July 23 coronavirus news

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5:26 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Antitrust restrictions waived for companies making coronavirus antibody treatments

From CNN's Maggie Fox

The US Department of Justice said Thursday it would waive its usual antitrust restrictions for companies trying to work together to speed antibody-based treatments for coronavirus.

It said it would not challenge proposed efforts by Eli Lilly and Company, AbCellera Biologics, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Genentech, and GlaxoSmithKline to share information, including about manufacturing facilities and raw materials, to make monoclonal antibodies to treat or prevent Covid-19.

“The demand for monoclonal antibodies targeting Covid-19 is likely to exceed what any one firm could produce on its own,” the DOJ said in a statement. “Moreover, waiting until regulators approve specific treatments before scaling up manufacturing might delay access to these potentially life-saving medicines by many months, which adversely could affect the nation’s efforts to fight Covid-19.”

More details on the science and law: Monoclonal antibodies are natural or lab-made immune system proteins that home in on and neutralize a single specific target on a virus, or a cell. They’re being made in this case to try to stop coronavirus from infecting cells in people’s bodies.

Antitrust restrictions are meant, in part, to stop companies from coming together to fix prices or to make agreements on carving up markets and forcing out competitors.

The DOJ said the biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies had agreed not to do this.

“Among other competitive safeguards, they have committed that they will not exchange information related to the prices of those treatments or the costs of inputs for or production of those treatments,” the DOJ said.

 

5:16 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Universities should do surveillance testing when students return in the fall, HHS official says

From CNN’s Jen Christensen

Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health for the US Department of Health and Human Services, said Thursday that he has been in talks with universities and colleges to help them strategize how they should be testing students when they return to campus this fall. 

Giroir said that a lot depends on the rates of cases in the community and the specific demographics of the university, but generally, he has been urging universities to do surveillance testing.

Giroir emphasized this is not diagnostic testing, but surveillance testing that won’t burden the health system and could help universities track potential outbreaks and manage them early – before they become a bigger problem.

He said the labs on campus, even veterinary labs, could run these tests. The labs will not need an emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration to do this.

He said these labs can also do pool testing, which will be returned quicker. With pool testing, if a group of tests turns up positive, the lab can then refer those five students into the diagnostic testing system.

“Nothing’s a perfect solution, but it does not burden the health care system,” Giroir said, “and it lets colleges keep control of how they want to do it.” 

5:31 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Louisiana hospitals pause elective surgeries as Covid-19 hospitalizations increase

From CNN's Hollie Silverman

Louisiana Governor's office
Louisiana Governor's office

Hospitalizations are on the rise in all areas of Louisiana, with strains on capacity particularly in three regions: Lafayette, Lake Charles and Central Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said during a Thursday afternoon news conference.

Edwards said that some hospitals have had to put elective procedures on hold to create more capacity to treat Covid-19 patients.

Dr. Amanda Logue, chief medical officer of Lafayette General Health, said her hospital system has put elective procedures on hold to create more beds as they are "quickly running out of space."

The hospital system has had to decline 87% of transfer requests this month and has had to transfer some of their own patients as far away as Mississippi because they can't treat them, Logue said at the news conference.

They also don't have enough staffing to meet the capacity needs, as some have fallen ill, she added.

"Some of our beds are unfortunately closed because of illnesses to our staff. So we've had some nurses. We don't have enough nurses to staff all of our beds right now," Logue said.

Logue said the hospital will continue to treat all emergency patients but is unable to do elective procedures.

Dr. Henry Kaufman, chief medical officer for Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center, said his hospital is also having issues with capacity due to staffing needs. 

"The problem isn't needing more space, it's having enough people to staff the beds and keep the nurses healthy," he said.

Kaufman said the intensive care unit at his hospital system is "near complete capacity." 

He said he is also concerned that the delaying of elective surgeries has already had impacts on the community, as mammograms, recommended bypasses, and other procedures have been put on hold.

"I am still dealing with the aftermath of people presenting with the later stages of disease during our first wave of Covid cases," Kaufman said. "I have women who have weren't able to get their mammogram during the first wave and finally were able to get it, and likely presented with a later stage of disease and they would have otherwise."

