news·4 min read

Daily Skimm: COVID-19 Hospitalizations, Medicare, and Goldfish

Medical workers in the Covid-19 ward in their PPE speak to each other before entering a negative pressure room
Getty Images
Jan 12, 2022

Almost at Capacity

The Story

The US has hit a record high for COVID-19 hospitalizations. 

What’s the status?

Not good. Even as boosters got the green light, the US is averaging 700,000 new infections a day. Cases could reach their peak later this month with as many as  1 million new cases per day. And with rapid tests harder to access than basics at the grocery store, the true number of infections could be even higher. Especially since not everyone is reporting their positive test results. Now, hospitals are feeling overwhelmed. 

How bad is it?

About 146,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19. For perspective, that's the highest ever during the pandemic. Nearly a quarter of 5,000 hospitals across the country are reportedly facing major staff shortages — despite the CDC's best efforts to put healthcare workers back to work, contagious or not. Hospitals could soon be overrun. And they might not have the capacity to care for non-COVID patients. In NY, 40 hospitals have been ordered to stop nonessential elective operations for at least two weeks. On Monday, states like Colorado, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, and Louisiana authorized crisis standards of care or declared a public health emergency. 

What’s the gov doing about it? 

Starting Saturday, the White House says private insurers will be required to cover the cost of eight at-home tests per person per month. But there isn’t a limit to the number of tests that have to be covered if they’re ordered by health care providers. The CDC is also considering an update to its mask guidance* to recommend people swap to KN95s or N95s. Top health officials answered some questions from senators about their CD-C for confusing guidance and testing. Dr. Fauci is saying, “we’re doing the best we possibly can.” 

theSkimm

Omicron is stressing everyone out. That includes hospital workers, public health officials, and everyone else. As we all try to navigate this variant, remember to take care of yourself and loved ones, physically and mentally.

And Also...This

What's got an update…

Medicare.* Yesterday, the federal health insurance provider said it would cover costs for a controversial Alzheimer's drug called Aduhelm. Last year, the FDA approved Aduhelm — a treatment intended to slow cognitive decline in patients. Unlike past medications that have treated symptoms, Aduhelm was supposed to treat the illness itself. But the drug wasn't exactly a miracle. The drugmaker, Biogen, canceled trials after data said it might not work. There were also reports of intense side effects (think: brain swelling or bleeding). Now, Medicare is thinking about covering the cost of the treatment (read: about $28,000 a year). But only for people who are enrolled in approved clinical trials — limiting who has access to the drug. The agency said it’ll give final word on the drug by April 11 as it accepts comments from the public for 30 days.

What could be coming to the US… 

Smart guns. Last week, a Pennsylvania-based gun company unveiled a smart handgun for shareholders. These guns, also known as “personalized” guns, use fingerprint matching and other tech to authenticate someone’s ID before they can operate the gun. The goal: to reduce accidental gun tragedies, which can kill dozens of children each year. They also have the potential to reduce suicides and discourage gun theft. Now, after nearly two decades of workshopping it, gunmakers are moving ahead and hope to release them as early as this year.

  • The pushback: Gun control supporters say hackers can interfere with the gun’s safety setting and remotely jam the gun’s radio signals. While gun rights advocates are worried this could lead to more restrictions on other guns.

Who’s celebrating…

Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick.* Yesterday, the Democrat and health care CEO won a special election to fill a vacant House seat in Florida. Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), a civil rights activist who died last year, had served in Congress for nearly three decades. Now, Cherfilus-McCormick won almost 80% of the vote in the left-leaning district. And has given House Democrats’ majority a slight boost.

Who’s making history again…

Maya Angelou.* On Monday, the US Mint announced it’s begun shipping quarters with Angelou’s face on them. The new quarter is the first in its American Women Quarters Program. And mint will issue 20 quarters over the next four years to honor women who’ve shaped American history. Think: Sally RideNina Otero-WarrenAnna May Wong. Now, this new quarter shows Angelou with arms uplifted and a rising sun and bird behind her — inspired by her poetry.

While Bonnaroo is back…

So are Girl Scout cookies.

Who’s 2 Fish 2 Furious…

This goldfish.*

*PS: Not a Washington Post subscriber? Check out their exclusive offer just for Skimm’rs.

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