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Whose Life Is Worth Saving? In Washington State, People with Disabilities Are Afraid They Won’t Make the Cut.

March 24, 2020

(The New York Times) – Groups representing people with disabilities on Monday challenged a plan that would guide hospitals in Washington State dealing with the coronavirus in the event that they do not have enough lifesaving resources for all the patients who need them. The triage care plan could result in end-of-life decisions that disadvantage those with disabilities, said David Carlson, the director of advocacy at Disability Rights Washington. The group’s complaint calls for the federal government to quickly intervene to investigate, issue findings and make sure that doctors and hospitals do not discriminate against people with disabilities when making treatment decisions.

The Hardest Questions Doctors May Face: Who Will Be Saved? Who Won’t?

March 24, 2020

(The New York Times) – Health workers are urging efforts to suppress the outbreak and expand medical capacity so that rationing will be unnecessary. But if forced, they ask, how do they make the least terrible decision? How do they minimize deaths? Who even gets to decide, and how are their choices justified to the public? Medical providers are considering these questions based on what first occurred in China, where many sick patients were initially turned away from hospitals, and now is unfolding in Italy, where overwhelmed doctors are withholding ventilators from older, sicker adults so they can go to younger, healthier patients.

Some Hospitals Continue with Elective Surgeries Despite COVID-19 Crisis

March 24, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – In the same week that physicians at the University of California-San Francisco medical center were wiping down and reusing protective equipment like masks and gowns to conserve resources amid a surge of COVID-19 patients, 90 miles away teams of doctors at UC Davis Medical Center were fully suited up performing breast augmentations, hip replacements and other elective procedures that likely could have been postponed. Across the nation, hospitals, nurses and physicians are sending out desperate pleas for donations of personal protective gear as supplies dwindle in the regions that have emerged as hot spots for the fast-spreading new coronavirus. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the Surgeon General and the American College of Surgeons (ACS) have urged hospitals to curtail non-urgent elective procedures to preserve equipment.

‘Chilling’ Plans: Who Gets Care as Washington State Hospitals Fill Up?

March 23, 2020

(The New York Times) – Medical leaders in Washington State, which has the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the country, have quietly begun preparing a bleak triage strategy to determine which patients may have to be denied complete medical care in the event that the health system becomes overwhelmed by the coronavirus in the coming weeks. Fearing a critical shortage of supplies, including the ventilators needed to help the most seriously ill patients breathe, state officials and hospital leaders held a conference call on Wednesday night to discuss the plans, according to several people involved in the talks.

FDA Relaxes Clinical Trial Rules for Covid-19 Emergencies

March 23, 2020

(Bloomberg) – The coronvirus pandemic prompted the FDA to relax some clinical trial requirements, so last-minute decisions to safeguard research participants won’t trigger the agency’s enforcement arm. The Food and Drug Administration issued guidance Wednesday to help drug and device companies manage their clinical trials during the Covid-19 outbreak, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. Ongoing clinical trials face disruptions such as site closures, quarantines, travel limitations, and supply chain issues that could lead to shortages of the investigational drug or device, the agency noted.

The Importance of Doing Research During a Pandemic

March 23, 2020

(USA Today) – Government representatives recently ordered infectious disease experts in Seattle not to test previously collected nasal swab samples for coronavirus (COVID-19) in order to assess the current outbreak. The researchers did it anyway, in what has become an important test case for the way we regulate research and diagnostic testing during a global pandemic. Dr. Helen Y. Chu, a physician researcher at the University of Washington School of Medicine, had been collecting nasal swabs from research participants in the Seattle Flu Study with the goal of being able to better detect and control the spread of flu.

What Coronavirus Means for Pregnancy and Other Things New and Expecting Mothers Should Know

March 20, 2020

(ProPublica) – Over the next three months, nearly a million women in the United States will give birth to nearly a million babies — a huge influx of mostly healthy, highly vulnerable patients into a hospital system that’s about to come under unprecedented strain. Pregnant women, not surprisingly, are anxious. Those in their third trimester, looking to deliver during an epidemic, are close to frantic.

Millions of Older Americans Live in Counties with No ICU Beds as Pandemic Intensifies

March 20, 2020

(Kaiser Health News) – More than half the counties in America have no intensive care beds, posing a particular danger for more than 7 million people who are age 60 and up ? older patients who face the highest risk of serious illness or death from the rapid spread of COVID-19, a Kaiser Health News data analysis shows.

At-Home Tests for Coronavirus Are Here. Should You Take Them?

March 20, 2020

(STAT News) – Over the next week, at least four startups are launching the first at-home tests for Covid-19. The companies, whose tests have been mostly greenlit — but not approved in the conventional sense — by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under new guidelines instituted for the coronavirus crisis, aim for their diagnostics to offer some certainty to people who have up until now been unable to get tested as a result of the shortage of test kits. Most of the companies have put their other efforts on hold to focus on coronavirus.

