COVID-19 News Briefs for Friday, May 22, 2020

May 22, 2020

 Covid-19 has infected more than 10,000 healthcare workers in hard-hit Iran which is also dealing with the deadliest outbreak in the Middle East, with 7,249 fatalities among more than 129,000 confirmed cases. A 5-year civil war had already caused the world’s worst humanitarian crisis there and the WHO fears the virus is also spreading to other vulnerable populations in the rest of the Middle East

 The widespread interruption of routine immunization programs around the world during the coronavirus pandemic is putting 80 million children under 1 year old at risk of contracting deadly, vaccine-preventable diseases, according to a report today by the WHO, UNICEF, and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. Many public health experts say they are worried that deaths from diseases including cholera, rotavirus, and diphtheria could far outstrip those from Covid-19 itself

 Using the blood of Covid-19 survivors in treatments shows promising results — and does not appear to increase the risk of dying from the disease, according to initial results of a nationwide clinical trial. The findings also offer an early hint that the treatment may indeed save lives, as well as give healthcare workers and first responders protection known as “passive immunity.” The supply of this convalescent plasma is growing as more people recover from Covid-19, and a vaccine is not expected to become available until 2021

 77 Nobel laureates have requested a probe into the National Institutes of Health’s recent cancellation of a $3 million grant to an American group researching coronavirus in China. They argue that such work is vital for fighting the pandemic

 President Trump announced today that he was designating churches essential businesses so that they can immediately reopen. Hours later, Governor Newsom said he would provide plans on Monday for reopening California churches amid mounting pressure to allow in-person religious services both from protesters and President Trump

 The White House administration also sent a warning letter today to Mayor Garcetti saying the Department of Justice is concerned the city may pursue “an arbitrary and heavy-handed approach” to stay-at-home orders

 White House coronavirus expert Dr. Birx gave a mostly upbeat assessment of the nation’s progress but said today the Los Angeles metropolitan area, which includes Orange County, is continuing to see problems, and said she’s asked the CDC to investigate. She also noted persistent Covid-19 cases in Chicago and Washington, D.C.

 Facebook announced that many of its 48,000 employees will soon be allowed to work from home permanently, and within a decade half the workforce will be remote. CEO Zuckerberg did say that working from home is for experienced employees rather than new college grads who will need in-person training

 State lawmakers rebuked California’s Employment Development Department (EDD), charging that it has failed to address public outcry over delays in answering calls and processing unemployment benefit claims from residents now out of work due to the coronavirus crisis. The EDD was in the process of modernizing its computer system when the pandemic hit and hopes to award a major contract in the fall. However, the modernization of the 30year system is expected to take 7 years

 A month after vowing to test all nursing home residents and staff for Covid-19, LA County health officials have completed the effort in about a third of nursing homes and have dramatically scaled back testing plans. The change, which calls for testing only a small sample of residents in nursing homes that have not had an outbreak, is outlined in a letter county health officials sent to nursing homes last week. Health officials said the decision is the most efficient way to get a quick handle on what is happening in the homes, but some experts fear the move could allow the virus to continue to spread undetected, resulting in more fatalities among a vulnerable population that is already the hardest hit by the pandemic. The Covid-19 death toll at county residential facilities topped 1,000 this week, with the vast majority at nursing homes

 LA County reported an additional 35 deaths and 1,072 positive cases. The totals are now 2,049 fatalities and 43,052 cases. Dr. Ferrer noted that 93% of the recent deaths had underlying health conditions and that 1 in 3 residents in LA County has an underlying health condition. Therefore, she strongly recommended that anyone who has a health condition try to stay at home as much as possible and contact a provider at the first indication of illness, even a mild symptom. There have been 412,000 test results recorded for the county and 9% have tested positive. Dr. Ferrer also gave an update on fatalities for race and income: Deaths per 100,000 people are 100 for Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders; 26 for African-Americans; 22 for Latinos; 16 for Asian-Americans; and 13 for White; 41 per 100,000 people for areas of high poverty; 11 for areas of low poverty. While the county is moving in the right direction regarding number of positive cases, deaths and other metric, Dr. Ferrer acknowledged that much more work needs to be done to immediately address the disproportionate levels of illness and deaths among lower income and black and brown populations. City Breakouts (Cases/Deaths): City of LA 20,391/1,001; Long Beach 1,495/NA; Carson 363/20; El Segundo 32/0; Gardena 226/21; Hawthorne 341/9; Hermosa Beach 28/2; Inglewood 525/52; Lawndale 99/3; Lomita 48/6; Manhattan Beach 76/2; PV Estates 41/0; Rancho PV 83/11; Redondo Beach 132/8; Rolling Hills 2/0; Rolling Hills Estates 14/0; Torrance 344/44

Compiled by Charlene Nishimura

Media Sources: Los Angeles Times; New York Times; Washington Post; Wall Street Journal; Forbes Magazine; Business Insider; USA Today; CBS News; CNN; KTLA; OZY; ABC World News Tonight; Spectrum News 1; The Hill.com; WebMD; AP, Politico, Newsweek, Reuters, daily televised briefings from the White House, Governor Newsom, LA County Health Department, Mayor Garcetti; City of Torrance press releases; Torrance Area Chamber of Commerce press releases