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Coronavirus 2020 Outbreak: Latest Updates

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This article was updated on June 4, 2020, at 6:47 p.m. ET.

The United States leads the world in cases of COVID-19. We'll provide the latest updates on coronavirus cases, government response, impacts to our daily life, and more.

What is the latest news?

The Lancet Retracts Study That Questioned Safety of Hydroxychloroquine to Treat COVID-19

June 4, 6:47 p.m. 

The online medical journal The Lancet has apologized to readers after retracting a study that said the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine did not help to curb COVID-19 and might cause death in patients.

The study was withdrawn because the company that provided data would not provide full access to the information for a third-party peer review, saying to do so would violate client agreements and confidentiality requirements, The Lancet said in a statement.

“Based on this development, we can no longer vouch for the veracity of the primary data sources. Due to this unfortunate development, the authors request that the paper be retracted,” The Lancet said in a statement.

The study was published May 22, with researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston using data and analysis provided by Surgisphere Corporation. The study was massive, with information coming from 671 hospitals around the world and the medical records of 96,000 patients.

In the study, researchers concluded the drug didn’t help curb COVID-19, caused heart problems, and appeared to increase the risk of death. The study had immediate impact, with the World Health Organization and other groups stopping research into hydroxychloroquine.

But questions about the research methods rose immediately. The Lancet launched a third-party peer review.

“Our independent peer reviewers informed us that Surgisphere would not transfer the full dataset, client contracts, and the full ISO audit report to their servers for analysis as such transfer would violate client agreements and confidentiality requirements,” The Lancet statement said.

The reviewers were unable to conduct “an independent and private peer review” and withdrew from the process, The Lancet said.

“We deeply apologise to you, the editors, and the journal readership for any embarrassment or inconvenience that this may have caused,” The Lancet said.

Surgisphere issued a statement saying it provides a “real-time database of over 240 million anonymized patient encounters from over 1,200 health care organizations in 45 countries.”

The company said its data was solid and said the firm “clearly outlined the limitations of an observational study” to researchers.

COVID-19 Vaccine Will Probably Require Two Doses, Health Officials Say

June 4, 5:22 pm.

When and if the world gets a coronavirus vaccine, it will probably require two vaccinations given about a month apart, health officials said.

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins told CNN on Thursday that a one-dose vaccine would be ideal because of the cost and also because some people wouldn’t show up for the second shot.

“There is certainly a chance that one or more of these vaccines might turn out to require two shots in order to get full immune response,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons to do the experiments and the research trials to find that out. If what it takes to provide full protection for any of these is two doses, we want to know that.”

The first shot would prime the immune system, helping it recognize the virus, and the second shot would strengthen the immune response, USA Today reported Thursday.

Barry Bloom, an immunologist and professor of public health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, said about 100 vaccines are in various stages of testing.

“As far as I am aware, with one set of exceptions, all the frontline vaccine developers are contemplating two shots," Bloom said. "The one exception is Merck, which last week pushed forward on two vaccines, each of which they hoped would be one-shot vaccines.”

L.J. Tan of the Immunization Action Coalition told USA Today the two doses would be given about a month apart. Scientists also said the coronavirus vaccine might require booster shots in later years.

Of the drug companies racing to develop a coronavirus vaccine, scientists with Moderna in the US and Oxford University in England have started clinical trials in humans.

Sex Partners Who Aren't Quarantining Together Should Wear Facial Coverings, Guidelines Say

June 4, 4:32 p.m. 

Safe sex during the COVID-19 pandemic means a lot more than using a condom.

People having sex with somebody they haven't been quarantining with should take other precautions, including wearing face masks while doing the deed, according to a study from Harvard University published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. 

Other recommended safety measures include: avoiding kissing; showering before and after sex; using soap or alcohol wipes to clean the physical spaces; minimizing the number of partners; and avoiding partners who display COVID-19 symptoms.

The study presents guidelines for health care professionals who are counseling patients on having sex during the pandemic.

“On the basis of existing data, it appears all forms of in-person sexual contact carry risk for viral transmission, because the virus is readily transmitted by aerosols and fomites,” the study said.  “This has resulted in broad guidance regarding physical distancing, with substantial implications for sexual well-being.”

