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The Latest on the Coronavirus — May

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5/29/2020:
    
This Week's Statistics
     Governor DeSantis Rebuts Reason for Rebekah Jones Firing
     WHO Compares U.S. to Other Countries
     Asymptomatic Cases Greater Than Thought
     COVID-19
Aerosol (airborne) Transmission
     COVID-19 Treatment Targets Immune Response in Overdrive
    
District Weekly Bulletin Announces Openings

5/22/2020:
    
This Week's Statistics
     Tips for Doing Memorial Day Safely, Social Distancing & When Others Don't
     COVID-19 Causing Inflammatory Condition in Children
     Sunlight Disinfects
     Rebekah Jones (Creator of FL DOH Dashboard) Fired
     6 Essentials for Effective Masks
     Data from Two Tests Erroneously Combined
     CDC Tweeks Wording of How COVID-19 Spreads
     Avoid Large Gatherings    

5/15/2020:
    
This Week's Statistics
     Virologist Dr. Joseph Fair Gets COVID-19 While Doing Everything Right
     CDC's Advice for Reopening Shelved by Trump Administration
     How COVID-19 Effects Children
     Video Showing How the Virus Spreads
     51 Choir Members Come Down with COVID-19 After Practice
     Trump Pressuring CDC to Change How it Calculates Death Tolls
     Eased Restrictions Resulted in Resurgence of Cases
     PPE, Now Test Supply Shortages

5/8/2020:
    
This Week's Statistics
     COVID-19 Untruths, Myths, Misinformation & Rumors
     COVID-19 Treatment & a Llama Called Winter
     Children Getting Mysterious Inflammatory Syndrome
     COVID-19 Anxiety or Depression
     Potential Effectiveness of Remdesivir in Early Stages of the Virus
     Using Antibody Tests to Determine Readiness to Reopen
     Step-by-Step Guidance for Reopening Shelved
     Americans Urged to Leave Quarantine and "Be Warriors"
     Trump Suggests that Virus from WuHan Lab, Not Bats
     List of COVID-19 Symptoms Expanding
     Everyone Doesn't Present with the Same Symptoms
     In the Oval Office, Nurse Asked if Supplies Were Sufficient?
     Justice Department Open a Criminal Investigation of Suppliers No Delivering

5/1/2020:
    
This Week's Statistics (updated 5/1/2020):
          Florida Department of Health's dashboard


Friday, May 29th

Compare this week's information with last week's. The following has been learned this week.

  • Per the Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, and as of Friday, May 29th, the state now has 54,497 cases testing positive for COVID-19, with 9,982 requiring hospitalization and 2,413 deaths. The breakdown of confirmed cases in our tri-county area is:

    • Sumter County: 253 cases (up by 1 case), holding at 17 deaths — age range 17 — 97
    • Lake County: 291 cases (up by 25 cases), holding at 15 deaths — age range 1 — 86
    • Marion County: 233 cases (up by 10 cases), 6 deaths (up by 1)age range 0 — 96
  • The state issued a statement and Governor DeSantis made an announcement on Sunday, May 24th, rebutting Rebekah Jones' (click on link) account of why she was removed from her job of managing the state's COVID-19 statistics. CBS Miami reported that according to the state, she was fired for violating Health Department policy by making public remarks about the information over the previous week and a half, and has "a history of 'insubordination'". (The article presents the state's position as well as Jones' issues.) In an interview on Cby 9 days. Dr. Stephen Nelson, the chairman of the state Medical Examiners Commission, said the change in policy came after the state health department intervened.

  • Sadly, at least 1,738,000 cases of the coronavirus have been reported in the U.S., at least 101,000 people have died from it, and 104,917 new cases have been reported to the WHO. These stats were updated 5/29/2020. You can compare how the U.S. compares to other areas of the world on the World Health Organization's website. The most current information reported to them is presented in easy-to-understand graphs. By moving the cursor over each graph, you can see the number of cases on any given date.

  • NBC News and Yahoo News reported on May 27th that the number of asymptomatic COVID-19 cases may be more common than suspected. New estimates by two different studies suggest that "silent" COVID-19 is much more prevalent than previously thought. The first study, published in JAMA Network Open, found that 42% of cases from a group of people in Wuhan, China, were asymptomatic. The second study from Australian researchers and published in Thorax, found that 81% of cases on a cruise to Antarctica were asymptomatic. Of those on the cruise, 57% tested positive, but just 19% of those patients had symptoms. Many people wonder why they have to wear a mask and practice social distancing when they are feeling well? Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center reminds us that simply exhaling or talking can send out viral particles.

