June 11 coronavirus news

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9:20 a.m. ET, June 11, 2020

Coronavirus pandemic “accelerating” in Africa, World Health Organization says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

A City of Tshwane Health official looks on as she conducts a screening exercise on a taxi operator before testing for COVID-19 at the Bloed Street Mall in Pretoria, South Africa, on June 11.
A City of Tshwane Health official looks on as she conducts a screening exercise on a taxi operator before testing for COVID-19 at the Bloed Street Mall in Pretoria, South Africa, on June 11. Phil Magakoe/AFP/Getty Images

The number of Covid-19 cases in Africa has doubled in less than 20 days and the World Health Organization (WHO) is warning of a shortage of test kits. 

“It took 98 days to reach the first 100,000 cases and only 19 days to move to 200,000 cases, so even though these cases in Africa account for less than 3% of the global total, it's clear that the pandemic is accelerating,” WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti said Thursday during a press briefing.

There are currently more than 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 5,000 deaths on the continent, he said. 

Moeti added that until a vaccine is developed, he expects a “steady increase” of coronavirus cases in the region, “with some hotspots having to be managed in a number of countries, as is happening now in South Africa, in Algeria, in Cameroon for example, which really require very strong measures, public health measures, social distancing measures to take place.''

According to Moeti, in most African countries coronavirus entered through the capital cities with travelers.

“It was through international travel, particularity people traveling in from Europe and as far as we know it has not yet reached in significant numbers those areas where we tend to find refugee camps or camps of internally displaced people but we certainly done the work with our partners to prepare for that,” Moeti said.

Moeti stressed that one of the biggest challenges in the African continent is the availability of supplies, “particularly test kits and this is due to disruptions in the global supply chain”, Moeti said, adding that “the U.N. has established a supply chain task force and other mechanisms are in place to address these shortages including work done by the African Union and more than 8 million diagnostic supplies and 200 million items of personal protective equipment are in the pipeline to be shipped to African countries.''

8:59 a.m. ET, June 11, 2020

1.5 million Americans filed initial jobless claims last week

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe

At least 1.5 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total claims filed to 44.2 million since mid-March, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the US economy to shut down.

Continued jobless claims, which count workers who filed for benefits for at least two weeks a row, slipped to 20.9 million, from 21.3 million in the week prior.

WATCH:

8:46 a.m. ET, June 11, 2020

US surgeons successfully perform double-lung transplant on Covid-19 patient

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

The Northwestern Medicine team treats a double lung transplant patient who's lungs had been damaged from coronavirus infection.
The Northwestern Medicine team treats a double lung transplant patient who's lungs had been damaged from coronavirus infection. Northwestern Medicine

A young woman whose lungs were damaged due to Covid-19 has successfully received a double lung transplant, surgeons at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago announced on Thursday.

The hospital noted they believe this is the first time such an operation on a Covid-19 patient has been performed successfully in the United States, and it offers new hope for patients with extensive lung damage from coronavirus infection.

The patient, a Hispanic woman in her 20s, spent six weeks on a ventilator and an ECMO machine while in the hospital's intensive care unit as her body fought the coronavirus infection.

"For many days, she was the sickest person in the Covid ICU — and possibly the entire hospital," Dr. Beth Malsin, pulmonary and critical care specialist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said in a press release Thursday.

"There were so many times, day and night, our team had to react quickly to help her oxygenation and support her other organs to make sure they were healthy enough to support a transplant if and when the opportunity came," Malsin said. "One of the most exciting times was when the first coronavirus test came back negative and we had the first sign she may have cleared the virus to become eligible for a life-saving transplant."

Yet by early June, the patient's lungs showed signs of irreversible damage due to her illness — her lungs were damaged beyond repair, according to the hospital. 

Doctors quickly listed the woman for a double lung transplant once it was confirmed that she tested negative for Covid-19, and the transplantation operation was performed 48 hours later.

 "A lung transplant was her only chance for survival," Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery and surgical director at the Northwestern Medicine Lung Transplant Program, said in a press release Thursday.

 "We are one of the first health systems to successfully perform a lung transplant on a patient recovering from Covid-19," Bharat said. "We want other transplant centers to know that while the transplant procedure in these patients is quite technically challenging, it can be done safely, and it offers the terminally ill Covid-19 patients another option for survival."

