative pain treatments. As documented in a recent study related to back pain, some non-pharmacological pain interventions (e.g., psychological counseling, acupuncture, physical therapy, or occupational therapy) are not consistently covered or have administrative barriers to coverage (e.g., pre-authorization, visit limits). In accordance with evidence-based medicine, Biden will call for a requirement that Medicare, Medicaid, his proposed new public option, and private insurance companies consistently and transparently cover alternatives to opioids for chronic pain, without barriers such as prior authorization or high levels of cost-sharing.

Crack down on misleading advertising regarding substance use disorder treatment facilities with no basis in evidence. Biden will ensure that the Federal Trade Commission and the FDA act when companies try to mislead. He will appoint leaders of both agencies who will make this a key priority.

Provide training to medical personnel in pain management and substance use disorder treatment. Building on the Obama-Biden Administration’s prior efforts, Biden will direct the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to work with the medical community to support research and the development of curricula and training regarding pain management. He will ensure that the systematic study of pain management and substance use disorder is a mandatory part of the curricula and material on which doctors and other medical personnel are tested. Those seeking a federal DEA license to prescribe controlled substances will be required to receive training on proper prescribing guidelines and pain management.

Expand the effectiveness of monitoring programs designed to prevent inappropriate overprescribing of opioids. Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs) are electronic databases designed to prevent drug abuse. For example, a provider can check the database before prescribing in order to determine whether his or her patient has been getting the same prescription from multiple providers. In order to receive any of the $125 billion in new grants under the Biden Administration, states will have to institute a requirement that every prescriber checks the database every time they write a new opioid prescription. Biden will also set aside some of these grant dollars to ensure states improve Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs data-sharing across state lines.

Ensure regular updating of the Centers for Disease the Control and Prevention (CDC) prescriber guideline based on the best available evidence. The CDC has issued a guideline to help prescribers make evidence-based decisions regarding when and how to prescribe opioids in order to minimize the risk of abuse while also effectively treating pain. Biden will ask the CDC to commit to regularly updating these guidelines as new evidence emerges regarding opioid abuse risk factors and alternative pain treatments. And, he will partner with health care providers and states to maximize providers’ awareness and use of the guideline.

 
REFORM THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM SO THAT NO ONE IS INCARCERATED FOR DRUG USE ALONE
 
Biden has released a criminal justice plan that will strengthen America’s commitment to justice and reform our criminal justice system by building a system focused on redemption and rehabilitation. Biden believes that no one should be incarcerated for drug use alone, and as President he will treat drug use as a disease rather than a crime. Specifically, Biden will:

End all incarceration for drug use alone and instead divert individuals to drug courts and treatment. Biden will require federal courts to divert these individuals to drug courts so they receive appropriate treatment and services. He’ll incentivize states to put the same requirements in place. And, he’ll expand funding for federal, state, and local drug courts and other programs that divert individuals who commit crimes as a result of or in furtherance of substance use disorders to treatment rather than incarceration. 

Get people who should be supported with social services – instead of in our prisons  – connected to the help they need. Too often, those in need of mental health care or treatment for a substance use disorder do not get the care that they need. Instead, they end up having interactions with law enforcement that lead to incarceration. To change the nature of these interactions, the Biden Administration will fund initiatives to partner mental health and substance use disorder experts, social workers, and disability advocates with police departments. These service providers will respond to calls with police officers so individuals who should not be in the criminal justice system are diverted to treatment for substance use disorder or mental illness, when appropriate, or are provided with the housing or other social services they may need.

Read more about Biden’s plan to reform the criminal justice system at https://joebiden.com/justice/.
 
