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COVID-19 News and Headlines: November 23, 2020
By admin November 23, 2020

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COVID-19 news: The COVID-19 (novel Coronavirus) pandemic continues to pose serious challenges to health systems, governments and the population at large.  Staying on top of the latest COVID-19 news and information is critical. With that in mind, we will continue to provide regular updates via this blog and our COVID-19 Response Team.

 

  • Global Numbers: 58m cases, 1.3m deaths, 191 countries.(Source: Johns Hopkins)
  • United States:  12.2m cases, 256,830 deaths. (Source: Johns Hopkins).

 

Latest Updates/Links:

  • ASTRAZENECA VACCINE UPDATE (Nov 23): AstraZeneca says its experimental coronavirus vaccine developed with the University of Oxford has shown an average efficacy of 70% in large scale trials.
  • PFIZER VACCINE UPDATE (Nov 18): A final analysis of the Phase 3 trial of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine shows it was 95% effective in preventing infections, even in older adults, and caused no serious safety concerns, the company said Wednesday. The company counted 170 cases of coronavirus infection among volunteers who took part in the trial. It said 162 infections were in people who got placebo, or plain saline shots, while eight cases were in participants who got the actual vaccine. That works out to an efficacy of 95%, Pfizer said. The data show Pfizer’s initial claim of a better than 90% efficacy — a claim that stunned and pleased health officials and vaccine developers last week — holds up.
  • MODERNA VACCINE UPDATE (Nov 16): Early data on Monderna’s coronavirus vaccine shows it is more than 94% effective in preventing infection. The announcement that the company’s vaccine is 94.5% effective comes after a similar announcement by pharmaceutical company Pfizer last week that its COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective in preventing infection.Early results from Moderna’s 30,000-person trial shows that the vaccine protected people from getting both mild and severe forms of COVID-19. Half of the participants were given a placebo and over several months, 90 of those people got sick with the coronavirus.
  • BLEAK MARKER: On November 19, the US recorded more than 250,000 deaths from Covid-19, a bleak marker as cases soar once again across the country. According to Johns Hopkins University, the country has now reported 250,029 deaths and nearly 11.5 million cases. It has more reported infections and a higher death toll than any other country worldwide. And cases have once again started to soar throughout the US, hitting new daily highs in the last week.

 

  • The first Americans to receive a Covid-19 vaccine could be immunized as early as the second week of December, the White House vaccine chief said.
  • The US has recorded over 3 million Covid-19 infections already in November, accounting for more than a quarter of its cases since the pandemic began
  • Pfizer and Moderna will likely seek emergency use authorization from the US FDA for their coronavirus vaccines within the next few weeks, the Operation Warp Speed chief adviser said. If approved, vaccinations could begin in December, he said.
  • The US surpassed 11 million cases, with 1 million recorded in less than a week, as the virus spreads at an unprecedented speed.
  • Per our blog, the Dakotas now represent the global epicenter. Since the start of October, North Dakota and South Dakota have reported more new COVID-19 cases per capita than all but one country in the world, tiny Andorra. The two Upper Midwest states are reporting three times as many new cases per capita this month than the United Kingdom, Spain or France, where infections were also on the rise, according to a Reuters analysis.
  • Hospitalization rates among US Black and Latino people are about four times higher than Whites, says CDC.
  • Drugmaker Pfizer said an early look at data from its coronavirus vaccine shows it is more than 90% effective — a much better than expected efficacy if the trend continues.The so-called interim analysis looked at the first 94 confirmed cases of Covid-19 among the more than 43,000 volunteers who got either two doses of the vaccine or a placebo. It found that fewer than 10% of infections were in participants who had been given the vaccine. More than 90% of the cases were in people who had been given a placebo. Pfizer said that the vaccine, made with German partner BioNTech, had an efficacy rate higher than 90% at seven days after the second dose, which means protection is achieved 28 days after a person begins vaccination. The vaccine requires two doses. The US Food and Drug Administration has said it would expect at least 50% efficacy from any coronavirus vaccine. Despite VP Pence taking credit, Pfizer was quick to distance itself from the Trump admin. Pfizer’s senior vice president and head of vaccine research and development, Kathrin Jansen, publicly distanced the company from the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed vaccine initiative. Jansen was quoted Monday by The New York Times as saying: “We were never part of the Warp Speed. We have never taken any money from the US government, or from anyone.”
    • Timeline: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease expert, says doses could be given to people “by the end of November, the beginning of December.”
    • Global doses: The US drugmaker believes it could make up to 50 million doses available globally this year, and 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
    • Caveats: While the development has been welcome around the world, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNN: “How long this protection lasts is something we don’t know.”
    • Challenges: US State health officials have expressed concerns about the requirements for handling Pfizer’s vaccine, which must be stored at the extremely cold temperature of minus-75 degrees Celsius (minus-103 Fahrenheit), far below the capacity of standard freezers.
    • Safety: Pfizer says “no corners were cut” in the vaccine’s development, saying there are no safety concerns.
    • Progress: As of Sunday, 38,955 of the volunteers in the Pfizer trial have received a second dose. The company says 42% of international trial sites and 30% of US trial sites involve volunteers of racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.
    • Market reaction: The news on Pfizer triggered a rally Monday, but global stocks petered out Tuesday, with some major indexes still inching up.

