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The Latest: Texas governor says surge team sent to El Paso

AUSTIN, Texas — An ongoing wave of COVID-19 cases in the El Paso area prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to announce Monday that a surge team of medical professionals would be dispatched to the area.

As of Monday, 313 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in El Paso, Hudspeth and Culberson counties of West Texas. The state estimated that active COVID-19 cases in El Paso County alone soared from almost 4,000 on Oct. 1 to just over 6,000 Monday. Seven cases were fatal during that period.

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HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:

— Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett faces Senate despite virus

— Trump insists he’s free of virus, ready for campaign trail

— Britain expected to tighten restrictions on hard-hit northern cities like Liverpool

— EU nations gear up to adopt traffic-light system to identify outbreaks

— Four Swiss guards who protect 83-year-old Pope Francis have the virus

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— Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor said Monday that he kept up a busy work schedule despite being confined to the governor’s mansion after being around someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.

Gov. Andy Beshear said he will follow the advice of state public health officials in determining how long he and his family remain quarantined at the mansion. His next COVID test is expected to be Tuesday and then Friday, he said. He added he tested negative last week.

“I’ve asked them (health officials) to treat me like anybody else out there,” the Democratic said. “So I’m going to follow all the rules and all the guidelines.”

Beshear said he had one of his busiest Mondays in a while, and that the biggest challenge of working in quarantine — away from his staff — was all the time he spent “staring at a screen.”

“I’m working,” he said. “I’m just having to do it like many other families are having to do — remotely with sometimes my kids bouncing in and out, or a vacuum cleaner going.”

In his virtual briefing, the governor reported Kentucky’s highest number of coronavirus cases on a Monday since the pandemic began. He said that offers more evidence that the outbreak continues its recent escalation in the Bluegrass State.

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LAWRENCE, Kansas — Even as Kansas recorded another record spike in COVID-19 cases, Lawrence health officials were hit with a lawsuit over an emergency health order that limits bar hours in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus.

Rita “Peach” Madl, the owner of The Sandbar, a bar near the University of Kansas campus, is asking to be freed from rules requiring

Spok Conference Highlights Importance of Care Team Communication Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

Company to demonstrate the latest capabilities of its cloud-native communication platform, Spok Go®

This week Spok, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Spok Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPOK) and a global leader in healthcare communications, welcomes more than 550 attendees to Connect 20 Virtual, the Company’s annual conference for healthcare professionals. The virtual event will give healthcare clinicians, IT experts, and C-suite executives a chance to learn from one another about the future of care team communication and share insights about how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed how they use health IT.

“2020 has been one of the most difficult and unprecedented periods in healthcare,” said Vincent D. Kelly, president and chief executive officer of Spok Holdings, Inc. “As we look toward the future of healthcare communications, there are many unknowns. Yet one thing is certain: Healthcare has changed, but the importance of care team communication has not.”

This year, Spok is pleased to present its annual conference in a virtual format at no cost to its customers as a gesture of gratitude to all the front-line professionals. The two-day event will feature speakers from hospitals or health systems who will share lessons from the response to COVID-19, how to improve care through better communications, and tips to improve efficiencies in the contact center. Attendees will also see the newest capabilities of Spok Go®, the cloud-native clinical communication platform that makes communications smarter and faster.

In addition, Connect 20 Virtual attendees will receive training and product updates, attend new product sessions, and have opportunities for virtual networking.

Updates from the conference will be posted to the Spok Twitter feed.

About Spok

Spok, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Spok Holdings, Inc. (NASDAQ: SPOK), headquartered in Springfield, Virginia, is proud to be a global leader in healthcare communications. We deliver clinical information to care teams when and where it matters most to improve patient outcomes. Top hospitals rely on the Spok Go® and Spok Care Connect® platforms to enhance workflows for clinicians and support administrative compliance. Our customers send over 100 million messages each month through their Spok® solutions. When seconds count and patients’ lives are at stake, Spok enables smarter, faster clinical communication. For more information, visit spok.com or follow @spoktweets on Twitter.

Spok is a trademark of Spok Holdings, Inc. Spok Go and Spok Care Connect are trademarks of Spok, Inc.

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Boston research team says it has enrolled a diverse group in Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine study

The hospital is among 90 sites testing to see whether the prospective vaccine made by Moderna is safe and protects people against the coronavirus. The Cambridge biotech’s vaccine is among 11 candidates worldwide that have entered late-stage clinical trials.

“We want our study and enrollment to be representative of the epidemic and the communities disproportionately impacted,” said Baden, who is also one of three leaders of the national study.

