Novel Coronavirus/COVID-19 COVID-19 News from Around the Web

How Bars Are Fueling COVID-19 Outbreaks

NPR - August 18, 2020

The evidence that bars are a particular problem has continued to grow, says Dr. Ogechika Alozie, an infectious disease specialist in El Paso, Texas. "If you were to create a petri dish and say, how can we spread this the most? It would be cruise ships, jails and prisons, factories, and it would be bars," Alozie says. He was a member of the Texas Medical Association committee that created a COVID-19 risk scale for common activities such as shopping at the grocery store. Bars top the list as the most risky. "You can't drink through the mask, so you're taking off your mask. There are lots of people, tight spaces and alcohol is a dis-inhibitor — people change their behaviors," Alozie says.

U.S. coronavirus death toll hits 170,000 ahead of fall flu season

Reuters - August 17, 2020

The United States surpassed 170,000 coronavirus deaths on Sunday, according to a Reuters tally, as health officials express concerns over COVID-19 complicating the fall flu season. Deaths rose by 483 on Sunday, with Florida, Texas and Louisiana, leading the rise in fatalities. The United States has at least 5.4 million confirmed cases in total of the novel coronavirus, the highest in the world and likely an undercount as the country still has not ramped up testing to the recommended levels. Cases are falling in most states except for Hawaii, South Dakota and Illinois. Public health officials and authorities are concerned about a possible fall resurgence in cases amid the start of the flu season, which will likely exacerbate efforts to treat the coronavirus.

COVID-19 numbers and rates are “steadily increasing” in children, CDC says

CBS News - August 17, 2020

The number and rate of coronavirus cases in children in the U.S. have been "steadily increasing" between March and July, according to new guidance released Friday by the CDC. The surge in cases comes as schools across the country struggle with returning to in-person learning. While children make up about 22% of the nation's population, they only account for about 7.3% of all COVID-19 cases, as of August 3. The CDC said that tracking coronavirus cases in children has been difficult due to a lack of widespread testing and the prioritization of testing for adults. The CDC said that transmission of the virus among kids may have been lower in the spring and summer due to strict stay-at-home orders, warning that trends are likely to change after the return to in-person learning and other activities.

Coronavirus lockdowns could make a comeback as U.S. struggles

NBC News - August 17, 2020

It can seem to public health officials that giving an inch means people will take a mile. In the months since most U.S. states emerged from coronavirus lockdowns, wearing a mask has become a matter of politics more than safety, “pandemic parties” have been broken up in California, New York and Florida, and many states that forged ahead with reopening plans in May have been forced to pause or reverse the orders. It’s in this fraught climate that public health experts are saying that if other less-extreme measures are not working or being ignored, another round of lockdowns — as politically unpopular as they may be — may be the only way to keep an already-dire situation from spiraling further out of control.

FDA clears saliva test for Covid-19, opening door to wider testing

STAT - August 17, 2020

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday authorized emergency use of a new and inexpensive saliva test for Covid-19 that could greatly expand testing capacity. The new test, which is called SalivaDirect and was developed by researchers at the Yale School of Public Health, allows saliva samples to be collected in any sterile container. It is a much less invasive process than the nasal swabs currently used to test for the virus that causes Covid-19, but one that has so far yielded highly sensitive and similar results. The test, which also avoids a key step that has caused shortages of chemical reagents used in other tests, can run approximately 90 samples in fewer than three hours in a lab, although the number can be greater in big labs with automation.

COVID-19 news from Annals of Internal Medicine

EurekAlert - August 17, 2020

Researchers from Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, China traced more than 3,410 close contacts of 391 COVID-19 index cases between January and March 2020 to evaluate the risk for disease transmission in different settings. They found that risk for secondary transmission of COVID-19 was less than 4 percent among close contacts of persons with COVID-19. In addition, secondary infections acquired while using public transportation were rare. In contrast, 1 in 10 household contacts was found to be infected. The researchers also found that patients with more clinically severe disease were more likely to infect their close contacts than were less severe index cases. Those with asymptomatic cases were the least likely to infect their close contacts.

Fear, language barriers hinder immigrant contact-tracing

AP - August 17, 2020

Only a handful of contact tracers working to slow COVID-19 in 125 communities near Chicago speak Spanish, despite significant Hispanic populations. Churches and advocacy groups in the Houston area are trying to convince immigrants to cooperate when health officials call. And in California, immigrants are being trained as contact tracers to ease mistrust. The crucial job of reaching people who test positive for the coronavirus and those they’ve come in contact with is proving especially difficult in immigrant communities because of language barriers, confusion and fear of the government. The failure of health departments across the U.S. to adequately investigate coronavirus outbreaks among non-English speakers is all the more fraught given the soaring and disproportionate case counts among Latinos in many states.

Virus pandemic reshaping air travel as carriers struggle

AP - August 17, 2020

In a bid to survive, airlines are desperately trying to convince a wary public that measures like mandatory face masks and hospital-grade air filters make sitting in a plane safer than many other indoor settings during the coronavirus pandemic. It isn’t working. Surveys indicate that instead of growing comfortable with air travel, more people are becoming skeptical about it. In the United States, airline bookings have stalled in the past month after slowly rising — a reaction to a new surge of reported virus infections. Globally, air travel is down more than 85% from a year ago, according to industry figures. The implications for the airline industry are grave.

