COVID-19 Timeline: November 2020
October 4, 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 November 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.
November 2: “Two COVID-19 Outpatient Antibody Drugs Show Encouraging Results” by Marcia Frellick, Medscape
Two COVID-19 antibody treatments, one developed by Regeneron and the other by Eli Lilly, show promise in the outpatient setting in results released on Wednesday. Regeneron, in a randomized, double-blind trial, is assessing the effect of adding its investigational antibody cocktail REGN-COV2 to usual standard of care in comparison with adding placebo to standard of care.
November 2: “Hospitals Competing for Nurses as US Coronavirus Cases Surge” by Tammy Webber, Associated Press
As the coronavirus pandemic surges across the nation and infections and hospitalizations rise, medical administrators are scrambling to find enough nursing help — especially in rural areas and at small hospitals.
November 4: “SARS-CoV-2 Viral Load Predicts Need for Ventilator, Death Risk” by Reuters Staff, Medscape
When COVID-19 patients are admitted to the hospital with pneumonia, their risk of intubation or death can be estimated based on their viral load, a new study suggests.
November 5: “Denmark to Cull 17 Million Mink Amid SARS-CoV-2 Mutation Concerns” by Lisa Winter, The Scientist
According to government officials in Denmark, mink raised on Danish farms carry a mutated version of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that is less sensitive to antibodies, which they say might thwart vaccine development.
November 9: “Moral Distress: COVID-19 Shortages Prompt Tough Decisions at Bedside” by Damian McNamara, Medscape
Choosing which hospitalized COVID-19 patients receive potentially lifesaving care, making urgent calls for ventilators and other equipment, and triaging care based on patient age and comorbidities were among the challenges revealed in new feedback from healthcare leaders and frontline workers. Even though many hospitals have contingency plans for how to allocate resources and triage patient care during crisis capacity, for many providers during the real-world COVID-19 trial of these protocols, they fell short.
November 9: “Pfizer Says COVID-19 Vaccine Is Looking 90% Effective” by Lauren Neergaard amd Linda A. Johnson, Associated Press
Pfizer Inc. said Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine may be a remarkable 90% effective, based on early and incomplete test results that nevertheless brought a big burst of optimism to a world desperate for the means to finally bring the catastrophic outbreak under control.
November 9: “Scientists Criticize Use of Unproven COVID Drugs in India” by Gayathri Vaidyanathan, Nature
In India, which has the world’s second-largest COVID-19 outbreak, there is a desperate need for effective treatments. But researchers are concerned about how the country’s drug regulator is handling potential therapies.
November 10: “Brazil Halts Trial of Chinese Vaccine. But Was Science or Politics to Blame?” by Sui-Lee Wee and Ernesto Londoño, The New York Times
Brazil said on Monday that it had halted a late-stage trial of a Chinese vaccine that had been considered a global front-runner in the race to develop a protective shot for the coronavirus after a “serious adverse” reaction in a participant.
November 10: “The Story of mRNA: How a Once-Dismissed Idea Became a Leading Technology in the Covid Vaccine Race” by Damian Garde, STAT News
But what the companies share may be bigger than their differences: Both are banking on a genetic technology that has long held huge promise but has so far run into biological roadblocks. It is called synthetic messenger RNA, an ingenious variation on the natural substance that directs protein production in cells throughout the body.
November 11: “FDA Grants Emergency Use Authorization to Lilly’s Antibody COVID-19 Therapy” by Damian McNamara, Medscape
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) on Monday for the investigational monoclonal antibody therapy bamlanivimab (Eli Lilly) to treat adults and children with mild to moderate COVID-19.
November 12: “U.S. to Start Distributing Lilly COVID-19 Antibody This Week” by Deena Beasley, Medscape
The FDA on Monday gave emergency use authorization to Lilly’s antibody for anyone over age 65 who is recently diagnosed with mild-to-moderate COVID-19, and for patients age 12 and older who have an underlying health condition putting them at risk for serious illness.
November 12: “Russia’s Claim of a Successful COVID-19 Vaccine Doesn’t Pass the ‘Smell Test,’ Critics Say” by Jon Cohen, Science
Another day, another promising COVID-19 vaccine? A Russian institute announced today its vaccine candidate has had remarkable success in an efficacy trial, just 2 days after the widely celebrated news from Pfizer and BioNTech that their vaccine had greater than 90% efficacy. The Russian report, however, is being met with raised eyebrows—and some outright guffaws.
November 13: “Situation ‘Dire’ as COVID Spike in West, Midwest Worsens, Experts Say” by Alicia Ault, Medscape
Coronavirus infections are expected to continue to climb in the upper Midwest and intermountain West of the United States, which will strain an already-maxed-out system as increased hospitalizations and deaths follow, say infectious diseases specialists.
November 13: “Microsoft: Russian, North Korean Hackers Target Vaccine Work” by Frank Bajak, Associated Press
Microsoft said it has detected attempts by state-backed Russian and North Korean hackers to steal valuable data from leading pharmaceutical companies and vaccine researchers.
