Oklahomans vote to expand Medicaid amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic; Anthony Fauci, MD, cautions Congress that the daily number of new COVID-19 cases could reach 100,000 if outbreaks are not suppressed; public health departments must fight the spread of COVID-19 with lower funding and insufficient staff.
Voters in Oklahoma narrowly approved a ballot measure that will expand Medicaid to as many as 200,000 adults, marking the first state to do so amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, according to POLITICO. The recent rise in unemployment may have swayed voters to expand insurance coverage, although opponents argue that the state’s stretched budget cannot afford it. Because the ballot measure added Medicaid expansion to the Oklahoma state constitution, Republican officials may face legal difficulties adding work requirements or proceeding with a plan to convert Medicaid payments into a block grant.
On a day when the United States recorded more than 48,000 new cases of COVID-19, setting a daily record for the fourth time this week, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, appeared before Congress to warn that the daily tally could more than double to 100,000, The New York Times reports. “It is going to be very disturbing, I will guarantee you that,” Fauci said, adding that flaring hotspots in the South and West put “the entire country at risk.” In particular, he highlighted the dangers of disease transmission posed by congregating indoors at bars.
An analysis from the Associated Press and Kaiser Health News finds that spending for state and local public health departments have decreased by 16% and 18% per capita, respectively, since 2010, and at least 38,000 public health jobs have been eliminated since 2008. Additionally, most states spend less than $100 per resident on annual public health expenditures. The analysis comes at a time when overstretched, underpaid public health workers are tasked with conducting COVID-19 testing and tracing to stem the spread of the virus.