Coronavirus Outbreak: Daily Updates

The new coronavirus disease outbreak first identified in China has become a pandemic. Stay up to date with the latest updates on COVID-19.

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  • The United States currently has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths in the world.
  • Experts are worried about an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases.
  • COVID-19 vaccinations have started in the United States with healthcare workers at the front of the line.

Update on COVID-19 numbers

  • Globally, there have been more than 87.6 million confirmed cases and more than 1.89 million associated deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The United States has reported 21.4 million confirmed cases. However, due to a lack of testing, the number of actual cases may be far higher.
  • More than 362,000 people in the United States have died from the disease.
  • Over 5.3 million people in the country have received the first COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the CDC.

Healthline updates this page on weekdays. For up-to-date information about the virus, go here.

Record number of daily deaths in the U.S.

The deadliest day of the pandemic occurred this week when nearly 4,000 people died due to COVID-19 in 24 hours.

According to the The Washington Post, at least 3,915 people died on Jan. 6, the same day when pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol.

Additionally, another 251,646 new coronavirus cases were reported.

Florida vaccine rollout in disarray

Florida placed state health centers in charge of rolling out COVID-19 vaccines.

However, some have opted for less organized plans, leaving seniors to deal with crashing websites, jammed phone lines, and nights spent waiting in line, CNN reported.

“The state is not dictating to hospitals,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told CNN Jan. 4. “These guys are much more competent to deliver healthcare services than a state government could ever be.”

He added that Florida does have a plan in place to determine priority groups for vaccination, but certain hospitals have forgone the registration system to distribute shots on a first come, first served basis.

This has caused people to congregate in large numbers.

On the night of Jan. 4, officials in Daytona Beach announced that the first 1,000 people lined up for Tuesday, Jan. 5, vaccinations were allowed to park overnight at Daytona Stadium to alleviate traffic congestion.

This resulted in all 1,000 people allocated for that location to be present at 6:30 a.m. — a full half hour before the site was scheduled to open.

Another case of new coronavirus variant discovered in Pennsylvania

Dr. Rachel Levine, Pennsylvania’s secretary of health, has announced the first confirmed case of the coronavirus variant first discovered in the United Kingdom, SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7, in Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

“Pennsylvania has been preparing for this variant by working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and has been sending 10-35 random samples biweekly to the CDC since November to study sequencing and detect any potential cases for this new COVID-19 variant,” Levine said in a statement.

“Public health experts are in the early stages of working to better understand this new variant, how it spreads and how it affects people who are infected with it,” she said.

The variant has also been found in other states, including California and Florida.

Can I get COVID-19 twice?

According to the Associated Press (AP) — it’s possible but unlikely. This is also very good news for currently approved vaccines.

The AP pointed out that in one study, only 2 out of 1,265 health workers in the United Kingdom that were previously infected tested positive again for the coronavirus in the following 6 months.

In a U.S. study, less than 1 percent of COVID-19-infected people tested positive for the virus over the next several months, for about the same rate of positivity as the UK study.

Critically, the findings are good news — because the COVID-19 vaccines approved for the United States trigger the same kind of immune response the studies found protective.

Quick action averts vaccine disaster

The executive team at Mendocino County’s Adventist Health Ukiah Valley Medical Center discovered a malfunctioning freezer that was at room temperature during a safety inspection Monday, Judson Howe, of Adventist Health, told CNN. Worse, the alarm used to alert staff of the temperature change also failed.

It held the Moderna vaccine, which doesn’t require the same extremely low temperatures as Pfizer’s, but still needs to be kept near freezing to stay viable.

According to CNN, officials realized they only had about 2 hours to administer over 800 doses that were inside.

“It was our main focus to make sure that we got every single vaccine into every arm. We reached out to the county public health officer and informed them of the situation and with a collaborative approach, we were able to administer all 830 vaccines in a matter of 2 hours,” Howe told the network.

Most COVID-19 vaccines going idle

Over two-thirds of 15 million coronavirus vaccines shipped within the United States are unused, health officials said Jan. 4.

The governors of New York and Florida are vowing to penalize those hospitals failing to quickly dispense shots, Reuters reported.

“While we’re trying to control COVID with one hand, we’re trying to defeat it with the other, and the vaccine is the weapon that will win this war,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.

“Getting this vaccine out is going to be the single greatest operation government has ever had to accomplish, and we’re taking bold actions to ensure it is delivered swiftly and equitably for all New Yorkers,” Cuomo said.

According to Reuters, New York hospitals have dispensed fewer than half of their allocated doses to date, with performance varying from one group of hospitals to another.

In Florida, where senior citizens are placed ahead of many essential workers for the vaccine, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state would allocate more doses to hospitals that are dispensing shots most quickly, according to Reuters.

“Hospitals that do not do a good job of getting the vaccine out will have their allocations transferred to hospitals that are doing a good job at getting the vaccine out,” DeSantis said at a recent briefing.

Vaccinated? Why you can still test positive for COVID-19

Experts have told USA Today that you can still test positive for the novel coronavirus, even after receiving the vaccine.

Dr. Nicole Iovine, infectious disease expert and hospital chief epidemiologist at University of Florida Health, told the news service that it takes the average person up to 2 weeks to build up a protective number of antibodies, but each person is different.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), if your body develops an immune response, there’s still a possibility you could test positive on certain antibody tests.

“Antibody tests indicate you had a previous infection and that you may have some level of protection against the virus,” the CDC noted. “Experts are currently looking at how COVID-19 vaccination may affect antibody testing results.”

Air-powered costume transmits virus to dozens at hospital

ABC News reported that an “air-powered” costume could have caused a COVID-19 outbreak at the Kaiser Permanente San Jose Emergency Department in California.

Health officials told ABC that they’re conducting an investigation into the outbreak among emergency room personnel at the San Jose, California hospital. Since Christmas, 44 people developed COVID-19 when a staffer wore the costume to cheer everyone up.

“Any exposure, if it occurred, would have been completely innocent and quite accidental, as the individual had no COVID symptoms and only sought to lift the spirits of those around them during what is a very stressful time,” Irene Chavez, the hospital’s senior vice president and area manager, said in a statement.

“If anything, this should serve as a very real reminder that the virus is widespread and often without symptoms, and we must all be vigilant,” she said.

Chavez also said the hospital has informed staff that those costumes and devices aren’t allowed, and they need to adhere to health guidelines and precautions.

More COVID-19 vaccine options on the way

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the use of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine last month, resulting in two vaccines becoming available in the United States to fight the pandemic.

Within a few months, we may have access to additional vaccines. Johnson & Johnson, Novavax, and AstraZeneca are also in the later stages of vaccine testing, reported FiveThirtyEight.

However, anyone who gets vaccinated over the coming months is probably just going to have to take whichever one is available.

Dr. Rebecca Weintraub, an assistant professor of global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School, told FiveThirtyEight that this isn’t bad news, because the first two vaccines available are far more effective than anyone expected they would be, and experts say either one would be great to take.

Trump administration delays crucial vaccine rollout

Millions of doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine are languishing in warehouses awaiting shipment instructions from the Trump administration, reported HuffPost.

According to CNN, the federal government told multiple states to expect fewer doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine than were initially promised, leaving health officials across the country confused and frustrated about crucial rollout plans only days after the first doses were shipped.

“This week, we successfully shipped all 2.9 million doses that we were asked to ship by the U.S. Government to the locations specified by them,” Pfizer said in a statement. “We have millions more doses sitting in our warehouse but, as of now, we have not received any shipment instructions for additional doses.”

French president tests positive, government officials quarantine

French President Emmanuel Macron tested positive for COVID-19 Thursday, Dec. 17, following a week in which he met with several European leaders, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The French and Spanish prime ministers, and the European Union Council president are among the top officials who are self-isolating because they had met with Macron recently.

“This diagnosis was made following a PCR test performed at the onset of the first symptoms,” said a statement from the French Presidential Palace cited by France24.

According to the statement, Macron will isolate for the next 7 days, as recommended by French health authorities, and has canceled all foreign trips.

Key FDA panel to decide on Moderna vaccine

A second mRNA COVID-19 vaccine will likely be voted on Thursday, Dec. 17, at an all-day meeting of a panel from the Food and Drug Administration Advisory Committee, USA Today reported.

If the panel approves the vaccine, the FDA could grant the vaccine emergency use authorization (EUA) as soon as Friday, Dec. 18.

According to USA Today, a clinical trial with 30,000 volunteers showed the Moderna vaccine is 94 percent effective at preventing COVID-19, including serious disease.

Although Moderna’s vaccine does cause side effects like sore arms, fatigue, muscle aches, and chills, these were temporary.

“It’s a very exciting two weeks,” Barry Bloom, PhD, an immunologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health told USA Today. “To have two companies put forward new vaccines within 11 months and begin to roll them out to the public – that’s an extraordinary both scientific and logistical achievement.”

A COVID-19 treatment option that needs more attention

Monoclonal antibodies may be one of the few drugs that prevent early COVID-19 from progressing to a severe form of the disease, reported CNN.

According to the network, early study results suggest monoclonal antibodies may reduce the rate of hospitalizations by up to 70 percent if they’re taken in time.

This can be lifesaving, especially among people who are at high risk of getting very sick.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 back in November.

However, those who need the medication the most, as well as their healthcare providers, may not be aware that this type of drug is an option.

“The monoclonal antibodies we’ve authorized seem to work best for preventing hospitalization in outpatients early in their disease, typically within 10 days of the onset of symptoms, if you are a high-risk individual. So, over the age of 65, or over the age of 55 with a comorbidity, or… some preexisting illness to put you at risk,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told CNN.

According to CNN, a Health and Human Services spokesperson confirmed a new report showing only 5 to 20 percent of the available supply of monoclonal antibodies is actually being used.

“We will continue working with stakeholders to learn more about drug utilization decisions,” the spokesperson said.

FDA finds Moderna vaccine 94.5% effective

A new briefing from the FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting finds Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine candidate, mRNA-1273, is 94.5 percent effective after a second dose.

According to the FDA, interim analyses showed similar efficacy estimates “across age groups, genders, racial and ethnic groups, and participants with medical comorbidities associated with high risk of severe COVID-19.”

While this indicates that emergency approval of the Moderna vaccine is imminent, “it would still be considered unapproved and would continue under further investigation,” the agency wrote.

Vaccine won’t prevent devastating winter surge

COVID-19 vaccines will make little impact on what’s coming up ahead, reported CNN: a devastating winter that leading health officials project will be one of the most difficult times in U.S. history. Officials also warn holiday gatherings could fuel an already rampant spread of the virus, resulting in another surge.

“This vaccine, as wonderful as it is, is not going to change the trajectory of what we experience this winter,” Dr. Richard Besser, former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told CNN. “It’s not going to change what we need to do; it’s not going change the need for us all to wear masks and social distance and wash our hands.”

First U.S. recipient of Pfizer vaccine is New York nurse

A frontline critical care nurse in Queens, New York, has become both the first person in the state and the first person in the country to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, the New York Post reported Monday, Dec. 14.

According to the Post, her name is Sandra Lindsay, and she’s a critical care nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.

“In New York we prioritized healthcare workers at the top of the list to receive the vaccine, because we know that you are out there every day putting your lives in danger for the rest of us,” said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo in a statement. “So we want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to keep you safe.”

“I feel like healing is coming, and this marks the beginning of the end of a very painful time in our history,” Lindsay said in a statement. “I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe.”

Other locations in Connecticut, New York, Iowa, Washington, D.C., and Michigan are also expected to administer vaccine doses on Monday, Dec. 14, ABC News reported.

Vaccine doses are limited

Although the COVID-19 vaccine has already started to ship, there won’t be enough doses for everyone right away, according to a CNET report Monday, Dec. 14.

Most people in the United States will have to wait at least several months before getting access to a COVID-19 vaccine.

“Because the supply of COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is expected to be limited at first, CDC recommends that initial supplies of COVID-19 vaccine be allocated to healthcare personnel and long-term care facility residents,” the CDC said Sunday, Dec. 13.

Until the vaccine becomes widely available, we’re still expected to maintain safety practices, such as wearing masks, avoiding crowds, maintaining physical distancing, and washing our hands, CNET reported.

New SARS-CoV-2 variant identified in the U.K.

A new variant of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was identified in the United Kingdom, according to government officials, and is growing faster in some parts of England, the BBC reported Monday, Dec. 14.

“This is clearly a potentially concerning development. Our CMO @DrGregorSmith has given me an initial briefing this afternoon and @scotgov will be monitoring closely. We will also consider whether any additional precautions are required meantime,” First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon posted on social media.

