Georgia's reopening, remdesivir's efficacy & COVID-19 care costs: 5 national updates

The U.S. has reported 869,172 COVID-19 cases and 49,963 related deaths as of 9 a.m. CDT April 24. Worldwide, 2,735,117 COVID-19 cases and 192,019 deaths have been confirmed, while 751,501 patients have recovered. 

Five updates:

1. The House passed a $484 billion package April 23 that renews funding for small businesses, boosts aid for hospitals and expands COVID-19 testing. The bill passed by a 388-5 vote. The legislation will now head to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign the bill into law April 24, according to The Wall Street Journal

2. Georgia plans to reopen businesses today despite opposition from some officials and public health experts, according to The New York Times. Gov. Brian Kemp's order allows hair and nail salons, gyms, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors to reopen today, while dine-in restaurant service can resume April 27. After initially supporting the plan, President Trump on April 23 said he wasn't happy with Mr. Kemp, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms urged residents to stay home.

"With favorable data and approval from state health officials, we are taking another measured step forward by opening shuttered businesses for limited operations," Mr. Kemp tweeted April 23. "I know these hardworking Georgians will prioritize the safety of their employees and customers."

3. Long-waited clinical trial results from China show that remdesivir doesn't appear to effectively treat COVID-19, though drug company Gilead Sciences said the data still suggests a "potential benefit," STAT reports. A study summary was accidentally posted on the World Health Organization's website and seen by STAT April 23, though it has since been removed.

Gilead believes the drug has potential benefits, specifically for COVID-19 patients treated early on, spokesperson Amy Flood said. However, the study was cut short because it didn't have enough patients, so statistically meaningful conclusions cannot be drawn. After one month, it appeared 13.9 percent of the remdesivir patients had died, compared to 12.8 percent of control patients, according to the summary, though the difference was not statistically significant. 

The findings come about a week after early results from UChicago Medicine's remdesivir trial showed patients treated with the drug were discharged within a week and had rapid improvements in fever and respiratory symptoms. Other studies testing remdesivir are ongoing. Gilead is expected to release official data on the drug by the end of this month.

4. COVID-19 may be four times more expensive to treat than flu, according to a new study published in Health Affairs. Researchers estimated that one symptomatic COVID-19 case costs a median of $3,045 in direct medical costs, which is four times more than the cost of treating a flu case ($696). Assuming that 80 percent of the population contracts the virus, the pandemic could cost up to $654 billion. This figure drops to $163.4 billion if 20 percent are infected. Study authors acknowledged that the research has several limitations and is still based on a lot of unknowns. For example, some cost estimates use existing hospitalization costs for severe flu cases, instead of COVID-19. The models may also account for a higher probability of severe complications, like sepsis, than what is seen in real life.

5. About 4.4 million Americans applied for unemployment last week, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Labor. About 810,000 fewer Americans filed for unemployment in the week ending April 18 when compared to revised figures for the week prior. In total, about 26.4 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in the last five weeks. This total now surpasses all of the job gains achieved since the 2007-09 recession, according to CNBC.

The House passed a $484 billion package April 23 that renews funding for small businesses, boosts aid for hospitals and expands COVID-19 testing. The bill passed by a 388-5 vote. The legislation will now head to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign the bill into law April 24, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Georgia plans to reopen businesses today despite opposition from some officials and public health experts, according to The New York Times. Gov. Brian Kemp's order allows hair and nail salons, gyms, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors to reopen today, while dine-in restaurant service can resume April 27. After initially supporting the plan, President Trump on April 23 said he wasn't happy with Mr. Kemp, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms urged residents to stay home.

"With favorable data and approval from state health officials, we are taking another measured step forward by opening shuttered businesses for limited operations," Mr. Kemp tweeted April 23. "I know these hardworking Georgians will prioritize the safety of their employees and customers."

Long-waited clinical trial results from China show that remdesivir doesn't appear to effectively treat COVID-19, though drug company Gilead Sciences said the data still suggests a "potential benefit," STAT reports. A study summary was accidentally posted on the World Health Organization's website and seen by STAT April 23, though it has since been removed.

Gilead believes the drug has potential benefits, specifically for COVID-19 patients treated early on, spokesperson Amy Flood said. However, the study was cut short because it didn't have enough patients, so statistically meaningful conclusions cannot be drawn. After one month, it appeared 13.9 percent of the remdesivir patients had died, compared to 12.8 percent of control patients, according to the summary, though the difference was not statistically significant.

The findings come about a week after early results from UChicago Medicine's remdesivir trial showed patients treated with the drug were discharged within a week and had rapid improvements in fever and respiratory symptoms. Other studies testing remdesivir are ongoing. Gilead is expected to release official data on the drug by the end of this month.

COVID-19 may be four times more expensive to treat than flu, according to a new study published in Health Affairs. Researchers estimated that one symptomatic COVID-19 case costs a median of $3,045 in direct medical costs, which is four times more than the cost of treating a flu case ($696). Assuming that 80 percent of the population contracts the virus, the pandemic could cost up to $654 billion. This figure drops to $163.4 billion if 20 percent are infected. Study authors acknowledged that the research has several limitations and is still based on a lot of unknowns. For example, some cost estimates use existing hospitalization costs for severe flu cases, instead of COVID-19. The models may also account for a higher probability of severe complications, like sepsis, than what is seen in real life.

About 4.4 million Americans applied for unemployment last week, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Labor. About 810,000 fewer Americans filed for unemployment in the week ending April 18 when compared to revised figures for the week prior. In total, about 26.4 million Americans have filed unemployment claims in the last five weeks. This total now surpasses all of the job gains achieved since the 2007-09 recession, according to CNBC.

 

 

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