COVID-19 Update: July 3rd Edition

By the Numbers

As of Friday, July 3, data from the Covid Tracking Project showed that the 7-day average (smoothed) number of new U.S. daily cases rose to 47,244, a 37% increase relative to 34,476 the previous Friday. The percent of cases testing positive rose to 7.5% from 6.4% one week earlier. The smoothed number of deaths in the U.S. fell 36%, from 825 a week earlier to 530 last Friday. Here in Texas, the growth in the number of smoothed daily cases rose 34% between June 26 and July 3, and the smoothed number of daily deaths increased from 26 to 36. The percent of people testing positive rose from 10.9% on June 26th to 12.7% last Friday.

Risk Factors and Disease Effects

Scientists analyzing non-influenza-like illnesses in March 2020 suggest that more than 8 million people in the US during that time could have been infected with Covid-19 but undiagnosed due to limited and unreliable testing at the time.

Two economic studies suggest that African-Americans may be dying at higher rates than white people in part because of black people’s heavier reliance on public transportation for commuting.

Reports from populations in Atlanta (CDC) and Louisiana (Oschner Health) support older age, black race, male sex, lack of commercial insurance, smoking, obesity, and diabetes as risk factors for being hospitalized because of Covid-19. Race was not a risk factor for death after comorbidities and other socio-demographics were considered. The comorbidities that were more prevalent among black patients included fever, higher markers of inflammation, and/or poor kidney function than white patients.

Recent reports have described individuals who developed type 1 diabetes following a Covid-19 infection. While previous reports have linked diabetes with Covid-19 infection, these new cases as well as a series of patients admitted with high blood sugar and ketones (produced by the liver when insulin levels are low) suggest that the virus might cause an autoimmune reaction which impacts a patient’s ability to regulate insulin.

Vaccines and Treatments

Labs are turning to pooled testing for more efficient Covid-19 surveillance. The approach will be used by Cornell University when it reopens to students in the fall.

The FDA will require any Covid-19 vaccine to prevent disease in 50 percent of recipients to win approval.

Moderna’s vaccine candidate phase 3 trial, which was expected to start on July 9th, has been delayed. It’s unclear when the trial will begin, as the company is revising its protocol or plan, although many are still optimistic it will be this month.

Giliad Pharmaceuticals announced pricing of remdesivir, the antiviral agent with FDA emergency use authorization to treat hospitalized patients with Covid-19. For governments in developed countries the price will be $390 per vial, or $2,340 for a 5-day course. The price for U.S private insurance will be 33% higher – $520 per vial for U.S.

Policy Interventions

Conflicting Covid-19 messages are creating a cloud of confusion around public health and prevention. NewsGuard has identified 217 websites in Europe and the United States that publish “materially false” information about COVID-19. A separate study of 225 pieces of online misinformation found that misinformation spread by political figures and celebrities made up only 20% of the sample but accounted for 69% of engagement.

Public health departments play a crucial role in controlling the pandemic around the world. But in the U.S., since 2010, spending for state public health departments has dropped by 16% per capita and spending for local health departments has fallen by 18%.

Airports, hospitals, and other locales are checking temperatures to reduce the spread of Covid-19, but now experts are suggesting using a smell test. Several reports already identified loss of smell as a common early symptom of the disease. A recent study found that Covid-19 patients were 27 times more likely to lose their sense of smell but only 2.6 times as likely to have a fever or chills.

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