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Health Highlights: July 13, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Shutdown of U.S Economy Saved Up To 2.7 Million Lives: Economists

Closing the U.S. economy to control the new coronavirus saved between 900,000 and 2.7 million U.S. lives, according to a group of economists.

They didn't try to put a dollar amount on the value of human life in their working paper issued earlier this month, CBS News reported.

While many lives were saved by shutting down the economy, the authors noted that job losses, financial struggles and other effects of the shutdown can have long term effects on people's health.

"We calculated that COVID-19-related restrictions on economic activity will create significant, albeit less overt, downstream mortality," Olga Yakusheva of the University of Michigan, Eline van den Broek-Altenburg and Adam Atherly of the University of Vermont, and Gayle Brekke of the University of Kansas, write.

"People who will be sickened or die from joblessness, lack of access to care, inability to afford healthful food and lifestyle choices are just as real as those who die from the virus."

The authors said the economic damage of the pandemic shutdown is expected to result in 50,000 to 323,000 deaths in coming years, CBS News reported.

But even if it's the higher number, that means three times as many lives were saved by closing the U.S. economy, they concluded.

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Rise Seen in U.S. COVID-19 Deaths

Led by states in the South and West, COVID-19 deaths in the United States have started a long-anticipated increase, data show.

The seven-day rolling average for daily reported deaths in the United States increased from 578 two weeks ago to 664 on July 10, according to an Associated Press analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

During that time period, daily reported deaths increased in 27 states. Many of those states are averaging fewer than 15 new deaths per day, while certain states are pushing the nationwide rise in COVID-19 deaths.

California is averaging 91 reported deaths per day, Texas 66, and Florida, Arizona, Illinois, New Jersey and South Carolina also had significant increases, the data show.

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Some Hospitals in COVID-19 Hotspots Running Short of Remdesivir

Some U.S. hospitals in COVID-19 hotspots are running short of the antiviral drug remdesivir -- the only drug authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat the disease -- while hospitals in other regions have stocks of the drug that are going unused.

The federal government is overseeing distribution of remdesivir. In the coming week, allocations of remdesivir to states "will emphasize locations with large recent increases," a Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson told CNN.

But the amounts of the drug cited by the spokesperson to be shipped to four hotspot states -- Arizona, California, Florida and Texas -- are far smaller than the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in those states.

The spokesperson also told CNN that the company hired to distribute remdesivir will contact each hospital that received the drug to confirm that it still needs it.

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Kelly Preston, wife of John Travolta, Dies at Age 57

Actress Kelly Preston, wife of John Travolta, died Sunday at age 57 after a two-year battle with breast cancer.

"Choosing to keep her fight private, she had been undergoing medical treatment for some time, supported by her closest family and friends," a family representative told People magazine.

"She was a bright, beautiful and loving soul who cared deeply about others and who brought life to everything she touched. Her family asks for your understanding of their need for privacy at this time," the rep stated.

Preston is survived by husband John Travolta, 20-year-old daughter Ella, and 9-year-old son Benjamin. Son Jett died at age 16 following a seizure in January 2009.

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Slow Test Results Hampering U.S. Fight Against Coronavirus

Test results for the new coronavirus are taking so long that they're doing little to help stop the spread of the virus in the United States, experts say.

Outbreaks in some Southern states have pushed testing labs beyond capacity, with some having difficulty providing results in five to seven days, and others taking even longer, the Washington Post reported.

Those delays mean the United States can't employ the main strategy used by other countries to contain the virus: test, trace and isolate.

"Instead of going from one step to the next, it's like you're already stumbling right out of the gate," Crystal Watson, a public health expert at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, told the Post.

"It makes contact tracing almost useless," Watson said. "By the time a person is getting results, they already have symptoms, their contacts may already have symptoms and have gone on to infect others."

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