100M vaccine doses may be ready by 2021; CMS boosts infection control fines for nursing homes — 5 COVID-19 updates

The U.S. has reported 1,831,821 COVID-19 cases and 106,181 deaths as of 8 a.m. CDT June 3. Globally, there have been 6,411,023 reported cases and 380,880 deaths, while 2,750,891 people have recovered. 

 Five updates:

1. The U.S. should have 100 million doses of Moderna's potential COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020, Anthony Fauci, MD, said June 2 during an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association, according to ABC News. Dr. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said vaccine manufacturing would begin before the vaccine candidate is necessarily proven effective to produce 100 million doses. Moderna's vaccine will enter the third and final phase of trials in July. A few other vaccine candidates also show promise, Dr. Fauci said.

2. CMS is increasing penalties for nursing homes with infection control violations, the agency announced June 1. Facilities with a pattern of infection control issues will be subject to higher civil monetary penalties. CMS will also more strictly enforce lower level infection control issues "to ensure they are addressed with increased gravity," the agency said. CMS' announcement coincided with the release of new federal data showing more than 25,000 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 since early May.

3. Many infectious disease experts have doubts that COVID-19's spread will slow down this summer, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, wrote in a June 2 blog post. Dr. Collins cited a recent study published in Science, which found that climate would only become "an important seasonal factor in controlling COVID-19" once there is broader immunity to the new virus. Therefore, physical distancing continues to be the "best weapon" to slow COVID-19's spread this summer, he said. 

4. Forty-three medical societies are calling for more mental health support for front-line clinicians. The medical workforce should be able to safely secure treatment for mental or other health issues to ensure quality patient care, the June 2 letter reads. The organizations urge states to abide by the Americans with Disabilities Act and not discriminate based on disability, citing a "legitimate fear of resultant loss of licensure" for many clinical workers seeking mental health treatment. Licensing and credentialing applications by covered entities should only address current functional impairment, the letter continues, and credentialing agencies should expand treatment access.

5. Several diagnostics companies are rolling out at-home COVID-19 tests, spurring accuracy concerns among some health experts, according to The Wall Street Journal. The FDA has granted emergency use authorization to six at-home collection kits. Users conduct the test themselves before sending it to a lab to process results. While at-home tests could help expand COVID-19 testing capacity and access, experts say the tests can produce varying degrees of false negatives. Out-of-pocket costs for the tests, which range from about $100 to $150, could be another barrier. 


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