Join me and my Axios colleagues at 9am ET this morning live for an in-depth discussion on the latest coronavirus coverage.
Today's word count is 1,552, or a 6-minute read.
A health care worker screens a patient for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing site on March 18 in Arlington, Virginia. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Some academic labs are continuously reworking their coronavirus tests, or trying to make new tests altogether, in an effort to stay ahead of shortages in the supplies they need to make those tests.
The big picture: The testing capacity of the U.S. has expanded, as large commercial labs pledge to make tests, but we'll be back at square one if we run out of the necessary ingredients.
Labs have been sounding the alarm about dwindling supplies of test ingredients like reagents, RNA-extraction kits and the swabs used to take samples from patients.
Driving the news: Stanford's clinical virology lab is in the process of validating its fourth RNA extraction method, medical director Benjamin Pinsky told me.
The University of California at San Francisco's clinical virology lab is working on five assays — which are essentially test recipes — as a response to supply shortages, medical director Charles Chiu told me, even though it already validated one earlier this month.
Other labs are developing tests with the potential for shortages in mind.
Reworking existing tests isn't the only desperate attempt being made to ramp testing up. At-home kits are being developed and sold without FDA approval, the Washington Post reported last night, and testing sites are limiting who can be tested to conserve resources.
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios
The Trump administration is urging hospitals to postpone elective surgeries to make room for coronavirus patients. And hospitals do need to free up more beds.
Case in point: NBC News published a heart-wrenching story last night about a patient who needs a liver transplant, but whose transplant surgery — scheduled for later this month — was canceled amid concerns about the coronavirus.
What they're saying: This plan "will not only preserve equipment, but it also allows doctors and nurses to help those that are on the front lines, and it will protect patients from unnecessary exposure to the virus," CMS administrator Seema Verma said yesterday.
Over the past week, American attitudes towards the coronavirus have become dramatically more serious, as the U.S. has seen an uptick in positive cases and precautionary measures, according to a new survey provided exclusively to Axios by Harris Poll.
General Motors, Ford and Fiat Chrysler have agreed to close all of their North American factories through at least March 30 to allow the companies to thoroughly clean and sanitize their plants, after which plans to reopen will be evaluated "week-to-week," Axios' Joann Muller writes.
Stocks closed down more than 5% on Wednesday after a volatile day that saw trading halt for the fourth time this month amid novel coronavirus concerns.
The State Department is suspending "routine visa services in most countries worldwide" for immigrants and nonimmigrants in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the agency said Wednesday.
Ford and General Motors are looking into making medical equipment including ventilators that could help combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) tweeted Wednesday night that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus — hours after Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-Fla.) made a similar announcement.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that President Trump has agreed to deploy a floating hospital called the USNS Comfort to New York Harbor to assist the state with the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Russia is already spreading misinformation about the coronavirus throughout the West, according to digital forensics experts and government officials, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.
There were no cases of the novel coronavirus in Hubei Province, China, including the city of Wuhan, China, where the outbreak is believed to have begun, in the past 24 hours, per the local health department's website.
In a national address with no precedent in her 14 years as chancellor, Angela Merkel said Germany now faces the gravest challenge since World War II.
Two aspects make the COVID-19 pandemic unlike any disaster we've experienced in memory: its global nature and its unknown duration, Axios' Bryan Walsh writes.
The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee has accused China of carrying out "one of the worst cover-ups in human history" over the novel coronavirus outbreak and inflicting a pandemic and economic calamity on the world.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios
The U.S. is scrambling to prepare for the second phase of the coronavirus outbreak, and we're not ready yet, Axios' Sam Baker, Jennifer Kingson and Bob Herman write.
The big picture: Phase 1 was mainly about testing. This outbreak seemed largely theoretical as long as we didn't even know the number of U.S. cases. Phase 2 will be about the actual response.
What's next: The Senate signed off on a coronavirus relief bill yesterday just as the White House formally proposed a separate $1 trillion relief and stimulus plan, with half the money going to cash payments to needy Americans.
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios
It may soon be time for the U.S. to take an unprecedented step and waive the costs of treatment for the new coronavirus, for everyone, the Kaiser Family Foundation's Drew Altman writes in today's column.
Where it stands: Insurers have already waived the cost of testing for many patients. But if hospitals are deluged with coronavirus cases, as expected, it may also be time to look at the substantially higher cost of treatment.
By the numbers: The average hospitalization for COVID-19 will likely cost more than $20,000, and patients will be on the hook for an average of about $1,300 of that total.
Not everyone who contracts the coronavirus will require hospitalization; many will be able to recover at home. But those who do require more intensive treatment will be at risk for big hospital bills — which could also scare people away from getting treated or even tested.
Between the lines: Insurers could face significant challenges if they had to absorb these costs, so some federal help might be warranted.
NewYork-Presbyterian, one of the largest hospital systems in New York City, is anticipating the coronavirus outbreak will trigger anywhere from $350 million to $700 million in losses, according to a new financial disclosure.
The big picture: NewYork-Presbyterian is in one of the hardest-hit states and was forced to delay all elective surgeries and procedures, which will ding its revenue and profit. But even with a nine-figure negative swing, the system is not in danger of going under, Axios' Bob Herman reports.
Details: NewYork-Presbyterian's coronavirus estimates made several assumptions.
Yes, but: The system has 311 days of cash on hand, plus its hospitals will be paid for COVID-19 patients, meaning there is no immediate financial peril.
What to watch: Hospitals are asking Congress for at least $1 billion in additional funds as well as payroll tax breaks to offset coronavirus costs.
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