COVID-19 Timeline: April 2020
September 30, 2021
At Bioethics.com we have kept up with the spread of COVID-19 and the related bioethical questions that this pandemic brings. The posts that follow highlights news from April 2020 and were originally posted at Bioethics.com. These posts focus on the bioethical issues that medical professionals, bioethicists, public health officials, and scientists grappled with as SARS-CoV-2 swept the globe.
April 1: “The Grim Ethical Dilemma of Rationing Medical Care, Explained” by Nick Romeo, Vox
With medical experts and politicians now predicting that coronavirus cases will dramatically exceed the capacities of hospitals across America, doctors and nurses face the prospect of picking which patients to prioritize for treatment. Though the term “triage” may conjure images of rough battlefield medicine and crude estimates of patients’ survival odds, excruciating decisions on whom to treat already confront doctors in some places and will likely soon be necessary in America.
April 1: “Some Coronavirus Patients Show Signs of Brain Ailments” by Roni Caryn Rabin, The New York Times
Neurologists around the world say that a small subset of patients with Covid-19 are developing serious impairments of the brain. Although fever, cough and difficulty breathing are the typical hallmarks of infection with the new coronavirus, some patients exhibit altered mental status, or encephalopathy, a catchall term for brain disease or dysfunction that can have many underlying causes, as well as other serious conditions. These neurological syndromes join other unusual symptoms, such as diminished sense of smell and taste as well as heart ailments.
April 2: “‘There’s Nothing About It That Will Feel Right’: Hospitals Are Gearing Up to Choose Which Patients to Save If They Run Low on Crucial Equipment” by Blake Didge, Business Insider
Hospitals are preparing to make difficult decisions about which patients to save and how to ration care should they be overwhelmed by the novel coronavirus. Experts caution that hospitals in the US are at risk of running out of workers, beds, and protective equipment. By one estimate, the US could require up to 400,000 more ventilators in the next month or two — but it has no more than 20,000 left in the national stockpile. Earlier this week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said states were competing to buy ventilators in bidding wars.
April 2: “For Homeless People, Covid-19 Is Horror on Top of Horror” by Emma Grey Ellis, Wired
Homelessness is incompatible with health. Experts like Margot Kushel, a professor of medicine at UC San Francisco who studies homelessness, have been saying so for decades, but, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s never been truer. “It’s a calamity. It’s our worst nightmare,” Kushel says. “It’s an enormous crisis superimposed on an existing crisis.” Unhoused people are already among the most sick in society, and now they’re physically incapable of following the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s most basic virus-fighting directive: stay home.
April 2: “Dutch End-of-Life Debate Flares as Coronavirus Tests Healthcare Limits” by Stephanie van den Berg and Anthony Deutsch, Reuters
Doctors in the Netherlands have been advising elderly patients to think twice before agreeing to COVID-19 treatment in hospital intensive-care units, drawing criticism that they are attempting to ration scarce ICU beds. The affluent Netherlands is rapidly approaching the capacity of its healthcare system just over a month into the crisis, with efforts underway to double the number of intensive care beds to 2,400 by Sunday.
April 3: “In Crowded Hospitals, Who Will Get Life-Saving Equipment?” by Gregory Barber, Wired
But what would rationing a ventilator actually mean? To Wall, who also researches clinical bioethics at New York University, the answer was opaque. Would he be asked to prioritize by age, turning away the elderly, as some hospitals in Italy did? What if the choice was between an old person and a younger one who was far less healthy and more likely to die, even with a ventilator’s aid? What if that patient was a health care worker who might, in the weeks ahead, get better and save more people? The guidance was unclear.
April 3: “Are Hospitals Seeing a Surge of Coronavirus Patients? Some Officials Aren’t Saying” by Lauren Sommer , NPR
Many public health departments, such as New York City’s, are publishing daily updates on the number, age and location of hospitalized patients. Louisiana is reporting the number of patients on ventilators. Still, other hotspots aren’t releasing numbers at all, either because public health officials are overwhelmed by the crisis and are still compiling the numbers or for reasons they declined to explain, even though they are compiling the numbers internally. The San Francisco Bay Area, in particular, is releasing incomplete data despite being an early epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, according to an investigation by NPR and member station KQED.