U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the BBC that at least 60 different local authorities had recorded COVID-19 infections caused by the new variant of SARS-CoV-2. The World Health Organization (WHO) had been notified, and U.K. scientists were doing detailed studies.

Hancock added that there was “nothing to suggest” the new variant caused worse disease or that vaccines would no longer work.

FDA adviser explains why she voted ‘no’

Dr. Archana Chatterjee, pediatric infectious disease specialist, dean of the Chicago Medical School and member of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel, voted againstrecommending Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, CNBC reported Friday, Dec. 11.

She didn’t believe 16- and 17-year-olds should be included yet among those eligible for emergency use of the vaccine, Chatterjee told CNBC.

“I want to be very clear that I am fully supportive of the emergency use authorization for the use of this vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech for adults 18 years and older,” Chatterjee said in a “Squawk Box” interview.

She said she would have voted “yes” had the question before her been different.

According to CNBC, three other members of the FDA advisory panel also voted against recommending the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use after focusing on whether 16- and 17-year-olds should be included.

Normality could return by fall, Fauci says

Even with the Dec. 10 FDA advisory panel vote, it’s likely the United States won’t see any meaningful, widespread impacts from vaccinations until well into 2021, CNN reported Friday, Dec. 11.

How quickly the United States recovers from this pandemic could depend on how fast we get vaccinated, and how many are willing to receive the vaccine.

“If we have a smooth vaccination program where everybody steps to the plate quickly, we could get back to some form of normality, reasonably quickly. Into the summer, and certainly into the fall,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN.

FDA panel recommends vaccine approval

An independent panel for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has voted to recommend approval for emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our team has done their initial analysis, and we do feel that preliminarily that the success criteria have been met,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn told on Tuesday.

Seventeen panelists voted for approval, four voted against, and one abstained.

Some panelists brought up concerns that 16- and 17-year-olds would get the vaccine despite few being included in the trial.

While the FDA doesn’t have to follow the panel’s recommendations, the agency almost always does.

The FDA is expected to make a final decision about the EUA for the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days.

Risk of ‘viral hoaxes’

Hours after Margaret Keenan, the 90-year-old grandmother from the United Kingdom, became the first person to receive the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, conspiracy theorists began claiming that Keenan didn’t exist, that she was dead, or that she is part of a Bill Gates scheme to implant microchips in people, reported USA Today.

According to USA Today, researchers warned this is only the beginning of “viral hoaxes” that feed off unknowns about both COVID-19 and the vaccines to undercut public trust in the coming vaccinations.

Authorities investigate allergic reaction risk for Pfizer vaccine

According to health authorities in the United Kingdom, anyone with a “significant history of allergic reactions” should not receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, reported CNN. The announcement comes after two healthcare workers who received the shot experienced symptoms on the following day.

According to the BBC, they experienced an anaphylactoid reaction, which can involve skin rash, breathlessness and sometimes a drop in blood pressure. However, the story emphasized that this isn’t the same as anaphylaxis, which can be fatal.

Both people have been treated and are now fine.

Professor Peter Openshaw, an expert in immunology at Imperial College London, told BBC, “The fact that we know so soon about these two allergic reactions and that the regulator has acted on this to issue precautionary advice shows that this monitoring system is working well.”

New tool shows how COVID is stressing local healthcare

On Monday, the federal government released detailed data showing the toll COVID-19 has taken on U.S.-based medical facilities nationwide. This includes information about inpatient and intensive care unit (ICU) beds available, and the information will be updated weekly.

While this resource might be difficult to use if you’re just looking for local data on how healthcare in your area is being impacted by the pandemic, NPR reports that they’ve created a tool that can do just that.

According to the news outlet, it focuses on one important metric: How many beds are filled with COVID-19 patients? The tool shows this for individual hospitals and an average for every county. It uses data from the University of Minnesota’s COVID-19 Hospitalization Tracking Project.

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine found safe and effective

According to documents released Tuesday by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an analysis of more than 36,000 participants in Pfizer’s phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial finds the vaccine provides 95 percent protection against COVID-19 after a second dose.

Additionally, safety data from about 38,000 participants 16 years of age or older, followed for 2 months after the second dose, “suggest a favorable safety profile, with no specific safety concerns identified that would preclude issuance of an EUA [emergency use authorization].”

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will discuss the vaccine in an open public meeting on Thursday, reported NPR.

According to NPR, the FDA will ask these experts to assess whether available evidence supports emergency use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

The FDA will specifically ask whether the known and potential benefits of the vaccine outweigh its known and potential risks in people 16 and older.

U.K. woman first to receive Pfizer vaccine

On Tuesday, Margaret Keenan, 90, became the first person in the world outside clinical testing to receive a dose of the Pfizer vaccine, reported the BBC.

Keenan, who will be 91 next week, told the network it was the “best early birthday present.”

“This simple act of vaccination is a tribute to scientific endeavor, to human ingenuity, and to the hard work of so many people,” Matthew Hancock, U.K. health secretary, said in a statement. “Today marks the start of the fight back against our common enemy, coronavirus, and while today is a day to celebrate, there is much work to be done.”

According to NPR, the United Kingdom will first vaccinate front-line health workers, long-term care facility workers, and residents over 80 years old. The shots will also be distributed to hospitals before doctors’ offices receive them.

Sweden finally rolls out COVID-19 restrictions

Notoriously complacent during much of the year for refusing to implement a nationwide lockdown, Sweden has finally rolled out nationwide COVID-19 restrictions.

Beginning last month, the Scandinavian nation instituted bans on large gatherings, alcohol sale curfews, and school closures amid rising cases and hospitalizations, according to the Independent.

“This is being done so as to have a slowing effect on the spread of the disease,” Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, told a news conference, according to Reuters.

FDA to decide on Pfizer vaccine Thursday as cases surge

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will determine whether Pfizer’s vaccine candidate receives emergency use authorization this Thursday.

However, experts project an incredibly challenging next few months, with the United States now reporting over 1 million new cases of COVID-19 within the first five days of December, according to the CNN Network.

“We’re seeing these surging cases in the United States, but also in Germany, France, UK, Spain — it’s about behavior and cold weather,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Fox News. “People are going indoors, they’re not minding the three W’s, they’re not wearing their face coverings.”

“We’re engaged in indoor behaviors where we let our guard down,” added Azar. “We need people to renew their commitment.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the three W’s are:

  • Wear a mask
  • Watch your distance
  • Wash your hands

Pfizer misses COVID-19 vaccine supply goal

Pfizer and Germany-based partner BioNTech SE anticipated rolling out 100 million vaccines worldwide by the end of 2020, but that has now been reduced to 50 million, reported The Wall Street Journal.

However, Pfizer still expects it will provide more than 1 billion doses in 2021 as originally planned.

According to the Journal, Pfizer had its 100-million dose goal in place until mid-November, when the drugmaker discovered that supply chain issues made the end-of-year timeline impossible.

“Scaling up the raw material supply chain took longer than expected,” a company spokesperson told the Journal. “And it’s important to highlight that the outcome of the clinical trial was somewhat later than the initial projection.”

Vaccine on the way, death count still expected to rise

Preparations are underway to quickly distribute an approved COVID-19 vaccine, but experts say the coming months will be difficult, reported CNN.

Soon, we’ll be looking at the “worst-case scenario in terms of overwhelmed hospitals, in terms of the death count,” emergency medicine physician Dr. Leana Wen told CNN. “There’s just so much virus in our communities right now.”

According to CNN, Wen’s statement echoes a bleak forecast by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield, who warned Wednesday that the next 3 months will be “the most difficult in the public health history of this nation.”

COVID-19 deaths will increase, says doctor

On Wednesday, the United States recorded its single worst daily death toll since the pandemic started, with 2,760 deaths.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are also reaching an all-time high, reported The New York Times.

According to the Times, hospitalizations related to COVID-19 have surpassed 100,000. This is more than double the amount at the beginning of November.

“If you tell me the hospitalizations are up this week, I’ll tell you that several weeks down the road, the deaths will be up,” Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency medicine physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, told the Times.

Department of Defense reveals new COVID-19 ‘vaccination cards’

Yesterday, the Department of Defense released the first images of a COVID-19 vaccination record card and vaccination kits, reported CNN.

Vaccination cards will be the “simplest” way to keep track of vaccinations, Dr. Kelly Moore, associate director for immunization education at the Immunization Action Coalition, told CNN.

“Everyone will be issued a written card that they can put in their wallet that will tell them what they had and when their next dose is due,” Moore said. “Let’s do the simple, easy thing first. Everyone’s going to get that.”

Moore also told CNN that many places plan to ask people to voluntarily provide a cell phone number, so they can get a text message informing them when and where their next vaccine dose is scheduled to be given.

U.K. first Western country to approve a COVID-19 vaccine

The United Kingdom is the first Western nation to approve a COVID-19 vaccine, paving the way for doses to be rolled out across that country by next week, reported CNN.

The approved vaccine is the candidate developed by Pfizer and BioNTech.

According to the BBC, the vaccine won’t be compulsory. There are three ways people across the United Kingdom can get vaccinated:

  • hospitals
  • vaccination centers
  • in the community with doctors and pharmacists

CDC reduces recommended quarantine time

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released revised guidance on quarantine time for people exposed to the coronavirus.

Now people can end quarantine after 7 days if they test negative for the virus, or after 10 days if not tested, according to CNBC.

Initially, the CDC recommended people quarantine for 2 weeks if they were exposed to the virus or had COVID-19 symptoms.

According to CNBC, the CDC COVID-19 incident manager, Dr. Henry Walke, said that a 14-day quarantine is still the best way to reduce the risk of transmitting the coronavirus.

However, the reduced quarantine times have been identified as acceptable alternatives.

Fauci tells nation to ‘get vaccinated!’

As the first round of vaccinations against COVID-19 approach, Dr. Anthony Fauci called on the public to get the shot once it’s available, reported CNN.

“In order to get herd immunity, you’ve got to stay above 90 percent of the people vaccinated,” Fauci told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during an interview on Monday.

Fauci emphasized that we all should say, “I’m not going to be one of the people that’s going to be a steppingstone for the virus to go to somebody else, I’m going to be a dead end to the virus.”

COVID-19 has been spreading quickly in the United States, with November COVID-19 hospitalizations setting records, according to the COVID Tracking Project.

Coronavirus reached U.S. same month found in Wuhan, study finds

The new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, and the disease it causes, COVID-19, were discovered in Wuhan, China, last December. The first U.S. case was confirmed in late January.

However, a new study found that the coronavirus may have been present in the United States weeks earlier.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) researchers came to this conclusion after analyzing blood donations collected by the American Red Cross from residents in nine states, reported NPR.

According to the study, the coronavirus might have arrived in the United States as early as the same month it was identified in China, although widespread transmission likely didn’t occur until February.

“Isolated SARS-CoV-2 infections may have occurred in the western portion of the United States earlier than previously recognized,” the study authors wrote.

“Similarly, antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 were identified among donations occurring in early January in Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin prior to known introduction of SARS-CoV-2 into those states.”

Trump COVID-19 adviser resigns

Dr. Scott Atlas, President Trump’s COVID-19 adviser, resigned his position Monday. He posted his resignation letter to social media.

“As you know, I always relied on the latest science and evidence, without any political consideration or influence,” Atlas wrote.

“As time went on, like all scientists and health policy scholars, I learned new information and synthesized the latest data from around the world, all in an effort to provide you with the best information to serve the greater public good,” he wrote.

Atlas, a neuroradiology professor, was criticized by epidemiologists and other health experts for controversial and sometimes false statements about the pandemic.

He had claimed that masks didn’t work well despite evidence showing otherwise.

He had also encouraged the White House to try “herd immunity” to control the virus despite experts saying it would cause unnecessary deaths and not actually stop the pandemic.

There are currently more than 13.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, and there have been more than 269,000 deaths, according to the most recent data from Johns Hopkins University.

Moderna applies for vaccine authorization today

Drugmaker Moderna says it will apply for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorization of its COVID-19 vaccine on Monday, reported CNN.

Moderna’s vaccine had 100 percent efficacy against severe disease with no such cases among vaccinated study participants, reported Science. However, 30 people in the placebo group did contract an infection.

Should the FDA grant this vaccine emergency use authorization (EUA), within a day or two an advisory committee to the CDC will make a recommendation about which populations should initially be vaccinated, reported CNN.

It’s likely healthcare workers and nursing home residents will be included.

