COVID-19 Update: August 1st Edition

The following is a new contribution to the Baker Institute’s Weekly Covid-19 Blog by Vivian Ho, Ph.D. (@healthecontx), James A. Baker III Institute Chair in Health Economics, Kirstin Matthews, Ph.D. (@stpolicy), Baker Institute Fellow in Science and Technology Policy and Heidi Russell, M.D., Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine and Associate Director, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy, Baylor College of Medicine

By the Numbers

As of Friday, July 31, data from the Covid Tracking Project showed that the 7-day average (smoothed) number of new U.S. daily cases fell to 63,240, a 5% decrease relative to 66,578 the previous Friday. The smoothed percent of cases testing positive fell to 8.0% from 8.4% one week earlier. The smoothed number of deaths in the U.S. rose 27%, from 876 a week earlier to 1113 last Friday. Here in Texas, the number of smoothed daily cases fell 13% between July 24 and July 31, while the smoothed number of daily deaths increased from 141 to 341. The smoothed percent of people testing positive fell from 11.2% on July 24th to 10.3% last Friday.

Risk Factors and Disease Effects

As of July 22, Texas has the highest percentage of COVID-19 deaths (30%) attributed to persons under age 65. In the state with the lowest share, Idaho, only 6% of COVID-19 deaths are in the under age 65 population.

Scientific research has found that the coronavirus infects your nose first, using it as an entry point to the rest of your body and as a fertile hotspot for rapid replication. People who don’t cover their nose with their mask risk exposing their most infectious organ to others, and increase their own chances of contracting COVID-19.

The New York Times reported on a JAMA Pediatrics finding that infected children have at least as much of the coronavirus in their noses and throats as infected adults. Children younger than age 5 may host up to 100 times as much of the virus in the upper respiratory tract as adults.

A Reuters article summarized a CDC 13-state telephone survey of symptomatic adults with mild COVID-19 infections. The CDC found that about a fifth of patients under 35 years reported not returning to their usual state of health up to 21 days after testing positive.

Antibody levels often drop so much two to three months after acute Covid-19 illness ends, that commercial tests don’t detect them. However, virtually everyone infected with the coronavirus seems to develop T-cells that learn to identify and destroy the virus, potentially preserving immunity. Yet T cells are harder to detect and therefore study.

Pinewood Atlanta Studios, which filmed Avengers: Endgame, is testing all people on its studio lots at least weekly. The regime will cost $1.5m a month once cameras are rolling and several thousand workers are on set. Workers with high person-to-person contact are tested three times a week, and some actors prefer daily testing.

Vaccines and Treatments

The National Academy of Medicine, tasked by top U.S. health officials, named an expert panel to develop a framework to determine who should be vaccinated first when doses are scarce. But the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has made recommendations on vaccination policy to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for decades.

French drug maker Sanofi said on Friday that it had secured an agreement of up to $2.1 billion to supply the U.S. federal government with 100 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine. The Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed has now committed over $8 billion, paying companies to manufacture millions of doses before clinical trials have been completed.

Policy Interventions

Both Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx said in interviews this week that Americans searching for extra layers of protection against the coronavirus while out in public may want to try face shields.

Some employers are requiring workers to sign a form agreeing not to sue the employer if the employee catches COVID-19 or suffers any injury from it while working. But lawyers who represent employers say that these waivers likely would be held unenforceable by courts, because of the unequal bargaining power between employers and employees.

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