COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19’s Best Analog Is the 1930s Dust Bowl, Not the 1918 Flu

Young women model masks worn during America’s Dust Bowl disaster, circa 1935.

COVID-19 is a precedent-shattering monster of a pandemic. There’s never been anything quite like it.

Historians of public health have struggled mightily to find apt comparisons to our current pandemic. They’ve landed most often on the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. On the surface, their reasoning makes sense: A lethal virus quickly spreads globally and infects millions.

2 Vaccines: So Far, So Good

Oxford coronavirus vaccine trial

It’s still early days for 2 coronavirus vaccine candidates, but trial results published yesterday in The Lancet earned promising (though qualified) results.

The first vaccine, developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca and sporting the catchy name of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, safely generated strong immune responses in a trial involving 1,000+ patients, according to a Lancet article reported on by The Washington Post.

Larger phase 3 trials of the vaccine are already underway in the UK, Brazil, and South Africa with results expected sometime this fall, STAT reports.

The Fight for PPE Persists

Protective masks

Frontline health workers report a frustrating return to shortages of protective gear.

The White House’s suggestion? Reuse their face masks and personal protective equipment, reports Fox News, citing Vice President Mike Pence’s comments yesterday.

National Nurses United expressed alarm over the persistent shortages and message to reuse their gear. "We’re five months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks," says its president, Deborah Burger.

Scientists Press WHO on Airborne Transmission

N95 mask

Evidence is mounting that tiny, infectious COVID-19 droplets linger in the air longer than once thought, according to a group of scientists urging the WHO to update its guidance, The Washington Post reports.

200+ scientists from 30 countries collaborated on an open letter—set to be published in the journal Clinical Infectious Disease—directed at the agency, which has maintained that SARS-CoV-2 is spread primarily by large respiratory droplets that quickly sink to the floor.

6 Months in, and the “Worst is Yet to Come”

A man protects his son

The "worst is yet to come" with COVID-19—and our "divided world" is accelerating its spread, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference yesterday marking 6 months since the first case was announced in China.

A look back at GHN headlines reveals how the virus snowballed into a tragic pandemic—from the first inkling that this could be the big one, to the resignation that the virus would cause the world’s wealthiest countries to buckle:

Steroid Sparks Hope and Skepticism

dexametazona

Preliminary results showing that a cheap steroid reduces the risk of death among gravely ill COIVD-19 patients is inspiring hope and skepticism.

The finding has not been peer-reviewed, but University of Oxford researchers announced the steroid dexamethasone—when given to patients on ventilators for up to 10 days—cut the risk of death by a third, CNN reports.

The risk of death for patients on oxygen but not on ventilators was reduced by a fifth, but the steroid made no difference among patients who didn’t require either.

But:

1 in 5 at Greater Risk of Severe COVID-19

severe illness-covid

An estimated 22% of people globally—1.7 billion—have at least one condition that puts them at a greater risk of developing severe COVID-19 if infected, according to a new study in The Lancet Global Health.

The most prevalent conditions in those aged 50+: chronic kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes.

"Not everyone with a condition will progress to a hospital," first author Andrew Clark of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told The New York Times.

Beijing's War on Fresh Outbreak

beijing-coronavirus-line

Beijing has gone into "war-mode" to stomp out a fresh spike in COVID-19 cases with aggressive testing, security checkpoints, school closures, and temperature checks, Reuters reports.

The city reported 79 cases over the last few days, after nearly 2 infection-free months. The latest cluster has been traced to Beijing’s Xinfadi food market—20X the size of the Wuhan seafood market where the novel coronavirus first emerged.

Polio Vaccine—A Temporary Solution?

poliovaccine

Could existing polio vaccines be used to fight coronavirus?

Researchers—including Robert Gallo, who helped discover HIV—are seeking funding to test their theory, making their case in Science this week.

They argue that live attenuated vaccines can trigger "interferon and other innate immunity mechanisms" to provide protection against unrelated pathogens.

In theory, a live polio vaccine then could possibly buy the body time to develop the right antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, NBC reports.

Reopening Followed By Resurgence

reopening

Lockdowns are winding down even as coronavirus cases continue to rise in at least 20 US states, NPR reports. And the US has now reached 2 million confirmed cases—a chilling milestone.

But the uptick is uneven. While some early hot-spots like New York are seeing a sustained decline in cases, hospitalizations are rising in others.

Texas—among the first states to begin reopening—saw record hospitalizations this week. And Arizona, which has the highest per capita rate in the US, has drawn national attention. The state is averaging 1,000+ cases per day this week.

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