U.S. heading into ‘precarious situation,’ warns Fauci

According to infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States is heading into a difficult period of the pandemic.

Fauci emphasized that current restrictions and travel advisories will be necessary for the Christmas holiday season, reported CNBC.

“What we expect, unfortunately, as we go for the next couple of weeks into December is that we might see a surge superimposed on the surge we are already in,” Fauci said Sunday on NBC News’ “Meet the Press.”

“We are going to have to make decisions as a nation, state, city, and family that we are in a very difficult time, and we’re going to have to do the kinds of restrictions of things we would have liked to have done,” Fauci added. “Particularly in this holiday season, because we’re entering into what’s really a precarious situation.”

Thanksgiving a potential ‘superspreader event,’ expert says

The highest, 1-day COVID-19 death total since May was reported in the United States on Tuesday, numbering more than 2,100 deaths, reported CNN.

The coming weeks will likely get worse before a possible vaccine may offer relief.

But how bad it gets depends on mitigation steps taken across the United States and what kinds of celebrations people will opt to host over the coming days, experts say.

“It’s potentially the mother of all superspreader events,” Dr. Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University, told CNN.

For the 15th consecutive day, the United States has surpassed its own hospitalization record, with more than 88,000 people hospitalized for COVID-19 nationwide on Tuesday, according to recent data from the COVID Tracking Project.

Quarantine period may be cut short

Federal health officials are working on guidance to shorten the typical 14-day quarantine following potential exposure to the coronavirus, reported Bloomberg.

Officials are beginning to see a “preponderance of evidence” that the quarantine period could be cut short if the person tests negative for COVID-19, said Dr. Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, an assistant secretary at the Department of Health and Human Services, in a call with reporters, according to Bloomberg.

At least one recent study backs up Giroir’s claim.

Released in July before peer review by researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the study found that quarantining travelers for 8 days and testing them for the virus on the 7th day might be almost as effective as a 14-day quarantine.

Vaccine side effect transparency is key, experts say

During a Monday meeting with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisers, doctors urged that drugmakers and public health officials must be transparent about potential COVID-19 vaccine side effects, reported CNBC.

While the risk of severe side effects may be minimal according to early research, people may experience common, mild side effects, including body aches or headaches, similar to what can happen with the flu vaccine.

“We really need to make patients aware that this is not going to be a walk in the park,” Dr. Sandra Fryhofer of the American Medical Association, a liaison to the committee, said during the meeting, according to CNBC.

According to an earlier story from STAT News, participants in both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine trials experienced:

  • high fever
  • body aches
  • headaches
  • exhaustion

New vaccines use revolutionary technology

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccine candidates use synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), the molecule that tells cells how to build proteins.

Vaccine mRNA can trick your cells into making proteins typically found in SARS-CoV-2, the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19. This stimulates a protective immune response without making you sick, according to researchers.

“I think we’ll see some pretty incredible breakthroughs based on these technologies in the future,” Larisa Labzin, PhD, an immunologist at the University of Queensland in Australia, told CNET.

December vaccine possible

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) vaccine advisory committee is scheduled to meet Dec. 10, making it possible that U.S. residents may have access to a COVID-19 vaccine as early as the next day, reported CNN.

“I would expect maybe on day 2 after approval, on the 11th or on the 12th of December, hopefully, the first people will be immunized across the United States, across all states, in all the areas where the State Departments of Health will have told us where to deliver the vaccine,” Moncef Slaoui, PhD, head of the federal effort to develop a vaccine, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday.

Pfizer and partner BioNTech have already submitted an application for FDA emergency use authorization for their two-dose vaccine, which is claimed to be 95 percent effective.

WHO does not recommend remdesivir for COVID-19

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a conditional recommendation against the use of remdesivir in people hospitalized with COVID-19, regardless of disease severity.

“As there is currently no evidence that remdesivir improves survival and other outcomes in these patients… the evidence suggested no important effect on mortality, need for mechanical ventilation, time to clinical improvement, and other patient-important outcomes,” the WHO said in a statement.

This recommendation is part of a “living guideline” on clinical care for COVID-19, according to the WHO.

It was developed by an international guideline development group, which included 28 clinical care experts, four patient-partners, and one ethicist.

Pfizer seeks emergency use for its COVID-19 vaccine

Drugmaker Pfizer is asking U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of its COVID-19 vaccine, beginning the process that might bring limited first shots as early as next month to help end the pandemic, reported the Associated Press.

“Our work to deliver a safe and effective vaccine has never been more urgent, as we continue to see an alarming rise in the number of cases of COVID-19 globally,” said Albert Bourla, DVM, PhD, Pfizer chairman and CEO, in a statement.

The submission is based on a vaccine efficacy rate of 95 percent. Effectiveness was demonstrated in a phase 3 clinical study in participants without prior SARS-CoV-2 infection and also in participants with and without prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, as measured from 7 days after a second dose, according to Pfizer’s Nov. 20 press release.

FDA approves first at-home COVID-19 test

On Tuesday, Nov. 17, the FDA announced emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first rapid COVID-19 diagnostic test that can be self-administered at home, according to an FDA press release.

“The FDA continues to demonstrate its unprecedented speed in response to the pandemic. While COVID-19 diagnostic tests have been authorized for at-home collection, this is the first that can be fully self-administered and provide results at home,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn said in the statement.

The Lucira COVID-19 All-In-One Test Kit is available by prescription and intended for people 14 years and older who may have COVID-19. The test can be used for people younger than 14 if it’s administered by a medical professional.

Pfizer says their vaccine may be 95 percent effective

In a final analysis, the pharmaceutical company Pfizer said its experimental COVID-19 vaccine appears to be 95 percent effective.

The data hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed.

The company is expected to seek emergency use authorization from the FDA within a few days.

This might be the last COVID-19 surge, former FDA commissioner says

The United States is likely seeing the last big COVID-19 surge before a possible vaccine can begin slowing the pandemic, according to one expert, reported CNN.

“The months ahead are going to look better than the weeks ahead,” Dr. Mark McClellan, a former FDA commissioner and current head of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, said at an event on Tuesday, Nov. 17, hosted by Duke University.

However, McClellan cautioned that we’re currently “past the time when it’s important not only to encourage [wearing] masks and distancing for individuals, but also to take some further steps, from state, local, and perhaps federal standpoints, to encourage more use of the steps we know work.”

Teachers’ unions call for return to remote learning as pandemic surges

Teachers’ unions across the United States are calling to stop in-person education as COVID-19 cases surge, reported Fox News.

According to the network, the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA), representing roughly 180,000 educators, is urging school districts to comply with the state’s restrictions, requesting that any district within a county experiencing substantial COVID-19 cases transition to solely remote instruction.

“The state departments of Health and Education developed these guidelines based on good science and what the infection rates are in a school’s community,” PSEA president Rich Askey said Nov. 11 in a statement.

“We must follow these guidelines to the letter,” Askey said. “It’s the best way for us to slow the spread of this virus and keep our students, staff, and their families safe.”

National Education Association Rhode Island president Larry Purtill and Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals president Frank Flynn called for “a holiday pause” of in-person learning and a move to remote learning for K-12 students, reported The Providence Journal.

On Nov. 10, Chicago teachers in Marquardt School District 15, urged for an “immediate switch to remote learning” after Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a stay-at-home advisory effective Monday, reported the Chicago Tribune.

Dolly Parton credited by fans for curing COVID-19

Dolly Parton fans jokingly credit the iconic songstress with curing COVID-19 after donating $1 million last April to research ultimately leading to drugmaker Moderna’s vaccine candidate, reported Fox News.

“My longtime friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, who’s been involved in research at Vanderbilt for many years, informed me that they were making some exciting advancements toward that research of the coronavirus for a cure,” Parton announced on social media, regarding the donation. “I am making a donation of $1 million to Vanderbilt toward that research and to encourage people that can afford it to make donations.”

Parton’s contribution to vaccine research is acknowledged by researchers in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Second COVID-19 vaccine proves effective, drugmaker claims

A second COVID-19 vaccine appears highly effective in preventing illness following exposure to SARS-CoV-2.

Moderna announced Monday, Nov. 16 that its experimental vaccine is 94.5 percent effective at preventing COVID-19, according to an analysis of the company’s clinical trial.

“This is a pivotal moment in the development of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” said Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, in a statement. “Since early January, we have chased this virus with the intent to protect as many people around the world as possible.”

“This positive interim analysis from our phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease,” Bancel added.

U.S. will see 2,000 deaths per day, says former head of CDC

U.S. COVID-19 cases surpassed 11 million on Sunday, Nov. 15 as the third wave of cases continues surging, reported NBC News.

The surge comes as new restrictions are being introduced and Americans are deciding how, or even whether, they can celebrate Thanksgiving.

According to the network, over a dozen states including New Hampshire, Maryland, Colorado, and Montana, also broke daily records of cases on Saturday — with Georgia the only U.S. state to record a decrease over the past 14 days.

“We’re seeing more cases in more places than ever before,” former CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden, told Good Morning America on Nov. 15. “Unfortunately, the numbers are going up, and they’ll continue to go up and get worse.”

“We’re probably going to see 2,000 deaths per day by the end of the year,” Frieden added.

Daily COVID-19 deaths may soon rise, say experts

Official stats of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in the United States show numbers are rising dramatically, with experts fearing daily deaths will follow the same trend, reported CNN.

According to the network, U.S. cases were dropping after the summer surge, but cases bounced back significantly.

Johns Hopkins University data shows Thursday, Nov. 12 broke a record for the highest single-day infection totals at more than 153,000 and the highest 7-day average with 131,000 confirmed cases.

“It will not surprise me if in the next weeks we see over 200,000 new cases a day,” Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN on Nov. 9.

States halting reopening plans, new restrictions in some areas

With COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths on the rise nationwide, some states are halting their phased reopening plans, or imposing new COVID-related restrictions, reported USA Today.

More than 30 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, currently require people to cover their faces in public, according to an AARP list.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, member of President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 task force, said the country needs “targeted” restrictions to contain COVID-19, and not lockdown the nation, as suggested by another doctor on the panel, reported the New York Post.

“We’re not in a place where we’re saying shut the whole country down. We got to be more targeted,” Murthy said Friday, Nov. 13 on Good Morning America.

Fauci stresses fair distribution of COVID-19 vaccine

Infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Thursday, Nov. 12 that vaccine developers should push to make billions of their COVID-19 vaccines to ensure all parts of the world have access, rather than focusing solely on wealthy countries, reported Reuters.

“Now a number of different companies are talking about the ability to make billions of doses. That’s what we need. We don’t need hundreds of millions for the rich countries,” Fauci said at a webinar conducted by British think tank Chatham House.

“We need billions (of vaccine doses), so whether you live in the darkest part of the developing world, or if you live in London, you should have the same access,” Fauci said.

According to Reuters, experts have doubts about vaccine access, especially in developing countries, because candidates (like the Pfizer drug) need to be stored at temperatures of minus 94°F or below, which can present infrastructure challenges.

COVID-19 is a ‘humanitarian disaster’ in U.S.

New COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are increasing at “alarming rates,” and experts worry they’ll get worse before the upcoming holidays, reported CNN.

“This is a humanitarian disaster — probably one of the worst stories I’ve covered in my career here at CNN,” said CNN’s chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta on Nov. 12.

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Policy Lab projects the next several weeks will see significantly worse conditions in West Coast, Northeast, and Mid-Atlantic states.

“Last week, while we were distracted by the presidential election, COVID-19 transmission rates continued to accelerate across the country. The nearly universal rise in statewide hospitalization rates, particularly in our colder regions, is a pattern that will grow as we move into the holiday season,” CHOP said in a statement.

As COVID-19 cases flood hospitals, residents advised to stay home

With a continuing surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, growing numbers of state leaders have started telling residents to stay home in an effort to slow virus spread, reported CNN.

These announcements follow Texas becoming the first state to surpass 1 million cases.

“I’ve seen more death in the last 3 weeks than I’ve seen in a year,” a registered nurse told CNN affiliate KFOX. “I’ve done compressions on more people in the last 3 weeks than I have in a year.”

COVID-19 cases in the United States have now surpassed 10 million since the pandemic began, according Johns Hopkins University, and almost 240,000 U.S. people have died.

U.S. should not practice ‘vaccine nationalism’

Dr. Zeke Emanuel, 1 of the 10 advisory board members named by President-elect Joe Biden to his coronavirus task force, is advising the United States and other nations not to hoard a vaccine, reported Fox News.

