National coronavirus updates: Focus shifting to reducing infection risks, doctor says

The latest:There have been more than 1.4 million coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.The U.S. death toll has surpassed 85,000 people, according to Hopkins. The House of Representatives will vote on Friday on a COVID-19 aid package with a price tag of more than $3 trillion and a historic rules change to allow lawmakers to vote remotely during the pandemic.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published six “decision trees” Thursday aimed at helping businesses, communities, schools, camps, daycares and mass transit decide whether it’s safe to reopen.The CDC also issued a health advisory to thousands of doctors across the country Thursday, advising them to be on the lookout for a troubling new syndrome that may be associated with COVID-19 infection.The U.S. appears to be changing its strategy from trying to completely eliminate coronavirus to reducing infection risks as the nation reopens, a health expert says.With nearly all states easing social distancing, the nation has now shifted to harm reduction — which focuses on ways to reduce the risk if it cannot be removed entirely, said Dr. Leana Wen, an ER physician and the former health commissioner for Baltimore.”We had a strategy before. That strategy was we would reduce the number of infections and at the same time build up our capabilities to do testing, tracing, isolation,” she said Thursday night during the CNN global town hall on coronavirus.”We know that that’s what’s going to be effective, but we are reopening before those capabilities are in place. So in essence, we’re saying it’s too hard. We’re not going to be able to get there. And so we’re switching to a new phase. “The new strategy includes ways to slow the spread of the virus such as social distancing, avoiding unnecessary gatherings, changing ventilation systems and increasing time outdoors, she said. PGlmcmFtZSBpZD0iaHR2LWNvdmlkLW1hcCIgc3JjPSJodHRwczovL2NvdmlkLTE5LWFzc2V0cy5odHZ0b29scy51cy9pbmRleC5odG1sIiBzY3JvbGw9Im5vIiBzdHlsZT0iYm9yZGVyOm5vbmU7Ij48L2lmcmFtZT4=Number of reported cases is going down in some states As states remove more stay-at-home restrictions, it will take weeks to learn the health effects.But so far, the number of new coronavirus cases reported each day is generally going down in about two dozen states, according to an analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University on Thursday.And with the reopenings and eased social distancing restrictions, testing remains a major concern, with health experts warning the U.S. is still lagging behind.While not every person who tests positive will need treatment, testing ensures most of the cases are identified and traced, said Dr. Richard Besser, the former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”Every case that’s out there could be the spark that starts another outbreak in your community that gets out of control,” he said.With the right measures, countries can suppress transmission and avoid bouncing back-and-forth between lockdown and lifting restrictions, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for the COVID-19 response at the World Health Organization.South Korea and Singapore have been successful in containing the virus because they have rapidly identified it, started contact tracing and combated opportunities for it to resurge, she added.Experts have said coronavirus is likely to keep spreading for at least another 18 months to two years — until about 70% of the population has been infected.Trial starts on drugs once declared dangerousWith the number of deaths growing in the U.S., finding a vaccine and treatment for the virus remain a top priority.The National Institutes of Health started a new trial for people with mild coronavirus cases that uses drugs the agency once declared as dangerous.Both the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration have warned against the use of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine combined with the antibiotic azithromycin, saying they should only be limited to clinical trials.The FDA says the combination should not be used outside of a hospital setting because it causes heart rhythm problems. In addition, several trials have shown the combination does not help coronavirus patients.But the NIH said it would enroll 2,000 people infected with coronavirus to try the drug combination at home. Study participants must have a fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, it said, adding that the first person enrolled in San Diego.”Participants will be randomly assigned to receive short-term treatment with either hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin or matching placebos,” it said. “People living with HIV and pregnant and breastfeeding women also are eligible to participate in the study.” Whistleblower Rick Bright warned on Thursday that the U.S. lacks a plan to produce and fairly distribute a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available. The nation could face “the darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders act decisively, he told a congressional panel.Bright alleges he was ousted from a high-level scientific post after warning the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic.Bright said, “We don’t have (a vaccine plan) yet, and it is a significant concern.” Asked if lawmakers should be worried, he responded, “absolutely.”Bright, a vaccine expert who led a biodefense agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, said the country needs a plan to establish a supply chain for producing tens of millions of doses of a vaccine, and then allocating and distributing them fairly. He said experience so far with an antiviral drug that has been found to benefit COVID-19 patients has not given him much confidence about distribution. Hospital pharmacies have reported problems getting limited supplies.The White House has begun what it calls “Operation Warp Speed” to quickly produce, distribute and administer a vaccine once it becomes available.CDC sets up ‘decision trees’ on reopeningPlaces considering reopening their doors after weeks of restrictions are getting additional guidance from federal officials.The CDC released “decision trees” to help workplaces, communities, schools, day cares, camps and mass transit decide when it’s safe to reopen.The six documents posted on its website Thursday provide step-by-step guidance advising employers to encourage social distancing, hand-washing and intensified cleaning.They do not provide any detailed advice on when it would be safe for schools or business to open — only questions to ask before making any decisions.Its purpose is to assist employers in making reopening decisions, but it’s still important for them to check with state and local health officials to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community, the workplace tree reads.They include small adjustments to account for the differences between schools, for instance, and restaurants.Doctors warned about childhood illness linked to COVID-19The CDC also issued a health advisory to thousands of doctors across the country Thursday, advising them to be on the lookout for a troubling new syndrome that may be associated with COVID-19 infection.The syndrome, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), has been seen in children across Europe and in at least 18 states, plus Washington, D.C.At first, the cases were believed to be Kawasaki disease, a rare, inflammatory condition that usually involves the major arteries and the heart. But there were too many cases for it to be Kawasaki, and the doctors agreed it was a different inflammatory syndrome. Many, but not all, of the children tested positive either for current COVID-19 infection, or a past infection.W2lmcmFtZSBzcmM9Imh0dHBzOi8vZDJjbXZicTdzeHgzM2ouY2xvdWRmcm9udC5uZXQvZW1haWwvcHJvZF9jb3JvbmF2aXJ1c19pZnJhbWVfYXJ0aWNsZS5odG1sIiBoZWlnaHQ9IjQxNCIgc3R5bGU9IndpZHRoOjEwMCU7Ym9yZGVyOm5vbmU7b3ZlcmZsb3c6aGlkZGVuIiBzY3JvbGxpbmc9Im5vIiBmcmFtZWJvcmRlcj0iMCIgYWxsb3dUcmFuc3BhcmVuY3k9InRydWUiXVsvaWZyYW1lXQ==

