April 13, 2020

America's Covid-19 death count is now the world's highest

Daily Briefing

    The United States on Saturday surpassed Italy as the country with the highest total number of reported deaths from the new coronavirus, with more than 20,000 deaths linked to the virus.

    US Covid-19 cases surpass 550K, death toll tops 20K

    As of Monday morning, U.S. officials had reported 555,371 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in the country—up from 463,619 cases as of Friday morning. New York, which is the epicenter of the United States' Covid-19 epidemic, on Friday reported nearly 162,000 cases. In comparison, Spain, the country with highest number of reported Covid-19 cases outside of the United States, reported 157,000 cases as of Friday.

    Officials as of Monday morning also had reported 22,056 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus, of which just under 50% have occurred in New York. The United States' reported death toll on Saturday surpassed Italy's total reported death toll of 19,899. However, the U.S. death toll per capita, which is three deaths per 100,000 people, is still lower than Italy's death toll per capita of 32 deaths per 100,000 people. Currently, the United States' reported death toll is increasing by about 2,000 deaths per day.

    Most of the US will not reopen by May, Trump admin officials say

    Currently, CDC recommends that Americans follow the Trump administration's social distancing guidelines through April 30, and President Trump has indicated that he is considering whether to lift the guidelines, at least in certain areas of the country, at that time. However, administrations officials over the past few days have said they do not expect that most states will be able to lift social distancing measures by May 1.

    On Friday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams during an interview with Fox News said "most of the country" will not be able to lift social distancing measures and related business closures at the end of the April, but he added that some areas might be able to ease the restrictions.

    "Once we get past" April 30, "some places around the country can think about reopening," Adams said. He explained, "There are places around the country that have seen consistently low levels, and as we ramp up testing and can feel more confident that these places actually can do surveillance, and can do public health follow-up, some places will be able to think about opening on May 1."

    Adams continued, "That's how we'll reopen the country. Place by place, bit by bit, based on the data."

    Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on Sunday during an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" also said some states might be able to lift stay-at-home orders as early as next month.

    But he's cautioned that any reversal of social distancing guidelines must be done gradually to avoid a potential resurgence.  "It is not going to be a light switch that we say, 'OK, it is now June, July, or whatever, click, the light switch goes back on,'" Fauci said. "It's going to be depending where you are in the country, the nature of the outbreak that you already experienced, and the threat of an outbreak that you may not have experienced."

    The projections from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington found that ending social distancing measures in the United States on May 1 without adequate contact tracing, testing, and other measures in place would lead to a resurgence in the new coronavirus' spread in the country. Christopher Murray, the institute's director, during a CNN interview on Friday said that the update projections indicate "that if we were to stop at the national level May 1, we're seeing a return to almost where we are now sometime in July."

    CMS says private insurers can't charge out-of-pocket costs for Covid-19 testing

    Meanwhile, CMS, the Department of Labor, and the Department of the Treasury on Saturday issued guidance aimed at ensuring privately insured Americans have access to FDA-approved Covid-19 diagnostic testing, antibody testing, and other related services with no out-of-pocket costs.

    The departments and agency issued the guidance under recently enacted laws that require private health plan issuers and employer-group health plans to cover Covid-19 testing and certain related expenses with no out-of-pocket costs for enrollees. Under the guidance, group and individual health insurance and group health plans must cover designated diagnostic testing and certain related services and items, including urgent care, ED, in-person, or telehealth visits resulting in Covid-19 testing.

    CMS Administrator Seema Verma said, under the guidance, "millions of Americans" will be able "to access the vital health services they need to fight Covid-19, including antibody testing once it becomes widely available." She continued, "It is critical that Americans have peace of mind knowing that cost won't be a barrier to testing during this national public health emergency" (New York Times, 4/12; Johnson, The Hill, 4/10; Schwartz, NPR, 4/12; Wu, USA Today, 4/10; Forgey, Politico, 4/10; Weixel, The Hill, 4/10; Beavers, Politico, 4/12; Minemyer, FierceHealthcare, 4/11; Ravindranath, Politico, 4/11; CMS release, 4/11; New York Times, 4/13; New York Times, 4/13; New York Times, 4/13).

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