The federal government has run out of money to cover coronavirus vaccines, testing and treatment for uninsured Americans, but Congress has yet to approve more pandemic response funding. A bill that would allocate $10 billion for those purposes 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 moved to lift.
Congress is now on a two-week break, so the stalemate means that final passage of aid that the Biden administration has said is urgently needed will slip until at least the last week of this month. The package will not include a proposed $5 billion for the global pandemic fight, which senators could not agree on.
A federal fund established to reimburse doctors for care 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 laboratories like Quest Diagnostics are charging $100 or more for testing, and smaller services could shutter altogether, just as states are closing down 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 would no longer offer free tests for uninsured people.
Here’s what else happened this week:
Shanghai, China’s most populous city, has been in lockdown for over a week as cases keep rising. Residents have responded with a rare outpouring of criticism, including outrage over a policy of separating infected children from their families. Officials clarified on Monday that parents who also test positive will be allowed to stay with their children, but they said they would continue to separate children from parents who were not infected.
China’s Covid lockdowns and restrictions are holding up truck drivers who carry crucial components among factories and take products to ports, posing a new disruption to the global supply chain.
Nearly two-thirds of Africans may have contracted the coronavirus, an analysis led by the World Health Organization found. The W.H.O.’s Africa director on Thursday urged countries there to ramp up testing and contact tracing. It remains unclear why the continent’s Covid death toll has remained low.
A second booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine provides additional short-term protection against Omicron infections and severe illness among older adults, according to a large new study from Israel. But the booster’s effectiveness against infection in particular wanes after just four weeks and almost disappears after eight weeks. Protection against severe illness did not ebb in the six weeks after the extra dose.
Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Tuesday that her agency “really would encourage people who are over 50 who have underlying medical conditions and those over the age of 65” to get a second booster shot. European regulators said on Wednesday that it was “too early” to administer second booster shots to the general population in the European Union, but added that the additional doses could be given to adults aged 80 and older.
A federal appeals court on Thursday reversed a decision that had blocked the White House from requiring federal workers to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
Roughly 60 million Americans who are enrolled in Medicare can now receive up to eight free home coronavirus tests per month from pharmacies or health care providers.
Emily Cochrane and Lauren McCarthy contributed reporting.