April 3: “Teargas, Beatings and Bleach: the Most Extreme Covid-19 Lockdown Controls Around the World” by Rebecca Ratcliffe, The Guardian
As coronavirus lockdowns have been expanded globally, billions of people have found that they are now faced with unprecedented restrictions. Police across the world have been given licence to control behaviour in a way that would normally be extreme even for an authoritarian state. On Tuesday, police in Kenya gave their “sincere condolences” after a 13-year-old boy was shot and killed on his balcony in Nairobi as police moved through the neighbourhood, enforcing a coronavirus curfew.
April 3: “Masks Do Reduce Spread of Flu and Some Coronaviruses, Study Finds” by Kate Kelland, Reuters
Face masks could help limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to researchers who studied the effect of surgical masks on the transmission of other corona and flu viruses. In the study, the use of surgical masks by sufferers significantly reduced the number of flu viruses detectable in droplets released through breathing and coughing. It also reduced the number of seasonal coronaviruses – among the causes of common colds – detectable in the air as suspended microdroplets, or aerosols. The study did not look at the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2.
April 6: “The Ethics of Wearing (or Not Wearing) a Face Mask During the Coronavirus Pandemic” by Jeffrey Kluger, Time
What we don’t know about face masks is in some ways as great as what we do know. A properly fitted N95 mask can be extremely effective at protecting the wearer from being infected by others, as well as protecting others from being infected by the wearer. But simple surgical masks or homemade masks? The scientific research to date suggests they do a much better job of protecting other people from you than protecting you from other people. In the context of a pandemic, stopping the infection in both directions can be equally important in preventing a communicable disease from spreading, and official U.S. policy may be changing to reflect that.
April 6: “A Fast-Moving Virus Pits Treating Patients Against Fighting a Cure” by Robert Langreth and Riley Griffin, Bloomberg
Pharmaceutical-research experts are raising concerns that attempts to offer desperate coronavirus patients some form of treatment may hobble crucial studies of which drugs actually work and which ones don’t. More than 100 off-the-shelf and experimental therapies are being tested either formally or informally for the coronavirus disease, including hydroxychloroquine, the antimalarial touted as a treatment by President Donald Trump, and remdesivir, an experimental drug from biotechnology company Gilead Sciences Inc. There are so many even coronavirus experts can barely keep track.
April 6: “Cancer Surgeries and Organ Transplantation Are Being Put Off for Coronavirus. Can They Wait?” by Joanne Lipman, ProPublica
Elective surgery is, by definition, any surgery that is scheduled. That means cancer surgery, organ transplants and other lifesaving procedures, all of which are now put on hold — in some cases indefinitely. Since making its initial recommendation, the American College of Surgeons has been issuing increasingly urgent bulletins, with its March 24 missive detailing triage guidelines for cancer, cardiac and pediatric surgeries. It now finds itself in the grim position of recommending that removal of cancerous colon polyps be deferred for three months and breast cancer surgery be delayed if the disease responds to hormone therapy. In hospitals with heavy COVID-19 caseloads — those with no spare ventilators or ICU capacity — it urges that all surgical procedures be avoided unless the patient is likely to die within the next few hours or days.
April 7: “Venezuela Elderly Feel ‘Sentenced to Euthanasia’ Under Coronavirus Quarantine” by Vivian Sequera, Reuters
The coronavirus outbreak has sparked concern around the world for the elderly, who are much more vulnerable to the COVID-19 respiratory disease caused by the virus. But the plight of senior citizens was already acute in Venezuela following six years of brutal economic crisis and chronic problems with power and water services. Blanco and Rodriguez, like 3 million other Venezuelan retirees, struggle to live on state pensions of 250,000 bolivars a month – the equivalent of about $3 – which can at best buy a few pounds of chicken or several kilos of corn flour.
