June 3 coronavirus news

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1:18 p.m. ET, June 3, 2020

WHO says coronavirus is not mutating, but that doesn't mean it is not dangerous

From CNN's Amanda Watts

The World Health Organization (WHO) said a large number of scientists across the world are studying coronavirus and none of the genome sequences show the virus is mutating to become more dangerous.

But WHO warns that doesn’t mean the pandemic is not getting more dangerous. 

“There are more than 40,000 full genome sequences that are available,” WHO infectious disease epidemiologist Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove told a briefing.

“Scientists are looking to see, are there changes in the virus? And as it is a coronavirus — it is an RNA virus — there are normal changes in this virus that one would expect over time,” she said. RNA viruses such as influenza and coronaviruses are generally more unstable and prone to mutation than viruses that use DNA to replicate.

“None of these changes so far indicate that the virus itself is changing in terms of its ability to transmit or to cause more severe disease,” Van Kerkhove added. 

But Van Kerkhove said that doesn’t mean the spread of the virus isn’t becoming more dangerous. “People grow tired,” she said. They may become lax in the measures needed to control the spread of the virus, such as social distancing. “It's very difficult to keep up all of these measures and we must remain strong and vigilant,” she said.

As lockdowns are lifted, slowly, across the globe, some “social measures may need to be reintroduced again, and that may frustrate people,” Van Kerkhove said. 

“And that, in a sense, could make the virus more dangerous because people become complacent. And it's important that no one becomes complacent. This is far from over.” 

Dr. Mike Ryan, WHO executive director of Health Emergencies Program, said the virus does remain stable, but added, “This is already a dangerous virus; we've been seeing this consistently for months now.”

1:10 p.m. ET, June 3, 2020

New Jersey to allow restaurants and bars to offer outdoor dining on June 15

From CNN’s Anna Sturla

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a coronavirus briefing in Trenton, New Jersey, on June 3.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy speaks during a coronavirus briefing in Trenton, New Jersey, on June 3. Pool/News 12 NJ

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy will sign an executive order Wednesday to allow restaurants and bars to begin offering in-person, outdoor dining beginning June 15.

Guidance on the subject will be issued later today, he said in a news conference.

Murphy announced that there were 112 new coronavirus-related deaths Wednesday, bringing the statewide death toll to 11,880.

During his daily briefing, he also announced 652 new coronavirus cases across the state, bringing statewide total to 162,068.

12:37 p.m. ET, June 3, 2020

WHO committee recommends continued study of hydroxychloroquine as a potential Covid-19 treatment

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

A pharmacy tech holds pills of Hydroxychloroquine at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20.
A pharmacy tech holds pills of Hydroxychloroquine at Rock Canyon Pharmacy in Provo, Utah, on May 20. George Frey/AFP/Getty Images

The World Health Organization's Data Safety and Monitoring Committee has recommended for WHO to continue studying hydroxychloroquine as a potential Covid-19 treatment in its Solidarity Trial, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing in Geneva on Wednesday. 

Last week, WHO announced that it had temporarily paused the hydroxychloroquine arms of the trial due to concerns surrounding the drug's safety.

"This decision was taken as a precaution while the safety data were reviewed. The Data Safety and Monitoring Committee of the Solidarity Trial has been reviewing the data," Tedros said on Wednesday.

"On the basis of the available mortality data, the members of the committee recommended that there are no reasons to modify the trial protocol," Tedros said, adding that the recommendation about resuming hydroxychloroquine studies will be shared with the trial's principal investigators.

Currently, there is no approved treatment for Covid-19.

"As of now, there’s no evidence that any drug actually reduces mortality in patients who have Covid-19," WHO Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said during Wednesday's briefing.

"In fact, it’s an urgent priority for all of us to do the needed studies, to do the randomized clinical trials, in order to get that evidence," Swaminathan said. "You can do analyses but there are so many potential biases in the way that patients are managed in a regular clinical setting that the only way to get definitive answers is to do a randomized trial."

12:18 p.m. ET, June 3, 2020

Europe saw fewest coronavirus cases reported yesterday since March 22, WHO says

From CNN’s Amanda Watts

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 1.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 1. AFP

The World Health Organization said that “cases in Europe continue to decline” during a briefing Wednesday.

