While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for November 20

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INDIANAPOLIS — There were several developments in the coronavirus pandemic that you may have missed overnight.

Here’s a look:

2,000 deaths. For the first time since May, the U.S. reported more than 2,000 coronavirus deaths in a day.

According to Johns Hopkins University, there were 2,015 deaths reported Thursday. It’s the first time since May 6 that the one-day toll surpassed 2,000. The U.S. also reported a record number of cases Thursday with 187,833, according to the university’s COVID-19 tracker.

Johns Hopkins reported 1,155,205 new cases in a week, eclipsing the previous high of 1,040,097, reported during the previous week.

The COVID Tracking Project’s latest update said a record number of COVID-19 patients (80,698) were hospitalized and in intensive care (15,573).

Safe vaccine. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says he “wants to settle” concerns about a coronavirus vaccine as he returned to the White House podium for the first time in months.

Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says the Food and Drug Administration will thoroughly study the data before it approves any emergency use of a vaccine and he wants to “put to rest any concept that this was rushed in an inappropriate way. This is really solid.”

“The process of the speed did not compromise safety,” Fauci said. “I really want to settle that concern that people have about that.”

Fauci says that while “help is on the way” with a vaccine, it’s time for the American people to wear a mask, avoid crowds and do things as much as possible outdoors rather than indoors.

“Now, what does that mean for us?” Fauci continued. “It means we actually need to double down on the public health measures as we’re waiting for that help to come, which will be soon. We’ll be getting vaccine doses into people at high priority at the end of December. We’re not talking about shutting down the country, we’re not talking about locking down.”

Fauci spoke as members of the White House coronavirus task force addressed concerns about a surge in COVID-19 cases around the country, leading to a spike in hospitalizations and more deaths.

“COVID brain fog.” Debbie Rinehart rushed her 66-year-old husband, Randall, to the emergency room last week, not because he struggled to breathe or a spiked fever, but because he was so disoriented after testing positive for COVID-19.

Debbie says her husband showed his first symptoms a few days after he got a flu shot. Randall had a fever and a sinus infection.

“We kept thinking it was a result of the shot,” she said. “So, we kind of just watched his temperature and brought it down with Tylenol.”

The couple decided to get him a COVID-19 test. They went to a CVS minute clinic, and the result for Randall’s test came back positive. Debbie said his doctor told them to try to keep his fever down and to stay at home as long as he was not having trouble to breathe.

But Debbie eventually rushed Randall to an emergency room in Martinsville for other reasons.

“He was confused about about why he was there. He kept trying to get out of bed, so they had to tie him down. Took seven of us to tie him down,” she said.

Randall was admitted to Community Hospital South in Indianapolis on November 11. He tested negative for COVID-19 a few days ago, but his disorientation has not really improved.

“She thinks it is probably COVID brain, COVID fog,” she said. “Now they are seeing a lot more people with those same symptoms. They had not yet, but there was not the spike like there is now,” said Debbie. “They have so many more patients, and a lot of them are suffering from the same symptoms he is.”

Her husband is known as Randall Wayne in their community. He is a radio broadcaster for WCBK in Martinsville. One of Randall’s passions is covering sports.

Right now, he is not the man she met 30 years ago. She called him one time on the phone recently. Debbie explained he appeared to understand it was her on the call, but he could only moan back when she told him she loved him.

“He was never clear in his speaking at all,” she said.

She is hoping that with time, his clarity will come back, but everything is up in the air.

Testing times. If you are planning to get a COVID-19 test prior to Thanksgiving in hopes you will receive your results before the holiday, you are likely out of time. We must mention, healthcare experts are encouraging people to refrain from gathering with people outside your own household.

“My message is ‘please do not,’ Virgil Madden, Marion County Public Health Department’s Incident Commander for COVID-19 Testing Sites, said. “Please don’t. Stay within the bubble that you’ve been in.”

Anyone in Marion County who needs or wants to get a test is able to get one for free through the health department. They are requiring you to make an appointment online at MarionHealth.org/indycovid or by calling (317)221-5515.

“How long is the wait,” Madden said.”Well if you make an appointment and you come at your time, we can get you in and tested in about 8 to 10 minutes. When you come without an appointment, we just cannot keep up. We had about 1,000 cars last week lined up. Out of that 1,000 cars, there were about less than 20% were registered, and everyone wanted to know why is it taking so long?”

Madden explained the timeline for receiving your results from the labs as well. He said at the end of each day of testing, they take the tests to the labs for those technicians to begin their process.

“It doesn’t technically get to the lab until that next business day.,” Madden said. “When they come for the test, realize okay, my test technically isn’t going to the lab until the next day. After that day, then you begin counting three to five business days.”

Madden explained that weekend days do not count in the timeline. The health department pleads for the community’s patience, and to consider the timeframe before calling them.

“They won’t leave one message; they will leave several messages,” Madden said. “They will call and say, ‘we want to talk to a supervisor because we haven’t gotten our results.’ We’ll say, ‘when did you get tested?’ They’ll say, ‘four hours ago.'”

Madden also acknowledged his concern the wait times between test and results could have a negative impact on COVID-19’s spread.

“We encourage people not to go back to their normal life because we don’t want them to affect someone else,” Madden said, regarding people not quarantining while awaiting results.

The Marion County Public Health Department is opening up a free drive-thru testing site the day after Thanksgiving after being closed for the holiday. Testing will be available by appointment only at the main location at 3838 N. Rural Street from 9:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m.

Emergency use. Federal regulators have authorized emergency use of another COVID-19 treatment, the anti-inflammatory drug baricitinib, to be used in combination with a drug already used to treat severely ill, hospitalized patients.

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday cleared the new use for Eli Lilly’s pill baricitinib plus remdesivir for hospitalized adults and children two years and older requiring oxygen or ventilation therapy.

Remdesivir is the first and only drug approved by FDA to treat COVID-19. The emergency clearance for baricitinib acts as a preliminary approval until more data is available showing the drug works for COVID-19.

The FDA said the drug combination appeared to reduce recovery time in hospitalized patients, compared to patients who received only remdesivir.

The agency said ongoing research will be needed to confirm the benefit.

Indianapolis-based Lilly already sells baricitinib as Olumiant to treat rheumatoid arthritis, the less common form of arthritis that occurs when the immune system attacks joints, causing inflammation. An overactive immune system also can lead to serious problems in coronavirus patients.

The FDA based its decision on a 1,000-patient study in which patients were randomly assigned to receive the drug combination– baricitinib plus remdesivir– or remdesivir plus a placebo.

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