Rapid At-Home Tests Could Curb Virus Spread, Harvard and University of Colorado Researchers Find | News

Frequent administration of rapid-turnaround tests could substantially reduce COVID-19 infectiousness and curb the virus’s spread, researchers at Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Colorado at Boulder found in a new study.

While the gold-standard tests, which detect the virus using polymerase chain reaction, accurately identify infected patients, they are not highly effective for population-wide testing due to lengthy return times, according to James A. Hay, a postdoctoral researcher at the School of Public Health and one of the study’s authors.

“One of the problems with testing has been that we’ve been kind of restricting ourselves to these very sensitive PCR tests that are really not designed for mass deployment,” Hay said.

Those administering the tests should prioritize accessibility, frequency, and turnaround time over “test sensitivity” — meaning the proportion of infected individuals who test positive — according to the study, which was published November 20 in the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances.

Though the rapid COVID-19 tests have less sensitivity than the gold-standard PCR tests, they bring other benefits: Some return results in 15 minutes, while PCR tests can take several days.

“That loss of sensitivity is offset by the fact that they’re very cheap to produce, they’re very easy to use, and they’re the sort of thing you can give to people to use in their homes,” Hay said.

“The key is that by testing people very frequently, you’re much more likely to catch people when they’re infectious,” Hay added.

The lower sensitivity of the rapid, at-home tests compared to standard PCR tests means patients must have higher viral loads for the test to detect the virus. But in most cases, patients do not become contagious until after the brief early period of infection, when people tend to have lower viral loads that are undetectable by the at-home tests, according to Hay.

Hay said the tests should be viewed as a transmission-limiting tool aiding public health response, rather than purely as a medical diagnostic like the standard PCR tests. In a School of Public Health press release, epidemiology professor Michael J. Mina, a senior co-author and Hay’s postdoctoral advisor, called the tests “contagiousness tests.”

“These rapid tests are contagiousness tests,” Mina said in the release. “They are extremely effective in detecting COVID-19 when people are contagious.”

Even with frequent testing via rapid COVID-19 tests, social distancing measures will remain critical, Hay said.

“Rapid testing is more a way to say, well, we can detect more positive people and earlier in their infection, and it’s for those people who test positive that they must take extra precautions to not infect other people,” Hay said. “Those are the people that we would encourage to self isolate, but it doesn’t mean that if you get a negative result that’s a free passport to do whatever you want.”

“At the population level, if we are targeting who has to self isolate much more intelligently, then we don’t need to resort to the kind of population-wide lockdowns, because we know that the

Read more

Arizona urges Thanksgiving precautions against virus spread


PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona on Saturday reported 3,628 additional COVID-19 cases and 30 more deaths amid increasing hospitalizations as health officials urged residents to take precautions during Thanksgiving gatherings to prevent infections.

The Department of Health Services recommended holding Thanksgiving celebrations outside along with masks, social distancing and staying home if sick.

“Don’t let down your guard, even around close friends and relatives who aren’t members of your household,” the department said on Twitter.

Arizona has been experiencing a rise in cases, hospitalizations and deaths since late September and early October. Officials have cited business and school reopenings and public weariness with COVID-19 precautions.

With the additional cases and deaths reported Saturday, the state’s totals rose to 295,334 cases and 6,457 deaths, according to the state’s coronavirus dashboard.

Hospitalizations reached 1,916 as of Friday, with 435 of those patients in intensive care beds, for a total of 24,181 over the outbreak.

The number of reported infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

In other developments:

— The Navajo Nation, which stretches across Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, reported 168 new coronavirus cases and three new virus-related deaths on Saturday. The huge reservation has had a total of 14,612 cases and 626 deaths.

Source Article

Read more

Texas-Kansas among 6 major college games postponed by virus

No. 22 Texas at Kansas was among six games postponed by COVID-19 problems as the virus took another chunk out of this weekend’s major college football schedule

No. 22 Texas at Kansas was among six games postponed Wednesday by COVID-19 problems as the virus took another chunk out of this weekend’s major college football schedule.

