Daily COVID-19 Briefing: 5/6/20

Top news, reports and insights for today:

  1. COVID-19 headline summaries for Wednesday:
  • Scientists at Mount Sinai in New York show that COVID-19 patients treated with blood thinners had better survival adjusting for other factors. This was not a randomized clinical trial but strengthens the case for using established treatments to improve outcomes in very sick patients (Journal of the Am College of Cardiology)
  • 48 hours after pledging to have a vaccine by the end of the year, President Trump backpedals (Politico)
  • FDA revised its policy regarding antibody testing, now requires companies to seek Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) including submitting validation data (FDA website)
  • SARS-CoV-2 found to have infected at least one person in France in December, a month earlier than first official case (Intl. J Antimicrobial Agents)
  1. Anyone who thinks this is just like the flu hasn’t seen this graph!
    I continue to hear people justify their resistance to social distancing measures by comparing COVID-19 to seasonal flu. A couple of weeks ago, I posted a graph comparing the U.S. COVID-19 death toll to other major mass casualty events in history. Below is an update of that graph. A month ago (April 5) the U.S. had reported just over 9,500 deaths. As of Tuesday, 55,000 deaths were added in that month. That is nearly as many as all American deaths during the 20 years of the Vietnam war. The U.S. has now eclipsed 65,000 deaths in a period of just over two months (if Puerto Rico and Guam are included). To put this in perspective (see graph below), as of yesterday, more Americans have died of COVID-19 than died from Ebola, SARS, The Las Vegas shootings, the Gulf war (Operations Desert Shield & Desert Storm), Hurricanes Andrew and Katrina, average deaths from the flu in March and April, H1N1 Swine flu and the Korean War. Combined.
    Bottom line: This is not the usual flu.
  1. U.S. records fourth highest death toll on Tuesday
    Yesterday, 2,435 Americans were reported to have died of a confirmed COVID-19 case, the fourth highest daily total thus far, an increase of 4%. U.S. deaths rose by 24% in the last week. Yesterday, 7 states met or exceeded the highest daily death toll including Arizona (87), Utah (6), Iowa (19), Illinois (176), Mississippi (32), Maryland (74), and Pennsylvania (554). Pennsylvania had a particularly sharp increase. The PA department of public health posted this in their press release: “As a result of our continued work to reconcile data from various sources, the state is reporting an increase of 554 new deaths today bringing the statewide total to 3,012 deaths in Pennsylvania. These deaths have occurred over the past two weeks.” Several of the states that set record deaths are nevertheless moving towards reopening including Pennsylvania. The lower figure shows rate of change in deaths over the last week. Seven states saw deaths near or above 50% last week. Midwest hot spots continue in Iowa, Montana and South Dakota. To that, additional states with high growth rates emerged in the south (Arkansas, South Carolina and Virginia). According to the CDC, 35 U.S. states plus Guam are reporting widespread community transmission.
    That this means? Weekend lag in reporting continues as deaths spiked on Tuesday. Hopes that the worst is over appear to be premature as the U.S. remains just below 2,000 daily deaths. The 7-day moving average is flat over the last week. This is especially troubling given that we have not yet confronted the effect of states that reopen due to the lag between increased behavioral mixing, infections, illness and deaths. Those effects won’t be seen for another 2-3 weeks.
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