Health experts unsure COVID-19 antibodies protect against reinfection

Health experts unsure COVID-19 antibodies protect against reinfection

  • August 3, 2020

As an increasing number of people across the country get tested for COVID-19 antibodies, health experts are cautioning that much is still unknown about what the results mean — including if antibodies provide protection from catching the virus again, how strong that protection might be and how long it may last.

A COVID-19 antibody test, also known as a serology test, aims to detect the presence of antibodies in the blood specific to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

A positive test result is presumed to mean that a person was exposed to the virus at some point in the past and their immune system produced proteins called antibodies to fight it off. The tests are different from nasal swab tests and do not indicate whether a person is currently infected with the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in a June 30 update, said it does not know if people who recover from COVID-19 can get infected again. It also said even with a positive test for antibodies, people “still should take preventive measures to protect yourself and others.”

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Dr. Raymond Kiser, medical director of hospital care physicians at Columbus Regional Health, said antibody testing is “probably not that helpful” for most people because it won’t tell them if a particular bout of illness in the past was COVID-19 or if they are currently immune to the virus.

Additionally, Kiser said he is “nervous” that people who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies may be lulled into a false sense of security and “think they’re protected and they may not be.”

“We have no idea if you develop (COVID-19) antibodies, does that confer immunity, and if it does, for how long,” he said. “…When people ask me, ‘Should I get antibody tested,’ in all honesty, I usually tell them no. It’s not going to answer the question you really want to know and that is ‘Are you protected from this virus?’ And the answer is, ‘I don’t know’ — even if you have antibodies I won’t know the answer to that.”

Studies underway

Currently, numerous studies are underway to better understand the protective role of antibodies against the novel coronavirus, but just months into the pandemic much still remains unknown.

Health experts say antibodies usually confer at least partial immunity against some viruses, but the length and level of protection varies.

The antibodies produced in response to an infection of certain viruses, like the one that causes measles, are believed to provide lifetime immunity, while antibodies generated against other viruses, like the ones that cause the common cold, tend to offer shorter-lived protection. For some viruses, however, antibodies provide nearly no protection at all.

Most health experts, including Kiser, suspect that COVID-19 antibodies may offer some level of protection against the virus in the short-term, but nobody knows for sure where those antibodies fall on the spectrum.

The strongest evidence so far for short-term immunity comes from a study done on monkeys infected with the novel coronavirus, and it’s not yet clear the extent to which those results will hold true for humans, Kiser said.

“The only data that we really have for that is a study done on primates where they actually exposed them to the SARS-CoV-2 virus and those who had antibodies didn’t get re-infected at 30 days. But we don’t really know if that applies to humans,” Kiser said.

CRH, for its part, does have COVID-19 antibody tests in-house, hospital officials said.

As of mid-July, CRH had administered 106 antibody tests, but only one of them had come back positive, Kiser said.

In June, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released performance results of 21 antibody tests, including the Siemens Healthineers total antibody test, which is the antibody test that CRH uses, according to hospital officials.

The FDA started requiring companies to submit testing data and apply for emergency authorization to remain on the market in May after reports of faulty results and fraud emerged, The Associated Press reported.

The accuracy of antibody tests is measured by their “sensitivity,” or their ability to identify if someone has COVID-19 antibodies in their blood, and their “specificity,” which is their ability to determine who does not have the antibodies, according to the FDA.

The tests are also described by their positive predictive value, which measures how likely it is that a person who receives a positive result from a test truly has COVID-19 antibodies based on the test’s sensitivity, specificity and assumptions about the prevalence of the virus in a community, according to the FDA.

“Every test returns some false positive and false negative results” and some people may need more than one antibody test to ensure accurate results, according to the FDA’s website.

The test CRH uses was shown to be 100% sensitive and 99.8% specific and has a positive predictive value of at least 96.5% depending on how prevalent the virus is in a given community, according to the FDA’s performance data.

That means that the test is expected to correctly identify the presence of COVID-19 antibodies at least 96.5% of the time, according Siemens Healthengineers.

“We have not seen a lot of positive (antibody) testing here so far,” Kiser said. “With regards to the tests, especially the ones that we are using, we do believe that they are very specific, which means that if you have this antibody positive it means that you’ve definitely been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”

Public health efforts

Though the protective role of antibodies against COVID-19 isn’t clear, antibody testing could provide valuable information for public health efforts, including studies seeking to determine how many people in a community have been exposed to the virus.

Researchers across the United States, including in Indiana, have embarked on such studies, aiming to use a representative sample of the overall population to shed light on the prevalence of COVID-19 in different areas of the country.

The hope, health experts say, is that these studies may help scientists and doctors measure the infection fatality rate of COVID-19, or the proportion of deaths from the virus compared to the total number of people diagnosed with the disease.

So far, initial results from several studies have found varying degrees of COVID-19 prevalence across the United States.

A study by the University of Southern California and the Los Angeles County Health Department found in May that an estimated 2.5% to 7% of adults in Los Angeles County had contracted the new coronavirus in May.

A similar study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Public Health Commission found that roughly 10% of Boston residents tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies in May.

The prevalence of COVID-19 in Indiana, however, is believed to be much lower.

Last month, researchers at the Indiana University Richard M. Fairbanks School of Public Health at IUPUI and the Indiana State Department of Health released preliminary data from the second phase of their prevalence study, finding that a total of 1.5% of participants tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, up from 1.1% in the first phase, according to preliminary findings.

“One of the big things we want to know about this virus is how many people have been infected,” Kiser said. “…If I know how many people in a general population have been exposed and I know how many people have died, then I can really tell you the information that you’re going to want to know, which is if everybody gets exposed, how many deaths can we expect?”

Scientists are getting closer to an answer, according to leading science journal Nature. Research so far suggests that COVID-19 is five to eight times deadlier than the seasonal flu, which kills hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year.

The seasonal flu has an infection fatality rate of around 0.1%, meaning that one out of every 1,000 people infected would be expected to die, Kiser said. By comparison, five to eight out of every 1,000 people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus would be expected to die.

In other words, if all of Indiana’s estimated 6.7 million residents were to be infected with COVID-19, an estimated 33,500 to 53,600 people would be expected to die, compared an estimated 6,700 estimated deaths from influenza.

“Influenza is probably one of our No. 1 infectious killers in the U.S., and this thing is five to eight times worse,” Kiser said.

In addition, antibody testing could help identify potential blood plasma donors for convalescent plasma therapy, which is an experimental treatment for COVID-19 currently in trials at numerous hospitals across the country, including Columbus Regional Hospital, where at least 54 patients have received the treatment, Kiser said.

Convalescent plasma therapy involves giving COVID-19 patients an infusion of blood plasma from people who have already recovered from the illness, CRH officials said.

Though it currently is not known precisely how COVID-19 antibodies work, researchers and doctors believe that plasma from COVID-19 survivors could boost the immune system’s response in a patient whose body is struggling to fight off the infection.

At this point, however, antibody testing is most useful for public health efforts and identifying potential plasma donors, Kiser said.

“Right now, the best use of antibody testing is public health,” Kiser said. “…I think on an individual basis, it’s probably not that helpful.”

