U.S. CDC reports total of 1,761,503 coronavirus cases, 103,700 deaths

FILE PHOTO: As Phase One of reopening begins in Northern Virginia today, a waiter in a face mask to protect against the coronavirus (COVID-19) carries food to diners seated outdoors at a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., May 29, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Sunday reported a total 1,761,503 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 23,553 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 915 to 103,700.

The CDC reported its tally of cases of the respiratory illness known as COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus, as of 4 p.m. EDT on May 30 versus its previous report released on Saturday.

The CDC figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama

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New coronavirus losing potency, top Italian doctor says

ROME (Reuters) – The new coronavirus is losing its potency and has become much less lethal, a senior Italian doctor said on Sunday.

A lifeguard wearing a protective face mask takes the temperature of a woman at a newly reopened beach after months of closure due to an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Punta Hidalgo, in Punta Ala, Italy May 31, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

“In reality, the virus clinically no longer exists in Italy,” said Alberto Zangrillo, the head of the San Raffaele Hospital in Milan in the northern region of Lombardy, which has borne the brunt of Italy’s coronavirus contagion.

“The swabs that were performed over the last 10 days showed a viral load in quantitative terms that was absolutely infinitesimal compared to the ones carried out a month or two months ago,” he told RAI television.

Italy has the third highest death toll in the world from COVID-19, with 33,415 people dying since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21. It has the sixth highest global tally of cases at 233,019.

However new infections and fatalities have fallen steadily in May and the country is unwinding some of the most rigid lockdown restrictions introduced anywhere on the continent.

Zangrillo said some experts were too alarmist about the prospect of a second wave of infections and politicians needed to take into account the new reality.

“We’ve got to get back to being a normal country,” he said. “Someone has to take responsibility for terrorizing the country.”

The government urged caution, saying it was far too soon to claim victory.

“Pending scientific evidence to support the thesis that the virus has disappeared … I would invite those who say they are sure of it not to confuse Italians,” Sandra Zampa, an undersecretary at the health ministry, said in a statement.

“We should instead invite Italians to maintain the maximum caution, maintain physical distancing, avoid large groups, to frequently wash their hands and to wear masks.”

A second doctor from northern Italy told the national ANSA news agency that he was also seeing the coronavirus weaken.

“The strength the virus had two months ago is not the same strength it has today,” said Matteo Bassetti, head of the infectious diseases clinic at the San Martino hospital in the city of Genoa.

“It is clear that today the COVID-19 disease is different.”

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Additional reporting by Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Giles Elgood

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Russia plans coronavirus vaccine clinical trials in two weeks: report

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russian scientists plan to start clinical trials within two weeks on a vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus, the health minister was quoted as saying on Saturday as authorities approved the country’s first anti-COVID-19 drug.

FILE PHOTO: Vehicles spray disinfectant while sanitizing a road amid the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Moscow, Russia May 28, 2020. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Russia has the world’s third-highest toll of coronavirus infections after the United States and Brazil, and Kremlin officials have said the nation’s researchers are working on almost 50 different vaccine projects.

“The tests are under way and we plan to start clinical trials in the next two weeks,” Health Minister Mikhail Murashko was quoted as saying by the TASS news agency. He said volunteers had been selected to take part in the trials.

Drugmakers worldwide are rushing to develop treatments and vaccines for the virus that has caused 364,000 deaths globally.

The Russian Direct Investment Fund said the Health Ministry had approved Avifavir for the treatment of COVID-19.

It was developed on the basis of a drug known generically as favipiravir.

RDIF said Avifavir had proved highly effective in treating patients with coronavirus in the first phase of its clinical trials. The final stage of clinical trials is under way, with the participation of 330 patients.

There are currently about 10 coronavirus vaccines being tested in humans and experts have predicted that a safe and effective vaccine could take 12 to 18 months from the start of development.

One of the Russian vaccine projects is being undertaken by the state-run Vektor Institute in Siberia, whose director general, Rinat Maksyutov, said on Saturday he hoped to complete clinical trials in mid-September.

Maksyutov said vaccine trials on animals had been successful.

