/COVID-19 live updates: Total number of cases passes 47.4 million

COVID-19 live updates: Total number of cases passes 47.4 million

Passengers arrive at St Pancras International train station in London, United Kingdom on December 20, 2020 as several European countries ban travel to and from the UK due to fears over the emergence of a new variant of coronavirus. Large parts of south-east England, including London, are now under a new, stricter level of restrictions to curb the spread of the virus during the upcoming holiday season.Share on Pinterest
A passenger arrives at London’s St Pancras station in the United Kingdom, as several EU countries ban travel across the UK border due to new mutated coronavirus fears.
Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
  • The coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.
  • Known as SARS-CoV-2, the virus has resulted in more than 76.8 million infections and more than 1.6 million deaths.
  • SARS-CoV-2 infection causes a respiratory illness called COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 has now been reported on every continent except Antarctica.
  • Keep up to date with the latest research and information about COVID-19 here.
  • For vaccine information, visit our live vaccine updates article.

12/21/2020 09:31 GMT — Transport ties to UK severed

Scientists in the United Kingdom have identified a new, more infectious variant of SARS-CoV-2. In response, the U.K.’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined new restrictions on Saturday. Consequently, a number of countries have restricted travel to and from the U.K.

So far, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Ireland, Belgium, Israel, and Canada have shut down travel ties. 

According to experts, the SARS-CoV-2 variant does not cause more severe disease and should not interfere with vaccines. However, it appears to spread more easily. 

As the U.K. prepares to leave the European Union in the next few days, the new travel restrictions will add to the already growing chaos.

Read more here.

12/21/2020 09:05 GMT — US authorizes Moderna vaccine

The FDA have given the Moderna vaccine emergency use authorization (EUA), making it the second vaccine with EUA in the U.S. Already, the U.S. has agreed to purchase 200 million doses. Officials expect that healthcare professionals will give the first shots this morning.

Find more detail in our vaccine updates article.

12/18/2020 10:20 GMT — Johnson & Johnson announce phase 3 clinical trial

Johnson & Johnson recently announced a multicountry phase 3 clinical trial of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate. The company have already enrolled around 45,000 participants and, if the vaccine proves safe and effective, they will look for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in February 2021.

Find more detail in our live vaccine updates article.

12/18/2020 09:14 GMT — Moderna vaccine nears approval

In a meeting yesterday, Food and Drink Administration (FDA) advisors endorsed the emergency use of Moderna’s vaccine. One expert abstained, but the remaining 20 experts voted that the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweighed the risks in people aged over 18. The FDA are expected to grant emergency use authorization by the end of the week.

Read more in our live vaccine updates article.

12/18/2020 09:09 GMT — NICE publish guidelines on vitamin D and COVID-19

Yesterday, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) released a review of recent studies on vitamin D and COVID-19. Overall, they conclude that there is “not enough evidence to support taking vitamin D solely to prevent or treat COVID-19.”

The review was conducted in collaboration with Public Health England and the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition.

The experts reviewed data from both observational studies and randomized controlled trials. They conclude that “It was not possible to determine a direct relationship between vitamin D and COVID-19 based on the available evidence.”

However, because the primary source of vitamin D is sunlight, they advise taking the vitamin during the autumn and winter.

The report also recommends that researchers continue investigating the relationship between COVID-19 and vitamin D in high-quality randomized controlled trials. NICE will continue to review research as it is conducted.

Dr. Alison Tedstone, the chief nutritionist at Public Health England, advises that “everyone, particularly the elderly, those who don’t get outside, and those with dark skin, takes a vitamin D supplement containing 10 micrograms [400 international units] every day.”

Read the full report here.

12/17/2020 09:33 GMT — Guidance on mandatory vaccines for employees in the US

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) have issued guidance for companies that are considering making the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory. They explain that employers must be prepared to exempt employees with disabilities and religious objections.

Read more in our vaccine updates article here.

12/17/2020 09:14 GMT — What is the protective value of different face masks?

A recent study assessed how effective various medical and consumer-grade masks are at protecting the wearer from exposure to particles similar in size to SARS-CoV-2. The results of the study appear in the journalJAMA Internal Medicine.

The scientists found that the most effective consumer-grade mask was a washed two-layer woven nylon mask, while the least effective was a three-layer woven cotton mask.

Overall, co-first author Dr. Phillip Clapp explains that “the fitted filtration efficiencies of many consumer-grade masks were nearly equivalent to or better than surgical masks.”

Read more about the findings here.

12/16/2020 09:17 GMT — Vaccine developed by British American Tobacco approved for human trials in US

This week, the U.S. health regulator approved a vaccine developed by British American Tobacco (BAT) for human trials. The vaccine, developed by BAT’s biotech subsidiary, Kentucky BioProcessing, derives from tobacco leaves. Enrollment for the study is likely to begin shortly. BAT expect clinical trials to start in late June 2021. 

Find more on this story in our vaccine updates article.

12/16/2020 09:09 GMT — BMJ editors question UK lockdown easing for Christmas

In a rare move, the editors of BMJ have penned a joint article. They criticize the government of the United Kingdom’s decision to ease COVID-19 measures around the Christmas period. The authors are concerned that the move will overwhelm the National Health Service (NHS).

In the article, which is only the second joint editorial in 100 years of the journal’s existence, the authors explain that “The planned relaxation of restrictions over Christmas will boost [case] numbers further as the NHS also struggles with the additional demands of winter.”

They worry that the U.K. public “will see the lifting of restrictions over Christmas as permission to drop their guard.” Beyond the impact on the public, the editors are concerned about NHS staff; they write:

“Of particular concern is the effect on staff, many of whom have already worked through the hardest 9 months of their professional lives. Levels of burnout and sickness absence are likely to exceed those already experienced.”

Read the editorial here.

12/16/2020 09:01 GMT — How have we developed vaccines so quickly?

As countries begin rolling out vaccines, Medical News Today spoke with a number of medical experts to learn how scientists have created COVID-19 vaccines so swiftly without compromising safety.

Read the feature here.

12/15/2020 14:49 GMT — Moderna vaccine draws closer to emergency use authorization

According to Food and Drug Administration’s reviewers, the Moderna vaccine is 95% effective. Importantly, the group did not raise any safety concerns. The FDA released the data in a 54-page document earlier today. The organization will discuss the findings in a vaccine panel meeting on Thursday. 

Read more in our live vaccines article here.

12/15/2020 10:18 GMT — New SARS-CoV-2 variant identified in England

Yesterday, the United Kingdom’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, announced that scientists had identified a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 in England. He explained that it was particularly prevalent in the South, which had recently experienced a sharp rise in cases.

Local authorities have recorded at least 60 COVID-19 cases that involve the new variant, Hancock reported, adding that there was “nothing to suggest” that the variant caused more severe disease or could limit the effects of vaccines.

During a press conference, Chief Medical Officer for England Chris Whitty explained: “There are many variants. It just happens that this one has quite a few more mutations than some of the other variants, so that’s the reason why we’ve taken it particularly seriously.”

He continued, “But there’s nothing to suggest that the symptoms are different, that the testing is different, or that the clinical outcome is different for this variant.”

In an interview with the BBC, Prof. Alan McNally, an expert in microbial genomics at the University of Birmingham, said:

“Let’s not be hysterical. It doesn’t mean it’s more transmissible or more infectious or dangerous. It is something to keep an eye on. Huge efforts are ongoing at characterizing the variant and understanding its emergence. It is important to keep a calm and rational perspective on the strain, as this is normal virus evolution and we expect new variants to come and go and emerge over time.”

Dr. Zania Stamataki, a viral immunologist at the same institution, provided added insight: “The emergence of different coronavirus strains a year after SARS-CoV-2 first jumped to humans is neither cause for panic nor unexpected. […] This virus doesn’t mutate as fast as influenza and, although we need to keep it under surveillance, it will not be a major undertaking to update the new vaccines when necessary in the future.”

Read more here.

12/15/2020 08:57 GMT — Long COVID and periods: The impact on female well-being

A number of people with long COVID have reported an impact on their menstrual cycles. In a new feature, Medical News Today spoke with two medical experts and six individuals who have been experiencing these disruptive changes to their menstrual cycles.

Read the full feature here.

12/14/2020 15:24 GMT — First New York healthcare worker receives vaccine

Today, Sandra Lindsay became the first healthcare worker to receive the Pfizer–BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in New York. The intensive care unit nurse received the vaccine at Long Island Jewish Medical Center in Queens, one of the epicenters of COVID-19 earlier this year.

Find more vaccine updates here.

12/14/2020 09:27 GMT — FDA issue emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccine

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The FDA concluded that the “potential benefits [of the vaccine] outweigh the known and potential risks […].” The first shipments of the vaccine left FedEx and UPS facilities in Tennessee and Kentucky yesterday.

Read more on this story here.

12/14/2020 09:05 GMT — One-third of patients may experience ‘long COVID’

A new study finds that 32% of people who tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 were still experiencing at least one symptom 6 weeks after their tests. The most common of these symptoms were fatigue, shortness of breath, and a loss of taste or smell.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

12/11/2020 14:51 GMT — Video: Spotlight on 3 vaccine frontrunners

Read the full article here.

12/11/2020 09:31 GMT — Study hints that supplements may reduce COVID-19 risk in females

A recent study found small but significant decreases in the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection among females who took multivitamins, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, or probiotics. The study has not yet been through the peer review process and appears on the preprint server MedRxiv.

Although the results seem hopeful, Naveed Sattar, a professor of metabolic medicine at the University of Glasgow, in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the research, adds some perspective:

“These are interesting results, but due to the way the study has been conducted, these data absolutely cannot tell us that taking such supplements ‘protects’ against infection [resulting in] COVID-19.”

The scientists were surprised that the effect was only significant in females. They theorize that this might be because females have more robust immune systems. Alternately, they might be more likely to wear masks or wash their hands than males.

