Archive for March 30th, 2020

CDC considering recommending Americans wear face masks in public: report – TheBlaze

March 30th, 2020

Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are mulling over whether to issue guidance recommending that Americans wear face masks while out in public, but want to make it “clear” that medical masks should be reserved for health care workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report.

What are the details?

The Washington Post reported Monday that the CDC is “considering altering the official guidance to encourage people to take measures to cover their faces amid the coronavirus pandemic,” according to multiple unnamed sources.

One official “said the new guidance would make clear that the general public should not use medical masks — including surgical and N95 masks — that are in desperately short supply and needed by health-care workers,” the outlet reported.

A second source told the newspaper that the guidelines being considered would recommend that individuals don do-it-yourself cloth face coverings in order to help cut down on the spread of COVID-19.

If implemented, the new guidance would be an about-face from current policy.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, the federal government has recommended that people not wear face masks, in part, to keep the general public from buying up medical masks that were already in short supply and prioritized for health care professionals caring for patients.

One month ago, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams tweeted, “Seriously people – STOP BUYING MASKS! They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”

MarketWatch reported early this month that “Americans don’t seem to be heeding health officials’ advice,” citing several examples of companies experiencing shortages in supplies (particularly masks) and noting that “several sites have sold out of face masks entirely.”

Yet, as The Post noted, “In recent days, an assortment of scientists, health experts, pundits and influencers has vigorously advanced their position that everyone venturing into public or crowded places should wear a mask or face shield — even a homemade one — to lower the rate of trasmission of COVID-19.”

When asked about the prospect during a press conference on Monday, President Donald Trump answered, “That’s certainly something we could discuss. It could be something like that for a limited period of time.”


Shaquille O’Neal Defends Appearance in Netflix’s ‘Tiger King’ – Sports Illustrated

March 30th, 2020

Shaquille O’Neal defended his appearance on the Netflix Show Tiger King on Monday, saying he “had no idea” about the events occurring at the Oklahoma ranch owned by featured character Joseph Maldonado-Passage.

Maldonado-Passage, who goes by “Joe Exotic,” was sentenced to 22 years in prison in January after being found guilty in a murder-for-hire plot. He was also found guilty of illegally selling tiger cubs.

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe,” O’Neal said on The Big Podcast With Shaq. “We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with [the] tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

O’Neal appeared on the first episode of the seven-episode series. He toured the zoo and took pictures with the animals, and he later said “shoutout to Exotic Joe,” on TNT. 

“I love tigers. I love white tigers,” O’Neal said. “I met this guy–not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”


COVID-19 crisis: Liberals cast wide net with wage-subsidy program aimed at keeping Canadians working – National Post

March 30th, 2020

OTTAWA – The government released new information on its wage subsidy program Monday, but many of the details including just how much the program will cost remain unanswered.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday the government would subsidize up to 75 per cent of an employee’s wages to help businesses retain workers and keep them on the payroll through the COVID-19 crisis.

On Monday, Trudeau released new details of the program including that it would be open to a wide-swath of businesses with no cap on the number of employees.

“This is about making sure that people are still getting paid whether they work for a business that employs 10 people or a 1,000 people,” he said.

To qualify businesses must have a drop in revenue related to COVID-19 of at least 30 per cent. The government will cover 75 per cent of the first $58,700 a person earns, which works out to $847 per week. It will also be backdated to March 15.

The government’s previous attempt at a wage subsidy program covered only 10 per cent of wages, but was also much more restrictive with a cap on the wage it would cover and the size of the business.

More details are expected on Tuesday in a briefing with Finance Minister Bill Morneau. Trudeau was unable Monday to detail what the program will cost, but said Canada’s balance sheet could handle the load.

“We have been making sure that we have money aside for a rainy day. Well, it’s raining. And we are now able to invest in Canadians.”