  • Dr. Kimberly Prather studies aerosols and runs a large, government-funded research center at the Universir=wnl-spr-052820_nsl-LeadModule_cta&mb=ZrAEWS47zRVfaKwzTOgfr@HnVev1imbCnc5/9H4RWiE="> Science where she said there is mounting evidence that aerosol (airborne) transmissions help explain how the virus spreads like wildfire. Aerosols can be created from just talking or singing as mal; word-spacing: 0px; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255)"> She tells people to imagine how far they can smell cigarette smoke or a barbecue. That’s how far aerosols can travel between you and another person. So why are we balking at wearing a mask in public again?

  • Some critically ill patients with COVID-19 show signs of an immune system in overdrive, called a cytokine storm, which may be as destructive as the virus itself. May 24th, SciTechDaily announced a new clinical trial at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine that will test a COVID-19 treatment that targets that overactive immune response that some patients experience. Howard Hughes Medical Investigator Bert Vogelstein's team had already been exploring ways to ease the hyperinflammatory immune response in cancer patients treated with immunotherapy. They are  hoping that treating the virus with an alpha blocker might break a cycle of hyperinflammation before it ramps up. The trial involves treating people who are at high risk early in the course of the disease, when they know they’re infected but before they have severe symptoms. If the trial suggests alpha blockers are safe and effective, the team hopes to run a second trial with patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 but are not yet hospitalized. If treating the virus with alpha blockers works and appears to be safe and effective, it would be a secondary form of prevention, mitigating symptoms before they become severe, rather than stopping infection in the first place.

  • The latest District Weekly Bulletin (updated 5/28/2020) announced that the fitness clubs and arts & crafts facilities will open, and The Enrichment Academy (TEA) Courses will resume THIS Monday, June 1st. Since most of the recreation facilities are now open, this update will be the last COVID-19 District Action Plan issued. Check The Villages Recreation & Park News after this week. Also, the District Administrative Offices at 984 Old Mill Run continue by appointment only, and you must wear a mask for your appointment.


Friday, May 22nd

Compare this week's information with last week's. The following has been learned this week.

  • Per the Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, and as of Friday, May 22nd, the state now has 49,451 cases testing positive for COVID-19, with 9,117 requiring hospitalization and 2,190 deaths. The breakdown of confirmed cases in our tri-county area is:

    • Sumter County: 252 cases (up by 12 cases), 17 deaths (age range 17 — 97)
    • Lake County: 266 cases (up by 17 cases), holding at 15 deaths (age range 1 — 86)
    • Marion County: 233 cases (up by 14 cases), holding at 5 deaths (age range 0 — 96)

    WebMD provides cautions and advice on How to Do Memorial Day Safely, a video on Social Distancing, and what to do when Others Aren't Social Distancing

  • Physicians keep learning new things about COVID-19 and the way it attacks our bodies. An NYU doctor said that the severe Kawasaki-like inflammatory condition that doctors have recently reported in children appears to also affect young adults, who have more of an "overwhelming" response involving the heart and multiple organs.
  • A new study appearing in Wednesday's issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases provides the first evidence that sunlight may rapidly inactivate SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) on surfaces. The study used simulated sunlight, but it suggests that natural sunlight may be effective as a disinfectant for contaminated non-porous materials.
     

  • Since Rebekah Jones, the scientist who invented and was in charge of Florida's COVID-19 Data and Surveillance Dashboard (shows the number of cases, deaths, etc. in the state and county-by-county), was removed from her job. She says she was fired because she was ordered to censor some data, but refused to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen." The story was carried by USA Today, The Huffington Post, the Miami Herald, CBS-12 and other news outlets. With her removal, it was suggested that changes in the accessibility and transparency of the dashboard data might be coming. 
     
  • A WebMD Blog provides the 6 Essentials for an Effective Face Mask. The cloth face mask market is increasing exponentially to meet demand, and the science behind what makes a good cloth face mask is inching along slowly. It is difficult to know what makes a good cloth face mask. This blog tells you what to look for, the fabric, the filter and how often it can be used, the fit, how easy it is to use, and the proper way to remove it.
     
