June 5 coronavirus news

Protesters - some wearing medical masks - march following the death of George Floyd in police custody.
Covid-19 cases may rise as protests in US continue
02:30 - Source: CNN

What you need to know

  • More than 6.6 million cases of Covid-19 have been reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The US economy gained 2.5 million American jobs in May and unemployment rate fell to 13.3%, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • A forecast published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now projects more than 127,000 coronavirus deaths in the country by June 27.
  • Research disputing the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus has been retracted after questions were raised over the data.
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Our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic has ended for the evening. Read up on the latest news here.

WHO "intimately" involved in Covid-19 vaccine effort, NIH says

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attends a daily press briefing on the coronavirus on March 11 in Geneva.

The World Health Organization remains “intimately” involved in global efforts to develop a vaccine against the novel coronavirus virus, according to a top federal government vaccine official.

“Right now the World Health Organization remains intimately involved working with a number of groups, working with an international vaccine group, working with GAVI for procurement of vaccine,” Dr. John Mascola, the director of the Vaccine Research Center at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the National Institutes of Health, said Friday.

Mascola added: “In the pool we swim in our level and those interactions with WHO, scientific interactions and public health interactions, are going as usual and it’s going to be absolutely critical for the US effort to be linked and coordinated with the international effort, too, with WHO.”

Last month: President Trump said he was terminating the US’ relationship with WHO, withholding billions of dollars in support and launching an investigation into the global health agency’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Experts are unsure who will get a potential Covid-19 vaccine first

Scientists conduct research inside a laboratory at the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research on May 25 in Braunschweig, Germany. The Helmholtz centre is conducting a variety of research into aspects of the current pandemic, including a possible vaccine.

Minority communities in the United States have been the most severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but questions remain about whether they will have the greatest access to a potential vaccine, two vaccine experts said Friday.

Another question: whether minorities trust the government enough to participate in the crucial trials needed to develop a vaccine, Dr. John Mascola, the director of the NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said Friday at a town hall on Covid-19 vaccines.

“As we think about how to test the vaccines and find out if they work … the question is can we make enough so that we can make it available to large parts of the population, and can it be accessible and can it be affordable,” Mascola said.

Some context: When the US government is involved, as it is with the development of a coronavirus vaccine, there are a number of agencies that will make decisions during the development process. For example, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will make the recommendations on who gets it, Mascola said. 

“But there are built in provisions already that when the US government is involved in a substantial part of the funding for the effort, as it is here that in the United States, that vaccine will be available to the US government for distribution,” he said.

Since the government is helping fund the development of a coronavirus vaccine, that should help make it affordable, Mascola said.

But before that can even happen, clinical trials involving thousands of people are needed to help decide if a vaccine candidate is effective. 

“We are working with HHS and predictive analytics to be able to track where the virus is to match that with where we do the vaccination campaigns, and also to make sure that we enroll the populations that are at highest risk,” said Dr. Larry Corey, a leading expert in virology, immunology and vaccine development and a member of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s vaccine and infectious disease division.

As national protests over police brutality and the US judicial system continue into a second week, vaccine developers may have a harder time convincing people of color to participate in the trials. “And frankly, this is one of the new worries,” Corey told the town hall.

“Our underserved populations are Black and Hispanic populations. We are going in as a US government organization and whether events these last couple of few weeks are going to affect our ability to establish medical trust through the kinds of things that we need to do with community outreach, that becomes really a central issue for us to be able to enroll the people who have been most affected by Covid-19,” he said.

“It is showing the health disparities in our country,” Corey said.

Minnesota's Mall of America to reopen on June 10

The largest shopping mall in the US is set to reopen next week. 

The Mall of America – which is located in Bloomington, Minnesota – will open on June 10 for the first time since March. The mall’s website says the facility initially will have a limited number of stores open, and some will offer curbside pickup.

The Mall of America originally was scheduled to reopen on June 1, but that was pushed back in the wake of protests and violence following the killing of George Floyd in nearby Minneapolis. 

City of Miami Beach sets reopening date for gyms, summer camps and short term rentals

South Beach is seen in Miami Beach, Florida, on May 27.

The city of Miami Beach announced in a news release Friday that certain businesses may reopen starting Monday June 8. 

Those businesses include gyms, fitness studios, tattoo parlors, massage studios and summer camps if they meet the guidelines for reopening, according to the release.

Movie theaters, concert houses, auditoriums, playhouses and bowling alleys may be permitted to reopen if they submit a Covid-19 mitigation plan to the city and county and it is approved, the release said.  

Bars, pubs and nightclubs that are licensed by the state can reopen if they sell food, the release said. 

