US coronavirus cases near 4,000; White House boosts nation's testing capacity

In the COVID-19 pandemic, 3,813 American cases have been reported, along with 69 deaths. Worldwide, 174,615 cases and 6,705 deaths have been reported, as of 10 a.m. CDT, March 13. Globally, 77,657 people have recovered from the illness.

Eight outbreak updates: 

1. Two U.S. emergency physicians are in critical condition from COVID-19, The New York Times reports. One — a man in his 40s — works at Kirkland, Wash.-based EvergreenHealth Medical Center and is in critical but stable condition. The physician is believed to have had access to proper protective equipment. The other physician — a man in his 70s — is in intensive care at a New Jersey hospital after experiencing upper respiratory problems. 

2. Vice President Mike Pence said over 2,000 labs should have high-speed testing capability by March 15, CNN reports. Recently named testing czar Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, said there would be 1.9 million tests available this week across 2,000 labs, with priority given to those most vulnerable.

3. The Federal Reserve cut short-term interest rates to zero to combat a looming recession, USA Today reports. Feds also renewed crisis-era bond purchases and encouraged bank loans to households and businesses.

4. A treatment strategy may be only weeks away, USA Today reports. Scientists are recommending the emergency use of serum therapy, which uses antibodies from survivor patients, according to a March 13 paper published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation. Transfusion of serum can prevent infection, but also carries potential side effects, including fever, allergic reactions and a very small risk of disease transmission. 

5. The CDC recommends keeping all gatherings under 50 people for the next eight weeks.  

6. UPMC has developed a COVID-19 test that could test hundreds of patients each week. The lab-developed test was created using already approved reagents and following CDC guidelines.

7. An NBA player is donating $100,000 to Mayo Clinic to launch COVID-19 testing, USA Today reports. Minnesota Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns announced March 15 that the aim of the donation is to roll out a test that detects COVID-19 to fight the virus quicker and more efficiently.

8. The first participant in the U.S. COVID-19 vaccine trial is to be given an experimental dose March 16, according to The Guardian. The trial, occurring at Seattle-based Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, involves 45 healthy volunteers who will be given a vaccine developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health.

More articles on public health:
A look back at swine flu: 8 facts about the world's last pandemic in 2009
How a West Virginia county stemmed an HIV outbreak
5 tips on talking to patients about coronavirus, from NIH Director Dr. Anthony Fauci

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