July 13, 2020

Hospitals are running short on remdesivir as US coronavirus cases soar

Daily Briefing

    Hospitals throughout the United States are reporting shortages of remdesivir—the most promising experimental treatment for Covid-19 to date—as the number of new coronavirus cases in America continued to soar past the country's previous peak in its coronavirus epidemic.

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    US reports another record increase in new coronavirus cases

    As of Monday morning, U.S. officials reported 3,318,300 total cases of the new coronavirus since the country's epidemic first began—up from 3,131,500 cases reported as of Friday morning.

    On Friday, officials reported more than 68,000 new coronavirus cases, again marking a record-high, single-day increase in new cases for the country. Friday was the seventh time in 11 days that the United States reported a record-high number of new coronavirus cases in a single day. The previous record, which U.S. officials reported on Thursday, was 59,886 cases.

    Data from the New York Times shows the U.S. Virgin Islands; Puerto Rico; Washington, D.C.; and 39 states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases rise over the past 14 days: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    According to Axios, 16 states reported record-high, single-day increases in their numbers of new coronavirus cases last week. And on Sunday, Florida—which is now an epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic—set a new record for the U.S. state with the highest number of newly reported coronavirus cases in a single day, at 15,299 new cases. Florida surpassed California, which on Wednesday had reported the previous high at 11,694 new cases in a single day. Before then, New York—which had been an epicenter of the pandemic in the spring—had reported the largest single-day jump in cases, with 11,571 cases reported on April 15.

    Meanwhile, the Times' data shows that the average daily numbers of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past two weeks remained mostly stable in Guam and nine states: Arkansas, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming.

    Maine and New Hampshire saw their average daily numbers of newly confirmed cases decrease over the past 14 days, according to the Times' data.

    While growth in America's national coronavirus-related death rate had been declining for several weeks, new data suggests that rate is accelerating once again. Over the past week, five states—Arizona, California, Florida, Mississippi, and Texas—each reported their highest single-day increases in their totals of deaths linked to the new coronavirus, the Washington Post reports.

    Overall, officials as of Monday morning had reported a total of 134,976 U.S. deaths linked to the new coronavirus—up from 133,079 deaths reported as of Friday morning.

    According to the Times' data, eight states saw their average daily numbers of newly reported deaths linked to the coronavirus rise over the past 14 days: Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas. However, data from New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene show the department on Saturday reported no new deaths linked to the coronavirus, marking the first day since March 11 that the city recorded no new coronavirus-related deaths.

    Hospitals running low on doses of remdesivir

    As America's coronavirus epidemic continues to resurge, hospitals are reporting that they're running out of doses of remdesivir, Gilead Sciences' experimental treatment for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

    Remdesivir is the most promising experimental treatment for Covid-19 that researchers have seen so far, and FDA earlier this year issued an emergency use authorization allowing providers to use the drug to treat patients with severe cases of the disease. Research published in May showed that remdesivir was associated with faster recovery times among some Covid-19 patients, and an analysis released by Gilead on Friday showed that Covid-19 patients treated with remdesivir recovered sooner and were 62% less likely to die when compared with data from a historical control group. The new analysis is based on data from a clinical trial that did not include a new control group of patients.

    But the country's recent surges in new coronavirus patients have led to spikes in new patients with Covid-19, as well, and many hospitals say they're running out of the promising treatment.

    In Texas, for example, Katherine Perez, a pharmacist at Houston Methodist Hospital, said she doesn't have enough doses of remdesivir to treat all the Covid-19 patients at the hospital who could benefit from the drug. "We are on the verge of running out, maybe today, maybe tomorrow," Perez said Thursday.

    Hospitals in Arizona, Florida, and Texas have reported similar shortages, according to STAT News.

    In South Florida, Eliot Godofsky, an infectious disease specialist, said he has no doses of remdesivir left to treat his patients. "It's been very frustrating," he said. "Patients suffer and you just feel terrible."

    An HHS spokesperson on Friday said it was delivering more than 11,000 courses of remdesivir to hospitals in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas—which currently are hot spots of new coronavirus infections.

    However, those vials will not be enough to treat all Covid-19 patients in those states, CNN reports. According to CNN, federal and state data show Texas as of Friday reported 10,002 hospitalized patients with Covid-19, while the new supply of remdesivir that the state will receive from HHS will treat about 3,507 patients. Similarly, Florida reported having 6,974 hospitalized Covid-19 patients as of Friday, but the state will receive enough doses to treat about 2,733.

    Trump admin officials say US deaths will rise and urge Americans to take precautions

    On Sunday, two Trump administration officials noted that the country is facing a critical point in its coronavirus epidemic and will continue to see more deaths tied to the virus.

    During an appearance on ABC's "This Week," HHS Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir said, "We're all very concerned about the rise in cases," and "[w]e do expect deaths to go up."

    Girior said cities and states seeing high rates of new coronavirus cases should consider implementing limits on large social gatherings and the numbers of customers allowed in restaurants, as well as closing bars, to help limit the virus' spread, and he urged Americans to wear face masks or coverings to limit their risk of transmitting or contracting the coronavirus.

    "It's really essential to wear masks," Giroir said. "We have to have like 90% of people wearing the masks in public in the hot spot areas. If we don't have that, we will not get control of the virus."

    Giror added that "[t]here's no downside to wearing a mask," noting, "I'm a pediatric ICU physician. I wore a mask 10 hours a day for many, many years."

    Separately, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams during an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation" said measures intended to curb the new coronavirus' spread—including wearing a face mask or covering—are "critically important" (Allassan, Axios, 7/12; Associated Press, 7/12; Rummler, Axios, 7/10; Armus et al., Washington Post, 7/13; Boodman, STAT News, 7/11; Cohen, CNN, 7/12; Erman, Reuters, 7/10; Griffin/Cortez, Bloomberg, Feuer, CNBC, 7/10; New York Times, 7/11; New York Times, 7/13; Belluck, New York Times, 7/12).

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