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

U.N. warns of global mental health crisis due to COVID-19 pandemic

Reuters - May 14, 2020

A mental illness crisis is looming as millions of people worldwide are surrounded by death and disease and forced into isolation, poverty and anxiety by the pandemic of COVID-19, United Nations health experts said on Thursday. “The isolation, the fear, the uncertainty, the economic turmoil - they all cause or could cause psychological distress,” said Devora Kestel, director of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) mental health department. Presenting a U.N. report and policy guidance on COVID-19 and mental health, Kestel said an upsurge in the number and severity of mental illnesses is likely, and governments should put the issue “front and centre” of their responses. “The mental health and wellbeing of whole societies have been severely impacted by this crisis and are a priority to be addressed urgently,” she told reporters at a briefing. The report highlighted several regions and sections of societies as vulnerable to mental distress - including children and young people isolated from friends and school, healthcare workers who are seeing thousands of patients infected with and dying from the new coronavirus.

Fauci warns: More death, econ damage if US reopens too fast

AP - May 13, 2020

The U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert issued a blunt warning Tuesday that cities and states could “turn back the clock” and see more COVID-19 deaths and economic damage alike if they lift coronavirus stay-at-home orders too fast -- a sharp contrast as President Donald Trump pushes to right a free-falling economy. “There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control,” Dr. Anthony Fauci warned a Senate committee and the nation as more than two dozen states have begun to lift their lockdowns as a first step toward economic recovery. The advice from Fauci and other key government officials — delivered by dramatic, sometimes awkward teleconference — was at odds with a president who urges on protests of state-ordered restraints and insists that “day after day, we’re making tremendous strides.”

California cancels fall university classes as Fauci warns of reopening too soon

Reuters - May 13, 2020

California’s state university system, the largest in the United States, canceled classes on Tuesday for the fall semester because of the coronavirus, while Los Angeles County said its stay-at-home order was likely to be extended by three months. The announcements on the West Coast came after the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, told Congress that lifting the sweeping lockdowns could touch off new outbreaks of the illness, which has killed nearly 81,000 Americans and devastated the economy. In one of the first indications the pandemic will continue to have a significant impact into autumn, the chancellor of California State University said classes at its 23 campuses would be canceled for the semester that begins in September, with instruction moved online.

Coronavirus: Russia now has second highest virus case total

BBC - May 13, 2020

Russia has confirmed 232,000 cases of coronavirus - the second highest toll in the world after the US. In the last 24 hours the country has reported 10,899 infections, the tenth consecutive day that number has been above 10,000. Among the infected is President Vladimir Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov, local media report. He is the latest high profile official to test positive, after Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin caught the illness. The news comes the day after President Putin eased the country's lockdown.

New White House precautions include requiring masks in Trump’s West Wing

ABC News - May 12, 2020

In the email, sent around to West Wing employees Monday afternoon, staffers are told they must wear a mask upon entry, keep social distance from colleagues whenever possible and can only not wear a mask when they are seated at their own desks. Staffers have also been told, according to sources, that the White House will provide a mask to anyone who needs it. The new rules come after two White House staffers tested positive for the coronavirus last week. Another measure under consideration is that aides must maintain a six-foot social distance during meetings, including meetings with President Donald Trump. There is also an internal list of more than a dozen people who work in the West Wing who will be tested for coronavirus daily before reporting to work in the West Wing.

Workplace worries mount as US tracks new COVID-19 cases

AP - May 12, 2020

Even as President Donald Trump urges getting people back to work and reopening the economy, thousands of new coronavirus infections are being reported daily, many of them job-related. Recent figures show a surge of cases in meat-packing and poultry-processing plants. There’s been a spike of new infections among construction workers in Austin, Texas, where that sector recently returned to work. Even the White House has proven vulnerable, with positive coronavirus tests for one of Trump’s valets and for Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary.

Fauci warns of ‘suffering and death’ if US reopens too soon

AP - May 12, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, is warning Congress that if the country reopens too soon during the coronavirus pandemic, it will result in “needless suffering and death.” Fauci is among the health experts testifying to a Senate panel. His testimony comes as President Donald Trump is praising states that are reopening after the prolonged lock-down aimed at controlling the virus’ spread. Fauci, in a statement to The New York Times, warned that officials should adhere to federal guidelines for a phased reopening, including a “downward trajectory” of positive tests or documented cases of coronavirus over two weeks, robust contact tracing and “sentinel surveillance” testing of asymptomatic people in vulnerable populations, such as nursing homes.

Twitter to label disputed COVID-19 tweets

AP - May 12, 2020

Twitter announced Monday it will start alerting users when a tweet makes disputed or misleading claims about the coronavirus. The new rule is the latest in a wave of stricter policies that tech companies are rolling out to confront an outbreak of virus-related misinformation on their sites. Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, have already put similar systems in place.

Three key U.S. coronavirus officials in self-quarantine after COVID-19 exposure

Reuters - May 11, 2020

Three senior officials guiding the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic were in self-quarantine on Saturday after coming into contact with someone who had tested positive for the disease, their agencies and spokesmen said. Anthony Fauci, a high-profile member of the White House coronavirus response team, is considered to be at relatively low risk based on the degree of his exposure, according to a representative for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Fauci, the 79-year-old director of that institute, has tested negative for COVID-19 and he will continue to be tested regularly, the official said in an emailed statement. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “will be teleworking for the next two weeks” after a “low-risk exposure” on Wednesday to a person at the White House who has the disease, the CDC said in a statement. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who is 60, is also in self-quarantine for a couple of weeks after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the illness, an FDA spokesman told Reuters late on Friday.

