Brazil's president says hydroxychloroquine will cure his virus
11:51 AM CT on 7/8/20
(AP) Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says he is confident that he will swiftly recover from the new coronavirus thanks to treatment with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that has not been proven effective against COVID-19.
Bolsonaro said he tested positive for the new coronavirus on Tuesday after months of downplaying its severity while deaths mounted rapidly inside the country.
The president told reporters he underwent a lung X-ray on Monday after experiencing fever, muscle aches and malaise. As of Tuesday, his fever had subsided, he said, and he attributed the improvement to hydroxychloroquine.
He stepped back from the journalists and removed his mask at one point to show that he looked well.
The 65-year-old right-wing populist who has been known to mingle in crowds without covering his face confirmed the results while wearing a mask and speaking to reporters huddled close in front of him in the capital, Brasilia.
"I'm, well, normal. I even want to take a walk around here, but I can't due to medical recommendations," Bolsonaro said.
Later Tuesday, he posted a video to Facebook of him taking his third dose of hydroxychloroquine, which has also been promoted by President Donald Trump.
But a string of studies in the UK and U.S., as well as by the World Health Organization, have found it ineffective and sometimes deadly because of its effects on the heart. Several studies were cancelled early because of that.
"Today I'm a lot better, so certainly it's working," Bolsonaro said, downing the dose with a glass of water. "We know today there are other remedies that can help fight the coronavirus. We know none of them have their efficacy scientifically proven, but I'm one more person for whom this is working. So I trust hydroxychloroquine. And you?"
Harvard, MIT sue to block ICE rule on international students
9:39 AM CT on 7/8/20
(AP) Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday challenging the Trump administration's decision to bar international students from staying in the U.S. if they take classes entirely online this fall.
The lawsuit, filed in Boston's federal court, seeks to prevent federal immigration authorities from enforcing the rule. The universities contend that the directive violates the Administrative Procedures Act because officials failed to offer a reasonable basis justifying the policy and because the public was not given notice to comment on it.
The Trump administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement notified colleges Monday that international students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools operate entirely online this fall. New visas will not be issued to students at those schools, and others at universities offering a mix of online and in-person classes will be barred from taking all of their classes online.
The guidance was released the same day Harvard announced it would be keeping its classes online this fall. Harvard says the directive would prevent many of Harvard's 5,000 international students from remaining in the U.S.
Harvard President Lawrence Bacow said the order came without notice and that its "cruelty" was surpassed only by its "recklessness."
"It appears that it was designed purposefully to place pressure on colleges and universities to open their on-campus classrooms for in-person instruction this fall, without regard to concerns for the health and safety of students, instructors, and others," Bacow said in a statement Wednesday. "This comes at a time when the United States has been setting daily records for the number of new infections, with more than 300,000 new cases reported since July 1."
The guidelines have provoked backlash from universities across the U.S. who say international students have an important place in their communities. Many schools have also come to depend on tuition revenue from international students, who typically pay higher tuition rates.
It creates an urgent dilemma for thousands of international students who became stranded in the U.S. last spring after the coronavirus forced their schools to move online. Those attending schools that are staying online must "depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction," according to the guidance.
Fauci favors mandatory mask orders
8:18 PM CT on 7/7/20
(AP) Dr. Anthony Fauci says Alabama and other states with soaring coronavirus rates have a window of opportunity to bring it under control and spoke in favor of state and local requirements for masks in public.
Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Diseases, says the United States is in a resurgence of new coronavirus cases, with daily cases nearly double the country’s previously high baseline. Infection rates have been rising in the South and West.
“We are facing a serious problem now,” Fauci said in an online news conference with Alabama Sen. Doug Jones. He says the U.S. is in a situation where it must continue to try to reopen in a safe, prudent manner.
“What is alarming is the slope of the curve,” Fauci said of cases in Alabama. He added, “the signal should be wear a mask, period.”
Fauci says the mean age of people getting infected is about 15 years younger than previously in the U.S. While generally healthier, young people can still face serious illness if they have underling health conditions.
The country’s top infectious disease expert spoke in favor of school reopening, saying there are ripple effects for families if children can’t go to school. He says areas with high rates of illness might consider mandatory masks or rotating schedules to reduce classroom size.
N.C. boosts testing; won't require physician referral
6:06 PM CT on 7/7/20
(AP) North Carolina has announced that residents will no longer need a doctor’s referral to get a coronavirus test.
Tuesday’s order, lasting until Gov. Roy Cooper’s current state of emergency is rescinded, aims to encourage more Black, Hispanic and Native American residents to get tested.
Mandy Cohen, state secretary of Health and Human Services, also announced the creation of up to 300 free temporary testing sites throughout July.
The expansion comes even as Cohen said the state needs more testing supplies from the federal government. Cohen said she and Cooper discussed the need for more chemical reagents Monday with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.
While test results previously took 2 to 3 days to get back results in June, Cohen said supply issues have increased current waits to a week in some cases.
North Carolina reported a high of nearly 1,000 coronavirus hospitalizations Tuesday, along with a two-week low in daily completed tests with less than 13,000 performed.
Long-term care providers push for public health emergency to be extended
4:22 PM CT on 7/7/20
In a letter to HHS, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) is requesting that the public health emergency be extended beyond July 26 “so that long term and post-acute care providers can continue to offer the most efficient and effective care possible during the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.”
AHCA/NCAL suggests the public health emergency be extended until there is a vaccine for COVID-19 and recommends that, once a vaccine is developed, that nursing homes and assisted living communities be prioritized, according to a news release.
“With the virus continuing to surge across the country, now is not the time to stand down HHS’ extensive supports and flexibilities to combat the virus,” the July 6 letter reads.
AHCA/NCAL particularly highlights the importance of the Social Security Act Section 1135 and Section 1812(f) waivers, which loosen restrictions on providing care for Medicare and Medicaid patients, among other things.
Nurses test positive twice as often as physicians in central Indiana
2:55 PM CT on 7/7/20
Nurses tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19 more than twice as frequently as physicians in central Indiana, according to a dashboard of data from drive-through testing sites.
The dashboard, created by hc1 and Eli Lilly, aggregates testing results and survey data from patients who received COVID-19 tests at drive-through sites in central Indiana between April 6 and May 22. The positive detection rate was 18.2% for nurses and 7.8% for physicians.
Other key findings include the most common pre-existing conditions and symptoms reported. Chronic lung disease and diabetes were the most common conditions reported by those who tested positive. Of the six symptoms collected, coughing was most often reported, while shortness of breath was the least common.
