Coronavirus pandemic in the US

By Meg Wagner, Mike Hayes and Zamira Rahim, CNN

Updated 9:26 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020
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12:41 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

Congressman demands to see formula used by Trump administration to ration coronavirus drug

From CNN Health’s Arman Azad and Elizabeth Cohen

Samuel Corum/Getty Images
Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The chairman of a key congressional health subcommittee is demanding to see the formula used by the federal government to ration remdesivir, an experimental drug shown to speed the recovery of coronavirus patients.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means health subcommittee, said on Tuesday that the government’s “distribution of remdesivir seems akin to winning the lottery — a random stroke of luck rather than a medically-informed decision.”

His comments came in a letter addressed to US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, whose agency is distributing the drug. HHS has said the United States has enough remdesivir for about 78,000 hospitalized patients, but officials have never said how they’re deciding who gets the drug – and how much.

In his letter, Doggett explicitly asked Azar to provide the “formula HHS used to determine which states would receive how many doses of remdesivir and the delivery schedule for these doses.”

The drug’s benefits are modest, but remdesivir is the first therapy shown in a rigorous trial to have some effect against Covid-19 – shortening a patient’s hospital stay by about four days. The US Food and Drug Administration authorized the drug for emergency use on May 1.

The federal government originally directed remdesivir to select hospitals in a small number of states, but it was unclear why some received the drug while others – even in the same hard-hit areas – got nothing. After criticism, HHS backtracked on that plan and decided to ship remdesivir to state health departments to manage.

But those shipments have raised even more questions. California’s initial allocation, for example, is just 30 cases of remdesivir, or 1,200 vials, according to a document published Tuesday by the state’s health department. That’s enough to treat 200 patients at most – and it’s the same amount given to hospitals in Rhode Island last week.

The maker of remdesivir, Gilead Sciences, has said it has 1.5 million vials of the drug on hand – enough for between 100,000 to 200,000 patients. As the company works to manufacture more, 607,000 vials have been donated to the US, according to HHS. 

Gilead has said it plans to provide the drug internationally, but it’s unclear how countries plan to divvy it up. In his letter, Doggett requested the “formula used to determine how the U.S. was allocated approximately 40% of the available supply and which other countries received how many doses.”

Doggett also called on Azar to describe any agreements between the US government and Gilead, such as for future doses of remdesivir.

12:26 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

Coronavirus vaccine makers in the US consider working together

From CNN’s Elizabeth Cohen

BioNTech
BioNTech

In an unprecedented move, US vaccine makers are considering whether to work together on coronavirus vaccine trials.

They’re considering two approaches: One is more typical and involves each company working independently on its own trial, according to two members of the Accelerating Covid-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines group, or ACTIV, which was organized last month by the National Institutes of Health. The second, the group members said, involves several vaccine developers working in one large trial — an unprecedented method for vaccine development in the United States.   

The third phase of vaccine trials typically involve thousands of study subjects, some of whom are randomly assigned to get the vaccine, and others who are injected with a placebo, a substance that does nothing. The researchers then wait and see if there is a difference in Covid-19 infections rates between the vaccine group and the control group.  

If the vaccine developers band together in one large phase 3 trial of all of their experimental vaccines, they could all use the same placebo group and wouldn’t have to recruit their own. 

Members of ACTIV’s clinical trials working group — including representatives from the vaccine companies —are expected to discuss the options on a call Wednesday. 

There are no final decisions as of yet on which approach ACTIV will take,” NIH spokesperson Renate Myles told CNN in an email.

Three US companies are already testing their vaccines on humans, according to the World Health Organization. They’re still in phase one or phase two trials, which typically involve giving the vaccine to dozens or hundreds of study subjects.   

Read more here.

12:24 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

NY AG is looking into allegations of "unequal social distancing enforcement" in minority neighborhoods

Robert Alexander/Getty Images
Robert Alexander/Getty Images

The New York State Attorney General is calling on the NYPD to “better address the department's apparent unequal enforcement of social distancing rules,” throughout the city.

Attorney General Letitia James is “looking into the matter” and has requested various enforcement data from the NYPD.

The AG’s announcement “follows recent reports and videos of aggressive enforcement tactics by the NYPD in black and Hispanic neighborhoods, which provides a stark contrast to reports of police response to social distancing rules in predominantly white neighborhoods,” the release said. 

“In majority white communities, it is alleged that the NYPD reacted differently,” the release said.

“Rather than arresting individuals, the NYPD issued summonses and gave out free face masks to the thousands of social distance violators in public parks across the city.”

Some background: The AG's announcement comes after a controversial video surfaced last week showing an officer punching a black man while the officers were responding to complaints of a lack of social distancing and people not wearing masks in the area of the city. The officer captured on camera

Earlier Wednesday, NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea staunchly defended his department against allegations of racist policing.

12:22 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

New York is investigating 102 possible cases of a rare Covid-related illness in children, governor says

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Gov. Cuomo's Office
Gov. Cuomo's Office

The Department of Health is investigating 102 cases of what may be a rare Covid-related illness in children with symptoms similar to atypical Kawasaki disease or toxic shock-like syndrome, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said today.

