COVID-19 Update: June 15 Edition

COVID-19 Update: June 15 Edition

The following originally appeared on the Baker Institute Blog and is coauthored 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, June 12, data from the Covid Tracking Project showed that the 7-day average (smoothed) number of new U.S. daily cases fell to 20,686, a 7.3% decrease relative to 22,308 the previous Friday. The percent of cases testing positive fell from 5.2% a week earlier to 4.1% last Friday, and it is encouraging that the number of tests rose 7% over this interval to 583,961. Here in Texas, the growth in the number of smoothed daily cases rose 9.2% between June 5 and 12, which is lower than the 43% jump notched between May 29 and June 5. It is particularly disturbing that the percent of cases testing positive rose from 7.3% a week ago to 10.1% on Friday. Disappointingly, the number of tests fell 10.4% to only 20,637 last Friday. It would be advisable for those who attended the protests against police brutality and George Floyd’s death to seek out coronavirus testing, in order to protect the community from greater disease spread.

Risk Factors and Disease Effects

The Wall Street Journal analyzed all 1,487 U.S. counties with at least 50 Covid-19 cases as of June 7. The 10% of counties with the highest rates of household crowding accounted for 28% of the coronavirus cases. The problem is acute in poorer and minority communities, many of them rural.

Thousands of people who have been living with coronavirus symptoms for two or three months have joined support groups on Slack and Facebook, referring to themselves as “long-haulers.”

A Centers for Disease Control online survey of 502 U.S. adults conducted shortly after President Donald Trump publicly asked whether injecting disinfectants could treat COVID-19 found that more than a third of Americans misused cleaners to prevent coronavirus infection. Practices included washing food with bleach, using household cleaning or disinfectant products on bare skin, and intentionally inhaling or ingesting these products.

Lost on the Frontline, a joint effort of The Guardian and Kaiser Health News, is independently collecting and verifying cases of medical provider and staff deaths due to Covid-19 likely contracted at work. Their dataset currently contains 625 physicians, nurses, EMTs and other medical staff from hospitals, nursing homes, and other medical care delivery facilities.

Walmart, eBay and Home Depot were among 40 retailers who spent 47% more on party tents and event canopies in April compared to a year earlier. Restaurants are also buying tents, because the likelihood of being infected by Covid-19 is minimized when people are outdoors and practice social distancing.

Vaccines and Treatments

The New York Times’ coronavirus vaccine tracker lists two vaccine candidates that are in Phase III trials, the last stage prior to approval. One we mentioned previously is being developed by Oxford University in partnership with AstraZeneca and may deliver emergency vaccines by October. The other is a repurposed tuberculosis vaccine that may provide partial protection against SARS-CoV-2, the strain of coronavirus that causes the Covid-19 disease.

Top teams in the U.S., U.K. and China rushing to develop coronavirus vaccines are seeing declining outbreaks in their countries, which makes it difficult to test the effectiveness of their vaccine candidates.

Policy Interventions

With no national standards, Google and Apple are struggling to regulate Covid-19 tracing apps, as privacy concerns multiply.

The Center for Medicare and Medicaid services attributes 31,782 Covid-19 deaths to nursing home residents, approximately one-third of all U.S. deaths associated with the disease up to May 31, 2020.

Trump pledged April 30 to “deploy every resource and power that we have” to protect older Americans. But a fifth of the nation’s nursing homes reported during the last two weeks of May that they had less than a week’s supply of masks, gowns, gloves, eye protectors or hand sanitizer. Of those, 946 reported they had at least one confirmed Covid infection since the pandemic began.

Elected officials and members of the public who are frustrated with the lockdowns and safety restrictions have at times turned public health workers into politicized punching bags. At least 27 state and local health leaders have resigned, retired or been fired since April across 13 states. About 80% of local health directors in Colorado said they or their personal property had been threatened since the pandemic began.

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