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Tag: covid testing

Biden Orders Insurance Companies To Cover Eight Monthly COVID Tests

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Insurance companies will be required to cover eight over-the-counter at-home coronavirus tests per person each month starting Saturday, the Biden administration said, expanding access to highly sought-after kits as Americans grapple with a surge in coronavirus cases.

The White House also said on Monday that there is no limit to the number of COVID-19 tests, including at-home tests, that insurers must cover if they are ordered or administered by a health care provider.

The measures are part of a bid by President Joe Biden to make testing more widely available to Americans facing soaring coronavirus cases due to the highly infectious Omicron variant.

In a speech in December, Biden outlined plans to distribute 500 million at-home coronavirus test kits and stand up new federal testing sites, adding to the 20,000 already in existence. However, experts decried the announcement as "too little too late" amid testing shortages nationwide.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that Americans should be able to order the tests online later this month, noting that all contracts for rapid tests should be awarded over the next two weeks. The first was signed last week.

Under the insurer coverage plan announced Monday, the administration said that insurers are still required to reimburse tests purchased by consumers outside of their network, at a rate of up to $12 per individual test.

It was not immediately clear what incentives were offered to insurers to agree to the plan. The Department of Health and Human Services did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Eric Beech and Alexandra Alper; Editing by Chris Reese and Cynthia Osterman)

Dodging Guilt, DeSantis Scapegoats Immigrants For Covid Surge

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is attempting to shift the blame for his state's alarming uptick in COVID cases but he's already facing pushback against that effort. Over the last week, the Republican governor has taken aim at the (CDC), President Joe Biden, his administration, and even immigrants.

"Joe Biden has the nerve to tell me to get out of the way on COVID while he lets COVID-infected migrants pour over our southern border by the hundreds of thousands," DeSantis previously said. "No elected official is doing more to enable the transmission of COVID in America than Joe Biden with his open borders policies."

On another occasion, DeSantis attempted to place the blame on unvaccinated and undocumented immigrants. According to the Florida governor, "it's immigrants crossing the border — and not the Floridians he has encouraged to behave irresponsibly, the unvaccinated or the unmasked — who are spreading variants."

DeSantis' remarks echo the words of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Fox News' Sean Hannity. Now, DeSantis' claims are being completely debunked. An analysis published by The Washington Post explains why immigrants are not to blame for the latest accelerated spread of the Delta variant of COVID.

"This idea depends on three key misunderstandings," the paper reports. "A misunderstanding of the surge in arrivals at the Mexico border, a misunderstanding of how migrants are released from federal custody, and a misunderstanding of where the pandemic is actually at its worst."

The analysis also highlights a distinct Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy counsel for the American Immigration Council. He explained how and why immigrants are typically tested far more than any other individuals in the country.

"Migrants are in many ways the most tested group in the country. No other group of people in the entire country is being tested at a near-100 percent rate," he said by phone. "So when we talk about infection rates of migrants, what we actually know is that a lot of people who are testing positive are asymptomatic; who, if they were in the United States, would have just never been tested."

Despite DeSantis' sentiments being debunked, his office released a lengthy statement in an attempt to offer clarity about his remarks. In reference to immigrants, his office did admit that migration is not solely responsible

"What we know from official data is that about 200,000 people cross the border illegally every month. They come from over 100 countries, and some of those countries where a significant portion of the migrants hail from, such as Haiti, have extremely low rates of COVID vaccination. Therefore — When the Biden administration discusses implementing vaccine passports for legal immigrants and tourists coming to our country, but allows the free movement of illegal immigrants through the border and around the country (especially to Florida, which 70% of migrants detained and interviewed by our state law enforcement assisting with border security in Texas reported as their final destination) without any mitigation measures, that is hypocritical.

If President Biden was serious about "shutting down the virus" as he promised, his open border policies do not make any sense. At the very least, it's unfair (not to mention unscientific) that legal immigrants, tourists, and even American citizens are subject to more stringent COVID restrictions than illegal immigrants are. If public health recommendations are about public health, these recommendations should apply to all people equally.

Hospitals report data on inpatient bed usage, ICU capacity, COVID hospitalizations, and other metrics directly to HHS, but they do not report citizenship status of patients, as far as I am aware. The concern is that some people could be feeling fine, but carrying variants from different countries and spreading them to higher risk individuals, who then get extremely ill.

Of course, migration isn't the only factor in COVID spread, and the governor has never implied that to be the case. The main issue that Governor DeSantis highlighted with his comments yesterday was the paradoxical nature of the Biden Administration's support for additional restrictions on Americans and lawful immigrants (namely, the WH support for vaccine passports) while allowing illegal migrants to cross the border and travel through the country freely.

Newly Released Emails Show Trump Appointees Tried To Slow Virus Testing

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Newly released emails written by a former Trump administration official show just how deep the effort to slow down the testing of Americans for the coronavirus went, as political appointees sought to meet Donald Trump's demand to make the number of cases look smaller in an effort to bolster his reelection chances.

The emails were released by the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis, which has been investigating Trump's failed pandemic response. The Washington Post first reported on the emails, which the committee says prove there was political interference in the Trump administration's virus response efforts.

The emails were sent by Paul Alexander, a Trump political appointee who was behind an effort to get the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to stop testing asymptomatic people who had been exposed to the coronavirus. Alexander was the same official who Politico reported in December was behind the push for a "herd immunity" strategy, in which Alexander wanted millions of people to be infected with the coronavirus to build community resistance to it and end the pandemic — a strategy public health officials said was dangerous and could have led to many more deaths.

The committee wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden's chief of staff that "recently obtained evidence shows that political appointees were involved in the decision to change CDC's guidance, and that the Trump Administration changed the guidance for the explicit purpose of reducing testing and allowing the virus to spread while quickly reopening the economy."

In an Aug. 27, 2020, email obtained by the committee, Alexander wrote, "Testing asymptomatic people to seek asymptomatic cases is not the point of testing, for in the end, all this accomplishes is we end up quarantining asymptomatic, low risk people and preventing the workforce from working. In this light, it would be unreasonable based on the prevailing data to have widespread testing of schools and colleges/universities. This will not allow them to optimally re-open."

The email was sent one day after the CDC changed its guidance to say that asymptomatic people who had been exposed to the virus did not need to get tested, against the advice of public health experts who said finding asymptomatic infected people before they could unwittingly infect others was an important tool for stopping the pandemic from getting out of control.

The decision to change testing recommendations led to a barrage of criticism, and the CDC reversed the guidance a month later.

Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), chair of the Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, said that the investigation into the Trump administration's failures in handling the pandemic will continue, and requested more documents sent by political appointees and career civil servants in the health department related to Trump's coronavirus response, including the rollout of vaccines.

Trump left office with the COVID-19 pandemic raging out of control. More than 463,000 people have died of complications related to the virus to date in the United States.

Biden is now working to stem the spread of the virus. Jeff Zients, the co-coordinator of Biden's COVID-19 task force, told reporters after Biden took office, "What we're inheriting from the Trump administration is so much worse than we could have imagined."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.