Transplant surgeon, Ankit Bharat.
Transplant surgeon, Ankit Bharat. Northwestern Medicine

What happens next: Now the medical team wants to learn more about the patient's sickness and recovery.

 "How did a healthy woman in her 20s get to this point?" Dr. Rade Tomic, a pulmonologist and medical director of the Lung Transplant Program, said in the press release.

"There’s still so much we have yet to learn about COVID-19. Why are some cases worse than others? The multidisciplinary research team at Northwestern Medicine is trying to find out," Tomic said. "While this young woman still has a long and potentially risky road to recovery given how sick she was with multi-organ dysfunction for weeks preceding the transplant, we hope she will make a full recovery."  

8:22 a.m. ET, June 11, 2020

Alabama mayor says Trump and Pence not wearing masks sets back progress on Covid-19

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

As the number of coronavirus cases in Alabama has essentially not dropped in weeks, Montgomery, Alabama, Mayor Steven Reed said he thinks the state opened up too early. 

“Montgomery should not be 10% of Alabama's total cases. We should not have the level of cases that we’ve had spike month over month and week over week when we look at our numbers. There's still a problem here,” he said. 

Leaders in the White House who do not wear masks aren’t helping the situation, Reed said, responding to a now-delated tweet from Vice President Pence with a photo showing Trump campaign staff not social distancing or donning masks.

“I think that much of the community has taken their cues from the top, and they believe if the President and vice president are not wearing masks, then why should they? Unfortunately, it has become a political football, as well. And that has really stymied our progress in this battle with Covid-19,” he told CNN’s John Berman. 

Reed said they have not factored in all post-Memorial Day coronavirus testing numbers yet. 

“We cannot decide when this is over. The virus will decide that. And we have to make sure that we're doing everything that we can as leaders to inform our public of where we are our hospital beds, as in Montgomery, where only 2% of our ICU beds are available. That's problematic. It's manageable, but not sustainable,” he said. 

Watch:

8:36 a.m. ET, June 11, 2020

EU to reopen external borders gradually from July

From CNN's James Frater in London

The European Commission has drawn up a set of criteria and guidelines that will gradually allow for the reopening of Europe’s external borders from July 1.

Using a checklist created by the Commission, European countries will be asked to draw up a list of non-European Union countries for which travel restrictions can be lifted, to be reviewed on a regular basis.

The decision to lift restrictions for a specific country will be based on whether that country is in a similar or better epidemiological situation than Europe, whether it has comparable hygiene measures at its transport hubs and whether or not that country has lifted travel restrictions for the EU.

Announcing the guidelines, Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson said she hoped the list "can become longer and longer and have more and more countries on it. But that has to be taken gradually.”

If it’s decided that restrictions are to remain in place for a country, the commission proposes gradually increasing the categories of permitted travellers to include, for instance, international students or highly skilled non-EU workers.

“While we will all have to remain careful, the time has come to make concrete preparations for lifting restrictions,” said Johansson. “International travel is key for tourism and business, and for family and friends reconnecting.”

The decision to open external borders will be closely monitored and travel restrictions may be reintroduced for a specific country at any time if the health situation in that country changes, the commission said.

The decision to open and close borders remains the prerogative of an individual European country. But the commission stressed the need for the lifting of restrictions to be done in a coordinated way across Europe.

European external borders have been closed since March following the outbreak of the coronavirus.

7:41 a.m. ET, June 11, 2020

US human trials begin for first antibody cocktail that might treat and prevent Covid-19

From CNN's Jen Christensen

A medicine that may treat and prevent Covid-19 is now being tested in patients in multiple sites around the United States, Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc said.

It is the first trial of a Covid-19 antibody cocktail in the United States. If successful, Regeneron hopes it could be available by the fall.

The clinical trial started Wednesday. Regeneron said its antibody cocktail would be tested in four separate study populations: people who are hospitalized with Covid-19; people who have symptoms for the disease, but are not hospitalized; people who are healthy but are at a high risk for getting sick; and healthy people who have come into close contact with a person who is sick.

"We have created a unique anti-viral antibody cocktail with the potential both to prevent and treat infection, and also to preempt viral 'escape,' a critical precaution in the midst of an ongoing global pandemic," Dr. George Yancopoulos, co-founder, president and chief scientific officer at Regeneron, said in a press release.

