IowaBio wants to provide our members useful information during the COVID-19 pandemic. This newsletter compiles information on state, federal and industry action to combat the virus and its impacts.
If your company is helping respond to COVID-19, IowaBio wants to know about it. Please, send any information about what your biotechnology company or organization is doing to help, to Jessica Hyland at Jessica@iowabio.org.
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Past IowaBio COVID-19 Update newsletters are now available at www.iowabio.org/COVID19 and can be found under the Industry News tab on the IowaBio website.
Currently, IDPH has reported on the state’s coronavirus dashboard, 239,687 Iowans have tested positive, up 2,891 from our update yesterday morning, with a total of 1,237,164 tested. 84 additional deaths were reported since our last update, bringing the total to 2,603 deaths. Now 152,335 Iowans have recovered. The overall positivity rate statistic calculated by the state is not included today on the coronavirus hub. The total 14 day rolling average positivity rate is 16.6% the past 7-day average is 14.4%. The latest on hospitalizations, including how many patients have been admitted in the last 24 hours can be found here. There are currently 1,000 hospitalized patients.
School district statistics including positivity rates by county can be found here. According to guidance issued by the Iowa Department of Education, schools may petition to go to hybrid or online learning with less than 50 percent in-person instruction when the per county percentage positivity rates are above 15 percent in a county on average over the past 14 days (rolling average) AND 10% absenteeism among students is expected for in-person learning. School district waiver requests and whether they are granted or denied are listed here.
Currently 78 (of 99) counties are above a 15 percent positivity rate over the past 14 days. Click here to search county data for today.
Governor’s Press Conference
Yesterday at her press conference, Governor Kim Reynolds said the last several weeks have been the most challenging. We’ve seen our cases grow and way too many lives have been lost. Just over two weeks ago she asked Iowans to be part of the solution to manage the virus by living our lives safely, but responsibly.
Iowa Virus Trends
I’m cautiously optimistic, but encouraged at the steady progress we are making, she said. This week more than 30 long-term care facilities will be taken off the outbreak list because they have had no new cases for 28 days. Cases statewide, positivity rate and hospitalizations are trending down.
At the beginning of the month, our statewide 14 day positivity rate was 30.7 percent. our current 14 day rate is 16.7 percent and our seven day average is 13.9 percent. At the county level, most counties are stable or decreasing. Currently 32 counties have a 14 day average above 20, 45 are between 15-20, 20 are between 10-15 percent and only 2 are below ten percent. We still have some work to do to bring those rates down overall, she said, and monitoring the next two weeks closely, after the Thanksgiving holiday.
One aspect of life families expect to return to normal is having school age kids back in the classrooms. Despite increased activity across the state, Most schools have remained open for more than 50 percent in person learning. CDC director said schools should be open for in person learning. Most infections among students and teachers don’t occur in the classroom. Most often it is due to community spread, activities outside of the school, or transmission at home. Schools can bring back students safely and responsibly…That should be our priority, the Governor said. Especially given the evidence of the effect an extended absence can have on students.
There are no easy answers or one-size fits all solutions. As we learn more about the virus about how it has and has not affected schools, we should challenge ourselves to think differently and push forward to get our students back into the classroom, she said.
Director of the Iowa Department of Education, Ann Lebo, said more than 90 percent of schools are providing at least 50 percent in person instruction. Some schools have come back early from waivers, or determined they were no longer needed. Even when communities experience high positivity rates, according to data provided by 125 schools, roughly 3 percent of their students tested positive from the beginning of the school year through November, and 22 percent have been quarantined. Currently 1 percent have tested positive and 2.6 percent are quarantined. 80 percent are in person wearing masks, distancing, and using other layered mitigation measures. In person learning provides easier access to essential services, she said. We continue to hear struggles and are seeing the impact of this struggle on learning. Added hardships on vulnerable students, 42 percent of all students are eligible for free/reduced lunches and 6.5 percent are English language learners. They saw a drop in literacy screening scores this fall, for K-3, particularly in first grade. Decreases ranged from 5 percent in Kindergarten to 21 percent in first grade.
