May 2020 COVID 19

May 2020 COVID 19

Winter was over in the northern hemisphere. The COVID-19 virus that had been born then continued grew; then it became a pandemic  in FebruaryMarch brought lock-downs. Thousands died daily.

April’s arrival suggested some light at the end of the horror. Some said the warm weather in the northern hemisphere would bring relief. Others said there was no way to know.

Many countries and some American states began to relax their quarantine. Protesters  shouted to open everything again. Protesters shouted to keep everything closed. Governors tweaked the definition of “essential” and some of their constituents tweeted “No.”

May 2020 COVID-19

Remdesivir

May 2020 COVID 19

May 1: the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency approval for the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients with Covid-19, the illness caused by the virus. [NYT article]

May 2020 COVID-19

The Trump administration projects about 3,000 daily deaths by early June

May 4: the NY Times reported that as President Trump pressed for states to reopen their economies, his administration was privately projecting a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths over the next several weeks.  According to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, the daily death toll would reach about 3,000 on June 1, , nearly double the current number of about 1,750.

The projections, based on government modeling pulled together in chart form by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases a day currently.

The numbers underscored a sobering reality: While the United States had been hunkered down for the past seven weeks, significant risks remained. And reopening the economy will make matters worse.

“There remains a large number of counties whose burden continues to grow,” the Centers for Disease Control warned.

Pushback

NPR reported that that same day, the administration  pushed back against that report,

“This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the coronavirus task force or gone through interagency vetting,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

It also included: “This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed. The president’s phased guidelines to open up America again are a scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with. The health of the American people remains President Trump’s top priority and that will continue as we monitor the efforts by states to ease restrictions.”

Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who reportedly created the model reported by the Timestold The Washington Post that the work contained a wide range of possibilities and modeling was not complete.

May 2020 COVID-19

253,401 deaths worldwide

May 5: cases: 3,673,387; deaths: 253,401

White House to wind down coronavirus task force

May 5: the NY Times reported that President Trump said that the White House’s coronavirus task force would be shut down and replaced with “something in a different form” as the country moved into what he called Phase 2 of a response to a pandemic that has killed nearly 70,000 Americans.

“We will have something in a different form,” Mr. Trump told reporters as he toured a Honeywell mask manufacturing plant in Arizona, where he wore safety goggles but no mask. The president praised the work of the task force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, but said it was time to focus on safety and reopening the country.

May 2020 COVID-19

Dr. Rick Bright

May 5: the NY Times reported that Dr. Rick Bright, who was the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until his removal in April, said in a formal whistle-blower complaint that since 2017 he had been protesting “cronyism and award of contracts to companies with political connections to the administration,” including a drug company executive who is close to Mr. Kushner,  Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser.

The 89-page complaint, filed with the Office of Special Counsel, which protects federal whistle-blowers, also said Dr. Bright “encountered opposition” from his Health and Human Services superiors — including Mr. Azar — while pushing as early as January for the necessary resources to develop drugs and vaccines to counter the emerging pandemic. (see May 8 below)

Trump contradicts his administration’s plans to shut down the coronavirus task force.

May 6: President Trump, contradicting his comments from May 5, said the White House coronavirus task force would “continue on indefinitely,” though perhaps with different members.

His announcement, made on Twitter, came one day after Vice President Mike Pence, who has led the group for two months, said it would probably wrap up its work around the end of the May.

But in a series of Wednesday morning tweets, Mr. Trump appeared to contradict that, and emphasized his desire to reopen the economy despite a continued rise in coronavirus cases and public health warnings that more commerce will mean more deaths.

Mr. Trump wrote that, because of the task force’s “success,” it would “continue on indefinitely with its focus on SAFETY & OPENING UP OUR COUNTRY AGAIN.”

May 2020 COVID-19

US Infection Source

May 7: the NY Times reported that new research had revealed that  as thousands of infected people traveled from New York City they seeded the outbreaks around the country.

The research indicated that a wave of infections swept from New York City through much of the country before the city began setting social distancing limits to stop the growth. That helped to fuel outbreaks in Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and as far away as the West Coast.

The findings were drawn from geneticists’ tracking signature mutations of the virus, travel histories of infected people, and models of the outbreaks by infectious disease experts.

265,668 deaths worldwide

May 7: worldwide cases: 3,843,555; worldwide deaths: 265,668

May 2020 COVID-19

Insufficient Testing

May 7: NPR reported that the Trump administration had said on April 27 the U.S. would soon have enough capacity to conduct double the current amount of testing for active infections.

As of May 7, according to the nonprofit Covid Tracking Project, the country had done nearly 248,000 tests daily on average in the previous seven days.

The Harvard’s Global Health Institute, proposed that the U.S. should be doing more than 900,000 tests per day as a country.

An accompanying chart showed that of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, in rank of testing insufficiency, the first 31 places were insufficient before the first was–North Dakota. Eleven states followed before the next state with sufficient testing (Utah). All told, only 7 states had met what most testing models predict necessary.

Dr Bright/Office of Special Counsel

May 8: CNN reported that the former federal vaccine chief Dr Richard Bright’s lawyers said the investigative office reviewing the whistleblower complaint of Dr. Richard Bright had determined there was reason to believe he had been removed as retaliation.

The office recommended he be reinstated during the investigation, the lawyers said. Bright had led the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority since 2016 when he was reassigned last month to a narrower position at the National Institutes of Health.

The Office of Special Counsel “advised that in light of this determination, it would contact the Department of Health and Human Services (‘HHS’) to request that it stay Dr. Bright’s removal as Director of BARDA for 45 days to allow OSC sufficient time to complete its investigation of Bright’s allegations,” Bright’s lawyers said in a statement.

