Monday Roundup

Monday Roundup

Fierce Biotech reports on today’s positive but not definitive results from Moderna’s early COVID-19 vaccine testing. “With eyes on a phase 3 study this summer, Moderna posted promising early data for its COVID-19 vaccine. The jab prompted an immune response similar to those seen in patients who have recovered from the disease.” Fingers crossed.

CVS Health, Walgreen’s and Rite Aid / Verily continue to expand their drive up COVID-19 testing capabilities. Healthcare Dive reports that the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) last Friday “authorized multiple laboratories to test for coronavirus in nasal samples collected by consumers using an at-home kit” produced by Everlywell. This is the second FDA approved at home kit.

What’s more, Fierce Biotech reports that Verily’s Project Baseline “has launched a new clinical research effort focused on COVID-19 antibody testing and exploring the body’s immune response to the novel coronavirus.” Fierce Healthcare adds that the American Medical Association is offering guidance on COVID-19 antibody testing for physicians. “Although many are using these tests to determine whether an individual had COVID-19, we encourage physicians to only use antibody tests authorized by the FDA and only for the purposes of population-level studies [like the Project Baseline study], evaluating recovered individuals for convalescent plasma donations, or along with other clinical information as part of a well-defined testing plan for groups or individuals.”

A friend of the FEHBlog called his attention to this federal government list of top ten routinely exploited cybersecurity vulnerabilities and mitigations over the period 2016 through 2019 and this year.

Weekend update

The House of Representatives returned to Capitol Hill on Friday to pass a resolution (H.R. Res. No. 965) permitting remote Committee hearings and proxy voting during a federal declared emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic. The House also passed a wide-ranging, $3 trillion COVID-19 relief bill known as the HEROES Act (H.R. 6888) by a narrow 208-199 vote. The House thereby laid down its wishlist before the Senate and the President in the looming negotiations over what would be the fourth COVID-19 relief bill.

The FEHBlog’s favorite podcast Econtalk featured a special edition in which the host Stanford economist Russ Roberts interviewed Nobel in Economics laureate Paul Romer about the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Romer supports much less hunkering down and a lot more testing. It’s worth the hour or so to listen to the interview.

In other news:

  • The Washington Post reports that “Four months into the U.S. coronavirus epidemic, tests for the virus finally are becoming widely available, a crucial step toward lifting stay-at-home orders and safely returning to normal life. But while many states no longer report crippling supply shortages, a new problem has emerged: too few people lining up to get tested.” This word needs to get out.
  • Healthcare Dive discusses health insurer and tech company efforts to help their employer plan sponsors to safely reopen their businesses.
  • The Wall Street Journal reports on the state of the race to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine. Eight investigational versions have begun human testing trials. “Testing of early vaccines could show the way for subsequent shots by giving researchers a better idea of the level of immune response needed to provide protection against the virus, Emory’s Dr. Orenstein said.”
  • Fierce Healthcare discusses J.D. Powers 2020 analysis of consumer attitudes toward commercial health plans. “Consumers want a coordinated, integrated experience that their health plan may be unwilling or unable to provide, [James Breen from J.D. Power] said. “Health plan members have an expectation that health insurance companies do that, but I’m not certain whether or not health insurance companies feel that’s part of their major role, so there’s a disconnect there,” Beem said.
Our firm is closely monitoring the impacts of COVID-19. Effective 3/16/20, Ermer & Suter has implemented telework for all of our staff to encourage social distancing and help contain the virus. We remain fully operational and are readily available from our telework locations with no change in telephone numbers or email addresses.