KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Trump Names VP Mike Pence To Coordinate U.S. Government Response To Coronavirus; Trump Downplays Risk As CDC Officials Call On Public To Prepare For Cases

AP: Trump urges calm even as U.S. reports worrisome new virus case
“President Donald Trump declared Wednesday that a widespread U.S. outbreak of the new respiratory virus sweeping the globe isn’t inevitable even as top health authorities at his side warned Americans that more infections are coming. Shortly after Trump spoke, the government announced a worrisome development: Another person in the U.S. is infected — someone in California who doesn’t appear to have the usual risk factors of having traveled abroad or being exposed to another patient…” (Neergaard et al., 2/27).

New York Times: Trump Names Mike Pence to Lead Coronavirus Response
“President Trump named Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday to coordinate the government’s response to the coronavirus, even as he repeatedly played down the danger to the United States of a widespread domestic outbreak. The president’s announcement, at a White House news conference, followed mounting bipartisan criticism that the administration’s response had been sluggish and came after two days of contradictory messages about the virus, which has infected more than 81,000 people globally, killing nearly 3,000…” (Shear et al., 2/26).

POLITICO: Trump’s coronavirus conflict: Science vs. politics
“The coronavirus battle brewing inside the Trump administration is putting two urgent imperatives in conflict — showing credibility in tackling a global health crisis while calming unsettled investors and voters in an election year. On Monday, one top White House official publicly disputed concerns about a market downturn while President Donald Trump commented directly on it. On Tuesday, health officials broadcast their expertise about the virus while Trump sought to quash such chatter. And on Wednesday, top aides debated publicly whether the administration would need a czar to coordinate a government response as the president announced a rare evening news conference and attacked the media…” (McGraw et al., 2/26).

POLITICO: Trump’s CDC chief faces increasingly harsh scrutiny
“…[C]onfronted by the increasingly global coronavirus outbreak, CDC and [Director Robert] Redfield’s actions are now under intense scrutiny — both inside and outside the administration. … POLITICO spoke with 10 current and former Trump administration officials, as well as two people close to the administration, who portrayed a leader facing the biggest management challenge of his four-decade career in public health. Several individuals also said that the 68-year-old Redfield — who’s working to fend off a virus that the World Health Organization has deemed high risk and that top Trump advisers believe could threaten the president’s reelection — has been relying heavily on his top civil servant deputies as the agency collectively braces for a potential pandemic…” (Diamond, 2/26).

STAT: Trump’s no stranger to misinformation. But with the coronavirus, experts say that’s dangerous
“Mixed messages and misinformation aren’t out of the ordinary in the Trump administration. But at a time when the U.S. faces a looming threat from a novel virus, public health experts warn that the administration’s mixed messages aren’t just confusing — they’re dangerous…” (Thielking, 2/26).

Washington Post: Trump downplays risk, places Pence in charge of coronavirus outbreak response
“…Trump has made a direct connection between the virus and his political fortunes, accusing Democrats and the media of trying to harm his reelection chances by focusing on the outbreak. Trump took to Twitter early Wednesday to accuse cable news channels of ‘doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible.’ The president’s efforts to downplay the virus have focused on the fact that the United States has seen relatively few cases and, so far, no confirmed deaths. Trump has also contended that the virus was ‘very much under control’ and has indicated it would be gone by April. Multiple public health officials from the administration have contradicted that prediction. Asked if he agreed that the coronavirus would be gone by April, CDC Director Robert Redfield told Congress he didn’t…” (Olorunnipa et al., 2/26).

Additional coverage of the president’s press conference and whole-of-government response is available from CNN, The Hill (2), POLITICO (2), Reuters, STAT, and Washington Post.

Link to individual story

Congressional Negotiators Discuss COVID-19 Emergency Funding; Members Of Congress Ask HHS Head To Explain Government's Mixed Messages On Outbreak

POLITICO: Lawmakers spar with Trump team over coordinating coronavirus response
“Lawmakers pressured Trump officials Wednesday to ramp up their response to the coronavirus threat with far more funding and better coordination through a new czar, a move the administration debated throughout the day until President Donald Trump appointed his vice president to serve that role. At a closed-door huddle between Republican and Democratic spending leaders on Wednesday, lawmakers began to map out the congressional response with a massive emergency funding package that would far exceed Trump’s own spending request earlier this week. Negotiators are discussing an emergency funding bill of between $6 billion and $8 billion, according to people familiar with the talks, although that figure remains fluid. That package could be finalized as early as next week…” (Diamond et al., 2/26).

