Coronavirus updates: Hydroxychloroquine given to 1,300 US veterans with COVID-19
May 22, 2020 2:54 PM
By MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News
(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 333,000 people worldwide.
Over 5.1 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations' outbreaks.
Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 1.5 million diagnosed cases and at least 94,729 deaths.
Here's how the news is developing Friday. All times Eastern:
4:15 p.m.: California will announce guidelines for places of worship Monday
California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he will announce reopening guidelines for places of worship on Monday. Newsom's comments came just a few hours after President Donald Trump deemed places of worship "essential services."
Trump demanded governors allow them to reopen "this weekend," threatening to "override" the governors if they didn't. He did not explain what legal grounds he had to do so.
Newsom said that California had been working on guidelines for places of worship for weeks. He said officials will look at any CDC guidelines that are released from Trump's announcement and possibly incorporate them into their own plans.
"We appreciate the CDC is apparently going to be providing today, we are told, some recommendations. We will take a look at those. We take the issue very, very seriously and to heart and we have been very aggressive in trying to put together guidelines that will do justice to people's health and their fundamental need and desire to practice their faith," Newsom said. "We are looking forward to a very positive working relationship with faith leaders and look forward to working through this issue in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration."
3:41 p.m.: Around 35% of people with COVID-19 believed to be asymptomatic
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now estimate that about 35% of people with COVID-19 don't exhibit symptoms, a significant jump compared to what health officials initially thought.
The CDC also estimated that 40% of transmission is believed to occur before the onset of any symptoms.
The disclosure raises serious concerns about how states and local officials can prevent outbreaks if about a third of Americans infected by the virus don’t know it.
Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said scientists had initially worked under the impression that around 11% to 15% of cases were asymptomatic.
She said the knowledge about potential transmission was a good reason to impose widespread testing in some communities, like nursing homes and meatpacking plants, where social distancing is difficult.
“Now we know it’s at least 35 [percent]. It may be greater than that because it may be so age dependent – that there may be a lot of people under 30 that have the virus and are shedding the virus and aren’t aware that they have the virus,” she said.
The CDC said the estimate will likely change as the agency learns more about the virus.
3:12 p.m.: Cases in Africa top 100,000
There are now more than 100,000 cases of COVID-19 in Africa and every country in the continent has at least one case, according to the WHO.
Despite the grim milestone, the WHO said the pandemic that has "struck with such devastating force in much of the world, appears to be taking a different pathway in Africa."
"Case numbers have not grown at the same exponential rate as in other regions and so far Africa has not experienced the high mortality seen in some parts of the world. Today, there are 3100 confirmed deaths on the continent," according to the WHO.
An early analysis by the WHO suggests that Africa has fared better than other countries possibly because of its younger demographic. Africa is the youngest continent with more than 60% of the population under the age of 25. In Europe, nearly 95% of the deaths have occurred in those older than 60.
“For now COVID-19 has made a soft landfall in Africa, and the continent has been spared the high numbers of deaths which have devastated other regions of the world,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa. “It is possible our youth dividend is paying off and leading to fewer deaths. But we must not be lulled into complacency as our health systems are fragile and are less able to cope with a sudden increase in cases.”
Even with the relatively lower numbers, the WHO warned that the pandemic was still a major threat to the continent's health systems. A new modeling study by WHO predicts that if containment measures fail, even with a lower number of cases requiring hospitalization than elsewhere, the medical capacity in much of Africa would be overwhelmed.
1:30 p.m.: At least 80 million children at risk of missing routine immunizations: WHO
The World Health Organization began its daily briefing with an urgent warning that millions of children around the world are in danger of missing critical routine immunizations.
At least 80 million children under the age of 1 are at risk of diseases such as diphtheria, measles and polio as the pandemic disrupts routine vaccination efforts, according to the WHO and UNICEF.
World leaders will come together on June 4 for the Global Vaccine Summit to help maintain immunization programs and mitigate the impact of the pandemic in lower-income countries, the WHO said.
"Disruption to immunization programs from the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to unwind decades of progress against vaccine-preventable diseases like measles," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director general, said in a statement.
The WHO briefing also touched on the pandemic's progression throughout the world, including that South America has "become a new epicenter."
Brazil was said to be the most affected country at this point.
As for vaccines, the WHO said there are now 10 in clinical studies, meaning they have progressed to a stage where they are being tested in people.
There are at least 114 vaccines still being tested in a lab, according to the WHO.