"Ultimately, the world needs multiple solutions, and the innovative biopharma industry is collectively working hard to help as many people as possible with a variety of complementary approaches."

Antibodies are proteins the body naturally makes to protect the body from a threat like Covid-19. To make what are called monoclonal antibodies for an antibody cocktail, scientists comb through thousands of antibodies to figure out which ones fight the novel coronavirus most effectively.

In this case, Regeneron's scientists picked two antibodies, scaled them up and put them into a medicine that it hopes can be used to treat symptoms and as protection for vulnerable communities such as the elderly or health care workers.

The first part of the trial will check to see if the antibody therapy is safe to be used in humans. Scientists will also want to see if it works.

Read more here:

7:07 a.m. ET, June 11, 2020

Can this super-simple device stop virus spreading on airplanes?

From CNN's Francesca Street

It's not flashy or futuristic-looking, but it's simple, cheap and apparently effective: British aircraft interior company RAS Completions says its new personal protection shield could help protect fliers from Covid-19.

The shield, says RAS Completions, is designed to be installed between seats and doesn't involve taking the middle seat out of action.

The Personal Protection Window is currently seeking approval from the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and the company says it'll be ready for airline customers within the next couple weeks.

The shields are designed to protect passengers from the risk of droplet transmission and are made from transparent polycarbonate.

The idea, RAS Completions Business Development Manager Roger Patron told CNN Travel, is to produce a "single product that fits every type of commercial aircraft."

It's mainly designed to aid economy seating, Patron says, as that's where passengers tend to be closest together, but it could also be used in different classes of cabin. The shields are non-obstructive, so wouldn't prevent emergency evacuation or seat recline.

"Simplicity is the best," says Patron. "We tried to make them the simplest, effective way of keeping people safe."

Read more here:

6:56 a.m. ET, June 11, 2020

US stocks retreat as coronavirus fears return

From CNN's Charles Riley

US futures dropped sharply Thursday as coronavirus cases in the United States topped 2 million and the emergence of new hotspots overshadowed a pledge from the US Federal Reserve to keep interest rates near zero for years.

Dow futures were down nearly 600 points, or 2.1%, while S&P futures were off by 1.8% and Nasdaq futures were down 1.2%. US crude oil prices dropped 4%. 

Many investors had been betting on a quick recovery for the world's largest economy. The S&P 500 surged into positive territory for the year earlier this week even as economists officially declared the US economy to be in recession. The Nasdaq topped 10,000 points for the first time in history.

But the elevated number of coronavirus cases in the United States coupled with dire economic projections from experts including the US central bank suggest continued pain for companies and workers.

Read more here:

6:33 a.m. ET, June 11, 2020

Questions raised over UK’s lockdown timing

From CNN's Lauren Kent and Sarah Dean in London

The UK government is facing tough questions over the timing of its coronavirus lockdown after influential epidemiologist Neil Ferguson said the United Kingdom could have cut the number of Covid-19 deaths by half if it had locked down just one week earlier.

Ferguson, who is based at Imperial College London, made the comments to the UK Parliament's Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday.

"The epidemic was doubling every 24 days before lockdown interventions were introduced. So had we introduced lockdown measures a week earlier, we would have reduced the final death toll by at least a half," he said.

The UK went into lockdown on March 23, later than many other European nations. It currently has the second-highest number of recorded coronavirus-related deaths in the world, with 41,128 as of June 9, according to UK government figures.

Ferguson said the lockdown measures introduced on March 23 were warranted but were "second-guessed" at the time. "Certainly had we introduced them earlier, we would have seen many fewer deaths," he said. 

Asked what the UK coronavirus response should focus on going forward, Ferguson said more targeted interventions were needed in order to lift the nationwide lockdown. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pushed back on the criticism, saying his government had followed scientific advice at the time -- including from Ferguson as a member of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) -- and that it was too early to cast judgment on the decisions made.

"Of course, we’ve got to learn lessons but I just think that it is at this stage premature. There’s still too much that we don’t know," Johnson said.

Johnson’s government has scrapped its original plan to reopen primary schools before the summer holidays, but announced it would allow adults living alone or single parents to form a “support bubble” with one other household.

Some context: Ferguson was one of the architects of the UK government's stay-at-home strategy and was a prominent member of SAGE, but he resigned from his government adviser post in May after the Telegraph newspaper revealed he broke lockdown rules by allowing his reported lover to visit his home.