CMS makes sweeping regulatory changes; COVID-19 is 3x as infectious as flu — 5 outbreak updates

The U.S. COVID-19 case count is the highest in the world, with 165,874 cases as of 11:30 a.m. CDT March 31. Nationwide, 3,178 Americans have died from the virus, while 5,995 have recovered. 

Five updates: 

1. COVID-19 is three times as infectious as the flu, and up to 1 in 4 Americans sickened are asymptomatic, CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, told NPR's WABE March 30. The virus is more easily transmitted than the flu, and those who are symptomatic may shed the virus up to 48 hours before showing symptoms. A "significant number" of COVID-19 patients actually remain asymptomatic, possibly as many as 25 percent, Dr. Redfield said.

2. CMS unveiled sweeping regulatory changes to help hospitals combat COVID-19. The temporary regulations allow hospitals to test patients for COVID-19 at home, provide support for healthcare workers, and will pay for more than 80 additional telehealth services, among other things.

3. Social distancing restrictions appear to be working, with about 75 percent of Americans under, or soon to be under, stay-at-home orders, The New York Times reports. Arizona, Maryland and Virginia were the latest states to enact orders, according to The New York Times. Meanwhile, daily fever readings from a Kinsa Health live database found that the number of people with fevers stayed the same or declined nationwide, except in areas of New Mexico and Louisiana. 

4. The case fatality rate for COVID-19 is less than 1 percent (about 0.66 percent), according to a study published March 30 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. Researchers collected data on 3,665 COVID-19 patient cases in China. Lower than earlier estimates, the estimate accounts for potentially milder cases that often go undetected. When undetected infections aren't considered, the study found that the COVID-19 death rate was 1.38 percent.

5. "It will be a totally different ballgame," Anthony Fauci, MD, said about the next COVID-19 cycle. Dr. Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has already warned Americans of "inevitable" cyclic COVID-19 outbreaks, though he believes the U.S. will be better prepared for a second COVID-19 outbreak. Come fall, health officials will better be able to identify, isolate and contact-trace the virus, Dr. Fauci said March 30, noting several ongoing clinical trials that could provide therapeutic interventions in the future.

Worldwide, 809,608 COVID-19 cases and 39,545 deaths have been reported, while 172,869 people have recovered from the illness as of 11:30 a.m. CDT March 31.

More articles on public health:
New York to allow ventilator-sharing, despite misgivings from experts
Some drugs show promise against COVID-19, WHO says
Private, public New York hospitals to fight coronavirus as one system, governor says

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