Levels of Anxiety, Addiction, Suicidal Thoughts Are Soaring in the Pandemic

HealthDay - August 14, 2020

The pandemic is taking a big toll on Americans' psyches: A new government report found that about 41% of adults surveyed in late June "reported an adverse mental or behavioral health condition." That's a big rise from 2019. For example, the data shows that the number of Americans suffering from an anxiety disorder had tripled by late June compared to the same time last year, and the number of those with depression had jumped fourfold. The findings, based on surveys conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from June 24-30, also show that "one quarter of [survey] respondents reported symptoms of trauma- and stressor-related disorder." About 1 in every 10 survey respondents also said they'd started or increased their use of alcohol or illicit drugs during the pandemic, said a team led by Rashon Lane, of the CDC's COVID-19 Response Team.

U.S. Sees Deadly Drug Overdose Spike During Pandemic

NPR - August 14, 2020

New data from around the U.S. confirms that drug overdoses are spiking during the coronavirus pandemic, rising by roughly 18%. Reports collected in real time by the Washington, D.C.-based group ODMAP — the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program, located at the University of Baltimore — also found a significant spike in the number of fatal overdoses. "Overdose clusters have shifted from traditional centralized urban locations to adjacent and surrounding suburban and rural areas," said ODMAP program manager Aliese Alter. The organization compared reported overdoses, fatal and nonfatal, in the weeks leading up to coronavirus quarantine measures and in the weeks after.

U.S. reports highest COVID-19 fatalities in two weeks, but real death toll could be higher

NBC News - August 14, 2020

The U.S. logged the highest number of COVID-19 deaths in two weeks, a new NBC News tally showed Thursday, but widespread testing shortages raised concerns that the figures coming out of the hardest-hit states might not be presenting a true picture of this deadly pandemic. The 1,424 fatalities reported Wednesday were the highest since July 28, when 2,218 deaths were reported, the figures showed. And it was the twelfth time in the last 16 days that the death toll exceeded 1,000.

COVID-19 Death Rate For Black Americans Twice That For Whites, New Report Says

NPR - August 14, 2020

Black Americans are becoming infected with the coronavirus at a rate three times that of whites and they are twice as likely to die from COVID-19, according to a new report from the National Urban League, based partly on data from Johns Hopkins University. A key focus of Thursday's report is the impact of the pandemic and how the disease has followed the contours of the larger society in falling especially hard on Blacks, Latinos and Indigenous people.

Dr. Fauci on U.S. coronavirus outbreak: ‘I’m not pleased with how things are going’

CNBC - August 14, 2020

White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said he is not pleased with the current state of the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States. U.S. public health officials are beginning to see a “disturbing” uptick in the rate of coronavirus tests that come back positive in some regions of the nation, Fauci said during a National Geographic panel moderated by ABC News Correspondent Deborah Roberts, which aired on Thursday. “Bottom line is, I’m not pleased with how things are going.” “We certainly are not where I hope we would be, we are in the middle of very serious historic pandemic,” he added.

U.S. hits fiscal cliff with jobs, economic recovery in the balance

Reuters - August 14, 2020

The U.S. push to fire up its economy in the middle of a pandemic remained stalled last week with signs the lapse of emergency unemployment benefits and business grants may have begun taking a toll. Hiring at small businesses, shifts worked across a range of industries, credit card spending and even gasoline demand that typically grows through the summer remained flat and mired far below the levels a year ago. Initial filings for unemployment insurance did fall below 1 million for the first time since the March onset of the coronavirus-driven economic downturn, and the number of people continuing to collect benefits fell 604,000 to 15.486 million in the week ending August 1.

Trump holds up coronavirus aid to block funding for mail-in voting

Reuters - August 14, 2020

President Donald Trump said on Thursday he was blocking Democrats’ effort to include funds for the U.S. Postal Service and election infrastructure in a new coronavirus relief bill, a bid to block more Americans from voting by mail during the pandemic. Congressional Democrats accused Republican Trump of trying to damage the struggling Postal Service to improve his chances of being re-elected as opinion polls show him trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. Trump has been railing against mail-in ballots for months as a possible source of fraud, although millions of Americans - including much of the military - have cast absentee ballots by mail for years without such problems.

Joe Biden: For The Next 3 Months, All Americans Should Wear A Mask When Outside

NPR - August 14, 2020

Joe Biden is calling for everyone in the United States to wear a mask, well into the fall. "Every single American should be wearing a mask when they're outside for the next three months, at a minimum," Biden said Thursday afternoon in remarks in Wilmington, Del. "Every governor should mandate mandatory mask-wearing. The estimates by the experts are it will save over 40,000 lives." His comments came after a briefing on the coronavirus pandemic with his new running mate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, and public health experts. … Biden has long been consistently wearing a mask and encouraging others to do so. But he's never been so explicit about mandates and a timeline.