Enjoy your mid-week NCMS Morning Rounds!

Nov. 4, 2020

Election 2020

Your North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) would like to assure you that our longstanding bipartisan tradition remains. Regardless of who is declared a winner after yesterday’s state and federal races, your NCMS advocates will continue to work with all elected officials on your behalf and on behalf of your patients. Watch your NCMS Morning Rounds and Political Pulse video for updates on and analysis of the election results in the coming days.

Updated COVID-19 Guidance from NCDHHS

The NC Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS) recently issued updated clinical and laboratory COVID-19 guidance due to an increase in community transmission of the virus with pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic spread playing an important role. Read the memo in which State Epidemiologist Zack Moore, MD, MPH, outlines the new guidance.

State officials are encouraging increased adherence to prevention strategies (the 3 W’s of Wearing a mask, Waiting six feet apart, Washing your hands), testing (including for those without symptoms), and expanded contact tracing to help control viral transmission across the state. NCDHHS has also launched a new advertising campaign encouraging people to wear a mask, especially with the holidays approaching. Learn more about the campaign here.

Dr. Moore also notes that the COVID-19 virus and influenza are co-circulating. You can go to flu.ncdhhs.gov for information, updated each Thursday afternoon, on influenza circulation in North Carolina.

Warning: Cybercrime Threat to Health Care Professionals

In a recent joint advisory, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), the FBI and the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said they have “credible information” that cybercriminals are taking new aim at health care providers and public health agencies as the COVID-19 pandemic reaches new heights. The advisory notes that several hospitals across the country have already been hit. Read the document here.

“Malicious cyber actors” may soon be planning to “infect systems with Ryuk ransomware for financial gain” on a scale not yet seen across the American health care system, the advisory notes. Hospitals, physician practices and public health organizations should take “timely and reasonable precautions to protect their networks from these threats.”

Malware targeting techniques often lead to “ransomware attacks, data theft and the disruption of health care services.” The agencies recommend several mitigation steps and best practices for health care entities to take to reduce their risk, including the following:

• Patch operating systems, software, and firmware as soon as manufacturers release updates.
• Regularly change passwords to network systems and accounts and avoid reusing passwords for different accounts.
• Use multi-factor authentication where possible.
• Disallow use of personal email accounts
• Disable unused remote access/Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) ports and monitor remote access/RDP logs.
• Identify critical assets; create backups of these systems and house the backups offline from the network.
• Set antivirus and anti-malware solutions to automatically update; conduct regular scans.

The AMA and the American Hospital Association (AHA) have created two resources to help physicians and hospitals guard against cyber threats. Those resources and additional cyber security information can be found at the AMA’s cybersecurity webpage.

Redoubling Efforts to End the Country’s Longest Epidemic

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), recently released a perspective piece in The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) titled “Redoubling Efforts to Help Americans Quit Smoking—Federal Initiatives to Tackle the Country’s Longest-Running Epidemic.”

In this article, leaders of these three federal agencies responsible for reducing tobacco product use express their commitment to intensify efforts to help Americans quit smoking.

The rate of cigarette smoking among US adults is 13.7 percent, its lowest point since monitoring of smoking rates began in 1965, yet smoking remains the country’s leading preventable cause of death and disease, and costs the U.S. more than $300 billion annually. Increasing smoking-cessation rates among adults is the fastest way to reduce this health and economic burden.

In the News

Commentary: Rapid Deployment of a Community-Centered Mobile COVID-19 Testing Unit to Improve Health Equity, NEJM Catalyst, 10-22-20
[Note: Authors of this commentary piece include Mark Gwynne, DO and Lynn Fiscus, MD MPH, FAAP, FACP, both actively involved with the NCMS.]

Learning Opportunity

Don’t miss this Friday’s (Nov. 6) Power Hour from 1 to 2 p.m. when our guests will discuss ‘Lifestyle Medicine.’ Lifestyle medicine, one of the fastest growing areas in the field, involves whole food, plant-predominant dietary lifestyle, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, avoidance of risky substances and positive social connection as a primary therapeutic modality for treatment and reversal of chronic disease. Learn more and register here.

If you have policies you’d like your NCMS Board of Directors to consider, please complete the Board input form here. Thanks for reading!