Overall, 14 out of 62 games involving Bowl Subdivision teams scheduled for this week have been called off. Last week, 15 of the 59 games scheduled were not played.

Texas-Kansas was just the second Big 12 conference game to be postponed this season and was rescheduled for Dec. 12.

The American Athletic Conference had to call off Navy at South Florida and Houston at SMU. The conference will work to reschedule those games.

The Mountain West also had two games disrupted. Utah State at Wyoming slated for Thursday night was canceled. UNLV at Colorado State scheduled for Saturday will not be played, but there is a possibility it could be made up.

No. 24 Louisiana-Lafayette also said it would not play its nonconference game against Central Arkansas on Saturday, but hopes to be back at practice by Saturday and ready to play its next Sun Belt game on Nov. 28 against Louisiana-Monroe.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at https://twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP and listen at https://westwoodonepodcasts.com/pods/ap-top-25-college-football-podcast/


More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25

Source Article

Read more

After a ‘Covid Semester,’ the University of Michigan Gets Tougher on the Virus

Dr. Schlissel still talks about testing as just one key tool in a combination of actions necessary to control the virus, but he has come around, he said, to seeing its importance in “reassuring” the community. When classes resume in 2021, the university will de-densify the dorms and ramp up testing. Only about 3,000 students will be allowed back into university housing, and anyone who comes onto campus, symptomatic or not, will have to be cleared via a saliva-based test processed by a faculty-founded start-up in Ann Arbor.

“If they don’t,” Dr. Schlissel said, “we’ll inactivate their ID cards.”

The retrenchment has pleased faculty but upset undergraduates and their parents. More than 1,500 angry parents have signed a petition protesting the short notice with which the university canceled spring housing contracts. If the university doesn’t “reverse its drastic decision to close the dorms,” it says, the parents want a discount.

“He should say, ‘Listen, we screwed up,’ and apologize to all of us,” said Amy Tara Koch, a Chicago writer and Michigan alumna whose daughter, a freshman, scrambled last week to find an apartment for the spring in Ann Arbor. “And then give a tuition abatement. Out-of-state tuition there is, like, $50,000.”

The disappointment has been particularly keen, other parents said, because Michigan’s reputation for academic excellence had led them to expect a state-of-the-art response to the crisis.

“It’s all too little, too late,” said Sherry Levine, a teacher from Rye Brook, N.Y., whose son, a junior, lives in a fraternity house in Ann Arbor, and who feels the university’s pandemic response all year has been merely “reactive.”

Dr. Schlissel said the university had refunded housing deposits for the spring, offered lower double-room rates to students who’ll spend the spring in a single and already “apologized profusely.” And, he noted, not all of the fall semester lessons were negative.

“Students continued in their studies, they’ll get credit for the semester, they’re going to head toward being Michigan graduates and they’re doing so in an environment that is really challenging,” he said. “Everyone is doing their best.”

Source Article

Read more

Fighting the virus, the University of Michigan battens down the hatches.

The University of Michigan’s flagship campus in Ann Arbor opened the fall semester with great expectations. Thousands of students were welcomed back to the dorms in August.

Pessimists were asked to reserve judgment. Parents worried that students would not be safe.

Sure enough, by midsemester, coronavirus clusters were erupting on and off campus. In October, county health authorities ordered the whole campus to shelter in place, citing “social gatherings” on or near campus as a major source of infections.

Now, after more than 2,540 Covid-19 cases among students and staff, the university is shifting course drastically. It has asked students not to come back to campus in January unless they have to. Instruction will be remote in 90 percent of classes. Students who violate certain health rules will face tougher sanctions, including automatic probation, and coronavirus tests will be mandatory for anyone coming to campus.

In many ways, the school’s chaotic fall has typified the struggles of big state universities that tried to maintain some semblance of normalcy amid contagion, allowing intercollegiate sports, Greek life and off-campus housing — often without the kind of mandatory coronavirus testing considered crucial to containing outbreaks.

Though the virus has proved to be less lethal among young people, it has also spread like wildfire on many campuses. A New York Times survey has revealed at least 321,000 cases at 1,700 colleges across the country.