Prof. Seif Shaheen, from Queen Mary University of London, adds further context: “A major concern is that these findings may be confounded by socioeconomic status, given that individuals of higher status are more likely to take supplements and are also less likely to become infected with SARS-CoV-2.”

Read MNT’s full coverage of the research here.

12/11/2020 08:59 GMT — FDA experts recommend Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine

Yesterday, a panel of experts who advise the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommended that the organization should give the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine emergency approval. The committee voted 17–4 that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks for people aged 16 years and older. 

Read more about this story here.

12/10/2020 09:18 GMT — Two allergic reactions to COVID-19 vaccine reported in UK on first day of roll-out

Yesterday, the United Kingdom began rolling out the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. According to the head of Britain’s medicine regulator, two people had allergic reactions shortly after receiving it. Both have since recovered.

Find more information here.

12/10/2020 09:07 GMT — COVID-19: Once hospitalized, Black patients are less likely to die

Research shows that in the United States, some populations, including people who are Black, are more likely to develop COVID-19. After controlling for underlying conditions and average neighborhood income, a new study shows that once Black patients are hospitalized, they are less likely to die of the disease than white patients.

If confirmed, these findings support the idea that structural determinants of health account for a disproportionately higher rate of out-of-hospital COVID-19 deaths in in Black and Hispanic communities.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

12/10/2020 09:03 GMT — Smartphone-based device could detect SARS-CoV-2

Scientists are developing a portable device that gives rapid, accurate test results with the help of a regular smartphone camera. By estimating the number of virus particles in samples, the device could also determine an infection’s progress.

Find more information about this technology here.

12/09/2020 09:21 GMT — ‘Oxford’ vaccine: Results from phase 3 trial

Yesterday, The Lancet published the results of phase 3 clinical trials investigating AstraZeneca’s so-called Oxford vaccine. The study involved people in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa. Overall, the results show that the vaccine candidate protects against the symptomatic disease in 70% of cases.

Read more in our live vaccines update article.

12/09/2020 09:15 GMT — COVID-19 case on cruise ship

After an 83-year-old passenger tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, a Royal Caribbean cruise ship departing from Singapore had to return to dock. The crew had to confine all passengers to their cabins.

Each passenger required polymerase chain reaction testing for SARS-CoV-2 before joining the “cruise-to-nowhere.” Despite this safety measure, one passenger reported to the onboard medical center with diarrhea and tested positive for the virus.

People in close contact with the individual had also had to undergo testing, but no one else acquired the infection. All passengers will also undergo further testing before they are allowed to leave the terminal.

Read more here.

12/09/2020 09:07 GMT — Pfizer vaccine closer to authorization in US

Recently, Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their vaccine candidate was 95% effective against COVID-19. They are currently working with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to secure approval for emergency use. This week, the FDA released documents declaring no issues with safety or efficacy.

Read more in our live vaccines update article.

12/08/2020 09:46 GMT — UK begins mass vaccinations

Today, the United Kingdom became the first Western nation to start mass vaccinations. Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the day “V-day.” In Coventry, 90-year-old Margaret Keenan became the first person to receive the vaccine outside of clinical trials.

Find more information in our live vaccine update article.

12/08/2020 09:30 GMT — Fauci voices concerns about Christmas period

Yesterday, in an interview with CNN, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned of another surge in cases after the Christmas and New Year holidays. He had voiced concerns before Thanksgiving and explains that over the upcoming holidays, the problem will be “compounded because it’s a longer holiday.”

He also advised that “We’re at a very critical time. […] We’ve got to not walk away from the facts and the data. This is tough going for all of us.” President-elect Joe Biden has asked Dr. Fauci to be his COVID chief medical advisor.

Read more here.

12/07/2020 09:54 GMT — South Korea experiences new wave of COVID-19 cases

Despite their initial success at controlling the pandemic, South Korea is experiencing increasing numbers of cases. As of Sunday, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency report that there are 8,311 people in quarantine, which is the highest number to date.

Read more here.

12/07/2020 09:51 GMT — ‘Clear, balanced information’ important for vaccine uptake

In a recent editorial, David Phizackerley, the deputy editor of the journal Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin, argues that clear and balanced information on the efficacy and safety of the COVID-19 vaccines is important for ensuring their broad uptake.

Find more detail in our live vaccine updates article.

12/07/2020 09:46 GMT — Adapted yellow fever vaccine may protect against COVID-19

A recent study concludes that a genetically altered yellow fever vaccine is highly effective in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection in animals. If it passes clinical trials, the new vaccine would have some advantages over other SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. For instance, it provided protection after just one shot.

Find more detail in our live vaccine updates article.

12/04/2020 10:15 GMT — Three former presidents willing to take the vaccine publicly

In an effort to boost public confidence, three former presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama — have all publicly stated that they would be prepared to take the COVID-19 vaccine once it receives approval.

Find more on this story in our live vaccine update article.

12/04/2020 09:40 GMT — Dr. Fauci apologizes for claiming UK rushed decision

Earlier this week, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, sparked controversy when he claimed that the United Kingdom had not acted as carefully as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when it licensed its first COVID-19 vaccine. Yesterday, he apologized and said he has “great faith” in the U.K. regulators.

Find more about this story here.

12/04/2020 09:28 GMT — Link between air pollution and COVID-19 spikes identified

The authors of a recent study conclude that temperature inversions and Saharan dust storms may be contributing to localized peaks of COVID-19. The research appears in the journal Earth Systems and Environment.

Find MNT’s coverage of the research here.

12/03/2020 09:31 GMT — Russia plans large-scale COVID-19 vaccination plan

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a large-scale vaccination program that will begin next week. Doctors and teachers will be first in line for the vaccine. Some experts are concerned as the Sputnik V vaccine is yet to complete advanced clinical trials for safety.

Read more about the Russian vaccine here.

12/03/2020 09:16 GMT — AstraZeneca’s US vaccine trial results due early 2021

Yesterday, the chief adviser for the United States government’s Operation Warp Speed program announced that results from AstraZeneca’s U.S. vaccine trials could be available early next year. If the results are encouraging, they will likely file for an emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Visit our vaccine live updates article for more information.

12/03/2020 08:53 GMT — Do SARS-CoV-2 mutations affect its transmissibility?

A recent study analyzed samples of the SARS-CoV-2 genome from 46,723 people in 99 countries. The authors conclude that no currently identified mutation of SARS-CoV-2 appears to make the virus better at transmitting. The results appear in the journalNature Communications.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the research here.

12/02/2020 08:57 GMT — UK licenses vaccine against COVID-19 

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MHRA) in the United Kingdom have authorized the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use. The U.K. has already purchased 40 million doses of the vaccine, and the first 10 million doses should arrive this month.

Find more details in our live vaccine updates article.

12/02/2020 08:52 GMT — Developing an equation to predict transmission rates

In a recent study, scientists developed an equation that can help determine the likely number of people who would likely contract SARS-CoV-2 from a single person with the virus at different types of events. They also investigated which interventions would be most effective in the different scenarios.

Read more about the study here.

12/02/2020 08:49 GMT — The FDA move toward vaccine approval

On Tuesday, Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn said it was possible that the FDA would approve Pfizer’s experimental vaccine before the end of the year. However, in the ABC News interview, he explained that “it’s hard to predict. […] We need everything to fall into place.”

Read more about the vaccine push in the United States here.

12/01/2020 11:49 GMT — Recommendations for vaccine allocation due

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices will meet to make their recommendations on who will receive the first COVID-19 vaccines. The panel consists of independent experts and one consumer representative. 

According to the New York Times, the members will likely recommend that healthcare staff and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities will receive the first batches of vaccines, once the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) grant emergency use approval. 

Watch the live meeting here at 19:00 GMT

12/01/2020 11:49 GMT — A photo captures the strain on ICU patients and health workers

A photo taken on Thanksgiving inside a COVID-19 intensive care unit (ICU) at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, TX, shows Chief of Staff Dr. Joseph Varon in full personal protective equipment hugging a patient. 

Photographer Go Nakamura took the photo for Getty Images while documenting the work of healthcare professionals and the reality of being in an ICU with COVID-19.

Dr. Varon has been working for more than 250 consecutive days. He found the COVID-19 patient out of his hospital bed, in tears, looking for help. He was asking for his wife. 

“I was feeling sad, just like him, and I was just recollecting all the patients that I have had to do similar things with,” Dr. Varon explains. “I would go into their rooms, sit on their beds, and chat with them because they truly need somebody.”

Read more here.

11/30/2020 14:57 GMT — Moderna apply for approval for mRNA vaccine candidate in the US and Europe

Today, Moderna announced the completion of their phase 3 clinical trial primary efficacy analysis. The vaccine candidate is 94.1% effective against COVID-19 and 100% effective against severe COVID-19. The company will apply today for emergency use approval in the United States. 

In addition, it will also apply to the European Medicines Agency for conditional marketing authorization.

In a press release, Moderna highlighted that 196 people enrolled in their 30,000-participant trial have now had COVID-19. Of them, 11 were in the group that had received the vaccine. 

There were 30 cases of severe COVID-19, all in the placebo group. One person in this group died. 

The 196 cases of COVID-19 in the study occurred among diverse participants, including older adults and those from minority ethnic groups.

The company stressed that they will submit the results of the study to a peer reviewed journal. 

Read more vaccine updates here.

11/30/2020 12:55 GMT — Tuberculosis vaccine may help protect against COVID-19

A retrospective, observational study has found that the BCG vaccination — which aims to prevent tuberculosis — may protect against infection with the novel coronavirus.

The study found that among 6,201 healthcare workers, those who had had the BCG vaccination were less likely to have antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus in their blood and less likely to report having experienced COVID-19 symptoms compared with those who had not had the vaccine. 

Read our full coverage of the study here.

11/27/2020 17:30 GMT — High blood sugar levels may predict COVID-19 death risk

New research finds that high blood sugar levels correlate with a higher risk of COVID-19 mortality, even in people who do not have a history of diabetes. 

