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Coronavirus update: Steroid drug saved lives in trial, flushing toilets singled out as a threat

Being hospitalized with COVID-19 carries a big financial cost

Photo (c) vchal - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 2,118,798 (2,096,902)

Total U.S. deaths: 116,191 (115,755)

Total global cases: 8,075,962 (7,949,973)

Total global deaths: 437,604 (434,181)

Existing steroid drug may help severely ill patients

Existing drugs may prove useful in saving lives of coronavirus (COVID-19) patients. For example, Reuters reports that trials of the steroid drug dexamethasone have been shown to save the lives of severely ill COVID-19 patients.

The drug is often used to reduce inflammation in patients suffering from a variety of infections. In the just-completed trial, researchers say it reduced death rates by around a third among the most severely ill COVID-19 patients admitted to the hospital. The researchers say the results suggest that the drug should immediately be used in caring for patients with severe cases of the virus. 

“This is a result that shows that if patients who have COVID-19 and are on ventilators or are on oxygen are given dexamethasone, it will save lives, and it will do so at a remarkably low cost,” said Martin Landray, an Oxford University professor and co-leader of the trial.

Study: Flushing the toilet can spread the virus

You don’t seem to be safe from the coronavirus, not even in the restroom. Researchers writing in the journal Physics of Fluids used a computer simulation to show how a flushing toilet can create a cloud of virus-containing aerosol droplets that is large and widespread and lasts long enough that the droplets could be breathed in by others.

The simulations show that nearly 60 percent of the ejected particles rise high above the seat for a toilet with two inlet ports. A solution to this deadly problem is to simply close the lid before flushing since this should decrease aerosol spread, the researchers said.

“Toilet flushing creates a great deal of turbulence, and qualitative evidence suggests this can spread both bacteria and viruses,” the authors wrote.

The financial cost of COVID-19

Since the pandemic began, most of the emphasis has rightly been on the health toll the coronavirus is taking. But for people who get the virus, researchers say there is also a significant financial cost.

A study from researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed out-of-pocket costs for pneumonia and other upper respiratory illness hospitalizations, suggesting a correlation with potential costs of treating COVID-19.

The researchers found that these out-of-pocket costs were particularly high for so-called consumer-directed health plans, which typically feature lower premiums compared to standard plans but higher deductibles that can be paid via tax-advantaged health savings accounts.

Powell warns of the virus’ economic toll

Besides causing financial hardships for people hospitalized with the virus, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warns of “significant uncertainty” about how quickly the U.S. economy will recover from the virus’ impact. He says small businesses and lower-income and minority Americans face the greatest risks.

In testimony before Congress today, Powell said the recovery so far has been uneven, with some areas of the economy rebounding while others are still suffering. His assessment? We still have a long way to go.

“The levels of output and employment remain far below their pre-pandemic levels, and significant uncertainty remains about the timing and strength of the recovery,” he said.

AstraZeneca ready by October

Drugmaker AstraZeneca has not only produced a vaccine against COVID-19, but the company’s CEO says it will provide protection for up to one year. He told a radio station in Belgium that doses will be ready for distribution in October.

According to Reuters, AstraZeneca has contracts to supply the vaccine in the U.S., UK, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and the European Union.

Around the nation

  • Ohio: State health officials are expressing cautious optimism that they have flattened the curve of new cases of the coronavirus. They report that the number of new cases has remained below 500 for 17 consecutive days.

  • Pennsylvania: The housing market has roared back to life in Western Pennsylvania after the state began lifting restrictions on movement. Industry sources report that home sales in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, and Westmoreland counties sold for 13 percent more in May than May 2019, and the number of homes sold increased by 10 percent.

  • Colorado: Colorado researchers have used data from cell phones to better understand how the coronavirus is transmitted and what role leaving the house plays in spreading the illness. Preliminary conclusions suggest that the end of stay-at-home orders did not lead to an increase in cases.

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