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Health Highlights: May 6, 2020

In Hospital, Justice Ginsberg Still Joins Supreme Court Session on Obamacare Human Trials of Experimental Coronavirus Vaccine Begin in U.S. U.S. COVID-19 Death Estimate Doubled

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

In Hospital, Justice Ginsberg Still Joins Supreme Court Session on Obamacare

Despite being in hospital after treatment for an infection caused by a gallstone, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg joined in Wednesday as the court heard arguments by telephone in a case involving Obamacare.

Ginsberg joined in from the Maryland hospital where she's expected to remain for a day or two, the Associated Press reported.

The case involves a move by the Trump administration to permit more employers to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women due to religious or moral objections.

Under Obamacare, most employers were required to provide no-cost birth control as a preventive service.

The new Trump rules were blocked by a lower court, but most employers who object to the Obamacare requirement are already able to ignore it due to a ruling by a federal judge in Texas, the AP reported.

A statement said the 87-year-old is "resting comfortably" at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore after the nonsurgical treatment on Tuesday, NBC News reported.

Last summer, Ginsberg was treated for a cancerous tumor on her pancreas, and she had surgery for lung cancer in late 2018.

Ginsberg has said she will stay on the Supreme Court as long as her health permits, NBC News reported.


Human Trials of Experimental Coronavirus Vaccine Begin in U.S.

An experimental coronavirus vaccine began human trials in the United States on Monday, Pfizer and the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech said.

If the trials show that the vaccine is effective, it could be available for emergency use in the United States as early as September, The New York Times reported.

The experimental vaccine, called BNT162, is being jointly developed by the two companies and the first human trials of the vaccine began in Germany last month.

In the United States, the plan is to test the vaccine on 360 healthy volunteers in the first stage of the study, with up to 8,000 more participants added by the end of the second stage, The Times reported.

Other companies have also launched human trials of experimental coronavirus vaccines, but no vaccine has yet been approved to fight the virus.


U.S. COVID-19 Death Estimate Doubled

The number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States predicted by a model often cited by the Trump administration has doubled.

The model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) at the University of Washington had predicted 72,433 deaths as of Monday morning, but later increased that toll to 134,000, CNN reported.

In related news, a Trump administration model projects a rise in COVID-19 deaths to about 3,000 a day nationwide by June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times.

About 2,000 people died of COVID-19 each day in the United States over the past week, Johns Hopkins University data show.

One reason for the steep increases in number of deaths in the models is the easing of social distancing and other restrictions in some states.

Another factor is the rising number of cases in some meatpacking plants in the country, IHME director Dr. Christopher Murray told CNN.

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