Coronavirus Dwell Updates: Agency Overseeing Federal Database Refuses Senators’ Questions

Coronavirus Live Updates: Worldwide Cases Reach 20 Million

The manager of the Trump administration's new virus database refuses to question the Senate, citing a nondisclosure agreement.

The private health technology provider that helps manage the Trump administration's new coronavirus database has refused to answer questions from senior Senate Democrats about its $ 10.2 million contract, saying it has a nondisclosure agreement signed with the Federal Ministry for Health and Human Services.

In an Aug. 3 letter to the New York Times, an attorney for Pittsburgh-based TeleTracking Technologies cited the nondisclosure agreement as refusing to provide information about the data collection and disclosure process. his proposal to the government; Communication with White House staff or other officials; and any other information related to the award.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services said members of Congress should direct their inquiries to the government, not the company. But Washington Senator Patty Murray, the top Democrat on the Senate Health Committee, sent a letter to the agency in June asking for similar information and received no response, her office said.

The agreement was unusual, said Jessica Tillipman, an assistant dean at George Washington University Law School who teaches about government contracts and anti-corruption, in an interview.

"One of the cornerstones of the federal procurement system is transparency, so it seems strange to me," she said.

TeleTracking responded to a July 22 letter from two top Democrats: Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, and Ms. Murray. The two recently introduced laws to protect data transparency – an issue that Mr Schumer recently raised in discussions with White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to a person familiar with their discussion.

"The Trump administration's decision to hire a private provider and then wrap that provider in a nondisclosure agreement raises numerous questions about their motivations and jeopardizes the ability of our public health experts to understand and effectively combat this virus," said Schumer in a statement Friday.

The controversy over the contract stems from the administration's abrupt order in July that hospitals no longer report coronavirus information to the CDC's National Healthcare Safety Network – a long-standing government data system – and instead send it to TeleTracking for a coronavirus oversight – Database to include HHS officials in Washington. H.H.S. said the change was necessary because the C.D.C. was slow and incomplete; The government uses the hospital data to make critical decisions about how scarce supplies, such as ventilators and the drug remdesivir, should be allocated.

The contract – and especially the sudden change in reporting from C.D.C. on TeleTracking – Objections generated by public health experts and outside health department advisors who say the new system is putting hospitals under strain and threatening scientific integrity by getting government experts out of the way.

TeleTracking is majority owned by its chairman and C.E.O., Michael Zamagias, a real estate developer in Pittsburgh

The way the contract was placed has also created confusion. It was initially listed as a "sole source" contract on a government website, but H.H.S. Officials later said there were six bidders, even though they refused to name the others, saying they were "prohibited by federal regulations and laws from disclosing this information".

Ms. Tillipman said it was also unusual for the government to keep the names of the bidders secret.

If you do recover from the virus, you might be protected for at least three months. says.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated their guidelines to indicate that people who have recovered from the virus can safely mingle with others for three months.

It was a notable addition to the agency's guidelines and the first indication that immunity to the virus can last for at least three months. Scientists have said it could take longer, but there is no definitive evidence yet. Nevertheless, the C.D.C. continues to recommend physical distancing, wearing masks, and other precautions.

In June, a study found that antibody levels in people with confirmed infections who had mild or no symptoms could decrease over a period of two to three months. They fall off, but can be present in small amounts, even below the detection limit.

The newest C.D.C. The guidance included in public recommendations on who to quarantine goes a step further.

"People who test positive for Covid-19 do not have to be quarantined or retested for up to three months as long as they no longer develop symptoms," the guidelines say. "People who develop symptoms again within three months of their first attack of Covid-19 may need to be retested if no other cause for their symptoms has been identified."

Other coronaviruses, including those that cause SARS and MERS, have antibodies that scientists believe will last about a year. In the early days of the virus' spread in the United States, scientists had hoped that antibodies to the new virus would last at least that long.