Some context: Louisiana crossed the 100,000 case mark Thursday when 2,408 new cases were reported. The state now has 101,650 Covid-19 cases. 

Roughly 91% of the new cases reported were community spread and 33% of the cases were identified in people age 29 and under, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. 

5:15 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Bars and nightclubs in Indianapolis to close through August 12

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

New temporary restrictions to mitigate the resurgence of Covid-19 in Indianapolis, Indiana, were announced today.

“Masks are still mandatory – doubly so after the governor’s order. Aside from the list of exceptions provided in today’s order, masks must be worn over the nose and mouth whenever we are around each other in public – indoors or outdoors,” Mayor Joe Hogsett tweeted Thursday.

The mayor announced that social gatherings, including wedding receptions, banquets, and club meetings, won’t be allowed to exceed 50 individuals. This doesn’t include indoor religious ceremonies, which can be held at up to 50% capacity. Outdoor ceremonies can continue without restriction, Hogsett said.  

The mayor has also ordered that bars and nightclubs that don't serve food, close until at least August 12, including bar seating at restaurants. While outdoor seating is preferred, restaurants can operate at 50% indoor dining capacity, but have to close for in-person dining between midnight and 5 a.m. 

Personal services like tattoo parlors, nail and hair salons, and spas can operate by appointment only, while gyms and other fitness centers will be allowed to operate at 25% capacity. 

“While we are not putting in place travel restrictions at this time, we recommend that those traveling to states or nations with heightened rates of infection should self-quarantine for 14 days upon return,” Hogsett added. “Finally, for tourism, cultural, entertainment, and sports venues, we are modifying our existing order to allow no more than 25% capacity, with continued adoption of CDC social distancing guidelines.”
5:12 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Covid-19 will end up as a top 10 leading cause of death in 2020, CDC statisticians say

From CNN's Jacqueline Howard

Even though the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cannot start ranking leading causes of deaths until the end of the year in order to get a full year's worth of data, statisticians at the agency told CNN in an email on Thursday that they expect Covid-19 will end up among the Top 10 leading causes of death in the nation.

"We know that based on the # of COVID-19 deaths so far in 2020, it will end up as a Top 10 leading cause of death but won’t know exactly how high it will rank until next year," CDC mortality statisticians said in the email. "Heart Disease and Cancer, the two leading causes of death in the U.S., account for more than half of all deaths in the U.S. each year and that isn’t expected to change."

Final data are based on death certificates for the calendar year.

In 2018, the latest year for which final data is available, the top 10 leading causes of death among all ages in the United States were:

  1. Heart disease (655,381)
  2. Cancer (599,274)
  3. Unintentional injury (167,127)
  4. Chronic lower respiratory disease (159,486)
  5. Stroke (147,810)
  6. Alzheimer's disease (122,019)
  7. Diabetes (84,946)
  8. Flu and pneumonia (59,120)
  9. Nephritis (51,386)
  10. Suicide (48,344)

As of 5 p.m. ET, nearly 144,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the United States so far this year.

5:10 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Immunity study suggests most of Canada still vulnerable to Covid-19

From CNN’s Paula Newton in Ottawa

A study released Thursday suggests less than 1% of Canadians have had Covid-19, although the rate of infection is likely several times higher than the number of reported cases.

While the study mirrors one released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this week, showing far more people were infected with the virus than originally observed, Canadians remain quite vulnerable to the virus. 

“One of the reasons we released this study early was to say look ‘take a bow,’ we really did a good job of containing community spread of this virus as a society but please note how susceptible the vast majority of us remain and lets be really careful in the fall,” said Dr. David Naylor, co-chair of Canada’s Immunity Task Force, in an interview with CNN.

Canadian public health officials say the country did a good job of containing the virus but warn that given these immunity results, keeping the virus contained in only going to get tougher as the economy reopens.

“There was early on this strange enthusiasm for herd immunity, that the virus would ripple through the population and we would all have immunity and we’d all be fine. That was always reckless and misguided simply because of the toll the virus would take but we also see here that was certainly unattainable,” said Naylor.

About the study: This early study examined 10,000 blood donations received in Canada between May 9 and June 8. A larger, follow-up study will be released in the coming weeks to get a more comprehensive assessment of the spread of the virus in Canada.

