CMS loosens more regulations; CDC drafts reopening guidelines + 3 other COVID-19 updates

Globally, more than 1 million people have recovered from COVID-19, with 3,276,373 total cases and 233,998 deaths reported, as of 9:30 a.m. CDT May 1. The U.S. has reported 1,070,032 COVID-19 cases and 63,019 deaths, while 153,947 people have recovered nationwide.

Five updates: 

1. CMS issued another round of regulatory changes April 30 to further increase healthcare organizations' flexibility in responding to the pandemic. CMS will no longer require a written physician request for Medicare and Medicaid patients to get a COVID-19 test, and testing may be covered when ordered by any authorized clinician. Another rule change allows nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists and physician assistants to provide home health services. CMS is also covering certain antibody tests for Medicaid and Medicare populations, and allowing hospital outpatient departments to bill for certain Medicare telehealth services, among other changes. To view a more in-depth breakdown of the regulatory changes, click here.

2. The CDC has drafted reopening guidelines, sharing the 17 page document with CNN April 30. The document includes a phased reopening, along with specific guidelines for child care programs; schools and day camps; communities of faith; employers with vulnerable workers; restaurants and bars; and mass transit administrators. The draft is still under consideration by White House administration, individuals who drafted the guidelines told CNN.

3. Most COVID-19 survivors have antibodies that could protect against reinfection, said Anthony Fauci, MD, according to Bloomberg. Dr. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said it would be "extremely unusual" if recovered patients didn't develop antibodies, though World Health Organization officials have said it is unclear on the nature of an immune response. A study in China found no signs of antibodies in about 6 percent of 175 recovered COVID-19 patients, though protective antibodies were found in some patients. 

"Before anybody tells me that there is no antibody, I want to make sure that it was measured with a validated test," Dr. Fauci said, noting that many antibody tests haven't been approved by the FDA.

4. Gilead Sciences is increasing its production of remdesivir after positive results from a National Institutes of Health study, according to STAT. The experimental antiviral drug proved effective at treating COVID-19 against a placebo in a federal study of 800 patients. Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day said the drugmaker has manufactured about 50,000 treatment courses, with the goal of reaching the "multiple millions" by the end of 2020 to help meet global demand. Gilead has not yet received regulatory approval for the drug, although STAT notes emergency use authorization is "reportedly imminent."

5. Health experts are concerned that states' relaxed social distancing measures will spur public complacency regarding COVID-19, according to The Washington Post. The concerns come as federal social distancing guidelines expired April 30, replaced by national guidelines on how to gradually reopen states. They noted the reopening guidelines do not include recommendations for how Americans should safely go about their daily lives. Health experts said they're worried some governors may relax social distancing measures too soon, causing Americans to drop their guard, which could spur new outbreaks. Social distancing still remains the most effective way to prevent COVID-19's spread until the U.S. increases testing capacity and contact tracing efforts, health experts said.


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