May 18 coronavirus news

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9:32 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic has moved here.

8:53 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Trump's doctor says potential benefit of taking hydroxychloroquine outweighs the risk

US President Donald Trump tells reporters that he is taking zinc and hydroxychloroquine during a meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House, on Monday, in Washington.
US President Donald Trump tells reporters that he is taking zinc and hydroxychloroquine during a meeting in the State Dining Room of the White House, on Monday, in Washington. Evan Vucci/AP

The potential benefits of US President Donald Trump's decision to take hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic against the coronavirus outweigh the risks, according to his White House physician.

Dr. Sean Conley wrote in a White House memo that after numerous discussions, "he (Trump) and I had regarding the evidence for and against the use of hydroxychloroquine, we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risk." 

Conley wrote that the President is "in very good health and has remained symptom free." He also added that Trump has been tested numerous times and that the tests have been "all negative, to date." 

He added that two weeks ago, "one of the President's support staff tested positive for Covid-19." 

The background: Earlier Monday, Trump told reporters he is taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine, a drug he's long touted as a potential coronavirus cure. 

Medical experts and the US Food and Drug Administration question its efficacy and warn of potentially harmful side effects. "A couple of weeks ago, I started taking it," Trump said. He later said he'd been taking the drug every day for a week and a half.

The admission was a dramatic development in Trump's attempts to promote hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for coronavirus, but at least one study has shown the drug does not work against Covid-19 and could cause heart problems. 

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It follows a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine that also showed the drug doesn't fight the virus.

While Trump admitted he doesn't know if the drug works, he claimed "if it doesn't, you're not going to get sick and die."

The FDA has warned against the use of hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to treat the novel coronavirus and said the drugs should only be used in hospitals or clinical trials because they can kill or cause serious side effects. These include serious heart rhythm problems in Covid-19 patients treated with the medications, especially when they are combined with the antibiotic azithromycin or other drugs that can affect the heart.

Hydroxychloroquine is approved to treat or prevent malaria and to treat autoimmune conditions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis.

8:36 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Key coronavirus model revises US death projection slightly downward

A medical laboratory scientist inserts a patient's swab sample into the coronavirus testing machine in the lab at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut on May 14.
A medical laboratory scientist inserts a patient's swab sample into the coronavirus testing machine in the lab at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut on May 14. Tyler Sizemore/Heart Connecticut Media/AP

A key coronavirus model often cited by the White House has revised its death projection for the United States slightly downward, now predicting that 143,360 people will die by August 4. That’s about 3,700 fewer deaths than the model predicted when last updated on May 12.

The shift is small, but it marks a departure from recent increases in the model’s death projections, which have been largely based on increases in mobility across the country and the easing of social distancing measures. As people have been moving around more – and as social distancing measures have been relaxed – the model has projected more deaths.

But in today’s release, researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, who built the model, say that fewer people are forecasted to die in certain parts of the country. 

That suggests that expected increases in coronavirus cases may not have materialized yet in certain places – at least not to the extent that the model was projecting.

 

8:33 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Coronavirus deaths in Latin America surpass 30,000

Health workers interview people with symptoms of Covid-19 at San Lorenzo's Pedro Bidegain Stadium on May 18, in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Health workers interview people with symptoms of Covid-19 at San Lorenzo's Pedro Bidegain Stadium on May 18, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Amilcar Orfali/Getty Images

The number of deaths from Covid-19 in Latin America has surpassed 30,000 as of Monday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

Brazil has more deaths from the novel coronavirus than any other Latin America country, with 16,792 total deaths reported Monday, according to Brazil's Ministry of Health.

7:39 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Immunotherapy and steroids successful in treating coronavirus-related syndrome in children

Young patients hospitalized with coronavirus-related multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, recovered rapidly after treatment with immune globulin and steroids, according to a new study.

In the small analysis, researchers in France and Switzerland reviewed data from 35 children between the ages of 2 and 16 hospitalized in intensive care between late March and the end of April with symptoms including “fever, cardiogenic shock or acute left ventricular dysfunction with inflammatory state.”

Of the children in the study, 31 tested positive for coronavirus and none had underlying cardiovascular disease; 17% of patients were overweight; all experienced unusual lethargy; and 83% exhibited gastrointestinal symptoms. Almost all of the patients needed respiratory assistance, the researchers said.

Most of the children received intravenous immune globulin treatment, a blood product made up of antibodies to help strengthen the body’s immune system. Twelve were also treated with steroids and 23 were treated with a therapeutic dose of the blood thinner heparin, the researchers reported. None of the patients studied died, Damien Bonnet of the Necker Hospital for Sick Children in Paris and colleagues wrote.

“The majority of patients recovered within a few days following intravenous immune globulin, with adjunctive steroid therapy used in one third,” they wrote. “Treatment with immune globulin appears to be associated with recovery of left ventricular systolic function.”

The study also concluded that, while MIS-C shares similarities with atypical Kawasaki disease, “prominent clinical signs are largely different.”

While the early signs of the syndrome may be severe with some patients needing help breathing and keeping their blood circulating, most recovered rapidly after treatment with immune globulin and steroids.

