Federal agencies announce emergency waivers, guidance. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Occupational Health and Safety Administration and other agencies recently released a number of new documents and information related to COVID-19, including emergency declaration waivers; revised guidance for nursing homes on visitor limitations; guidance for flexibility with respirator fit-testing; clarifications regarding public charge determinations; and a new CPT code for coronavirus testing. 

Guidelines on mass gatherings. The CDC is recommending a national, eight-week moratorium on in-person events of 50 people or more. President Trump, meanwhile, today released guidelines instructing Americans to avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people for the next 15 days to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The White House's new guidelines also advise Americans to avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants and food courts; going on shopping trips and making social visits; and visiting nursing homes and retirement or long-term care facilities.

Hospitals, doctors and nurses request direct support for providers in stimulus package. As Congress considers developing an economic stimulus package, the AHA, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association today urged that congressional leaders include at least $1 billion to ensure that hospitals, health systems, physicians and nurses are viable and “directly supported” for preparedness and response. “We also urge that supplemental funding not be offset by cutting other health programs,” the organizations wrote. Yesterday, AHA and other national hospital groups strongly recommended that Congress suspend the Medicare sequester for at least the duration of the pandemic.

Hospital groups express concern with halting elective surgeries. AHA and other hospital groups also expressed concern yesterday about recent comments by government officials that could be interpreted as recommending that hospitals immediately stop performing "elective" surgeries, without clear agreement on how to classify various levels of necessary care. “While modeling predicts a surge of the number of serious COVID-19 cases that will need hospital care, the hospital system must continue to balance the needs of caring for patients with COVID-19 while providing vital services to others in the community who need care,” the letter notes.

FDA spurs faster test results with policy change. The Food and Drug Administration is removing a requirement that labs send to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention samples of their coronavirus test results to confirm positive cases. The policy change (https://www.fda.gov/media/134922/download) took effect Sunday, reducing the number of tests needed per patient. It also is expected to decrease turnaround time for test results, with labs granted the authority to confirm positive COVID-19 cases.

Guidance establishes rules for compounded alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The FDA says it does not intend to take action against compounders that prepare alcohol-based hand sanitizers for consumer use for the duration of the COVID-19 emergency, provided that certain production guidelines are met. 

Cyberattack targets HHS, COVID-19 misinformation. HHS was the target of a Sunday cyberattack designed to delay the nation’s response to COVID-19. According to reports, the attack overloaded HHS servers with millions of hits over several hours to slow the system. It coincided with broad dissemination of false information online and via text messaging about a national quarantine, according to the National Security Council

Last week, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency alerted organizations to VPN vulnerabilities and referenced an expected increase in phishing attempts under the guise of COVID-19. HHS also issued recent alerts on phishing emails and fake coronavirus maps which spread malware. 

AHA cancels Annual Meeting. Because of recent COVID-19 developments and CDC recommendations, AHA has cancelled its April 19-21 Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., along with affiliated events. See the AHA FAQ for more information.

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