CMS halts quality reporting; FDA takes action on ventilator shortage — 10 COVID-19 updates for Monday

The U.S. has the third highest count of COVID-19 cases globally, behind only China and Italy. Nationwide, 35,530 American cases have been reported, along with 473 deaths, as of 12 p.m. CDT, March 23.

Worldwide, 354,677 cases and 15,436 deaths have been reported, while 100,436 people have recovered from the illness.

Ten outbreak updates:

1. CMS is waiving quality reporting requirements and extending data submission deadlines for providers and hospitals participating in Medicare payment programs, the agency said March 22. The move aims to provide relief for workers who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak.

2. Officials are telling residents in hard-hit areas not to get tested and that the fight to contain COVID-19 is over, according to The Washington Post. Only healthcare workers and hospitalized patients will be tested in areas such as New York and California.

"Not every single person in the U.S. needs to get tested," Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a March 21 news briefing. Focus has shifted from vast testing to conserving masks, ventilators and intensive care beds.

3. Hospitals can repurpose machines they already have to serve as ventilators, the FDA announced March 22. The action, meant to immediately increase ventilator supply, allows ventilators to be used beyond their shelf life and allows the long-term use of ventilators intended for other environments.

4. A third of China's COVID-19 cases were asymptomatic "silent carriers," according to Chinese government data seen by the South China Morning Post. Over 43,000 people in China tested positive for COVID-19 by the end of February but didn't have immediate symptoms. The patients, though quarantined, were excluded from China's official confirmed case count. Typically, a patient develops symptoms in five days, though the incubation period can reach up to three weeks in some rare cases. Scientists have not yet determined the role of asymptomatic transmission in the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. "This week, it's going to get bad," the U.S. surgeon general said of the national outbreak. Jerome Adams, MD, said March 23 on "The Today Show" that the outbreak will get worse this week because people aren't practicing social distancing or taking the threat seriously enough.

6. Senate Democrats have blocked action on a $2 trillion COVID-19 spending plan, Bloomberg reports. Democrats argued the plan didn't provide enough support for workers or state and local governments and gave too much discretion to the Treasury Department. 

7. The FDA authorized a new COVID-19 test that delivers results in 45 minutes. The Cepheid Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 test is scheduled to be available by March 30, and will be used in certain patient care settings as well as high- and moderate-complexity labs certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments.

8. Healthcare workers account for about 12 percent of Spain's COVID-19 cases, The New York Times reports. Some 3,500 healthcare workers have COVID-19, the Spanish health ministry said March 22.   

9. A third member of Congress has tested positive for COVID-19, Fox News reports. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is the first U.S. senator to be sickened, his staff announced March 22.

10. The Federal Reserve committed to unlimited bond purchases to support the economy. Officials will buy bonds "in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning," such as buying government-backed debt tied to commercial real estate, according to a March 23 release.

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Ten outbreak updates:

1. CMS is waiving quality reporting requirements and extending data submission deadlines for providers and hospitals participating in Medicare payment programs, the agency said March 22. The move aims to provide relief for workers who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak.

2. Officials are telling residents in hard-hit areas not to get tested and that the fight to contain COVID-19 is over, according to The Washington Post. Only healthcare workers and hospitalized patients will be tested in areas such as New York and California.

"Not every single person in the U.S. needs to get tested," Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a March 21 news briefing. Focus has shifted from vast testing to conserving masks, ventilators and intensive care beds.

3. Hospitals can repurpose machines they already have to serve as ventilators, the FDA announced March 22. The action, meant to immediately increase ventilator supply, allows ventilators to be used beyond their shelf life and allows the long-term use of ventilators intended for other environments.

4. A third of China's COVID-19 cases were asymptomatic "silent carriers," according to Chinese government data seen by the South China Morning Post. Over 43,000 people in China tested positive for COVID-19 by the end of February but didn't have immediate symptoms. The patients, though quarantined, were excluded from China's official confirmed case count. Typically, a patient develops symptoms in five days, though the incubation period can reach up to three weeks in some rare cases. Scientists have not yet determined the role of asymptomatic transmission in the COVID-19 pandemic.

5. "This week, it's going to get bad," the U.S. Surgeon General said of the national outbreak. Jerome Adams, MD, said March 23 on "The Today Show" that the outbreak will get worse this week because people aren't practicing social distancing or taking the threat seriously enough.

6. Senate Democrats have blocked action on a $2 trillion COVID-19 spending plan, Bloomberg reports. Democrats argued the plan didn't provide enough support for workers or state and local governments and gave too much discretion to the Treasury Department.

7. The FDA authorized a new COVID-19 test that delivers results in 45 minutes. The Cepheid Xpert Xpress SARS-CoV-2 test is scheduled to be available by March 30, and will be used in high- and moderate-complexity Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments-certified labs and certain patient care settings.

8. Healthcare workers account for about 12 percent of Spain's COVID-19 cases, The New York Times reports. Some 3,500 healthcare workers have COVID-19, the Spanish health ministry said March 22.

9. A third member of Congress has tested positive for COVID-19, Fox News reports. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is the first U.S. senator to be sickened, his staff announced March 22.

10. The Federal Reserve committed to unlimited bond purchases to support the economy. Officials will buy bonds "in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning," such as buying government-backed debt tied to commercial real estate, according to a March 23 release.

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