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!
Amazon Expands Telehealth Arm: Amazon Care
Amazon says they will expand Amazon Care from Washington state to the rest of their Amazon employees across the U.S., plus add other companies. The program offers digital health consultations through a 24/7 smartphone app, with access to urgent and primary care services, including prescriptions and Covid-19 testing. The Seattle area, where Amazon Care has been in pilot since 2019, has options for home visits as well. While Amazon is known to be pitching to corporate customers, they haven’t stated if any outside companies have signed on to add Amazon Care to their employees’ benefits.
New Funding for Covid-19 Testing in Schools
As part of the American Rescue Plan, a $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package, the Biden administration is spending $10 billion to expand Covid-19 testing in schools. The CDC will provide assistance to local health departments to set up new school testing programs. CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says the school program will help schools use frequent testing as a screening tool rather than merely a diagnostic tool for symptomatic patients — helping “identify asymptomatic diseases, and prevent clusters before they start.”
Mixed Messages on Potential Covid-19 Increases
As travel spikes across the US, medical experts have expressed concern that dangerous, highly contagious variants of Covid-19 are being spread along with spring break. Still, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, told CBS’s “Face the Nation” that a fourth wave of Covid-19 probably isn’t coming to the U.S. He cites both prior infections and the continuing vaccination rate, saying “I think what you could see is plateauing for a period of time before we continue on a downward decline.”
The continued plateau, he explains, is because of lifted mask mandates and other mitigation methods, which are helping the variant viruses spread. Infections are on the rise in a number of states, and the variant first discovered in the UK could be responsible for 30% of infections. The variant virus is considered responsible for Europe’s third wave, which statistics suggest has begun.
Many US experts believe the US could experience a new spike in infections. With large numbers of college-age travelers ignoring CDC guidelines to delay travel, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CNN that spikes in infection rates have tended to follow travel seasons throughout the pandemic.