May 8:  the NYT reported that in an  advancement that promised to greatly expand the nation’s testing capacity, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first antigen test that could rapidly detect whether a person had been infected by the coronavirus.

The FDA gave emergency use authorization for the test, by the Quidel Corporation of San Diego, according to a notice on the agency’s website.

May 2020 COVID-19

277,087 deaths worldwide

May 9: cases: 4,044,795; deaths: 277,087

Administration quarantines

May 9: three top public health officials in the Trump administration began partial or full self-quarantine for two weeks after coming into contact with someone who has tested positive: Representatives for Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Dr. Stephen Hahn, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

May 2020 COVID-19

Top health experts testify that the U.S. is not ‘out of the woods’ and warn against reopening too fast.

The day after President Trump had declared, “We have met the moment, and we have prevailed,” experts of the Trump administration’s coronavirus response warned of dire consequences if states did not proceed with caution in reopening

They painted a grim picture of the months ahead, warning a Senate panel that the United States does not yet have control over the pandemic and lacks crucial capabilities to contain an inevitable surge in cases that could arise if the nation moves too quickly to reopen the economy.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “but we are more prepared.”

Dr. Redfield’s remark along with comments of Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, made clear that the country was still facing steep challenges in responding to the pandemic. [NYT article; CNN article]

May 2020 COVID-19

291,354 deaths worldwide

May 12: cases: 4,318,171; deaths: 291,354

May 2020 COVID-19

Trump says he is taking hydroxychloroquine, an unproven drug against the virus.

May 18: President Trump said  that he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug whose effectiveness against the coronavirus is unproven, for about a week and a half as a preventive measure.

“All I can tell you is, so far I seem to be OK,” he said, explaining that he takes a daily pill. The White House physician said later that Mr. Trump had no symptoms and had regularly tested negative for the virus.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a safety warning in April about hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, malaria prevention drugs that have been repeatedly promoted by Mr. Trump and widely used to treat virus patients despite the lack of evidence that they work. [NYT article] (see May 25 below)

320,795  deaths worldwide

May 19: cases: 4,924,023; deaths: 320,795

May 2020 COVID-19

WHO reports largest single-day increase in coronavirus 

May 20: CNN reported that Tedros Adhanom-Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, on Wednesday said that more cases had been reported to the agency in the last 24 hours than any time since the novel coronavirus outbreak began.

“We still have a long way to go in this pandemic,” Tedros said at a briefing in Geneva. “In the last 24 hours, there have been 106,000 cases reported to WHO – the most in a single day since the outbreak began. Almost two-thirds of these cases were reported in just four countries.”

Those four countries, WHO infectious disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove confirmed to CNN in an email, are: the United States, Russia, Brazil and India.

Disease models suggest tens of thousands of U.S. deaths could have been prevented

May 21: the NY Times reported that according to new estimates from Columbia University disease modelers, if the United States had begun imposing social-distancing measures one week earlier in March, about 36,000 fewer people would have died in the pandemic.

And if the country had begun locking down cities and limiting social contact on March 1, two weeks earlier than when most people started staying home, a vast majority of the nation’s deaths — about 83 percent — would have been avoided, the researchers estimated.

320,795  deaths worldwide

May 21: cases: 5,112,010; deaths: 330,255

May 2020 COVID-19

Drug touted by Trump as treatment linked to greater risk of death, study finds

May 22: CNN reported that seriously ill Covid-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were more likely to die or develop dangerous heart arrhythmias, according to a large observational study published in the medical journal The Lancet.

Researchers looked at data from more than 96,000 Covid-19 patients from 671 hospitals. All were hospitalized from late December to mid-April and had died or been discharged by April 21. Just below 15,000 were treated with the antimalarial drugs hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, or one of those drugs combined with an antibiotic.
Those treatments were linked with a higher risk of dying in the hospital, the study found. About 1 in 6 patients treated with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine alone died in the hospital, compared to 1 in 11 patients in the control group. (see May 25 below)
May 22: as it tracked the coronavirus’s spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was combining tests that detected active infection with those that detect recovery from Covid-19 — a system that muddied the picture of the pandemic but raised the percentage of Americans tested as President Trump boasted about testing.

With serology tests, which look for antibodies in the blood of people who had recovered, were more widespread, C.D.C. officials said  they would work to separate them from the results of diagnostic tests, which detected active infection. One of the agency’s data tracker websites had been lumping them together. [NYT article]

May 2020 COVID-19

May 23: the NY Times reported that worldwide, the pace of new infections still climbed with over 100,000 new cases reported daily since May 21. The numbers were among the very worst since the pandemic began, second only to a single day in April, according to data compiled by the Times.

The list of countries seeing sharp increases was not limited to those in Central and South America. In India, infections had surged to over 125,000 people, and Iran, which experienced one of the earliest and most significant outbreaks, was undergoing a resurgence of new cases.

342,396  deaths worldwide

May 23: cases: 5,369,351;  deaths: 342,396

May 2020 COVID-19

Citing safety concerns, W.H.O. pauses tests

May 25: the World Health Organization said  that safety concerns had prompted it to temporarily remove the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine — which Mr. Trump said he had taken in hopes of warding off the coronavirus, despite the lack of evidence that it works — from a global drug trial aimed at finding treatments for Covid-19.

Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s director-general, said officials had decided on a “temporary pause” in testing the drug after The Lancet published an observational study last week that found that people who took the drug were more likely to die. Several earlier studies had also found no benefit — and possible harm — when the drug was used by Covid-19 patients.

Dr. Tedros said his agency would review safety data. [NYT article]

348,334  deaths worldwide

May 26: cases: 5,611,601; deaths: 348,334

May 29: the NY Times reported that after spending weeks accusing the World Health Organization of helping the Chinese government cover up the early days of the coronavirus epidemic in China, President Trump said that the United States would terminate its relationship with the agency.

