2 major COVID-19 studies retracted; HHS to track race, ethnicity data — 4 updates

The U.S. has reported 1,874,411 COVID-19 cases and 108,238 deaths as of 9 a.m. CDT June 5. Worldwide, 6,672,287 cases and 391,773 deaths have been reported, while 2,894,476 people have recovered. 

Four updates:

1. The U.S. is still not fully prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic due to shortcomings in officials' ability to track the disease and develop countermeasures, the CDC director told Congress June 4, according to Bloomberg. CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said Congress should invest more money in public health, data modernization and contact tracing. "You think we weren't prepared for this, wait until we have a real global threat for our health security," Dr. Redfield told the House Committee on Appropriations.

2. New COVID-19 test reporting guidelines require labs to provide additional data such as patients' race and age, HHS said June 4. The newly required information will be used to monitor disease incidence and trends by initiating epidemiologic case investigations, assist with contact tracing, assess availability of testing resources and anticipate potential supply chain issues, according to the HHS release. "The requirement to include demographic data like race, ethnicity, age, and sex will enable us to ensure that all groups have equitable access to testing, and allow us to accurately determine the burden of infection on vulnerable groups," said Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, MD.

3. Two top medical journals each retracted a COVID-19 study June 4 at the study authors' request, reports STAT. The Lancet retracted a study that claimed the antimalarial drugs chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine were linked to higher mortality rates in COVID-19 patients. The New England Journal of Medicine retracted a separate study showing that blood pressure medications were safe to take for COVID-19 patients. Both studies used data from the analytics company Surgispher, which refused to share its raw data with study authors or a third-party auditor after questions about its accuracy arose. 

4. The number of new COVID-19 cases reported daily has hovered near 20,000 for the last 10 days, according to a data analysis from The New York Times. This plateau comes after the daily case count decreased in late April and early May. However, NYT noted this may still be an encouraging trend. The U.S. has rapidly increased testing volumes in recent weeks, and the number of positive tests continues to fall. Collectively, this information suggests the virus's spread is slowing down slightly. 

More articles on public health:
31 states where new COVID-19 cases are rising, falling
Hugging during a pandemic: 10 do's and don'ts
US slow to address racial health disparities involving COVID-19, Washington Post finds

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