Kim Reynolds is kicking off a series of meetings and learn about the experience of Iowa families across the state. She will provide more information soon.
Vaccine Distribution to Iowa
Here in the US while we are awaiting FDA approval of vaccines, a CDC group has recommended healthcare workers and those who work with long-term care residents should be vaccinated first, Governor Reynolds said.
Approximate vaccine allocations were also released. Pending its approval, we anticipate receiving 26,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine around Dec. 13. The Week of Dec. 20 anticipate another 31,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine, and pending its approval, the first shipment of 54,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine. The week of December 27, Iowa will receive 95,000 doses and another 77,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, for a total of 172,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines. It is this initial quantity of vaccines that will be distributed according to CDC guidelines.
Iowa will distribute to hospitals and long-term care facilities. A federal program developed with pharmacies will allow us to efficiently vaccinate our most vulnerable population first.
Kelly Garcia Director of the Dept. of Human Services said while life will not return to normal immediately, we do have a sense of a light at the end of the tunnel. They are in close contact with federal officials throughout the day. Pfizer vaccines have 95 percent efficacy, requires 2 doses 21 days apart and requires ultra-cold storage at negative 70 degrees Celcius. Once it is thawed it is stable at refrigerator temperatures for 5 days. They have identified 39 ultra-cold storage areas and are working on more, including private businesses. The Moderna vaccine has a 94.5 percent efficacy. Two doses are required 28 days apart. It requires a more traditional storage temperature of negative 20 degrees Celcius. It is stable at refrigerator temperatures for 30 days.
They have long expected additional guidance around allocation to critical populations. We have a significant number of populations that fall into this category, so some sub-prioritization within these groups is necessary for the initial doses of the vaccine, Garcia said. The federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), recommends first vaccinating healthcare professionals and long-term care residents and staff. Additional populations will be added as more is available. By mid-2021 there should be enough vaccine for anyone who wants to receive it. With that information we will position the first vaccines in hospitals and will start to vaccinate healthcare professionals, but our strongest focus will be on long-term care residents and healthcare staff, she said.
Garcia said the State will preposition Iowa’s initial vaccine allocation to healthcare facilities and reserve the remainder for the long-term care pharmacy partnership. The federal government created this pharmacy partnership program to assist in administering the vaccine. Iowa has opted into this option. It is free of charge to the facilities and CVS, Walgreens and Community Pharmacy are responsible for providing distribution logistics and workforce to administer the vaccine. It ensures vaccine access to rural areas, as they are able to serve any long term care facility areas within 75 miles of their location. They will pre-position the initial shipment of vaccines to 6 locations in major metropolitan areas. By week two, we anticipate actively deploying to long term care facilities through the pharmacy program, she said.
While ACIP has created clarity on these priority populations, we will convene a team of internal/external subject matter experts known as the infectious disease advisory council IDAC, to assist the state in developing prioritization in early stages of vaccine response when supply is limited, Garcia said. Ethical and clinical experts and multiple perspectives will be represented. The reason is to minimize health inequities, and provide input and navigate distribution of therapeutics.
For future updates, transparency is key. We want Iowans to know you and your loved ones to know when vaccines are available, she said. They will not post locations of vaccine positioning or other critical infrastructure detail for security and safety reasons. They are striking a balance between keeping everyone informed and ensuring safe distribution. In addition to vaccine distribution, they are actively receiving shipments of therapeutics from Eli Lilly and Regeneron. HHS uses hospitalization and positive cases to determine our allocation.
