US reports a record number of new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases; FDA reviewers endorse an Alzheimer disease drug; CDC director calls for asymptomatic testing strategy.
For the first time, the United States has reported 100,000 new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases in a single day, The New York Times reports. Ten months into the global pandemic, the new surge in cases has led to a shortage of N95 face masks at many health care facilities, despite increased production, according to The Wall Street Journal. Although the national supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) has improved since the spring, levels at some facilities remain below regulator-recommended levels. Because of the shortage, workers continue to ration and reuse masks, and state health departments warn that supplies may tighten further. In Michigan, almost two-thirds of health systems report less than a 3-week supply for 1 or more types of protective gear.
FDA clinical reviewers said that data showing that a new treatment for Alzheimer disease slowed cognitive decline were “exceptionally persuasive,” The Washington Post reports. The treatment, called aducanumab and developed by Biogen, appears to be safe and effective for treating patients with early-stage disease. Outside experts will now decide whether to recommend the agency approves the drug, making it the first new treatment for Alzheimer disease in nearly 2 decades. However, conflicting evidence on the drug’s effectiveness has led to controversy around the treatment, with one study concluding it was effective and another stating it showed little benefit. An FDA announcement on approval is expected by early March 2021.
CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, stated that now is the time to develop a testing strategy for asymptomatic cases of COVID-19, CNN reports. CDC estimates show that 40% of individuals with COVID-19 show no symptoms. The announcement comes after a meeting with fellow White House Coronavirus Task Force member Deborah Birx, MD, and Utah Governor Gary Herbert to discuss mitigation efforts and testing in Utah. However, some experts feel the time to develop a testing strategy for this population has already passed. Currently, hospitalizations for COVID-19 are steeply rising in the Midwest, while nationwide, hospitalizations have increased 76% since September.