The Liberals have run large deficits every year since coming into power in 2015 and were projected to run a deficit of more than $20 billion this year, even before the current crisis emerged. The government has pointed out however that Canada does have one of the lowest debt to GDP ratios in the G7.

Trudeau cautioned businesses not to take advantage of the benefit and to pay their workers if at all possible.

“If you think this is a system you can take advantage of or game, don’t. There will be serious consequences for those who do,” he said. “This unprecedented situation calls for unprecedented action and it calls for good faith and trust between everyone involved. We are in this together.”

He also said he hoped businesses would look to rehire workers they may have laid off earlier in this crisis. There have been more than 1.6 million new claims to employment insurance since the crisis began as retail stores, bars, restaurants and countless other businesses were forced to close their doors.

Dan Kelly, president and CEO of the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses, said so far the program looks good, but businesses still need more information.

“We have about ten big questions about how this is going to work and the government has answered two or three of them today.”

He said he gives them credit however for announcing the information they do have when they do, even announcing that the program was coming on Friday.

“It was helpful the prime minister signalled this on Friday, even without the details, because I can tell you for certain there were a lineup of business ready to do layoffs on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and today that put the brakes on them”

Kelly said the 30 per cent revenue drop could be a barrier for some businesses and he would like to know how the government will measure it.

“Every firm is going to be affected somewhat differently by this,” he said. “If your margin is two or three per cent you are going to have a real tough time keeping your head count, even with a modest reduction in sales.”

Trudeau also announced the military was ready to be called up should provinces request the support. There were 24,000 soldiers and reservists ready to help communities either with COVID-19 issues or with natural disasters like floods or forest fires.

“Over the past few weeks, the Canadian Armed Forces have been gearing up to support our efforts and our communities as we fight COVID-19,” he said. “Our women and men in uniform have always been there for Canadians in their time of need and this pandemic is no exception.”

Trudeau said there had been no requests from provinces to date, but the military was ready to help.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan said they have set up the forces to be adaptable to deal with whatever may come.

“Every situation is going to be very different here, what we are doing is making sure we have a force that can respond to various needs.”

As of Monday morning, there were 6,671 cases in Canada and 66 deaths. There have been 220,000 tests for the virus and of the confirmed cases about seven per cent are requiring hospitalization and about three per cent are in intensive care units.

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FDA authorizes emergency use of anti-malarial drugs touted by Trump on COVID-19 patients – 10TV

March 30th, 2020

The Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for two anti-malarial drugs on coronavirus patients which President Donald Trump has touted as potential game-changers. Experts have warned the drugs have only anecdotal evidence in treating COVID-19 and the drugs are not yet approved by the FDA as a treatment.

The EUA allows hydroxychloroquine sulfate and chloroquine phosphate that have been donated to the Strategic National Stockpile “to be distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services. That would mean patients who are at least 110 pounds, according to the FDA fact sheets.

Patients would also be advised to tell their doctor about any other health issues they may have such as allergies, kidney or liver disease, diabetes or pregnancy.

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The drugs would be made available to patients if a clinical trial is not available to them, according to the FDA fact sheets. The patient would have the choice whether to take the drugs. The fact sheets also warn that taking the drugs as directed may not prevent more severe illness or death.

HHS issued a press release Sunday saying it has accepted 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate from Sandoz and 1 million doses of chloroquine phosphate from Bayer to go to the Strategic National Stockpile. HHS says the drugs are available for the possible use in treating patients hospitalized with COVID-19 or for use in clinical trials.

The EUA requires that fact sheets, including known risks and drug interactions, be made available to healthcare providers and patients, HHS said.

Both drugs can treat malaria, but hydroxychloroquine sulfate can also treat lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. The FDA tells patients in the fact sheets that neither is an approved drug for treating COVID-19, which is why they are undergoing clinical trials.

Drug trials typically require hundreds or thousands of patients and, even when accelerated, take weeks or months to complete.

