By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch
The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus illness COVID-19 climbed above 150,000 late Wednesday, and the White House task force created to manage the pandemic said 21 states are now in the “red zone.”
In a new report, the task force said Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Wisconsin each had recorded more than 100 new cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days.
The report advises those states to continue or enforce face-mask mandates; to close places where social distancing and mask use cannot occur, such as bars; to move to outdoor dining; to limit the number of people allowed to gather in one place; and to scale up testing, contract tracing and isolating, measures health experts have long said are needed to contain the spread.
President Donald Trump at a Tuesday briefing asked Americans to socially distance, wear a face mask when appropriate and avoid indoor and large gatherings. But he also claimed that large parts of the US. are coronavirus-free and again waded into a controversy relating to a video he shared on Twitter late Monday, which has since been removed from social-media sites for promoting COVID-19 misinformation.
“I think they’re very respected doctors,” he said, referring to the people in the video touting the use of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine on COVID-19 patients. “There was a woman who was spectacular in her statements about it,” he told reporters.
When a reporter noted that the woman he referred to, Dr. Stella Immanuel, has reportedly made outlandish comments, including that alien DNA is used in medicine, Trump said, “I thought her voice was an important voice, but I know nothing about her,” before abruptly ending the briefing.
Public health experts are increasingly calling for the U.S. to adopt a more stringent approach to the crisis. Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, has repeatedly said the U.S. needs to shut down and start again from scratch.
An open letter to America’s leaders presented to Trump and governors last week has now been signed by more than 1,000 health professionals, according to U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, a consumer advocacy group.
“From epidemiologists to emergency-room physicians to mental-health professionals, clearly a lot — and a wide variety — of health workers agree that our ongoing response to the coronavirus is not working,” said Matt Wellington, U.S. PIRG’s public health campaigns director. “We need to listen to these experts and do what they’ve been calling for since COVID-19 started spreading across the U.S. in March — stay at home, increase testing and tracing, and make sure all our essential workers have personal protective equipment.”
At the very least, experts would like a federal mandate on wearing face masks in indoor settings, and lament that the topic has become politicized, part of a broader culture war that has polarized the U.S. for the past several years. Video clips tweeted by Trump included an anti-mask message.
An Axios-Ipsos poll released Tuesday found public trust in public health agencies and officials remains high. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had a 70% approval rating, though it’s worth noting that’s down 15 percentage points from early April.
State governments had a 57% approval rate, also down about 15 points since April. The least trusted are the federal government, at 35%, and the White House, at 31%, the poll found.
There are now 16.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University , and 662,297 people have died. At least 9.8 million people have recovered, the data show.
Brazil is second to the U.S. with 2.5 million cases and 88,539 deaths. India is third measured by cases at 1.5 million, followed by Russia with 827,509 and South Africa with 459,761.
The U.K. has 303,092 cases and 46,046 fatalities, the highest in Europe and third highest in the world. China, where the illness was first reported late last year, has 87,108 cases, and 4,658 fatalities.
What's the latest medical news?
There was disappointing news from Swiss drug company Roche AG /zigman2/quotes/206324342/delayed CH:ROG +0.30% , which said its rheumatoid arthritis drug Actemra failed in a late-stage clinical trial as a treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients, MarketWatch’s Jaimy Lee reported.
The therapy did not meet the study’s primary or secondary endpoints. There was no difference in the number of patients who died by Week 4 among those taking Actemra or placebo, though the company said Actemra may speed up recovery times for hospitalized patients, a finding that needs further analysis.