Here are the latest coronavirus headlines coming out of the US as of Nov 23:

  • 33 states are showing upward trends in new Covid-19 cases. New Mexico, Kansas, Virginia and Louisiana are up over 50% in the past week. Just three states are showing downward trends in new cases.
  • Yesterday saw 142,732 new cases reported in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University data, along with 921 new deaths. There have been near 1.2 million new cases in the past 7 days, the highest seven-day total in the US since the start of the pandemic.
  • The average of new cases over the last 7 days has climbed above 170,000 for the first time as of today. The daily average is increasing 15% week over week.
  • There were 1,726,449 new daily tests reported on Sunday, according to The Covid Tracking Project. While this is a drop in testing from the previous three days, this is still the highest testing ever reported on a Sunday.
  • The US has had 13 consecutive days of record-breaking current hospitalizations. There were 83,870 hospitalizations reported on Sunday, according to CTP data. This is the highest this metric has ever been.
  • In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom and health officials have implored residents to avoid gatherings and implemented an overnight curfew for the vast majority of the state starting on Saturday. The state reported 13,005 new coronavirus cases on Friday, shattering the state’s record for the most new cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic. The unprecedented number of new infections surpassed the state’s previous peak of 12,807 reported in July when California last experienced a surge in cases.
  • Since Gov. Ron DeSantis reopened Florida in late September, the number of reported Covid-19 cases per week in the state has tripled. On Sept. 25, DeSantis signed an executive order reopening the state, freeing restaurants and bars to operate at 100% capacity. In the week leading up to the order, Florida reported more than 17,000 new cases. In the past 7 days, the state has reported more than 53,000 — meaning three times more Floridians have tested positive in the past week than in the week before the reopening.
  • Toronto, Canada’s largest city, was placed into lockdown for 28 days on Friday, with officials shutting shops, businesses and restaurants and banning indoor gatherings to curb a growing spike in Covid-19 cases.

 

  • European countries have welcomed Pfizer’s announcement that it believes its vaccine is more than 90% effective with relief, as much of the region remains under lockdown. Here’s what’s happening in some countries:

 

  • The fall surge in Covid-19 infections added nearly half a million cases to the US national total in just one week. Meanwhile, the seven-day average of new cases is at the highest levels since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University.

 

 

  • As cases across Europe rise exponentially, intensive care units in Brussels have reached capacity, and Hungary is considering tightening restrictions.

