The federal government has run out of money to cover coronavirus vaccines, testing and treatment for uninsured Americans, but Congress has yet to approve additional funding for the pandemic response. A bill that would allocate $10 billion for these purposes was stalled on Tuesday when Senate Republicans refused to advance it without a vote to keep in place pandemic-era border restrictions that President Biden has decided to lift. .
Congress is now on a two-week hiatus, so the impasse means final passage of the aid the Biden administration has declared urgently needed will stretch through at least the last week of this month. . The package will not include a $5 billion proposal for the fight against the global pandemic, which senators could not agree on.
A federal fund set up to reimburse doctors for caring for uninsured Covid patients stopped accepting claims in late March. On Wednesday, it stopped reimbursing providers for vaccinating uninsured people.
Without federal funding, major testing sites and labs like Quest Diagnostics charge $100 or more for testing, and smaller services could shut down altogether, just as states close mass testing sites. On Tuesday, Embry Health, a leading testing provider in Arizona, said it would suspend operations at 60 sites in the state and no longer offer free testing to uninsured people.
Here’s what else happened this week:
Shanghai, China’s most populous city, has been in lockdown for more than a week as cases continue to rise. Residents responded with a rare wave of criticism, including outrage at a policy of separating infected children from their families. Officials clarified Monday that parents who also test positive will be allowed to stay with their children, but said they would continue to separate children from parents who were not infected.
China’s Covid lockdowns and restrictions are delaying truck drivers transporting crucial components between factories and moving products to ports, posing further disruption to the global supply chain.
Almost two-thirds of Africans may have contracted the coronavirus, according to an analysis conducted by the World Health Organization. On Thursday, the WHO director for Africa urged countries there to step up testing and contact tracing. It is still unclear why the Covid death toll on the continent has remained low.
A second booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provides additional short-term protection against Omicron infections and serious illnesses in the elderly, according to a new large study from Israel. But the effectiveness of the booster against the infection in particular decreases after only four weeks and almost disappears after eight weeks. Protection against serious disease did not decline within six weeks of the supplemental dose.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Tuesday that her agency would “really encourage people over 50 who have underlying medical conditions and those over 65” to get a second reminder. shoot. European regulators said on Wednesday it was “too early” to administer a second booster to the general European Union population, but added that the additional doses could be given to adults aged 80 and over. more.
A federal appeals court on Thursday overturned a ruling that had prevented the White House from requiring federal workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
About 60 million Medicare-enrolled Americans can now receive up to eight free at-home coronavirus tests per month from pharmacies or health care providers.
Emily Cochrane and Lauren McCarthy contributed report.