May 6, 2021

Dr. Rajendra Kapila, an infectious disease expert and professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, died of COVID-19 last month while in India.

Kapila, 81, died on April 28, three weeks after testing positive for COVID-19, ABC News reports. India is the world's biggest COVID-19 hotspot, and Kapila went to the country to help care for relatives, his ex-wife, Dr. Bina Kapila, told WABC. She said he only planned on staying in India for a short period of time.

In a statement, Rutgers called Kapila a "genuine giant in the field of infectious diseases" who was "recognized worldwide and sought out for his legendary knowledge and extraordinary clinical acumen in diagnosing and treating the most complex infectious diseases."

Kapila founded Rutgers' Division of Infectious Diseases, was a founding member of the New Jersey Infectious Disease Society, and "provided care to tens of thousands of patients and trained numerous generations of medical students, residents, and fellows," Rutgers said. His wife, Dr. Deepti Saxena-Kapila, said her husband was fully vaccinated before traveling to India; while it is extremely rare for a vaccinated person to die of COVID-19, most who have died had underlying health conditions and were older, ABC News reports. Kapila's ex-wife told WABC he had heart issues and diabetes. Catherine Garcia

April 21, 2021

After a tough fall and winter, with record numbers of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in intensive care units and a high death toll, California now has the lowest coronavirus case rate in the continental United States.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows California's seven-day rate of new cases is 40.3 per 100,000 people, compared to the nationwide rate of 135.3 per 100,000 people. Hawaii is faring slightly better, at 39.1 cases per 100,000 people, while Michigan is continuing to struggle with a surge in cases and is seeing 483 cases per 100,000 people.

California is home to more than 39.5 million people, and over the last week, the state reported an average of 2,320 new cases per day, down 13 percent from two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times reports. During the winter, there were more than 40,000 new cases being reported a day, and at the height of the surge, 600 deaths were recorded daily. Today, an average of 81 deaths are being reported a day, and the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital is at its lowest rate since last spring, the Times reports.

Californians are being urged to keep wearing masks, wash their hands, and social distance, and those measures, as well as an effort to quickly vaccinate residents, is helping matters. So far, 27 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the state, with 44 percent of Californians having received at least one shot and more than 25 percent fully vaccinated.

"All of the information currently available to us does indicate that our vaccines appear to be highly effective in preventing transmission, hospitalizations, and deaths, even with the increased presence of variants," Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Wednesday. Read more at the Los Angeles Times. Catherine Garcia

April 11, 2021

The COVID-19 death toll in California topped 60,000 this weekend, representing 10.7 percent of virus deaths nationwide.

Still, the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths is down in the state, and a massive vaccination effort is underway; on Thursday, all adult Californians, as well as 16- and 17-year-olds, will be eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine. As of Sunday, 37.7 percent of residents have received at least one dose of a vaccine, and 22 percent are fully vaccinated, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Officials say the stay-at-home orders and expanded vaccine access have helped shift California away from the surge in cases that took place during the fall and winter. In late January, over a seven-day period as many as 562 deaths on average were being reported daily, and that has since dropped to an average of 105 to 120 per day, the Times reports. The virus is still hitting lower-income Latino communities hard, as these dense neighborhoods are home to many essential workers who live in tight quarters.

About 12 percent of Americans live in California, and Johns Hopkins University data shows that of the eight most populous states, California has the lowest cumulative COVID-19 per capita death rate: 153 per 100,000 residents. New Jersey has the highest at 280 per 100,000 residents. Catherine Garcia

April 5, 2021

Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte (R) has tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced on Monday.

Gianforte, who received his first COVID-19 vaccine dose last week, is exhibiting mild symptoms, and is in isolation. His wife, who is not showing any symptoms, was also tested, and is waiting for her results.

Gianforte's office said the governor held his last public event on Thursday, and he is not sure how he contracted the virus. Gianforte attended Easter services at his church on Sunday, his office shared, but was not showing any symptoms at the time and did not get in close contact with any other parishioners. Gianforte has recently closely interacted with family members, friends he had dinner with, a member of his security details, and a staff member. Catherine Garcia

October 18, 2020

An 89-year-old woman in the Netherlands has become the first known person to die from catching COVID-19 twice, CNN reports. The woman notably had a compromised immune system due to therapy she was receiving for her rare bone marrow cancer, but researchers said her natural immune response still could have been "sufficient" enough to overcome the disease.

