KFF Daily Global Health Policy Report

In The News

Media Outlets Examine Mixed Messages On COVID-19 From White House, U.S. Health Officials; VP Pence Faces Questions On Outbreak In Closed-Door Senate Briefing

AP: A disconnect between Trump and health officials on virus
“…President Donald Trump’s breezy talk Tuesday of a virus that’s ‘got the world aflutter’ contrasts with the gravity and caution conveyed by federal scientists as Americans look to the government not just for reassurance, but for realism. Public-health leaders are walking a fine line in laying out the facts without angering a president who speaks in rosier tones than they do about a contagion that’s infected more than 100 people from coast to coast. No, the scientists say, a vaccine is not just around the corner, although Trump has repeatedly suggested it is. Yes, they say, the U.S. appears to be more prepared than some other countries afflicted or threatened by the virus, but it’s too early to know how the plans will hold up. No, a ‘cure’ is not in the offing for an infectious disease for which there is no treatment…” (Superville et al., 3/4).

The Hill: Pence pressed over coronavirus response in testy Senate briefing
“Senators pressed Vice President Pence in a closed-door meeting on Tuesday over the administration’s response to coronavirus, questioning the official charged with leading the administration’s response over a lack of testing for the virus. Democratic senators in particular asked sharp questions of Pence and administration health officials during a visit to their lunch meeting. Some Republican senators, in addition, said they shared growing concerns among Democrats and experts that there are not enough tests being made available, hindering the ability of officials to know how widespread the virus is within the United States…” (Sullivan, 3/4).

New York Times: Trump Makes Room for Experts, but Still Takes a Leading Role on Coronavirus
“…In confronting the first major health crisis of his presidency, Mr. Trump has made himself the primary source of information to the public with mixed results. Appearing before cameras sometimes multiple times a day to talk about the coronavirus, he has offered a consistently rosier assessment of the situation than health experts and has put forth unproven or even false assertions. … The White House has bristled at the criticism, seeing it as insincere point scoring. Seeking to push back, Mr. Pence’s office has begun compiling praise for the administration’s handling of the crisis and sending it out to supporters and news organizations…” (Baker et al., 3/3).

Washington Post: Trump coronavirus effort undermined by mixed messages and falsehoods
“…Officials are working this week to book [NIAID Director Anthony] Fauci, Surgeon General Jerome Adams, and other coronavirus task force members on television programs with a broader audience than the administration’s preferred Fox News Channel. For instance, experts have appeared or, aides hope, will soon appear on shows like ABC’s ‘Good Morning America,’ NBC’s ‘Today,’ and ‘The Dr. Oz Show’ in an effort to reassure worried parents, while Seema Verma, director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, is doing outreach to groups such as AARP. Pence and other members of the task force, including Ambassador Deborah Birx, a physician and global AIDS expert, also started holding daily news conferences in the White House press briefing room this week as part of an effort to keep the public apprised on the fast-moving virus…” (Rucker et al., 3/3).

Additional coverage of the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak, as well as other policy-related issues, is available from CNBC, Forbes, The Hill (2) (3), MedPage Today, POLITICO (2), USA TODAY, and Washington Post.

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COVID-19 Mortality Rate 3.4% Globally, WHO Says; World Bank Announces $12B Financing Package For Responses

CNBC: WHO says coronavirus death rate is 3.4% globally, higher than previously thought
“World health officials said Tuesday the mortality rate for COVID-19 is 3.4% globally, higher than previous estimates of about 2%. ‘Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died,’ WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. In comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected, he said. The World Health Organization had said last week that the mortality rate of COVID-19 can differ, ranging from 0.7% to up to 4%, depending on the quality of the health-care system where it’s treated. Early in the outbreak, scientists had concluded the death rate was around 2.3%…” (Lovelace/Higgins-Dunn, 3/3).

Devex: World Bank announces $12B for coronavirus response
“The World Bank on Tuesday announced a financing package worth up to $12 billion, aimed at supporting countries in their response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The funding will be used ‘to respond to country requests for crisis financing of their immediate needs and also to lessen the tragic impacts of the virus,’ World Bank President David Malpass told reporters…” (Igoe, 3/4).