The study makes clear that "doubling down on good public health practices is imperative" if Canada is to avoid a resurgence of the virus. Naylor added that Canada has to "up its game" when it comes to testing and contact tracing.

“We’ve got to be smarter and more creative about how we do tracing and quarantine because realistically we have perhaps about a year of this current stalemate,” Naylor said.

 

5:03 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Atlanta mayor says she's working with governor to "iron out" disagreements about Covid-19 restrictions

From CNN’s Pamela Kirkland

City of Atlanta
City of Atlanta

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, speaking at a virtual news conference on Thursday, said she is working to “iron out” disagreements fueling the legal battle with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp over Covid-19 restrictions in the city.

She described a Wednesday call with Kemp as being a “good conversation” and went on to say the two are in agreement that “masks save lives.” 

“It’s not my desire as mayor of this city to have a very public fight with the governor of this state,” Bottoms said. “I do believe that there’s a finite amount of energy that we all have. I would much rather focus my energy on leading the city through Covid-19 and many of the challenges that we are now facing and I trust that the governor would like to do the same on behalf of the state."

Bottoms also clarified the phase one rollback she announced on July 10 is a voluntary plan with voluntary guidelines.

5:00 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Missouri sets record for single-day increase in Covid-19 cases

From CNN's Raja Razek

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has reported 1,637 new Covid-19 cases on Thursday, a record single-day increase.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the state now stands at 37,700, the department said.

Today's record number surpasses Wednesday's record of 1,301 Covid-19 cases reported in a single day. 

The department also reported 20 new Covid-19-related deaths, bringing the total number to 1,179 in Missouri.

"The daily report of new cases represents a wide variation in when specimens were collected, when tests were performed, and when results are reported and entered," the department tweeted. "For this reason, we continue to focus on the 7-day positivity rate which has been increasing and tells us that community transmission is occurring in some parts of the state."

The department said there is no delay in reporting positive results from labs to patients.

To note: These figures were released by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Service, and may not line up exactly in real time with CNN’s database drawn from Johns Hopkins University and the Covid Tracking Project.

4:59 p.m. ET, July 23, 2020

Brazilian government will stop funding country's largest epidemiological Covid-19 study 

From Fernanda Wenzel and Marcia Reverdosa

The Brazilian Health Ministry will not renew its contract to continue the country's largest epidemiological Covid-19 study as the pandemic continues to take a toll across the country, according to the university heading up the research. 

EPICOVID19-BR is a serological study by Federal University of Pelotas (UFPel) to understand the “evolution of the prevalence of Infection by Covid-19."

Preliminary results released by the university on July 2 suggested that almost 90% of people infected with coronavirus are symptomatic, even when the symptoms are mild. The research also found that loss of smell and taste are symptoms of Covid-19, and that children can be infected as much as adults. 

The EPICOVID19-BR study also suggests that the number of people infected with coronavirus in Brazil is 6.5 times higher than the official government figure. 

It is one of the largest Covid-19 studies of its kind in the world, based on the number of test participants, according to Pedro Hallal, an epidemiologist and dean of UFPel. 

More than 90,000 people in each of Brazil’s 26 states and the Federal District of Brasilia have been tested in three stages of research to map the pandemic so far, at a cost of about $3 million, said Hallal. 

Until now, the research was funded by Brazil’s Ministry of Health.  

"When we presented the results of the last phase of the study at the beginning of July, we were told the government would like to continue it. But, since then, the ministry is totally silent," Hallal said.

In a news conference on Tuesday, Interim Health Minister Eduardo Pazuello said the study was very good, but unable to deliver a national view of the pandemic.

"Brazil is very heterogeneous, and we would need individualized studies in each region of the country. That is what we are analyzing," he said.

Hallal explained it’s important to continue the study because Brazil is still in the middle of the pandemic.

"We would understand the new moments of the pandemic. We would know to what extent the outbreak is stronger now in the south and the center-west, we would know if it is really going down in the north,” Hallal said.

With the apparent lack of continued funding from the federal government, the university is looking for other potential backers, and is currently in negotiations with one entity, according to Hallal.