  • On Wednesday, CNN Health reported that at least four states combined data from two different test results. Diagnostic PCR tests (uses saliva or nose swabs) check for current infection, while antibody tests (rely on blood samples) check for past infection. Combining the two into one result could provide an inaccurate picture of where and when the virus spread and trick the states into thinking they've done more testing than what they've actually done. The states that discovered this mistake are in the process of correcting their data.
     
  • The CDC quietly tweaked the wording on its "How COVID-19 Spreads" website without an announcement or explanation. Fox's Sean Hannity promoted the minor changes in wording as a "breaking" report, adding to the confusion many have concerning COVID-19 information. CDC spokesperson Kristin Nordlund said that the changes were due to an internal review and usability testing. The CDC website still says that the virus spreads very easily between people, especially when in proximity to others (e.g., nursing homes, meat packing plants, etc.), but clarified that touching contaminated objects or surfaces or animals does not appear to be a significant mode of transmission, so it is unlikely that you will catch the virus from delivered packages or your mail.
      
    Yesterday, USA Today and other news outlets reported that the virus doesn't spread easily by touching surfaces, but it does happen, and they provide additional detail on the virus' lifespan an how to disinfect surfaces.
     
  • Sweeping measures to prevent the spread of the virus were announced on a federal warning against large gatherings, health screenings at airports, states of emergency declared by governors and mayors. But, a new study by Columbia University epidemiologists found that if social distancing had been in place just 7 days earlier, the U.S. could have prevented 36,000 deaths through early May, underscoring the importance of early intervention and aggressive response in controlling the Covid-19 pandemic. If governors and mayors had known that, they said they would have shut down earlier. The new model should help if or when there is a resurgence in the number of cases.


Friday, May 15th

Compare this week's information with last week's. The following has been learned this week.

  • Per the Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, and as of Friday, May 15th, the state now has 44,138 cases testing positive for COVID-19, with 7,959 requiring hospitalization and 1,917 deaths. The breakdown of confirmed cases in our tri-county area is:

    • Sumter County: 240 cases, 16 deaths (age range 17 — 97)
    • Lake County: 249 cases, holding at 14 deaths (age range 1 — 86)
    • Marion County: 218 cases, also holding at 5 deaths (age range 0 — 96)
       
  • On May 14th, NBC News featured an interview with Virologist Dr. Joseph Fair, an NBC News contributor who frequently helped the TODAY show cover the coronavirus pandemic. Despite being in good health and following all precautions, he contracted the virus. He got sick 3 — 4 days after a flight home, he believes through his eyes (he was wearing gloves, a mask, and Purell). Initially he didn't have a fever but he lost his sense of taste for a few days, then it started to feel like he had the flu. Then, he got progressively worse and had trouble breathing. He declined being intubated when he got to the hospital. Luckily, he responded well to oxygen and drug therapy and was taken off the critical list yesterday. He was tested four times, with 50% false negatives. He says that if he can get it, anyone can. He was tested four times, but the tests aren't 100% accurate and 50% were false negatives. See the interview by clicking on the link above. Yahoo News also reports that tests used at the white house may also be wrong half of the time.
     
  • According to Time and other news sources, the administration thought the advice from the top U.S. disease control experts on how to safely reopen businesses and institutions during the pandemic was too detailed and restrictive, so it was shelved. The Associated Press obtained a 63-page document (click on link to read the guidelines) that is more detailed than previously reported segments of the shelved CDC document. It shows how the thinking of CDC infection control experts differs from the administration's. According to Stephen Morse, a Columbia University expert on the spread of diseases, this advice should have been available much earlier, before the states started reopening. After the AP reported the burying of the guidance last week, the White House asked the CDC to revive parts of it. And, while Trump is pushing states to reopen, they are doing it piecemeal because there still is no comprehensive plan.
     
  • One of the most startling new findings is how Covid-19 affects kids. Earliest reports showed that kids can catch the virus, but their symptoms are generally milder. Now, reports are coming out that kids have been showing up at hospitals with nagging fevers, rashes, bloodshot eyes, and other signs of an immune system going haywire, believed to be related to the virus, similar to Kawasaki disease. The scale of these complications is still emerging, but at last count, these immune conditions have been reported in more than 100 kids in the New York area, three of them have died.
     
  • CNN Health has a video that uses black light to demonstrate how quickly a virus like CIVID-19 can spread at a restaurant. Scary!
     