According to Fox, Emanuel co-authored a paper in September that encouraged officials to follow a fair priority model for international distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, as opposed to practicing “vaccine nationalism.”

“Fairly distributing a COVID-19 vaccine among countries is a problem of distributive justice,” wrote Emanuel. “Although governments will be the initial recipients of vaccine, fair distribution across countries must reflect a moral concern for the ultimate recipients: individuals.”

Eli Lilly antibody COVID-19 treatment approved by FDA

The FDA has granted emergency use authorization for drugmaker Eli Lilly’s monoclonal antibody therapy, bamlanivimab.

“This emergency authorization allows us to make bamlanivimab available as a COVID-19 treatment for recently diagnosed, high-risk patients — adding a valuable tool for doctors fighting the now-increasing burden of this global pandemic,” said David A. Ricks, Lilly’s chairman and CEO in a statement.

“The rapid development and availability of bamlanivimab could not have been achieved without the relentless work of our Lilly team, collaboration across the industry, and the urgent work being done by the government to ensure appropriate allocation to patients who need it the most,” Ricks continued.

According to Eli Lilly, the drug is intended to treat COVID-19 in non-hospitalized patients 12 years of age and older “with mild to moderate symptoms who weigh 88 pounds (40 kg) or more, and who are at high risk for developing severe COVID-19 symptoms or the need for hospitalization.”

According to Fox News, the U.S. government has already purchased 300,000 doses of bamlanivimab, and committed that Americans will have no out-of-pocket costs for the medicine. However, healthcare facilities may still charge to administer it.

COVID-19 associated with mental illness, study finds

About 20 percent of people with COVID-19 later develop a new mental illness, according to new research.

The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, found that common disorders experienced within 90 days of diagnosis by COVID-19 survivors include anxiety, depression, and insomnia.

“This is likely due to a combination of the psychological stressors associated with this particular pandemic and the physical effects of the illness,” Dr. Michael Bloomfield, a consultant psychiatrist at University College London, who wasn’t directly involved with the study, told Reuters.

Pfizer vaccine is 90 percent effective

Pfizer said Monday, Nov. 9, that an early peek at the data on its COVID-19 vaccine suggests it may be 90 percent effective at preventing the disease, putting the company on track to apply later this month for emergency use approval from the FDA, reported the Associated Press (AP).

According to the AP, this announcement doesn’t necessarily mean a vaccine is imminent. It’s based on an interim analysis, from an independent data monitoring board that looked at just 94 cases recorded in a study involving about 44,000 people in the United States and 5 other countries.

Some participants were given the vaccine, while others received a placebo.

“We’re in a position potentially to be able to offer some hope,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of clinical development, told the AP. “We’re very encouraged.”

Pfizer has previously said that with FDA approval, it hopes to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses by the end of this year and as many as over 1 billion in 2021, reported Fox Business.

Biden selects 13 health experts for COVID-19 advisory board

President-elect Joe Biden named 13 health experts to his Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board on Nov. 9, advancing his plans despite ongoing legal challenges to the election results, reported NPR.

Biden’s panel will be co-chaired by former FDA Commissioner Dr. David Kessler of the University of California; San Francisco’s former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy; and associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Yale, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith.

“The advisory board will help shape my approach to managing the surge in reported infections; ensuring vaccines are safe, effective, and distributed efficiently, equitably, and free; and protecting at-risk populations,” said Biden in a statement.

U.S. surpasses 100K COVID-19 cases, second day in a row

Over 121,000 COVID-19 cases were recorded Thursday Nov. 5, surpassing Wednesday’s record by over 20,000 cases, reported CNN.

In just 48 hours, over 220,000 positive tests were reported for a total of over 660,000 new cases in the United States over the past week.

According to Johns Hopkins, an excess of 235,000 Americans have died since the pandemic began, and CNN reports that an ensemble forecast by the CDC estimates an additional 31,000 people might die during the next 2 1/2 weeks.

Many states are reinstituting restrictions in response.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo said on social media that she’s asking for voluntary compliance with new measures, which will take effect on November 8. These include a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew on weeknights, and restrictions on the size of private gatherings.

Poll worker tests positive for COVID-19, refuses quarantine and dies shortly after

The St. Charles County Department of Public Health and the St. Charles County Election Authority in Missouri have announced that an election judge supervisor who tested positive for COVID-19 worked the election against advice that she quarantine.

The poll worker subsequently died, according to a press release from St. Charles County, Missouri, Department of Public Health.

However, the Department emphasized that “It’s not anticipated that close contacts will include any of the 1,858 voters who were at the polling place Tuesday,” since the worker had job duties that don’t “typically include working closely with voters,” such as distributing styluses, or taking voter identification.

“As this virus continues to spread, all aspects of the healthcare system are working together to remind the community that a positive COVID-19 test result requires that person to be responsible to others in the community,” said St. Charles County Director of Public Health Demetrius Cianci-Chapman, in a statement.

“There is no more important duty than protecting the health of our families, friends, and those who reside in the community with us,” Cianci-Chapman said.

Anticipated COVID-19 surge hits U.S.

The ‘fall surge’ long predicted by experts seems to have arrived, with the United States reporting over 100,000 new cases daily for the first time on Wednesday, Nov. 4.

According to USA Today, that number comes less than a week after the nation reached more than 9 million confirmed cases — more than any other country.

“The seasonal uptick has been predicted for months,” Dennis Carroll, PhD, chair of the Global Virome Project Leadership Board, told USA Today. “As it stands, we’re no better prepared than the spring, meaning widespread closures and shutdowns as we are witnessing in Europe are inevitable.”

According to Johns Hopkins University, confirmed cases have surpassed 48 million worldwide.

Stay home to protect against COVID, CDC says

In a recent travel update, the CDC states clearly that staying home is the best way to protect yourself against COVID-19, reported the Associated Press (AP).

However, if you choose to travel, the CDC recommends you consider the following:

  • Is COVID-19 spreading at your destination?
  • Do you live with someone who might be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19?
  • Are you at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19?
  • Does your destination have requirements or restrictions for travelers?

The CDC also reminds everyone to follow masking and social distancing guidelines and to wash hands and use hand sanitizer often.

Person with asymptomatic COVID-19 shed virus for weeks

Researchers are sounding the alarm after finding a case where a person was able to shed the virus that causes COVID-19 despite having no symptoms.

The report was published this week. The single case involved an immunocompromised woman with cancer who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.

For 70 days, researchers detected the virus in her upper airway despite the fact that she didn’t have symptoms.

While this is a single case, it shows how difficult it may be in stopping the virus from spreading.

Denmark to kill 15 million mink after finding mutated coronavirus

Officials in Denmark are planning to kill 15 million mink after a strain of SARS-CoV-2 was linked to the animals, according to CBS News.

At least 12 people have contracted this mutated form of the virus that causes COVID-19. Experts say the overall risk of animal to human transmission of COVID-19 remains low.

Delirium is a symptom of COVID-19, study says

Recent research suggests that delirium accompanied by fever may be another symptom of COVID-19.

The study was carried out by researchers from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) in Spain, and published in the Journal of Clinical Immunology and Immunotherapy.

“Delirium is a state of confusion in which the person feels out of touch with reality, as if they are dreaming,” explained UOC researcher, and study co-author, Javier Correa, who carried out the study, in a statement. “We need to be on the alert, particularly in an epidemiological situation like this, because an individual presenting certain signs of confusion may be an indication of infection.”

The findings suggest that together with headaches and the loss of taste and smell that can occur before coughing and breathing difficulties begin, some patients also develop delirium.

“The main hypotheses which explain how the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 affects the brain point to three possible causes: hypoxia or neuronal oxygen deficiency, inflammation of brain tissue due to cytokine storm, and the fact that the virus has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier to directly invade the brain,” said co-author, Diego Redolar Ripoll, in a statement.

According to researchers, those at greatest risk are older adults

COVID-19 spikes during U.S. presidential election

Over 232,000 people have died in the United States since the pandemic began, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

According to CNN, hospitalizations are also up, and hundreds of people continue to die from the virus every day.

The 5 highest days of COVID-19 cases were recorded since October 29, affirming experts’ warnings of a new surge that will only get worse, reported CNN.

The nationwide 7-day average of new cases is about 86,000, which is more than double what it was on September 4.

Tens of millions of Americans head to the polls this election day. JASON CONNOLLY/Getty Images

Pandemic surging throughout U.S., but you can still vote safely

The COVID-19 pandemic is again surging across the United States — setting records and predicted to take tens of thousands more lives over the next months.

According to CNN, the 7-day COVID-19 case average has also doubled in just one month with the United States reporting 99,321 new cases on Friday, Oct. 30.

According to Reuters, the United States reached a weekly record as well, with more than 575,00 cases last week

For those casting their ballot Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) informed CNN that people recovering or quarantining from COVID-19 after exposure, can go vote.

“In-person voting can be carried out safely following CDC’s recommendations for polling location and voters,” said a CDC spokesperson by email. However, to do so safely, voters should:

  • wear a mask
  • stay at least 6 feet away from others
  • wash hands or use hand sanitizer before and after voting
Many Americans are voting early this year. Tom Williams/Getty Images

Vaccine will slow pandemic even if it’s not 100 percent effective

The FDA announced over the summer that in order for an experimental COVID-19 vaccine to be approved, it needs to be safe and “prevent disease or decrease its severity in at least 50 percent of people who are vaccinated.”

However, according to NBC News, even if a COVID-19 vaccine is only 50 percent effective, it could still make a difference. Experts emphasize that even flu vaccine effectiveness can vary widely from year to year, and the shots still offer benefits.

“If you had a 60 or 70 percent effective vaccine and everybody took it, you might actually be reaching toward herd immunity and potentially then dampen down this pandemic,” Dr. Gregory Poland, director of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group and editor-in-chief of the journal Vaccine, told NBC.

Wastewater testing suggests worst is yet to come

Daily coronavirus counts pass 70,000–90,000 as measured by test results. However, the results of sewage testing in various states suggest things may get much worse, reported CNN.

Studies found testing sewage can augment individual COVID-19 testing and could indicate whether infections are circulating in an area, neighborhood, or even in a particular building.

“People start shedding virus pretty quickly after they are infected and before they start showing symptoms,” Mariana Matus, PhD, co-founder and CEO of Biobot Analytics, which is analyzing sewage for dozens of customers, told CNN. “We are seeing an upturn in the wastewater data which I think broadly matches what we are seeing across the country.”

FDA approval of remdesivir baffles scientists

The October 22 approval of antiviral drug remdesivir by the FDA has scientists baffled, reported Science.

According to experts, this is because:

  • Only one study found the drug modestly reduced recuperation time for severely ill COVID-19 patients.
  • On October 15, the World Health Organization’s Solidarity Trial showed that remdesivir doesn’t reduce mortality or the time COVID-19 patients take to recover.
  • Multiple smaller studies found remdesivir had no impact on the disease whatsoever.

COVID-19 cases rise steeply

The United States has now surpassed 9 million COVID-19 cases, as infection rates continue to surge, among other worrying statistics.

As of Thursday, Oct. 29, 24 states saw their highest 7-day averages for new daily cases, reported CNN.

The entire country saw a record-breaking 88,521 cases and 971 deaths according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard.

HHS data on hospitals find some near capacity

National Public Radio (NPR) reported that they’ve received documents providing a “snapshot” of data collected and analyzed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These documents highlight trends in hospitalizations and show cities nearing full hospital capacity with health facilities that are stressed.

According to NPR, while this information is gathered by the federal government, it’s not shared with the public.

“At this point, I think it’s reckless. It’s endangering people,” Ryan Panchadsaram, co-founder of the COVID Exit Strategy website and a former data official in the Obama administration, told NPR. “We’re now in the third wave, and I think our only way out is really open, transparent, and actionable information.

U.S. senators want high number of excess deaths investigated

A high number of “excess” deaths during the COVID-19 pandemic are worrying U.S. senators.

The CDC recently found evidence of more than 250,000 excess deaths in 2020 compared to the years prior. About 150,000 of these deaths were directly connected to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Three Democratic senators are asking the heads of the CDC and the Department of Health and Human Services to investigate the cause of these deaths.

“These are highly alarming data, revealing that, in addition to the horrific toll known from COVID-19 in the United States, over 100,000 more fatalities may have been directly or indirectly associated with the pandemic,” Senators Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, and Tina Smith wrote according to CNN.

COVID-19 immunity might last 5 months

For those who’ve already experienced COVID-19, immunity to reinfection may linger for 5 months or longer, according to a new study published in the journal Science.

