Covid-19 Latest News

Here are some of this week's top stories (Updated April 9, 2020):


What does recovery look like?

Reports of recovery from serious illness caused by the coronavirus have been trickling in from around the world, reports Kaiser Health News. Physicians are swapping anecdotes on social media. Close to home, one Richmond physician recovering from COVID-19 shared his story.

HHS: Federal stocks of PPE nearly depleted

The Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients, reports the AP. The Department of Health and Human Services said that the federal stockpile was in the process of deploying all remaining personal protective equipment in its inventory. The HHS statement confirms federal documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showing that about 90% of the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments. 


(Updates April 6, 2020)

Testing, supply shortages top hospitals' concerns

Hospitals reported that their most significant challenges centered on testing and caring for patients with known or suspected COVID-19 and keeping staff safe, according to a new government watchdog report released Monday.

Mysterious heart damage, not just lung troubles, befalls COVID-19 patients

While the focus of the COVID-19 pandemic has been on respiratory problems and securing enough ventilators, doctors on the front lines are grappling with a new medical mystery, reports Kaiser Health News. In addition to lung damage, many COVID-19 patients are also developing heart problems — and dying of cardiac arrest. As more data comes in from China and Italy, as well as Washington state and New York, more cardiac experts are coming to believe the COVID-19 virus can infect the heart muscle.

Racial and income disparities creep into care

The new coronavirus doesn’t discriminate. But physicians in public health and on the front lines said they already can see the emergence of familiar patterns of racial and economic bias in the response to the pandemic. In one analysis, it appears doctors may be less likely to refer African Americans for testing when they show up for care with signs of infection. Kaiser Health News reports. 

(Updates April 3, 2020)

Virginia only receiving a fraction of needed PPE

New documents released Thursday by the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform show that Virginia is receiving a fraction of the personal protective equipment it has ordered from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, reports The Virginia Mercury. At the same time, more than a dozen Virginia hospitals are close to exhausting their own supplies. According to data being tracked by the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association, 13 hospitals said they would have difficulty obtaining or replenishing enough personal protective equipment to meet demand within the next three days without assistance.

Area sites weighed for field hospitals

With the spread of coronavirus forecast to surge in Virginia in the next two months, facilities across the state are being assessed for potential use as temporary hospitals, with several options apparent in the Richmond region, says Richmond BizSense. Hotels, arenas and open spaces are among the types of sites that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is assessing the suitability of for potential healthcare use as part of the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to USACE’s Norfolk District office, which covers the Richmond region.


(Updates April 2, 2020)

Majority of doctors say they can't test patients in a timely manner

survey conducted by Harvard Medical School and RAND Corporation of more than 2,600 physicians on Doximity's network finds a majority aren't able to test patients quickly enough for Covid-19, even though half of these physicians report having treated at least one such patient. Here's more: 

  • Medical supplies: 73% of respondents said they were unable to test patients quickly. More than three-quarters believe their hospital or clinic doesn't have adequate supplies to fight the pandemic. 
  • Precautions: Nearly 60% don't think there are enough precautions in place at their work. At the same time, around 29% reported that current social distancing measures in place in communities was likely an underreaction.  
  • Government: Nearly 70% don't believe the government has taken enough actions to support the medical supply chain. The same number believe the government response to the crisis has been inadequate.  

Hospitals, doctors feel the financial squeeze of COVID-19

Despite a flood of Covid-19 patients in some cities, systems are losing money from canceled visits and reducing staff, straining their ability to provide care,says The Wall Street Journal.


(Updates March 31, 2020)

Virginia may not see peak of crisis until late May

Although the coronavirus is expected to peak in the U.S. in two weeks, many states will see their individual peaks well after that, according to a model by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Virginia won't peak until May 28, says the model, giving state health officials more time to prepare.

CDC reviews guidance on wearing masks

The Centers for Disease Control is reconsidering its guidance that healthy people should not wear masks as new data shows high rates of transmission by people who are carrying the virus but show no symptoms, says The New York Times.


(Updated March 29, 2020)

Hospitals prepare for overflow, but won't disclose most details

While Virginia officials say they are planning and encouraging social distancing to prevent the worst-case scenario, they have kept plans mostly under wraps as some projections anticipate a shortage of intensive care beds, tens of thousands of sickened Virginians needing hospitalization and a climbing death toll in the coming months. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

Experimental drug for HIV, cancer, holds promise for Covid-19 treatment

Two coronavirus patients in New York City were treated with a new drug 'fast-tracked' for HIV and breast cancer - and they went from being on ventilators in the ICU to regular hospital in a matter of days. Based on the results of a small initial trial, biotech firm CytoDyn believes their drug, leronlimab, has potential for treating patients severely ill with coronavirus. 

(Updates March 27, 2020)

Trump orders GM to make ventilators

President Trump on Friday compelled General Motors to manufacture ventilators to help handle the surge of coronavirus patients, using his power under the Defense Production Act. Trump announced that he’d signed a presidential memorandum requiring the company to “accept, perform and prioritize” federal government contracts for production of the much-needed medical equipment shortly before signing into law a $2 trillion stimulus package to help prop up the economy during this public health crisis.

