Coronavirus Update: Week 14

Coronavirus continues to spread through the US like wildfire, with cases now topping 4 million. Some states, like California, are still seeing a large rise in case numbers, and death tolls in other states are rising everyday. Although these numbers continue to soar, many districts are planning to reopen schools for in-person learning in the fall. The CDC has said that children are less likely than adults to get the virus and so should be able to begin in-person learning. President Trump agrees with the CDC’s assessment and has offered aid to those districts that open schools for in-person learning. Amid all of this virus spread and confusion over reopening schools, there is a glimmer of hope: the government has reached an agreement with Pfizer to produce hundreds of millions of doses of a covid-19 vaccine, which they hope to get out to the public by late fall. 

US Surpasses 4 Million Coronavirus Cases

On Thursday, July 23, the US officially recorded 4,032,430 cases of coronavirus, with a quarter of that number coming in within the last 15 days. So far there have been at least 144,167 deaths.

“We’ve rolled back essentially two months’ worth of progress with what we’re seeing in number of cases … in the United States,” Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center’s College of Public Health, told CNN on Thursday.the red san fransisco bridge

California Sets Record With Most Daily Coronavirus Deaths

The death toll topped 8,027 in California, with the state’s average daily number of deaths reaching 157. On July 23, the state saw 12,040 new Coronavirus infections, which was slightly below the previous day’s total of 12,807. California is currently recording the highest numbers of new daily cases in the nation.

The Health Director of Los Angeles said on Wednesday, July 23 that “COVID-19 appears to be on track to claim more lives in L.A. County than any other disease other than coronary heart disease.”

Georgia Passes 150,000 Confirmed Coronavirus Cases

Georgia’s Department of Public Health reported 3,314 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, July 22. This brings the total number of cases in the state to a minimum of 152,302. The total death toll for the state is 3,335 so far; the state saw 81 deaths on July 22, which was their second highest daily number of deaths. 

New CDC Guidelines Now In Favor of Opening Schools

Last week the CDC issued strict guidelines for the reopening of schools, with which President Trump expressed strong disagreement. Now they have changed their guidelines to favor reopening schools, stating that children aren’t as likely to suffer from coronavirus as adults and are also less likely to spread the disease to adults. The guidelines recommend that local officials should close schools if the virus cannot be controlled in that area. 

caucasian child with red hair sitting at a desk with a mask on
“Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting Covid-19 compared to adults.”

“The best available evidence indicates that Covid-19 poses relatively low risks to school-aged children,” an unsigned statement said. “Children appear to be at lower risk for contracting Covid-19 compared to adults. To put this in perspective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of July 17, 2020, the United States reported that children and adolescents under 18 years old account for under 7 percent of Covid-19 cases and less than 0.1 percent of Covid-19-related deaths.”

“CDC does not currently recommend universal symptom screenings (screening all students grades K-12) be conducted by schools,” the guidelines read. “Parents or caregivers should be strongly encouraged to monitor their children for signs of infectious illness every day,” they add. “Students who are sick should not attend school in-person.”

Trump On Reopening Schools

At a news conference on Thursday, July 24, Trump talked more about his plan for school reopenings. He announced the new CDC guidelines and said that the White House is recommending that the Senate include $105 billion in aid money for schools- but only if schools reopen in-person. If a district chooses not to reopen schools for in-person learning, then he believes that the money should go to parents who are homeschooling, private schools, and religious schools.

Some Schools Require Corona Waiver Before Returning

Some school districts are requiring that parents sign Covid-19 waivers before their children can go to school in-person. So far California, Florida, Missouri, and South Carolina have introduced these waivers. These waivers basically state that if a child gets sick or dies from coronavirus, the school will not be held accountable. 

Trump Administration & Pfizer Create Deal to Produce 100 Million Doses Of Covid-19 Vaccine

Pfizer has reached a $1.95 billion agreement with the government to produce 100 million doses of its covid-19 vaccine, which they hope to get to the public by the fall. The vaccine would be completely free to Americans, as long as it is given by healthcare providers. 

Pfizer is working on the vaccine with German company BioNTech. They began clinical trials in April, and Pfizer has so far been reporting positive results. “If the ongoing studies are successful, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to be ready to seek Emergency Use Authorization or some form of regulatory approval as early as October 2020,” the company said in a statement.

