On Wednesday the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic.  WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stated that “In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths and the number of affected countries climb even higher.”  In a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee Dr. Anthony Fauci stated that COVID-19 is at least 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that 60 – 70 percent of the German population could be infected by coronavirus.  As of March 11, there were 124,913 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 4,589 related fatalities.

U.S. government agencies have increased their attention to the coronavirus.  The Centers for Disease Control released Workplace, School, and Home Guidance and A Framework for Mitigation.  The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services released guidance for Medicare Advantage Organizations, Part D Sponsors, and Medicare-Medicaid Plans; Guidance for use of Certain Industrial Respirators by Health Care Personnel; Guidance for Home Health Agencies; and Guidance for Dialysis Facilities.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) announced it would stop overseas inspections of food, drugs, and medical devices through April.

The FDA and the Federal Trade Commission issued warning letters to seven companies.  The companies were “selling fraudulent COVID-19 products” and the products are “unapproved drugs that pose significant risks to patient health and violate federal law.”  The press release issued by the agencies provide that the “FDA is particularly concerned that products that claim to cure, treat or prevent serious disease like COVID-19 may cause consumers to delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, leading to serious and life-threatening harm.”    The U.S. Department of Justice stated that it intends “to hold accountable anyone who violates the antitrust laws of the United States in connection with the manufacturing, distribution, or sale of public health products such as face masks respirators, and diagnostics.”

The Health Law Pulse will continue to provide updates as more is known about this public health crisis.