May 19 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton and Tara John, CNN

Updated 9:20 p.m. ET, May 19, 2020
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8:53 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Trump's doctor says potential benefit of taking hydroxychloroquine outweighs the risk

From CNN's Matthew Hoye

President Donald Trump tells reporters that he is taking zinc and hydroxychloroquine during a meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House, on May 18, in Washington DC.
President Donald Trump tells reporters that he is taking zinc and hydroxychloroquine during a meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House, on May 18, in Washington DC. Evan Vucci/AP

The potential benefits of US President Donald Trump's decision to take hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic against the coronavirus outweigh the risks, according to his White House physician.

Dr. Sean Conley wrote in a White House memo that after numerous discussions, "he (Trump) and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risk." 

Conley wrote that the President is "in very good health and has remained symptom free." He also added that Trump has been tested numerous times and that the tests have been "all negative, to date." 

He added that two weeks ago, "one of the President's support staff tested positive for Covid-19." 

The background: Earlier Monday, Trump told reporters he is taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug he's long touted as a potential coronavirus cure. 

Medical experts and the US Food and Drug Administration question its efficacy and warn of potentially harmful side effects. "A couple of weeks ago, I started taking it," Trump said. He later said he'd been taking the drug every day for a week and a half.

The admission was a dramatic development in Trump's attempts to promote hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus, but at least one study has shown the drug does not work against Covid-19 and could cause heart problems. 

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It follows a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that also showed the drug doesn't fight the virus.

While Trump admitted he doesn't know if the drug works, he claimed "if it doesn't, you're not going to get sick and die."

The FDA has warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat the novel coronavirus and said the drugs should only be used in hospitals or clinical trials because they can kill or cause serious side effects. These include serious heart rhythm problems in Covid-19 patients treated with the medications, especially when they are combined with the antibiotic azithromycin or other drugs that can affect the heart.

Hydroxychloroquine is approved to treat or prevent malaria and to treat autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

Read more:

9:17 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Key coronavirus model revises US death projection slightly downward

From CNN's Arman Azad

A medical laboratory scientist inserts a patient's swab sample into a coronavirus testing machine in the lab at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut on May 14.
A medical laboratory scientist inserts a patient's swab sample into a coronavirus testing machine in the lab at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut on May 14. Tyler Sizemore/Heart Connecticut Media/AP

A key coronavirus model often cited by the White House has revised its death projection for the United States slightly downward, now predicting that 143,360 people will die by August 4.

That’s about 3,700 fewer deaths than the model predicted when last updated on May 12.

The shift is small, but it marks a departure from recent increases in the model’s death projections, which have been largely based on increases in mobility across the country and the easing of social distancing measures.

As people have been moving around more -- and as social distancing measures have been relaxed -- the model has projected more deaths.

But in today’s release, researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who built the model, say that fewer people are forecast to die in certain parts of the country. 

That suggests that expected increases in coronavirus cases may not have materialized yet in certain places -- at least not to the extent that the model was projecting.

CNN is tracking US coronavirus cases and deaths here:

 

9:12 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Early results from Moderna vaccine trial show participants developed antibodies against coronavirus

From CNN's Elizabeth Cohen

A view of Moderna headquarters on May 8, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Moderna was recently given FDA approval to continue to phase 2 of a coronavirus vaccine trials with volunteers.
A view of Moderna headquarters on May 8, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Moderna was recently given FDA approval to continue to phase 2 of a coronavirus vaccine trials with volunteers. Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

Volunteers who received Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine had positive early results, according to the biotech company, which partnered with the National Institutes of Health to develop the vaccine.

If future studies go well, the company's vaccine could be available to the public as early as January, said Moderna's chief medical officer, Dr. Tal Zaks.

"This is absolutely good news and news that we think many have been waiting for for quite some time," Zaks said.

These early data come from the phase 1 clinical trial, which typically studies a small number of people and focuses on whether a vaccine is safe and elicits an immune response.

The results of the study, which was led by the National Institutes of Health, have not been peer reviewed or published in a medical journal.

Moderna, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is one of eight developers worldwide doing human clinical trials with a vaccine against the novel coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization. Two others, Pfizer and Inovio, are also in the United States, one is at the University of Oxford in Britain, and four are in China.

Moderna has vaccinated dozens of study participants and measured antibodies in eight of them. All eight developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus at levels reaching or exceeding the levels seen in people who've naturally recovered from Covid-19, according to the company.

