Covid-19 🦠 Newsbites
Denver Broncos' John Elway tests positive for Covid-19, experiences minor symptoms
Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway has tested positive for Covid-19. The Broncos president and CEO Joe Ellis has also tested positive for coronavirus. Like Elway, Ellis is quarantining at his home and continues to work.

A nasal spray blocked infection in lab animals, raising hopes for a new weapon against the virus.
A nasal spray that blocks the absorption of the coronavirus completely protected ferrets it was tested on, according to a small study released Thursday by an international team of scientists. The study, which was limited to animals and has not yet been peer-reviewed, was assessed by several health experts at the request of The New York Times.

If the spray, which the scientists described as nontoxic and stable, is proved to work in humans, it could provide a new way to fight the pandemic, with a daily spritz up the nose acting like a vaccine.

“Having something new that works against the coronavirus is exciting,” said Dr. Arturo Casadevall, the chairman of immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who was not involved in the study. “I could imagine this being part of the arsenal.”

The work has been underway for months by scientists from Columbia University Medical Center in New York, Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands, Cornell University and the University of Campania in Italy. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and the Columbia University Medical Center.

The spray, which attacks the virus directly, contains a lipopeptide, a cholesterol particle linked to a chain of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. This particular lipopeptide exactly matches a stretch of amino acids in the spike protein of the virus, which the pathogen uses to attach to a human airway or lung cell.

Before a virus can inject its RNA into a cell, the spike must effectively unzip, exposing two chains of amino acids, in order to fuse to the cell wall. As the spike zips back up to complete the process, the lipopeptide in the spray inserts itself, latching on to one of the spike’s amino acid chains and preventing the virus from attaching.

... “If it works this well in humans,” she said, “you could sleep in a bed with someone infected or be with your infected kids and still be safe.”

A New Item on Your Medical Bill: The ‘Covid’ Fee
Health care during the pandemic has become more costly. Providers need to purchase protective gear and sanitize equipment more often — even as their revenue declines. Dentists, for example, have lost billions as their patients have postponed care, and assisted-living facilities have had to take on fewer residents to help prevent infection.

To address the financial shortfall, some health providers are charging surprise “Covid” and “P.P.E.” fees, according to bills examined by two Times investigative reporters, Sarah Kliff and Jessica Silver-Greenberg.

One woman found a $45 fee tacked on to a dental cleaning in New York City. An 87-year-old resident in assisted living was charged a one-time fee of $900 for masks, cleaning supplies and meal delivery. The bill for a woman who took a one-mile ambulance ride included a $60 charge for personal protective equipment, even though she was already wearing a mask.

Some state attorneys general have said that charging patients directly can take advantage of vulnerable consumers or violate health insurance contracts and consumer protection laws. The new charges range from a couple of dollars to nearly $1,000 and seem to be especially prevalent in dentists’ offices.

“If someone sees a P.P.E. or Covid fee on their medical bill, they should feel comfortable asking questions about it,” Sarah told us. “You might want to ask your health provider why it was charged, or ask your insurance company why it wasn’t covered. If your health provider is billing you directly, you might consider filing a complaint with your state attorney general’s office. Maryland, Connecticut and New York have already outlawed this type of practice, all after they received consumer complaints.”

You can also be proactive, she said, and ask if any new fees have been implemented since your last visit.

“This is obviously easier for some services than others — you can do this for a trip to the dentist, but not necessarily a ride in an ambulance,” she said.

Missouri poll worker positive for Covid-19 still worked shift, died after Election Day
Officials in Missouri said a person who tested positive for the coronavirus last week had disregarded orders to go into quarantine and had worked as an election judge in suburban St. Louis on Tuesday. The person has since died, NBC News reports.

Instead of isolating as advised by the private lab that provided the test, the election supervisor worked at the Blanchette Park Memorial Hall polling site, where 1,858 voters cast ballots. County officials do not think the voters who came through the site would be considered close contacts with the supervisor, but nine election workers have been advised to get tested.

Tears, Hugs and Fresh Clothes: New Jersey Prisoners Rejoice at Release
More than 2,000 inmates in New Jersey were freed to reduce the spread of Covid in the state’s prison system.