Some medical professionals are expressing trepidation about rolling out these drugs without more clinical testing. In a White House coronavirus task force briefing on March 20, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, was clear in stating that any reports of hydroxychloroquine preventing COVID-19 were purely anecdotal and that more testing was needed.

“It was not done in a controlled clinical trial, so you really can’t make any definitive statement about it,” Fauci said.

Dr. Michelle Gong, a critical care chief at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center, told the Journal of the American Medical Association that it is imperative for doctors to do careful studies of drugs such as chloroquine to make sure they actually work, rather than just administering them to patients because they have nothing else to offer. Without that proof, “it is very easy for us to do more harm,” she said.

So far there is very little data to go on, mostly anecdotal reports from some other countries. But test tube studies in laboratories suggest the drugs may interfere with the coronavirus being able to enter cells. U.S. cardiologists have been warned by colleagues in China to be alert for side effects in heart patients.

In Arizona, an older couple experienced disastrous results when they took an additive used to clean fish tanks — a non-medical version of chloroquine phosphate. The husband died and his wife ended up in critical condition. The wife said they took the chemical after hearing the president talk about it. She is now advising others to talk to their doctor first.

Katherine Seley-Radtke, a medical chemist for the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, writes in The Conversation that nobody should be self-medicating with these drugs until they have been approved by the FDA. She notes that issues can arise such as from interactions with other drugs, underlying health conditions and other side effects.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in several weeks. For some, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.


“It’s a war without bullets”: First-hand accounts from health care workers battling coronavirus – CBS News

March 30th, 2020

Last Updated Mar 30, 2020 7:37 PM EDT

On this National Doctors’ Day, there are urgent calls for help on Monday from doctors and nurses who are risking their lives while treating coronavirus patients. President Trump said Monday that he’s considering hazard pay for health care workers, but gave no details.

The endless echo of sirens, a warning about the state of our nation’s hospitals. From Illinois to Arizona and in the worst-hit state: New York.

“It’s a war without bullets,” said Dr. Joaquin Morante.

Morante is an ICU doctor at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx, where six people died overnight. 

Dr. Joaquin Morante CBS News

“Being covered in COVID — it’s walking into the hospital and feeling like every part of the hospital is a dirty zone,” Morante said. 

“Covered in COVID” without enough protection to stay healthy. All 24 of Jacobi’s ICU beds are full.

Health care workers in New York protested the lack of protection. Morante is forced to wash his gear at home.

Virus Outbreak New York
A nurse demonstrates outside the emergency entrance at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx borough of New York, Saturday, March 28, 2020, demanding more personal protective equipment for medical staff treating coronavirus patients. A member of the New York nursing community died earlier this week while treating coronavirus patients at another New York hospital.  Kathy Willens / AP

Dr. Rupa Marya, with the UC San Francisco Medical Center, showed the calm before the surge.

Her hospital’s entire supply of protective equipment, which is enough for just one week, is stored in filing cabinets.

“We actually have them in these filing cabinets,” said nurse Philip Garcia. 

UC Medical Center in San Francisco.

Marya said there are doctors who are writing their wills and nurses who are afraid of dying, but even more worried about bringing COVID-19 home.

While nurses and doctors are being hailed as heroes, many feel abandoned. California Governor Gavin Newsom said the federal government shipped 170 broken ventilators to Los Angeles over the weekend. There’s now a rush to fix them.

© 2020 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Officials in Asia push back on need for all to wear face masks | WNT – ABC News

March 30th, 2020

The WHO says it does not generally recommend the wearing of face masks in public.




