Posts tagged with "Coronavirus Updates"

COVID-19 Trial Tests if Common Drug Can Keep Patients Out of Hospital

At-risk people diagnosed with COVID-19 across the United States and Canada can participate in a clinical trial testing whether a common drug can keep them from getting sicker and keep them out of the hospital.­­

The trial, conducted by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is based on a discovery by the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s Alban Gaultier, PhD, and a former graduate student, Dorian A Rosen, PhD.

Gaultier and Rosen found last year that the antidepressant fluvoxamine may stop the deadly inflammation known as sepsis, in which the immune response spirals out of control. The drug’s apparent benefit for dampening dangerous inflammation prompted the Washington University researchers to begin investigating its potential benefit for COVID-19, which can also cause dangerous overreactions of the immune system.

“If this clinical trial is proven successful, fluvoxamine could become a standard treatment for patients newly diagnosed with COVID-19, especially patients at risk,” Gaultier said. “Even the best vaccines do not protect 100% of the population, and discovery of safe and affordable treatments to prevent COVID-19-associated complications is critical.”

Fluvoxamine and COVID-19

Earlier this year, the Washington University researchers launched their first clinical trial of the drug in patients with COVID-19. That trial compared fluvoxamine with a harmless placebo in 152 adult outpatients. None of the 80 participants who received fluvoxamine became seriously ill after 15 days, while six patients who received placebo did. Of those six, four were hospitalized, for periods ranging from four to 21 days. One was on a ventilator for 10 days.

Based on those initial results, Washington University is now launching a much larger trial open to residents across the United States and Canada. The trial is seeking approximately 880 at-risk participants, age 18 and older, who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are experiencing mild symptoms.

Participants will be provided with either fluvoxamine or a placebo for approximately 15 days. No face-to-face contact is required; everything necessary will be sent to the participants’ doorsteps.

Contactless Check-Ins

The researchers will track the patients by videochat, email or telephone to determine if fluvoxamine provides a benefit and helps keep participants out of the hospital. During brief daily check-ins, trial participants will report their oxygen levels, blood pressure and temperature, along with whether they are feeling shortness of breath or have had any other problems.

The study team will continue to follow the participants for approximately 90 days after they have finished taking fluvoxamine or the placebo.

The trial is open to people who have at least one risk factor for severe COVID-19, such as being 40 or older, being part of a high-risk racial/ethnic group (such as African-American, Hispanic, Native American or biracial), or having one or more medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, a lung disease or an immune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis.

For more information about the trial, visit this website.

Kaelen Felix Illustrates a COVID-19 Article for 360 MAGAZINE

Uptick in Nursing Home Covid Cases

New Nursing Home Cases In Midwest States Increase By More Than 400% Since September

AHCA/NCAL Calls On CDC To Give Long-Term Care Facilities The Highest Priority For Vaccine Distribution And On Congress To Replenish Emergency Funding 

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year. Today, they released an updated report showing nursing homes in the U.S. have now experienced the worst outbreak of weekly new cases since last spring due to the community spread among the general population, surpassing previous peaks since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) started tracking cases in nursing homes.

Recent data released by Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) show that with the recent spike in new COVID cases in the general U.S. population, weekly nursing home cases are also on the rise. According to Johns Hopkins University, weekly new COVID cases in the general U.S. population rose by 330 percent to 1,043,040 new cases the week of November 15. A correlating uptick in new cases in nursing homes occurred when cases in the surrounding community started rising back in mid-September.

As experts have repeatedly noted, COVID-19 cases in a surrounding community is a top factor in outbreaks in nursing homes. University of Chicago’s Tamara Konetzka, a nationally recognized expert on long-term care, recently said, “Trying to protect nursing home residents without controlling community spread is a losing battle.” Dr. David Grabowski, Professor of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School recently stated, “The strongest predictor of whether or not we’ll see cases in [a particular setting] is community spread.”

“Our worst fears have come true as COVID runs rampant among the general population, and long term care facilities are powerless to fully prevent it from entering due to its asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread,” stated Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of AHCA/NCAL.

“Our health care heroes are doing everything they can to prevent it from spreading further, but this level of COVID nationwide puts a serious strain on our workforce, supplies, and testing capacity,” said Parkinson. “Given the fact that our elderly population is the most vulnerable and the rising level of COVID across the U.S. shows no signs of stopping, it is paramount that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide the highest priority for the vaccine distribution to long term care residents and staff.”

During the week of November 15, nearly half (49 percent) of new COVID cases in nursing homes were from Midwest states with major spikes in the community spread in the upper parts of the region. As a result, the Midwest region saw more than a 400 percent increase in weekly COVID cases in nursing homes since mid-September.

After seven weeks of declining cases in nursing homes through mid-September, nursing home cases began to increase as nearly all 50 states started to see significant rising levels of COVID cases. New weekly cases in nursing homes grew by more than 177 percent nationwide between mid-September and the week of November 15.