However, the detected rate increased with each symptom reported. More than 31% of patients who said they had all six symptoms tested positive.
“Understanding the symptoms of patients is critical as we continue to better understand COVID-19,” said Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Lilly’s chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories.
HHS to provide free tests in 3 cities with COVID case spikes
1:41 PM CT on 7/7/20
HHS will temporarily make available free COVID-19 testing in three U.S. cities to deal with a recent spike in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, the agency said Tuesday.
Jacksonville, Fla.; Baton Rouge, La.; and Edinburg, Texas, will each receive up to 5,000 tests per day for five to 12 days. People five years of age and older will be eligible for free testing, even if they don’t have symptoms or live in the community where the testing takes place. The temporary boost in testing is meant to supplement, not substitute, ongoing state and federal testing efforts, HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Dr. Brett Giroir said during a press call.
According to Giroir, a team led by White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx determined a testing surge would help the cities address the outbreak because they fell within a “sweet spot” of the team’s criteria.
The Trump administration is scrambling to cope with a recent uptick in COVID-19 cases, especially among people under 40 years old.
COVID-19 vaccine candidates secure funds
11:53 AM CT on 7/7/20
HHS and the Department of Defense will spend more than $2 billion funding commercial-scale manufacturing demonstrations for a COVID-19 vaccine candidate and potential anti-viral antibody treatment, the agencies said Tuesday.
In return, the federal government will own all doses produced by the demonstration projects, including 100 million doses of Novavax’s vaccine candidate and up to 300,000 doses of Regeneron’s COVID-19 therapeutic. The vaccine doses could be used in clinical trials or—if the FDA grants emergency use authorization—a vaccination campaign. Similarly, the FDA could approve or issue emergency use authorization for Regeneron’s antibody treatment to make it available to COVID-19 patients.
Both moves are part of the Trump administration’s initiative to speed up the development of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments.
The manufacturing demonstrations “will take place while clinical trials are underway. Working in parallel this way shaves months off the traditional product development timeline,” HHS said in a statement.
FDA’s emergency use authorization power allows the agency to make available unapproved products or allow unapproved use of an approved product. The agency recently revoked emergency use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 patients because of serious side effects, including cardiac problems.
Trump donors among early recipients of coronavirus loans
9:50 AM CT on 7/7/20
(AP) As much as $273 million in federal coronavirus aid was awarded to more than 100 companies that are owned or operated by major donors to President Donald Trump's election efforts, according to an Associated Press analysis of federal data.
Many were among the first to be approved for a loan in early April, when the administration was struggling to launch the lending program. And only eight businesses had to wait until early May before securing the aid, according to the AP's review of data released Monday.
The Trump-connected companies obtained the aid through the Paycheck Protection Program, which extends a lifeline to small businesses struggling to navigate the pandemic. Fast-food chains like Muy Brands, oil and gas companies and white-collar firms were all granted a slice of more than $659 billion in low-interest business loans that will be forgiven if the money is used on payroll, rent and similar expenses.
All told, the Trump supporters who run these companies have contributed at least $11.1 million since May 2015 to Trump's campaign committees, the Republican National Committee and America First Action, a super PAC that has been endorsed by Trump, the AP review found. Each donor gave at least $20,000.
There is no evidence the companies received favorable treatment as a result of their ties to Trump, and the businesses account for just a fraction of the overall spending under the program.
But the distribution of relief money is coming under heightened scrutiny after the Trump administration initially refused to reveal which companies received loans, only to cave under growing bipartisan pressure from Congress. On Monday, the Treasury Department released the names of companies that received loans that were greater than $150,000, though they didn't release specific dollar figures and instead gave ranges for the dollar value of the aid.
New rules: Foreign pupils must leave US if classes go online
9:36 PM CT on 7/6/2020
(AP) International students will be forced to leave the U.S. or transfer to another college if their schools offer classes entirely online this fall, under new guidelines issued Monday by federal immigration authorities.
The guidelines, issued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, provide additional pressure for universities to reopen even amid growing concerns about the recent spread of COVID-19 among young adults. Colleges received the guidance the same day that some institutions, including Harvard University, announced that all instruction will be offered remotely.
President Donald Trump has insisted that schools and colleges return to in-person instruction as soon as possible. Soon after the guidance was released, Trump repeated on Twitter that schools must reopen this fall, adding that Democrats want to keep schools closed “for political reasons, not for health reasons.”
“They think it will help them in November. Wrong, the people get it!” Trump wrote.
Under the updated rules, international students must take at least some of their classes in person. New visas will not be issued to students at schools or programs that are entirely online. And even at colleges offering a mix of in-person and online courses this fall, international students will be barred from taking all their classes online.
It creates an urgent dilemma for thousands of international students who became stranded in the U.S. last spring after the coronavirus forced their schools to move online. Those attending schools that are staying online must “depart the country or take other measures, such as transferring to a school with in-person instruction,” according to the guidance.
The American Council on Education, which represents university presidents, said the guidelines are “horrifying" and will result in confusion as schools look for ways to reopen safely.
Of particular concern is a stipulation saying students won’t be exempt from the rules even if an outbreak forces their schools online during the fall term. It's unclear what would happen if a student ended up in that scenario but faced travel restrictions from their home country, said Terry Hartle, the council's senior vice president.
“It's going to cause enormous confusion and uncertainty,” Hartle said. “ICE is clearly creating an incentive for institutions to reopen, regardless of whether or not the circumstances of the pandemic warrant it."
West Virginia requires face masks indoors
7:38 PM CT on 7/6/2020
(AP) West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Monday instituted a mandatory face mask order for indoor spaces after the state reported record numbers of new coronavirus cases over the weekend.
The Republican’s executive order, which goes into effect at midnight, requires everyone over the age of 9 to wear face coverings inside buildings when social distancing isn’t possible.
Confirmed virus cases in the state have risen 30% in the last two weeks.
State health officials have urged residents to wear masks, but the governor had previously said a mask mandate would be politically divisive and difficult to enforce. On Monday, he said he could wait no longer.
According to the census, nearly 1.8 million people live in West Virginia.
Ohio hospitals see $3.3B dent from COVID-19
5:36 PM CT on 7/6/2020
(Crain's Cleveland Business) Although Ohio's hospitals have received $1.93 billion in federal funds, it doesn't make up for the financial impact they've seen thus far of $3.3 billion, according to the Ohio Hospital Association.