Second Stimulus Check Underway

different money bills rolled up

Senate and White House negotiators said on Wednesday, July 22 that they have reached a deal on a piece of their stimulus package. The stimulus package is still being worked on, and is to hopefully be released by next week. So far, we know it will include a $1,200 stimulus check; however, it is still in the works as to who will qualify for the money. United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the proposal might only allow those who make $40,000 or less to receive a check.

“The president’s preference is to make sure that we send out direct payments quickly so that in August people get more money. There is no question this worked before,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told CNBC on Thursday.

Coronavirus Update: Week 12

America is reopening and everyone is adjusting to the “new normal.” This new normal consists of businesses being open, but with people still being required to follow social distancing rules and wear masks. Unfortunately, some Southern and Western states have experienced skyrocketing case numbers, forcing their governors to require that people wear face masks in public, with the exception of Florida. Because cases are spiking in these states, many are concerned about a possible resurgence of the virus. Just as worrying, the CDC director says that a second wave this winter could be even worse than the first wave if the coronavirus has a resurgence during flu season. Nevertheless, government officials say that the U.S. needs to continue to move forward with reopening. 

California, Arizona, Florida Hit Record Highssign with record highs just ahead written on it with dessert in background.

So far more than 116,000 people have died from the coronavirus. Record high case numbers were recorded across Southern and Western states this week. On the morning of June 18, Arizona announced 2,519 new cases, Florida announced 3,207, and California announced 4,084. Los Angeles County alone reported 2,115 new cases.

Hospitalizations in Arizona have doubled since Memorial Day. Florida announced 43 new deaths, and new records in case numbers for 11 straight days. On 10 of the 11 days, there were more than 1,000 confirmed cases a day.

Californians Now Required To Cover Faces 

With numbers topping 4,000 cases in a day in California, the governor is now mandating that people wear masks in public. As of Thursday, June 17, California will require its residents to cover their faces in “most settings outside the home.” The state health department says that everyone must wear face coverings when working, when inside any indoor public space, or outdoors in public spaces where it is hard to for people to stay 6 feet away from each other. 

Texas and Arizona have also put out guidelines requesting that the public wear masks when they go out.

an empty outside playground
Playgrounds will be opening up in NY’s Phase 2.

New York To Enter Phase 2 Of Reopening

New York City will begin entering phase 2 of reopening on Monday, June 22, as long as there is no spike in cases before then. Under the state’s plan, outdoor dining, hair salons, barbershops, some in-store shopping, and some offices will be allowed to reopen as long as social distancing rules and restrictions on capacity are observed. Playgrounds will also reopen, leaving many to wonder how to get children to practice social distancing.

CDC Predicts Tough Winter

The director of the CDC, Dr. Robert R. Redfield, warned that the coming winter will have both the seasonal flu and coronavirus. He tweeted, “We must gear up for an additional potential challenge— both flu and #COVID19 could peak simultaneously and place a tremendous burden on local health care systems. Getting a #flu vaccine will be more important this year than ever!”

WHO Ends Hydroxychloroquine Trials

On Wednesday, June 17, the WHO said that they were ending testing of the malaria drug, hydroxychloroquine, on coronavirus patients. The trial will end based on a recommendation from the agency’s Data Safety and Monitoring Committee. They found no benefits of the drug when used to treat Covid-19. 

dna written with a colorful gene sequence and microscope

European Study Links Genes & Blood Type With Risk Of Coronavirus

European scientists have found two genetic variations that may determine who is more likely to get sick and die from the coronavirus. They found that people with Type A blood have a 45% higher risk of catching the virus, and of developing severe symptoms. On the other hand, those with Type O blood seem to have a lower risk of catching the virus. 

“Our genetic data confirm that blood group O is associated with a risk of acquiring Covid-19 that was lower than that in non-O blood groups, whereas blood group A was associated with a higher risk than non-A blood groups,” the researchers wrote in their report.

Researchers cannot say if blood type is directly causing the difference in how susceptible a person is. “It might be that the genetic changes that affect someone’s risk also just happen to be linked with blood type,” they said.

Brazil reports 32,188 New Cases In A Day

As of Wednesday, June 17, Brazil’s health ministry reported 32,188 new cases, bringing the country’s total to 955,377. Brazil has the second highest number of cases and deaths, behind only the U.S. Out of  desperation to treat children and pregnant women, the health authorities are  recommending hydroxychloroquine as an early treatment. 

red triangle with an exclamation point inside of it

FDA Sends Warning Letters To Companies Selling Covid-19 Tests

The U.S. FDA sent warning letters to 3 companies selling Covid-19 tests because they were “inappropriately” marked, and “potentially placing public health at risk.”

