Overnight Health Care: Sewage testing gives clues of coronavirus | White House says Trump would take hydroxychloroquine again | Trump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K virus deaths

Overnight Health Care: Sewage testing gives clues of coronavirus | White House says Trump would take hydroxychloroquine again | Trump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K virus deaths
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Welcome to Thursday's Overnight Health Care.

President TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — The Pentagon's deadly mistake Overnight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Interior returns BLM HQ to Washington France pulls ambassadors to US, Australia in protest of submarine deal MORE made his first mention that more than 100,000 people have died from COVID-19. He also said he'd take hydroxychloroquine again if he were exposed to the coronavirus.

But we'll start with some new science:


A new way to fight coronavirus using….sewage?

Scientists looking for new ways to identify potential coronavirus outbreaks are turning their attention to what could be an early warning sign: the stuff you flush down the toilet.

New studies increasingly show that the coronavirus's genetic code can be detected in the remnants of fecal matter that flows through sewers and into sewage facilities, either in raw wastewater or in what is known as sludge.

The genetic information represents such a good cross-section of a city or region that taking just a few samples can be the equivalent of testing millions of people in a given day. Using one method, just 14 samples could test the prevalence of the virus in all of New York City.

“In the same way that we can understand the health of an individual by looking at urine and stool, we can also do it at the city level,” said Newsha Ghaeli, the co-founder of Biobot, a Massachusetts-based wastewater epidemiology startup.

Read more here.



Trump marks 'very sad milestone' of 100K coronavirus deaths

President Trump on Thursday morning said that the United States had reached a “very sad milestone” in exceeding 100,000 deaths due to coronavirus. 

“We have just reached a very sad milestone with the coronavirus pandemic deaths reaching 100,000,” Trump tweeted. “To all of the families & friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy & love for everything that these great people stood for & represent. God be with you!”

The COVID-19 death toll passed 100,000 on Wednesday evening, as Trump was returning to Washington from a trip to Florida where he was supposed to celebrate a historic rocket launch that had been postponed due to inclement weather.

Trump’s tweet Thursday marked his first reaction to the country reaching the grim milestone, a development that dominated news headlines overnight.

Read more here.


White House says Trump would take hydroxychloroquine again 

President Trump is feeling “perfect” after taking hydroxychloroquine and would take the drug again if he felt he were exposed to the novel coronavirus, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Thursday.

McEnany said Trump told her that he “would take it again if he thought he was exposed.”

McEnany noted during Thursday’s briefing that it was important for Americans to consult their doctors when considering taking the drug, which would need to be prescribed. 

But she went on to note that the drug has been approved for off-label use and has been used to treat patients with other conditions, suggesting the media coverage about the drug’s safety has been hyperbolic.

Of note: Large clinical studies are still ongoing, but there's no real clinical evidence that hydroxychloroquine is effective at treating COVID-19, let alone as a prophylactic, which is why Trump said he was taking it. And Anthony FauciAnthony FauciWatch live: White House COVID-19 response team holds briefing Intercept reporters discuss gain-of-function research The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - DC prepares for Saturday of festivals & Jan. 6 demonstration MORE, a top U.S. infectious disease expert and member of the White House coronavirus task force, has now also said the drug is not effective as a coronavirus treatment.

Read more here.

More on hydroxychloroquine:

VA hospitals mostly drop hydroxychloroquine as coronavirus treatment

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has almost completely stopped prescribing the anti-malaria drug to veterans with COVID-19 after studies questioned its efficacy in treating the disease. 

VA hospitals “ratcheted” down the use of hydroxychloroquine as other treatments became available, Secretary Robert WilkieRobert WilkieBiden's nominee for VA secretary isn't a veteran — does it matter? Biden VA pick faces 'steep learning curve' at massive agency Two headstones with swastikas removed from Texas veterans cemetery MORE told Congress on Thursday. It was prescribed only three times last week. 

Wilkie previously told Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerChuck SchumerBiden discusses agenda with Schumer, Pelosi ahead of pivotal week CEOs urge Congress to raise debt limit or risk 'avoidable crisis' If .5 trillion 'infrastructure' bill fails, it's bye-bye for an increasingly unpopular Biden MORE (D-N.Y.) that the VA treated 1,300 veterans with the drug.

The VA secretary defended the department’s use of hydroxychloroquine during a House subcommittee hearing on Thursday.

“Even though I am not a medical person — I'm a military person — I understand that there has to be hope. You can't look at a patient and say we can't give you hope,” Wilkie said. 


Read more here.


Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Energy & Environment — Presented by Climate Power — Emissions heading toward pre-pandemic levels The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by National Industries for the Blind - What do Manchin and Sinema want? Warren, Daines introduce bill honoring 13 killed in Kabul attack MORE tests positive for COVID-19 antibodies

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) said on Thursday that he and his wife tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies, an indication that they have previously been infected with the disease. 

Antibody tests, also known as serologic tests, determine whether someone has been infected and has built up some immune response to the virus. They are different from diagnostic tests that determine whether someone currently has the disease. 

At the end of March, Kaine had new symptoms that he said he initially tied to the flu and seasonal allergies. His wife, Anne, also was sick with symptoms linked to the coronavirus, including a cough and fever, but they did not get tested at the time. 

Glimpse of the future? Kaine's experience with two respiratory diseases could offer a view of what the fall and winter could be like. Experts have warned that if states open too early and are not prepared, a second COVID-19 wave combined with a flu outbreak could be devastating and put an immense strain on the health care system.


Read more here.


What we’re reading

Coronavirus still has a foothold in the South (Axios)

When hard data are ‘heartbreaking’: Testing blitz in San Francisco shows Covid-19 struck mostly low-wage workers (Stat News)

Blue Cross Blue Shield insurers sue CVS, alleging drug pricing fraud (Axios)   

For seniors, COVID-19 sets off a pandemic of despair (Kaiser Health News)


State by state

Wisconsin reports record number of new coronavirus cases, deaths (NBC News)

‘Callous liars’: Pennsylvania Democrats say GOP put them at risk by hiding member’s positive covid-19 test (Washington Post)

Antibody tests were hailed as way to end lockdowns. Instead, they cause confusion. (Kaiser Health News)

Half of newly diagnosed coronavirus cases in Washington are in people under 40 (Seattle Times)  


Op-eds in The Hill

It's time to say goodbye to employment-based health insurance

The price of speaking out: Protecting health workers amid COVID-19

Listen to experts and tackle the toxic chemical crisis contributing to chronic disease