And like Michigan, many of those universities are now looking to batten down their hatches for the winter and spring semesters.

When classes resume in 2021, Michigan will de-densify the dorms and ramp up testing. Only about 3,000 students will be allowed back into university housing, and anyone who comes onto campus, symptomatic or not, will have to be cleared via a saliva-based test processed by a faculty-founded start-up in Ann Arbor.

“If they don’t,” said the university’s president, Mark Schlissel, a physician, “we’ll inactivate their ID cards.”

Source Article

Read more

NYC Schools Quell the Virus Only to Face Education Challenges

(Bloomberg) — New York City has successfully kept Covid-19 from invading its school buildings, offering hope to a nation hesitant to return children to classrooms. Now it must maintain those low levels as it tries to lure more students.

America’s largest public-school system begins its only opt-in period Monday for remote-school students willing to give a blended program a shot. If they don’t switch by Nov. 15, they will be remote for the rest of the school year — an option that district officials say results in students learning less than with in-class instruction.

a person wearing a suit and tie: Mayor de Blasio And Chancellor Carranza Tour New Bridges Elementary School Ahead Of Schools Reopening

© Bloomberg
Mayor de Blasio And Chancellor Carranza Tour New Bridges Elementary School Ahead Of Schools Reopening

Richard Carranza


Load Error

Photographer: Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg

“We’re lower than we anticipated in terms of in-person learners, and know that families initially had hesitations,” Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza said during an Oct. 26 news briefing. “There is no replacement for in-person learning, and it’s safe to do so.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio proposed a blended program in late August that called for socially distanced classrooms, mandatory masks, a contract tracing program and a requirement that the citywide transmission rate stays below 3%.

He has said in-person school is “crucial” for students and their families. For months, he had predicted 70% of the system’s 1.1 million students would participate in the blended program. But parents withdrew their kids in droves last month. As of last week, about 25% were in school part-time.

The city has an overall attendance rate of about 85%, down from 92% at the end of the 2018-19 school year. Students with less than 90% attendance “are more likely to have lower test scores and not graduate from high school,” according to the district’s website.

Absent Students

Art Zander, who teaches sixth-grade math and science at Elizabeth Blackwell Middle School in south Queens, said some new students haven’t shown up yet for in-class learning. “Sometimes they don’t have a device or internet connectivity, and it may take some effort finding out where these kids are. We have teachers telling us: ‘I’m supposed to have 30 kids in class, and six haven’t reported.’ ”

For all the worries, the system’s school buildings have proved to be havens of public-health safety, almost devoid of infection. After about 63,000 tests in 1,200 schools, just 69 were positive for Covid-19, the mayor said Friday. He described the achievement as “astounding,” saying it should motivate parents to send their kids back.

“What it says is our schools are extraordinarily safe,” de Blasio said. “We’re not seeing movement in the wrong direction of schools. We’re seeing incredible stability in the schools, very, very low level of test positivity. And that is a blessing.”

Among school districts in other major U.S. cities, Los Angeles and Nevada’s Clark County remain closed, while Chicago plans to open buildings for just pre-kindergarten and special education later in the second quarter, which ends in early February. Miami schools reopened in October, and have since reported 343 Covid cases.

Read more

Applied DNA Announces Linear DNA Orders from New Contract Research Customers for Use in RNA Vaccine and Adeno-Associated Virus Applications

– Company also Secures Follow-on Order from Existing Contract Research Customer for Adoptive Cell Therapy (CAR T) Application –

Applied DNA Sciences, Inc. (NASDAQ: APDN) (“Applied DNA” or the “Company”), a leader in Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)-based DNA manufacturing, announced that it received orders for its linear DNA to be evaluated in an RNA vaccine and Adeno-Associated Virus (AAV) production from two new contract research customers, respectively. The Company also received a follow-on order for linear DNA from an existing contract research customer for a preclinical CAR T therapy. The follow-on order marks the third order from the existing customer for use across multiple applications. All orders are to be shipped by the end of calendar 2020.

