Georgia has received a federal shipment of a promising drug to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients, Gov. Brian Kemp announced Tuesday.
“We have received 30 cases with 40 vials of the drug per case, and we will be working with officials in the Department of Public Health to determine how it will be distributed,’’ Kemp said at a Capitol news conference.
Preliminary data show patients with advanced COVID-19 who received the antiviral drug remdesivir recovered faster than similar patients who received a placebo, federal health officials said in late April.
At that time, of the more than 1,000 people in the clinical trial internationally, 103 were enrolled in Emory University’s part of the study. The data show remdesivir, in a subset of coronavirus patients in the trial, improved recovery time from 15 to 11 days. The drug is the first medication to show a documented positive effect on COVID-19 patients, Emory researchers said.
Dr. Kathleen Toomey, the state Public Health commissioner, said state officials will create protocols for the drug to go to patients and areas most in need. “We’ll be pulling together a team to look at this,’’ she said. “We want to create [a distribution methodology] that will be the most fair and provide the most impact in the hardest-hit areas’’ as well as others.
Separately, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta said Tuesday that a team of infectious disease and cardiology experts is evaluating “a very small number of cases of children’’ who are exhibiting certain “Kawasaki-like’’ symptoms and inflammation.
Kawasaki disease is an illness that causes blood vessels to become inflamed; it almost always affects young children. The Atlanta cases were first reported by 11Alive.
The physicians are seeking to determine if the patients may have also had COVID-19 and to investigate if any association might exist.
The children’s symptoms may be similar to those found in New York state. Health officials there are investigating about 100 cases of a rare inflammatory syndrome that afflicts children and appears to be connected to the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.
So far, three deaths in the state have been linked to the illness, which is known as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome and causes life-threatening inflammation in critical organs, Cuomo said.
Toomey, the state Public Health commissioner, told GHN on Tuesday that she is “very concerned’’ about the potential link to COVID-19 in the Children’s Healthcare cases.
She said Public Health is monitoring the situation, and she is sending out an alert to physicians in Georgia “about this new potential constellation of symptoms and signs that may reflect COVID.’’
Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, reminded a U.S. Senate panel Tuesday that children are not immune to COVID-19.
“We really had better be very careful, particularly when it comes to children,” Fauci said.
“Because the more and more we learn, we’re seeing things about what this virus can do that we didn’t see from the studies in China or in Europe. For example, right now children presenting with COVID-19 who actually have a very strange inflammatory syndrome, very similar to Kawasaki syndrome,” Fauci said.
While deaths and serious complications from the virus have been less prevalent in youngsters than in adults, Fauci warned that officials making decisions about school openings should not be “cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects” of COVID-19.
Children’s Healthcare said if a child develops signs of illness such as high fever, rash, red eyes, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain or swelling of the face, hands or feet, families should contact their doctor or go to a hospital emergency room.
Jessica Pope, a Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta spokeswoman, said physicians there “want to stress that this [newly reported set of symptoms] appears to be a rare finding with low prevalence in the community.’’
More tests at nursing homes
Kemp also said Tuesday at the news conference that the state will begin a push to test more nursing home residents.
Individuals in long-term care facilities – nursing homes, assisted-living centers and personal care homes – represent about half of Georgia’s deaths from COVID-19. Other states also have reported major outbreaks in nursing homes.
Kemp said that 46 percent of nursing home residents have been tested, as have 24 percent of the facilities’ staff members.
Broader testing may drive up Georgia’s statistics on coronavirus cases, Kemp said. “We may see a spike in our case number,’’ he told reporters.
Frank Berry, commissioner of the Department of Community Health, which oversees nursing homes, said Georgia can’t require nursing home owners to do testing, but that many are cooperating with the state on the initiative.
The Georgia Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, said in a statement Wednesday that it “appreciates Governor Kemp’s continued prioritization of COVID-19 testing for long-term care residents and staff. Access to widespread testing with a quick turnaround of results will help centers better pinpoint residents and staff members who may have the virus and enhance their ability to prevent further spread.”
In other pandemic-related developments, the governor ordered bars, nightclubs and live performance venues to remain closed through the end of May, which he said will “enhance health outcomes” and give owners more time to prepare them to reopen.
Kemp also relaxed capacity limits on restaurants that resume dine-in service, increasing the maximum allowed at a table from six customers to 10. He doubled the number of children allowed in a single classroom at a child care facility from 10 to 20.