Between March 9, when a public health emergency was declared, and May 1, when some elective procedures resumed, Ohio hospitals suffered a total of $2.38 billion in lost revenue and emergency expenses, according to the association, which predicts that hospitals in the state are still losing a combined $6 million in revenue each day due to low patient volumes and decreased hospital utilization.
The $1.93 billion Ohio hospitals received in total CARES Act funding from the provider relief fund and delayed cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share funding still leaves a $1.38 billion funding gap that the association says will continue to grow without additional financial relief.
"We have received a significant amount of funding from the CARES Act but not enough to offset the losses that a lot of the hospitals have experienced to date," said OHA spokesman John Palmer. "I know there continues to be relief efforts from state as well as the federal government. … It is something that we continue to pursue from that standpoint as well … and then the other aspect is we're just seeing patient volume still not rising to where it should be in particular service lines."
Arizona officials: Most virus cases involve younger people
3:04 PM CT on 7/6/2020
(AP) The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Arizona has now surpassed 100,000 and younger people, not the elderly, make up more than half of them, state health officials said Monday.
The Department of Health Services said more than 62,000 of the 101,441 reported cases involve people younger than 44.
DHS Director Dr. Cara Christ said it's people between 20 and 44 who can drive community spread of COVID-19.
Last week, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey ordered bars, gyms and movie theaters to close for three weeks in Arizona, which leads the U.S. in new virus cases per capita. The action has drawn criticism from some Republicans and defiance from one metro Phoenix chain of health clubs.
“We urge every Arizonan to follow Gov. Ducey’s executive orders to contain the spread and take simple precautions, such as wearing a face-covering when out in public and avoiding gatherings of people,” Christ said.
Totals released Monday by state health officials include an additional 3,352 confirmed cases and one death. However, they said the figures may be an undercount because of a lag in reporting from hospitals over the weekend. The number of reported COVID-19 deaths stands at 1,810.
Arizona remains high in terms of positive tests and coronavirus hospitalizations. While the test positivity rate nationwide is around 9%, Arizona is around 13.4%. The number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients on Sunday was 3,212, a new high, according to state data. Hospital capacity statewide is currently around 89%.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said in an interview on ABC News on Sunday that the surging cases are causing a crisis involving testing shortages in the city.
Gallego, a Democrat, said some residents over the weekend had to line up for eight hours in cars to get COVID-19 tests and the federal government has been slow to help.
New Jersey virus transmission rate ticks up as outbreaks reported
1:34 PM CT on 7/6/2020
(AP) The rate of transmission of COVID-19 in New Jersey has exceeded 1.0 for the first time in a month and a half, Gov. Phil Murphy said on Monday.
That’s the average number of people infected by each infectious person.
The Democratic governor said there were several outbreaks across the state that officials found to be directly tied to travel to other hotspots, including several cases linked to people who attended a wedding in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Visitors to New Jersey from South Carolina and 15 other states were asked last month to self-quarantine for two weeks.
New Jersey Transit on Monday resumed full rail and light rail service after a break because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Also back Monday were youth day camps, in-person summer school and school graduation ceremonies, capped at 500 people and required to be outside.
Murphy had earlier announced the reopening as part of Stage 2, of three. Before the Fourth of July holiday, nearly a dozen different sectors reopened, though with limited capacity. They include: amusement parks, aquariums, boardwalk arcades, bowling alleys, casinos, libraries and museums.
Rail riders and NJ Transit workers must wear masks under the governor’s reopening mandate.
New Jersey’s coronavirus trends have continued to head in the right direction, while other states are seeing cases spike again.
Twenty more deaths were announced, increasing the statewide total to more than 13,300. More than 200 positive cases were reported, bringing the total amount of cases to about 173,600.
Miami-Dade County imposing restrictions after cases spike
12:39 PM CT on 7/6/2020
(AP) Florida's biggest county ordered restaurants and gyms closed again Monday because of a rise in confirmed coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, as the U.S. emerged from a Fourth of July weekend of picnics, pool parties and beach outings that health officials fear could fuel the rapidly worsening outbreak.
The see-saw effect — restrictions lifted, then reversed after a resurgence of cases — has been seen around the U.S. in recent weeks and is expected again after a long holiday that saw party-goers and sunbathers gathering, many without masks, on one of the biggest weekends of the summer.
Confirmed cases are on the rise in 41 out of 50 states plus the District of Columbia, and the percentage of tests coming back positive for the virus is increasing in 39 states.
Florida, which recorded an all-time high of 11,400 cases Saturday and has seen its positive test rate over the past two weeks reach more than 18%, has been especially hard hit, along with other Sunbelt states such as Arizona, California and Texas.
In Florida's Miami-Dade County, population 2.7 million, Mayor Carlos Gimenez issued an emergency order closing restaurants and certain other indoor places, seven weeks after they were allowed to reopen.
“We want to ensure that our hospitals continue to have the staffing necessary to save lives,” Gimenez said in a statement.
Latino, Black neighborhoods struggle with test disparities
11:43 AM CT on 7/6/2020
(AP) As the pandemic explodes in diverse states like Arizona and Florida, people in communities of color who have been exposed to the virus are struggling to get tested. While people nationwide complain about appointments being overbooked or waiting hours to be seen, getting a test can be even harder in America’s poorer, Hispanic and Black neighborhoods, far from middle-class areas where most chain pharmacies and urgent care clinics offering tests are found.
“There really isn’t any testing around here," said Juan Espinosa, who went with his brother Enrique to the recent drive-up testing event in Phoenix’s largely Latino Maryvale neighborhood after a fellow construction worker was suspected of having COVID-19. “We don’t know anywhere else to go.”
Hundreds of people lined up last week for another large-scale testing event in a different low-income area of Phoenix that's heavily Hispanic and Black.
Arizona — the nation's leader in new confirmed infections per capita over the past two weeks — and its minority neighborhoods are just starting to feel what New York and other East Coast and Midwestern communities experienced several months ago, said Mahasin Mujahid, associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley's School of Public Health.
“It's the perfect storm as this hits unlevel playing fields all across the U.S.,” said Mujahid, a social epidemiologist who studies health in disadvantaged neighborhoods.
Public health officials say widespread testing to rapidly identify and isolate infected people can help ensure residents of underserved neighborhoods get care while slowing the virus's spread.
"Pandemics expose the inequalities in our healthcare system,” said Dr. Thomas Tsai, assistant professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a surgeon at Boston's Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “What is needed is to make testing free and as available as possible.
Bill would grant emergency powers to Hawaii health director
9:54 AM CT on 7/6/2020
(AP) The Hawaii state health director could declare a public health emergency, order quarantine and contact tracing, and temporarily close schools and businesses through a measure under consideration by lawmakers.
