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.

Trump claims to defeat HIV/AIDS by 2030, Is It Possible?

Over the past couple of months, President Trump has made a few promises to the public regarding healthcare. Just this past December, he promised to protect pre-existing conditions, and now during his State of the Union Address, he pledges to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. His plan is to reduce new HIV infection by 75% in the next five years, and almost by 90% in ten years. Is it possible? And just how does he plan to do it?

HIV Numbers At A Standstill

In order to defeat HIV, there must be a way to get treatment and prevention methods to those who need it.
In order to defeat HIV, there must be a way to get treatment and prevention methods to those who need it.

According to data collected by the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2010 and 2016, the overall number of HIV infections was dropping. The report indicated that HIV was higher among people aged between 25 -34, but lower among people aged 13-24 and 45-54. The number of women getting infected decreased but remained stable among men. In 2016, over half of those infected with HIV were males.

Although the numbers were declining for several years, it seems that the decline in annual HIV infections has stopped. After five years, it began to level off in 2013 at about 39,000 infections per year. The reason for the stall in numbers is simple, funding. People who could benefit most from HIV prevention and treatment are not able to retrieve it.

Trump’s Plan

Trump’s proposed budget for 2020 includes almost $300 million towards his campaign to end HIV.  “In recent years, we have made remarkable progress in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Scientific breakthroughs have brought a once-distant dream within reach,” Trump said in the address.”My budget will ask Democrats and Republicans to make the needed commitment to eliminate the HIV epidemic in the United States within 10 years. Together, we will defeat AIDS in America.”

Funding is very important in order to get rid of the HIV epidemic.
Funding is very important in order to get rid of the HIV epidemic within the next 10 years, as promised by Trump.

In 2001, President Bush made the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. In 2003, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) was created. Because of these two programs, there have been half as many deaths. Trump plans to fund programs in geographic places where HIV infections are high. With the data collected, they will expand HIV prevention and treatment. With the upcoming programs alongside the Global Fund, and PEPFAR, many are hoping to see a significant decrease in HIV infections.

Heather Bradley, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at Georgia State University’s School of Public Health, conducted research on HIV observation. She estimates that although Trump claims a 90% decrease by 2030, it will more realistically be a 67% reduction.  She did say that 90% can be achieved, but it will take a lot of government resources to make it happen.