There was no evidence that the W.H.O. or the government in Beijing hid the extent of the epidemic in China, and public health experts generally view Mr. Trump’s charges as a way to deflect attention from his administration’s own bungled attempts to respond to the virus’s spread in the United States.

Supreme Court/Churches/COVID

May 29, 2020: the Supreme Court  turned away a request from a church in California to block enforcement of state restrictions on attendance at religious services.

The vote was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s four-member liberal wing to form a majority.

“Although California’s guidelines place restrictions on places of worship, those restrictions appear consistent with the free exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in an opinion concurring in the unsigned ruling. [NYT article]

367,230  deaths worldwide

May 30: cases: 6,049,380; deaths: 367,230

Hydroxychloroquine  to Brazil

May 31: the NY Times reported that the White House had announced that United States had delivered two million doses of hydroxychloroquine  to Brazil for use in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic. The two countries were embarking on a joint research effort to study whether the drug was safe and effective for the prevention and early treatment of Covid-19.

The announcement cames after months of controversy over the drug, hydroxychloroquine, which President Trump had aggressively promoted, despite a lack of scientific evidence of its effectiveness as a treatment for Covid-19. Mr. Trump had stunned public health experts by saying he was taking a two-week course of the medicine.

May 2020 COVID-19

April 2020 COVID 19

April 2020 COVID 19

The United States entered it’s second month of the COVID-19 pandemic. Political leaders and medical experts continued to speak of “flattening the curve,” but at the local level, stress and anxiety dominated the quotidian lives of most Americans. We hid from this invisible enemy that seemed to kill certain people more (the elderly, those with preexisting health conditions), yet often killed the apparently healthy as well.

This post covers the topic in a more general way. See Trump April for a post that deals more with President Trump and his administration’s policies regarding the disease.

Trump claims…

April 1, 2020: CNN reported that President Donald Trump had made another series of false, misleading or dubious claims at a  coronavirus briefing that began with an off-topic discussion of his administration’s efforts to fight drug trafficking.

Trump again said that “nobody” could have foreseen a pandemic crisis leading to a shortage of ventilators, for which there were numerous warnings. He predicted that the virus would no longer be a concern after about a month, a timeline at odds with assessments of experts. And he implied some states are basically fine when it comes to the coronavirus.

Where America Didn’t Stay Home Even as the Virus Spread

April 2, 2020: the NY Times reported that stay-at-home orders had nearly halted travel for most Americans, but people in Florida, the Southeast and other places that waited to enact such orders had continued to travel widely, potentially exposing more people as the coronavirus outbreak accelerated according to an analysis of cellphone location data

COVID 19 April 2020

April 2020 COVID 19

Trump Claims Testing For Coronavirus Most Per Capita

April 2: Trump again said that “nobody” could have foreseen a pandemic crisis leading to a shortage of ventilators, for which there were numerous warnings. He predicted that the virus would no longer be a concern after about a month, a timeline at odds with assessments of experts. And he implied some states are basically fine when it comes to the coronavirus.

During his  briefing with the coronavirus task force, President Trump repeated a claim that the United States has done more testing for the contagion on a per-capita basis than any other country.

“We’re now conducting well over 100,000 coronavirus tests per day,” Trump said. “It’s over 100,000 tests a day. And these are accurate tests, and they’re moving rapidly, which is more than any other country in the world, both in terms of the raw number and also on a per-capita basis, the most.”

Given the population of the U.S. (about 327 million), that’s roughly one in every 273 people, as of April 2.

South Korea, with its population of 51.5 million, has done 431,743 tests, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s approximately one in every 119 people.

Germany had tested about one-in-90 people — 918,460 with a population of 82.8 million. Germany also happens to have one of the lowest fatality rates from COVID-19.

With 581,232 tests conducted, according to the Italian health ministry, and a population of roughly 60.5 million, Italy’s testing per capita is on par with South Korea — about one in every 104.

COVID 19 April 2020

Navy Captain Relieved of Duty

April 2020 COVID 19
Capt. Brett Crozier

April 2: acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly relieved Capt. Brett Crozier who had written a letter to his superiors about a coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.

“I lost confidence in his ability,” acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said of Crozier.

Modly charged that by having “widely distributed” a letter highly critical of the management of a coronavirus outbreak Crozier had “allowed emotion” to color his judgment” and that the captain’s letter “was sent outside the chain of command.” (see April 6 below)

April 2020 COVID 19

1,000,000+ infections

April 3:  at least one million infections had been detected worldwide, but experts suspected that the true number was far larger because of asymptomatic cases and delays in widespread testing. The Australian medical chief estimated that there are between five million and 10 million cases.

The number of recorded deaths in the United States topped 1,000 in a single day for the first time. In New York City, the center of the country’s outbreak, both hospitals and morgues struggled to meet surging demand.

April 2020 COVID 19

April 2019

On April 3, 2020 CNN reported that at the at the BioDefense Summit on April 17,  2019, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Tim Morrison, then a special assistant to the President and senior director for weapons of mass destruction and biodefense on the National Security Council said, “Of course, the thing that people ask: ‘What keeps you most up at night in the biodefense world?’ Pandemic flu, of course. I think everyone in this room probably shares that concern,” Azar said, before listing off efforts to mitigate the impact of flu outbreaks.

Such a statement undercut President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the coronavirus pandemic was an unforeseen problem.

C.D.C. says all Americans should wear masks.

Trump says he won’t.

April 3: President Trump said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was urging all Americans to wear a mask when they leave their homes, but he undercut the message by repeatedly calling the recommendation voluntary and saying he would not wear one himself.

“With the masks, it is going to be a voluntary thing,” the president said at the beginning of the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House. “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it. It may be good. It is only a recommendation, voluntary.”

“Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I don’t know,” he added, though he stopped receiving foreign dignitaries weeks ago. “Somehow, I just don’t see it for myself.” [NYT article]

April 2020 COVID 19

Trump Continues To Claim Drug Can Treat Coronavirus

April 3: NPR reported that President Trump continued to claim that hydroxychloroquine was a promising treatment for COVID-19.

“Hydroxychloroquine, I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s looking like it’s having some good results. I hope that, that would be a phenomenal thing.”

But the clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine had just recently started, and the scientists in charge of them have not reported any results as yet, either positive or negative. Seeing any positive effect from the drug is likely to take some time, perhaps weeks.

Dr Anthony Fauci

April 3: during a CNN interview, Dr. Anthony Fauci , the nation’s top infectious disease expert said  he doesn’t understand why every state hasn’t issued stay-at-home orders as novel coronavirus cases continue to surge across the US.

“I don’t understand why that’s not happening,” Fauci told CNN’s Anderson Cooper during CNN’s coronavirus town hall.

April 2020 COVID 19

Surge yet…

April 4: the NY Times reported that President Trump predicted a surging death toll in what he said may be “the toughest week” of the coronavirus pandemic before also dispensing unproven medical advice. He suggested again that Americans might be able to congregate for Easter services next Sunday.

“There will be a lot of death,” he said at the White House, where he and other American officials depicted some parts of the United States as climbing toward the peaks of their crises, while warning that new hot spots were emerging in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, D.C.

April 2020 COVID 19

What do you have to lose?

April 5: NPR reported that President Trump doubled down on the suggestion that people facing the coronavirus should consider taking an anti-malaria drug that has not been proven to be an effective treatment.

In a news conference he repeated a line he has said many times before — “what do you have to lose?” — when detailing that the federal government had stockpiled 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine for potential use to treat the virus. He also suggested doctors take the drug before treating coronavirus patients.

What do you have to lose? What do you have to lose? And a lot of people are saying that when … and are taking it, if you’re a doctor, a nurse, a first responder, a medical person going into hospitals, they say taking it before the fact is good, but what do you have to lose? They say, take it, I’m not looking at it one way or the other, but we want to get out of this. If it does work, it would be a shame if we didn’t do it early. But we have some very good signs. So that’s hydroxy chloroquine and as azithromycin, and again, you have to go through your medical people get the approval. But I’ve seen things that I sort of like, so what do I know? I’m not a doctor, I’m not a doctor, but I have common sense. [full transcript]

April 2020 COVID 19

70,525 deaths

April 6:  cases: 1,287,112 [view by country]; deaths: 70,525

April 6: Dr. Mike Ryan, head of the WHO’s Health Emergencies Programme, said you can’t lift a lockdown all at once. “You need to say, ‘We will stop doing this element of the shutdown, and then we will wait, and we will look at the data. If that works, we go to the next stage and the next stage.’ So a careful, calibrated stepwise exit from lockdown.” [NPR timeline]

April 2020 COVID 19

More Modley Mishaps

April 6: Acting Navy Secretary Thomas B. Modly flew to Guam where the the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt  was docked. On board, Modly excoriated the fired commander of the ship to its crew via the ship’s internal loudspeaker system according to a transcript that was leaked online. The New York Times obtained an audio recording that supports the transcript’s authenticity.

In a profane and defensive address that one crew member described in an interview as “whiny, upset, irritated, condescending,” Modly took repeated shots at the integrity of Capt. Brett E. Crozier.

He also rebuked the crew for having cheered their captain as he left the ship. [NYT article]

April 7: Modly resigned. (see April 24 below)

Trump Attacks WHO

April 7: The NY  Times reported that President Trump threatened to cut funding from the World Health Organization, accusing it of not being aggressive enough in confronting the dangers from the virus.
“We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the W.H.O.,”  Trump said.
In fact,  on January 30  the W.H.O. officially declared COVID a  “public health emergency of international concern.”weeks before Trump declared a national emergency. In fact, on that same day, Trump said, “We think we have it very well under control.”

76, 323 deaths

April 7:  Cases: 1,361,674 [view by country] Deaths: 76,323

83,512 deaths

April 8: cases: 1,450,950 (view by country); deaths: 83,512

April 8: “Please don’t politicize this virus,” Tedros said in a briefing in Geneva after he was asked about Trump’s remarks the day before. He later urged political leaders to “please quarantine politicizing COVID.” [NPR timeline]

89,426 deaths

April 9: cases: 1,529,968 (view by country) ; deaths: 89,426

April 2020 COVID 19

Mid-February in NY

April 9: the NY Times reported that new research indicated that the coronavirus began to circulate in the New York area by mid-February, weeks before the first confirmed case, and that travelers brought in the virus mainly from Europe, not Asia.

“The majority is clearly European,” said Harm van Bakel, a geneticist at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, who co-wrote a study awaiting peer review.

A separate team at N.Y.U. Grossman School of Medicine came to strikingly similar conclusions, despite studying a different group of cases. Both teams analyzed genomes from coronaviruses taken from New Yorkers starting in mid-March.

The research revealed a previously hidden spread of the virus that might have been detected if aggressive testing programs had been put in place.

97,192 deaths

April 10: cases: 1,622,049 [view by country] deaths: 97,192

107,644 deaths

April 11: cases, 1,760,853 [view by country] deaths: 107,644

114,053 deaths

April 12: cases, 1,849,473 [view by country] deaths: 114,053

April 2020 COVID 19

US Has Most COVID Deaths 

April 12: NPR reported that the death toll in the United States from the coronavirus  surpassed Italy’s, putting America at No. 1 worldwide for the number of people killed by the strain.

Data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center show the U.S. lost more than 20,600 patients to the virus. At the same point, Italy had nearly 19,500 deaths.