According to researchers, while this isn’t conclusive evidence that a COVID-19 antibody response will be protective, they believe it’s “very likely” it will decrease the odds of reinfection and may reduce the severity of disease if reinfection does occur.

“It is still unclear if infection with SARS-CoV-2 in humans protects from reinfection and for how long,” study authors wrote. “We know from work with common human coronaviruses that neutralizing antibodies are induced and these antibodies can last for years and provide protection from reinfection or attenuate disease, even if individuals get reinfected.”

Another recent study in preprint looked at more than 300,000 people and found signs of a 26 percent decline in antibodies after 3 months.

Fauci says restrictions will remain after vaccine is available

COVID-19 restrictions will remain in place in some form after a vaccine becomes available, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Fox News on Oct. 29.

“If we begin distributing doses of vaccine at the very beginning of 2021… I think when you start seeing people getting vaccinated in January, February, March, April, May, and it’s clear that it’s safe and that it is impacting the course of the pandemic in the United States, more and more people will want to get vaccinated,” explained Dr. Fauci. “That’s going to take several months.”

U.S. at critical point

The United States is reporting another record-high average number of new cases as a top health official warned Oct. 27 that the country is at a “critical point,” reported CNBC.

“Cases are going up in most states across the country. Hospitalizations are up, although we’re still tens of thousands of hospitalizations below where we were in July, but that is rising. And we are starting to see the increase in deaths,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health who leads the government’s testing effort, on NBC’s “TODAY” show.

With the surge in cases, White House communications director Alyssa Farah is downplaying a press release from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released Oct. 27 declaring “ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC,” as a key administration accomplishment, saying it was “poorly worded,” reported CNN.

“We’re certainly not getting ahead of it, we’re still in the midst of the pandemic. We do say we’re turning the corner and what we mean by that is, we’re rushing therapeutics, we’re in the best place to treat the virus that we’ve ever been in. And by end of year we expect that we’ll have the vaccine, at which point we will defeat the virus,” she told CNN.

COVID-19 antibodies don’t last

Researchers in the UK sent finger prick tests to 365,000 people and found more than a 26 percent decline in COVID-19 antibodies over 3 months.

The study is in preprint and hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed.

“We know seasonal colds can reinfect people every 6 months,” Wendy Barclay, PhD, head of the infectious disease department at Imperial College London, told Politico, also pointing out that the novel coronavirus seems to follow a similar trend.

Fauci predicts vaccine by December

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director, Dr. Anthony Fauci said we should know if a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective by early December.

He also said widespread vaccination is still not likely until later in 2021.

“We will know whether a vaccine is safe and effective by the end of November, the beginning of December,” Fauci said in an interview with the BBC on Sunday Oct. 25.

COVID-19 cases hit new records

About half the United States has set records for new COVID-19 cases and 5 states report record deaths from the disease, reported USA Today on Oct. 26. The 5 states include Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

USA Today also reported that public health officials and contact tracers in Wisconsin say they’re struggling to keep up with virus spread, while in El Paso, Texas, COVID-19 patients are being airlifted to neighboring hospitals. To create an additional 100 beds, an El Paso civic center was converted into a medical facility.

Former FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, warned that the United States is “at a tipping point,” Sunday, on Face the Nation, reported CBS News.

“We’re at a dangerous tipping point right now, we’re entering what’s going to be the steep slope of the curve of the epidemic curve,” said Dr. Gottlieb, while emphasizing, “there’s things that we can do to slow the spread. I mean, a national mask mandate can be put into place.”

Gottlieb explained that masks serve two purposes.

  • The first is to protect other people from you. “So if you’re asymptomatic or presymptomatic, if you have a mask on, you’re less likely to expel respiratory droplets that can infect other people.”
  • The second is to provide the wearer “some measure of protection if, in fact, you’re around people who are infected.”

FDA approves remdesivir; Poll finds COVID-19 affects over half of Americans

On Thursday, Oct. 22, the FDA approved the antiviral drug Veklury (remdesivir), for the treatment of patients 12 years and older with COVID-19 who require hospitalization.

This approval is based on 3 randomized controlled trials including recently published final results of a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 ACTT-1 trial, according to drugmaker, Gilead.

“The approval of Veklury marks an important milestone in efforts to help address the pandemic by offering an effective treatment that helps patients recover faster and, in turn, helps preserve scarce healthcare resources,” said Barry Zingman, MD, professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, New York, in a statement.

At this point in the pandemic, over half of all Americans have been personally affected by COVID-19, according to a new HealthDay-Harris Poll online survey, reported UPI.

The national survey of 2,021 adults was conducted between October 8–12, and found that 55 percent of U.S. adults say they know someone “in their immediate or extended network of family and acquaintances,” who’s contracted or died from COVID-19.

CDC expands definition of close contact; Study finds mouthwash may reduce COVID-19 transmission

The definition of “close contact” for someone who develops COVID-19 was expanded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Oct. 21, reported STAT News.

This was announced with the release of new data showing the virus can be passed between people during relatively brief interactions.

According to STAT, while the CDC previously defined close contact as someone who spent 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of a person with the virus, the new definition is someone who spent a cumulative 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of an infectious person over a 24-hour period, even if the time isn’t consecutive.

A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Virology, suggests that some oral antiseptics, mouthwashes, and even a baby shampoo, “may have the ability to inactivate human coronaviruses” when talking, sneezing, or coughing, although further testing is needed to confirm this, reported CNBC.

“While we wait for a vaccine to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed,” said Craig Meyers, study author and professor of microbiology and immunology and obstetrics and gynecology at Penn State University in a statement. “The products we tested are readily available and often already part of people’s daily routines.”

Volunteers in U.K. will be given COVID-19 to test vaccine

A new study based in the United Kingdom will test a potential COVID-19 vaccine by giving volunteers the virus that causes the disease.

Called a human challenge trial, volunteers will be given the experimental vaccine and then exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

The study will be small with no more than 90 volunteers, but it could accelerate vaccine approval if the results find the vaccine is safe and effective.

Blunder puts COVID-quarantined people at risk; New York among lowest positivity rates in U.S.

Over 200 former residents of COVID-19 quarantine facilities in Australia are being urged to get tested for blood-transmitted diseases that include HIV, after authorities admitted that the same blood-testing devices were used for multiple guests, reported CNN.

“Blood glucose level testing devices intended for use by one person were used across multiple residents. This presents a low clinical risk of cross-contamination and blood borne viruses — Hepatitis B and C, and HIV,” Australian health agency, Safer Care Victoria confirmed in a statement.

According to CNN, the agency is contacting 243 people who received a blood glucose level test before August 20, because there was a risk of cross-contamination and bloodborne viruses, including HIV.

According to a recent press release from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the statewide positivity rate is now 1.21 percent. However, the state’s hot spots stand at just over 3 percent.

“I think the context is important so people know what 1 percent means or what 2 percent means, which means New York has one of the lowest positivity rates in the nation,” said Cuomo.

The Governor emphasized that this is “because we’re very aggressive about it and when we see a flare-up or a hotspot we jump all over it.”

COVID-19 cases surpass 40 million worldwide

The number of confirmed, worldwide COVID-19 cases has surpassed 40 million, reported the Associated Press (AP).

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, this milestone was reached on the morning of Oct. 19.

The AP also reported that some U.S. states are relying on targeted measures as case numbers continue to rise. For example, in New York’s most recent round of virus shutdowns, the state is focusing on individual neighborhoods of only a few square miles and closing schools and businesses in those ‘hot spots.’

Fauci ‘not surprised’ Trump developed COVID

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he’s “absolutely not” surprised President Donald Trump developed COVID-19 after seeing him surrounded by people not following the best public health practices to prevent spread of the disease.

Dr. Fauci said on a recent episode of CBS’ 60 Minutes, “I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded — no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” reported USA Today.

COVID-19 will spike this winter, says experts

As the United States nears 8 million COVID-19 cases and currently averages more than 50,000 new cases daily, experts say this signals the country is in for a tough winter, reported CNN.

Many U.S. states are currently reporting rising COVID-19 cases, which has “proven in the past to be a very good prediction of a surge in cases, which ultimately leads to a surge in hospitalizations, and then ultimately, in some individuals that will obviously be an increase in deaths,” Fauci said on Good Morning America Oct. 15, according to CNN.

Remdesivir failed to prevent COVID-19 deaths in major trial

A large trial studying the antiviral drug remdesivir has found that it failed to prevent deaths from COVID-19, according to the New York Times.

A study of more than 11,000 people in 30 countries by the World Health Organization found little evidence that the drug could help treat people severely ill with COVID-19.

The drug has been given emergency approval by the FDA in the United States and was used to treat President Donald Trump when he developed COVID-19. The findings haven’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.

United Airlines tries to reassure passengers by studying viral transmission on plans

United Airlines claims the risk of COVID-19 exposure on its aircrafts is “virtually nonexistent” according to new research findings saying that with mask use, there’s only a 0.003 percent chance particles from one passenger can enter the breathing space of a passenger sitting beside them, reported ABC News.

The study was conducted by the Department of Defense in partnership with United Airlines. A mannequin was used along with an aerosol generator to see how particles moved in the aircraft.

“99.99 percent of those particles left the interior of the aircraft within 6 minutes,” United Airlines Chief Communication Officer Josh Earnest told ABC News. “It indicates that being on board an aircraft is the safest indoor public space, because of the unique configuration inside an aircraft that includes aggressive ventilation, lots of airflow.”

Barron Trump tested positive for COVID-19

The 14-year-old son of the President tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month according to first lady Melania Trump.

Barron Trump reportedly tested positive days after his parents but is doing well according to a statement posted by the first lady.

“Luckily he is a strong teenager and exhibited no symptoms,” Melania Trump said in the statement. “In one way I was glad the three of us went through this at the same time, so we could take care of one another and spend time together. He has since tested negative.”

COVID-19 immunity may last 5 to 7 months

A new study published in the medical journal Immunity suggests that people may be immune to SARS-CoV-2 for about 5–7 months after contracting the virus.

The study comes as multiple cases of reinfection have been reported. In the study, researchers found evidence that people who had developed COVID-19 and recovered had neutralizing antibodies for about 5–7 months after.

This may mean they’re immune to another case of COVID-19 during that time.

Holiday gatherings increase COVID-19 risk; two vaccines might meet FDA guidelines by end of year

“In the public square, we’re seeing a higher degree of vigilance and mitigation steps in many jurisdictions,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield said during a call with U.S. governors, reported CNN.

The director emphasized that this holiday season posed a particular risk.

“But what we’re seeing as the increasing threat right now is actually acquisition of infection through small household gatherings,” Redfield said. “Particularly with Thanksgiving coming up, we think it’s really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting.”

More than 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in some stage of testing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Of those, 42 are being evaluated in clinical studies, and only 2 could possibly meet the FDA emergency use authorization guidelines by the end of 2020, reported The Motley Fool, a popular business-focused news service.

The two vaccines are Pfizer’s and BioNTech’s jointly produced BNT162b2 and Moderna’s mRNA-1273.

First U.S. patient to contract COVID-19 twice

A 25-year-old man in Nevada is the first person in the United States to have been contracted SARS-CoV-2 on two separate occasions, reported CNBC. He’s only the fifth patient reported as reinfected with COVID-19 worldwide.

A recently published study in the Lancet showed the patient became seriously ill following the second infection.

Antibody cocktail for COVID-19 appears to work in monkeys and hamsters

A potential COVID-19 treatment that was taken by President Trump appears to be effective at lowering viral load in monkeys, according to a new report.

The antibody cocktail made by Regeneron was tested in both rhesus monkeys and golden hamsters. In their report published in Science, the researchers found that animals given the drug, who were then exposed to the virus, had less viral load in their upper and lower airways.

More research needs to be done before the drug will be approved for widespread use in the United States.

New report estimates additional 75,000 people died due to pandemic this spring

A new study published in the JAMA medical journal found that between March and July another 75,000 people may have died due to the COVID-19 pandemic than what has currently been reported.

However, these deaths weren’t due directly to COVID-19. Instead, these deaths were likely exacerbated by the pandemic because people delayed medical care or the lockdown lead to emotional crises.

Researchers looked at death certificates and found signs of “excess deaths” in states hit hard by the pandemic.

“There have been some conspiracy theories that the number of deaths from COVID-19 have been exaggerated,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “The opposite is the case. We’re actually experiencing more death than we thought we were.”