People having sex with somebody they're quarantining with also face a risk if they've been exposed to the virus outside the home, the study says, but using face masks is not recommended for them.

The range of sex practices with low risk of inflection includes abstinence and masturbation. People having sexual relationships using digital platforms such as video chats should be counseled about the risk of screenshots being used for extortion, the study says.

It's not been proven that the coronavirus can be spread through semen, the study says.

“Until this is better understood, it would be prudent to consider semen potentially infectious,” the study says.

COVID-19 Cases Rise in U.S. South and West Amid Protests

June 4, 3:05 p.m.

New cases of coronavirus have popped up in southern and western states during the past week, which could be partially due to recent racial injustice protests, according to CNN.

As of Thursday morning, the U.S. has confirmed more than 1.8 million cases and recorded more than 107,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. first hit cities on the coasts but has now spread to inland states such as Arkansas and Arizona, the news outlet reported. On Tuesday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson reported 375 new cases, which is the highest single-day number for the state. More people are hospitalized with COVID-19 than at any other point, he added.

“We continue to trend upward,” Hutchinson said during the press briefing.

Part of this upward climb could be related to nationwide protests about the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Public health officials have encouraged marchers to wear face masks and follow social distancing practices.

“It is a contagious virus. People being outside, people wearing masks, people moving by each other more quickly may reduce the likelihood of significant exponential growth. But that's still the concern,” CNN's chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta said Wednesday.

At the beginning of the pandemic, some officials questioned whether coronavirus cases would decline during summertime months. But warmer weather won't likely stop the spread, National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, said in a blog post on Tuesday.

“Climate only would become an important seasonal factor in controlling COVID-19 once a large proportion of people within a given community are immune or resistant to infection,” Collins wrote.

Collins discussed recent research about seasonal change and the trajectory of COVID-19. He reminded readers to continue following mitigation measures while treatments and vaccines are developed.

“It's a reminder that physical distancing will remain our best weapon into the summer to slow or prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he wrote. “So keep wearing those masks and staying 6 feet or more apart!”

George Floyd Tested Positive for COVID-19, Autopsy Shows

June 4, 11:09 a.m.

George Floyd, who died while being restrained by Minneapolis police on May 25, tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, according to the medical examiner's report released on Wednesday. The coronavirus didn't affect his death, according to the report.

The autopsy concludes that the cause of death was “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint and neck compression.” Video from bystanders showed that Floyd repeatedly said he couldn't breathe as former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held Floyd down with a knee on the man's neck.

The “46-year-old man … became unresponsive while being restrained by law enforcement officers,” according to the autopsy, which was released by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner's Office.

The report also says that Floyd tested positive for the coronavirus on April 3. A nasal swab taken on May 26, after his death, confirmed the result. Since positive results can last for weeks, according to the report, “the autopsy result most likely reflects asymptomatic but persistent ... positivity from previous infection.”

Floyd had other health conditions, including heart disease, hypertension, and the sickle cell trait, which is typically a symptom-free form of the serious sickle cell disease that primarily affects African Americans, according to NPR.

In the United States, more African Americans than whites have died from the coronavirus, according to CNN, and counties with higher black populations make up more than 50% of coronavirus cases and 60% of deaths.

As protesters have marched in Floyd's memory since his death, public health officials have urged social distancing practices and face masks to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Public officials have also encouraged people to get tested if they've joined a large gathering in the past 2 weeks.

UK Scientists Test Ibuprofen as COVID-19 Treatment

June 3, 2:37 p.m.

Researchers in London have started a clinical trial to test whether ibuprofen helps hospitalized coronavirus patients, according to the BBC.

The trial will use “lipid ibuprofen,” which dissolves ibuprofen into fat, unlike the typical pain relief tablets found in stores.

Based at King's College London and Guy's & St. Thomas' Hospital, the team believes the anti-inflammatory painkiller could treat breathing problems linked to COVID-19. They hope the drug will keep hospitalized patients off ventilators.

“We need to do a trial to show that the evidence actually matches what we expect to happen,” Mitul Mehta, MD, one of the King's College London researchers, told the BBC.

