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First US Coronavirus Deaths Occurred Weeks Earlier Than Believed, Officials Find: Live Updates

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Via Zerohedge

Update (0810ET): President Trump is starting the day by once again encouraging the ‘reopen now’ protesters and courting even more responsibility for the eventual outcome of the reopening – something that we’ve repeatedly argued is a boneheaded political strategy.

The president also affirmed plans to sign his executive order prohibiting immigration into the US for 60 days.

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Now that the Senate has passed the $484 billion relief bill to top off the ‘Paycheck Protection Program’ (which hasn’t been able to make any new loans in five days), Washington reporters claim that the House should follow that up with a vote on Thursday, before hopefully sending it to the president’s desk.

Last night, we reported on a new study out of China authored by the same scientist who first proposed Beijing’s lockdown plan that highlighted some troubling new discoveries that might complicate the quest for a vaccine. The researchers isolated and analyzed new mutant strains of the virus that appeared to be much more ‘aggressive’ (i.e. likely deadlier) than earlier strains. Furthermore, these deadlier strains were not only found to carry higher viral loads – making them much more infectious – but they were also found to have genetic similarities to strains isolated in New York and Europe, potentially explaining the strikingly high mortality rates.

During the early days of the US response, Dr. Fauci and others insisted that there was “no evidence” of any significant mutations in the virus that might impede research into a possible vaccine. While that might have been true given the evidence at the time, clearly, it no longer is.

Whether this leads to a revision in vaccine timeline targets remains to be seen, but we would be surprised to see any such information released through official channels.

Curiously, the only vaccine-related news we’re seeing on Wednesday are reports about two companies, one German, one British, that have just received a ‘green light’ to move on to the next phase of vaccine-related study.

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German biotech company BioNTech will become the first European company to proceed to clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine after receiving regulatory approval to accelerate the firm’s testing. Presumably, the firm’s experimental vaccine has already shown some success in preliminary human studies – typically a prerequisite before moving on to clinical trials. The German Federal Institute for Vaccines was responsible for issuing the approval.

The Times of London reported last night that the first British human trials of a coronavirus vaccine will start on Wednesday as Britain ‘throws everything it has’ at developing a vaccine, according to Health Secretary Matt Hancock. Scientists in Oxford are expected to begin to test the safety of their experimental vaccine. Hancock also announcing another £20 million in funding to speed the quasi-public project through larger-scale human trials over the summer, as well as £22.5 million for a parallel vaccine project at Imperial College London.

However, the biggest bombshell to drop overnight was probably a statement from health authorities in California that the first coronavirus deaths in the US likely occurred weeks earlier than initially thought. Officials told the local press that forensic scientists in Santa Clara had discovered two autopsies on people who had died undiagnosed at home on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 that showed signs of COVID-19.

A third death on March 6 was also found to be caused by COVID-19. The first virus-related death in the US was reported in California on Feb. 26.

“These three people died at home at a time when testing was very limited and only possible to get via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” the forensics department said. Tests at that time were only available to people who returned from high-risk areas, or those who went to a doctor with serious and obvious coronavirus symptoms. Notably, a recent study in Santa Clara County also found that the viral penetration in the area was “50-80x higher” than official statistics suggested.

As India begins the process of reopening its economy, a new issue is arising: Indian doctors and nurses report that they have been subjected to horrifying treatment at the hands of their fellow townspeople and community members, as family members of dead patients have, in some cases, attacked doctors for failing to save their family member. The situation has gotten so bad that a funeral procession for a doctor who died fighting the virus was attacked by an angry mob, forcing the doctor’s family and colleagues to flee. A colleague returned later to dig a grave for his friend.

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To try and stop doctors from simply walking off the job as India’s rate of confirmed infections climbs above 20k and the bodies continue to pile up, the Indian government has, at the behest of the Indian Medical Association, issued an emergency order making violence against health-care professionals a serious crime. Doctors around the country have said they will observe a “Black Day” on Friday, with any opting to wear black armbands to identify themselves as health-care workers.

Spain announced a slight relaxation of its five-week lockdown earlier this week when the government caved to popular demands that children under the age of 14 be allowed to leave their homes unaccompanied by an adult.

And now, as Spain’s rate of deaths ticks higher, PM Pedro Sanchez is pushing ahead with his plan to extend the lockdown until May 9, asking his country’s parliament to approve the extension, which he first announced days ago. Sanchez said that the lifting of the quarantine order must be “slow and gradual” to save lives.

“The general requirement to stay at home will not be lifted until we are prepared,” he said, although he added that in future the conditions of the lockdown “will not be the same as up to now,” with shifts in the rules in the second half of May.

Finally, an FT analysis of data released by the ONS has determined that the actual death toll from COVID-19 across the UK might be as high as 41k, more than double the roughly 17.5k ‘official’ death toll according to the Department of Health and Social Care. Here’s more on that from FT reporter Chris Giles.

Following the report’s release, UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab announced that the death toll of UK health care workers has climbed to 69, significantly higher than the previous number.

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And in South Korea, while the world waits to learn more about what’s going on with KJU, South Korean President Moon Jae-in unveiled a $32.4 billion relief package for hard-hit businesses, while pushing for a New Deal-style program that would put out-of-work South Koreans to work building new national projects.

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