Reuters: Coronavirus forces IMF, World Bank switch to virtual Spring Meetings
“The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, citing growing concerns about the fast-spreading coronavirus, on Tuesday said they will adopt a ‘virtual format’ for their Spring Meetings instead of convening in person in Washington…” (Shalal/Lawder, 3/3).

U.N. News: ‘We can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting health workers’: WHO chief
“A shortage of protective equipment is endangering health workers worldwide, warned the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday, citing ‘severe and mounting disruption to the global supply’ caused by ‘rising demand, panic buying, hoarding, and misuse.’ Speaking to the media in Geneva, WHO chief Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus said that ‘we can’t stop COVID-19 without protecting our health workers’…” (3/3).

Wall Street Journal: Coronavirus Misinformation Lives Online, Despite Efforts to Stamp It Out
“Facebook Inc. and other technology giants have vowed to fight misinformation related to the coronavirus epidemic on their platforms. Yet even as they remove fraudulent posts, listings, and other content, conspiracy theories and false information continue to proliferate online…” (Herrera, 3/3).

Additional coverage of international organizations’ responses to the COVID-19 outbreak is available from BBC, The Hill, New York Times, Reuters (2), STAT, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post.

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Media Outlets Examine Responses To Coronavirus Outbreaks In China, South Korea, Iran, Italy

New York Times: Inside China’s All-Out War on the Coronavirus (McNeil, 3/4).

NPR: Why The Death Rate From Coronavirus Is Plunging In China (Aizenman, 3/3).

PRI: Is South Korea’s approach to containing coronavirus a model for the rest of the world? (Strother, 3/3).

Reuters: Researchers identify two coronavirus types as China cases dwindle (Galbraith et al., 3/3).

Wall Street Journal: Iran Releases Prisoners on a Temporary Basis to Halt the Spread of the Coronavirus (Eqbali/Coles, 3/3).

Washington Post: Coronavirus spread from China. Now, China doesn’t want the world spreading it back (Fifield, 3/4).

Washington Post: With coronavirus, North Korea’s isolation is a possible buffer but also a worry (Denyer, 3/4).

Washington Post: Coronavirus in Italy fills hospital beds and turns doctors into patients (Morris, 3/3).

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U.S. House Representatives Reject Proposed White House Foreign Aid Budget Cuts, Discuss Health Issues In Appropriations Subcommittee Hearing

Devex: U.S. lawmakers reject budget cuts, question USAID policy
“Lawmakers made use of their first opportunity to publicly question the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2021 foreign aid budget during a House appropriations subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. Legislators rejected the proposed budget cuts and addressed a wide-ranging set of issues, from COVID-19 to the ‘global gag rule’…” (Saldinger, 3/4).

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Humanitarian Crisis In Syria Represents World's Largest; U.S. Announces Additional $108M In Aid

AP: U.N.: World’s biggest humanitarian crisis in Syria northwest
“The top U.N. humanitarian official for Syria said Tuesday the crisis in northwest Idlib where nearly one million people have fled to avoid escalating hostilities is ‘probably the biggest crisis we have in the world today’…” (Lederer, 3/3).

Bloomberg: U.S. Announces $108m in Humanitarian Aid For Syrian People
“U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration announced that it will give an additional $108 million in humanitarian assistance to the Syrian people…” (Kjuka, 3/3).

U.N. News: U.N. ‘determined to stand by the people of Syria’ says Lowcock, as grave humanitarian crisis intensifies around Idlib
“The United Nations is ‘determined to stand by’ civilians across Syria’s war-torn northwest, as ‘a grave humanitarian crisis’ continues, the U.N. emergency relief chief said on Tuesday. Speaking from Hatay, along the Turkish side of the border with Syria, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock, said that displaced civilians were ‘struggling to survive in horrific conditions’…” (3/3).