1:15 p.m.: Florida to open summer camps
Youth activities in Florida, including summer camp and athletics, will be allowed to begin immediately, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
DeSantis acknowledged that children are not immune to the virus.
"Some kids have been infected and some kids have ended up critically ill," the governor said. "There have been some, not a lot in the United States who have died. I think though the data is pretty clear that for whatever reason, kids don’t seem to get infected at the same rates that some other adults get infected."
12:46 p.m.: UK announces new quarantine measures for travelers from June 8
Travelers entering the United Kingdom will have to quarantine for 14 days beginning June 8, the government announced.
The new quarantine requirements were expected and are an effort to stop a second wave of infections.
U.K. nationals will also be required to quarantine.
Spot checks could be conducted for those who enter on or after June 8 to enforce the new rule, and anyone who breaks quarantine will be issued a 1,000 pound fine.
12:30 p.m.: NJ to allow gatherings of up to 25 people
The death toll in New Jersey is approaching 11,000, Gov. Phil Murphy said.
The state's current death toll is at 10,985, according to Murphy.
There are more than 152,000 positive cases across the Garden State, which has slowly started to reopen. Murphy announced that gatherings from 10 to 25 people will now be allowed and recreational campgrounds can reopen.
Any organized gatherings, however, must have clear markings to maintain social distancing and any participants are strongly encouraged to wear face coverings.
12:24 p.m.: Miami-Dade County beaches may reopen June 1
Officials in Miami-Dade County, including Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez, said they are aiming to reopen the beaches on June 1.
City managers will be meeting with county staff and medical experts over the weekend to determine rules that would be in place for a "safe and secure reopening," according to a statement from the county.
The reopening would be accompanied with the expansion of hotel accommodations, the statement said.
11:47 a.m.: Death toll to exceed 110,000 by June 13: CDC
Although COVID-19 deaths in the United States are likely to slow down, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention anticipates they will still exceed 110,000 by June 13.
The CDC says states with low numbers of deaths reported to date will most likely not see a rapid rise in the coming weeks, while states with high numbers to date are likely to see increases "at varying rates."
An ABC News analysis predicts that the number of fatalities could reach 100,000 in the next few days.
There has been an average of 1,200 deaths each day, based on the ABC News analysis.
The official death in the U.S. is 94,729, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
11:33 a.m.: 2 more NY regions could begin reopening next week
Long Island and mid-Hudson could begin reopening by next week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Cuomo said it will depend on if the deaths continue to decline and if contract tracing ramps up.
Throughout the state, the number of hospitalizations and new cases per day were down.
Cuomo called the daily death toll "stubborn." An additional 109 people died in the last 24 hours, according to the governor.
He announced that a new pilot program was launched, with 52 independent hospitals that would allow the state to conduct 7,000 more tests per week. This is in addition to the 700 plus locations where New Yorkers can already get tested.
Cuomo urged all New Yorkers to get tested.
With Memorial Day weekend coming up, he also pleaded with residents to stay vigilant if they go out to parks or beaches.
10:50 a.m.: Hydroxychloroquine given to 1,300 US veterans who tested positive for COVID-19
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has administered hydroxychloroquine to some 1,300 American veterans who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday.
In response to Schumer's questions in a letter sent earlier this month, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie wrote that around 13% of the more than 10,000 veterans currently being treated for COVID-19 at VA medical facilities have been given the antimalarial drug so far. That includes residents of the Long Island State Veterans Home in Stony Brook, New York, which has one of the highest number of reported coronavirus-related deaths of any nursing home on Long Island.
Wilkie wrote in his letter, which the New York Democrat released to the press Friday, that more veterans are set to receive hydroxychloroquine as part of previously unannounced clinical trials.
"What the information presented to me by the VA shows is that the original VA study on hydroxychloroquine that everyone was concerned over is really just the beginning," Schumer said in a statement. “What I am able to say today is that more than 1,000 vets have been given hydroxychloroquine, a clinical trial is set to launch in California and other states that could begin as soon as next week. Why did we not know this until now? What happened to the 1,300 vets who took this drug so far and where will the next trials take place. We need these answers and we need them now."
9:22 a.m.: Study shows coronavirus patients treated with Trump-touted antimalarial drug at higher risk of death
A study of more than 96,000 coronavirus patients in hospitals around the world found that those who were treated with chloroquine or its analogue hydroxychloroquine had a considerably higher risk of death than those who did not receive the antimalarial drugs.
