Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 COVID-19 News from Around the Web

Jobless claims: Another 1.877 million Americans file for unemployment benefits

Yahoo! Finance - June 4, 2020

The state of employment in the U.S. took centerstage Thursday when the U.S. Labor Department released its weekly jobless claims report. An additional 1.877 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending May 30, exceeding economists’ estimates for 1.843 million initial jobless claims during the week. The prior week’s figure was revised higher to 2.13 million from the previously reported 2.12 million. Over the past 11 weeks, more than 42 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance.

Hydroxychloroquine does not prevent Covid-19 infection if exposed, study says

STAT - June 4, 2020

The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine did not help prevent people who had been exposed to others with Covid-19 from developing the disease, according to the results of an eagerly awaited study that was published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. Despite a lack of evidence, many people began taking the medicine to try to prevent infection early in the Covid-19 pandemic, following anecdotal reports it could be effective and claims by President Trump and conservative commentators.

Heart patients avoided ERs as coronavirus hit, US study says

AP - June 4, 2020

Emergency room visits in the U.S. for chest pain and heart attacks fell early this spring, according to a study that supports fears that the coronavirus outbreak scared away people from going to the hospital. ER visits were up for respiratory illnesses and pneumonia, but were down for nearly every other kind of injury or ailment, the CDC reported Wednesday. Overall, fewer ER patients showed up: Visits were down 42% in a four-week period that stretched from late March through most of April, compared to the same time last year. At the time, hospitals is some U.S. cities — most notably New York — were overwhelmed treating COVID-19 patients. But the CDC study covers 43 states, and saw big declines, particularly in visits involving preteens. Some of that may be good news — there may have been fewer injuries from some types of accidents, for example, because people were staying at home and not doing as many risky things at work or play. But some experts worry about the CDC finding 1,100 fewer visits per week for heart attacks, and 24,000 fewer for chest pain.

Protesting in a pandemic: COVID-19 testing sites shut down amid national unrest

NBC News - June 3, 2020

As the U.S. remains in the grip of protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, some COVID-19 testing sites have been forced to suspend operations because of violence and unrest in recent days. The temporary closures — from California to Florida — are sure to hamper efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus, particularly as social distancing has given way to mass gatherings of potentially contagious people who don't know they're infected. Meanwhile, as protests sweep nation, research finds social distancing most effective at slowing coronavirus spread.

Pandemic to Cost U.S. Economy $7.9 Trillion Over 10 Years

The New York Times - June 3, 2020

The Congressional Budget Office projected on Monday that the pandemic would inflict a devastating long-term blow on the United States economy, costing $7.9 trillion over the next decade. Without adjusting for inflation, the agency said, the pandemic would cost $16 trillion over the next 10 years. The estimates were an official tally of the damage from the crisis, reflecting expectations of dampened consumer spending and business investment in the years to come. Much of the diminished output was projected to be a result of weaker inflation, as prices for energy and transportation are expected to increase more slowly than they otherwise would have as Americans pull back on travel. Phillip L. Swagel, the director of the budget office, cautioned that “an unusually high degree of uncertainty surrounds these economic projections,” because it remained unknown how the pandemic would unfold during the remainder of the year, or how social distancing and any future relief measures enacted by the federal government might affect its impact.

Brazil sets another record for daily coronavirus deaths

Reuters - June 3, 2020

Brazil registered another record number of novel coronavirus deaths over the last 24 hours, the health ministry said on Tuesday evening, as the pandemic in Latin America’s largest country shows no signs of slowing down. The nation registered 28,936 additional cases of the novel coronavirus, the ministry said, and 1,262 deaths. There are now 555,383 total confirmed coronavirus cases in Brazil and 31,199 coronavirus deaths. The fresh record comes as some Brazilian leaders, including right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro, continue to belittle the virus, warning that the economic fallout from quarantine measures will be worse than the virus itself. “We lament all deaths, but it’s everyone’s destiny,” Bolsonaro said in front of the presidential residence in Brasilia earlier on Tuesday. Even in states and cities where leaders had previously instituted lockdown orders, authorities have been rapidly loosening restrictions in recent days, despite the number of daily new cases continuing to grow in most regions.