Where to learn more

Anyone with concerns about COVID-19 is urged to call the health system’s Triage Resource Call Center, a phone resource line launched by CRH to handle calls from residents with questions and concerns about exposure or symptoms associated with COVID-19. The phone line is open daily from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. and is staffed by registered nurses who will offer screening questions and potentially recommend a course of action for patients.

The phone resource line can be contacted at 812-379-4449.

Visit crh.org/news/2020/03/16/coronavirus-update-what-you-need-to-know for more information.

Visit the Community COVID-19 Task Force’s website at covid19communitytaskforce.org.

Nestlé and Nespresso report growth despite COVID-19 in half-year results

Nestlé and Nespresso report growth despite COVID-19 in half-year results

  • August 3, 2020

Nestlé has reported organic growth of 2.8 per cent in the quarter ending 30 June 2020, with real internal growth (RIG) of 2.6 per cent and pricing of 0.2 per cent.

Despite this, total reported sales decreased by 9.5 per cent from CHF45.5 billion the year prior to CHF41.2 billion.

“Nestlé has remained resilient in a rapidly changing environment, delivering solid organic growth and improved margins in the first half. These results demonstrate the agility of our business and the strength of our diversified portfolio across geographies, product categories and channels,” Nestlé CEO Mark Schneider says.

“With consumer behaviour evolving faster than ever, we are adapting to this new reality by strengthening our innovation, leveraging our digital capabilities and executing with speed. Our engaged teams and their commitment to deliver business results while driving progress against our societal and environmental commitments make us a stronger company every day.”

Nespresso grew at a mid-single-digit rate, supported by significant sales acceleration for e-commerce and the Vertuo system.

North America saw strong double-digit growth, with continued market share gains. Africa, Oceania, and Asia grew at a double-digit rate, with positive contributions from most markets. Sales in Europe decreased, reflecting significantly reduced demand in the out-of-home channel and boutique closures.

Globally, at the end of June, 86 per cent of boutiques had reopened. In July, Nespresso announced a CHF160 million investment in the expansion of its Romont production center in Switzerland to meet growing consumer demand worldwide.

Nestlé says the COVID-19 crisis has led to profound changes in operating environments across markets. The global economy has entered a recession, supply chains have been tested, and consumer behaviour has changed at a rapid pace. Nestlé quickly deployed effective measures to address this new reality, and its supply chain has proven resilient, as manufacturing and distribution facilities continued to operate without significant disruptions.

With shifting consumer habits, Nestlé has been developing solutions to meet increased demand for at-home consumption, products that support health and boost the immune system, as well as affordable offerings. The company has also accelerated the development of its digital capabilities and expanded e-commerce and online communication.

In the first half of 2020, the effects of COVID-19 on organic growth varied materially by geography, product category and sales channel, depending on the timing of outbreaks, scope of restrictions and consumer behaviour.

Geographies
The majority of markets saw slower growth in the second quarter. This trend reflected the full effect of out-of-home channel closures and consumer destocking after pantry building in March. North America remained resilient. China posted a double-digit sales decline, with growth improving to almost flat in the second quarter as movement restrictions eased.

Product categories
Demand for at-home consumption, trusted brands and personal health products increased. Coffee at-home products were among those that reported strong growth.

Sales channels
All markets saw a significant shift from out-of-home and on-the-go products to at-home consumption. Retail sales significantly accelerated. Out-of-home channels posted negative growth, with significant sales declines for Nestlé Professional and Nespresso boutiques. E-commerce sales grew by 48.9 per cent, reaching 12.4 per cent of total Group sales.

In the first half, COVID-19 related costs were CHF290 million, including expenses for bonuses paid to frontline workers, employee safety protocols, donations, and other staff and customer allowances.

In addition, the Group absorbed costs of CHF120 million related to staff and facilities made idle due to lockdown measures.

Consumer-facing marketing expenses decreased. In many markets, in-store activation could not be implemented during COVID-19 related lockdowns. Nestlé increased media spend, particularly in digital channels, to support brand building and consumer engagement. Lower media rates allowed for increased consumer reach.

Nestlé says the exact financial impact of COVID-19 for the full year remains difficult to quantify and will depend on the duration and economic consequences of this crisis as well as the speed of recovery in the out-of-home channel.

“COVID-19 continues to impact people around the world. We stand with all those affected and are committed to helping where we can. I would like to thank every member of the Nestlé team for their dedication and hard work in the face of incredible challenges,” Schneider says.

“Our priorities remain the same; keeping our people safe, assuring continued supply of essential food and beverages to consumers and caring for our communities and business partners through financial and in-kind support.”

Oxygen & Food Plays Key Role in Boost Immune System | Pulmonologist Dr. Kancherla Anil Interview (Video)

Vijayawada People Performing Yoga | on Sand Dunes | to Boost Immune System to Fight Against COVID-19 (Video)

  • August 2, 2020

         Vijayawada People Performing Yoga | on Sand Dunes | to Boost Immune System to Fight Against COVID-19

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Vijayawada People Performing Yoga | on Sand Dunes | to Boost Immune System to Fight Against COVID-19  (Video)

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Vijayawada People Performing Yoga | on Sand Dunes | to Boost Immune System to Fight Against COVID-19  (Video)

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Vijayawada People Performing Yoga | on Sand Dunes | to Boost Immune System to Fight Against COVID-19 (Video)

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Vijayawada People Performing Yoga | on Sand Dunes | to Boost Immune System to Fight Against COVID-19
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In Focus: Here's An Easy Way To Boost Your Immune System Versus COVID-19!

In Focus: Here’s An Easy Way To Boost Your Immune System Versus COVID-19!

  • August 1, 2020










Navigating through your fears amid COVID-19, like everyone else, you’ve resolved to prioritizing health. And so next to following social distancing and other safety protocols, you’ve been eating healthy food, staying physically active, and getting sufficient sleep on a regular basis.

But while these steps are essential in helping you fight off diseases, what could really be the best and simplest way to strengthen your immunity in the new normal?

[related: Hot Stuff: We Found The Secretz To Zuper Natural Health!]

According to PubMed Central (PMC), 70% of your immune system is in the gut. Giving your immunity a much-needed boost thus starts in your digestive system, which significantly affects the way your body functions every day.

One easy way to start is consuming nutritious drinks like Dutch Mill Delight, which helps balance the amount of good and bad bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract.

Dutch Mill Delight is delightfully healthier than your usual Probiotic drinks at the grocery store. It’s powered with Prebiotic Fibers, whose benefits—when combined with those of Probiotics, a study has proven—make digestion and immunity more powerful and efficient than Probiotics alone.

[related: In Focus: How Being ‘Puyat’ Further Puts Your Immunity At Risk In A Pandemic]

Probiotic food sources include cheddar cheese, kimchi, and yogurt, while Prebiotic food sources include bananas, apples, and oats. But if you’re looking to make probiotic consumption more enjoyable and easier to add into your family’s diet, go for a delicious, affordable, and ready-to-drink item that offers the effective mix of Prebiotic Fibers and Probiotics! Luckily, it can be found in well-loved drink Dutch Mill Delight—the only cultured milk brand in the Philippines that has benefits of both Probiotics + Prebiotic Fibers in one bottle!

