Daily updates on the emerging novel coronavirus from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
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March 27, 2020

EPI UPDATE The WHO COVID-19 Situation Report published on March 26 reported 49,219 new cases and 2,401 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the global total to 462,684 confirmed cases and 20,834 deaths. The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard reports a total of 549,604 cases and 24,361 deaths. 

The United STates currently has 85,996 confirmed cases according to the Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard , surpassing the total for China (81,894 cases). Of these, 39,140 cases are from New York and 6,876 are from New Jersey. In its most recent situation report published March 26th, US CDC reported 68,440 total cases and 994 total deaths. 

The Italian Ministry of Health reported a total of 62,013 positive cases, 8,165 deaths, and 10,361 recovered cases as of March 26th. As the rise of new cases in Italy slows in the northern regions of the country, there are concerns about whether the southern regions may also become increasingly affected. The Spanish Ministry of Health reported a total of 64,959 confirmed cases. The Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard reported 32,332 confirmed cases in Iran, and 94 cases in Afghanistan. Pakistan reported 1,252 cases and 9 deaths.  

Case counts are increasing substantially in Russia, after months of reporting few cases despite proximity to China. The Russian Ministry of Health currently reports 1,036 cases and reports increasing the supply of testing kits as well as other response measures.

US RESPONSE The US House of Representatives is expected to vote today on the largest economic stimulus package in US history to provide support to affected families, businesses and health systems. Due to several members of Congress testing positive for the virus and various quarantine policies being implemented across states, voice voting will be conducted and a smaller number of representatives will be present in the Capitol. A single lawmaker could potentially delay the ability for the House to vote if they ask for a roll call or quorum, which would require 216 lawmakers to be present in the building. Multiple House members from both political parties have threatened to ask for a quorum to delay the vote. The bill comes at a time of substantial health system strain and shortages of critical testing kits and PPE.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has reportedly offered support to the US during a phone call with President Donald Trump earlier today. The news comes amid rising tensions between the two countries, as officials and leaders from both countries have accused the other of having a role in spreading the virus and spreading false information

There have been increasing reports of racist harassment and attacks, particularly against Asian Americans, and efforts are underway to collect information about these reports. 

A federal judge has allowed for the temporary release of 10 individuals, ranging in age from 31 to 56 years, who were in US Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in New Jersey county jails due to their vulnerability to COVID-19 as a result of underlying chronic health conditions. The ruling comes amid rising concerns about outbreaks in correctional facilities, and judges across the country ordering for the release of thousands of vulnerable people who are incarcerated. The Pentagon is also planning to send about 1,500 troops to the US-Mexico and US-Canada borders to provide logistical assistance to US Customs and Border Protection officials. The move has received criticism from Canadian officials. 

GLOBAL RESPONSE In response to rising case counts in Russia, government officials there have said that they have already conducted 193,000 tests to date and that they have capacity to conduct an additional 700,000 tests. The Russian government has also ordered a shutdown of all non-essential businesses for this upcoming week, and a stay at home order for elderly populations. While the COVID-19 case counts remains low in Russia, reports of high levels of pneumonia have raised questions about COVID-19 disease surveillance. 

The South African government recently announced that the country would be entering a three-week “lockdown” in an attempt to curb the spread of COVID-19. According to a tweet from South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases, the country has administered over 20,000 tests, finding just under 1,000 confirmed cases. The South African army and police will enforce the lockdown which restricts people from leaving their houses for all but essential matters.

Kosovo’s ruling coalition has lost a no-confidence vote in response to its COVID-19 response, resulting in the conclusion of Prime Minister Albin Kurti’s rule over the country merely 7 weeks after he was sworn in. The Prime Minister is expected to remain in office until a new government is formed. The country currently has less than 100 cases according to the Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard.
As additional countries continue to implement human mobility restrictions, questions about how and when countries will transition back to normal operating procedures remain. There are ongoing discussions to gauge the economic and social disruption tied to these public health interventions with the necessity to hold out long enough for them to have a meaningful impact on the trajectory of national COVID-19 outbreaks. Yesterday, representatives of the G20 gathered virtually to discuss these issues, among others, as economic hardship has increased worldwide. 

UK PRIME MINISTER TESTS POSITIVE UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is self-isolating after testing positive. He is currently exhibiting mild symptoms, and plans to continue working. UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 and is also continuing to work from home. 

ECONOMIC IMPACTS US stock markets fell more than 3% today after a three-day rally, during a week where there were record-breaking surges in unemployment claims filed. 

In Europe , tightened border security has resulted in a shortage of migrant workers, predominantly from Eastern Europe, available for farm work. As a result, produce across many European countries has remained unharvested. In response, France’s agricultural minister suggested that people in other industries who are currently at home could begin work on farms.

In China , President Xi Jinping announced that the government is working on a range of policies to promote economic growth, and that it is considering raising the fiscal deficit to be above 3% of gross domestic product for the country

TREATMENT USING COVID-19 ANTIBODIES Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City recently announced that researchers would begin the process of transferring antibodies from people who have recovered from COVID-19 to critically ill COVID-19 patients. The Icahn School of Medicine had reported that they are working on a diagnostic test for COVID-19 that detects antibodies in sick and recovered individuals, rather than genomic information. Media reports suggest that researchers have begun to contact recovered COVID-19 patients in an effort to receive plasma donations. 

ACADEMIC PAPERS A new preprint on medRxiv examines the modes of contact and the level of transmission among close contacts of persons infected with COVID-19. The study follows just under 5,000 close contacts in Guangzhou, China. Of the close contacts identified, 2.6% of cases developed symptoms during their quarantine, the majority of which were mild or moderate cases (89.9%) and a small portion of which were asymptomatic (6.2%). They authors found that contacts within the same household were at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19.