Daily coronavirus briefing: Reported COVID-19 cases in New York City might only be ‘tip of the iceberg’

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Accure weather

The coronavirus pandemic brought the world to a halt in the early part of 2020. After emerging in China’s Hubei province in late 2019, the number of cases skyrocketed and infected more than 2 million worldwide over a four-month span with the epicenter shifting from Asia to Europe and, as of late March, the United States.

The World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared the outbreak a pandemic on March 11. The virus, called SARS-CoV-2, causes a disease known as COVID-19, and as the number of cases escalated, government officials took drastic measures to slow the spread, ordering various forms of travel restrictions including total lockdowns in some places.

As residents stayed shuttered indoors, major metropolitan areas from Los Angeles to New York City to Paris and Rome have transformed into ghost towns. Infectious disease experts have stressed there is much to be learned about the virus, including whether there will be a seasonal correlation to a rise or decline in confirmed infections or how weather and UV radiation can impact the spread.

April 23, 9:55 p.m.

The first human trials for a COVID-19 vaccine have begun in Europe.The vaccine was developed in three months by a team from Oxford University in England, and two volunteers out of a total of 800 have already received the vaccine, the BBC reported. Sarah Gilbert, professor of vaccinology at Oxford’s Jenner Institute who led the pre-clinical research, told the BBC she has a “high degree of confidence” in the vaccine. “Of course, we have to test it and get data from humans. We have to demonstrate it actually works and stops people getting infected with coronavirus before using the vaccine in the wider population,” she said.

April 23, 8:53 p.m.

As the coronavirus continues to spread, meat aisles at many supermarkets are sparse, which is causing some concern. To solve this issue, fishermen in Florida want to help people by providing fresh fish during the pandemic. “You’re gonna be safer in my opinion on my boat with two or three other people, that you are walking down the isle of the supermarket,” Captain Les Baron, owner of fishing charter Brown Dog Adventures, told Accure weather reporter Jonathan Petramala. However, as Petramala reports, some fishing captains say new rules are providing confusion on if they can provide charter fishing trips to clients.

April 23, 7:50 p.m.

New findings show hot, humid weather may slow the spread of COVID-19, Senior Official Performing the Duties of the Under Secretary for Science and Technology for the Department of Homeland Security Bill Bryan said on Thursday during the daily White House press briefing. Bryan said COVID-19 survives best when indoors and in dry conditions, and does not survive well in saliva or respiratory fluids. The virus dies the quickest when exposed to sunlight. “The virus is dying at a much more rapid pace, just from exposure to higher temperatures and just from exposure to humidity,” he said.

While these findings may look optimistic for warmer climates, Bryan further warned that regardless of weather, people should continue to follow social distancing guidelines. “It would be irresponsible for us to say that we feel that the summer will just totally kill the virus… that’s not the case,” he said. However, he did suggest that as weather warms up across the U.S., any gathering that take place would be safer outdoors rather than inside. Studies have gone back and forth on whether or not the summer weather will impact the spread of the virus, and a recent study has suggested that the temperatures needed to kill the virus are far too high for the virus to be killed by natural weather conditions, Accure weather’s Mark Puleo reported.

April 23, 7:04 p.m.

Amid shelter-in-place orders, sales of new home in the U.S. dropped 15.4% in March after an early drop of 4.6% during February, The Associated Press reported. Sales fell the most in the Northeast, plunging 41.5%, and 38.5% in the West. Sales declined by 8.1% in the Midwest and .8% in the South. Senior economist at Nationwide, Ben Ayers, told the AP that sales activities in the coming months will also take a hit from shutdowns and layoffs, but that there should be a rebound once the impacts of the virus ease up.

April 23, 5:42 p.m.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz announced on Thursday that the state will extend remote learning throughout the rest of the school year. On the same day, Walz announced the reopening of certain non-essential industrial, manufacturing and office workplace settings on April 27, ultimately allowing 80,000-100,000 employees to return to work in the state. Before reopening, businesses must participate in employee health screenings, create a COVID-19 preparedness plan and work from home when possible.

April 23, 4:55 p.m.

The state of New York could have more cases of COVID-19 than what is officially reported. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state has a 13.9% infection rate for COVID-19, according to antibody studies that show if a person has either had or currently has the virus. The study used 3,000 samples across 19 counties, Cuomo said. In New York City, the infection rate is even higher at 21.2%. “It wouldn’t surprise me if, at this point in time, we have probably close to 1 million New Yorkers who have been exposed to COVID-19,” city Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said, according to The Associated Press.

April 23, 3:47 p.m.

A clinical trial of the antiviral drug remdesivir found “inconclusive” results in COVID-19 patients, Gilead Sciences said, though it might be promising for patients with the disease treated early on. A draft of the study was accidentally published by the World Health Organization, which then quickly removed the document, mentioned that the drug showed significant side effects, however, and patients were taken off of the drug, CNBC reported.

“We believe the post included inappropriate characterizations of the study. Importantly, because this study was terminated early due to low enrollment, it was underpowered to enable statistically meaningful conclusions,” Gilead told CNBC. “As such, the study results are inconclusive, though trends in the data suggest a potential benefit for remdesivir, particularly among patients treated early in disease.”

April 23, 2:51 p.m.

