This week's highlights: HHS allocates $100 million to 1,400 health centers across the country, the CDC introduces a new bot to help people make decisions if they have potential symptoms of COVID-19, and an increased production of ventilators due to the coronavirus pandemic.
• The Joint Commission has suspended regular accreditation and certification surveys to let healthcare organizations concentrate on the new coronavirus pandemic, according to a letter sent out by the accrediting agency.
• The FDA gives emergency authorization for molecular diagnostics firm Cehpeid to start shipping a 45-minute coronavirus test that will run on its 23,000 GeneXpert systems, of which 5,000 are in the US and are capable of running hospital tests 24×7.
• The HHS allocates $100 million to help nearly 1,400 health centers across the country acquire medical supplies, support screening and testing needs, and expand telemedicine capabilities.
• The CMS offers exceptions and extensions for Medicare quality programs, with MIPS and MSSP reporting deadlines extended from March 31st to April 30th and no 2021 penalties for clinicians who don’t submit data.
• Instacart is planning to hire an additional 300,000 full-time contractors to help it deliver groceries to people during the coronavirus pandemic.
• Intel said on Tuesday it would suspend its share buybacks and warned that the coronavirus pandemic could have a material impact on its business, even as its factories remain operational, adding that the suspension of buybacks would not impact dividend payments.
• Global smartphone sales tumbled 14% in February as the coronavirus spread in China and overseas, Counterpoint Research said on Thursday.
• Collective Medical offers free use of its ADT-based collaboration network through the end of 2020 to help with COVID-19 response. Healthcare organizations can go live on its lightweight solution in less than one week without cost or obligation for the rest of the year.
• The CDC introduced a bot over the weekend to help people make decisions about what to do if they have potential symptoms of COVID-19. Called Clara, the “coronavirus self-checker” was created in partnership with CDC Foundation and Microsoft Azure’s Healthcare Bot service.
Experity offers urgent care clinics free use of its COVID-19 Check-in Triage app, which sends questions to scheduled patients via two-way messaging and then tells them how to proceed with their visit.
• An IBM supercomputer known as 'Summit' has identified 77 drugs that could provide a framework to help researchers find a cure for coronavirus. The research team cut down the list from 77 to the top seven most promising candidates to treat the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
• Researchers from Cybereason Nocturnus have been tracking the rise and variety of social engineering attacks, which now include phishing, fake apps and ransomware. Phishing has followed the spread of COVID-19 infections, fake apps are targeting the growing number of home workers, and ransomware is targeting healthcare organizations.
• Several ransomware hacker groups say they will refrain from attacking healthcare organizations during the pandemic.
• Mozilla is getting ready to remove support for the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) from the Firefox web browser due to security concerns.
• Microsoft informed customers on Monday that it’s working on patches for two Windows zero-day vulnerabilities that can be exploited for remote code execution.
• UCSF launches a study in which emergency medical workers will wear Oura Rings to monitor their body temperature and other vital signs, with researchers hoping to be able to use their data to see if people who are infected with COVID-19 could be identified earlier to allow self-quarantine.
• NIST and the DHS published a series of recommendations on how to ensure that virtual meetings and connections to enterprise networks are protected as employees increasingly work from home.
• Health departments in New York City and Lost Angeles advise doctors to skip testing people with mild respiratory infections for coronavirus unless the results would change the clinical management of those patients.
• Parts suppliers for General Motors are preparing to manufacture parts for at least 200,000 ventilators in an effort to stave off a projected shortage of the machines in the fight against COVID-19.
• A man and his wife were admitted to a Banner Health hospital after ingesting chloroquine phosphate, which is typically used to clean fish tanks. Chloroquine is an antimalarial drug that some have suggested may be able to treat coronavirus, but the FDA has not approved it for that purpose.