The proposal would also allow the Department of Health director to prohibit the sale of coronavirus tracing information. The bill would grant the director with some responsibilities currently held by the governor.
Health Director Bruce Anderson said he supports the proposal spearheaded by Attorney General Clare Connors.
“I’m sure we’re going to see more pandemics and being ready to respond quickly and appropriately is going to be key to keeping these incidents under control," Anderson said.
The bill would give the director more flexibility in dealing with health emergencies, Anderson said.
“It gets you around the politics," he said. “You’re taking actions that are appropriate.”
Healthcare groups urge mask wearing as White House rejects national plan
8:38 AM CT on 7/6/2020
The American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and American Nurses Association joined forces on Monday to push the American public to wear face mask and help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
In an open letter, the three organizations warned that the country is "watching in real-time as the dramatic uptick in COVID-19 cases is erasing our hard-won gains" as ICU capacity dwindles and PPE becomes scarce once again.
Americans once again must commit to wearing face masks, regularly washing their hands and maintaining physical distancing to reduce the virus' spread, the groups said.
"The toll of this pandemic is already staggering, and it will take many more months, perhaps years, to truly understand its impact on our country and our way of life," the letter said. "But what is certain – and what the science and evidence are telling us – is that COVID-19 is not behind us and we must resist confusing re-opening with returning to normalcy. Doing so will escalate this crisis and result in more suffering and death."
But the White House on Monday continued to reject calls for a national mask-wearing policy. White House chief of staff Mark Meadows told "Fox and Friends" that President Donald Trump sees mask wearing as a "state-to-state issue" and said a national order would not be coming.
Scientists say WHO underplaying risk of airborne spread of COVID-19
8:15 PM CT on 7/5/2020
The Guardian is reporting that a group of 239 scientists from 32 countries including the U.S. are drafting a letter warning that the World Health Organization is downplaying the potential for COVID-19 to spread through airborne transmission. They also warn the government needs to implement control measures, such as wearing masks and more tightly regulating ventilation and air conditioning to minimize recirculating air.
WHO guidance states that the virus is transmitted primarily between people through respiratory droplets and contact. Aerosol transmission involves much smaller particles that can remain in the air for long periods of time and can travel farther.
Members of the WHO’s infection prevention committee have said that while aerosol transmission may play some role, there is overwhelming evidence that the primary routes of transmission are through direct contact and respiratory droplets expelled during coughing, sneezing or speech. They said introducing new measures to guard against aerosol transmission was unfeasible and unlikely to make much difference to the spread of infection.
The letter due to be published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases is authored by Lidia Morawska, of the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, and Donald Milton, of the University of Maryland, and has been endorsed by more than 200 scientists, including some who have been involved in drawing up the WHO’s advice.
They say emerging evidence, including from settings such as meat processing plants where there have been outbreaks, suggests that airborne transmission could be more important than the WHO has acknowledged.
Texas leaders warn of hospital capacity, ask for lockdowns
6:12 PM CT on 7/5/2020
(AP) Leaders in two of Texas’ biggest cities are calling on the governor to empower local governments to order residents to stay home as the state’s continued surge in coronavirus cases tests hospital capacity.
Austin Mayor Steve Adler told CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday that he wants Gov. Gregg Abbott, a Republican, to return control of his city to the local government as its hospitals face a potential crisis.
“If we don’t change the trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun,” Adler, a Democrat, said. “And in our ICUs, I could be 10 days away from that.”
Texas reported 3,449 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 Sunday, after a record high of 8,258 Saturday. State health officials also reported 29 additional deaths, bringing the totals to 2,637 fatalities and 195,239 confirmed cases. A record 8,181 Texans with COVID-19 were hospitalized Sunday.
The true number of cases is likely much higher because many people have not been tested and studies suggest that people can be infected and not feel sick.
The Fourth of July weekend has also seen some defiance of Abbott’s orders closing bars and requiring people to wear face coverings in public in much of the state.
The mask order — which carries a $250 fine — came as part of the most dramatic about-face Abbott has made as he retreats from what stood out as one of America’s swiftest reopenings.
Mexican town residents block road to US border
3:45 PM CT on 7/5/2020
(AP) Residents of the town of Sonoyta, across from Lukeville, Arizona, briefly blocked the main road leading south from the U.S. border over the weekend over fears of coronavirus outbreaks.
Arizona has seen a major upsurge in infections and there were worries about intensified contagion during the July 4 weekend.
Sonoyta Mayor José Ramos Arzate issued a statement Saturday “inviting U.S. tourists not to visit Mexico.”
Local residents organized to block the road with their cars on the Mexican side Saturday.
Video posted by residents showed several travelers complaining that they had a right to cross because they were Mexican citizens. The road is the quickest route to the seaside resort of Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point.
Ramos Arzate wrote that people from the United States should only be allowed in “for essential activities, and for that reason, the checkpoint and inspection point a few meters from the Sonoyta-Lukeville AZ crossing will continue operating.”
FDA head Hahn refuses to back up Trump's "harmless" claim
1:32 PM CT on 7/5/2020
(AP) The Food and Drug Administration commissioner is declining to back up President Donald Trump’s claim that 99% of coronavirus cases are “harmless.”
Dr. Stephen Hahn tells CNN and ABC that he’s “not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” but that government data clearly show “this is a serious problem.”
He adds that “any case is tragic” and that to stem the tide of surging cases people should follow government guidance to practice social distancing and wear a mask.
In Fourth of July remarks, Trump said the U.S. was testing too much and falsely asserted that “by so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless.”
The World Health Organization in fact has said about 20% of those diagnosed with COVID-19 progress to severe disease, including pneumonia and respiratory failure. Those with mild or no symptoms, meanwhile, could spread the virus to others.
The mayor of Austin, Texas, where COVID-19 cases are surging, called Trump’s remarks “dangerous” and “wrong.” Mayor Steve Adler urged people to listen to local officials for public safety guidance rather than the “ambiguous message coming out of Washington.”
Phoenix mayor says virus test shortage a 'crisis'
11:02 AM CT on 7/5/2020
(AP) Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego is pointing to a “crisis” involving coronavirus testing shortages in her city due to surging cases in Arizona, which leads the U.S. in new coronavirus cases per capita.
Gallego, a Democrat, said some residents over the weekend had to line up for eight hours by car to get COVID-19 tests and that the federal government has been slow to help.
Gallego tells ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that Arizona went from “zero to 60” by being one of the first states to reopen after it was among the last to implement stay-at-home orders.
