KHN’s ‘What the Health?’: How will we reopen the economy?

President Donald Trump wants to reopen the country soon. But public health experts from across the ideological spectrum insist that won't be safe until the country can dramatically ramp up testing and contact tracing stemming from those infected. Meanwhile, the political sparring among the president and members of Congress and the nation's governors is not helping Americans understand what they should do in this grave public health crisis.

This week's panelists are Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News, Kimberly Leonard of Business Insider, Tami Luhby of CNN and Anna Edney of Bloomberg News.

Among the takeaways from this week's podcast:

  • The current outbreak of COVID-19 infecting more than 500 people at a pork processing plant in South Dakota is a cautionary tale for efforts to get back to work. That state is one that the president has been pointing to as having few cases and in a good position to resume ordinary life again.
  • The shortages of masks, protective gear and some drugs related to COVID-19 continue. Much of that equipment and those drugs come from India and China, and the supply lines have been disrupted by outbreaks there.
  • Although U.S. hospitals appear to have an adequate number of ventilators, for now, the drugs to help treat and sedate patients on the machines are in short supply. The Food and Drug Administration recently took the unusual step of allowing hospitals to make their own medications for those patients.
  • The financial impact of the crisis is also affecting Americans' health. Many people who are suddenly without jobs do not have access to food or insurance. Some larger companies that have been forced to close down, such as Macy's, furloughed employees, which means they retain benefits like health insurance, for now, even though they don't have a paycheck.
  • Despite getting a $100 billion bailout in the last federal financial relief bill, hospitals say they will need more money - and soon. But Democrats and Republicans in Congress are still bickering about how to move forward to procure more stimulus money.

Plus, for extra credit, the panelists recommend their favorite health policy stories of the week they think you should read too:

Julie Rovner: Politico Magazine's "Inside America's 2-Decade Failure to Prepare for Coronavirus," by Dan Diamond

Tami Luhby: Kaiser Health News' "Furor Erupts: Billions Going To Hospitals Based On Medicare Billings, Not COVID-19," by Jay Hancock, Phil Galewitz and Elizabeth Lucas

Kimberly Leonard: FiveThirtyEight's "Why Did the World Shut Down for COVID-19 But Not Ebola, SARS or Swine Flu," by Kaleigh Rogers

Anna Edney: The New York Times' "3 Vans, 6 Coolers, a Plane, a Storm and 2 Labs: A Nasal Swab's Journey," by Rukmini Callimachi


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Kaiser Health NewsThis article was reprinted from khn.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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