A study published in May found that people who recovered from the infection could return to work safely, but it was still unclear how long they could be protected.

Doctors have reported some cases of people who appeared to be infected a second time after recovering, but experts have said these are more likely to represent a recurrence of symptoms from the first attack.

"So far there has been no evidence of re-infection within 90 days of initial diagnosis," said a C.D.C. Speaker.

Clinical trials for some of the most promising experimental drugs are taking longer than expected, even as the pandemic continues to wreak havoc in the US and treatments are needed more than ever.

Researchers at a dozen clinical trial sites said test delays, staff shortages, lack of space, and reluctant patients made efforts to test monoclonal antibodies – artificial drugs that mimic the molecular soldiers of the human immune system – difficult.

As a result, once ambitious deadlines are slipping. Drug maker Regeneron, which previously announced that it would have emergency doses of its antibody cocktail ready by the end of summer, has shifted to talking about how "first data" could be available by the end of September.

And Eli Lilly's chief scientist said in June that antibody treatment could possibly be ready in September, but in an interview this week he said he now hopes for something before the end of the year.

"Of course I wish we could go faster – there is no question about that," said Eli Lilly's managing director, Dr. Daniel Skovronsky. "I think in my hopes and dreams we will be taking patients in a week or two, but it will take longer."

Testing was a big hurdle. According to the rules of the Regeneron study, a patient must be treated with the antibodies within seven days of the onset of symptoms. In both the Regeneron and Eli Lilly studies, the drug must be administered within three days of a positive test. However, because lead times are delayed by five days or more in some areas, these timelines have been found to be difficult to meet.

Some researchers said it was complicated to find the right place to experimentally treat outpatients, and some patients were reluctant to participate. Many people associate clinical trials with treatments performed in life or death situations and do not want to risk taking an experimental drug for a disease that they may overcome on their own. Others have the opposite rationale: you don't want to go through the hassle of a study just to get a placebo.

The Senate officially adjourned Thursday through early September and left any package of pandemic relief unaffected. The members of the House had already left Washington.

Democrats and the Trump administration remain a long way from each other when it comes to incentives, including how much they spend and where the money would go. The Democratic-controlled house passed a $ 3 trillion aid package in May. Republicans who control the Senate want to stay in the $ 1 trillion range.

A major sticking point, beyond how much more unemployed Americans can be helped, has been the provision of more aid to state and local governments. According to one estimate, states could face a cumulative budget gap of at least $ 555 billion by fiscal 2022 amid falling tax revenues. Economists warn that the long-term financial damage could be greater than it did after the 2007-9 recession if Congress does not intervene.

President Trump and top Republicans warn that giving more money to states could simply save fiscally irresponsible governments that failed to prudently manage their budgets and public retirement plans in good times.

Democrats insist that states need more money and have proposed up to $ 1 trillion. They would support the services needed and help the economy recover faster.

Almost all states have to balance their budgets, which means that officials have to make up for deficits by using funds for rainy days, levying taxes or cutting costs, including by cutting jobs.

This worries economists and Federal Reserve officials. Fed chairman Jerome H. Powell periodically warns that government cuts could affect the economy's ability to recover, and his colleagues say public sector budget problems are one of the country's major weaknesses.

"It will put a brake on economic recovery if they keep laying off people and cutting critical services," Powell said during the testimony of Congress in June. "That is exactly what happened after the global financial crisis."

With unemployment high and many businesses expected to close, states are bracing themselves for more safety net costs on top of the public health costs already incurred. They spend a large portion of their budget on Medicaid payments and services for low-income residents.

However, the Trump administration and many Republican lawmakers have largely eliminated the state's financial troubles by insisting that governors and other local leaders adopt part of the Pandemic Aid Act and refusing to accept democratically-ruled states that are running large deficits in theirs public pension plans are struggling to "save".

US summary

Obesity alone increases the risk of Covid-19 for men, along with the associated health problems.

