Health Highlights: June 10, 2020

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

VA May Not Have Enough Protective Equipment for Second Coronavirus Wave: Official

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says it may not have enough personal protective equipment for medical staff if there’s a second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

At the peak of the pandemic, the VA’s 170 medical centers were using 250,000 N95 masks a day, which was a “daunting amount,” the department’s top health official, Dr. Richard Stone, told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

Currently, the VA has about a 30-day supply of masks, gowns and other protective gear. But the agency needs a 60-day supply to meet growing demand as the VA starts to fully reopen its medical centers, and it would require a six-month supply to cope with a second wave of COVID-19, according to Stone.

“A future pandemic wave may test all of us in our preparation,” Stone told the committee, the AP reported.

In preparation for a possible second wave, Stone said the VA has added more than 18,000 medical staff and will hire more, and is preparing four “readiness centers” that will be stocked with personal protective equipment.

He also noted that the VA is currently spending $100 million a month on personal protective equipment, compared with $10 million a month before the pandemic, the AP reported.


Some U.S. Nursing Homes Taking Residents’ Stimulus Checks

Some U.S. nursing homes are ordering low-income residents to hand over their $1,200 economic stimulus checks, and lawmakers want to put a stop to it.

The Health and Human Services inspector general’s office should warn nursing homes and assisted living facilities that such practices are “improper and unlawful,” Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. said Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services needs to tell nursing homes that the stimulus checks are not considered income that the homes can legally claim to defray the cost of care, Reps. Richard Neal, D-Mass., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J., said.

Low-income Medicaid recipients must not be “coerced into wrongly handing over their checks for fear of being kicked out of their homes,” Neal and Pallone wrote, and said any such funds taken by nursing homes must be returned to recipients, the AP reported.


WHO Backpedals on Claim That Spread of Coronavirus by People Without Symptoms is Rare

A claim that transmission of the COVID-19-causing coronavirus by people without symptoms is “very rare” was quickly reversed by the World Health Organization.

That assertion was made Monday at a media briefing by WHO official Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove. On Tuesday, she said the statement was based on just two or three studies and that it was a “misunderstanding” to say that transmission by people without symptoms is rare, The New York Times reported.

“I was just responding to a question, I wasn’t stating a policy of WHO or anything like that,” Van Kerkhove said.

The WHO was criticized for causing confusion about such an important public health issue.

“All of the best evidence suggests that people without symptoms can and do readily spread SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19,” according to a statement released Tuesday by scientists at the Harvard Global Health Institute, The Times reported.

“Communicating preliminary data about key aspects of the coronavirus without much context can have tremendous negative impact on how the public and policy makers respond to the pandemic,” the statement warned.

A study published in April suggested that people who have the new coronavirus are most infectious about two days before symptoms appear, and estimated that 44% of new infections are a result of transmission from people without symptoms, The Times reported.