STEM THE FLOW OF ILLICIT DRUGS LIKE FENTANYL, ESPECIALLY FROM CHINA AND MEXICO
 
As part of a comprehensive agenda that prioritizes prevention, treatment, recovery, and harm reduction, Biden believes that part of the solution to the opioid crisis involves preventing bad actors from smuggling opioids and other illicit drugs into our country. Specifically, Biden will:

Make fentanyl a top priority in our dealings with China. The Treasury Department has already sanctioned a small number of Chinese nationals in connection with fentanyl – it’s a good start, but going after individuals will not alter Beijing’s thinking long-term. Biden will pressure Beijing to crack down on illicit fentanyl production in China and stem the flow of the drug into the United States. Biden will also develop regional strategies in the Asia-Pacific and the Americas to deal with shifts in the routes and sources of fentanyl in response to a Chinese crackdown.

Enhance cooperation with Mexican authorities to disrupt the movement of heroin and fentanyl across the U.S.-Mexico border.  Chinese fentanyl is frequently transshipped through Mexico, and then smuggled across the border in pure form or combined with heroin. As China takes steps to police fentanyl and its precursors, production and distribution will increasingly shift to Mexico. Biden will pursue strong, sustained cooperation with Mexican authorities to disrupt suppliers and supply routes, including the importation of precursor chemicals from China. The Biden Administration will also provide technical assistance to enhance the Mexican Post Service’s (SEPOMEX) ability to detect and electronically track shipments of fentanyl and precursors that come through Mexico. As President, Biden will repair the damage to U.S.-Mexico ties inflicted by Donald Trump and develop a common agenda with Mexico that looks beyond our shared border to promote our shared prosperity and protect U.S. national security interests.

Enforce sanctions on international actors engaged in the trafficking of illicit drugs like heroin and fentanyl. Biden’s Treasury Department sanctions team will map the financial institutions and networks that facilitate the distribution of fentanyl and key precursors and develop sanctions packages based on that evidence and task the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to support these efforts with a focus on illicit finance.

Increase cooperation among global law enforcement agencies. Biden will direct U.S. law enforcement agencies to work closely with foreign counterparts, share threat information, and use technology to assist in tracking and seizing illicit shipments.

Ensure federal agencies have the tools and resources they need to stop the flow of fentanyl from abroad. Fentanyl producers have exploited gaps in monitoring through the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) to flood the U.S. with the deadly product. Biden will give the USPS the tools and resources it needs to carry out that mandate and disrupt the large supplies of fentanyl that are sent through the mail system, working with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. In addition, the vast majority of opioids and fentanyl are shipped through legal ports of entry—not in between them. Rather than waste resources building a wall or tearing families apart, Biden will direct resources to the ports of entry to interdict opioid shipments there.

Combating the Opioid Epidemic and Substance Use Disorders, Paid for By Making Sure Pharma Pays Its Fair Share
 
Biden’s $125 billion investment in a comprehensive response to the opioid epidemic and substance use disorders is paid for by raising taxes on the profits of pharmaceutical corporations.

Coronavirus Pandemic: Warren Outlines Decisive Plan to Keep American Families Healthy & Stabilize Economy

Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to take decisive action on the coronavirus pandemic to both keep American families healthy and stabilize the economy. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

In contrast with the disjointed, chaotic, ineffective, politicized handling to stem the coronavirus pandemic offered by the Trump Administration still more concerned about the stock market than lives (Trump suggested a new benchmark, that since as many as 65,000 people die each year from seasonal flu – “Who knew? I find that amazing” – that anything less would be considered victory), every Democratic candidate to replace Trump has demonstrated more effective leadership. Trump has honed in on pushing the Federal Reserve to lower interest rates, and for further tax cuts which will do nothing to address the actual global economic impacts of a pandemic – curtailed production and consumer demand as well as general business uncertainty –  Senator Elizabeth Warren released her plan to take decisive action to both keep American families healthy and stabilize the economy. This is from the Warren campaign:

Charlestown, MA – Today, Elizabeth Warren released her plan to take decisive action to keep American families healthy and stabilize our economy as the virus spreads. 

Elizabeth Warren’s plan will: 

Ensure that every American — including the millions of Americans who are uninsured — can get all recommended evaluation and care for coronavirus for free, including any recommended coronavirus vaccine once it is developed.

Create an emergency paid leave program so that anyone who meets the CDC’s description of relevant symptoms of coronavirus or is exposed and placed under quarantine can get fully paid time off of work to consult a doctor and recover—or provide care to a family member or other dependent who requires it.

