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Coronavirus News Roundup, October 3-October 9

The items below are highlights from the free newsletter, “Smart, useful, science stuff about COVID-19.” To receive newsletter issues daily in your inbox, sign up here.

David Tuller at Kaiser Health News reports that saliva tests for SARS-CoV-2 are catching on in the U.S., but only represent a “small percentage of the more than 900,000 tests conducted daily on average at the end of September.” A University of Illinois chemist quoted in the 10/6/20 story says of saliva tests, “You don’t need swabs, you don’t need health care workers, you don’t need [chemicals to stabilize spit-samples], and you don’t need RNA isolation [extraction] kits.”

Meanwhile, two companies have abandoned each of their efforts to develop at-home saliva tests for SARS-CoV-2 antigens (antigen tests look for viral proteins or structures that provoke an immune response, not for pieces of the virus’s genetic material, like the tests in previous item), reports Katherine J. Wu at The New York Times (10/1/20). The story describes various ongoing efforts to develop saliva tests for the virus. “There’s still no consensus on how well saliva works for detecting the coronavirus compared with the fluids obtained by nose swabs,” Wu writes.

A project called covidestim out of the the Yale School of Public Health publishes an interactive visualization of new SARS-CoV-2 infections in the U.S. per 100,000 people over time. A reader drew my attention to a 10/1/20 tweet about the project by Howard Forman of the Yale School of Management. Updated daily based on a statistical model that yields real-time estimates of the epidemic’s spread in the U.S., the dark purple areas on the page’s U.S. map show low infection rates, while the brighter orange and yellow areas have higher infection rates. Forman writes that the map shows “how small areas matter more than geographic or political boundaries. There are hot and warm spots in most states.” The page also features graphs illustrating infections per 100,000 and estimated infection counts for each U.S. state over time, from mid-March to the present.

Adults aged 65 to 80 are most affected by COVID-19 but older adults are excluded from more than half of Phase 3 experiments on possible vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, concludes a study published 9/28/20 in JAMA Internal Medicine that Pratibha Gopalakrishna covered 9/30/20 at STAT. The analysis focuses on experiments indexed on Clinicaltrials.gov, a registry for experimental drug and treatment studies that are funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health among others.

Results published in the New England Journal of Medicine show that Moderna’s vaccine against SARS-CoV-2 appears to be safe in older adults and provokes an immune response similar to that seen in younger adults, reports Julie Steenhuysen at Reuters (10/1/20). The safety study, an extension of Moderna’s Phase 1 vaccine experiment, involved “40 adults aged 56 to 70 and 71 and older,” Steenhuysen writes. A high-dose version of the vaccine candidate currently is undergoing a Phase 3 study to assess effectiveness and safety, the story states. Phase 3 studies