They blame Congress, and they should. The problem started with a misstep from House Democratic leadership in trying to hurry a funding bill through that hurt Democratic members’ states and cities, clawing back funding that had already been promised and budgeted. The COVID-19 funding was then stripped out of the larger omnibus funding bill that kept government operating.
Since then, though, it’s all been on Republicans who continue to not give a damn if people are dying from what it now appears is a preventable disease. From the $22.5 billion the administration first requested, it’s been whittled down to $10 billion. Republicans have blocked the funding for weeks, demanding that they get a vote on an unrelated anti-immigrant, white supremacist amendment to block President Joe Biden from ending the Trump-imposed pandemic restriction on migrants, including asylum-seekers.
Back in the middle of March, the White House warned of the consequences of funding drying up.
Without funding, the United States will not have enough additional boosters or variant specific vaccines, if needed, for all Americans. The federal government is unable to purchase additional life-saving monoclonal antibody treatments and will run out of supply to send to states as soon as late May. The federal government cannot purchase sufficient quantities of treatments for immunocompromised individuals. And, the federal government will be unable to sustain the testing capacity we built over the last 14 months, as we head into the second half of the year.
All that’s happening now with the uninsured.
“We can’t spend money like the government can. We have to make it with what we have,” said Mayela Castañon, CEO of Community Health Development, a clinic in Uvalde, Texas. “Hopefully Congress will stop fighting and think about what we’re going through.” The majority of the 11,000 people the clinic serves are Hispanic and uninsured. The clinic can only provide testing one day a week, down from six; has restricted testing; and might have to start increasing fees or laying off staff without a new injection of funding.
“The moment that we get a little bit ahead of this problem, they rip back any protections we have,” Smoller said. “I know people are fatigued, but this virus is more patient than we are.”
That’s proven by both increasing infections and hospitalizations. “The 7-day average of cases was 44,416 as of April 25, up more than 20 percent over the previous week,” Politico reports from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data. Hospitalizations were also up by 6.6% over the previous week.
“Making sure uninsured people have access is absolutely critical,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha said during the Tuesday press briefing. “If Congress continues to not fund these urgent priorities, it’s going to get harder and harder for people to access care.”
Which means it’s going to get harder and harder to keep the disease under control. “It’s truly irresponsible of the government to take away funding for Covid when Covid is far from over and health care systems are already strained,” said Coleen Elias, CEO of Community Clinical Services in Lewiston, Maine. “We have to pay a living wage to our staff that works extremely hard.”
Republicans simply don’t care.