She says that led to an explosion of cases, citing crowded nightclubs with free champagne and people unwittingly spreading the virus at large family gatherings.
She faults mixed public messaging after President Donald Trump’s recent visit to Phoenix. Gallego says while she was urging people to stay at home and avoid gatherings of more than 10 people, Trump undercut that by holding large events and not wearing a mask.
US holiday fuels worries about skyrocketing virus cases
9:34 AM CT on 7/5/2020
(AP) The U.S. has dipped under 50,000 new daily infections for the first time in four days, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, but experts fear celebrations for the July 4th weekend will act like rocket fuel for the nation’s surging coronavirus outbreak.
Johns Hopkins on Sunday counted 45,300 new coronavirus infections reported Saturday in the U.S. after three days in which the daily count reached as high as 54,500 new cases. The lower figure does not mean the situation in the U.S. is improving, it could be due to reduced reporting on a national holiday.
The country has the most infections and virus-related deaths in the world, with 2.8 million cases and nearly 130,000 dead, according to the university. Experts say the true toll of the pandemic is significantly higher, due to people who died before they were tested and missed mild cases.
Worldwide, nearly 11.3 million people have been infected and over 531,000 have died, with outbreaks surging in India, South Africa, Pakistan, Brazil and several other Latin American countries. In a first, South Africa on Sunday reported more than 10,000 new confirmed cases in a single day.
To show just how steep the U.S. infection curve is, authorities were reporting under 20,000 new infections a day as recently as June 15. On Saturday, Florida and Texas reported more record daily increases in confirmed cases and virus-related deaths have begun to rise.
Despite warnings by health experts to limit gatherings, President Donald Trump went ahead with a speech at Mount Rushmore in South Dakota on Friday and an evening of tribute and fireworks Saturday on the National Mall in Washington. Trump used the nation's Independence Day as an occasion to assail those who do not support him and did not mention the horrific death toll from the pandemic.
Pat Lee of Upper Dublin, Pennsylvania, and two friends, none in masks, gathered near the event in Washington.
“POTUS said it would go away,” Lee said of the pandemic, using an acronym for president of the United States. “Masks, I think, are like a hoax.”
In another worrying sign, the World Health Organization said member states reported more than 212,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 around the world on Saturday, the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic. The Geneva-based organization said more than 60% of the confirmed cases reports it received were in the Americas, which includes the U.S and Brazil.
Faced with rising infections, many U.S. communities canceled parades and fireworks and cautioned people against hosting large gatherings.
Texas has its biggest daily rise in virus cases
7:47 PM CT on 7/4/20
(AP) Texas has reported its biggest daily increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases — 8,258. Hospitalizations also continue to climb.
Much of Texas began mandating face coverings Friday on the orders of Gov. Greg Abbott. The mask order carries a $250 fine. The order is the most dramatic about-face that Abbott has made as he retreats from what stood out as one of America’s swiftest reopenings.
Texas health officials on Saturday said the state’s total number of confirmed coronavirus cases is now at 191,790. State health officials also reported 33 additional deaths linked to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. That brings Texas’ total to 2,608 deaths. Hospitalizations stood at 7,890 on Saturday, an increase of 238 from Friday.
WHO reports highest 1-day virus case increase
2:45 PM CT on 7/4/20
(AP) The World Health Organization says member states reported more than 212,000 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 to the global body Saturday, the highest single-day increase since the start of the pandemic.
The Geneva-based WHO said the highest number of new infections was reported from the Americas region, which includes the United States and Brazil, with almost 130,000 confirmed cases.
WHO’s count can differ from other global case tallies due to official reporting delays.
Florida has record number of new virus cases
12:24 PM CT on 7/4/20
(AP) The Fourth of July holiday weekend began Saturday with some sobering numbers in the Sunshine State: Florida logged a record number of people testing positive for the coronavirus.
State health officials reported 11,445 new cases, a single-day record since the pandemic began earlier this year. The latest count brings the total number of cases in the state to more than 190,000. A website maintained by the Department of Health shows an additional 245 hospitalizations from the outbreak.
Local officials and health experts are worried that people will gather over the holiday weekend and spread the virus through close contact. They’ve tried to mitigate spread by shutting bars statewide. Some regional attractions, such as Zoo Miami and Jungle Island, have closed. Universal Studios in Orlando is open.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez closed Miami-Dade County beaches through the weekend. Municipalities elsewhere in South Florida, from Vero Beach to Broward County, did the same. Beaches in the Florida Keys are also closed. Public beaches along Pinellas County’s 35 miles of sand are open.
Trump signs extension of COVID-relief fund for businesses
10:06 AM CT on 7/4/20
(AP) President Donald Trump on Saturday signed into law a temporary extension of a subsidy program for small businesses battered by the coronavirus,
The legislation extends the June 30 deadline for applying for the program to Aug. 8. Lawmakers created the program in March and have modified it twice since, adding money on one occasion and more recently permitting more flexible use of the funding despite some grumbling among GOP conservatives.
About $130 billion of $660 billion approved for the program remains eligible for businesses to seek direct federal subsidies for payroll and other costs such as rent, though demand for the Paycheck Protection Program has pretty much dried up in recent weeks.
The Democratic-controlled House voted on Wednesday to approve the extension of the program after the Republican-controlled Senate did the same.
Trump had been expected to sign the measure.
Curfews, closures as COVID-19 burdens Florida hospitals
5:37 PM CT on 7/3/20
(AP) As coronovirus infections surge across Florida and hospital authorities nervously count their available intensive care beds, the state's most populous county is closing down again, to contain the spread.
Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew will be in place indefinitely.Florida reported 341 new hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients on Friday, the biggest daily jump since the pandemic began.
Miami's largest hospital said it will begin restricting elective procedures on Monday. Two large medical networks in the Tampa Bay area also said they'll limit non-emergency procedures at eight hospitals next week, since Pinellas County has just 10% of its ICU units available.
The state health department also reported 9,488 new confirmed cases and 67 deaths, a day after setting a new daily record with more than 10,000 cases.The county's latest statistics showed more than 1,400 COVID patients in Miami hospitals, including 306 in intensive care, occupying about 73% of the ICU beds that would be otherwise available.
WHO urges focus on first wave of coronavirus
3:46 PM CT on 7/3/20
(AP) The World Health Organization's emergencies chief says "we need to put up a fight now" during a peak in the current wave of the coronavirus pandemic — rather than focusing on when a second wave might come.
Dr. Michael Ryan said the world will be much better at fighting a second wave, if people can learn the lessons of fighting the first wave.
