Coronavirus pandemic in the US

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9:13 a.m. ET, May 22, 2020

Large study finds hydroxychloroquine Covid-19 treatments linked to greater risk of death and heart arrhythmia

A pharmacy technician holds a hydroxychloroquine pill at a pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20.
A pharmacy technician holds a hydroxychloroquine pill at a pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20. George Frey/AFP/Getty Images

Seriously ill Covid-19 patients who were treated with hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine were more likely to die or develop dangerous heart arrhythmias, according to a large observational study published Friday in the medical journal The Lancet.

Researchers analyzed data from more than 96,000 patients with confirmed Covid-19 from 671 hospitals. All were hospitalized from late December to mid-April, and had died or been discharged by April 21.

Just below 15,000 patients were treated with the antimalarial drugs hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, or one of those drugs combined with an antibiotic.

All four of those treatments were linked with a higher risk of dying in the hospital. About 1 in 11 patients in the control group died in the hospital. About 1 in 6 patients treated with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine alone died in the hospital. About 1 in 5 treated with chloroquine and an antibiotic died and almost 1 in 4 treated with hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic died. 

Researchers also found that serious cardiac arrhythmias were more common among patients receiving any of the four treatments. The largest increase was among the group treated with hydroxychloroquine and an antibiotic; 8% of those patients developed a heart arrhythmia, compared with 0.3% of patients in the control group.

“Previous small-scale studies have failed to identify robust evidence of a benefit and larger, randomised controlled trials are not yet completed,” study co-author Dr. Frank Ruschitzka, director of the Heart Center at University Hospital Zurich, said in a statement. “However, we now know from our study that the chance that these medications improve outcomes in COVID-19 is quite low.”

Some context: The drug, hydroxychloroquine, has been around for decades but was thrust into the spotlight this spring when Trump began mentioning its name dozens of times during coronavirus briefings. While it had not been approved for this use, and still hasn't, he urged Americans to "try it."

8:49 a.m. ET, May 22, 2020

CDC warns lockdowns may have increased rodent activity at restaurants

With limited service at restaurants across the country, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning of heightened rodent activity.  

“Community-wide closures have led to a decrease in food available to rodents, especially in dense commercial areas,” the CDC website says.  

“Rodents rely on the food and waste generated by these establishments,” the CDC said, adding that areas “have reported an increase in rodent activity as rodents search for new sources of food.”  

The CDC said rodent control programs may see a spike in service requests and “reports of unusual or aggressive rodent behavior.”  

Some context: It is not uncommon for the rodent population to decline and swell during natural disasters. 

The CDC says during these times, it is important to continue to practice safe rodent control like removing food sources, water and shelter for rodents.

Garbage should be disposed of frequently and areas with signs of rodent activity should be thoroughly cleaned.  

8:41 a.m. ET, May 22, 2020

How 3 beach cities are preparing for Memorial Day weekend

People visit Daytona Beach in Florida on May 9.
People visit Daytona Beach in Florida on May 9. Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images

As the US enters Memorial Day weekend, beach towns are gearing up for visitors during the coronavirus pandemic.

Here are some of the guidelines being implemented by some cities along the East Coast: 

Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey

Mayor Paul Kanitra has called in a town engineer to map out how many groups can be on the beach, and officials will cut people off when they reach capacity. 

Lifeguards will have bandanas around their necks that they can pull up if they need to interact with someone, and their bags will contain personal protective equipment like masks, gowns, and gloves, according to Kanitra. 

He also said on CNN’s “New Day” that he expects July and August will be “absolutely slammed,” and they are trying to anticipate that now.

Daytona Beach, Florida 

Beach-goers in Daytona Beach will be required to place their towels and chairs 10 feet away from other groups, Mayor Derrick Henry said. 

“We’re not trying to arrest people if they do not remain separate. We just give them the information, and by and large, they're compliant,” Henry said. 

The mayor said that masks are not mandatory on the beach. 

