May 8 coronavirus news

By Joshua Berlinger, Adam Renton and Rob Picheta, CNN

Updated 0128 GMT (0928 HKT) May 9, 2020
10 Posts
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11:44 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

US records more than 28,000 new cases

At least 28,420 new coronavirus cases and 2,231 deaths were recorded in the United States on Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The total number of infections recorded in the country has now reached at least 1,257,023, with at least 75,662 related deaths, according to JHU.

The totals includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases.

CNN is tracking US coronavirus cases here:

11:25 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

How do you market a pandemic treatment?

From CNN's Clare Duffy in New York

In a matter of weeks, remdesivir has gone from a shelved, failed hepatitis C treatment to the center of a national effort to treat patients suffering from Covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

The situation has thrust the pharmaceutical company behind the experimental drug, Gilead Sciences (GILD), into the spotlight. The company's stock is up nearly 20% from the start of this year, and investors have begun to wonder about potential returns from remdesivir. At the same time, it has sparked questions from lawmakers and activists about whether -- and just how much -- a company should be able to profit from a pandemic.

Still, experts caution that it's far too early to tell if remdesivir will be an effective treatment for Covid-19, and one worth paying for. Even if it is, there is enough uncertainty surrounding the trajectory of Covid-19 that it will be difficult to determine whether the drug has long-term business potential for Gilead.

Gilead CEO Daniel O'Day said on the company's first quarter earnings call this week that "it's too premature" to tell what the business model for remdesivir might be.

"Our focus will be on making sure we come up with a sustainable model that allows us to provide remdesivir to patients around the globe, that is intent on providing access and affordability," O'Day said. "We're just now going through the clinical data, the demand scenarios, the regulatory approvals."

Striking a balance: Experts say it is important for the company to strike a balance between pricing the drug affordably and making at least enough money to recoup the $1 billion it plans to spend on development costs for remdesivir this year. The price could also be important for incentivizing Gilead and other drug companies to continue developing potentially crucial treatments.

"They need to have some sort of assurance that they will recoup their investments," Piper Sandler analyst Tyler Van Buren said.

There are currently no treatments or vaccines officially approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for Covid-19, the virus that has now infected more than 1.2 million Americans, killing more than 75,600.

Read more:

11:07 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

US and China trade representatives spoke over the phone about trade, economy and public health

From CNN's Steven Jiang in Beijing

A man wearing a face mask checks his phone as a container ship cruises along the Yangtze River in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on April 13.
A man wearing a face mask checks his phone as a container ship cruises along the Yangtze River in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province on April 13. Ng Han Guan/AP

Top officials from the United States and China spoke over the phone Monday morning in Beijing to discuss the first phase of the trade deal the countries agreed to earlier this year.

Chinese Vice Premier Liu He spoke with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, his counterpart during negotiations, and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin.

The Chinese Commerce Ministry said in a statement the two sides agreed to "work together to create a beneficial environment for carrying out Phase 1 trade deal."

They also agreed to "strengthen cooperation" on issues of macroeconomics and public health.

10:56 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

Missing remains mean no peace for grieving families in Ecuador

From CNN's Matt Rivers and Natalie Gallón

When Flavio Ramos was wheeled into the hospital room, he was gasping for air and slipping in and out of consciousness. So it was his son, Arturo, who first noticed the bodies.

Two corpses laid unattended on the tile floor. By the next morning, the body count in the room rose to three. Flavio Ramos was dead.

More than a month later, his family still hasn't buried Flavio Ramos. They couldn't if they tried. Because soon after his death, Arturo Ramos says hospital authorities lost the body.

"We need a place to say, on Sunday let's go to put flowers on the tomb of my father," his heartbroken son said. "There is nothing, there is nothing you can do."

Flavio Ramos, 55, is yet another Covid-19 victim in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the site of one of the world's worst coronavirus outbreaks.

His death and disappearance illustrate how the healthcare system in Ecuador's second-largest city, roughly the size of Chicago, collapsed within a matter of weeks after the outbreak exploded in March.

Read more:

10:33 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

Study finds coronavirus in semen, but it's unclear if Covid-19 can be sexually transmitted

From CNN's Maggie Fox

This scanning electron microscope image shows 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes Covid-19, isolated from a patient in the US, emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in the lab.
This scanning electron microscope image shows 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes Covid-19, isolated from a patient in the US, emerging from the surface of cells (pink) cultured in the lab. Source: NIAID-RML

The coronavirus that causes Covid-19 can persist in men’s semen even after they have begun to recover, a finding that raises the possibility the virus could be sexually transmitted, Chinese researchers said Thursday.

A team at Shangqiu Municipal Hospital tested 38 male patients treated there at the height of the pandemic in China, in January and February. 

About 16% of them had evidence of the coronavirus in their semen, the team reported in the journal JAMA Network Open. About a quarter of them were in the acute stage of infection and nearly 9% of them were recovering, the team reported.

