7 signs those new N95s at your physician practice might be fake

The country’s leading producer of N95 respirator masks, 3M, says that more than 10 million counterfeit versions of the personal protective equipment (PPE) have been seized since the pandemic’s onset in the U.S. Even big names like the Cleveland Clinic have been duped by cleverly counterfeited N95s.

Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has issued a notice about the fake N95s that are circulating and how physicians and others in health care charged with obtaining PPE can properly identify them.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

500,000 lost to COVID-19, but pandemic’s end is now within reach

The United States has broken the tragic barrier of more than 500,000 Americans lost to the COVID-19 pandemic. That is “half a million of our friends and family over this past year, our colleagues and our neighbors, people we cared for, and people who cared for us, lost in a fight that can feel never-ending,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD, in a video issued to mark the dreadful occasion.

“We mourn these devastating losses, but we must not lose hope because today—even though we still face loss and tragedy—the road ahead finally looks brighter than the one we’ve been on. At this moment, millions are getting vaccinated and vaccine production is ramping up. Help is on the way.”

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Q&A: Why JAMA’s editor finds pandemic answers in conversation

From the first JAMA Viewpoint—co-written by Anthony Fauci, MD—published in January 2020 on the mysterious novel coronavirus that had just emerged in Wuhan, China, the people behind the JAMA Network of journals have worked furiously to deliver timely, high-impact original research and perspectives on COVID-19.

These essential resources can be found at the JAMA Network COVID-19 resource center, and they include a series of outstanding one-on-one livestreamed interviews conducted with key physician experts by Howard Bauchner, MD, editor-in-chief of JAMA and senior vice president of AMA scientific publications and multimedia applications.

For the “Conversations with Dr. Bauchner” podcast, he interviews leading researchers and thinkers in health care, often touching on hot COVID-19 topics such as testing, treatments, vaccines and the professional impact. For this article, Dr. Bauchner was on the other end of the questioning, and he reflected on what he and his colleagues have learned about medical publishing during a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, and what medicine can look forward to in 2021.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Physicians, nurses, hospitals to America: This is our shot

With one in four Americans reportedly hesitant to get the safe and effective vaccines that have been authorized by the independent scientists at the Food and Drug Administration, the AMA joined the national organizations representing nurses and hospitals to release a public service announcement (PSA) urging the American public to get the COVID-19 vaccination when it is their turn.

“Vaccinations are safe, effective, prevent illness and save lives,” said AMA President Susan R. Bailey, MD. “Protect yourself and your loved ones by getting vaccinated, and play a role in this monumental effort that will help us return to normal. Whether enough people get the COVID-19 vaccine decides our future and the future toll of the virus—so be ready to do your part.”

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Also published recently:

As pandemic rages, Americans to get health coverage lifeline

President Joe Biden took actions to expand access to health insurance under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while reconsidering moves made during his predecessor’s term that drastically changed a key family-planning program.

On health insurance, the president ordered the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to open HealthCare.gov for a special enrollment period to run from Feb. 15–May 15. President Donald Trump resisted calls for such a special enrollment period when the global pandemic struck the U.S. in the spring of 2020.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Also check out this other recent story of mine:

Swing

“I feel like I’m gonna die!”
You shout with glee
Signaling that I’ve pushed you hard enough
At the top of the arc, it must feel
As though you will float away
Like a birthday balloon
Leaving far behind the sign, zip-tied
To the swing set, that reads:

PLAYGROUND CLOSED
UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE

Yet here we are, breaking the rule
Masks in pockets
On a January Saturday in the deserted park
Our potentially poisonous breaths
Visible in the freezing air
Before drifting harmlessly away

“I feel safe!”
You yell
That’s my cue to resume
The work of shoving you with such force
That you just might get blasted
Into the stratosphere on a path for the half moon
Hanging lazily in the early evening sky

240,000 thousand miles away
Gray and grim
Freed from the weight of our world
The man in the moon
Hasn’t got a drop to sip
And no virus to escape
No harsh word to let slip
Nowhere for fear to take shape

He has nothing to do
But reflect the sun’s light and
Inspire jealousy in the world below
Where a boy who knows dinnertime’s soon
Screams, “I feel safe!”
And so we are
Until further notice

— 30 —

Biden’s first moves will aid pandemic fight, boost global health

The AMA is hailing President Joe Biden’s first flurry of executive orders to address the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, immigration and LGBTQ issues.

