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US Hospitals Are Preparing for the Worst-Case Scenario as Covid-19 Surges Again

October 26, 2020

(Vox) – The latest Covid-19 surge is forcing US hospitals to take drastic measures — setting up temporary facilities or preparing to transport patients to other cities and states — to avoid being overrun. The number of Americans currently hospitalized with Covid-19 has risen by 12,000 over the last month, reaching 41,753 on October 25, according to the Covid Tracking Project. Some hospitals are drawing up plans to ration care if they have more patients than beds, the kind of worst-case scenario they’d been hoping to avoid.

Colleges Turn to Wastewater Testing in an Effort to Flush Out the Coronavirus

October 26, 2020

(NPR) – Across the country, campus outbreaks have shut down in-person classes, led to campus lockdowns, and in some cases sent students home. Communal living and socializing has been a boon to the highly contagious virus, with much of the spread happening in dorms and off-campus housing. Dorm wastewater offers an ideal testing scenario for colleges: People often poop where they live; researchers know exactly who lives in each dorm, which narrows down who could be infected; and testing wastewater is cheaper than regularly testing students, even when followed up by more targeting screening.

US Regulators Seek Advice on Thorny Issues as Vaccines Near

October 23, 2020

(Associated Press) – Scientific advisers told U.S. regulators Thursday they’re concerned that allowing emergency use of a COVID-19 vaccine could damage confidence in the shots and make it harder to ever find out how well they really work. The Food and Drug Administration may have to decide by year’s end whether to allow use of the first vaccines against the coronavirus. Facing growing public fears that politics may override science, the FDA took the unusual step of assembling more than a dozen independent scientists to review if its standards are high enough to judge the shots.

Doctors in South Korea Call for Flu Vaccinations to Be Paused After 25 Deaths

October 23, 2020

(The Guardian) – South Korean officials refused on Thursday to suspend a seasonal influenza inoculation effort, despite growing calls for a halt, including an appeal from a key group of doctors, after the deaths of at least 25 of those vaccinated. Health authorities said they found no direct links between the deaths and the vaccines. At least 22 of the dead, including a 17-year-old boy, were part of a campaign to inoculate 19 million teenagers and senior citizens for free, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) said.

China Warns Canada to Halt ‘Blatant Interference’ as Feud Continues

October 22, 2020

(The Guardian) – China has warned Canadian lawmakers to halt their “blatant interference” in its internal affairs, in the latest episode of a rumbling diplomatic feud between the two nations. Earlier this week, a Canadian parliamentary committee concluded China’s actions against ethnic Uighurs in Xinjiang province constituted a genocide and called for sanctions against officials complicit in the government’s policy. “Witnesses were clear that the Government of China’s actions are a clear attempt to eradicate Uyghur culture and religion,” the committee wrote.

South Sudan Confirms Outbreak of Vaccine-Derived Polio

October 22, 2020

(Medical Xpress) – Health officials in South Sudan on Thursday confirmed a new outbreak of polio, just months after declaring the wild version of the deadly virus eradicated in Africa’s youngest country. The health ministry said 15 cases of vaccine-derived polio—a form of the illness which occurs in rare incidents when the weakened virus in the vaccine mutates—had been identified in the country’s northwest.

Brazil Confirms Death of Volunteer in COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

October 22, 2020

(Medscape) – The Brazilian National Health Surveillance Agency (Anvisa) announced today that it is investigating data received on the death of a volunteer in a clinical trial of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca. In an email sent to Medscape Medical News, the agency states that it was formally informed of the death on October 19. It has already received data regarding the investigation of the case, which is now being conducted by the Brazilian International Security Assessment Committee.

First Vaccine May Stymie Hunt for Better Ones

October 22, 2020

(Science) – Success in the push to find a COVID-19 vaccine at record-breaking speed could hand the world a new problem. The first vaccine to cross the finish line might be only marginally effective, yet ethicists warn it could disrupt ongoing studies of good—or even great—candidates in the wings. In all likelihood, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or other regulators will issue the first approval or emergency use authorization (EUA) for one COVID-19 vaccine while clinical trials for many other candidates are still underway or in the planning. At that point, ongoing studies of any candidate—including that first one—arguably could become ethically bound to offer the vaccine with proven efficacy to everyone in a placebo group.

At 12, She’s a Covid ‘Long Hauler’

October 22, 2020

(New York Times) – More than seven months into the coronavirus pandemic, it has become increasingly apparent that many patients with both severe and mild illness do not fully recover. Weeks and months after exposure, these Covid “long-haulers,” as they have been called, continue experiencing a range of symptoms, including exhaustion, dizziness, shortness of breath and cognitive impairments. Children are generally at significantly less risk than older people for serious complications and death from Covid-19, but the long-term impacts of infection on them, if any, have been especially unclear.

Some California Hospitals Refused Covid-19 Transfers for Financial Reasons, State Emails Show

October 21, 2020

(The Wall Street Journal) – Several large Southern California hospital systems improperly refused or delayed accepting Covid-19 patients based on their insurance status, according to internal emails among local and state government, hospital and emergency-response officials, leaving severely ill patients waiting for care and adding strain on hospitals overrun by the pandemic. Disaster-response experts said the refusals and delays exposed ways that some hospitals have put finances ahead of pandemic relief. Some instances might have violated a federal law that protects access to emergency care, while in other instances the actions ran counter to medical ethics, the experts said.