The letters went to Medakit Ltd. of Sheung Wan, Hong Kong; and Yama Group; and Dr. Jason Korkus, DDS and Sonrisa Family Dental d/b/a My COVID19 Club of Chicago, Illinois. The FDA asked these companies to stop selling these products immediately.

Coronavirus Update: Week 9

Although many had hoped that the coronavirus crisis would begin to improve as summer approached, the CDC is predicting otherwise, and is forecasting more deaths for June. However, some states have already moved their re-openings into the 2nd and 3rd phases, opening more businesses and schools with some social distancing precautions. 

CDC Projects More Coronavirus Deaths for June

The CDC has released new predictions, warning that, while the rate of death may have slowed somewhat, the death toll will continue to rise. These new projections, published Thursday, May 28, forecast about 123,200 deaths by June 20, with a possible range of 115,400 to 134,800 deaths.

graph with red bars going up and a blue arrow above them going upwards.

“This week’s national ensemble forecast indicates that the rate of increase in cumulative COVID-19 deaths is continuing to decline. Nevertheless, total COVID-19 deaths are likely to exceed 115,000 by June 20,” according to the CDC’s website.

Numbers Continue To Rise

There are at least 1,711,313 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the US, and at least 101,129 people have died from the illness. On May 28:

  • California reported the largest single-day increase in confirmed cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with 2,617 new cases reported in 24 hours. 
  • North Carolina also reported one of their highest days of reported deaths and hospitalizations since the pandemic began. Gov. Roy Cooper said that he believes the number of cases might appear to be rising because the state has increased its testing capacity. 
  • Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp believes that the recent spike in Covid-19 cases is likely due to a backlog of test results recently being released. The state currently has 45,099 cases and 1,963 deaths from coronavirus. 
    • “We had a large dump of test results from a private sector vendor over the weekend, they had a big backlog around 15,000 cases that tracked back to April,” Kemp said Thursday, May 28. “They dumped those all into the system over, you know, a two-day period, I think it was Saturday and either Monday or Tuesday, so we feel like that is the reason for the spike in the cases, I can assure you that Dr. Toomey and I and our whole teams continue to watch that data.”
  • New York City has 16,673 confirmed and 4,742 probable coronavirus deaths as of May 28, according to the most recent data on the city’s website. But, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio the percentage of New York City residents who have tested positive is at 5%. This is an improvement for the city, as it’s the lowest percentage they’ve seen since the beginning of the pandemic.  He is also confident that the city will begin phase 1 of the reopening process in the first 2 weeks of June.

New Coronavirus Hot Spotsmap of the US

As Americans continue to reopen their businesses, the so-called “hot spots” of outbreaks begin to shift. Cases are also on the rise in Alabama, Arkansas, California, North Carolina, Virginia, and Wisconsin, which on May 29 reported some of the state’s highest numbers of hospitalizations and reported deaths since the pandemic began.

The WHO is keeping an eye on the hot spots in other parts of the world including Africa, the Middle East, and certain Latin American countries, including Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru.

the red prohibition sign, circle with a slash through the middle.
Trump has announced he will no longer fund the WHO.

Trump Cuts Ties With The WHO

On May 29, President Trump announced that the country will no longer support the WHO, because he alleges that China has total control over the organization. The US contributed more than $400 million dollars to the WHO in 2019, and is the organization’s largest contributor. Cutting ties means cutting funding to help find a cure for the coronavirus, as well as to help halt the spread of any future novel viruses. 

“We will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and directing those funds” to other global public health charities, Mr Trump said in the White House Rose Garden.”The world is now suffering as a result of the malfeasance of the Chinese government,” he said.

He added that China had “instigated a global pandemic that has cost over 100,000 American lives”.

States Continue To Open Schools & Businesses

Although Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in some states, many continue to reopen in phases with some precautions: 

  • Schools in Arizona will bring kids back in the fall, with some social distancing rules in place. 
  • Florida’s Board of Governors approved blueprints for the safe reopening of college campuses. The blueprint is made up of five categories: a healthy campus environment, a healthy community environment, Covid-19 virus testing, contact tracing and surveillance, and academic program delivery. The blueprint will be used as a framework for the state’s 12 universities as they make their own individual plans for reopening in the and white sign that says open with shop underneath it
  • New Mexico is allowing businesses across the state, including hair salons, barber shops, gyms, indoor malls, and dine-in restaurants, to reopen. Beginning Monday, June 1st, some restaurants will open at 50% capacity, while other businesses, such as malls and salons,  will open at 25% capacity.
  • Rhode Island will begin phase 2 of reopening on Monday, June 1st. They will implement  the same rules as those in New Mexico.
  • Idaho will enter phase 3 on Saturday, May 30th, and will allow movie theaters and bars to open. Gatherings of up to 50 people will also be allowed but with some social distancing requirements. 
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbott is allowing outdoor sporting events to host spectators at 25% capacity starting Sunday, May 31st. 

