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Coronavirus update: New COVID-19 treatments may be on the way

Hundreds of thousands of military personnel are not vaccinated

Pill crashing through COVID-19 germ
Photo (c) dowell - Getty Images
Coronavirus‌ ‌(COVID-19)‌ ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 44,350,886 (44,318,179)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 713,453 (712,975)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 238,065,643 (237,673,012)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,854,953 (4,849,471)‌

Merck seeks approval for COVID-19 pill

A pill that treats the symptoms of COVID-19 may be one step closer to becoming available. Merck and its partner Ridgeback have asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use authorization (EUA) for molnupiravir, a pill that may be able to treat mild-to-moderate coronavirus symptoms.

The request is based on positive results from a planned interim analysis from the Phase 3 MOVe-OUT clinical trial, which evaluated molnupiravir in non-hospitalized adult patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19 who were at risk for progressing to severe COVID-19 and/or hospitalization. 

Interim data showed that the drug reduced the risk of hospitalization or death by approximately 50%. It showed that only 7.3% of patients who received molnupiravir were either hospitalized or died through Day 29 following randomization, compared with 14.1% of placebo-treated patients.

AstraZeneca reports positive results for drug treatment

There’s more good news for health officials working to contain the pandemic. Vaccinations may have stalled, but another pharmaceutical company is reporting positive results of a drug to treat people after they get COVID-19.

AstraZeneca says its experimental drug called AZD7442 reduced the risk of developing severe COVID-19 or death by 67% in a clinical trial. Hugh Montgomery, Professor of Intensive Care Medicine at University College London and the study’s principal investigator, said the drug appears to be another weapon against the pandemic. 

“With continued cases of serious COVID-19 infections across the globe, there is a significant need for new therapies like AZD7442 that can be used to protect vulnerable populations from getting COVID-19 and can also help prevent progression to severe disease,” he said.

Hundreds of thousands of servicemembers not vaccinated

Despite a Biden administration order that all U.S. service members be vaccinated against the coronavirus, hundreds of thousands reportedly have not yet complied with the order. The Washington Post reports that 90% of U.S. Navy personnel have been vaccinated, but only 72% of U.S. Marines have.

Defense Department employees, which include both civilian and military personnel, have until Oct. 28 to be vaccinated or face punishment. Meanwhile, the military is suffering more than its share of severe COVID-19 infections and deaths.

Defense Department Spokesman Maj. Charlie Dietz said more military personnel died of coronavirus infections during the month of September than in all of 2020. According to Deitz, none of the deaths occurred among personnel who were fully vaccinated.

Around the nation

  • Connecticut: Gov. Ned Lamont says 12 state government employees have been fired after refusing to either be vaccinated or to submit to regular COVID-19 tests. "We reached out to them more than once and you get vaccinated or you get tested, and if you say no, you can't work here. It's unsafe," Lamont said.

  • Texas: Allen West, who is seeking the GOP nomination for governor, has been hospitalized after contracting COVID-19. The Tea Party favorite in the race against incumbent Republican Greg Abbott told the Associated Press that he is “doing great.”

  • Virginia: COVID-19 has become a major issue in the bellwether Virginia governor’s race. Democrat Terry McAuliffe has criticized his Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin for not supporting vaccination mandates. Youngkin said he believes people should get vaccinated, but he also said he doesn’t think it should be forced.

  • California: Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed legislation requiring health insurers to cover the cost of coronavirus tests, protecting consumers from out-of-pocket fees. State officials say there is evidence that California residents are still being presented with surprise fees when they get tested.

  • Wisconsin: The state is in the process of opening additional COVID-19 testing sites across the state. The move comes as consumers and businesses stockpile over-the-counter test kits sold in drug stores. Since September, Walgreens has been limiting customers to four tests per purchase.

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