#WorldNewsTonight #Coronavirus #FaceMasks


FDA authorizes use of antimalarial drugs for coronavirus treatment | NBC Nightly News – NBC News

March 30th, 2020

According to the FDA, anecdotal reports suggest that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine may offer some benefit for patients in serious condition.
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FDA authorizes use of antimalarial drugs for coronavirus treatment | NBC Nightly News


Why one expert says healthy people should wear DIY face masks – Washington Post

March 30th, 2020

According to CDC and World Health Organization guidelines, only the sick, and their caretakers, should wear face masks. Here’s why University of San Francisco research scientist Jeremy Howard thinks otherwise. Read more: Subscribe to The Washington Post on YouTube:

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iPhone 9 case inventory arriving at Best Buy, other retailers with April 5 merchandising date – 9to5Mac

March 30th, 2020

China researchers isolated bat coronaviruses near Wuhan wild animal market – Washington Times

March 30th, 2020

Chinese government researchers isolated more than 2,000 animal viruses, including deadly bat coronaviruses, and carried out scientific work on them just three miles from a wild animal market identified as the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Several Chinese state media outlets in recent months touted the virus research and lionized in particular a key researcher in Wuhan, Tian Junhua, as a leader in bat virus work.

The coronavirus strain now infecting hundreds of thousands of people globally mutated from bats believed to have infected animals and people at a wild animal market in Wuhan. The exact origin of the virus, however, remains a mystery.

SEE ALSO: Chinese markets again selling bats — likely source of deadly pandemic — reporters say

Reports of the extensive Chinese research on bat viruses likely will fuel more calls for Beijing to make public what it knows about such work.

“This is one of the worst cover-ups in human history, and now the world is facing a global pandemic,” Rep. Michael T. McCaul, Texas Republican and ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said last week. Mr. McCaul has said China should be held accountable for the pandemic.

A video posted online in December and funded by the Chinese government shows Mr. Tian inside caves in Hubei province taking samples from captured bats and storing them in vials.

“I am not a doctor, but I work to cure and save people,” Mr. Tian says in the video. “I am not a soldier, but I work to safeguard an invisible national defense line.”

Chinese officials have said the virus likely spread from wild animals to people at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, not far from the Wuhan Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the national center for China’s bat virus research.

Wuhan is finally stirring back to life after a harsh crackdown on travel and street activity was imposed in late January. The city’s bus, subway and train systems started to run again over the weekend. Shops downtown were operating with some restrictions Monday, although customers were scarce.

But British news accounts also reported over the weekend that some of the stalls at China’s so-called “wet” wild animal markets, as they reopen, have begun once again selling bats and scorpions and resumed questionable practices such as slaughtering small animals right at the site.

Chinese officials refused to provide samples of its coronavirus strains to U.S. researchers shortly after the outbreak became public and did not allow international disease specialists to visit Wuhan for weeks.

Handling bats

The Chinese video “Youth in the Wild — Invisible Defender” records researchers engaged in casual handling of bats containing deadly viruses.

The seven-minute film boasts that China has “taken the lead” in global virus research and uncovered over 2,000 viruses in the past 12 years, the time since the outbreak of the bat-origin virus that causes severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

The deadly virus behind the current pandemic is called SARS Coronavirus-2 and also has been traced to bats.

Prior to China’s discoveries, an estimated 2,284 types of viruses had been found in the previous 200 years, the video says.

Chinese state media outlets revealed that Mr. Tian once failed to wear protective gear in a cave and as a result came into contact with bat urine. To avoid contracting a disease, he self-quarantined for 14 days — the same recommended period for people exposed to the new COVID-19 strain.

Mr. Tian works for the office of decontamination and biological disease vector prevention and control within the Wuhan CDC. According to a May 2017 report by the Wuhan Evening News, Mr. Tian has gathered thousands of bats for research work on bat viruses since 2012.

“Bats have a large number of unknown viruses on their bodies,” he said. “The more thorough our research on bats is, the better it will be for human health.”

The researcher also has gathered viruses from ticks, mice and wasps.

After the incident exposing him to bat urine, Mr. Tian said, he kept a safe distance from his wife. “As long as I am not getting sick during the incubation period of 14 days, I can be lucky to get away with it,” he said.

The Wuhan report said the collection of research samples was difficult, dangerous and hard to fund.