Dutch Mill Delight is available for only PHP 9 per 100ml bottle and PHP 45 for a pack of five 100ml bottles. It also comes in 400ml bottles—each at PHP 36 in leading supermarkets and at PHP 44 in selected convenience stores in Luzon and Vizayas. It’s also available via direct-to-home delivery services courtesy of Dutch Mill Delight Experts, in Metro Manila and selected provincial areas.

[related: Cheat Sheet: How To Build Your Home Gym—Fuss Free!]

Improving your immunity the delightful way is made possible with Dutch Mill Delight!

To know more about Dutch Mill Delight, visit their social media accounts:

Website: http://dutchmilldelight.ph

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pg/DutchMillDelightPH/

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YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHSGGxhrXcbOgDEGu6p9ErA

ALSO READ: Hot Stuff: 10 Instagram Accounts That’ll Fill Your Feed With Positivity

Photographs provided by Dutch Mill Delight PH

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Can You Get COVID-19 Twice? Scientists Say It’s Too Early to Tell

  • July 31, 2020

It’s a COVID-19 patient’s nightmare: survive the disease only to face it again a few months later. With recent reports of some testing positive for the virus even after recovery, many are now wondering if it is possible to get infected twice.

But E. John Wherry, director of the Institute for Immunology at the University of Pennsylvania, says these stories are purely anecdotal. “We just have not been in this long enough to really understand whether or not people can get reinfected,” he says. Instead, what might look like reinfection from a new exposure to the virus is more likely to be a smoldering first infection, he explains.

Adam K. Wheatley, an immunologist at The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne, Australia, says these anecdotes have led to a lot of speculation about reinfection. But he emphasizes that so far, the epidemiological data seems pretty clear that no one is picking up the virus from a new source within six months of their first infection. Based on this, his own estimate is that immunity to COVID-19 will be at least the length of what we’ve seen with milder coronaviruses that cause common colds — around 12-18 months.

But asking whether or not someone can get reinfected isn’t the best question to start with. Before we can answer that, Wheatley says we still have a lot to learn about immunity to COVID-19 in general. His group and many others are studying a wide array of cellular immune responses to find out how our immune systems protect us against another infection, and how long that immunity is maintained.

The Immunity Puzzle

Wheatley’s colleague at the University of Melbourne, immunologist Jennifer Juno, explains that immunity to a virus is much more complicated than just a “yes, you’re protected,” or “no, you’re not.”

“You [can] have immunity in the sense that you have an immune response, but you’re not protected from reinfection,” she says. “And that’s where we really have to get into studying the quality and the quantity of that immune response to understand what level is required for protection from infection.”

Juno explains that one way to study protective immunity is to measure the level of antibodies in the blood, which are proteins that the immune system uses to attack foreign invaders like viruses. Recently, there’s been research showing that antibodies rapidly decrease in people who have recovered from COVID-19. But Juno emphasizes that this is a completely normal occurrence after an infection has cleared.

“Your immune system can’t maintain that level of activation and responsiveness because it’s not practical when you have to fight other infections in the future,” she says.

So, finding a decrease in antibodies doesn’t necessarily mean these people don’t have immunity. At the same time, Wherry says that we still don’t know for sure yet if even high levels of antibodies provide protection against the virus in the future.

But antibodies are not the whole story for immunity — Juno says they’re just the easiest to measure, so they’ve been getting the most attention so far. Two other types of cells are now making their way into the spotlight, and might hint at how to boost the body’s immune response to COVID-19.

Beyond Antibodies

When a virus enters the body for the first time, B cells jump into action and produce antibodies to fight it off. But most B cells can only start making antibodies after they’re activated by a helper T cell. After the body fights off the virus, new memory B cells and memory T cells are created to “remember” the virus and wipe it out the next time it enters the body.

These memory cells can survive in the body for decades, and Wheatley says they make up the other two crucial components of long-lived immunity, in addition to antibodies. So, in a July 2020 study in Nature Medicine, Wheatley and Juno looked at a particular subset of T cells that they thought might be especially important in supporting memory cell and antibody responses to COVID-19.

They found that one type of T cell response was correlated with higher amounts of neutralizing antibodies — meaning the cells could block the virus from causing infection. As a result, Juno and Wheatley say it could be a worthwhile goal for vaccines to elicit this beneficial T cell response to promote a good antibody response.

Wherry agrees this may be a useful aim for vaccine development. In almost all vaccines, “antibodies are the correlates of protective immunity,” he says. “But most of those vaccines also generate T cells, and it’s very likely that for complicated infections, you need T cells to back up your antibodies.”

And, in regards to natural immunity before a vaccine is available, Wherry says experts are not only seeing antibodies in most people who have recovered, but also T cell and B cell immunity months after infection.

Prior infections with closely related viruses may also help our response to COVID-19. In June 2020, a study published in Cell found that 40-60 percent of people who had not been exposed to COVID-19 still had detectable levels of T cells that respond to the virus — and thus could already have some level of immunity.

“That surprised us,” says co-author Daniela Weiskopf, an immunologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California. “The hypothesis is that it’s coming from human ‘common cold’ coronaviruses because they are closely related, but that still needs to be shown,” she says. She adds that time will tell if these potential “common cold” T cells actually help fight off COVID-19, and it will be important to know whether people with them may react differently to a vaccine.

To Immunity and Beyond

Not unlike the pandemic, Wheatley explains that our scientific understanding of COVID-19 immunology is coming in waves. In the first wave, the literature showed that immunity was going up, meaning antibodies and T cell responses to the virus were increasing. He says we’re now just coming off of the second wave, where studies are saying that immunity is going down — but he clarifies that this was to be expected. Now, Wheatley says that in the third wave we can turn to the bigger, tougher questions.

“What’s required is understanding the remaining level of immunity that you have after an infection or a [vaccine], and how protective that is,” he says. “I think the whole world is studying that. Those are the big questions we’re trying to get on top of, and I think everyone else is as well.”

How they work, and the latest developments

How they work, and the latest developments

  • July 31, 2020

More than 150 coronavirus vaccines are in development across the world—and hopes are high to bring one to market in record time to ease the global crisis. Several efforts are underway to help make that possible, including the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed initiative, which has pledged $10 billion and aims to develop and deliver 300 million doses of a safe, effective coronavirus vaccine by January 2021. The World Health Organization is also coordinating global efforts to develop a vaccine, with an eye toward delivering two billion doses by the end of 2021.

The candidates, like all vaccines, essentially aim to instruct the immune system to mount a defense, which is sometimes stronger than what would be provided through natural infection and comes with fewer health consequences.

To do so, some vaccines use the whole coronavirus, but in a killed or weakened state. Others use only part of the virus—whether a protein or a fragment. Some transfer the coronavirus proteins into a different virus that is unlikely to cause disease or even incapable of it. Finally, some vaccines under development rely on deploying pieces of the coronavirus’s genetic material, so our cells can temporarily make the coronavirus proteins needed to stimulate our immune systems. (Here’s what vaccines are and how they work.)

