Top news, reports and insights for today:
- Daily headline summaries for Sunday:
- Question: Where is the epidemic growing fastest? Answer: New cases rising in 20 states, fastest growth is in Nebraska (+57%), Minnesota (+155%) and Puerto Rico (+231%). (Axios – see graphic below)
- The maker of Clorox wipes has boosted production by 40%. But don’t expect to find them until the summer (The Wall Street Journal)
- As White House clamps down on coronavirus messaging, Drs. Fauci and Birx have been pushed further to the sidelines at a critical time (Politico)
- Dangerous trend: Conservative commentators are casting doubt on official death counts, calling them inflated despite all evidence pointing to the reverse. The President’s election strategy may be to create doubt about the work epidemiologists do (Forbes)
- New deaths and hospitalizations fall to lowest level since mid-March in New York (CBS News)
- New U.S. cases and deaths fall on Saturday
Yesterday, 25,544 new cases and 1,555 new COVID-19 deaths were reported in the U.S., a small drop in both. The week-long trend shows that cases are falling and deaths are flat (see graphs below). In the last week, cases rose 15% and deaths increased by 20%. Despite the overall trend, sharp increases in new cases were seen in Minnesota (+73%), Nebraska (+55%) and Kansas (+42) suggesting that the mid-West continues to be the region of greatest concern. On a more positive note, new case growth was below 10% in Alaska, Hawaii, Montana, Michigan, Louisiana, New York and Vermont.
What this means: The trend toward declining new cases is encouraging. However, since states will have been open for 2 weeks shortly, most epidemiologists believe that this decline will be short-lived as new infections are likely to start rising again when the impact of reopening starts to surface. The overall trend is masking intense hot spots, especially in the mid-West.
- Important antibody study from Geneva suggests infections may be 10-times higher than confirmed cases, herd immunity is not close
Many of my colleagues were enthusiastic about a new study posted on medrxiv by Stringhini and colleagues from Geneva Switzerland. The study involved a population-based survey of 1335 residents from 663 households. They used an ELISA-based test of antibodies to determine the underlying seroprevalence of exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the population over a 3-week period starting April 6. Results showed that the population seroprevalence was 3.1% in week 1, rising to 6.1% in week 2, and 9.7% in week three, a pattern that mirrors what was seen in the rise of confirmed cases. While this study has not yet been peer-reviewed, it adds an important new piece of evidence. There are four major take-home messages that come from this study:
- Their results indicate that there are roughly ten infections for every confirmed case of COVID-19 in Geneva. In my opinion, this is the best evidence we have so far about the seroprevalence.
- Children had about the same prevalence as those 20-49 years, suggesting there may be more infections in children than previously known.
- Only about half as many older people (51+) had been exposed to the virus compared to those 20-49. This is consistent with greater mixing in younger people, and may reflect the effectiveness of social distancing in more vulnerable people.
- Taken together, this study tells us that even in a hard-hit part of Europe, herd immunity is still very far away, given that just under 10% of the population is estimated to have produced antibodies.