What We're Reading: Trump Targets WHO Payments; Ventilator Initiative Announced; Coronavirus Testing Slows

April 15, 2020

President Donald Trump looks to suspend funding to the World Health Organization; unused ventilators may shift to hospitals with the greatest need; coronavirus testing rates fell off in the past week.

Trump Announces Review of WHO Funding

President Donald Trump announced the United States will temporarily cut funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), according to Bloomberg, for at least 60 days. Claiming mistakes on the part of WHO to adequately respond to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic early this year, the president highlighted WHO’s refusal to institute travel bans in January. But the payments are authorized by Congress and the president's authority to halt payments is still not clear. The Washington Post reports that the move has drawn wide criticism, includign from the Ameerican Medical Association, the secretary general of the United Nations, and Bill Gates, who tweeted Wednesday that “Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds.”

Critical-Need Areas May Soon See Additional Ventilators

COVID-19 Testing Rates See Weekly 30% Drop

A public-private partnership called the "Dynamic Ventilator Reserve" aims to redistribute much-needed, and unused, ventilators among hospitals and areas especially hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, reports The Hill. The Trump administration claims HHS and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will support the effort. Already, the Defense Production Act, first passed in September 1950, has been invoked to expand ventilator production and supply.Despite an increase in infections, COVID-19 testing rates fell off by 30% over the past week, per Politico. Possible reasons for this drop include revised testing criteria from the CDC, which prioritize high-risk groups and healthcare workers, and a swab shortage, leading to a lack of virus samples collected. Meanwhile, commercial labs—Quest and LabCorp alone analyze close to two-thirds of these samples—claim they are in a holding pattern, with smaller numbers of samples arriving and backlogs cleared, and FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn is touting possible updates to testing criteria.