Let’s start this week’s updates with some hopeful news.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin believes the American economy will “bounce back” quickly from the coronavirus crisis over the summer.

In an interview Sunday with Fox News, the former Goldman Sachs banker said as the nation’s small businesses begin to reopen in May and June, the economy will quickly rebound in July, August and September.

“This is not the financial crisis,” Mnuchin told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “This is a scenario where we’ve closed the economy. And we are going to open the economy.”

His reentry projection is based on the government’s stimulus package which is set to pump trillions of dollars into small businesses and checking accounts for weeks to come. The relief trickled out after millions lost jobs and nonessential businesses were instructed to close shop until further notice because of COVID-19.

Experts worry ‘quarantine fatigue’ is starting

At least this is one assessment that the experts are getting right.

Researchers tracking smartphone data say they recently made a disturbing discovery: For the first time since states began implementing stay-at-home orders in mid-March to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, Americans are staying home less.

The nationwide shift during the week of April 13 was relatively slight. However, any loss of momentum, particularly when stay-in-place orders remain in effect across most of the country, has some public health experts worried about “quarantine fatigue.” Any increase in travel, they say, is premature when staying home remains the most effective way to limit the spread of the virus until widespread testing and contact tracing become available.

“We saw something we hoped wasn’t happening, but it’s there,” said Lei Zhang, lead researcher and director of the Maryland Transportation Institute at the University of Maryland. “It seems collectively we’re getting a little tired. It looks like people are loosening up on their own to travel more.”

French researchers to give nicotine patches to coronavirus patients

The French noticed that smokers had statistically significantly fewer infections with the Wuhan Coronavirus, despite the virus’ impact on the respiratory system. So, its researchers are going to take their findings to the next step.

French researchers are planning to trial whether nicotine patches will help prevent – or lessen the effects of – the deadly coronavirus.

Evidence is beginning to show the proportion of smokers infected with coronavirus is much lower than the rates in the general population.

Scientists are now questioning whether nicotine could stop the virus from infecting cells, or if it may prevent the immune system overreacting to the infection.

Doctors at a major hospital in Paris – who also found low rates of smoking among the infected – are now planning to give nicotine patches to COVID-19 patients.

They will also give them to frontline workers to see if the stimulant has any effect on preventing the spread of the virus, according to reports.

New York hospitals are quietly testing a heartburn drug as a treatment

Meanwhile, doctors at the heart of the American epidemic are testing out a heartburn drug to determine if it is an effective treatment for COVID-19.

Northwell Health had tested famotidine (sold in oral form under brand name Pepcid) on 187 critically ill patients out of an intended 1,174 as of Saturday as part of an American trial.

Interim results from 391 patients should be available in ‘a few weeks’ Kevin Tracey, a former neurosurgeon in charge of Northwell’s research told Science magazine.

Interest in the drug amid the pandemic developed after doctors in Wuhan found that although one in five COVID-19 patients over the age of 80 were dying, of the survivors, many were taking pills for heartburn.

Scientists are using sewage to measure the prevalence of coronavirus in communities

The quest to determine how many asymptomatic carriers there are in this country continues.

Groups of scientists around the world are using wastewater testing as a non-invasive way to measure the prevalence of coronavirus in their communities.

Local governments in the US are also turning to the tests, which detect traces of coronavirus genetic material — known as RNA — in fecal matter.

The data can be used to gain a sense of how many people may have had the virus asymptomatically and are passing it through, in addition to those testing positive because they are outwardly sick, New Castle County Executive Matt Meyer told CNN.

His county in Delaware has partnered with Biobot — an MIT-based startup — to screen wastewater for coronavirus. Biobot is testing sewage in 150 facilities across 30 states, according to a company spokeswoman.

 

 
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