Headlines in the News

States Search for Ways to Deal With COVID-19 Testing Backlogs

July 23, 2020

States frustrated by private laboratories’ increasingly long turnarounds for COVID-19 test results are scrambling to find ways to salvage their testing programs.

Montana said Wednesday that it is dropping Quest Diagnostics, one of the nation’s largest diagnostic testing companies. The Secaucus, New Jersey-based company had done all the state’s surveillance COVID-19 testing — drive-thru testing that moves from community to community to help track COVID’s spread. But it told state officials last week that it was at capacity and would be unable to accommodate more tests for two or three weeks.

States frustrated by private laboratories’ increasingly long turnarounds for COVID-19 test results are scrambling to find ways to salvage their testing programs.

Montana said Wednesday that it is dropping Quest Diagnostics, one of the nation’s largest diagnostic testing companies. The Secaucus, New Jersey-based company had done all the state’s surveillance COVID-19 testing — drive-thru testing that moves from community to community to help track COVID’s spread. But it told state officials last week that it was at capacity and would be unable to accommodate more tests for two or three weeks.

“We don’t want to be left high and dry again in the event that the national demand for testing puts a state like ours onto the back burner,” Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock said….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

The U.S. Commits to Buying Millions of Vaccine Doses. Why That’s Unusual.

July 22, 2020

The Trump administration’s commitment on Wednesday to purchase 100 million doses of a not-yet-finished vaccine is unusual in two ways. The private sector buys most vaccines in the United States, not the government.

The drug industry has lobbied to keep things that way; private payers usually pay more for vaccines than the government does.

The Trump administration’s commitment on Wednesday to purchase 100 million doses of a not-yet-finished vaccine is unusual in two ways. The private sector buys most vaccines in the United States, not the government.

The drug industry has lobbied to keep things that way; private payers usually pay more for vaccines than the government does.

And when the government does buy vaccines — typically on behalf of low-income children — it is almost always vaccines that have already received safety and efficacy approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

“This is not at all typical, but I think it’s a great thing,” said Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers. “We’re in a public health crisis, and it’s great the government is going to be providing a vaccine for Americans….”

Read the full The New York Times article

Provider-Relief Grant-Spending Reports Due in February 2021

July 22, 2020

Healthcare providers will be required to account for how they spent COVID-19 relief grants by February 2021, HHS quietly announced on Monday.

When lawmakers established the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund, one of the stipulations was that healthcare providers receiving large grants would have to submit quarterly reports to HHS and to an oversight commission on their spending, starting on July 10. But HHS delayed that reporting deadline last month and said providers wouldn’t have to submit quarterly reports.

Healthcare providers will be required to account for how they spent COVID-19 relief grants by February 2021, HHS quietly announced on Monday.

When lawmakers established the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund, one of the stipulations was that healthcare providers receiving large grants would have to submit quarterly reports to HHS and to an oversight commission on their spending, starting on July 10. But HHS delayed that reporting deadline last month and said providers wouldn’t have to submit quarterly reports.

Instead, healthcare providers that received more than $10,000 from the Provider Relief Fund will have to account for all the grant funds they spent in 2020 by February 15, 2021, according to a new HHS notice document….

Read the full Modern Healthcare article

A Coronavirus Vaccine: Where Does It Stand?

July 16, 2020

More than four months into the coronavirus pandemic, how close are the U.S. and the world to a safe and effective vaccine? Scientists say they see steady progress and are expressing cautious optimism that a vaccine could be ready by spring.

As of early July, roughly 160 vaccine projects were underway worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

More than four months into the coronavirus pandemic, how close are the U.S. and the world to a safe and effective vaccine? Scientists say they see steady progress and are expressing cautious optimism that a vaccine could be ready by spring.

As of early July, roughly 160 vaccine projects were underway worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.

Generally, a vaccine trial has several phases. In an initial phase, the vaccine is given to 20 to 100 healthy volunteers. The focus in this phase is to make sure the vaccine is safe, and to note any side effects.

In the second phase, there are hundreds of volunteers. In addition to monitoring safety, researchers try to determine whether shots produce an immune-system response….

Read the full Kaiser Health News article

White House Tells Hospitals to Bypass CDC on COVID-19 Data Reporting

July 14, 2020

Hospitals will begin sending coronavirus-related information directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), not the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), under new instructions from the Trump administration.

The move will take effect on Wednesday, according to a new guidance and FAQ document for hospitals and clinical labs quietly posted on the HHS website.

Hospitals will begin sending coronavirus-related information directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), not the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), under new instructions from the Trump administration.

The move will take effect on Wednesday, according to a new guidance and FAQ document for hospitals and clinical labs quietly posted on the HHS website.

Previously, hospitals reported to the CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network, which the agency describes as the nation’s most widely used health care-associated infection tracking system. …

Read the full The Hill article

First Coronavirus Vaccine Tested in Humans Shows Early Promise

July 14, 2020

An experimental coronavirus vaccine made by the biotech company Moderna provoked a promising immune response against the virus and appeared safe in the first 45 people who received it, researchers reported on Tuesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Moderna’s vaccine, developed with researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was the first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in humans, and the company announced on Tuesday that large Phase 3 tests of it would begin on July 27, involving 30,000 people. Half of the participants will be a control group who will receive placebos.

An experimental coronavirus vaccine made by the biotech company Moderna provoked a promising immune response against the virus and appeared safe in the first 45 people who received it, researchers reported on Tuesday in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Moderna’s vaccine, developed with researchers at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was the first coronavirus vaccine to be tested in humans, and the company announced on Tuesday that large Phase 3 tests of it would begin on July 27, involving 30,000 people. Half of the participants will be a control group who will receive placebos.

The trial will need to show that those who were vaccinated were significantly less likely to contract the virus than those who got a placebo. The fastest way to get results is to test the vaccine in a “hot spot” with many cases, and the study is looking for people at high risk because of their locations or circumstances….

Read the full The New York Times article