Various factors are known to increase your risk of severe Covid-19, including older age and chronic health conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also list extreme obesity as a high risk.

But is it the excess weight that is to blame? Or is it the health problems that come with obesity, like metabolic disorders and breathing problems?

A new study points to obesity itself as the culprit. An analysis of thousands of patients treated in a Southern California health system identified extreme obesity as an independent risk factor for death in Covid-19 patients – most noticeably in younger and middle adults up to 60 years of age, and especially in men.

In female Covid-19 patients, the body mass index – a measure of body fat based on height and weight – does not appear to be independently associated with an increased risk of death at any age, the authors said, possibly because women carry a different weight than Men who tend to have more visceral and abdominal fat. The study was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine on Wednesday.

"Body mass index is a really important, powerful independent risk factor for the death of people diagnosed with Covid-19," said Sara Tartof, the study's lead author, a scientist at Kaiser Permanente in southern California.

"However, the effects are not consistent across the population," she added. "They don't really see it for the elderly, and we haven't seen it as a major risk for women at any age."

In other news from the United States:

  • The five metropolitan areas that now have the highest rate of new coronavirus cases relative to their population are all in South texasaccording to the New York Times.

  • The Department of Homeland Security announced on Friday an extension of the US agreements with Canada and Mexico It was the fifth time the agreement has been extended since the measure was introduced in March. The State Department continues to advise Americans to "avoid all international travel" because of the pandemic.

  • Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan said Friday the state would give four million free face masks to homeless shelters, tribal organizations, community health centers, schools and grocery stores. Efforts aimed at those particularly vulnerable to the virus include one million masks provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and 1.5 million masks donated by Ford Motor.

  • The National Monument and Museum on September 11th canceled its annual light display on the anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks due to the coronavirus. The decision was made "after the health risks during the pandemic were far too great for the large crew," said a museum spokesman.

  • At least 22 workers in a remote mining camp in Alaska were infected with the virus, which temporarily halted underground work. The Kensington mine, about 45 miles north of Juneau, has about 200 to 250 workers on site at a time, said a spokeswoman for its owner, Coeur Alaska. The state has welcomed a major reopening but has implemented protocols to keep infections at bay, and although Alaska has seen an increase in reported infections this summer, its numbers remain low compared to other states. "

Even as coronavirus infections continued to spread, schools were abolished from reopening, and unemployment remained near historic levels, Americans continued to shop in July. Retail sales rose 1.2 percent from June, reflecting a rare ray of hope in the ailing economy.

While the jump in sales reported by the Commerce Department on Friday was smaller than the surge in the past two months, it did show that the recovery in spending to pre-pandemic levels was no accident. Sales are now back at February levels. Instead, it was a sign that the consumerism backed by government support remains resilient, even as many other facets of American life become increasingly bleak.

"It shows that there is a willingness and a desire to spend money," said Michelle Meyer, US chief economist at Bank of America. "There is no doubt that the consumer spending rebound has been robust."

Retail sales rose 8.4 percent in June. This was followed by a May jump of 18.2 percent, which was the largest monthly increase in its history. However, this was due to two months of record declines.

Part of the recovery was aided by the $ 600 weekly unemployment benefit which expired in late July. If Congress does not extend the emergency benefit, it could hurt retail recovery in the coming months. And there are certain industries that may not really recover until a vaccine is approved and widely available so that people can shop and dine indoors again without fear.

According to Morgan Stanley's research, pedestrian traffic to brick and mortar stores that primarily sell discretionary goods, including clothing retailers, has decreased by as much as 43 percent year over year.

This persistently low traffic – after weeks and even months of temporary store closings – explains why a record number of retailers filed for bankruptcy or closed during the pandemic, even though sales of products such as groceries, home entertainment and home appliances have been booming.

Whatever you call them – learning pods, pandemic pods, or microschools – small groups hiring teachers to complement or even replace virtual teaching in public schools have become an obsession with many parents.

