Federal funds sit unused or with hidden strings

A new analysis of funds allocated under the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act found that just approximately $121 million of $10.25 billion has been put to use since the act's passage in April. The intention of this legislation was to bolster testing, contact tracing and surveillance during the covid-19 outbreak in the United States. Additionally, only $1.62 billion of $5.7 billion allocated to federal agencies has been committed, and the majority of an $8 billion allotment to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) likewise remains untouched. There has been frustration among experts asking for more efficient testing, broader testing efforts and more thorough contact tracing. On one hand, it feels to many as if there is a lack of adequate funding for these efforts which are seen as vital in turning the tide against covid-19. But that sense has apparently been exacerbated by the knowledge that such funding actually is technically available, but for a variety of logistical reasons remains untouched or inaccessible. 

Separately, an email obtained by the New York Times from HHS Secretary Alex Azar indicated that allocation of the $100 billion from the Provider Relief Fund would be tied to healthcare facilities' reporting of covid-19 admissions data to a private contracting firm, TeleTracking Technologies. Critics have raised concerns with this plan for several reasons. Chief among them is that the policy requires hospitals to share public health information with a private firm that has not previously held such contracts, rather than reporting the information directly to federal health entities such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was the initial setup. The new workflow is seen as increasing risks related to transparency and data reliability. Many experts find it particularly problematic that relief funding is essentially being used to coerce hospitals into entrusting important and sensitive data to a private company, while keeping public health experts in the dark. Various.

FDA commissioner walks back misleading statements on plasma

On Sunday, FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn falsely said at a White House briefing that convalescent plasma could save the lives of 35 out of 100 patients who have contracted coronavirus. Experts from the Mayo Clinic, from which the statistic was apparently drawn, told media outlets that they had no idea where this number came from. Monday evening, Hahn took to Twitter, admitting that expert criticism of the statement had been "entirely justified."

Hahn attended medical school at Temple University and completed an internal medicine residency at U.C. San Francisco. Biostatistics are taught at both institutions. Various.

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