The report also showed COVID-related deaths in nursing homes are starting to rise, crossing more than 2,000 residents lost the week of November 15—the first time since early-June. Nursing home residents are typically older adults with multiple chronic conditions, making them most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Residents of long term care facilities account for only seven percent of the nation’s cases, yet 40 percent of its deaths. While mortality rates decreased compared to the spring due to a better understanding of the virus, better treatments, and government resources to help reduce spread, as industry leaders predicted, the rising number of new COVID cases in facilities are resulting an increasing number of deaths.

“With millions of Americans failing to heed advice from public health experts and traveling during Thanksgiving, we are extremely concerned that this situation will only get much worse,” continued Parkinson. “At this point, long term care facilities desperately need public health officials at every level to take emergency steps to get control of the community spread and ensure our facilities have the resources they need, as well as for the CDC to make our residents and caregivers the top priority in distributing the vaccine in order to save thousands of lives.”

With record new COVID cases across the country, Parkinson said Congress must also prioritize frontline health care workers and long term care residents during the lame-duck session. Last week AHCA/NCAL released a list of actions that Congress should urgently take to help nursing homes and assisted living communities respond to the uptick in new cases.

Most of the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund provided by the CARES Act back in April has already been distributed and Parkinson said health care providers, including long-term care facilities, will need additional funds to continue the response to the COVID pandemic. The financial aid is crucial in helping long-term care facilities acquire personal protective equipment, conduct regular testing, and hire additional staff or reward current caregivers for their heroic efforts.

“Congress must fulfill its duty,” stated Parkinson. “Without adequate funding and resources, the U.S. is repeating the same mistakes made during the initial outbreak last spring and the major spike over the summer. We need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in long term care facilities, by passing another COVID relief package during the lame duck session on Congress.”

For more information, please visit www.ahcancal.org/coronavirus

ABOUT AHCA/NCAL

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 14,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long-term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day. For more information, please visit www.ahcancal.org or www.ncal.org.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

Covid Risk Increases During Holidays

By Hannah DiPilato

With the holiday season quickly approaching, Covid cases are skyrocketing all over the country and officials are advising people to social distance this holiday season.

According to CNN, more than 12 million people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and over 260,000 people have died. With those that are elderly or immune-compromised, the risk of complications due to COVID-19 is higher.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated the safety guidelines for traveling. “CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving Day period,” Dr. Henry Walke, Covid-19 incident manager for the CDC, said in a conference call.

“Right now, especially as we are seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” Walke continued.

The CDC has also recommended people stay in their immediate households for the holiday season. Even without traveling across the country, seeing those you don’t usually see can lead to a breakout of coronavirus.

Walke said he does not plan to visit his own family for the holiday season. “I haven’t seen my parents since January. I’m staying home and that’s been difficult as I have older parents who would like to see me and who would like to see my children as well,” he said.

“It’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months now, and people are tired. And we understand that and people want to see their relatives and their friends in the way they’ve always done it,” he continued, “But this year, particularly, we’re asking people to be as safe as possible and limit their travel.”

If you plan to gather with those outside of your immediate household, there are important precautions to take to prevent the spread of coronavirus. First, keep gatherings as small as possible. Many states have restrictions in place which limit the number of people allowed to gather inside. Check your local and state regulations to ensure your gathering is following the laws.

The CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz said, “The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household.”

If possible, move your Thanksgiving dinner outside. Coronavirus is less likely to spread outside where there is better ventilation than indoors. Although many places are getting cold, tell your guests to load up with blankets and winter gear. If it’s too cold for an outside gathering, keep the windows open to ventilate the area.

One of the most important and simplest things you can do to stop the spread of Covid is to wear a mask. In many states, masks are required in public places and Thanksgiving dinner should be no exception. Keep your mask on unless eating and remain six feet away from other guests.

It is also recommended that guests handle making their own food and bringing their own utensils to Thanksgiving dinner this year. This prevents the spread of germs as well as cross-contamination between households. Remember to frequently wash your hands when cooking, eating and generally to stop the spread of germs.

Covid cases are rising in communities as well as healthcare networks which is making the virus even harder to handle. Many more people are becoming hospitalized due to the virus and healthcare workings are at risk.

According to the Associated Press, 905 staff members at The Mayo Clinic Health System have been infected with coronavirus in the last two weeks. The Mayo Clinic Health System is a network of clinics and hospitals in the midwest that are run by Mayo Clinic.

Executive dean of Mayo Clinic Practice, Dr. Amy Williams, said that most cases came from exposure within the community and not from work. “It shows how widely spread this is in our communities and how easy it is to get COVID-19 in the communities here in the Midwest,” she said.

If a virtual gathering isn’t in your Thanksgiving plans this year and you will be seeing people outside of your family in person, consider isolating yourself beforehand. Since the incubation period of the virus is 14 days, a negative test result doesn’t necessarily mean a person does not carry the virus. Although a negative test result for coronavirus isn’t a sure sign of safety, it is an extra precaution everyone should add before mingling this holiday season.

Besides getting a coronavirus test, people should also consider a 14-day quarantine before seeing loved ones, or afterward. Isolating before seeing family will decrease the risk of spreading the disease within your holiday circle. If you plan on traveling for the holiday, consider isolating yourself after returning to prevent the spread of covid in your community.