The Governor introduced Dr. Brooks Jackson, who was directly involved in COVID-19 trials, and participated himself. He said he believes Iowans should feel confident that the vaccines are safe, given the data and testing they have seen. The U of I Carver college of medicine was involved in the Pfizer vaccine trial. The speed at which these studies have come to pass were remarkable, but the steps taken were incredible, he said. They had tens of thousands of volunteers rather than several thousand. The safety data and our own experience with the Pfizer vaccine trial is very reassuring. Side effects are minor and transient versus the tremendous benefit, Dr. Brooks said. I encourage Iowans to get the vaccine when it becomes available over the next few months. But we’re not there yet, and until then we must continue to wear masks and maintain proper social distancing and avoid large gatherings and wash our hands. CDC has recommended people not travel this weekend. The weeks and months ahead look very promising. If we stay vigilant and work together, I think we will likely look forward to life returning to normal sometime in 2021, he said.
CDC Guidance on Quarantine
The Governor reported that there’s also some good news from CDC, which is reducing the length of quarantine to make it easier for people and minimize economic impact. If you were exposed and have not developed any symptoms within 10 days, or if you have quarantined for seven days and if you have tested negative and have no symptoms, you can end quarantine. It does not apply if you are sick or have tested positive. If you have, then you need to do a full 14 day quarantine, she said.
The CDC on Wednesday urged Americans to postpone holiday travel after a busy Thanksgiving weekend that likely led to a further surge in coronavirus cases.
The White House is set to host a “COVID-19 Vaccine Summit” on Dec. 8 for vaccine manufacturers, drug distributors, and government officials.
VRBPAC will meet in open session on Dec. 10 to discuss EUA of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals 16 years of age and older. You can tune in here starting at 9 AM. The group will meet again on Dec. 17 to discuss the Moderna vaccine.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) at CDC met on Monday to vote on the phased allocation of COVID-19 vaccines and who will be the first to receive vaccines. The group voted in favor of vaccination in Phase 1a being be offered to both health care personnel and residents of long-term care facilities. Slides are available here. MMWR's summary of the interim allocation recommendations is here.
Health care personnel are defined as paid and unpaid persons serving in health care settings who have the potential for direct or indirect exposure to patients or infectious materials.
Long-term care facility residents are defined as adults who reside in facilities that provide a variety of services, including medical and personal care, to persons who are unable to live independently.
President Trump issued a memorandum on Thursday that extends governors’ use of the National Guard in responding to COVID-19.
The CDC has published and updated a significant number of COVID-19 and vaccine materials and resources on their dashboard. Please continue to check these for information on things like recommended quarantine periods and return-to-work guidance. To highlight a few of the recent updates:
The transcript from the Wednesday CDC telebriefing is available here.
The most recent COVID-19 Science Update from the CDC is here.
The FDA updated the SARS CoV-2 reference panel comparative data on their website to reflect the latest information. The FDA SARS-CoV-2 reference panel is an independent performance validation step for diagnostic tests of SARS-CoV-2 infection that are being used for clinical purposes. The reference panel allows for a more precise comparison of the analytical performance of different molecular in vitro diagnostic (IVD) assays intended to detect SARS-CoV-2. The FDA provided the panel, comprised of standardized samples, to test developers who are required to assess their test’s performance against this panel (or other FDA-recommended reference materials) as a condition of their EUA.
The FDA has reissued the Aug. 23 EUA for the emergency use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma for the treatment of hospitalized patients with COVID-19. The Letter of Authorization has been revised to add the Mount Sinai COVID-19 ELISA IgG Antibody Test as an acceptable test to be used for the purpose of qualifying high and low titer COVID-19 convalescent plasma in the manufacture of COVID-19 convalescent plasma.
As of Dec. 1, 295 tests are authorized by FDA under EUAs; these include 227 molecular tests, 61 antibody tests, and 7 antigen tests.
HHS announced that all tribal health programs and UIOs have chosen their preferred method for receiving the vaccine. Tribal health programs and UIOs had the option of receiving the vaccine either through the Indian Health Service or their respective state. Once available, COVID-19 vaccines will be allocated to jurisdictions, including the IHS, who will then distribute to tribal health programs and UIOs.