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DRC Goes 14 Days Without Confirmed Ebola Case; Experts Transitioning To Address COVID-19 In Africa

ABC News: Democratic Republic of the Congo discharges last Ebola patient after 14 days without confirmed cases
“The Democratic Republic of the Congo has discharged its last Ebola patient from a treatment center — a major milestone in the country’s fight against the second-largest Ebola outbreak in history. The World Health Organization’s Regional Office for Africa posted video on social media showing the patient leaving an Ebola treatment center on Tuesday in the city of Beni, the epicenter of the outbreak…” (Winsor, 3/3).

Reuters: Last Congo Ebola patient discharged with end of outbreak in sight
“…Congo has now gone 14 days without any new confirmed cases. The outbreak can be declared over once 42 days have passed without a new case — equivalent to two cycles of 21 days, the maximum incubation period for the virus…” (3/3).

TIME: These Ebola Fighters Helped Halt an Epidemic. Now, They’re Preparing to Battle Coronavirus
“Dr. Mosoka Fallah remembers all too well what an epidemic can do to his country. Not just the disease itself, but the knock-on implications: hysteria, mob violence, international pariah status, economic ruin and, worst of all, the thousands of lives lost to treatable illnesses because of a collapsed medical system. As an infectious-disease expert at Liberia’s ministry of health during the 2014-2016 West African Ebola outbreak, Fallah witnessed first-hand the impact of the epidemic. And he is determined to never let it happen again. … Liberia is one of eight African countries that have suffered an Ebola outbreak … and, informed by what went wrong in the past, health officials in these countries are implementing well-informed strategies that could be a model for the rest of the continent…” (Baker, 3/3).

U.N. News: DR Congo: With Ebola on the wane, U.N. agencies prepare to combat coronavirus
“…Following [COVID-19’s] spread to the continent, the African Union and the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention organized an emergency ministerial meeting last month where the DRC was identified among 13 countries most at risk of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) due to their direct travel links with China. … WHO’s Africa office this week held an emergency partnership meeting on coronavirus, aimed at boosting engagement and developing an effective preparedness and response plan for countries in the region…” (3/3).

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Girls Continue To Face Discrimination, Violence, Health Challenges 25 Years After Beijing Women's Conference, Report Says

The Guardian: Girls stay longer in school but obesity, suicide and sexual violence remain risks
“Girls are far less likely to get married or drop out of school than ever before, but worryingly high rates of obesity, suicide, and sexually transmitted infections underline how uneven global progress has been for them over the past 25 years, according to a report published on Wednesday…” (Hodal, 3/4).

U.N. News: World remains a ‘violent, highly discriminatory place’ for girls
“…While there have been remarkable gains for girls in education, little headway has been made to help shape a more equal, less violent environment for them, warned the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF), together with U.N. Women and the non-governmental organization Plan International in their report, A New Era for Girls: Taking stock on 25 years of progress…” (3/3).

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Colombia's Constitutional Court Rules To Keep Abortion Restrictions In Place

PRI: U.S. conservative groups ramp up influence in Colombia amid abortion debate
“…40 days for Life, an international movement that started in Texas in 2007, … conducts vigils outside abortion clinics in more than 60 countries. The movement claims that its protests have helped to shut down 106 abortion clinics around the world. And it has been ramping up activities in Colombia — where, on Monday, March 2, the constitutional court reviewed the option of giving women full access to the procedure until the fourth month of pregnancy — but ultimately decided to table the vote…” (Rueda, 3/3).

Washington Post: Colombia was close to legalizing abortion. Instead, a top court kept restrictions in place.
“Colombia’s constitutional court ruled Monday to keep the country’s abortion restrictions in place, dashing the hopes of activists pushing for a decision that could have made it the first and most populous state in Latin America to legalize abortions during the first 16 weeks of a pregnancy. … The last time the country of nearly 50 million came close to a major change on abortion rights was in 2006, when the top court legalized abortion in three cases: a pregnancy resulting from rape, a risk to the mother’s life, or a malformed fetus…” (Berger, 3/3).

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More News In Global Health

AFP: Talking about a menstrual revolution: Asia’s period problems (3/2).

