The Latest: US testing 3 drugs to tamp down coronavirus

By The Associated Press,

U.S. government officials are launching a new study testing three drugs to tamp down an overactive response by the immune system that can cause severe illness or death in people with COVID-19.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health says the study will enroll 2,100 hospitalized adults with moderate to severe COVID-19 in the United States and Latin America. All will get the antiviral drug remdesivir plus one of the three “immune-modulating drugs” or a placebo.

The drugs are Bristol Myers Squibb’s Orencia and Johnson & Johnson’s Remicade, which are sold now for rheumatoid arthritis and an experimental drug from AbbVie called cenicriviroc. The drugs work in different ways to inhibit “cytokine storm,” an overproduction of chemicals the body makes to fight infections that can damage lungs, kidneys, the heart and other organs.

“These are all different ways of slowing down an overactive immune system,” said NIH director Dr. Francis Collins.

The new study is the fifth and final one in a series of experiments designed by a private-public partnership that includes dozens of drug companies, nonprofit groups and various U.S. government departments. Other therapies being tested include antibody drugs, anti-inflammatory medicines and plasma from COVID-19 survivors.

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

— Europe, U.S. reel as virus infections surge at record pace, prompt new restrictions

— White House puts political operatives at CDC to try to control virus information

— Thousands arrive in Hawaii on first day pre-travel testing allowing no quarantine


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


HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

PARIS — French restaurants, cinemas and theaters are trying to figure out how to survive a new curfew aimed at stemming the flow of record new virus infections.

France registered more than 30,000 virus cases Thursday, its highest single-day jump since the pandemic began, and nearly 200 cases per 100,000 people over the past week.

Culture Minister Roselyne Bachelot told Le Parisien newspaper she is negotiating for exceptions to a monthlong curfew between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. across the Paris region and eight other metropolitan areas. The curfew comes into effect Friday at midnight, and France is deploying 12,000 extra police to enforce it.

“The French culture world isn’t invincible, it needs help,” author and filmmaker Yoann Sfar, who has a new movie coming out, said Friday on RTL radio.

One movie theater chain will start opening at 8 a.m. in hopes of making up evening losses. Since Paris restaurants generally open at 7 or 7:30 p.m. for dinner, some might close altogether because it no longer makes financial sense to stay open for such a short shift.


BUDAPEST, Hungary — The number of deaths in Hungary caused by the coronavirus hit a new record on Friday, for the second day in a row as the epidemic is gaining momentum.

Hungarian health authorities reported 33 deaths over the past 24 hours, up from 29 a day earlier. The total number of confirmed infections since the outbreak of the pandemic stood at 41,732, including 1,085 deaths. The number of patients needing hospital treatment was 1,642, of whom 171 were on ventilators.

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban has implemented less severe measures than in other neighboring countries during the second wave of the contagion.

Hungarians are required to wear masks on public transportation, shops, malls and entertainment venues, as well state-run health care institutions. Restaurants and clubs close at 11 pm and visitors are banned from hospitals and nursing homes. Policy makers have repeatedly stressed that shielding the economy from the fallout caused by the pandemic is a critical priority for the government.


GENEVA — Europe is at a “turning point” in the fight against the coronavirus, the head of Switzerland’s biggest hospital complex says, acknowledging growing public fatigue over anti-COVID measures but insisting people must buckle down as the country grapples with record daily case counts.

CEO Bertrand Levrat of Geneva University Hospitals, which counts 12,000 personnel, spoke to The Associated Press at a time when Switzerland — like many other European countries — is fighting a second wave of coronavirus cases that grew in large part out of a summertime lull in which people let down their guard about the highly infectious pandemic.

“The virus doesn’t spread alone — we are the ones who spread it. It’s a line that we don’t repeat enough,” Levrat said from his office overlooking Geneva, a surgical mask tucked into his jacket pocket. “Today, the stakes center on how much people are going to follow health measures that allow most people, and economies, and life in general to get through this.”


BRUSSELS — Belgian authorities are warning that tighter restrictions are needed to help control the spread of the coronavirus, as new Prime Minister Alexander De Croo prepares to meet Friday with senior government officials to work out how to respond to a new wave of infections.

Yves Van Laethem, a spokesman for Belgium’s COVID-19 crisis center, says that “new measures are needed, because we see all the figures, all the data, mounting and all the indicators … remain in the red.”

Belgium, which has a population of around 11.5 million people, is one of the European countries hardest hit by the disease. Almost 6,000 new cases were recorded each day on average over the last week. In all, about 192,000 people have contracted the disease and 10,327 people have died.

Almost 2,000 people are currently in hospital due to the virus, more than 300 of them in intensive care. Around 180 are being admitted every day, on average.

With the possibility of a curfew, as in neighboring France, or more confinement looming, Van Laethem urged people not to hit bars and night spots for a final party.


BERLIN — Germany has confirmed more than 7,000 new coronavirus infections for the first time, its second consecutive daily record.

The Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s national disease control center, said early Friday that 7,334 new cases were confirmed in the previous 24 hours. That compares with 6,638 a day earlier.

Until this week, Germany’s highest recorded figure was nearly 6,300 in late March, though testing has expanded vastly since then. Figures tend to peak around the end of the week, but the latest reading underlines a sharp upward trend in recent weeks.

Earlier this week, the federal and state governments agreed to toughen mask-wearing rules and make bars close early in areas where infections are high.

Germany has confirmed more than 348,000 cases in total since the pandemic began, including 9,734 deaths — an increase of 24 compared with Thursday.