The new study — which appears in the journal Annals of Medicine — found that 41.1% of those who died from COVID-19 had very high blood sugar levels. 

The risk of dying from COVID-19 rose proportionately with blood sugar levels, and the association was independent of diabetes status.

“Early glycemic control may be a suitable therapeutic option to reduce the poor outcomes in hospitalized, hyperglycemic COVID-19 patients with or without a previous diabetes diagnosis,” write the study authors.

Read the full story here

11/27/2020 11:20 GMT — Antibleeding drug may effectively treat COVID-19

Researchers at Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, led a new study showing that the antibleeding drug aprotinin (Trasylol) can stop the new coronavirus from entering healthy host cells. 

The scientists conducted experiments in various types of human cell, using different concentrations of the drug, and in three different strains of the virus. 

As the researchers point out, what is significant is that the drug was effective at a dose that people can realistically take — i.e., a therapeutic dose.

Senior study author Prof. Jindrich Cinatl, from the Institute for Medical Virology at University Hospital Frankfurt, says, “Our findings show that aprotinin is effective against SARS-CoV-2 in concentrations that can be achieved in patients.”

“In aprotinin, we have a drug candidate for the treatment of COVID-19 that is already approved for other indications and could readily be tested in patients.”

Read our full coverage of the study here.

11/26/2020 10:26 GMT — Scientists in the Netherlands plan ‘human challenge’ vaccine study

Scientists from Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Netherlands are hoping to deliberately transmit SARS-CoV-2 to participants to test vaccine efficacy. Already, 240 people have stepped forward to participate in the “human challenge” trial.

Read more about this story in our live vaccine updates article.

11/26/2020 09:03 GMT — Many parents want to celebrate Thanksgiving with others despite risk

A new poll shows that, despite the risks, 61% of parents who usually meet with extended family at Thanksgiving intend to meet them in person this year. The report was published by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital, at the University of Michigan.

Read more about the results here.

11/26/2020 08:50 GMT — COVID-19 has produced ‘alarming’ increase in loneliness

A recent survey shows that the COVID-19 pandemic is having a troubling effect on the psychological health of young adults in the United States. In the survey of 1,008 people aged 18–35, 80% of participants reported “significant depressive symptoms” during the pandemic.

The results of the study appear in the Journal of Psychoactive Drugs. “These young adults are the future of our nation’s social fabric,” says Dr. Viviana Horigian, the lead author of the study. “They need to be given access to psychological help, coupled with the development and dissemination of brief online contact-based interventions that encourage healthy lifestyles.”

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

11/25/2020 15:15 GMT — MNT Video update: Thanksgiving and mental health

11/25/2020 08:56 GMT — NIH promise to boost COVID-19 testing in ‘underserved and vulnerable populations’

According to a news release from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), they are providing additional funding to “enable and enhance COVID-19 testing of populations disproportionately affected by the disease.” This includes people from marginalized ethnic backgrounds, older adults, people who are incarcerated, and people who are homeless.  

The NIH explain that they have “awarded nearly $45 million to expand the research network of the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations (RADx-UP) program.” 

The RADx-UP program focuses on, among other things, developing and validating point-of-care and home-based tests.

Find more detail here.

11/25/2020 08:51 GMT — Officials urge people to stay home at Thanksgiving

As COVID-19 case numbers reach record highs in the United States, health experts and politicians across the country are urging people to stay home this Thanksgiving. In the last month, more than half of U.S. governors have imposed or brought back statewide measures.

On Tuesday, more than 87,000 people were being treated in hospitalsfor COVID-19, which is an all-time record. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams asked people to understand “the severity of the moment. […] We just need you, the American people, to hold on a little bit longer.”

In his weekly COVID briefing, California’s top health official, Dr. Mark Ghaly, urged people to say “no” to family gatherings. He wrote, “Saying ‘no’ to people you love is never easy, […] but knowing how and when to say ‘no’ is the first step to protecting your health and the health of the people you care about.”

Read more here.

11/24/2020 09:35 GMT — US government plans to start distributing Regeneron’s antibody combination

According to U.S. officials, the government will soon begin distributing Regeneron’s antibody therapy for COVID-19. The move comes following emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The combination of two monoclonal antibodies, called REGN-COV2, helps treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and children.

Read more here.

11/24/2020 09:23 GMT — Despite warnings, many people in the US plan to travel for Thanksgiving

On Sunday, despite increasing numbers of COVID-19 cases, more than 1 million passengers passed through airport security in the United States. The American Automobile Association predict that 45–50 million people will use the highways during Thanksgiving 2020, down from 55 million in 2019.

Read more here.

11/23/2020 11:44 GMT — What explains Africa’s successful response to the COVID-19 pandemic?

In an opinion piece, written for MNT, Prof. Agnes Binagwaho, M.D., MPEd, Ph.D. — vice-chancellor of the University of Global Health Equity in Kigali, Rwanda — and her research associate Kedest Mathewos explain why African countries fared much better than their Western counterparts in the fight against COVID-19.

Read the article here.

11/23/2020 09:52 GMT — AstraZeneca’s ‘Oxford’ vaccine 70% effective

According to a press release, the experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca prevents 70.4% of people from developing COVID-19. Although this is lower than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, using a different dosing regimen might increase the figure to 90%.

The recent announcement is based on data from 24,000 participants in the United Kingdom, Brazil, and South Africa. Importantly, the Oxford vaccine is cheaper to produce and easier to store and transport than the Moderna and Pfizer offerings.

The trial involved two dosing regimens. One consisted of two full doses, which provided 62% protection. The other involved one half dose followed by one full dose, which provided 90% protection. Prof. Andrew Pollard, the director of the Oxford Vaccine Group and the chief investigator of the Oxford Vaccine Trial, explains:

“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives. Excitingly, we’ve found that one of our dosing regimens may be around 90% effective, and if this dosing [regimen] is used, more people could be vaccinated with planned vaccine supply.”

Dr. Stephen Griffin, an associate professor in the School of Medicine at the University of Leeds, U.K., says:

“This is yet more excellent news and should be considered tremendously exciting. The Oxford vaccine, as for the others we’ve heard about recently, is capable of generating 90% protection against COVID-19. Given the favorable stability seen for this vaccine, it has great potential to be delivered across the globe, achieving huge public health benefits.”

Dr. Griffin was not involved with the study.

Read more here.

11/23/2020 09:49 GMT — Black, Hispanic people account for half of hospital deaths

According to a recent analysis, in the first 6 months of 2020, 53% of deaths from COVID-19 in 88 hospitals across the United States were Black or Hispanic patients. The analysis results appear in the journal Circulation.

Read more about the study here.

11/20/2020 09:19 GMT — UK may ease rules for Christmas

Currently, the United Kingdom is in the midst of a 4-week lockdown. According to U.K. health minister Matt Hancock, the lockdown is having the desired effect and case numbers are plateauing. He hopes that restrictions might be partially eased in time for Christmas.

Hancock explained that “There are encouraging signs that the number of cases is starting to flatten. […] It, of course, won’t be like a normal Christmas, there will have to be rules in place, but we hope that they’ll allow for a bit more of that normal Christmas.”

Read more here.

11/20/2020 09:16 GMT — WHO release statement regarding remdesivir

In an article, which appears in BMJ, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommend “against the use of remdesivir in hospitalized patients with COVID-19.” This change in stance is a response to results from the WHO SOLIDARITY trial. The results first appeared on the preprint server medRxiv on October 15. 

The authors of the study, which investigated a number of COVID-19 interventions, conclude that “[r]emdesivir, [h]ydroxychloroquine, [l]opinavir, and [I]nterferon regimens appeared to have little or no effect on hospitalized COVID-19, as indicated by overall mortality, initiation of ventilation, and duration of hospital stay.”

The authors of the recent BMJ update explain that, although they could not categorically state that remdesivir affords no benefit, “there is no evidence based on currently available data that it does improve patient-important outcomes.”

Read more here.

11/19/2020 10:31 GMT — Pfizer and BioNTech COVID-19 candidate vaccine 95% effective

In a press release, Pfizer and BioNTech have announced the results from their phase 3 clinical trial: their vaccine is 95% effective. These results build on preliminary results announced last week. According to the press release, “[e]fficacy was consistent across age, gender, race, and ethnicity demographics” and in people over 65. 

The researchers enrolled 43,000 participants in the study and identified no significant safety concerns. The mRNA vaccine candidate is called BNT162.

According to the press release, “[t]he companies expect to produce, globally, up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.”

Read more here

11/19/2020 09:11 GMT — In-person teaching ceases in New York City

Due to a surge in case numbers in New York City, the city’s public school system has halted in-classroom teaching. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the changes yesterday on Twitter, explaining that “[w]e must fight back the second wave of COVID-19.”

Read more here.

11/19/2020 08:55 GMT — Arthritis drug may improve COVID-19 survival in older adults

A drug used to treat arthritis shows promising initial results for treating COVID-19 in older adults. A small study found that COVID-19 patients taking baricitinib were less likely to need mechanical ventilation and more likely to survive than individuals who were not taking the drug.

The study, which appears in the journal Science Advances, involved just 83 patients with an average age of 81. To confirm the findings, scientists are already conducting larger randomized controlled trials.

Read more about the ongoing research here.

11/18/2020 09:18 GMT — Promising early results from Chinese vaccine trials

Yesterday, The Lancet Infectious Diseases published the results of a Phase 1/2 clinical trial on CoronaVac, a vaccine candidate designed in China. The study included more than 700 participantsaged 18–59. CoronaVac appears to be safe and elicit an immune response.

The researchers gave theparticipants two doses of the vaccine 14 days apart. Within 28 days of the first dose, they detected robust antibody responses.

However, this study was not designed to test how effective the vaccine is. Rather, it assessed the immune response and its safety. Ongoing phase 3 trials are investigating CoronaVac’s efficacy.

