The debate over how the coronavirus spreads heated up Friday when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conceded that the virus spreads through tiny particles, but then took down guidance that could have forced big changes in hospitals.
A lack of direction from federal administrators is causing confusion for many hospital administrators. Rural hospitals are among the ones hit hardest.
Rural hospitals have been closing at a quickening pace in recent years, but a number of inner-city hospitals now face a similar fate. Experts fear that the economic damage inflicted by the COVID pandemic is helping push some of these urban hospitals over the edge at the very time their services are most needed.
Respiratory symptoms stemming from coronavirus infection and smoke inhalation are too similar to distinguish without a full workup. This is complicating the jobs of health care workers as wildfires rage up and down the West Coast.
COVID patients have been commingled with uninfected patients in California, Florida, New Jersey, Iowa, Ohio, Maryland, New York and beyond. While officials have penalized nursing homes for such failures, hospitals have seen less scrutiny.
The proposal details a wide-ranging agenda to remedy the gaps in health care and myriad challenges in rural America. In addition to more telehealth options, it includes shifts in hospital payments and expanded funding for school-based mental health programs.
Doctors are diagnosing a new stage of COVID-19 recovery: patients who take much longer than usual to regain consciousness after coming off a ventilator. And a growing number of doctors are worried some patients aren’t being given the time they need to wake up.
Rural hospitals were already struggling before the coronavirus emerged. Now, the loss of revenue from patients who are afraid to come to the emergency room, postponing doctor’s appointments and delaying elective surgeries is adding to the pressure.
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center serves patients who are especially vulnerable to the coronavirus: They are essential workers, have chronic diseases and are members of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups. When the safety-net hospital kicks off enrollment for its COVID-19 vaccine trial Wednesday, it will look to those patients to participate.
The rolling shortages of personal protective gear continue even in hospitals, as buyers look directly for manufacturers — often through a maze of companies that have sprung up overnight.