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  • Diet Soda No Better Than Regular Soda for Heart Health
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Even artificially sweetened drinks were associated with increased risk of heart disease. Hello World / Getty Images According to a recent study, people who regularly drink either sugary drinks or artificially sweetened beverages have a higher risk of stroke and heart disease than those who avoid sugary drinks.Researchers found drinking ‘diet’ versions of sugary drinks with artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and stevia doesn’t diminish heart health risks.Beverage industry says past studies dispute these new findings. A new study finds that people who want to stay heart healthy should avoid drinking artificially sweetened beverages like diet soda. “The belief that artificial sweeteners are a safe substitute for sugar is fake news,” Dr. Guy L. Mintz, director of cardiovascular health & lipidology of cardiology at Northwell Health’s Sandra Atlas Bass Heart Hospital in New York, told Healthline. According to a recent study by French researchers, people who regularly drink artificially sweetened beverages or regularly sweetened beverages have a higher risk of stroke and heart disease than those who avoid sugary drinks. “This study demonstrates that high consumers of sugary drinks and artificially sweetened beverages both had a higher risk of a first cardiovascular event,” continued Mintz. “This study is further proof that drinks with artificial sweeteners are unhealthy. Artificial sweeteners have been associated with weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes.” The research, published this week in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, looked at data from over 100,000 participants in the NutriNet-Santé cohort, an ongoing, online study in France that has participants record their diet, activity level, and health status at 6-month intervals.  Sugary and artificially sweetened drinks are on the rise “Sugary drinks consumption has increased worldwide in recent years while evidence demonstrating their detrimental impact on cardio-metabolic health is accumulating,” said Eloi Chazelas, PhD student, lead author of the study and a member of the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Team, told Healthline by email. For the study, Chazelas and team divided volunteers into three groups: non-users, low-consumers, and high-consumers of either diet or sugary beverages. The sugary beverages included soft drinks, fruit drinks, and syrups that contained at least 5 percent sugar and 100 percent fruit juice. Diet drinks were those that contained artificial sweeteners like aspartame, sucralose, or a natural sweetener like stevia.   Chazelas added that artificially sweetened beverages are marketed as a healthier alternative, but “their cardio-metabolic impact is debated.” So, he set out to investigate the relationships between “the consumption of sugary drinks, artificially sweetened beverages and the risk of cardiovascular disease in a large prospective cohort.” Artificial sweetener use associated with heart disease Chazelas and team then separately compared sugar/diet-drinking habits to find any first cases of stroke, heart attack, sudden reduced blood flow to the heart, or angioplasty, according to the study. Researchers next eliminated early cases of heart disease in the first 3 years of the study to adjust for confounders that might skew the data and found a statistically significant association between artificial sweetener use and heart disease. “Higher intakes of sugary drinks and ASB [artificially sweetened beverages] were associated with a higher risk of CVD [cardiovascular disease], suggesting that ASB might not be a healthy substitute for sugary drinks,” the study authors wrote. According to Dr. Richard C. Becker, professor of medicine and director of the Division of Cardiovascular Health and Diseases, University of Cincinnati Heart, Lung and Vascular Institute, there appears to be no benefit in choosing artificially sweetened drinks over sugary beverages for heart health. “Water, water, and more water should be the beverage of choice,” he said. “Given childhood obesity, no sweetened or unsweetened [artificially sweetened] beverage should be a staple in their diets.” Artificial sweetener same risk as sugar While finding an unsurprising association between consuming sugar-laden drinks and cardiovascular illness, researchers also discovered that people who drink diet versions of those drinks with artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and stevia experienced almost the same health risks, compared to their participants who didn’t report drinking any sweetened beverages. According to Chazelas, previous research supports his findings, “Studies suggest that [artificial sweeteners] may potentially have adverse metabolic effects such as increased adiposity, impaired glucose homeostasis, and hyperinsulinemia, as well as alteration of gut microbiota.” “There is no evidence to suggest a place in heart health,” insisted Becker. “In fact, the reverse may be true.” He emphasized that “the mechanism for determinant is an area of intensive investigation,” and at least two possibilities may explain the study findings. “One is that individuals consuming artificial sweeteners may still eat an excess of calories,” said Becker. Another is, “artificial products may confuse or alter the intestinal microbiome with negative consequences.” Industry groups disagree “Contrary to the claims made in this publication [the Chazelas study], there is actually no evidence that