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Feds Recoup Relief Money From Providers Who Didn't Follow Reporting Rules
Some providers across the country who accepted federal COVID-19 relief funds but failed to meet reporting requirements are now facing demands to return all or part of the money they were given. For those providers, who were given funds in phase one of the program, it's already too late; but phase two and three recipients still have time come into compliance.

Telehealth for PTS Gets Five-Month Extension After End of Public Health Emergency
A $1.5 trillion omnibus spending package approved by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden includes a provision allowing PTs, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and audiologists to continue providing telehealth services for an additional 151 days after the official end of the public health emergency. Prior to the pandemic, therapists were not included in the list of authorized providers under Medicare to provide services via telehealth. Indications are that the PHE could end as early as July.

In the Media

Mounting Evidence Supports Vaccines as Effective at Lowering the Risk of Long COVID
From NPR: "Being fully vaccinated seems to substantially cut the risk of later developing the persistent symptoms that characterize long COVID. While many of the findings are still preliminary, the handful of studies that have emerged in the past half year are telling a relatively consistent story."

BA.2 Variant: Expert Weighs in on Risks
From CNN: "How worried should people be about the BA.2 variant? Will vaccines protect against it? What if someone contracted a previous variant — could they become reinfected? Is BA.2 milder than previous versions, and if so, should people try to get it? Could BA.2 cause another surge in the US, and is it time for restrictions to be put back into place?"

Moderna Says Low-Dose COVID-19 Vaccines Effective for Children Six and Under
Associated Press: "Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine works in babies, toddlers and preschoolers, the company announced Wednesday — a development that could pave the way for the littlest kids to be vaccinated by summer if regulators agree."

White House Plans for Return-to-Normal Could be Derailed by Funding Gaps
From NBC News: "As President ident Joe Biden pushes for Americans to return to their prepandemic lifestyles, his administration is bracing for a new wave of U.S. Covid infections in the coming weeks, without key funding or essential tools in its arsenal."

From the American Association of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation

AAPM&R Offers Expanded Long COVID Resources
The American Association of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation's long COVID webpage now includes as PASC dashboard tracking incidence rates, clinical guidance statements, and links to journal articles, information from CDC, and more.

From CDC

New Cases, Hospitalizations, and Deaths Continue Downward Trend
Total coronavirus cases have reached 79,696,994 as of March 24, according to the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker. The seven-day average of new cases is 27,134 as of March 22, down from a high seven-day average of 699,526 in early January. Deaths are also continuing to slow, with an 848 seven-day average as of March 24, down from the 1,833 seven-day average recorded a month earlier. The most recent available seven-day averages for hospitalizations, March 16-27, is 1,827, a 21% decrease from the previous average of 2,313. As of March 24, 81.7% of the total U.S. population five and older has received at least one dose of vaccination, with 65.4% fully vaccinated. Half of the booster-eligible population has not received a booster dose.

TSA Follows CDC Recommendation to Continue Mask Mandates Through April 18
The U.S. Transportation Safety Authority has followed a recommendation from CDC that mask mandates on public transportation and transportation hubs be continued through at least April 18. "During that time, CDC will work with government agencies to help inform a revised policy framework for when, and under what circumstances, masks should be required in the public transportation corridor," the CDC states in a news release.

From FDA

FDA to Discuss Future Boosters, Targeting New Coronavirus Strains for Vaccines
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it will convene a meeting of its Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee to discuss future COVID-19 vaccine boosters and the process for targeting specific coronavirus strains for vaccines. Representatives from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention and the National Institutes of Health will participate.

New in Research

Researchers Find Association Between COVID-19 and Increased Diabetes Risk
A study of 181,000 patients in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system who were diagnosed with COVID-19 found that the infection was associated with a higher risk of incident Type 2 diabetes compared with 4.1 million VA patients who were not infected. Those with COVID infections were, on average, 46% more likely to develop diabetes, with the likelihood increasing for those who experienced more severe COVID symptoms. (Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology)

Study Links COVID-19 to Decreased Brain Size, Lower Gray Matter Thickness
Researchers analyzing the brains of 785 individuals found that among 401 who tested positive for COVID-19 between their first and second scans, many experienced physical changes to the brain, including reduced gray matter thickness, an increase in markers indicating tissue damage related to the olfactory cortex, and greater reduction in global brain size. (Nature).

Schizophrenia Linked to Increased Risk of COVID-19 Mortality
A study published in JAMA Psychiatry concludes that a schizophrenia spectrum diagnosis may be a risk factor for mortality in patients with COVID-19. Researchers analyzed data from 7,348 adults diagnosed with COVID-19 and found that after adjusting for demographic and medical risk factors, individuals with schizophrenia had a 2.67 times increased risk of mortality compared with individuals without schizophrenia, making the condition second behind age in its association with death from COVID-19. No increased risk was found among individuals with mood and anxiety disorders.

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