UPI: Congress questions HHS chief Alex Azar on COVID-19 ‘confusion’
“Members of Congress questioned Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Wednesday on what they say are mixed messages from the Trump administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the danger the country faces from COVID-19. In separate budget hearings before two congressional committees, Azar told members of Congress that the spread of the novel coronavirus is contained at the moment — comments that seem to contradict the CDC’s warnings to prepare for a possible pandemic…” (Dunleavy, 2/26).

Additional coverage of U.S. funding for COVID-19, congressional action on the outbreak, and how the outbreak could impact U.S. elections is available from Fortune, The Hill (2), New York Magazine, NPR, POLITICO, and Reuters (2).

Link to individual story

More New COVID-19 Cases Reported Outside China Than Inside For First Time; WHO DG Tedros Calls For 'Hope, Courage, Confidence' Virus Can Be Contained

AP: World battles virus epidemic as cases multiply outside China
“Crews scrubbed everything from money to buses, military bases were on high alert, and quarantines were enforced Wednesday from a beachfront resort in the Atlantic to a remote island in the Pacific, as the world worked to halt the fast-spreading virus that for the first time counted more new cases outside China than inside the country, where the epidemic originated. … The World Health Organization, meanwhile, reported that the number of new cases outside China on Tuesday exceeded the number of new infections inside the country for the first time. The number in China was 412, while the tally in the rest of the world was 459…” (Tong-Hyung et al., 2/27).

NPR: Coronavirus: More New Cases Are Now Reported Outside China Than Inside
“… ‘Outside China, there are now 2,790 cases in 37 countries, and 44 deaths,’ WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing in Geneva. … Tedros is urging the international community to have ‘hope, courage, and confidence’ that the new respiratory virus can be contained, citing 14 countries that haven’t reported a new case in more than a week…” (Chappell, 2/26).

Reuters: U.N. asks world to fight virus-spawned discrimination
“United Nations human rights guardian Michelle Bachelet urged the global community on Thursday to show solidarity with people of ethnic Asian origin subject to discrimination amid an outbreak of a novel coronavirus that started in China…” (Shields, 2/27).

U.N. News: COVID-19: More new virus cases outside China than in, ‘no time for complacency,’ says U.N. health agency
“… ‘The sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning,’ WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing in Geneva on Wednesday. He stated that there are now cases linked to Iran in Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, and Oman and to Italy in Algeria, Austria, Croatia, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland…” (2/26).

Additional coverage of the global spread of COVID-19 and response is available from AFP, AP, Foreign Policy, The Hill, New Humanitarian, PRI, Reuters (2) (3), TIME, and Washington Post.

Link to individual story

Media Outlets Report On Various Aspects Of COVID-19 Response, Including Vaccine, Diagnostic Research, Health Worker Protections

Devex: MSF ramps up coronavirus response with ‘back-to-basics’ approach (Lieberman, 2/27).

The Hill: Health official says coronavirus vaccine will take ‘at least a year to a year and a half’ to develop (Deese, 2/26).

MedPage Today: COVID-19 Requires ‘An Entire Village’ of Professionals (Walker, 2/26).

NPR: New Test Begins To Help Scientists Respond To Coronavirus (Harris, 2/27).

STAT: Coronavirus vaccines are far off, FDA official says, but drugs to treat patients could come sooner (Herper/Garde, 2/26).

Washington Post: World Health Organization: China not sharing data on coronavirus infections among health-care workers (Rauhala/Wan, 2/26).

Washington Post: Coronavirus raises fears of U.S. drug supply disruptions (McGinley/Johnson, 2/26).

Link to individual story

USAID Administrator Mark Green Discusses Impacts Of, U.S. Response To Locust Swarms In East Africa In Foreign Policy Interview

Foreign Policy: Top U.S. Aid Chief Warns of Locust Devastation in East Africa
“One of the world’s most impoverished regions faces yet another crisis. Swarms of voracious desert locusts are descending on East Africa in alarming numbers not seen in decades. … The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said it would need $76 million to combat the crisis immediately, though as of Feb. 21 it had only a fraction of that amount ready. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced it would provide $8 million to combat the locust swarms. Foreign Policy spoke to the Trump administration’s top aid chief, USAID Administrator Mark Green, about the scale of the crisis and how the United States is responding…” (Gramer, 2/26).

