Coronavirus News – March 24

Ford to work with 3M, GE Healthcare producing medical equipment, protective gear

Ford announced that it’s working with 3M and GE Healthcare to produce medical equipment and protective gear for healthcare workers. Ford will work with 3M to produce a new kind of powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR) for healthcare workers, while also helping to increase production of 3M’s current respirator device. A PAPR has a clear mask that fits over the face. Air is drawn through a tube connected to a pump that filters the air. It will be made using parts from both Ford and 3M, including fans used in the Ford F-150’s optional ventilated seats. Ford is also working with GE Healthcare to increase production of ventilators and sophisticated air pumps needed by some critically ill coronavirus patients. Read more here.

U.S. has potential of becoming coronavirus epicenter; cases pass 380,000 globally

The World Health Organization (WHO) said it was seeing a “very large acceleration” in coronavirus infections in the U.S., which had the potential of becoming the new epicenter. During the past 24 hours, 85% of new cases were from Europe and the U.S. Of those, 40% were from the U.S. The global outbreak was accelerating very rapidly as global case numbers have passed 380,000, and WHO expects large increases in global case numbers and deaths. Read more here.

President Trump vows to reopen U.S. economy amid coronavirus outbreak

President Donald Trump said he was eager to reopen the U.S. economy in weeks, not months. His remarks were made at a White House press briefing on Monday. “At some point we’re going to open up our country, and it will be fairly soon,” said President Trump. Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of President Trump’s coronavirus task force, would not directly say if she approved of President Trump’s suggested plans to reopen the country. Fears about the virus and the consequences of the extreme measures being implemented to combat it have sent stocks drastically lower during the past month. Read more here.

California Gov. Newsom says state is short 17,000 hospital beds

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said that California would be short about 17,000 hospital beds, raising his previous estimate of a 10,000-bed shortfall. The state is also short 1 billion protective gloves and hundreds of millions of masks, the governor said. California had conducted 26,400 tests by Sunday, in comparison to New York’s 78,289 tests. Gov. Newsom said the state is chartering flights to China to procure protective equipment. The state has rushed to reopen shuttered hospitals, buy motels to house the state’s more than 150,000 homeless and retrofit college dormitories to serve as hospital wards. It has also called up the National Guard to work at food banks and President Donald Trump ordered a Navy hospital ship, with 1,000 beds, to sail to the Port of Los Angeles within one week. Read more here.

Coronavirus pathogen hijacks human cells, creates millions of versions of itself in human airway

This new coronavirus pathogen is a packet of genetic material surrounded by a spiky protein shell one-thousandth the width of an eyelash. Yet, the virus hijacks human cells to create millions more versions of itself once it gets into a human airway. Respiratory viruses infect and replicate mostly in the nose and throat, where they are highly contagious, or lower in the lungs, where they spread less easily but are much more deadly. The new coronavirus splits the difference, dwelling in the upper respiratory tract, where it is easily sneezed or coughed onto the next person. But it can also get deep into the lungs where it can kill. Outside a host, viruses are dormant and can last this way for a long time. In 2014, a virus frozen in permafrost for 30,000 years that scientists retrieved was able to infect an amoeba after being revived in the lab. Read more here.

At-home tests for coronavirus are here, but FDA warns they’re unauthorized

At least four startups are making at-home tests for COVID-19, but experts warn that at-home tests are piecemeal solution to the country’s failure to test early and widely for COVID-19. The tests, which customers will be able to order online for between $150 and $200, do not meet FDA standards for traditional approval. Evidence is typically required showing how people may respond to test results before the FDA allows them to be sent to customers. The agency issued a warning  stating that it “is actively and aggressively monitoring the market for any firms marketing products with fraudulent coronavirus (COVID-19) diagnostic, prevention and treatment claims as part of [its] ongoing efforts to protect public health during this pandemic.” Startup executives and medical directors have said their tests have gone through all the required steps to make them ready for consumers. Read more here.

China to let people leave Wuhan, ease lockdown

China has said it would let healthy people leave Wuhan beginning April 8. At least 50,000 people have been infected in Wuhan and the city has been under quarantine for two months. A similar lockdown surrounding the Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, is set to be lifted Wednesday. China has reported several days without new domestic infections. More than 4,000 people in the country are still sick and one-third of them are in intensive care. About 90% of China’s more than 80,000 coronavirus patients have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins data. Read more here.