Hospital braces for long haul flighting coronavirus
Texas and Hawaii are coming to grips with two simultaneous natural disasters Sunday: Incoming major storms and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Hanna, downgraded to a tropical depression after reaching Texas as a hurricane Saturday, soaked the Gulf Coast with 50 mph winds and rains that destroyed boats, flooded streets and knocked out power across a region already reeling from a surge in coronavirus cases.
Gov. Greg Abbott said some sheltering would take place in hotel rooms so people could maintain distance and avoid getting infected with the virus. “We cannot allow this hurricane to lead to a more catastrophically deadly event by stoking additional spread of COVID-19 that could lead to fatalities,” Abbott said.
In Hawaii, the American Red Cross said many volunteers were staying home ahead of Douglas, complicating relief efforts. Though the hurricane weakened to Category 1 as it approached Hawaii, it was still expected to bring high winds, 5-15 inches of rain and storm surge to the islands.
Hawaii has some of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in the nation, but the numbers have been rising in recent weeks. Saturday, the state reported a record-high 73 new confirmed cases.
Here are some significant developments:
- New Orleans’ mayor is shutting down the city’s bars because of rising coronavirus numbers, and is also forbidding restaurants from selling alcoholic drinks to go.
- The number of people hospitalized with the coronavirus in New York is continuing to drop to the lowest levels since the pandemic began, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
- After testing positive for COVID-19 several times, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Saturday that he had tested negative.
- Beijing partially reopened movie theaters this weekend as the threat from the coronavirus continues to recede in China’s capital.
- Supreme Court rules on social distancing restrictions, saying Nevada can can impose tighter restrictions on churches than casinos.
📈 Today’s stats: The U.S. has confirmed nearly 4.2 million cases and over 146,000 deaths. Worldwide, there have been more than 16.1 million cases and 645,000 deaths, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins.
📰 What we’re reading: An unknown but growing number of the COVID-19 patients in the U.S. say they can’t shake symptoms ranging from fatigue to serious respiratory or neurological problems, often for months after diagnosis. The ailments are all the more challenging because patients say they often face skeptical families, friends, employers and even doctors. These are their stories.
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Storm and virus a batter Texas Gulf Coast
It didn’t take long for the impact of a major storm to be felt in areas of Texas already battered by the coronavirus.
In Hidalgo County near the Gulf Coast, Dr. Ivan Melendez said he was treating a patient overnight at a hospital when he noticed water pooling on the floor. “I thought, ‘Hey, something’s leaking,’” Melendez said. “The nurse looks at me and says, ‘Look behind you.’ I look and see this water coming and coming and coming down the wall.”
The water was flowing through a vent in the room, which had been retrofitted with a fan to create negative pressure and prevent the virus from spreading through the hospital.
Tropical Storm Hanna dumped more than 12 inches of rain on parts of South Texas and northeastern Mexico. Because of the social distancing required by the threat of the virus, officials had to open shelters with reduced capacity in several facilities, including hotels, schools and gyms.
Health care systems in border communities have been strained by COVID-19 cases, forcing the airlifting of some patients to larger cities.
— The Associated Press
Adm. Giroir: Results for half the tests taking too long
The U.S. is conducting 770,000 daily tests for the coronavirus, but it’s taking more than four days to get results for half of them, according to the federal official supervising testing.
Adm. Brett Giroir, the Assistant Secretary for Health, said in a CNN interview Sunday the goal for turnaround times is 24 hours, a far-fetched objective in many parts of the country grappling with a spike in cases of COVID-19 and an inability to promptly identify them. As cases have surged in recent weeks, especially in the South and West, it has taken increasingly longer in the most affected areas to make an appointment for a test and get results, raising the chances that undiagnosed carriers are spreading the virus.
Giroir said most of the delays in delivering results are coming from large commercial labs, which account for about half the tests and take an average of 4.27 days to issue results. Giroir said he expects improvement now that LabCorp and Quest have been authorized to do pool testing.
“I am highly confident that turnaround will decrease this week with all the steps we’re doing,” he said.