Russia on Saturday reported 181 deaths from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours – down from the record 232 deaths the previous day – bringing the nationwide death toll to 4,555.

Officials said 8,952 new infections had been confirmed, bringing the national tally to 396,575 cases.

Reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Gleb Stolyarov; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Helen Popper

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U.S. CDC reports total of 1,737,950 coronavirus cases, 102,785 deaths

FILE PHOTO: As Phase One of reopening begins in Northern Virginia today, a waiter in a face mask to protect against the coronavirus (COVID-19) serves diners seated outdoors at a restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, U.S., May 29, 2020. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

(Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Saturday reported a total 1,737,950 cases of the new coronavirus, an increase of 18,123 cases from its previous count, and said that the number of deaths had risen by 1,074 to 102,785.

The CDC reported its tally of cases of the respiratory illness known as COVID-19, caused by the new coronavirus, as of 4 p.m. EDT on May 29 versus its previous report released on Friday.

The CDC figures do not necessarily reflect cases reported by individual states.

Reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Sandra Maler

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Trump says terminating U.S. relationship with World Health Organization over virus

U.S. President Donald Trump makes an announcement about U.S. trade relations with China and Hong Kong in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 29, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON/UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump on Friday said he is terminating the U.S. relationship with the World Health Organization over its handling of the coronavirus, saying the WHO had essentially become a puppet organization of China.

Appearing in the White House Rose Garden, Trump went ahead with repeated threats to eliminate American funding for the group, which amounts to hundreds of millions of dollars a year.

Trump said the WHO had failed to make reforms to the organization that the president had demanded earlier this month. He said Chinese officials “ignored their reporting obligations” about the virus to the WHO and pressured the WHO to “mislead the world” when the virus was first discovered by Chinese authorities.

“China has total control over the World Health Organization despite only paying $40 million per year compared to what the United States has been paying which is approximately $450 million a year. We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly but they have refused to act,” said Trump.

“Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating our relationship with the World Health Organization and redirecting those funds to other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” he said.

Trump has long questioned the value of the United Nations and scorned the importance of multilateralism as he focuses on an “America First” agenda. Since taking office, Trump has quit the U.N. Human Rights Council, the U.N. cultural agency UNESCO, a global accord to tackle climate change and the Iran nuclear deal.

The World Health Organization is a U.N. specialized agency – an independent international body that works with the United Nations. The WHO and a spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Trump’s decision

Reporting By Steve Holland and Michelle Nichols; Editing by Daniel Wallis

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Coronavirus infection rate may shift toward younger ages; death risk higher in cancer patients

FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labeled with a “Vaccine COVID-19” sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

(Reuters) – The following is a brief roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Coronavirus infection burden may shift to younger age groups

As the coronavirus infection rate in Washington State passed its peak, cases in people over age 60 fell 10%, while infections among younger age groups rose steadily, researchers say. The nation’s first known major outbreak took place at a nursing home in the state. Later in the outbreak, however, infections rates among those under age 40 increased from 20% to 40% of total cases, according to a report posted on Thursday without peer review on the medRxiv preprint server. “The fact that young people do not usually get as sick as older people and people with comorbidities is a double edged sword,” co-author Dr. Henry Kaplan of the Swedish Cancer Institute in Seattle told Reuters. “It also means that they are often unaware that they have the disease or unaware of the risk that they pose to others. As a result, there is a natural tendency to be lax about distancing, masks, and other precautions… While the younger patients will usually do fine with the disease, we need to ensure that they don’t become the dominant vector in spreading it.” (bit.ly/2zAHDxE)

