Welcome to the WBD News Flash, your weekly highlight of HR benefits and healthcare news. Weekly, we will provide you with the top trending industry news stories in healthcare, human resources, legislation, benefits technology and administration, and more. Make the WBD News Flash your go to reference for current events!

Coronavirus Third Wave Poised to Sweep US: Experts

As the global caseload of COVID-19 infections surpasses 40 million people, according to Reuters, nations are seeing a resurgence across the Northern Hemisphere. In the United States, 38 states are seeing weekly caseloads increase by 5%. Over the past week, the U.S. has seen an average of 55,000 new cases of coronavirus every day, a jump of more than 16% over the previous week.

Addressing this leap in cases, White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci told Johns Hopkins University: “It’s still not too late to vigorously apply good public health measures, and again I emphasize without necessarily shutting down the country.” Meanwhile, Dr. William Schaffner, epidemiologist at Vanderbilt University, told CNBC reporters he expects a “substantial third wave” of infections this winter.

CMS Warns Labs Over Long COVID Test Waits

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will cut payments to labs which take longer than two days to process COVID-19 tests. The penalty, which begins in 2021, is in response to the long wait times to receive testing results many consumers experienced over the summer months. A turnaround of more than two days seriously hinders any attempt at contact tracing, experts say. Lab directors complain that the delays are caused by shortages of supplies. (USAToday)

Study: Millennial Health on the Decline

Trends spotted by a Blue Cross Blue Shield Association analysis show depression, alcohol and substance abuse, and tobacco abuse are up amongst Millennials. The pandemic is worsening these issues. 34% of Millennials surveyed reported that their alcohol consumption and smoking had increased due to the pandemic, and 92% reported the pandemic is having a negative impact on their mental health.

The study also found those Millennials with long-term mental health issues were more likely to have conditions such as Type 2 Diabetes, coronary artery disease, hypertension, or Crohn’s Disease.

One actionable item the study found was an access gap between white, Black, and Hispanic Millennials. Despite largely having similar employer-provided healthcare plans, Black and Hispanic Millennials who were receiving treatment for mental health or substance abuse issues were significantly less than their white colleagues.