Global Health NOW: Virginity Testing in Morocco: Assault on Dignity, or a Shield Against Assault? (Sane, 2/29).

The Guardian: Scientists turn to tech to prevent second wave of locusts in east Africa (McVeigh, 3/4).

Reuters: In Argentina’s north, indigenous children sicken and die from malnutrition (Bianco, 3/3).

Thomson Reuters Foundation: U.N. group says Salvadoran women unfairly locked up for abortion crimes (Moloney, 3/2).

Xinhua: Sri Lanka releases Wolbachia-injected mosquitoes to combat spread of dengue (3/3).

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Editorials and Opinions

Editorial, Opinion Pieces Discuss Various Issues Related To COVID-19

Washington Post: Iran’s reaction to coronavirus has become a danger for the world
Editorial Board

“The coronavirus poses a test for any government, challenging the ability of leaders to carry out necessary countermeasures while maintaining public trust. In China, trust wasn’t a high priority, but once the country swung into action, the containment effort was massive. Iran presents a different and worrying scenario: a government in denial, a people cynical and distrustful, and a burgeoning infection. Strictly from a health point of view, Iran has become a dangerous epicenter for covid-19, a hazard not only for its population but also the world. … The strict sanctions imposed by the United States on Iran have been severely crimping its economy, and the outbreak ought to lead U.S. officials to look for ways to extend humanitarian relief and expertise in fighting the disease…” (3/3).

Bloomberg: Bill Gates Is Really Worried About the Coronavirus. Here’s Why.
Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg Opinion columnist, professor at George Mason University, writer for Marginal Revolution, and author (3/3).

CNN: The way we talk about coronavirus matters
Kari Nixon, assistant professor at Whitworth University and author (3/3).

CNN: I’m an emergency doctor. I expect to get coronavirus
James Phillips, assistant professor at the George Washington University (GWU) and chief of the Section of Disaster and Operational Medicine at GWU (3/3).

Foreign Affairs: Pandemic Disease Is a Threat to National Security
Lisa Monaco, assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism from 2013 to 2017 (3/3).

Foreign Affairs: Can North Korea Cope With the Coronavirus?
Sue Mi Terry, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (3/3).

Foreign Policy: As Coronavirus Spreads, Iranian Doctors Fear the Worst
Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder of Bourse & Bazaar, and Abbas Kebriaeezadeh, professor at the Tehran University of Medical Sciences, vice chair of the Iranian Pharmaceutical Industries Syndicate, and chair of Baran Chemical and Pharmaceutical Company (3/3).

The Hill: Press: Trump flunks public health leadership test
Bill Press, host of ‘The Bill Press Pod’ and author (3/3).

MedPage Today: Coronavirus: Please, Officialdom, Stop Telling Us to Calm Down
John Gever, managing editor at MedPage Today (3/3).

Nature: Extended U.S. travel ban harms global science
Nnaemeka Ndodo, chief molecular bioengineer at the National Reference Laboratory for Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control (3/3).

Newsweek: Robert Reich: There Has Never Been a President Less Suited for Handling an Epidemic Than Donald Trump
Robert Reich, Newsweek columnist and chancellor’s professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley (3/3).

New York Times: Coronavirus Is What You Get When You Ignore Science
Farhad Manjoo, opinion columnist at the New York Times (3/4).

POLITICO: Why Iran Is Such a Coronavirus Threat
Amir A. Afkhami, associate professor at George Washington University and author (3/3).

Project Syndicate: The Fiscal Fight Against COVID-19
Koichi Hamada, professor emeritus at Yale University and special adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (3/3).

USA TODAY: To fight the coronavirus, wash your hands and support clean water access around the world
Susan K. Barnett, opinion contributor (3/4).

Washington Post: What the fight against Ebola can teach us about beating the coronavirus
Blair Glencorse, executive director of the Accountability Lab (3/3).

Washington Post: The government should cover coronavirus testing. And conservatives should support it.
Megan McArdle, columnist at the Washington Post and author (3/3).