Home test for coronavirus may not be far away
A quick, inexpensive and readily available home test to detect the coronavirus would be a critical tool in helping curb its spread, and it might be getting closer to reality.
With support from the National Institutes of Health, researches at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are collaborating with a team at 3M to develop and scale such a test. The diagnostic exam would work similarly to an early pregnancy test, using an individual’s body fluids to reveal on a specially made piece of paper whether the virus is present in that person.
“That could be one of our most important interventions as we come into the fall to prevent large outbreaks from happening,” said Stephen Kissler, a research fellow at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
— Karen Weintraub
Deaths appear to be catching up to new cases
The number of death records appears to be catching up up to the number of new case records. A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data late Saturday shows 10 states set records for new cases while five states had a record number of deaths.
New case records were set in Alaska, Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota and Wyoming, and also Puerto Rico. Record numbers of deaths were reported in Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina and Texas.Find state data here, or see details for your county here.
– Mike Stucka
South Africa has fifth-most cases after adding 12,000
South Africa, among the countries most affected by the coronavirus in the world, announced 12,000 new cases, bringing its total to 434,200. That ranks fifth globally.
South Africa makes up well over half the confirmed cases on the African continent, where experts worry the virus could overwhelm areas poorly served by health services. Africa now has more than 828,000 cases. The true number of cases on the continent of 1.3 billion people is unknown because of testing shortages and insufficient data.
COVID-19 group testing saves resources, not time
With results from COVID-19 tests routinely taking one week or longer to complete, some labs are trying a new approach called sample pooling.
The idea is labs can save coveted supplies if they test samples from multiple patients at once. If the test finds no signs that a pooled sample contains the coronavirus, the group of people tested are considered negative. A positive result requires each sample to be tested individually.
Public or academic health labs in California, Washington and Nebraska have used or gained approval for the testing method. And last weekend, Quest Diagnostics became the first commercial laboratory to get Food and Drug Administration authorization to conduct sample pooling. It’s part of the lab company’s effort to hike capacity to 150,000 tests each day by the end of July. LabCorp, another large commercial lab, announced Saturday it has also received authorization for sample pooling.
It’s another example of how labs are adapting to unprecedented circumstances that have stressed supplies, workforces and capacity to deliver meaningful and timely test results. But the testing method won’t deliver results more quickly, which remains a hurdle for labs struggling to keep pace in hotspot communities. Read more here.
– Ken Alltucker
Rhode Island tells visitors to stay away from beaches
As part of its efforts to stop the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Gina Raimondo’s administration is again trying to control of the number of visitors to state beaches this weekend by urging people from Connecticut and Massachusetts to stay away and coordinating with local authorities to crack down on illegal parking.
Despite the pandemic, the number of visitors to Rhode Island state beaches has been sky-high this year. The number of beachgoers in June was up 80% over the same month last year.
Crowded conditions and scenes of people failing to wear masks or social distance prompted Raimondo last week to slash the capacity of parking lots at Scarborough and Misquamicut — the two most visited state beaches — from 75% to 25%. Both beaches get a large amount of traffic from out-of-state visitors.
Similar measures enacted last weekend helped keep the crowds down at popular state beaches along the south shore. The actions contributed to the safest conditions on Rhode Island state beaches seen all summer, according to the Department of Environmental Management.
– Alex Kuffner, The Providence Journal
Brazil’s Bolsonaro says he tested negative for coronavirus
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said Saturday that he had tested negative for the coronavirus, based on a fourth test since he said July 7 that he had the virus. He later went for a ride on a motorcycle, mingling with wellwishers as he has often done since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Good morning everyone,” Bolsonaro wrote on Facebook after reporting that the test was negative.
The 65-year-old leader, who for months had downplayed COVID-19 and flouted social distancing recommendations, didn’t say when he took the new test. On Wednesday, he had tested positive for a third time.
Bolsonaro also posted a photo of himself with a box of the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, which has not been proven effective against the virus.
– Associated Press
More COVID-19 resources from USA TODAY
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Contributing: The Associated Press
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