COVID-19 Daily: A Hospitalist's Advice, Fighting an 'Infodemic'

Ellie Kincaid

March 27, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

Here are the coronavirus stories Medscape's editors around the globe think you need to know about today: 

A Hospitalist's Advice

Stanford University had its first confirmed case of COVID-19 around March 10. After weeks of sleep deprivation, intense planning, and quick decision-making, chief of the hospital medicine division Neera Ahuja, MD, appeared on Medscape's "Medicine and the Machine" podcast to share her experience. Her advice for hospitals that may be hit next: "Start staffing up providers, train them for PPE, and emotionally prepare them for what's to come."

An 'Infodemic'

Besides the COVID-19 pandemic, the world is also facing an "infodemic" of misinformation online, according to a Canadian researcher. He's developed a website to give "truthfulness ratings" to claims circulating on social media, and launched a study to understand patterns of how misinformation spreads to develop mitigation strategies. 

Hospital Cash Crunch

Due to high costs of treating patients with COVID-19 and cancellation of most elective procedures, many hospitals are likely to face cash flow issues in 60-90 days, according to a new report. That's including the 20% increase in Medicare payments for COVID-19 treatment that was in the initial Senate version of the $2 trillion stimulus bill. It's not the first time hospitals have had to weather a period of negative or reduced cash flow, said one expert: "It's going to be rough...But the vast majority of them will survive."

300 Employees Furloughed 

A hospital in Kentucky announced that it would furlough 300 employees who are not directly involved in patient care or its COVID-19 response, Modern Healthcare reports. The move affects about 25% of the hospital's workforce, and additional staff will have their working hours reduced. 

Officials Cite Retracted Study

Faced with questions about why the United States didn't import SARS-nCOV-2 tests from other countries when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had issues with its own test, both White House response coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, cited a study showing that a foreign test had a 47% false-positive rate. There are a few issues with citing the research in that context, NPR reports, including that the journal article was retracted a few days after it was published — well before the officials referred to it.

UK Leaders Test Positive

Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Boris Johnson has tested positive for COVID-19 after developing a temperature and persistent cough, he said in a video posted to Twitter. UK Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock also tested positive for the virus. Both are self-isolating, as is the UK government's chief medical advisor Chris Whitty. 

Ellie Kincaid is Medscape's associate managing editor. She has previously written about healthcare for Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and Nature Medicine.

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