April 7: “China’s Virus Pandemic Epicenter Wuhan Ends 76-Day Lockdown” by Sam McNeil, Medical Xpress
As of just after midnight Wednesday, the city’s 11 million residents are now permitted to leave without special authorization as long as a mandatory smartphone application powered by a mix of data-tracking and government surveillance shows they are healthy and have not been in recent contact with anyone confirmed to have the virus.
April 8: “‘PTSD Waiting to Happen’: Bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel on the Realities of Coronavirus Triage” by Matt Stieb, New York Magazine
In “Fair Allocation of Scarce Medical Resources in the Time of COVID-19,” the authors present a general front for reducing “years of life lost” by prioritizing care for front-line health-care workers who are essential to pandemic response. Behind the workers that keep medical infrastructure intact, resources should then be catered toward “either to the sickest or to younger people who will have lived the shortest lives if they die untreated.” There are some unassailable rules: “Consensus exists that an individual person’s wealth should not determine who lives or dies.” There are also some unexpected recommendations for those outside the medical community, as the authors suggest that a first-come, first-served mentality — which governs most nonemergency situations — actually introduces more bias into the system.
April 8: “With Ventilators Running Out, Doctors Say the Machines Are Overused for Covid-19” by Sharon Begley, STAT News
Even as hospitals and governors raise the alarm about a shortage of ventilators, some critical care physicians are questioning the widespread use of the breathing machines for Covid-19 patients, saying that large numbers of patients could instead be treated with less intensive respiratory support. If the iconoclasts are right, putting coronavirus patients on ventilators could be of little benefit to many and even harmful to some. What’s driving this reassessment is a baffling observation about Covid-19: Many patients have blood oxygen levels so low they should be dead. But they’re not gasping for air, their hearts aren’t racing, and their brains show no signs of blinking off from lack of oxygen.
April 9: “In Fight Against COVID-19, Nurses Face High-Stakes Decisions, Moral Distress” by Katie Pearce, Medical Xpress
As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases accelerates in the United States, nurses on the front lines of the health care response have found themselves in unprecedented positions, making high-stakes decisions for patients and their own personal lives.
April 9: “NIH Begins Trial to Test Hydroxychloroquine for Treating COVID-19” by Reuters
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) said on Thursday it was testing anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine for treating COVID-19, days after several U.S. doctors said they were using the drug on infected patients without evidence that it worked. The use of the decades-old drug, which has been touted by President Donald Trump as a potential weapon against COVID-19, has soared as the United States has quickly become the epicenter of the pandemic.
April 9: “How Does COVID-19 Kill? Uncertainty Is Hampering Doctor’s Ability to Choose Treatments” by Heidi Ledford, Nature
How does COVID-19 kill? Uncertainty over whether it is the virus itself — or the response by a person’s immune system — that ultimately overwhelms a patient’s organs, is making it difficult for doctors to determine the best way to treat patients who are critically ill with the coronavirus. Clinical data suggest that the immune system plays a part in the decline and death of people infected with the new coronavirus, and this has spurred a push for treatments such as steroids that rein in that immune response. But some of these treatments act broadly to suppress the immune system, stoking fears that they could actually hamper the body’s ability to keep the viral infection in check.
April 10: “More Coronavirus Vaccines and Treatments Move Toward Human Trials” by Knuvul Sheikh and Katie Thomas, The New York Times
As the coronavirus pandemic spreads at unprecedented rates, invading the lungs of people of all ages, ethnicities and medical histories, companies are ratcheting up their efforts to fight the disease with accelerated schedules for creating new vaccines, and beginning clinical trials for potential treatments. On Wednesday, Novavax, a Maryland-based biotech company, said it would begin human trials in Australia in mid-May for its vaccine candidate. Novavax is one of more than two dozen companies that have announced promising vaccine programs that are speeding through the early stages of testing unlike ever before.