November 16: “2nd Virus Vaccine Shows Striking Success in US Tests” by Liz Szabo, Medscape
In some cases, provocative new research shows, some people — men in particular — succumb because their immune systems are hit by friendly fire. Researchers hope the finding will help them develop targeted therapies for these patients. In an international study in Science, 10% of nearly 1,000 COVID patients who developed life-threatening pneumonia had antibodies that disable key immune system proteins called interferons.
November 16: “Long-Term Care Workers, Grieving and Under Siege, Brace for COVID’s Next Round” by Judith Graham, Kaiser Health News
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 616,000 residents and employees at long-term care facilities have been struck by COVID-19, according to the latest data from KFF. Just over 91,000 have died as the coronavirus has invaded nearly 23,000 facilities.
November 17: “COVID-19 Fatality Rate Down 30% Since April Study Finds” by Deena Beasley, Medscape
The likelihood that a coronavirus infection will prove fatal has dropped by nearly a third since April due to improved treatment, researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) said on Thursday.
November 18: “More People Are Getting COVID-19 Twice, Suggesting Immunity Wanes Quickly in Some” by Jop de Vrieze, Science
Reinfections hint that immunity against COVID-19 may be fragile and wane relatively quickly, with implications not just for the risks facing recovered patients, but also for how long future vaccines might protect people.
November 18: “Pfizer and BioNTech to Submit Covid-19 Vaccine Data to FDA as Full Results Show 95% Efficacy” by Damian Garde and Matthew Herper, STAT News
Pfizer and BioNTech announced Wednesday that the efficacy portion of their Covid-19 vaccine trial has been completed, showing the vaccine to prevent 95% of cases of the disease.
November 18: “Hospitals Can’t Go On Like This” by Alexis C. Madrigal, The Atlantic
Now new data released by the Department of Health and Human Services quantify the crisis in America’s hospitals in closer detail. At The Atlantic’s request, HHS provided data on the number of hospitals experiencing staffing shortages. From November 4 to November 11, 958 hospitals—19 percent of American hospitals—faced a staffing shortage. This week, 1,109 hospitals reported that they expect to face a staffing shortage. That’s 22 percent of all American hospitals.
November 20: “‘Encouraging’ Results for Older People from Oxford COVID-19 Vaccine” by Peter Russell, Medscape
The SARS-CoV-2 vaccine developed by the University of Oxford has shown an encouraging immune response in older adults, according to preliminary findings published in The Lancet.
November 23: “COVID-19 Outcomes Tied to Hospital, Not Just Race” by Patrice Wendling, Medscape
Findings from a national registry reinforce the role racial health disparities play in COVID-19 outcomes but also highlight the contribution hospitals make to the variation in poor outcomes.
November 23: “AstraZeneca Covid-19 Vaccine is 70% Effective on Average, Early Data Show” by Helen Branswell and Adam Feuerstein, STAT News
AstraZeneca said Monday that its coronavirus vaccine reduced the risk of symptomatic Covid-19 by an average of 70.4%, according to an interim analysis of large Phase 3 trials conducted in the United Kingdom and Brazil.
November 25: “After Admitting Mistake, AstraZeneca Faces Difficult Questions About Its Vaccine” by Rebecca Robins and Benjamin Mueller, The New York Times
But since unveiling the preliminary results, AstraZeneca has acknowledged a key mistake in the vaccine dosage received by some study participants, adding to questions about whether the vaccine’s apparently spectacular efficacy will hold up under additional testing.
November 27: “Plasma from Recovered Patients Shows Little Benefit in Those Hospitalized with COVID-19: Study” by Vishwadha Chander, Medscape
Using blood plasma from COVID-19 survivors to treat patients with severe pneumonia caused by the novel coronavirus showed little benefit, according to data released on Tuesday from a clinical trial in Argentina.
November 27: “Covid Overload: U.S. Hospitals Are Stretched Way Too Thin” by Reed Abelson, The New York Times
From New Mexico to Minnesota to Florida, hospitals are teeming with record numbers of Covid patients. Staff members at smaller hospitals have had to beg larger medical centers repeatedly to take one more, just one more patient, but many of the bigger hospitals have sharply limited the transfers they will accept, their own halls and wards overflowing.
November 30: “More Good News for Moderna’s COVID-19 Vaccine Candidate” by Richard Harris, NPR
The biotech company Moderna released new data Monday morning that strengthens the case for its COVID-19 vaccine. It concludes the vaccine is 94 percent effective – and strongly protects against serious illness.
November 30: “‘Absolutely Remarkable’: No One Who Got Moderna’s Vaccine in Trial Developed Severe COVID-19” by Jon Cohen, Science
Continuing the spate of stunning news about COVID-19 vaccines, the biotech company Moderna announced the final results of the 30,000-person efficacy trial for its candidate in a press release today: Only 11 people who received two doses of the vaccine developed COVID-19 symptoms after being infected with the pandemic coronavirus, versus 185 symptomatic cases in a placebo group.