Anchorage officials say city on ‘dangerous path’

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Officials in Anchorage, Alaska, say the city is on a “dangerous path” as coronavirus cases rise and are urging people to avoid gatherings and follow orders to wear masks in public.

Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson says she has been meeting with business leaders, health officials and others to make decisions that protect health but also impose minimal restrictions so businesses can stay open.

The mayor says that “none of us wants another hunker-down” order.

The city’s health director says that after months of dealing with the pandemic, some people may have let down their guard. She says people should stay home except to get food, exercise outside or go to work. She says it is important to wear masks and social distance in public and to avoid contact with those at higher risk for severe illness.

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

— US plans to buy initial antibody doses from Eli Lilly

— Task force member Giroir: Cases, hospitalizations, deaths up in US – not just testing

— President Emmanuel Macron announces second national lockdown in France starting Friday. German officials agreed four-week partial lockdown.

— Belgium and Czech Republic top Europe’s highest number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 citizens, ahead of hotbeds France and Spain.

— Love blossoms amid pandemic for two TikTok creators in Los Angeles, using goofy dance videos, heartfelt vlogs and affirmations.

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

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota health officials are warning against traditional Halloween festivities amid the recent rise in coronavirus cases statewide.

Officials say that instead of traditional trick-or-treating and indoor haunted houses, people should look to lower risk activities like carving pumpkins and decorating homes or holding virtual gatherings.

he state’s infectious diseases director said Wednesday that warmer weather this weekend may encourage outdoor gatherings, but cautioned against disregarding health guidelines with virus infections rising steadily.

Officials reported 1,916 new coronavirus cases and 19 new COVID-19 deaths. Daily case counts statewide have exceeded 2,000 three times in the past two weeks, and the state has reported more than 1,000 new daily cases for the last 21 days.

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Medical professionals in Iowa are expressing concerns that a surge in coronavirus infections and hospitalizations could overwhelm medical facilities if no action is taken to slow the virus’ spread.

Hospitals had 596 coronavirus patients Wednesday, the highest number so far for the state. The 113 patients admitted in the past 24 hours also was the most since the virus surfaced in Iowa last March.

Doctors and hospital officials say they are talking about how to transfer COVID-19 patients between hospitals and enacting surge plans that could turn non-hospital facilities into spots to handle any overflow.

One hospital CEO said that “what we know is if the last four weeks are indicative of what happens over the next four weeks, we will have the system overwhelmed.”

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WELLINGTON, New

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Swiss take ‘middle path’ in curbs to slow COVID without crippling economy

ZURICH (Reuters) – Switzerland on Wednesday ordered dance clubs closed and added new mask requirements while leaving the nation largely open for business as it tries to contain surging COVID-19 cases without resorting to a stricter, economy-crippling lockdown.

The government in Bern ordered in-person college classes halted from Monday, placed new limits on sporting and leisure activities, and ordered masks worn in packed offices, secondary schools and even outdoors if people cannot keep their distance.

Switzerland, which in June appeared to have COVID-19 contained as daily cases dwindled to just a handful, saw new infections soar to 8,616 on Wednesday – roughly 0.1% of the population in a single day.

Even so, the government stopped short of shutting retail business, restaurants and other key segments of the economy in hopes that more-limited measures will be enough.

“We have to work with a scalpel and make very precise cuts,” Health Minister Alain Berset told reporters in Bern. “If it’s not possible to get the virus under control, then other measures are possible. But we’re trying to take a middle path.”

In some regions, hospitals and intensive care units are filling up, with doctors warning the health care system could be stretched to breaking point within 10 days.

To help avoid such a scenario, public gatherings will be limited to 50 people or less, and sporting and cultural activities with more than 15 people will be banned.

Bars and restaurants must close at 11 p.m., while private family gatherings will be capped at 10 people.

The country plans to deploy up to 80,000 COVID-19 tests daily – 50,000 rapid antigen tests and 30,000 of the more accurate molecular tests – to expand screening capacity stretched by rising cases.

As domestic infection rates now exceed much of Europe, the Swiss also eased quarantine requirements for incoming travellers, with only areas abroad with rates 60% higher than Switzerland affected.

Officials were seeking to minimize impacts with the package, which includes numerous exceptions including for children under 16.

“We don’t have any time to lose,” President Simonetta Sommaruga said. “The damage to the economy would be greater if we were to do nothing now.”

The new measures are indefinite.

The country will refrain for now from expanding measures to support business after concluding existing programmes are sufficient to soften the pandemic’s blow, the government said.

(Reporting by John Miller, John Revill and Brenna Hughes Neghaiwi, editing by Michael Shields and Nick Macfie)

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HIV Drugs Prevent Type 2 Diabetes, May Be Path to New Therapy

A class of drugs long used to treat HIV and hepatitis B viral infections appears to prevent the development of diabetes in a substantial proportion of patients who take these agents, an analysis of multiple databases has shown.

“Nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs), drugs approved to treat HIV-1 and hepatitis B infections, also block inflammasome activation,” Jayakrishna Ambati, MD, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, Virginia, and colleagues write in their article, published recently in Nature Communications.

“[We showed that] the adjusted risk of incident diabetes is 33% lower in patients with NRTI exposure…. These data suggest the possibility of repurposing an approved class of drugs for prevention of diabetes,” they say.

The researchers made a small chemical modification to NRTIs that led to their developing a new class of drugs, which they have termed “kamuvudines.” Kamuvudines are nontoxic derivatives of NRTIs, Ambati told Medscape Medical News.

“People take NRTIs because they need to live with HIV, but giving them to the general population is not a great idea because of the toxicities associated with long-term NRTI use.

“So our focus is not to go forward specifically with NRTIs but rather with these new molecules that are far less toxic, and that is how we envision a clinical trial going forward,” Ambati noted.

Researchers Screened Five Databases of >100,000 Patients

Ambati and colleagues analyzed information from five databases in which patients who had been exposed to an NRTI but who had not previously been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes were assessed for the subsequent development of diabetes over varying time intervals. In one, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) database ― from the largest integrated healthcare system in the United States ― the analysis spanned a period of 17 years.

Of 79,744 patients with a confirmed diagnosis of HIV or hepatitis B in the VHA database, the risk for type 2 diabetes was reduced by 34% among NRTI users compared with nonusers after adjusting for potential confounders (P < .0001).

The reduction in diabetes risk was similar among HIV-positive and hepatitis B–positive patients.

These results were reaffirmed by further analyses of four other databases, the investigators report. One of these, the employer-based health insurance Truven database, had data on 23,634 patients who had been diagnosed with HIV or hepatitis B. After adjusting for potential confounders, NRTI users had a 39% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to nonusers (P < .0001).

The risk of developing type 2 diabetes was somewhat lower among NRTI users in the Pearl Diver database, which includes predominantly private health insurance claims. Of 16,045 patients diagnosed with HIV or hepatitis B included in this database, the risk for type 2 diabetes was 26% lower among NRTI users compared to nonusers (P = .004).

A similar magnitude of risk reduction was seen in the analysis of the Clinformatics dataset. Among 6341 users of NRTIs, the risk for type 2 diabetes was 27% lower than it was for nonusers (P = .009).

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