MT Weekly: FDA Fast-Tracks Coronavirus Saliva Test, CDC Guidance For Workers’ Return

MedTruth is reporting on the coronavirus. Here’s a summary of the most important developments this week — medical research, regulation, legislation and legal actions.

Staying informed starts here.

Medical Breakthroughs

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that it has fast-tracked a new emergency test for COVID-19 that can analyze saliva for traces of the virus. The test, which could replace throat and nose swab tests, has been heralded as a method for protecting medical professionals.

“Thanks to the test we can preserve precious personal protective equipment for use in patient care instead of testing,” Andrew Brooks, chief operating officer and director of technology development at Rutgers University’s RUCDR Infinite Biologics lab, told reporters in a statement. Brooks also commented that the ease of self-testing with saliva will boost the number of tests performed.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn has told reporters that although this test is a significant asset to hospitals, it does not solve the testing issue for ordinary citizens.

“This is not an at-home test. This still has to be performed with a provider, but it does provide great advantages moving forward and expands the opportunities for testing,” Hahn stated on “Fox & Friends.”

Though the fast-tracking is largely lauded as a triumph, there have been numerous reports that the rush to provide tests may come at the cost of accuracy.

Research + Findings

While many have hoped that the spread of COVID-19 would subside in the warmer months, a report by a panel from National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine delivered by a panel to the White House Tuesday has a different message. While seasonal bouts of influenza may subside in warmer weather, COVID-19 appears to share the more enduring features of SARS and MERS and is unlikely to disappear in warmer and more humid conditions, according to a Washington Post report.

“The virus will still spread exponentially at higher temperatures and humidity,” Dr. David Relman, Relman, professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University, told MedScape.

The data, however, is far from conclusive. Scientists have called current methods of testing COVID-19’s seasonal viability “imperfect” and have stressed the need for ongoing research. In the meantime, experts continue to recommend the practices of social distancing and adamant hygiene practices.

Public Health

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has released new instructions designed to guide workers who may be returning to work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The guidance is specifically directed at critical or essential workers who have been exposed to the virus on the job.

If a worker is essential but may be infected, the CDC has stated that they do not have to stay home. Instead, workers are told to:

  • Take their temperature before work
  • Wear a facial mask at all time
  • Practice social distancing when at work

Additionally, the CDC forbids workers from sharing headsets or any equipment that stays near an employee’s face.

For employers, the CDC has stated that the cleaning of frequently used surfaces must increase along with air exchange in the building. Above all, the CDC says that their guidance is designed to keep essential workers working.

News

At a White House press briefing Thursday President Donald Trump issued federal guidelines for relaxing social distancing and reopening the economy in states — as many as 29 according to the president — where coronavirus infections are in decline, CNBCreported. The 18-page plan, “Opening Up America Again,” sets forth a three-phased incremental approach to relaxing existing coronavirus restrictions.

And on Monday ten states — New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, California, Oregon and Washington State — banded together in two regional pacts, announcing shared intentions to remove their shelter-in-place orders and begin to return nonessential workers to the workforce, according to Reuters.

“Addressing public health and the economy: Which one is first? They’re both first,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said in the Monday press briefing.

While these decisions have been announced as following “science not politics,” they come at a time when the rest of the nation and much of the world is practicing social distancing and shelter-in-place practices. The main driving force for the reopening of these states is their assessment that they have seen the peak of the disease’s effect on their populations.

Legal Developments

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced that it will be holding oral arguments from May 4–12 by teleconference in order to keep the caseload moving, as reported by Law360. The arguments will be broadcast to C-SPAN and other news media, maintaining public participation in this crucial process. About half the court’s postponed caseload from March and April will be addressed in May, while other cases will be carried over to the fall.

This announcement comes amidst the partial or complete closures of almost every court in the nation due to the coronavirus outbreak. For more information on the latest court closures and restrictions at the federal and state levels please visit Law360.

By James Parker

James Parker is a news writer and fact-checker from Coral Springs, Florida. He majored in Communication and Media Studies at Stetson University, where he spent much of his time bringing the cutting edge of medical research to his peers’ attention. When he’s not writing, he enjoys rewatching “Almost Famous” or curling up with a good book.

MedTruth is a digital magazine reporting on health, safety and justice. Join the revolution today at https://medtruth.com/.