On COVID-19, the administration launched a 100-days masking challenge, asking Americans to #MaskUp for 100 days and requiring masks and physical distancing in all federal buildings and lands, and by federal employees and contractors. The Department of Health and Human Services will work with state and local officials to implement masking and other public health measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, which has killed 400,00 Americans since the first case was identified in the U.S. 12 months ago.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Also recently:

COVID-19 vaccination: Altering doses? Data doesn’t back it

Top leaders at the Food and Drug Administration are pushing back against growing calls to alter the COVID-19 vaccine administration schedule that are accelerating amid a frustratingly slow vaccination rollout and documented U.S. community spread of a more transmissible coronavirus variant.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Also check out my other article published so far this year, “How AMA is helping health systems face 2021’s biggest challenges.”

How COVID-19 vaccine options are expanding with another EUA

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted emergency use authorization (EUA) to the SARS-CoV-2 vaccine developed by Moderna Inc. for use in people 18 or older. The vaccine joins Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine, which earned FDA authorization last week.

Both vaccines use the messenger RNA technology, consist of two separate doses per patient, and have shown about 95% efficacy in protecting against COVID-19, compared with placebo, in clinical trials involving tens of thousands of participants.

Moderna has said it plans to ship 20 million U.S. doses in December, another 80 million by March 2021, and an additional 100 million by June 2021.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

The AMA’s top 10 stories of 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacted a toll on physicians battling to save lives that has been unlike any other in living memory. For months, the AMA has advocated fiercely to get doctors the personal protective equipment (PPE) they deserve, and the financial support they need to survive the pandemic’s economic strain.

Physician readers, awakened to the new demands of practicing and serving patients amid the novel coronavirus, have frequently turned to the AMA as a powerful ally for insightful, timely news coverage on top-of-mind issues such as patient questions on mask-wearing and how to reopen practice safely. That coverage includes an outstanding new offering in 2020, the “AMA COVID-19 Update” daily video series.

Here are the AMA’s top 10 stories of the year.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.

Some other recent articles:

Highlights from the November 2020 AMA Special Meeting

Catch up with the news and key moments from the November 2020 AMA Special Meeting, a virtual gathering of the AMA House of Delegates that ran Nov. 13–17. For a briefer rundown, check out this list of our top 10 stories from the Special Meeting.

My other stories from the meeting:

Bill puts 2-year freeze on Medicare services set for 2021 pay cuts

A coalition of organizations representing physicians and allied health professionals, including the AMA, sent a letter to congressional leadership expressing support for H.R. 8702, the “Holding Providers Harmless from Medicare Cuts During COVID-19 Act of 2020.” The bill was introduced by Reps. Ami Bera, MD, a California Democrat, and Larry Bucshon, MD, a Republican from Indiana.

H.R. 8702 would effectively freeze payments at 2020 rates for services scheduled to be cut in 2021 for a period of two years, while allowing the planned E/M payment increases to take place as scheduled. It would also avert steep payment cuts for hospital, nursing home and critical care visits. At the end of the two-year reprieve, the full budget-neutrality adjustment would take effect.

“This critical legislation recognizes the importance of allowing significant scheduled pay increases to primary care and others who primarily provide E/M services to take effect while also avoiding the devastating corresponding cuts for physician and nonphysician providers that will occur because of Medicare’s budget-neutrality requirements,” says the letter from the AMA and more than 70 other signatories.

My latest for the AMA. The whole shebang.