(Updates March 26, 2020)

What's in the $2T stimulus package

Health care providers would secure $100 billion in grants to help fight the coronavirus and make up for dollars they have lost by delaying elective surgeries and other procedures to focus on the outbreak. They would also get a 20 percent bump in Medicare payments for treating patients with the virus, Politico reports.

Expanded testing - and faster turnaround - offers hope in Virginia

Virginia’s state laboratory in Richmond has quietly expanded its capacity for testing COVID-19; it’s now able to test more than 2,000 patients for the virus — a significant increase from last week, when the lab’s capacity was at roughly 1,000 patients, says The Virginia Mercury. And on Wednesday, VCU Health announced it had developed its own in-house test for COVID-19, now limited only to hospitalized patients with severe symptoms of the disease (and dependent on the hospital’s access to testing supplies such as reagents and swabs), but VCU aims to obtain same-day results with this testing option.

New test tries to reduce risk to health workers by letting patients swab themselves

Health-services giant UnitedHealth Group Inc. is rolling out a coronavirus test that patients can self-administer, potentially reducing the risk to health-care workers as testing quickly expands around the nation, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Food and Drug Administration on Monday included the new methodology in its guidance to the nation’s medical workers

Companies rush to produce blood test for coronavirus immunity

Several academic laboratories and medical companies are rushing to produce these blood tests, which can quickly identify disease-fighting antibodies in people who already have been infected but may have had mild symptoms or none at all, says Reuters. This is different from the current, sometimes hard-to-come-by diagnostic tests that draw on a nasal swab to confirm active infection.


(Updates March 24, 2020):

Testing Updates for Providers

The Richmond City Health District has issued guidelines for providers who wish to test for Covid-19 in their practices. CLICK HERE.

VCU begins clinical trials for Covid-19 treatment

Virginia Commonwealth University researchers began two clinical trials this week on an experimental treatment for Covid-19. The trials focus on remdesivir, and investigational drug for use in patients with moderate or severe symptoms of the coronavirus. READ MORE

(Updates March 23, 2020)

Governor Ralph Northam, MD Executive Actions:

Executive Orders and Executive Directives may be found here once they are posted.  Orders do not appear when they are announced, rather when they are officially posted.


Loss of smell may be peculiar clue to coronavirus infection

Anosmia, the loss of sense of smell, and ageusia, an accompanying diminished sense of taste, have emerged as peculiar telltale signs of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and possible markers of infection. Read more.

FDA approves first rapid coronavirus test

The FDA has approved the first rapid coronavirus diagnostic test, with a detection time of about 45 minutes, as the United States struggles to meet the demand for coronavirus testing, reports Reuters. The test’s developer, California-based molecular diagnostics company Cepheid, said it had received an emergency use authorization from the FDA for the test, which will be used primarily in hospitals and emergency rooms. The company plans to begin shipping it to hospitals next week.

Pharma company halts emergency access to experimental drug 

A major pharmaceutical company is halting access to an experimental drug used to treat the novel coronavirus in emergencies. Amid an “exponential increase” in requests for the drug, called remdesivir, Gilead Sciences said it wanted more of those receiving the antiviral to participate in a clinical trial. The rapid spread of the virus around the world has increased demand and “flooded an emergency treatment access system that was … never intended for use in response to a pandemic,” the company said in a statement.

Remdesivir was one of nearly 70 drug candidates cited for its effectiveness in treating the coronavirus in a study published Sunday on the website bioRxiv. Also on the list was chloroquine, a malaria medication that President Trump has called a “game-changer” in treating the virus. Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, however, said there was only “anecdotal evidence” that chloroquine would be effective.)  Read more.


(Updates March 21, 2020)

Governor expands testing guidelines, prioritizes tests for medical providers

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam announced Saturday morning that Virginia now has 152 confirmed cases of Covid-19. He said that the Commonwealth is expanding its testing criteria to prioritize physicians, first responders and medical personnel who have had contact with someone with the coronavirus. Click here for the video.


(Updates March 20, 2020)

Updated guide to drugs and vaccines in development

There’s a lot of speculation and misinformation about what’s happening with Covid-19 treatment and prevention. Here’s a guide to some of the most talked-about efforts to treat or prevent coronavirus infection, with details on the science, history, and timeline for each endeavor, from Stat.


Virus can linger up to 72 hours on surfaces

erfAnxiously wondering how long viruses can lurk on a surface before infecting someone? It depends on the surface. Here's how long Covid-19 lasts on various surfaces, according to a new study.


(Updates March 19, 2020)

Covid-19: Wartime measures and who gets sick

The pandemic picture is becoming clearer, along with responses to it. As understanding who gets sick comes into sharper focus, experts emphasize one message: Millennials are not invincible. New CDC data show up to one-fifth of infected people ages 20 to 44 have been hospitalized, including 2% to 4% who required ICU treatment. And in Washington, the Trump administration invoked a wartime law to avert medical supply shortages.