Chloroquine Study Halted

April 13: the NY Times reported that a small study of chloroquine, which is closely related to the hydroxychloroquine drug that President Trump has promoted, was halted in Brazil after coronavirus patients taking a higher dose developed irregular heart rates that increased their risk of a potentially fatal arrhythmia.

The study, which involved 81 hospitalized patients in the city of Manaus, was sponsored by the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Roughly half the participants were prescribed 450 milligrams of chloroquine twice daily for five days, while the rest were prescribed 600 milligrams for 10 days.

Within three days, researchers started noticing heart arrhythmias in patients taking the higher dose. By the sixth day of treatment, 11 patients had died, leading to an immediate end to the high-dose segment of the trial.

117,785 deaths

April 13: cases: 1,898,018 [view by country] ; deaths: 117,785

April 2020 COVID 19

Where it IT come from?

April 13: CNN reported that despite evidence from infectious disease experts suggesting otherwise, nearly 30% of Americans in a new Pew poll said they believe the novel coronavirus was likely created in a lab.

The latest poll from the public opinion fact tank shows that misinformation around the virus is still king, even as fact checkers and public health officials work furiously to dispel it and save American lives.
A total of 23% of adults polled said they believe the virus was created intentionally. This was almost certainly not true, according to the genetic detectives studying the virus’s origins.
And 43% — a plurality, but not an overwhelming majority — said the virus likely came about naturally. This is most likely the truth, according to virus experts.

123,481 deaths

 April 14: cases: 1,956,457 [view by country]; deaths: 123,481

COVID 19 April 2020

April 14: the NY Times reported that recent polls had show that more Americans disapproved of  President Trump’s handling of the virus than approve.

On this date, the president tried to shift the blame elsewhere, ordered his administration to halt funding for the World Health Organization and claimed the organization had made a series of devastating mistakes as it sought to battle the virus. He said his administration would conduct a review into whether the W.H.O. was responsible for “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread.

“So much death has been caused by their mistakes,” the president told reporters during a White House briefing.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, defended the World Health Organization, saying it “must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19.”

Guterres added that it was “possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities,” but he said that the middle of a pandemic was not the time to resolve those differences.

“It is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus,” he said.

Patrice A. Harris, the president of the American Medical Association, said that the move was “a dangerous step in the wrong direction.” [2nd NYT article]

133,276 deaths

April 15: cases: 2,067,900, [view by country] ; deaths: 133,276

144,313 deaths

April 16: cases: 2,164,984 [view by country]; deaths: 144,313

China revises its figures

April 17: the NY Times reported that faced with mounting skepticism over its official figures, China  revised upward its death toll in the city where the coronavirus first emerged.

Officials placed the new tally at 3,869 deaths from the coronavirus in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, an increase of 1,290, or 50 percent, from the previous figure. The number of confirmed infections in the city was also revised upward to 50,333, an increase of 325.

Officials in Wuhan said the revised death toll included those who died at home in the early days of the outbreak, as well as deaths that had not been properly reported by hospitals or registered on death certificates.

152,398 deaths

April 17: cases, 2,225,394;  [view by country]; deaths: 152,398

April 2020 COVID 19

Global Citizen Virtual Concert

April 18: Former first ladies Laura Bush and Michelle Obama made an appearance on the Global Citizen “One World: Together At Home” televised concert special, separately, from their own homes, sharing messages of thanks and hope.

“Michelle and I are thrilled to join you tonight in your homes for this special program,” said Bush.
The concet’s goal was to honor front-line healthcare workers and support the World Health Organization (WHO).
The hours-long event began online before being simulcast on the major TV networks. Musicians and entertainers from around the world, including Lady Gaga, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, Maluma and Lizzo, made appearances. [Forbes article]

US exports PPE

April 18: according to a Washington Post analysis of customs data, US manufacturers exported roughly $17.6 million in face masks and other vital medical supplies in January and February of 2020.  That was a 1,000% increase from the same period last year, where exporters shipped $1.4 million worth of the products, according to The Post.

161,270 deaths

April 19: cases: 2,350,075  [view by country]; deaths: 161,270.

169,943 deaths

April 20: cases: 2,470,893, [view by country] ; deaths: 169,943

April 2020 COVID 19

Earlier COVID Deaths

April 21: the NY Times reported that the medical examiner of Santa Clara California revealed that autopsies of two people who died at their homes on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 were infected with the coronavirus — weeks before the first officially recorded death in Seattle. The revelation gave public health detectives trying to retrace the path of the coronavirus across America another clue  to that path.

Neither of the victims had a travel history, meaning that in all probability they were infected in the community, indicating that the virus was already spreading at that time.

178,669 deaths

April 22: cases: 2,575,875 [view by country] deaths: 178,669

191,899 deaths

April 24: cases: 2,746,954 [view by country]; deaths: 191,899

April 24: the NY Times reported that the chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Michael M. Gilday, and the acting Navy Secretary, James McPherson recommended that Capt. Brett E. Crozier should be restored to command of the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt.

But Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, who was briefed on the recommendations, has asked for more time to consider whether he would sign off on the reinstatement.

April 2020 COVID 19

Immunity?

April 23: the Irish Times reported that the World Health Organisation (WHO) said  that there was currently “no evidence” that people who have recovered from coronavirus and have antibodies are protected from a second coronavirus infection.

In a scientific brief, the United Nations agency warned governments against issuing “immunity passports” or “risk-free certificates” to people who have been infected as their accuracy could not be guaranteed.

The practice could actually increase the risks of continued spread as people who have recovered from the illness, also known as Covid-19, may ignore advice about taking standard precautions against the virus, it said. [NPR story]

WHO dissed

April 24: Reuters reported that a spokesman for the U.S. mission in Geneva announced that the United States would not take part in the launching of a global initiative on May 1 to speed the development, production and distribution of drugs and vaccines against COVID-19.