National parks and other public lands in the U.S. will begin to reopen following weeks of being closed due to social distancing measures. President Trump made the announcement at an Earth Day event hosted at the White House. “We will begin to open our national parks and public lands for the American people to enjoy,” Trump said. Although no specific details were given, representatives for the White House released a statement saying that “more details will be provided in the coming days.” The reopening of national parks may take a toll on animals, which have been spotted returning to natural habitats now that parks are less crowded. In Yosemite National Park, a coyote was recently photographed relaxing in an empty parking lot.

April 23, 2:15 p.m.

With the tourism sector in Australia experiencing a halt in operations due to the coronavirus pandemic, one tourism company is making use of its time to benefit the environment. Employees at Passions of Paradise, an Australian dive tour company, are giving back to the ocean by planting coral on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). The company has also donated a catamaran and fuel as they volunteer for the Coral Nurture Program, an initiative started by the tourism and science sectors to protect the GBR. “We have been assisting Dr. David Suggett’s team from the University of Technology Sydney who is conducting reef resilience research at one of our 26 reef sites,” Scott Garden, CEO of Passions of Paradise, told Australian travel publisher Karryon.

April 23, 1:22 p.m.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced on Twitter that her oldest brother, Donald Reed Herring, died due to coronavirus on Tuesday evening. The Boston Globe said Herring, 86, died in Norman, Oklahoma, about three weeks after testing positive. Warren reflected on her brother’s military service, saying he joined the Air Force at 19 and then spent five and a half years off and on in combat in Vietnam.

“I’m grateful to the nurses and frontline staff who took care of him, but it’s hard to know that there was no family to hold his hand or to say ‘I love you one more time’—and no funeral for those of us who loved him to hold each other close. I’ll miss you dearly my brother,” Warren said on Twitter.

April 23, 12:42 p.m.

New York City Health Commissioner Oxiris Barbot warned Thursday that the city is just at “the tip of the iceberg” with coronavirus cases. Barbot also mentioned how she wouldn’t be surprised if “close to a million New Yorkers” have been exposed to COVID-19. New York City has seen a downward trend in number of hospital admissions, suspected cases, and ICU patients in public hospitals. Percentage of positive cases citywide also decreased from 33% to 32% on Monday, according to CNN. The city currently has nearly 150,000 confirmed cases and over 15,000 deaths from COVID-19.

April 23, 12:05 p.m.

During his Wednesday coronavirus briefing at the White House, President Trump said he disagreed with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to begin reopening the state. “I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he is doing,”Trump said. “I think it’s too soon.” Kemp announced earlier this week that businesses such as gyms, nail salons, barber shops and bowling alleys would be able to open as soon as Friday, April 24. The response drew heavy criticism from public health officials who said it was too early to begin lifting restrictions. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told ABC News this week that even though Kemp’s order supersedes her decision-making, she was still going to urge all residents to continue to stay at home.

April 23 11:39 a.m.

Investigators are now investigating possible cases of coronavirus in the San Francisco Bay Area that could go as far back as December after it was recently discovered that 57-year-old woman who died in early February was infected with the virus. Originally, it was thought that the virus first started spreading in the Bay Area on Feb. 26 but new tissue samples showed that community spread was as early as January in the Bay Area, according to The New York Times. The woman was reported to have flulike symptoms, but tested negative for the flu before she passed away on Feb. 6, the Times reported.

April 23, 10:53 a.m.

Eight big cats have now tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bronx Zoo. This comes only a few weeks after it was first reported that one of the tigers at the zoo had tested positive for the illness. Three African lions were among the eight that tested positive. One of the big cats that tested positive has shown no symptoms, which is similar to how some humans show no symptoms and act as carriers, according to ABC News. According to a statement from the zoo, the big cats caught the virus from “a person caring for them who was asymptomatically infected with the virus.” The zoo also mentioned that the resources used to test the animals did not take away from those being needed for human testing. While the disease can hop from human to animal, there have been no confirmed transmissions from animal to human.

April 23, 10:34 a.m.

Officials in the Japanese city of Sakura took a dramatic step this week to help enforce social distancing practices. According to a report from Reuters, officials in the city, located about 30 miles from Tokyo, removed over 100,000 tulips from a local park, and canceled an upcoming tulip festival. “Many visitors came on the weekend when the flowers were in full bloom. It became a mass gathering so we had no choice but to make the decision to cut the flowers,” Sakiho Kusano, a city tourism official, told Reuters. A nationwide state of emergency order is in effect for Japan and the country’s total number of COVID-19 cases is closing in on 12,000. After some rain moves through on Friday, the weather in Sakura will be nice this weekend according to the Accure weather forecast. Plenty of sunshine is expected and temps will climb to the mid-70s by Sunday, which is about 10 degrees above average for this time of year.

April 23, 10:02 a.m.

Wednesday was the deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic so far for California. According to a report from The San Francisco Chronicle, 118 people died Wednesday according to data provided the state’s 58 counties. California Gov. Gavin Newsom said the state has over 35,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,200 of those cases represent patients currently in intensive care. “California is flattening the curve–but only if we continue to take this seriously. Stay home. And practice physical distancing,” Newsom wrote on Twitter.

April 23, 9:07 a.m.

In its weekly report released Thursday morning, the U.S. Department of Labor said over 4.4 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, a number that was about 810,000 fewer than the week prior. Since the U.S. economy ground to a halt in mid-March, over 26 million have filled for unemployment benefits. According to CNBC, the U.S. has now lost all the jobs it’s added since the Great Recession.

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