Virtually overnight, a virtual home industry of companies and consultants has emerged helping families organize these in-home instruction pods into small groups and pair them with instructors, many of whom can be found on Facebook pages and neighborhood boards. Market list services.

But the cost – often from $ 30 an hour per child to $ 100 or more – has made it out of reach for most families, raising concerns that the trend could make public education even more divisive and unequal.

Shy Rodriguez, a single mother in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania with two sons, ages 8 and 11, said the pods were daunting to people who can't afford them. People who live from paycheck to paycheck feel that "we are leaving our children right in the lurch because we cannot offer or afford the same opportunities."

In Washington, D.C., a parent launched a GoFundMe page to raise funds to subsidize learning pods for low-income students in the district.

Education experts say fundraisers and "pod grants," as well-meaning, are not a solution for millions of low-income parents grappling with the educational, childcare and economic challenges of the pandemic.

It would be more useful if school districts or city governments created their own version of learning capsules, especially for high-risk students or children of key workers.

In other education news:

  • Barnard College and Columbia University said Friday that all elementary school classes would be held remotely for the fall semester and that most of the student apartments would be closed. The announcement came days before the students were due to move into dormitories. Sian Leah Beilock, President of Barnard, said the institutions had "withheld final decisions for as long as possible in order to increase the likelihood of a personal fall".

  • The N.C.A.A. President Mark Emmert, announced Thursday that the Division I fall sports championships without football will be canceled. The championships were not explicitly canceled for health and safety reasons, but because less than 50 percent of the teams participated in sports such as women's volleyball, soccer, cross-country skiing and men's water polo.

  • The President of Villanova University in Pennsylvania has warned students that if caught disregarding the school's coronavirus protocols, which include wearing a mask "anytime," and social distancing, they will be sent home. Videos that appear to show a crowd of dozens of new Villanova students have recently sparked backlash on social media.

France on Friday declared Paris and the Marseille region in the south-east of the country to be risk zones and gave local authorities the power to restrict passenger and vehicle traffic, restrict access to public transport and public buildings and close restaurants and bars.

According to a New York Times database, France's seven-day average is now over 2,000 cases. This is a level the country hit in late March during a sharp spike in its outbreak, which peaked in early April with a seven-day average of more than 4,400 cases.

On Thursday, the UK added France to its list of countries from which visitors coming out of the country must be quarantined for two weeks. Then there were the Netherlands, where cases have doubled every two weeks since the beginning of July, as well as Aruba, Malta, Monaco and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Britain had already imposed restrictions on Spain and Belgium, among others.

The UK revealed the expanded list, with just over a day's notice, prompting vacationers to return to the UK immediately before the quarantine is imposed at 4 a.m. on Saturday.

France's rising number of cases reflects not only an increase in the number of tests, which are now more than 600,000 per week, but also a higher rate of infection, particularly among young people, according to health officials. According to the Times database, the total number of cases has risen to 209,365, with 30,388 deaths.

In the Netherlands, there are 62,406 confirmed cases and 6,187 deaths, according to the database. However, a leading Dutch health expert said the case number could rise to 250,000 infections by the fall if the current trajectory is maintained. Over 60 percent of all new infections occur in people under 40 years of age.

Britain, whose own 7-day average is returning from July lows, is pushing ahead with efforts to revive an economy that has fallen into the deepest recession in the country's modern history.

Bowling alleys, theaters and casinos are allowed to reopen in England starting Saturday, with social distancing in place, and beauty salons are allowed to offer "close contacts" like facials and eyebrow threads for the first time since the lockdown began.

Penalties for refusing to wear face covering in closed public spaces and on public transport will increase. And organizers of illegal gatherings could be fined up to $ 13,000.

