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

The Jobs Numbers Will Be Terrible. Here’s How to Interpret Them.

The New York Times - May 7, 2020

Government figures due Friday will undoubtedly show that job losses in April were the worst ever. But they could provide key hints about the recovery. Economists surveyed by MarketWatch expect the report, which the Labor Department will release on Friday, to show that U.S. payrolls fell by 22 million jobs last month — a decade’s worth of job gains, wiped out in weeks. The payroll processing company ADP said on Wednesday that the private sector lost more than 20 million jobs in April, with the cuts spread across every sector and size of employer. To put that in perspective: In the worst month of the last recession, the U.S. lost 800,000 jobs.

WHO warns against rushed end to coronavirus lockdowns

Reuters - May 7, 2020

The World Health Organization (WHO) warned on Wednesday that countries emerging from restrictions to halt the new coronavirus must proceed “extremely carefully” or risk a rapid rise in new cases. Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said countries needed to ensure they had adequate measures to control the spread of the COVID-19 respiratory disease like tracking systems and quarantine provision. “The risk of returning to lockdown remains very real if countries do not manage the transition extremely carefully and in a phased approach,” he said at a virtual briefing in Geneva.

Did a Mutation Turbocharge the Coronavirus? Not Likely, Scientists Say

The New York Times - May 7, 2020

A preliminary report posted online claimed that a mutation had made the virus more transmissible. Geneticists say the evidence isn’t there. All viruses mutate, and the coronavirus is no exception. But there is no compelling evidence yet that it is evolving in a way that has made it more contagious or more deadly. A preprint study — posted online, but not published in a scientific journal and not yet peer-reviewed — has set the internet afire by suggesting otherwise. The mutation, they wrote, “is of urgent concern,” because it made the coronavirus more transmissible. Following media coverage, the prospect of a turbocharged strain hopscotching around the world has unnerved many people who already had enough on their minds. But experts in viral evolution are far from convinced. For one thing, there is no new strain: Unlike the flu, the coronavirus so far has not split into clearly distinct forms. It does mutate, but that’s what viruses do. Just because a mutation becomes more common isn’t proof that it is altering how the virus functions.

Kids with Kawasaki disease symptoms possibly linked to COVID-19; coronavirus infection leading to critical illness in children remains very infrequent

American Heart Association - May 7, 2020

Recent reports of children experiencing Kawasaki disease, possibly tied to the COVID-19 pandemic, are raising concerns among patients and pediatricians. COVID-19 infection leading to critical illness in children remains very infrequent. According to the leaders of the American Heart Association’s Council on Lifelong Congenital Heart Disease and Heart Health in the Young (Young Hearts), a few patients display symptoms found in other pediatric inflammatory conditions, most notably Kawasaki disease. Kawasaki disease is a rare condition that presents with a fever above 102°F to 104°F for at least five days, swelling of the lymph nodes, inflammation, a rash and other symptoms. Children with this new, possibly COVID-19-related syndrome may have some or all the features of Kawasaki disease. “We want to reassure parents – this appears to be uncommon. While Kawasaki disease can damage the heart or blood vessels, the heart problems usually go away in five or six weeks, and most children fully recover,” said Jane Newburger, M.D., M.P.H., FAHA, American Heart Association Young Hearts Council member, associate cardiologist-in-chief, academic affairs; medical director of the neurodevelopmental program; and director of the Kawasaki Program at Boston Children’s Hospital; and Commonwealth Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.

Pfizer Begins Human Trials of Possible Coronavirus Vaccine

The New York Times - May 7, 2020

The drug company, along with a German partner, is running tests in healthy volunteers. It’s one of several companies on an accelerated timetable to try to find a safe, effective vaccine. Pfizer and the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech announced that their potential coronavirus vaccine began human trials in the United States on Monday. If the tests are successful, the vaccine could be ready for emergency use here as early as September. The two firms are jointly developing a vaccine candidate based on genetic material known as messenger RNA, which carries the instructions for cells to make proteins. By injecting a specially designed messenger RNA into the body, the vaccine could potentially tell cells how to make the spike protein of the coronavirus without actually making a person sick.

White House to wind down coronavirus task force as focus shifts to aftermath: Trump

Reuters - May 6, 2020

The White Hose coronavirus task force will wind down as the country moves into a second phase that focuses on the aftermath of the outbreak, President Donald Trump said on Tuesday. Trump confirmed the plans after Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the group, told reporters the White House may start moving coordination of the U.S. response on to federal agencies in late May. “Mike Pence and the task force have done a great job,” Trump said during a visit to a mask factory in Arizona. “But we’re now looking at a little bit of a different form and that form is safety and opening and we’ll have a different group probably set up for that.” Asked if he was proclaiming “mission accomplished” in the fight against the coronavirus, Trump said, “No, not at all. The mission accomplished is when it’s over.” Trump said Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, doctors who assumed a high profile during weeks of nationally televised news briefings, would remain advisers after the group is dismantled. Fauci leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Birx was response coordinator for the force. “We can’t keep our country closed for the next five years,” Trump said, when asked why it was time to wind down the task force.

US infection rate rising outside New York as states open up

AP - May 6, 2020

Take the New York metropolitan area’s progress against the coronavirus out of the equation and the numbers show the rest of the U.S. is moving in the wrong direction, with the known infection rate rising even as states move to lift their lockdowns, an Associated Press analysis found Tuesday. New confirmed infections per day in the U.S. exceed 20,000, and deaths per day are well over 1,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. And public health officials warn that the failure to flatten the curve and drive down the infection rate in places could lead to many more deaths — perhaps tens of thousands — as people are allowed to venture out and businesses reopen.