“Yesterday saw the fewest cases reported in Europe since the 22nd of March,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Though Tedros added, WHO is “especially worried” about Central and South America where “many countries are witnessing accelerating epidemics.”

“More than 100,000 cases of Covid-19 have been reported to WHO for each of the past five days. The Americas continues to account for the most cases,” Tedros said.

“For several weeks, the number of cases reported each day in the Americas has been more than the rest of the world put together,” Tedros said.

He added WHO is also seeing an increase of cases in the Eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and Africa. 

12:35 p.m. ET, June 3, 2020

Maduro government and opposition sign rare cooperation agreement to fight Covid-19 in Venezuela

From CNN's Stefano Pozzebon, Mia Alberti and Jorge Luis Perez Valery

People stand over yellow circles painted on pavement that serve as visual cues to help shoppers adhere to social distancing before entering a popular market in the neighborhood of Catia in Caracas, Venezuela, on May 28.
People stand over yellow circles painted on pavement that serve as visual cues to help shoppers adhere to social distancing before entering a popular market in the neighborhood of Catia in Caracas, Venezuela, on May 28. Ariana Cubillos/AP

The Venezuelan government, led by embattled President Nicolas Maduro, and the opposition led by Juan Guaidó, have signed an agreement to cooperate in the fight against Covid-19 by allowing aid into the country through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

This is one of the few times the two sides are known to have signed an agreement.

"The Ministry of Health signed an agreement with the (...) Venezuelan opposition. In the context of the blockade against Venezuela, it is necessary that we, Venezuelans, find common ground to fight against Covid-19," the government said in a statement.

In the same statement, the Vice President for Communication, Culture, and Tourism, Jorge Rodríguez, added that both sides need to "set politics aside and work together to fight Covid-19"

More on the agreement: The agreement was signed on Monday by the Venezuelan Minister of Health, Carlos Alvarado, the Health Adviser of the opposition-led National Assembly, Julio Castro, and the Venezuelan representative of the Pan American Health Organization, Gerardo de Cosio. 

On their website, PAHO says it is the specialized international health agency for the Americas. It serves as Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization.

The Venezuelan opposition confirmed the agreement in a statement:

"The interim government and the president Juan Guaidó and the National Assembly, reaffirm its commitment to do whatever it takes to alleviate the suffering of Venezuelans," they said.

"We took an important step, but it won't be enough for what's ahead," the statement added. Guaidó is recognized as the interim leader of Venezuela by more than 50 countries, including the United States. 

According to the opposition, the agreement will allow the PAHO to receive and manage the funding allocated for humanitarian aid. The funds will be used towards protection equipment, "improving diagnostic capacity" and treating confirmed cases, according to the opposition. 

The PAHO confirmed to CNN in an email that "this agreement is real and that PAHO is taking action to support its implementation."

12:16 p.m. ET, June 3, 2020

Covid-19 study links obesity with higher risk of children getting more severe illness

From CNN Health's Jacqueline Howard

Researchers are learning more about how Covid-19 affects children, and a new study finds that among a group of children and adolescents in New York who were hospitalized with the disease, about a fifth — 22% — had obesity.

The study, published in the journal The Lancet on Wednesday, suggests that having obesity could put a child at an increased risk of getting severely ill with Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

 "The significance of obesity as an independent risk factor for severity is now being increasingly described in adult studies of Covid-19, so it was interesting that many of the hospitalized patients in this study had obesity and/or overweight," the researchers, from Columbia University Irving Medical Center and New York-Presbyterian Hospital in New York, wrote in the study.

"Obesity was the most significant factor associated with mechanical ventilation in children 2 years and older," the researchers added. "Contrary to some previous reports, infants seemed largely spared severe manifestations." 

More on the study: The study included data on 50 young people, ages 21 and younger, who were diagnosed with Covid-19 between March 1 and April 15 and hospitalized for at least a day or longer.

The data, which came from the patients' electronic medical records, showed that about half of the patients — 52% — had an adult family member or was living with someone with symptoms associated with Covid-19. None of the patients had a history of international travel around the time they were diagnosed. 

Most of the patients — 80% — had a fever, and 64% had some respiratory symptoms, but three of the patients only experienced gastrointestinal problems, the researchers found. Nine of the patients, or 18% of them, needed mechanical ventilation and one patient died.

Overall, the researchers found that obesity was significantly associated with needing mechanical ventilation among children ages 2 or older. Among the patients who required mechanical ventilation, six of them — 67% — had obesity.

