Health Highlights: April 30, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

LA First Major U.S. City to Offer Free Coronavirus Tests

The mayor of Los Angeles says it’s the first major U.S. city to offer free coronavirus testing for all residents.

Testing will be available for people who don’t have symptoms, but those with symptoms will be given priority, Mayor Eric Garcetti said, CNBC reported.

The city has the capacity to conduct about 9% of all tests in the U.S., Garcetti said at a news conference Wednesday.

Los Angeles has more than 20,000 confirmed cases, which is nearly half of the state’s 45,031 cases. Other areas of California are also testing people without symptoms, CNBC reported.


Seniors Face Long Delays in Getting Medicare Coverage

Delays in getting Medicare coverage are adding to the anxiety already faced by American seniors due to their increased risk from COVID-19, the Associated Press reported Wednesday.

Certain applications for Part B coverage for outpatient care are the main problem, which is due to closures of local Social Security offices during the coronavirus pandemic, according to seniors advocates.

Part B is especially important at the moment because it covers lab tests such as those for the coronavirus, the AP reported.

Some seniors seeking coverage may have to wait 90 minutes or more when calling the national 800 number.


VA Giving Unproven Drug to COVID-19 Patients

The use of the unproven malaria drug hydroxychloroquine on U.S. veterans with coronavirus is being defended by VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

He said the veterans were never used as “test subjects” and that they received the drug only when medically appropriate, the Associated Press reported.

The drug was being given to COVID-19 patients in government-run VA hospitals only in conjunction with a physician’s advice, Wilkie said in a letter and call with major veterans groups.

Doctors should not prescribe hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 outside hospitals due to the risks of serious side effects and death, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has warned.

Wilkie did not reveal how widely hydroxychloroquine is being used on VA patients or if the VA issued guidelines to doctors and patients on the use of the drug, which has been touted by President Donald Trump as a treatment for COVID-19, despite the lack of scientific evidence, the AP reported.


Company Selling Direct-to-Consumer Coronavirus Antibody Test

A direct-to-consumer coronavirus antibody test is being sold by Quest Diagnostics.

The company says the test makes it easier to people to find out if they’ve been exposed to the new coronavirus, but scientists have raised questions about the accuracy of antibody tests, CBS News reported.

Even Quest acknowledges that it’s unknown whether having antibodies means that people are protected against reinfection by the coronavirus.

The $119 test is ordered online. Users then make an appointment at one of the 2,200 Quest blood-draw centers across the United States, and results can be available one to two days after a blood draw, according to the company.

It said the test isn’t meant for people who have symptoms of COVID-19, who are “strongly encouraged to contact their health care provider,” CBS News reported.