The latest:

  • There have been more than 1.4 million coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
  • The U.S. death toll has surpassed 85,000 people, according to Hopkins.
  • The House of Representatives will vote on Friday on a COVID-19 aid package with a price tag of more than $3 trillion and a historic rules change to allow lawmakers to vote remotely during the pandemic.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published six “decision trees” Thursday aimed at helping businesses, communities, schools, camps, daycares and mass transit decide whether it’s safe to reopen.
  • The CDC also issued a health advisory to thousands of doctors across the country Thursday, advising them to be on the lookout for a troubling new syndrome that may be associated with COVID-19 infection.

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The U.S. appears to be changing its strategy from trying to completely eliminate coronavirus to reducing infection risks as the nation reopens, a health expert says.

With nearly all states easing social distancing, the nation has now shifted to harm reduction — which focuses on ways to reduce the risk if it cannot be removed entirely, said Dr. Leana Wen, an ER physician and the former health commissioner for Baltimore.

“We had a strategy before. That strategy was we would reduce the number of infections and at the same time build up our capabilities to do testing, tracing, isolation,” she said Thursday night during the CNN global town hall on coronavirus.

“We know that that’s what’s going to be effective, but we are reopening before those capabilities are in place. So in essence, we’re saying it’s too hard. We’re not going to be able to get there. And so we’re switching to a new phase. “

The new strategy includes ways to slow the spread of the virus such as social distancing, avoiding unnecessary gatherings, changing ventilation systems and increasing time outdoors, she said.

Number of reported cases is going down in some states

As states remove more stay-at-home restrictions, it will take weeks to learn the health effects.