Link to individual story

Scotland Moves Toward Becoming First Nation To Make Menstrual Products Free For All Women

CBS: The Scottish parliament approved plans to make period products free for all women
“Scottish Parliament has approved stage one of a plan to make all period products free in Scotland. On Tuesday, all parties backed the Period Products (Free Provision) Scotland Bill, which was introduced by representative Monica Lennon…” (O’Kane, 2/26).

Washington Post: Scotland moves to become first nation to make pads and tampons free
“…Internationally, lawmakers and activists have expressed anger at policies that force women to pay comparatively high taxes for necessities that do not always go acknowledged as such. … The E.U. has pledged to remove all sales tax requirements on period products beginning in 2022. It will then be up to individual member countries to determine how much to tax pads and tampons” (Berger, 2/26).

Additional coverage of the plan is available from BBC, DW, The Hill, and Vox.

Link to individual story

Smoking, Drinking Among Young People Associated With Increased Likelihood Of Drug Use In Adulthood, U.N.-Backed Study Shows

U.N. News: Smoking and drinking link to recreational drug use by young people: U.N.-backed report
“The use of alcohol and tobacco by young people and children is closely linked to the use of illicit drugs, a U.N.-backed narcotics control body warned on Thursday. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) annual report cites studies which reveal that, in young people aged between 16 and 19, early use of alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis leads to an increased likelihood of the use of opiates and cocaine in adulthood…” (2/26).

Link to individual story

More News In Global Health

Borgen Magazine: The Global Health Security Act (Hill, 2/25).

Devex: Puerto Rico emerges as ‘incubator’ for disaster preparedness efforts (Lieberman, 2/26).

The Lancet Infectious Diseases: Infectious diseases upsurge in Mongolia (Devi, 3/1).

Xinhua: Afghanistan launches polio vaccination campaign to children under age of five (2/27).

Link to individual story

Editorials and Opinions

Editorials, Opinion Pieces Discuss COVID-19 Outbreak

The Lancet Infectious Diseases: Challenges of coronavirus disease 2019
Editorial Board

“Yet again, the world is experiencing a global viral epidemic of zoonotic origin. … [The recently formed Lancet Infectious Diseases Commission on Preparedness for Emerging Epidemic Threats] will revisit global preparedness planning and assumptions underlying agreements such as the International Health Regulations. It aims to account for new challenges in preparing for and responding to infectious disease outbreaks. These challenges, which are political and institutional, social, environmental, technological, and pathogen-related, are being brought to the foreground by the [severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV)-2] outbreak. … With the increasing frequency of zoonotic spillovers leading to human infections and transmission, it’s apparent that pandemic preparedness has become a priority for the global health agenda” (2/17).

Wall Street Journal: The Spending Virus
Editorial Board

“…The Trump administration on Monday sent Congress a request for $2.5 billion in spending to combat the virus that began in China. The government is now spending some $40 million to $50 million a month, so the request builds in the expectation of more U.S. cases than the 57 already diagnosed. … Cue the inevitable gripes from Congress that this isn’t nearly enough. … We’d take these complaints seriously if they were based on any expertise or factual understanding of the threat. Instead, they’re ritualized gripes intended to set up the politics to make the bill a blowout and dare Mr. Trump to veto virus funds. … [O]ur guess is that Democrats are preparing the ground to blame the administration if the coronavirus spreads. The virus may well get worse, which is why the funding request anticipates more cases. Alas, there is no cure for cynicism in the service of pork-barrel politics” (2/25).

Washington Post: Russia and China are taking different but equally dangerous approaches to coronavirus
Editorial Board

“Two opposing but equally malignant approaches to the coronavirus epidemic are emerging. One would flood the information space with lies, while the other would shut that space down to all voices but one. Their sponsors, not surprisingly, are Russia and China. Open governments are struggling to encourage responsibility about a growing pandemic without inspiring panic. Russia appears to be trying to do just the opposite. Evidence suggests Moscow is spreading propaganda designed to stoke anxiety about the virus and distrust in authorities’ efforts to fight it. Meanwhile, citizens in China are suffering not from a deluge of misleading material but from a dearth of open discussion. … China and Russia are modeling the go-to responses authoritarian regimes have adopted in the digital age for robbing the Web of its democratizing power. A government can try to persuade its citizens to believe only what it wants them to, or it can try to persuade them to believe nothing at all. Either tactic, with stakes as high as they are today, could get people killed” (2/26).

Bloomberg: Coronavirus Complacency Is Worse Than Panic
David Fickling, opinion columnist at Bloomberg (2/25).

