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Coronavirus (COVID-19) News and Research

 
Rochester mathematical model to help monitor spread of COVID-19
Tiny figurines placed on graph paper connected by black lines.

Two University of Rochester researchers are creating a mathematical model that will monitor the spread of the coronavirus, which will help policymakers make informed decisions about reopening the country.

Gourab Ghoshal, an associate professor of physics, mathematics, and computer science, and Andrew White, an assistant professor of chemical engineering, recently received a National Science Foundation grant to develop this model. They will combine their expertise in modeling both epidemiology and molecular chemistry to create this unique tool.

“At every point in time, you want to monitor the effective transmissibility of the disease, independent of how many people actually have it: what is the likelihood that somebody goes out and who do they infect?” Ghoshal says.

Explore more in-depth details about their mathematical model.

 
Economist says reopening the country will do little to restore US economy
Man wearing a face mask stands in the doorway of cafe as customers stay at home.

A University of Rochester economist says many factors, beyond quarantines and stay-at-home orders, have caused the recent economic collapse in the United States.

Lisa Kahn, an economics professor at the University of Rochester, evaluated unemployment claims and job vacancies in states that had stay-at-home orders and states that weren’t under stay-at-home restrictions.

“While the early stay-at-home states have slightly bigger spikes in unemployment claims and job vacancies, the dramatic spikes are everywhere, regardless of a state’s individual policies,” Kahn found.

So, if stay-at-home orders didn’t drive the economic collapse, what did?

Kahn explains, “Even before we had these stay-at-home policies, people were being urged to avoid restaurants and large-group gatherings in order to avoid getting or spreading the disease. On top of that, people were nervous about whether they would be able to keep their jobs in the impending crisis. All those factors—not solely the orders keeping people at home—combined to generate the collapse in economic activity.”

Consumer confidence will be a large driver of an economic rebound in the US, and Kahn urges that “lifting state orders will not be a magic fix.”

Read the full article.

 
Social distancing has stabilized, but failed to reverse, the spread of COVID-19
Sign outside reading "Please remember social distancing, 6 feet apart, thank you."

Data scientists at the University of Rochester and Cornell University have found that social distancing has caused the spread of the coronavirus to plateau. However, the measures haven’t caused a significant reduction in the number of daily new cases.

“We need more studies to identify practices that can move us to a place where COVID-19 is actually contracting,” says study co-author Elaine Hill, assistant professor of public health sciences at the University of Rochester. “I think what has been surprising, at least for our team and other teams that have been studying this, is just how stable the coronavirus has managed to be.”

Explore the study data.

 
Experimental coronavirus vaccine to be tested in Rochester
Injectable medications in sealed vials and a disposable plastic medical syringe - stock photo
Rochester is one of only four sites in the U.S. that will be conducting early stage studies of the vaccine. (Getty Images)

The Medical Center and Rochester Regional Health are investigating a new potential coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The randomized placebo-controlled clinical trial will recruit 90 individuals in the Rochester area ages 18 to 85 who have not been infected with COVID-19 and will evaluate the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of up to four variations of the vaccine. Pfizer contracted with the Medical Center to conduct the clinical trial in Rochester; the recruitment of study volunteers and testing of the vaccine will occur at Rochester General Hospital. The study is the only active COVID-19 vaccine clinical trial in upstate New York, and Rochester is one of only four sites in the U.S. that will be conducting early stage studies of the vaccine.

Edward Walsh, a professor of medicine, and Ann Falsey, a professor of medicine and co-director of the Medical Center’s Vaccine Trials and Evaluation Unit, are leading the Rochester arm of the study. Both are members of the Infectious Disease Unit at Rochester General Hospital. “While the scientific and medical community are moving at an unprecedented speed to advance vaccine candidates, it is critical that this effort be conducted in a rigorous manner that evaluates the safety and efficacy of potential vaccines,” says Walsh. “This new clinical trial is the first step in that process.”

Individuals interested in learning more about volunteering for the study should call (585) 922-5944 or email rghcovidvaccinetrial@rochesterregional.org.

The study is the latest in Rochester research focusing on coronavirus and COVID-19. That work includes a separate study on a potential drug treatment and other research efforts across the University.