As part of the trial, called LIBERATE, half of the patients will get ibuprofen along with standard care for COVID-19. The goal is to evaluate how three doses of the drug affects disease progression such as lung failure and the time to mechanical ventilation in coronavirus patients. They'll also look at the length of critical care stay, the length of hospital stay, and overall survival from COVID-19.

The study started last week, according to information posted on ClinicalTrials.gov. Patients with sensitivity to ibuprofen, a history of gastrointestinal bleeding, and liver, kidney, and heart problems won't be included in the trial.

In mid-March, some officials expressed concerns that ibuprofen might harm people who have a mild form of the coronavirus. French Health Minister Olivier Veran said ibuprofen and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, could aggravate the infection. Instead, he recommended paracetamol, which is a generic term for acetaminophen used outside of the U.S.

However, the CDC, FDA, and other health groups concluded that ibuprofen is safe for coronavirus symptoms such as a fever and flu-like symptoms. Even still, some health officials recommend taking acetaminophen first since it has fewer side effects for many people. Those who have stomach ulcers, for instance, shouldn't take ibuprofen, according to the BBC.

The CDC also released an April 10 video statement on Twitter about COVID-19 and ibuprofen.

“We review the scientific literature regularly and speak to colleagues, and at the present time, there's no compelling evidence that ibuprofen and other drugs like it can make you sicker if you have COVID-19,” John Brooks, chief medical officer for the CDC's COVID-19 emergency response, said in the video.

New Poll: 7 in 10 Americans Would Get COVID-19 Vaccine

June 3, 11:25 a.m.

About 70% of Americans said they would “definitely” or “probably” get a coronavirus vaccine if it was available for free to everyone, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.

The results fall somewhat along party lines. Although the national survey found that a majority of people of any political affiliation said they would get a vaccine, 8 in 10 Democrats said they would as compared with about 6 in 10 Republicans. Independents fell between the two.

Americans' willingness to get a vaccine is also tied to their fears of being infected, according to the poll. About 63% are worried that they or a family member could catch the virus. Among those who are worried, 81% said they would likely get the vaccine.

In addition, about 15% of Americans say they will “definitely not” get vaccinated against the virus, even if one is free and available. Among the 3 in 10 Americans who would “definitely not” or “probably not” get the vaccine, half said they don't trust vaccines in general, and another quarter said that one isn't necessary for COVID-19.

The poll, which was carried out May 25-28 among 1,001 adults, contrasts another poll released last week. The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll, which was done May 14-18 among 1,056 adults, showed that about half of Americans said they would get a vaccine.

In the AP poll, about 72% of those who plan to get a vaccine said, “Life won't go back to normal until most people are vaccinated.” Those who don't plan to get a vaccine said they were concerned about side effects, don't think vaccines work well, or aren't worried about getting seriously ill from the coronavirus.

Countries are racing to produce a safe and effective vaccine. The National Institutes of Health launched a partnership in April called Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines, which includes government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, and partners in other countries.

The White House also announced details about Operation Warp Speed, which has an ambitious goal of developing and distributing hundreds of millions of vaccine doses by the end of this year.

 

How many people have been diagnosed with the virus, and how many have died?

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 6.58 million cases and more than 388,400 deaths worldwide. More than 2.85 million people have recovered.

How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?

There are more than 1.86 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19, and more than 107,900 deaths. More than 485,000 Americans have recovered from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. See a map of cases and deaths by state here

What travel restrictions are there?

The State Department has urged all U.S. citizens to avoid any international travel due to the global impact of the new coronavirus.

If you are currently overseas, the department wants you to come home, “unless [you] are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” according to a statement.

“Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice,” the agency says.

In addition, the State Department says it will not issue any new passports except for people with a “qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours.” The U.S. is banning all foreign travel to the United States from most of Europe for 30 days beginning midnight Friday, March 13.  American citizens are not included in the ban. 

The U.S. has also temporarily suspended nonessential travel to Mexico and Canada.

 Carolyn Crist and Ralph Ellis contributed to this report.

 

WebMD Health News Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on June 04, 2020

Sources

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