The CDC has predicted this will be a dark winter and although a vaccine is in the works, it likely won’t be ready for mass distribution for a few more weeks. The holiday season will only lead to more cases with an increase in travel and group gatherings. As the weather in many places gets colder, inside gatherings are more likely to occur.

The CDC also recommends everyone get their flu shot for the upcoming flu season. By protecting yourself from the flu, you can help the healthcare system more easily manage the large influx of people going to the hospital.

In all states except Hawaii, Maine and Vermont, there is an active or imminent outbreak of coronavirus according to Covid Act Now. Even these three states are at risk for an outbreak. Currently, North Dakota has the highest number of new daily cases per 100,000 people with 159.6 cases. Wyoming and New Mexico follow closely behind.

Many states have separated their cities and counties into different zones depending on the number of Covid cases present. The restrictions in place for these areas are then determined by the number of cases.

New York City is starting to enforce tighter restrictions as cases start to rise. “In the next week or two we should see some substantial restrictions,” said Mayor, Bill de Blasio. “I think indoor dining will be closed, gyms will be closed.  I’m not happy about it. No one is happy about it but that’s what’s coming.” There is currently a 10 person gathering limit and a curfew for nonessential businesses between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Similarly, in Boston, Governor Charlie Baker has released a stay-at-home advisory for the same time frame. People are urged to only go out between these hours for essentials. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people while outdoor gatherings should be capped at 25 people.

Things on the west coast seem just as bleak. According to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, restaurants, bars, wineries and breweries will be closed for dine-in services for at least three weeks. People in Los Angeles are being advised to stay home and have a similar curfew to Boston and New York City.

In some cities where cases are skyrocketing, restrictions are not being put in place as heavily as in California and New York. In Miami, restaurants are able to be open to 100% capacity and seat 10 people per table. Most things in Miami are reopened, but with restrictions such as requiring masks.

It is crucial for everyone to work together to bring covid cases back down over the coming weeks. As cases spike, it is important to remember that each state has precautions in place for a reason. Although many states won’t fully shut down, you can decide to continue social distancing and only going out for essentials.

Covid-19 Reaches Dangerous Levels in the U.S.

By Hannah DiPilato 

As summer turns to fall, many cases of Coronavirus in The United States are beginning to spike. Fourteen states have set hospitalization records due to the virus and officials are concerned about how the virus will progress. 

According to the Covid Tracking Project, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin, all reported their highest number of hospitalizations this past week. 

The director for the National Institutes for Health, Dr. Francis Collins, told National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” on Tuesday that his family would not be gathering for Thanksgiving. 

“It is just not safe to take that kind of chance with people coming from different parts of the country of uncertain status,” said Collins. “The problem with this disease is it is so easy for people to be infected and not know it, and then spread it to the ones next to them without realizing it.”

“All of this, I’m afraid, happens because we have not succeeded in this country in introducing really effective public health measures,” he continued.

Deaths in the U.S. have now reached over 220,000 and experts are concerned this number will continue to escalate. The average of new daily cases was over 58,300, the highest the average has been since August.

It seems the most spikes are happening in the “Midwest, Great Plains and parts of the West,” according to CNN. Pennsylvania is on its 15th consecutive day of reporting over 1,000 coronavirus cases. Although, New York City, which got hit harder at the beginning of the pandemic, has not seen a marked increase in deaths. 

“We are not seeing an increase in overall deaths and that’s been true over the last several weeks to several months,” said Dave Chokshi commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Human Services. “The total number of deaths per day is averaging in the single digits.” 

New York City’s rate of positive tests is 2.52% and in open schools, the rate is only 0.17%. In other states, the positive rates are not so promising. According to the Florida Department of Health, Florida has reported 3,662 new cases of the virus and 86 additional deaths on Tuesday. 

Experts are warning that things regarding coronavirus are only going to get worse, predicting a bleak fall and winter. Vaccine scientist, Peter Hotez, reported that the next few months will be the worst of the pandemic. 

“The key is now hanging on now for the next four or five months, where we’re going to enter what may be the worst period during this epidemic,” said Hotez. “As bad as it’s been, it’s about to get worse.”

Kayleigh McEnany illustration for 260 magazine by Kaelen Felix

Outcome of Trump Testing Positive

By Hannah DiPilato

Americans everywhere were shocked to wake up to the news of President Donald Trump testing positive for coronavirus. The first lady, Melania Trump, has also tested positive. 

With the election coming up in just 32 days, Trump will have to work hard to keep up his campaign while battling the illness. Currently, both President Trump and Melania Trump have only shown mild symptoms.  

“Thank you for the love you are sending our way,” said Mrs. Trump in a tweet. “I have mild symptoms but overall feeling good. I am looking forward to a speedy recovery.”

Concern was expressed that candidate Joe Biden may also test positive because he and Trump were together at the debate on September 29. Although they were 12 feet and 8 inches apart and avoiding shaking hands, the candidates were indoors without masks for an extended period of time. However, Biden and his wife, Jill Biden, have both tested negative. 

