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5 things to know about COVID-19 this week

A new relief bill is unveiled, a California university system announces online-only classes for fall, and experts provide updates on drug effectiveness and vaccine development.


As the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic continues, new information is coming out constantly. Here are five important developments from the past week.

1. House Democrats unveiled a new $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill on Tuesday. It is designed to blunt the pandemic’s impacts on the economy and health care system. CNBC reports that leaders are expected to vote on the package on Friday, when they will also vote on a plan to allow proxy voting on legislation during the crisis, and that the Senate is not expected to approve the bill in its current state.

The bill includes a second round of direct payments of $1,200 per person—up to $6,000 for a household, about $200 billion for hazard pay for essential workers, and $75 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing.

2. California State University schools will stay online in fall. The nation’s largest four-year college system plans to cancel most in-person classes in the fall and instead offer instruction primarily online, CSU Chancellor Timothy White announced Tuesday. The LA Times reports that there will be some limited exceptions that allow for in-person activity.

White said an online fall term was necessary because of the possibility of additional waves of COVID-19 outbreaks later this year.

3. As COVID-19 restrictions lift, millions in the U.S. are leaving home again. The New York Times released a map showing the change in the average share of people sheltering at home from May 1-8, compared with the average over the period from March 20-April 30.

About 25 million more people ventured outside their homes on an average day last week than during the preceding six weeks, an analysis of cellphone data found.

4. Updates on possible drug treatments for COVID-19:

  • CNN reports that doctors are facing “nearly an impossible situation” as they ration remdesivir, which a rigorous study found reduced COVID-19 patients’ hospital stays. The FDA authorized the drug for emergency use earlier this month to increase access. However, the U.S. supply of the drug is limited as its maker works to manufacture more, and many hospitals are either working with a small quantity of the drug or still waiting to receive it.
  • A JAMA study shows that hydroxychloroquine may not benefit patients who are seriously ill with COVID-19. Among the patients studied, treatment with hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, or both was not associated with significantly lower in-hospital mortality.
  • A small retrospective study of Italian patients published in The Lancet Rheumatology suggests an arthritis drug called anakinra may be beneficial in treating COVID-19. Among patients with COVID-19, acute respiratory distress and hyperinflammation who took the drug, nearly three-quarters saw improved respiratory symptoms and reduced signs of cytokine storm.

5. Experts answered FAQs about COVID-19 vaccine development on NPR’s site on Tuesday. Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer for Johnson & Johnson, said he’s optimistic that a viable vaccine could be ready relatively soon because his company has recent experience making vaccines for other viral diseases like Zika, RSV and Ebola.

No matter how fast a proven vaccine is ready, however, Fred Porter, senior vice president for technical operations at Adrenas Therapeutics, cautions that distribution on a global scale could take significant time to be carried out.

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