Enact at least a $400 billion fiscal stimulus package to head off the potential economic impact of coronavirus.

Elizabeth discussed these concrete solutions to the coming economic shocks of coronavirus at a town hall in Houston over the weekend. The plan released today builds on her comprehensive plan to prevent, contain, and treat infectious diseases outbreaks like coronavirus she released more than four weeks ago — before any of the other candidates, or the incumbent in the White House.
 
Read her plan here and below.
 
Protecting our People and our Economy from Coronavirus
 
Coronavirus is a public health emergency and a serious threat to the American economy. While it’s important that our leaders communicate calmly and clearly about the situation to avoid unnecessary panic, it’s just as important that we take decisive action to keep American families healthy and stabilize our economy as the virus spreads.
 
Coronavirus is already hitting other countries hard. Major cities in China have been effectively shut down for weeksJapan just announced that it was closing schools for about a monthThe number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Italy, Iran, and South Korea continues to grow.
 
And now coronavirus is here. This weekend, the U.S. experienced its first death from the virus and there are at least two coronavirus cases of apparent local origin in California, two in Washington, and one in Oregon. Firms like Amazon have suspended non-essential employee travel in the United States and US film and TV productions have cancelled or suspended shoots. 
 
Weeks ago, I was the first presidential candidate to put out a plan to address the public health effects of coronavirus. And with Republicans insisting that we cut spending elsewhere to cover the cost of coronavirus response, I introduced a bill in the Senate to immediately move the billions of dollars taxpayers are spending on Donald Trump’s useless border wall to coronavirus preparedness instead.
 
But it’s clear that we must do even more to contain the spread of the virus and to address the economic damage it is creating. The Dow Jones dropped nearly 12% last week — its worst week since the 2008 financial crisis — but the plummeting stock market is just the tip of the iceberg. Small businesses that rely on overseas production are suffering. American exporters in agriculture and forestry are losing access to valuable overseas marketsTourism is down sharply.
 
Supply chain disruptions due to halted production in China and elsewhere will ripple through the economy for months, especially in critical industries like automobiles and electronics. And coronavirus has exposed a critical weakness in our drug supply chain. Active pharmaceutical ingredients are the chemical components of drugs that make them work—and a significant portion of them are manufactured in China, which means supply chain disruption may eventually cause drug shortages in the U.S.
 
Analysts now project that American companies will generate zero earnings growth in 2020 because of coronavirus. And if the coronavirus reaches global pandemic levels, experts predict that it could lead to a recession in the US and across the globe.
 
The Trump Administration response has been a mess. The President has put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of coordinating the response — the same man who ignored scientific experts and presided over a public health emergency as Governor of Indiana. Instead of buckling down and working on our response after being put in charge, Pence promptly spoke at a right-wing conference and jetted off to Florida for a Republican fundraiser. Meanwhile, the Trump Administration appears to have no ideas for dealing with the widespread economic effects of coronavirus except more tax cuts.
 
I rang the warning bells for years before the 2008 crisis. Quicker action during the Bush Administration could have reduced the severity of the crisis — or averted it entirely. While we still don’t know the full scope of the public health and economic impact of coronavirus, and even further actions may be necessary in upcoming months, we should take the following steps right now to limit the spread of the virus and get ahead of its economic impact:

Ensure that every American — including the millions of Americans who are uninsured — can get all recommended evaluation and care for coronavirus for free, including any recommended coronavirus vaccine once it is developed.

Create an emergency paid leave program so that anyone presenting with the symptoms of coronavirus, or who has a family member or other dependent presenting with the symptoms of coronavirus, can get fully paid time off of work to see a doctor, get treatment, or provide care.

Enact at least a $400 billion fiscal stimulus package to head off the potential economic impact of coronavirus.

  Ensuring Every American Can Get Free Care for Coronavirus
 

The request for emergency supplemental funding put forward by Senate Democrats is a good proposal. I strongly support it. But I believe we must also do more.
 