Since the study began in the first week of August, Brigham and Women’s has recruited “many hundreds” of participants, he said, adding that he was not free to say exactly how many. Recruitment is continuing and is likely to be completed in “weeks, if not sooner,” Baden said.

Half the participants enrolled nationwide will receive the vaccine candidate, and half will get a placebo, in two injections 28 days apart. Then researchers will watch to see if those who received the vaccine are less likely to get infected. The majority of the Boston participants have received both injections, Baden said.

Some 40 percent of the Boston enrollees are people with health conditions that put them at higher risk of severe infection, and more than 25 percent are elderly, Baden said.

Moderna, like all of the other vaccine makers, wants to make sure it gathers adequate information on the vaccine’s effectiveness among the people most affected by the epidemic, which has disproportionately struck people who are Black and Latino, as well as those with underlying conditions such as heart or lung disease.

Nationwide, the Moderna study has enrolled 28,000 of the 30,000 participants needed to evaluate the vaccine, and 33 percent identify as nonwhite, according to a statement from the company.

The company did not provide a breakdown of which groups are represented in the 33 percent, but Reuters reported earlier this week that 7 percent of enrollees are Black.

Black people comprise 12.3 percent of the nation’s population and 21.1 percent of those who died of COVID-19, according to a recent analysis by National Public Radio. Latino people account for 17.8 percent of the population and 21.1 percent of COVID-19 deaths, NPR found.

Moderna has urged the clinical sites “to further emphasize outreach to diverse populations, even if those efforts impact the speed of enrollment,” its statement said. A spokesperson said these efforts have led to “a modest delay in enrollment completion” but probably will not affect the timing of initial results.

Meanwhile, Moderna’s weekly enrollment data show improvements in recruiting diverse participants; among those who signed up during the week of Sept. 28, 49 percent were Hispanic or Latino people, and 26 percent were Black people.

At Brigham and Women’s, the study team has drawn upon long-established relationships in communities hardest-hit by COVID-19, said Dr. Paulette Chandler, who is leading community education and engagement for the vaccine trial.

“People trust us because they come to us for health care,” she said. The hospital also has a community advisory board established during its decades of work on HIV vaccines. “They served

NEC OncoImmunity AS and Oslo University Hospital Team Up to Develop a Diagnostic for COVID-19 Using Artificial Intelligence

NEC OncoImmunity AS (NOI), a subsidiary of NEC Corporation (NEC), and Oslo University Hospital (OUH) are pleased to announce that they have recently been awarded a prestigious grant from the Research Council of Norway (RCN) to develop an artificial intelligence (AI) platform that will enable the rapid design of T-cell diagnostics for emerging or endemic infectious diseases. The project will develop a novel T-cell diagnostic for the current COVID-19 pandemic to complement the current serological tests. This will improve the ability to identify immune responses and acquired immunity, which is desperately needed to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

Current technologies involve extensive trial and error to define exactly which parts of the pathogen induces robust immunity. These so-called immunodominant epitopes need to be identified for the general population. These demanding, work-intensive and time-consuming steps are necessary to develop tests to monitor the T-cell response to viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 (the infectious virus that causes COVID-19).

Reliable diagnostic tests to identify immune individuals are critical to overcome the ever-looming threat of COVID-19. The AI-based diagnostic to be developed in this project will complement antibody tests and enable individuals who are naturally immune to the virus following infection with SARS-CoV-2 or other seasonal coronaviruses, or who have acquired immunity following vaccination, to be identified.

“Antibody tests are an important aspect of understanding the immune response to the SARS-CoV-2 infection and will remain a mainstay of its diagnosis. However, protective SARS-CoV-2-specific T-cell responses occur in antibody-negative infected individuals who have successfully resolved the infection. In addition, we may already have underlying immunity in the population due to cross reactivity to endemic seasonal human coronaviruses,” said Professor Ludvig A. Munthe Ph.D., Head of Research and Group Leader, Department of Immunology, Oslo University Hospital.

Although the technology to develop antibody diagnostics is readily available, this is not the case for T-cell diagnostics, which currently represents a “blind spot” for the monitoring of immunity to COVID-19 in the world’s population. To address this important gap, NOI and OUH, with the support of RCN, have now committed themselves to develop an AI-designed T-cell diagnostic that monitors the underlying T-cell response to the infection. Developing a reliable T-cell diagnostic comes with specific technological challenges with solutions offered by the NEC Immune Profiler at NOI to cater for the global human population.

