What you need to know about coronavirus on Wednesday, July 29

Just when it seemed that Europe was getting to grips with the coronavirus pandemic, Covid-19 appears to be spreading again.

Germany’s center for disease control, the Robert Koch Institute, said this week that a recent spike in cases was “very disturbing.” In France, new daily cases have crept back to the same level as when its lockdown lifted in early May. Spain and Italy have also recorded increases.

The growth in infections has been tied to an increase in movement linked to summer vacations, forcing many European countries to walk back their decisions to relax travel restrictions, Emma Reynolds writes.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned yesterday that there were signs of a second wave in Europe. Over the weekend, Johnson imposed a quarantine on people returning from Spain, just weeks after lifting travel restrictions on the country, throwing the travel plans of thousands into chaos.

“What we had to do is take swift and decisive action where we think that the risk is starting to bubble up again,” Johnson said about the decision.

European governments desperately want to avoid the repeat of the initial crisis in March, when the epidemic grew from a few isolated cases in Italy to a full-blown crisis affecting most of the continent in just a few weeks. From Europe, the virus then spread to the United States.

Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, admitted for the first time yesterday that the Trump administration was slow to recognize the threat from Europe. “The introduction from Europe happened before we realized what was happening,” Redfield told ABC News. “By the time we realized (the) Europe threat and shut down travel to Europe, there was probably already two or three weeks of 60,000 people coming back every day from Europe.”

YOU ASKED. WE ANSWERED

Q: Are cancer patients at higher risk of severe complications from Covid-19?

A: Yes. And the increased risk applies to cancer patients of all ages.

“Having cancer currently increases your risk of severe illness from Covid-19,” the CDC says. “At this time, it is not known whether having a history of cancer increases your risk.” Researchers found that patients whose cancer was getting worse or spreading were more than five times more likely to die in a month if they caught Covid-19.

But there are steps cancer patients can take to stay as healthy as possible:

  • Make sure you have at least a 30-day supply of your medications.
  • Don’t delay any life-saving treatment or emergency.
  • Talk with your health care provider about your individual level of risk based on your condition, your treatment, and the level of transmission in your community.
  • Don’t stop taking your medicines or alter your treatment plan without talking to your healthcare provider.
  • Call your health care provider if you think you may have been exposed to the novel coronavirus.
  • Read the CDC’s tips for preventing infections in cancer patients.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.

WHAT’S IMPORTANT TODAY

Covid-19’s impact on the heart: New studies suggest ‘the plot thickening’

Almost every week, more evidence emerges of the damage that Covid-19 can wreak beyond the lungs.

The disease caused by the virus can harm other organs in the body — including the heart — and now two separate studies provide more insight into how Covid-19 may have a prolonged impact on heart health in those who have recovered, and may have caused cardiac infection in those who died.

One of the studies found that among 100 adults who recently recovered from Covid-19, 78% showed some type of cardiac involvement in MRI scans and 60% had ongoing inflammation in the heart. Jacqueline Howard reports.

Hajj begins — with 1,000 pilgrims, rather than the usual 2 million

Islam’s most important annual pilgrimage to the holy sites in the cities of Mecca and Medina began last night with just a small fraction of its regular number of worshippers.

For the first time in decades, international travelers have been barred from the Hajj. So instead of the usual crowds of around 2 million, only around 1,000 pilgrims will attend the Hajj this year due to new crowd control restrictions put in place by Saudi Arabia. The country has recorded more than 270,800 Covid-19 cases.

It’s not just the Hajj. The pandemic has transformed centuries-old religious traditions across different faiths and continents. From drive-through services, remote iftars and virtual Purim celebrations, the world’s faith communities have been forced to adapt to the new normal.

Russia claims it will approve vaccine in 2 weeks

The race for a vaccine is heating up. Russian officials told CNN they intend to be the first in the world to approve a coronavirus vaccine, in less than two weeks — despite concerns about its safety, effectiveness and over whether the country has cut essential corners in development. Frontline healthcare workers will be the first to get the vaccine.

The officials touted the early approval date despite the fact that the vaccine is yet to complete its second phase trial. Developers plan to complete that phase by Monday, and then conduct the third phase of testing in parallel with the vaccination of the medical workers, Matthew Chance reports.

Russia has released no scientific data on its vaccine testing and CNN was unable to verify its claimed safety or effectiveness. Critics say the country’s push for a vaccine comes amid political pressure from the Kremlin, which is keen to portray Russia as a global scientific force.

Meanwhile in the US, Pfizer and BioNTech began a large-scale trial of their vaccine in the US on Monday. On the same day, Moderna started a Phase 3 trial of its experimental vaccine. Despite the speed of the developments, experts have repeatedly cautioned that more work needs to be done.