CNN: The best defense against coronavirus
Colleen Kraft, associate chief medical officer at Emory University Hospital, associate professor in the Department of Medicine and assistant professor in the Department of Pathology at Emory University School of Medicine, and associate medical director of Emory’s Serious Communicable Diseases Unit (2/26).

Devex: Opinion: As the world battles coronavirus, never let a crisis go to waste
Otto Chabikuli, director of global health population and nutrition at FHI 360, and Timothy Mastro, chief science officer at FHI 360 (2/27).

Financial Times: Coronavirus: WHO must learn from the IMF to stop pandemics
Prabhat Jha, professor of global health at the University of Toronto (2/26).

New Yorker: As Coronavirus Spreads, Stocks Fall Again and the White House Frets About a Black Swan
John Cassidy, staff writer and columnist at the New Yorker (2/25).

New York Times: Let’s Call It Trumpvirus
Gail Collins, opinion columnist at the New York Times (2/26).

New York Times: Welcome to the Age of Pandemics
Peter Daszak, disease ecologist and president of EcoHealth Alliance (2/27).

POLITICO Magazine: The White House Shouldn’t Downplay the Coronavirus
Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review and contributing editor with POLITICO Magazine (2/26).

Project Syndicate: China’s COVID-19 Moment
Andrew Sheng, distinguished fellow of the Asia Global Institute at the University of Hong Kong and member of the UNEP Advisory Council on Sustainable Finance, and Xiao Geng, president of the Hong Kong Institution for International Finance and professor and director of the Research Institute of Maritime Silk-Road at Peking University HSBC Business School (2/26).

Scientific American: Uncertainty in a Time of Coronavirus
Amitha Kalaichandran, physician and health and medical journalist (2/26).

Washington Post: Coronavirus lays bare all the pathologies of the Trump administration
Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick senior fellow for national security studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, global affairs analyst for CNN, and author (2/26).

Washington Post: Trump has no clue what to do in a disaster
Jennifer Rubin, opinion writer at the Washington Post (2/26).

Washington Post: As the virus spreads, Trump rages over the markets. That’s alarming.
Greg Sargent, writer at the Washington Post’s Plum Line blog (2/26).

Link to individual story

From the Global Health Policy Community

UNAIDS Executive Director Releases Statement Recognizing Zero Discrimination Day, International Women's Day

UNAIDS: Message from the UNAIDS Executive Director on Zero Discrimination Day and International Women’s Day
In a press statement ahead of Zero Discrimination Day, recognized on March 1, and International Women’s Day, marked on March 8, UNAIDS Executive Director Winnie Byanyima writes, “Beating AIDS depends on tackling all forms of discrimination. … Feminism, human rights, and zero discrimination are values deeply rooted across the world: they express our humanity, our recognition that I am because you are. And they are central to the struggle to beat AIDS…” The piece also includes a link to a video statement by Byanyima (2/26).

Link to individual story

Infographic Shows How Global Fund Has Scaled Treatment, Prevention, Diagnostic Technologies For 3 Diseases

Friends of the Global Fight Against AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria: Infographic: The Global Fund — Scaling Innovations in Global Health Since 2002
This infographic provides “a few examples of how the Global Fund has helped scale innovative treatment, prevention, and diagnostic technologies over the past 18 years” (2/26).

Link to individual story

Aidspan Publishes New Issue Of 'Global Fund Observer'

Aidspan: Global Fund Observer
Aidspan, an independent watchdog of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, has published Issue 374 of the ‘Global Fund Observer.’ The newsletter features a news story on the Global Fund Board’s approval of $135.7 million and €25.7 million for 28 grants across 23 countries; a news story on the “top 20” ranking of countries with the largest Global Fund 2020-2022 allocations; and an analysis that shows Global Fund grants’ co-financing was used more to buy commodities than to strengthen health systems (2/26).

Link to individual story

From the U.S. Government

NIH Announces $1M Technology Accelerator Challenge Focused On Diagnostics For Sickle Cell, Malaria, Anemia

NIH: NIH announces $1 million prize competition to target global disease diagnostics
“The National Institutes of Health has launched a $1 million Technology Accelerator Challenge to spur the design and development of non-invasive, handheld, digital technologies to detect, diagnose, and guide therapies for diseases with high global and public health impact. The challenge is focused on sickle cell disease, malaria, and anemia and is led by NIH’s National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB). The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is cooperating with NIH to help accelerate the transformation of design concepts into products for low-resource settings…” (2/26).

Link to individual story