The DoD released the first images of a COVID-19 vaccination record card and vaccine kits on Wednesday, which will be one method to keep track of doses.
The DoD is readying to receive both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines within the next three weeks while the services work to prioritize their distribution.
The FDA will host a virtual Town Hall for SARS-CoV-2 test developers. The purpose of this Town Hall is to help answer technical questions about the development and validation of tests for SARS-CoV-2. The remaining Town Halls will take place:
Dec. 9, 12:15 PM
Dec. 16, 12:15 PM
The most recent NIH Director's blog talks about a study that suggests the vast majority of pregnant women with COVID-19 will not have complications.
NIAID is hosting a virtual workshop on Post-Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 on Dec. 3 and 4 to summarize existing knowledge on post-acute manifestations of COVID-19 and to identify key knowledge gaps. The first day will include an overview of the current challenges, talks on clinical observations (both US and international), and some insights from the patient's perspective. Day one will then switch to pathogenic features of coronaviruses as well as host immunological responses, and will end with a series of talks on post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 as reported to date in various focus areas. The second day will start with a talk on the intersection of social determinants of health and race/ethnicity on post-acute COVID-19 sequelae and the charge to the breakout groups, who will dive deeper to identify key knowledge gaps regarding the sequelae in various focus areas.
Rep. Ted Budd (R-NC) is the most recent Member of Congress to test positive for COVID-19.
Earlier this week, a bipartisan group of Senators introduced a $908 billion framework for a new COVID-19 supplemental. Both Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) have endorsed the framework and are hopeful for a deal.
Out of the cases under investigation detected by U.S. surveillance, there are 13,822,249 total cases and 272,525 deaths.The CDC data closes out the day before reporting. It is estimated that total cases surpassed 14 million today.
Hospitals are confronting new and alarming levels of strain amid a surge of coronavirus patients, with over 100,000 hospitalized nationwide Tuesday. Indiana, Nevada, and South Dakota are reporting more than 500 currently hospitalized per million people. Twenty-eight percent of hospitals have more than 80 percent of their ICU beds filled.
Minnesota is now averaging 96.7 new cases a day for every 100,000 people, the second-worst rate in the nation behind South Dakota.
New York City's seven-day average daily positive test rate rose above 5 percent, to 5.19, for the first time since May 28.
Daily new COVID-19 cases in Delaware are up 50 percent from two weeks ago.
Florida has become the third state to report over one million confirmed COVID-19 cases. California and Texas each surpassed one million cases in November.
More than 1.3 million children in the U.S. have tested positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic.
November marked the worst month on record for cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the U.S. More than 4.2 million people in the U.S. were diagnosed with COVID-19, equivalent to one in every 76 Americans testing positive, and 36,745 people died from the disease.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said he will be implementing strict stay-at-home orders by region, which will be triggered when the intensive care units in a region’s hospitals fill to more than 85 percent of capacity. Residents would be required to stay home except for essential tasks and outdoor exercise. Most businesses would have to shut down, including in-person dining, salons, and sports events. Schools that have been allowed to reopen can continue to operate, and religious services could be held outdoors under the order.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced steps Tuesday to address a looming shortage of hospital beds and a grave shortage of doctors and nurses across the state. Gov. Hogan asked hospitals to submit a “patient surge” plan, which includes a detailed strategy for increasing hospital bed and staffing capacities, to the state health department by Dec. 8. The department is working with the Maryland Hospital Association to recruit medical personnel and support staff at the state’s hospitals, asking universities to award academic credit to students willing to work at hospitals during the pandemic and to let graduating students receive early licensing, and urging counties to redeploy school nurses to help at testing and vaccination facilities.
Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez ordered a new, partial lockdown on Thursday that will force most businesses to close on Sundays and ban weekend alcohol sales from Dec. 7 to Jan. 7. Only pharmacies, supermarkets, gas stations, hardware stores and food delivery and pickup will be allowed on Sundays.
