COVID-19 Daily: Ventilator Rationing,
Fast-Turnaround Tests

Lauren Gravitz

March 28, 2020

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

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

Ventilator Rationing?

Over the last week, advocates reported that various US states are planning to ration ventilators and other crucial COVID-19 treatments based on patients' age, overall health, and disabilities such as dementia or traumatic brain injury

The reports were so numerous that, today, the director of the Health and Human Services' Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced they were opening investigations into the complaints. The OCR also issued a six-page bulletin to outline civil-rights statutes as they applied to the current situation, which states that those with disabilities "should not be denied medical care on the basis of stereotypes, assessments of quality of life, or judgements about a person's relative 'worth' based on the presence or absence of disabilities." 

FDA Says Plasma OK

Clinical trials are still evaluating the safety and efficacy of using convalescent plasma in patients with COVID-19. But with no vaccine and no known cure, the FDA has granted clinicians permission to use it under single-patient emergency Investigational New Drugs Applications, MDedge reports

Tension Over Hydroxychloroquine

Even while hydroxychloroquine remains unproven for treating COVID-19, supplies of the drug have already dwindled. That's prompted some physicians to try and reassure patients who rely on the medication to prevent lupus or other rheumatic-disease flare-ups that it will remain available for them. Right now, there are only the "thinnest threads" of evidence that hydroxychloroquine or any other available medication are effective against the virus, says Paul Auwaerter, MD, in a perspective published on Medscape.

Testing Progress

After 2 months of setbacks, COVID-19 diagnostics in the US finally got a win. A new test, just approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, can deliver COVID-19 results within minutes and can be used at the point of care in hospitals, urgent care centers, and physicians' clinics. Abbott Laboratories, which created the test, says they can begin distribution of the tests next week and plans to manufacture 50,000 of the tests per day. 

Everyone Can Do Something

The novel coronavirus pandemic is causing feelings of rage, fear, and helplessness as it races from one city to the next. But pediatrician Jessica Sparks Lilley has been trained to advocate, and in a perspective she enumerates the steps she's taking. 

Those include moving almost completely to a telemedicine platform, doing what she can to keep her patients away from overwhelmed emergency departments, and advocating as best she can for the closure of nonessential services and accurate distribution of information. 

Covid By the Numbers

The past 24 hours have yielded some sobering milestones for those tracking COVID-19 cases.

The US was the first country to record more than 100,000 confirmed cases, and had surged to nearly 120,000 by the time this article had posted. Italy's death toll ticked up and over the 10,000 mark; Spain's is edging closer to 6000. Worldwide, more than 650,000 cases have now been confirmed.

Lauren Gravitz is the editorial director for Medscape features. She has covered science and medicine for a variety of publications, including Nature, Technology Review, Nature Medicine, and NPR. She can be reached at lgravitz@medscape.net or on Twitter @lyrebard .

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