Slightly Dirty Water ‘Still OK’ Against Coronavirus

March 20, 2020

(SciDevNet) – Handwashing is a crucial coronavirus defence strategy, but millions of the world’s most vulnerable people have no access to water. Yet slightly dirty water such as that which has been used for laundry is still effective when combined with soap, handwashing specialist Myriam Sidibe from consumer product company Unilever told SciDev.Net ahead of World Water Day on 22 March. The World Health Organization says one in three people – about 2.2 billion – live without safe drinking water. 

The Value and Ethics of Using Phone Data to Monitor Covid-19

March 18, 2020

(Wired) – Still, the plan may test people’s attitudes toward privacy and government surveillance, amid growing concerns about the ways in which big tech companies track their users. Some companies already share some aggregate data, but it would be new for Google and Facebook to openly mine user movements on this scale for the government. The data collected would show patterns of user movements. It would need to be cross-referenced with data on testing and diagnoses to show how behavior is affecting the spread of the virus.

WHO to Launch Multinational Trial to Jumpstart Search for Coronavirus Drugs

March 18, 2020

(STAT News) – The World Health Organization said Wednesday that it would launch a multiarm, multicountry clinical trial for potential coronavirus therapies, part of an aggressive effort to jumpstart the global search for drugs to treat Covid-19. Four drugs or drug combinations already licensed and used for other illnesses will be tested, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Ten countries have already indicated they will take part in the trial.

Synairgen Gets Green Light for Coronavirus Drug Trial

March 18, 2020

(Reuters) – British pharmaceutical company Synairgen said on Wednesday it had the go-ahead to test a drug that could boost the lung function of patients with coronavirus, potentially assisting in the global fight against the pandemic. The company said it had received expedited approvals from regulators to trial the drug – an inhaled formulation of interferon-beta-1a – in hospital patients who have COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The New Coronavirus Can Last on Surfaces for Up to Three Days, Study Says

March 18, 2020

(CNN) – The coronavirus driving the current pandemic can live on plastic and stainless steel surfaces for up to three days, researchers say in a study published as a letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine. And it can linger in aerosols — the suspension of tiny particles or droplets in the air — for three hours, the study says. The study, funded by the US National Institutes of Health, was initially posted online last week, but further details were published in the letter Tuesday.

Hospital Workers Are Making Their Own Face Masks Using Craft Supplies

March 18, 2020

(Gizmodo) – Hospital workers in Washington state have started to make their own face masks from supplies they’ve purchased at craft stores, according to a new report from Seattle’s KOMO TV station. The DIY face masks are just the latest example of health workers around the world getting creative as they struggle with shortages of vital medical supplies during the covid-19 pandemic.

US Slashing Testing Rules to Speedup Coronavirus Screening

March 17, 2020

(ABC News) – The Trump administration is slashing regulations governing test development in a bid to ramp up screening for the coronavirus amid nationwide frustration with the slow pace of the effort. The unprecedented steps by the Food and Drug Administration could boost testing capacity at some U.S. labs, but also complicate efforts to assure the accuracy of tests and track who receives them.

Italy Struggles to Make Room for Onslaught of Virus Patients

March 17, 2020

(ABC News) – Three weeks into Italy’s coronavirus crisis, Dr. Sergio Cattaneo has seen an unused ward outfitted into an intensive care unit in six days, a hospital laundry room converted into a giant stretcher-filled waiting room and a tented field hospital erected outside to test possible new virus patients.

What It Really Means to Cancel Elective Surgeries

March 17, 2020

(The Atlantic) – All over the country, patients are finding their nonemergency surgical appointments canceled as hospitals prepare for a spike in coronavirus cases. Surgeries for early-stage cancer, joint replacements, epilepsy, and cataracts are all getting pushed back—to ration much-needed personal protective equipment, keep hospital beds open, and to shield patients from the virus. On Friday, the American College of Surgeons recommended that hospitals reschedule elective surgeries as needed. Hospitals in outbreak hot spots such as Seattle, New York, and Boston were the first to act, but more are likely to follow suit. Some patients are left wondering if they have a ticking time bomb inside them. Others are upending carefully made plans for life-altering surgeries with long recovery times.

Health Care Workers Getting Sicker from Coronavirus Than Other Patients, Experts Say

March 16, 2020

(CNN) – It remains unclear why the novel coronavirus seems to hit health care workers harder than it does other sufferers, an expert said Monday. “We know the high mortality in older people, but for reasons that we don’t understand front-line health care workers are at great risk for serious illness despite their younger age,” said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. “There’s nothing more destabilizing” than health care workers falling ill, he told CNN, and it will take time to determine what is making them sicker than other patients.

Sweden Abortion: Nurses Fail in European Court Case

March 16, 2020

(BBC) – Two nurses denied jobs as midwives in Sweden because of their refusal to perform abortions have lost their legal action against Sweden at the European Court of Human Rights. Swedish-born Ellinor Grimmark and Linda Steen from Norway object to abortion because of their Christian faith. Swedish law requires midwives to carry out abortions – and several Swedish courts ruled against the two women. They then went to the ECHR but it declined to take up their case.

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