“T-cells are known to play a central role for initial and long term immunity against viruses. However, T-cell responses are highly variable between different pathogens and genetic groups in the human population, making the prospect of developing reliable universal T-cell diagnostics for COVID-19 challenging. This challenge has inspired the scientists at NOI to use our AI to seek out the T-cell response to infection as a diagnostic signal. In this project we look forward to adapting the NEC Immune Profiler and other AI technologies at NEC Corporation and leveraging them to develop a COVID-19 T-cell diagnostic for the diverse genetic makeup in the global human population,” said Trevor Clancy Ph.D., Chief Scientific Officer, NEC OncoImmunity

US Futures Rise As President Trump’s Medical Team Suggests Monday Return To White House

U.S. futures spiked on Sunday night as of President Donald Trump’s healthcare providers expressed optimism over his timely return to the White House.

What Happened: Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a member of Trump’s medical team, said the President could be discharged from the Walter Reed Medical Center, where he is undergoing treatment for COVID-19, as early as Monday, and be back in the White House, CNN reported.

Garibaldi’s comments came amid uncertainty over Trump’s health, with contradicting reports. The president’s physicians had revealed earlier in the day that he was being treated with dexamethasone, a powerful steroid reserved for extreme COVID-19 cases, CNBC reported.

Dr. Vin Gupta, a faculty member at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told CNBC that the disclosure indicates the president may be suffering from pneumonia.

Trump’s physician Dr. Sean Conley said that Trump had suffered two episodes of transient drops in his oxygen saturation, according to CNN.

“It was a determination of the team based on the timeline from the initial diagnosis that we initiate dexamethasone,” said Conley.

The president left the hospital briefly on Sunday — to be driven around in an SUV in order to greet his supporters, CBS News reported.

Why It Matters: Dr. Nahid Bhadelia, an infectious disease specialist at the Boston University School of Medicine, told CNBC that she would not discharge someone who was just put on steroids.

Conflicting accounts of the president’s treatment have emerged since Saturday as his doctors remain evasive on key health parameters including on whether he required supplemental oxygen.

Meanwhile, several members of the president’s inner circle at the Republican party have tested positive for COVID-19, including three senators.

Price Action: S&P 500 futures rose 0.77% to 3,365, while Dow Jones Industrial Average Futures gained 0.78% to 22,779. Nasdaq futures traded 1.06% higher at 11,352.50 at press time.

Photo courtesy: Michael Vadon via Wikimedia

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Trump’s medical team briefing reveals things are worse than we knew

Here’s what we learned from the latest briefing.

Trump given steroid, a worrying sign

As a determination of the team based predominantly on the timeline from the initial diagnosis that we initiate dexamethasone. – White House physician Dr. Sean Conley

Dexamethasone – a safe, inexpensive steroid that has been around for decades – is generally reserved for patients with severe or critical Covid-19 cases.

The National Institutes of Health and World Health Organization both recommend the drug for patients on supplemental oxygen or ventilators, based on a large clinical trial that found it reduced the risk of death. But both guidelines warn the drug could harm people who don’t require oxygen therapy or a ventilator, and should not be used for such patients. Trump’s doctors said Sunday that he has received oxygen therapy twice for limited periods. They also said he’s run a fever.

The decision to give Trump dexamethasone shows that “he’s actually having effects on his lungs from the virus,” said Abraar Karan, an internal medicine doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston.

Trump continues antiviral treatment that can shorten length of illness

The president yesterday evening completed his second dose of remdesivir. He’s tolerated that infusion well. – Dr. Brian Garibaldi

Remdesivir is an antiviral drug made by Gilead Sciences originally developed to fight Ebola. Trump’s doctors said Friday that he had begun the standard-five day course of infusions of the drug.

Remdesivir has been shown to speed recovery, but it’s not clear if it actually reduces the risk of death. The Food and Drug Administration has authorized emergency use in hospitalized patients.

Trump’s oxygen levels have dipped to concerning levels

Late Friday morning, when I returned to the bedside, the president had a high fever and his oxygen saturation was transiently dipping below 94 percent. Given these two developments, I was concerned for possible rapid progression of the illness. I recommended the president we try supplemental oxygen, see how he would respond. He was fairly adamant that he didn’t need it. He was not short of breath. He was tired, had the fever and that was about it. And after about a minute, on only two liters, his saturation levels were back over 95 percent. He stayed on that for about an hour, maybe, and was off and gone. – Dr. Conley

Another oddity of Covid-19: some patients’ oxygen levels fall, but they don’t have trouble breathing. That’s why doctors watch blood oxygen levels.

