Veterans Affairs officials are defending the continued use of a controversial anti-malarial drug to treat patients with coronavirus, as deaths rise and cases drop, Military Times reported.
As of Friday morning, 1,110 VA patients had died from COVID-19 complications over the past three months, the news outlet reported — a rise of 13% from a week prior, and more than double the 510 deaths publicly reported by the department May 1.
The number of active cases at medical centers had dropped to 1,660 by Friday morning, a reduction of about 17% in the last week and nearly half the total at the start of the month, the news outlet reported.
According to Military Times, VA officials have begun plans to partially reopen 20 medical facilities across the country, though lawmakers have questions about VA's overall response to the outbreak, including the decision to use hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for some department patients.
The drug has become a source of controversy since President Donald Trump backed it in early March and saying he was taking it himself in May for COVID-19 prevention.
Several wider studies — including one conducted by VA researchers — have shown serious and potentially fatal side effects associated with its use.
Military Times reported VA staff have conducted more than 161,000 coronavirus tests since early March. About 8% of all tests have been positive. About 8.5% of those positive cases have resulted in a patient's death — well above the 6% death rate for cases among all Americans.
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