COVID-19 to cost US hospitals $200 billion through June

The American Hospital Association (AHA), in a new report, projected a loss of $202.6 billion from COVID-19 expenses and lost revenue for US hospitals and health systems from Mar 1 to Jun 30—about $50 billion in losses each month.

"The fight against this virus has created the greatest financial crisis in history for hospitals and health systems," said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack in a press release. "While we appreciate the support and resources from Congress and the Administration, many hospitals are still on the brink."

The report took into account the cost of COVID-19 treatments, as well as canceled services and increased personal protective equipment (PPE) costs. AHA did not include increases in drug or labor costs in their analysis.

White House task force to continue 'indefinitely'

One day after Vice President Mike Pence told reporters the White House coronavirus task force would be winding down by Memorial Day, President Donald Trump tweeted that the task force would be working indefinitely as the country continues to open after a 45-day physical distancing campaign that expired on Apr 30.

On Twitter, Trump said the task force helped increase supplies of ventilators and PPE and will now shift its focus to vaccines and therapeutics.

Today the United States has 1,219,952 COVID-19 cases, according to the USA Today tracker, including 72,617 deaths.

Massachusetts requires masks as Illinois talks reopening

Both Massachusetts and Illinois have been hard hit during the current pandemic, and though both states' governors have said they will continue shelter-in-place mandates through May, the states are both grappling with how to safely reopen when the time comes.

Beginning today, all Massachusetts residents 2 years and older will be expected to wear a mask in public. The state’s order specifies a fine of up to $300 for not wearing a mask and said business owners can refuse patrons failing to wear a face covering.

Yesterday, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced his state’s five-phase reopening plan on the same day it tracked 176 deaths—the highest daily death toll in the pandemic. Pritzker's plan divides Illinois into four regions and said each region may meet phases at their own paces.

Currently, most of the state is in phase 1 or 2, with all nonessential businesses closed but some curbside retail allowed. In phase 3, groups of 10 could gather, and salons and more businesses could open. In Phase 4, schools and daycare centers will open, and groups of as many as 50 will be allowed. Phase 5—a full restoration of the economy— not happen until a vaccine is available.

According to the Chicago Tribune, as of today, the state has 68,232 cases, including 2,974 deaths.

In other moves geared towards reopening, the mayor of San Francisco announced all residents who must leave their homes to go to work can now be tested for COVID-19, whether or not they have symptoms.

Whistleblower and COVID-19 drug safety

Yesterday, Rick Bright, MD, former director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, filed a whistleblower complaint and said he was demoted to a less prestigious position after voicing concerns about the safety of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine as COVID-19 therapeutics.

In the 89-page complaint, Bright also said he urged the early stockpiling of N95 respirators but was widely ignored.

3 USDA inspectors die from COVID-19

At least 3 US Department of Agriculture (USDA) meat inspectors have died after contracting COVID-19, and another 145 have been sickened, as meat processing plants have become hotbeds of virus activity across rural America. CBS News reports another 130 field officers were in self-quarantine after being exposed to the virus.

More than 700 workers at a Tyson meatpacking plant in Perry, Iowa—58% of the plant’s employees—have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a new report from the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The USDA sent a letter to governors and stakeholders yesterday, emphasizing Trump’s decision last week to deem meat processing an essential service under the Defense Production Act.

US jails are also a source of major COVID-19 outbreaks across the country. According to a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), COVID-19 has been diagnosed in 4,893 incarcerated or detained persons, killing 88, and 2,778 facility staff members, killing 15, as of Apr 21. Prisons have unique infection-control strategies, the CDC warned, and said facilities must increase symptom tracking, cleaning, and physical distancing.

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