Cancer patients with COVID-19 at higher risk of death

Cancer patients who contract COVID-19 are at increased risk of dying within a month, new research shows, and treatment with a combination of malaria drug hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic azithromycin may contribute to that added risk. Among 928 adults with COVID-19 and active or previous cancer, 13% died within 30 days of their coronavirus diagnosis – twice the roughly 6.5% rate seen among all infected patients worldwide, Dr. Jeremy Warner of Vanderbilt University in Nashville said on Thursday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, held virtually this year. Patients with progressing cancer were roughly five times more likely to die within 30 days than those in remission or with no evidence of disease. Other factors tied to a higher risk of death included older age, male gender, former smokers, additional illnesses, and use of hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin. However, the researchers emphasize other factors, such as how severely ill those who received the drugs may be, make it difficult to draw conclusions about their impact on the death rate. Neither the type of cancer, the therapy used to treat it, or recent surgery were associated with increased death risk, however, suggesting that certain treatments could continue during the pandemic “with extreme caution,” Warner’s team wrote on Thursday in The Lancet. “These findings have implications for patients and healthcare providers who will be confronted with difficult decisions during the (coronavirus) pandemic, such as whether to withhold or continue anticancer treatments, and whether to accelerate end-of-life planning under some circumstances.” (; bit.ly/2XI2VBh)

Older, overweight people with diabetes at higher risk of swift death from coronavirus

A large study from France helps quantify the risks faced by people with diabetes and coronavirus infection. Among 1,317 hospitalized COVID-19 patients with diabetes, roughly one in 10 died within seven days and nearly a third required a ventilator for breathing assistance or died in that period. Fewer than one in five could be discharged within a week. The average patient in the study was age 70, and most had type 2 diabetes, researchers reported on Friday in Diabetologia. Poor outcomes were more common when patients were older, had diabetes complications or were overweight. While long-term blood sugar control was not linked with COVID-19 severity, being overweight was independently associated with the risk for needing mechanical ventilation or dying within seven days. Type 2 diabetes has long been associated with obesity. “Special attention” should be paid to protecting overweight elders with diabetes complications from “contamination” with the coronavirus, the researchers said. (bit.ly/2Apm4zO)

Higher COVID-19 infection rate among blacks linked to societal issues

Data from the coronavirus outbreak in Louisiana confirms a disproportionate infection rate and more deaths among blacks, but a lower percentage death rate, researchers at the Ochsner Health system found. Although 31% of the more than half a million people in Ochsner’s coverage area are black, non-Hispanic blacks accounted for 77% of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 and 70.6% of related deaths. But the death rate was actually higher in whites at 30.1% versus 21.6%, the researchers reported on Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine. And after patients’ condition at hospital admission plus social and demographic data were taken into account, blacks and non-Hispanic whites were equally likely to die from the virus, they found. To understand why more blacks become infected, “you have to think about what the circumstances are that increase their risk of exposure,” study leader Dr. Eboni Price-Haywood told Reuters. “In New Orleans and surrounding areas, our economy is based on the service industry and the tourist industry, where the vast majority of people working in this field are minority populations,” she said. Racial disparity in COVID-19 may also reflect differences in rates of chronic conditions that increase the risk of severe illness, such as obesity, heart disease or diabetes. “The disparities in health that we see among the population is something we’ve known for decades,” said Price-Haywood. “COVID-19 just opened the door to a conversation about something we already know.” (bit.ly/2TNUbbQ)

Reporting by Nancy Lapid, Julie Steenhuysen, Gene Emery and Megan Brooks; Editing by Bill Berkrot

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Study examines changes in prescription patterns during COVID-19 pandemic

A new study by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital examines changes in prescription patterns in the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an exploratory analysis of data from GoodRx used to generate national estimates, Brigham investigators found prescriptions of the anti-malarial drug chloroquine and its analogue hydroxychloroquine dramatically surged during the week of March 15, likely due to off-label prescriptions for COVID-19. Results of the study are published in JAMA.

There have been indications that hydroxychloroquine prescribing had increased and shortages had been reported, but this study puts a spotlight on the extent to which excess hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine prescriptions were filled nationally,”

“This analysis doesn’t include patients who were prescribed HCQ in a hospital setting — this means that patients could have been taking the drugs at home, without supervision or monitoring for side effects.”

Haider Warraich, MD,Corresponding Author and Associate Physician, Division of Cardiovascular Medicine, Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Chloroquine is an anti-malarial drug and its analogue, hydroxychloroquine, is used to treat autoimmune diseases such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis. Both drugs are considered safe and effective for these indications.

Laboratory testing has suggested that the drugs may also have antiviral effects, and, given their relatively low cost, there has been much interest in their potential effectiveness against COVID-19.

