WASHINGTON — U.S. health officials say hospitals bought only about a third of the doses of remdesivir that they were offered over the last few months to treat COVID-19, as the government stops overseeing the drug’s distribution.
Between July and September, 500,000 treatment courses were made available to state and local health departments but only about 161,000 were purchased.
Dr. John Redd of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday that “we see this as a very good sign” that supply now outstrips demand and it’s OK for hospitals to start buying the drug, also known as Veklury, directly from maker Gilead Sciences Inc.
The government will buy some of the excess for the national stockpile. Redd did not say how much.
Several studies suggest remdesivir can shorten time to recovery and hospital stays by four days on average.
At $3,200 per treatment course, it’s price might be playing a role in reduced demand. Hospitals do not get reimbursed separately for the drug. Instead, it’s included in an overall payment Medicare makes for a hospital stay.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Italy tallies 2,540 coronavirus cases, highest in 5 months
— New York City school district, largest in nation, to test monthly for virus
— NFL postpones Steelers-Titans game after more positive tests
— The White House is backing a $400 per week pandemic jobless benefit and possible COVID-19 relief bill with a price tag above $1.5 trillion.
— France’s health minister is threatening to close bars and ban family gatherings, if the rise in virus cases doesn’t improve.
— Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined last week to a still-high 837,000, suggesting the economy is struggling to sustain a tentative recovery from the summer.
Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:
LONDON — A British lawmaker has apologized for travelling to London to attend a coronavirus debate in Parliament despite having COVID-19 symptoms. She also took a train home to Scotland after getting a positive test.
The Scottish National Party suspended Margaret Ferrier on Thursday after she said that “there is no excuse for my actions” and that she had reported herself to police.
Ferrier said she took a test Saturday after experiencing mild symptoms, but she still took a train to London on Monday. After learning Monday evening that he had tested positive, she said, she caught a train home Tuesday “without seeking advice.”
People in Britain are told they must self-isolate if they have COVID-10 symptoms and while they are waiting for a test result.
Earlier Thursday, Stanley Johnson, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s father, apologized after he was photographed shopping without a face covering.
Britain’s government recently raised fines for not wearing masks in places like shops in a bid to curb a spike in infections.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — A Republican state lawmaker’s positive test for the coronavirus has prompted legislative leaders to cancel the Pennsylvania House’s voting session.
Human resources workers were deployed to trace Rep. Paul Schemel’s personal contacts to see if others should be quarantined.
He was most recently in the Capitol on Tuesday, and it’s unclear if he wore a mask while in the building’s public spaces. A significant number of House Republicans don’t wear masks inside the Capitol.
MADRID — Spain’s health ministry has reported 9,419 new coronavirus cases as the country struggles to control Europe’s most worrisome hot spot.
The ministry says 3,715 of the cases were diagnosed in the previous 24 hours. The remainder were from previous days but not reported to central authorities until now.
Spain leads Europe with more than 778,600 cases. The ministry reported another 182 confirmed deaths, increasing the total to 31,973.
NEW YORK — Schools across New York report that at least 1,200 students and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus since the start of the academic year.
As of Tuesday, 693 public and private schools had reported at least one infection. Around 700 students and 400 school staff have tested positive. State officials note the count doesn’t capture the full extent of infections among schoolchildren.
A separate data system operated by state health officials has documented around 2,300 infections among school-age children since Sept. 1.
The state is making both sets of numbers public.
DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa has reported 16 deaths and 1,057 new confirmed coronavirus cases.
More than 50 COVID-19 patients have been admitted per day for treatment in each of the past nine days, a new high for the most consecutive days at that level.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds announced this week new guidance for schools that doesn’t require students or staff exposed to a confirmed positive individual to quarantine for 14 days if all involved were wearing face masks. That’s contrary to guidance of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
State data shows 7,527 children under 17 have tested positive for coronavirus as of Thursday, an 11% increase from a week ago. Also, 3,855 educators have tested positive so far this week, a 17% increase.
Iowa has 89,612 confirmed cases and 1,358 deaths.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. — New Mexico State University says classes will be entirely online after the Thanksgiving break and the college’s fall commencement will not be held.
The Las Cruces Sun-News reports University President John Floros says the university surveyed students, faculty and staff at the Las Cruces campus about returning following the break, when there will be two weeks left in the fall semester.
The campus will remain open to provide housing, dining and other services. The college plans to return to in-person classes after winter break.
BEIRUT — Syrian state media report the country has reopened the main airport in its capital for international flights amid tight coronavirus measures.
The Damascus International Airport had been closed since early March, though some flights have brought home Syrians stranded outside the country.
Syria has 4,200 confirmed coronavirus cases and 200 deaths in government-held areas. Scores of other cases are registered in nothern areas outside government control.
CHICAGO — Add ballet in Chicago to the list of things called off because of the pandemic.
The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago says it has canceled its entire 2020-21 season running through spring.
