Some good news to start the week: the US recorded just 21,392 new cases of coronavirus yesterday, marking the country’s lowest daily caseload since June 15, 2020, according to data compiled by johns Hopkins University.
Coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths have declined in the US in recent weeks, as more Americans get vaccinated against the virus.
According to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker, the US has already administered 259,716,989 shots, and about 46% of Americans have received at least one dose. Roughly 34% of the country’s population is now fully vaccinated.
Dr Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, celebrated the downward trend in US cases at a briefing with the White House pandemic response team last week.
“We are not out of the woods yet, but we could be very close,” the CDC director said.
US to provide protections from discrimination in health care based on gender identity and sexual orientation
The Biden administration announced this morning that the US will provide protections against discrimination in health care based on gender identity and sexual orientation.
The department of health and human services explained the policy shift by citing the supreme court’s decision in Bostock v Clayton County, which was issued last year. In the case, the court ruled that firing someone because of their sexual orientation or gender identity violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“The Supreme Court has made clear that people have a right not to be discriminated against on the basis of sex and receive equal treatment under the law, no matter their gender identity or sexual orientation. That’s why today HHS announced it will act on related reports of discrimination,” HHS secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
He added, “Fear of discrimination can lead individuals to forgo care, which can have serious negative health consequences. It is the position of the Department of Health and Human Services that everyone – including LGBTQ people – should be able to access health care, free from discrimination or interference, period.”
The announcement represents a reversal from the policy of the Trump administration, which had defined “sex” to mean gender assigned at birth, excluding transgender people from the law’s protections.
The Trump-era policy delighted social conservatives and outraged civil rights advocates, who accused the previous administration of endangering transgender Americans.
Dr Rachel Levine, assistant secretary for health and the first openly transgender person to be confirmed by the Senate, said the policy change would help further the department’s mission to “enhance the health and well-being of all Americans”.
Levine added, “No one should be discriminated against when seeking medical services because of who they are.”
In case you missed it: House minority leader Kevin McCarthy officially backed Elise Stefanik’s bid to replace Liz Cheney as conference chair.
“What we’re talking about is a position in leadership. As conference chair, you have one of the most critical jobs as a messenger going forward,” McCarthy told Maria Bartiromo yesterday.
McCarthy had previously defended Cheney after she voted to impeach Donald Trump for inciting the January 6 insurrection, but the Republican leader had recently signaled he was willing to oust her.
House Republicans are expected to vote Wednesday on whether to remove Cheney from her leadership position, and they will likely approve her ouster.
Biden to speak on economy as McConnell signals potential shift on infrastructure
Greetings from Washington, live blog readers.
Joe Biden will deliver remarks on the US economy this afternoon, as the president continues to push Congress to pass his infrastructure plan.
Speaking on Friday, Biden argued that the disappointing April jobs report underscored the need to approve a massive investment in US infrastructure.
“We have to build back better,” Biden said. “That’s why we need the American Jobs Plan I proposed: to put us in a position where we can build back better, to reclaim our position as the leading and most innovative nation in the world, and win the future — the 21st century.”
The American Jobs Plan would cost more than $2 trillion, and Republicans have signaled they will not support a bill with such a high price tag.
However, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell seemed to signal over the weekend that he was inching upward on his ideal cost for an infrastructure plan.
The Republican leader told local PBS affiliate KET over the weekend that “the proper price tag for what most of us think of as infrastructure is about six to eight hundred billion dollars”.
McConnell had previously indicated he was unwilling to go over $600 billion, and Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito’s proposal would cost $568 billion.
However, given the scope of the legislation Biden has proposed, McConnell’s offer may still not be enough for Democrats, who still have the option to use reconciliation to pass a bill without Republican support in the Senate.
Biden will be speaking in a few hours, so stay tuned.