  • As Florida started its first phase of reopening its economy, a report issued Tuesday by the CDC based on a choir practice in Washington State highlighted how contagious the virus can be in group settings. According to the 61 choir members, no one had contact with anyone else, but they did sit near each other, share snacks, and sang. One person was known to have symptoms. Of the choir members, 53 cases were identified, with 33 confirmed and 20 probable cases. Three of the members had to be hospitalized and two died. Investigators thought the act of singing itself might have contributed to transmission through emission of aerosols, which is affected by loudness of vocalization.
     
  • Both Business Insider and the Daily Beast reported on Wednesday that Trump is pressuring the CDC to change its death-toll methodology to produce a lower number of deaths from the virus. We used to call that fun with numbers when I was working in the business world. This is while Dr. Fauci is saying that he believes the death toll is actually much higher than stated because it doesn't count those who were never tested and died at home.
     
  • On Monday, the World Health Organization called for continued vigilance as several areas that eased lockdown restrictions began to see a resurgence in COVID-19 cases. The city of Wuhan saw its first cluster of cases in at least a month after reopening in early April. The cluster was just six cases: an 89-year-old symptomatic man and five asymptomatic cases, but it was enough to spook government officials. It was enough for China to order all residents of the city to get tested over the next 10 days; that's about 11 million people.
     

  • On Thursday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that the PPE shortage has now become a testing-supply shortage. Other states have had similar problems, where they have tests, but can't get the swabs or other necessary items to do the tests. The reliability of the tests or the reading of the test results is also a problem, with many false negatives. In the case of Dr. Fair (see above), it took four tests before he tested positive.
     
  • On Tuesday, Jared Kushner said he wasn't sure he can commit to November 3rd for the presidential election because of the coronavirus. Besides being shocked at his ignorance of the Constitution and law and his belief that he controls that, critics are on high alert for an attempt by Trump to put off the election due to COVID-19 since Trump has already acknowledged that there will be a spike in the number of cases as he pushes for the country to reopen.


Friday, May 8th

Compare this week's information with last week's. The following has been learned this week.

  • Per the Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, and as of Friday, May 8th, the state now has 39,199 cases testing positive for COVID-19, with 6,929 requiring hospitalization and 1,669 deaths. The breakdown of confirmed cases in our tri-county area is:

    • Sumter County: 239 cases, holding at 14 deaths (age range 17 — 97)
    • Lake County: 237 cases, 14 deaths (age range 1 — 86)
    • Marion County: 202 cases, 5 deaths (age range 1 — 96)
       
  • Medical News Today says that as COVID-19 continues to make news, a host of untruths have come out and they address some of these myths, misinformation, and rumors. Some include: alcohol or chlorine are good to disinfect surfaces but can harm if applied to the body; the virus can infect people of any age, children are not immune; disposable and cloth masks can protect against droplets, but neither can protect against aerosolized particles; hand dryers do not kill coronavirus; antibiotics do not kill viruses, they only kill bacteria; some viruses spread more easily in the colder months, but that doesn't mean that they stop entirely during warmer months; despite internet rumors, there is no evidence to suggest that the virus originated in a laboratory; and more....
     
  • coronavirus symptoms april 2020 updateThe list of symptoms for COVID-19 is expanding. The CDC lists them and provides the warning signs that you should seek emergency medical attention. Patients with the disease have also reported muscle pain, chills and headache. Some patients have reported additional plems, like fatigue and purple, swollen toes that appear frostbitten. Fatigue can be more common than difficulty breathing, according to the WHO, though it's not on the CDC list.
     
  • The urgent quest for a covid-19 treatment involves a llama named Winter, whose blood could hold a weapon to blunt the virus. She lives at a research farm in Belgium with about 130 other llamas and alpacas. And like all of them, she produces a special class of disease-fighting antibodies.
     
  • Children are falling ill with a mysterious inflammatory syndrome — like an illness known as Kawasaki disease — thought to be linked to COVID-19. "Not in my lifetime have I seen anything remotely similar to what’s going on right now,” said one cardiologist at Boston Children's Hospital.The strange nature of the cases in previously healthy children has put the medical community on high alert. Researchers aren’t certain whether the condition is caused by covid-19 or something else. Those with "pediatric multi-system inflammatory syndrome," what doctors call the new illness, are "a small genetic subset of children who appear to be susceptible."
     
