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Coronavirus update: White House seeks more COVID-19 funding

The FDA is rejecting an antidepressant as a treatment

COVID-19 vaccines on money
Photo (c) Paul Biris - Getty Images
COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 82,956,116 (82,731,284)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 1,001,274 (1,000,207)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 525,512,337 (524,794,769)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,284,012 (6,281,631)‌

White House pushes for more COVID-19 funding

The Biden administration is increasingly putting pressure on Congress to provide more money to meet the challenges of dealing with COVID-19. But with the pandemic producing fewer deaths and hospitalizations, Congress has rejected requested appropriations so far.

White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha says Congress should think about the next vaccine that will be more effective against variants of the virus. Without a congressional appropriation, the government will not be able to make the next generation of vaccines available to every American.

"I want to make sure we have enough resources that we can buy enough vaccines for every American who wants one,” Jha said. “I think that is absolutely critical. We do not have the resources to do that right now.” 

FDA rejects antidepressant as COVID-19 treatment

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has denied a petition from a group of doctors that was seeking approval for the drug fluvoxamine as a treatment for COVID-19. The drug is an older, generic antidepressant that its advocates say reduces COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths.

The FDA normally doesn’t explain its reasons for rejecting a drug, but it did in this case. The agency released a two-page summary that essentially stated that there wasn’t enough evidence that the drug is effective.

The doctors’ group that asked for approval submitted details of a 1,500-patient randomized, controlled trial in Brazil that found patients who received fluvoxamine early in the course of their disease were about a third less likely to need hospital care.

Study links COVID-19 to Parkinson’s disease risk

Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University have published a study using laboratory mice that suggests the virus that causes COVID-19 could increase the risk of brain degeneration seen in Parkinson’s disease.

“Parkinson’s is a rare disease that affects 2% of the population above 55 years, so the increase in risk is not necessarily a cause for panic,” said Richard Smeyne, the first author of the study. “But understanding how coronavirus impacts the brain can help us prepare for the long-term consequences of this pandemic.”

Previous research has found that viruses can make brain cells or neurons more susceptible to damage or death. In an earlier study, the researchers found that mice infected with the H1N1 strain of influenza, which was responsible for the 2009 flu pandemic, were more susceptible to MPTP, a toxin that is known to induce some of the characteristic features of Parkinson’s.

Around the nation

  • Hawaii: The tiny state of Hawaii is suddenly reporting a huge number of COVID-19 cases. The Hawaii Department of Health reports that there have been 7,149 new coronavirus cases and 12 deaths in just the last week.

  • Vermont: Even though cases of COVID-19 are rising in the state, as well as the rest of New England, Vermont officials discontinued daily updates to the state’s COVID-19 dashboard on Wednesday. Instead of daily updates, the health department is moving to a weekly surveillance report that will provide an overview of daily COVID-19 cases for the week.

  • Virginia: New cases are on the rise across the state. For the first time since February, Virginia is averaging nearly 3,000 new coronavirus cases per day this week. One bright spot – fewer cases require a stay in the hospital, according to the Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association.

  • California: State health officials are increasing the number of “test-to-treat” sites in California. Residents can be tested for COVID-19 and, should the test indicate an infection, receive therapeutic treatment at these facilities. Officials say they plan to add 146 locations over the next two weeks.

  • North Carolina: The NC COVID-19 Student Response Corps, which was established early in the pandemic, has begun its third year of providing internships at government agencies and non-profits. “The Response Corps offers a way for students and recent graduates from across our state to provide key support to government and nonprofits while gaining valuable experience to help launch their careers in public service,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. 

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