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More Opinions In Global Health

The Conversation: Ghana needs a better policy to guide care for cancer patients
Yakubu Salifu, lecturer at Lancaster University (3/3).

Devex: Opinion: What the new data on private sector instruments doesn’t tell us
Cecilia Caio, senior analyst at Development Initiatives, and Nerea Craviotto, senior policy and advocacy officer at the European Network on Debt and Development (3/4).

Devex: Opinion: Why feminist leadership is essential to achieve gender equality
Malayah Harper, board member of SheDecides and member on the panel of chief advisers for Fair Share of Women Leaders, and Anne-Birgitte Albrectsen, CEO of Plan International (3/2).

Forbes: Reciprocity In Global Health: Ain’t Easy But Vital
Madhukar Pai, Canada research chair of epidemiology and global health, director of global health, and director of the McGill International Tuberculosis Centre at McGill University (3/1).

Project Syndicate: The Gender Gap’s Health Consequences
Toyin Saraki, founder and president of the Wellbeing Foundation Africa (3/3).

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From the Global Health Policy Community

Global Health Community Publishes Blog Posts On COVID-19

Center for Global Development: Containing the Epidemic: Should Schools Close for Coronavirus?
Ana Luiza Minardi, research assistant, Susannah Hares, co-director of education policy and senior policy fellow, and Lee Crawfurd, senior research associate, all at CGD (2/28).

IDSA’s “Science Speaks”: COVID-19: Invest now, or pay later
Bertha Serwa Ayi, adjunct assistant professor at the Nebraska Medical Center and adjunct lecturer at the University of Development Studies, Ghana (3/3).

IDSA’s “Science Speaks”: COVID 19: Worsening PPE shortages threaten responses to outbreaks, WHO warns
Antigone Barton, writer and editor of Science Speaks (3/3).

ONE: Coronavirus: Collective global action is necessary
Gayle Smith, president and CEO of the ONE Campaign (3/3).

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FT Health Monthly Newsletter Discusses Coronavirus, Features Interview With Director Of U.K.'s UCL Institute Of Health Equity

Financial Times: FT Health: Coronavirus — a time for trade-offs
The first issue of the Financial Times’ monthly global health newsletter discusses various issues related to the coronavirus outbreak; features an interview with Michael Marmot, director of the U.K.’s UCL Institute of Health Equity; discusses the cost of obesity; and provides a round-up of other global health-related news (Jack/Dodd, 3/4).

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Catalyst 2030 Could Help Support Progress Toward SDGs, Says Founder Of Child And Youth Finance International

World Economic Forum: We’re in danger of missing the SDGs. Enter Catalyst 2030
Jeroo Billimoria, founder of Child and Youth Finance International, discusses the current rate of progress on reaching the SDGs and highlights the potential role of Catalyst 2030, a collaborative movement of social entrepreneurs and innovators, in supporting progress toward the SDGs (3/3).

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From the U.S. Government

U.S. Announces $108M In Additional Humanitarian Assistance For Crisis In Syria

U.S. Department of State: America Announces New Humanitarian Assistance for the Syria Crisis Response
In a press statement, Morgan Ortagus, U.S. Department of State spokesperson, says, “[Tuesday,] in Turkey, the U.S. Representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Kelly Craft, announced $108 million in additional humanitarian assistance for the people of Syria in response to the ongoing crisis caused by Assad regime, Russian, and Iranian forces. This includes nearly $56 million from the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration and more than $52 million from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). It brings the total U.S. humanitarian response to more than $10.6 billion since the start of the Syria crisis. The United States remains the largest single donor of humanitarian assistance — both in Syria and around the world. This assistance is a component of our National Security Strategy to prioritize the reduction of human suffering…” (3/3).

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From KFF

KFF Regularly Updating COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker

KFF: COVID-19 Coronavirus Tracker — Updated as of March 3, 2020
This tracker provides the number of cases and deaths from the novel coronavirus by country, the trends in case and death counts by country, and a global map showing which countries have cases and deaths. The data are drawn directly from official coronavirus situation reports released regularly by the WHO (3/3).

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