Key developments for Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Welcome to the newly revamped Key Developments, now twice weekly and with non-COVID news. Right now, it’s actually still just COVID news, but we’ll be slowly morphing it into something broader as we go.

There are over 24 million global cases.  Cases have grown around the world by over 1.8 million since last week; global case growth has kept this pace for the last month. There have been over 822,000 total deaths. There are almost 6 million cases in the US. There have been over 182,000 deaths in the US, and we’re losing over 1,000 people per day (and have been for a long time now). We seem to be oddly comfortable with this kind of daily death count:

Coupling job losses with mass illness, faltering social safety nets, and continued supply chain disruptions means that hunger is going to surge in many US states. These problems reach beyond our shores. It’s possible we could face global famines because of the destruction this pandemic is wreaking. People are having trouble making a living right now and starvation is a real threat in many places.

School and University openings are shaping up to be a disaster. Those 500 some-odd new cases in the University of Alabama system? That’s more than all of Canada’s for the same day. You’ll want to see the whole thread. It’s quite impressive:

It’s not just a phenomenon in the US. It’s happening in other countries, too:

The FDA issued an EUA for convalescent plasma this week, but not without controversy. Many experts argued that the rushed authorization was not supported by any kind of robust data. The EUA is now on hold:

There’s purported “smoking-gun” evidence of reinfection in a Hong Kong patient, confirmed by genomics. Of interest, the patient did not appear to produce a strong antibody response the first time around, and he was asymptomatic the second time around. The info all stems from a press release and the actual raw data and figures have not been shared, although some parts of a report have been released. Similar cases (which were also genetically sequenced) are being reported out of Belgium and the Netherlands:

So called “deaths of despair” are almost certain to increase amid jobless woes and other pandemic-related stressors:

The CDC says we don’t need to do asymptomatic testing anymore. Considering that we know that asymptomatic people are perfectly good at promulgating this illness, this seems like a disastrous policy position:

Take an eerie tour of some COVID-decimated business-scapes in NYC. The roads are bad and the sidewalks are way too quiet:

Iatrogenic spread (catching the disease from a clinical setting) was a huge driver of pandemic case growth in the UK:

We’ve got can shortages now:

Venezuelans say their situation is much worse than what official numbers show. Many hospitals have no running water or functioning toilets. Medical staff have no PPE. Exponential spread is evident. They fear being left for dead.

Let’s end with a little good news: the 7-day moving average case curve is showing some improvement in the US:



    • Karl Winterling

      The Trump Administration has so far in the pandemic used a “free market” approach in directing the FDA to grant Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to treatments that show evidence of safety but not necessarily efficacy. In certain circumstances, this might be a good idea since it could create pressure to lower the cost of developing drugs and make new treatments more widely available to people who might benefit from them before full clinical trials are finalized. The downside of this is that the EUA’s have led to multiple competing products flooding the market and making supply shortages worse, exacerbating the disaster we’re in.

      Fauci said that granting an EUA to a coronavirus vaccine before you have a smoking gun for efficacy (like if you desperately need positive news during mass evictions and airline layoffs) would be a disaster because it would make it much harder to enroll people in clinical trials for other vaccines. A premature EUA would only make rational Machiavellian sense as a stunt if US companies were working on one vaccine and the EUA tricked some other country into agreeing to manufacture doses or give money to US companies.

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      • Stephanie ArnoldContributor Karl Winterling

        Convalescent plasma is also a relatively safe intervention. A rushed vaccine could have a higher risk of vaccine injury than many would find acceptable and that could backfire by impacting the public’s willingness to get the vaccine. Having that happen when we already a festering antivax movement would not be great. We’re not going to have that problem with plasma donations. 

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