 
Medical Center clinical trial results ‘promising’ for COVID-19 treatment
Two vials sit next to each other on lab table

The University of Rochester Medical Center is taking part in a clinical trial for using the drug remdesivir as a potential coronavirus treatment. Preliminary results are ‘promising’ in using remdesivir to treat adults diagnosed with COVID-19.

The Medical Center is one of only nine Vaccine Treatment and Evaluation Unit (VTEU) sites in the US conducting this type of research.

While the trial is still ongoing, this early Rochester data is a positive sign.

Read about the coronavirus treatment study results so far.

 
Rochester RNA research could help develop COVID-19 treatments
Illustration of coronavirus protein binding to receptor on human cell

Researchers at the University of Rochester are studying the ribonucleic acid (RNA) of viruses, which could provide key information for understanding COVID-19 and developing coronavirus treatments.

The University of Rochester’s Center for RNA Biology has a unique and interdisciplinary approach to researching RNA. By including experts from across the University and the Medical Center, the Center for RNA Biology aims to enhance understanding of RNA biology and ultimately apply it to medical treatment.

RNA research is key to understanding the coronavirus and developing a treatment because COVID-19 is an RNA virus. Put simply, when COVID-19 enters the body, it attaches to a person’s cells and releases RNA, which drives the virus to replicate and grow.

Learn more about the science behind RNA, and explore the Rochester RNA research.

 
Rochester ethicists: COVID-19 pandemic a ‘wake-up call’
Planet Earth with a medical mask.

Three University of Rochester philosophers took part in a roundtable discussion of ethics as it relates to COVID-19.

They called the current pandemic a “wake-up call” for the future by considering the moral and ethical dilemmas raised by the coronavirus crisis. They also provided recommendations for what we can do at an individual level to help in an ethical way, such as donating blood.

Ultimately, as Professor Randall Curren concludes, it’s crucial to consider the ethical implications of our collective systems and actions, and “we’d all be much better off if we didn’t wait until crises occur to take ethics seriously”.

Read the full discussion.

 

 
Rochester researchers pursue quick ways to detect COVID-19
image of nanoparticle filter

Three University of Rochester scientists are rapidly adapting previous research to help develop new tests to detect COVID-19. These include:

  • Martin Zand’s research around developing a finger-stick blood test for quick detection.
  • Benjamin Miller’s research on using optical properties to detect the virus.
  • James McGrath’s research on membrane technology, which could allow “instant” testing and results for patients.

 

All three scientists say their tests could not only help in detection, but could also improve overall understanding of the mechanisms of COVID-19. This could ultimately lead to new treatments and vaccines.

Learn more about their research efforts.

 
Rochester economist: Without stronger leadership, ‘disaster’ lies ahead
yellow downward trend chart
The COVID-19 economic downturn is likely to be deeper and more prolonged than any since before World War II, says University of Rochester economist Narayana Kocherlakota. (Getty Images photo)

The stimulus package that passed recently as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act carried with it an assumption that “we’ll see a rapid economic recovery in the next 4 to 6 months,” says Narayana Kocherlakota, the Lionel W. McKenzie Professor of Economics at the University of Rochester. “My own forecast is that the downturn will be severe and last much longer.”

One reason for that prediction is that to resume economic activity, we need “mass testing, tracing, and quarantining.” And, Kocherlakota, a former president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, says, “I do not see enough leadership at the federal level to make that happen.”

Read the Q&A with Kocherlakota.

 
New URMC coronavirus research examines immune response
medical researcher in a lab wearing protective gear
Specifically, the study will track the production of antibodies that seek out and flag the virus for destruction by immune cells.

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) is launching a new study to understand how the body’s immune system responds to COVID-19, including if and when a person could be re-infected with the virus and whether some people have pre-existing immunity. The findings could have significant implications for the public health response to the pandemic, the development of COVID-19 vaccines, and decisions related to re-opening the economy and society.

The new coronavirus research is being led by URMC’s David Topham, Angela Branche, and Ann Falsey under the University’s New York Influenza Center of Excellence (NYICE), one of the five international centers in the Centers of Excellence in Influenza Research and Surveillance network. The research is supported by approximately $5 million in funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the institute headed by Anthony Fauci.

“This research will seek to answer several important questions, including the durability of immunity from the virus once a person has been infected and recovered, whether the virus is mutating, whether previous exposure to other seasonal coronaviruses provides a degree of protection from COVID-19, and how long potential vaccines could provide immunity from the virus,” says Topham.

Read the full story.

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