April 10: “Yemen ‘Faces Nightmare’ as First Coronavirus Case Confirmed” by Lyse Doucet, BBC
Aid agencies have expressed alarm after the first virus case was confirmed in Yemen, where years of civil war have devastated health systems. Oxfam said it was a “devastating blow”, the International Rescue Committee called it a “nightmare scenario”. Yemen is suffering the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and millions are reliant on food aid. Diseases including cholera, dengue and malaria are rife and only half of hospitals are fully functional.
April 10: “‘We Carry That Burden.’ Medical Workers Fighting Covid-19 Are Facing a Mental Health Crisis” by Tara Law, TIME
In interviews with TIME, several doctors and nurses said that fighting COVID-19 is making them feel more dedicated to their profession, and determined to push through and help their patients. However, many also admitted to harboring darker feelings. They’re afraid of spreading the disease to their families, frustrated about a lack of adequate protective gear and a sense they can’t do enough for their patients, exhausted as hours have stretched longer without a clear end in sight, and, most of all, deeply sad for their dying patients, many of whom are slipping away without their loved ones at their side. It’s those lonely deaths that have hit the hardest for some.
April 13: “How Apple and Google Are Enabling Covid-19 Contact-Tracing” by Andy Greenberg, Wired
Since Covid-19 began its spread across the world, technologists have proposed using so-called contact-tracing apps to track infections via smartphones. Now, Google and Apple are teaming up to give contact-tracers the ingredients to make that system possible—while in theory still preserving the privacy of those who use it. On Friday, the two companies announced a rare joint project to create the groundwork for Bluetooth-based contact-tracing apps that can work across both iOS and Android phones.
April 13: “The Lonely Reality of Grieving Online During Social Isolation” by Abby Ohlheiser, MIT Technology Review
The global coronavirus pandemic has forced people to think about death, while simultaneously upending the ways in which we are used to experiencing grief and loss. Zoom funerals, delayed burials, and virtual goodbyes have replaced hugs, wakes, and held hands. The only option is to grieve online. Experts say that while there are ways in which live video and online social connections can help, everyone needs something different in grief. Just like everything else, mourning the dead is harder in our new reality.
April 14: “There’s Been a Spike in People Dying at Home in Several Cities” by Jack Gillum, Lisa Song, and Jeff Kao, ProPublica
In recent weeks, residents outside Boston have died at home much more often than usual. In Detroit, authorities are responding to nearly four times the number of reports of dead bodies. And in New York, city officials are recording more than 200 home deaths per day — a nearly sixfold increase from recent years. As of Tuesday afternoon, the United States had logged more than 592,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 24,000 deaths, the most in the world, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.
April 14: “Search for a COVID-19 Vaccine Heats Up in China, US” by Lauren Neergaard, ABC News
Three potential COVID-19 vaccines are making fast progress in early-stage testing in volunteers in China and the U.S., but it’s still a long road to prove if they’ll really work. China’s CanSino Biologics is beginning the second phase of testing its vaccine candidate, China’s Ministry of Science and Technology said Tuesday. In the U.S., a shot made by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc. isn’t far behind. The first person to receive that experimental vaccine last month returned to a Seattle clinic Tuesday for a second dose.
April 14: “Health Care Workers Are 10%–20% of US Coronavirus Cases” by Mike Stobbe, ABC News
Between 10% and 20% of U.S. coronavirus cases are health care workers, though they tended to be hospitalized at lower rates than other patients, officials reported Tuesday. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the first national data on how the pandemic is hitting doctors, nurses and other health care professionals.
April 15: “Hospitals Quickly Reshape to Treat Covid-19 Patients” by Aarian Marshall, Wired
Health care workers need more space for examining patients, handwashing, and putting on and taking off personal protective equipment. They need to quickly separate Covid-19 patients from those suffering from other maladies—heart attacks, respiratory issues, and broken bones. They must enforce new, strict visitor policies, which sometimes bar relatives from the rooms of dying patients. They’d like to check on infectious disease patients without entering rooms, which would require another change of still-limited protective gear.