The results leave certain questions unanswered; for instance, the recent study did not assess T-cell activity. The authors are addressing this in the phase 3 trials.

Similarly, scientists will need to carry out further research to understand whether the vaccine is effective over the longer term. Additionally, the recent study only recruited healthy adults without existing health conditions.

“CoronaVac is one of many COVID-19 vaccine candidates that are being explored in parallel. There are a multitude of different vaccine technologies under investigation, each with their own advantages and disadvantages,” explains one of the authors, Dr. Gang Zeng from Sinovac Biotech.

He continues: “CoronaVac could be an attractive option because it can be stored in a standard refrigerator between 2°C and 8°C [35.6°F–46.4°F], which is typical for many existing vaccines, including [that for the] flu. The vaccine may also remain stable for up to 3 years in storage, which would offer some advantages for distribution to regions where access to refrigeration is challenging. However, data from phase 3 studies will be crucial before any recommendations about the potential uses of CoronaVac can be made.”

Read the full study here.

11/18/2020 08:41 GMT — Investigating asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 transmission among Marines

A new study demonstrates the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 among asymptomatic Marine recruits, despite strictly enforced quarantines and other recommended health measures. The research appears in The New England Journal of Medicine.

Read more about the study here.

11/17/2020 11:00 GMT — COVID-19: Could immunity last at least 6 months?

A new study finds that 6 months after mild, moderate, or asymptomatic COVID-19, blood still contains immune cells that recognize SARS-CoV-2. This research suggests that reacquiring the infection may be rare. The study has not yet been peer-reviewed and appears on the preprint server, bioRxiv.

Read more here.

11/17/2020 09:21 GMT — Could flow and mindfulness help during lockdown?

A recent study concludes that flow and mindfulness might help us cope with the mental burden of lockdowns and quarantines. Flow occurs when someone is absorbed in an activity, and mindfulness is a state in which a person becomes fully conscious of their internal and external circumstances.

The study, which appears in PLOS ONE, found that both mindfulness and flow were associated with higher levels of positive feelings and lower levels of depressive symptoms during lockdown.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

11/16/2020 13:15 GMT — Moderna’s experimental vaccine almost 95% effective

Today, Moderna released the latest results from their research into an experimental vaccine called mRNA-1273. According to their press release, the “[p]hase 3 study met statistical criteria with a vaccine efficacy of 94.5%.” The study included more than 30,000 participants in the United States.

Explaining the results, the press release states: 

“This first interim analysis was based on 95 cases, of which 90 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group versus 5 cases observed in the mRNA-1273 group, resulting in a point estimate of vaccine efficacy of 94.5% […]. A secondary endpoint analyzed severe cases of COVID-19 and included 11 severe cases (as defined in the study protocol) in this first interim analysis. All 11 cases occurred in the placebo group and none in the mRNA-1273 vaccinated group.”

The company plan to submit the findings of the so-called COVE study to a peer-reviewed journal for further scrutiny.

Speaking about the results, Prof. Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, says, “This news from Moderna is tremendously exciting and considerably boosts optimism that we will have a choice of good vaccines in the next few months.”

However, he remains cautious: “We need more complete details than we have in this press release, but this announcement adds to the general feeling of optimism about vaccines for Covid-19. What we still don’t know is how long any protective immunity may last. For that, we will need to wait.”

Prof. Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is also hopeful but with understandable caution. He says:

“This announcement from Moderna is a further encouragement that vaccines will be found to not only have an acceptable efficacy but an efficacy that is much greater than we had anticipated. […] Although they reported efficacy being over 94%, there is statistical uncertainty in this; but based on these data, the likely efficacy will be better than 85%, which would be greater than most scientists would have expected.”

Read more about Moderna’s experimental vaccine here.

11/16/2020 10:30 GMT — Autoimmune antibodies may cause blood clots in COVID-19

A recent study finds that SARS-CoV-2 can trigger the production of clot-causing autoantibodies. This finding may help explain the high rate of blood clots among people with COVID-19. The results appear in the journalScience Translational Medicine

Read more here.

11/16/2020 09:44 GMT — COVID-19: Cell phone data reveals ‘superspreader’ venues

A model of SARS-CoV-2 transmission suggests that a small number of venue types, such as restaurants, hotels, and religious venues, account for the majority of infections. The model also helps explain why infections disproportionately affect people living in deprived areas.

According to the authors of the research, “Further model testing is needed, but given the challenges in gathering and interpreting other relevant data types, these findings could have a valuable role in guiding policy decisions on how to reopen society safely and minimize the harm caused by movement restrictions.”

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

11/13/2020 15:00 GMT — MNT Video update: Immunity without infection

11/13/2020 15:00 GMT — Dr. Fauci: Another vaccine ‘literally on the threshold of being announced’

In a live webinar hosted by the British think tank Chatham House, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said that, in addition to the Pfizer vaccine, another one is “literally on the threshold of being announced.”

The news comes soon after Pfizer/BioNTech reported their vaccine candidate has 90% effectiveness. The additional vaccine that Dr. Fauci refers to is under development by Moderna therapeutics and is almost identical to the Pfizer one.

“The cavalry is coming, but don’t put your weapons down,” Dr. Fauci added, urging people to continue to follow and “double down” on the public health measures against COVID-19.

Watch the recording of the webinar in full here.

11/13/2020 12:00 GMT — Who is immune without having an infection? 

Scientists have discovered antibodies that react to the new coronavirus in blood samples donated before the start of the pandemic. They suggest that some people may have at least a degree of preexisting immunity to the new virus.

Just over 5% of 302 samples from adult donors had this type of antibody, which the researchers say may be due to previous infection with one of the four common human coronaviruses. These cause the common cold. 

In samples from children, the team found higher levels of these antibodies.

The levels peak between the ages of 6 and 16 years. Read our full coverage of the research here.

11/12/2020 14:16 GMT — Growing evidence shows masks may protect the wearer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have recently updated their statement on the use of masks. In addition to preventing a person with the novel coronavirus infection from exhaling virus-laden droplets, masks also reduce the inhalation of droplets, the CDC now say. 

Many countries recommend wearing cloth face coverings in public spaces, particularly where physical distancing is difficult.

Masks reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus by stopping droplets with the virus from entering the air when a person who has an infection breaths, coughs, or sneezes. This is particularly important in the case of people who have the virus but do not have any symptoms or have not started to show symptoms yet.

Now, the CDC summarize recent research that suggests that masks can also provide protection to the wearer by stopping infectious droplets from passing through the fabric. 

Read more about some of the common myths about mask wearing here.

11/12/2020 09:30 GMT — More vaccine updates

Yesterday, Russia announced that the first phase 3 trial interim analysis of their Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine showed 92% efficiency, but many questions remain. Meanwhile, Moderna announced that they would be submitting the first set of their phase 3 trial vaccine data for analysis very soon.

The race to develop a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine has reached a new level. This week saw announcements from three of the companies who are currently running phase 3 trials of their vaccine candidates. 

On Monday, Pfizer and BioNTech said that their experimental mRNA vaccine was 90% effective based on an interim analysis of 94 cases of COVID-19.

Yesterday, the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology announced that their interim analysis, based on 20 confirmed cases of COVID-19, showed an efficiency of 92%. 

However, neither Pfizer nor the Russian team have shared their data yet, leaving many questions unanswered.

Moderna have followed suit, with a press release that explained that they had seen an increase of COVID-19 cases across all of their phase 3 trial study sites in the last week. The company have now collected enough data, based on at least 53 cases of COVID-19, to prepare this for the first interim analysis.

Read more about the different types of vaccine candidates in development here.

11/11/2020 07:58 GMT — Gastrointestinal effects of COVID-19 highlighted in new study

A recent study, which synthesizes evidence from 36 scientific articles, highlights the prevalence of gastrointestinal symptoms in people with COVID-19. The authors also discuss the signs that abdominal radiologists should look out for when imaging people. The findings appear in the journal Abdominal Radiology.

Read MNT’s coverage of the study here.

11/11/2020 07:55 GMT — FDA authorizes monoclonal antibody for treatment of COVID-19

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued an emergency use authorization for the investigational monoclonal antibody therapy called bamlanivimab, which Eli Lilly designed. The FDA have authorized the drug to treat mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults and children.

The decision is based on the results of a study called BLAZE-1. In a news release, Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Ph.D., Lilly’s chief scientific officer, explained: 

“The BLAZE-1 data show bamlanivimab, when given early in the disease course, may help patients clear the virus and reduce COVID-related hospitalizations, supporting our belief that neutralizing antibodies can be an important therapeutic option for patients fighting this virus.”

The FDA press release notes: “While the safety and effectiveness of this investigational therapy continue to be evaluated, bamlanivimab was shown in clinical trials to reduce COVID-19-related hospitalization or emergency room visits in patients at high risk for disease progression within 28 days after treatment when compared to placebo.”

Read more here.

11/10/2020 13:20 GMT — Hopeful findings: Video update

11/10/2020 09:30 GMT — Hospital support staff hit harder than doctors and nurses

According to a recent study, nearly 10% of screened healthcare workers at a New Jersey hospital tested positive for COVID-19 or virus antibodies. Interestingly, members of the hospital support staff were more likely to test positive than doctors and nurses. The findings appear in Open Forum Infectious Diseases.

Overall, 24% of screened phlebotomists tested positive for COVID-19 or virus antibodies, as did 17% of maintenance and housekeeping staff, 17% of food service employees, and 14% of support staff. Meanwhile, only about 7% of screened doctors and 9% of screened nurses tested positive.

Read more about the study here.

11/10/2020 09:21 GMT — COVID-19 vaccines: What PAHO experts want you to know

With 47 COVID-19 vaccine candidates undergoing testing, it is no wonder that rumors and myths are circulating. Recently, experts from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) addressed some of these confusions in a webinar.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the event here.