It can typically take 10 to 15 years to bring a vaccine to market; the fastest-ever—the vaccine for mumps—required four years in the 1960s. Vaccines go through a multi-stage clinical trial process, which starts by checking their safety and whether they trigger an immune response in a small group of healthy humans. The second phase widens the testing pool to include groups of people who may have the disease or be more likely to catch it, to gauge the vaccine’s effectiveness. The third phase expands the pool up to the thousands to make sure the vaccine is safe and effective among a wider array of people, given that immune response can vary by age, ethnicity, or by underlying health conditions. It then goes to regulatory agencies for approval—which can be a lengthy process itself.

Even after a vaccine is approved, it faces potential roadblocks when it comes to manufacturing and distribution from scaling up the production to meet demands to deciding which populations should get it first—and at what cost. Many vaccines also stay in what’s called phase four, a perpetual stage of regular study. (Here’s how we’ll know when a COVID-19 vaccine is ready.) But vaccine developers are attempting to compress that process for SARS-CoV-2 by running clinical trial phases simultaneously, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has promised to fast-track the approval process.

Though it’s too soon to say which candidates will ultimately be successful, here’s a look at the vaccine prospects that have made it to phase three and beyond—including a quick primer on how they work and where they stand.

Who: A Massachusetts-based biotech company, in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health.

What: This vaccine candidate relies on injecting snippets of a virus’s genetic material, in this case mRNA, into human cells. They create viral proteins that mimic the coronavirus, training the immune system to recognize its presence. This technology has never been licensed for any disease. If successful, it would be the first mRNA vaccine approved for human use. (Here’s how mRNA vaccines work.)

Status: On July 27, Moderna announced it had started the third phase of its clinical trials, even as it continues to monitor phase two results. Preliminary findings from phase one have shown that healthy subjects produced coronavirus antibodies and a reaction from T-cells, another arm of the human immune response. Phase three will test the vaccine in 30,000 U.S. participants. Moderna says it is on track to deliver at least 500 million doses per year beginning in 2021, thanks in part to the deal it has struck with Swiss manufacturer Lonza that will allow it to manufacture up to one billion doses a year.

Who: One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, based in New York, in collaboration with German biotech company BioNTech.

What: Pfizer and BioNTech are also developing an mRNA vaccine based on the German company’s earlier efforts to use the technology in experimental cancer vaccines. Pfizer has signed a nearly $2 billion contract with the U.S. government to provide 100 million doses by December 2020—an agreement that goes into effect when and if the drug is approved and delivered.

Status: On July 27, Pfizer and BioNTech launched a trial that combines phase two and three by enrolling a diverse population in areas with significant SARS-CoV-2 transmission. It will examine the vaccine’s effect in 30,000 people from 39 U.S. states and from Brazil, Argentina, and Germany. The project is aiming to seek regulatory review as early as October 2020 to meet the December deadline—and hopes to supply 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021. Preliminary results of phase one/two data show the vaccine produces antibodies and T-cell responses specific to the SARS-CoV-2 protein.

Who: The U.K. university, in collaboration with the biopharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.

What: Oxford’s candidate is what’s known as a viral vector vaccine, essentially a “Trojan horse” presented to the immune system. Oxford’s research team has transferred the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein—which helps the coronavirus invade cells—into a weakened version of an adenovirus, which typically causes the common cold. When this adenovirus is injected into humans, the hope is that the spike protein will trigger an immune response. AstraZeneca and Oxford plan to produce a billion doses of vaccine that they’ve agreed to sell at cost.

Status: Preliminary results from this candidate’s first two clinical trial phases revealed that the vaccine had triggered a strong immune response—including increased antibodies and responses from T-cells—with only minor side effects such as fatigue and headache. It has now moved into phase three of clinical trials, aiming to recruit up to 50,000 volunteers in Brazil, the United Kingdom, the United States, and South Africa.

Who: A Chinese biopharmaceutical company, in collaboration with Brazilian research center Butantan.

What: CoronaVac is an inactivated vaccine, meaning it uses a non-infectious version of the coronavirus. While inactivated pathogens can no longer produce disease, they can still provoke an immune response, such as with the annual influenza vaccine.

Status: On July 3, Brazil’s regulatory agency granted this vaccine candidate approval to move ahead to phase three, as it continues to monitor the results of the phase two clinical trials. Sinovac says the first phases have so far shown that the vaccine does produce an immune response with no severe adverse effects. Preliminary results of this candidate’s earlier testing in macaque monkeys, published in Science, revealed that the vaccine produced antibodies that neutralized 10 strains of SARS-CoV-2. Phase three will recruit nearly 9,000 healthcare professionals in Brazil.

Who: China’s state-run pharmaceutical company, in collaboration with the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products.

What: Sinopharm is also using an inactivated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine that it hopes will reach the public by the end of 2020. Sinopharm has reported that early trials of its vaccine candidate triggered a strong neutralizing antibody response in participants, with no serious adverse effects.

Status: In mid-July, Sinopharm launched its phase three trial among 15,000 volunteers—aged 18 to 60, with no serious underlying conditions—in the United Arab Emirates. The company selected the UAE as it has a diverse population with approximately 200 different nationalities, making it an ideal testing ground.

Name: Bacillus Calmette-Guerin BRACE trial

Who: The largest child health research institute in Australia, in collaboration with the University of Melbourne.

What: For nearly a hundred years, the Bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) vaccine has been used to prevent tuberculosis by exposing patients to a small dose of live bacteria. Evidence has emerged over the years that this vaccine may boost the immune system and help the body fight off other diseases as well. Researchers are investigating whether these benefits may also extend to SARS-CoV-2, and this trial has reached phase three in Australia. Though as of April 12, the World Health Organization says there is no evidence that the BCG vaccine protects people against infection with the coronavirus.

Status: In April, researchers from the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute began a series of randomized controlled trials that will test whether BCG might work on the coronavirus as well. They aim to recruit 10,000 healthcare workers in the study.

Name: Ad5-nCoV

Who:
A Chinese biopharmaceutical company.

What:
CanSino has also developed a viral vector vaccine, using a weakened version of the adenovirus as a vehicle for introducing the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to the body. Preliminary results from phase two trials, published in The Lancet, have shown that the vaccine produces “significant immune responses in the majority of recipients after a single immunisation.” There were no serious adverse reactions documented.

Status:
Though the company is still technically in phase two of its trial, on June 25, CanSino became the first company to receive limited approval to use its vaccine in people. The Chinese government has approved the vaccine for military use only, for a period of one year.

First COVID-19 vaccine tested in US boosts volunteers’ immune systems, researchers say – Boston News, Weather, Sports

First COVID-19 vaccine tested in US boosts volunteers’ immune systems, researchers say – Boston News, Weather, Sports

  • July 31, 2020

The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the U.S. revved up people’s immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported Tuesday — as the shots are poised to begin key final testing.

“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press.

The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci’s colleagues at the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., will start its most important step around July 27: A 30,000-person study to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.

But Tuesday, researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March. Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost.