“No one is required or even requested that they wear masks on the beach. We do believe that it is the safest place for people to be — is outside. But it is advisable, but we're not requesting people to wear masks. Obviously, it's advisable at all times but I don’t think it's realistic or practical to ask people to go to the beach and wear a mask,” he said.

Henry said that while no additional lifeguard mandates have been made, the sheriff’s department is considering some changes to rescue procedures because the surf there is rough right now.

“It’s a quagmire, to say the least. It's a big concern,” Henry said.  

Watch more:

Virginia Beach, Virginia 

While the beach has so far been open for fishing and exercise, beach-goers will now be able to sit and sunbathe, Deputy City Manager Ron Williams said. 

There will also now be 100 to 125 beach ambassadors keeping an eye out on guidelines.  

“If we don't get voluntary compliance to it, a beach ambassador, they'll ask for law enforcement to come and enforce the executive orders for the distancing,” Williams said. 

Other restrictions on Virginia Beach include:

  • Groups need to be fewer than 10 people and keep 6 feet apart from others
  • No sneakers
  • No group sports
8:46 a.m. ET, May 22, 2020

Covid-19 cases in Alabama have potential "to get out of control," infectious disease expert says

Medical personnel prepare to test a patient for Covid-19 in Decatur, Alabama, on April 15.
Medical personnel prepare to test a patient for Covid-19 in Decatur, Alabama, on April 15. Dan Busey/The Decatur Daily/AP

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, the director of the division of infectious disease at University of Alabama at Birmingham, warned of the spike of Covid-19 cases in Alabama as Memorial Day weekend approaches, saying it has "the potential to get out of control." 

Marrazzo's remarks come after the mayor of Montgomery sounded the alarm over the shortage of intensive care unit beds in the city's hospitals. 

"It's very worrisome," Marrazzo said Friday on CNN. "We were really sadly set up for this. We're seeing the result of this pandemic getting into parts of the state that we knew were incredibly vulnerable all along."

Marrazzo added that she's worried that with the arrival of the holiday weekend and the loosening of restrictions in the state, the spread of coronavirus "is going to go like prairie fire." 

"It's been smoldering, we've had a lid on it," Marrazzo told CNN. "But it is now really having the potential to get out of control."

8:18 a.m. ET, May 22, 2020

It's just past 8 a.m. in New York and 5 a.m. in San Francisco. Here's the latest on the pandemic

A Covid-19 testing tent is seen on the Navajo reservation in Tuba City, Arizona, on April 20.
A Covid-19 testing tent is seen on the Navajo reservation in Tuba City, Arizona, on April 20. Carolyn Kaster/AP

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 5.1 million people and killed at least 333,000 worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.

If you're just joining us, here's the latest on the pandemic:

  • US invests $1 billion with AstraZeneca: The pharmaceutical giant has received government funding to manufacture the University of Oxford’s potential coronavirus vaccine.
  • Death toll rises: At least 94,729 people have died from coronavirus in the US, which now has 1,577,758 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • Navajo Nation to impose weekend lockdown: Another curfew has been imposed across the Nation, beginning on Friday evening and ending early Monday morning.
  • Millions file for unemployment: Another 2.4 million Americans filed for first-time benefits last week on a seasonally adjusted basis, according to the Department of Labor.
8:28 a.m. ET, May 22, 2020

A majority of Americans are OK with cautious reopening

A person walks by shuttered businesses in Brooklyn, New York, on May 12.
A person walks by shuttered businesses in Brooklyn, New York, on May 12. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Watching the coronavirus political fight play out might leave you with the belief that there are essentially two camps: the first that wants the economy to open up at almost any cost, and the second that wants nonessential businesses to stay shut down.

Those who are who are pouring into state capitols, demanding reopenings, are not speaking for anything close to a majority. However, a closer look at the data reveals, however, that there's a large middle ground consisting of Americans willing to open up some businesses.

