Vice President Mike Pence will lead the US response to the COVID-19 outbreak

In an early-evening press conference, President Donald Trump tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. response to the COVID-19 outbreak that has spread through Europe, Asia and Latin America.

The new coronavirus strain, which has infected about 81,000 people around the world and killed 3,000, has already wrought havoc on the global economy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned yesterday that the U.S. will likely not be able to escape the spread of the virus.

“It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses,” said Dr. Nancy Messonier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in a press conference given by the Centers for Disease Control on Tuesday. “Disruption to everyday life might be severe.”

Earlier this evening, California reported its first case of community transmission, which was confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control, according to The New York Times. That’s a case where an infected person was not exposed to anyone known to be infected with the virus and had not traveled to countries where the virus had spread.

Speaking alongside Pence; Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Dr. Anthony Fauci; and principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control Dr. Anne Schuchat, the President stressed that the U.S. government was “very, very ready” to respond to the disease.

Vice President Pence said that the White House would continue to work closely with state and local officials, add additional personnel and work with Congress to ensure that the necessary resources are available. “The threat to the American public remains low,” Pence said.

The White House is asking Congress for $2.5 billion to support efforts to stop the spread of the virus in the U.S. while Senate Democrats led by Chuck Schumer have put an $8.5 billion price tag on the coronavirus fight.

Secretary Azar outlined five areas where the government would look to spend money including: monitor the spread of the virus, cooperate with local governments, develop therapeutics, develop vaccines, and manufacture and purchase personal protective equipment.

Diagnosing the illness has been a particular problem for the U.S. According to multiple reports, the CDC isn’t prepared to test for a potentially rapidly expanding number of cases in the U.S.

Only 12 of the 100 public health labs in the U.S. are able to diagnose the coronavirus because of problems with a test developed by the CDC, according to a Politico report.

Better diagnostics tools are going to be one of the critical areas where startups could play a role in combating the spread of the virus.

“Where startups are going to make contributions is in detection, monitoring, epidemiological predictions, sequencing, supply chain [and] distribution logistics,” wrote James Birch, an entrepreneur and former researcher with the American College of Surgeons.

Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration chief and an investor with New Enterprise Associates, has advocated for the expansion of Emergency Use Authorizations from the organization he used to lead as a way to respond to the need for more, better diagnostic tests.

The lack of effective tests available to public health facilities calls into question exactly how prepared the government is for the potential health crisis. In fact, the White House got rid of the pandemic response group in the Administration in a cost-cutting measure in 2018.

Also troubling to some healthcare observers is Pence’s own track record when it comes to healthcare crises.

As governor of Indiana, Pence’s inaction led to an outbreak of HIV in one of the state’s more rural counties, according to a report in HuffPost. As drug use soared in the state during the opioid crisis, addicts in the county were also becoming infected with the virus because they were sharing needles. Pence opposed a needle-sharing program, which could have limited the spread of the virus.

Fears about how the new coronavirus would impact the economy rattled stock markets earlier this week as news of the disease’s spread to Europe were confirmed. The market’s slide and the political response in Washington played a role in the president’s decision to hold a press conference today, judging by the president’s own Twitter account.

Andreessen makes Ribbon Health the first investment from its $750 million new healthcare fund

One of the biggest roadblocks to reducing costs in the American healthcare system is the system’s inherent lack of transparency.

Most healthcare networks and hospital systems can’t even accurately account for the doctors that they manage and which insurance plans those doctors accept — let alone how good those doctors actually are at providing care, according to Ribbon Health chief executive Nate Maslak.

The former healthcare consultant founded Ribbon Health to address just that issue, and the company has raised $10.25 million in new financing to roll its software services out to a broader network of payers providers and digital health companies.

The new financing was led by Andreessen Horowitz and included Y Combinator and the New York-based investment firm, BoxGroup. Individual health care executives like Nat Turner, the chief executive of Flatiron Health; Vivek Garipalli, chief executive and co-founder of Clover Health; and Eric Roza, the former chief executive of DataLogix also participated in the financing.

It’s the first deal for Andreessen’s newest healthcare focused partner, Julie Yoo, and is in an area that Yoo is quite familiar with. The former serial healthcare entrepreneur developed a similar business to tackle better data collection and delivery for hospitals at Kyruus.

Taking an api-based approach, Ribbon Health is building on the Kyruus approach, Yoo said, with the potential to expand across the entire breadth of the American healthcare system.

Simply, Ribbon Health is trying to create an accurate database of what doctors and health plans have which specializations offer their services to which insurance providers and produce the best outcomes for patients.

“$700 billion wasted because of poor decisions,” said Maslak. “The information not flowing to the right place at the right time. Over a third of healthcare spending is wasted and we think that over half is data-addressable.”

“The majority of decisions in health care rely on data about a provider or health plan, yet our industry lacks the systematic infrastructure to centralize this information and contextualize it for those who need it. There is a clear need for a single platform that can provide comprehensive, up-to-date data to enable informed decision making across health care, and we believe Ribbon is poised to lead in this space,” said Yoo, in a statement.

Along with the new financing, Ribbon also unveiled a tool that provides cost and quality information for patients to understand their potential out-of-pocket cost estimates based on their deductible, plan design, and provider prices.

“So much of the innovation in health care relies on accurate data. Our goal is to provide these companies the critical data infrastructure needed to improve quality of care, health outcomes, and control costs,” said Nate Fox, co-founder and chief technology officer at Ribbon Health, in a statement. “Our platform and seamless API make it easy for customers to trust us to deliver the most comprehensive, accurate data, allowing them to focus on what they do best on the front lines of health care.”

The company is already working with Oak Street Health and Well (Well Dot, Inc.), and will use the additional funding to expand its sales and marketing efforts and increase adoption.

“Provider data is a basic building block of every healthcare transactions,” said Yoo. “Whether it’s you or I trying to enroll… or referral claim processing… there are tens of billions oftransactions all of which require information about a provider.”


How to stop caring what people think about you

How to stop caring what people think about you

Around 11 p.m. every night, I lie alone with my thoughts and contemplate the very worst things about myself. 

I know I should be doing something more supposedly restful like counting sheep. Instead, night after night, I lie wide awake in the dark, facing the wall, worrying about what people think of me. As if turning the pages of a frustratingly dull book, I’ll leaf through my shortcomings as a friend — text messages I haven’t responded to, birthdays I’ve missed, nights out I’ve bailed on. I think about how I disappoint my extended family — forgetting to call elderly relatives, leaving too long between visits, for being too “difficult” and assertive when I do visit.  Read more…

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