Those early volunteers developed what are called neutralizing antibodies in their bloodstream — molecules key to blocking infection — at levels comparable to those found in people who survived COVID-19, the research team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

“This is an essential building block that is needed to move forward with the trials that could actually determine whether the vaccine does protect against infection,” said Dr. Lisa Jackson of the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle, who led the study.

There’s no guarantee but the government hopes to have results around the end of the year — record-setting speed for developing a vaccine.

The vaccine requires two doses, a month apart.

There were no serious side effects. But more than half the study participants reported flu-like reactions to the shots that aren’t uncommon with other vaccines — fatigue, headache, chills, fever and pain at the injection site. For three participants given the highest dose, those reactions were more severe; that dose isn’t being pursued.

Some of those reactions are similar to coronavirus symptoms but they’re temporary, lasting about a day and occur right after vaccination, researchers noted.

“Small price to pay for protection against COVID,” said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, a vaccine expert who wasn’t involved with the study.

He called the early results “a good first step,” and is optimistic that final testing could deliver answers about whether it’s really safe and effective by the beginning of next year.

“It would be wonderful. But that assumes everything’s working right on schedule,” Schaffner cautioned.

Moderna’s share price jumped nearly 15 percent in trading after U.S. markets closed. Shares of the company, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, have nearly quadrupled this year.

Tuesday’s results only included younger adults. The first-step testing later was expanded to include dozens of older adults, the age group most at risk from COVID-19. Those results aren’t public yet but regulators are evaluating them. Fauci said final testing will include older adults, as well as people with chronic health conditions that make them more vulnerable to the virus — and Black and Latino populations likewise affected.

Nearly two dozen possible COVID-19 vaccines are in various stages of testing around the world. Candidates from China and Britain’s Oxford University also are entering final testing stages.

The 30,000-person study will mark the world’s largest study of a potential COVID-19 vaccine so far. And the NIH-developed shot isn’t the only one set for such massive U.S. testing, crucial to spot rare side effects. The government plans similar large studies of the Oxford candidate and another by Johnson & Johnson; separately, Pfizer Inc. is planning its own huge study.

Already, people can start signing up to volunteer for the different studies.

People think “this is a race for one winner. Me, I’m cheering every one of them on,” said Fauci, who directs NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“We need multiple vaccines. We need vaccines for the world, not only for our own country.”

Around the world, governments are investing in stockpiles of hundreds of millions of doses of the different candidates, in hopes of speedily starting inoculations if any are proven to work.

(Copyright (c) 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

Opinion | Scared That Covid-19 Immunity Won’t Last? Don’t Be

Opinion | Scared That Covid-19 Immunity Won’t Last? Don’t Be

  • July 31, 2020

Within the last couple of months, several scientific studies have come out — some peer-reviewed, others not — indicating that the antibody response of people infected with SARS-CoV-2 dropped significantly within two months. The news has sparked fears that the very immunity of patients with Covid-19 may be waning fast — dampening hopes for the development of an effective and durable vaccine.

But these concerns are confused and mistaken.

Both our bodies’ natural immunity and immunity acquired through vaccination serve the same function, which is to inhibit a virus and prevent it from causing a disease. But they don’t always work quite the same way.

And so a finding that naturally occurring antibodies in some Covid-19 patients are fading doesn’t actually mean very much for the likely efficacy of vaccines under development. Science, in this case, can be more effective than nature.

The human immune system has evolved to serve two functions: expediency and precision. Hence, we have two types of immunity: innate immunity, which jumps into action within hours, sometimes just minutes, of an infection; and adaptive immunity, which develops over days and weeks.

Almost all the cells in the human body can detect a viral infection, and when they do, they call on our white blood cells to deploy a defensive response against the infectious agent.

When our innate immune response is successful at containing that pathogen, the infection is resolved quickly and, generally, without many symptoms. In the case of more sustained infections, though, it’s our adaptive immune system that kicks in to offer us protection.

The adaptive immune system consists of two types of white blood cells, called T and B cells, that detect molecular details specific to the virus and, based on that, mount a targeted response to it.

A virus causes disease by entering cells in the human body and hijacking their genetic machinery so as to reproduce itself again and again: It turns its hosts into viral factories.

T cells detect and kill those infected cells. B cells make antibodies, a kind of protein that binds to the viral particles and blocks them from entering our cells; this prevents the replication of the virus and stops the infection in its tracks.

The body then stores the T and B cells that helped eliminate the infection, in case it might need them in the future to fight off the same virus again. These so-called memory cells are the main agents of long-term immunity.

The antibodies produced in response to a common seasonal coronavirus infection last for about a year. But the antibodies generated by a measles infection last, and provide protection, for a lifetime.

Yet it is also the case that with other viruses the amount of antibodies in the blood peaks during an infection and drops after the infection has cleared, often within a few months: This is the fact that has some people worried about Covid-19, but it doesn’t mean what it might seem.

That antibodies decrease once an infection recedes isn’t a sign that they are failing: It’s a normal step in the usual course of an immune response.

Nor does a waning antibody count mean waning immunity: The memory B cells that first produced those antibodies are still around, and standing ready to churn out new batches of antibodies on demand.

And that is why we should be hopeful about the prospects of a vaccine for Covid-19.

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection, generating memory T and B cells that can then provide long-lasting protection in the people who are vaccinated. Yet the immunity created by vaccines differs from the immunity created by a natural infection in several important ways.

Virtually all viruses that infect humans contain in their genomes blueprints for producing proteins that help them evade detection by the innate immune system. For example, SARS-CoV-2 appears to have a gene dedicated to silencing the innate immune system.

Among the viruses that have become endemic in humans, some have also figured out ways to dodge the adaptive immune system: H.I.V.-1 mutates rapidly; herpes viruses deploy proteins that can trap and incapacitate antibodies.

Thankfully, SARS-CoV-2 does not seem to have evolved any such tricks yet — suggesting that we still have an opportunity to stem its spread and the pandemic by pursuing a relatively straightforward vaccine approach.

Vaccines come in different flavors — they can be based on killed or live attenuated viral material, nucleic acids or recombinant proteins. But all vaccines consist of two main components: an antigen and an adjuvant.

The antigen is the part of the virus we want the adaptive immune response to react to and target. The adjuvant is an agent that mimics the infection and helps jump-start the immune response.

One beauty of vaccines — and one of their great advantages over our body’s natural reaction to infections — is that their antigens can be designed to focus the immune response on a virus’s Achilles heel (whatever that may be).

Another advantage is that vaccines allow for different kinds and different doses of adjuvants — and so, for calibration and fine-tuning that can help boost and lengthen immune responses.

The immune response generated against a virus during natural infection is, to some degree, at the mercy of the virus itself. Not so with vaccines.

Since many viruses evade the innate immune system, natural infections sometimes do not result in robust or long-lasting immunity. The human papillomavirus is one of them, which is why it can cause chronic infections. The papillomavirus vaccine triggers a far better antibody response to its viral antigen than does a natural HPV infection: It is almost 100 percent effective in preventing HPV infection and disease.

Not only does vaccination protect against infection and disease; it also blocks viral transmission — and, if sufficiently widespread, can help confer so-called herd immunity to a population.

