COVID-19 Update: July 25th 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 24, data from the Covid Tracking Project showed that the 7-day average (smoothed) number of new U.S. daily cases rose to 66,578, a 2% increase relative to 65,557 the previous Friday. The smoothed percent of cases testing positive fell to 8.4% from 8.7% one week earlier. The smoothed number of deaths in the U.S. rose 21%, from 726 a week earlier to 876 last Friday. Here in Texas, the growth in the number of smoothed daily cases fell 7% between July 17 and July 24, and the smoothed number of daily deaths increased from 174 to 196. The smoothed percent of people testing positive fell from 14.8% on July 17th to 11.2% last Friday.

Risk Factors and Disease Effects

Daily new coronavirus cases in the U.S. topped 65,000 as Europe’s number of new cases fell below 5,000. Experts attribute Europe’s success to social distancing and mask wearing, as well as more testing and better contact tracing. The United Arab Emirates tested over 40% of its population. Mass testing was so successful, that restaurants, cinemas, gyms, and beach resorts are operating almost normally.

A study of 59,073 contacts of 5,706 Covid-19 patients in South Korea that was summarized in The New York Times found that children younger than 10 transmit to others much less often than adults do, but the risk is not zero. And those between the ages of 10 and 19 can spread the virus just as much as adults do.

Starr County Memorial Hospital in south Texas has implemented an ethics committee and a triage committee to review all coronavirus patients as they come in to determine what treatment they would likely require and whether they would likely survive. Those deemed too fragile or sick or elderly will be advised to go home to loved ones.

The link between Covid-19 and hair loss is just starting to be reported and recognized in research.

Vaccines and Treatments

The U.S. government has pledged up to $1.2 billion toward the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine effort and secured a promise of 300 million doses by October. The U.S. also announced a $1.95 billion contract with Pfizer and BioNTech to secure 100 million doses of their vaccine by December (at $20 a dose), with the rights to acquire up to 500 million more.

During a House subcommittee hearing, officials from AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson said they would sell their vaccines at the cost of production, at least until the novel coronavirus pandemic subsides. Moderna Inc. and Merck & Co. executives said they would set prices exceeding their manufacturing costs.

Policy Interventions

President Trump urged Americans to wear masks for the first time last week.

The Food and Drug Administration has granted emergency use authorization for pooling samples from up to 4 patients for coronavirus testing in an effort to ease backlogs in testing.

Former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb explained that the White House ordered hospitals to report their COVID-19 patient data to the Department of Health and Human Services instead of the Centers for Disease Control, because CDC said that it was unable to report the age breakdowns for those being hospitalized for Covid-19 until the end of August. Dr. Gottlieb wrote that HHS is trying to re-create the data set using private contractors, a less than ideal strategy.

Landlords and property managers are pumping more outside air into their buildings in an effort to reduce the likelihood of building occupants catching the coronavirus. In addition to raising energy bills, the resulting higher emissions may trigger fines under some cities’ greenhouse-gas reduction regulations.

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