Applied DNA’s unique large-scale PCR production of linear DNA is made capable by its LinearDNA™ platform, a proprietary process that enables large, gram-scale production of single- or double-stranded DNA for diagnostics; therapeutics, such as CAR T; vaccines, such as those made of RNA and DNA; and improves the agility of virus production, such as AAV. Some COVID-19 vaccines utilize AAV as the vector for delivery of a synthetic gene that causes the transfected cell to release antigens that promote immunity to SARS-CoV-2. The Company announced in August 2020 that it filed a new U.S. patent application for the manufacture of AAV via its LinearDNA™ platform.

“Our LinearDNA manufacturing platform is paving a new path for nucleic acid-based drug development that, to date, is largely reliant on plasmid-based production that is lengthy, prone to toxin contamination, promulgating antibiotic resistance, accidental inclusion of non-target DNA, and genomic integration. To our knowledge, we are the only company to pursue the commercialization of linear DNA for diagnostic and therapeutic applications via large-scale PCR. We believe this makes us applicable to every preclinical or clinical nucleic acid-based drug production program being pursued by the industry’s leading companies. The addition of new development customers and repeat orders for linear DNA, we believe, suggests a growing appetite for a market-ready alternative to plasmids,” stated Dr. James A. Hayward, president and CEO, Applied DNA.

About Applied DNA Sciences

Applied DNA is a provider of molecular technologies that enable supply chain security, anti-counterfeiting and anti-theft technology, product genotyping, and pre-clinical nucleic acid-based therapeutic drug candidates.

Visit adnas.com for more information. Follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn. Join our mailing list.

The Company’s common stock is listed on NASDAQ under ticker symbol ‘APDN’, and its publicly traded warrants are listed on OTC under ticker symbol ‘APPDW’.

Applied DNA is a member of the Russell Microcap® Index.

Forward-Looking Statements

The statements made by Applied DNA in this press release may be “forward-looking” in nature within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements describe Applied DNA’s future plans, projections, strategies and expectations, and are based on assumptions and involve a number of risks and uncertainties, many of which are

Read more

Poop, pooled spit show proof of virus at this Colorado school


R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic.


Carol Wilusz’s mornings often start at 4 a.m., scanning the contents of undergraduates’ feces. Specifically, scanning the data on how much coronavirus they flushed into the shadows, destined to be extracted from 17 manholes connected to dorm buildings on Colorado State University’s Fort Collins campus.

“There are quite extensive numbers of poop jokes,” said Wilusz, a CSU molecular biologist. 

Emerging research suggests infected people start shedding the coronavirus in their poop early in their infection, and possibly days before they begin shedding it from their mouths and noses.

In normal times, Wilusz studies stem cells and muscular dystrophy. Now, her team is on the front lines of defense against the massive COVID-19 outbreaks that, for a campus with more than 23,000 undergraduates alone, always seem to be lurking around the corner. The sewage review is part of a multipronged attack that includes the usual weapon of contact tracing plus a specialized “paired pooling” form of testing saliva samples. So far, the school has had about 500 cases since the semester started.

US coronavirus map: Tracking the outbreak

Amid fluctuating scientific recommendations and a virus that still holds uncertainties, colleges across the country are taking a choose-your-own-adventure approach to COVID-19. For those holding in-person classes, the adventure includes an extra puzzle: how to concentrate a lot of people into one place without an outbreak tearing through the student body and spilling into the community, all without safety precautions that would break the bank.

Testing is at the core of those plans.

“The institutions that have been the most successful are ones that are testing every student at least once a week,” said Chris Marsicano, an assistant professor at Davidson College in North Carolina who is leading an initiative tracking how universities are responding to the pandemic. 

According to data collected in mid-September, only about 6% of large universities with in-person classes are routinely testing all students, according to an NPR analysis of his group’s data.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has been leading the pack, testing about 10,000 students each day using a streamlined spit-testing method. But it’s pricey. Despite driving down the cost of an individual test to about $10, Paul Hergenrother, a chemist leading the effort, said the school is still spending about $1 million a week.


Show Thumbnails

Show Captions

Last SlideNext Slide

At Colorado State University, Lori Lynn, co-chair of the school’s pandemic response team, said initially the school was paying $93 a pop to test students using the usual nose swab method. 