April 16: “‘We Are Dead’: People with Disabilities Fear They Will Be on Losing End of Doctors’ Life-or-Death Choices Amid Coronavirus Crisis” by John D’Anna, USA Today
As the number of COVID-19 cases and corresponding deaths accelerates across the country, one of America’s most vulnerable – and most overlooked – groups of citizens worry not just about how to get food and pay rent in a locked-down nation, but whether they will even be considered treatable if they get sick. In essence it comes down to the question of who chooses who will live and die when allocating scarce health care resources.
April 16: “FDA Eases Rules so Compounders Can Make Drugs for Covid-19 Patients on Ventilators” by Ed Silverman, STAT News
In response to shortages of medicines needed for Covid-19 patients on ventilators, the Food and Drug Administration is temporarily easing its rules so that compounders can start making some of the drugs. For as long as the nationwide public health emergency is in effect, the agency will not take action against compounding pharmacies that make a medicine that is a copy of an approved drug, use bulk ingredients not on an approved list, or fail to meet good manufacturing requirements for stability testing.
April 16: “Early Peek at Data on Gilead Coronavirus Drug Suggests Patients Are Responding to Treatment” by Adam Feuerstein and Matthew Herper, STAT News
A Chicago hospital treating severe Covid-19 patients with Gilead Sciences’ antiviral medicine remdesivir in a closely watched clinical trial is seeing rapid recoveries in fever and respiratory symptoms, with nearly all patients discharged in less than a week, STAT has learned. Remdesivir was one of the first medicines identified as having the potential to impact SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19, in lab tests.
New Jersey police found 17 bodies in one of the state’s largest nursing homes after an anonymous tip said a body was being stored in a shed. A total of 68 people associated with the Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation centres have recently died, with 26 having tested positive for Covid-19. Police did not find a body in the shed, but said the facility’s tiny morgue was “overwhelmed”.
April 17: “‘No One Is Prepared for This’—Italian Doctors Fight to Keep Home Patients Alive” by Alex Fraser, Reuters
For doctors in northern Italy, fighting what is still Europe’s worst outbreak of COVID-19, the frontlines have moved beyond hospitals as special teams try to keep patients alive at home, away from the saturated wards where thousands have died. For staff on the so-called USCA (Special Continuity Assistance Units) teams, it has been a draining struggle, initially hampered by a shortage of vital protective gear, that mixes emergency medicine with the shock of losing unprecedented numbers of patients.
April 17: “China’s Virus Death Toll Revised Up Sharply After Review” by Ken Moritsugu, Associated Press
China’s official death toll from the coronavirus pandemic jumped sharply Friday as the hardest-hit city of Wuhan announced a major revision that added nearly 1,300 fatalities. The new figures resulted from an in-depth review of deaths during a response that was chaotic in the early days. They raised the official toll in Wuhan by 50% to 3,869 deaths. While China has yet to update its national totals, the revised numbers push up China’s total to 4,632 deaths from a previously reported 3,342.
April 17: “Some Life Insurers Hit Pause on Older Americans During Coronavirus Crisis” by Suzanne Barlyn, Reuters
Some U.S. life insurers are deciding not to gamble on older Americans during the coronavirus crisis by temporarily suspending applications from certain age groups or imposing tougher requirements. Prudential Financial Inc (PRU.N), Lincoln National Corp (LNC.N) and Protective Insurance Corp (PTVCB.O) are among the insurers that have made changes. Prudential and Protective are temporarily halting applications from individuals aged 80 or older, while Lincoln has postponed approving policies for that age group and others, the companies said.
April 20: “Feds to Track, Share Information on Nursing Home Outbreaks” by Candice Choi, ABC News
Calling nursing homes ground zero of the coronavirus crisis, federal officials said Monday they plan to start tracking and publicly sharing information on infections and deaths in such facilities to help spot trends and early signs the virus is spreading in communities. The move comes as critics, industry officials and local leaders have called for more aggressive actions by the federal government to track infections in homes and contain outbreaks by helping them get greater access to testing and masks, especially given the vulnerability of elderly residents.