11/09/2020 13:06 GMT — Pfizer and BioNTech announce preliminary COVID-19 vaccine results

Pfizer and BioNTech announced today that their experimental COVID-19 vaccine appears to be safe and effective, according to preliminary data. They explain that the vaccine was “more than 90% effective” in preventing the disease in people who received two doses of the vaccine 3 weeks apart. 

Protection against COVID-19 begins 1 week after the second dose.

It is important to reiterate that these are preliminary findings. However, to date, they include data from 43,538 people in six countries. Importantly, the press release explains that “no serious safety concerns have been observed.”

So far, the analysis includes data from 94 people with COVID-19. The study will continue until there are 164 confirmed cases.

Once the required safety milestone is reached in the third week of November, the companies plan to submit the vaccine for Emergency Use Authorization to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“The first interim analysis of our global Phase 3 study provides evidence that a vaccine may effectively prevent COVID-19. This is a victory for innovation, science, and a global collaborative effort,” said Prof. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech co-founder and CEO.

“With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis. We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”

Read more here.

11/09/2020 09:43 GMT — Could mouthwashes help reduce coronavirus transmission?

In a recent study, which appears in the Journal of Medical Virology, researchers conclude that several over-the-counter oral and nasal solutions might lower the risk of viral transmission when used by those with a coronavirus infection.

Study lead Craig Meyers explains: “While we wait for a vaccine to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed. The products we tested are readily available and often already part of people’s daily routines.”

It is also important to note that, even if further research confirms the antiviral benefits of mouthwash use, these products cannot replace face coverings, social distancing, and other methods. They will be an additional tool.

Read more about the study here.

11/09/2020 09:28 GMT — Quicker recovery may indicate long-term immunity

A recent study finds that some people who recover quickly from COVID-19 continue to have antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 for several months. The results suggest the potential for long-term protection among those with a strong initial immune response. The results appear in the journal Cell.

Read MNT’s coverage of the study here

11/06/2020 09:16 GMT — SARS-CoV-2 transmission: How important is ‘super-spreading’?

A super-spreading event is a gathering where a virus transmits from one person to several others. A recent study suggests that COVID-19 super-spreading events might be more common than scientists originally thought. The findings appear in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read more about the study here.

11/06/2020 09:14 GMT — A mutation may have made COVID-19 more contagious

A recent study explains how, between March and July 2020, a particular mutation became almost ubiquitous in SARS-CoV-2 infections in Houston, TX. This strongly suggests that it makes the virus more infectious. However, there is no evidence that it makes the virus any more deadly.

The researchers found that the mutation, which is called G614, was responsible for 71% of COVID-19 cases in Houston during the early phase of the first wave of infections. However, during the second wave, the variant accounted for 99.9% of all infections in the area.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

11/05/2020 11:40 GMT — Greece enters 3-week lockdown

On Saturday, Greece will enter a 3-week nationwide lockdown. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis hopes it will ease pressure on the healthcare system. He explained that he “chose once again to take drastic measures sooner rather than later” after witnessing an “aggressive increase in cases” over the past 5 days.

Read more here.

11/05/2020 09:12 GMT — COVID-19’s impact on dengue transmission

A new study demonstrates that the physical distancing measures associated with COVID-19 have resulted in a significant increase in reported cases of dengue in Thailand but unchanged rates in Malaysia and Singapore. The findings appear in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

As the authors explain, “[This demonstrates] the need to understand the effects of location on dengue transmission risk under novel population mixing conditions, such as those under social distancing policies.”

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

11/04/2020 08:54 GMT — Convalescent T cells could protect the vulnerable

A recent laboratory-based study of cellular cultures suggests that an infusion of immune cells from people who have recovered from COVID-19 could shield those with compromised immune systems from the infection responsible for the disease. The researchers published their findings  in the journal Blood.

Read more about the research here.

11/04/2020 08:51 GMT — COVID-19 can disrupt electrical activity in frontal lobes of brain

A recent review concludes that abnormalities in the front of the brain identified by electroencephalography (EEG) tests are common among COVID-19 patients who have neurological symptoms. The results appear in the journal Seizure: European Journal of Epilepsy.

Read MNT’s coverage of the review here.

11/03/2020 11:07 GMT — COVID-19 and preexisting conditions: Is a holistic approach needed?

A recent perspective article in Frontiers in Public Health argues that people with noncommunicable diseases, such as hypertension, diabetes, and chronic heart and lung conditions, are disproportionately affected by the ongoing pandemic.

For instance, people with noncommunicable diseases are more likely to have serious consequences if they develop COVID-19. At the same time, their socioeconomic circumstances and access to healthcare can be adversely affected by public health responses.

Read MNT’s coverage of the paper here.

11/03/2020 10:53 GMT — WIRED Health:Tech 2020: The fight against COVID-19

WIRED Health:Tech is one of the most prominent annual conferences exploring technological advances in medicine. Unsurprisingly this year, one of the main topics was the ongoing fight against COVID-19. In a Special Feature, we outline the main takeaways from the presentations.

Read the feature here

11/02/2020 10:28 GMT — Surgeon General predicts vaccine by end of 2020

During a recent lecture, Dr. Jerome Adams, the U.S. Surgeon General, said he has “a high degree of confidence” that a vaccine will be successful because it is “the most scrutinized vaccine of all time.” He believes it will be ready by the end of the year.

During the lecture, which was part of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine’s Grand Rounds series, he promoted the “three Ws” — wearing masks, washing hands, and watching your distance from others.

“We know what works to keep people safe,” said Dr. Adams. “When you look at New York, they were the worst in the world for COVID-19, and they were able to drive their transmission rates down to less than 1%. They didn’t have a vaccine; they did it with the three Ws.”

Read more here.

11/02/2020 09:50 GMT — England enters second lockdown

On Saturday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that England would enter a second lockdown. The 1-month lockdown will begin on Thursday. This time, schools and universities will remain open, but all nonessential retail, leisure facilities, and entertainment venues will close.

In an interview, senior cabinet minister Michael Gove said, “We can definitively say that unless we take action now, the [health service] is going to be overwhelmed in ways that none of us could countenance.”

Read more here.

10/30/2020 14:11 GMT — Video update: Halloween safety guide

Find MNT‘s full article here.

10/30/2020 10:02 GMT — Online Fauci rumor untrue

Rumors are currently circulating about a paper that Dr. Anthony Fauci co-authored. According to the rumor, the paper explains how most deaths during the 1918 Spanish flu were due to bacterial pneumonia caused by wearing a mask. In fact, the paper does not mention masks. 

Many of the social media posts claim that “The unmasked buried the masked.” In the paper in question, the authors explain how “[t[he majority of deaths in the 1918–1919 influenza pandemic likely resulted directly from secondary bacterial pneumonia caused by common upper respiratory tract bacteria. This, however, is not related to face coverings in any way. 

In fact, the 2008 paper focuses on how to prepare for a pandemic effectively. The authors explain how “pandemic planning needs to go beyond addressing the viral cause alone. […] Prevention, diagnosis, prophylaxis, and treatment of secondary bacterial pneumonia, as well as stockpiling of antibiotics and bacterial vaccines, should also be high priorities for pandemic planning.” 

Medical News Today address more coronavirus myths herehere, and here

10/30/2020 09:09 GMT — Vaccine may be ready by early January

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a vaccine may be available by early January. Initially, it would be offered to high risk individuals. Based on projections from Pfizer and Moderna, Dr. Fauci expects that we will know “sometime in December whether or not we have a safe and effective vaccine.” 

In July, both companies began late stage trials involving tens of thousands of participants. However, Dr. Fauci also reminds us that even once a vaccine is ready, a return to “normal” will not be possible “until the end of 2021, at least.”

Read more here.

10/29/2020 09:34 GMT — Antibody response to SARS-CoV-2 does not decline quickly

According to the authors of a recent study that appears in the journal Science, most people with mild-to-moderate cases of COVID-19 “experience robust […] antibody responses” that persist for at least 5 months. The results come from an analysis of 30,082 individuals.

Senior author Florian Krammer, Ph.D. explains the importance of the findings:

“While some reports have come out saying antibodies to this virus go away quickly, we have found just the opposite — that more than 90% of people who were mildly or moderately ill produce an antibody response strong enough to neutralize the virus, and the response is maintained for many months.”

Read the full study here.

10/29/2020 09:22 GMT — New restrictions begin in Europe

As COVID-19 case numbers rise, some countries and regions are setting new restrictions and entering fresh lockdowns. On Friday, France will begin a nationwide lockdown. In Germany, bars and restaurants are entering a 4-week shutdown. And in Switzerland, Italy, Bulgaria, and Greece, restrictions have been retightened.

“We are deep in the second wave,” explained European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. “I think that this year’s Christmas will be a different Christmas.” On Wednesday, both Italy and Germany registered their highest number of new daily cases to date.

Read more here.

10/28/2020 09:04 GMT — Melbourne, Australia ends 111-day lockdown

Today, Melbourne, Australia’s second-largest city, ended its 111-day lockdown. Although thousands of businesses will be able to open, masks are still compulsory in public spaces, and work-from-home orders remain in place. Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews announced the relaxation of measures on Monday.

Read more here.

10/28/2020 08:54 GMT — US: Almost half a million cases in past 7 days

Over the last 7 days, the United States has registered almost half a million new cases of COVID-19 and more than 5,600 associated deaths. Experts have noted particularly steep increases in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Wisconsin.

At a news conference, Andrea Palm from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said, “We must take significant and collective actions […] This is going to get worse before it gets better.”

During a White House briefing, President Trump told reporters:

“We did the ventilators and now we’re doing all of the equipment, and now we’re doing vaccines, we’re doing therapeutics. We’ve done a great job, and people are starting to see.”

Read more here.

10/27/2020 09:20 GMT — Older males recovering from COVID-19 may have the best plasma to treat the disease

A recent study finds higher numbers of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in the plasma of older males who required hospitalization for COVID-19. This plasma may help treat the disease in others. The results appear in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Find more information about the study here.

