June 4 coronavirus news

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WHO warns Latin American countries not to reopen too quickly
01:22 - Source: CNN

What you need to know

  • The numbers: More than 6.5 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported worldwide, including at least 388,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • Records fall in Latin America: Brazil and Mexico both announced a record number of virus-related deaths in a single day.
  • In the US: More than 1.8 million coronavirus cases have been recorded, including at least 108,000 deaths.
  • Pakistan overtakes China: The South Asian country now has more recorded cases of Covid-19 than China, where the virus originated.
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Coronavirus deaths in Peru surpass 5,000

Relatives carry the coffin of a suspected Covid-19 victim at the Nueva Esperanza cemetery on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, on Thursday, May 28.

Peru reported 137 new coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday, raising the national death toll to 5,031, according to the country’s health ministry. 

The number of coronavirus cases rose to 183,198 on Thursday, an increase of 4,284 from the previous day, according to the ministry. 

Peru has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in Latin America, following Brazil, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. 

Sao Paulo's coronavirus death toll is likely underreported, state health official says 

Open graves are prepared in the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on April 29.

The number of coronavirus-related cases and deaths in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo is likely to be underreported, a state health official said Thursday. 

Some of the coronavirus cases have likely been registered as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) due to the state’s low Covid-19 testing capacity, said Paulo Menezes, coordinator of the state’s health ministry. 

The state of Sao Paulo registered 5,717 new cases and 285 deaths related to coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the state’s health ministry announced at a news conference Thursday, bringing the total in Brazil’s most populous state to 129,200 cases and 5,717 deaths.

But the actual death toll is likely higher, Menezes said. 

“When we look at the curve, we see a significant increase of hospitalizations by SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) since February. It’s possible that we have SARS cases from Covid-19 that are not diagnosed by lab tests, but this is something that happens all over the world, it’s not just something observed here,” he said.

Menezes added that the state of Sao Paulo – which has a population of more than 45 million and is the epicenter of Brazil’s outbreak – currently performs about 8,000 Covid-19 tests daily, while in April that average was about 1,000 tests per day. 

The state government forecasts that it will reach the daily testing capacity of European countries, such as Spain and Italy, within three months. 

More than 108,000 people have died in the US from coronavirus

There are at least 1,870,156 cases of coronavirus in the US and at least 108,051 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally of cases.

On Thursday, Johns Hopkins has reported 18,636 new cases and 876 reported deaths. 

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

CDC's forecast now projects more than 127,000 US coronavirus deaths by June 27

Trucks used as temporary morgues are seen outside the New York City Chief Medical Examiner's office on May 12 in New York.

A forecast published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects more than 127,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States by June 27.

The ensemble forecast relies on 20 individual forecasts from outside institutions and researchers. The new projections, published Thursday, forecast 127,230 deaths by June 27, with a possible range of 118,450 to 143,340 deaths.

“This week’s national ensemble forecast suggests that the number of newly-reported COVID-19 deaths per week will continue to decline. It predicts between 118,000 and 143,000 cumulative COVID-19 deaths by June 27,” the CDC says on its website.

Unlike some individual models, the CDC’s ensemble forecast only offers projections for the next month. The previous ensemble forecast, published last Thursday, projected about 123,200 deaths by June 20.

The projections are published on the CDC’s “COVID-19 Forecasts” page, but they’re also featured on the agency’s “COVID Data Tracker.” On both sites, users can view state-level ensemble forecasts as well.

“Ensemble forecasts indicate that the rate of newly-reported deaths will vary among the states,” the CDC says on its forecasts page.

“In some states, cumulative deaths will increase at roughly the same rate as they have in recent weeks, while other states are likely to experience only a small number of additional deaths from COVID-19.”

Computer modeling shows social distance strategies can keep curve flat

An aerial view shows painted circles in the grass to encourage people to social distance at Washington Square Park in San Francisco on May 22.

Three different social-distancing strategies when reopening after lockdown can be effective in curbing the spread of Covid-19, according to a group of British and Swiss researchers who used computer simulations to compare the effects of each. 

Social distancing – maintaining physical distance and reducing social interactions — has been a key component of most governments’ attempts to reduce the spread of Covid-19. It’s been shown to help slow the rate of transmission and the growth rate of infection (aka: flattening the curve).

But complete or near-complete lockdowns have a down side: negative social, psychological and economic consequences. The new study, published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, evaluates three more moderate contact-reduction strategies to determine how well they keep the curve flat after a lockdown.

The three strategies are: contact with only similar people (for example, people who live close to each other geographically or are members of the same organization); strengthening contact within communities (for instance, where people only meet with friends when they have many friends in common); and repeatedly interacting with the same people in “bubbles” (limiting interactions to a few, repeated individuals). 