 

  • Hospitals in the Swedish capital Stockholm are struggling to cope with a sharp increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations, according to the regional health authority. Björn Eriksson, Stockholm’s regional healthcare director, said that hospitals were having to postpone certain planned procedures, but he assured the public that they were ready to take care of all Covid-19 patients.Sweden took a sharply different approach to its European neighbours in its Covid-19 response in the spring. The country did not enter lockdown and instead issued guidance to citizens, urging them to practice social distancing and personal hygiene. Its coronavirus death toll during the spring was one of the highest in the world per capita.

 

  • The US Food and Drug Administration is in the “early stages” of looking into whether expanded access — a regulatory pathway typically used for investigational drugs — could be used as a way to make a potential Covid-19 vaccine available to the public, an FDA official said on Friday.

 

  • Europe has once again become the epicenter of the global pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. France begins a four-week lockdown today, and Germany’s new restrictions begin next week. Belgium reported a record number of daily hospital admissions for Covid-19 on Thursday, according to the country’s health authority. The Belgian Health Authority said 6,187 patients were admitted on Thursday, while 1,057 people are currently in intensive care. Belgium recorded a peak of 1,285 intensive care patients at the height of its first Covid-19 wave in April.

 

  • The FDA has approved Gilead’s antiviral drug Veklury® (remdesivir) for the treatment of patients with COVID-19 requiring hospitalization. As an antiviral drug, Veklury works to stop replication of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Previously authorized by the FDA for emergency use to treat COVID-19, Veklury is now the first and only approved COVID-19 treatment in the United States.

 

  • Protesters have clashed with police in northern Italy, as demonstrations erupted across the country Monday night over government restrictions aimed at quelling a second wave of Covid-19. In Turin, dozens were wounded in the clashes, and protesters set fire to garbage bins and looted luxury boutiques, including Gucci and Louis Vuitton stores, police said.

 

  • A dire situation in Belgium: Belgium is on the brink of a coronavirus disaster as a top health official warned that the country could run out of intensive care beds in as little as two weeks. The country of 11.5 million people has reported on average more than 13,000 cases a day in the past week, according to the national public health institute Sciensano.

 

 

  • European countries are seeing a surge in Covid-19 cases with Germany and the Czech Republic reporting single-day highs of new infections.

 

Older News/Links:

  • The World Health Organization announced an agreement to make rapid Covid-19 tests available to lower and middle income countries across the world. During a Monday news conference, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general said, “a substantial proportion of this rapid tests — 120 million — will be made available to low and middle income countries. These tests provide reliable results in approximately 15 to 30 minutes, rather than hours or days, at a lower price, with less sophisticated equipment.” Tedros said these “vital” tests will help expand testing in remote areas, “that do not have lab facilities or enough trained health workers to carry out PCR tests.

  • Nine biopharmaceutical companies have signed an unusual pledge to uphold “high ethical standards,” suggesting they won’t seek premature government approval for Covid-19 vaccines. An antibody therapy from Eli Lilly could be on the market by the end of the year, according to the CEO of a biotech firm working with the pharmaceutical giant.

  • President Donald Trump admitted he knew weeks before the first confirmed US coronavirus death that the virus was dangerous, airborne, highly contagious and “more deadly than even your strenuous flus,” and that he repeatedly played it down publicly, according to legendary journalist Bob Woodward in his new book “Rage.”

  • New psychological data taken during the pandemic shows mental health in the United States is languishing, according to data reported this week as part of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Suicidal ideation is up among young people since last year, with as many as one in four people ages 18 through 24 having seriously considered suicide in the 30 days preceding the survey, according to the report, in which researchers surveyed 5,412 adults in the US between June 24 and 30

  • WHO Warning & Virus Origin Scoping Mission: While hopes for a vaccine are strong, there may never be a “silver bullet” for the coronavirus, the WHO warns. The pandemic is likely to be “lengthy”, the UN health agency says, and response fatigue is a risk. Meanwhile, the WHO says it has “finished laying the groundwork for a probe into the origins of Covid-19.” The UN health agency said “two experts had completed a “scoping mission” in China, marking the initial phase of an investigation aimed at identifying how humans were infected with coronavirus.”