South America ignores Europe and reopens as virus peak nears

AP - June 3, 2020

South American countries on Monday began easing COVID-19 restrictions even as the region hurtles toward its viral peak, disregarding the example set by European nations that were battered earlier by the virus. Some of Brazil’s hardest hit cities, including the jungle metropolis Manaus and coastal Rio de Janeiro, are starting to allow more activity. Bolivia’s government authorized reopening most of the country and the government of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro unwound restrictions. Ecuador’s airports were resuming flights and shoppers returning to some of Colombia’s malls. Rolling back measures runs counter to Europe’s approach of waiting for the worst to pass before resuming activity, and South America trails much further behind on its viral curve. Even European nations that lifted restrictions earliest in their respective outbreaks – the U.K. and Russia - did so only after clearing their initial peaks.

Social distancing and masks reduce risk of getting Covid-19, review finds

CNN - June 2, 2020

The new study, published in the Lancet medical journal Monday, found people should stay at least three feet apart and more if possible.

Sobering US nursing home death report as lockdowns ease

AP - June 2, 2020

At least a quarter of the COVID-19 deaths in the United States were among nursing home residents, a new report said, a disclosure that came as coronavirus restrictions eased Monday even as U.S. protests against police brutality sparked fears of new outbreaks. The Florida Keys welcomed visitors for the first time in two months, the Colosseum opened its ancient doors in Rome, ferries restarted in Bangladesh and golfers played in Greece. But as tourist destinations worldwide reopened for business, new rules were in place to guard against the virus’ spread. Meanwhile, the scope of the devastation in the nation’s nursing homes became clearer in a report prepared for U.S. governors that said nearly 26,000 nursing home residents have died from COVID-19 — a number that is partial and likely to go higher. The data was based on reports received from about 80% of the nation’s 15,400 nursing homes as of May 24.

Is America’s Pandemic Waning or Raging? Yes.

The New York Times - June 2, 2020

Around Chicago, Wednesday was one of the most lethal days of the pandemic, with more than 100 deaths. In the Boston area, where an alarming crisis of a month ago has given way to cautious optimism, businesses were reopening that day and new cases numbered in the dozens, no longer the hundreds. Around Rogers and Springdale in northwest Arkansas, which the virus had barely touched in the pandemic’s early weeks, poultry workers spent part of Wednesday planning a protest as outbreaks in at least two plants were driving a sudden surge in infection numbers. The dizzying volatility from city to city and state to state could continue indefinitely, with vastly different policy implications for individual places and no single, unified course in sight.

A third of Americans report anxiety or depression symptoms during the pandemic

VOX - June 2, 2020

Nationally, around a third of Americans have reported recent symptoms of anxiety and depression since late April. For comparison, in the first three months of 2019, just 11 percent of Americans reported these symptoms on a similar survey. To be clear: The report isn’t saying a third of Americans have clinical depression or an anxiety disorder. The CDC and Census Bureau data also show some groups of people are suffering more than others. Namely: women, the young, and the less educated. Some ethnic minority groups are also reporting greater mental health strain. The trend is most striking among the youngest people in the CDC survey. Upward of 46 percent of people ages 18-29 are feeling these mental health strains (the highest of any group in the survey). Each successive older age group is less burdened, according to the data.

Protests could spread coronavirus. But a second wave was coming before the demonstrations.

NBC News - June 2, 2020

Across Europe and Asia and especially in the United States, the world has begun to emerge from deep isolation and social distancing designed to help flatten the infection curve. But without a viable vaccine, there is little real chance that this virus can be prevented from re-emerging suddenly and dramatically in the not-so-distant future. A week ago, the World Health Organization said even countries with declining coronavirus rates could still see an "immediate second peak" if they're not careful. Meanwhile, in the U.S., where we recently passed the 100,000 dead mark, videos surfaced over Memorial Day weekend of parties crammed into pools and bars across the country. Add to this mix several sustained days of demonstrations across America, and pandemics experts are bracing for an earlier, rather than later, arrival of a second wave.