Shenzhen News, a publication of the Guangdong Communist Youth League, described in December how Mr. Tian shuttled through caves and jungles looking for viruses in bats and ticks, called “vector organisms,” in the quest to develop vaccines. The report said the nearly 2,000 viruses discovered in China over the past 12 years nearly doubled the total number of known viruses.

A search of the Wuhan CDC website since the novel coronavirus outbreak contains no reference to Mr. Tian or his work. He has co-authored at least two scientific studies on the Wuhan virus and its impact.

Efforts to reach Mr. Tian were not successful.

A spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington did not return an email seeking comment.

U.S. concerns

A State Department official said the reports about Mr. Tian and his role in working with bat viruses are concerning.

“He lives and works at Wuhan’s CDC, a few hundred yards away from the Huanan wet market,” the official said. “He is among the small team in Wuhan that has contributed to China’s obsession in recent years with virus hunting and research.”

Some U.S. and international scientists have dismissed reports linking the new virus to one of China’s research labs. They insist the virus jumped naturally to humans and then began spreading from person to person.

But others say a growing body of evidence indicates the virus may have been under study in a Chinese laboratory and escaped, either through an infection of a worker or through an infected lab animal.

Biosecurity researcher Richard Ebright, a Rutgers University professor at the Waksman Institute of Microbiology, said the coronavirus behind the pandemic is 96.2% similar to a bat virus discovered by the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2013 and studied at the Wuhan CDC. The virus could have jumped naturally from animal to human but also could have escaped from the lab, he said.

“Bat coronaviruses are collected and studied by laboratories in multiple parts of China — including Wuhan Municipal CDC and Wuhan Institute of Virology,” he told The Washington Times. “Therefore, the first human infection also could have occurred as a laboratory accident.”

Until the recent outbreak, all but two coronaviruses in China were studied at biosafety level-2 (BSL-2) facilities — not the high-security BSL-4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology — “which provides only minimal protections against infection of lab workers,” he said.

“Virus collection, culture, isolation or animal infection at BSL-2 with a virus having the transmission characteristics of the outbreak virus would pose high risk of accidental infection of a lab worker, and from the lab worker, the public,” he said.

Mr. Ebright said the Chinese video shows Wuhan CDC workers under Mr. Tian’s direction with inadequate personal protective equipment and unsafe practices, including exposed faces and wrists and a lack of goggles or face shields.

Such practices “would pose substantial risk of infection with a virus having transmission properties similar to those of the outbreak virus,” he said.

Mr. Ebright said the 2017 news report and 2019 video suggest several possibilities of accidental infection. They include accidental exposure in caves or field laboratories by those without proper protection, accidental infection during transit from caves or field laboratories, accidental infection inside the Wuhan CDC lab because of poor security, and accidental infection during shared work between the Wuhan CDC and the Wuhan Institute of Virology because of inadequate security at the CDC.

Kenneth Plante, associate director at the World Reference Center for Emerging Viruses and Arboviruses at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, said he doubted the new virus came from a laboratory.

“There’s a lot of conspiracy theories that this came out of a biocontainment facility and things of that sort,” he said last week. “But these viruses are closely related to bats. The actual mechanism of the reemergence of this virus was actually hypothesized back during the original SARS coronavirus,” he said.

But Steven W. Mosher, a China specialist with the Population Research Institute, said China for years has been doing research, detailed in scientific journals, on horseshoe bat coronaviruses that could be harmful to humans.

“They write about collecting SARS-like coronaviruses from horseshoe bats and proving that, like the SARS virus itself, some of these other naturally occurring coronaviruses could infect human beings directly,” Mr. Mosher said. “They write about genetically engineering new and deadly viruses capable of infecting human lung tissue — just like the Wuhan flu does.”

Mr. Mosher called the Chinese government to disclose the research to help health officials cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

China claims that the deadly virus did not escape from its biolab,” Mr. Mosher said. “Fine. Prove it by releasing the research records of the Wuhan lab.”

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