“I’m happy to report that Jill and I have tested negative for COVID. Thank you to everyone for your messages of concern,” said Biden in a tweet this afternoon. “I hope this serves as a reminder: wear a mask, keep social distance, and wash your hands.”

Trump was scheduled to participate in a midday call earlier today with governors regarding coronavirus. However, Trump was not present on the call and instead instructed Vice President, Mike Pence, to lead the call in Trump’s place. 

As for the future, Vice President Mike Pence and vice-presidential nominee Kamala Harris is set to occur. Nonetheless, the two will be spaced at least 12 feet apart as a safety precaution. The Biden campaign asked for extra spacing because they were concerned the original plan for seven feet of space would not be enough. 

Trump is currently in care at Walter Reed medical center and according to Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, Trump will spend “the next few days” there. His symptoms remain mild with a consistent fever and “fatigue” as described by the White House doctor. 

President Trump has known for his prominent social media presence and released one tweet announcing he and the first lady’s positive test and expressing they will be on a quick road to recovery. Trump then posted a video on his Twitter at 6:30 p.m. thanking everyone for their support. “I think I’m doing very well but we’re going to make sure things work out,” said Trump. 

Presidential candidate Joe Biden along with many others have shared their sympathy and expressed they hope Trump and his wife get well soon. Former President Barack Obama, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro and North Korea’s Kim Jong Un are a few of the people to send well wishes to the White House. 

Biden’s campaign even went as far as to take down negative TV ads as Trump is recovering. This was decided prior to Trump being sent to the hospital. Trump’s campaign has not made the same move and all of his ads remain. 

As time progresses from Trump testing positive many more cases in public figures are being reported. The White House press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany tested positive for COVID-19 after days of negative tests and not showing symptoms. She continued to avoid wearing a mask even after the President tested positive. Her positive test was announced through her Twitter.

McEnany is one of many that have tested positive following Trump’s result. McEnany’s two deputies Chad Gilmartin and Karoline Leavitt have confirmed they tested positive as well. 

Covid Mental Health illustration by Mina Tocalini

Covid Long Haul

By Mina Tocalini

A report from the BBC addresses the neurological symptoms of Coronavirus, which are believed to be linked to depleted levels of oxygen (hypoxia) or an over engaged immune system (cytokine storm). However, new evidence indicates that the virus is capable of infecting the brain and spinal cord by crossing the blood-brain barrier

This suggests that the virus could permanently find a home in the central nervous system and reappear in the future, as seen with the development of Shingles in individuals who had Chickenpox. If the virus is capable of infecting the brain, how else could it affect our mental health?

Years after the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic, some patients continued to experience a long lasting depression, among other symptoms, due to neurological damage to dopamine neurons in the brain. Similarly, the Coronavirus experience has demonstrated this “long-hauler” behavior. A Body Politic survey reported that individuals endured mental and physical exhaustion, such as: fatigue, chills, trouble sleeping and loss of appetite for up to 5-7 weeks.

As a result, although some may consider the potentially mild experience to be little to no threat, it is important to acknowledge the complexity of this virus and assume all precautions necessary. Afterall, who knows what future infections could arise from Coronavirus? Or how your body will react to the virus for weeks on end.

Coronavirus has reshaped our lives, yet some are reluctant to adjust. Next time you go out, ask yourself, is my health/ the health of others worth it? Each one of us has the power to stop the spread, don’t be part of the problem. Be vigilant with your behavior, wear a mask, commit to social distancing and help keep your community safe.

Follow World Health Organization: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, Don't Abandon the Mask

Texas and California Slow Reopening 

By Emmet McGewon

On March 27, a shadow, growing for weeks, reached monstrous proportions as Italy reached a grim milestone: 917 people passed away due to the novel coronavirus. The gloom pervaded for many more weeks as Italian streets emptied and hospitals overflowed. On the same day there were 5,906 new cases in the country. Yet, 2 months later dawn has broken the blackness and on Saturday, June 27, Italy reported only 8 new deaths and 175 new cases; the first time since the start of the outbreak that deaths were in single digits.Contrast this rapid recuperation with America’s two largest states: California and Texas. 

On the same day that Italy reported 175 new cases, California reported 27 times that number while Texas reported a case increase 33 times higher (4,810 and 5,747 respectively). Both states are betraying their namesake as California has not been golden in its response to the pandemic nor has Texas been a star. So why is it that Italy, the former epicenter of the outbreak, where shortages resulted in ventilators only being given to those under the age of 60, is in a recovery stage while the US suffocates under the weight of its caseload? 

“We are tired of not being able to buy the things that we need, go to the hairdressers, get our hair done. It’s time to open up.” These were the words of a middle-aged woman, sitting in her car, holding a makeshift American flag and pointing to the gray roots atop her head at a Michigan protest in mid-April. For many, this lady has become the embodiment of the entitled American who values her hairstyle over the potential loss of life that could occur from a rapid reopening. However, the uncomfortable reality is that she is not alone and that most, if not all Americans, are fatigued by the lockdown and eager to return to normality.

Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, home to a vibrant Russian, Ukrainian, and LGBTQ+ scene was abuzz on Friday evening. Long lines traversed the hectic sidewalks as eager patrons queued to enter bustling bars. The thin trees, boasting splashes of purple among the leafy foliage, watched over the strip like solemn sentries as droves of people enjoyed Los Angeles’s convalescent club scene. The looseness of restrictions was matched only by the looseness of partygoers’ flimsy floral shirts which billowed softly in the California evening breeze. Nonchalance came to mind. It appeared, despite the scattered mask-wearing, that the pandemic was over. 

We feel guilty for wishing to return to regular life given that such a return could result in a spike of hospitalizations and deaths. Thus, we stifle our impatience and seek scapegoats. Indeed, many are under the illusion that the persistent nature of the virus in the US is due to conservatives like those who armed themselves and entered the Michigan State Capitol. Yet, the reality is that a wide and diverse cross-section of US society has ceased caring about the virus. Whether you’re a patriotic Michigander or a bored frequenter of the Hollywood Hills, the suspension of day-to-day life is disconcerting and infuriating. 

The combination of over 400 protests in all 50 states after the horrific murder of George Floyd has no doubt led to an increase in coronavirus cases, yet this is not the only reason. Bar reopening’s have acted as a catalyst for the spread of Covid-19. Indeed, California Governor, Gavin Newsom, issued an order on Sunday to close the bars in 7 California counties including LA county which has seen approximately 90,000 cases. His office also recommended, but did not order, they close in 8 others. Establishments that serve alcoholic beverages without serving food at the same time will no longer be allowed to open. Largely due to the nature of bars, it is close to impossible to maintain social distancing as well as contact tracing. People remove masks frequently to take drinks, talk louder (spreading more airborne particles), and mix with a large number of people meaning that were a case to be identified it would be very difficult to track and contain. “It is critical we take this step to limit the spread of the virus,” said Newsom.

In addition, in response to the surge of cases in Los Angeles, the LA County Board of Supervisors has decided to close all LA county beaches from July 3rd to July 6th. Those caught trespassing by local patrols could receive a $1000 fine. Furthermore, LA Mayor, Eric Garcetti, has placed a “hard pause” on movie theater reopening’s and has banned Fourth of July firework displays in an attempt to prevent the formation of crowds. 

Meanwhile, Texas has ordered the state’s four largest cities to stop offering elective surgeries in order to free up hospital space. Just a few days before Governor Abbott’s ban on elective surgeries, restrictions were eased on amusement parks and restaurants. The Lone Star state has, arguably, had the most aggressive reopening strategy with phase one commencing as early as May 1st – a month later allowing almost all businesses to operate at a 50% capacity. Abbott also issued an order to close bars on Friday, June 26th, also scaling back dine-in restaurants to 50% capacity. Previously, bars were allowed to operate at a 50% capacity and restaurants at a 75% capacity. More so, outdoor gatherings of over 100 people are now prohibited unless given explicit approval by local officials. 

Peter Hotez, a professor of virology at the Baylor School of Medicine in Houston, said that the pause in the reopening will be enough to maintain the status quo but that “the status quo is unacceptable,” and the Governor will soon have no choice but to “dial things back.” In San Antonio, ventilator availability dipped below 70% for the first time and in Houston, one hospital’s ICU reportedly was at 120% capacity, while another one was at 88%. On top of this, the Texas Medical Center in Houston said Tuesday that 97% of its ICU beds were occupied. These numbers are undoubtedly worrisome and only time will tell if more restrictions will be enacted.

Obviously, the crisis is not over, but from an outside perspective one is left wondering: does America even care? Our European counterparts appear to be coming out the other end of the pandemic while for the United States, there is no end in sight. 

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

Covid Death Reports

New research by a team at the MIT Sloan School of Management estimates that COVID-19 cases and deaths are 12 times and 1.5 times higher than official reports, respectively.  The study examined 84 of the most affected nations, spanning 4.75 billion people.  The researchers estimate 88.5 million cases and 600 thousand deaths through June 18, 2020. 

Despite substantial under-reporting, however, these nations remain well below the level needed for herd immunity.  Absent breakthroughs in treatment or vaccines, and with only mild improvements in policies to control the pandemic, the researchers estimate a total of 249 million (186-586) cases and 1.75 million (1.40-3.67) deaths by Spring 2021.

Earlier and stronger policies to reduce transmission when the pandemic was first declared, together with the deployment of extensive testing, could have averted approximately 197,000 deaths, nearly one third of the estimated total.

However, they say, future cases and deaths are now less dependent on testing and more contingent on the willingness of communities and governments to reduce transmission, such as by reducing contacts with others, physical distancing, and better hygiene, including masks. 

The nations with the highest estimated percentage of their populations infected to date include Ecuador (18%), Peru (16.6%), Chile (15.5%), Mexico (8.8%), Iran (7.9%), Qatar (7.3%), Spain (7.1%), USA (5.3%), UK (5.2%), and the Netherlands (4.8%).

The paper, Estimating the Global Spread of COVID-19, is co-authored by MIT Sloan’s Hazhir Rahmandad, Associate Professor of System Dynamics; Professor John Sterman, Director of the MIT Systems Dynamics Group; and Ph.D. candidate Tse Yang Lim.

