Coronavirus update: CDC chief backs school reopenings; Pfizer lifts curtain on vaccine data
Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield on Friday forcefully advocated the reopening of U.S. schools, even as colleges and universities around the country have been forced to shut their doors prematurely ahead of the fall session, in order to contain a rise in COVID-19 infections.
In the midst of an agonizing national debate about whether and how to reopen K-12 educational institutions to students, two major U.S. colleges — the University of North Carolina and Notre Dame — were forced to backtrack from plans to restart in-person classes as the fall semester begins.
Redfield highlighted distinctions between what was happening at colleges and the polarizing debate over K-12 education, but broadly backed in-person learning.
“For our nation, it’s important that our institutes of higher learning get opened. We don’t need to do an educational pause as a nation for a couple of years. But it’s got to be done safely and got to be done sensibly,” he said.
“It’s got to be done with an understanding that covid cases are going to occur in K-12, and they are going to occur in universities,” Redfield added.
“As we’re diagnosing these cases in schools, K-12. in particular those cases are not being acquired in the schools, they are being acquired in the community,” he continued.
“Universities, I think they really do need to have a strategy, a surveillance strategy, a testing strategy. Obviously just testing students when you get they come on campus, that’s not a strategy that’s going to get you to the end of the game,” Redfield said.
The push to reopen schools comes as some SunBelt states continue to struggle contain the virus’ spread, and teachers have threatened to strike if pushed to reopen without safe conditions. Currently, New York City is the only large city poised to allow students to partially return to schools in September, but the plan has been dogged by controversy and opposition.
The Empire State, where infections has been trending down, now has the lowest positivity rate since the start of the pandemic, and plans to reopen gyms with restrictions. Nationwide, confirmed infections continue to grow, nearing 5.6 million cases this week with more than 174,000 dead. Globally, cases are nearing 23 million and more than 794,000 have died from the virus.
In addition to the focus on school, child care centers have also been under scrutiny, with CDC monitoring several in Rhode Island after reopening in the past three months. The centers followed strict guidelines and tested kids and adults daily or regularly. In doing so, they were able to identify cases and prevent almost all potential secondary transmissions.
Redfield said during a media briefing Friday that the study was promising and shows the potential to manage the spread of the virus when strict protocols are followed.
Clinical trial data
Separately, revelations from trial data continue to shed more light on the race for effective COVID-19 treatments.
Gilead Science’s (GILD) drug, the only FDA-authorized drug to treat coronavirus patients, has become part of regular medical protocol, in addition to steroids and laying patients on their stomachs. However, doubts have been raised over just how effective it is.
A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests that while studies have shown some effect in shorter treatment courses for severe patients, the effect on moderate patients was indiscernible.
“Among patients with moderate COVID-19, those randomized to a 10-day course of remdesivir did not have a statistically significant difference in clinical status compared with standard care at 11 days after initiation of treatment,” the publication noted.
“Patients randomized to a 5-day course of remdesivir had a statistically significant difference in clinical status compared with standard care, but the difference was of uncertain clinical importance,” according to the authors of the study.
Meanwhile, trial data for Pfizer (PFE)/BioNTech’s (BNTX) vaccine candidate, which entered Phase 3 trials at the same time as Moderna, shows why one candidate was chosen over another.
The duo originally had two candidates they were testing. The one which made it to the late-stage trial, which will enroll 30,000 patients, showed fewer adverse events in participants 18-55 years of age.
Anjalee Khemlani is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter: @AnjKhem
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