What We're Reading: COVID-19 Testing Lags; Malaria Drugs Get Emergency Approval; Shutdown Extended

March 30, 2020

The reasons behind coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) testing lags; FDA issues emergency authorization of malaria drugs for treatment of COVID-19; an expert from the University of Washington predicts that there could be at least 1 more extension of social distancing, beyond President Trump's announcement extending coronavirus guidelines to April 30.

Reasons Behind COVID-19 Testing Result Lags

In a piece published by Kaiser Health News, experts explained the mechanisms behind the current testing standards for COVID-19 and why they often lead to extended wait times. Experts note that testing is a multi-step process, in which initially a sample is taken from a patient’s nose or throat, using a special swab that then goes into a tube and is sent to a lab. Although some large hospitals have on-site molecular test labs, others have to send these samples to outside labs for processing, which can take 24 hours or longer. Capacity isn't expanding fast enough to keep up with demand, labs can handle varying amounts of tests, and supply shortages are coming into play and slowing test production.

FDA Issues Emergency Authorization of Antimalarial Drugs

As Guidelines for Distancing Extend, One Projection Hints at Even Longer Time Frame

Despite scant evidence of its efficacy against COVID-19, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, decades-old malaria drugs touted by President Trump. POLITICO reports that Sandoz donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine to the Strategic National Stockpile and Bayer donated 1 million doses of chloroquine to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, when a clinical trial is not available or recommended. The federal government is keeping its projections of possible COVID-19 fatalities private, but one expert said the the guidelines for social distancing could extend through May, The Washington Post reported. President Trump extended his guidelines from today through April 30. Meanwhile, Christopher Murray, MD, DPhil, who leads the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, is predicting that on April 15, the United States will hit a peak of 2271 deaths in 1 day, with a shortage of 61,509 beds, 15,103 intensive care units, and 26,753 ventilators.