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US begins blood tests for coronavirus immunity: reports

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The United States has begun taking blood samples from across the country to determine the true number of people infected with the coronavirus, using a test that works retrospectively, according to reports.

The new tests are based on serological surveys, which differ from the nasal swabs used to determine if someone currently has the virus.

Instead, they look for whether certain antibodies are present in the blood which shows that the person fought and then recovered from the illness — even if they never showed symptoms.

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These tests are seen as key to gradually easing lockdown, by allowing those who have proven immunity to re-enter society.

“We’re just starting to do testing and we’ll report out on these very quickly,” said Joe Bresee, deputy incident manager for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s pandemic response, according to the health website Stat News.

He added the CDC would conduct three surveys: The first on blood samples from undiagnosed people from some of the country’s coronavirus hot spots, the second a national survey from different parts of the country, and the third a study on health workers.

The first survey has already begun as of the weekend, but no firm timeline has been issued for the other two.

It comes after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency approval for the first serological test, by the North Carolina based company Cellex, last week.

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Separately, Stanford University conducted its own serological survey on Saturday in the city of Santa Clara, Jay Bhattacharya, a professor of medicine at the university told AFP.

“We collected finger prick blood samples from about 2500 volunteer participants selected to be representative of the county and about 500 of their children,” he said, adding the results would be released soon.


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World virus cases top 6 million as leaders disagree on pandemic response

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The number of coronavirus cases worldwide topped six million Sunday, with Brazil registering another record surge in daily infections as divisions deepened on how to deal with the pandemic.

Latin American countries are bracing for difficult weeks ahead as the disease spreads rapidly across the region, even as much of the world exits lockdowns that have wrecked economies and stripped millions of their jobs.

In Brazil -- the epicenter of South America's outbreak with nearly 500,000 confirmed cases, lagging only behind the United States -- disagreement among leaders over lockdown measures has hampered efforts to slow the virus as the number of fatalities in the country nears 30,000.

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Scientists warn of ‘superspreaders’ as Americans flock back to restaurants, salons and churches

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SAN DIEGO — Churches. Hair salons. Restaurants. Malls. What do they all have in common?They’ve all been cleared to reopen in San Diego County amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic — and by and large, they all require people to congregate inside, potentially with strangers.This comes as an increasingly vocal group of scientists has sounded the alarm about the danger of indoor gatherings due to the potential for airborne transmission of the disease by “superspreaders.”This week Kimberly Prather of UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography penned an urgently worded perspective paper in t... (more…)

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Justice Roberts took ‘clear swipe’ at Kavanaugh in opinion siding with liberals in religion case: report

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On Friday night, the Supreme Court handed down a decision in South Bay United Pentecostal Church v. Newsom, holding that California Gov. Gavin Newsom's restrictions on church gatherings are not a violation of religious liberty. Chief Justice John Roberts crossed over to join with the liberals for a 5-4 split.

But the ruling was dramatic in a key way. As court watcher Mark Joseph Stern wrote for Slate, Justice Brett Kavanaugh "falsely accused the state of religious discrimination in an extremely misleading opinion that omits the most important facts of the case" in his dissent — and was so dishonest that Roberts went out of his way to rebuke him in the Court opinion.

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