April 20: “New York Nurses Sue State, Two Hospitals over ‘Inadequate’ Coronavirus Protection” by Gabriella Borter, Reuters
The New York State Nurses Association sued the state and two hospitals on Monday to force them to provide safety equipment and adopt measures to prevent COVID-19 from spreading among its members, highlighting the growing disputes over workplace safety during the coronavirus pandemic.
April 20: “Covid-19 Numbers Are Bad in Ecuador. The President Says the Real Story Is Even Worse” by John Otis, NPR
Ecuador has one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in all of Latin America – with 10,128 cases and 507 deaths in a country of just 17 million people. But the situation may be far worse than what the official numbers show. In fact, one Ecuadorian official says it appears that thousands more people may have died of the disease than his government is reporting. Jorge Wated, who heads a government task force charged with collecting and burying bodies in Guayaquil, the epicenter of the outbreak, said that in the first 15 days of April, 6,703 people had died from either COVID-19 or natural causes. Previous to the coronavirus outbreak, he said, the monthly figure was around 1,000.
April 20: “CDC Lab Contamination Delayed Coronavirus Testing” by Ashley Yeager, The Scientist
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention violated its own manufacturing standards, which led to contamination of the country’s first coronavirus tests, rendering them ineffective, The Washington Post reported Saturday (April 18). Problems with the tests were reported not long after the first case of COVID-19, the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, was announced in late January in the US. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent Timothy Stenzel, the agency’s director of in vitro diagnostics and radiological health, to the CDC headquarters in Atlanta to identify the source of the problem.
April 21: “More Deaths, No Benefit from Malaria Drug in VA Virus Study” by Marilynn Marchione, Associated Press
A malaria drug widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals. There were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, researchers reported. The nationwide study was not a rigorous experiment. But with 368 patients, it’s the largest look so far of hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin for COVID-19, which has killed more than 171,000 people as of Tuesday.
April 21: “New Analysis Recommends Less Reliance on Ventilators to Treat Coronavirus Patients” by Sharon Begley, STAT News
By using ventilators more sparingly on Covid-19 patients, physicians could reduce the more-than-50% death rate for those put on the machines, according to an analysis published Tuesday in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. The authors argue that physicians need a new playbook for when to use ventilators for Covid-19 patients — a message consistent with new treatment guidelines issued Tuesday by the National Institutes of Health, which advocates a phased approach to breathing support that would defer the use of ventilators if possible.
April 21: “Coronavirus Is Forcing Medical Research to Speed Up” by Kim Tingley, The New York Times
As scientists race to understand the coronavirus, the process of designing experiments, collecting data and submitting studies to journals for expert review is being compressed drastically. What typically takes many months is happening in weeks, even as some journals are receiving double their normal number of submissions. Science, one of the world’s most selective research outlets, published the structure of the spiky protein that the virus uses to enter host cells — crucial knowledge for designing a vaccine and antiviral drugs — nine days after receiving it, according to Holden Thorp, the journal’s editor in chief.
April 21: “United States Should Allow Volunteers to Be Infected with Coronavirus to Test Vaccines, Lawmakers Argue” by Jon Cohen, Science
Political support is building for regulators in the United States to embrace the controversial strategy of intentionally infecting volunteers with the virus that causes COVID-19 in order to test experimental vaccines. Such human challenge trials could greatly accelerate the development of an effective vaccine, 35 members of the House of Representatives argue in a letter sent yesterday to the heads of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its parent agency, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
April 23: “Special Report: As Virus Advances, Doctors Rethink Rush to Ventilate” by Silvia Aloisi, Deena Beasley, Gabriella Borter, Thomas Escritt, and Kate Kelland, Reuters
Bergmann’s case illustrates a shift on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, as doctors rethink when and how to use mechanical ventilators to treat severe sufferers of the disease – and in some cases whether to use them at all. While initially doctors packed intensive care units with intubated patients, now many are exploring other options.