New Hampshire’s state legislature will begin its new legislative session outdoors. With 400 members, New Hampshire’s House of Representatives is the largest in the country. But its chamber only has room for about 130 people if proper social distancing protocols are being followed.
Families and community organizations in Los Angeles and Oakland sued California this week, saying that it has failed during the pandemic to provide low-income Black and Latino students the free and equal education that the State Constitution guarantees.
The Washington State Department of Health, in conjunction with the University of Washington, launched an app that seeks to notify users if they have been exposed to COVID-19. The app is voluntary and data-secure and is seen as a complementary tool for testing and contact tracing.
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) announced this week that he and First Gentleman Marlon Reis have tested positive for COVID-19.
Useful state data:
Use Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 U.S. map as a resource for media, policymakers, and communities to view a collection of critical public health data in one online destination and better understand and track the COVID-19 pandemic in populations both large and small across the country. NPR's map can also be used to monitor you state's heat wave.
NASHP has developed a COVID-19 State Action Center which serves as a state-level policy dashboard. Governing is also keeping a running tally of coronavirus news and impacts at the intersection of the health and economic crises in the states and localities.
This site from the Kaiser Family Foundation provides state-level information on cases/deaths, social distancing measures, health policy actions, and more.
Pfizer announced that it expects to ship half of the COVID-19 vaccines it originally planned for this year because of slow-downs in the raw material supply chain. The company still expects to roll out more than a billion doses in 2021.
Facebook announced they will remove posts that contain claims about COVID-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts. Facebook added that it would also take down “false claims that COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips, or anything else that isn’t on the official vaccine ingredient list.”
Data from Moderna's vaccine trial suggests high levels of coronavirus antibodies will last for at least three months (the length of time people have been observed so far) after being vaccinated. How long immunity could persist will eventually determine whether people need to be vaccinated more than once, and how often.
IBM's cybersecurity division has identified a series of cyberattacks underway aimed at the companies and government organizations that will be distributing coronavirus vaccines around the world. So far, it is unclear whether the goal is to steal the technology for keeping the vaccines refrigerated in transit or to sabotage the movements.
Former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton all said that they would publicly take a coronavirus vaccine, once it's available in the U.S., to encourage skeptical Americans to do the same.
A new Eurasia Group analysis shows that an equitable COVID-19 vaccine solution would generate at least $153 billion (USD) of economic benefits in 2020-21 for ten of the world's largest donor countries and $466 billion by 2025.
Forecasters expect a report Friday from the Labor Department will show that U.S. employers added fewer workers in November than the 638,000 created a month earlier.
Demand for travel nurses has increased by more than 40 percent in the last month, according to Aya Healthcare. There are approximately 25,000 nurses who work as travel nurses and sign temporary contracts for higher fees, moving from city to city.
An analysis of electronic health records has shown an 11-fold increase in hospitalization for patients with COVID-19 and end stage renal disease.
A couple from Hawaii were arrested and charged with reckless endangerment after they flew home from San Francisco, despite having received positive COVID-19 tests.
Jazz Standard, a popular New York City jazz club, has closed. It is the first major jazz club in the city to close permanently due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Out of 546 NBA players tested ahead of spring training, 48 tested positive for COVID-19. The league said anyone who has returned a positive test during this initial phase of testing in their team’s market is isolated until they are cleared under the rules established by the NBA and the Players Association in accordance with C.D.C. guidance.
This year's Rose Bowl will be played without fans due to COVID-19 concerns.
Iowa State University plans to allow as many as 15,000 fans to attend the last home football game of the season on Saturday, even as the state reports a positivity rate of 19 percent.
Eight members of the Pakistani national cricket team tested positive for COVID-19 after arriving in New Zealand.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has an extensive list of commercial and lab-developed tests.
Continue to look at the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis’s (OPA) expert-curated portfolio of COVID-19 publications and preprints. The portfolio includes peer-reviewed articles from PubMed and preprints from medRxiv, bioRxiv, ChemRxiv, and arXiv. It is updated daily with the latest available data and enables users to explore and analyze the rapidly growing set of advances in COVID-19 research.