low/no-calorie sweeteners would increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, nor a plausible mechanism by which they could cause heart disease in humans,” the International Sweeteners Association (ISA) said in a statement. The ISA also claimed that Chazelas’ study only briefly described “the results of an analysis of data from the NutriNet-Santé Cohort.” The Association pointed out that this was an observational study that does not show a cause-and-effect relationship. Additionally, the study authors admit that other factors that can cause these effects can never be fully eliminated from this observational research. American Beverage Association weighs in Healthline reached out to the American Beverage Association (ABA) for comment, and spokesperson Danielle Smotkin, senior director, communications, for the ABA responded by email. “Low- and no-calorie sweeteners have been deemed safe by regulatory bodies around the world and there is a substantial body of research, including a study by the World Health Organization, that shows these sweeteners are a useful tool for helping people reduce sugar consumption and manage weight,” she wrote. Smotkin also cited other studies as showing the safety of artificial sweeteners. A 2017 review of all studies going back decades on the effects of low- and no-calorie sweeteners, funded by WHO, and reviewing 372 studies, found that the available research provided “no conclusive evidence” that these sweeteners put people at risk for weight gain or disease. A 2019 review funded by WHO found that low- and no-calorie sweeteners might help obese people lose weight and that there is some evidence that these sweeteners help children avoid obesity. This review also found no evidence that sweeteners make you hungrier or eat more. The bottom line New research finds an association between consuming artificially sweetened beverages and cardiovascular disease — however, the study couldn’t prove that sweeteners caused disease, only that there was an association. Experts say that there’s no place in a heart-healthy diet for artificially sweetened beverages, and that water is the healthiest drink we should regularly consume. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reviewed hundreds of studies to find no conclusive evidence that artificial sweeteners put people at risk for weight gain or disease.

  • Colon Cancer Screening Should Start at Age 45, According to New Guidelines
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Experts say people should start regular colon cancer screenings at age 45. ALTO IMAGES / Stocksy Earlier colorectal screening could save lives by cancer when it is easier to treat, according to new guidelines. This move reflects a rise since the 1980s in colon and rectal cancers in Americans, with a sharper increase in younger age groups.Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women and in men in the United States, with 53,200 Americans expected to die this year from this type of cancer. Adults should be routinely screened for colorectal cancer starting at age 45, instead of the current 50, a U.S. public health task force recommended on Tuesday. This move reflects a rise since the 1980s in colon and rectal cancers in Americans, with a sharper increase in younger age groups. The new guidelines could make millions of Americans eligible for earlier screening — along with mandatory coverage of the cost by most health insurance plans. However, more work would need to be done to ensure that people actually get screened and that the change doesn’t worsen screening rates among minorities. Millions more Americans could be screened Colorectal cancer is the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women and in men in the United States, with 53,200 Americans expected to die this year from colon or rectal cancer. Over the past 2 decades, rates of colorectal cancer diagnosis has been decreasing among people 65 years and older, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS).  But the rates of new diagnoses have been going up in younger age groups. Twelve percent of colorectal cancer cases diagnosed this year are expected to be in people under age 50.  “Given the alarming increase in colorectal cancer rates in people under the age of 50 in recent years, along with other supporting data, starting screening at an earlier age will likely save lives,” said Dr. Divya Mallam, a gastroenterologist with Torrance Memorial Medical Center. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force’s proposed recommendations still need to be finalized and are open for public comment until Nov. 23.  During the last review of its guidelines, about 5 years ago, the task force stuck with age 50 for the start of routine screening, something that Dr. Folasade P. May, a gastroenterologist and researcher at UCLA, found surprising at the time. “All of the modeling data they use definitively showed that when we start screening at 45 we save more lives,” she said. The task force’s last review also contrasted with the ACS, which updated its guidelines in 2018 to say routine screenings should start at age 45. While some physicians were following the ACS guidelines, an update to the task force’s recommendations would ensure that most health insurance plans would cover the cost of the screening. The task force assigns letter grades to its recommendations, with private insurance plans required to cover the full costs of services that receive either an “A” or “B” grade, with no copay for patients. Colorectal screening for people ages 45 to 49 years received a “B,” meaning there is moderate or high certainty of benefit to