“We found that SARS-CoV-2 can be present in the semen of patients with COVID-19, and SARS-CoV-2 may still be detected in the semen of recovering patients,” Diangeng Li of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Hospital in Beijing and colleagues wrote.
“Even if the virus cannot replicate in the male reproductive system, it may persist, possibly resulting from the privileged immunity of testes,” the team added. Privileged immunity means the immune system cannot fully reach the region to attack viral invaders.

Why this finding isn't terribly surprising: Many viruses can live in the male reproductive tract. Ebola and Zika virus were both found to spread in semen, sometimes months after a male patient had recovered.

But it’s not yet clear if coronavirus can spread this way. Finding evidence of virus does not necessarily mean it’s infectious.

“If it could be proved that SARS-CoV-2 can be transmitted sexually in future studies, sexual transmission might be a critical part of the prevention of transmission,” the team wrote.

“Abstinence or condom use might be considered as preventive means for these patients. In addition, it is worth noting that there is a need for studies monitoring fetal development. Therefore, to avoid contact with the patient’s saliva and blood may not be enough, since the survival of SARS-CoV-2 in a recovering patient’s semen maintains the likelihood to infect others.” 
10:16 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

Australia seizes haul of hydroxychloroquine at the border

The Australian Border Force (ABF) seized more than 6,000 tablets of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine at the border, according to a statement from the agency.

Hydroxychloroquine is a prescription-only drug used in the treatment of malaria and certain auto-immune diseases, but the drug has come to light since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic as a possible treatment for the virus.

US President Donald Trump has famously touted the drug. However, it has yet to be proven as a successful treatment. 

“ABF officers are on the lookout for consignments of this drug, along with all other prohibited imports and exports. Anyone considering further unauthorized imports will be wasting their money,” ABF Acting Commander Susan Drennan said in a statement.
“Whether its individuals wanting to self-prescribe, or criminals aiming to sell the drug on the black market, our officers have the technology, skills and innovative processes to detect and disrupt their illegal importations of pharmaceuticals such as this.”
10:19 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

China reported only one locally transmitted case and no deaths in the past 24 hours  

From journalist Anna Kam in Hong Kong

China's National Health Commission on Friday reported only one new locally transmitted coronavirus cases and no additional deaths related to the virus.

The commission reported 16 new asymptomatic cases. No deaths have been reported in China since April 15.

Here's the breakdown of the latest numbers from Beijing:

  • Total number of confirmed cases: 82,886
  • Patients who have recovered and been discharged: 77,993
  • Death toll: 4,633
  • Asymptomatic patients still under medical observation: 854  
10:29 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

Coronavirus could kill up to 190,000 in Africa, WHO warns

From CNN’s Maggie Fox

Kenyan police officers patrol in Eastleigh, Nairobi, on May 7, during the government partial lockdown.
Kenyan police officers patrol in Eastleigh, Nairobi, on May 7, during the government partial lockdown. Simon Maina/AFP/Getty Images

The novel coronavirus could kill as many as 190,000 people in Africa during the first year of the pandemic if containment measures fail, the World Health Organization warned on Thursday.

“While Covid-19 likely won’t spread as exponentially in Africa as it has elsewhere in the world, it likely will smoulder in transmission hotspots,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO Regional Director for Africa, said in a statement.
“Covid-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region. We need to test, trace, isolate and treat.” 

The WHO predicted that between 29 million to 44 million Africans could be infected in the first year. As many as 5.5 million of these people could require hospital treatment, a number that would overwhelm the medical capacity of most places on the continent.

A survey done in March of health services in Africa found an average of nine intensive care unit beds per 1 million people in 47 African countries.

“These would be woefully inadequate,” the WHO said.

10:27 p.m. ET, May 7, 2020

Coronavirus is deadlier in the US than the seasonal flu, new study finds

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. 
This illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. 

A new estimate of the US infection fatality rate from the novel coronavirus puts it at 1.3%, making it deadlier than the seasonal flu, which in a typical season has a 0.1% infection fatality rate.

Anirban Basu, a professor in the department of pharmacy at the University of Washington in Seattle, used publicly available data on infection numbers and deaths from the novel coronavirus through April 20.

At a county level, the fatality rate ranged from 0.5% to 3.6%, Basu reported in the journal Health Affairs on Thursday.

The study did not include New York City, which has had the highest number of cases and deaths in the country. The numbers of cases and deaths were changing too fast to include in the study, Basu said.

The lowest rate of deaths was in Putnam County, New York -- estimated at 0.5%. The highest was in King County, Washington at an estimated 3.6%. By April 20, there were 134 counties in the US that had reported no Covid-19 deaths. 

Some context: These are just preliminary figures, Basu said. The case fatality rate is based on the reported number of confirmed cases and confirmed Covid-19-related deaths. 

Since it is still unclear how many people have actually been infected, the rate is probably not that high, although the authors did create a model that tried to account for some of the unknowns. The model doesn’t account for the number of asymptomatic cases. The numbers will be clearer when there is more testing, Basu said.