The woman was initially hospitalized for COVID-19 earlier this year, but released after five days with no symptoms except "some persisting fatigue." Fifty-nine days later, she once again tested positive for COVID-19, and no antibodies were detected in her blood; she died two weeks later.

The case is the first known in the world that a person has died after contracting COVID-19 for a second time. However, a number of people have now been confirmed to have contracted the disease more than once, leading to questions about the lasting endurance of immunity. Jeva Lange

May 11, 2020

There has been some confusion that COVID-19 is the 19th coronavirus disease, but the 19 refers to the year the new virus jumped to humans, 2019. In fact, "of the millions, perhaps billions, of coronaviruses, six were previously known to infect humans," The Washington Post reports.

Four cause colds that spread easily each winter, barely noticed. Another was responsible for the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome that killed 774 people in 2003. Yet another sparked the outbreak of Middle East respiratory syndrome in 2012, which kills 34 percent of the people who contract it. But few do. SARS-CoV-2, the bad seed of the coronavirus family, is the seventh. It has managed to combine the infectiousness of its cold-causing cousins with some of the lethality of SARS and MERS. [The Washington Post]

"This is a virus that literally did not exist in humans six months ago," Geoffrey Barnes, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, told the Post. "We had to rapidly learn how this virus impacts the human body and identify ways to treat it literally in a time-scale of weeks."

But scientists do know that coronaviruses invade the body by breaking into ACE2 receptors, which regulate blood pressure and are plentiful in the lungs, intestines, and kidneys. And they suspect the "corona" — or spikes on the outside of the virus — in the COVID-19 virus are more effective at attaching to the receptors, making it easier for them to infiltrate the cells to replicate, as the Post explains in this video.

The coronavirus hijacking your cells "would be as if somebody walked into a car factory and snapped his fingers and said suddenly, 'You're making Twinkies!'" David Leib, chair of microbiology and immunology at Dartmouth College, told WGBH. "It takes the virus roughly 10 minutes to get inside that cell and then to begin its replication cycle," and within days "you are a walking bottle of virus."

The coronavirus had infected at least 4.1 million people around the world by early Monday, including 1.3 million in the U.S., and officially killed 282,727 people, including 79,528 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University's tally. Peter Weber

May 11, 2020

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) said Sunday that three New York children have died and 73 have become gravely ill with an inflammatory disease tied to COVID-19. The illness, pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, has symptoms similar to toxic shock or Kawasaki disease. Two of the children who died were of elementary school age, the third was an adolescent, and they were from three separate counties and had no known underlying health issues, said New York health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker. Cases have been reported in several other states.

New York City health officials warned about the disease last week, but health providers were alerted on May 1 after hearing of reports from Britain, The New York Times reports. Symptoms have included prolonged high fever, racing hearts, rash, and severe abdominal pain. Dr. David Reich, president of Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan, said the five cases his hospital treated started with gastrointestinal issues and progressed to very low blood pressure, expanded blood pressure, and in some cases, heart failure. "We were all thinking this is a disease that kills old people, not kids," he told The Washington Post. Cuomo made a similar point.

It isn't just children struggling with arterial inflammation. In fact, for a virus originally believed to primarily destroy the lungs, COVID-19 also "attacks the heart, weakening its muscles and disrupting its critical rhythm," the Post reports. "It savages kidneys so badly some hospitals have run short of dialysis equipment. It crawls along the nervous system, destroying taste and smell and occasionally reaching the brain. It creates blood clots that can kill with sudden efficiency."

Many scientists now believe coronavirus wreaks havoc in the body through some combination of an attack on blood vessels, possibly the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels, and "cytokine storms," when the immune system goes haywire. "Our hypothesis is that COVID-19 begins as a respiratory virus and kills as a cardiovascular virus," Dr. Mandeep Mehra at Harvard Medical School tells the Post. Read more about the different ways COVID-19 attacks the body at The Washington Post. Peter Weber

May 3, 2020

60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl revealed on Sunday night that she was hospitalized after becoming infected with the coronavirus.

"After two weeks at home in bed, weak, fighting pneumonia, and really scared, I went to the hospital," she said. "I found an overworked, nearly overwhelmed staff." Stahl praised the doctors and nurses who treated her, saying each one was "kind, sympathetic, gentle, and caring from the moment I arrived until the moment days later when I was wheeled out through a gauntlet of cheering medical workers. In the face of so much death, they celebrate their triumphs." 

These health care workers are "fulfilling a mission" and "answering the call," Stahl said, and because of them, "I am well now. Tonight, we all owe them our gratitude, our admiration, and in some cases, our lives." Catherine Garcia

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