Mass gatherings, erosion of trust upend coronavirus control

AP - June 1, 2020

Protests erupting across the nation over the past week — and law enforcement’s response to them — are threatening to upend efforts by health officials to track and contain the spread of coronavirus just as those efforts were finally getting underway. Health experts need newly infected people to remember and recount everyone they’ve interacted with over several days in order to alert others who may have been exposed, and prevent them from spreading the disease further. But that process, known as contact tracing, relies on people knowing who they’ve been in contact with — a daunting task if they’ve been to a mass gathering. And the process relies on something that may suddenly be in especially short supply: Trust in government. “These events that are happening now are further threats to the trust we need,” said Dr. Sandro Galea, dean of the Boston University School of Public Health. “If we do not have that, I worry our capacity to control new outbreaks becomes more limited,” he said. Government officials have been hoping to continue reopening businesses, churches and other organizations after months of stay-at-home orders and other infection-prevention measures. But health experts also hoped that any reopening would be accompanied by widespread testing, contact tracing and isolation to prevent new waves of illness from beginning. Over the past week, protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pinned a knee to his neck, have involved thousands of people gathered tightly together in large crowds in more than 20 cities nationwide. It’s unclear if the protests themselves will trigger large new outbreaks. The protests were outside, where infections don’t spread as readily as indoors. Also, many of the protesters were wearing masks, and much of the contact was likely less-hazardous “transient” moments of people moving around, passing each other, said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University. But, still, experts worry that public efforts to contain the disease in the future could be undermined.

Blaming China for Pandemic, Trump Says U.S. Will Leave the W.H.O.

The New York Times - June 1, 2020

After spending weeks accusing the World Health Organization of helping the Chinese government cover up the early days of the coronavirus epidemic in China, President Trump said on Friday that the United States would terminate its relationship with the agency. “The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government,” Mr. Trump said in a speech in the Rose Garden. “Countless lives have been taken, and profound economic hardship has been inflicted all around the globe.” In his 10-minute address, Mr. Trump took no responsibility for the deaths of 100,000 Americans from the virus, instead saying China had “instigated a global pandemic.” There is no evidence that the W.H.O. or the government in Beijing hid the extent of the epidemic in China, and public health experts generally view Mr. Trump’s charges as a way to deflect attention from his administration’s own bungled attempts to respond to the virus’s spread in the United States.

As Hard-Hit Areas of America Show Slowing in Coronavirus Cases, Other Regions See Spikes

HealthDay - June 1, 2020

While the spread of coronavirus has slowed in some of the hardest-hit areas of America, other parts of the country were seeing worrying spikes in cases by Friday. New York City, once the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, announced plans Thursday to ease restrictions after 10 weeks under lockdown, the Washington Post reported. "Restarting won't mean back to normal -- we CAN'T rush back," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted Thursday. "We need to keep this virus in check." But even as the New York area began to emerge from strict social distancing measures, other states were seeing jumps in COVID-19 cases, the New York Times reported. Wisconsin saw its highest single-day increase in both cases and deaths just two weeks after the state's highest court overturned a stay-at-home order; Alabama, Arkansas, California and North Carolina are seeing some of their highest case numbers and death tallies yet; and metropolitan areas like Fayetteville, Ark.; Yuma, Ariz.; and Roanoke and Charlottesville, Va., may soon see new highs in cases and deaths.

Pandemic Having More Impact on U.S. Hospitals Than Thought: Study

HealthDay - June 1, 2020

Hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the United States spend more time in the hospital and are more likely to require intensive care than patients in China, a new study says. The findings suggest that the coronavirus pandemic may be putting greater strain on U.S. hospitals than previously assumed, according to researchers. "The hospital resources needed to meet the needs of severely ill patients are substantial," said lead author Joseph Lewnard, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley.