VA to participate in clinical trials for blood plasma therapy, remdesivir and sarilumab

NBC News

Rich Gardella

53m ago / 9:44 PM UTC

The VA said Friday that it will take part in clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments, including a Mayo Clinic study on whether the antibodies in blood plasma from recovered patients can help treat sick patients, and trials of the drugs remdesivir and sarilumab.

According to the VA, more than 60 of its medical centers and clinics are ready to perform transfusions of blood plasma to COVID-19 patients.

The VA also announced that its medical centers in Denver, New Orleans and Palo Alto, California have joined a clinical trial led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases assessing whether drugs like remdesivir are effective against COVID-19. In Atlanta, the VA is working with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to assess whether sarilumab, a drug normally taken to treat rheumatoid arthritis, may be an effective treatment.  

Veteran patients interested in participating can contact VA medical centers in these cities.

Jonathan Dienst

1h ago / 9:26 PM UTC

NYC’s 911 call volume decreases dramatically after record spike due to COVID-19

Several weeks ago, during the throes of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, FDNY medical 911 call volume spiked to record levels at over 6,500 calls per day from a normal volume of 4,000, and now those numbers have fallen dramatically, the FDNY says.

Thursday’s 3,032 medical calls to 911 represents the lowest call volume in years, and call volumes were around 3,300 earlier in the week.

Prior to COVID-19 hitting New York City, the average volume was about 4,000-4,100 calls per day.

A senior FDNY official believes the decrease stems from people heeding the advice to only call 911 if there is a true emergency, and also fewer people out and about traveling around the city.

Cardiac calls received by 911 jumped from an average of 69 per day to over 350 during the heart of the crisis. Those numbers have also decreased to 95 cardiac calls Thursday with 60 deaths resulting.

Erika Edwards

2h ago / 9:06 PM UTC

FDA grants emergency use for remdesivir for very sick patients

The Food and Drug Administration is allowing hospitalized patients to be treated with remdesivir, the drug that has shown promise in early clinical trials to help people with severe COVID-19. 

The emergency use authorization was announced Friday during an Oval Office meeting between President Donald Trump, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, and the CEO of Gilead Sciences, the company that developed remdesivir.

An emergency use authorization is not the same as FDA approval and it doesn’t mean the drug should be used for all hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

Read the full story

Sahil Kapur

2h ago / 8:56 PM UTC

Democrats demand stimulus money for Americans who are married to immigrants

Americans are eligible for up to $1,200 in coronavirus stimulus money — unless they’re married and filing taxes jointly with an immigrant who doesn’t have a Social Security number. Democratic leaders are demanding to change that.

About 2 million undocumented people are married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder. They — along with some lawfully present immigrants — don’t have Social Security numbers and use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (or ITIN) to file taxes.

The CARES Act, which authorized the payments for couples earning up to $198,000, requires a Social Security number for eligibility. The IRS has said both people on the tax return must have Social Security numbers in order for either to get any money, including the $500 per child that is helping cash-strapped families pay for rent and other expenses in the pandemic.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “a monumental injustice” that must be fixed.

Read the full story here.

David K. Li

2h ago / 8:53 PM UTC

Prison sentence for ‘Hot Pockets’ heiress delayed amid coronavirus

Hot Pockets heiress Michelle Janavs, ensnared in the sweeping college-admissions scandal, had her prison sentence — set to begin next week — delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Janavs, sentenced five months behind bars for paying a fixer to get her daughters into the University of Southern California, had been ordered to surrender on Thursday but now may remain free until at least June 30, according to U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton.

But the judge ruled against Janavs’ bid to have her entire sentence served under house arrest.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented and continually evolving cause of concern and the Court is cognizant of the particular transmission risk in penitentiary facilities,” Gorton wrote in a ruling handed down Thursday.

Read the full story here.

Tim Fitzsimons

2h ago / 8:30 PM UTC

Fauci, Birx to headline virtual COVID-19 conference at AIDS 2020

U.S. White House COVID-19 task force members Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx will be keynote speakers at a one-day virtual COVID-19 conference to be held in July, the International AIDS Society announced.

AIDS 2020, the 23rd annual International AIDS Conference, was scheduled to be held in San Francisco from July 6-10, but the conference was moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

A one-day COVID-19 conference added to the end of AIDS 2020 will shine a “spotlight on the latest science, policy and practice of the pandemic,” according to Thursday’s press release.

“Many of the global experts gathering for AIDS 2020: Virtual are also leading voices in SARS-CoV-2 virology, immunology, vaccines, clinical care and therapeutic guidelines, and trials,” wrote Anton Pozniak, the president of the IAS. “The virtual conference will provide a unique opportunity to help shape the evolving global response to COVID-19.”

The COVID-19 conference is accepting abstract submissions through May 25. Members of the public can register online for free to watch the conference.

Denise Chow

2h ago / 8:17 PM UTC

Coronavirus outbreak could last up to two years, new study finds

The coronavirus outbreak could last for up to two years based on the trajectories of recent flu pandemics, according to a new study released by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

The report also warned that over the next 24 months, states, territories and tribal health authorities should prepare for periodic resurgences of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, including a large second wave of infections this fall.

The study found that the current outbreak is behaving similar to past influenza pandemics, including those that occurred in 1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009. The researchers also cautioned that since only 5 percent to 15 percent of the U.S. population has been infected so far — significantly less than would be needed for so-called herd immunity — government officials should develop plans to cope with subsequent peaks in the disease.

“The goal is to help planners envision some of the situations that might present themselves later this year or next year so that they can take key steps now, while there’s still time,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said in a statement.

Minyvonne Burke

2h ago / 8:13 PM UTC

Field hospital at Javits Center to close after last patients leave

The field hospital at New York City’s Jacob K. Javits convention center is closing after the last coronavirus patients left. 

Dr. Chris Tanski, the chief medical officer at the Javits Center, told the Associated Press that the remaining eight patients left Friday afternoon.

A FEMA spokesperson told NBC News that “planning is ongoing for the drawdown of federal resources that are no longer needed due to the flattening of the curve.” 

Nearly 1,100 patients were treated at the convention center to help alleviate strain on the city’s hospitals. “We were able to offload some of the volume from the hospitals,” said Tanski, a doctor at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse who was part of a federal disaster response task force helping New York treat COVID-19 patients.

Minyvonne Burke

3h ago / 7:34 PM UTC

First coronavirus patient admitted to Mount Sinai hospital goes home

The first coronavirus patient admitted to Mount Sinai hospital in New York City was released following a 54-day stay, nearly half of which Rodrigo Saval spent intubated. 

Mount Sinai West celebrated the milestone with a huge sendoff. In a video posted on the hospital’s Facebook page, doctors and nurses lined the hallway and cheered as Saval was wheeled toward the exit. He threw his hands in the air in triumph. 

Saval, a marathon runner from Chile, was admitted on March 7, according to NBC New York. Staff said there were times when his situation looked bleak. 

“I think we needed this win and it’s such a blessing to see,” a hospital employee told the outlet. “He’s our personal mascot almost.” 

Saval is the 500th coronavirus patient to be released from Mount Sinai West. He said he plans to stay in New York a little longer for rehab and then will return to Chile to see his family. 

Afternoon roundup of coronavirus coverage

Coronavirus R: Is this the crucial number? [BBC News]

Cruise ships set sail knowing the deadly risk to passengers and crew [The Wall Street Journal]

‘A really miraculous story’: 94-year-old Beatrice man defies virus odds [Beatrice Daily Sun]
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