There will be no U.S. official participation”, he said in an email reply to a query. “We look forward to learning more about this initiative  in support of international cooperation to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 as soon as possible.”

198,532 deaths

April 25: cases: 2,855,699 [view by country]; deaths: 198,532

200,000+ Deaths

April 26: cases: 2,953,699; deaths: 204,723

228,828 deaths

April 30: cases: 3,237,600; deaths: 228,828

April 2020 COVID 19

April COVID 19 Trump

April COVID 19 Trump

This is the third post regarding President Trump and the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are links to the first and the second.

I have also posted chronologies about the pandemic in general. Here are links to the first and the second and third of those.

Trump Diverts

April 1: CNN reported that President Donald Trump had made another series of false, misleading or dubious claims at a  coronavirus briefing that began with an off-topic discussion of his administration’s efforts to fight drug trafficking.

April COVID 19 Trump

Trump Claims U.S. Testing Most Per Capita

April 2: Trump again said that “nobody” could have foreseen a pandemic crisis leading to a shortage of ventilators, for which there were numerous warnings. He predicted that the virus would no longer be a concern after about a month, a timeline at odds with assessments of experts. And he implied some states are basically fine when it comes to the coronavirus.

During his  briefing with the coronavirus task force, President Trump repeated a claim that the United States has done more testing for the contagion on a per-capita basis than any other country.

“We’re now conducting well over 100,000 coronavirus tests per day,” Trump said. “It’s over 100,000 tests a day. And these are accurate tests, and they’re moving rapidly, which is more than any other country in the world, both in terms of the raw number and also on a per-capita basis, the most.”

Given the population of the U.S. (about 327 million), that’s roughly one in every 273 people, as of April 2.

South Korea, with its population of 51.5 million, has done 431,743 tests, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s approximately one in every 119 people.

Germany had tested about one-in-90 people — 918,460 with a population of 82.8 million. Germany also happens to have one of the lowest fatality rates from COVID-19.

With 581,232 tests conducted, according to the Italian health ministry, and a population of roughly 60.5 million, Italy’s testing per capita is on par with South Korea — about one in every 104.

April COVID 19 Trump

2019 BioDefense Summit

On April 3, 2020 CNN reported that at the at the BioDefense Summit in April 2019, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Tim Morrison, then a special assistant to the President and senior director for weapons of mass destruction and biodefense on the National Security Council said, “Of course, the thing that people ask: ‘What keeps you most up at night in the biodefense world?’ Pandemic flu, of course. I think everyone in this room probably shares that concern,” Azar said, before listing off efforts to mitigate the impact of flu outbreaks.

Such a statement undercut President Donald Trump’s repeated claims that the coronavirus pandemic was an unforeseen problem.

C.D.C. says all Americans should wear masks.

Trump says he won’t.

April 3: President Trump said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was urging all Americans to wear a mask when they leave their homes, but he undercut the message by repeatedly calling the recommendation voluntary and saying he would not wear one himself.

“With the masks, it is going to be a voluntary thing,” the president said at the beginning of the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House. “You can do it. You don’t have to do it. I am choosing not to do it. It may be good. It is only a recommendation, voluntary.”

“Wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens — I don’t know,” he added, though he stopped receiving foreign dignitaries weeks ago. “Somehow, I just don’t see it for myself.” [NYT article]

Trump Continues  to Promote Dubious Treatments

April 3: NPR reported that President Trump continued to claim that hydroxychloroquine was a promising treatment for COVID-19.

“Hydroxychloroquine, I don’t know,” he said, shaking his head. “It’s looking like it’s having some good results. I hope that, that would be a phenomenal thing.”

But the clinical trials of hydroxychloroquine had just recently started, and the scientists in charge of them have not reported any results as yet, either positive or negative. Seeing any positive effect from the drug is likely to take some time, perhaps weeks.

April COVID 19 Trump

Surge yet…

April 4: the NY Times reported that President Trump predicted a surging death toll in what he said may be “the toughest week” of the coronavirus pandemic before also dispensing unproven medical advice. He suggested again that Americans might be able to congregate for Easter services next Sunday.

“There will be a lot of death,” he said at the White House, where he and other American officials depicted some parts of the United States as climbing toward the peaks of their crises, while warning that new hot spots were emerging in Pennsylvania, Colorado and Washington, D.C.

What do you have to lose?

April 5: NPR reported that President Trump doubled down on the suggestion that people facing the coronavirus should consider taking an anti-malaria drug that has not been proven to be an effective treatment.

In a news conference he repeated a line he has said many times before — “what do you have to lose?” — when detailing that the federal government had stockpiled 29 million doses of hydroxychloroquine for potential use to treat the virus. He also suggested doctors take the drug before treating coronavirus patients.

What do you have to lose? What do you have to lose? And a lot of people are saying that when … and are taking it, if you’re a doctor, a nurse, a first responder, a medical person going into hospitals, they say taking it before the fact is good, but what do you have to lose? They say, take it, I’m not looking at it one way or the other, but we want to get out of this. If it does work, it would be a shame if we didn’t do it early. But we have some very good signs. So that’s hydroxy chloroquine and as azithromycin, and again, you have to go through your medical people get the approval. But I’ve seen things that I sort of like, so what do I know? I’m not a doctor, I’m not a doctor, but I have common sense. [full transcript]

April COVID 19 Trump

White House official warned in January that a pandemic could imperil millions of Americans.

April 7: the NY Times reported that Peter Navarro had warned in a memo to Trump administration officials on January 29 that the coronavirus crisis could cost the United States trillions of dollars and put millions of Americans at risk of illness or death.