What proportion of individuals in a given population needs to be immune to a new virus so that the whole group is, in effect, protected depends on the virus’s basic reproduction number — broadly speaking: the average number of people that a single infected person will, in turn, infect.

For measles, which is highly contagious, more than 90 percent of a population must be immunized in order for unvaccinated individuals to also be protected. For Covid-19, the estimated figure — which is unsettled, understandably — ranges between 43 percent and 66 percent.

Given the severe consequences of Covid-19 for many older patients, as well as the disease’s unpredictable course and consequences for the young, the only safe way to achieve herd immunity is through vaccination. That, combined with the fact that SARS-CoV-2 appears not to have yet developed a mechanism to evade detection by our adaptive immune system, is ample reason to double down on efforts to find a vaccine fast.

So do not be alarmed by reports about Covid-19 patients’ dropping antibody counts; those are irrelevant to the prospects of finding a viable vaccine.

Remember instead that more than 165 vaccine candidates already are in the pipeline, some showing promising early trial results.

And start thinking about how best to ensure that when that vaccine comes, it will be distributed efficiently and equitably.

Akiko Iwasaki is the Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor in the Department of Immunobiology and a Professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology at Yale. Ruslan Medzhitov is a Sterling Professor in the Department of Immunobiology at Yale School of Medicine. Both are investigators at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, July 30: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

Live: Coronavirus daily news updates, July 30: What to know today about COVID-19 in the Seattle area, Washington state and the world

  • July 31, 2020

While Washington’s new coronavirus infections may be starting to level off day by day, hospitalizations related to the virus have almost doubled, affecting nearly all age groups, a state health officer said Wednesday.

The impact of COVID-19 has been felt differently throughout King County, with communities on the South End showing the highest rate of positive tests while wealthier, whiter areas generally show lower positive test rates.

Throughout Thursday, on this page, we’ll be posting Seattle Times journalists’ updates on the outbreak and its effects on the Seattle area, the Pacific Northwest and the world. Updates from Wednesday can be found here, and all our coronavirus coverage can be found here.

Live updates:

With fans safe at home, Mariners’ COVID-19-delayed opener to feature fake people, fake noise & tradition

This day was supposed to happen March 26 in front of a full crowd at T-Mobile Park. Instead, it will take place July 31 in front of thousands of cardboard cutouts.

The home opener of the baseball season has always been a de facto civic holiday in Seattle — the one assured sellout, the pageantry of a new season, nouveau fans and posers mingling with hard-core seamheads amid the backdrop of bunting and hope. 

There will be no mingling Friday night when the Mariners finally take the field to open their 2020 home season against the Oakland A’s, a mere 127 days behind schedule. 

In fact, there will be no fans, standard operating procedure in this pandemic-ravaged, socially distant season.

But that doesn’t mean the venerable ballpark will be bereft of noise, sights and rituals — including the usual elaborate ceremony before the game.

It’s just that this year, the preparation involved fake people, fake noise and creative attempts to stage a game that will be memorable in its own way.

Read the full story here.

—Larry Stone

Expedia revenue down 82% as COVID-19 hammers travel

Expedia Group’s whopping 82% decline in revenue in the second quarter has laid bare the devastation the coronavirus has wreaked on the travel sector. Shares dipped as much as 4.8% in post-market trading.

The Seattle-based online travel giant reported total gross bookings of $2.71 billion for the three-month period ended June 30, a decline of 90% from the same period a year earlier. Revenue fell to $566 million — the lowest it’s been in about a decade — and missed Wall Street’s already reduced expectations of $680 million for the quarter. The adjusted loss before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was $436 million, missing average analyst estimates of a $288 million loss.

“The second quarter of 2020 represented likely the worst quarter the travel industry has seen in modern history and Expedia was of course not spared,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Kern said in a statement. He also said that after hitting a low point in April, the company saw gross bookings improve slightly in May and June as cancellations abated.

—Bloomberg

Dunkin’ to close 800 US stores as pandemic hurts sales

CANTON, Mass. — Dunkin’ Brands Inc. expects to close up to 800 underperforming U.S. stores this year as it tries to shore up its portfolio in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

The company had previously announced the closure of 450 stores within Speedway gas stations. But the company said Thursday it’s targeting an additional 350 stores, most of which are unprofitable. Closing the restaurants would allow their franchisees to reinvest in newer stores in higher-traffic areas, Dunkin’ Chief Financial Officer Katherine Jaspon said during a conference call with investors.

Jaspon said the 800 stores represent 8% of Dunkin’s U.S. footprint but just 2% of its sales.

International franchisees are also assessing their stores and could close 350 low-volume stores abroad by the end of this year, Jaspon added.

—Associated Press

Trump urges people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump issued a national call to action Thursday, exhorting people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood plasma to help others fight the disease caused by the coronavirus and boost the nation’s supply.

“If you’ve had the virus, if you donate, it would be a terrific thing,” Trump said on a visit to the American Red Cross headquarters. “We really need donations of the plasma. To those that have had the virus, you’ve gotten through this. And I guess that means you have something very special there.”

People who recover from a coronavirus infection typically have virus-blocking antibodies circulating in their blood in the weeks after they recover. Those antibodies can be harvested in plasma donations and transfused to the next people who get sick, helping boost their immune systems. Developing treatments for a new virus is an uncertain and time-consuming process.

Blood plasma from people who have successfully recovered from coronavirus infection has been widely used in the United States, even though researchers are still gathering evidence to definitively show it works. About 50,000 people have been transfused with the treatment, called convalescent plasma, under an expanded access program sponsored by the Food and Drug Administration.

Read the full story here.

—The Washington Post

State confirms 818 new COVID-19 cases and 9 new deaths; positive test rate holds at 5.7%

State health officials reported 818 new COVID-19 cases in Washington as of Wednesday night, and nine new deaths.

The update brings the state’s totals to 55,803 cases and 1,564 deaths, meaning that 2.8% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH). The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

So far, 973,654 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.7% have come back positive.

In King County, the state most populous, state health officials have confirmed 15,025 diagnoses and 649 deaths in King County, accounting for a little less than half of the state’s COVID-19 death toll. 

—Nicole Brodeur

Groups unite to urge US to extend food aid to schoolchildren

NEW YORK — A high-profile coalition of educators, activists and philanthropists — including the American Federation of Teachers, the NAACP and the charity World Central Kitchen — is urging Congress to extend and expand emergency provisions that allow school districts nationwide to feed millions of children during the coronavirus pandemic.

“We are urging you to rapidly pass legislation to address the nation’s hunger crisis,” the group writes in a letter. “This is a national humanitarian crisis that requires immediate action and innovation across several fronts.”

The July 6 letter is addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer and House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy. It was given to The Associated Press on Thursday in an attempt to apply pressure on lawmakers for action on the HEROES Act.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents 1.7 million school employees, told the AP she and the signatories are hoping for immediate help and a long-term, structural rethinking of food in America.

“In a terrible pandemic with terrible unemployment, with terrible food insecurity, why are we not doing more?” she asked. “It really is re-imagining our public assets, our public institutions, to be a real safety net for people.”

