July 2, 2019

While HIV treatment has made immense strides since its discovery in the 80s, there still isn't a cure. But in a remarkable new find, scientists may have figured out a way to completely eliminate it.

A new study, published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, details the efforts of researchers to use the gene-editing tool CRISPR to eliminate HIV from the bodies of infected mice. While it only worked about a third of the time in the experiment, the success represents "a big step forward," said Chen Liang, a professor of medicine at McGill University who wasn't involved in the study.

The CRISPR treatment was combined with antiretroviral drugs, which suppressed the spread of HIV within the infected mice's cells, while the gene editing was used to target fragments of the virus' DNA, Stat News reported. This is much more successful as a long-term strategy than the antiretrovirals on their own, which are the most effective treatment currently available for HIV patients. Using those drugs on their own, missed doses can allow the disease to spread — sometimes to detrimental results. By using CRISPR in combination with those drugs, it may actually be possible to remove the virus completely, reducing the danger of living with HIV.

Of course, the CRISPR treatment is far from ready for human use — this preliminary study, "like any good paper, raises more questions than it answers," said Kevin Morris, a professor at City of Hope, a cancer hospital in Duarte, California. But it's possible that with further testing, this CRISPR method may become a viable way to reduce the ongoing cost of HIV treatment. Read more at Stat News. Shivani Ishwar

9:04 p.m.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on Thursday said a $349 billion coronavirus rescue loan program for small businesses will be "up and running" on Friday, even as lenders express confusion over how they will issue the loans.

The program aims to keep small businesses like salons and restaurants afloat during the coronavirus pandemic. Business owners can get loans of up to $10 million to make payroll for eight weeks or cover rent, utilities, and other expenses. Mnuchin admitted not all lenders will be able to issue loans on Friday, but still encouraged business owners to apply. "You get the money, you'll get it the same day, you use it to pay your workers," he said. "Please bring your workers back to work if you've let them go."

Tony Wilkinson, president of the National Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders, told Reuters "we anticipate more demand than supply. We've got to get our lenders comfortable with the rules so that we know that when we originate a loan, counting on a government guarantee, that we're doing the things necessary so we can actually have the government guarantee."

Applications will be accepted on Friday, Wilkinson said, but it's anyone's guess how many will be approved. "They will process and close them after they know what the rules are," he said. JP Morgan Chase informed clients on Thursday night that they were "still awaiting guidance" from the Small Business Administration and Treasury, and "as a result, Chase will most likely not be able to start accepting applications on Friday, April 3rd, as we had hoped." Catherine Garcia

7:55 p.m.

After being turned away from ports in South America, Holland America's Zaandam cruise ship was allowed to dock at Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on Thursday afternoon.

Nine people on board the ship have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. Holland America's owner, Carnival Corp., said there are 45 passengers who are mildly sick, and they will stay on the ship to recover. The company reported that 10 people on board are in need of urgent medical attention, and four elderly passengers have died, with at least two due to COVID-19.

The Zaandam set sail from Buenos Aires on March 7, and was supposed to have stops in Chile and other South American ports before heading to Fort Lauderdale. As the coronavirus continued to spread, the Zaandam was not allowed to dock at its scheduled ports. The last time passengers and crew members were able to get off the boat was on March 14, and passengers have been self-quarantining in their rooms since March 22.

With nowhere else to go, the Zaandam waited off the coast of Panama, and its sister ship, the Rotterdam, came to its aid, picking up healthy passengers and taking them on board. Holland America, Carnival Corp., and Florida officials spent days working on an agreement that allowed the Zaandam and Rotterdam to disembark passengers at Port Everglades. Because of the number of COVID-19 cases in Florida, local officials were concerned about overwhelming hospitals with the sick ship passengers.

There are 1,250 passengers and 1,186 crew members on the Zaandam and Rotterdam, The Associated Press reports. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said passengers and crew who do not show symptoms of the virus will be put on private buses, driven to local airports, and directly boarded onto airplanes. Holland America said most will be going home on charter flights. Catherine Garcia

5:43 p.m.

Confirmed cases of the new coronavirus surpassed one million on Thursday, with nearly a quarter of the cases reported within the United States, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reports. The global death toll now exceeds 51,000, while nearly 209,000 people have recovered from COVID-19.

