White House calls for 3-phase reopening; vaccine may be ready by fall — 6 COVID-19 updates

The U.S. has reported 671,493 of the 2,181,508 COVID-19 cases confirmed worldwide as of 9:45 a.m. CDT April 17. Nationwide, 33,288 COVID-19 deaths have been reported, while 147,337 deaths have been reported globally.  

Six updates:

1. President Donald Trump released guidelines urging states and hospitals to meet initial criteria before moving to reopening phases. "Gating" criteria for hospitals include the ability to treat all patients without crisis care and robust testing programs for at-risk healthcare workers, including antibody testing. After that, three phases aimed at mitigating a resurgence can be implemented at a statewide or county basis at the governor's discretion.

"You're going to be calling the shots," President Trump told governors on a conference call, according to audio obtained by CBS News. "We'll be standing right alongside of you, and we're going to get our country open and get it working."

2. Obesity may be the most important risk factor for predicting severe COVID-19 complications, especially among young adults, according to The New York Times. One study analyzed data from more than 4,000 COVID-19 patients at New York City-based NYU Langone Health between March 1 and April 2, and found obesity contributed to hospitalizations more than high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary disease, cancer, kidney disease or even pulmonary disease. Obesity may also increase risk of death from COVID-19, though to a lesser degree, according to Leora Horwitz, MD, the study's senior author and director of the Center for Healthcare Innovation and Delivery Science at NYU Langone.

"We may see a lot more younger people being hospitalized," Roy Gulick, MD, chief of infectious diseases at New York City-based Weill Cornell Medicine, told the NYT. He said the Northeast Coast, which has been hit the hardest thus far, has lower obesity rates than the rest of the U.S.

3. Hospitals and clinicians urged HHS to address COVID-19 disparities in an April 16 letter to Alex Azar, HHS secretary. The American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association asked HHS to increase testing availability, improve access to equitable treatment and provide timely, culturally appropriate public health information. The organizations also urged HHS to employ the resources of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities, citing multiple reports that find black Americans disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

4. Small doses of a COVID-19 vaccine may be available by September, Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at University of Oxford, told Bloomberg. The U.K. researchers are currently testing the vaccine in a 500-person clinical trial and expect to get results on its efficacy in September. In the meantime, they've already started manufacturing the vaccine.

"We would hope to have at least some doses that are ready to be used by September," Ms. Gilbert told Bloomberg. "There won't be enough for everywhere by then, but the more manufacturing we can do starting from now, then the more doses there will be."

In total, 70 COVID-19 vaccines are currently in development worldwide. Oxford's vaccine is among the first four to enter human trials.

5. The governors of seven Midwestern states formed a partnership April 16 to coordinate the reopening of the region's economy. The pact includes governors from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. The partnership comes three days after governors from the East and West coasts announced two separate working plans to reopen regional economies after the pandemic peaks.

6. Early data suggests that COVID-19 patients are responding to Gilead Science's antiviral drug, according to STAT. Gilead has yet to release data on clinical trials for remdesivir, which involves 4,000 participants from hundreds of sites worldwide. However, STAT obtained footage of a UChicago Medicine presentation outlining preliminary results, which have been positive. Nearly all COVID-19 patients treated with remdesivir were discharged within a week and showed rapid improvements in fever and respiratory symptoms. In a statement to STAT, UChicago Medicine warned that it is too early to draw any conclusions from this information. Gilead is expected to release clinical trial data on remdesivir this month.

More articles on public health:
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Small doses of a COVID-19 vaccine may be available by September, Sarah Gilbert, a professor of vaccinology at University of Oxford, told Bloomberg. The U.K. researchers are currently testing the vaccine in a 500-person clinical trial and expect to get results on its efficacy in September. In the meantime, they've already started manufacturing the vaccine.

"We would hope to have at least some doses that are ready to be used by September," Ms. Gilbert told Bloomberg. "There won't be enough for everywhere by then, but the more manufacturing we can do starting from now, then the more doses there will be."

In total, 70 COVID-19 vaccines are currently in development worldwide. Oxford's vaccine is among the first four to enter human trials.

The governors of seven Midwestern states formed a partnership April 16 to coordinate the reopening of the region's economy. The pact includes governors from Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky. The partnership comes three days after governors from the East and West coasts announced two separate working plans to reopen regional economies after the pandemic peaks.

Early data suggests that COVID-19 patients are responding to Gilead Science's antiviral drug, according to STAT. Gilead has yet to release data on clinical trials for remdesivir, which involves 4,000 participants from hundreds of sites worldwide. However, STAT obtained footage of a UChicago Medicine presentation outlining preliminary results, which have been positive. Nearly all COVID-19 patients treated with remdesivir were discharged within a week and showed rapid improvements in fever and respiratory symptoms. In a statement to STAT, UChicago Medicine warned that it is too early to draw any conclusions from this information. Gilead is expected to release clinical trial data on remdesivir this month.

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