Paying for CareDonald Trump has spent years ripping health coverage away from millions. As deductibles soar, many Americans must pay full price for care until months into a new plan year, as they wait for their insurance to kick in. People without coverage often do not seek the care they need and those with high deductibles delay important care. And for those who are put under federally mandated quarantines, thousands of dollars in medical bills may plunge them into a serious financial crisis. Millions of Americans choosing not to seek care because of cost concerns will worsen the public health and economic effects of coronavirus.
 
Medicare for All will prevent this kind of problem in the future. But in the short term, facing a potential outbreak, we must ensure that every person in this country can talk to a doctor if they think they might have coronavirus—and get the recommended testing and care they need if they do.
 
If other countries’ experiences are an indication, most people who contract the virus will need simple, supportive primary care and to stay isolated to prevent further spread. But it’s important that those who become acutely ill can seek the more advanced care they need.
 
Our response must ensure that every person in this country can get recommended evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment for coronavirus for free. Congress should dedicate sufficient funding to reimburse health care providers and hospitals for uncompensated care relating to coronavirus. This fund should also be large enough to cover the costs of government mandated quarantines or isolation for patients who cannot afford any bills that it may generate. Congress should also require that insurers fully cover all recommended care for coronavirus, including appropriate evaluation, diagnostic testing, and treatment.
 
What does my plan mean for you? It means that you could get all recommended medical advice and care for coronavirus for free—regardless of whether you have hit your deductible, whether you’re on Medicare or Medicaid, or have no insurance at all.
 
Ensuring Hospital and Health System Capacity. Because of the way coronavirus spreads, many more people will be exposed to it than we saw with Zika or Ebola. That means our health system will see a surge in demand for basic primary care and diagnostic screenings in the midst of an already brutal flu season that has stretched hospitals’ capacity. To address the likely increase in people seeking medical evaluation and treatment for coronavirus, Congress should provide a temporary surge in funding for Federally Qualified Health Centers, Community Health Centers, Rural Health Clinics, and safety-net hospitals to increase their capacity.
 
Ensuring Access to Vaccines and Other Medical Countermeasures. We must increase federal investment in developing a coronavirus vaccine and ensure that every person who needs the vaccine can get it at no personal cost. As we did during the outbreak of H1N1 (the “swine flu”), the government should guarantee that it will purchase a bulk quantity of the eventual vaccine for coronavirus. This will create an incentive for the private sector to develop it quickly and ensure manufacturers of sufficient demand.
 
We must also ensure — either under existing laws or through new congressional action — that health insurance companies and federal health programs cover any recommended coronavirus vaccine with no cost sharing, similar to the H1N1 vaccines from 2009The government can also distribute the vaccines to vulnerable populations and provide them for free to the uninsured. In the event that a private sector manufacturer wants to charge an outrageous price for the vaccine once it is developed, the government should contract for its manufacture or invoke compulsory licensing as I have called for in other drug pricing contexts, and as the government threatened to do during the 2001 anthrax scare.
 
Together, these actions will ensure that every American can get the vital medical advice and care they need for coronavirus for free. That is not only the moral thing to do, it limits the spread of the disease and keeps us all safer.
 
Guaranteeing Every American Fully Paid Emergency Leave for Coronavirus Testing and Recovery
 
America’s shameful lack of national paid leave and sick days will worsen the spread of coronavirus. People who feel sick will go into work anyway, afraid of losing their jobs or the pay they badly need. Parents may feel compelled to work even as their kids or their elderly relatives might need medical attention. Research shows that mandated paid leave and sick days dramatically reduce the spread of diseases.
 
Congress must act to pass Senator Gillibrand’s FAMILY Act, which would provide up to twelve weeks per year of paid leave to all workers to care for themselves and their loved ones in case of serious medical issues or the welcoming of a new child. As President, I will fight to make this policy the law. But in the face of a public health crisis, we can’t wait — and should immediately make cash assistance available to people who need time off because of coronavirus through an “emergency paid leave” program.
 