  • Hydroxychloroquine Fiasco: Researchers published scathing critiques of a study President Trump repeatedly touted on Twitter. That study, published earlier this month in the International Journal of Infectious Diseases, claimed to show that hydroxychloroquine saved lives.President Trump tweeted about it enthusiastically and continues to promote the drug.But the study Trump cites had multiple errors, flaws and biases, according to letters to the journal’s editors: “As a result of the flaws in the analysis the conclusions reached in [the study] are invalid,” Graham Atkinson, an independent consultant in health care policy, wrote in one of the letters.

  • America Unmasked:  There are not nearly enough Americans using masks to bend the curve on the coronavirus infection rate, the head of one of the main teams forecasting the pandemic said Friday. The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) revised its forecast this week for coronavirus deaths because of rising infection rates and because too few Americans were using face masks regularly, IHME’s Dr. Chris Murray told CNN.

  • VP Biden Frames Trump Failure re Pandemic/Economic Response: Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden lambasted President Trump on Tuesday saying he’s proven he is incapable of keeping Americans safe from harm: “Donald Trump faces a real test and he’s failed it, the basic threshold of being President, the duty to care for the entire country, not just his re-election prospects,” said the former vice president in a speech Tuesday in Wilmington, Delaware. “He’s shown that he can’t beat the pandemic and keep you safe,” continued Biden. “He can’t turn the economy around and get America back to work.”

  • Coronavirus: Asymptomatic cases ‘carry same amount of virus’:People with symptomless Covid-19 can carry as much of the virus as those with symptoms, a South Korean study has suggested.South Korea was able to identify and isolate asymptomatic cases through mass testing as early as the start of March. There is mounting evidence these cases represent a considerable proportion of coronavirus infections.

  • New CDC Report: People who were 65 or older, men and people of color who were younger than 65 make up disproportionate shares of COVID-19 deaths in the United States, according to a report released Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Covid-19 news: Spain

  • Spain: The novel coronavirus epidemic is “out of control” in parts of Spain, according to the director of the country’s Center for Health Emergencies. “Currently the epidemic is not out of control at a national level, but it is in some concrete places,” Fernando Simon said Thursday. Simon’s remarks came after Spain reported 7,039 new cases, 3,349 in the previous 24 hours. Madrid and Catalonia account for the majority of new infections, but Andalucía, Castilla y Leon and Aragon have also seen sharp increases.

Covid-19 news: Oxford Vaccine

  • Oxford is Vaccine Frontrunner; May Offer Double Defense: The University of Oxford candidate, led by Sarah Gilbert, might be through human trials in September. AstraZeneca has lined up agreements to produce 2 billion doses. The researchers believe they have made a breakthrough after discovering the jab could provide “double protection” against the virus, the Daily Telegraph reported. The newspaper said the phase 1 trial in healthy adult volunteers, which began in April, showed the vaccine generated an immune response, with blood samples indicating it stimulated the body to produce both antibodies and “killer T-cells”.

Covid-19 news: Rapid Test?

  • Rapid Test Breakthrough? Researchers in Australia have devised a test that can determine novel coronavirus infection in about 20 minutes using blood samples in what they say is a world-first breakthrough. The research team was led by BioPRIA and Monash University’s Chemical Engineering Department, including researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent BioNano Science and Technology (CBNS). Meanwhile, in Singapore, Clinician-scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore’s (NTU Singapore) Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine (LKCMedicine) have demonstrated a way to improve the speed, handling time and cost of COVID-19 laboratory tests. The improved testing method yields results in 36 minutes – a quarter of the time required by existing gold-standard tests.

