Weekend update

Both Houses of Congress are on break this week for the Thanksgiving holiday.

We will be half way through the current Federal Benefits Open Season in the middle of this coming week. Open Season ends on December 14.

Believe or not, there was one more HHS final rule issued last Friday on top of three others discussed in Friday Stats and More. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services “finalized a rule that is designed to increase the supply of lifesaving organs available for transplant in the United States by requiring that the organizations responsible for organ procurement be transparent in their performance, highlighting the best and worst performers, and requiring them to compete on their ability to successfully facilitate transplants.”

Healthcare Dive reports that even though COVID-19 hospitalizations have been surging in the our country at least the large hospital chains are weathering this COVID-19 storm better than the earlier surges this year.

Top executives from hospital chains Tenet and UHS said that’s because there aren’t as many unknowns as in the previous coronavirus surge earlier this year, speaking this week at Wolfe Research’s virtual healthcare conference.

“Yes, we are seeing increases across the country. Clearly that is what you read, but it’s not anywhere near where we’re not able to handle it,” Tenet CEO Ron Rittenmeyer said Wednesday.

Tenet has more facilities in Texas than any other state, and reports on the ground there paint a far more harrowing picture, though. Hospitals across the country say they are overrun, and some have had to halt or pare back on elective procedures to ensure they have enough staff and equipment to care for COVID-19 patients.

​For UHS’ acute care hospitals, the second wave around the July timeframe was much worse than what they’re experiencing today, CFO Steve Filton said Thursday — though UHS does have two hospitals, both in Texas, with record levels of COVID-19 patients.

The Wall Street Journal reports that

The billionaire Walton family that controls Walmart Inc. is among a group of investors backing a startup aiming to design at-home Covid-19 tests to sell for as little as $10 at the retail giant’s stores and elsewhere.

NowDiagnostics Inc., based 20 miles south of Walmart’s corporate headquarters, has filed requests for emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for a Covid-19 antibody blood test, according to the Springdale, Ark., company.

It is also developing two at-home Covid-19 tests that would use a patient’s saliva and deliver results in minutes, said Chief Executive Kevin Clark. One of those would be an antigen test that looks for virus proteins to diagnose an active infection and the other an antibody test, which looks for an immune response that can signal a previous infection. None of the tests have been authorized by the FDA for use.

The Boston Globe offers this attention-grabbing quote (and more)

“The [COVID-19] virus is not likely to go away, maybe ever, but certainly not for a long time,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “But that said, we’re not going to be living like this forever, and in fact, I expect by springtime that things will start really getting much, much better [due to the Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines]. And then it’ll continue to get better. And at some point, we will no longer feel like we’re living in the middle of a pandemic.”

Though experts varied on how quickly these things might happen, with some saying it could be summer before a shift toward normalcy begins, all agreed on the rough outline: As vaccination increases, major outbreaks will decrease in size and frequency and restrictions will gradually lift.

Our new normal will not be without its reminders of the pandemic, experts said. A high level of public health surveillance will be crucial to monitoring and preventing outbreaks. Taking a rapid test before eating out or starting work could well be part of our new normal. And because COVID-19 could recede at different times in different countries based on vaccine availability, travel screening and some level of international border restrictions could remain in place for years to come.

In this regard, the Wall Street Journal opines that “Even after a Covid-19 vaccine, changes to how we shop, dine, work out and entertain ourselves are likely to endure.”

As marketers of new technologies can tell you, the hardest part is getting people to adopt new ways of doing things. But this tendency also means that new innovations can be sticky: Once a habit is established, it’s not easily broken.

During the pandemic, 10 years of consumer adoption of e-commerce was compressed into three months, according to a recent survey by McKinsey. Adoption has varied by age, since younger people were already more likely to shop—and do everything else—online. A survey just out from digital consultancy Mobiquity found a 47% increase in the number of baby boomers reporting they had ordered delivery from a restaurant through a website or app; a 193% increase in the number ordering groceries through a website or app; and a 469% increase in the number who had used telemedicine. Nearly 9 in 10 boomer respondents said they’ll continue to use such technologies even after the pandemic ends.

Count this boomer in.