The researchers, who ran their models based on 500 to 4,000 people, found that all three slowed the spread of Covid-19, compared both to no social distancing and to non-strategic social distancing, where individuals randomly reduced interactions. Among the three, interacting in social bubbles was the most effective.

Because most people need to interact across multiple social groups, the researchers also tested the effectiveness of combinations of two or all three of the strategies. They found that combined strategies were as effective as single strategies and that all worked better than random social distancing or no social distancing at all. 

“Simple behavioural rules can go a long way in keeping the curve flat,” they concluded.

“As the pressure increases throughout a pandemic to ease stringent lockdown measures, to relieve social, psychological and economic burdens, our approach provides insights to individuals, governments and organizations about three simple strategies: seeking similarity; strengthening interactions within communities; and repeated interaction with the same people to create bubbles.”

Second medical journal retracts coronavirus paper over questions about data source

The New England Journal of Medicine retracted a coronavirus study on Thursday, saying it could not guarantee the validity of the data used in the study.

It was the second journal to retract a coronavirus study that had been conducted using data provided by Surgisphere, which aggregated global health information for the research. Earlier Thursday, The Lancet also retracted a coronavirus study.

Both journals had signaled their worries in “expression of concern” earlier this week.

“Because all the authors were not granted access to the raw data and the raw data could not be made available to a third-party auditor, we are unable to validate the primary data sources underlying our article, ‘Cardiovascular Disease, Drug Therapy, and Mortality in Covid-19.’ We therefore request that the article be retracted. We apologize to the editors and to readers of the Journal for the difficulties that this has caused,” Dr. Mandeep Mehra of Brigham and Women’s Hospital Heart and Vascular Center in Boston, Surgisphere founder Dr. Sapan Desai and colleagues wrote in the retraction letter.

The study had found that certain heart disease drugs, including ACE inhibitors, didn’t worsen the risk of death for coronavirus patients.

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CDC director says flu vaccine will be important defense against coronavirus in upcoming months

A man gets a flu shot at a health facility in Washington January 31.

Flu vaccines and social distancing will be important defenses against coronavirus in the upcoming months, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said on Thursday. 

If a second wave of coronavirus hits when flu season is underway, it could really strain hospitals, Redfield said at a House Appropriations committee hearing on the Covid-19 response. If more people got flu vaccines, that could ease the strain, he said.

“Only about 47% of the American public take advantage of flu vaccine. We’re really hoping that the American public will see that the flu vaccine is one major way they can help this nation get through this fall.” 

Plus, social distancing will continue to be important. “These social distancing strategies that we’ve learned are something we need to perfect, because we’re going to need them to be out major defense again, in October, November, December,” Redfield said. 

Expect Covid-19 vaccine to be available early next year, NIH director says

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins said 100 million doses of coronavirus could “perhaps” be available by early next year.

Asked when a coronavirus vaccine would be approved and available to the public, Collins said we could “perhaps have, if all goes well, maybe as many as 100 million doses by early 2021.”

That’s somewhat less optimistic than what Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday. 

“By the beginning of 2021, we hope to have a couple hundred million doses,” Fauci said during a live question and answer session sponsored by the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Some context: The US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, a part of the Department of Health and Human Services, is currently funding research on five different experimental vaccines.

Pharmaceutical companies Moderna and AstraZeneca are currently in clinical trials, testing the vaccines on humans. Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, and Merck are developing a vaccine, but have not yet started clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization.

“Because we have a number of these, and they all use a different strategy, I am optimistic that at least one maybe two, maybe three will come through looking like what we need,” Collins told CNN. “We want to hedge our bets by having a number of different approaches, so that it’s very likely that at least one of them and maybe more will work.”

He said that large-scale clinical trials of “several” vaccines will start in July. He said each vaccine would be testing in a phase three trial involving 30,000 people, some of them receiving a vaccine and some receiving a placebo, or a shot that does nothing.

The study subjects will then go about their lives, and the researchers will tally up who contracts Covid-19 and who does not. 

A restaurant should shut down if faced with Covid-19 outbreak, top US health expert says

Dr. Anthony Fauci , director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on April 29.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday that if a restaurant is facing a Covid-19 outbreak among its employees, it should shut down.

“I know it would be difficult for business, but you’ve got to shut down until you clear your employees to come back,” Fauci told chef José Andrés during an Instagram Live interview.

Fauci went on to explain that if an establishment has only one employee infected, then it becomes a “judgment call.”

“You can get help from health authorities to say, what is the connectivity between that one person and everyone else,” Fauci said, adding, “if they’re not a high risk contact, you just make sure they get symptoms, they don’t come to work.”

“You’ve got to have a responsibility of not only protecting yourself and your employees, but also your clients and your customers,” Fauci said.

NIH director worried vaccine "skepticism" might cause some people to skip coronavirus vaccine

National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins listens during a Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on new coronavirus tests on Capitol Hill May 7 in Washington.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, told CNN he’s concerned that vaccine “skepticism” could hinder the effort to immunize the country against Covid-19.