Here is the most recent edition of the WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Update and here is the most recent edition of the WHO's Weekly Operational Update.
The WHO is tightening its mask guidelines, telling people who live in areas where the coronavirus is still spreading to wear masks at all times in a variety of public places. The new guidelines specify that those entering stores, workplaces and schools with low ventilation should make sure that they are wearing a mask. The WHO is also asking that people wear masks if they cannot keep a physical distance of at least three feet from others within an enclosed area.
On Thursday, the U.S. military in Japan reported three new COVID-19 cases, and U.S. Forces Korea reported nine new cases.
French authorities announced yesterday that a COVID-19 vaccine will be free. Those who are most at-risk will be first to receive it in a three-phase rollout of a widespread vaccination campaign next year. A second wave of vaccinations starting in February will target around 14 million additional people, mostly health care workers and at-risk populations. A third and final round beginning next spring will focus on the broader adult population.
Britain has granted emergency authorization to the coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. Distribution of the first 800,000 doses will begin next week, with the elderly and nursing home residents receiving first priority.
70 vaccination centers will open in Moscow on Saturday with teachers, doctors, and social workers the first in line to receive the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine. City residents will have to register online in advance for time slots to avoid overcrowding. The global police cooperation agency Interpol said Wednesday that the distribution of coronavirus vaccines could be exploited by criminals, with “falsification, theft and illegal advertising of COVID-19 and flu vaccines” posing growing risks.
Japan’s parliament passed a law Wednesday that would make COVID-19 vaccines free of charge and would strongly urge people to take them.
Poland has signed a contract for 45 million COVID-19 vaccine doses from companies like Pifzer, BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Johnson and Johnson, which will be free to the public, Poland’s prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki said.
Ukraine has lifted weekend lockdown restrictions but is still considering whether to introduce a tighter lockdown at a later stage, prime minister Denys Shmyhal said.
People are now required to wear face masks in all indoor public spaces in the Netherlands.
In Belgium, social gatherings are limited to four people and must take place outdoors. But only one lucky guest who is chosen as a “close contact” can be allowed inside the house to use the bathroom. Other visitors are banned from going inside for any reason, including grabbing a drink or food.
Norway will relax its coronavirus restrictions slightly over the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, raising the number of guests allowed to be invited to parties to 10. Currently, a household is allowed to invite a maximum of five guests into their home as long as people stay three feet apart from each other.
Austria’s ski lifts will open on Dec. 24, but hotels, bars and restaurants will remain closed throughout the holiday season. A second lockdown has failed to dramatically lower coronavirus infection rates across the country, which remain at around 5,000 new cases per day. The country will begin easing lockdown measures on Monday, but bars and restaurants will remain closed until at least Jan. 7 and quarantines will extend to 10 days for arriving travelers.
All cafes and restaurants in St. Petersburg, Russia will be closed from Dec. 30 to Jan. 3.
Germany extended its lockdown, which includes the closure of bars and restaurants, to Jan. 10, three weeks after its restrictions were scheduled to expire on Dec. 20.New South Wales, the Australian state that includes Sydney, will lift caps on weddings, funerals, and religious services and allow up to 50 people in gyms and on dance floors (provided they are spaced two square meters apart) after going nearly four weeks without a local infection.
People traveling to Iceland won’t be subject to quarantine and screening requirements if they have already contracted the coronavirus. The policy applies only to residents of the 26 states in Europe’s Schengen area, since Iceland’s border restrictions bar virtually all other travelers.
Greece has extended lockdown measures for an additional week.
MMWR Weekly COVID-19 Briefing is a weekly podcast to update readers on the latest scientific information from CDC’s COVID-19 response. In each episode, MMWR’s Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Charlotte Kent provides an overview of the latest scientific information published in MMWR. New episodes are posted every Monday. Listen to episodes here.