Virus Updates: US Deaths Reach 180K; Moderna Vaccine Shows Promise in Older Adults

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More than 180,000 people have died in the United States due to the coronavirus pandemic that has infected over 5.8 million in the country, according to a tally from NBC News.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention quietly tweaked its guidance on COVID-19 testing Monday, saying healthy people who have been exposed to COVID-19 "do not necessarily need a test," as long as they don't have symptoms, NBC News reports.

On Tuesday, the University of Alabama, Georgia Tech and the University of Southern California joined a growing list of schools with outbreaks among students and faculty. The schools' announcements came the same day that a new report found 9% of all cases in the United States are in children.

Meanwhile, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn apologized for overstating the life-saving benefits of treating COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma. Scientists and medical experts have been pushing back against the claims about the treatment since President Donald Trump’s announcement on Sunday that the FDA had decided to issue emergency authorization for convalescent plasma

The number of Americans newly diagnosed with the coronavirus is falling — a development experts credit at least partly to increased wearing of masks — even as the outbreak continues to claim nearly 1,000 lives in the U.S. each day.

Here are the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S.:

Moderna Says Its COVID-19 Vaccine Shows Promise in Elderly Patients

Moderna announced Wednesday that its potential coronavirus vaccine generated a promising immune response in elderly patients in an early-stage clinical trial, CNBC reports.

The biotech firm tested its vaccine on 10 adults between ages 56 and 70 and 10 elderly adults aged 71 and older, Moderna said. Each participant received two 100 microgram doses of the vaccine 28 days apart.

The volunteers produced neutralizing antibodies, which researchers believe are necessary to build immunity to the virus, and killer T-cells, Moderna said in its results, which have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Additionally, the antibodies that were produced were higher than those seen in people who have recovered from Covid-19. 

The vaccine from Moderna is one of dozens in development worldwide to fight the coronavirus, which has infected more than 23.9 million people worldwide and killed at least 820,100, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Last month, Moderna began a late-stage trial for its vaccine. It hopes to enroll up to 30,000 participants.

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A deep dive into the vaccines showing the most promise in battling Covid-19 as volunteer trials get underway.

6 Feet May Not Always Be Enough Distance to Protect From COVID-19, New Report Suggests

The current guidance for safe social distancing may not be enough to stop the spread of COVID-19, new analysis suggests, NBC News reports.

In a report published Tuesday in The BMJ, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Oxford say other factors, such as ventilation, crowd size, exposure time and whether face coverings are worn, need to be considered, as well.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the advice has been to keep at least 6 feet away from other people indoors and outdoors. "COVID-19 spreads mainly among people who are in close contact (within about 6 feet) for a prolonged period of time," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some evidence suggests that the coronavirus may travel more than 6 feet through activities like coughing and shouting, the researchers wrote. In the highest-risk situations, such as indoors with poor ventilation, large crowds, prolonged contact time and no face coverings, distancing beyond 6 feet should be considered. Locations that fall under this category include bars, stadiums or restaurants. In low-risk scenarios, such as in outdoor spaces with few people nearby, less stringent social distancing should be adequate.

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The World Health Organization released updated coronavirus guidelines which recommend that all non-urgent dental visits be postponed until after the pandemic to reduce the spread.

Boston Biogen Conference Likely Led to 20,000 COVID-19 Cases, Study Finds

The Boston hotel that was linked to a coronavirus outbreak after it hosted a local biotech company's conference earlier this year likely led to about 20,000 cases, according a new study.

The cases can be linked to the conference held in February at Boston Marriott Long Wharf, which was shut down in mid-March, in four Massachusetts counties by early May, the Boston Globe reports.

The estimate indicates that the coronavirus is more widespread than the dozens of cases in Massachusetts that had been previously linked to the meeting.

The scientists studied nearly all the confirmed early cases by changes in the genetic makeup of the virus as it was transmitted from person to person, according to the Globe. The genetic mutations enabled researchers to better understand the scope of what they called a "superspreading event."

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