COVID ‘brain fog;’ Trump’s physician says he’s no longer a transmission risk

A French report published in August looked at 120 patients who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 to find that 34 percent had memory loss and 27 percent had concentration problems months later, reported the New York Times.

“It is debilitating,” Rick Sullivan, 60, of Brentwood, California, told the Times. He has experienced episodes of brain fog since July after a several week bout with COVID-19 breathing problems and body aches. “I become almost catatonic. It feels as though I am under anesthesia.”

CNN’s White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond, posted a memorandum from the President’s physician to his social media, which claims he’s no longer “considered a transmission risk to others.”

“By currently recognized standards [the President] is no longer considered a transmission to others,” wrote Dr. Sean Conley in the memo.

Birx warns infection risk from social gatherings; COVID-19 kills Utah livestock

White House coronavirus task force member, Dr. Deborah Birx, said she’s concerned about the rise in COVID-19 cases in the Northeastern United States, also noting that more people are contracting the virus because of indoor family gatherings and social events, reported the Associated Press.

“The spread of the virus now is not occurring so much in the workplace as people have taken precautions,” said Birx. “It’s happening in homes and social occasions and people gathering and taking their mask off and letting down their guard and not physically distancing.”

Thousands of farmed minks in Utah have died of COVID-19, forcing affected sites to quarantine as the state veterinarian investigates the outbreak, reported NBC News.

The virus was discovered among the animals in the United States earlier in August, shortly after ranch workers tested positive.

Rising COVID-19 cases threaten new surge

Leaders in many U.S. states are warning about rising COVID-19 cases that experts say could foreshadow a new surge, reported CNN.

In New York, concern began with 6 zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens, and positivity rates within many of them continue to grow on a daily basis, reported NBC New York.

“All of this is a stark reminder that we need to stay smart and vigilant — wear a mask, socially distance, follow the public health guidance — because this thing is not over,” said NY Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement.

Wisconsin reported its highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations on record, with hospitalized patients nearly doubling in the state since September 18. At least 27 states have reported additional new cases since the previous week, with only 9 reporting a decline, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

“As we see an uptick in cases, we can expect an uptick in more severe outcomes, like death,” the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently posted on social media.

Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Early results in for COVID-19 vaccine trial for older adults

The Moderna pharmaceutical company released results of a small phase 1 COVID-19 vaccine study that focused on older adults.

The results found that the vaccine appeared to be well tolerated and may elicit some immune response.

The results published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 40 adults over age 56. They found the side effects were mild or moderate with fatigue, chills, headache, muscle aches, and pain among the most common symptoms.

Researchers also detected antibodies in the people who were given the experimental vaccine. More testing will need to be done to determine if the vaccine is effective against SARS-CoV-2.

Global COVID-19 deaths hit 1 million

Less than a year after SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in China, more than 1 million people have died due to the virus.

The WHO also said that the actual situation is likely worse than the recorded numbers. A WHO official said that the fatality count is likely higher than what’s recorded.

The pandemic still shows no sign of slowing, with another surge reported in the United States.

Fauci calls for ‘intensified’ health measures

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, called for intensified public health measures as the cold weather season begins.

“We really need to intensify the public health measures that we talk about all the time,” he told Good Morning America (GMA).

Fauci cautioned that going into fall and winter, “You really want community spread to be as low as you can possibly get it.”

He added that: “There are states that are showing [an] uptick in cases and increase in hospitalizations in some states, and I hope not, but we very well might start seeing increases in death.”

Rapid tests roll out worldwide

Two rapid COVID-19 tests that show results in 15 to 30 minutes will soon be distributed worldwide, reported The Guardian.

One test has already received emergency approval from the WHO, while the other is expected to get it shortly.

Catharina Boehme, CEO of the nonprofit Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a key player in the initiative, told The Guardian they had quickly placed bulk orders for these tests, so low and middle income countries wouldn’t “lose out in the global scramble for rapid tests.”

She emphasized that FIND needed to secure tests for low and middle income countries, “before all the other countries place their orders and the poor populations again lose out.”

Case numbers could soon ‘explode,’ Midwest sees COVID-19 surge

We could see an explosion of COVID-19 cases this fall and winter, reported CNN.

Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), told CNN there are two reasons why.

“First, as case counts have come down in some states, we tend to see that people become less careful, they tend to have more contact,” said Murray. “But then the most important effect is the seasonality of the virus, that people go indoors, transmission happens more.”

The IHME, an independent global health research center at the University of Washington, has been projecting COVID-19 deaths and cases through the end of the year.

The IHME model indicates that the United States currently sees about 765 daily deaths from COVID-19, but the number of daily deaths could rise to 3,000 by late December.

The number of positive tests for COVID-19 is surging past 25 percent in several Midwestern states as hospitalizations also surge in the region, reported Reuters.

According to the report, although increased testing might explain some of the rise, hospitalizations are also surging, something not influenced by the number of tests performed.

U.S. still in first wave, warns Fauci

The United States remains in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic since cases never declined significantly to a good baseline, according to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“Rather than say, ‘A second wave,’ why don’t we say, ‘Are we prepared for the challenge of the fall and the winter?’” Fauci told CNN reporters.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), informed lawmakers that over 90 percent of the U.S. population remains susceptible to infection.

“A majority of Americans are still susceptible to this virus,” he said Wednesday.

Immune weakness and severe COVID-19

Two recently published studies found that a significant minority of patients with serious COVID-19 have an immune response “crippled by genetic flaws or by rogue antibodies,” reported Science.

According to experts, these findings may be a red flag for plasma donations from recovered patients.

“You should eliminate these patients from the pool of donors,” Elina Zuniga, PhD, an immunologist who studies interferons (proteins that protect against infection), at the University of California, San Diego told Science. “You definitely don’t want to be transferring these autoantibodies into another person.”

Contact tracing stymied when nearly half of COVID-19 patients don’t give close contact info

A new report from the CDC found that many people with COVID-19 don’t report their close contacts, making tracking the spread of disease difficult.

The report published this week in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report focused on cases from North Carolina and found that 48 percent of people with COVID-19 didn’t report their close contacts.

Without that information, contact tracers have difficulty tracking where outbreaks are likely to occur.

Trump says he might override FDA COVID-19 vaccine regulations

President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he may override new COVID-19 vaccine regulations by the FDA, according to CNN.

The FDA is expected to announce stricter guidelines for vaccine approval as multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in phase 3 testing.

New guidelines mean that an approval for a COVID-19 vaccine before election day is extremely unlikely.

The global COVID-19 vaccine development process has reached unprecedented speed. If a vaccine is approved within the next few weeks or even months, it would be the fastest vaccine to ever be developed and approved. The previous record is held by the mumps vaccine, which took 4 years to be released.

The virus is mutating, potentially more contagious

Houston-based researchers have released a new study, which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, of over 5,000 coronavirus genetic sequences to analyze the virus’s continued mutations. They found one of them may make it more contagious, reported the Washington Post.

“The genomes were from viruses recovered in the earliest recognized phase of the pandemic in Houston, and an ongoing massive second wave of infections,” study authors wrote.

Researchers emphasized that this doesn’t mean the virus has become more dangerous.

“We found little evidence of a significant relationship between 77 virus genotypes and altered virulence,” said the study.

Johnson & Johnson begins phase 3 trials

Johnson & Johnson has announced that a fourth COVID-19 vaccine candidate will begin phase 3 clinical trials on Wednesday, reported NBC News. This trial isn’t expected to yield results for at least 2 months.

Although the previous three vaccine candidates require 2 doses, Johnson & Johnson’s drug will be studied as a single-dose solution.

However, Johnson & Johnson plans to run a separate phase 3 trial in collaboration with the U.K. government to examine the effectiveness of 2 doses, according to a recent press release.

“With our vaccine candidate now in our global phase 3 trial, we are one step closer to finding a solution for COVID-19,” said Mathai Mammen, MD, PhD, global head, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, Johnson & Johnson, in a statement.

The CDC has drawn criticism after posting and then deleting information about COVID-19.

On Friday, Sept. 18, the agency posted on their website a warning that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could be spread by airborne particles, reported Reuters.

Cases of COVID-19 surge with more than 30 million cases since start of pandemic

It’s been over 9 months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and there’s no sign the outbreak will end anytime soon.

There are now over 30.2 million people who have contracted SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Global deaths are currently just under 950,000.

While gains have been made in slowing the spread in certain countries, some areas are seeing a resurgence. Europe is seeing COVID-19 case numbers close to their former peak last spring.

India is also seeing a dramatic surge in cases that puts it just below the United States with over 5.2 million cases.

In the United States, COVID-19 cases continue to decline from a peak of over 75,000 daily cases in July. But daily cases remain high, jumping between 30,000 to over 40,000 in recent days.

Casinos have set up plexiglass to avoid spreading COVID-19. Getty Images

CDC now says ‘you need a test’ if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19

Officials from the CDC have now changed testing guidelines for COVID-19 after news reports that officials rebuffed CDC scientists.

The CDC now says “You need a test” if you’ve been within 6 feet of a person with SARS-CoV-2 for at least 15 minutes.

Last month, the guidelines said that people without symptoms of COVID-19 may not need a test even if they were exposed to the new coronavirus. Health experts widely disagreed with those recommendations.

Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the controversial testing recommendations was published by officials from the Department of Health and Human Services over the objections of scientists at the CDC.

As COVID-19 cases spike to record numbers, European governments are imposing strict local measures and considering further lockdowns to halt a second wave of the pandemic, reported CNN.

“Last week, the region’s weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients,” said World Health Organization (WHO) regional director Hans Kluge. He also warned that the increase in cases should serve as a warning of what’s to come.

“Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March,” Kluge said in a conference.

CDC says a vaccine — if approved — will not be widely available until mid-to-late 2021

Even if a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, it will take time before hundreds of millions of doses can be manufactured and distributed.

CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield said yesterday that most Americans would not be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine till mid-to-late 2021.

Redfield spoke at a congressional hearing yesterday on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and said that a COVID-19 vaccine may be initially available to select groups in November or December.

But he clarified that most Americans will likely not have access to a vaccine until mid-to-late 2021.

While multiple COVID-19 vaccines are in phase 3 testing, they haven’t yet been approved for use or been found to be safe and effective.

Government announces free COVID-19 vaccines

The federal government has outlined a sweeping plan Sept. 16 to make COVID-19 vaccines available free for all Americans, reported the Associated Press.

In a report to Congress and accompanying “playbook,” federal health agencies and the Defense Department outlined plans for a free vaccination campaign that could begin in January or even later this year.

According to the Press, while the Pentagon will be involved with distribution, civilian health workers will be responsible for administering the shots.

An investigation by USA Today finds the CDC failed to provide sufficient guidance and consistent information about the pandemic to local public health authorities in order to save lives.

“They are incapable of responding to the emergency,” Dr. Pierre Rollin, former deputy chief of a CDC branch on viral pathogens, told USA Today.

Wastewater increasingly used to track spread of COVID-19

Since people with COVID-19 can spread the disease even without symptoms, healthcare experts are turning to an unexpected tool to track the disease: wastewater.

Last month, the CDC announced a national wastewater surveillance system in order to help identify where the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading.

This month multiple colleges and universities have said they’re testing wastewater as students return to campus in order to identify potential hotspots.

The University of Idaho was able to identify 6 students with COVID-19 after testing wastewater at the dorms.

Bill Gates slams FDA commissioner

Microsoft founder Bill Gates, having long warned against pandemic risks, is “dumbfounded” by the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, reported STAT news.

“You know, this has been a mismanaged situation every step of the way,” said Gates in a wide-ranging interview with STAT. “It’s shocking. It’s unbelievable — the fact that we would be among the worst in the world.”

Gates especially criticized FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, whom Gates said mischaracterized findings from a Mayo Clinic study on COVID-19.

Wearing a mask and physically distancing can reduce the risk of developing COVID-19. Getty Images

NIH officials ‘very concerned’ about AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate

Officials from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have said they’re very concerned over a lack of information given from a COVID-19 vaccine trial.

The AstraZeneca phase 3 trial was halted in the UK after one person was hospitalized with symptoms associated with transverse myelitis. The trial was allowed to resume in the UK, but NIH officials say they’re worried they don’t have enough information.

According to CNN, Dr. Avindra Nath, intramural clinical director and a leader of viral research at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said the pharmaceutical company needs to be more transparent about a potential complication.

“The highest levels of NIH are very concerned,” Nath told CNN. “Everyone’s hopes are on a vaccine, and if you have a major complication the whole thing could get derailed.”