10/27/2020 09:13 GMT — Study identifies 3 existing drugs that may help treat COVID-19

A team of researchers recently identified three existing drugs that may be effective in treating COVID-19. Their findings appeared in the journal ACS Pharmacology & Translational Science. The drugs of interest are an antimalarial drug called amodiaquine, an antipsychotic called zuclopenthixol, and a blood pressure medication called nebivolol.

Read our full coverage of the research here.

10/26/2020 10:27 GMT — AstraZeneca’s ‘Oxford candidate vaccine’ moves forward

A candidate vaccine, developed by scientists at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom and AstraZeneca, recently passed another milestone. In July, the team announced that the experimental  drug produced “robust immune responses” in adults. Today, they report that the candidate vaccine responds similarly in older adults and young people.

The scientists are yet to publish their findings in a peer-reviewed journal, but Prof. John Ball from the University of Nottingham, U.K., who was not involved in the study, is hopeful. He told the Financial Times:

“If what they’ve got is data that show the vaccine generates good immunity, as measured in the lab, in the age group over 55, and that also includes good responses in people who are even older than that, I think that’s a promising sign.”

However, he remains cautious, explaining that, “ultimately, it’s whether the vaccine protects against serious disease that’s crucial and we will only know that from phase 3 trials.”

Read more here.

10/26/2020 09:24 GMT — Convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19: Where are we now?

In May 2020, Medical News Today spoke with Prof. Arturo Casadevall, from Johns Hopkins, about the potential of using convalescent plasma therapy in the treatment of COVID-19. In a recent feature, we caught up with Prof. Casadevall to discuss the latest findings.

Find the full interview here.

10/23/2020 09:20 GMT — FDA approves remdesivir for hospitalized COVID-19 patients

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved remdesivir for the treatment of people hospitalized with COVID-19. This makes remdesivir, which is manufactured by Gilead, the first drug approved to treat these patients in the United States.

In April, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) published a study involving 1,063 hospitalized patients with advanced COVID-19. The authors concluded that “Hospitalized patients with advanced COVID-19 and lung involvement who received remdesivir recovered faster than similar patients who received placebo.”

In response, the FDA made the antiviral drug available under an FDA emergency use authorization (EUA). More recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) analyzed data from almost 12,000 patients as part of their Solidarity trial. 

Last week, the WHO concluded that remdesivir “had little or no effect on overall mortality, initiation of ventilation, and duration of hospital stay in hospitalized patients.” However, these results have not been peer-reviewed.

In response to the WHO trial, Gilead defended their drug, which they sell under the brand name Veklury. They write: “The emerging data appear inconsistent with more robust evidence from multiple randomized, controlled studies published in peer-reviewed journals validating the clinical benefit of Veklury.” 

Following Veklury’s FDA approval, Gilead’s shares rose by 4.3%. The drug costs $3,120 for a 5-day course of treatment, or $2,340 for government purchasers.

Read more here.

10/23/2020 09:13 GMT — What will COVID-19 vaccine trials tell us? Less than some may think

What will COVID-19 vaccine candidate trials tell us? Not whether they will prevent deaths or serious illness, according to a new article in the BMJ. The feature highlights precisely what these trials do and do not set out to answer.

Read MNT’s full write up of the article here.

10/22/2020 13:07 GMT — Study looks at risk factors for ‘long COVID’

The authors of a recent study concluded that the risk of long COVID increases with age. They also found that those with higher body mass index (BMI) and females had an increased risk. Symptoms of long COVID include fatigue, anosmia, headache, and trouble breathing.

The researchers used data collected within the COVID Symptom Study app. In total, they had information on 4,182 people with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. The authors also concluded that the risk of developing long COVID increased in individuals who experienced “more than five symptoms during the first week of illness.”

In total, long COVID affected 9.9% of people aged 18–49 and 21.9% of people aged 70 or older. Comparing sexes, their analysis showed that 14.9% of women developed long COVID, compared with 9.5% of men. However, the difference between sexes was not significant in the older age group. 

Among the participants in this dataset, 4.5% of people experienced symptoms for 8 weeks, and 2.3% — for 12 weeks.

It is worth noting that this research does not appear in a journal and has not been through the peer review process. As for other limitations, the authors write, “Our study was limited by being confined to app users who were disproportionately female, and underrepresented those >70years, which could increase or decrease our estimate of the extent of long COVID, respectively.”

Also, the analysis only included data from individuals with a confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. Over recent months, not everyone with symptoms of COVID-19 could get access to a test. It is not clear how the results might change if these people were added to the analysis.

Read more about long COVID here.

10/22/2020 09:09 GMT — COVID-19: Experts address 10 recent myths

In a recent feature, Medical News Today invited their resident experts to explore some of the latest and most persistent rumors and myths that surround the ongoing pandemic. They cover topics such as herd immunity, the safety of masks, and the role of 5G.

Read the full feature here.

10/21/2020 08:58 GMT — UK scientists plan to infect participants with SARS-CoV-2

Scientists in the United Kingdom are planning to infect young and healthy volunteers with SARS-CoV-2 deliberately. The U.K. government plans to spend $43.5 million on these human challenge trials. If regulators and the ethics committee approve, they will begin early next year.

London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital will manufacture the virus, while Imperial College London will run the studies. The trials will also involve hVIVO, a company that provides “viral challenge studies and laboratory services;” and the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust.

Involving up to 90 participants, the scientists plan to work out the minimum amount of virus sufficient to induce COVID-19.

According to Imperial College scientist Chris Chiu, this work will boost our understanding of the virus that causes COVID-19 and accelerate the search for treatments and vaccines.

Speaking about the ethical considerations, a spokesperson from the World Health Organization (WHO) said:

“What is critical is that if people are considering this, an ethics committee must oversee this and the volunteers must have full consent. And they must select the volunteers to minimize their risk.”

Read more about COVID-19 research here.

10/21/2020 08:50 GMT — Northeastern US states discourage travel

Yesterday, the Democratic governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut released a joint statement. In it, they ask “all of our residents to avoid unnecessary or nonessential travel between states at this time.”

Although the states are not quarantining those who travel between them, New York State still has quarantine measures in place for 38 states and two United States territories. 

The governors write, “New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut have among the lowest infection rates in the country because we have based our approaches to controlling the spread on science and data, and we will continue to do so.”

Read more here.

10/20/2020 09:26 GMT — Argentina registers more than 1 million cases of COVID-19

The Argentinian Health Ministry announced on Monday night that the country had become the fifth country to surpass 1 million cases of COVID-19. They also stated that, within the previous 24 hours, there had been almost 13,000 new cases.

Read more here.

10/20/2020 09:24 GMT — How does risk vary for Black and Asian patients with COVID-19?

New research suggests that people of Black, mixed, and Asian ethnicity are more at risk of COVID-19, but these risks vary over the course of the disease. The research appears in the journal EClinicalMedicine.

Read more about the research here.

10/19/2020 10:53 GMT — SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may provide immunity for at least 5–7 months

Recent reports of individuals being re-infected by SARS-CoV-2 raise concerns that our immune system may only provide short-term protection. However, a recent study concludes that people could remain immune to the virus for at least 5–7 months and probably much longer.

Co-author Dr. Michael D. Dake explains, “Whether antibodies provide lasting protection against SARS-CoV-2 has been one of the most difficult questions to answer. This research not only gives us the ability to accurately test for antibodies against COVID-19 but also arms us with the knowledge that lasting immunity is a reality.”

Read our full coverage of the study here.

10/19/2020 10:31 GMT — 1 in 3 excess deaths in the US not directly caused by COVID-19

A recent study concludes that 1 in 3 “excess deaths” in the U.S. were not directly due to COVID-19. Healthcare disruption and emotional crises could have led to around one-third of the 225,530 excess deaths in the United States between March 1 and August 1, 2020.

The authors published their findings in JAMA. “Some people who never had the virus may have died because of disruptions caused by the pandemic,” explains first author Dr. Steven H. Woolf. “These include people with acute emergencies, chronic diseases like diabetes that were not properly cared for, or emotional crises that led to overdoses or suicides.”

Read more about the study here.

MNT video update: COVID-19 and vitamin D

10/16/2020 09:25 GMT — Russia approves a second vaccine

Last month, Russia announced the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine called Sputnik V. This week, President Vladimir Putin announced the approval of a second vaccine, called EpiVacCorona. As with the first, scientists have not yet tested this vaccine in phase 3 trials.

The vaccine was developed by scientists at the State Virology and Biotechnology Center, known as Vektor, in Novosibirsk. According to The Moscow Times:

“Early trials on 100 volunteers were said to have been successful.”

In a televised news conference, Putin explained that researchers had given the vaccine to Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova and the head of Russia’s consumer safety watchdog, Anna Popova, as part of ongoing trials. During the briefing, they explained that:

“Early trials on 100 volunteers were said to have been successful.”

As with Sputnik V, experts are likely to view the new vaccine with skepticism. Vaccines must be rigorously investigated before they can be used widely, and it is crucial to test their efficacy and, importantly, safety in a large group of participants.

Sputnik V is a vector vaccine, based on a human adenovirus, while EpiVacCorona is an antigen-based vaccine.

During the briefing, Golikova also announced that a third vaccine would be approved sometime in December.

Read more here.

10/16/2020 09:21 GMT — Researchers hunt for shared vulnerabilities in coronaviruses

A 200-strong group of scientists recently published a study that searched for shared vulnerabilities in three coronaviruses: SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV-1, and MERS. The research highlights specific cellular pathways and proteins that should be considered targets for therapeutic interventions. The results appear in the journal Science.

In the past 20 years, SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV-1, and MERS have all caused deadly human respiratory syndromes: COVID-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), respectively.

In their study, the scientists “generated and compared three different coronavirus-human protein-protein interaction maps in an attempt to identify and understand pan-coronavirus molecular mechanisms.”

