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

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.

Cancer, coronavirus are a dangerous mix, new studies find

AP - May 29, 2020

New research shows how dangerous the coronavirus is for current and former cancer patients. Those who developed COVID-19 were much more likely to die within a month than people without cancer who got it, two studies found. They are the largest reports on people with both diseases in the United States, the United Kingdom, Spain and Canada. In one study, half of 928 current and former cancer patients with COVID-19 were hospitalized and 13% died. That’s far more than the various rates that have been reported in the general population. Results were published Thursday in the journal Lancet … A second study in Lancet from researchers in England of 800 patients with various types of cancer and COVID-19 found an even higher death rate — 28%.

COVID-19 Employer Information for Office Buildings

CDC - May 29, 2020

Workers in office buildings may be at risk for exposure to the virus that causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Office building employers, building owners and managers, and building operations specialists can take steps to create a safe and healthy workplace and protect workers and clients.

Antibody Tests Point To Lower Death Rate For The Coronavirus Than First Thought

NPR - May 29, 2020

Mounting evidence suggests the coronavirus is more common and less deadly than it first appeared. The evidence comes from tests that detect antibodies to the coronavirus in a person's blood rather than the virus itself. The tests are finding large numbers of people in the U.S. who were infected but never became seriously ill. And when these mild infections are included in coronavirus statistics, the virus appears less dangerous. "The current best estimates for the infection fatality risk are between 0.5% and 1%," says Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

U.S. Jobless Claims Pass 40 Million

The New York Times - May 28, 2020

Another 2.1 million unemployment claims were filed last week, the Labor Department reported Thursday, pushing the total past 40 million — the equivalent of one out of every four American workers — since the coronavirus pandemic grabbed hold in mid-March. The report marks the eighth week in a row that new jobless filings dipped from the peak of almost 6.9 million, but the level is still far above historic highs. The latest claims may be not only a result of fresh layoffs, but also evidence that states are working their way through a backlog. And overcounting in some places and undercounting in others makes it difficult to measure the layoffs precisely.

Coronavirus stokes $200 billion stock market bubble in vaccines

CBS News - May 28, 2020

In the past two months alone, Wall Street investors have pumped billions into a handful of biotech companies in the early stages of producing vaccines or drugs to combat the novel coronavirus. Some of these companies are pursuing promising treatments, experts say, but others are likely to strike out on finding a cure. The result: a coronavirus investment bubble that's already approaching nearly $200 billion in stock market value.

Nation’s capital set to begin a gradual reopening on Friday

AP - May 28, 2020

The nation’s capital will begin a gradual reopening Friday, even as Mayor Muriel Bowser warns that it probably will result in more coronavirus infections. Restaurants will be permitted to seat guests outdoors, barbers and hair salons will open with limited capacity and nonessential businesses will be allowed to offer curbside or front-door pickup services. But nail parlors, gyms and public playgrounds will remain closed and gatherings of more than 10 people will be prohibited. Dog parks, tennis courts and golf courses will reopen, but playground equipment and public pools will remain closed. Sports that involve close contact, including football, soccer and basketball, are still banned. For now, all area business are encouraged to work remotely as much as possible. Bowser said Wednesday that the public health emergency she declared in March will remain in place.

WHO says the Americas are new COVID-19 epicenter as deaths surge in Latin America

Reuters - May 27, 2020

The Americas have emerged as the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a Tuesday briefing, as a U.S. study forecast deaths surging in Brazil and other Latin American countries through August. … The Americas have registered more than 2.4 million cases of the new coronavirus and more than 143,000 deaths from the resulting COVID-19 respiratory disease. Latin America has passed Europe and the United States in daily infections, she said.

Fears of coronavirus second wave prompt flu push at U.S. pharmacies, drugmakers

Reuters - May 27, 2020

U.S. pharmacy chains are preparing a big push for flu vaccinations when the season kicks off in October, hoping to curb tens of thousands of serious cases that could coincide with a second wave of coronavirus infections. CVS Health Corp, one of the largest U.S. pharmacies, said it is working to ensure it has vaccine doses available for an anticipated surge in customers seeking shots to protect against seasonal influenza. Rival chain Rite Aid Corp has ordered 40 percent more vaccine doses to meet the expected demand. Walmart Inc and Walgreens Boots Alliance said they also are expecting more Americans to seek these shots.

New research rewrites history of when Covid-19 took off in the U.S. — and points to missed chances to stop it

STAT - May 27, 2020

New research has poured cold water on the theory that the Covid-19 outbreak in Washington state — the country’s first — was triggered by the very first confirmed case of the infection in the country. Instead, it suggests the person who ignited the first chain of sustained transmission in the United States probably returned to the country in mid-February, a month later. The work adds to evidence that the United States missed opportunities to stop the SARS-CoV-2 virus from taking root in this country — and that those opportunities persisted for longer than has been recognized up until now.

COVID-19 cases among health care workers top 62,000, CDC reports

NBC News - May 27, 2020

More than 62,000 doctors, nurses and other health care providers on the front lines of the U.S.'s COVID-19 crisis have been infected, and at least 291 have died, the CDC reported Tuesday. The last time the CDC reported on infections among health care personnel was about six weeks ago, on April 17. At that time, just 9,282 cases of COVID-19 had been documented in the profession.

Antibody tests for Covid-19 wrong up to half the time, CDC says

CNN - May 27, 2020

Antibody tests used to determine if people have been infected in the past with Covid-19 might be wrong up to half the time, the CDC said in new guidance posted on its website. Antibody tests, often called serologic tests, look for evidence of an immune response to infection. "Antibodies in some persons can be detected within the first week of illness onset," the CDC says. They are not accurate enough to use to make important policy decisions, the CDC said.

Thousands disregarded health guidance over the weekend despite rising coronavirus cases in more than a dozen states

CNN - May 26, 2020

Packing beaches, pool parties and outdoor gatherings all over the US, many Americans used the holiday weekend to mark the unofficial beginning of summer -- ditching the face masks and social distancing urged by health officials. Many people, undoubtedly, continued to abide by new restrictions set in place to curb the spread of the coronavirus -- staying in small groups, wearing masks and keeping a distance from others. But in some parts of the country, Memorial Day happenings looked not at all unlike any other year. People jammed into tight spaces, grabbed drinks in groups at oceanfront bars and lined their chairs and towels alongside each other on the beach. In 10 states, the number of new cases is on the decline, while it seems to be steady in 22 states, according to the data. But in 18 states -- including Georgia, Arkansas, California and Alabama -- the number of new cases is rising.