Is This ‘Good News’ List About the COVID-19 Pandemic Accurate?

A few bright spots do indeed shine amid the doom and gloom of the new coronavirus.

  • Published 19 March 2020

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A viral list notes numerous "good news" items related to the fight against the COVID-19 coronavirus disease pandemic.

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Things appeared pretty bleak in March 2020 as the COVID-19 coronavirus disease continued to spread across the globe. Businesses and restaurants were being shut down, people were asked to stay inside their homes, and the stock market was crashing. But, according to viral list on social media, it wasn’t all bad news. 

On March 16, a Facebook post that supposedly highlighted some “good news” about COVID-19 started to spread online:

How about some good news?

– China has closed down its last coronavirus hospital. Not enough new cases to support them.

– Doctors in India have been successful in treating Coronavirus. Combination of drugs used: Lopinavir, Retonovir, Oseltamivir along with Chlorphenamine. They are going to suggest same medicine, globally.

– Researchers of the Erasmus Medical Center claim to have found an antibody against coronavirus.

– A 103-year-old Chinese grandmother has made a full recovery from COVID-19 after being treated for 6 days in Wuhan, China.

– Apple reopens all 42 china stores,

– Cleveland Clinic developed a COVID-19 test that gives results in hours, not days.

– Good news from South Korea, where the number of new cases is declining.

– Italy is hit hard, experts say, only because they have the oldest population in Europe.

– Scientists in Israel likely to announce the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

– 3 Maryland coronavirus patients fully recovered; able to return to everyday life.

– A network of Canadian scientists are making excellent progress in Covid-19 research.

– A San Diego biotech company is developing a Covid-19 vaccine in collaboration with Duke University and National University of Singapore.

– Tulsa County’s first positive COVID-19 case has recovered. This individual has had two negative tests, which is the indicator of recovery.

– All 7 patients who were getting treated for at Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi have recovered.

– Plasma from newly recovered patients from Covid -19 can treat others infected by Covid-19.

So it’s not all bad news. Let’s care for each other and stay focused on safety of those most vulnerable.

We’re not sure who wrote this Facebook post. The earliest version we could find was posted by Dr. James Fedich, but we’ve come across several other variations of the list across social media. We reached out to Fedich to confirm authorship but we have not yet heard back. 

More importantly, this list appears to be generally accurate. Some of the statements are missing some context, are a bit exaggerated, or appear to be little more than wishful thinking, so let’s take a brief look at each of the claims individually:

China has closed down its last coronavirus hospital. Not enough new cases to support them. 

China built several temporary hospitals in order to care for people sickened by COVID-19. On March 11, journalists reported that these hospitals were shut down as the  spread of the disease started to slow. On March 19, China reported no new locally transmitted cases had been reported for the first time since the start of the pandemic:

Doctors in India have been successful in treating Coronavirus. Combination of drugs used: Lopinavir, Retonovir, Oseltamivir along with Chlorphenamine. They are going to suggest same medicine, globally. 

The Economic Times reported that the combination of two anti-HIV drugs had proven crucial to the treatment of coronavirus patients. India’s Union of Health Ministry revised its guidelines to recommend the use of “anti-HIV drug combinations Lopinavir and Ritonavir on a case-to-case basis depending upon the severity of the condition of a patient having coronavirus infection.”

But it’s unclear how effective these drugs will end up being or if they will be implemented in treatment worldwide. 

Researchers of the Erasmus Medical Center claim to have found an antibody against coronavirus.

The Dutch newspaper NL Times reported that “a team of ten scientific researchers from the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam and Utrecht University” reported that they discovered an “antibody capable of fending off an infection by the Covid-19 variant of coronavirus.”

This may prove to be a big step in developing a vaccine for COVID-19. 

A 103-year-old Chinese grandmother has made a full recovery from COVID-19 after being treated for 6 days in Wuhan, China.

The Independent reported on March 11 that a 103-year-old woman named Zhang Guangfen contracted the disease in Wuhan, China. Guangfen was treated for six days at the hospital before being released. Dr. Zeng Yulan told reporters that the centenarian’s quick recovery was likely due to the fact that she had no underlying health conditions. 

Apple reopens all 42 China stores.

Although China was once the epicenter of this pandemic, the country managed to get a handle on the situation, and as of this writing cases in the country continue to drop. On March 13, 2020, Apple announced that it was reopening all 42 of its stores in China. 

Reuters reported: “Apple Inc (AAPL.O) is reopening all 42 of its branded stores in China on Friday [March 13], a company spokesman said, more than a month after they were shut in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.”

Cleveland Clinic developed a COVID-19 test that gives results in hours, not days.

The MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, Ohio, announced on March 16 that it can test COVID-19 samples at its laboratory and get the results in just two hours. These tests, however, were in very limited supply:

MetroHealth CEO and President Akram Boutros, MD, FACHE, said: “Supplies are very limited, and testing at this time must be reserved for the hospitalized patients who are critically ill and those who have had direct contact with them.”

Good news from South Korea, where the number of new cases is declining.

While COVID-19 continues, currently, to spread in places like the United States, some other countries have managed to “flatten the curve” and suppress the spread of the disease.

Science Magazine wrote on March 17: “Amid these dire trends, South Korea has emerged as a sign of hope and a model to emulate. The country of 50 million appears to have greatly slowed its epidemic; it reported only 74 new cases today, down from 909 at its peak on 29 February. And it has done so without locking down entire cities or taking some of the other authoritarian measures that helped China bring its epidemic under control.”

One reason for South Korea’s success, according to CNN, is that the COVID-19 outbreak occurred in a population of relatively young, non-smoking women. 

Italy is hit hard, experts say, only because they have the oldest population in Europe.

While South Korea may have benefited from this disease impacting its young population first, Italy, on the other hand, has one of the oldest populations on earth. 

Wired reported: “Italy has been hit particularly hard, with some 2,000 deaths thus far. Overwhelmed hospital staffers have had to make devastating decisions about who to treat and who they must let perish. The reason why Italy is suffering so badly, write University of Oxford researchers in a new paper in the journal Demographic Science, may be twofold: The country has the second-oldest population on earth, and its young tend to mingle more often with the elderly, like their grandparents. Such demographic research will be critical in facing down the threat elsewhere, as more countries grapple with a deadly pandemic that’s just getting started and we learn more about how the virus is transmitted within families and communities.”

Scientists in Israel likely to announce the development of a coronavirus vaccine.

Haaretz reported on March 18 that “scientists at Israel’s Institute for Biological Research” have made a “significant breakthrough,” and that they could announce in the next few days that they have completed development of a vaccine. 

Haaretz said: “According to medical sources, the scientists have recently had a significant breakthrough in understanding the biological mechanism and qualities of the virus, including better diagnostic capability, production of antibodies for those who already have the virus and development of a vaccine.”

However, it will still be awhile before this vaccine reaches a larger population. 

Haaretz added: “The development process requires a series of tests and experiments that may last many months before the vaccination is deemed effective or safe to use.”

3 Maryland coronavirus patients fully recovered; able to return to everyday life.

Fox 5 DC reported on March 14 that Maryland’s first three coronavirus patients had all recovered and were returning to their homes. 

The news outlet wrote: “On Friday, Montgomery County’s Chief Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles told FOX 5 the first three people to test positive for Coronavirus in the state of Maryland have recovered and are able to resume their normal lives.”

A network of Canadian scientists are making excellent progress in Covid-19 research.

The Montreal Gazette reported on March 13 that the country’s scientists were making progress on COVID-19 research as they were able to isolate a copy of the coronavirus. 

“A team of Canadian researchers from Ontario has isolated and grown copies of the coronavirus, the agent responsible for the outbreak of COVID-19 that has spread worldwide,” the Gazette said. “The isolated virus will help researchers in Canada and across the world develop better diagnostic testing, treatments and vaccines, and to gain a fuller understanding of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).”

A San Diego biotech company is developing a Covid-19 vaccine in collaboration with Duke University and National University of Singapore.

A CBS TV station reported on March 12 that the San Diego biotech company Arcturus Therapeutics was working on a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The outlet reported: “As the race to develop a vaccine for coronavirus / COVID-19 continues globally, the San Diego based biotech company, Arcturus Therapeutics, is working on creating one at its Torrey Pines lab … The biotech company is working with Duke NUS- Medical School, a partnership between Duke University and the National University of Singapore.”

Tulsa County’s first positive COVID-19 case has recovered. This individual has had two negative tests, which is the indicator of recovery.

Tulsa World reported on March 12 that the county’s first coronavirus case had fully recovered. The Tulsa Health Department reported the good news on Facebook:

All 7 patients who were getting treated for at Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi have recovered.

The Hindu reported on March 14 that seven coronavirus patients at Safdarjung hospital in New Delhi had recovered from the disease, writing: “Safdarjung Hospital, which is treating a bulk of COVID-19 patients here in the Capital has reported that seven of the positive cases currently admitted in the hospital have recovered but are yet to be discharged.” 

Plasma from newly recovered patients from Covid-19 can treat others infected by Covid-19.

The final item on this list refers to an experimental treatment. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Stephen Hahn said that the FDA was experimenting with a new COVID-19 treatment involving the plasma from a person who recovered from the disease:

Tech Crunch reported:

Hahn also highlighted another experimental treatment possibility that the FDA is investigating: Using plasma derived from blood taken from coronavirus patients who have recovered, and injecting that into other patients in an attempt to potentially jump start their own immune response.

“There’s a cross-agency effort about something called convalescent plasma,” he said. “This is a pretty exciting area. And again, this is something that we have given assistance to other countries with as this crisis has developed, so FDA has been working for some time on this. If you’ve been exposed to coronavirus and you’re better, you don’t have the virus in your blood. We could collect the blood now, this is a possible treatment. This is not a proven treatment, I just want to emphasize that, [but we would] collect the blood, concentrate that and have the ability, once it’s pathogen-free, that is virus-free, be able to give that to other patients and the immunoglobulins, the immune response could potentially provide a benefit to patients.”

In Summary

The claims on the popular “good news” list are generally accurate and supported by credible news reports. The number of new cases in China and South Korea have dropped since the pandemic began, enough so that China has closed its temporary hospitals. A number of patients have also successfully recovered from the disease, and several organizations are working on vaccines for COVID-19. However, at the time of this writing (March 19, 2020), this “good news” should not be taken as proof that this pandemic is soon coming to an end. Health officials in the United States continue to urge citizens to practice “social distancing,” and it’s likely that we won’t see a worldwide rollout of an effective vaccine until mid-2021.