Coronavirus is killing more African Americans than any other group in the US, study finds

CNN - May 6, 2020

More African Americans are dying from coronavirus in the United States than whites or other ethnic groups, according to a new study. Black Americans represent just 13.4% of the American population, according to the US Census Bureau, but account for more than half of all Covid-19 cases and almost 60% of deaths, the study found. Disparities, including access to health care, are likely to blame, researchers concluded in a report released Tuesday.

Doctors in Europe, New York report rare cases of pediatric inflammatory condition, possibly caused by coronavirus

STAT - May 6, 2020

Fifteen children in New York City have been hospitalized for what officials called a “multi-system inflammatory syndrome” that the local health department is investigating as a possible consequence of a Covid-19 infection. Doctors in Europe have recently reported similar cases — the latest potential twist in the coronavirus pandemic. The children in New York, ages 2 to 15, had high fevers and elevated levels of inflammatory markers, signs that are common in shock and an acute pediatric heart condition called Kawasaki disease, the city’s health department said Monday. The patients, who were hospitalized from April 17 to May 1, also showed symptoms including rash, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea. Five of the children had to be placed on ventilators; none have died. Only four of the patients tested positive for an active case of Covid-19, but six of the negative cases showed evidence of a previous infection based on blood tests.

Intel shared among US allies indicates virus outbreak more likely came from market, not a Chinese lab

CNN - May 5, 2020

Intelligence shared among Five Eyes nations— United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand—indicates it is "highly unlikely" that the coronavirus outbreak was spread as a result of an accident in a laboratory but rather originated in a Chinese market. "We think it's highly unlikely it was an accident," a Western diplomatic official with knowledge of the intelligence said. "It is highly likely it was naturally occurring and that the human infection was from natural human and animal interaction." The countries in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing coalition are coalescing around this assessment, the official said, and a second official, from a Five Eyes country, concurred with it. The US has yet to make a formal assessment public.

Coronavirus model projects 134,000 deaths in US, nearly double its last estimate

CNN - May 5, 2020

An influential coronavirus model often cited by the White House is now forecasting that 134,000 people will die of Covid-19 in the United States, nearly double its previous prediction. The model, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, had predicted 72,433 deaths as of Monday morning. Relatedly, a Trump administration model projects a rise in coronavirus cases and deaths in the weeks ahead, up to about 3,000 daily deaths in the US by June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times. Over the past week, about 2,000 people died daily in the US, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

As Trump Pushes to Reopen, Government Sees Virus Toll Nearly Doubling

The New York Times - May 5, 2020

As President Trump presses states to reopen their economies, his administration is privately projecting a steady rise in coronavirus infections and deaths over the next several weeks, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1 — nearly double the current level. The projections, based on data collected by various agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and laid out in an internal document obtained Monday by The New York Times, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of May, up from about 30,000 cases now. There are currently about 1,750 deaths per day, the data shows.

FDA shifts policy to require antibody test makers to promptly seek emergency use authorization

CNN - May 5, 2020

The US Food and Drug Administration will now require antibody test makers to promptly seek FDA authorization, as the agency aims to rein in unproven and fraudulent tests that have flooded the market. The new policy, announced Monday, requires commercial manufacturers to submit emergency authorization requests, along with validation data for their antibody tests, within 10 business days. The FDA is also setting specific performance recommendations for all test developers.

Trump warns coronavirus death toll could reach 100,000

NBC News - May 4, 2020

President Donald Trump has warned that the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus outbreak could reach 100,000 — revising upwards his estimate on the number of people the outbreak could kill by tens of thousands. "Look, we're going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people. That's a horrible thing. We shouldn't lose one person out of this," Trump said speaking during a Fox News virtual town hall.

With Many States Reopening, Coronavirus Testing Levels Still Too Low, Experts Say

HealthDay - May 4, 2020

A new analysis finds inadequate levels of testing for the coronavirus in 60% of states, many of which are actively reopening after weeks of lockdown. The analysis, conducted by the Associated Press, uses a 2% testing rate per month -- a rate advised by federal officials that many public health experts still feel falls short. In a recent White House briefing, officials said each state would receive enough testing materials to test 2.6% of their populations in both May and June. Representatives of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also offered another number -- 2% -- without explaining the reason for the discrepancy between the two rates. But according to the AP analysis, right now just 40% of states can even meet the lower 2% threshold for testing. The news agency's analysis is based on data on the average number of new daily tests conducted over the past seven days in a particular state. Data comes from the COVID Tracking Project and includes numbers up to April 30. Many states that are either already actively reopening businesses or plan to soon -- Colorado, Florida, South Carolina, Texas and Georgia -- have not met the 2% testing threshold, the AP analysis finds. Many health experts believe the 2% and 2.6% testing thresholds offered up by the government are insufficient to help monitor and curb coronavirus spread, and don't take into account current U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on who should be tested.

Roche wins U.S. nod for COVID-19 antibody test, aims to boost output

NBC News - May 4, 2020

Similar antibody tests have also been developed by companies including U.S.-based Abbott Laboratories, Becton Dickinson and Italy's DiaSorin. Roche has won emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for an antibody test to determine whether people have ever been infected with the coronavirus, the Swiss drugmaker said. Thomas Schinecker, Roche's head of diagnostics, said the company aims to more than double production of tests from about 50 million a month to significantly more than 100 million a month by the end of the year. Governments, businesses and individuals are seeking such blood tests to learn who may have had the disease, who may have some immunity and to potentially craft strategies to help end national lockdowns.