Latest on COVID-19 in September
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The Latest on the Coronavirus — September

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9/25/2020:
     New Weapon Against COVID-19: Dogs
    
Genetic Science Helped Expose Secret Iowa Outbreak
     The CDC's Reputation has Crumbled Even More    

     COVID-19 Deaths Reach Over 200,000 on Tuesday
    
Pentagon Squanders Covid Relief Money


9/4/2020:
     Severe Cases Due to
Overzealous Immune System
     No Evidence to Support Plasma Treatment for COVID-19
     Diarrhea & Vomiting Key Signs of COVID-19 in Children

     First Documented Case of Reinfection in U.S.
     Florida Cutting Ties with Quest Diagnostics Over Data Dump
 
    This Week's Statistics (updated 9/4/2020)
         
Florida Department of Health's dashboard
         
Florida's COVID-19 Action dashboard

 

Friday, September 25th

The following has been learned this past week.

  • Is the new weapon against COVID-19 dogs?  I reported awhile back that dogs might be able to be trained to detect the virus just like they can be trained to detect cancer, malaria, termites, etc. Training has been going on and it looks promising. In May, the research group reported that it had successfully trained dogs to detect COVID-19 in urine samples, but progress has happened fast and now the dogs have been trained to detect COVID-19 from sweat on your skin. Temperature screenings are currently being used at airports, but we know by now that asymptomatic people may not have a temperature and may never have one. But now, Helsinki Airport is hiring a team of dogs trained to sniff out COVID-19 to screen passengers for pretrial testing.
     

  • Genetic Scientist helped Expose Secret Iowa Outbreak (site includes a video explaining how the infection was detected). It wasn’t until colleagues began disappearing that workers at Agri Star Meat and Poultry realized there was a killer among them. No one would say where it was coming from — not Agri Star's wealthy owner, not the Iowa Occupational Health & Safety Administration without an inspection, not Gov. Kim Reynolds who threatened to prosecute officials who released covid data, and no testing was done at the plant until 7 weeks after the first infections. Tumor geneticist turned disease detective, Paraic Kenny, knew the virus left vital clues behind. The virus mutates as it moves through its victims and infectious particles carry distinctive differences in its genome, like a molecular bar code, to track where the virus came from and how it was transmitted. By reading the code, Kenny unveiled how cases were connected.  
     

  • The CDC is one of many institutions on the receiving end of scathing criticism for its handling of the pandemic. Concerns about the agency's competence have grown as the pandemic rages on, a jarring about face for an agency once globally admired and considered immune from political interference. The CDC has further eroded its reputation around the world and across medical communities after suddenly declaring people didn't need to get tested, even if they came in contact with an infected person, that masks aren't really necessary, and yet another flip-flop that the virus isn't airborne, with virologists all over the country speaking out against this latest fiasco.
     

  • The number of coronavirus-related deaths in the United States surpassed 200,000 on Tuesday. Seven months into the pandemic, the United States continues to average more than 800 deaths per day. Efforts at slowing the virus has stalled, and public health data show that the pathogen is spreading at dangerous rates in many states as cold weather hits and people are staying indoors where air recirculates in enclosed places.
     

  • The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing continues still, in spite of Congress giving the Pentagon a $1 billion fund to stockpile testing kits and supplies and PPE for distribution. Instead, the funds have mostly been funneled to defense contractors and used to make things like jet engine parts, body armor and dress uniforms. It was reported as early as July. A coalition of 40 organizations from across the political spectrum is calling for a congressional investigation into how the Pentagon used the relief funds and urged lawmakers to consider passing a bill suspending the Department of Defense's authority to use the funding, questioning the Pentagon's decision-making.


Friday, September 4th

The following has been learned this past week.

  • Doctors and researchers have been trying to understand why COVID-19 causes life-threatening illness in some patients, but only minor symptoms in others. Researchers now believe some of the most severe coronavirus complications may be caused by an overzealous immune system, called a cytokine storm — the uncontrolled release of proteins that triggers a massive inflammatory response. The virus infects the lungs, white blood cells rush in to attack it, passing through blood vessels and causing leaks that lead to fluid buildup, and often causing the immune cells to attack and inflame other organs including the kidneys, liver, and heart. These signaling cells also control the body’s clotting function, so patients experiencing a cytokine storm are more prone to blood clots. Researchers have identified biomarkers of a cytokine storm and are looking for treatments that would target it, preventing the overstimulation of the immune system. Any potential treatment wouldn't cure the virus, but it could help to reduce fatalities.
     
