COVID-19 Update: Antigen Test Approval, Caring for Patients at Home

Caroline Cassels

August 27, 2020

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

"Real-Time" Antigen Test Approved

The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the first diagnostic antigen test for SARS-CoV-2 that doesn't require a separate analyzer.

Similar to a stick pregnancy test, the new assay displays one line for a negative result and two for a positive result. It can detect the virus in as little as 15 minutes.

Office-based physicians, emergency department physicians, and school nurses could potentially use the product as a point-of-care test. The FDA authorized its use for people with suspected COVID-19 who are within 7 days of symptom onset.

COVID at Home

Recent data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services show that two thirds of COVID victims are outpatients. But what does optimal care at home look like? Experts provide practical tips to ensure the best medical and emotional care during this challenging time.

FDA About-Face on Intubation Boxes

The FDA has revoked the umbrella emergency use authorization granted in May for intubation boxes once thought to keep healthcare providers safer when performing procedures on patients with COVID-19.

The FDA specified in its announcement that the change applies to boxes that lack fans or air filters and that do not generate negative pressure.

In a letter to healthcare providers, the FDA said these boxes "may pose an increased health risk to patients and healthcare providers."

Excess Deaths: What They Reveal

Excess deaths from COVID have exposed the weaknesses in the US public health system and, more specifically, the US surveillance system. In an interview, Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota, discusses his concerns and where public health needs to go from here.

Pressure to Return to Work?

Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare facilities have pressured workers who contract COVID-19 to return to work sooner than public health standards suggest is safe for them, their colleagues, or their patients, Kaiser Health News reports. Please tell us what your experience has been in your practice setting.

Distancing Debate

When it comes to distancing in the current pandemic, how far is far enough? A story from Undark explores the mixed messages coming from top agencies, with the CDC recommending that distancing should be at least 6 feet and the World Health Organization saying around 3 feet should be enough.

Other groups have used a mixture of the two recommendations. The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, recommended in June that school desks should be at least 3 feet apart, although 6 feet would be ideal, and that teachers and staff should maintain a distance of 6 feet. However, research into this area is far from conclusive.

Vaccine Supply Distribution Plans in the Works

The CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices met yesterday to review the latest data on two COVID-19 vaccines and examine two potential distribution models that would protect those at highest risk. This includes healthcare personnel, essential workers and immunocompromised individuals.

The committee found that supplies of the vaccines will be limited – at least initially.

In Memoriam

As frontline healthcare workers care for patients with COVID-19, they commit themselves to difficult, draining work and also put themselves at risk for infection. Thousands throughout the world have died.

Medscape has published a memorial list to commemorate them. We will continue updating this list as, sadly, needed. Please help us ensure this list is complete by submitting names with an age, profession or specialty, and location through this form.

If you would like to share any other experiences, stories, or concerns related to the pandemic, please join the conversation here.

Caroline Cassels is an editor at Medscape. She has edited and reported on health and medicine for consumer and physician audiences for more than 2 decades.

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