Overnight Healthcare

Overnight Health Care: Trump says he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine despite safety concerns | US coronavirus death toll tops 90,000 | Moderna reports ‘positive’ results from early data on coronavirus vaccine

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Welcome to Monday’s Overnight Health Care.

President Trump said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, despite almost no clinical evidence of its safety or effectiveness in treating or preventing COVID-19. Meanwhile, the U.S. topped 1.5 million coronavirus cases, with more than 90,000 people dead.

We’ll start at the White House:

Raising some eyebrows…Trump says he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine despite safety concerns

President Trump on Monday revealed he’s taking hydroxychloroquine, a controversial drug that he’s championed as a potential treatment for coronavirus despite limited evidence from the medical community.

The president said he consulted with the White House doctor about taking the anti-malaria drug, but it was not explicitly recommended for him since he has not tested positive for the virus.

“I asked him what do you think,” Trump said. “He said, ‘Well if you’d like it.’ I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like it. I’d like to take it.'”

He said he’s been taking the drug for about a week-and-a-half along with a zinc supplement, adding he based his decision on positive reviews he’s heard from front-line health care workers who have had good results treating patients with it.

Warnings: The decision to take hydroxychloroquine is controversial and potentially dangerous given that the drug’s effectiveness in treating coronavirus remains unproven and there is no evidence that it works as a preventative measure. The pill is typically taken as an anti-malaria drug or to treat lupus.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a warning last month that hydroxychloroquine should not be taken outside a hospital or clinical trial because of the risk of severe heart problems.

Consequences: Trump’s championing of the drug has led to shortages for people who need it to treat lupus and other diseases.  The drug is on the Food and Drug Administration’s shortage list. 

Read more here

Related: Fox News’s Cavuto warns of deadly hydroxychloroquine dangers after Trump says he’s taking it

Another sad milestone….US coronavirus death toll tops 90,000 

The coronavirus has killed at least 90,000 people in the U.S.

Leading the world: The death toll, based on Johns Hopkins data, is by far the largest in the world, though numbers from China have been met with skepticism. The United Kingdom is second in official deaths with nearly 35,000, followed by Italy with roughly 32,000. 

The U.S. total of 90,312, which happened in just over three months, also far surpasses the number of people who died due to seasonal influenza this year, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates is 62,000 over a period of about six months.

And it’s probably higher: Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, last week said he thinks the death toll is “almost certainly higher” than the reported numbers because of the likelihood that some deaths went unrecorded as a result of overwhelmed hospitals.

Read more here.

Meanwhile some hopeful news: Moderna reports ‘positive’ results from early data on coronavirus vaccine 

The biotech company Moderna on Monday reported “positive” data on its potential coronavirus vaccine from an early clinical trial, raising hopes about the effort.

The company said early data from a phase one clinical trial showed that people given the potential vaccine generated an immune response similar to that in people who had recovered from the disease.

The levels of neutralizing antibodies were “at or above” the levels seen in blood samples from people who have recovered from the coronavirus, Moderna said in a statement.

Still, that early result is only from the first eight participants in the trial.

Looking ahead: The company, which is working with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, led by Anthony Fauci, is about to begin a phase two trial and said it hopes to begin a phase three trial in July.

Read more here.

Related: Trump’s coronavirus vaccine czar to divest millions of dollars in stock options

Stay-at-home orders saved hundreds of thousands, report finds

A new analysis says nearly 250,000 people in the nation’s 30 largest cities are alive today because of strict stay-at-home orders issued by local and state governments.

The report, from the Urban Health Collaborative at the Dornsife School of Public Health at Drexel University, found the stay-at-home orders likely reduced the number of coronavirus deaths by 232,878 and prevented 2.1 million people from requiring hospitalization.

The analysis calculated the number of deaths caused by the coronavirus versus a model compiled by mathematicians Gabriel Goh and Steven De Keninck that showed what might have happened had Americans not taken the drastic social distancing steps that governors and local elected officials have ordered and encouraged over the last few months.

The figures are estimates, but they are meant to illustrate the positive effects such sacrifices have created, said Jennifer Kolker, associate dean for public health practice at the Dornsife School.

New York example: Under the city’s stay-at-home order, issued by Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on March 23, the researchers found 24,062 lives were saved and nearly a quarter million people who might have been hospitalized were not.

Read more here

Related: Poll: Majority of US voters want country to remain closed for now

WHO chief pledges independent review of coronavirus response

The director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday said he would support an independent review of the global response to the coronavirus, as Western governments ratchet up pressure on China to be more transparent in what it knew and when it knew it about the virus.

Speaking at the WHO’s annual assembly on Monday, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he backed a resolution sponsored by Australia, European Union and African Group nations calling for an independent and comprehensive investigation into the way the coronavirus pandemic has been handled, led by WHO.

Key absences: More than 120 nations have signed onto the resolution, though China and the United States are pointedly absent. China had objected to an early draft, but by Monday President Xi Jinping told the assembly in a video address that he supports a comprehensive investigation, once the virus is brought to heel.

Trump factor: The WHO has come under criticism from some political leaders seeking to deflect blame for their own struggles to respond. President Trump has halted some funding to the WHO and suggested a new agency be created to oversee global public health. 

Read more here

Oregon judge halts statewide coronavirus restrictions

An Oregon judge on Monday halted statewide coronavirus restrictions, ruling in favor of churches and congregants who challenged the measures as an unlawful infringement on their religious freedoms.

Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff’s ruling temporarily suspends all of Gov. Kate Brown’s (D) emergency coronavirus measures, not just those applying to religious gatherings. 

Brown vowed to immediately appeal to the Oregon Supreme Court.

On Twitter, Brown said it was “irresponsible to dismiss the health risks and science behind our measures.”  

Read more here

The Hill event

On Thursday, May 21 The Hill hosts Advancing the American Economy, a national virtual summit to discuss a responsible reopening of the US economy. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin joins Editor-in-Chief Bob Cusack for a headline interview followed by an afternoon of discussions with leading CEOs and national health experts. Additional speakers to be announced. Register Now!     

What we’re reading

Staying safe isn’t just about hygiene and distance. It’s about time, too. (CNN.com

Drugmakers tout COVID-19 vaccines to refurbish their public image (Kaiser Health News)

He thought the coronavirus was ‘a fake crisis.’ Then he contracted it and changed his mind. (NBC News

State by state

Oregon governor’s coronavirus restrictions on religious gatherings, other emergency orders ‘null and void,’ judge rules (Oregonian)

After California church defies state orders, 180 congregants are exposed to COVID-19 (USA Today

Coronavirus in Texas: gyms, manufacturing facilities and offices open Monday (Texas Tribune

The Hill op-eds

Adding to Dr. Fauci’s diagnosis: The critical case for ending our shutdown

Buyer beware: False medical claims about CBD and COVID-19 

COVID-19 and telehealth revolution policy barriers are standing in the way of transforming care  

Tags Anthony Fauci Bill de Blasio Bob Cusack Donald Trump Steven Mnuchin

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