About the study: The study had some limitations, including that the group of patients included in the data was small and half of the patients were Hispanic. The researchers noted that the hospital serves a predominantly Hispanic community. So more research is needed to determine whether similar findings would emerge among a more diverse group of patients.

Yet overall, "studies such as this one emphasize that certain groups of children may be disproportionally affected. In this study, 50% were Hispanic," Dr. Jason Newland of the Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, and Dr. Kristina Bryant of the University of Louisville in Kentucky, co-wrote in an editorial that accompanied the new study.

"As the Covid-19 pandemic has spread and created adversity for many people physically, emotionally, and economically, the groups most affected have been those of color," Newland and Bryant wrote.

"Going forward, multicenter collaborative studies are needed to define the infectious and postinfectious sequelae of Covid-19 in children in communities across the US, including rural communities, and in all racial and ethnic groups. We also need to understand the association of the pandemic with adverse health outcomes in children beyond the consequences of viral infection," they wrote.

The researchers noted that on May 15, "the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a precipitous drop in the ordering and administration of pediatric vaccines. Are outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases on the horizon? That could be the next important chapter of the evolving Covid-19 story."

12:13 p.m. ET, June 3, 2020

New York state reports lowest daily coronavirus death toll yet

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a coronavirus briefing in Albany, New York, on June 3.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during a coronavirus briefing in Albany, New York, on June 3. State of New York

New York state reported its lowest daily coronavirus death toll so far, with 49 deaths reported yesterday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

That's down from 58 deaths on Monday and 54 on Tuesday, the governor said. Hospitalizations are also at an all-time low.

Cuomo warned that although many headlines are focusing on the nationwide protests over George Floyd's death at the hands of police, coronavirus remains a threat.

"It is still in people and in society. We're still battling that," he said of the virus.

WATCH GOV. CUOMO:

10:57 a.m. ET, June 3, 2020

Brazil's president appoints general as provisional minister of health

From Mia Alberti and Rodrigo Pedroso

Executive Secretary of the Ministry Health Eduardo Pazuello sits during a press conference at the Ministry of Health on May 15 in Brasilia, Brazil.
Executive Secretary of the Ministry Health Eduardo Pazuello sits during a press conference at the Ministry of Health on May 15 in Brasilia, Brazil. Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday officially appointed Army General Eduardo Pazuello as interim health minister.

Brazil has been 19 days without a health minister so far.

Bolsonaro suggested that for the time being, he does not plan on naming a permanent replacement for Nelson Teich, his second health minister to resign.

In practice, Pazuello has been acting as the head of the ministry since the resignation of former minister Teich on May 15. 

Some background: Brazil has had two health ministers since the beginning of the pandemic. The original cabinet minister, Nelson Mandetta, was dismissed on April 16 by Bolsonaro for disagreeing with the president's handling of the pandemic. Mandetta’s replacement, Teich, also resigned after less than a month in office for the same reason.

Bolsonaro has been nominating military personnel to key positions in the health ministry for the past month.

Latest numbers: On Tuesday, Brazil registered at least 1,262 new deaths by coronavirus, the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic. The country has had more than 555,000 cases of coronavirus and at least 31,199 reported deaths.

10:07 a.m. ET, June 3, 2020

More than 600 nurses worldwide have died from coronavirus, group says

From CNN's Sharon Braithwaite in London

The National Nurses United set out 88 empty pairs of shoes on May 7 in Washington representing nurses that they say have died from COVID-19.
The National Nurses United set out 88 empty pairs of shoes on May 7 in Washington representing nurses that they say have died from COVID-19. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

More than 600 nurses worldwide have died from Covid-19, and more than 230,000 health care workers have contracted the virus, the International Council of Nurses (ICN) said Wednesday in a statement.

The ICN represents more than 130 national nursing associations with 20 million members globally, and “has been highlighting the lack of systematic data on COVID-19 infection rates of healthcare workers (HCWs) and related deaths of nurses," an ICN spokesman told CNN.  It “implores" governments to act to protect their health and save lives.

“Without this data we do not know the true cost of COVID-19, and that will make us less able to tackle other pandemics in the future,” ICN CEO Howard Catton added in the statement.

The ICN report is based on data from national nursing associations, official figures and media reports from a limited number of countries.