Physicians can practice across state lines; CMS urges hospitals to stop elective procedures — 9 key coronavirus updates

Nationally, 7,324 American cases of COVID-19 have been reported, along with 115 deaths. Worldwide, 207,518 cases and 8,248 deaths have been reported, as of 12 p.m. CDT, March 18. Globally, 82,104 people have recovered from the illness.

1. CMS has waived requirements that physicians and other healthcare professionals must have a license in the state in which they provide services, according to a March 18 news conference. CMS Administrator Seema Verma also urged all hospitals to comply with the American College of Surgeons' recommendation to cancel non-urgent elective procedures. 

The government is also working to expand testing capacity, including the development of self-swab kits administered by health officials. 

President Donald Trump will also close the U.S.-Canada border to nonessential travel, referring to the U.S. pandemic response as the "war against the Chinese virus." Two hospital ships are to be deployed by the U.S. Navy sometime over the next week to areas most in need. 

2. All 50 states have confirmed infections in the outbreak. Nationally, 7,324 COVID-19 cases and 115 deaths have been reported, as of 12 p.m. CDT, March 18.  

3. The Pentagon will provide 5 million respirator masks and 2,000 ventilators to federal health agencies, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, PhD, said March 17, according to ABC News. Mr. Esper said the ventilators are made for deployed troops and might have "single-use" limitations. The first million respirators will be available immediately.

4. "It's possible" the U.S. could see COVID-19 peak in 45 days, a National Institutes of Health leader said, according to CNN. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the remarks at a March 17 news conference, after Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said that he expects the peak to be around May 1. Dr. Fauci noted that officials tend to talk using a range instead of a specific date.

5. A Belgian physician says lung scans of young COVID-19 patients are "terrifying," according to the New York Post. An increasing number of people between 30 and 50 years old have severe lung damage, despite having "blank medical records" and no underlying health conditions, Ignace Demeyer, MD, told the Brussels Times. 

6. The White House is seeking a $1 trillion emergency plan, which includes providing stimulus checks for Americans, The New York Times reports. With the emergency lending power of the Federal Reserve, President Donald Trump asked Congress to approve the economic package that includes $250 billion for direct checks to Americans. 

7. The World Health Organization is considering "airborne precautions" for healthcare workers, while a March 17 study has found the virus can remain in the air for up to three hours, according to CNBC. Officials recommend medical staff wear N95 masks to filter out about 95 percent of liquid or airborne particles.

8. The Trump administration will not be enforcing HIPAA penalties, according to The New York Times. President Trump also suggested allowing providers to virtually communicate with patients via personal phones.

9. One-fourth of Americans think COVID-19 patients should immediately go to the emergency room, a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found. Most other respondents knew that individuals who think they may have COVID-19 should stay home and call their provider. 

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