“The lack of immune protection or an existing cure or vaccine would leave Americans defenseless in the case of a full-blown coronavirus outbreak on U.S. soil,” Navarro’s memo said. “This lack of protection elevates the risk of the coronavirus evolving into a full-blown pandemic, imperiling the lives of millions of Americans.”

The memo came during a period when Mr. Trump was playing down the risks to the United States. He later went on to say that no one could have predicted such a devastating outcome.

In one worst-case scenario cited in the memo, more than a half-million Americans could die.

April 7: Trump criticized the WHO for mishandling the pandemic. “The WHO really blew it. For some reason, funded largely by the United States, yet very China-centric. We will be giving that a good look. Fortunately, I rejected their advice on keeping our borders open to China early on. Why did they give us such a faulty recommendation?” [NPR timeline]

April COVID 19 Trump

Trump weakens oversight

April 7: President Trump moved to oust Glenn A. Fine of the new Pandemic Response Accountability Committee charged with overseeing how the administration spent trillions of taxpayer dollars in coronavirus pandemic relief.

Fine had been the acting inspector general for the Defense Department since before Trump had taken office and was set to become the chairman of the new committee to police how the government carries out the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief bill, but Trump replaced Mr. Fine in his Pentagon job, disqualifying him from serving on the new oversight panel. [NYT article]

Trump/WHO contradiction

The NY  Times reported that President Trump threatened to cut funding from the World Health Organization, accusing it of not being aggressive enough in confronting the dangers from the virus.
“We’re going to put a hold on money spent to the W.H.O.,”  Trump said.
In fact,  on January 30  the W.H.O. officially declared COVID a  “public health emergency of international concern.”weeks before Trump declared a national emergency. In fact, on that same day, Trump said, “We think we have it very well under control.”
April COVID 19 Trump

Kayleigh McEnany

April 7: Kayleigh McEnany replaced Stephanie Grisham as the White House press secretary, a position that had become a titular one. Grisham left without ever having briefed the press.
In a video of McEnany on the Fox Business show “Trish Regan Primetime” from Feb. 25, circulated by Andrew Kaczynski of CNN, the new press secretary said, “We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here, we will not see terrorism come here, and isn’t that refreshing when contrasting it with the awful presidency of President Obama?”

Chloroquine Study Halted

April 13: the NY Times reported that a small study of chloroquine, which is closely related to the hydroxychloroquine drug that President Trump has promoted, was halted in Brazil after coronavirus patients taking a higher dose developed irregular heart rates that increased their risk of a potentially fatal arrhythmia.

The study, which involved 81 hospitalized patients in the city of Manaus, was sponsored by the Brazilian state of Amazonas. Roughly half the participants were prescribed 450 milligrams of chloroquine twice daily for five days, while the rest were prescribed 600 milligrams for 10 days.

Within three days, researchers started noticing heart arrhythmias in patients taking the higher dose. By the sixth day of treatment, 11 patients had died, leading to an immediate end to the high-dose segment of the trial.

April COVID 19 Trump

Unkept Promises

On March 13, President Trump declared a national emergency and in a Rose Garden address, flanked by leaders from giant retailers and medical testing companies, he promised a mobilization of public and private resources to attack the coronavirus.
On April 13, NPR reported that few of those promises had come to pass.
  • Target did not partner with the federal government.
  • A lauded Google project turned out to not to be led by Google at all, but by Verily and then once launched was limited to a smattering of counties in California. According to Verily, there were not 1,700 engineers ever engaged in the project.
  • The president  had said there were 1,700 Google engineers working on it,
  • the retailers had not yet initiated any wide-scale implementation of drive-through tests.  Walmart had opened two testing sites — one in the Chicago area and another in Bentonville, Ark. Walgreens had opened two in Chicago; CVS has opened four sites. Target had not opened any.
  • Home testing kits were promised. NPR called more than 20 LHC sites in 12 states, and none of them were doing in-home testing. Employees at the LHC sites said they lacked both testing kits and the training to administer kits.
  • The president had said he would waive license requirements so that doctors could practice in states with the greatest needs, for example. But medical licensing is a state issue, and the president does not have the authority to waive it.
  • The president had announced that his administration would “purchase, at a very good price, large quantities of crude oil for storage in the U.S. Strategic Reserve.” It had not done so.

Trump fights back

April 13: the NY Times reported that President Trump turned  the daily coronavirus task force briefing into an aggressive defense of his own halting response to the pandemic and used a campaign-style video to denounce criticism that he moved too slowly to limit the deadly spread of the virus.

For nearly an hour, Mr. Trump vented his frustration after weekend news reports that his own public health officials were prepared by late February to recommend aggressive social distancing measures, but that the president did not announce them until several weeks later — a crucial delay that allowed the virus to spread.

In an article on the same meeting, NPR reported that Trump declined to specify exactly when he expected to see restrictions eased on the American public but offered that he expected full cooperation from states, following guidelines from his task force. That statement was in contrast to the fact that several governors had banded together to coordinate easing their restrictions as groups.

“The president of the United States has the authority to do what the president has the authority to do, which is very powerful,” Trump said. “The president of the United States calls the shots.” (see April 16 below)

April COVID 19 Trump

April 14: the NY Times reported that recent polls had show that more Americans disapproved of  President Trump’s handling of the virus than approve.

On this date, the president tried to shift the blame elsewhere, ordered his administration to halt funding for the World Health Organization and claimed the organization had made a series of devastating mistakes as it sought to battle the virus. He said his administration would conduct a review into whether the W.H.O. was responsible for “severely mismanaging and covering up” the spread.

“So much death has been caused by their mistakes,” the president told reporters during a White House briefing.

António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, defended the World Health Organization, saying it “must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world’s efforts to win the war against Covid-19.”

Guterres added that it was “possible that the same facts have had different readings by different entities,” but he said that the middle of a pandemic was not the time to resolve those differences.

