Today's word count is 1,218, or a 5-minute read.
Today's word count is 1,218, or a 5-minute read.
The U.S. is cutting back on coronavirus testing. Nationally, the number of tests performed each day is about 17% lower than it was at the end of July, and testing is also declining in hard-hit states.
Why it matters: This big reduction in testing has helped clear away delays that undermined the response to the pandemic. But doing fewer tests can also undermine the response to the pandemic.
By the numbers: At the end of July, America was doing more than 800,000 tests a day. This week, it's hovered around 715,000.
Yes, but: Experts have said reducing the demand for testing may be the best way to alleviate long delays, which made tests all but useless. And that appears to be working.
Driving the news: The Department of Health and Human Services estimated this week that nearly 90% of all tests are being completed within three days — a big improvement from turnaround times that had been stretching well over a week.
The bottom line: The U.S. is averaging 50,000 new cases a day, and that high caseload is ultimately why the demand for testing is more than the system can handle.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
America's bungled political and social response to the coronavirus exists side-by-side with a record-breaking push to create a vaccine with U.S. companies and scientists at the center, Axios' Bryan Walsh reports.
Why it matters: America's two-sided response serves as an X-ray of the country itself — still capable of world-beating feats at the high end, but increasingly struggling with what should be the simple business of governing itself.
What's happening: An index published last week by FP Analytics, an independent research division of Foreign Policy, ranked the U.S. 31st out of 36 countries in its assessment of government responses to COVID-19.
Yes, but: Work on a COVID-19 vaccine is progressing astonishingly fast, with the Cambridge-based biotech company Moderna and the National Institutes of Health announcing at the end of July that they had begun Phase 3 of the clinical trial.
So which is the real American response to COVID-19? The bungled testing policies, the politically driven rush to reopen, the tragic racial divide seen in the sick and the dead? Or the warp-speed work to develop a vaccine in a year when most past efforts took decades?
Be smart: It's both.
The U.S. reported 1,485 deaths due to the coronavirus on Wednesday, COVID Tracking Project data shows. It's the highest single-day COVID-19 death toll since May 15, when the country reported 1,507 deaths.
Democrats and the Trump administration remain "miles apart" on negotiations over a coronavirus stimulus deal, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said on Wednesday.
Sheriff Billy Woods of Marion County, Florida, prohibited his employees from wearing masks at work on Tuesday, disputing — in spite of scientific evidence — that they help curb the spread of coronavirus, the Ocala Star-Banner reports.
"Superforecasters" have shown an uncanny knack for accurately predicting major events, including the course of the coronavirus pandemic, Bryan writes.
America's confidence in the public school system rose by 12 points this year to 41% — its highest point since 2004, according to a Gallup poll released Wednesday.
The U.K. slumped into recession as its gross domestic product GDP shrank 20.4% compared with the first three months of the year, the Office of National Statistics confirmed Wednesday.
New Zealand now has 13 local coronavirus cases linked to four people who tested positive on Tuesday, ending the country's run of no local cases for 102 days.
The Netherlands' top health official told parliament Tuesday that 4,036 additional cases had been confirmed in seven days — a rise of 55% on the previous week, the Guardian notes.
America's coronavirus outbreak is slowing down after a summer of explosive growth, Axios' Sam Baker and Andrew Witherspoon report.
By the numbers: The U.S. is averaging roughly 52,000 new cases per day — still a lot of cases, but about 10.5% fewer than it was averaging last week.
Where it stands: New cases slowed over the past week in 21 states, including Arizona, Florida, Texas and the Southern states that experienced dramatic outbreaks in June and July.
The big picture: Infections skyrocketed over the summer, and this week's improvements aren't enough to offset that damage. States will have to keep this downward trend going for a long time before they can consider their outbreaks to be well controlled.
The catch: As you read above, testing is also down across the U.S., by about 4.5% this week.
The bottom line: Progress has to start somewhere, and these numbers are encouraging. But the U.S. still has a very big coronavirus outbreak and a flawed, incomplete plan of attack to fight it.
A newly unsealed lawsuit accuses Molina Healthcare of cutting corners in its mental health services for children and defrauding Medicaid in the process, Sam reports.
The big picture: Molina provides Medicaid managed-care plans in more than a dozen states. The whistleblower suit accuses the company of overbilling specifically for children's behavioral health services, to the tune of at least $20 million across multiple federal, state and local agencies.
Details: The lawsuit, which was filed in 2018 but under seal until last month, claims that Molina and two of its subsidiaries failed to maintain individualized treatment plans for some of the children it covered, as required by law.
The other side: Spokespeople from Molina did not respond to a request for comment on the suit.
Editor's note: The second item and chart in yesterday's Vitals were corrected to show there was roughly $50 billion (not $58 billion) in U.S. net sales. We had previously included international sales for Biktarvy, Enbrel, Januvia, Remicade and Stelara.