Cuomo says COVID-19 cases have peaked in New York

Medics handling a swab
Medics handling a swab

US National Guard, Kenneth Tucceri / Flickr cc

Yesterday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said new cases of COVID-19 have peaked in his state, which has been the epicenter of America's battle with the global pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus.

"We believe NY is past the peak and we are now descending the other side of the mountain," Cuomo tweeted. "The continuation of this positive trend depends on our actions." Cuomo also said the infection rate in New York has slowed, with every 10 infected people transmitting the virus to another 9. Today the state reported 478 COVID-19 deaths, the first daily tally of deaths under 500 since Apr 2, the New York Times said.

The state now has 247,512 cases and 14,347 deaths. New York City has 132,467 cases, including 9,101 confirmed coronavirus deaths and 4,582 probable coronavirus deaths, NYC Health said.

Over the weekend, New York health officials also warned the state may soon run out of dialysis machines, as one-third of intensive care unit (ICU) COVID-19 patients are requiring the use of the machines in the wake of acute kidney injury, NPR reported.

Some hospitals have resorted to using ICU dialysis machines on two patients in 12-hours blocks of time, instead of 24 hours each day. Researchers do not know why the virus is attacking the kidneys of some patients, even those without diabetes or rental disease.

According to the tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University, there are 766,662 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States, and 40,931 deaths.

Nursing homes back in the spotlight

Yesterday the White House coronavirus task force announced nursing homes will now be required to report COVID-19 cases to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nursing homes have been a hotbed of COVID-19 activity in the US, since the first deadly outbreak began at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington at the end of February.

And over the weekend both Florida and California announced they would now be making public lists of nursing homes in each state with confirmed COVID-19 cases. According to the Washington Post, North Carolina and New York have both released partial lists of nursing homes with outbreaks, while other states, such as New Jersey, have not publicly identified any nursing homes with confirmed cases.

In Florida, at least 1 in every 4 COVID-19 deaths have taken place in a resident of a long-term care facility.

Trump evokes DPA for testing swabs

At the press briefing yesterday, Trump also announced he would use the Defense Production Act (DPA) to manufacture testing swabs. Trump said that under the act 20 million additional swabs would be produced each month.

Testing is seen as the key component needed to re-open the country, and shortages of swabs and reagents have hindered the massive scale-up of testing many governors say they need to safely reopen state economies.

The announcement came after two governors, Republican Larry Hogan of Maryland and Democrat Ralph Northam of Virginia, appeared on Sunday morning talk shows pleading for more federal assistance in testing. President Trump had tweeted over the weekend and today that testing should be under the purvey of each state.

In other federal news, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has allowed the Swiss company Novartis to proceed with a phase 3 clinical trial of hydroxychloroquine in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. The trial will be conducted on 440 patients at 12 sites across the US.

"We recognize the importance of answering the scientific question of whether hydroxychloroquine will be beneficial for patients with COVID-19 disease," said John Tsai, the head of global drug development and chief medical officer at Novartis, in a press release. "We mobilized quickly to address this question in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study."

Hydroxychloroquine is an antimalarial drug that has shown to have some antiviral efficacy against COVID-19 in anecdotal and small clinical trials in Europe and the US. It was the first therapeutic touted by the Trump administration as a game-changer in fighting the novel coronavirus.

States, corporations take steps towards reopening

The Wall Street Journal reports Amazon, General Motors, and other major corporations are taking steps to determine how to safely return employees back to work via private testing.

And governors across the country continue to make overtures towards reopening local economies. In South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster today announced the reopening of beaches and some retailers, including jewelry and clothing stores. South Carolina has 4,439 cases of the virus.

In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp announced that select businesses—including gyms, bowling alleys, barber shops, and nail salons—can begin reopening this Friday, Apr 24, with specific guidelines on social distancing and sanitation.

This week's top reads