  • As society reopens and states start relaxing stay-at-home guidelines, WebMD reports that many people experience a lot of anxiety or depression, not feeling comfortable and not trusting others saying it's safe. A poll of more than 3,100 WebMD readers found that 26% said they felt a sense of trauma from COVID-19, with 25% afraid to go to the store and 15% afraid to leave their house. The poll, which ran May 3rd and 4th, also found that 77% had not sought counseling. If in mental health crisis or having thoughts of suicide, go out and see a loved one or supportive friend. The health benefits may outweigh the risks.
     
  • Two new reports have produced conflicting results on the potential effectiveness of remdesivir, an experimental antiviral drug considered to be one of the leading hopes in the fight against COVID-19. Disappointing results emerged from the first gold-standard clinical trial for remdesivir, which found that the drug did not help patients in China with severe COVID-19. On the same day, drug maker Gilead Sciences announced positive early findings from a U.S.-designed clinical trial being conducted at 180 sites around the world. Gilead announced that the U.S. trial will show that COVID-19 patients treated earlier with remdesivir had better outcomes than those who received the drug later in the course of their illness, and that people who take remdesivir for five days do as well as patients who take a 10-day course.

  • With no treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 yet, there's been talk of using antibody tests to see when it might be safe to relax social-distancing guidelines. These blood tests can show who's been exposed to the virus and who hasn't, which is important because many people who have COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms at all. The hope is that people who've been exposed will have immunity to it, but it's possible that people who've had the virus can get sick again and maybe infect other people. National health organizations are doing research to try to find some answers.

  • The Associated Press (AP) disclosed on May 7th that a CDC official spoke to them on the condition of anonymity, saying that the Trump administration shelved a document with step-by-step advice to local authorities on how and when to reopen restaurants and other public places during the still-raging coronavirus outbreak. The 17-page report by a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team, titled "Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework," was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen. It was supposed to be published last Friday, but agency scientists were told the guidance "would never see the light of day."
     
  • The Washington Post reported that as the coronavirus continues its steady spread across the country (1.27 million infections and more than 76,000 deaths as of Friday afternoon), Trump is encouraging Americans to leave quarantine and "be warriors" against a disease that has no cure and can spread invisibly without symptoms. And in his quest to unfreeze the economy, he has dismissed calls to increase viral monitoring because "by doing all of this testing, we make ourselves look bad". In the meantime, testing for staff has increased to daily instead of weekly after Trump's valet and Pence's press secretary tested positive, as Trump makes plans to hold more meetings and travel. He also continues to suppress information about the pandemic's severity to convince the public to go back to work and praises states for reopening without meeting the White House guidelines.
     
  • With Trump suggesting that COVID-19 came from a Wuhan lab and not bats, Germany and five other countries, including the U.S., assert that there is nothing to suggest that there is any validity to his claim. Bloomberg.com reports that a WHO expert in animal diseases told reporters today that Covid-19 does come from bats and it can spread among cats. The genetic structure of the virus rules out laboratory manipulation. However, that finding doesn't rule out the possibility that Chinese researchers were studying the virus in a lab as it spread.
     
  • coronavirus symptoms april 2020 updateThe list of symptoms for COVID-19 is expanding. The CDC lists them and provides the warning signs that you should seek emergency medical attention. Patients with the disease have also reported muscle pain, chills and headache. Some patients have reported additional problems, like fatigue and purple, swollen toes that appear frostbitten. Fatigue can be more common than difficulty breathing, according to the WHO, though it's not on the CDC list. Business Insider says that the coronavirus has also been linked to neurological problems like dizziness, confusion, and delirium. A significant number of COVID-19 patients are complaining of gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. A study of 59 COVID 19 patients in a Hong Kong hospital found 25 percent presented with GI issues. 
     
  • Relating to symptoms, there is a May 5th GreenwichFreePress.com op-ed by a Connecticut health reporter who writes about her case of COVID-19, which you might find interesting. She found that everyone doesn't present with the same symptoms. Hers were a stomach ache, cough, sore throat and congestion, then came a killer sinus headache, body aches and fatigue a few days later. Her symptoms didn’t match the headlines at the time (fever and shortness of breath, she had neither). Day 4 of her symptoms, she couldn’t taste a piece of cake only to read breaking news that night that loss of smell and taste can be telltale signs of the virus. The next night, she had chills and probably had a fever, so she called her doctor in the morning, who ordered the test. She read that some people take a turn for the worse several days after the onset of symptoms, but she continued to experience aches and pains, slept 10 hours a day, until she gradually started feeling better. It turned out she had a mild case. Once she had recovered from the virus, she registered to donate plasma, which she urges others to do. Convalescent plasma is in demand and could help up to three gravely ill patients.
     
