Free COVID-19 testing, antiviral medication and surveillance will end soon, unless Congress approves additional funding
Free COVID-19 testing, antiviral medication and surveillance will end soon, unless Congress approves additional funding

Free COVID-19 testing, antiviral medication and surveillance will end soon, unless Congress approves additional funding

Covers COVID-19 is a daily Poynter briefing of history ideas about coronavirus and other current topics for journalists, written by senior faculty Al Tompkins. Sign up here to have it delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.

COVID-19 cases are rising rapidly in the UK, Germany, Denmark, South Korea and beyond, but the US Congress has not been able to agree on new funding to monitor the virus in America.

Jeffrey D. Zients, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said, “We need this money.” He added: “This is not nice to have; this is necessary to have.”

The New York Times explains the stalemate. NPR also dives into the disagreement to explain how it might (or might not) be resolved.

This is certainly the kind of question that journalists should ask state and federal elected officials about.

The federal government says that without a new bill to rebuild COVID-19 spending, the federal programs that pay for testing, treatment, and vaccinations for people who do not have health insurance will begin winding down next week. And the White House says that without new funding, free monoclonal antibody treatments will also cease. The White House sent a letter to Congress warning:

March 22 – Uninsured program stops accepting new requirements for testing and treatment due to lack of adequate funding. Providers will no longer be able to file claims for these services to uninsured individuals, forcing providers to either absorb the costs or reject non-insured persons, increasing the difference in access to critical health care and imposing additional burdens on safety net providers.

April 5 – The Uninsured Program also stops accepting vaccination claims due to lack of adequate funding.

The federal government has no further funds for additional monoclonals, including a planned order by March 25th. To date, the federal government has been able to provide these life-saving treatments free of charge to Americans and work with states to ensure they reach as many people as possible who need them. To keep these treatments free and available to the American people for as long as possible, the administration will now have to stretch our current supply and will from next week be forced to cut government allocations of our limited existing supply of life-savers. monoclonal antibody treatments by more than 30%.

The White House warned Congress other important consequences ahead without a new COVID-19 expense bill. The government will not be able to:

  • Buy additional oral antiviral pills in addition to the already secured 20 mill.
  • Pre-purchase promising new antiviral drugs. The reason why the administration has been able to secure more oral antiviral pills than any other country is because we have committed to buy them early, even before an emergency use permit (EUA). As even more effective pills potentially become available, the federal government is no longer able to impose pre-emption commitments to ensure America is one of the first countries in the series.
  • Accelerate the creation of a next-generation pan-COVID vaccine that would provide broad protection against a variety of variants.
  • Maintain our domestic testing capacity beyond June. After spending the last year building our testing capacity, these advances will be wasted and the administration will not be able to help keep domestic producers online as of June. This means that during the second half of the year there will be a significant reduction in domestic test capacity, and we may be unprepared for increases.

The core of standoff is that Republicans want full accounts of where COVID-19 funds have been used so far and how much unused money is still in state and federal accounts.

Republican Senator Mitt Romney sent the White House a letter with specific questions about how the current federal allocations for COVID-19 have been used. He says he has not received all the answers he needs to vote for more money. These are six questions Romney wants answered:

  • When does the administration plan to request an additional $ 30 billion in COVID-19 relief funding, and if it does, what would be the purpose of the request?
  • As of March 3, 2022, how much of the funding made available under the U.S. Rescue Plan will remain unused, non-committal, or unpaid?
  • From March 3, 2022, how much of the funding under the US Rescue Plan has been committed but not paid out for more than 6 months?
  • How much money has the government spent to date on vaccines and tests? Please provide a specific list of these expenses and accompanying metrics used to evaluate their effectiveness.
  • Of the $ 350 billion made available under the U.S. state and local government rescue plan, how much has been spent so far on vaccines and tests? Please provide a specific list of these expenses and accompanying metrics used to evaluate their effectiveness.
  • Does the administration plan to make real-time data on all COVID-19 expenditures available to the public?

Romney says he is not opposed to spending more federal money on COVID-19, he just wants to know how much of what Congress has already approved is unused. One of the places journalists might check first is how much money your state is sitting on right now and why it has not been used for its intended purposes. You could start with money allocated to the schools.

Here’s an interactive map showing how much was allocated to schools in each state, and now a lot has been spent so far. States that have used the most have darker shadows.

