Covid-19 tests imported from South Korea were ‘flawed’: WPost

Coronavirus tests imported from South Korea by the governor of the US state of Maryland were flawed and ended up not being used, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

The newspaper said Maryland Governor Larry Hogan spent $9.46 million in April to import 500,000 coronavirus tests from South Korea.

But the tests turned out to be flawed and the state “quietly” paid the same South Korean company an additional $2.5 million for 500,000 replacement tests, the Post said.

It said a University of Maryland laboratory abandoned its use of the replacement tests after a spate of suspected false positives but a private lab continues to use them.

Around 370,000 of the replacement tests have been used by the private lab, the Post said.

Hogan, a frequent critic of President Donald Trump, trumpeted the arrival of the South Korea tests in April and praised the assistance of his South Korean-born wife in obtaining them.

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Depression and anxiety twice as common among older people who were shielding

Older people who were instructed to shield and self-isolate at the beginning of the pandemic experienced higher levels of depression, anxiety and loneliness compared with those who were not shielding, according to a new study co-led by UCL.

The research shows that the increase in poor mental health was not related to reductions in social contacts, but due to higher levels of worry about obtaining food and other essentials, and less physical activity and sleep.

The findings are published today in a series of working papers using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing (ELSA) and funded by Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to COVID-19.

The ELSA COVID-19 substudy gathered data from 5,800 older women and men in June and July 2020 with a mean age of 70 to evaluate the impact of COVID-19 on mental health, quality of life, social connectedness, worries, and health-related behaviour.

Other key findings include:

  • Only 60% of older people instructed to shield were strictly isolating in April and May, staying at home and trying to limit face-to-face contact.
  • Severe depression and anxiety symptoms were twice as common among high risk older individuals who were socially isolating compared with average risk participants (32% vs 17%).
  • Loneliness was much more common in the shielded group who were strictly isolating compared with average risk participants, even when factors such as age, sex, number of people in the household, and whether or not the person had a partner were taken into account (33% vs 21%).
  • Participants in the high risk group were more likely to have been hospitalised with COVID-19 (15% vs 3%) and to be worried about obtaining food and other essentials (12% vs 6%).
  • People who were in the shielded group were more likely to be less physically active than usual and to spend more time sitting compared with others (47% vs 33%).

Professor Andrew Steptoe (UCL Behavioural Science & Health and ELSA lead) said: “The advice to people at risk of COVID-19 may have saved lives and reduced infection, but it has come at a cost. With an increase in COVID-19 cases across the UK, efforts should be made to allay concerns and encourage health promoting behaviour to avoid further impairment of quality of life and mental health.”

Other findings from the ELSA COVID-19 substudy have looked at the effect of the pandemic on older people with multiple long-term health conditions (multimorbidity).

Key findings from the report show:

  • 35% of older people with multimorbidity were instructed by the NHS or GP to shield.
  • 94% of people with multimorbidity reported either isolating or staying at home in April 2020, whether they were asked to shield or not.
  • 20% of people with multimorbidity did not have access to community health and social care services and support needed (such as dentist, podiatrist, nurse, counselling or personal care).

Dr. Paola Zaninotto (UCL Epidemiology & Public Health) and author of the ELSA COVID-19 report on multimorbidity said: “When considering policies which advise people to shield or self-isolate because of their COVID-19 risk, it is important for policymakers to acknowledge that older people with multiple long-term health conditions are at higher risk of experiencing greater mental distress and worry, of engaging in unhealthy behaviors and are less likely to access health services when needed; all these factors together could potentially influence disease progression.

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Interim data from early US COVID-19 hotspot show mortality of disease were not associated with race/ethnicity

A study of interim data from two hospitals in an early US COVID-19 hotspot, to be presented at the ESCMID Conference on Coronavirus Disease (ECCVID, held online 23-25 September), shows that race and ethnicity were not significantly associated with higher in-hospital COVID-19 mortality, and that rates of moderate, severe, and critical forms of COVID-19 were similar between racial and ethnic groups.

The study, by Dr. Daniel Chastain (University Of Georgia College Of Pharmacy, Albany, GA, U.S.) and colleagues included data from adult patients hospitalised between March 10 and and May 22 with COVID-19, defined by laboratory-detected severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, in Southwest Georgia.

The authors compared severity of illness categories on presentation to the hospital between patients from different racial and ethnic groups based on criteria from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) COVID-19 treatment guidelines. They also studied outcomes including comorbidities, laboratory values, vital signs, and in-hospital mortality.

A total of 164 randomly selected non-consecutive patients were included with a median age of 61.5 years. These consisted of 119 African American patients, 36 Caucasian patients, and 9 Latinx patients. Thus the majority were African American (73%) and 51% were female. Rates of moderate, severe, and critical COVID-19 did not significantly differ between African American (9%, 56%, and 35%), Caucasian (0%, 69%, and 31%), and Latinx patients (0%, 56%, and 44%). In-hospital mortality was not statistically significantly different between groups but was highest among Caucasians (31%) followed by Latinx (22%) and African Americans (16%).

Caucasian patients had significantly higher Charlson comorbidity index scores (meaning more underlying conditions) (4.5) compared to African American (4) and Latinx (2) patients, while median BMI was significantly higher in African Americans (33.7 kg/m2) than in Caucasians (26.9) or Latinx patients (25.9).

Duration of time from symptom onset to admission was similar between groups, whereas median temperature on admission was significantly higher in African Americans (38.3C) than in Caucasians (37.9) or Latinx patients (37.8)

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