  • In the oval office on Wednesday, Trump signed a symbolic proclamation in honor of National Nurses Day. He asked Sophia Thomas, the president of American Association of Nurse Practitioners, whether she believes the availability of medical supplies "are what they need to be?" She answered, "I think it's sporadic. As I talk to my colleagues around the country, certainly there are pockets of areas where [the availability of personal protective equipment] is not ideal.... I've been reusing my N95 mask for a few weeks now." The president was not pleased with her assessment.
     
  • The Justice Department has opened a criminal investigation into a firm created by two well-connected Republican operatives who sold covid-19 supplies to states but never delivered. Last weekend, Maryland terminated a $12.5 million contract for personal protective equipment with the firm. California scrambled to get its $457 million deposit back. Read about the company and why lawmakers are calling for more vetting.


Friday, May 1st

Compare this week's information with last week's. The following has been learned this week.

  • Per the Florida Department of Health, Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, and as of Friday, May 1st, the state now has 34,728 cases testing positive for COVID-19, with 5,767 requiring hospitalization and 1,314 deaths. The breakdown of confirmed cases in our tri-county area is:

    • Sumter County: 217 cases, 14 deaths (age range 17 — 97)
    • Lake County: 233 cases, 13 deaths (age range 1 — 86)
    • Marion County: 178 cases, 4 deaths (age range 1 — 96)

    People who have been trying to get tested for weeks and not succeeding, have also been advised to not bother getting tested once their self-quarantined period is over. But if you don't test, you don't get many confirmed cases, do you?
     

  • After Trump told governors they're responsible for getting their own personal protective equipment (PPE) and other vital medical equipment, health leaders in the states started competing against one another and scrambled to place orders only to have their orders seized and redirected without explanation. Government and health officials in at least seven states have complained about this, but FEMA denied confiscating those shipments. FEMA says that they were "prioritizing PPE deliveries to COVID hot spots can have the unintended consequence of disrupting the regular supply chain deliveries to other areas of the country." So, now states are competing against the federal government, as well. The Department of Health and Human Services rewrote its definition of the national stockpile on April 3rd so it more closely reflected comments made by Jared Kushner and that states should not assume they can draw on it. Health workers on the frontlines of helping virus patients continue to report widespread shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), including N95 masks and gowns.

    Now, states and hospital officials are concealing shipments of supplies from the federal government in order to avoid detection. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker (R) had a purchase of 3 million N95 masks confiscated by an unspecified federal agency at the Port of New York in March, just as the state was in the process of acquiring another 1.2 million from China. Baker ultimately relied on a private jet owned by the New England Patriots to transport the other 1.2 million masks that he purchased from China to Boston. Two weeks later, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) arranged for two charter flights to transport millions of masks and gloves from China to Illinois, intentionally keeping the details of the flights secret from the Trump administration to avoid confiscation (disclosed April 15th). April 30th it was disclosed that Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) acquired thousands of coronavirus tests from South Korea, had the plane land at Baltimore/Washington Thurgood Marshall Airport (the first time a Korean Air passenger plane had landed at the airport) rather than Dulles in Virginia. Armed guards protected the shipment as it was unloaded, which was then moved to an undisclosed location and is protected by the Maryland National Guard and the Maryland State Police.
      

  • Researchers at the University of Oxford have started clinical trials with humans for a coronavirus vaccine and might have results in a couple of months, the university said in a news release. The school said around 1,110 people who have not tested positive for COVID-19 will take part, with half receiving the vaccine and the other half (the control group) receiving a meningitis vaccine. A number of participants will need to develop COVID-19, the news release said. "If transmission remains high, we may get enough data in a couple of months to see if the vaccine works, but if transmission levels drop, this could take up to 6 months." 
     
  • Besides coming up with a coronavirus vaccine, the U.S. must also figure out the best, fastest way to manufacture and deliver a vaccine. Dr. Walter A. Orenstein, a professor in the division of infectious diseases at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, said the government should “incentivize” manufacturers to start making vaccines while a vaccine is still going through clinical trials, so that the vaccine could be quickly put into use after approval. But if the vaccine fails, the product would have to be destroyed, he said. Another challenge is figuring out who gets the vaccine first.
     