MILAN — The Italian region of Campania, which includes Naples, closed schools until the end of the month as the number of infections there surged above 1,000.

Italian health officials have declared the country in an “acute phase” after the country set records for new daily cases higher than even during the March-April peak, when the death toll surged well over 900 in one 24-hour period.

The death toll Thursday rose to 83, one third of those in Lombardy, after days hovering at half that nationally.

Premier Giuseppe Conte expressed displeasure at Campania’s decision to shut schools, which opened only a month ago.

Still, other regions have urged the government to allow distance learning for the upper grades of high school to take pressure off public transport which remains a major concern due to crowding.


LONDON — A top British scientist says continuing arguments about how and when to impose tighter restrictions to combat COVID-19 are damaging public health and leading to more economic hardship.

An infectious disease specialist who sits on the government’s scientific advisory committee says the U.K. needs to quickly implement tighter restrictions nationwide to slow the spread of the virus and limit broader damage to society.

Jeremy Farrar, director of the research funding charity the Wellcome Trust, says restrictions under the government’s current three-tier strategy aren’t tough enough to bring the virus under control and squabbling over where and when to impose the measures risks confusing the public.

“I think we’ve got to come together as a country,” Farrar told the BBC’s Newscast podcast. “The fragmentation and, frankly, making this either a north-south or a party political issue that’s a very, very dangerous route to go on.”


PRAGUE — Coronavirus infections in the Czech Republic have set a new one-day record for the second straight day.

Health Ministry figures show the day-to-day increase reached 9,721 on Thursday, 177 more than the previous record set a day earlier.

The nation of more than 10 million has had a total of 149,010 cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Almost 50,000 of them were registered last week. It has also seen 1,230 deaths.

Hospitals across the country have been postponing nonvital planned operations to focus on the growing number of COVID-19 patients. The government said their full capacity could be reached around the end of October.

The Czech military will start build a field hospital at Prague’s exhibition center over the weekend for 500 patients. A similar plan is ready for the second largest city of Brno, while the government is negotiating with neighboring Germany and some other countries for Czechs to be treated there if the local health system is overwhelmed.


WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Navajo Nation health officials on Thursday reported 31 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, but no deaths for the second consecutive day.

The latest figures bring the total number of cases to 10,819. The known death toll remained at 571.

Tribal health officials say 114,515 people on the vast reservation that covers parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah have been tested for COVID-19 since the pandemic started.

A shelter-in-place order, mask mandate, daily curfews and weekend lockdowns remain in effect on the Navajo Nation.


BEIJING — Authorities say they have completed coronavirus tests on more than 10 million people in the northern Chinese port city of Qingdao after a hospital outbreak there blamed on “inappropriate disinfection.”

Testing is set to continue to cover 11 million people.

Authorities say a total of 13 cases have been discovered in the city, but none since the mass testing program was launched earlier this week.

Health officials say the cluster of infections, the first locally transmitted cases reported in China in about two months, appears to be linked to “inappropriate disinfection” in the CT room at the Qingdao Chest Hospital. Officials said the possibility of community transmission outside the hospital had been ruled out.

The National Health Commission on Friday reported 24 new cases, all of them imported.

Chinese hospitals are currently treating 253 people for COVID-19, with another 381 people being monitored in isolation for having testing positive for the virus without showing symptoms or for being suspected cases.


NEW DELHI — India’s new coronavirus fatalities jumped to 895 in the past 24 hours, a day after recording the lowest daily deaths of 680 in nearly three months.

The Health Ministry on Friday also reported 63,371 new cases, raising India’s total since the pandemic began to more than 7.3 million.

According to the Health Ministry, India’s average number of daily cases dropped to 72,576 last week from 92,830 during the week of Sept. 9-15, when the virus peaked. It is recording an average of around 70,000 cases daily so far this month.

Health officials have warned about the potential for the virus to spread during the religious festival season beginning later this month.


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lankan authorities have ordered the closure all cinemas in a bid to contain an outbreak that has so far infected 1,791 people in the capital’s suburbs.

The cluster in a garment factory in the densely populated Western province was discovered last week, and is the first in more than two months.

Authorities also have tightened a curfew in parts of the country.

In addition to the infected, more than 2,000 others were asked to quarantine at home. The majority of the infected are co-workers of the first patient.

Schools and key public offices are also closed, public gatherings banned and restrictions imposed on public transport.

Sri Lanka has reported a total of 5,170 confirmed cases with 13 deaths since the pandemic began.


SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s daily coronavirus tally has dropped below 50 for the first time in more than two weeks despite reports of small-scale local infections.

The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday the 47 cases added in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 25,035 with 441 deaths.

It’s a decline from the 110 reported a day earlier, about half of them tied to a hospital for the elderly in the southeastern city of Busan.

Health official Son Youngrae says South Korea’s caseload is currently showing a downward trend. But he says the public must stay vigilant as cluster infections have also been detected sporadically in hospitals and other high-risk facilities.

Earlier this week, South Korea relaxed its social distancing rules, allowing high-risk venues like nightclubs and karaoke bars to reopen and spectators to return to sport stadiums.

Main photo: A bottle containing the drug Remdesivir is shown by a health worker at the Institute of Infectology of Kenezy Gyula Teaching Hospital of the University of Debrecen in Debrecen, Hungary, Thursday Oct. 15, 2020. (Photo courtesy: Zsolt Czegledi/MTI via AP)

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