Covid-19 news: Antibody Test

  • Promising UK Antibody Study: About 7% of participants in a British study tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, according to results from the first month of the nationwide study.  The test results, which indicate previous infection with coronavirus, ranged from 10.4% of Londoners to about 4.4% of people living in the southwest of England and Scotland. The widespread United Kingdom serology, or antibody, study uses volunteers for a much larger, ongoing health study called the UK Biobank. UK Biobank has collected samples and health information from 500,000 volunteers for research. The researchers have recruited more than 20,000 volunteers from regions across the UK for the coronavirus antibody study. They are being asked to provide monthly blood samples that the Oxford University-based Target Discovery Institute will test for the antibodies.

Covid-19 news: GSK and Sanofi

  • GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur: Drug giants GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi Pasteur said Friday they had won a commitment from the US federal government to pay up to $2.1 billion to help the two companies move forward with their proposed joint coronavirus vaccine as part of Operation Warp Speed.The companies had said in April they would work together to make a vaccine against Covid-19, using Sanofi’s flu vaccine technology and Glaxo’s adjuvant — a compound that boosts the power of a vaccine.

Covid-19 news: FDA

  • FDA Authorizes Asymptomatic Test: The US Food and Drug Administration has authorized the first coronavirus test for asymptomatic Covid-19 cases and for those who don’t think they’re infected with the virus at all. The agency reissued an emergency use authorization for a LabCorp Covid-19 RT-PCR test after the company provided scientific proof that the test was able to detect the virus in asymptomatic people. RT-PCR tests amplify genetic matter from the virus so it’s detectable.
  • Antibody Drug Hope: Eli Lilly believes that a new antibody drug could be on the market by the end of the year, according to the CEO of a biotech firm working with the pharmaceutical giant.
  • Extensive Organ Damage: Coronavirus damages not only the lungs, but the kidneys, liver, heart, brain and nervous system, skin and gastrointestinal tract, doctors noted in a review of reports about COVID-19 patients (source: Columbia University/Irving Medical Center)

Covid-19 news: Taiwan

  • Taiwan: US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar spoke about what Taiwan, the country he is currently visiting, has done in order to control the Covid-19 pandemic. “Taiwan has taken very effective measures, but they’re very strong measures,” Azar said on ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday.Every person who comes into Taiwan is subject to a mandatory quarantine period, where individual compliance is checked and inspected by the police, Azar said. Taiwan has also used social media and mandatory cell phone GPS tracking to identify contacts.

COVID-19 news: France

  • France:  There have been at least 538,500 confirmed cases of coronavirus in France, according to the French government. As of Monday afternoon, 31,727 people had died. National health authorities in France do not provide cumulative regional data for test-confirmed cases of the virus; only daily snapshots are reported. They do, however, report regional data for the total number of people hospitalized for Covid-19 and how many of those people have recovered or died.

COVID-19 news: Germany

  • Germany:  There have been at least 285,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Germany, according to the Robert Koch Institute, the country’s public health institution. As of Monday afternoon, 9,460 people had died.

COVID-19 news: Spain

  • Spain:  There have been at least 716,400 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Spain, according to the Spanish Ministry of Health. As of Monday afternoon, 31,232 people had died.

COVID-19 news: UK

  • UK: A potential coronavirus vaccine being jointly developed by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca could be put before regulators by the end of this year, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group said Tuesday. “It is just possible that, if the cases accrue rapidly in the clinical trials, we could have that data before regulators this year, and then there would be a process that they go through in order to make a full assessment of the data,” Professor Andrew Pollard said. However, speaking to BBC Radio 4, Pollard cautioned that the process could take longer depending on how much data scientists are able to gather. The Scottish government announced on Tuesday that students over the age of 12 will be advised to wear face coverings at school. This comes after an outbreak at a school in Dundee, which saw 22 people test positive for Covid-19.

COVID-19 news: Belarus

  • Belarus will become the first country to receive doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed in Russia as part of a new agreement reached by President Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko on Monday. According to the state-owned Belarusian Telegraph Agency (BeITA), the two leaders agreed that Belarusian citizens will participate in the third stage of Russian vaccine trials, on a voluntary basis.