However, a study published last week by Brigham researchers and collaborators found that, in an observational analysis, COVID-19 patients who were given either drug (with or without an antibiotic) did not show an improvement in survival rates and were at increased risk for ventricular arrhythmias.

For the current analysis, Warraich and colleagues looked at prescribing patterns for hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine as well as many other commonly prescribed drugs.

These included angiotensin-converting-enzyme-inhibitors (ACEi) and angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs), both of which are prescribed for patients with hypertension or heart failure, as well as the antibiotic azithromycin, and the top 10 drug prescriptions filled in 2019.

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The team compared the number of filled prescriptions for each drug to the number of prescriptions filled last year over a 10-week period from Feb. 16 to April 25.

The team found that fills for all drugs, except the antibiotic amoxicillin and the pain reliever combination of hydrocodone/acetaminophen, peaked during the week of March 15 to March 21, 2020, followed by subsequent declines.

During this week, hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine fills for 28 tablets increased from 2,208 prescriptions in 2019 to 45,858 prescriptions in 2020 (an increase of more than 2,000 percent).

Over the full 10 weeks, there were close to half a million excess fills of hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine in 2020 compared to the year before.

In contrast, prescriptions for antibiotics such as amoxicillin and azithromycin and for hydrocodone/acetaminophen declined. Prescriptions for heart therapies remained stable or declined slightly.

After the surge in prescriptions, the authors observed a reduction in longer-term prescription fills for hydroxychloroquine/chloroquine, which could indicate decreased availability of the drug for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis.

The United States Food and Drug Administration reported a drug shortage of hydroxychloroquine starting March 31.

The surge in prescriptions occurred between March 15 and March 21, within days of the World Health Organization declaring a global coronavirus pandemic on March 11, the U.S. declaring a national emergency on March 13, the publishing of a pre-print about hydroxychloroquine on March 17, and President Trump’s announced support of hydroxychloroquine on March 19.

“During this pandemic, there has been both good information and misinformation about benefits and potential harms of common medications like hydroxychloroquine, and there had been conjecture that proven medications for heart failure may be harmful in this patient population,” said Warraich

. “One positive finding is that we didn’t see a stark reduction in prescription fills for routine, chronic care, but our findings for HCQ are concerning.”

Source:

Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Journal reference:

Vaduganathan, M., Prescription Fill Patterns for Commonly Used Drugs During the COVID-19 Pandemic in the United States. JAMA. doi.org/10.1001/jama.2020.918.

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Searching For Safety: Where Children Hide When Gunfire Is All Too Common

Justice Buress, 4, demonstrates how she hides under a table during a drill at Little Explorers Learning Center in St. Louis. Day care director Tess Trice carries out monthly drills to train the children to get on the floor when they hear gunfire.(Carolina Hidalgo/St. Louis Public Radio)

ST. LOUIS — Champale Greene-Anderson keeps the volume up on her television when she watches 5-year-old granddaughter Amor Robinson while the girl’s mom is at work.

“So we won’t hear the gunshots,” Greene-Anderson said. “I have little bitty grandbabies, and I don’t want them to be afraid to be here.”

As a preschooler, Amor already knows and fears the sounds that occurred with regularity in their neighborhood before the pandemic — and continue even now as the rest of the world has slowed down.

“I don’t like the pop, pop noises,” Amor explained, swinging the beads in her hair. “I can’t hear my tablet when I watch something.”

And when the television or her hot-pink headphones and matching tablet can’t mask the noise of a shooting? “She usually stops everything,” said her mother, Satin White. “Sometimes she cries, sometimes she covers her ears.”

Her grandmother has even watched Amor hide inside a narrow gap between the couch and recliner.

Five-year-old Amor Robinson demonstrates where she sat in her grandmother’s home in St. Louis when she heard gunfire outside. The narrow gap between the couch and armchair recliner became her hideaway.(Carolina Hidalgo/St. Louis Public Radio)

In communities across the United States this spring, families are dealing with more than just the threat of the coronavirus outside their homes. In the midst of violence that does not stop even during a pandemic, children like Amor continually search for safety, peace and a quiet place. “Safer at Home” slogans don’t guarantee safety for them.