Legal short-term rentals that have licenses from the city can reopen today, per the emergency order guidelines, the release said. 

The emergency order in the city was extended to June 12, according to the release.

Everything will have to go "perfectly" to have coronavirus vaccine by January, experts say

A laboratory technician holds a dose of a Covid-19 vaccine candidate ready for trial on monkeys at the National Primate Research Center of Thailand on May 23 in Saraburi.

Infectious disease experts from the National Institutes of Health and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said the chances of developing a successful Covid-19 vaccine by January is an extremely ambitious challenge, but it’s possible.

“Everything will have to go incredibly perfectly if that’s going to happen,” said Dr. Larry Corey, a leading expert in virology, immunology and vaccine development and a member of Fred Hutch’s vaccine and infectious disease division. “Obviously the first vaccine out of the box, which is this RNA vaccine, whether it’s Pfizer or Moderna, are going to have to work terrifically well to get an answer by January.”

“The higher the efficacy or the better the efficacy, the shorter the time is needed to show that a vaccine actually shows an effect as the number of cases occur are much fewer in the vaccine group than they are in the placebo group. So, could that potentially happen by January? Yes, it could potentially happen by January,” Corey added. 

Vaccine trials are now underway and Corey said they will require the cooperation and collaboration of the pharmaceutical industry, academia, research centers, the biotech industry and the NIH.

The only thing that matters at the end of the day is the vaccine data, said Dr. John Mascola, the director of the Vaccine Research Center at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, who was also part of the town hall.

“All the vaccine scientists in the world, political scientists in the world can make predictions or be encouraged by the data, but the only data that matters at the end of the day is if we do a placebo-controlled study and can confidently say the vaccine works, it reduces the risk that somebody gets severe Covid,” Mascola said.

Here's how New York City public transit plans to begin reopening next week

New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman and CEO Patrick Foye announced a 13-point action plan ahead of the start of New York’s phased reopening Monday.

The 13 points include increasing the presence of New York Police Department and MTA police officers systemwide, staggering hours for MTA employees, using contactless payment systems and having floor markings for social distancing he said.

Foye also urged businesses to stagger hours for their own employees in order to avoid overwhelming the system during rush hour. 

Here’s a look at all 13 points:

As US reopens, Covid-19 diagnostic test accuracy may be bigger long-term concern, experts argue

As the United States continues to reopen, inaccurate diagnostic tests may undermine the country’s ability to keep the Covid-19 pandemic from spreading, experts on health policy argued Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Some antibody tests, the tests that can identify if someone had a prior infection, have come under criticism from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Food and Drug Administration for being inaccurate, but the diagnostic tests used in this pandemic have also had their share of problems, the experts argued.

Someone who has a false positive on a coronavirus test may quarantine unnecessarily and resources would be wasted on unnecessary contact tracing. A false negative diagnostic test may be an even bigger problem, since it might mean that someone who is asymptomatic doesn’t stay home and will continue to spread the disease, argued Dr. Steven Woloshin of the Center for Medicine in the Media at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Dr. Aaron S. Kesselheim, who founded the Harvard Program on Regulation, Therapeutics, and Law and colleagues.

The tests can be inaccurate by either giving a false positive result or a false negative. One study that hasn’t been peer reviewed yet in patients in China found false negatives ranging between 2 to 29%. Another found that 40% of throat samples taken from hospitalized patients in the study in China were false negatives.

The sensitivity rates of these tests used in these studies was about 70%. Sensitivity is the ability to correctly identify who is infected. At this level, with a pretest probability of 50%, the post-test probability with a negative test would be 23% - and that’s “far too high to safely assume someone is uninfected,” they wrote.

Call for action: The authors urge the FDA and clinical researchers to review the accuracy of the tests currently on the market. They also want manufacturers to provide details about how they proved the test sensitivity was accurate.

Measuring test sensitivity in asymptomatic people should be an “urgent priority” and, they say, doctors should keep in mind that negative results even on tests that are considered highly sensitive cannot rule out infection if the pretest probability is high. So doctors should not trust negative results if they don’t match up with the symptoms they are seeing in patients.

If the tests were perfect, a positive test would mean someone carries the virus and a negative test would mean that they don’t. Yet with imperfect tests, we can only assume that a person is “less likely to be infected,” the authors argue - and that’s not enough to help keep the pandemic from spreading further.

Minnesota will reopen gyms and indoor dining next week

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced the reopening of indoor dining, gyms and entertainment venues beginning Wednesday as part of the state’s phase three of reopening.

Occupancy will be limited based on risk, with an overall occupancy maximum of 250 people, the statement said.