AstraZeneca restarts vaccine trial after hospitalization

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has restarted its phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial a week after pausing the study. The trial is only restarting in the UK at this point. Other trials taking place in Brazil and the United States remain on hold.

The phase 3 trial was stopped last week after a participant was hospitalized with symptoms associated with transverse myelitis — inflammation around the spine.

The stoppage gave researchers time to investigate if the vaccine is the likely cause of the symptoms.

Virus that causes COVID-19 may attack brain cells

A preliminary study finds that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may attack certain brain cells.

Researchers examined tissue from 3 people who died from COVID-19 and also used mouse models to see how the disease can affect the brain.

They found evidence that the disease can take over brain cells called neurons. They could also affect other neurons leading to these cells dying off.

The study has not yet been printed in a peer-reviewed journal.

Experts are still learning how COVID-19 affects the body. The new study may shed light on why some people experience brain fog or delirium after developing COVID-19.

China tests new COVID-19 vaccine

China has begun human testing of a COVID-19 vaccine that’s sprayed in the nose rather than injected, reported Bloomberg.

The nasal spray contains weakened flu virus carrying segments of coronavirus’ spike protein, in hopes that it will stimulate an immune response against COVID-19.

COVID-19 may have been in Los Angeles in December

A new analysis suggests that COVID-19 may have been in California as early as last December.

Researchers from UCLA analyzed 10 million health records and found a sudden spike in people with coughs and respiratory failure that started in December 2019 in Los Angeles.

The increase was so drastic it accounted for a 50 percent rise in cases as compared to the same time period in the previous 5 years. The cases haven’t been confirmed as being COVID-19 since samples weren’t tested by the researchers.

“We may never truly know if these excess patients represented early and undetected COVID-19 cases in our area,” Dr. Joann Elmore, the study’s lead author and a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA said.

“But the lessons learned from this pandemic, paired with health care analytics that enable real-time surveillance of disease and symptoms, can potentially help us identify and track emerging outbreaks and future epidemics,” Elmore said.

Half-million children test positive

Over a half-million U.S. children have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a joint report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA), reported U.S. News and World Report.

According to the report, Aug. 20 through Sept. 3 saw a 16 percent increase in cases for this age group.

As of Sept. 3, at least 513,415 child cases have been documented, which is 10 percent of the total cases in the United States.

“These numbers are a chilling reminder of why we need to take this virus seriously,” said AAP President Sara Goza, MD, FAAP, in a statement. “A disproportionate number of cases are reported in Black and Hispanic children and in places where there is high poverty. We must work harder to address societal inequities that contribute to these disparities.”

Researchers pooled data from hospitals across 8 countries to find that inexpensive steroid drugs can improve survival rates in patients critically ill with COVID-19.

According to a joint press release from the University of Pittsburgh and Imperial College London, the findings were made through the Randomized Embedded Multifactorial Adaptive Platform-Community Acquired Pneumonia (REMAP-CAP) trial and are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

“It is relatively rare in medicine that you find drugs where the evidence of their effectiveness in saving lives is so consistent,” said lead author Derek Angus, MD, MPH, professor and chair of the department of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh in a statement.

“This is, in many respects, the single clearest answer we’ve had so far on how to manage terribly ill COVID-19 patients,” he continued.

HHS gets ready for COVID-19 vaccine release despite controversy

In a recent memo, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), advised the nation’s health departments to have vaccination plans drafted before October 1, “to coincide with earliest possible release of COVID-19 vaccine.”

The memo also specifies a Vaccine Administration Monitoring System “is in development to facilitate vaccination clinic scheduling, record-keeping for the vaccine recipient, and reporting.”

Health experts have raised concerns that the FDA could approve the COVID-19 vaccine before critical phase 3 trial data is available. That data is crucial in showing that a vaccine is safe and effective.

FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in an interview with the Financial Times that the FDA may give emergency approval to a COVID-19 vaccine before all phase 3 data is available, but that its approval wouldn’t be based on politics.

Face masks are key in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. Getty Images

First person in U.S. diagnosed with reinfection of COVID-19

Researchers have spotlighted the first confirmed case of COVID-19 reinfection in the United States.

Researchers released a preprint of a medical case study August 27 on the Lancet. A preprint means the study has not been peer-reviewed.

The 25-year-old man from Reno, Nevada initially tested positive for COVID-19 in April. He had mild symptoms and after recovering tested negative on two separate tests.

At the end of May he reported having serious symptoms including dizziness, fever, cough, and diarrhea. He later was found to have low oxygen levels and was hospitalized, where he received oxygen and other treatment.

The news comes as researchers are learning more about how the immune system reacts to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Earlier this month, researchers documented the first known time a patient was reinfected with COVID-19 in Hong Kong.

This new case shows that COVID-19 reinfection may occur regularly, although it may not be common. In this Nevada case, the man didn’t have any conditions that would make him immunocompromised which could make him have a higher risk for reinfection.

The researchers were able to tell via genetic sequencing that the man contracted two different strains of COVID-19.

New $5 COVID-19 test gets FDA emergency approval

A new test for COVID-19 will have results available in just 15 minutes according to the company.

Abbott announced today that the FDA has given emergency approval for their COVID-19 test that will cost just $5. The company says they expect to be able to ship out about 50 million tests, which is about the size of a credit card, every month starting in October.

The test is an antigen test which looks for pieces of viral material in samples. These tests aren’t as accurate as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that look for the genetic material of the virus.

“Our nation’s frontline healthcare workers and clinical laboratory personnel have been under siege since the onset of this pandemic,” Dr. Charles Chiu, PhD, professor of laboratory medicine at University of California, San Francisco, said in a statement released by Abbott.

“The availability of rapid testing for COVID-19 will help support overburdened laboratories, accelerate turnaround times, and greatly expand access to people who need it,” Chiu continued.

Health experts warn the seasonal flu could further complicate the COVID-19 pandemic and everyone is urged to get a flu shot. Getty Images

Fauci says school officials “better think twice” about reopening during COVID-19

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that school officials in districts where there’s high cases of COVID-19 “better think twice” about allowing students to return.

Fauci spoke at a Healthline town hall on August 18. He pointed out that since COVID-19 isn’t spreading uniformly throughout the country, some districts may be able to reopen safely.

However, multiple clusters of COVID-19 cases have been linked to schools reopening with the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill announcing this week that they’ll go fully remote after multiple COVID-19 clusters were detected.

In areas where COVID-19 testing positivity rate is over 10 percent, Fauci said administrators should be wary of in-person instruction.

“You really better think twice before you do that because what might happen is what you’ve seen, you go in, people get infected, and boom they close them down,” he said speaking of schools closing shortly after reopening.

“It’s better to ease in with virtual until you see what’s going on when you’re in a really hot zone,” Fauci said.

NYC death rate from COVID-19 about two thirds of 1918 flu pandemic

A new study found that over 100 years after the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, the COVID-19 outbreak took a deadly toll on New York City.

Research published in JAMA found that at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the death rate in New York City was only 30 percent less than at the height of the 1918 flu pandemic.

The researchers looked at the deaths over 61 days in 1918 and in 2020.

In 1918 there were 31,589 deaths for 5,500,000 residents, meaning about 287 deaths per 100,000 persons. In 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York, there were 33,465 deaths among 8,280,000 residents. This means there were 202 deaths per 100,000 persons.

This is in spite of all the medical and technological advancements of the last century.

Many tools were used in identifying and treating the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 that hadn’t been invented in 1918 when the field of virology was just starting.

But preventing the spread of disease is not so different from 1918. Experts still advise social distancing and wearing a mask.

Some states have allowed hair dressers to return to work if they cut hair outside. Getty Images

The American Red Cross announced July 22 that they’re running out of vital convalescent plasma used to treat people with COVID-19.

The plasma is taken from people who have already recovered from the illness and have crucial antibodies that can help fight the virus.

With the surge in COVID-19 cases in the United States, the Red Cross says there’s more demand for the plasma than supply.

“It is critical that COVID-19 survivors give their antibody-rich plasma now to ensure this blood product is available to help those actively battling this coronavirus,” Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of American Red Cross Biomedical Services said in a statement.

“Convalescent plasma has been used for decades as a potentially lifesaving treatment until virus or disease specific treatments and vaccines are developed,” Young continued. “It remains crucially important today in the fight against this COVID-19 pandemic.”

A lack of testing access has compounded the plasma shortage. If people are unable to be tested when they have the disease, they may not be able to donate plasma after they recover.

People who have tested positive for COVID-19 and want to donate plasma can learn more about the process here.

Over 100,000 people volunteer to take part in COVID-19 vaccine trials

In just 2 weeks, at least 138,000 people have volunteered to be studied in COVID-19 vaccine trials, according to Forbes.

The National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) put out a call this month for volunteers to take part in vaccine trials this fall.

At least 120,000 people are needed to take part in four different vaccine trials that will examine the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

“While this early response is very gratifying, it is important to note that this is just a fraction of the number of people needed to participate in various trials and ensure adequate representation of various demographic categories,” a spokesperson for the NIAID told Forbes.

Spring lockdowns saved 370,000 lives, according to new research

States that had shelter-in-place orders this spring helped save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.

The new data was released as the United States is seeing a record number of COVID-19 cases after shelter-in-place orders were lifted in late May and early June.

But the report from Health Affairs found that those shelter-in-place orders likely saved many U.S. lives in the early months of the pandemic.

According to the report, between 250,000 and 370,000 lives were saved by May 15 as a result of shelter-in-place orders.

The report found that effects of physical distancing orders on COVID-19 cases and deaths were less clear.

COVID-19 cases are reaching record highs in the U.S. Getty Images

Woman has COVID-19 symptoms for over 100 days

While many people who develop COVID-19 recover within weeks, one woman says she still has symptoms of the disease months after she was first diagnosed.

Ann Wallace told CBS Boston that she was diagnosed with COVID-19 back in March and has had symptoms ever since.

Wallace, who has multiple sclerosis and survived cancer, told CBS that she has been to the emergency room 5 times and spent weeks unable to walk more than a few steps.

“For weeks on end I couldn’t get off my couch,” Wallace told CBS. “I would come downstairs in the morning, lie down on my couch. I would come downstairs because there I could be close to my refrigerator so I could get water or a snack, and I could be close to the bathroom… But I couldn’t take more than 10 or so steps at a time. If I did, I would feel myself start to black out. It is a terrifying virus to have.”

Wallace said she’s currently in pulmonary rehab but still feels burning in her lungs.

Brazilian President tests positive for COVID-19

The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Bolsonaro has been criticized by health experts for downplaying the pandemic. According to the Associated Press, as of July 7 more than 65,000 people in Brazil have died from the disease and more than 1.5 million have developed COVID-19.

Bolsonaro said he had fever, muscle aches, and malaise. He’s also taking the antimalaria medication hydroxychloroquine, despite recent studies finding it doesn’t help treat COVID-19 and can increase risk of irregular heartbeat.

In recent months Bolsonaro has been seen in crowds without a mask. He has also been critical of local leaders who wanted to shut down to stop the virus from spreading further.

FDA gives emergency authorization to COVID-19 test that takes 15 minutes

The FDA approved the emergency use of a new COVID-19 test designed to take just 15 minutes.

The FDA is allowing the new test to be released under its emergency use authorization. This means that there’s evidence the test works and can be used due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it hasn’t yet been fully vetted by the FDA, so it’s not officially FDA approved.

The test from the medical technology company Becton, Dickinson and Company is both portable and quick. Test results may be available within 15 minutes according to a company statement.

The test works by looking for signs of antigens to detect signs of SARS-CoV-2. These tests can detect viral proteins in the body.

Getty Images

COVID-19 parties with prize money

In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, young people are throwing COVID-19 parties, reports CNN. People with the virus are encouraged to attend so they can pass the virus on to others who are willing to contract it.

The first person to receive a diagnosis of COVID-19 reportedly wins the proceeds from ticket sales for the gathering.

“We thought that was kind of a rumor at first. We did some research — not only do the doctors’ offices confirm it, but the state confirmed they also had the same information,” said Sonya McKinstry, a Tuscaloosa City Council member.

Checking the virus by region

A new tool can better compare transmission risk by region.

Danielle Allen, a professor and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and her colleagues at the Harvard Global Health Institute collaborating with scientists across the United States, have created an online COVID-19 risk assessment map.

“It allows you to compare a rural area in upstate New York compared to New York City and have an apples-to-apples comparison for relative impact and relative caseload,” said Ellie Graeden, PhD, the founder and chief executive officer at Talus Analytics and a faculty member at the Center for Global Health, Science, and Security at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Europe bans U.S. travelers

Leaders of the European Union have announced that most travelers from the United States will be barred from entering when countries reopen their borders.