7:28 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Catch up: Here are the latest coronavirus headlines you might have missed

As Monday winds down, here are the top coronavirus stories from around the world:

  • China: Chinese President Xi Jinping delivered remarks at the opening ceremony of the World Health Assembly, making the case for the country’s transparency over the virus, proposing a series of steps to deal with the virus and pledging $2 billion over two years to the World Health Organization.
  • Sports: Clubs in Spain’s top two soccer divisions can begin training in groups of up to 10 players starting today. Additionally, all 20 English Premier League clubs voted unanimously to return to small-group training beginning on tomorrow.
  • Symptoms: Loss of sense of smell or taste have been added to the official list of coronavirus symptoms in the United Kingdom, the Department of Health and Social Care said. Anosmia emerged as a potential Covid-19 symptom in March.
  • Race for a vaccine: Study subjects who received Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine had positive early results, according to a statement issued by the US-based biotech company. "All eight initial participants" in the trial developed neutralizing antibodies to the virus.
  • Immunity: Patients who re-tested positive for coronavirus are not contagious, South Korean health officials said. This comes after a lab analysis of 108 cases and epidemiology investigations on 285 cases was conducted to determine whether coronavirus patients should be quarantined for two weeks after being released from hospital.
  • European Union: German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron announced a new Franco-German fund worth 500 billion euros as part of the European Union’s coronavirus recovery plan.
  • Travel restrictions: Travelers arriving in Norway without a business reason to come will be sent back, the country’s prime minister said. Any decision to lift travel restrictions depends on how the coronavirus outbreak is developing and concerns around importing new cases.
7:01 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Delirium may be common in hospitalized coronavirus patients, study finds

Kirsty O'Connor/PA via AP/FILE
Kirsty O'Connor/PA via AP/FILE

Delirium, confusion and agitation may be common in patients hospitalized with severe coronavirus infections, according to a new review of studies. However, most patients should recover over the long-term, researchers said Monday.

Jonathan Rogers of University College London and colleagues reviewed what happened with patients infected with two other coronaviruses: SARS in 2002-2004 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome virus or MERS, which still occasionally causes cases.

“If infection with [the novel coronavirus] follows a similar course to that with SARS-CoV or MERS-CoV, most patients should recover without experiencing mental illness,” Rogers and colleagues wrote in their review, published in Lancet Psychiatry

The researchers looked at 72 different studies on SARS, MERS and Covid-19 – focusing in on any links between the diseases and psychiatric problems.

Here’s what they found:  

  • About a third of patients infected with SARS or MERS experienced post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD within about three years.
  •  About 15% of such patients were diagnosed with depression within about two years, and 15% were diagnosed with anxiety at the one-year point.

“Our analysis of more than 3,550 coronavirus cases suggests that most people will not suffer from mental health problems following coronavirus infection,” Rogers said in a statement.

Some context: Other teams have reported that delirium is common during and after hospital treatment for Covid-19, just as it was with SARS and MERS. 

“While there is little evidence to suggest that common mental illnesses beyond short-term delirium are a feature of Covid-19 infection,” Rogers said. “Clinicians should monitor for the possibility that common mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, fatigue, and PTSD could arise in the weeks and months following recovery from severe infection, as has been seen with SARS and MERS.” 

The research team cautioned that many of the studies they reviewed were of “low or medium quality,” and Rogers said that more data is needed on psychiatric symptoms associated with Covid-19.

Monitoring patients for those symptoms, he said, should be a routine part of care.

6:56 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Brazil now has third highest number of coronavirus cases in the world

Brazil topped 250,000 coronavirus cases Monday, surpassing the UK's total and making it the country with the third highest number of global confirmed cases. 

Brazil's Ministry of Health also reported 674 new deaths Monday, bringing the death toll in Brazil to 16,792.

The ministry also reported 13,140 new cases of the novel coronavirus in the 24-hour period between Sunday and Monday, bringing the country's total to 254,220, behind the US and Russia.

Some background: President Jair Bolsonaro has faced criticism with his anti-lockdown rhetoric even as cases skyrocket. He has repeatedly dismissed Covid-19 as a "little flu" and urged businesses to reopen, even as many governors scramble to implement social isolation measures and slow the spread.

Bolsonaro also recently saw a second health minister leave his government in the span of a few weeks.

6:23 p.m. ET, May 18, 2020

Qatar closes shops and stops nonessential "commercial activities" until May 30

Workers wearing masks ride bicycles at Qatar's touristic Souq Waqif bazar in the capital Doha, on Sunday, May 17, as the country begins enforcing the world's toughest penalties for failing to wear masks.
Workers wearing masks ride bicycles at Qatar's touristic Souq Waqif bazar in the capital Doha, on Sunday, May 17, as the country begins enforcing the world's toughest penalties for failing to wear masks. Karim Jaafar/AFP/Getty Images

Qatar is closing its shops and halting all "commercial activities" beginning tomorrow until May 30, Qatar News Agency (QNA) reported, citing Qatari officials.

Pharmacies, markets, catering services and restaurants that offer delivery services will remain open, according to QNA.

"The Ministry of Trade and Industry will determine which other services will be exempt from this decision," the report added.

Beginning Tuesday, "all residents are obliged, upon going out and traveling, to have no more than two people in one vehicle," with exceptions of taxis or ambulances, QNA said. 

Additionally, citizens must install an app beginning Friday from the Interior Ministry to receive coronavirus updates.

Qatar's council warned people who do not follow the new guidelines could be fined or imprisoned, QNA reported.

Qatar has at least 33,969 confirmed coronavirus cases and approximately 15 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University tally.