patients. Screening for people ages 50 to 75 years received an “A” grade. For people over age 75, the task force recommends that patients talk to their physician about the risks and benefits of screening. May estimates that if the new recommendations are finalized, an additional 21 million Americans would be eligible for colorectal cancer screening. Screening people at a younger age would also help groups that have been disproportionately affected by colorectal cancer. “We do think that this will help Black people, especially young Blacks who are getting colon cancer early,” said May. Black Americans have the highest rate of colorectal cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — 40.4 percent compared to 36.3 percent for white people. Black people are also more likely to die from colorectal cancer. “Even when you look at the early onset group — the younger people with this condition — Blacks are most affected,” said May. Plan needed to ensure that people get screened While updating the screening guidelines can catch more cases of colorectal cancer earlier — when it is easier to treat — May says the change would still present challenges. “We were already bad at [colorectal cancer] screening in the United States,” she said. “So as a public health person who’s also a physician, I’m concerned about how we’re going to screen millions more.” In 2018, 68.8 percent of Americans aged 50 to 75 years were up to date with colorectal cancer screening, according to the CDC. May thinks shifting the focus to younger adults might have the unintended consequence of diverting healthcare resources from those 50 and over. This could impact some groups more than others. “In doing that, we actually might worsen some of the health disparities that we see in older African Americans, Latinos, Asians, and Native Americans, who already have lower screening rates,” said May. While people with private health insurance would be able to get screened for free, millions of Americans were still uninsured or underinsured even under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). These people, who would have to pay out of pocket for colorectal screening, have much lower screening rates. The fate of the ACA also hangs in the balance, with Republicans continuing to push for its elimination and the U.S. Supreme Court hearing arguments on its legality starting Nov. 10. May says what’s needed going forward is a real public health strategy for how to ensure that everyone eligible for colorectal screening actually gets screened. “We could make recommendations all day,” she said, “but if we don’t have a clear plan for how we’re going to provide this service to people, I don’t know how much those recommendations help.” Advances in technology in recent years may also help — by increasing the healthcare system’s screening capacity and relieving people’s anxiety about screening. ”Some people shy away from colon cancer screening until it’s too late and they have developed a cancer,” said Mallam, “because they are worried about undergoing colonoscopy, and they don’t know there are other screening options available to them.” These options include stool tests and a virtual colonoscopy using a CT scan. While these procedures are less invasive, they need to be done more frequently than a colonoscopy, which should be done every 10 years. People should also be alert to signs of colorectal cancer, such as blood in the stool, rectal pain, or changes in bowel habits or stool consistency. “If you have any of these symptoms — even prior to age 45 — you should undergo a colonoscopy now and not wait,” said Mallam, “as these symptoms may be signs of colon cancer.”

  • Daily COVID-19 Updates
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Getty Images The United States currently has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths.The FDA has approved the antiviral drug Veklury (remdesivir) for the treatment of patients 12 years and older with COVID-19 requiring hospitalization.Experts are worried about an exponential rise in COVID-19 cases. Update on the COVID-19 numbers Globally, there have been more than 44.2 million confirmed cases and more than 1.1 million associated deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.The United States has reported 8.8 million confirmed cases. However, due to a lack of testing, the number of actual cases may be far higher. More than 227,000 people in the United States have died from the disease. Healthline will update this page every weekday. For more information about the virus, go here. U.S. at critical point The United States is reporting another record-high average number of new cases as a top health official warned Wednesday that the country is at a “critical point,” reported CNBC. “Cases are going up in most states across the country. Hospitalizations are up, although we’re still tens of thousands of hospitalizations below where we were in July, but that is rising. And we are starting to see the increase in deaths,” said Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of health who leads the government’s testing effort, on NBC’s “TODAY” show. With the surge in cases, White House communications director Alyssa Farah is downplaying a press release from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy released Oct. 27 declaring “ENDING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC,” as a key administration accomplishment, saying it was “poorly worded,” reported CNN. “We’re certainly not getting ahead of it, we’re still in the midst of the pandemic. We do say we’re turning the corner and what we mean by that is, we’re rushing therapeutics, we’re in the