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ICYMI: Top takeaways from this week's "Face the Nation": States urge national strategy for testing COVID-19

4/19: Face The Nation
4/19: Dr. Deborah Birx, Gov. Charlie Baker, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, Suzanne Clark, King Abdullah II 47:08

While the Trump administration has passed the baton to governors to handle their phased reopenings differently, states are eager for a national strategy to guide the way and as a means to subside fear and confusion at the state level. 

Here's the big takeaways from Sunday's episode of "Face the Nation" with Margaret Brennan

1.   As national strategy lacks, States want more help with testing

Massachusetts governor says there's "value" in phone call contact tracing 06:29
  • With no clear strategy on the national scale when it comes to testing for COVID-19, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker says the state's "shouldn't be baking their own decisions on that stuff."
  • What Baker said: Baker says his state is in the midst of a surge and he plans to work with surrounding states to coordinate re-opening their economies. Those northeast states are coordinating on their own but his state is interested in more guidance from the federal government. 
  • "But I certainly believe that the more guidance and especially the ability to put the foot on the accelerator with respect to advancements in testing, everything associated with testing ultimately has to be approved by the CDC and the FDA."  
  • So what is the White House strategy right now? White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says"The first way is really understanding E.R. visit and the symptoms associated with COVID-19. And we're tracking and tracing those every day all across the country. The second way is really understanding influenza like illness and converting that entire surveillance program and monitoring program to COVID-like illness, which we can throughout the summer months because we don't have flu. And the third critical leg with those other two legs is testing. But testing needs to be focused critically where you start to see early evidence because no test is 100 percent specific and 100 percent sensitive. And so if you test and over test in areas where there isn't virus, you can end up with false positives and false negatives." 
  • Birx added that two hotspots of concern remain Boston & Chicago
  • What about contact tracing: To get the virus under control, Governor Baker thinks there will be a mix of digital contact tracing and old fashioned phone call based tracing. Massachusetts is hiring 1,000 people to telephone those who have been exposed and figure out who they in turn may have infected. 
  • "And when we have a thousand people working this, and it may be more than that over time, the goal here is to push back on the virus the same way they did in South Korea, to contain it, understand where it is and control it. And I think it's going to be critical for every state that wants to get open and back to something like a new normal to put some kind of mechanism like this in place."
  • Does this impact the recovery timeline? Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, warned Sunday the country is not "out of the woods" yet despite a leveling off in the number of new coronavirus cases in some areas of the country and as governors come under pressure to begin reviving their economies.
  • "The parts of the country that were later to enter their epidemic portion of this crisis, I think still are going to come out of it later, and you still have to be concerned about that," Gottlieb said on "Face the Nation."  
  • Why that matters: As the Trump administration, namely President Trump himself, is pushing forward with getting the country back up and running, for those the order directly implicates, the states, it appears there's a disconnect between what's actually feasible and what the White House says is an option as the country continues to combat coronavirus. 

2. The entire raucous planet is in this together

Jordan's King Abdullah says country will export medical equipment to U.S. to fight coronavirus 06:43

  • "I mean, to be really honest, Mother Nature gave us a big kick up the backside." His Majesty King Abdullah II of Jordan was direct in his call for all countries to work together, including in the fragile Middle East, in order to combat the virus that has impacted virtually every region of the globe. He said the whole region has to have a look in the mirror. 
  • What His Majesty said: Unless we work together, we will not be able to overcome this in the way that we need to. So our enemies of yesterday or- or those that were not friendly countries yesterday, whether we like it or not, are our partners today."
  • The resource-poor Kingdom of Jordan has already been stretched in order to continue to provide a for refugees who make up 20% of the population. His Majesty said Jordan hopes to share what resources it does have with other countries too. 
  • "Are we smart enough as a race and as a people to understand that we've got to get it right and- and do we now serve humanity in the right way to be able to make sure that everybody is looked after because of those that have not are going to suffer as much as those that have. And if we don't reach out to those that are in need, even though we may have limited resources, it is at this stage doing what's right to help all of us because we're all in the same boat," he said. 
  • Why this matters: His Majesty's comments show the importance of bridging the gap worldwide with enemies of the past in order to defeat what the administration has dubbed the "invisible enemy". 

3. More money, more questions for distressed businesses

Head of U.S. Chamber of Commerce expects deal in Congress on small business loans 05:19

  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Suzanne Clark predicted that Congress will pass this week the additional $250 billion in funds to replenish the depleted Small Business Association loan program known as the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP). She predicted that the plan will run more smoothly this time around and be more accessible to smaller businesses who were shut out of the first round. The looming questions now are how can companies safely reopen and what are they obligated to provide employees? 
  • What Clark said: "So the Chamber's path forward is all about gathering all of the questions and concerns that small, medium and large businesses across the country have and helping develop a framework for policymakers and businesses so that when we get the yellow light, the proceed with caution light, to reopen, they're ready. And you're right, that that's part tracing and testing. But it's also part which equipment and how do you train? And then there's the best practices and guidelines. Are we asking employers to check whether you've been tested? Are we creating some kind of immune registry? There are a lot of regulatory and legal questions here that small business owners and big business owners want to know. There's no playbook for this. It's unprecedented. And they want to know if they take a risk in an imperfect information situation that they're going to be protected."  
  • Why that matters: As small business nationwide continues to suffer with little confidence of ever returning to normal again, top economic officials are trying to stress that the funding bottleneck that emerged from PPP will likely subside as "non-traditional lenders" enter the space, allowing PPP to function better and aid some of the smallest small businesses.

4. Questions still remain over China's role in coronavius 

Amid recovery, political pressure mounts in China post-coronavirus 02:04

  • President Trump has renewed his focus on China's role in containing and potentially spreading the deadly coroanvirus, fueling theories over the exact origins of COVID-19. 
  • "I don't have an evidence that it was a laboratory accident. I also don't know precisely where it originated." Dr. Birx said the U.S. knows the COVID-19 virus originated in China but that's the only certainty. 
  • "So until we have the concrete evidence which we struggled with with other pandemics and other zoonotic events. These are zoonotic events. They come from animals into humans. And so figuring that out will be really critical as well as figuring out could it have happened in the lab. Right now, the general consensus is animal to human."  
  • On a potential vaccine: Gottlieb, who last week urged an investigation into China's handling of the initial coronavirus outbreak, says that China may have a coronavirus vaccine available on the market before the U.S.
  • "There's a risk that China may get to vaccine first, I don't think their [vaccine] is very good, but they may get it to the market before we do," Gottlieb said on "Face the nation. "I think that is a concern."

  • Why this all matters: Many questions still remain unanswered about what China did or did not know about the initial spread of the deadly virus that has impacted hundreds of thousands worldwide. The role China did or didn't play in the pandemic could have a rippling ramification for the U.S.-China relationship for years to come. 

Missed Sunday's episode? Click here to watch the show. "Face the Nation" airs Sunday mornings on CBS. Click here for local listings.

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