FDA veteran reassigned to vaccine efforts + 4 more COVID-19 updates

The U.S. has reported 1,662,768 COVID-19 cases and 98,223 related deaths as of 8 a.m. CDT May 26. Globally, there have been 5,518,905 reported cases and 346,836 deaths, while 2,253,935 have recovered.

Five updates: 

1. The World Health Organization temporarily halted the hydroxychloroquine arm of its COVID-19 trial to review safety data, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said during a May 25 media briefing. The decision comes after a study published in The Lancet found COVID-19 patients taking the antimalarial drug had a higher risk of death, according to The Washington Post.

2. The FDA reassigned agency veteran Janet Woodcock, MD, to focus on federal COVID-19 vaccine efforts, according to an internal email obtained by STAT. Dr. Woodcock will temporarily step aside from her longtime role as director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research to work on Operation Warp Speed, a federal initiative to accelerate the development of a COVID-19 vaccine. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn announced the change in an agencywide email May 22. 

3. The virus could still be spreading uncontrolled in 24 states, according to a model from the Imperial College London. Researchers estimated the virus's reproduction number, or the average number of infections created by each COVID-19 patient in a vulnerable population, according to The Washington Post. Twenty-six states had a reproduction number under 1, meaning the virus's spread is slowing in those areas. However, 24 states had a reproduction number over 1, with Texas at the top of the list. The model has not been peer reviewed.

4. South America is a "new epicenter" of the pandemic, Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's emergencies program said during a May 22 briefing, according to CNBC. Brazil has the most cases of all South American countries, with more than 370,000 confirmed infections. 

5. The city of Wuhan tested 9 million people for COVID-19 in just 10 days, Chinese officials said May 25, according to The Wall Street Journal. The city tested 1.47 million people on May 22 alone. For reference, the U.S. tested about 394,296 people the same day, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. Wuhan, which is home to 11 million people, launched the large-scale testing effort after a handful of new cases appeared in the city. Mass testing identified 218 asymptomatic carriers who were put in quarantine as of May 24.


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