More than two dozen parents and caregivers who spoke with Kaiser Health News attested that the kids hide underneath beds, in basements and dry bathtubs, waiting for gunfire to stop while their parents pray that a bullet never finds them.

In St. Louis, which has the nation’s highest murder rate among cities with at least 100,000 people, the reasons are especially stark. More than 20 children in the St. Louis area were killed by gunfire last year, and this year at least 11 children have died already.

While some of the children’s deaths were caused by accidental shootings inside a home, regular gunfire outside is a hurtful reminder that adults have to find ways to keep children safe. And while parents hope their kids grow into healthy adults, evidence shows that children who grow up around violence or witness it frequently are more likely to have health problems later in life.

Can you imagine as a child, you are sleeping, you know, no care in the world as you sleep and being jarred out of your sleep to get under the bed and hide?

Lekesha Davis, a St. Louis mental health counselor

Although the mental health of children around the world has been taxed these past few months, for some children the stress has been going on far longer. Regularly hearing shootings is one example of what’s called an “adverse childhood experience.” Americans who have adverse childhood experiences that remain unaddressed are more likely to suffer heart disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and stroke, according to a 2019 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

St. Louis mental health counselor Lekesha Davis said children and their parents can become desensitized to the violence around them — where even one’s home doesn’t feel safe. And, research shows, black parents and children in the U.S., especially, often cannot get the mental health treatment they may need because of bias or lack of cultural understanding from providers.

“Can you imagine as a child, you are sleeping, you know, no care in the world as you sleep and being jarred out of your sleep to get under the bed and hide?” Davis asked.

“We have to look at this, not just, you know, emotionally, but what does that do to our body?” she added. “Our brain is impacted by this fight-or-flight response. That’s supposed to happen in rare instances, but when you’re having them happen every single day, you’re having these chemicals released in the brain on a daily basis. How does that affect you as you get older?”

But future health problems are hard to think about when you’re trying to survive.

At This Day Care, ‘Dora’ Means Drop

The children at Little Explorers Learning Center are getting reacquainted with their daily routine now that the day care facility has reopened for families of essential workers as the COVID pandemic stay-at-home orders loosen. And there’s a lot to remember.

Teachers at the center remind the children of their hand-washing, mealtime and academic routines. They also make sure the kids remember what to do when gunfire erupts nearby.  Assistant director Tawanda Brand runs a gunfire safety drill once a month. First, she tells the children to get ready. Then, she shouts: “Dora the Explorer!”

“Dora” is a code word, Brand explained, signaling the kids to drop to the floor — the safest place — in case gunfire erupts nearby.

A child looks out the window to watch snow falling at the Little Explorers Learning Center on Jan. 29, in St. Louis. In November 2019, a stray bullet came through the window.(Carolina Hidalgo/St. Louis Public Radio)

Little Explorers Learning Center assistant director and teacher Tawanda Brand works with preschool students in St. Louis on Jan. 29. After closing temporarily because of the coronavirus, the center reopened in May for the children of essential workers. All staff members now wear masks.(Carolina Hidalgo/St. Louis Public Radio)

During a drill one morning before the pandemic, most of the children got down. Others walked around, sending Brand on a chase as she tried to corral the group of 3- to 5-year-olds.

The drill may sound playful, but sometimes the danger is real.

The Little Explorers protocol isn’t like the “active shooter” drills that took place in schools around the country on the rare chance someone would come inside to shoot — as at Columbine, Parkland or Sandy Hook. The day care program performs these drills because nearby shootings are an ongoing threat.

Day care director Tess Trice said a bullet pierced the window in November while the children were inside. Then, the very next day, bullets flew again.

“We heard gunshots, we got on the floor,” Trice said. “Eventually, when we got up and looked out the window, we saw a body out there.”