WHO officials emphasized mask-wearing, social distancing, and hygiene by individuals, along with contact-tracing and tracking of cases by health authorities as key strategies to fight the virus. They say governments and individuals should contour their policies and behavior based on the outbreak's status in their countries.
Ryan said the world was experiencing a "second peak in the first wave" — a situation in which the virus hasn't been suppressed enough to quell transmission to end the first one.
Hot-spot Arizona reaches ICU capacity of 91%
1:33 PM CT on 7/3/20
(AP) Arizona has reached new peaks in hospitalizations and emergency department visits, indicating the state is only intensifying as a coronavirus hot spot.
State health officials say the capacity of hospital intensive care units is at an all-time high of 91%.
The number of people hospitalized Thursday due to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19 was 3,013, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. It's the first time reaching 3,000.
People who went to the ER because of COVID-19 symptoms numbered a record 1,847, nearly 500 more than a day earlier.
The state reported Friday 4,433 confirmed cases and 31 deaths. The total stands at 91,858 cases and 1,788 deaths.
Gov: New color-coded alert system can help Ohio fight virus
11:28 AM CT on 7/3/20
(AP) — Ohio is using a new color-coded, county-by-county coronavirus alert and advisory system to assess which areas may be seeing flare-ups of cases and should take additional precautions, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday as he also announced much-awaited guidance for reopening schools.
The alert system, begun Thursday, takes into account seven indicators for each county, such as sustained increases in cases and in coronavirus-related hospital admissions, outpatient visits and emergency room visits, and the proportion of cases that aren't connected to congregate settings, such as prisons or nursing homes. State officials said they also intend to factor in information from coronavirus testing and contact-tracing.
No counties are listed in the most concerning level — labeled purple — but Columbus and surrounding Franklin County are being watched closely as their data indicators are trending in that direction based on "explosive" growth in positive tests, DeWine said.
Miami-Dade mayor sets new curfew amid hospital staffing shortages
9:39 AM CT on 7/3/20
(AP) Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said he's instituting an overnight curfew and closing some businesses as the county's number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalization rates continue to rise.
Gimenez said Thursday night that the 10 p.m.to 6 a.m. curfew, which begins Friday, will be in place indefinitely.
On Thursday, Florida reported a new daily record of 10,109 COVID positive cases. The state's health department on Thursday also tallied 325 new coronavirus hospitalizations in Florida, one of the biggest 24-hour jumps since the pandemic began.
Gimenez cited staffing shortages at local hospitals in announcing the curfew. "I met with our medical experts this afternoon to discuss what other steps we can take to stop the spread of virus infection and ensure that our hospitals have sufficient capacity," he said Thursday. "At this time, we have plenty of beds, but some hospitals are experiencing staffing shortages."
HealthPartners closes clinics, eliminates 200 jobs
7:48 PM CT on 7/2/20
Bloomington, Minn.-based HealthPartners will shut down two of its clinics, which will eliminate 200 jobs, according to media reports.
The Star Tribune reported that HealthPartners is moving toward telehealth amid the COVID-19 pandemic and that's shifting where the health system sees the need for clinics and medical offices.
HealthPartners has approximately 26,000 employees and nine hospitals. It previously laid off more than 400 workers in late 2019.
Gov: New color-coded alert system can help Ohio fight virus
6:08 PM CT on 7/2/20
(AP) Ohio is using a new color-coded, county-by-county coronavirus alert and advisory system to assess which areas may be seeing flare-ups of cases and should take additional precautions, Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday as he also announced much-awaited guidance for reopening schools.
The alert system takes into account seven indicators for each county, such as sustained increases in cases and in coronavirus-related hospital admissions, outpatient visits and emergency room visits, and the proportion of cases that aren't connected to congregate settings, such as prisons or nursing homes. State officials said they also intend to factor in information from coronavirus testing and contact-tracing.
“This information should inform people. I think it should fire people up," DeWine said. “I think it should get people excited and say, 'Hey, we're tougher than this. We're not gonna let this happen to our state. We are not gonna be Florida. We are not gonna be Texas. We are not gonna be Italy.' ... This is a long battle, and we won Round 1, maybe Round 2, but this is 15 Round heavyweight championship, and we’ve got to stay in there and we’ve got to stay punching.”
No counties are listed in the most concerning level — labeled purple — but Columbus and surrounding Franklin County are being watched closely as their data indicators are trending in that direction based on “explosive” growth in positive tests, DeWine said.
Franklin and six more counties — Butler, Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Huron, Montgomery and Trumbull — are labeled red, indicating risk there is considered very high and people there should limit activity away from home as much as possible and wear masks when they go out. Twenty-eight counties were in the orange category Thursday, and 53 were labeled with the least-concerning yellow.
Despite COVID surge, Mexico avoids overwhelmed hospitals
4:06 PM CT on 7/2/20
(AP) In a Mexican army barracks, hospital beds have replaced bunks. Oxygen tanks fill the room that held assault rifles. The building that previously housed soldiers between missions to eradicate opium poppy crops is now outfitted for up to 100 patients infected with the coronavirus.
The two-story barracks is one of more than 100 spaces converted by the military to treat COVID-19. But since it opened in May, only about half of its beds have been occupied.
That's because Mexico's health system has so far not been overwhelmed by the pandemic. The government early on chose to invest in expanding hospital beds rather than testing for the virus. Despite recording nearly three times more deaths than health officials initially predicted, beds are widely available.
The government now has nearly 900 designated COVID-19 hospitals around the country, up from 645 in April, said Health Undersecretary Hugo López-Gatell, the government's point man on the pandemic.
"The net result is the objective that we have sought since the start," López-Gatell said, explaining that Mexico had successfully avoided any emergency "where there are people who can't be attended to because there isn't a bed available." He said that means not just beds, but personnel and other equipment too.
Mexico ranks seventh globally in pandemic deaths, with more than 26,000 reported fatalities from COVID-19, a figure considered a significant undercount because of the low testing rate.
Adding bed capacity was wise, but hospital occupancy is as high as it is because the government has not managed the pandemic well, said Gordon McCord, an associate dean and economics professor at the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California, San Diego.
Abundant testing, contact tracing and physical distancing "must go hand-in-hand with preparing hospitals," said McCord, who focuses on public health and development economics. "No amount of the latter will be enough without the former."
As with any disease, some deaths are inevitable regardless of the number and type of hospital beds available. Experts say another contributing factor is the reluctance of many people to go to the hospital, something Mexico City's mayor sought to counter by announcing expanded testing and a door-to-door informational campaign in June.
