Saturday's top stories

America's hospitals, doctors and nurses urge Trump to ramp up medical supplies

Trump briefs reporters in the White House on March 21. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

President Trump should use the Defense Production Act to ramp up the country's domestic production of medical masks, gowns and other items crucial for health care workers to fight the novel coronavirus, the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association wrote in a letter on Saturday.

Why it matters: Officials on the White House coronavirus task force had no firm answers on Saturday when asked when doctors and nurses across the country can expect to receive face masks to protect themselves while treating patients with COVID-19.

FDA approves first bedside coronavirus test

A patient prepares for a coronavirus test in New York City. Photo: Misha Friedman/Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration has approved a "point-of-service" coronavirus test, made by Cepheid, that will be rolled out March 30.

Why it matters: This is the first tool that can test patients at the bedside and get results in less than an hour, which should help alleviate the United States' dire testing backlog.

Mar 21, 2020 - Health

Even the best coronavirus scenario is terrible

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Sadly, the more we learn about the coronavirus pandemic, on both the medical and economic sides, the worse the best-case scenarios become.

Why it matters: Some readers tell us they think virus coverage has been overly dramatic. So we wanted to share with you the consensus of what the most clear-eyed, serious, optimistic people are saying, as a way to focus our minds. 

Q&A: How can I best help my community while social distancing?

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Social distancing is a vital part of combatting the coronavirus, but many of us still have questions about how to keep our distance, help local businesses and take care of our basic needs all at the same time.

Here are the experts' answers to some of the most common questions about how to do social-distancing right.

Coronavirus briefing: Delivery date of medical masks to doctors, nurses unclear

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence give a coronavirus task force briefing on March 19. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Officials on the White House coronavirus task force had no firm answers on Saturday when asked when doctors and nurses across the country would receive medical masks to protect themselves while treating patients with the novel coronavirus.

What they're saying: "Sooner than weeks, it's going to be days, I would hope. We're going to try to make it days to the best possible way that we can," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, replied when reporters asked him about the timeline for delivering masks.

Go deeperArrowMar 21, 2020 - Health
Mike Allen, author of AM

Businesses mobilize to support employees during coronavirus outbreak

Harry Westhoff, 71, runs groceries back to his car in Teaneck, N.J., after Stop & Shop opened special morning hours for people 60-plus. Photo/John Minchillo/AP

Getting behind an idea from Andrew Ross Sorkin that excited CEOs, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on Congress to pass a "bridge loan" program to give federally guaranteed loans to companies with big losses from the pandemic.

How it works: The loans would include incentives for employers to maintain existing current workers at their existing pay.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata

"Unicorn" Flexport finds the face masks that SF hospitals need

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Flexport, a freight logistics "unicorn," has successfully sourced and is buying around $1.4 million of face masks and other medical protective equipment that was requested by San Francisco's Department of Public Health.

Why it matters: Many U.S. hospitals and other health care facilities still do not have what they need to keep their employees safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Go deeperArrowMar 21, 2020 - Health

GM is trying to help speed up ventilator production, and keep up with Trump

President Trump speaks during the daily briefing on the novel coronavirus. Photo: JIM WATSON / Getty Images

General Motors is exploring how it can help a small ventilator manufacturer ramp up production, but it is unlikely to make medical equipment itself as part of a broader wartime response to the novel coronavirus, as President Trump suggested Friday.

Why it matters: While GM CEO Mary Barra offered the automaker's help in fighting the global pandemic, the company is scrambling to keep up with the president's public statements. But it is wrong to assume that automakers can quickly retool industrial factories to make precision medical equipment the way they made bombs, tanks and airplanes during World War II.

Hospitals are asking for a federal bailout ASAP due to coronavirus

A rural hospital in Washington state earlier this month. Photo: Nick Otto/Washington Post via Getty Images

Hospital executives are urging the federal government to approve a cash influx as soon as possible, because many fear the coronavirus outbreak will force them to miss payroll and potentially shutter their doors.

What they're saying: "If we don't get some assistance in the next two weeks, we will have to begin to have a conversation ... that we will no longer to be able to be in business, and that we will have to close the hospital," J. Scott Graham, CEO of Three Rivers Hospital and North Valley Hospital in Washington state, told reporters Saturday.

Trump touts drugs not yet approved by FDA for treating coronavirus

Trump briefs the press on March 20. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Trump tweeted on Saturday that hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, and azithromycin, an antibiotic, "have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine" when taken together — as novel coronavirus cases surge in the U.S.

Reality check, via Axios' Sam Baker: Hydroxychloroquine has shown some promise against the coronavirus in a very small French study, but it is not federally approved to treat the COVID-19 because no official studies have been conducted to determine whether it's both safe and effective for those sick patients.

Go deeperArrowMar 21, 2020 - Health

Podcast: Social distancing done right

In this special weekend edition of Pro Rata, we discuss how to safely grocery shop, support local businesses and help neighbors. Plus, we share updates on facemask shortages and the possibility of an economic depression.

Go deeper: Coronavirus dashboard

Mar 21, 2020 - Health

U.S.-China tensions hit a dangerous new high

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The coronavirus crisis has sent U.S.-China relations spiraling, alarming analysts who say the two countries are at their most dangerous point in decades.

Why it matters: Instead of working together to fight the global pandemic, the world's two largest economies are engaging in risky escalation.

Go deeperArrowMar 21, 2020 - Health
Bryan Walsh, author of Future

The pandemic's coming health surveillance state

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 became a pandemic because too many of the countries struck by the virus failed to detect and suppress outbreaks as fast as possible. But the coronavirus could usher in an era of intense health surveillance.

Why it matters: From location-detecting smartphones to facial recognition cameras, we have the potential to track the spread of disease in near real-time. But the public health benefits will need to be weighed against the loss of privacy.

Go deeperArrowMar 21, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus sends local news into crisis

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Dozens of local newsrooms began laying people off this week out of fear that the economic hit of the coronavirus could severely impact their ad revenue.

Why it matters: Local news was already facing dire strains in the United States. The coronavirus and a pending recession could push the industry into near collapse at a time when people need access to local news and information more than ever before.