“The efforts identified at least 20 host genes whose protein products significantly alter how much virus is produced by infected cells,” explains lead researcher Dr. Christopher Basler. “Those proteins represent potential targets for therapeutic intervention. For example, if a cellular protein is required for efficient virus growth, a drug that inhibits the cellular protein should slow the infection.”

Aside from their findings, which will guide scientists in their search for treatments to these and similar diseases, their innovative approach is also a model for future endeavors. As the authors explain:

“We used proteomics, cell biology, virology, genetics, structural biology, biochemistry, and clinical and genomic information in an attempt to provide a holistic view of SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses’ interactions with infected host cells. We propose that such an integrative and collaborative approach could and should be used to study other infectious agents as well as other disease areas.”

Read more here.

10/15/2020 10:06 GMT — COVID-19: What role does vitamin D play?

Studies investigating the role of vitamin D in preventing or treating COVID-19 have drawn conflicting conclusions. But should a lack of evidence stop us from topping up our vitamin D levels as the Northern Hemisphere heads toward winter? In a recent feature, we delve into the details.

Read more here.

10/15/2020 09:48 GMT — Influenza drug shows promise against SARS-CoV-2

A recent study finds that high doses of favipiravir, a drug designed to treat pandemic influenza infections, strongly inhibits SARS-CoV-2 in hamsters. Favipiravir also prevented infection in healthy animals that were exposed to an infected cage mate.

The study, which appeared in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, also investigated hydroxychloroquine. The scientists confirmed that hydroxychloroquine is ineffective.

Lead researcher Suzanne Kaptein says, “If further research shows that the results are the same in humans, [favipiravir] could be used right after someone from a high-risk group has come into contact with an infected person.”

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

10/14/2020 09:31 GMT — World Bank promises $12 billion to battle COVID-19 in developing countries

This week, the World Bank committed to providing $12 billion in funding for developing countries to procure vaccines, tests, and treatments. This plan is part of their $160 billion pledge to help these countries fight COVID-19.

The World Bank will also provide technical support to help plan and deploy vaccines once they are available.

Read more here.

10/14/2020 09:25 GMT — Eli Lilly pauses drug trial

On Tuesday, Eli Lilly announced that they were pausing their COVID-19 antibody treatment trials due to safety concerns. In a statement, spokeswoman Molly McCully wrote, “Out of an abundance of caution, the ACTIV-3 independent data safety monitoring board has recommended a pause in enrollment.”

The drug that Eli Lilly are testing is similar to one that doctors used to treat President Donald Trump. The news comes 1 day after a similar announcement by Johnson & Johnson and 1 month after AstraZeneca paused a trial.

It is important to note that manufacturers often pause drug trials to examine safety concerns. As Johnson & Johnson explained in their press release earlier this week, “A study pause, in which recruitment or dosing is paused by the study sponsor, is a standard component of a clinical trial protocol.”

Read more here.

10/13/2020 14:35 — MNT video update: Males dominate COVID-19 decision making

10/13/2020 11:33 GMT — Italy introduces new anti-virus measures

Over the past week,Italy registered around 5,000 COVID-19 casesperday. On Tuesday, officials introduced new anti-virus measures. Bars and restaurants must close by midnight, and customers must consume their drinks at tables after 9 p.m. The new legislation also curbs sports activities.

Read more here

10/13/2020 10:35 GMT — Johnson & Johnson pause vaccine trial

In a statement yesterday, Johnson & Johnson announced they had paused their Janssen COVID-19 vaccine trial “due to an unexplained illness in a study participant.” The participant’s illness is now under review with an independent safety board and the company’s clinical and safety physicians. 

The vaccine is part of the United States government’s Operation Warp Speed program.

Johnson & Johnson explain that serious adverse events are “not uncommon in clinical trials,” especially when large numbers of participants are involved. At this stage, the company has not released any further information about the participant’s illness.

Find more live updates here.

10/12/2020 11:18 GMT — SARS-CoV-2 may be able to infect a significant number of mammals

The findings of a recent study suggest that a significant number of mammals could be susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. The research, which appears in the journal Scientific Reports, found that a “broad range” of vertebrate animals could, in principle, contract SARS-CoV-2. 

The virus infects a host cell by attaching to ACE2 proteins. Using computer modeling, the researchers identified species with ACE2 proteins that might be susceptible to the infection.

In particular, they found that the binding process of SARS-CoV-2 and the host ACE2 protein in sheep and great apes is likely to be as strong as it is in humans.

Read more about the study here.

10/12/2020 11:04 GMT — COVID-19: Pain-numbing effect of virus may boost its spread

A recent study in animals suggests that SARS-CoV-2 might deactivate a pain signaling pathway. This may help explain why so many cases of COVID-19 do not cause symptoms and why transmission rates are so high. The study appears in the journal Pain.

Corresponding study author Prof. Rajesh Khanna explains the relevance of the findings: “It made a lot of sense to me that perhaps the reason for the unrelenting spread of COVID-19 is that in the early stages, you’re walking around all fine, as if nothing is wrong, because your pain has been suppressed.” 

Read MNT’s full coverage of the research here.

10/08/2020 08:51 GMT — President Trump now symptom-free

On Wednesday, White House physician Sean Conley announced that President Trump has experienced no COVID-19 symptoms in the previous 24 hours and no fever for 4 days. Conley explained that his vital signs show that his condition remains stable.

Find more live COVID-19 updates here.

10/08/2020 08:47 GMT — Nitric oxide shows promise as antiviral treatment

A recent in vitro study finds that nitric oxide may suppress SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The researchers suggest that inhaled nitric oxide may be an effective treatment for the disease. The findings appear in the journal Redox Biology.

“Until we get a vaccine that works, our hope is that inhalation of [nitric oxide] might be an effective form of treatment,” explains senior author Åke Lundkvist. “The dosage and timing of starting treatment probably play an important part in the outcome, and now need to be explored as soon as possible.”

Read our full coverage of the study here.

10/07/2020 13:53 GMT — Face masks do not significantly affect oxygen or carbon dioxide levels

A small study in healthy volunteers and people with COPD found that wearing a surgical mask had negligible effects on the wearer’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels. The authors hope that this research will help alleviate fears that masks pose a health risk. 

Read more about the study here

10/07/2020 10:42 GMT — Pandemic worries may fuel substance use

A recent survey finds that worrying about the COVID-19 pandemic had associations with substance use as a means of coping, while substance users worried more than non-users. 

The study involved 160 people who took part online between April and May 2020.

The researchers conclude that people who started using substances during the pandemic, such as alcohol, stimulants, and cannabis, but not opioids, had the highest worry levels.

Based on their findings, the study authors suggest that doctors could use COVID-19 fear levels as a measurement to help identify people at greatest risk for substance use, and ultimately substance abuse.

Read our full coverage of the research here.

10/06/2020 09:58 GMT — Hopeful research findings 7 months into the COVID-19 pandemic

In a recent Special Feature, MNT leaped into the latest scientific research and asked if there are any reasons for (cautious) optimism. At almost 7 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, how close are we to being able to control the spread and impact of the new coronavirus?

Read the full feature here.

10/06/2020 09:50 GMT — Could a common antioxidant enzyme help treat COVID-19?

A recent study concludes that catalase, a naturally occurring enzyme in plants and animals, can suppress the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in rhesus monkeys. The results also indicate that this enzyme could dampen the inflammatory response associated with severe COVID-19. The results appear in the journal Advanced Materials.

Read MNT’s summary of the findings here.

10/05/2020 10:46 GMT — Less than 10% of US adult population developed antibodies by July

According to a large, nationwide study, less than 10% of the adult population in the United States had formed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 by July 2020. The study used data from 28,503 randomly selected individuals receiving dialysis.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

10/05/2020 10:15 GMT — US election 2020: Many people concerned about COVID-19 risk

In a recent poll that Healthline Media commissioned in the United States, 68% of respondents reported being somewhat or very concerned that they or their family members may have exposure to SARS-CoV-2 when visiting the polling station on election day.

Read more about the poll’s conclusions here.

10/02/2020 15:00 GMT — Sufficient Vitamin D levels may reduce COVID-19 severity

MNT reports on a new study that suggests people with sufficient vitamin D levels are less likely to develop severe, life threatening complications from COVID-19.

The research, which appears in the journal PLOS One, found a significant association between vitamin D levels above 30 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) and less severe forms of COVID-19.

However, there are significant limitations to the study, such as the small number of participants and the fact that the researchers did not account for smoking or socioeconomic status — both of which can, in turn, affect vitamin D levels and COVID-19 severity.

Read our full coverage here.

10/02/2020 12:30 GMT — President Trump tests positive for the new coronavirus

United States President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump revealed today that they had both tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The announcement followed quickly after news that Hope Hicks, one of Trump’s close advisers, had also tested positive. 

In a tweet, the president announced that he and the first lady would quarantine immediately. 

In a public statement, Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, said, “The president and first lady are both well at this time, and they plan to remain at home within the White House during their convalescence.”

“Rest assured — I expect the president to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering, and I will keep you updated on any future developments,” continued Dr. Conley.

Read more about this development here.

10/01/2020 14:59 GMT — Many people did not seek medical care during heart attacks or strokes, study suggests

A new study in the journal Heart looks at deaths due to cardiovascular disease in England and Wales during the first part of the pandemic. 

The results show more than 2,000 additional deaths above expectations — an 8% increase compared to historical averages for the time of year. 

More people were dying at home or in care homes, and fewer in the hospital.

“This is further support for the speculation that many people were staying away from the hospital even though they were very ill with an acute cardiovascular illness,” one study author comments.

Read more here.

10/01/2020 11:51 GMT — Conspiracy theories hamper public health efforts

A recent study finds that belief in COVID-19 conspiracy theories rose between March and July in the United States. Conspiracy believers were less likely to report wearing a face covering and less likely to plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The researchers surveyed 1,050 adults in the U.S. in March and interviewed 840 of these again in July. 

The results show that conspiracy theory beliefs about the origin of the new coronavirus and the handling of the pandemic response increased. 