Using data for all 84 countries with reliable testing data (spanning 4.75 billion people), they developed a dynamic epidemiological model integrating data on cases, deaths, excess mortality and other factors to estimate how asymptomatic cases, disease acuity, hospitalization, and behavioral and policy responses to risk affect COVID transmission and the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR)—the probability of death after becoming infected—across nations and over time. IFR depends not only on the age and health of the population, but on the adequacy of health care and the effectiveness of protections for the most vulnerable, including the elderly.  The researchers estimate IFR to be 0.68% on average (0.64%-0.7%), but find it varies substantially across nations: approximately 0.56% for Iceland, 0.64% New Zealand, 0.99% for the USA, 1.59% for the UK, and 2.08% for Italy.

Follow MIT Sloan: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Rice University on COVID-19

Rice U. experts available to discuss COVID-19’s wide-ranging impact

As the COVID-19 pandemic grows and impacts the lives of people across the globe, Rice University experts are available to discuss various topics related to the disease.

Joyce Beebefellow in public finance at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, can discuss paid leave programs.

“COVID-19 highlights the importance of paid (sick) leave programs to workers,” she said. “The issue is not whether we should have a paid leave program; it is how to design a program that provides nationwide coverage to all American workers instead of waiting until the next pandemic.”

Robert Bruce, dean of Rice’s Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, is an expert in online and distance learning, community education and engagement and innovative models for personal and professional development programs.

“The field of continuing and professional studies is uniquely positioned to help the public during a crisis that requires social distancing,” he said. “Our core mission is to empower people to continue to learn and advance, regardless of location or age or learning style.”

Utpal Dholakia, a professor of marketing at Rice’s Jones Graduate School of Business, is available to discuss consumer behavior and panic-buying during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Everyone is panic-buying, not just all over the country, but basically all over the world,” Dholakia said. “That makes the sense of urgency even more. Are all these suppliers going to be able to keep up with the demand?”

John Diamond, the Edward A. and Hermena Hancock Kelly Fellow in Tax Policy at the Baker Institute and an adjunct assistant professor in Rice’s Department of Economics, can discuss the economic impact on Houston and Texas, particularly unemployment.

Elaine Howard Ecklund, the Herbert S. Autrey Chair in Social Sciences, professor in sociology and director of Rice’s Religion and Public Life Program, studies the intersection of science and religion. She can discuss how these two entities can work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and recently authored an editorial about this topic for Time magazine. It is available online HERE.

Christopher Fagundes, an associate professor in the department of psychological sciences, is available to discuss the link between mental and immune health.

“In my field, we have conducted a lot of work to look at what predicts who gets colds and different forms of respiratory illnesses, and who is more susceptible to getting sick,” Fagundes said. “We’ve found that stressloneliness and lack of sleep are three factors that can seriously compromise aspects of the immune system that make people more susceptible to viruses if exposed. Also, stress, loneliness and disrupted sleep promote other aspects of the immune system responsible for the production of proinflammatory cytokines to overrespond. Elevated proinflammatory cytokine production can generate sustained upper respiratory infection symptoms.”

And while this research has centered on different cold and upper respiratory viruses, he said “there is no doubt” that these effects would be the same for COVID-19.

Mark Finley is a fellow in energy and global oil at the Baker Institute.

“The U.S. and global oil market is simultaneously grappling with the biggest decline in demand ever seen (due to COVID-19) and a price war between two of the world’s largest producers, Russia and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Bill Fulton, director of Rice’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, an urban planner, an expert on local government and the former mayor of Ventura, California, can speak to both the short-term and long-term changes in city life and the way government works.

What will the effect be on transportation and transit? Retail and office space? Will people walk and bike more? How will they interact in public spaces in the future? How will government function and hold public meetings during the crisis, and will this fundamentally alter the way government interacts with the public in the long run? How will local governments deal with the inevitable revenue loss — and, in the long run, with the fact that they will probably have less sales tax?

Vivian Ho, the James A. Baker III Institute Chair in Health Economics, director for the Center of Health and Biosciences at the Baker Institute and a professor of economics, can discuss insurance coverage as families experience lost income and jobs during the crisis.

“Policymakers should temporarily expand subsidies for middle class workers who buy insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplace,” Ho said. “Families experiencing lost income due to the pandemic shouldn’t have to worry about losing access to health care in the midst of a pandemic.”

“Hospitals in states that did not expand Medicaid coverage to able-bodied adults under the Affordable Care Act are bearing tougher financial burdens, which may damage their ability to respond to the current health crisis,” she said.

Mark Jones, a professor of political science and fellow at the Baker Institute, is available to discuss how the spread of COVID-19 is impacting elections, including runoffs in Texas.

“COVID-19 has already resulted in the postponement of local elections originally scheduled for May 2, with the elections now to be held in November with current officeholders’ tenure extended until their successors are confirmed in November,” Jones said. “It is increasingly likely that COVID-19 will affect the Democratic and Republican primary runoff elections scheduled for May 26, with a growing possibility that the elections will be conducted entirely via mail ballots or at the minimum will involve the adoption of no-excuse absentee voting whereby any Texan, not just those 65 or older, hospitalized or out of the county, will be able to obtain an absentee ballot and vote by mail.

