COVID-19 News Briefs for Thursday, July 23, 2020

July 23, 2020

 The National Institutes of Health is preparing to launch a “flurry” of large clinical trials to test new approaches to treating Covid-19, hoping to expand what for now remains a limited arsenal of therapies to help people with the disease. Among the trials: studies of antiviral monoclonal antibodies to treat hospitalized patients and patients who can be treated at home; studies of drugs to quell overreaction of the immune system that the agency has picked from dozens of approved treatments; and studies of blood thinners in very sick Covid-19 patients to prevent problems caused by blood clots. Those treatment studies will be on top of the work that the NIH is doing on vaccines, including the vaccine developed by Moderna Therapeutics. Currently, only 2 drugs have been shown to be effective in patients with coronavirus — remdesivir which reduced the time it took patients to recover, and dexamethasone which is a steroid that prolonged survival in the sickest patients

 The number of laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 1.4 million — the first time since the pandemic struck in March — evidence of the deepening economic pain the outbreak is causing to the economy. Last week’s pace of unemployment applications was the 18th straight week it’s topped 1 million, and was up from 1.3 million the previous week. Before the pandemic, the number of weekly applications had never exceeded 700,000. The resurgence of confirmed viral cases across the country has forced some businesses to close a second time or to impose tighter restrictions on customers in response to state mandates. The resulting pullback in business activity has hindered job growth and likely forced additional layoffs. Also, data from Yelp which tracks millions of small businesses, show that more than 73,000 small businesses have closed for good since the pandemic intensified in March, up 28% from mid-June

 When the Covid-19 pandemic first drove the US into lockdown and tens of millions of workers lost their jobs, Congress voted to add $600 a week to whatever individual states paid in unemployment insurance — this additional payment is due to stop at the end of this month. Congress must decide whether to let it die, continue it, or cut back the payment levels. Some are arguing that the present system encourages workers to remain on unemployment rather than go back to work. Others maintain the extra payments are helping millions to keep paying their bills and care for families as well as keep the economy afloat, especially as the pandemic is getting worse in many parts of the country

 Thousands of employees who have been furloughed or able to work from home since March are being called back to physical workplaces. Many, especially those backed by powerful unions, are resisting. They cite the failure of employers over the last 4 months to prevent Covid-19 outbreaks, even in hospitals, nursing homes, fast-food outlets, grocery stores, and warehouses where workers were deemed essential by the state. Since March, more than 17,800 Covid-19 workplace complaints have been reported to the LA County health department and Cal/OSHA has received 3,800 complaints. Furloughed employees called back to the workplace
usually lose unemployment benefits if they don’t return, but many are fearful of returning as hospitalizations and deaths are spiking. Organized labor, which protects their members from retaliation through collective bargaining, is leading public resistance to back-to-work initiatives and airing urgent demands for stricter safety measures

 The White House has cancelled the portion of the Republican National Convention that had been scheduled for Jacksonville, FL in late August, citing coronavirus safety concerns. Instead, the party will hold official business in North Carolina and move other festivities, including President Trump’s nominating speech, online

 As of today, California reported 421,857 confirmed coronavirus cases and 8,053 deaths. Other disturbing news included: The governor has put 35 counties on the “watch list” because of increasing cases; Hospitalizations have increased by 18% over the last 2 weeks; More tests are coming back positive; Disparities are widening with Latinos now 3 times more likely to test positive than white people; The highest death toll continues to be among seniors with 76% of those who have died from Covid-19 65 years or older; California has overtaken New York with the nation’s highest case count

 A CDC study found that familial spread was the most common mode of Covid-19 disease transmission, accounting for 45% of cases. To stop the spread, it’s imperative that infected patients isolate themselves from others until they are no longer contagious — which means staying separate from other members of their
families. However, many live in cramped and crowded conditions and sometimes are forced to share a single bathroom so isolation is not possible. LA officials proposed expanding a medical sheltering program as early as March 30, but a LA County health spokesperson acknowledged they are still working on quarantine plans

 Filipino-Americans have been hit harder than other Asian-American groups by Covid-19, and data shows preexisting health conditions and occupational hazards are among the factors that are contributing to the high number of Filipino-American deaths during the pandemic. Most of those who died were older than 60, and
many had diabetes and hypertension. Also, many were retired, living in multigenerational homes with their children, or in nursing homes. Younger victims worked essential jobs, providing healthcare, working in law enforcement, and at grocery stores. In California, almost a fifth of registered nurses are Filipino, putting them at greater risk while on the front lines in hospitals and nursing homes. They also tend to work in the ICU and surgical units where Covid-19 patients are treated

 According to a new study by UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, out of more than 950 child care facilities surveyed, 1 in 4 programs have closed. Among those that remain open, 99% of the preschools and 77% of the family-run programs have fewer children attending which results in a loss of income. On average, centers with fewer children are operating at 44% and family-run homes at 55% of the pre-pandemic attendance and child care providers are having to take on financial burden themselves to keep their programs functioning. The state has strictly limited how many children they can care for in order to follow social distancing guidelines and many parents are still reluctant to take their children to childcare. And another hurdle is the substantial cost of sanitizing equipment, PPE, and staff to clean toys and furniture throughout the day. California day cares report more than 30 cases of Covid-19 per day since tracking started on July 9 — there have been nearly 1,300 infections in the state’s 38,000 child care facilities reported since the pandemic began. The
National Women’s Law Center estimates that child care providers will need $9.6 billion per month to survive and a bill to create a $50 billion fund to help child care providers cover operating costs is up for a vote in the House of Representatives next week

 LA County reported an additional 2,014 positive Covid-19 cases and 49 deaths. The totals are now 166,848 cases and 4,262 deaths. City Breakouts (Cases/Deaths): City of LA 67,894/1,986; Long Beach 7,063/161; Carson 1,094/38; El Segundo 94/0; Gardena 754/34; Hawthorne 1,202/29; Hermosa Beach 139/2; Inglewood 1,717/73;
Lawndale 407/8; Lomita 156/7; Manhattan Beach 242/4; PV Estates 65/2; Rancho PV 207/12; Redondo Beach 365/9; Rolling Hills 5/0; Rolling Hills Estates 30/2; Torrance 919/55

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; WebMD; AP, Politico, Newsweek, Reuters, 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