COVID-19 Daily: Universal Mask Usage, Death Projections

Ellie Kincaid

April 01, 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: 

Time for Universal Mask Usage?

Faced with the scenario of a self-isolating older couple with no access to masks, Amy L. Baxter, MD, published a YouTube video demonstrating how to turn a padded bra into a DIY mask. She makes the case that everyone should wear a mask in public at all times, in addition to washing hands and staying home as much as possible. 

US health officials have not yet recommended this, but it is reportedly under active consideration. "If we read the research and look at the numbers honestly, we must also recognize that masks keep us safe," Baxter writes.

Predicting How Many People Will Die of COVID-19

White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, yesterday warned that some 100,000 to 240,000 people in the United States are likely to die from COVID-19. 

To model the course of an epidemic, epidemiologists need to know a lot of things that can be difficult to find out, such as how contagious a virus is, how long people are infectious, and the number of people currently infected. Here's a guide to the variables that go into the headline projection numbers. 

Regulations Relaxed

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has announced a wide range of temporary regulatory moves to help hospitals and health systems handle a surge of COVID-19 patients. For example, a hospital can now transfer patients to beds in a hotel and still receive hospital payments from Medicare. 

"Moral Injury" Is Getting Worse

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, clinicians struggled with "moral injury" in their work, encountering systemic barriers to caring for patients. The stresses of the pandemic have, unsurprisingly, made things worse, writes Wendy K. Dean, MD, a psychiatrist and the president and cofounder of the nonprofit organization Moral Injury of Healthcare. 

"Failure to work together may leave a generation of clinicians doubting and distrustful of the moral fabric of our healthcare system and its leadership," she writes.

Clinical Trials Deferred

As COVID-19 has disrupted the normal practice of medicine, it's also disrupted the conduct of clinical trials. The good news is that most companies and researchers seem to be continuing trials for life-threatening conditions, WebMD reports. The bad news: Most studies not considered critical are being deferred. 

Do You Have PPE? 

Many clinicians have taken to social media to plead for donations of N95 masks and other personal protective equipment. Let Medscape know how you're faring. 

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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