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June 17 coronavirus news
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey resisted broad calls from physicians across his state to implement a statewide mandate for wearing masks in public places.
Instead, Ducey said Wednesday he would leave that decision to mayors in his state because some areas, specifically rural regions, have different levels of transmission.
Ducey added some local leaders are unlikely to follow an executive order on that matter and if that were the case, "it's a self-defeating executive order."
The governor also announced that he would be calling up 300 National Guard members to help with Covid-19 contact tracing in the state.
During a virtual news conference, Ducey did not provide any date for the deployment but called the increased National Guard presence “a surge” to cope with the increase in state cases.
Some context: Ducey’s announcement comes as cases of Covid-19 in Arizona continue to spike with a total number of cases climbing to 40,924.
The mayor of Houston, Texas, Sylvester Turner, said Wednesday that he is considering implementing a face mask order.
“You maybe bored of the virus, but the virus is not bored of you,” Turner said.
The Houston Health Department is reporting at least 10,507 positive cases of coronavirus and approximately 169 deaths since the pandemic began, Turner said.
The mayor said the Greater Houston partnership, which is a coalition of Houston-area business owners, supports the idea of a mask order that would require employees and customers to wear face masks.
Turner said he spoke briefly to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo today about the possibility of an order, but said he doesn't anticipate any moves to happen immediately.
He added that even if a face mask order was issued, he would not require jail time for violators.
"We want people to be able to go back to school for example in the fall and to engage in other activities and functions during the fall. But in order for that to happen, how we handle the summer is going to be critically important," he said.
Dr. David Persse with the Houston Health Department said he is concerned with the recent uptick in emergency room visits in Houston.
Both Dr. Persse and Turner believe the recent uptick is due to younger people going to clubs and restaurants.
A team of European scientists say they have found two genetic variations that may show who is more likely to get very sick and die from coronavirus, and say they have also found a link with blood type.
Their findings, published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine, point to a possible explanation of why some people get so seriously ill with the virus, while most barely show any symptoms at all.
They found people with Type A blood have a higher risk of catching coronavirus and of developing severe symptoms, while people with Type O blood have a lower risk.
“Our genetic data confirm that blood group O is associated with a risk of acquiring Covid-19 that was lower than that in non-O blood groups, whereas blood group A was associated with a higher risk than non-A blood groups,” the researchers wrote in their report.
They found people with Type A blood had a 45% higher risk of becoming infected than people with other blood types, and people with Type O blood were just 65% as likely to become infected as people with other blood types.
The researchers cannot say if blood type is a direct cause of the differences in susceptibility. It might be that the genetic changes that affect someone’s risk also just happen to be linked with blood type, they said.
The two genetic variations they found could be associated with a person’s immune response. A so-called cytokine storm – an overwhelming overreaction of the immune system – is blamed for the deadliest effect of coronavirus in many patients.
Peru surpassed Italy's number of confirmed Covid-19 cases Wednesday, making it the country with the seventh highest number of cases worldwide, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
As of Wednesday evening, Peru topped 240,908 confirmed cases, the country's health ministry reported, adding that its death toll from the virus is 7,257.
Italy stands at 237,828 cases, Johns Hopkins reported.
Some background: Peru was one of the first Latin American countries to shut down its borders amid the outbreak, while Italy was once one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, having the most coronavirus-related deaths of any country in the world for months.
Peru is now just behind Spain in the total number of confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins.
Brazil's health ministry on Wednesday reported 32,188 new cases of Covid-19, bringing the country's total to 955,377.
The ministry also confirmed 1,269 new deaths from the virus, bringing the total to 46,510.
Brazil holds the second highest number of both confirmed cases and deaths from the virus, behind the United States.
Brazilian health authorities said on Monday they will now recommend hydroxychloroquine to treat children and pregnant women for early treatment of Covid-19, and criticized the US Food and Drug Administration's recent decision to revoke the emergency use of the drug.
West Virginia has a sixth church-related Covid-19 outbreak in the state, three of which are still active, Gov. Jim Justice announced Wednesday afternoon.
At least 32 positive coronavirus cases have been identified at one church in Greenbrier County and four cases at a church in Ohio County. Justice did not share details on how many parishioners had the virus at the Boone County church, the third active outbreak location.
“The reality is really simple: when we don’t adhere to the guidelines, as far as wearing masks, participating in social distancing, and sitting in every other pew, we’re asking for trouble,” Justice said in a statement. "We’ve got to all know that, while church is the most holy and sacred ground, it is the spot where we’re singing, we’re projecting our voices, we’re closer together, and all the things that make it ripe for an outbreak or a potential problem.”
The US Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to three companies selling Covid-19 tests that the FDA says were “inappropriately” marketed and “potentially placing public health at risk.”
This is the first time the agency says it has sent warning letters to companies for marketing adulterated or misbranded test kits.
The letters went to Medakit Ltd. of Sheung Wan, Hong Kong; Antibodiescheck.com and Yama Group; and Dr. Jason Korkus, DDS and Sonrisa Family Dental d/b/a My COVID19 Club of Chicago, Illinois. The agency asked these companies to take immediate steps to fix violations and stop the sale of the products.
The FDA said the companies violated policy by offering at-home test kits in the US for sale without getting marketing approval or authorization. Products were misbranded as “FDA approved,” when they weren’t, and the products used the FDA logo which is only supposed to be used by the FDA and not used by the private sector, the agency said.
The FDA said that if the companies don’t take immediate action, the agency may take legal action that could include seizing the product.
There is no home diagnostic or antibody test for Covid-19 authorized by the FDA. Home tests pose certain challenges for the public that may not be able to collect samples and interpret the results as well as a trained professional could. There are some FDA approved self diagnostic tests for people to use at home, but those require users to send those samples to a lab for processing.
Los Angeles recorded 2,175 new coronavirus cases in the county, another single day high.
As in past reports, Health Director Barbara Ferrer attributed the spike to lagging test reports.
The daily case count is hard to interpret, Ferrer said, and indicated that the key metric for the county is hospitalization rates, which are steady at about 1,300 patients.
The average daily death rate is steadily decreasing and has gone from about 45 fatalities each day in early May to about 35 deaths now, Ferrer said. The rate in Los Angeles remains at about 8%.
While much of California continues to reopen business sectors, Los Angeles is lagging behind somewhat in a continued effort to mitigate new cases.
It is unclear if any of the cases might be linked to recent protests, but contact tracing efforts are continuing, Ferrer said.