“I’m a bit concerned to see there’s a fair amount of skepticism in the American public about whether or not they would take such a vaccine,” Collins said. “We won’t get past Covid-19 unless we have a substantial majority of our public ultimately rendered immune.”

A vaccine could come on the market as early as next year, and Collins said he hopes “the American public will embrace this as an opportunity to protect themselves, and the rest of their community, in order to get us all back to some sort of normal state.” 

Some people have expressed concern that President Trump’s name for the campaign to develop a coronavirus vaccine — “Operation Warp Speed” — leaves the impression that scientists are rushing through the vaccine testing process.

“I want to assure everybody who’s heard the [words] ‘warp speed’ and worried that that means we’re cutting corners on safety, that we absolutely will not do this. No vaccine is going to be put forward unless it’s been checked out very thoroughly, both in terms of is it safe and does it protect you,” Collins said.

“Maybe we’ve got some work to do to try to explain exactly once we have the data, why these vaccines are in fact proven to be safe and effective,” he added.

Collins said that despite the drive to get the vaccine out in record time, nothing would compromise the science.

“As a scientist, a physician and the director of the National Institutes of Health, we will make these decisions solely on the basis of the evidence for individual vaccines. This will not be influenced by other factors that might put people at risk,” he said.

New federal testing protocol aims to address disparities, CDC director says

Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, testifies at a Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee hearing about the COVID-19 response on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 4.

A new federal testing protocol calling for demographic information to be included with coronavirus tests is aimed at addressing racial and social disparities across the US, Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said Thursday.

Speaking with Rep. Cheri Bustos, a Democrat from Illinois, at the House Appropriations hearing on the Covid-19 response, Redfield said he is concerned about the impact of coronavirus among communities of color. 

Bustos said communities of color often have limited access to certain resources, such as healthy foods, leading to higher risks of contracting Covid-19. 

Redfield agreed. 

“There’s no question that the social determinants of health as pertained to access to quality food have enormous public health, health outcomes,” he said. “Fundamentally the key first step that we need to do to address the health disparities.” 

The Health and Human Services Department released new guidance Thursday asking for testing sites to include demographic data like race, ethnicity, age, and sex. “I have every intent to get that data so we can begin to understand. Clearly, increasing access to knowledge of infection in vulnerable communities is critical to getting testing more available there,” Redfield said. 

Responding to Rep. Tom Cole, a Republican from Oklahoma, Redfield spoke out about the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on the Native American community and the resources that have been provided to them to try to help. 

As well as financial support, these include a number of rapid response teams “to basically provide technical assistance because they have had some of the more significant outbreaks.” 

5.2% of Spain’s population has coronavirus antibodies, government study suggests

A fisherman undergoes a rapid test of Covid 19 in Castro Urdiales, Spain, on May 4.

Only 5.2% of people in Spain have developed coronavirus antibodies so far, according to interim results from an ongoing government study announced on Thursday evening.

These results are consistent with those from the first phase of the study, which showed 5% of people in the country had antibodies – meaning they had been infected at some point. The second phase of the study took place between May 18 and June 1.

While it is still not clear if having antibodies means people are immune to reinfection, doctors believe they provide at least some immunity. Antibody testing also paints a picture of how much of the population has been infected so far.

More on the study: The study indicates a very slightly lower percentage of men (5.01%) have antibodies than women (5.40%).

And although the national average is 5.21%, the study shows geographical differences, also very similar to those observed in the first round, with 10% of the population testing positive for antibodies both in Madrid and surrounding provinces. 

The government researchers also said one third of those infected don’t show symptoms.

Large study of hydroxychloroquine in Covid-19 patients retracted after publication in The Lancet

A pharmacy tech holds pills of Hydroxychloroquine at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20.

A large study that said Covid-19 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were more likely to die or develop dangerous side effects was retracted by three of its authors on Thursday.

The study, published May 22 in the medical journal The Lancet, had provided a counterpoint to President Trump, who has called hydroxychloroquine a “game-changer.”

The study used data from Surgisphere Corporation, which describes itself as a “public service organization dedicated to making the world a better place.” Questions about Surgisphere’s data emerged shortly after the study published on May 22.

In their retraction, three researchers, Dr. Mandeep Mehra, Dr. Frank Ruschitzka and Dr. Amit Patel, wrote that, after concerns were raised about the data and analyses conducted by Surgisphere and its founder, Sapan Desai, a co-author of the study, they launched a third-party peer review, with Desai’s consent. They aimed to confirm “the completeness of the database, and to replicate the analyses presented in the paper.”

“Our independent peer reviewers informed us that Surgisphere would not transfer the full dataset, client contracts, and the full ISO audit report to their servers for analysis as such transfer would violate client agreements and confidentiality requirements. As such, our reviewers were not able to conduct an independent and private peer review and therefore noti