White House eases more provider regulations, considers cloth gowns: 4 COVID-19 updates

The U.S. has reported 466,396 COVID-19 cases as of 9:30 a.m. CDT April 10. Nationwide, 16,703 Americans have died from the illness, while 26,522 have recovered. 

Worldwide, 1,619,495 COVID-19 cases and 97,200 deaths have been reported, while 365,142 people have recovered from the illness.

Four updates: 

1. CMS loosened more regulations to increase the healthcare workforce. At President Donald Trump's direction, CMS on April 9 temporarily reduced supervision and certification requirements so providers can be hired quickly and perform work to the full extent of their license. The changes are effective immediately and expand flexibilities CMS announced March 30. 

Physicians can now directly care for patients at rural hospitals across state lines via phone, radio or online communication. Nurse practitioners can conduct some medical exams for Medicare patients at skilled nursing facilities.

2. The White House is considering the feasibility of cloth gowns over disposable personal protective equipment, Vice President Mike Pence said April 9. The White House coronavirus task force has asked CMS and the FDA to review the possibility of healthcare workers using and reusing cloth gowns instead of disposable PPE.

"Twenty years ago, most physicians and most surgeons wore cloth gowns every day and laundered them," Mr. Pence said, adding that the taskforce may release new guidance soon regarding the matter.

3. Labs nationwide aren't testing COVID-19 to their full capacity, according to scientific journal Nature. Academic labs that adjusted their facilities to enable COVID-19 testing have been held up by regulatory, logistic and administrative obstacles, a Nature investigation found. 

For example, some California hospitals had to decline testing offers from certified academic labs because the lab didn't use compatible health-record software or have existing contracts with the hospital. 

Federal leaders should lead testing and reduce bureaucratic and logistical barriers, some experts say.

4. CMS delivered more than $51 billion in advance payments to hospitals and other healthcare providers in the past week through the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program, the agency said April 9. In late March, CMS expanded the payment program to a broader group of providers to help offset the financial impact of COVID-19. 

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