“The emergency adoption of no-excuse absentee voting would change the composition of the May primary runoff electorate by expanding turnout among many voters who otherwise would have been unlikely to participate, as well as increase pressure on the Texas Legislature to reform the state’s electoral legislation to allow for no-excuse absentee voting when it reconvenes in January of 2021 for the next regular session.”

Danielle King, an assistant professor of psychological sciences and principal investigator of Rice’s WorKing Resilience Lab, is an expert on the topic of resilience to adversity. Her research focuses on understanding the role individuals, groups and organizations play in fostering adaptive sustainability following adversity. She can discuss how individuals can remain resilient and motivated in difficult circumstances.

“Though we are still in the throes of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can begin to enact adaptive practices that foster resilience such as remaining flexible to changing circumstances, practicing acceptance of the present realities, seeking social support in creative ways while practicing social distancing, and finding and engaging with experiences and thoughts that elicit positive emotions during trying times,” King said.

Tom Kolditz, founding director of Rice’s Doerr Institute for New Leaders, is a social psychologist and former brigadier general who has done extensive research on how best to lead people under perceived serious threat. His work is widely taught at military service and police academies globally, and he did extensive work with the banking industry during the 2008 financial crisis. His expertise is in articulating what people need from leaders in volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous times and what leaders must do to gain and maintain people’s trust. His book, “In Extremis Leadership: Leading As If Your Life Depended On It,” teaches people to lead in crisis, when people are anxious or afraid.

“Leadership when people are under threat hinges far less on managerial principles, and far more on trust,” Kolditz said. “Whether in a company or their own family, people who lead in the same way now as they did two months ago will experience a significant decline in their influence.”

Jim Krane, the Wallace S. Wilson Fellow for Energy Studies at the Baker Institute, is an expert on energy geopolitics and Middle East economies and societies. He can comment on the effect on OPEC and its production decisions, relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia, and how low oil prices will affect policy inside producer countries.

Ken Medlock, the James A. Baker III and Susan G. Baker Fellow in Energy and Resource Economics at the Baker Institute, senior director of institute’s Center for Energy Studies and an adjunct professor and lecturer in Rice’s Department of Economics, can discuss COVID-19’s impact on oil prices and the oil industry.

Kirsten Ostherr, the Gladys Louise Fox Professor of English and director of Rice’s Medical Futures Lab, can discuss the representation of outbreaks, contagion and disease in public discourse and the media. She is also an expert on digital health privacy. She is the founding director of the Medical Humanities program at Rice, and her first book, “Cinematic Prophylaxis: Globalization and Contagion in the Discourse of World Health,” is one of several titles made available for open-access download through June 1 by its publisher, Duke University Press.

Peter Rodriguez, dean of the Jones Graduate School of Business and a professor of strategic management, can discuss the economic impact of COVID-19 in Houston, the state of Texas and around the world.

Eduardo Salas, professor and chair of the Department of Psychological Sciences, is available to discuss collaboration, teamwork, team training and team dynamics as it relates to COVID-19.

“We often hear that ‘we are in this together’ and, indeed, we are,” Salas said. “Effective collaboration and teamwork can save lives. And there is a science of teamwork that can provide guidance on how to manage and promote effective collaboration.”

Kyle Shelton, deputy director of the Kinder Institute, can discuss how the economic impact of COVID-19 closures and job losses can amplify housing issues, and why governments at every level are opting for actions such as halting evictions and foreclosures and removing late fees. He can also speak to some of the challenges confronted by public transportation, why active transportation like biking and walking are so important now, and how long-term investments in these systems make cities and regions more adaptive and resilient.

Bob Stein, the Lena Gohlman Fox Professor of Political Science and a fellow in urban politics at the Baker Institute, is an expert in emergency preparedness, especially related to hurricanes and flooding. He can also discuss why and when people comply with government directives regarding how to prepare for and respond to natural disasters, and the political consequences of natural disasters.

“Since God is not on the ballot, who do voters hold accountable before and in the aftermath of natural disasters?” he said.

Laurence Stuart, an adjunct professor in management at Rice Business, can discuss unemployment in Texas, how people qualify for it and what that means for employers and employees.

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,962 undergraduates and 3,027 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is just under 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked No. 1 for lots of race/class interaction and No. 4 for quality of life by the Princeton Review. Rice is also rated as a best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.

covid-19, coronavirus, sara sandman, 360 MAGAZINE, health

Coronavirus × Weather’s Impact

Daily coronavirus briefing: Global mortality rate for COVID-19 is 3.4%, WHO says

Weather and its potential impact on how COVID-19 behaves has remained a consistent focus since the outbreak erupted.

Coronavirus, officially recognized as COVID-19, took less than three months to travel around the world. After surfacing in late 2019, the virus has spread to more than 50 countries and claimed thousands of lives. After weeks of slowly spreading around the United States, the first American fatality from the virus occurred outside Seattle, Washington in King County just before the calendar flipped to March. As of Wednesday, nine deaths were blamed on the COVID-19 in the U.S., all in Washington state.