Much of the expansion of beds for COVID-19 patients has been at lower-level facilities that are not designed to handle serious cases like a top-tier hospital, said Dr. Francisco Moreno, an infectious disease specialist and head of the COVID-19 response at ABC Medical Center in Mexico City.
While there are no reliable statistics on whether coronavirus patients are more or less likely to survive in Mexico than another country, Moreno described the death rate in lower-level hospitals as worrisome.
"The mortality in those hospitals is very high, but the system hasn't been 'saturated' because you have beds available," he said. "If you open beds in other hospitals, you not only don't have intensive care services, but you also don't have the doctors who are trained to attend to these patients."
Study finds COVID 10-40 times more deadly than seasonal flu in New Orleans area
2:03 PM CT on 7/2/20
A prevalence study conducted in two Louisiana parishes found 7.8% of residents had been exposed to COVID-19, with an infection fatality rate of 1.6%. That’s 10 to 40 times more deadly than the seasonal flu.
The study, conducted by Ochsner Health, tested more than 2,500 Jefferson and Orleans Parish residents for COVID-19 and antibodies. Based on the prevalence rate, the study determined more than 64,000 people in those parishes have been infected. Black residents were more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 with an infection rate of 10.3% compared to 5.9%, but fatality rates were not significantly different.
“Data collected in this study tells us that the actions of our state and local leaders to limit the spread of COVID-19 during the height of the outbreak in the spring were effective and necessary,” said Dr. Robert Hart, chief medical officer at Ochsner. “The collective efforts of our leaders, businesses and neighbors have saved lives.”
Mississippi pausing reopening process after COVID surge
12:03 PM CT on 7/2/20
(AP) Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Wednesday the state is pausing its efforts to reopen the economy after a recent surge in new reported coronavirus cases.
"Things are getting worse, not better," Reeves said at a news briefing.
Mississippi reported a peak of 1,092 reported cases of the virus in a single day last week. The state Health Department has consistently reported 450 to 700 new cases each day since. On Wednesday, Mississippi was reporting 653 new cases.
Like other states across the South, Mississippi has led the nation in its efforts to reopen the economy. Many restaurants have been open for dine-in for more than a month at limited capacity. Most state agencies are open. Movie theaters and entertainment venues are open.
The governor had initially planned to completely reopen the state by July 1. But on that date, he said a goal that is no longer feasible.
Reeves and state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs were adamant that efforts to reopen the state's economy are not the cause of Mississippi's spike.
"It's not that our current rules are too loose," Reeves said. "Our challenge is that our people aren't following even the simplest of rules. Additional orders are useless if people will not follow what we have in place now."
Dobbs said cases are increasing in those between the ages of 20 to 29 and in more urban counties of the state, including Hinds County in the Jackson area. He said most cases arose from people attending large gatherings and not following safety recommendations.
"It's very simple. If we can't maintain the simple things — six-feet, a mask and small groups only — we wouldn't be having this conversation," Dobbs said. "The virus would actually be petering out on its own. The draconian measures that we had to implement early on are not necessary if people will follow the simple rules."
Health official suggests Kansas blew chance for virus respite
9:50 AM CT on 7/2/20
(AP) Kansas' top public health official predicted Wednesday that the state will face steeper increases in coronavirus cases and suggested that it blew its chance for a summer respite from the pandemic by reopening its economy too quickly.
Dr. Lee Norman, the top administrator at the state Department of Health and Environment, blamed a recent surge in new confirmed cases on gatherings over the long Memorial Day weekend and the May 26 lifting of statewide restrictions on businesses and gatherings. He said Kansas remains struck in its first wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
"We'd have to have some calm before the next wave, and we're not there or anywhere close to it," Norman said after a Statehouse news conference during which he described Kansas as being "in the middle of a bad convergence."
Norman's comments came a day before Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, who appointed him, was to issue an executive order requiring people to wear masks in public. The order could be toothless in much of the state because a law enacted last month allows counties to opt out, and a mask requirement might not be enforced even if counties don't do that.
Kansas has had 14,990 confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic started, including 547 new ones since Monday for a 3.8% increase in two days. There were also two new COVID-19 deaths since Monday, raising the state's overall tally to 272.
Since Kelly lifted statewide restrictions on businesses and public gatherings immediately after Memorial Day, Kansas has had 5,653 new confirmed COVID-19 cases, which amounted to a 61% increase, and 84 deaths, for a 45% jump.
The Democratic governor's action left the rules for businesses and gatherings to the state's 105 counties and came after weeks of criticism from the Republican-controlled Legislature that she was reopening the economy too slowly.
"We are seeing a significant increase in clusters related to gatherings where masks are not being worn, bars in particular," Norman said. "I'm worried about what we're going to see happening over July Fourth."
House passes infrastructure package with $30 billion for healthcare providers
8:03 PM CT on 7/1/20
The House of Representatives on Wednesday passed a massive infrastructure bill including $30 billion for healthcare providers as the COVID-19 pandemic has caused extreme stress to the nation’s healthcare system.
The White House has expressed interest in an infrastructure package, but Senate Republicans aren’t likely to take up the House package in its current form. The House passed the bill on a 233-188 vote.
Democrats' plan sets aside $30 billion for healthcare sector infrastructure, including money to upgrade hospitals, bolster community health centers, improve clinical laboratory infrastructure, support the Indian Health Service system, and increase capacity for community-based care, according to an outline of the legislation.
The House bill also would also invest $100 billion in high-speed broadband internet access, which could ensure telehealth services are more widely accessible.
Florida hospital in virus-hit county scales back surgeries
6:07 PM CT on 7/1/20
(AP) The largest hospital in Florida's hardest-hit county in the coronavirus pandemic announced Wednesday that it is scaling back elective surgeries and other procedures because of a new surge in cases.
Jackson Health System, Miami's largest hospital with about 1,200 regular beds and 200 intensive care unit beds, said it would begin limiting nonemergency admissions starting Monday because of "a steady increase" in the number of coronavirus patients over the past few weeks.
Miami-Dade County now has 37,961 confirmed cases and 1,000 deaths, the state Department of Health reported on its website Wednesday. Health officials reported 6,500 new cases statewide, bringing the total to 158,997 and 3,550 deaths.
Hospital officials said at a virtual news conference Wednesday that they wanted to act quickly to make space for COVID-19 patients, saying the numbers seen in the past two weeks were "scary."
"If this continues at the pace that we are going right now, in a period of about a month, a month and a half, we are going to be in a very difficult situation," said Jackson Health's CEO Carlos Migoya.