CDC addresses mask shortage

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention attempted to address the mask shortage by recommending the use of bandannas, if necessary. “In settings where face masks are not available, [health-care providers] might use homemade masks (e.g., bandana, scarf) for care of patients with COVID-19 as a last resort,” the CDC said, referring to the disease caused by the virus. “Caution should be exercised when considering this option.”

Snapchat expedites wellness push in response to the virus

Snapchat will launch a new health and wellness initiative ahead of schedule Thursday in order to address its users' growing anxiety about the coronavirus, says Axios. Snapchat will also introduce new features and content to help educate users about safety measures and available resources. Millennials and Gen Z, the main demographics that use Snapchat, are being criticized by health authorities for not taking the virus seriously, since early health reports showed that it was less lethal for young people.

Central Virginia practices postpone elective surgeries, wellness visits

VCU Health, which began treating its first Covid-19 patient on Monday, announced Wednesday that it is canceling most of its elective, non-emergency surgeries, procedures and in-person clinic appointments in an effort to protect people from the spread of the virus as well as to free up medical resources for a potential surge in patients. Other facilities have done the same.

 (Updates March 17, 2020)

Govneror: No gatherings of more than 10

By midday Tuesday, Virginia had 67 confirmed cases of the coronavirus (including one at a Richmond long-term care facility), with two deaths reported. Gov. Northam directed Virginians to follow federal guidelines prohibiting gatherings of more than 10 people.

The AMA Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) editorial panel adopted a new CPT code that describes laboratory testing for the novel coronavirus—SARS-CoV-2—that causes COVID-19. The CPT code is now effective and can be used. Physicians and others can learn more about the  CPT code and the short, medium and long descriptors for it .

(Updates March 15, 2020):


Virginia orders $2.7 million in respirator masks, arrival date is a mystery

 Virginia Health Commissioner Dr. Norman Oliver said the state ordered $2.7 million in respirator masks as part of its ongoing effort to respond to the growing spread of COVID-19 — the disease caused by a new strain of coronavirus, says The Virginia Mercury. The catch? The state isn’t sure when the shipment will arrive. Virginia was one of dozens of states to place an order for the masks as the country scrambles to respond to the spreading viral outbreak. And with some people buying the masks in bulk, the result has been a shortage of supplies that experts worry will threaten providers on the front lines of the disease.

Why outbreaks like coronavirus spread exponentially, and how to flatten the curve

After the first case of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus, was announced in the United States, reports of further infections trickled in slowly. Two months later, that trickle has turned into a steady current, says The Washington Post. This so-called exponential curb  has experts worried. If the number of cases were to continue to double every three days, there would be about a hundred million cases in the United States by May. That is math, not prophecy. The spread can be slowed, public health professionals say, if people practice “social distancing” by avoiding public spaces and generally limiting their movement. Still, without any measures to slow it down, Covid-19 will continue to spread exponentially for months. To understand why, it is instructive to simulate the spread of a fake disease through a population.

Human trials for vaccine could begin 'within a few weeks'

Human trials for a potential vaccine to prevent COVID-19 could begin “within a few weeks” with a vaccine ready for public use within the next 12 to 18 months, said a top U.S. health official, CNBC reports, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Thursday that the U.S. had thought it would take two to three months to have it in the first human. “I think we’re going to do better than that,” he said. “I would hope within a few weeks we may be able to make an announcement to you all that we’ve given the first shot to the first person.” The National Institutes of Health has been working with biotech company Moderna to develop a vaccine using the current strain of the coronavirus.


Here are some of this week's top stories (Updated March 13, 2020):

Governor declares State of Emergency . At a press conference Thursday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam declared a State of Emergency in the Commonwealth and outlined additional measures in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Those include:

  • All specially-scheduled state conferences and large events are canceled for a minimum of 30 days.
  • A ban on state employee travel is now in effect and telework policies are being implemented.
  • Officials will continue to assess economic effects of the coronavirus and what can be done to mitigate those effects, and continue to execute a multi-agency response plan across all levels of government.
  • Officials are looking at possible means of expanding testing services.

CLICK HERE to read the news release about these measures.

  The FDA is forcing the CDC to waste time double testing some coronavirus cases. The FDA’s strict guidance on test confirmations is one of several obstacles that has slowed the federal government’s response to COVID-19, says ProPublica. The FDA could change its rules to speed things up, but hasn’t. 

March 11, 2020 News...

Researchers say coronavirus has 14-day incubation period and that people typically show symptoms five days after infection on average

Newsweek reports researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health found that the coronavirus has an incubation period of 14 days with people showing symptoms an average of five days after catching it, which agrees with previous studies of the virus. In addition, the researchers found that it appears to take an average of 5.1 days for a person to develop symptoms such as a dry cough and fever after they have been infected with the virus, and nearly all will do so within 12 days of being infected. The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

How long will the outbreak last?

Top CDC official Nancy Messonnier said that the outbreak in the U.S. could continue into 2021, although taking precautions such as avoiding crowds and washing hands could still reduce the severity of illness and prevent deaths.






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