This was most common among people who belong to disadvantaged groups. 

Read our full coverage of the study here.

09/30/2020 11:01 GMT — Which fabrics used in homemade masks can block droplets?

A recent study tested if fabrics that people typically use to make homemade face coverings could block droplets. The researchers found that all of the fabrics were able to block droplets efficiently, particularly when they tested multiple layers of material. 

The scientists used an inhaler to project water droplets through 11 fabrics, such as clothes, quilted cloths, dishcloths, and bedsheets. The droplets contained 100-nanometer fluorescent particles, which mimic the SARS-CoV-2 viral particles.

After counting how many particles could travel through each fabric, the team concluded that all fabrics could block the particles, but that multiple layers were more efficient. 

While the study does have some limitations, it adds to the body of evidence that points to homemade face reducing the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Read our full coverage of the study here.

09/30/2020 09:14 GMT — Mask fines in New York

Yesterday, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio threatened fines of up to $1,000 for anyone refusing to wear a mask in public. On the same day, The Walt Disney Company announced lay offs of around 28,000 employees from their Californian theme park, Disneyland.

Similarly, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo warned that restrictions to indoor dining and other activities might soon be necessary.

Read more here.

09/29/2020 16:10 GMT — MNT video update: Safe voting guide

09/29/2020 14:40 GMT — The Lancet release COVID-19 mission statement

09/29/2020 13:30 GMT — The WHO plan to roll out rapid tests for less wealthy countries

This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that they are teaming up with partners to distribute 120 million antigen-based rapid diagnostic tests to lower- and middle-income countries. The initial cost of the program will be $600 million, and it should get underway next month.

Although antigen-based tests are less accurate than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, they return results quicker and do not rely on sophisticated laboratory equipment.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus hopes that the tests will “enable the expansion of testing, particularly in hard-to-reach areas that do not have lab facilities or enough trained health workers to carry out PCR tests.”

Read more here

09/29/2020 09:50 GMT — COVID-19 death total surpasses 1 million

This week, the global number of deaths from COVID-19 passed 1 million. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres writes in a recent statement, “Our world has reached an agonizing milestone.” He also reminds us we can overcome this challenge if we “learn from the mistakes.”

09/28/2020 11:59 GMT — 1 in 3 parents plan to skip flu shots during pandemic

A recent poll investigated parental attitudes toward flu vaccinations this season. They found that 1 in 3 parents don’t plan on vaccinating their children against the flu this year. The most common reason involved concerns about side effects.

In August 2020, the survey — called the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health — took data from 1,992 parents of children aged 2–18. The parents reported their reasons for not vaccinating their children, most commonly: concerns about side effects (42%) and a belief that the vaccine is not necessary (40%) or effective (32%).

A further 14% of parents who are not planning on having their children vaccinated cited concerns about visiting healthcare settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their report, the researchers explain: “Public health experts have emphasized the particular importance of flu vaccination during the COVID pandemic as a tool to limit the stress on healthcare systems. This includes reducing the number of influenza-related hospitalizations and doctor visits and decreasing the need for diagnostic tests to distinguish influenza from COVID.”

They continue, “Children should get flu vaccine to protect themselves and to prevent the spread of influenza to family members and others.”

Read more about the poll here.

09/28/2020 11:16 GMT — Anxiety symptoms increased during the pandemic, Google Trends data show

A recent study, which used data from Google Trends, explored the impact of the pandemic on mental health in the United States. Overall, the authors noted that searches for “worry,” “anxiety,” and “therapeutic techniques to manage worry and anxiety” have increased during the pandemic.

Discussing their use of Google Trends, lead author Dr. Michael Hoerger explains, “Although by no means a ‘window into the soul,’ people’s search terms reflect relatively uncensored desires for information and thus lack many of the biases of traditional self-report surveys.”

The findings appear in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Dr. Hoerger paints a somewhat bleak picture of the future, saying:

“Over time, we should begin to see a greater decline in societal mental health. This will likely include more depression, PTSD, community violence, suicide, and complex bereavement. For each person that dies of COVID, approximately nine close family members are affected, and people will carry that grief for a long time.”

Read our full coverage of the study here.

09/25/2020 10:16 GMT — US COVID-19 cases pass 7 million

On Thursday, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the United States surpassed 7 million. This equates to 1 in 5 of all global cases. The U.S. has also registered more than 200,000 deaths. To date, California has reported the highest number of cases with 800,000.

Read more here.

09/25/2020 09:38 GMT — Flu vaccinations not linked to increased COVID-19 risk

A new study concludes that the flu vaccine does not increase a person’s risk of getting COVID-19. The scientists also demonstrate that the vaccine is not associated with severe illness and death from the disease. The results appear in theJournal of Clinical and Translational Science.

The authors explain that the flu shot will help prevent a “twindemic” when the flu season overlaps the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Lead researcher Dr. Joe Zein writes: “Our findings suggest that we should proceed as usual with our vaccination strategy for global influenza this flu season. […] Getting the annual flu vaccine remains the best safeguard against the influenza virus — both for yourself and the people around you.”

Read our full coverage of the research here.

09/24/2020 09:33 GMT — Most people in the United States could be vaccinated by July 2021

Despite promising candidates, there is still no vaccine for COVID-19. However, according to Robert Redfield — the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — the “entire American public [could be] completely vaccinated” by July. He estimates that 700 million doses will be available by April.

Read more here.

09/24/2020 08:57 GMT — COVID-19: Tackling the root cause of inflammation

Scientists have proposed that an existing drug may help prevent an excessive, life threatening immune reaction to SARS-CoV-2 in susceptible individuals. The drug might work by easing cellular stress that the virus causes. Their proposal appears in the journal Cytokine & Growth Factor Reviews.

“When cells are stressed by infection, they call the cytokines, and the more stressed they are, the more persistent they become, provoking this uncontrolled inflammation,” explains senior study author Iván Durán. “Hence, one possible treatment for COVID-19 is to reduce cellular stress.”

However, the authors are also clear that scientists will need to conduct more research to see if their model works outside of their laboratory. 

Read MNT’s coverage of the paper here.

09/23/2020 09:15 GMT — Wisconsin governor declares a new public health emergency

Yesterday, following a spike in COVID-19 cases, Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers extended a face mask mandate into November. Announcing this 2nd public health emergency, Evers explained, “We are seeing an alarming increase in cases across our state, especially on campus.”

Read more here.

09/23/2020 09:13 GMT — Republican governors took longer in making masks a requirement

A recent study shows that Republican governors waited longer than Democratic governors to issue mask-wearing mandates as a preventive measure against COVID-19. According to the data, states with Republican governors delayed issuing mask mandates by an average of 29.9 days compared with states with Democratic governors. 

The study paper is available on the preprint server medRxiv, so it has not yet undergone peer review. Discussing the factors around this disparity, lead author Christopher Adolph explains: 

“President Trump spent crucial months deriding masks and refusing to wear them in public. This deepened a partisan divide that few Republican governors have been willing to cross, even as their states’ cases shot up this summer.”

Read MNT’s full coverage of the research here.

09/22/2020 15:32 GMT — MNT video update: ‘Long COVID’

09/22/2020 10:08 GMT — United Kingdom experiences increased numbers of infections

Recently, the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.K. has surged. Although death rates remain low, officials are concerned. The government’s chief scientific adviser, Sir Patrick Vallance explains, “If this continues along the path, the number of deaths directly from [COVID-19] could rise on an exponential curve.”

He continues: “We have, in a bad sense, literally turned a corner, although only relatively recently. At this point, the seasons are against us, we are now going into the seasons, late autumn and winter, which benefit respiratory viruses and it is very likely they will benefit [COVID-19] as they do flu.”

Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has told people to work from home “if they can.” Additionally, the government is pausing trials of spectators attending sporting events, and hospitality venues — such as restaurants and bars — must close at 10:00 p.m. from Thursday onward.

Read more about the situation in the U.K. here.

09/22/2020 09:32 GMT — Specialists discuss diagnosis and management of ‘long COVID

Following SARS-CoV-2 infection, some people experience weeks or even months of symptoms, which can include extreme fatigue and fever. Experts refer to this lingering condition as long COVID. In a recent BMJ webinar, specialists discussed how best to support these people.

During the webinar, six specialists from the United Kingdom and Germany talked about the best approaches to the diagnosis, management, and prognosis of long COVID.

Read MNT’s full coverage of the webinar here.

09/21/2020 11:15 GMT — COVID-19: How many patients return to the hospital after discharge?

Many people who arrive at the emergency room with mild COVID-19 symptoms are discharged upon initial presentation. A recent study investigates how many of these individuals are later admitted to the hospital. The authors found that doctors admitted almost 5% of these people within 72 hours. 

In all, 66 patients (4.7%) returned to the emergency room and were admitted to the hospital within 72 hours because of worsening symptoms. An additional 56 patients (3.9%) also returned to the emergency room but were again discharged.

The research, which appears in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine, also identifies certain factors associated with an increased risk of readmission. These factors include age, obesity, hypertension, and hypoxia.

Read more about the research here.

09/21/2020 10:47 GMT — US cases of depression have tripled during the COVID-19 pandemic

A recent study, which features in the journal JAMA Network Open, finds that the number of adults in the United States who are experiencing depression has tripled during the pandemic. The number of affected individuals has risen from 8.5% before the pandemic to 27.8%.

Among other findings, the researchers determined that people with less than $5,000 in savings were 50% more likely to experience symptoms of depression than those who had more.

Discussing ways to alleviate this, lead author Catherine Ettman says:

“There may be steps that policymakers can take now to help reduce the impact of COVID-19 stressors on depression, such as eviction moratoria, providing universal health insurance that is not tied to employment, and helping people return to work safely — for those able to do so.”

Read MNT’s full coverage of the study here.

Previous COVID-19 updates available here:

August 18–September 18

June 17–August 17

April 16–June 16

March 24-April 15

March 7–March 23

Feb 22–March 6