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Top news stories from AMA Morning Rounds®: Week of March 30, 2020

Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of March 30, 2020 – April 3, 2020.

Majority of U.S. counties with no positive COVID-19 test results are in rural areas

The AP (3/29, Lee, Forster) reports that “as the coronavirus rages across the United States, mainly in large urban areas, more than a third of U.S. counties have yet to report a single positive test result for COVID-19 infections, an analysis by The Associated Press shows.” According to the article, “of the counties without positive tests, 85% are in rural areas … that generally have less everyday contact between people that can help transmit the virus.” The “counties with zero positive tests for COVID-19 have a higher median age and higher proportion of people older than 60 – the most vulnerable to severe effects of the virus – and far fewer intensive care beds should they fall sick.”

Federal government to relax hospital safety standards to expand services to fight pandemic

The New York Times (3/30, Sanger-Katz) reports, “The federal government announced Monday that it was relaxing many of its usual safety standards for hospitals so they could expand services to fight the coronavirus pandemic.” The CMS “is changing rules on what counts as a hospital bed; how closely certain medical professionals need to be supervised; and what kinds of health care can be delivered at home.” The Times adds that “hospital groups welcomed the changes.” The American Medical Association “also welcomed the new rules.”

People with chronic medical conditions may be more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 and receive intensive care, CDC report says

The Washington Post (3/31, Achenbach, Wan) reports “people who have chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, lung disease and heart disease, face an increased chance of being hospitalized with COVID-19 and put into intensive care, according to” CDC data “that is consistent with reports from China and Italy.” The article says that the CDC report “reinforces a critically important lesson: Although the disease is typically more severe among older people, people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk if they contract the virus, for which there is no vaccine or approved drug treatment.”

The Hill (3/31, Weixel) says “people with underlying health conditions like diabetes and lung disease are more likely to become seriously ill or die if they contract the new coronavirus, according to” the CDC report. The article says that around 78% of patients with coronavirus who were admitted to ICUs “had at least one underlying health condition,” according to the report. The article adds, “The most common conditions were diabetes, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular disease, but the agency also found a higher risk among people with hypertension, smoking, renal disease and coronary artery disease.”

People with coronavirus may be able to spread the virus one-to-three days before symptoms appear, CDC study suggests

Reuters (4/1, Mishra) reports people infected with coronavirus “can transmit the infection one-to-three days before symptoms start to appear, according to a study published” in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The study examined “243 cases of COVID-19...reported in Singapore between January 23 to March 16 and identified seven ‘clusters’ where pre-symptomatic transmission was likely.”

Number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world passes one million

USA Today (4/2, Stanglin) reports that as of Thursday, there are more than 1 million confirmed cases of coronavirus in the world. However, the number was probably reached earlier, because of untested cases including “asymptomatic individuals; people who may have died of complications of the virus without anyone knowing it; and those whose symptoms were not serious enough to qualify for testing.”

The Hill (4/2, Klar) reports that the U.S. “has more than 234,000 cases and 5,600 deaths,” while “Italy and Spain follow with more than 115,000 and 110,000 cases, respectively, and over 24,000 deaths between them.” Meanwhile, China has “reported more than 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths from the virus, though U.S. intelligence agencies have reportedly concluded that Beijing has underreported both the total number of cases and confirmed deaths.”

Newsweek (4/2, Kim) reports that in the U.S, “New York continues to report the country’s highest number of cases, with more than 83,700 confirmed infections to date, including 47,439 cases in New York City, the office of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed as of Wednesday.”

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