Before the end of January, just as an example, Ohio spent about a third of the total federal school funds while South Dakota spent $ 200 million of the more than 700 million.

asked President Joe Biden the same question you might ask: “Do oil companies pay more profits in their pockets while keeping gas prices high?” He noted:

(The White House)

It is a good political position to complain about the same thing ordinary people complain about, but oil and petrol prices do not keep pace. Oil prices generally pull gasoline prices high and low, but gasoline prices tend to go higher faster than they fall. There is a reason. Refineries must work through higher-priced oil supplies before they can carry on the fuel they produce from the lower-priced oil.

GasBuddy’s oil analyst Patrick De Haan says if oil prices remain below $ 100 per barrel barrel for a while, you will soon see pump prices fall markedly. And he said it is far from a price drop, but gas station owners may have run in the red during price increases.

De Haan made his own chart showing the many factors that have contributed to the wild price fluctuations of gasoline in the last two years.

The U.S. Senate did not even debate this week until it voted to make daylight saving time permanent. There was no dissent. When was the last time something went without a dissent? But it did, so it must be popular, right? Wrong!

Yes, public opinion polls show that most Americans do not prefer multiple clock changes twice a year. But for people living on the western edge of the time zones, the reality of a permanent summer time would be, shall we say, suboptimal. The rural blog made some calculations and found:

Dec. 20 the sun will rise in Indianapolis at 8:02 Eastern Standard Time. In daylight it will be after kl. 9, at a time when many businesses and almost all offices and schools are open. In early January, it would be 9:06, according to the federal government sunrise-sunset calculator. (Just because the equinox has the shortest day does not mean it has the most recent sunrise. Indiana, too, exempted itself from daylight, but is following it now.)

Farmers have long protested against summer time, and the National Association of Convenience Stores is against the change, Reuters reports. NACS told Congress, “We should not have children going to school in the dark.” And while there are signs that changing clocks has bad effects such as traffic accidents and health episodes, sleep researchers think there would be even greater risk at summer time year round. They like standard time.

Here are some other factors to consider, thanks to New York Times:

  • Excited debate: Scientists and politicians have been pushing for a single time system for a while. But not everyone agrees on which one.
  • Winners and losers: Gas stations and the leisure industry tend to benefit from the shift to summer time. Farmers could do without.
  • FAQ: Why do we jump forward and fall back in the first place? Here are some answers to frequently asked questions on the subject.
  • In a 2017 survey from Denmark, researchers analyzed a psychiatric database with more than 185,000 people from 1995 to 2012. They found that the fall transition to standard time was associated with an 11 percent increase in depressive episodes, an effect that took 10 weeks to disappear. The spring contact, on the other hand, had no similar effect.
  • Sleep researchers, including American Academy of Sleep Medicine, hates the idea of ​​choosing daylight saving time over standard time. Although no study has definitively proven that standard time is best for human health, they claim that a permanent shift to summer time can have long-term, dangerous effects on public health.
  • The retail and leisure industry has argued that more light in the evenings would give consumers more time to spend money, and proponents also argue that brighter evenings would translate to fewer robberies and safer roads.

The legislation, which on the surface sounds simple, is not that simple. The rural blog points out:

The legislation would continue to allow states and localities to exempt themselves until its effective date of November 5, 2023, so that it could lead to a patchwork of time zones, which the 1966 Uniform Time Act was passed to prevent. It could also lead to a reversal of the most westerly shift in U.S. time zone lines in the last 70 years.

In short, it would be a mess. Imagine the chaos that will happen to cities on the borders – like Louisville, Kansas City, Memphis and New York – if one state has summer time exemption and the other chooses not to do so. It would also be a nightmare for airlines trying to work out schedules. Think of the complexity of an election night in such a scenario. Nothing is easy in a democracy, it seems.

A worker wears face mask while serving a customer in a driveway at a Starbucks on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo / David Zalubowski)

This caught my eye and could be worth exploring. Starbucks says they are testing some pilot projects to make it easier to use your own mug or cup or to pay a store deposit for a durable cup that you would get back when you return the cup. During the pandemic, this kind of “shared mug” idea would never have had a chance. I get interested in well-meaning efforts like this, which sometimes do not work environmentally, once you include the water, detergent, electricity and other ingredients that would be needed to wash millions of cups daily, versus the environmental impact of using paper and plastic cups and lids.

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