Read the full story here.

—The Associated Press

A COVID patient goes home after rare double-lung transplant

The last thing that Mayra Ramirez remembers from the emergency room at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago is calling her family to say she had COVID, was about to be put on a ventilator and needed her mother to make medical decisions for her.

Ramirez, 28, did not wake up for more than six weeks. And then she learned that on June 5, she had become the first COVID patient in the United States to receive a double-lung transplant.

On Wednesday, she went home from the hospital.

Ramirez is one of a small but growing number of patients whose lungs have been destroyed by the coronavirus and whose only hope of survival is a lung transplant.

“I’m pretty sure that if I had been at another center, they would have just ended care and let me die,” she said in an interview Wednesday.

Read the full story here.

—The New York Times

UK scientists immunize hundreds with coronavirus vaccine

Scientists at Imperial College London say they are immunizing hundreds of people with an experimental coronavirus vaccine in an early trial after seeing no worrying safety problems in a small number vaccinated so far.

Dr. Robin Shattock, a professor at the college, told The Associated Press that he and colleagues had just finished a very slow and arduous process of testing the vaccine at a low dose in the initial participants and would now expand the trial to about 300 people, including some over age 75.

“It’s well tolerated. There aren’t any side effects,” he said, adding it was still very early in the study. Shattock, who is leading the vaccine research at Imperial, said he hopes to have enough safety data to start inoculating several thousand people in October.

Professor Robin Shattock is the head of mucosal infection and immunity within the Department of Medicine at Imperial College in London on Thursday. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / The Associated Press)
Professor Robin Shattock is the head of mucosal infection and immunity within the Department of Medicine at Imperial College in London on Thursday. (Kirsty Wigglesworth / The Associated Press)

The Imperial vaccine uses synthetic strands of genetic code based on the virus. Once injected into a muscle, the body’s own cells are instructed to make copies of a spiky protein on the coronavirus. That should in turn trigger an immune response so the body can fight off any future COVID-19 infection.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Western Washington U. moves most classes online, encourages students to stay home

Citing the alarming rise in the number of COVID-19 cases regionally and nationally, Western Washington University has become the latest state university to announce it will move most of its classes online this fall.

In an announcement Thursday, President Sabah Randhawa encouraged students to stay at home and take all their classes remotely.

The university’s residences will open, but only for a limited number of students. Only about 8% to 10% of classes will be offered in-person.

Tuition will remain the same, Randhawa said, but the university is setting aside a portion of fall tuition proceeds to reduce the cost for students with financial need, and the university will also let students pay month-by-month, instead of paying the full cost at the start of the quarter.

Last week, Washington State University announced it would teach most classes remotely.

Its campuses won’t close, but WSU is also encouraging students to stay at home and pursue their degrees from there. 

University of Washington President Ana Mari Cauce has said she will announce the UW’s plans by Aug. 7, but that perhaps as few as 10% of fall quarter classes would be taught in-person.

UW students have already been told they have the option to take all of their fall classes online if they choose to do so.

—Katherine Long

Wisconsin governor orders masks statewide amid virus surge

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Thursday issued a statewide mask mandate amid a spike in coronavirus cases, setting up a conflict with Republican legislative leaders who oppose such a requirement and successfully sued to kill the governor’s “safer at home” order.

Evers, a Democrat, declared a new public health emergency and ordered the wearing of masks for everyone age 5 and up starting on Saturday for all enclosed spaces except a person’s home. The new order also applies to outdoor bars and restaurants, except when people are eating or drinking.

Anyone who violates the order would be subject to a $200 fine. It is scheduled to run until Sept. 28.

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has declared a new public health emergency, after his initial one expired in May. (AP Photo / Scott Bauer, File)
Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has declared a new public health emergency, after his initial one expired in May. (AP Photo / Scott Bauer, File)

“This virus doesn’t care about any town, city, or county boundary, and we need a statewide approach to get Wisconsin back on track,” Evers said in a statement, citing the recent rise in cases across the state. “We’ve said all along that we’re going to let science and public health experts be our guide in responding to this pandemic, and we know that masks and face coverings will save lives.”

The conservative-controlled Wisconsin Supreme Court in May tossed out an order from Evers’ health secretary closing most nonessential businesses in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Former GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain 74, dies of COVID

Herman Cain, former Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of a major pizza chain who went on to become an ardent supporter of President Donald Trump, has died of complications from the coronavirus. He was 74.

A post on Cain’s Twitter account Thursday announced the death. Cain had been in an Atlanta hospital after becoming ill with the virus.

It’s not clear when or where he was infected, but he was hospitalized less than two weeks after attending Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June. Cain had been co-chair of Black Voices for Trump.

“We knew when he was first hospitalized with COVID-19 that this was going to be a rough fight,” read an article posted on the Twitter account.

White House spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany tweeted on Thursday that Cain “embodied the American Dream and represented the very best of the American spirit.”

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

2nd U.S. virus surge hits plateau, but few experts celebrate

While deaths from the coronavirus in the U.S. are mounting rapidly, public health experts are seeing a flicker of good news: The second surge of confirmed cases appears to be leveling off.

Scientists aren’t celebrating by any means, warning that the trend is driven by four big, hard-hit states — Arizona, California, Florida and Texas — and that cases are rising in at least half of all the states, with the outbreak’s center of gravity seemingly shifting from the Sun Belt toward the Midwest.

The future? “I think it’s very difficult to predict,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s foremost infectious-disease expert.

Dante Hills, left, passes paperwork to a woman in a vehicle at a COVID-19 testing site in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
Dante Hills, left, passes paperwork to a woman in a vehicle at a COVID-19 testing site in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The virus has claimed over 150,000 lives in the U.S., by far the highest death toll in the world, plus more than a half-million others around the globe.

The latest surge in cases became evident in June, weeks after states began reopening after a deadly explosion of cases in and around New York City in the early spring. Daily case counts rose to 70,000 or more earlier this month. Deaths, too, began to climb sharply, after a lag of a few weeks.

Some researchers believe that the recent leveling off is the result of more people embracing social distancing and other precautions.

“I think a lot of it is people wearing masks because they’re scared,” said Ira Longini, a University of Florida biostatistician who has been tracking the coronavirus.

But Dr. Ali Khan, dean of the University of Nebraska College of Public Health, said the trend could also be due to natural dynamics of the virus that scientists to do not yet understand.

Read the story here.

—The Associated Press

Florida couple jailed for refusing to quarantine

Two residents of the Florida Keys have been jailed for failing to quarantine after testing positive for the new coronavirus.

Jose Interian, 24, and Yohana Gonzalez, 26, are facing charges of violating isolation rules for a quarantine and violating emergency management disaster preparedness rules, according to jail records. They were arrested Wednesday in Key West, according to The Associated Press.

The Miami Herald reports Interian and Gonzalez had been ordered by the health department to quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19, but neighbors said they were ignoring the order.

Someone videotaped the couple and gave it to Key West police, according to Greg Veliz, Key West’s city manager.

“There were complaints from the neighborhood of them continuing to be outside, going about normal life functions,” Veliz said.

