The new coronavirus is spreading across America at an unprecedented rate, the White House coronavirus task force announced in its first briefing in four months on Thursday.
“These are more cases, faster than before,” said Dr. Deborah Birx during the briefing. “You can see the test positive increase to about 10%.” This is the number of people tested who get a positive diagnosis.
Birx pointed to a map of the country covered in red and highlighted the number of daily hospitalizations, which now regularly exceeds 70,000, CNN reported. Birx said she roamed the country trying to encourage state and local leaders to take action to stop the virus from spreading.
Even so, task force members opposed the idea of statewide closures or schools, even as New York City returned to distance learning this week, CNN reported.
“We know what to do and we ask every American to do these things today,” said Birx. That starts with wearing masks, but also staying separate and restricting gatherings, she said.
The virus also spreads when people are not showing symptoms, Birx noted. “Because of this asymptomatic spread, we ask people to wear a mask indoors,” she said. “Reducing the number of gatherings of friends and family where people come together and unwittingly spread the virus,” will also help slow the spread, she added.
Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had asked Americans not to travel to Thanksgiving. More than 187,000 cases were announced nationwide on Thursday, another daily record, and 47 states have seen daily numbers rise, according to the New York Times.
In California, officials reported more than 13,000 new cases, a one-day record that prompted the state to announce a 10 p.m. curfew for all but essential workers, the Times reported.
Even if the current seven-day national average of about 166,000 daily cases reached a plateau by the end of the year, nearly 7 million more people would still get COVID-19, according to the Times.
Although there was talk of two highly potent vaccines this week, they won’t be generally available until spring 2021.
“We have a difficult time until the end of February,” said Dr. Jessica Justman, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, The Times. “It looks hard to find a way to break it.”
The first rapid COVID test for home use receives an emergency permit
The first rapid coronavirus test that can be done at home with results within 30 minutes was cleared this week for emergencies by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The simple nasal swab test developed by Lucira Health requires a prescription, and anyone under the age of 14 cannot do the test on themselves, the FDA said in a statement.
The Californian company said clinical studies showed that 100% of patients could complete the Lucira test in about two minutes. That’s significantly faster than in laboratories, which currently take two to seven days to produce test results, the company said in a statement. The test costs approximately $ 50.
While Lucira continues to manufacture the test, it will have limited availability in point-of-care settings and healthcare networks that prescribe the test for patients to be used at home, the company said. By the second quarter of 2021, the company plans to modify or submit a new emergency use application so that people who believe they may be infected with COVID-19 can communicate with a doctor online through a dedicated website for a prescription and delivery to arrange the test kit overnight.
“Today’s approval for a full home test is an important step in the FDA’s nationwide response to COVID-19,” said Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, in a statement. “Now, more Americans who may have COVID-19 can take immediate action based on their results to protect themselves and those around them.”
A handful of other tests have been approved by the FDA for taking home samples, but all must then be sent to a laboratory for processing, the Times reported.
Laboratory tests that look for the genetic material of the coronavirus using a technique known as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are still considered the gold standard for detecting the virus. However, the new home test is based on similar principles. As with PCR, the new test repeatedly copies genetic material until it reaches detectable levels. While the new method is faster and easier to use than PCR testing, it is generally considered less accurate, the Times reported.
Individuals performing the battery-powered test swipe a nasal swab in both nostrils, then dip it and stir it into a vial of chemicals. This vial is then inserted into a test cartridge, which processes the sample. The test cartridge lights up as “positive” or “negative” within half an hour. According to federal guidelines, people taking the test should report the results to their health care providers, who will then need to notify public health officials in order to track the spread of the virus.
A home test for the virus “would take place,” Omai Garner, a clinical microbiologist and diagnostic expert at the University of California, Los Angeles Health System, told the Times. “I hope it works well.”
According to Lucira, the test accurately captured 94 percent of the infections identified by a well-established PCR test. In addition, 98 percent of healthy, uninfected people were correctly identified.
COVID vaccines are getting closer to emergency approval
Pfizer and German company BioNTech announced on Thursday that their vaccine is 95 percent effective and they will apply for an emergency approval on Friday.
The experimental vaccine had already shown promising results in an early analysis announced last week, but the study was completed faster than expected due to the surge in coronavirus cases in the US.
The trial results, which came in less than a year after work began on the vaccine, broke all records for the speed of vaccine development, the Times reported.
The effectiveness of the vaccine was consistent across age, race and ethnicity, according to the companies. The most common serious adverse event was fatigue. 3.7 percent of the volunteers reported drowsiness after taking the second dose. Two percent of the volunteers reported a headache after the second dose. Older adults reported fewer and milder side effects, the companies found.
“It’s pretty amazing,” Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University, told the Times. She said the results in people over 65 were the most promising. “We know from the influenza vaccine that in this age group it is very difficult to get protection with vaccines,” she said. The 94 percent effectiveness in this group “is truly remarkable.”
According to federal health officials, the first doses of the vaccines will most likely be given to healthcare workers who are at high risk of exposure, as well as those who are most susceptible to the disease, such as those at risk. B. the elderly.
Meanwhile, Moderna Inc. announced earlier this week that preliminary results show the coronavirus vaccine is 94.5 percent effective. The researchers behind the Moderna vaccine said the results were better than they could imagine, although they probably won’t be available until the spring, the Times reported. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has stated that coronavirus vaccines should be at least 50 percent effective to be approved.
COVID-19 continues to spread around the globe
As of Friday, the number of U.S. coronavirus cases was 11.8 million, while the death toll was 252,000, according to a Times tally. By the same record, the top five states in coronavirus cases on Friday were: Texas with over 1.1 million; California with just over 1 million; Florida with over 914,000; Illinois with nearly 623,000; and New York with over 584,000.
Containing the spread of the coronavirus in the rest of the world remains a challenge.
Many European countries are tightening restrictions, the Associated Press reported. France started a nationwide lockdown last week, and Germany and Austria have started partial lockdowns as government officials across the continent strive to slow a sharp surge in infections that threatens to overwhelm their health systems.
England has followed suit, while Italy, Greece and Kosovo have also announced new measures, the AP reported.
Things are not looking any better in India, where coronavirus cases have surpassed 9 million, a Johns Hopkins record shows. More than 132,000 coronavirus patients have died in India, according to Hopkins tally, but the country has far fewer deaths than many others as a percentage of the population. Doctors say this reflects India’s younger and leaner population. Still, the country’s public health system is under severe strain and some sick patients cannot find hospital beds, according to the Times. Only in the United States are there more coronavirus cases.
Brazil now has 5.9 million cases and recorded over 168,000 deaths on Friday, the Hopkins tally shows.
Globally, the number of reported infections on Friday was 57 million, with over 1.3 million deaths, according to the Hopkins balance sheet.
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