  • Republican-led states are signaling they will strip workers’ unemployment benefits if they don’t return to work. Some now-unemployed Americans weren’t making much money to begin with, and they might not want to risk their own health to return to low-paying jobs. Critics say the message to workers is clear: "Endanger your life or starve." Some now-unemployed Americans weren’t making much money in the first place, so they may not want to risk their safety just to return to underpaid old jobs.
     
  • After many meat-processing plants shut down because workers were dying and getting sick at an alarming rate, Trump is signing an executive order to force meat-processing plants to re-open and the workers to return to work. For years, major meat processors have been ruthlessly tamping down costs and increasing efficiencies that have contributed to a hazardous working environment even before the coronavirus hit. They've been speeding up production lines to process more meat in each facility and faster lines require more workers who have to stand closer together, making social distancing impossible. Many workers say they won't return to work unless conditions at the plants are improved and employers are concerned with their liability as their workers fall to the virus, and especially if they die. They also say that they can't be profitable if they allow social distancing for their workers.
     
  • In a Washington Post article on April 30th, there are 5 questions (or known unknowns) that COVID-19 scientists and doctors are racing to answer:
    • Is there “airborne” transmission of the virus? A growing number of studies, including one published this week in the journal Nature, have found evidence that the coronavirus can remain suspended in the air in aerosol particles (much smaller than what was thought). A restaurant in Guangzhou, China, showed that one infected person who had not yet developed symptoms infected nine other diners. Researchers suggested that an air-conditioning unit re-circulating the air could have spread droplets, carrying the virus between tables.
    • Why are so many people crashing in their second week of infection? There is little consensus among doctors and experts about why the 5th through 10th days seem to be so dangerous for some people. There is lots of speculation, but no answers.
    • Can a drug therapy stop the virus? "The government’s first rigorous clinical trial of the experimental drug remdesivir as a coronavirus treatment (not a cure, people were still dying on the drug) delivered mixed results to the medical community Wednesday, but Dr. Fauci, who led the placebo-controlled trial, was encouraged and stressed again this week that it wasn't a cure, but it did shorten the length of time some patients had to remain hospitalized, suggesting that a drug therapy may be able to stop the virus. They will learn more and will build on it to make it better. "Although a 31 percent improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100 percent, it is a very important proof of concept," Fauci said at the White House.
    • Are toe rashes an early marker of the disease, or evidence that it has resolved and passed? Esther Freeman, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, was expecting things would be a bit quieter during the pandemic lockdown. But not long after lockdown began, she started getting urgent calls about odd frostbite-like patches showing up on people’s toes. It was also noticed in hot zones like France, Italy and China, but the reports had been limited to individual case studies and first-person observations, making it difficult to determine what these rashes mean, why they are occurring, and how they are linked to the virus. Most patients with ‘covid toes’ were asymptomatic or had only mild symptoms.
    • Does this virus have a distinct enough smell that canines can sniff it out? A surprising number of people who have been hospitalized with the coronavirus have not had fevers, so checking someone’s temperature alone is not a foolproof way to protect employees as offices reopen. Dogs, rather than thermometers, could turn out to be more effective at identifying asymptomatic carriers. Some can be trained to detect not just explosives and drugs by smell, but can also identify people with malaria and certain kinds of cancer. The University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine has launched a research project to determine whether dogs can detect an odor associated with the virus. The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is pursuing this line of inquiry, as well, and hopes to deploy six dogs to airports in the U.K. as soon as possible. James Logan, who is running the study, said each dog could screen up to 250 people per hour for the contagion. He believes the effort can be scaled up if the experiments work.
       
  • WebMD reported today that in a new report, several pandemic experts expect the coronavirus will likely spread  for the next 18—24 months and infect up to 60—70% of the population. Evidence is also mounting that the disease is more widespread than is being reported. A significant percentage of infected people don’t show any symptoms and experts have known that the real number of infections is likely to be higher than confirmed cases and do not include those isolating at home or home deaths. Others may have had symptoms but weren’t able to get tested. Earlier this week, one of the first studies based on antibody tests caused an uproar when preliminary results suggested that more than 50 times as many people had been infected as had tested positive in Santa Clara County, CA. A report that relied upon CDC data for people with influenza-like illnesses estimates that at least 8.7 million people were infected with coronavirus during a 3-week period in March. And a new analysis of widespread testing in the town of Vo, Italy, found that 43% of people who tested positive showed no symptoms. A larger number of people who show no symptoms means more could potentially spread the disease and if restrictions are eased we're going to get more cases.


See what had been learned about the virus in April.


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