Conservatives Confront Moral Dilemma of Vaccines and Treatments Derived from Fetal Tissue Cells

October 21, 2020

(ABC News) – The race to develop vaccines and treatments for COVID-19 has newly highlighted a longstanding dilemma for religious conservatives: much of the cutting-edge research relies on the use of material derived from human fetal tissue — something they have spent years fighting against.

Are the Risks of Reopening Schools Exaggerated?

October 21, 2020

(NPR) – Despite widespread concerns, two new international studies show no consistent relationship between in-person K-12 schooling and the spread of the coronavirus. And a third study from the United States shows no elevated risk to childcare workers who stayed on the job. Combined with anecdotal reports from a number of U.S. states where schools are open, as well as a crowdsourced dashboard of around 2,000 U.S. schools, some medical experts are saying it’s time to shift the discussion from the risks of opening K-12 schools to the risks of keeping them closed.

OxyContin Maker to Plead Guilty to Federal Criminal Charges, Pay $8 Billion, And Will Close the Company

October 21, 2020

(CNN) – Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has agreed to plead guilty to three federal criminal charges for its role in creating the nation’s opioid crisis and will pay more than $8 billion and close down the company. The money will go to opioid treatment and abatement programs. The privately held company has agreed to pay a $3.5 billion fine as well as forfeit an additional $2 billion in past profits, in addition to the $2.8 billion it agreed to pay in civil liability.

Why Big Pharma Has Abandoned Antibiotics

October 21, 2020

(Nature) – Despite the clear need for more antimicrobial agents, such drugs have not been forthcoming. Fewer new antibiotics are reaching the market; the last entirely original class of antibiotic was discovered in the late 1980s. One reason is that discovering and bringing antibiotics to market is often not profitable for pharmaceutical companies.

The Coronavirus Pandemic Has Caused Nearly 300,000 More Deaths Than Expected in a Typical Year

October 21, 2020

(Washington Post) – The coronavirus pandemic has left about 299,000 more people dead in the United States than would be expected in a typical year, two-thirds of them from covid-19 and the rest from other causes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. The CDC said the novel coronavirus, which causes covid-19, has taken a disproportionate toll on Latinos and Blacks, as previous analyses have noted. But the CDC also found, surprisingly, that it has struck 25- to 44-year-olds very hard: Their “excess death” rate is up 26.5?percent over previous years, the largest change for any age group.

Doctors: Lonely and Burned Out in COVID-19. How Are They Coping?

October 21, 2020

(Medscape) – “We know that stress, which was already significant in physicians, has increased dramatically for many physicians during the pandemic. That’s understandable, given the circumstances they’ve been working under,” said Christine A. Sinsky, MD, vice president of professional satisfaction at the American Medical Association. Physicians are stressed about potentially contracting the virus or infecting family members; being overworked and fatigued; witnessing wrenching scenes of patients dying alone; grieving the loss of patients, colleagues, or family members; and sometimes lacking adequate personal protective equipment (PPE), she said.

Prepping for COVID-Flu Triage as Flu Season Begins

October 21, 2020

(Medscape) – The set-up for primary care physicians this winter is looking worrisome. “The worst case is that you have high co-circulation of both SARS-CoV-2 and the flu, and you’re using a lot of the same reagents and supplies for both of those pathogens and you run into supply chain issues or capacity issues at individual laboratories because of testing volume,” Kelly Wroblewski, director of infectious diseases at the Association of Public Health Laboratories, told Medscape Medical News.

Exclusive: AstraZeneca U.S. COVID-19 Vaccine Trial May Resume as Soon as This Week–Sources

October 20, 2020

(Reuters) – AstraZeneca Plc’s AZN.L COVID-19 vaccine trial in the United States is expected to resume as early as this week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration completed its review of a serious illness, four sources told Reuters. AstraZeneca’s large, late-stage U.S. trial has been on hold since Sept. 6, after a participant in the company’s UK trial fell ill with what was suspected to be a rare spinal inflammatory disorder called transverse myelitis.

Remember Ebola? Well, Now There’s a Drug for That

October 20, 2020

(NPR) – This month the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted formal approval to an antibody cocktail from the pharmaceutical company Regeneron that’s been shown to dramatically reduce an Ebola patient’s chances of dying. The treatment, which has been known as REGN-EB3, is now being marketed under the brand name Inmazeb. (Regeneron is also making another antibody cocktail to treat COVID-19. 

U.K. to Infect Healthy Volunteers in Covid-19 Vaccine Research Trial

October 20, 2020

(STAT News) – U.K. researchers are preparing to infect healthy young volunteers with the virus that causes Covid-19, becoming the first to announce plans to use the controversial technique to study the disease and potentially speed up development of a vaccine that could help end the pandemic. This type of research, known as a human challenge study, is used infrequently because some consider the risk involved in infecting otherwise healthy individuals to be unethical.

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