Neutralizing antibodies bind to the virus, disabling it from attacking human cells.

"We've demonstrated that these antibodies, this immune response, can actually block the virus," Zaks said. "I think this is a very important first step in our journey towards having a vaccine."

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9:06 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

China backs coronavirus investigation but says it should wait until pandemic is contained

From CNN's Rob Picheta

Chinese President Xi Jinping said he supports calls for an investigation into the handling of the coronavirus pandemic at a key summit Monday, but insisted that any inquiry should wait until the virus is contained.

Xi spoke at the World Health Assembly after more than 100 countries backed a resolution calling for an independent inquiry into the pandemic, which has so far claimed more than 300,000 lives globally.

The President defended his country at the annual meeting of the World Health Organization (WHO), saying Beijing had acted transparently about the origins of the virus, which was first detected late last year in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

"All along we have acted with openness, transparency and responsibility, we have provided information to the WHO and relevant countries in the most timely fashion, we have released the genome sequence at the earliest possible time, we have shared control and treatment experiences with the world without reservation, we have done everything in our power to support and assist countries in need," Xi told the assembly via video conference.

Xi also expressed condolences for the lives lost due to the virus, and went on to agree with the need for an investigation, though he said it should wait until the pandemic subsides.

The European Union-drafted resolution, driven by calls for an inquiry from Australia, does not single out China or any other country but calls for an "impartial, independent and comprehensive evaluation" of "the (WHO)-coordinated international health response to Covid-19." Several countries, including the United States, have accused China of withholding information about the virus.

Australia's call for an investigation last month sparked an angry flare-up from Beijing, which accused Canberra of a "highly irresponsible" move that could "disrupt international cooperation in fighting the pandemic and goes against people's shared aspiration."

Read more:

8:33 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Brazil now has third highest number of coronavirus cases in the world

From CNN's Shasta Darlington 

A researcher works on a coronavirus testing program in Rio de Janeiro on April 1.
A researcher works on a coronavirus testing program in Rio de Janeiro on April 1. Andre Coelho/Getty Images

Brazil topped 250,000 coronavirus cases on Monday, surpassing the UK's total and making it the country with the third highest number of global confirmed infections. 

Brazil's Ministry of Health also reported 674 new deaths Monday, bringing the death toll in the country to 16,792.

The ministry also reported 13,140 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the 24-hour period between Sunday and Monday, bringing the country's total to 254,220, behind the US and Russia.

Some background: Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has faced criticism for his anti-lockdown rhetoric even as cases skyrocket. He has repeatedly dismissed Covid-19 as a "little flu" and urged businesses to reopen, even as many governors scramble to implement social isolation measures and slow the spread of the virus.

Bolsonaro also recently saw a second health minister leave his government in the span of a few weeks.

9:02 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

UK defends decision to wait months before adding smell to list of potential coronavirus symptoms

From CNN's Richard Greene

A passenger wearing a face mask sits aboard a train as it arrives at Waterloo Train station in London on Monday.
A passenger wearing a face mask sits aboard a train as it arrives at Waterloo Train station in London on Monday. Ben Stansall/AFP/Getty Images

The deputy chief medical adviser for England on Monday defended the government’s decision not to add loss of the sense of smell to the list of possible symptoms of coronavirus until now.

“Anosmia has been recognized for some time now as a possible symptom of Covid-19,” Jonathan Van-Tam said, using the medical term for loss of the sense of smell.

But he said it was not the only possible symptom, and “very rarely” appeared on its own as an early warning of the virus.

“What we had to do was do some very careful analysis behind the scenes” of which symptoms beyond fever and cough were “useful or important to add” to the list, Van-Tam said.

“That’s why we have taken our time in this country, because we wanted to do that again painstaking and very careful analysis before we jumped to any conclusions,” he said.

"And even if it was barn-door obvious that anosmia was part of this, we wanted to be sure that adding it to cough and fever -- as opposed to just listing it, adding it in formally in to our definition -- was the right thing to do,” Van-Tam added.

The government added the symptom on Monday.

Challenged by a reporter to say how many cases of coronavirus were missed as a result of not listing the condition as a symptom earlier, Van-Tam said, “I don’t have those figures to my fingertips,” but added that Public Health England data on the first several hundred confirmed cases in the country showed 0.44% reported loss of sense of smell on its own as a symptom.