COVID-19 Update April 27, 2020

Physicians across the state share Governor Cuomo’s goal to significantly increase New York’s COVID-19 testing capacity and applaud his unceasing efforts to confront this pandemic. However, we are very concerned about the Executive Order 202.24 provision to enable pharmacists to become collection sites for these tests without any clear details for how these test collections and results will be coordinated with a physician or hospital.

“In particular, we are concerned that there has not been any specification for how such test results will be shared with the patient’s primary physician or physicians, to help explain to the patient what the results mean regardless of whether there is a positive or negative test finding as well as what the patient should do.

“We also believe that there should be a concerted effort to involve community physicians in any statewide testing program, including helping them with obtaining the necessary medical and protective equipment to help provide these tests. Not only are community physicians an integral part of New York’s healthcare system but many of them have been, unaware to many, working tirelessly to keep the surge of patients from becoming a tsunami which would have overwhelmed our hospitals pushed to the brink.

“New Yorkers place a great deal of trust in these dedicated professionals. We ask Governor Cuomo to enlist these doctors to fully expand New York’s testing capabilities so vital for any reopening.”

Press Statement Attributable to:
Art Fougner, M.D. President, Medical Society of the State of New Yor


What Impact Has COVID-19 Had on Outpatient Visits?
The number of visits to ambulatory practices dropped by a whopping 60% in mid-March and continues to be down by at least 50% since early February, according to new data compiled and analyzed by Harvard University and Phreesia, a healthcare technology company.

Phreesia — which helps medical practices with patient registration, insurance verification, and payments — has data on 50,000 providers in all 50 states; in a typical year, Phreesia tracks 50 million outpatient visits.

The report was published online April 23 by The Commonwealth Fund.

HHS General Allocation Fund Portal
Apply for the Paycheck Protection Loan ASAP!

We want to ensure physicians are aware of two important developments to help physicians with obtaining funds that will cover the significant drop in patient care revenue over the last two months.

MSSNY worked together with the American Medical Association (AMA) and many other state and specialty societies to advocate to ensure the availability of these funds.

1) The Small Business Administration will again be accepting applications for the Paycheck Protection forgivable loan Program (PPP), starting at 10:30 AM today, following the passage of legislation by Congress last week allocating a new $310 billion for the PPP.

Many physicians had reported not being able to get their applications in time prior to the previous allocation being depleted. This pool of funding is also likely to be depleted quickly, so do not delay in getting in your application if you intend to apply. 

2) The US Health and Human Services (HHS) has indicated that the application portal is open for physicians to avail themselves of a portion of the $20 billion allocation from the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund.

The AMA has advised that anyone who has a Billing TIN (including a pediatric or obstetric practice) who lost revenue in March and/or can estimate lost revenue in April due to the COVID-19 crisis, should be filling out this portal.

The AMA has also put together this guide to help physicians pull together the information they need to submit to the portal. Here is additional information from HHS regarding the distribution.

Most Asked Question from Physicians Who Filed for Stimulus Check
Q. Why haven’t I gotten my stimulus check yet?
A: The government sent the first wave of payments via direct deposit the week of April 13, and the second will arrive this week. If you did not file your taxes with direct-deposit information, it will take significantly longer to get your paper check. The IRS has added a tool to its website that allows you to add your bank information, which would speed up the process by weeks.

NY Launches Victim Texting Service as Domestic Violence Up 15% Since March
With domestic violence on the rise, New York launches text service for victims

New York has upgraded its domestic violence hotline to allow victims to receive support through a new texting service as the number of reported incidents continues to climb amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Victims in need of support can now text the state or talk with a professional through the state’s Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence’s website by visiting

  • All services are confidential and are available 24/7.
  • The number to text is: 844-997-2121.

The new service will allow victims unable to call or help because they are isolated with their abusers to receive services discreetly, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

The number of calls to the state’s domestic violence hotline has climbed 30% in April since this time last year, and the number of calls increased by 18% between February and March this year. State Police have also reported a 15% increase in domestic violence incidents for March compared to the same period last year.

Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine Should Be Used Only in Hospitals/Trials
The FDA issued a safety warning saying that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine should only be used in hospitals or as part of clinical trials for the treatment of coronavirus. The FDA warned that the drugs can cause heart problems.

Gov. Cuomo’s Press Conference Yesterday
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said over the weekend that his state’s surge in new hospitalizations from COVID-19 appears to have crested, although a drop-off in new cases is gradual, and the death toll remains high. The governor outlined a plan that could begin a phased easing of shelter-in-place orders upstate after May 15.

Hospitalizations fall again. Yesterday, the total number of hospitalizations fell to 13,839 — returning to the level of March 31. This is a positive trend, but it is still far higher than we would like to see. I am very saddened to say we lost 367 New Yorkers yesterday — down from 437 the previous day. Every day, this is the worst, most devastating news that I must give to New Yorkers.

WHO Raises Concern about “Immunity Passports”
The World Health Organization has emphasized possible concern about the risk for no immunity against a second infection. The WHO was responding to the idea that “immunity passports” could be given to people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies. The passport could theoretically allow someone to travel or return to work. In a statement, the WHO says, “People who assume that they are immune to a second infection because they have received a positive test result may ignore public health advice. The use of such certificates may therefore increase the risks of continued transmission.”

6 new symptoms: The CDC has added chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell to its list of possible COVID-19 symptoms. These join fever, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, and cough on the list.

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Essential Workers Will Be Honored Tomorrow (TUESDAY) by Navy’s Blue Angels and Air Force’s Thunderbirds in Metro Fly Over at Noon
New York essential workers will be honored with an air show on Tuesday. The US Navy’s Blue Angels and the Air Force Thunderbirds will fly over the New York Metropolitan area as a tribute to all the workers on the frontlines of this pandemic. “This is our way of showing that we are all in this together and that America’s spirit will prevail,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday in a joint statement. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein and Navy Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Michael Gilday said in a joint statement. The flyovers will kick off over New York. The jets will be over the Big Apple and Newark at noon.

WHO Data Leak Shows No Benefit from Gilead Coronavirus Drug
A leading coronavirus drug candidate showed no benefit in results from a hotly anticipated clinical trial that were mistakenly posted to the World Health Organization’s website today. The experimental drug, an antiviral called remdesivir, is being studied in several late-stage trials and has recently drawn praise from President Donald Trump after a sliver of early data from a different clinical trial leaked last week.

The draft documents posted to the WHO website — and then quickly removed — suggest that the drug did not help patients enrolled in a randomized clinical trial in China, and caused significant side effects in several people that led them to end treatment. More participants who received remdesivir died compared to those in the control group, although the difference between the two groups was not statistically significant.

Gilead thinks the results were mischaracterized because the study ended early due to low enrollment, spokesperson Sonia Choi said. “As such, the study results are inconclusive, though trends in the data suggest a potential benefit for remdesivir, particularly among patients treated early in disease.”

“We regret that the WHO prematurely posted information regarding the study,” Choi added.

The Financial Times first reported the mistakenly posted results. Gilead’s stock price dropped more than 7 percent in the hours after the news.

Multiple “phase III” remdesivir studies are still ongoing in the U.S., with early results from some expected this month. (Politico, 4/23)