Coronavirus Is Not Yet Global Pandemic

Public Health

Although the World Health Organization (WHO) stated Tuesday that the coronavirus is not a pandemic, the virus is spreading exponentially, with more than 24,000 cases across 25 countries and territories and at least 490 deaths. Just a week-and-a-half ago there were fewer than 2,900 cases across 13 countries and territories with 80 deaths in mainland China. 

A second death outside China was reported Tuesday in Hong Kong, following the first in the Philippines reported Sunday. 

Eleven U.S. cases have been confirmed: six in California, two in Illinois, and one each in Arizona, Massachusetts and Washington state, with two cases known to be caused by human-to-human transmission. American, Delta and United airlines have suspended service to mainland China, and the U.S. has blocked noncitizens who’ve recently traveled to China from entering the U.S.

China has agreed to allow U.S. health experts to enter as part of a WHO effort despite frustrations expressed by the Chinese government and the WHO over the U.S. noncitizen ban. 

Current coronavirus control measures include early case detection, isolation and treatment along with social detention and contact tracing, according to a WHO official as reported by CNN.

Promising HIV Vaccine Clinical Trial Ends in Disappointment

Research + Findings

On Monday, the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) announced the discontinuation of an HIV vaccine clinical trial because an Independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board panel of experts found the vaccine ineffective at preventing the HIV contagion.

The NIAID-sponsored trials took place in South Africa, home of the most severe HIV epidemic in the world where 20% of the population – approximately 7.1 million people – are HIV infected. The Geneva-based Global HIV Vaccine Enterprise of the International Aids Society expressed its “deep disappointment” over the disbanded study. However, research on other approaches to an HIV vaccine continues, according to NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, as reported by CNN.

Good News for J&J: Retrial Denied to Woman Who Alleged Cancer From Baby Powder

Legal Developments

Last week, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied a retrial to plaintiff Carolyn Weirick, who alleged in an October trial that her pleural mesothelioma was caused by exposure to asbestos in Johnson & Johnson (J&J) baby powder. On Oct. 9, the jury in Weirick’s trial had cleared J&J of those allegations. Just nine days later, on Oct. 18, however, J&J voluntarily recalled 33,000 bottles of its baby powder after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) found sub-trace levels of asbestos in a single bottle purchased online. The judge, however, ruled that the FDA baby powder asbestos finding didn’t outweigh the evidence originally presented in court.

Pleural mesothelioma is an aggressive and deadly cancer of the pleural mesothelium, the thin tissues surrounding the lungs. Approximately 80% of pleural mesothelioma cases are caused by asbestos exposure.

Bad News for J&J: $344 Million Penalty for Misrepresenting Mesh Risks

Legal Developments

Last week, a California judge sided with the state of California in a lawsuit alleging that transvaginal mesh manufacturer Ethicon, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary, had violated state laws by engaging in unfair competition and misleading advertising. Initiated in 2016 by then-California Attorney General Kamala Harris, the lawsuit claimed that the company promoted the use of mesh in female pelvic procedures while concealing or misrepresenting associated risks such as chronic pain and sexual dysfunction, the Wall Street Journal reported.

J&J said it would appeal the decision, a process that could take one to three years.

In October, J&J agreed to a $117 million settlement with 41 states and the District of Columbia in a similar lawsuit alleging misleading marketing of Ethicon’s transvaginal mesh. As of September, the company faced lawsuits from nearly 20,000 plaintiffs alleging injuries from its pelvic mesh.

Trump Administration Offers States Medicaid Quid Pro Quo


On Thursday, the Trump administration announced a complex block grant proposal offering states the option of greater control over their Medicaid spending on able-bodied adults under 65 in exchange for limits on federal funding, upending longstanding federal-state Medicaid financing agreements. Medicaid is a public health insurance program for individuals with limited income and assets with coverage and programs varying by state.

The “Healthy Adult Opportunity” proposal excludes nursing home residents, disabled and pregnant people, and children, but has not been entirely well-received. As reported by U.S. News & World Report, the American Medical Association warned against limits on Medicaid funding, some Democratic legislators challenged Trump’s legal authority to make the offer, and a public advocacy law firm is considering legal action.