Mar 3, 2020 - Health

Coronavirus test kit affordability could hurt U.S. containment efforts

Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a briefing yesterday on the administration's coronavirus response. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Now that the coronavirus diagnostic test works, the next issue to grapple with is whether it's affordable.

Why it matters: People worried about getting hit with large medical bills if they get tested for the novel coronavirus may delay going to the doctor, or not go at all — the opposite of what needs to happen as public health officials seek to contain the virus' spread.

What they're saying: "We are very concerned about affordability and access. We want to incentivize private sector development while protecting patients from costs and making sure they get the interventions they need to control the spread," a senior White House official said.

  • "I think the principle here should be that nobody has to remain sick and remain infectious because they can't cough up the money for a test or, eventually, a vaccine," Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) told me.
  • "Keeping the price down of a diagnostic test is gonna be critical. Because people aren’t going to do it" if it's unaffordable, Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W. Va.) said.

Details: The CDC pays for the test, but that's unlikely to remain the case if and when it becomes available through private labs.

  • Patients could also struggle with the cost of the doctor's office or hospital visit itself, said the Kaiser Family Foundation's Larry Levitt.

Case in point: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last night that insurers in the state will be required to waive cost-sharing associated with coronavirus testing, including emergency room, urgent care and office visits.

Go deeper: Washington schools shut as Gov. Inslee seeks $100M to fight coronavirus

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Facebook contractor diagnosed with coronavirus in Seattle

Photo: Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

A Facebook contractor who works in the tech giant's Stadium East office in Seattle has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, a company spokesperson confirmed in a statement to Axios early Thursday.

The big picture: "We've notified our employees and are following the advice of public health officials to prioritize everyone's health and safety," the spokesperson said. The worker was last in the office Feb. 21. It was immediately shut and is due to reopen this Monday, when the incubation period ends. Facebook is encouraging all Seattle site staff to work remotely until March 31. On Tuesday, an Amazon employee in Seattle tested positive for COVID-19, as Washington grapples with a spike in cases.

Go deeper: Washington schools shut as Gov. Inslee seeks $100M to fight coronavirus

U.S. coronavirus cases top 1,000 as states scramble to curb the spread

A stretcher is moved from an AMR ambulance to the Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state. Photo: Jason Redmond/AFP via Getty Images

The number of cases of the novel coronavirus in the U.S. soared to 1,037 and the death toll to at least 31 by early Wednesday, per data from Johns Hopkins and state health departments.

The big picture: Nearly 40 states had reported cases by Tuesday and at least 12 have declared a state of emergency — Washington, California, New York, Oregon, Kentucky, Maryland, Utah, Colorado, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Florida and Michigan — which reported its first two cases on Tuesday evening.

Go deeperArrowUpdated Mar 11, 2020 - Health

Cuomo: Trump's mandatory quarantine comments "really panicked people"

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference Sunday that President Trump's unexpected Saturday announcement of a possible "short-term" quarantine of New York, New Jersey and parts of Connecticut to curb the spread of the coronavirus "really panicked people."

Why it matters: Though Trump ruled out the mandatory quarantine later that day, Cuomo said people still called "all night long" asking about the comments and many likely fled the New York area — possibly spreading the virus further.

Go deeperArrowMar 29, 2020 - Health