Findings from the study, published Friday in the Lancet medical journal, show that COVID-19 patients who received these medications, either alone or in combination with macrolide antibiotic, were also more likely to develop serious cardiac arrhythmias, which cause the lower chamber of the heart to beat rapidly and irregularly.
"This is the first large-scale study to find statistically robust evidence that treatment with chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine does not benefit patients with COVID-19," Dr. Mandeep Mehra, lead author of the study and executive director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Center for Advanced Heart Disease in Boston, said in a statement. "Instead, our findings suggest it may be associated with an increased risk of serious heart problems and increased risk of death. Randomized clinical trials are essential to confirm any harms or benefits associated with these agents. In the meantime, we suggest these drugs should not be used as treatments for COVID-19 outside of clinical trials."
A team of researchers analyzed data from 96,032 patients hospitalized between Dec. 20, 2019, and April 14 who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus at 671 hospitals across six of the world's seven continents -- North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, South America and Australia. All of the patients included in the study had either been discharged or had died by April 21.
The team assessed the outcomes of 1,868 patients who were treated with chloroquine alone, 3,016 patients treated with just hydroxychloroquine, 3,783 patients treated with chloroquine in combination with a macrolide and 6,221 patients treated with hydroxychloroquine in combination with a macrolide. Patients from these four groups were compared with the remaining control group of 81,144 patients.
At the end of the study, around one in 11 patients in the control group had died in the hospital. All four treatment regimens were associated with a higher risk of dying in the hospital. Of those treated with just chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine, around one in six patients had died. When the drugs were used in combination with a macrolide, the death rate increased to more than one in five for chloroquine and almost one in four for hydroxychloroquine.
"Several countries have advocated use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, either alone or in combination, as potential treatments for COVID-19," Dr. Frank Ruschitzka, who co-authored the study and is the director of the Heart Center at University Hospital Zurich, said in a statement. "Justification for repurposing these medicines in this way is based on a small number of anecdotal experiences that suggest they may have beneficial effects for people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus. However, previous small-scale studies have failed to identify robust evidence of a benefit and larger, randomized controlled trials are not yet completed. However, we now know from our study that the chance that these medications improve outcomes in COVID-19 is quite low."
Chloroquine is an antimalarial drug and its analogue, hydroxychloroquine, is used to treat autoimmune diseases, including arthritis and lupus. Both medications have been deemed generally safe when used for those specific conditions, and the study's findings do not imply patients should stop taking those drugs if already prescribed. The two drugs have also been shown in laboratory conditions to have antiviral properties as well as immunomodulatory effects, which is why they are seen as potential treatments for COVID-19.
The study's revelations come just days after U.S. President Donald Trump announced he was taking daily doses of hydroxychloroquine as a preventive measure against the novel coronavirus after two White House staffers tested positive earlier this month. Trump has touted the drug as a possible "game changer" treatment for COVID-19, although there's no evidence it works as a prophylactic for COVID-19.
8:28 a.m.: Italians told not to expect a vaccine this year
The head of the Italian Medicines Agency (AIFA), the national authority responsible for drug regulation in Italy, said Friday that a vaccine for the novel coronavirus won't be ready until next year.
AIFA director-general Nicola Magrini told reporters that studies of five or six vaccines are showing promise but "the reasonable time to think about a vaccine is next spring, next summer."
"I don't think there will be any vaccine for September available," Magrini said. "Let's hope they are developed by next year and let's hope there's more than one, and the production capacities are adequate."
Magrini's comments echoed those of Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccines at the European Medicines Agency, who said last week that having a vaccine ready by the start of 2021 would be "optimistic" since the development of the drug "has to start from scratch."
7:35 a.m.: Chechen leader reportedly hospitalized with suspected COVID-19
There are widespread reports in Russian media that the strongman of the country's Chechnya region has been hospitalized in Moscow with suspected coronavirus symptoms.
At least two Russian state news agencies, RIA Novosti and Tass, have reported that Chechnya’s dictatorial leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, was admitted to a Moscow hospital. An anonymous source told Tass that Kadyrov’s condition is "stable" and that he is "under observation by doctors."
Russian independent tabloid outlet Baza first reported the news on Thursday, saying that Kadyrov was flown to Moscow where he was being treated for COVID-19 at one of the top clinics in the Russian capital. Citing anonymous sources, Baza reported that the Chechen leader had been advised by his doctors to be taken to Moscow after his condition worsened. He has not been officially diagnosed for COVID-19 but has been suffering from respiratory symptoms for several days, according to Baza's sources.