The million-case mark is an alarming new milestone in the global pandemic. Some 171 countries have reported the disease within their borders, and a third of the world — some 2.6 billion people, more than were alive to witness World War II — is now living under lockdown.

"In a totally rational world, you might assume that an international pandemic would lead to greater internationalism," historian Mike Davis recently told The Guardian. "In a rational world, we would be ramping up production of basic essential supplies — test kits, masks, respirators — not only for our own use, but for poorer countries, too. Because it's all one battle. But it's not necessarily a rational world. So there could be a lot of demonization and calls for isolation. Which will mean more deaths and more suffering worldwide." Jeva Lange

5:35 p.m.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a recommendation Thursday to wear face coverings when going outside, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reportedly set to do the same.

The public should use homemade cloth face coverings when outside and reserve medical-grade masks for health care workers, a draft CDC document obtained by Stat News reveals. A CDC official later told The New York Times the same guidance would soon be issued.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti already told his city to wear masks on Wednesday. Like the CDC guidelines are set to recommend, de Blasio told New Yorkers not to buy N95 masks that hospital workers desperately need.

The White House's top coronavirus doctor Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that the CDC would consider issuing a mask recommendation once they were more widely available and that the coronavirus task force would be discussing the proposal that day. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:27 p.m.

The United States Navy has removed the captain of an aircraft carrier who sounded the alarm over a COVID-19 outbreak aboard his ship, NBC News and Axios report. Capt. Brett Crozier, who commands the USS Theodore Roosevelt, had sent a stern four-page letter to his superiors on Monday begging for help containing the outbreak, in which some 150 to 200 sailors had reportedly tested positive out of his nearly 5,000-person crew.

Crozier's letter leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, and expressed fears that the Theodore Roosevelt was unable to follow quarantine social distancing guidelines when it was forced to dock in Guam. "This will require a political solution but it is the right thing to do," Crozier had written. "We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset — our Sailors."

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly reportedly relieved Crozier of duty over "a loss of trust and confidence." The Washington Post adds that the Navy specifically removed him due to "becoming increasingly convinced that he was involved in leaking the letter to the media to force the service to address his concerns."

Crozier will reportedly keep his rank and remain in the Navy after being relieved of his duty. Jeva Lange

5:04 p.m.

Wisconsin Democrats are still supposed to get out and vote on Tuesday, but also stay inside to prevent COVID-19 spread.

It's up to the state's Republican-held state legislature to push back the Democratic presidential primary like many other states have, especially after U.S. District Judge William M. Conley refused to do so himself in a decision issued Thursday. But Democrats in the state are also openly upset with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers for not pushing the legislature earlier and harder, Politico reports.

The fact that Wisconsin's primaries are still happening has been widely panned as potentially disenfranchising given that the state is under a stay-at-home order. "You can't have a stay-at-home order but then tell millions of people to go stand in line and congregate near one another across the state," the Democratic mayor of Racine told Politico. Low turnout in the Democratic primary could not only be a terrible look for a state that President Trump narrowly won in 2016, but also swing a vote over the state's Supreme Court seat in Republicans' favor.

Still, Evers has largely just claimed he's powerless to change anything, Politico notes. He did propose last Friday that the legislature send mail-in ballots to everyone in the state, but by then, Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos said the move would be "logistically impossible."

Conley had hinted he wouldn't delay the primary before he issued his final decision. But he also told The Washington Post it shouldn't be his decision to begin with, saying "I don't think it's the job of a federal district judge to act as a super health department for the state of Wisconsin." Kathryn Krawczyk

4:19 p.m.

Self-isolators, rejoice! Not only are you keeping your friends and neighbors safe, you now have plenty of time to binge the almost 500 hours of HBO shows and movies that the premium channel is making available for free for a limited time without subscription.

Starting on Friday on HBO Now and HBO Go, you'll be able to watch every episode of nine different series — The Sopranos, Veep, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Ballers, Barry, Succession, Silicon Valley, and True Blood — as well as 10 docuseries and documentaries, and 20 Warner Bros. theatrical movies. You can check out the full list of what will be available on the "Stay Home Box Office" here.

Notably, the promotion comes just weeks before the launch of the new streaming service HBO Max in May, which will run you $15 a month — so definitely get that Succession binge in now. Jeva Lange

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