Covid-19 news: MENA

  • MENA & sub-Saharan Africa: The IMF warned of deeper Middle East and North Africa (MENA) recession and rising social unrest risks. The economic outlook was already grim as the region struggles to cope with the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, in SS Africa, South Africa extended measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus as the number of cases in the country continued to rise. SA represents the highest total in SS Africa with 276,242 cases and over 4000 deaths (as of July 13).

COVID-19 news: Latin America & Caribbean:

  • Argentina: Argentina reported its highest number of both new Covid-19 cases and deaths Monday, according to numbers released from the Health Ministry. On Monday, the ministry reported 382 new deaths from the virus — its highest daily increase since the outbreak started. The previous record — 282 new deaths — was reported on Aug. 19.Argentina’s death toll from the virus now stands at at least 7,366.
  • Brazil’s death toll surpassed 150,000 — only the US has more Covid-19 fatalities. Confirmed cases of coronavirus in Brazil have passed five million, with deaths in the country. Brazil’s health ministry reported 31,553 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the total infections to 5,000,694.The country is the third worst hit for infections, after the US and India. President Jair Bolsonaro has been accused of downplaying the risks of the virus throughout the pandemic, ignoring expert advice on restrictive measures.

Covid-19 news: Mexico

Covid-19 news: India

  • There have been at least 6,074,700 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in India, according to the Ministry of Health and Welfare. As of Monday afternoon, 95,542 people had died.

Covid-19 news: Japan

  • Japan: An additional 1,601 cases of Covid-19 were recorded in Japan Friday, the country’s Ministry of Health said — the highest number Japan has seen in a single day. It’s the fourth consecutive day Japan has identified more than 1,000 cases. To date, authorities have identified 46,151 cases of Covid-19 and 1,062 virus-related fatalities. Tokyo is among the hardest-hit cities. Authorities said 462 cases were identified in the Japanese capital Friday, while Osaka posted its own daily high of 255 cases

Covid-19 news: Germany

  • Germany: Authorities in Germany said 1,122 new coronavirus patients were identified on Friday, the third day in a row that more than 1,000 cases of the virus were recorded. Twelve more people died Friday, bringing the nationwide death toll to 9,195, according to Germany’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute. Meanwhile, Germany’s top virologists have urged mandatory mask wearing in schools, including during classroom lessons, as schools in the country re-open after summer break: “Due to the real danger of infections between students who are asymptomatic, we urge strict mask wearing in all grades, including during lessons,” the virologists wrote in an open letter published on the website of the Society for Virology on Saturday

Covid-19 news: Italy

  • Italy: The number of active COVID-19 cases in Italy has dropped to 52,942, the Civil Protection Agency said Tuesday. The number marks an encouraging decrease – close to half of the highest number of cases recorded during the peak of the pandemic, which stood at 108,257.

Covid-19 news: Spain

  • Spanish Study Challenges Herd Immunity Theory: Meanwhile,  Spanish study has cast doubt on the feasibility of herd immunity as a way of tackling the coronavirus pandemic. The study of more than 60,000 people estimates that around just 5% of the Spanish population has developed antibodies, the medical journal the Lancet reported.

 

NOTE: For more information on TBG’s COVID-19 solutions, send an email.

 

Spotlight Article:

BBC: Why India’s Covid problem could be bigger than we think

India is approaching the ninth month of the coronavirus pandemic with more than five million confirmed cases – the second-highest in the world after the US – and more than 80,000 reported deaths.

Infection is surging through the country in a “step-ladder spiral”, a government scientist told me. The only “consolation” is a death rate – currently 1.63% – that’s lower than many countries with a high caseload.

The increase in reported cases has partly to do with increased testing – but the speed at which the virus is spreading is worrying experts.

Here’s why. It took 170 days for India to reach the first million cases. The last million cases took only 11 days. Average daily cases have shot up from 62 in April to more than 87,000 in September.

In the past week, India has recorded more than….

Click here for the rest of the article.

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