In other news from around the world:

  • North Korea lifted a lock it placed on the city of Kaesong, near its border with South Korea, last month because the government suspected a runaway from South Korea had brought the virus with it. On Friday it said the reversal was "based on the scientific review and guarantee of a professional anti-epidemic organization" but without saying whether the nation has a coronavirus outbreak but its leader, Kim Jong-un, has said that she faces "twin dangers" – the virus and the floods of an unusually long monsoon season.

  • South Korea 103 new cases were reported on Friday, mostly in Seoul, the country's largest daily jump in three weeks. The daily number of cases has remained in double digits since July 25th. Last month's increase was largely attributed to South Korean workers returning home from Iraq with the virus. However, 85 of the 103 new cases reported on Friday were local broadcasts.

  • President Rodrigo Duterte of the Phillipines postponed the opening of the schools from August 24th to October 5th, said its chief assistant. All schools are also "instructed to ensure that all preparations have been made for the smooth and successful virtual opening of the class," said consultant Salvador Medialdea in a memorandum. According to a New York Times database, the Philippines has the highest number of infections in Southeast Asia with 153,660 confirmed cases and 2,442 deaths.

  • Health officials in Toronto said about 550 people in a city bar may have been exposed to the coronavirus after a staff member tested positive for the virus. Using a trace-back log, the agency is contacting customers who have visited the Brass Rail Tavern, a strip club, on four dates in August, asking them to monitor themselves for symptoms of Covid-19. The infected employee's occupation was not disclosed.

  • Vietnam & # 39;The Ministry of Health announced that it has registered to buy the Russian coronavirus vaccine, despite global health experts fear that Russia will start using it even before the final phase of human trials begins. The department said it also registered to buy a vaccine from the UK. It was suggested that the use of the vaccines would depend on the progress of clinical trials and adherence to Vietnam's "strict regulations". The country has announced that it will develop its own vaccine, which should be available by the end of next year.

Cuomo sets a date for museums and other cultural institutions to reopen in New York.

As New York continues its hard-won advances against the coronavirus, New York museums and other cultural institutions are allowed to reopen their doors on August 24, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said on Friday.

The announcement came when the state reported seven consecutive days of less than 1 percent of all coronavirus tests showing positive, the governor said. Yet even as Mr Cuomo celebrated the date, he warned that residents will have to keep working to keep the numbers down.

"While the other states are seeing real problems, we are doing very well," said Cuomo. "We have to protect progress."

The state was particularly concerned that clusters of virus cases were emerging among farm workers, and officials were planning to send mobile test units to farms in rural counties for further testing.

Although "low-risk indoor cultural activities" such as museums and aquariums were allowed to return in other parts of the state, officials in New York City had kept them closed as cases increased in other parts of the country.

The museums that reopen in the city will be limited to a quarter of their total occupancy, Mr Cuomo said. Timed ticketing is required and institutions need to control the flow of visitors. Face covering is required.

Bowling lanes across the state are allowed to reopen on Monday, Cuomo said. Face covering is required and occupancy is limited to 50 percent.

The state also plans to release guidelines on Monday for reopening gyms and fitness centers. Hundreds of gym owners in the state filed a lawsuit against Mr. Cuomo and the state last month to have them reopen.

How do people learn to be more resilient?

If you feel like you are barely getting along while others are doing fine, remember that the earliest days of our lives and our closest relationships can provide clues as to how we deal with adversity.

The coverage was written by Mike Baker, Damien Cave, Choe Sang-Hun, Emily Cochrane, Michael Corkery, James Dobbins, Thomas Erdbrink, Manny Fernandez, Abby Goodnough, Jason Gutierrez, Sapna Maheshwari and Apoorva Mandavilli. Konstante Méheut, Claire Moses, Colin Moynihan, Richard C. Paddock, Alan Rappeport, Rick Rojas, Anna Schaverien, Jeanna Smialek, Mitch Smith, Paula Span, Eileen Sullivan, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Katie Thomas, Billy Witz and Katherine J. Wu.


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