Hello,

Welcome to Dispensed, Business Insider’s weekly healthcare newsletter, coming to you from one of the centers of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dear readers, I hope you are all still feeling well and not too restless indoors. Here in Brooklyn, we’re doing our best to only go outside for the periodic dog walk (I’ve started to wonder if our pup has gotten sick of having us around all the time). The streets are quiet apart from the wail of emergency vehicles (ominous indeed) and screech of delivery truck vehicles.

Before I sort through this week’s headlines, I’d love to introduce you all to our newest colleague Kimberly Leonard!

Kimberly joins us as a senior reporter covering health policy and was previously at the Washington Examiner. She’s based in Washington, D.C. You can follow her on Twitter here.

Are you new to the newsletter? You can sign up here.

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New York has emerged as a center of the pandemic

As of Thursday, the US officially has the biggest outbreak of coronavirus in the world, surpassing China and Italy.

Starting March 16, I spoke with a doctor on the floor of a NYC hospital over the course of a week.

It gave me a sense of just how much things escalated last week (which, of course, didn’t slow down this week.).

By Sunday March 20, he told me, “It’s like leaning over the edge of a cliff.” Here’s a look at a week in the life of a doctor in an NYC hospital who is battling the coronavirus on the front lines.

A Twitter thread written by Dr. Craig Spencer, an ER doctor based at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center offers a harrowing picture of what this week has been like in NYC as the case count keeps going up and flooding hospitals.

Notably, Spencer was NYC’s only case of Ebola in 2014. “I survived Ebola. I fear #COVIDー19,” he tweeted. He provided a play-by-play of his Monday this week, which you can read more about here.

Yeji Lee reports that medical schools in New York are turning students into doctors ahead of schedule to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.

I spent my week speaking to hospital administrators and staff working at hospitals in the New York City area. The hospitals, to a large degree, are already full.

Now, they’re working to find new space, add additional staff, and stay safe as they prepare for a surge of patients still ahead in the coming weeks as we head toward the peak of the pandemic.

You can read the full story here:

New York City hospitals are 11 days from running out of beds as the number of new coronavirus cases explodes

mitch mcconnell stimulus

Foto: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gives a thumbs up sign after speaking on the floor of the U.S. Senate on March 25, 2020 in Washington, DC. The Senate reportedly reached agreement early this morning on a stimulus bill to combat economic effects caused by the COVID-19 virus, and is expected to pass the bill later today. Source: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Here’s what in the coronavirus stimulus bill

Kimberly spent her first week with Business Insider getting the details sorted on Congress’s $2 trillion stimulus bill. She broke down what the bill means for the healthcare industry. On Friday, the House passed the bill.

The highlights:

  • More than $100 billion will go toward hospitals.
  • $11 billion will go toward funding vaccine and treatment development for the novel coronavirus as well as medical preparedness.
  • The bill also adds requirements for health insurers to cover the costs of testing for the COVID-19 virus AND cover the cost of a future vaccine without asking members for co-pays.

You can read the full story here:

Here’s exactly what the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill means for hospitals, doctors, and health insurers

(An interesting tidbit she found tucked in the bill: It also includes a provision that allows for HSA and FSA dollars to be spent on pads, tampons and other menstrual products.)

medical medication medicine pharmacy pharmaceutical drugs pills vitamins cox prescription FDA over the counter OTC

Foto: Source: Crystal Cox/Business Insider

What we’re using to treat the novel coronavirus

Blake Dodge reports that we’re running short on inhalers as hospitals need them to treat coronavirus patients experiencing shortness of breath.

It’s not the only shortage we’ve been hearing about at the pharmacy. Pharmacists are also having a hard time getting ahold of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drugs that some are now using in the treatment of coronavirus.

Speaking of which – be sure to read Andrew Dunn‘s latest on everything we know about some of the main drugs being tested in the treatment of COVID-19.

You can read the full story here:

Everything we know about remdesivir, hydroxychloroquine, and 4 other drugs being tested against the coronavirus

Another hopeful to keep tabs on: the blood of patients that have already recovered from the novel coronavirus. Early results coming out of China published Friday, Andrew reports, found that the patients treated improved after receiving the donor plasma.

Pharmacies have been inundated as the coronavirus pandemic spreads. CVS Health is hiring an additional 50,000 employees and paying out bonuses, similar to what other big retailers are doing with workers who are providing essential grocery and pharmacy services.

Retail reporter Irene Jiang has been speaking to pharmacists about what they’re seeing and the frustrations they’re facing as they try to stay healthy amid the pandemic. One told her an instance of when the pharmacist had to frantically wipe down everything in the store a patient showing symptoms of COVID-19 came in.

You can read the full story here:

Pharmacists at CVS and Walgreens describe nerve-racking interactions with potentially infected customers as locations are overrun during the coronavirus pandemic

FILE PHOTO: A surgery nurse puts on gloves before procedures on a patient with MRSA (Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) in the operating theatre of the Unfallkrankenhaus Berlin (UKB) hospital in Berlin February 29, 2008.    REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Foto: FILE PHOTO: A surgery nurse puts on gloves before procedures on a patient with MRSA in the operating theatre at a Berlin hospital. Source: Reuters

Outside the hospital, the healthcare industry is going through major adjustments

Elective surgeries are getting called off, patients aren’t coming in for routine medical care, and like most other industries, a lot is moving online as everybody does their best to practice social distancing.

Yeji reports that the coronavirus is preventing medical students from getting hands-on training in hospitals. Frustrated future doctors are looking for new ways to help.

Yeji also did some digging into what’s happening at surgery centers that have had to call off a lot of their surgeries. As elective procedures have come to a halt because of the coronavirus, some healthcare workers are getting laid off.

Last Friday, I took a look at how some primary care practices are faring amid the pandemic. Some have tested patients from their cars (much to their landlord’s dismay), others are delivering toilet paper, and others still are going online.

You can read the full story here:

Primary care doctors are delivering toilet paper, testing patients in their cars, and going online to combat the coronavirus epidemic

Speaking of going online – I spoke to three of the biggest telemedicine companies to hear how they handled the massive shift of providers going online. Almost overnight it seems, the way Americans got their healthcare completely changed and went online.

You can read the full story here:

The coronavirus pandemic is transforming how Americans get their healthcare – we spoke to 3 companies driving the online shift

Relatedly, Blake this week outlined the 12 telemedicine startups being put to the test as they gear up to confront the coronavirus pandemic. Read more about them here.

Healthcare workers: Are you on the front lines of the pandemic? Have you been sidelined because of layoffs or closures? We want to hear from you. Email me at lramsey@businessinsider.com, or our whole team at healthcare@businessinsider.com.

With that, I’ll leave you to your virtual happy hours (I’ve been having a lot of fun staying off the coronavirus topic by playing trivia games with friends and family!). Wishing everyone a healthy weekend.

– Lydia