There were no court records in an online docket for the Monroe County court system, so it was not clear whether Interian or Gonzalez had an attorney who could comment.

The Florida Keys island chain was closed to nonresidents for two months in the spring to keep outsiders from spreading the new coronavirus. It reopened to visitors in June.

—The Associated Press

Can the coronavirus spread through the air?

Can the coronavirus spread through the air?

Yes, it’s possible.

The World Health Organization recently acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions.
(AP Illustration / Peter Hamlin)
The World Health Organization recently acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions. (AP Illustration / Peter Hamlin)

The World Health Organization recently acknowledged the possibility that COVID-19 might be spread in the air under certain conditions.

Recent COVID-19 outbreaks in crowded indoor settings — restaurants, nightclubs and choir practices — suggest the virus can hang around in the air long enough to potentially infect others if social distancing measures are not strictly enforced.

Experts say the lack of ventilation in these situations is thought to have contributed to spread, and might have allowed the virus to linger in the air longer than normal.

In a report published in May, researchers found that talking produced respiratory droplets that could remain in the air in a closed environment for about eight to 14 minutes.

The WHO says those most at risk from airborne spread are doctors and nurses who perform specialized procedures such as inserting a breathing tube or putting patients on a ventilator. Medical authorities recommend the use of protective masks and other equipment when doing such procedures.

Scientists maintain it’s far less risky to be outside than indoors because virus droplets disperse in the fresh air, reducing the chances of COVID-19 transmission.

—The Associated Press

Quarantine Corner: Things to do while staying home

Jamie Foxx in “Project Power.” (Skip Bolen / Netflix)
Jamie Foxx in “Project Power.” (Skip Bolen / Netflix)

Jamie Foxx and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are teaming up in the action thriller “Project Power,” one of the new Netflix releases in August. ​

What kind of delivery food has been hottest in Seattle this year? A new survey is revealing interesting trends.

And the winner of the Seattle Times Pantry Kitchen Challenge’s Champions Round is … a home chef who turned popcorn into silk and added a summery kick. Behold that creation and see the recipes from this round.

—Kris Higginson

Shut-down attractions — and region’s blood supply — get an infusion of new life

Bloodworks Northwest is using pop-up sites at familar venues to get blood donations, including this one at The Museum of Flight.
 (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)
Bloodworks Northwest is using pop-up sites at familar venues to get blood donations, including this one at The Museum of Flight. (Greg Gilbert / The Seattle Times)

Blood donations plunged at the start of the pandemic. Then, out of desperation came a stroke of genius: Bloodworks Northwest decided to hold pop-up blood drives in the very places its donors are missing.

The latest pop-up was yesterday at the Museum of Flight, above, and more pop-ups are coming to a winery, the Seattle Repertory Theatre and McCaw Hall, where an opera singer will serenade donors.

Read the full story here.

—Nicole Brodeur

Catch up on the past 24 hours

New infections in Washington may be leveling off, but hospitalizations are rising for almost all age groups, health officials say. They also warned of an increasing number of scams related to COVID-19.

The U.S. death toll, by far the highest in the world, has surpassed 150,000 people as the response has splintered. Only a nationwide lockdown could completely contain the virus now, some experts say. Misinformation is also spreading like wildfire, and health experts worry it’s dangerously undermining efforts to slow the virus.

Nearly half of the state’s 1.1 million students could be learning online this fall, after Snohomish County officials yesterday joined the growing calls to keep school buildings closed. In King County, researchers have laid out what it should take to reopen them. And scientists estimated that school closures in the spring saved tens of thousands of lives.

The U.S. today is expected to report a dizzying economic plunge that may be more than triple the worst drop we’ve ever seen. Making matters worse, the $600 federal jobless benefit runs out tomorrow unless Congress acts, and those talks are looking all kinds of messy. More than 1.4 million Americans applied for benefits just last week.

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, questions Attorney General William Barr during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday. (Matt McClain / The Washington Post)
Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, questions Attorney General William Barr during a House Oversight Committee hearing on Wednesday. (Matt McClain / The Washington Post)

Congress is rattled by an anti-mask lawmaker’s positive test after he participated in hearings this week. Rep. Louie Gohmert, contradicting medical consensus, says he blames his diagnosis on wearing a mask. Now the House has a new mask mandate, the attorney general is off to get tested, and lawmakers are buzzing about whether it’s too risky to conduct the nation’s business in person.

What cooler weather may bring: We’re getting a real-time window, and it’s not pretty. Deep in the Southern Hemisphere’s winter, a virus resurgence is dwarfing the first outbreak. Meanwhile, in the summery part of the world, a virus cluster at a French seaside resort is becoming a textbook case of the virus pitting generations against each other. And after 99 days of success, the virus has returned to haunt Vietnam.

If you’re going back to work, will you have to sign a COVID waiver? As workplace requirements stir outrage, lawyers are talking about what is and isn’t legal.

And if you’re going to Alaska, you’ll have to show a negative COVID-19 test. But not many people are these days, at least from Seattle; our Coronavirus Economy chart shows passenger traffic at Sea-Tac Airport is slipping again.

—Kris Higginson

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Drinking too much ‘kadha’ harmful, caution doctors | Patna News

Herd immunity may slow down spread of Covid-19, say experts | Patna News

  • July 30, 2020
BHAGALPUR: Experts at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital (JLNMCH), a dedicated Covid hospital in Bhagalpur, have claimed that as soon as 70% herd immunity in humans is attained, Covid-19 infection may slow down.
Dr Raj Kamal Choudhary, associate professor in the department of medicine at JLNMCH, said that such assertions are being made on the basis of ‘seroconversion survey’ under the direction of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) by taking random samples in Bhagalpur and other districts of Bihar.
Dr Choudhary, who had worked in World Health Organization (WHO) for several years as sub-regional coordinator, said that the human body immune system responds by producing antibodies in response to the virus and this is known as seroconversion. “Antibodies appear within one to two weeks and continue to increase in the months after infection. seroconversion takes place within three weeks in majority of infected individuals and the immune system’s capacity to fight the infection starts increasing,” he said.
Deliberating on the findings of the serocoversion study, Dr Choudhary said, “The seroconversion analysis of random samples of human beings, who were asymptomatic for Covid-19, in the past two-months exhibited that 18.6% had antibodies for the virus and was found heading towards herd immunity. If the percentage increases to 70%, then the spread of Covid-19 will slow down.”
Dr Choudhary said that approximately 24,000 random samples from different states and union territories (UTs), including Covid hotspot cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Thane, Goutam Budh Nagar (Noida), Hyderabad, Pune, Kolkata, Indore, Jaipur, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Surat, Patna, Bangalore and Gurugram among others were taken for seroconversion survey. “The data of seroconversion survey was released by Niti Aayog recently,” he said.
Dr Choudhary said there is no need to panic about Covid-19 pandemic but rather people need to follow the safety protocol for curbing its spread and keep oneself healthy to boost body immunity.
“Herd Immunity in human beings is the resistance to fight a contagious disease. It occurs when a large section of the community becomes immune to a disease. As a result, the spread of disease from person to person becomes unlikely and the whole community becomes protected,” he said.
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