“Each professional sports league that desires to reopen must first submit a plan to the Texas Department of State Health Services,” Abbott announced. “Spectators are allowed for outdoor events, provided that outdoor venues limit the number of spectators to no more than 25% of the normal operating limits of the venue as determined by the facility owner. Spectators are not permitted for indoor events. Each plan must incorporate these minimum health protocols to the greatest extent possible.”

pink ribbon on a white wooden table
Patients who have cancer that is worsening or spreading were 5x more likely to die from the coronavirus.

Raised Risk Of Death In Cancer Patients

Recent studies have found that patients who have cancer that is worsening or spreading were 5 times more likely to die within a month of contracting the coronavirus. “While it’s not surprising, it’s informative that it looks like patients with cancer have twice the risk of dying than the general public,” Dr. Jeremy Warner, who worked on the research and is an associate professor of medicine and biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CNN on Thursday, May 28.

Other data showed that cancer patients who were sick with Covid-19 and treated with hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin were more likely to die than those who weren’t. “This is early and evolving data, and more time and analysis will be needed to confirm and expand on these findings,” Dr. Jeremy Warner, who worked on the research and is an associate professor of medicine and biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said in a written statement on Thursday, May 28.

Coronavirus Update: Week 6

The number of cases and deaths from coronavirus continued to climb this week, with new confirmed cases surging to around 200,000 a day. Because of the rapid increase in new cases, a draft government report has predicted that deaths will soon rise to about 3,000 a day. So far, governors have introduced phases for slowly opening up their states, while some states like Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, and Florida have already begun to re-open. Because of the new predictions and the rapid reopening of some states, many fear that the crisis will only get worse. In order to try and slow down the spread, people are still required to practice social distancing and wear masks when they leave their houses. 

the state of georgia outlined in white with a sign that saus "we're open" in red.

Georgia Reopens

Many governors across the country have begun to reopen their states this week, despite fears that reopening will cause a spike in coronavirus cases. Although it was one of the last states to shut down, Georgia has begun to allow dine-in restaurants, salons, gyms, and other businesses to reopen. Smartphone data shows out-of-state visitors have begun flocking there: in the first week of Georgia’s reopening, an additional 62,440 visitors arrived there each day. 

New Model Predictions

The new model created by the White House is now predicting a total of 134,000 people in the U.S. could die from Coronavirus. This is nearly double its previous prediction. According to CNN, the model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, had predicted 72,433 deaths as of the morning of May 4.

New TSA Guidelines

people at an airport with masks on over their mouth and nose.
TSA has announced that they will require employees to wear facial protection at security checkpoints.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced that they will require employees to wear facial protection at security checkpoints. They acknowledge that it is difficult  to practice social distancing at security checkpoints, and they are hoping to make things safer by requiring masks. 

“TSA is making this change to protect our employees and travelers as social distancing cannot always be maintained in the screening process.” TSA Administrator David Pekoske said in an accompanying statement.

Many airlines, including American, United, Delta, Southwest, Alaska, Frontier, JetBlue and Spirit, have announced plans to make face masks mandatory for passengers.

More Than 66% Of New Cases in NY Are People At Home

The number of covid-19 hospitalizations has remained steady in the state of New York, and surprisingly, 66% of cases were people who stayed home. 

“We were thinking that maybe we were going to find a higher percentage of essential employees who were getting sick because they were going to work, that these may be nurses, doctors, transit workers,” Cuomo said. “That’s not the case, and they were predominantly at home.”

However, the number of deaths in the state has begun to decline, and the governor is hopeful that the numbers will continue to go down. On May 7, there were 232 deaths in the state, compared with a peak of around 800 a day a few weeks ago. New York City, one of the state’s hotspots, is currently trying to reduce the number of infections by using UV light to try and kill the virus on the subway.