Flight trackers show that a plane associated with Kadyrov indeed flew to Moscow from Chechnya on Thursday.
Kadyrov's spokespersons have not directly denied the reports. Instead, Chechen information minister, Dzhambulat Umarov, published two posts on social media late Thursday night, one of which was an old video showing Kadyrov praying in one of his palaces while the other was a meme mocking journalists for asking if the Chechen leader was sick.
6:51 a.m.: India reports over 6,000 new cases in largest single-day jump
India reported its largest single-day jump in new coronavirus cases on Friday.
The Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare registered 6,088 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the nationwide total to 118,447.
The country's death toll due to the coronavirus pandemic also rose to 3,583 on Friday. Meanwhile, more than 48,000 people have recovered from the disease, according to data released by the health ministry.
Maharashtra remains the worst-hit state in India by far, with more than 41,642 COVID-19 cases with 1,454 deaths.
India, a country of 1.3 billion people, has the 11th-most cases in the world, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
6:22 a.m.: Russia reports record high of new deaths
As Russia continues to see a steady rise of new coronavirus infections, the daily number of new deaths has hit an all-time high in the country.
Russia's coronavirus response headquarters reported 8,894 new cases of COVID-19 and 150 fatalities over the past 24 hours. The nationwide total now stands at 326,448 diagnosed cases with 3,249 deaths.
The number of new deaths reported Friday breaks the country's previous record of 135 reported just two days earlier.
Meanwhile, the latest daily caseload is down from a peak of 11,656 new infections reported on May 11. Last Thursday marked the end of a 12-day streak during which Russia registered over 10,000 new cases per day. Since then, the daily number of new infections has hovered around 9,000 per day.
Russia has the second-highest highest number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases in the world, behind the United States, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
5:40 a.m.: Italy sees spike in daily coronavirus deaths after drop-off
Italy has reported a spike in new deaths from the novel coronavirus, just days after seeing a promising drop-off.
The country's Civil Protection Department registered 156 fatalities from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the nationwide toll to 32,486.
The daily caseload was back up after falling below 100 on Monday for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
Overall, more than 228,000 people in Italy have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Once the worst-hit country in Europe, Italy was the first nation in the world to put a nationwide lockdown in place due to the pandemic. The country began to slowly lift the strict lockdown earlier this month. Most businesses have since resumed activities but under social distancing rules, with shops, restaurants, hair salons and churches reopening Monday.
3:45 a.m.: Researchers aim to vaccinate over 10,000 adults and children across UK
University of Oxford researchers testing an experimental vaccine against the novel coronavirus now aim to immunize more than 10,000 people to determine if it works.
Scientists at the oldest university in the English-speaking world began immunizing more than 1,000 healthy adult volunteers in southern England in April with their vaccine candidate in the initial phase of a clinical trial. The University of Oxford announced on Friday that its researchers are moving into advanced studies, which would enroll up to 10,260 adults and children across the United Kingdom.
"The clinical studies are progressing very well and we are now initiating studies to evaluate how well the vaccine induces immune responses in older adults, and to test whether it can provide protection in the wider population," Andrew Pollard, head of the university's Oxford Vaccine Group, said in a statement Friday.
The potential vaccine is made from a virus, which is a weakened version of a common cold that causes infections in chimpanzees, that has been genetically changed so that it is impossible for it to replicate in humans. The harmless virus is used to carry the coronavirus spike protein into the body, according to the university.
Phase one of the human trials has been completed and follow-up is currently ongoing. The second phase will expand the age range of participants who receive the vaccine candidate to include a small number of older adults and children. Researchers will be assessing the immune response to the vaccine candidate in the different age groups to find out if there is variation in how well the immune system responds in older adults or children, the university said.
The third phase of the study involves assessing how the vaccine candidate works in a large number of people over the age of 18 to see how well it works to prevent them from becoming infected and unwell with COVID-19. Adult participants in both phase two and three will be randomized to receive one or two doses of either the vaccine candidate or a licensed meningitis vaccine that will be used as a "control" for comparison, according to the university.
Pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca announced earlier this week it had booked orders for at least 400 million doses of the potential vaccine being developed by the University of Oxford. The U.K.-based multinational company said it has the capacity to manufacture 1 billion doses of the as yet unproven vaccine and would begin delivering them in September.
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