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May 23, 2020, 10:44 a.m. EDT

Coronavirus update: U.S. death toll approaches 100,000 as CDC’s testing practices are criticized by health experts

Nvidia reports blowout quarter as data-center sales top $1 billion, and Alibaba offers first look at China demand as lockdowns ease

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By Ciara Linnane, MarketWatch

AFP via Getty Images
President Donald Trump listens as CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield speaks during a tour of the CDC

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 edged closer to 100,000 on Saturday, as the news emerged that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been combining the results of two different types of tests for the illness in a move that has been sharply criticized by health experts.

The CDC has been combining diagnostic test results, which show whether a patient currently has the virus, with antibody test results that measure whether someone has ever had the virus, the Atlantic magazine reported. The CDC confirmed the report to MarketWatch.

“This is not merely a technical error,” the Atlantic wrote. “States have set quantitative guidelines for reopening their economies based on these flawed data points.”

The story cited Ashish Jha, the K. T. Li Professor of Global Health at Harvard and the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, as saying the two tests provide totally different signals. By combining them, the agency has made both sets of results “uninterpretable.”

“How could the CDC make that mistake?” he asked. “This is a mess.”

For more, see: CDC faces more coronavirus testing questions, this time about how many diagnostic tests are being conducted

The news comes as all 50 states start to reopen for business following lockdowns and other restrictions on movement, with most following CDC guidelines that are based on carefully monitoring data points based on testing. Americans are expected to move more freely over the coming long Memorial Day holiday weekend that signals the start of summer.

Read now: States reopen after coronavirus lockdowns: More beaches, casinos open ahead of Memorial Day holiday weekend

It also comes as an ABC News/Ispos poll found that just 39% of Americans approve of President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis, the lowest reading for the president since the poll started to track sentiment in March.

A Fox News poll published on Thursday found just 44% of those polled approve of Trump’s performance, down from 49% in April. The same poll found 74% approved of Dr. Anthony Fauci’s handling of the pandemic, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, and 70% approved of the actions of state governments. A full 88% of those surveyed said they were concerned about the spread of the virus.

See also: The U.S. is in ‘relative decline’ as ‘Chinese power is rapidly rising,’ warns Ray Dalio

Trump was busy on Twitter Friday, lashing out at Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel after she called him a “petulant child” for refusing to wear a face mask at all times, while touring a Ford Motor Co. /zigman2/quotes/208911460/composite F -1.69%  plant that has switched production to make ventilators and masks. Trump spoke to reporters without a mask, while saying and being photographed wearing one for part of the tour.

An observational study published Friday in medical journal The Lancet examining 96,032 COVID-19 patients in 671 hospitals across six continents concluded that hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine had no benefit on outcomes while those patients were in the hospital.

The therapies are associated with ventricular arrhythmias and mortality in COVID-19 patients taking them while in the hospital.

“These findings suggest that these drug regimens should not be used outside of clinical trials and urgent confirmation from randomised clinical trials is needed,” the researchers wrote.

The two drugs have been approved by the FDA for use in treating malaria, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis, and were granted emergency authorization during the pandemic. They have been regularly touted by President Donald Trump, who said this week that he had been taking hydroxychloroquine. A number of clinical trials are underway evaluating the medications as both a treatment or a prophylactic for those at high-risk of contracting the virus.

Latest tallies

There are now 5.24 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide and at least 338,762 people have died, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. More than 2.1 million people have recovered.

The U.S. has the highest case toll in the world at 1.60 million and the highest death toll at 96,013.

Russia has 335,882 cases and 3,388 deaths.

Brazil has 330,890 cases and 21,048 deaths. T

he U.K. has 255,544 cases and 36,475 deaths, the highest death toll in Europe and second highest in the world after the U.S.

Spain has 234,824 cases and 28,628 deaths, while Italy has 228,658 cases and 32,616 deaths. France has 182,015 cases and 28,218 deaths, while Germany has 179,776 cases and 8,256 deaths.

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