Trump Battles CDC Over Reopening Guidelines

yellow and black boxing gloves

As Trump pushes to reopen the economy, a battle between the White House and the CDC has erupted. While The CDC has put out guidelines for child care programs, schools, churches, restaurants and bars, and mass transit administrators, including using disposable utensils, closing every other row of seats on buses and subways, and even restricting travel to areas with high infection levels, the White House has rejected these recommendations. The White House has cited concerns that these recommendations could infringe on religious rights and cause further damage to the economy. 

Nearly Everyone Who Gets Coronavirus Makes Antibodies

A new study has found that nearly everyone who gets infected with the coronavirus will eventually make antibodies to the virus. According to the study, the age and sex of the patient did not matter, nor did the severity of the illness. 

“The question now becomes to what extent those are neutralizing antibodies, and whether that leads to protection from infection — all of which we should presume are yes,” said Sean Whelan, a virologist at Washington University in St. Louis.

Coronavirus Update: Week 4

With 62,603 deaths in America from the Coronavirus as of April 30th, it doesn’t feel as if the situation in our country is improving. However, the stay-at-home orders and social distancing measures in Hawaii, New Jersey, and New York have helped slow the spread of COVID-19 in these states. There are hopes that the warmer summer months will also help to slow the spread and keep the number of cases down. 

On the economic front, more people filed for unemployment last week, bringing the total unemployment number to 26.5 million. Fortunately, the House has approved a new relief package that will hopefully help those who are struggling.

a picture of the outside of congress with trees around it.
The House of Representatives voted to approve a $484 billion relief package to aid small businesses and hospitals.

House Passes $484 Billion Coronavirus Relief Bill

The House of Representatives voted on April 23 to approve a $484 billion relief package to aid small businesses and hospitals, and to expand COVID-29 testing. The bill passed in a bipartisan 388-5 vote, with only one Democrat and four Republicans voting against it. $310 billion of the relief package is expected to go towards replenishing the Paycheck Protection Program, which dried up almost as soon as it was created last month. 

Nursing Homes Ordered To Disclose COVID-19 Cases & Deaths

On Sunday, April 19, the CMS announced new guidelines for the handling of COVID-19 cases at nursing homes. Because nursing home residents are among the most vulnerable to the virus, facilities will have to notify residents and their families of a confirmed case of COVID-19 within 12 hours of becoming aware of it. 

“Nursing homes have been ground zero for COVID-19,” Seema Verma, administrator of CMS, said in announcing the new rules, which she says are designed to provide “transparent and timely information to residents and their families.”

Hopeful Signs in Coronavirus Vaccine Testing

caucasian hand with a clear glove on holding a needle inserting it into a caucasian arm.
One of the many potential COVID-19 vaccines that is being tested has protected an animal from being infected with the virus.

One of the many potential COVID-19 vaccines that is being tested has protected an animal from being infected with the virus. Researchers from Sinvoca Biotech in Beijing gave 2 doses of the vaccine to 8 rhesus macaque monkeys, and 3 weeks later the monkeys were introduced to the virus. None of the monkeys developed a full-blown infection.

Of the 8 monkeys, the ones that were given the highest dose of the vaccine had the best responses. The ones with lowered doses experienced a “viral blip,” but were mostly able to fight off the infection. Researchers, however, are being cautious, and have said that monkeys do not develop symptoms of the virus as severe as those of humans. The Sinovac researchers acknowledge in the paper that, “It’s still too early to define the best animal model for studying SARS-CoV-2,” but noted that unvaccinated rhesus macaques given the virus have symptoms that “mimic COVID-19-like symptoms.”

States Re-Opening

Some states, like Pennsylvania, have set a target date of May 8 for reopening businesses in less impacted areas of the state. Other states, like New York, have decided to wait until May 15, while some states, like Virginia, are continuing their stay-at-home orders until June 10. 

On Thursday, April 23, Vice President Mike Pence stated his belief that the coronavirus pandemic could “largely” be “behind us” by Memorial Day Weekend. “If you look at the trends today, I think by Memorial Day Weekend we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us,” said Pence, who is chair of the White House coronavirus task force. 

Trump Signs Executive Order Halting Green Cardscartoon of man with his hand out and a red circle over it with a red line through the circle.

President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday, April 22nd temporarily blocking the issuing of green cards. There are, however, exemptions to the order, including overseas spouses, young children of American citizens, and members of the military and their children. 

“It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad,” Mr. Trump said on Tuesday. “We must first take care of the American worker.”

The executive order does not affect immigrants who are currently living in the U.S. or those seeking temporary visas for work or education.