The Joffrey says the decision will cost it more than $9 million in lost box office receipts. But a philanthropic fund called the Joffrey Crisis Stabilization has been set up in the hopes of raising $12 million. Some $9 million already has been raised.
MILAN — Italy has tallied 2,548 new coronavirus cases, the highest daily total in five months.
Health authorities tested more than 118,000 people, a 10% increase from a day earlier.
Nearly 3,100 people are hospitalized, with 291 in intensive care. Italy has averaged 1,500 daily cases since schools reoponed three weeks ago.
The nation has reached 317,409 cases and nearly 36,000 confirmed deaths.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Police say several parties and large gatherings coinciding with the University of South Carolina’s season-opening football game were broken up.
Columbia Police told The State newspaper Wednesday that three citations and four warnings were issued to residences that house some USC students.
The largest gathering was at an apartment complex near the Gamecocks’ Williams-Brice stadium, where about 300 people got together Saturday after the game.
Police spokeswoman Jennifer Timmons says property owners were cited for a social distancing violation and university police were notified if a student was involved.
South Carolina has 143,623 confirmed cases and 3,186 deaths, according to the Department of Health and Environmental Control.
HILO, Hawaii — A Hawaii food bank is now serving up to 80,000 people monthly.
The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reports that at this time last year, the Food Basket was helping about 14,000 people per month. Executive director Kristin Frost Albrecht says the group helps residents through a network of partner agencies and programs.
The organization serves between 2,000 and 3,700 people at each of its Big Island sites, and 80% to 85% of them are unemployed. Albrecht says the organization has been assisted by numerous donations, including food contributed by farmers.
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland is reporting zero coronavirus deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time since March 28.
That doesn’t necessarily mean no COVID-19 deaths occurred in that time frame, because sometimes there is a delay due in submission of a death certificate.
Still, Gov. Larry Hogan says it’s an “encouraging milestone” and a tribute to the efforts of health care workers.
Maryland reported 785 cases in the last day, for a total of 125,510 confirmed cases. There’s been 3,805 confirmed deaths.
NEW YORK — The New York City school district is rolling out a monthly plan to test students and staff for the coronavirus.
Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city plans to do more than 100,000 tests on students a month, at a cost of $78-$90 a piece.
The nation’s largest school district will test 10% to 20% of students and staff in every building beginning Thursday, the same day the final wave its more than 1 million students began returning to brick-and-mortar classrooms.
De Blasio announced the plan as part of an agreement with the teachers’ union to avert a strike. At least 79 Department of Education employees have died from the coronavirus.
Los Angeles public schools have launched a similar $150 million testing program.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says coronavirus in school-age children in the U.S. has been rising since early September, when many returned to classrooms.
LONDON — The European Medicines Agency has begun its first review process for the experimental COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca.
The EU regulator says it had started a “rolling review” process it hopes will expedite any eventual approval.
The EMA has begun analyzing the preliminary information from scientists on the Oxford vaccine, which suggest the it “triggers the production of antibodies and T-Cells,” referring to immune system cells that target the virus.
The agency says it was waiting for data from ongoing late-stage tests of the vaccine involving thousands of people, which it hopes will be shared in the coming months.
A similar process was used to approve remdesivir, one of the only licensed drugs to treat COVID-19. That approval was issued in just over one month; the standard process can take nearly seven months.
The Oxford vaccine is proceeding with a large trial in the U.K. even though a similar study has been halted in the U.S. while the FDA examines the report of a serious neurological side effect in a British trial participant.
ATHENS, Greece — Police in Greece have used tear gas to disperse protesting high school students who have organized school strikes in response to classroom overcrowding during the pandemic.
Brief clashes broke out near parliament in central Athens after students threw several gasoline bombs at police. No arrests or injuries were reported.
Greece’s largest teaching union endorsed the rally and pressed the government to hire more teachers to reduce classroom numbers.
Authorities are struggling with a recent rise in COVID-19 cases in the capital. Residents of a nursing home were evacuated, and some hospitalized.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s government is being accused of hiding the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak after the health minister revealed that daily figures reflect only symptomatic patients and not all positive cases.
Minister Fahrettin Koca said late Wednesday that since July 29, Turkey has been reporting the number of coronavirus patients being cared for in hospitals or at homes. The count didn’t include asymptomatic positive cases, he said.
The revelation led to an outcry on social media, with a hashtag asking “What is the number of cases?” in Turkish trending Thursday on Twitter.
Since the pandemic began, Turkey has reported 318,000 cases and 8,195 deaths.
MOSCOW — Russian health officials are reporting nearly 9,000 new coronavirus cases, one of the largest increases in months.
The 8,945 cases are almost twice as many as health officials were registering in late August and bring the country’s total to more 1.18 million, fourth highest in the world. There have been 20,796 confirmed deaths — 12th highest globally — according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Authorities have repeatedly dismissed a second lockdown or other major restrictions. Moscow officials last week asked older adults to stay at home, however, and employers to let people work from home. The city’s mayor also extended school holidays starting Oct. 5 to two weeks.
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