While You Were Sleeping: Coronavirus updates for October 23


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

Here’s a look:

Record numbers. The Indiana State Department of Health reported 2,880 new positive coronavirus cases Thursday–a new single-day reporting record for the state.

Those new cases were reported to ISDH between Oct. 17-21 following corrections to the previous day’s dashboard.

ISDH also announced 42 additional confirmed deaths from coronavirus, bringing Indiana’s total to 3,831. The new deaths were reported to ISDH from March 15 – Oct. 20.

ISDH’s report came as the Centers for Disease Control changed its guidelines on how long you should spend with another person, infected or not, to avoid the virus.

The CDC now recommends limiting your 15 minutes of exposure over the course of a day as opposed to one sitting.

“It’s not like there was a magical difference between 14 minutes and 15 minutes,” said Shandy Dearth, director of undergraduate epidemiology at the Fairbanks School of Public Health. “The Indiana Department of Health and the Marion County Public Health Department have both been pushing the idea of 15 minutes of contact throughout the day, and I think people were getting stuck on that 15 minutes, so I think it’s great the CDC added 15 minutes over a 24-hour period.

“We were seeing teachers and coaches really get stuck on that 15 minutes, and they were allowing students to do small group projects for ten minutes at a time, multiple times throughout the day, that sort of that thing.”javascript:false

Dearth said the previous 15 consecutive minutes guideline was set with the ease of jogging a contact’s memory of a larger block of time in the presence of another person as opposed to recalling a minute here and a minute there all day long.

“I would say I’m encouraged by this, not frustrated by this, because for those of us in the public health world, this was a more common sense approach to explaining this to the public,” she said. “We’ve got cases increasing across the U.S., across the state, here in the city, so it’s really important that we cast a wider net when we’re trying to track down the cases.”

Treatment approved. U.S. regulators approved the first drug to treat COVID-19: remdesivir, an antiviral medicine given through an IV for patients needing hospitalization.

The drug, which California-based Gilead Sciences Inc. is calling Veklury, cut the time to recovery by five days — from 15 days to 10 on average — in a large study led by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

It had been authorized for use on an emergency basis since spring, and now becomes the first drug to win full Food and Drug Administration approval for treating COVID-19. President Donald Trump received it when he was sickened earlier this month.

Veklury is approved for people at least 12 years old and weighing at least 88 pounds (40 kilograms) who need hospitalization for their coronavirus infection. For patients younger than 12, the FDA will still allow the drug’s use in certain cases under its previous emergency authorization.

The drug works by inhibiting a substance the virus uses to make copies of itself. Certain tests are required before starting patients on it. And the label warns against using it with the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, because that can curb its effectiveness.

“We now have enough knowledge and a growing set of tools to help fight COVID-19,” Gilead’s chief medical officer, Dr. Merdad Parsey, said in a statement.

The drug is either approved or has temporary authorization in about 50 countries, he noted.

“Very frustrating.” The U.N. chief finds it “very frustrating” that leaders of the 20 major industrialized nations didn’t come together in March and establish a coordinated response to suppress the coronavirus in all countries as he proposed.

Instead, they went their own ways as infections moved “every way, everywhere,” Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. The result is that every country is taking its own sometimes “contradictory” actions, and the virus is moving “from east to west, north to south,” with second waves of COVID-19 now affecting many nations.

With a Group of 20 summit coming next month, Guterres said in an interview with the Associated Press that he hopes the international community now understands “they need to be much more coordinated in fighting the virus.”

He recalled the March meeting of the G20 where he urged adoption of a “wartime” plan, including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars” for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the pandemic and “a task force to have a combined effort to defeat the virus.”

At the virtual G20 summit on Nov. 21-22, he said, the United Nations will be “strongly advocating” for the need for better coordination and also seeking a “guarantee” that any coronavirus vaccine is treated as “a global public good” and be made “available and affordable for everyone, everywhere.”

Guterres said the international initiative to distribute coronavirus vaccines to countries worldwide, known as COVAX, now has 156 countries participating “but it is underfunded.”

Big Ten football returns. Big Ten football makes its return this weekend, with the first game to kick off Friday.

The season was significantly delayed; at one point, it looked like the conference wouldn’t play in the fall at all, settling for a spring season instead.

And while fans, players and coaches are excited for the season to start, Ohio State coach Ryan Day was not about to celebrate a win over COVID-19.

“To look at it like it’s been a success right now would be premature because we have two more months,” Day said. “This is not a week-to-week thing. It’s all the way until January. We might be good for two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, five weeks. We stub our toe and have an outbreak and lose games. We can’t afford to do that.”

This goes for all college football teams as they try to play through the pandemic. Coronavirus outbreaks at Baylor, Memphis, Arkansas State, Notre Dame, Florida and elsewhere have forced programs to shut down for as much as two weeks. As of Thursday, 34 games involving Bowl Subdivision teams have been postponed or canceled.

The Big Ten is set to play a nine-week schedule with no breaks. If a game can’t be played, there is no way to make it up. Plus, the Big Ten has the strictest return to play protocol of any conference: Athletes who test positive will be out of competition for at least 21 days.

Dr. Jim Borchers, team physician at Ohio State, said the 21-day rule was not put in place as a way to get coaches and players to take the COVID-19 protocols more seriously. It might be a byproduct, though.

“I think in the Big Ten’s protocol, the need for an extensive evaluation in return to activity … I hope that that is certainly going to promote that the best thing to do is to prevent the infection,” he said.

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