"We have lost three children in New York because of this," he said.

Here's what we know:

  • 60% of these children tested positive for Covid-19 and 40% had the antibodies.
  • 70% of the children who tested positive for coronavirus, went to intensive care units and 19% had intubations.
  • 43% of the cases are still hospitalized.

The majority of cases involve children between 5 years old and 14 years old, Cuomo said.

Because it does not present as a normal Covid-19 case, these children may not have been initially diagnosed as coronavirus patients, he explained.

"Covid cases are normally respiratory. This is predominantly not respiratory. It's an inflammation of the blood vessels, which could affect the heart. So, it's more of a cardiac case than a respiratory case, which is a new manifestation of the Covid virus," he said.

Predominant symptoms include fever, abdominal pain and skin rash. But other symptoms include change in skin color, difficulty feeding, trouble breathing, racing heart, lethargy, irritability or confusion.

The wide range of symptoms makes it even harder for parents to know what they're dealing with, he acknowledged.

"If your child has been exposed to someone who had Covid, even if it was several weeks ago, that is a special alert in this situation," Cuomo said.

Hospitals have been instructed to prioritize testing for children who come in with these symptoms.

12:01 p.m. ET, May 13, 2020

New York frontline workers tested below the general population for antibodies, governor says

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a coronavirus briefing in Watertown, New York, on May 13.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a coronavirus briefing in Watertown, New York, on May 13. Gov. Cuomo's Office

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that antibodies testing in the state has showed that frontline workers, including police officers and health care workers, have a lower infection rate than the general population — which he called "good news."

Cuomo said that testing showed that in New York City about 19.9% of the general population tested positive for antibodies.

During the same test, about 12% of downstate health care workers, about 10% of NYPD employees, and about 17% of FDNY employees tested positive.

He added that in a test of 2,700 New York state police, 3% were positive. In a test of 3,000 Department of Corrections employees, 7.5% were positive.

Why this is important: A positive test for Covid-19 antibodies may indicated the person was infected with coronavirus. A lower infection rate amongst frontline workers shows that the precautionary measures being taken by these essential workers are working, the governor said.

Watch:

11:46 a.m. ET, May 13, 2020

Elective surgeries can resume in 12 more New York counties

From CNN's Aditi Sangal

Elective surgeries can resume in 12 more counties, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday at a press briefing.

"As the number of Covid cases has come down, we can restart elective surgeries," he said.

In addition, ambulatory services will also resume in the state.

Here are the countries Cuomo mentioned today:

11:43 a.m. ET, May 13, 2020

New York coronavirus deaths declined yesterday, governor says

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at least 166 people across the state died from coronavirus yesterday.

That's down from 195 on Monday.

"These are not numbers, these are families," he said.

Watch:

11:34 a.m. ET, May 13, 2020

DC extends stay-at-home order until June 8

From CNN’s Nicky Robertson

A man walks past a sign in front of the The Anthem on April 29 in Washington.
A man walks past a sign in front of the The Anthem on April 29 in Washington. Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Wednesday morning that the stay-at-home order has been extended until June 8.

The order was previously set to expire on May 15th. 

By the numbers: There are currently more than 6,500 total positive cases of coronavirus in the District, and at least 350 deaths.

11:18 a.m. ET, May 13, 2020

Republican senator blocks resolution to release CDC reopening guidance

From CNN's Ali Zaslav

Senator Mike Braun, a Republican from Indiana, speaks on the Senate Floor in Washington on May 13.
Senator Mike Braun, a Republican from Indiana, speaks on the Senate Floor in Washington on May 13. Senate TV

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer failed to pass a resolution by unanimous consent Wednesday that called for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to immediately release their guidance on reopening the economy. 

The Minority Leader argued the Trump administration “simply cannot be trusted to tell the truth about the coronavirus” and “Americans need and must have the candid guidance of our best scientists, unfiltered and uncensored by President Trump,” in order to reopen the country as safely as possible amid the pandemic.

Some background: Last week, a CDC official confirmed to CNN that the Trump administration will not implement the centers' 17-page draft recommendation for reopening America. A task force official told CNN that Trump's guidelines announced in mid-April for reopening the country "made clear that each state should open up in a safe and responsible way based on the data and response efforts in those individual states."

“The President is not a scientist… it has become painfully clear over the last two months how unfamiliar he is with the disciplines of science and medicine,” Schumer said today. “Anyone who would say drink bleach, use bleach to protect yourself is not much of a medical expert.”

“In order to make these decisions wisely, the country needs guidance,” Schumer said. “These literally are matters of life and of death. And that’s exactly why the CDC prepared this guidance.”

Senator Mike Braun, a Republican from Indiana, objected to the resolution, and argued Schumer is just trying to add “bureaucratic hurdles” to “shutter the economy” using the CDC’s “over prescriptive guidelines.”

"The argument that the White House and task force have not been transparent, in my mind, is a faux argument from the Minority Leader," Braun said. "He's really trying to let career regulators at agencies like the CDC bog down the economy, again with bureaucratic hurdles."