Influential coronavirus model projects 137,000 U.S. deaths by August

CBS News - May 11, 2020

One of the leading models for measuring the impact of the coronavirus is now projecting a total of 137,184 cumulative COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. through the beginning of August, an increase of roughly 2,700 deaths from its previous forecast May 4. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, predicted the number of cases to particularly increase in areas where people become more mobile. "What's driving the change is, simply put, the rise in mobility, and that's the key driver," Murray said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "We're seeing in some states, you know, a 20-percentage-point increase in just 10 days in mobility. And that will translate into more human contact, more transmission." Murray said states which have "big increases in mobility" may see a significant uptick in cases in the coming weeks. The top five states with increased mobility are Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Georgia, Murray said. "We're seeing just explosive increases in mobility in a number of states that we expect will translate into more cases and deaths in 10 days from now," Murray said. Murray said there was a decrease in projected cases coming from New York, New Jersey and Michigan, which have been epicenters of the pandemic, but that there was an increase in states like Illinois, Arizona, Florida and California.

U.S. COVID-19 Death Rate Is 1.3%, Study Finds

HealthDay - May 11, 2020

Among detected cases of COVID-19 in the United States, 1.3% of patients will die from the illness, according to a new calculation. But that rate could increase if current precautions and health care capacities change, the study's author said. The 1.3% rate calculation is based on cumulative deaths and detected cases across the United States, but it does not account for undetected cases, where a person is infected but shows few or no symptoms, according to researcher Anirban Basu. If those cases were added into the equation, the overall death rate might drop closer to 1%, Basu said. He directs the department of pharmacy at the University of Washington in Seattle. Basu stressed that the current estimates apply "under the assumption that the current supply [as of April 20] of health care services, including hospital beds, ventilators, and access to health care providers, would continue in the future." Declines in the availability of health care services could increase COVID-19 death rates. Most crucially, social distancing and other preventive measures will help keep the U.S. COVID-19 death rate down, Basu said. Accordingly, recent White House COVID-19 Taskforce projections of 100,000 to 200,000 deaths this year from COVID-19 are made with assumptions about the effectiveness of measures that are currently in place, he said. Many states are already moving to relax restrictions on "shelter in place" rules, with businesses, beaches and parks reopening.

Healthy Vitamin D Levels Could Be Linked to COVID-19 Survival

HealthDay - May 11, 2020

There's been much speculation about whether vitamin D might prevent or help survival with COVID-19, and two new studies appear to underscore the link. In the first study -- published in the journal Aging Clinical and Experimental Research -- British researchers found that COVID-19 infections and deaths were higher in countries where people had low vitamin D levels, such as Italy and Spain, compared to northern European countries where average vitamin D levels were higher. The researchers explained that people in southern Europe may have darker pigmentation, which reduces vitamin D synthesis, while people in northern European countries consume more cod liver oil and vitamin D supplements. The second study appeared in the online journal medRxiv, but has not been peer-reviewed. In it, a team from Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., analyzed data from 10 countries, including the United States. Led by postdoctoral researcher Ali Daneshkhah, the study's conclusion was the same: Low vitamin D levels were linked to a hyperactive immune system. The so-called "sunshine vitamin" bolsters immunity and prevents an overactive immune response, the Northwestern researchers said, adding that their finding could explain several mysteries, including why kids are unlikely to die from COVID-19.

Jobless rate spikes to 14.7%, highest since Great Depression

AP - May 8, 2020

The U.S. government on Friday is poised to report the worst set of jobs numbers since record-keeping began in 1948, a snapshot of the devastating damage the coronavirus outbreak has inflicted on the economy. The unemployment rate for April could reach 16% or more, according to economists surveyed by the data provider FactSet. Twenty-one million jobs may have been lost. If so, it would mean that nearly all the job growth in the 11 years since the Great Recession ended had vanished in one month. Even those numbers won’t fully capture the scope of the damage the coronavirus has inflicted on jobs and incomes.

Hydroxychloroquine fails to help hospitalized coronavirus patients in US funded study

CNBC - May 8, 2020

Hydroxychloroquine, a decades-old malaria drug touted by President Donald Trump, didn’t appear to help hospitalized patients with Covid-19, according to a new observational study published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health and conducted by researchers at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City, looked at 1,376 consecutive patients who showed up at the emergency room with symptoms of coronavirus. Nearly 60%, or 811 of the patients, received the drug within 48 hours and were found, on average, to be more severely ill than those who didn’t receive the drug, the researchers said. They said the study’s findings didn’t find any potential benefit or harm from the drug, adding a rigorous, randomized clinical trial is needed.

Coronavirus detected in semen of infected men: Chinese study

YAHOO - May 8, 2020

Chinese scientists have detected coronavirus in the semen of infected men but further research will be needed to determine whether the virus can be sexually transmitted. … Researchers at the Shangqiu Municipal Hospital in China's Henan Province conducted a study to determine whether the virus was present in semen. They tested the semen of 38 coronavirus patients aged 15 to their 50s. Genetic material from the coronavirus was found in the semen of six patients -- four of whom were at the "acute stage of infection" and two of whom were "recovering."

One of Trump’s personal valets has tested positive for coronavirus

CNN - May 8, 2020

A member of the US Navy who serves as one of President Donald Trump's personal valets has tested positive for coronavirus, CNN learned Thursday, raising concerns about the President's possible exposure to the virus. The valets are members of an elite military unit dedicated to the White House and often work very close to the President and first family. Trump was upset when he was informed Wednesday that the valet had tested positive, a source told CNN, and the President was subsequently tested again by the White House physician.