Take a look at the most recent Quinnipiac University poll, for example. At first glance, the data seems a lot like most of what we're accustomed to. The vast majority (75%) of voters are for a slower reopening of the economy, if reopening quickly means making the spread of coronavirus worse. This echoes other polling that generally finds that shutdowns are pretty popular and that more folks are worried about reopening too quickly than they are about reopening slowly.

And indeed, there are a number of activities that a clear majority of voters don't think are safe or that they simply will not do. A large 74% think it's unsafe to get on an airplane in the Quinnipiac poll. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 81% of Americans say it's unlikely they'd attend a sports event in the next three months. A sizable 68% think it's unlikely they'll stay at a hotel or vacation rental.

Yet a number of these same people aren't as opposed to other nonessential activities.

Read more here.

6:41 a.m. ET, May 22, 2020

Navajo Nation to start 57-hour lockdown from tonight

Signs seen on May 20 near Prewitt, New Mexico, alert the Navajo Nation community to a weekend curfew.
Signs seen on May 20 near Prewitt, New Mexico, alert the Navajo Nation community to a weekend curfew. Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

The Navajo Nation has announced another weekend lockdown, which will begin on Friday evening and end early Monday morning.

“The weekend lockdown will begin on Friday at 8 p.m. until Monday at 5 a.m. The Navajo Nation’s stay-at-home order remains in effect requiring residents to remain home except for essential workers, cases of emergencies, and if there is a need to get food or other essential items,” the territory's president and vice president said in a statement.

The Navajo Nation spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah and reported a population of 173,667 on the 2010 census.

At least 4,434 coronavirus cases have been recorded among its people, with 147 total deaths, meaning the nation has surpassed New York and New Jersey as having the highest per-capita infection rate in the US.

The Nation has one of the strictest stay-at-home orders in the country. For the last few months it has imposed weekend lockdowns to prevent members from being outside and risking infection but case numbers have continued to rise.

“As we approach another 57-hour weekend lockdown, we ask our Diné citizens to prepare ahead of time to avoid the rush into border towns and stores. If you need essential household items or need to finish errands, please plan," vice president Myron Lizer said on Friday.
6:29 a.m. ET, May 22, 2020

US invests $1 billion with AstraZeneca for coronavirus vaccine

The AstraZeneca building in Luton, England, is pictured on May 18.
The AstraZeneca building in Luton, England, is pictured on May 18. Tim Ireland/Xinhua/Sipa

Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has received more than a billion dollars in US government funding to manufacture the University of Oxford’s potential coronavirus vaccine.

The company received over “$1billion from the US Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) for the development, production and delivery of the vaccine, starting in the fall,” according to a statement.

The pharmaceutical giant added that it was collaborating with a number of countries and organizations to make “at least 400 million doses and has secured total manufacturing capacity for one billion doses so far.” 

“AstraZeneca recognises that the vaccine may not work but is committed to progressing the clinical program with speed and scaling up manufacturing at risk,” the statement says.

The potential coronavirus vaccine is still being developed. On Friday Oxford University said its vaccine clinical trial would progress to the second and third phase of human trials, after the first phase saw more than 1,000 immunizations.

AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot said the US government's $1 billion investment is a gamble, but worth the risk.

Soriot said the move showed the US government is “leading for the American people but also the world" in an interview with CNN’s Julia Chatterley on Thursday.

“We’re trailblazing here because we are not following the standard process, we are partnering with regulators both in the UK and the US," he said.
"We’re working hand in hand with the FDA [US Food and Drink Administration,] we are sharing data on a day-to-day basis and they have committed themselves to help look at our data as they come so by the time we finish the first [trial] program in August they can rapidly approve the vaccine."

The Oxford trial is one of eight human trials currently underway. There are an additional 110 in pre-clinical trials. 

5:38 a.m. ET, May 22, 2020

Death toll rises to 94,729

At least 94,729 people have died from coronavirus in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases.

There are at least 1,577,758 cases of the disease across the country. The US currently has the highest number of confirmed cases globally.

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

CNN is tracking Covid-19's spread across the country here.