Tess Trice, who owns and runs Little Explorers Learning Center, conducts monthly drills to keep the kids safe amid gunfire, which has come frighteningly close. Trice was photographed on Jan. 29, before the center temporarily closed; it reopened in early May for the children of essential workers, and all staff members now wear masks.(Carolina Hidalgo/St. Louis Public Radio)

Trice called parents that day to see if they wanted to pick up their children early. Nicollette Mayo was one of the parents who received a call from the teachers. She knows the neighborhood faces challenges, but can’t see her 4-year-old daughter, Justice, and infant son, Marquis, going anywhere else.

“I trust them,” Mayo said. “And I know that, God forbid, if there is an incident that I’m going to be contacted immediately. They’re gonna do what they need to do to keep my children safe.”

Trice considered bulletproof glass for the day care center but could not afford it. A local company estimated it would cost $8,000 to $10,000 per window. So she relies on the “Dora” drills and newly installed cameras.

Still, in a city with such an alarming homicide rate, such drills aren’t happening only at the few day care facilities that have reopened. They also happen at home.

‘You Live Better If You Sit On The Floor’

Long before the coronavirus pandemic pushed the world to isolate at home, the Hicks family had their own version of sheltering in place. But it was from gun violence. When they hear gunshots outside their home in East St. Louis, Illinois, everyone hides in the dark.

The goal is to keep the family out of sight, because bearing witness to a shooting could put them at a different kind of risk, mom Kianna Hicks said.

Khanyla Blueford, 12, and her siblings demonstrate a drill they practice in which they drop to the floor quickly at their home in East St. Louis, Illinois. The drill helps them feel prepared for when they hear gunfire, which in past years happened at least twice a week in warm months.(Carolina Hidalgo/St. Louis Public Radio)

So when trouble erupts, they do their best to remain unseen and unheard.

“We turn the TV down,” said 13-year-old Anajah Hicks, the oldest of four. “We turn the lights off, and we hurry up and get down on the ground.”

A few times each month, the family practices what to do when they hear gunshots. Hicks tells the kids to get ready. Then, their grandmother Gloria Hicks claps her hands to simulate the sound of gunfire.

“I need them to know exactly what to do, because in too many instances, where we’ve been sitting around, and gunshots, you know, people start shooting, and they’ll just be up walking around or trying to run,” Kianna Hicks said. “I’ll tell ’em, ‘Naw, that’s not what you do. You hear gunshots, you hear gunshots. No matter where you at, you stop — you get on the ground and you wait until it’s over with and then you move around.’”

And this summer, Hicks wants to make sure the kids are ready. At least twice a week in past years when the weather warmed up, the family got on the floor in response to real gunfire. Violence spikes in summer months, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. And she knows they could be spending more time in the house if football camp for her boys is canceled because of coronavirus fears.

Other families in tough neighborhoods sit on the floor more often, even amid moments of relative quiet. The first time Gloria Hicks saw a family sitting on the floor, she was visiting her godson in Chicago decades ago. It was hot that summer, Hicks recalled, so families kept their apartment doors open to stay cool.

“They were sitting on the floor watching TV and I wondered, Why is it like that?” Hicks recalled. “Then I learned that you live better if you sit on the floor than on the couch, because you don’t know when the bullets gon’ fly.”

‘I Immediately Dropped To The Floor’

Although 16-year-old Mariah knows what to do when bullets fly, she said, she still has a difficult time processing the sound of violence. The honor student was babysitting her little cousins at her St. Louis home last winter when she heard gunshots.

“It couldn’t have been no further than, like, my doorstep,” recalled Mariah, whose mother asked that the teen’s last name not be printed so the discussion of the trauma doesn’t follow her into adulthood. “I immediately dropped to the floor, and then in a split second the second thing that ran through my head is like, ‘Oh, my God, the kids.’”

Mariah and her mom, Eisha Taylor, pose for a portrait at their home in St. Louis on Feb. 1. Mariah was babysitting her little cousins there last winter when she heard nearby gunshots.(Carolina Hidalgo/St. Louis Public Radio)

When Mariah walked into the next room, she saw her two younger cousins on the floor doing exactly what their mother had taught them to do when gunfire erupts.

Get down and don’t move.

“I was so worried,” Mariah recalled. “They’re 6 and 3. Imagine that.”

The three kids walked away physically OK that day. But later that night, Mariah said, she pulled out strands of her hair, a behavior associated with stress.