But so far, the number of new coronavirus cases reported each day is generally going down in about two dozen states, according to an analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University on Thursday.

And with the reopenings and eased social distancing restrictions, testing remains a major concern, with health experts warning the U.S. is still lagging behind.

While not every person who tests positive will need treatment, testing ensures most of the cases are identified and traced, said Dr. Richard Besser, the former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“Every case that’s out there could be the spark that starts another outbreak in your community that gets out of control,” he said.

With the right measures, countries can suppress transmission and avoid bouncing back-and-forth between lockdown and lifting restrictions, said Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead for the COVID-19 response at the World Health Organization.

South Korea and Singapore have been successful in containing the virus because they have rapidly identified it, started contact tracing and combated opportunities for it to resurge, she added.

Experts have said coronavirus is likely to keep spreading for at least another 18 months to two years — until about 70% of the population has been infected.

Trial starts on drugs once declared dangerous

With the number of deaths growing in the U.S., finding a vaccine and treatment for the virus remain a top priority.

The National Institutes of Health started a new trial for people with mild coronavirus cases that uses drugs the agency once declared as dangerous.

Both the NIH and the Food and Drug Administration have warned against the use of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine combined with the antibiotic azithromycin, saying they should only be limited to clinical trials.

The FDA says the combination should not be used outside of a hospital setting because it causes heart rhythm problems. In addition, several trials have shown the combination does not help coronavirus patients.

But the NIH said it would enroll 2,000 people infected with coronavirus to try the drug combination at home. Study participants must have a fever, cough and/or shortness of breath, it said, adding that the first person enrolled in San Diego.

“Participants will be randomly assigned to receive short-term treatment with either hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin or matching placebos,” it said. “People living with HIV and pregnant and breastfeeding women also are eligible to participate in the study.”

Whistleblower Rick Bright warned on Thursday that the U.S. lacks a plan to produce and fairly distribute a coronavirus vaccine when it becomes available. The nation could face “the darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders act decisively, he told a congressional panel.

Bright alleges he was ousted from a high-level scientific post after warning the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic.

Bright said, “We don’t have (a vaccine plan) yet, and it is a significant concern.” Asked if lawmakers should be worried, he responded, “absolutely.”

Bright, a vaccine expert who led a biodefense agency in the Department of Health and Human Services, said the country needs a plan to establish a supply chain for producing tens of millions of doses of a vaccine, and then allocating and distributing them fairly. He said experience so far with an antiviral drug that has been found to benefit COVID-19 patients has not given him much confidence about distribution. Hospital pharmacies have reported problems getting limited supplies.

The White House has begun what it calls “Operation Warp Speed” to quickly produce, distribute and administer a vaccine once it becomes available.

CDC sets up ‘decision trees’ on reopening

Places considering reopening their doors after weeks of restrictions are getting additional guidance from federal officials.

The CDC released “decision trees” to help workplaces, communities, schools, day cares, camps and mass transit decide when it’s safe to reopen.

The six documents posted on its website Thursday provide step-by-step guidance advising employers to encourage social distancing, hand-washing and intensified cleaning.

They do not provide any detailed advice on when it would be safe for schools or business to open — only questions to ask before making any decisions.

Its purpose is to assist employers in making reopening decisions, but it’s still important for them to check with state and local health officials to meet the unique needs and circumstances of the local community, the workplace tree reads.

They include small adjustments to account for the differences between schools, for instance, and restaurants.

Doctors warned about childhood illness linked to COVID-19

The CDC also issued a health advisory to thousands of doctors across the country Thursday, advising them to be on the lookout for a troubling new syndrome that may be associated with COVID-19 infection.

The syndrome, called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), has been seen in children across Europe and in at least 18 states, plus Washington, D.C.

At first, the cases were believed to be Kawasaki disease, a rare, inflammatory condition that usually involves the major arteries and the heart. But there were too many cases for it to be Kawasaki, and the doctors agreed it was a different inflammatory syndrome. Many, but not all, of the children tested positive either for current COVID-19 infection, or a past infection.