Virus spike prompts about face on reopenings in California
4:18 PM CT on 7/1/20
(AP) California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday ordered bars and indoor dining at restaurants to close in most areas of the state for the next three weeks amid a troubling surge of new coronavirus cases throughout the state.
The revised stay-at-home order affects 19 counties where nearly three-quarters of the state's roughly 40 million people live — including Los Angeles County.
Newsom says indoor operations at restaurants, wineries and tasting rooms, family entertainment centers, movie theaters, zoos and museums and cardroom gambling businesses must close. Bars were ordered to close both indoor and outdoor operations.
"The bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning," Newsom said.
The order came just days ahead of what is expected to be a busy Fourth of July weekend for the state. That worried public health officials because people were expected to gather in larger numbers than they have for months after the state relaxed its stay-at-home order allowing more businesses to open.
Newsom did not order beaches to close, but said parking lots at all beaches in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay area would close to limit crowds. State parks — which include some beaches — will remain open, but with measures in place to reduce overcrowding.
Newsom said the new business closure order applies to counties that have been on the state's monitoring list because of increasing coronavirus cases for three consecutive days: Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Los Angeles, Merced, Orange, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Solano, Stanislaus, Tulare and Ventura.
But enforcing the new rules will be difficult, Newsom said. He said seven state agencies with regulatory authority would target non-compliant businesses, including the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, the Department of Consumer Affairs and the California Highway Patrol.
And he suggested that state officials would first try to convince non-compliant businesses to cooperate instead of penalizing them.
"It's more education. I'm not coming out with a fist. We want not come out with an open heart, recognizing the magnitude of some of these modifications," Newsom said.
Arizona faces new closures as hospitals prep for virus surge
2:06 PM CT on 7/1/20
(AP) Arizona hospitals are hiring out-of-state nurses, squeezing in more beds and preparing for the possibility of making life-and-death decisions about how to ration care as they get ready for an expected surge of coronavirus patients in one of the nation's worst hot spots.
Parents, teachers, businesses and their customers also are hunkering down for at least a month of new closures imposed by the state in a belated effort to slow the spread of the virus and limit overcrowding at hospitals.
Arizona and several other states that were reopening their economies have clamped back down over the past week as they eclipsed records for infections and hospitalizations. Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, however, went further than others by ordering gyms and movie theaters to close and postponing the start of school until mid-August.
Preparing for an influx of patients, hospitals are activating plans to add more beds and staff. State officials have authorized "crisis standards of care," which tell hospitals which patients should get a ventilator or other scarce resources if there is a shortage.
If there are more patients than can be cared for at ideal levels, patients are given a score based on their life expectancy and the likelihood their organs will fail. Hospitals are told not to consider factors like race, gender, sexual orientation or disabilities.
Emergency rooms are not yet overwhelmed, but COVID-19 is taking its toll, said Dr. Frank DelVecchio, who works in emergency rooms at several Phoenix-area hospitals, including Valleywise Health. Nurses caring for coronavirus patients take a significant amount of time suiting up to protect themselves and can't quickly jump from room to room, he said.
"This is just off the charts, sick patients. We're letting people go home that we'd never let go home if they were this sick," including patients with low oxygen, DelVecchio said. "We're trying to get you home oxygen. We're trying to tell you to come back if worse. Because there's not much we can do for you."
People who have attempted or considered suicide are getting stuck for a day or more in emergency rooms because psychiatric facilities won't accept them until they have COVID-19 test results. Because suicidal patients require constant monitoring, they are sometimes placed in hallways or less private areas while awaiting results, DelVecchio said.
Dignity Health, which operates several hospitals in the Phoenix area, is converting more areas to treat COVID-19 patients and preparing to put multiple patients in private rooms, spokeswoman Carmelle Malkovich said. It's bringing nurses from underutilized hospitals in its system to Arizona and hiring traveling nurses and respiratory therapists throughout July.
HonorHealth, another big hospital chain in the Phoenix area, is prepared to implement the first phase of its surge plan as soon as this week, officials said in a statement. They did not explain what that means.
Health experts slam U.S. hoarding of remdesivir
11:43 AM CT on 7/1/20
(AP) Health experts on Wednesday slammed the U.S. decision to hog nearly the entire global supply of remdesivir, the only drug licensed so far to treat COVID-19, warning that type of selfish behavior sets a dangerous precedent for attempts to share scarce treatments amid the pandemic.
The U.S. government announced Tuesday that President Donald Trump had struck "an amazing deal" to buy the drug for Americans, made by Gilead Sciences. The Department of Health and Human Services said Trump has secured 500,000 treatments of the drug through September, representing 100% of Gilead's July production capacity and 90% of its capacity in August and September.
Early trials testing remdesivir in patients hospitalized with COVID-19 found that those who received the drug recovered quicker than those who didn't. It is the only drug licensed by both the U.S. and the European Union as a treatment for those with severe illness from the coronavirus.
Ohid Yaqub, a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex, called the move "disappointing news."
"It so clearly signals an unwillingness to cooperate with other countries and the chilling effect this has on international agreements about intellectual property rights," Yaqub said in a statement.
Dr. Peter Horby, who is running a large clinical trial testing several treatments for COVID-19, told the BBC that "a stronger framework" was needed to ensure fair prices and access to key medicines for people and nations around the world. He said that as an American company, Gilead was likely under "certain political pressures locally."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman, James Slack, declined to criticize the United States for the move, but said the U.K. had a stockpile of remdesivir.
Thomas Senderovitz, head of the Danish Medicines Agency, told Danish broadcaster DR that the move could endanger Europeans and others down the road.
I have never seen anything like that. That a company chooses to sell their stock to only one country. It's very strange and quite inappropriate," he said. "Right now we have enough to make it through the summer if the intake of patients is as it is now. If a second wave comes, we may be challenged."
Fauci: U.S. 'going in wrong direction' in coronavirus outbreak
9:49 AM CT on 7/1/20
(AP) The U.S. is "going in the wrong direction" with the coronavirus surging badly enough that Dr. Anthony Fauci told senators Tuesday some regions are putting the entire country at risk — just as schools and colleges are wrestling with how to safely reopen.
With about 40,000 new cases being reported a day, Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said he "would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around."
"I am very concerned," he told a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.
Infections are rising rapidly mostly in parts of the West and South, and Fauci and other public health experts said Americans everywhere will have to start following key recommendations if they want to get back to more normal activities like going to school.
"We've got to get the message out that we are all in this together," by wearing masks in public and keeping out of crowds, said Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health.