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White House Asks Supreme Court to Strike Down Obamacare Amid Pandemic

By VOA News June 26, 2020

The U.S. coronavirus task force is expected to hold a public briefing Friday. Vice President Mike Pence will lead the session, the first public briefing in nearly two months.

Late Thursday, as the coronavirus cases in the U.S. climbed to record highs, the White House filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to invalidate the Affordable Care Act, the health care insurance also known as Obamacare.

Unlike most Western countries, U.S. health coverage is tied to jobs. Since the lockdowns started in the U.S., tens of millions of people have lost their jobs and their health insurance.

In addition, not all U.S. jobs provide health insurance, forcing people to buy their own health insurance. The intention of the ACA was to help the public purchase health insurance at reasonable rates.

'Unfathomable cruelty'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement, "President Trump and the Republicans' campaign to rip away the protections and benefits of the Affordable Care Act in the middle of the coronavirus crisis is an act of unfathomable cruelty."

The Supreme Court justices will hear oral arguments in October.

The U.S. leads the world in coronavirus infections. It has 2.4 million cases, followed by Brazil with 1.2 million cases and Russia with more than 613,000 infections, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The number of new single-day coronavirus infections in the U.S. is near record highs as the government revealed more than 20 million people in the U.S. could have contracted the virus.

The U.S. states reported 39,327 new cases Thursday, according to The Washington Post, the highest one-day total since the outbreak began in December.

Johns Hopkins University recorded 34,300 cases Wednesday, just shy of its reported record high of 36,400 on April 24.

Premature reopenings trigger spike

Harvard Global Health Institute director Ashish Jha said in an interview Thursday on NBC's "Today" show that the recent increase in U.S. infections was due to the premature reopening of the country's economy without appropriate safety procedures.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday the number of coronavirus cases may be 10 times greater than has been reported.

A count by Johns Hopkins University puts the number of cases at 2.5 million.

But the real number of estimated cases could be about 20 million, the CDC said.

Officials have long believed the actual number of cases has been underreported.

The CDC says it bases its new estimate after studying blood samples from across the country. It says many cases were not caught because early testing was limited or carried out only on those people who showed symptoms.

The CDC estimates that 6 percent of the U.S. population has had COVID-19.

Officials report the number of single-day deaths in the U.S. fell last week, but the number of cases appears to be growing.

Several states set new one-day records this week – mostly in the South and West. They include Arizona, California, Nevada, Oklahoma and Texas. Other states are also reporting a rise in the number of new cases.

Pregnant women at risk

Officials are generally blaming the surge in new cases on young people who they say refuse to wear masks, won't heed calls for social distancing, and are spreading the virus to more vulnerable older adults.

Texas Governor Greg Abbot said Thursday that the state would delay reopening plans to contain surges of new infections. He signed an executive order suspending elective surgery at hospitals in four counties to guarantee adequate space for coronavirus patients.

"The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses," Abbott said.

Also Thursday, the CDC updated its list of those it says are at higher risk for a severe case of COVID-19 to include pregnant women.

It also says a person's age does not necessarily put him or her at an increased risk.

The CDC also added sickle cell disease as an underlying condition that would make a COVID-19 victim suffer more.

CDC officials say they expect to come out with recommendations for racial and ethnic minority groups soon.

Dr. Rick Bright, a top government medical researcher, is charging the Trump administration of increasing what he called a "coordinated effort" to punish him for exposing what he said is a bungled response to the coronavirus.

Bright has filed a new complaint with the federal watchdog agency to which government whistleblowers can turn.

Bright was the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

His complaint said he has been downgraded to a much lesser role in the National Institutes of Health, and that because of his reduced role, he "is cut off from all vaccine work, cut off from all therapeutic work, and has a very limited role in the diagnostic work."

According to the complaint, a former colleague said Health and Human Services chief Alex Azar warned him and others that if anyone were to help Bright, "there would be hell to pay."

Bright apparently tried to warn the White House and HHS earlier this year that the country was unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic. He also balked at pushing hydroxychloroquine –- the drug Trump has touted as an effective treatment for COVID-19, but which could have deadly side effects.

Trump called Bright an "angry, disgruntled employee."

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