“Thank you, Minnesotans, for the sacrifices you’ve made to slow the spread of Covid-19,” Gov. Walz said in a statement. “Thanks to your dedication, we are now in a position to carefully turn the dial toward reopening society. As we move forward, it is more important than ever that we each do our part as we trust and rely on each other to keep our state safe.”

 Here are the guidelines for phase three:

  • Restaurants can begin offering indoor dining while maintaining social distancing, requiring reservations and seating no more than 50% occupancy.
  • Indoor social gatherings can take place with 10 people or fewer.
  • Outdoor social gatherings can take place with 25 people or fewer.
  • Gyms, personal fitness and yoga studios and martial arts may open at 25% capacity
  • Indoor entertainment venues, such as theaters and concert halls, can open at 25% capacity.
  • Recreational indoor entertainment venues, such as bowling alleys, arcades, and museums may open at 25% capacity.
  • Personal services, such as salons, tattoo parlors, and barbershops, may increase occupancy rates to 50% while requiring reservations.
  • Outdoor entertainment venues, such as sporting events, concerts and theaters may open at 25% capacity.
  • Places of worship can increase occupancy rates to 50%.

Fears protests could cause surge in Covid-19 cases: This reopening announcement comes as the the state deals with ongoing protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

State officials have expressed fear that coronavirus could spread rapidly during these demonstrations, with Gov. Walz saying on May 30 that he is “deeply concerned about a super-spreader type of incident” and that a spike in Covid-19 cases is “inevitable.”

Key coronavirus number rises in northwest England

Friends row a boat at Hollow Ponds in East London on May 31 in London, England, after the UK Government eased some coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

The R number — which represents the number of people an infected individual passes the virus to — has risen to above one in the northwest of England, according to joint research by University of Cambridge Medical Research Council Biostatistics Unit and Public Health England.

That R number stands at one in the southwest of England, but the number of new infections occurring in the region on a daily basis is “relatively low” according to the study

There is “some evidence” that the R number has risen in all regions, scientists found, “probably due to increasing mobility and mixing between households and in public and workplace settings.”

Dr. Yvonne Doyle, Medical Director of Public Health England said in a statement:  “Our estimates show that the regional R numbers have increased although they remain below 1 for most of England – this is to be expected as we gradually move out of lockdown. It is vital that everyone continues with social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene and must remain at home and order a test if they have symptoms.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has previously stressed the importance of keeping the R rate under one, in order to control the virus. In an address to the nation on May 10 when he partially eased coronavirus restrictions Johnson said: “We must make sure that any measures we take do not force the reproduction rate of the disease – the R – back up over one, so that we have the kind of exponential growth we were facing a few weeks ago.”

Washington, DC, will need to meet these metrics to enter phase 2 of reopening

Head bartender Sean Hughes cleans a table at the King Street Oyster Bar restaurant on Saturday, May 30, in Washington, D.C. as the city prepares to reopen.

Washington, DC, officials outlined in a news conference today the metrics needed for the nation’s capital to enter into phase two of reopening and noted that the earliest date to enter this phase would be June 19.

The key metrics which public health officials would need include:

  • 14 days of sustained community spread decline starting today
  • Hospital capacity less than 80% for 14 days
  • Testing positivity rate of 15% or less for 7 days
  • More than 90% success in contacting tracing for the person who tested positive within one day, more than 90% success in contacting close contacts of the positive test within two days

Under phase two, more businesses can begin to reopen with certain restrictions, including museums and indoor restaurants, according to the city’s reopening plans.

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the Washington, DC, Health Department, also outlined key metrics that could trigger intervention, which would not necessarily prevent the District from entering in Phase two, but would need addressing by the city government.

As of June 4, DC had 9,199 people test positive for the coronavirus and 479 people have died from the virus.

With regards to the protests that have taken place in the city, Mayor Muriel Bowser noted that “we don’t know what the impact of these demonstrations will be on our Covid experience in DC, we hope that we won’t see a spike, and we have to measure everything that happens within our control and not within our control.” 

Bowser said whether or not there is a spike of cases as a result of protests, DC will still need to “accommodate anyone who gets sick.”

Bowser also announced that in June, all DC government employees must complete contact trace training so they are able to participate in the DC Contact Tracing force, if needed.

WHO will continue its hydroxychloroquine study "for now," after UK ends its study

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

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on Friday that its hydroxychloroquine study trials will continue “for now,” despite UK researchers’ earlier announcement to end their own study as it concluded “no evidence of benefit.”

“They are two distinct trials, with their own protocols, their own oversight committees and therefore we will continue for now and our committee will consider the data as it becomes available.”