Here’s how it would work:

Anyone who meets the CDC’s description of relevant symptoms or is exposed and placed under quarantine — or has a family member or other dependent who meets that description — will be eligible for emergency paid leave to take time off to follow CDC’s recommended course of action, which may include self-isolation, evaluation and testing, or treatment.

Emergency paid leave will be available pursuant to CDC’s guidelines about the appropriate length of recovery and quarantine or isolation time for those who contract or are exposed to coronavirus. If a family caretaker is also required during this period, that person will also be eligible for emergency paid leave.

Anyone eligible for the program will receive emergency paid leave that fully replaces their actual wage income — up to a cap set at the 99th wage percentile. 

My emergency paid leave program will accomplish two critical goals. First, it will give people the financial peace of mind to take time off to stay home and recover or care for a loved one who  has the symptoms of coronavirus or has been exposed to it. That will help limit the spread of the disease. Second, providing access to paid leave benefits funded by the government rather than by employers during this health crisis will help stabilize businesses, who will be relieved of the burden of potentially paying large shares of their workforce for long absences.
 
Enacting At Least a $400 Billion Stimulus to Head Off the Projected Economic Effects of Coronavirus, and Announcing a Federal Reserve Emergency Lending Program
 
Experts have a variety of estimates of the potential impact of coronavirus on the American economy. They project that coronavirus will reduce US economic growth in 2020 by at least 0.2 percentage points. But they recognize that if coronavirus turns into a global pandemic — which they give a 40% likelihood — it could produce a US and global recessionAn older Congressional Budget Office analysis of the potential US economic impact of various pandemic scenarios estimated that a pandemic could reduce US economic growth by between 1% and 4.25% of GDP.
 
There is evidently much uncertainty at this time about the potential economic impact of coronavirus, but several factors weigh in favor of enacting a stimulus to counteract a more severe impact. First, the US does not have particularly strong automatic economic stabilizers compared to other industrialized countries. Second, given the extremely low cost of government borrowing now, the US has the capacity to borrow and invest at a higher return. Third, history shows that it’s often hard to pass multiple stimulus packages in succession — and it’s better that the initial package is too big rather than too small.
 
Based on those factors and the range of projections for the economic impact of coronavirus, we should immediately enact a stimulus package that represents an authorization of at least 2% of GDP, or roughly $400 billion.
 
The stimulus should focus on the following categories of spending:

Low or no-interest loans to companies of all sizes that are negatively affected by supply chain disruptions, reductions in tourism, or other temporary coronavirus-related impacts, and that will use the funds to avoid layoffs and hours reductions, not for additional executive compensation, dividends, or share buybacks.

Unemployment insurance and other direct payments to households — with exact amounts tied to unemployment levels and wage growth.

Other aid to state and local governments that may be losing revenue because of coronavirus, in order to minimize reductions in services for residents.

Jump starting our ability to make our own active pharmaceutical ingredients and their base components by establishing a strategy to support domestic manufacturers—with the ultimate goal of requiring all federal agencies that procure or reimburse for drugs (like the DOD, VA, and Medicare) to preference drugs with American-made ingredients. My legislation to allow the government to manufacture drugs would provide a strong foundation for this effort.

Green infrastructure investments, like domestically produced clean energy, that can be accomplished even with the supply chain disruptions that are likely to exist with a widespread coronavirus outbreak. 

Given the positive multiplier effect that these types of government spending have on the economy, a stimulus of this type would likely counteract a roughly 3% dip in GDP.
 
In addition, whether the Federal Reserve Board chooses to cut interest rates or not, it should announce as soon as possible — and no later than the markets opening on Monday — that it stands ready to use its emergency lending authority to create a broad-based emergency lending facility program to help real economy companies whose supply chains have been disrupted because of the coronavirus and who will use the money to do right by their workforce.
 
Companies across America are already struggling with supply chain disruptions, and we don’t want these temporary struggles to lead to widespread layoffs or for otherwise solid companies to go under. While Congress should deliver the stimulus package I described above to help these types of companies, an immediate announcement from the Fed of this type of program will give companies — and markets — confidence that the Fed is available as a lender of last resort if Congress fails to deliver, and could help avert a more severe downturn.