While the World Health Organization (WHO) has avoided deeming the virus a pandemic, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, “This virus has pandemic potential.”

Weather and its potential impact on how COVID-19 behaves has remained a consistent focus since the outbreak erupted.

Spreading Coronavirus
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, March 3, 2020, alongside Maria Van Kerkhove, an infectious disease epidemiologist and the MERS-CoV technical lead for the WHO Health Emergencies Programme. (WHO)

Hong Kong University pathology professor John Nicholls said that he suspected three factors would potentially kill the virus, according to the transcript of a private conference call in early February.

“Three things the virus does not like: 1. Sunlight, 2. Temperature, and 3. Humidity,” Nicholls said in remarks that were leaked on social media. “The virus can remain intact at 4 degrees (39 degrees Fahrenheit) or 10 degrees (50 F) … But at 30 degrees (86 degrees F) then you get inactivation.”

The CDC has cautioned that not enough is known about the virus to say for sure that weather will affect the spread, but a spokesperson said, “I’m happy to hope that it [the threat] goes down as the weather warms up.”

As experts work toward a better understanding, the world shudders in fear of the unknown, a worry that has rocked global financial markets. In what was the worst financial week since 2008 in the U.S., jitters sent the Dow Jones, S&P 500 and Nasdaq all plunging on Feb. 23. The markets rebounded a bit on Monday, March, 2, but volatility remained high through Tuesday’s trading session.

Here are the latest updates, listed in eastern time, and the most important things you need to know about coronavirus.

** March 4, 12:16 p.m.
During a press conference on Wednesday morning, officials declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles county in response to the coronavirus. This will help to open up funding from the state to combat the virus. This announcement came shortly after six new cases were reported in the county. “I want to reiterate this is not a response rooted in panic,” L.A. County supervisor Kathryn Barger said, according to The Los Angeles Times. “We need every tool at our disposal.”

** March 4, 11:29 a.m.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state has risen to six.

Cuomo said the four new cases are tied to a 50-year-old man from New Rochelle, a New York City suburb about 20 miles northeast of Manhattan in Westchester County. Officials said on Tuesday this was the second confirmed patient in the state.

The patient’s wife, two of his children and the neighbor who drove the man to the hospital are the latest confirmed to have the virus. The man remains hospitalized while his family is quarantined in their home.

On Tuesday, officials said the man, a lawyer who works in Manhattan, had not traveled to any of the countries where the number of COVID-19 cases is the highest, indicating this was a case of community spread.

Cuomo also said students with the State University of New York and the City University of New York that were studying abroad in China, Italy, Japan, Iran or South Korea were being transported home. Upon arrival they will be quarantined for 14 days.

“Remember: We have been expecting more cases & we are fully prepared,” Cuomo said. “There is no cause for undue anxiety.”

** March 4, 9:55 a.m.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. climbed past 125 on Wednesday, with 9 fatalities blamed on the virus — all in Washington state. It’s not time to panic, but being vigilant is always wise. Here’s a reminder on what coronavirus symptoms to look out for, according to the WHO.

Fever is a symptom in 90% of COVID-19 cases

70% of cases include a dry cough as a symptom

Symptoms usually do not include a runny nose

** March 4, 9:41 a.m.
The COVID-19 global mortality rate is 3.4%, WHO Director-General Tedros Ghebreyesus told reporters at a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday. “Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected,” he said.

** March 4, 9:20 a.m.
Italy’s government will close all of the country’s schools and universities from Thursday until mid-March as a result of the virus, according to a report from Italian newswire service ANSA.

Italy has reported more than 2,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and the death toll in the country stands at 79. Only China, South Korea and Iran have a higher number of cases.

** March 4, 8 a.m.
After being closed for three days due to fears about the spread of COVID-19, Paris’ famed Louvre Museum reopened on Wednesday.

According to The Associated Press, museum employees voted to return to work on Wednesday after the museum’s management presented several new “anti-virus” measures. This includes wider distributions of disinfectants and more frequent staff rotations so employees can wash their hands, the AP said.

The Louvre is said to be the world’s most visited museum and in 2019 attracted more than 9.6 million visitors. The museum’s website states that about 25% of its visitors in 2019 were French, with “visitors from other countries representing almost three-quarters of total attendance.” Weather in Paris for the next week will be mostly rainy and chilly, according to the AccuWeather forecast.

** March 4, 7:42 a.m.
An Amazon employee in Seattle has tested positive for COVID-19.

“We’re supporting the affected employee who is in quarantine,” a company spokesperson told Reuters. The company also said two employees in Milan, Italy were infected and in quarantine.

In total, Washington state has 27 cases of COVID-19, the most of any state in the U.S., and all of the U.S. fatalities have occurred in Washington.

** March 4, 6:40 a.m.
Here are the latest updated numbers from around the world according to Johns Hopkins University:

Total confirmed cases: 93,455

Total deaths: 3,198

Total recovered: 50,743

Tuesday’s 2,500 new cases was the largest jump globally in new confirmed cases since Feb. 14.

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