  • A National Institutes of Health panel of more than three dozen experts said there's no evidence backing the use of convalescent plasma to treat coronavirus patients and doctors shouldn't treat it as a standard of care until more study has been done to determine if it is effective against COVID-19and safe. "There are insufficient data to recommend either for or against the use of convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19," the panel of more than three dozen experts said in a statement posted on the NIH website Tuesday. The statement, posted quietly, contradicts the Trump Administration's characterization of the treatment as "historic" and a "major advance" and directly refers to last week's emergency use authorization by the FDA (shades of the Hydroxychloroquine fiasco?).
  • Diarrhea & vomiting are more predictive of COVID-19 in children than a cough or changes in taste or smell. The checklist for coronavirus in children currently includes just three symptoms: a high temperature, a new, continuous cough, and a loss or change to the sense of smell or taste. Researchers have confirmed that an upset stomach and diarrhea need to be added to that list. According to researcher Dr. Tom Waterfield, assuming a perfectly accurate test, going by the current three recognized symptoms, testing symptomatic children would identify 76% of cases, while adding gastrointestinal symptoms to the checklist would bring the figure to 97%.

  • A 25-year-old Nevada man appears to be the first documented case of Covid-19 reinfection in the U.S. He was first diagnosed in April, appeared to get over it and had two negative tests afterward. He continued to feel well for about a month, then was sick again having to be hospitalized and put on oxygen. Nevada researchers examined genetic material from both coronavirus specimens collected from the man. Their analysis suggests he had two different varieties of the virus, which suggests humans can catch Covid-19 multiple times.
  • Globally, this is not the first case of reinfection, but it is the first in this country.
     
  • On Tuesday, Florida reported the highest daily coronavirus case count since early August, blaming it on an ‘unacceptable’ data dump by Quest Diagnostics, causing Gov. Ron DeSantis to order state health agencies to cut ties with the lab. The company failed to report almost 75,000 coronavirus tests in a timely manner, most being two weeks old, but some going back to April; however, it didn't affect or delay reporting of test results to providers and patients. "To drop this much unusable and stale data is irresponsible," DeSantis said in a statement. This may have effected the statistics below.
     
  • As usual, I am showing statistics from two dashboards/data portals: Florida's Dept. of Health (DOH) statistics and Florida's COVID Action statistics (both developed by Rebekah Jones).
  • Compare to previous weekly reporting.
     
    Per the Florida Department of Health's dashboard* as of Friday, September 3rd, the state now has 633,060 residents testing positive for COVID-19 (an increase of 23,986 cases over last week), with 39,667 hospitalized (up by 1,638 hospitalizations this week), and 11,750 (a jump of 793 deaths just this week). The breakdown of confirmed cases in our tri-county area is:
    • Sumter County: 1,976 cases (an increase of 40 more cases than last week), 218 hospitalizations (15 more than last week), with 55 deaths (7 more deaths than last week) — age range: 1 — 99 (median age now: 56, so younger people have been dying, dropping the median age from 61)
        
    • Lake County: 6,637 cases (just 71 more cases than last week), 454 hospitalizations (a huge jump of 378 more than last week), with 128 deaths (a jump of 24 more deaths than last week) — age range: 0 — 103 (median age: 42, so some older folks have been dying, raising the median age from 41)
        
    • Marion County: 8,724 cases (a huge jump of 4,179 more cases than last week), 803 hospitalizations (another huge jump of 786 more than last week), with 209 deaths (a jump of 94 more deaths than last week) — age range: 0 — 104 (median age: also 42, so some older folks have been dying, raising the median age from 41)

    * Amount of testing in the state has decreased each week since 7/12/2020. It works. Performing fewer tests results in fewer cases. Today, 58,650 people were tested (down by 8,928 tests from yesterday), 3,646 tested positive (203 fewer than yesterday), with 55,004 testing negative (8,720 fewer than yesterday). The percentage of people testing positive today is 6.22% (.52% more than yesterday).

    Per the Florida's COVID Action dashboard** as of Friday, September 3rd, the state now has 687,725 cases testing positive for COVID-19 (an increase of 24,385 new cases this past week, with 3,198 new cases on Friday alone); with 3,437 requiring hospitalization (815 fewer cases than last week); and 11,903 deaths (an increase of 804 deaths this past week, with a whopping 103 deaths on Friday alone). The breakdown of confirmed cases in our tri-county area is:

    • Sumter County: 2,102 cases (166 more cases than last week, with 28 cases on Friday alone), 14 cases requiring hospitalization (down by 1 case from last week), and 55 deaths (an increase of 7 deaths from last week, and 0 new deaths on Friday)
        
    • Lake County: 6,974 cases (408 more cases than last week, with 61 cases on Friday alone), 75 cases requiring hospitalization (down by 1 case from last week), and 130 deaths (a jump of 26 deaths over last week, with 2 new deaths on Friday)
        
    • Marion County: 8,889 cases (a huge jump of 4,344 cases since last week, with 63 cases on Friday alone), 69 cases requiring hospitalization (a huge jump of 52 cases over last week), and 209 deaths (a jump of 94 deaths over last week, with 9 new deaths on Friday)

    ** The newly reported Lab results for today: 39,242 results received, with 4,128 testing positive and 34,829 testing negative. The average number of people testing positive for today is 10.1%.

See what had been learned about the virus in August.


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