Global COVID-19 total passes 4 million cases

The global COVID-19 total topped 4 million cases today, and in the United States, New York officials said three children have died from what might be a recently identified inflammatory complication in pediatric patients.

It took 12 days for the pandemic total to jump from 3 million to 4 million, the same number of days it took for the total to rise from 2 million to 3 million. The total stands at 4,020,878, and 279,007 people have died from their infections, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

New York probes children's' deaths

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said today on Twitter that three children have died from a COVID-19 related illness that has symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome. He said the New York Department of Health is investigating, and health officials will provide updates.

"Though rare, we urge parents to be vigilant," he added.

Last week, New York City health officials reported the multi-system inflammatory syndrome in 15 pediatric patients, possibly related to COVID-19. The condition had recently been reported in children in the United Kingdom.

Federal health officials in quarantine

In federal developments, two top US health officials are in self-quarantine after coming in contact with someone at the White House who tested positive for COVID-19.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) yesterday confirmed that its commissioner, Stephen Hahn, MD, is in self-quarantine, CBS News reported. And a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spokesperson said its director, Robert Redfield, MD, will be teleworking for the next 2 weeks after he had low-risk exposure to a person at the White House who tested positive, the Washington Post reported.

Two people at the White House recently tested positive for the virus, one of President Trump's valets and one of Vice President Pence's aides.

Trump has recently been downplaying the importance of testing as a key to releasing restrictions, counter to public health advisors and even some of his political allies, the Washington Post reported. Citing frequent testing in those around him and that two people at the White House recently tested positive, he said tests are in imperfect guide and has questioned the value of extensive testing as a benchmark for releasing restrictions.

In other developments, the White House said yesterday that Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, will direct how remdesivir will be distributed to hospitals, Reuters reported. Earlier this week, the Infectious Diseases Society of America and the HIV Medicine Association called on Vice President Mike Pence to provide more transparency about how and when the experimental antiviral drug is being distributed in the United States.

On the regulatory front, the FDA yesterday issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first COVID-19 test with an option of using home-collected saliva samples. The test was developed by the Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory. And today, the FDA issued an EUA to Quidel Corporation for a COVID-19 antigen test that quickly detects virus protein fragments in samples collected with nasal swabs. The FDA said antigen tests can provide results in minutes but do not detect all active infections.

In other US developments:

  • Contact tracing in Pasadena, California, recently identified a cluster of COVID-19 cases among people who attended a birthday party, with five lab-confirmed infections and many more sick people. The index case was coughing and not wearing a mask, and guests weren't wearing masks or following physical distancing recommendations. The city of Pasadena today reminded residents to stay home and healthy as Mother's Day approaches.

  • Antibody testing in 1,300 New York City transit workers has found a 14.2% positive rate, Cuomo said today on Twitter.

  • The National Institutes of Health yesterday announced the launch of a randomized, controlled clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of remdesivir and the anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib for COVID-19. The trial is currently enrolling hospitalized adults in the United States and will involve about 100 US and international sites, enrolling more than 1,000 participants. Baricitinib, already licensed by Eli Lilly, is used in the United States and 65 other countries to treat adults with moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis.

  • The US total reached 1,309,164 cases today, with 78,746 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.

Belarus holds large parade; more Korea nightclub cases

Belarus today held a large military parade in Minsk to mark Victory Day, observed by former Soviet Union republics, despite steadily increasing COVID-19 activity, Reuters reported. The country's president, who took part in the event today, has downplayed the threat and has refused to order a lockdown.

In contrast, Russia today marked the occasion in a much more subdued manner, as its COVID-19 activity intensifies, especially in Moscow. The country cancelled the traditional military parade, but President Vladimir Putin laid roses at a war memorial, the BBC reported.

Moscow is the country's main hot spot, and a fire at a Moscow hospital treating COVID-19 patients today killed one person, Reuters reported, citing RIA news agency. The fire apparently started in a patient's room. Russia today reported 10,817 new cases and now has the world's fifth highest total.

In other international developments:

  • South Korea today reported 18 more cases, 8 of them related to nightclub clusters in Seoul and 1 an imported case from Japan, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So far 21 recent infections have been linked to the nightclubs. Safety officials also issued an executive order shuttering clubs and nightlife venues through Jun 7. The move affects 2,100 nightclubs.

  • China today announced plans to reform its disease prevention and control system, because of problems it faced during its COVID-19 outbreak, Reuters Government officials said the National Health Commission (NHC) would build a more centralized and efficient chain of command and modernize the system. The NHC today reported 1 new case, an imported infection, as well as 15 new asymptomatic cases, all of them local.

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