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 25.8 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 over a month. There have been over 859,000 total deaths. There are over 6.2 million cases in the US. There have been over 188,000 deaths in the US, and we’re still losing over 1,000 people per day, as we have for about 2 months.
August was not a great month for some western states:
August was deadliest month for coronavirus in California and Idaho https://t.co/SjThbzd4HB
— Crawford Kilian (@Crof) September 1, 2020
Those things we have long recommended to our readers during this pandemic (masks, social distancing, and eye protection) have been studies by the WHO and found as effective means of reducing rates of illness. If there’s been any question in your mind about whether the steps you are taking to protect yourself and loved ones are useful or worth the energy, be assured that they are.
Distance learning for kids is not universally achievable in the US because of inequality: girls in Monterey County, California struggled to complete their schoolwork using a local Taco Bell’s wi-fi. How many others are lacking access?
There are a few variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, but they’re not so differentiated that they would render a vaccine moot. See the link to the PNAS article:
Some people (not me) have been worried about whether #SARSCoV2 is mutating to the point where #Covid19 vaccines won't work. If you shared that concern, this research from @wrair should put your mind at ease. https://t.co/Iw5q8fUsrV
— Helen Branswell (@HelenBranswell) August 31, 2020
Iowa was fudging their COVID-19 numbers by back-dating their reporting. A nurse practitioner blew the whistle. Iowa has one of the highest case rates per capita in the US.
Officials at the FDA indicate a willingness to green-light emergency use authorization for COVID-19 vaccines before phase III trials end. This is a disastrous policy direction that could seriously jeopardize both public trust in vaccine safety, and public enrollment in the needed phase III trials.
In more distressing US policy news, a new White House pandemic advisor is touting the big-burn herd immunity approach to the pandemic. More than 2 million Americans would likely have to die to reach herd immunity in the absence of a vaccine.
Schools have been closed, so data on rates of illness in children is falsely skewed. Now that schools are opening we’re going to see higher case numbers in US children. I spoke with a pediatrician recently and he said he’s seen a few kids in the ICU, but no child deaths. He also says he’s seen multiple parents of sick kids die. This is a risk we know to be true, and I’m here to tell you it’s happening:
U.S. coronavirus rates are rising fast among children — Cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have increased at a faster rate in children and teenagers than among the general public in the U.S. since May https://t.co/huJKFYrjUa
— Alfons López Tena (@alfonslopeztena) August 31, 2020
France and Spain are driving a resurgence in Europe:
It was a great pleasure to work with editors in Spain and France to put together this comprehensive piece on rising coronavirus cases in Europe. Gracias @zelipe, merci @LioCavic !https://t.co/TQOhsmTd6V
— Megan Clement (@MegClement) August 28, 2020
Tens of millions of vaccine doses might be available in the US by the end of the year or early into 2021. But who gets them first? First responders and those at high risk should clearly be prioritized, but what does that mean when half the population is risk because of comorbidities like obesity and hypertension?
When we look at clinical research data, there are hierarchies in levels of evidence that help guide clinical decision-making: observational study à randomized, controlled trial à meta-analyses of RCTs and other studies. A meta-analysis of multiple RCTs and observational studies on hydroxychloroquine shows a) it is not an effective treatment for COVID-19, and b) when combined with azithromycin it can increase the mortality rate. Even outside of this meta-analysis, not a single RCT has shown it to work. The more robust the study, the more it’s clear that it’s not a useful treatment.