April 24: “FDA Issues Warning on Side Effects of Malaria Drug for Covid-19” by Brian P. Dunleavy, UPI
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday issued a warning about serious and potentially life-threatening side effects of chloroquine and it’s sister drug hydroxychloroquine, including heart rhythm problems that have been seen in clinical trials. The drugs, which were granted an emergency use authorization by the FDA on March 28, have been shown to cause serious heart problems in patients with severe COVID-19, as evidenced by a new analysis published Friday in the journal JAMA Network Open.
April 24: “World Must Ensure Equal Access for All to COVID-19 Vaccines, Drugs: WHO” by Reuters
All new vaccines, diagnostics and treatments against the new coronavirus must be made equally available to everyone worldwide, the World Health Organization said on Friday as it outlined a plan to accelerate work to fight COVID-19. Launching what he called a “landmark collaboration” to speed the development of effective drugs, tests and vaccines to prevent and treat COVID-19, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the lung disease was a “common threat which we can only defeat with a common approach”.
April 24: “Hospitals Are Using AI to Predict the Decline of Covid-19 Patients—Before Knowing It Works” by Casey Ross, STAT News
Dozens of hospitals across the country are using an artificial intelligence system created by Epic, the big electronic health record vendor, to predict which Covid-19 patients will become critically ill, even as many are struggling to validate the tool’s effectiveness on those with the new disease. The rapid uptake of Epic’s deterioration index is a sign of the challenges imposed by the pandemic: Normally hospitals would take time to test the tool on hundreds of patients, refine the algorithm underlying it, and then adjust care practices to implement it in their clinics.
April 27: “The Coronavirus Pandemic Is Forcing U.S. Doctors to Ration Care for All Patients” by Alice Park and Jeffrey Kluger , TIME
Soon after public health officials identified SARS-CoV-2 virus as the cause of a previously unknown illness in the Hubei province of China, doctors realized that the novel coronavirus seemed to zero in on certain demographics: older people, as well as those with existing chronic diseases and weakened immune systems like Kraemer, 43. “From very early on, I felt vulnerable and scared,” she says. “People were saying ‘everybody don’t worry, this will only affect the sick people.’ I felt vulnerable and expendable.”
April 27: “Favouring Young Over Old in Covid-19 Treatment Justifiable, Says Ethicist” by Amelia Hill, The Guardian
Older people should be denied treatment for the coronavirus if a younger, healthy person needs help, according to Prof Arthur Caplan, a prominent US medical ethicist. Age, he said, was a “valid criterion” to use when making the “terrible choice” of who should receive scarce resources during the pandemic. “To the extent to which data supports the risk of failure or the odds of success, age can justifiably be used to ration care if maximisation of lives saved is the overarching goal,” said Caplan – who is ethics adviser to the US government – in remarks in a debate published on Wednesday in the British Medical Journal.
April 27: “Coronavirus Alert: Rare Syndrome Seen in UK Children” by Michelle Roberts, BBC
NHS doctors have been warned to look out for a rare but dangerous reaction in children that may be linked to coronavirus infection. An urgent alert sent out to GPs said that intensive care departments in London and other parts of the UK have been treating severely sick children with unusual symptoms. This includes “multi-system inflammation” with flu-like symptoms. Some, but not all, tested positive for coronavirus.
April 27: “Consumer Beware: Coronavirus Antibody Tests Are Still a Work in Progress” by JoNel Aleccia, Kaiser Health News
Such high hopes, however, are running smack into the roadblocks of reality. Infectious disease experts are raising pointed questions about the reliability of the early tests and the studies that hinge on their results. And they warn that state and local governments — as well as individuals — should be wary of shaping policy or changing behavior based on any single report.