The president’s physicians gave him oxygen after his level dropped below 94 percent – a key threshold for Covid-19 patients. Dipping below that level signals that a patient’s case is moderate or severe, with the exact diagnosis depending on other vital signs, according to the CDC.

“Once you drop below 94 percent, by definition you have severe Covid,” said Carlos del Rio, an infectious-disease expert at Emory University.

What do Trump’s lung scans actually show?

What did the X-rays and CT scans show? Are there signs of pneumonia? Are there signs

Trump’s medical team says he is doing ‘very well’; official warns next 48 hours are ‘critical’

President Trump is “doing very well” and has no difficulty breathing, his medical team said Saturday — although a senior administration official warned that the next 48 hours will be “critical.”

White House physician Dr. Sean Conley and other members of the medical team briefed reporters on Trump’s condition. Conley said they were “extremely happy with the progress” Trump is making.

TRUMP TRANSFERRED TO WALTER REED ‘OUT OF AN ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION’ AFTER TESTING POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS 

“This morning, the president is doing very well,” he said.

However, a senior administration official told Fox News that on Friday morning, Trump was showing troubling signs of a possible progression from mild to more severe form of the disease.

The official said that medical professionals moved quickly and decided to transfer the President to Walter Reed out of an abundance of caution over what was seen as a very concerning trajectory of disease progression.

“Twenty-four hours ago, there was real concern about the President’s vitals,” the official said. “For the past 12 hours, there has been zero concern.”

The official added: “Early indications are for an extremely good prognosis – but the next 48 hours will be critical.”

TRUMP TESTS POSITIVE FOR CORONAVIRUS: HERE’S WHO ELSE IS POSITIVE

At the press conference, Dr. Sean Dooley said that cardiac, kidney and liver functions are all normal, that Trump is not on oxygen and is not having any difficulty breathing or walking.

He quoted Trump as saying: “I feel like I could walk out of here today.” Separately, Dr. Brian Garibaldi described Trump as being in “such great spirits.”

The doctors also said Trump had been fever-free for 24 hours, and that symptoms of a nasal cough and fatigue had all “resolved.” However, they did not give a date for when Trump may leave the center.

Conley reiterated that Trump had received an antibody cocktail, as well as zinc, Vitamin D, famotidine, melatonin and a daily aspirin. He also said Trump was taking a five day course of Remdesivir.

Conley caused some confusion on Saturday when he said they were “72 hours into the diagnosis,” suggesting that Trump was actually diagnosed on Wednesday. However, he later clarified in a memorandum that he meant to say it was “day three” of the diagnosis — since Trump was diagnosed on Thursday.

Separately, he said that Trump had received the antibody cocktail “48 hours ago” when he meant to say “day two.”

“The President was first diagnosed with COVID-19 on the evening of Thursday, October 1st and had received Regeron’s [sic] antibody cocktail on Friday, October 2nd,” he said.

Trump announced Friday morning that he and first lady Melania Trump had tested positive. A number of White House and campaign officials have also tested positive – including senior White House adviser Hope Hicks and Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien. On Saturday former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who was on Trump’s prep team for Tuesday’s presidential debate, announced that he had tested positive.

Trump was moved to

A virus and bacteria may ‘team up’ to harm babies’ brains

A newly discovered bacteria may be working with a common virus to cause a serious brain condition in infants in Uganda, according to a new study.

This brain disorder, called hydrocephalus, involves an abnormal buildup of fluid in the cavities of the brain and is the most common reason for brain surgery in young children, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). Every year, about 400,000 new cases of hydrocephalus are diagnosed in children worldwide, and the condition remains a major burden in low- and middle-income countries, according to the study published today (Sept. 30) in the journal Science Translational Medicine

About half of those hydrocephalus cases happen after a prior infection and are known as “post-infectious hydrocephalus,” according to the study. But until now, scientists didn’t know what microbes were infecting infants, and identifying those pathogens is key to preventing the condition, according to the authors.

Related: The 12 deadliest viruses on Earth

For nearly 20 years, a small hospital in Uganda called the CURE Children’s hospital has been treating thousands of cases of hydrocephalus in children.

“Hydrocephalus is the most common childhood neurosurgical condition that we see in the population that we serve,” one of the lead authors Dr. Edith Mbabazi-Kabachelor, director of research, CURE Children’s Hospital of Uganda said in a statement. If left untreated in children younger than 2 years of age, hydrocephalus will increase head size, leading to brain damage; the majority of those children will die, and the others will be left with physical or cognitive disabilities, she added. 