Trump promotes more coronavirus falsehoods

A video featuring a group of doctors making false and dubious claims related to the coronavirus was removed by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube after going viral and getting shared by US President Donald Trump.

The video, published by the right-wing media outlet Breitbart News, featured a group of people wearing white lab coats calling themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors” staging a press conference in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC. The dubious claims made by the group run counter to Trump’s own public health experts.

It wasn’t the only false claim Trump repeated. At his coronavirus briefing last night, the President went off script and launched into a series of false and misleading claims about the state of the pandemic. At one point, Trump claimed that “large portions” of the US are “corona free” (not true). He also claimed that protests in Seattle and Portland were leading to spiking cases there (also not true). He launched a stunning new pitch for hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that has not been shown in rigorous clinical trials to be an effective treatment for Covid-19. He also complained that the government’s top infectious diseases expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, had better approval ratings than he did.

And when pressed by CNN’s Kaitlan Collins about his words of support for a doctor who downplayed masks and suggested alien DNA was used in medical treatments, the President cut the briefing short and stormed out.

Iceland is an outpost of normality amid Covid pandemic

Iceland has been praised for its handling of the crisis after an initial spike in cases in February. The government started testing and tracing, closed the borders and introduced restrictions. The island with a population of around 360,000 people has seen fewer than 2,000 cases and just 10 deaths.

So when Inga Thordar, armed with a negative Covid-19 test, went back to her home country after spending months living in lockdown in London, it was a bit of a shock.

“It was a casual hug from an old friend and yet it proved to be so traumatizing,” she writes. “Two friends greeted me and one gave me a warm embrace but my natural reaction was to step back from them, and I found it hard to keep up a conversation standing so close. Their natural ease, which six months ago would have felt so normal, now felt uncomfortable and stressful. I felt tongue-tied, and my manners and chutzpah seemed to have deserted me.”

ON OUR RADAR

  • China yesterday recorded more than 100 new Covid-19 cases for the first time since April. It was also the country’s third straight highest daily spike in local infections since early March.
  • Surveillance cameras and artificial intelligence are tackling a pandemic-era challenge: making sure workers are wearing face masks and staying at least six feet apart.
  • India’s total number of coronavirus cases surged past 1.5 million today, according to the country’s health ministry. India hit a million cases on July 17, six months after its first infection was discovered. Since then, it took just 12 more days to record another half a million cases.
  • Thousands showed up maskless to a Minnesota rodeo after its organizer invited people to come protest government overreach. Also in Minnesota, a Republican county official has resigned after posting an image on Facebook comparing mask mandates to Jews being forced to wear Stars of David in Nazi Germany.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko dismissed Covid-19 as ‘psychosis.’ Now he says he caught it.
  • California’s only county without a coronavirus case is investigating its first two infections.
  • Dr. Antoinette Helena Akita worked tirelessly to help contain one viral outbreak. She lost her life to another.
  • Baseball and women’s basketball have begun, hockey and basketball will return this week and football’s season is just over a month away. Here’s where US sports leagues stand in their plans to play during the pandemic.
  • Some retailers are not imposing compulsory masks — not because they don’t believe masks are effective, but because they don’t want to put their workers in the position of having to tell shoppers to put on facial coverings. Mask opponents have sparked violent incidents over requirements to wear them. A security guard at a Family Dollar store in Michigan was shot and killed in May after he told a customer to wear a mask.

TOP TIPS

Try this 5-minute workout to crush burnout

Given the distress and uncertainty the pandemic has caused, exercise may feel like the last thing you want to do. However, research has shown that cardiovascular exercise increases well-being and decrease psychological distress and emotional exhaustion. Resistance training was also noticeably effective in increasing well-being, personal accomplishment and reducing perceived stress.

The good news: You don’t need to engage in an intense workout program or a long exercise class to reap these benefits. Only about five minutes of aerobic exercise is needed to begin to stimulate anti-anxiety effects. So here are some quick workout ideas.

TODAY’S PODCAST

“When we have something new, and so this coronavirus is very new, we need to expect that the science that comes out of this at first is not going to reveal the true picture of what’s actually happening … And so we need to be careful about jumping to big conclusions based on a small number of studies that only look at a few people.” — Erin Bromage, Comparative Immunologist and Professor of Biology at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Throughout the pandemic there’s been a big question: Will recovering from the virus or being treated by an effective vaccine provide lasting immunity? CNN Contributor Erin Bromage shares why new studies from the last few weeks make him more hopeful than ever that the answer could be yes. Listen Now.