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Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Update

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09/30/2020

Congress

  • Tomorrow, the Senate is scheduled to vote on a Continuing Resolution to extend federal funding – which is set to expire after September 30th – until December 11th. The Senate is expected to pass the bill, which was already passed by the House. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
    • The CR includes a provision that would give providers 29 months to repay Medicare advance and accelerated payments to CMS. It would also lower the interest rate for repayments made after this deadline from 10.25 percent to four percent.
  • Speaker of the House still believes it is possible that Congress will pass bipartisan COVID-19 relief legislation despite a continued absence of any progress towards a compromise.
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar will testify at a House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis hearing on Friday, October 2nd.
  • On September 30th, the House Energy and Commerce (E&C) Committee’s Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee will hold a hearing on COVID-19 vaccine development.

White House and Federal Agencies

  • To date, HHS has distributed over $106 billion from the provider relief fund (PRF). Almost all of that total has been distributed as direct payments to healthcare providers.
  • CMS is preparing to issue new COVID-19 and influenza reporting requirements to hospitals.
  • New findings by scientists at the NIH and their collaborators help explain why some people with COVID-19 develop severe disease. The findings also may provide the first molecular explanation for why more men than women die from COVID-19. The researchers found that more than 10% of people who develop severe COVID-19 have misguided antibodies?autoantibodies?that attack the immune system rather than the virus that causes the disease. Another 3.5% or more of people who develop severe COVID-19 carry a specific kind of genetic mutation that impacts immunity. 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Updates

  • CDC released an MMWR on Disparities in COVID-19 Incidence, Hospitalizations, and Testing, by Area-Level Deprivation in Utah between March 3 and July 9, 2020. During March 3–June 9, 2020, odds of SARS-CoV-2 infection in very high-deprivation areas of Utah were three times higher than those in very low-deprivation areas; rates of hospitalization and testing were also higher in higher-deprivation areas.
    • These areas were characterized by larger proportions of Hispanic and non-White residents, persons working in manual, essential, and public-facing sectors, more crowded housing, and food and health care insecurity.
    • Enhanced mitigation strategies might include increasing availability and accessibility of SARS-CoV-2 testing, contact tracing, isolation options, preventive care, disease management, and prevention guidance in more deprived areas.
  • CDC released an MMWR on Characteristics of Health Care Personnel with COVID-19 in the U.S. from February 12 through July 16, 2020. HCP with COVID-19 who died tended to be older, male, Asian, Black, and have an underlying medical condition when compared with HCP who did not die. Nursing and residential care facilities were the most commonly reported job setting and nursing the most common single occupation type of HCP with COVID-19 in six jurisdictions.
  • The CDC is warning that in-store Black Friday shopping is a “high risk” activity.

Economy, Vaccine, Testing and Treatment

  • The White House is preparing to send rapid testing machines to K-12 schools and facilities that serve vulnerable populations such as nursing homes.
  • A news report describes how the military will play an active role in distributing COVID-19 vaccines as vaccine candidates are approved.
  • Novavax will begin phase 3 trials of its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
  • Merck is developing a vaccine that would be administered orally and uses a weakened strain of the virus. 
  • The FDA is reissuing an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for serology (antibody) point-of-care (POC) test for COVID-19 to authorize the test for POC use using fingerstick blood samples. This authorization means that fingerstick blood samples can now be tested in POC settings like doctor’s offices, hospitals, urgent care centers and emergency rooms rather than having to be sent to a central lab for testing.
  • Many states are experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases ahead of an anticipated surge of cases in the fall and winter.