The announcement came after the WHO confirmed it had received notice from the organizers of the Recovery trial on Friday — a large UK-based trial investigating potential coronavirus treatments — about the organizers’ decision to end the hydroxychloroquine arm of the Recovery trial.

Last week, WHO temporarily paused the hydroxychloroquine arms of its Solidarity Trial due to concerns surrounding the drug’s safety and in order to review its own data. Then on Wednesday, after that review, WHO announced that it decided to resume studying hydroxychloroquine as a potential Covid-19 treatment in the trial.

 “As Solidarity and Recovery are two of the larger trials, and moreover they have very, very similar study designs, we have been in touch,” Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, said during a media briefing in Geneva on Friday.

Covid-19 shined a "bright light" on US health care disparities, Fauci 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.

Covid-19 is shining a “bright light” on the US disparities in the health and health care among people of color, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday.

Black communities need the resources to have “the best possible chance with identification, isolation, and contact tracing to prevent the spread” of coronavirus, Fauci said in an interview on CNBC’s Halftime Report

Fauci also called for a “long-term commitment to address these disparities of health that have been with us well before we had the challenge of coronavirus.”

 “We have an immediate and a long-term goal and responsibility” he said.

“When you look at the social determinants of health, and you look at the background, particularly minorities and people of color, they have two things that are making them suffer more,” Fauci told CNBC’s Meg Tirrell on the impact of Covid-19 in these groups.

Fauci said black Americans are “often put in a position from a socioeconomic geographic employment standpoint, where their ability to protect themselves from the coronavirus infection may not be the same as someone who has the capability of standing in front of a computing and teleworking.” 

Plus, there’s the high prevalence of underlying health conditions that put black Americans at a higher risk of a serious disease, he added.

UK health secretary asks people not to attend anti-racism protests due to coronavirus threat

Protesters hold signs during a Black Lives Matter demonstration on June 4 in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was “appalled” by the death of George Floyd in the US, but asked the public not to attend the planned anti-racism protests this weekend because “coronavirus remains a real threat.”

“I want to say something to you as Health Secretary. Like so many I am appalled by the death of George Floyd an I understand why people are deeply upset, but we are still facing a health crisis, and coronavirus remains a real threat, and the reason that is vital that people stick to the rules this weekend is to protect themselves and their family from this horrific disease,” Matt Hancock said on Friday.

“So please for the safety of your loved ones do not attend large gatherings, including demonstrations of more than six people,” Hancock said during the Downing Street coronavirus briefing.

According to current coronavirus restrictions in the UK, up to six people are allowed to meet outdoors if they stay two meters — or about six feet — apart.

UK ends hydroxychloroquine study trials because there's "no evidence of benefit," researchers say

Pills of Hydroxychloroquine sit on a tray at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20.

Researchers in the UK have put an abrupt stop to another Covid-19 trial involving the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine.

The Recovery Trial, a large UK-based trial investigating potential coronavirus treatments, has stopped including hydroxychloroquine in its study due to there being “no evidence of benefit,” researchers announced on Friday. Other arms in the trial, which has enrolled more than 11,000 patients from 175 hospitals across the UK, will continue.

“We reviewed the data and concluded that there is no evidence of a beneficial effect of hydroxychloroquine in patients hospitalized with Covid and decided to stop enrolling patients to the hydroxychloroquine arm, with immediate effect, and that has been actioned this morning,” Martin Landray, deputy chief investigator of the trial and a professor at the University of Oxford, said during a media briefing on Friday.

As part of the trial,1,542 Covid patients were randomly selected to receive hydroxychloroquine as a treatment compared with 3,132 patients who received the usual standard care. 

About the study: The data showed that after about 28 days, 25.7% of the patients who received hydroxychloroquine had died compared with 23.5% of patients who received usual care alone.

“That is not statistically significant, but as you can see from the numbers, that result shows that there’s really no evidence of a benefit,” Landray said.

 “I think we can say that this data convincingly rule out any meaningful mortality benefit,” Landray said. “Our conclusion is that this treatment does not reduce the risk of dying from Covid among hospital patients. That clearly has a significant importance for the way that patients are treated not only in the UK, but all around the world.”

Some background: Last week, the World Health Organization temporarily paused the hydroxychloroquine arms of its Solidarity Trial due to concerns surrounding the drug’s safety and in order to review its own data. Then on Wednesday, after that review, WHO announced that it decided to resume studying hydroxychloroquine as a potential Covid-19 treatment in the trial.

Peter Horby, chief investigator for the Recovery Trial and a professor at the University of Oxford, said on Friday that his colleagues and he have notified WHO about the data found in their trial and the decision to end this arm of the study.