So a group of international researchers set out to understand what could be causing this brain condition.

“Thirteen years ago, while visiting Uganda and seeing a stream of kids with hydrocephalus after infection I asked the doctors, ‘What is the biggest problem you have that you can’t solve?'” one of the senior authors Steven J. Schiff, Brush Chair professor of engineering and professor of engineering science and mechanics, neurosurgery and physics at Penn State, said in the statement. “‘Why don’t you figure out what makes these kids sick?’ was the reply.”

CT brain scans of infants with hydrocephalus show differences in the brains of those with post-infectious hydrocephalus (PIH), non-postinfectious hydrocephalus (NPIH), infection with the bacteria Paenibacillus (Paeni) or infection with the virus cytomegalovirus (CMV).

CT brain scans of infants with hydrocephalus show differences in the brains of those with post-infectious hydrocephalus (PIH), non-post-infectious hydrocephalus (NPIH), infection with the bacteria Paenibacillus (Paeni) or infection with the virus cytomegalovirus (CMV). (Image credit: J.N. Paulson et al., Science Translational Medicine (2020))

Schiff and his team analyzed blood and cerebrospinal fluid from 100 infants under 3 months old being treated at the CURE Children’s hospital for hydrocephalus — 64 of them developed the condition after an infection (doctors knew they had been infected because the babies either had severe illness, seizures or brain imaging showed signs of a prior infection) and 36 without a prior infection (brain images and other tests showed another issue causing the condition such as tumors or cysts).

They sent these samples to two different labs for DNA and RNA sequencing to look for possible traces of genetic material from bacteria, viruses

Northern Lights Strengthens Geological Team at Secret Pass and Medicine Springs

VANCOUVER, BC / ACCESSWIRE / September 30, 2020 / Northern Lights Resources Corp. (CSE:NLR) (the “Company” or “Northern Lights”) is pleased to announce a number of updates as the Company advances the Secret Pass gold project in Arizona and the Medicine Springs silver, lead zinc project in Nevada.

Northern Lights is pleased to announce the following appointments to its corporate and project teams:

  • Mr. Paul Warren has been appointed to our geological team and is leading our exploration program at the Secret Pass Gold project in Arizona. Paul is a highly experienced Professional Geologist with over 25 years of experience in exploration, geotechnical, structural geology and mine operations. From 1995 to 2017, Paul worked for PT Freeport McMoran (“Freeport”) at the company’s copper and gold mine in Irian Jaya, Indonesia (one of the largest copper/gold mines in the world). Paul held a range of operating and management positions at Freeport including Exploration Geologist where he conducted helicopter assisted exploration in remote locations; General Superintendent roles leading and training Freeport geological teams in resource, geology and hydrology modelling. Paul is an expert at computer based modeling and early stage exploration of Cu-Au porphyry skarn deposits. Paul holds a Master of Arts in Geology and a Bachelor of Science Geology from University of Texas. Paul is a Professional Geologist and is a Certified Professional Geologist. Paul is based in Tucson, Arizona.
  • Mr. William (Bill) Tafuri has been appointed to our geological team and will oversee exploration at the Medicine Springs silver lead and zinc project in Nevada and assist the Company exploration program at Secret pass and other project evaluations. Bill has over 40 years of experience working on a wide range of gold and base metals exploration and development projects throughout USA, Indonesia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia. Bill’s experience includes senior roles with: Getty Mining Company where he managed exploration and project evaluation for porphyry copper as well as gold projects; Senior Geologist at Santa Fe Gold and subsequently Newmont Gold; Phelps Dodge where he directed and lead local geological teams in Kazakhstan and evaluated gold and polymetallic deposits; Chief Geologist for Kinross Gold where he was responsible for all exploration projects in the Western Hemisphere. Bill holds a Ph.D in Geology from the University of Utah and a Masters in Geology and a Bachelor of Science in Geology from the University of Nevada. Bill is based in Park City, Utah.

Both Paul and Bill will report to NLR’s Chief Geologist, Gary Artmont who is overseeing and directing the Company’s exploration strategy.

  • Mr. Michael (Mike) England has been appointed as a Strategic Advisor to Northern Lights. Mike is a Vancouver based mining industry executive and is currently leading several successful exploration companies with projects in Canada and USA including Sky Gold Corporation, BTU Metals and Golden Lake Exploration. Mike will assist Northern Lights with the company’s business growth and financing strategy.

Northern Lights has begun the application processes for an OTCQB listing with DTC eligibility as well as a Frankfurt Stock