Hydroxychloroquine and other COVID 19 news

President Trump said Monday (May 18th) that he's taking the drug hydroxychloroquine to protect against the coronavirus, despite warnings from the Food and Drug Administration that it should only be used for the virus in a hospital or research setting because of potentially fatal side effects. He said he's been taking it for about a week and a half. Trump has repeatedly touted the malaria drug since the pandemic began, but in addition to the warnings about side effects, four recent studies have shown it doesn't work to prevent or treat against the coronavirus. Trump said his doctor didn't recommend the drug to him, but he requested it from the White House physician,Dr. Sean Conley, telling reporters, "I started taking it, because I think it’s good. I’ve heard a lot of good stories." Conley said in a statement that after having numerous discussions with Trump about the drug, quote, "we concluded the potential benefit from treatment outweighed the relative risks." At least two White House staffers tested positive for the virus earlier this month.

U.S. drugmaker Moderna announced yesterday that its experimental vaccine against the coronavirus showed encouraging results in very early testing, producing immune responses in eight volunteers, who developed antibodies similar to those seen in people who'd recovered from the virus. Moderna also said the vaccine seems safe, but much more extensive testing is needed. In the next phase, researchers will try to determine which dose is best. 

More than 130,000 U.S. autoworkers returned to work across the country yesterday for the first time after their factories were closed down nearly two months ago because of the coronavirus. General Motors, Ford, Fiat Chrysler, Honda and Toyota reopened dozens of factories, with screening and other safety procedures implemented to protect workers. 

In other developments: 

The U.S. death toll has passed 90,000 as of last night, according to Johns Hopkins University's count, with more than 1.5 million confirmed cases. The Navajo Nation has passed New York to have the highest per-capita infection rate. The Navajo Nation, which spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, has at least 4,002 infections among its population of more than 173,000, for a per capita rate of 2,304 cases per 100,000 people. New York State's current rate is 1,806 cases per 100,000 people.

As states move forward with reopening, federal officials are urging governors to be very careful in deciding when to allow visits at nursing homes to return. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said visits shouldn't be permitted before all residents and staff have tested negative for the virus for at least 28 days. There should also be the ability to regularly test all residents and workers, and once visits resume, visitors should wear face masks and practice social distancing. Outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term facilities have accounted for more than one-third of all U.S. deaths from the virus. 

The World Health Organization gave in to calls Monday from most of its member states to launch an independent probe into how it managed the global response to the coronavirus. The review is meant to look at lessons learned from the WHO's coordination of the response, but won't examine contentious issues.President Trump has repeatedly blasted WHO, claiming it bungled the response and helped China hide the scope of the pandemic early on. He's said he'll pull U.S. funding, and on Monday said he's considering whether to cut the annual U.S. funding to WHO from $450 million a year to $40 million. China insisted it acted with, quote, "openness, transparency and responsibility" when the epidemic was detected in Wuhan.