Read her plan here

Sanders to Trump on Coronavirus: Stop Playing Politics With Our Health and National Security

“Concern about the coronavirus continues to grow, yet the Trump administration’s response has been inadequate, misleading, and dangerous,” declared Senator Bernie Sanders after Trump appointed Mike Pence to lead the administration’s response to the pandemic. © Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday issued the following statement on the Trump administration’s response to coronavirus: 

“Concern about the coronavirus continues to grow, yet the Trump administration’s response has been inadequate, misleading, and dangerous. By picking Vice President Mike Pence to lead the administration’s response to the pandemic, Trump has not only chosen someone completely unqualified, but the president has made clear that he’s more concerned about his own politics than the health and safety of the country.

“In my view, the Trump administration must take immediate action. First, they must replace Mike Pence with an expert on pandemics and disaster response. Second, the Trump administration must stop releasing misleading, unscientific, and false information about whether the coronavirus is controlled or when it will be controlled. Third, they must immediately staff their response team with experts and scientists to help us address a pandemic based on facts – Steve Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow are political cronies, not scientists. In addition, Trump must sign the full $8.5 billion in coronavirus response funding proposed by Sen. Chuck Schumer.

“We need a president who does not play politics with our health and national security. Besides passing Medicare for All so everyone can see a doctor or get a vaccine for free, my administration will greatly expand funding for the Center for Disease Control and National Institute of Health, work with the international community, including with the World Health Organization, and invest in research and technology to make vaccines available quickly,” Sanders stated.

Sanders Heralds Study That Shows Medicare for All Would Save $450 Billion, 68,000 Lives Each Year

A new study that shows Medicare for All would save Americans $450 billion and 68,000 premature deaths a year could bolster the 2020 presidential campaigns of progressives Senator Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.

Medicare for All is ironically, considering that Americans and especially Democrats have indicated that access to affordable healthcare is their number one priority, is the issue that could sink the 2020 presidential  candidacy of progressives Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. Now Sanders is heralding a new study by epidemiologists in the medical journal The Lancet which found that Medicare for All would save Americans $450 billion and prevent 68,000 premature deaths a year. Here is Sanders’ statement:

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Saturday applauded a new study published today by a team of epidemiologists in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet, which found that Medicare for All will save Americans $450 billion and prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths each and every year.

“This study confirms that Medicare for All will save the American people $450 billion on health care costs and will prevent 68,000 unnecessary deaths – each and every year,” Sanders said. “In other words, guaranteeing health care as a human right by creating a Medicare for All system will cost substantially less than our current dysfunctional health care system. It will save working class families thousands of dollars and it will prevent tens of thousands of Americans from dying each year. While the CEOs in the pharmaceutical and health insurance industry may not like it, we will end their greed and enact Medicare for All when I am president.”

According to the study, by replacing premiums, deductibles, co-payments and out-of-pocket costs with a progressive tax system, Medicare for All will save the average family thousands of dollars each year and will provide lower-income households the greatest relief. 

Struggling hospitals serving low-income communities would be particularly helped by Medicare for All by eliminating uncompensated care, increasing Medicaid reimbursement rates to Medicare levels, and reducing administrative overhead, according to the study.

The study also debunks several attacks on Medicare for All from the private health care industry that made well over $100 billion in profits last year. Doctors and hospitals would see large savings in cost and time from streamlining our bloated and inefficient administrative and billing system, allowing doctors to spend more time with patients, the study found.

The study is the latest in a series of studies conducted over the past three decades that have found that guaranteeing universal health care through a single-payer health care system would not only dramatically improve the health and well-being of the American people, it would cost less than our current dysfunctional health care system that puts profits over people. 

Last month, another medical journal found that 19 out of 22 studies done over the past 30 years concluded that moving to a Medicare for All, single-payer health care system would cost less than our current health care system in the first year, and all of the studies showed that it would cost less within a decade of implementation.