“Pulling my hair got really bad,” she said. “I had to oil my hair again because when I oil it, it makes it hard to pull out.”

Davis, the mental health counselor who has worked for 20 years with children experiencing trauma, encourages parents to comfort their kids after a traumatic event and for the kids to fully explore and discuss their emotions, even months after the fact.

She said getting on the floor explains only how families are maintaining their physical safety.

“But no one’s addressing the emotional and the mental toll that this takes on individuals,” said Davis, vice president of the Hopewell Center, one of the few mental health agencies for kids in the city of St. Louis.

“We get children that were playing in their backyard and they witnessed someone being shot right in front of them,” Davis said. “These are the daily experiences of our children. And that’s not normal.”

Carolina Hidalgo contributed to this report as a journalist at St. Louis Public Radio.

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Valencia region moves to next stage of Spain’s lockdown exit

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s Valencia region will progress to the next phase of a gradual exit from one of Europe’s strictest lockdowns, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Thursday, as the country’s coronavirus death toll rose by just one for the second straight day to 27,119.

FILE PHOTO: People wearing face masks walk on a crosswalk, as some Spanish provinces are allowed to ease lockdown restrictions during phase one, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Valencia, Spain May 19, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

Valencia, which is home to important tourism resorts in cities such as Benidorm and Alicante on the East coast, will move to phase 2 of a four-stage easing process, where gatherings of up to 15 people will be allowed and some previous restrictions on movement will be lifted.

“From Monday on around 70% of the (country’s) population will be in phase 2 and 30% will be in phase 1,” Illa said during a late evening press conference.

Additionally, about 45,000 people living on the islands of La Gomera, La Graciosa and El Hierro in the Canary Islands, and on the island of Formentera on the Balearics, will progress to phase 3, Illa said.

As authorities fine-tune a new way of logging cases and deaths, the Health Ministry’s data on Thursday showed 38 people died over the last seven days, down from hundreds of daily deaths reported a month ago, while a total of 237,906 cases have been detected since the beginning of the outbreak.

“The data confirm a sustained and positive data trend seen during the previous days and shows that the state of emergency (imposed in mid-March) has worked,” Illa said.

The government has warned the data may fluctuate in coming days as it adjusts to the new methodology.

Illa told parliament earlier on Thurday that there had been a handful of minor outbreaks across the country since stringent confinement measures gradually began easing at the start of May.

One cluster was detected in an industrial zone in the Catalan province of Lleida, another in the southern town of Totana, and a third in the central province of Cuenca.

“The good news is that they have been detected and controlled very early,” Illa said.

Reporting by Nathan Allen, Emma Pinedo and Jesús Aguado; editing by Tom Brown

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France’s coronavirus deaths reach more than 28,500, cases slow

FILE PHOTO: A patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is treated in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital in Vannes during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease in France, May 6, 2020. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s coronavirus death toll rose by less than a 100 for the sixth day running on Tuesday, despite nursing home data being included again, raising hopes that the worst of the pandemic is over for the country.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe is due on Thursday to detail new steps to lift the lockdown, which could entail the reopening of bars and restaurants in some parts of France, which has now reported 28,530 coronavirus deaths, the world’s fourth highest.

The French health ministry said that the number of fatalities had risen by 83, or 0.3%, in hospitals, to 18,195. But it lowered the toll in nursing homes to 10,335, 10 fewer than when it was last published, after a technical revision.

The death toll on average increased daily by 910 between April 1 and April 15 as France struggled to contain the coronavirus outbreak which has swept the globe.

In a statement its health ministry said that the number of new confirmed cases was up by 276 to 145,555, or 0.2%, in line with the rate of the last week and slower than the week before.

Meanwhile, the number of patients in hospital with coronavirus fell by 534, or 3.2%, to 16,264, the sharpest rate of decline in almost three weeks. Intensive care patients dropped by 54 to 1,555, continuing a six-week downward trend.

Both numbers, key indicators of the French health system’s ability to cope with the pandemic, peaked at more than 32,000 and 7,000 respectively in early to mid-April.

Reporting by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alexander Smith

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