Pandemic may last 2 years; remdesivir approved for emergency use — 8 COVID-19 updates

Gabrielle Masson and Mackenzie Bean - Print  | 

Nationwide, 1,159,245 COVID-19 cases and 67,710 deaths have been reported as of 9:30 a.m. CDT May 4. Globally, there are 3,529,408 known COVID-19 cases and 248,025 related deaths, while 1,133,538 people have recovered.

Eight updates: 

1. The COVID-19 pandemic will likely last for 18 to 24 months until herd immunity is developed, according to a new report from the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Infectious disease experts say the pandemic cannot end until 60 percent to 70 percent of the global population is immune. They outlined three scenarios that may occur until that immunity level is reached, including a worst-case scenario in which a second, large wave of COVID-19 arrives in the fall or winter. 

2. The FDA on May 1 granted emergency use authorization to Gilead Science's antiviral drug remdesivir to treat COVID-19. Gilead donated its entire supply of the drug — about 1.5 million vials — to the U.S. government, which will determine which cities are most in need of the treatment, Gilead Chairman and CEO Daniel O'Day said in an interview on CBS' "Face of the Nation." The drug, which entails a 10-day treatment regimen, will be available to some patients as early as next week. The drugmaker is aiming to manufacture more than 140,000 treatment rounds by the end of May and 1 million rounds by the end of 2020, according to CNBC.

3. Seven states in the Northeast are developing a regional supply chain for personal protective equipment, medical supplies and tests during the pandemic. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are participating in the consortium. Collectively, these states purchase about $5 billion in medical equipment and supplies every year. The states will buy PPE, ventilators and other equipment as a group to increase their market power, with the goal of securing more supplies and equipment at a lower price.

4. Stay-at-home protestors who gather in groups and refuse to wear masks are "devastatingly worrisome," Deborah Birx, MD, coordinator of the White House's COVID-19 taskforce, said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday." Last week, hundreds of demonstrators crowded Michigan's capitol building to protest the state's stay-at-home orders.

"It's devastatingly worrisome to me personally because if they go home and infect their grandmother or their grandfather who has a co-morbid condition and they have a serious or a very unfortunate outcome, they will feel guilty for the rest of our lives," Dr. Birx said. "So we need to protect each other at the same time we're voicing our discontent."

5. President Donald Trump said anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 Americans could die from COVID-19 in a May 3 interview with Fox News. He said government action has prevented the toll from being worse, stating that the death toll possibly could have reached 2.2 million. As of May 4, 67,710 Americans have died from COVID-19.

6. Oxford University researchers will likely know if their COVID-19 vaccine is effective by early June, an Oxford scientist told NBC's "Meet the Press." Researchers are currently collecting data from phase 2 trials, and "as every day goes by, the likelihood of success goes up," according to Sir John Bell, the Regius professor of medicine at Oxford University. If the vaccine proves effective, researchers could have the first few million doses ready by September, pending emergency authorization.

7. Nearly half of the U.S. will be reopened in some manner this week, The New York Times reports. More than a dozen states began to ease social distancing regulations May 1, with several state stay-at-home orders expiring this week and some governors planning to reopen businesses, according to a NYT state tracker.

8. The Supreme Court is set to hear its first case via conference call May 4, with the public able to listen to live coverage, according to The New York Times. A coalition of news organizations had asked for live audio coverage of major arguments, an unprecedented move that was initially rejected. However, in a turn of events, the justices will now hear cases by phone for two weeks, including three cases on May 12 about subpoenas from prosecutors and Congress seeking President Trump's financial records.

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