The European leaders said they’re taking the action because the spread of COVID-19 is still too prevalent in the United States.

They also said the list of countries from which travelers can arrive will be reviewed every 2 weeks and could be revised.

Summer indoor activities

More time spent indoors to escape summer’s heat may increase risk of COVID-19, according to Edward Nardell, a professor of medicine and global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts.

“The states that, in June, are already using a lot of air conditioning because of high temperatures are also the places where there’s been greater increases in spread of COVID-19, suggesting more time indoors as temperatures rise,” Nardell told the Harvard Gazette.

“As people go indoors in hot weather and the re-breathed air fraction goes up, the risk of infection is quite dramatic,” he said.

WHO says pandemic is ‘speeding up’

Tedros Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, the director-general of the WHO, cautioned at a briefing, “Although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up.”

He explained that while many countries have used “unprecedented measures” to contain the virus, those measures have only slowed the spread — not stopped it.

Ghebreyesus concluded that “the hard reality is: this is not even close to being over.”

Pregnant women face higher risk

According to a recent Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report (MMWR) from the CDC, pregnant women may be at increased risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms that could require hospitalization.

The most recent CDC data suggests that pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized.

They also have an increased risk of being placed on a ventilator, compared with women who aren’t pregnant.

Have 20 million Americans had the virus?

Government experts estimate that more than 20 million Americans may have contracted the new coronavirus — 10 times the official count.

This means more people without symptoms have gotten the virus than previously thought.

Fauci ‘optimistic’ on vaccines

Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that he’s “cautiously optimistic” that we’ll have one or more effective COVID-19 vaccines available by the end of this year.

However, he warned “no vaccine is 100 percent effective,” but with COVID-19, he’d settle for 70 to 75 percent effectiveness.

COVID-19 cases rise, symptoms may last months

June 25 saw 40,401 new U.S. cases of COVID-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.

However, according to the CDC, those numbers are very likely understated.

“Every epidemiologist was telling, screaming as loud as we could, that three weeks after Memorial Day we’d have a peak in the cases, and five weeks after Memorial Day we’d begin to see a peak in hospitalizations and deaths,” epidemiologist Larry Brilliant told CNN.

“If you let everybody out without face masks and without social distancing in the middle of a pandemic, this is what was predicted,” he said.

Although COVID-19 typically resolves in weeks, a significant number “are still suffering with symptoms 3 months into the illness,” Dr. Helen Salisbury of University of Oxford wrote in the British Medical Journal.

Meanwhile, scientists are just beginning to understand the array of health problems caused by the coronavirus, which may affect both patients and health systems for some time.

Texas stops reopening amid surge in COVID-19

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that reopening will be paused as the state sees a major surge in COVID-19 cases.

The state reported 5,500 cases in a single day this week. Over 125,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the state since the outbreak began.

Texas is one of many states seeing a massive uptick in COVID-19 cases. Arizona and Florida are also seeing major rises with each state seeing record numbers of cases this week.

California is also seeing a surge in cases with over 5,000 daily cases reported this week.

In all, 26 states are seeing some increase in COVID-19 cases.

While Abbott announced a pause in reopenings due to the disease, he said that he will not reimplement shutdowns.

“The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” Governor Abbott said in a statement. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business. I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and socially distancing from others.”

Federal funding for 13 COVID-19 testing sites to be cut

The funding for 13 COVID-19 testing sites is expected to be cut by the federal government, according to NBC News.

Federal funding for the sites will end June 30 even as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the United States.

Seven of the testing sites are in Texas which is seeing a spike in cases after reopening at the end of May. On June 23, state officials reported a new daily high of 5,000 cases.

Federal officials said they weren’t slowing down on testing and hundreds of sites will remain open.

“We have expanded from the original 41 sites to over 600 in 48 states and the District of Columbia in the federal bundled payment program to pharmacies, and enabled over 1,400 additional pharmacy sites through regulatory flexibility empowering pharmacists and facilitating billing and reimbursement,” Brett Giroir, the administration’s testing czar, told NBC News.

The other sites affected by the loss of federal funding are in Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado, and Pennsylvania.

President Trump made headlines this weekend after saying that he wanted to slow down testing. He later said he wasn’t joking about the statement.

States are seeing major surges of COVID-19 cases after reopening. Getty Images

EU may bar American visitors due to rising COVID-19 cases

The European Union may bar visitors from the United States due to rising COVID-19 cases, according to the New York Times.

The United States currently has the most reported number of COVID-19 cases in the world with over 2.3 million. Additionally, daily cases have begun to increase again in recent weeks as states have reopened.

According to the New York Times, if these rules are finalized, Americans would be barred from entering the European Union along with people from Brazil and Russia which have the next highest levels of COVID-19 cases after the United States.

Some essential travel between America and the E.U. would be allowed, according to the report.

Using plasma from recovered patients appears to be safe for people battling COVID-19. Getty Images

Plasma from people who survived COVID-19 is safe treatment for the disease

A new study out June 18 finds that using plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 is safe for people currently battling the disease.

The study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings involved 20,000 people and found that the treatment, called convalescent plasma, appeared to be safe for people with COVID-19.

The first group, about 5,000 people who received the plasma, had a mortality rate of around 12 percent in the subsequent week. In the early stages of the study, plasma was in short supply and people who received the treatment were severely ill.

As plasma became more readily available, people were able to get the treatment earlier in their disease when it’s more likely to be effective, and the mortality rate went down. However, it’s unclear if there were other advancements happening simultaneously that could also explain that change.

For the larger study, the mortality rate for people who received the plasma was under 9 percent, according to the Washington Post.

Because of the way the study was conducted, it wasn’t conclusively clear if the plasma helped lessen COVID-19 symptoms. There wasn’t a control group of people who didn’t receive treatment.

“You’d like to have the gold standard [of evidence] in something this important, and I feel like it always ends up here with this approach,” said Jeffrey P. Henderson, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University in St. Louis, told the Washington Post. “It’s pushed into action quickly, because there’s no other option, and there’s a theoretical reason in the moment that it works.”

Researchers say more studies are needed to determine if receiving plasma helped effectively treat people with COVID-19.

COVID-19 cases are still rising in 21 states. Getty Images

UK will use steroid to treat COVID-19 after reported benefits

Health officials in the United Kingdom said they will start using a common steroid to treat people with COVID-19 after a study reportedly found the drug could help improve outcomes for patients.

Researchers at Oxford University said that they’ve seen benefits from using a common cheap steroid called dexamethasone to treat people with COVID-19. The team announced the findings in a statement today, but haven’t yet released the findings in a published study.

However, the early reports have led health officials in the U.K. to conclude that they will use the steroid to treat people with COVID-19.

“This drug, dexamethasone, can now be made available across the NHS, and we’ve taken steps to ensure we have enough supplies, even in the event of a second peak,” UK prime minister Boris Johnson said, according to The Guardian.

According to reports from the researchers, the drug helped reduce the mortality rate for the sickest COVID-19 patients — those on ventilators — by a third. Other patients who took the drug had their mortality rate reduced by one-fifth.

FDA revokes emergency use approval for hydroxychloroquine

The FDA is officially revoking emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to be used as a treatment for COVID-19.

The drugs, designed originally as antimalarial medication, have been studied as a potential treatment for COVID-19.

The drugs were also touted by President Donald Trump, who took hydroxychloroquine for 2 weeks, despite little evidence it could be used to prevent COVID-19.

Recent studies of the drugs have found little evidence it helped people with the disease. Additionally, the drugs are known to increase risk of cardiac complications.

Over 2 million people in the U.S. have had COVID-19. Getty Images

Rare antibodies may help researchers develop vaccine for COVID-19

California researchers say that a rare type of antibody may help them develop a vaccine for COVID-19.

Researchers from the University of California San Francisco and Stanford University are investigating neutralizing antibodies from people who have recovered from COVID-19, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

Researchers say that just 5 percent of people with COVID-19 develop these antibodies. Additionally, these antibodies develop in low numbers, so researchers want to see if they can take enough of these antibodies to turn them into a serum that can be given to anyone.

More research needs to be done, but researchers hope they can use these antibodies to create a vaccine that can protect against SARS-CoV-2.

Formerly healthy woman in her 20s has lung transplant after contracting virus

A formerly healthy woman in her 20s who developed COVID-19 underwent a successful lung transplant, according to physicians at Northwestern Medical Center.

The woman, whose name hasn’t been released, had been hospitalized for weeks after developing COVID-19.

Doctors not only put her on a ventilator, they had to put her on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine that oxygenates her blood, essentially doing the work of her lungs.

After putting her name on the organ transplant list, they had a match within 48 hours.

The patient is now in stable condition and her health is improving, the physicians said.

Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery and director of the lung transplant program at Northwestern Medical Center, said the patient is awake and talking.

“Yesterday, the patient smiled and told me ‘Thank you for not giving up on me,'” Bharat said via the Northwestern Medical Center Twitter. “There’s nothing more gratifying to hear. This is why we do what we do.”

U.S. will fund three major COVID-19 vaccine trials

The U.S. government will fund three major studies on potential COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Each trial is a phase 3 trial — traditionally the last phase before a medicine or vaccine can be approved for use — often involving thousands of volunteers.

The three trials are being conducted by three different pharmaceutical companies each looking at a different vaccine candidate. According to CNN, the studies will start with Moderna’s trial in July and then an Oxford/AstraZeneca’s trial in August.

Johnson & Johnson announced today that they moved up their trial to start in July.

Early successes in phase 1 and phase 2 trials don’t mean any of these vaccine candidates will be successful in their phase 3 trials.

However, due to the number of vaccine candidates being tested, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director for the National Institutes for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Healthline this week that he’s cautiously optimistic there may be a viable COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year.

“Hopefully by the end of this year we will develop a vaccine we can deploy,” he told Healthline. “We can never guarantee that. You can never, ever guarantee the success of a vaccine. We just have good experience to know that we are aspirationally, cautiously optimistic that we will have one by the end of the year.”

Lockdowns and physical distancing likely stopped millions of U.S. cases. Getty Images

Over half a billion COVID-19 cases likely prevented by lockdowns

A new study finds that over half a billion COVID-19 cases were likely prevented by a variety of lockdowns in six countries including the United States and China.

Published June 8 in Nature, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley looked at how six countries — China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the United States — responded to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Specifically in the United States, the study found that lockdown measures, which occurred to some degree in nearly all states, helped stop the spread of the disease and that 60 million COVID-19 cases were likely avoided.

“Without these policies employed, we would have lived through a very different April and May,” Solomon Hsiang, director of the Global Policy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of the study, told the Washington Post.

He said the shutdowns and other mitigation measures were “saving more lives in a shorter period of time than ever before.”

Another study also published June 8 found that measures taken by 11 European countries helped curb the transmission of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and likely helped stop 3.1 million deaths.

A new study finds hydroxychloroquine does not prevent COVID-19. Getty Images

Major medical journals retract studies on hydroxychloroquine as treatment for COVID-19

The Lancet medical journal has retracted a study on hydroxychloroquine that made headlines last week.

Researchers, who published the study looked at more than 96,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19.

The study was retracted due to data used in the study that had not been directly obtained by the researchers themselves. In their retraction letter the researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said they worked with the company Surgisphere Corporation to obtain data. After other medical experts raised concerns about the company, the researchers conducted a review of the data. However, the Surgisphere Corporation would not give the full dataset to the reviewers meaning they could not do a full independent analysis of the data leading them to retract their study.

In the now-retracted study, the drug had been found not to improve people with COVID-19 and more people died after taking the drug.

Additionally, the New England Journal of Medicine also reacted a study on COVID-19 and cardiovascular health since it also used data from the company.

Hydroxychloroquine fails to prevent COVID-19 in a new study

Unlike the studies mentioned above, a new study released today has not been retracted.

The large study found that taking hydroxychloroquine wasn’t effective as a prophylactic treatment against COVID-19.

Researchers looked at 821 people with no symptoms of COVID-19. Over 87 percent had close contact with someone with the disease.

About half of the people — 414 — were given hydroxychloroquine and the other participants were given a placebo.

Researchers found the infection rate among the two groups was statistically similar, meaning hydroxychloroquine didn’t show any ability to protect people from contracting the virus that causes COVID-19.

They found side effects were more common in people taking hydroxychloroquine but there was no major reactions reported.

This story originally appeared on: - Author:Gillian Mohney and George Citroner

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