“We quickly spent several million dollars on testing,” said Lynn, who added that cost is just one limiting factor.

Instead, Mark Zabel, a CSU molecular biologist and immunologist who typically studies neurodegenerative diseases, said his group recently figured out how to screen saliva for less than $20 a person. It involves pooling drool samples in a strategic way reminiscent

Read more

Airlines’ COVID-19 cleaning methods successfully kill the virus: study


New cleaning methods implemented by airlines to disinfect aircraft against the new coronavirus are effective, according to a newly released report by the University of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Science and Boeing. 

The Seattle-based airline manufacturer conducted the test as part of its Confident Travel Initiative, a program meant to help “minimize air travel related health risks.”

This study tested the cleaning methods used on flights to validate whether those methods were indeed effective in eliminating the virus not just in the cabin, but also on the flight deck and cargo compartments. The idea was to make sure cleaning protocols are providing a virus-free environment at the time of boarding, thus eliminating one potential source of transmission of the virus between flights. 

What it takes to clean airplanes during the pandemic

Boeing employee Kevin Callahan uses Boeing’s UV wand on an area treated with MS2. (Photo: Marian Lockhart/Boeing)

Frequent cleaning of aircraft is just one aspect of the layered safety approach the airlines have adopted to combat the transmission of the coronavirus. Some of the other precautions to prevent spread include instituting touchless technology, utilizing the plane’s HEPA air filtration system to remove the virus from the air, urging passengers to stay home when sick as well as encouraging the use of masks while onboard. 

Layering these precautions allows more opportunities to eliminate the virus and prevent its spread. 

“It (COVID-19) is a safety threat to passengers within the air travel system and so we defend against threats through layered protections, be that cybersecurity, be that physical security or in this case, health security,” said Tom Sanderson, Boeing’s director of product marketing.

PREMIUM: Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport traffic is bouncing back. This is why travelers are returning

How the University of Arizona study was conducted 

In the study, touted as the first of its kind, scientists from University of Arizona placed a surrogate live virus, the MS2 virus, on touch points like tray tables and seatbacks around a Boeing 737 aircraft at Boeing Field in Seattle. MS2 is commonly used in scientific studies because it is harmless to humans.However, Boeing said it was the first time they have used it on an aircraft. 

Charles Gerba, a professor and microbiologist with the University of Arizona, said scientists chose to use the MS2 virus for two key reasons: Humans cannot contract it, and it is more resistant than the coronavirus. That means if the cleaning methods could kill MS2, the same methods would also eliminate the coronavirus.

“It’s really exciting working on this project because we’re actually having to put a live virus in an aircraft, then demonstrate we can inactivate and kill this virus,” Gerba said. 

One of the benefits of testing a live virus on an aircraft in the field, Gerba said, is that scientists can observe how those cleaning methods will perform

Read more

Guerin Emig: COVID-19 and college football coaches: “This virus is giving us opportunities we don’t want” | OU Sports Extra

Still, concern, confusion and disruption all lurk.

We have focused mostly on how the virus affects players, rightfully so since kids and young adults are our first priority regardless of subject or circumstance.

We shouldn’t, however, miss the older adults. We shouldn’t miss the coaches and staff members.

“As we knew more about the virus, and I think we’ve been on 17 different committees just dealing with this since March, there was growing data, and this has played out, that this doesn’t impact young men as seriously potentially,” said Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association. “Most of them don’t even know that they have it. That’s played out even on teams. Most have not felt sick. The testing has basically caught it.

“The group that is more vulnerable to something serious is individuals that are elderly or with preexisting conditions and so on, and that certainly includes an awful lot of our coaches.”

We’re all at risk of catching the coronavirus, but the scale of something serious happening as a result slides drastically by age.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data as of Oct. 14, 374 people in the U.S. between 15 and 24 years old had died of COVID-19-involved factors. That number jumped to 1,588 in the 25-34 demographic, 4,119 in 35-44, 10,837 in 45-54 and 25,971 in 55-64.

Source Article

Read more