April 28: “The False Hope of Antibody Testing” by Sarah Zhang, The Atlantic
A pair of controversial surveys in the Bay Area and Los Angeles County found antibodies in 2.5 to 4 percent of the population—and even those numbers may be overestimates due to methodological flaws. In New York City, the country’s COVID-19 epicenter, 24.7 percent of people tested positive for antibodies. (The statewide number is 14.9 percent.) These rates do translate to many times more cases than officially documented, to be clear, but they are still a far cry from the 70 percent scientists believe is necessary to reach herd immunity and stop disease transmission. And if only a small fraction of the population can return to work without fear of getting the coronavirus, a return to something resembling normal is still a long way off.
April 29: “Critical Study of Gilead’s Covid-19 Drug Shows Patients Are Responding to Treatment, NIH Says” by Matthew Herper and Adam Feuerstein, STAT News
A government-run study of Gilead’s remdesivir, perhaps the most closely watched experimental drug to treat the novel coronavirus, showed that the medicine is effective against Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. In a statement on Wednesday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is conducting the study, said preliminary data show patients who received remdesivir recovered faster than similar patients who received placebo.
April 29: “FDA Might Grant Emergency Approval of Remdesivir for COVID-19” by Brian P. Dunleavy, UPI
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration might grant emergency approval for the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 following new clinical trial results that suggest the drug could help some patients. The New York Times and CNBC on Wednesday reported the FDA was working with manufacturer Gilead Sciences to make remdesivir available to patients who have COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.
April 29: “New Coronavirus Safety Measures Pose Challenges for the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing” by Mikaela Lefrak, NPR
The new norms of the coronavirus era — wearing face masks, maintaining social distance and conducting conversations through teleconference software — have made life more complicated for most Americans. But for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, they have transformed every day tasks into technological labyrinths, and exposed a number of inequities in local health and government systems.
April 30: “Nearly a Dozen Approved Drugs Could Be Effective Against COVID-19: Study” by Saumya Joseph, Reuters
At least 10 different drug compounds ranging from cancer therapies to antipsychotics and antihistamines may be effective at preventing the new coronavirus from multiplying in the body, according to a multidisciplinary study conducted by a team of scientists in the United States and France. The researchers mapped the human proteins the virus interacts with inside the body when it infects cells and makes copies of itself, then looked for compounds that could block the virus from using those proteins.
April 30: “‘Unconscionable’ Body Overflow at Funeral Home Prompts Probe” by Tom Hays, ABC News
A New York City funeral home that resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks after it was overwhelmed by coronavirus deaths is being investigated by state officials. The funeral home in Brooklyn could face civil fines and suspensions after authorities responding to complaints by passersby about a bad smell there Wednesday found that the home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said Thursday.
April 30: “Suicides of Two Health Care Workers Hint at the Covid-19 Mental Health Crisis to Come” by Wendy Dean, STAT News
The U.S. entered a grim new chapter in the coronavirus saga with the recent deaths by suicide of two health care workers on the frontlines of the fight against Covid-19 in New York City: emergency medical technician John Mondello and emergency physician Lorna Breen. Health care workers are well-trained to manage the intensity of a medical crisis. But few are equally comfortable managing its mental health aftermath, in themselves or in others.
April 30: “Coronavirus Was ‘Not Manmade or Genetically Modified’: U.S. Spy Agency” by Mark Hosenball, Reuters
The top U.S. spy agency said for the first time on Thursday the American intelligence community believes the COVID-19 virus that originated in China was not manmade or genetically modified.
April 30: “Scores of Coronavirus Vaccines Are in Competition—How Will Scientists Choose the Best?” by Ewen Callaway, Nature
Less than five months after the world first learnt about the new coronavirus causing fatal pneumonia in Wuhan, China, there are more than 90 vaccines for the virus at various stages of development, with more announced each week. At least six are already being tested for safety in people. Now, developers, funders and other stakeholders are laying the groundwork for their biggest challenge yet: determining which vaccines actually work.