“It is also not the time to reduce the resources for the operations of the World Health Organization or any other humanitarian organization in the fight against the virus,” he said.

Patrice A. Harris, the president of the American Medical Association, said that the move was “a dangerous step in the wrong direction.” [2nd NYT article]

Trump walk-back

April 16: though having said on April 13 that “the president of the United States calls the shots,” on this date, the President essentially ceded control over easing restrictions to the states.

“We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time,” Trump told reporters during a briefing at the White House.

In the hours before Trump spoke, the $349 billion fund for small businesses ran out of money and a new labor report revealed that 22 million Americans had filed for unemployment in just the last month. Basic necessities like food, shelter and medical care, long taken for granted by most people, were suddenly at risk for millions.[NY Times article]

Trump’s Saturday coronavirus briefing was littered with false claims, old and new

April 18: CNN reported that President Donald Trump’s coronavirus press conference was littered with false claims about the pandemic crisis.

  • Trump continued to favorably compare the coronavirus testing situation in the US to the situation in other countries. He alleged that Democratic governors are deliberately not using testing capacity the federal government has created — and suggested that the only governors “complaining” about testing challenges are Democrats.

But…

CNN: There is no evidence that any governor is deliberately not using available testing capacity. And it’s not only Democratic governors who have spoken of problems and challenges with testing. Governors from both parties, and public health officials around the country, have warned that they are still unable to do the amount of testing needed to safely lift social and economic restrictions.

  • Trump repeated one of his go-to falsehoods that he often uses to defend his administration’s fumbled response to the coronavirus pandemic. “In speaking to the leaders of other countries this morning, they said this is incredible the way you’ve done this so quickly,” Trump said, without naming any foreign officials. “You know, we’re only talking about a few weeks since everybody knew this was such a big problem.

CNN: Trump is on an island with this one. Not only have there been multiple warnings about America’s vulnerability to a pandemic over the past few years, but Trump’s own government issued numerous warnings since the beginning of this year about the potential severity of the coronavirus.

  •  President Trump repeated his claim that he inherited a “bare cupboard” of medical supplies to fight coronavirus from the Obama administration. “We started off with a broken system. We inherited a broken, terrible system. And I always say it, our cupboards were bare. We had very little in our stockpile. Now we’re loaded up.

CNN: Trump’s argument has some truth to it, but it’s also somewhat misleading. While Trump isn’t wrong to suggest he inherited a depleted stockpile of some medical supplies — the stockpile of masks, for example, was depleted and not replenished by the Obama administration — the cupboards were not completely “bare”; he inherited significant quantities of other supplies. And Trump had three years in office to build depleted stockpiles back up.

  • Speaking about testing for the coronavirus, Trump said, “I inherited broken junk.”

CNN: The faulty initial test for the coronavirus was created during Trump’s administration in early 2020 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since this is a new virus that was first identified this year, the bad tests couldn’t possibly be “inherited.”

  • In addition to claiming President Obama left him with a depleted stockpile of medical supplies, Trump said Obama left him with “no ammunition.” “If you remember when I first came in, we didn’t have ammunition,” Trump said. “Not a good way to fight a war. President Obama left us no ammunition, OK.

CNN: It’s not true that the US had “no ammunition” at the beginning of Trump’s presidency. Rather, according to the public comments of military leaders, there was a shortfall in certain kinds of munitions, particularly precision-guided bombs, late in the Obama presidency and early in the Trump presidency.

Trump/Immigration/COVID

Close borders

April 20, 2020: President Trump announced a plan to close the United States to people trying to come to the country to live and work. He justified the drastic move as a necessary step to protect American workers from foreign competition once the nation’s economy begins to recover from the shutdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

“In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!”

Not quite close borders

April 21: the NYT reported that the Trump administration announced new restrictions on permanent residency in the United States.

The President said  that he would order a temporary halt in issuing green cards to prevent people from immigrating to the United States, but he backed away from plans to suspend guest worker programs,

Science Not Politics Dismissal

April 22: the NY Times reported that Rick Bright, the director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, the federal involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine said that he was removed from his post after he pressed for rigorous vetting of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug embraced by President Trump as a coronavirus treatment, and that the administration had put “politics and cronyism ahead of science.”

Bright was abruptly dismissed this week and removed as the deputy assistant secretary for preparedness and response. He was given a narrower job at the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Bright, who received a Ph.D. in immunology and molecular pathogenesis from Emory University, assailed the leadership at the health department, saying he was pressured to direct money toward hydroxychloroquine, one of several “potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections” and repeatedly described by the president as a potential “game changer” in the fight against the virus.

“I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the Covid-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit,” he said in his statement. “I am speaking out because to combat this deadly virus, science — not politics or cronyism — has to lead the way.”

Trump Quackery

April 23: the NY Times reported that after William N. Bryan, the head of science at the Department of Homeland Security, told the day’s briefing that the government had tested how sunlight and disinfectants — including bleach and alcohol — can kill the coronavirus on surfaces in as little as 30 seconds, the President said, ““Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light. And I think you said that hasn’t been checked, but we’re going to test it? And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, either through the skin or some other way.”

Shortly after Mr. Trump made his latest comments, emergency management officials in Washington State posted a warning on Twitter against following the president’s suggestions.

April 24: in Maryland, so many callers flooded a health hotline with questions that the state’s Emergency Management Agency had to issue a warning that “under no circumstances” should any disinfectant be taken to treat the coronavirus.

In New Jersey, Dr. Diane P. Calello, the medical director of the New Jersey Poison Information and Education System, warned in an interview that injecting bleach or highly concentrated rubbing alcohol “causes massive organ damage and the blood cells in the body to basically burst…(and that) it can definitely be a fatal event.

The makers of Clorox and Lysol pleaded with Americans not to inject or ingest their products.

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