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Health Highlights: April 16, 2020

Last Updated: April 16, 2020.

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

New York State Lockdown Extended to May 15

New York State's shutdown will be extended to May 15, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

He said that while the state continues to make progress in containing the coronavirus, infection rates would have to slow considerably more before restrictions were lifted, The New York Times reported.

"What happens after (May 15)? I don't know," Cuomo said. "We will see depending on what the data shows."

On Thursday, Cuomo also expanded the order that New Yorkers carry face coverings when in public and wear them when they're not able to maintain social distancing, The Times reported.

Under the expanded order that takes effect Friday, face coverings must be worn by everyone on mass transit and in for-hire vehicles, including the operators, and must also be worn by all children age 2 and older.

At Thursday' briefing, Cuomo said that there were 606 new deaths in the state, the lowest number in 10 days. There have been a total of 12,192 deaths. He also said the three-day average number of hospitalized coronavirus patients was down 2%, the second day in a row with a decline, The Times reported.

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China Won't Restrict Medical Supply Exports

There are no plans to restrict exports of medical supplies used to fight the coronavirus pandemic, the Chinese government says.

There a shortages of items such as masks and ventilators in some parts of the world and China, the largest maker of surgical masks and other products, last week said that it would start inspecting such products to ensure they meet quality standards, the Associated Press reported.

That announcement came after Western countries said some test kits and other products were faulty.

"China has not and will not restrict the export of epidemic prevention materials," said Commerce Ministry spokesman Gao Feng, but it's not clear if inspections will increase the time it takes to fill foreign orders, the AP reported.

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Chris Cuomo's Wife and George Stephanopoulos Test Positive for Coronavirus

CNN anchor Chris Cuomo says his wife Cristina has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

He disclosed his wife's diagnosis Wednesday night during an interview with his brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Late last month, Chris Cuomo revealed he'd tested positive for the coronavirus, the Associated Press reported. He's experienced major symptoms but has not required hospitalization.

In related news, "Good Morning America" host George Stephanopoulos said Monday that he's tested positive for the coronavirus, but experienced only minor symptoms.

His wife Ali Wentworth was previously diagnosed with with COVID-19 and Stephanopoulos had been taking care of her, their children and continuing to work at ABC, the AP reported.

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U.S. Navy Hospital Ship May Reduce Services in LA

The U.S. Navy hospital ship Mercy may start to reduce its medical services in Los Angeles over the next week as area hospitals seem to be coping with the coronavirus pandemic, officials say.

The ship arrived in Los Angeles in late March to provide care for patients who weren't infected by the coronavirus, the Associated Press reported.

California officials had anticipated a possible wave of coronavirus cases that would require up to 66,000 additional hospital beds and the Mercy was brought in for support. However, coronavirus hospitalizations haven't been as high as expected and there are sufficient hospital rooms.

Plans are being discussed to reduce the number of available hospital beds on the Mercy from 1,000 to 250, and the ship will send about 40 medical staff to a regional skilled nursing facility, ship commander Capt. John Rotruck told the AP.

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Sharp Drop in Demand for Coronavirus Tests at Private Labs

There's been such a drop in demand for COVID-19 tests at private labs in the United States that they have "considerable" unused capacity and can test more patients with less severe symptoms, the American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA) says.

Private labs conduct the vast majority of testing for COVID-19 in the United States. The number of daily tests by private labs peaked on April 5 at 108,000, dropped to 100,000 the next day, and fell from 75,000 on April 12 to 43,000 on April 13, NBC News reported.

There were delays and backlogs for weeks as private labs worked to boost their testing capacities, but tests ordered by doctors have been on the decline and there are no more backlogs at ACLA member labs, according to a spokesperson to the industry trade group.

Due to a shortage of testing capacity, doctors had been told to prioritize high-risk patients, health care workers and people with severe symptoms, NBC News reported.

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Americans Using More Anti-Anxiety Medications

Americans' use of anti-anxiety medications has surged during the coronavirus pandemic, data show.

Prescriptions for anti-anxiety medicine started rising in mid-February and had shot up 34% by March 15, according to the pharmacy benefit manager Express Scripts, CNN reported.

The increase was nearly twice as high among women (nearly 40%) as among men (22.7%).

Prescriptions for anxiety, depression and insomnia medications rose 21% between mid-February and mid-March. They began leveling off after March 15 but remained at a higher level than at the start of the year, Dr. Glen Stettin, Express Scripts' chief innovation officer, told CNN.

The World Health Organization declared a global coronavirus pandemic on March 11 and states then started introducing stay-at-home orders.


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