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5 things to know about COVID-19 this week

Human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine begin in Australia, the CDC clarifies its language on transmission, and the WHO halts its trial on hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns.

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. The CDC said that antibody tests for COVID-19 might be wrong up to half of the time. On Tuesday, CNN reported that the CDC had posted new guidance on antibody tests. Health officials or health care providers who are using antibody tests need to use the most accurate test they can find and might need to test people twice to minimize false positive test results, according to the new guidance.

2. Novavax, a Maryland-based biotechnology company, announced that it began human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine in Australia and is hoping to release a proven vaccine by the end of the year. The first phase of the trial involves 131 volunteers in the cities of Melbourne and Brisbane. Novavax is examining the vaccine’s safety and early signs of its effectiveness, according to company research chief Dr. Gregory Glenn.

About a dozen vaccines are in early stages of testing or poised to start across the world, though it’s not clear yet whether any of them will prove to be safe and effective. For this experimental vaccine, Novavax used genetic engineering to grow harmless copies of the coronavirus spike protein in giant vats of insect cells, a process it also employed to create a nanoparticle flu vaccine that recently passed late-stage testing.

3. CDC advice on surface spread of COVID-19 ‘has not changed,’ the agency told NPR on Friday. Last week, the CDC changed a headline on its webpage on preventing viral infection, which triggered news stories saying its guidelines have changed on if the virus could be transmitted via surfaces.

A representative from the CDC said the change was made as “usability improvement,” and that its language on transmission—it says the main way the virus spreads is via respiratory droplets from an infected person who is in close proximity to others—is remaining the same.

“While it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads,” the spokesperson said.

However, people should still be disinfecting surfaces that could have the virus on them, the CDC said.

4. The WHO temporarily halted its trial of hydroxychloroquine over safety concerns, announcing on Monday that fear of the drug’s potential danger is causing it to “err on the side of caution,” NBC reported.

The medication has previously been touted as a possible treatment for COVID-19. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus cited evidence that some patients who take it have suffered from heart problems.

5. NPR detailed one of the central challenges many businesses will face as parts of the U.S. begin to reopen: fear of public restrooms. Some businesses are trying to adapt by installing touch-free doors, faucets and hand dryers, while others are cleaning and disinfecting more frequently and requiring face masks to enter. The story reports that some have hired bathroom monitors to control crowds and enforce distancing.

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