best place to treat the virus that we’ve ever been in. And by end of year we expect that we’ll have the vaccine, at which point we will defeat the virus,” she told CNN. COVID-19 antibodies don’t last Researchers in the UK sent finger prick tests to 365,000 people and found more than a 26 percent decline in COVID-19 antibodies over 3 months. The study is in preprint and hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed. “We know seasonal colds can reinfect people every 6 months,” Wendy Barclay, PhD, head of the infectious disease department at Imperial College London, told Politico, also pointing out that the novel coronavirus seems to follow a similar trend. Fauci predicts vaccine by December National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director, Dr. Anthony Fauci said we should know if a COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective by early December. He also said widespread vaccination is still not likely until later in 2021. “We will know whether a vaccine is safe and effective by the end of November, the beginning of December,” Fauci said in an interview with the BBC on Sunday Oct. 25. COVID-19 cases hit new records About half the United States has set records for new COVID-19 cases and 5 states report record deaths from the disease, reported USA Today on Oct. 26. The 5 states include Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. USA Today also reported that public health officials and contact tracers in Wisconsin say they’re struggling to keep up with virus spread, while in El Paso, Texas, COVID-19 patients are being airlifted to neighboring hospitals. To create an additional 100 beds, an El Paso civic center was converted into a medical facility. Former FDA commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, warned that the United States is “at a tipping point,” Sunday, on Face the Nation, reported CBS News. “We’re at a dangerous tipping point right now, we’re entering what’s going to be the steep slope of the curve of the epidemic curve,” said Dr. Gottlieb, while emphasizing, “there’s things that we can do to slow the spread. I mean, a national mask mandate can be put into place.” Gottlieb explained that masks serve two purposes. The first is to protect other people from you. “So if you’re asymptomatic or presymptomatic, if you have a mask on, you’re less likely to expel respiratory droplets that can infect other people.”The second is to provide the wearer “some measure of protection if, in fact, you’re around people who are infected.” FDA approves remdesivir; Poll finds COVID-19 affects over half of Americans On Thursday, Oct. 22, the FDA approved the antiviral drug Veklury (remdesivir), for the treatment of patients 12 years and older with COVID-19 who require hospitalization. This approval is based on 3 randomized controlled trials including recently published final results of a National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ (NIAID) double-blind, placebo-controlled phase 3 ACTT-1 trial, according to drugmaker, Gilead. “The approval of Veklury marks an important milestone in efforts to help address the pandemic by offering an effective treatment that helps patients recover faster and, in turn, helps preserve scarce healthcare resources,” said Barry Zingman, MD, professor of medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, New York, in a statement. At this point in the pandemic, over half of all Americans have been personally affected by COVID-19, according to a new HealthDay-Harris Poll online survey, reported UPI. The national survey of 2,021 adults was conducted between October 8–12, and found that 55 percent of U.S. adults say they know someone “in their immediate or extended network of family and acquaintances,” who’s contracted or died from COVID-19. CDC expands definition of close contact; Study finds mouthwash may reduce COVID-19 transmission The definition of “close contact” for someone who develops COVID-19 was expanded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Oct. 21, reported STAT News. This was announced with the release of new data showing the virus can be passed between people during relatively brief interactions. According to STAT, while the CDC previously defined close contact as someone who spent 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of a person with the virus, the new definition is someone who spent a cumulative 15 minutes or more within 6 feet of an infectious person over a 24-hour period, even if the time isn’t consecutive. A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Virology, suggests that some oral antiseptics, mouthwashes, and even a baby shampoo, “may have the ability to inactivate human coronaviruses” when talking, sneezing, or coughing, although further testing is needed to confirm this, reported CNBC. “While we wait for a vaccine to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed,” said Craig Meyers, study author and professor of microbiology and immunology and obstetrics and gynecology at Penn State University in a statement. “The products we tested are readily available and often already part of people’s daily routines.” COVID-19 mortality drops, but U.S. set for new surge Two new studies have found a sharp drop in mortality among hospitalized COVID-19 patients, reported NPR. One study looked at a single health system to find that mortality dropped among hospitalized patients by 18 percent since the pandemic began. According to the study, COVID-19 patients had a 25.6 percent chance of dying at the start of the pandemic, which is now only a 7.6 percent chance. A separate study showed an unadjusted drop in death rates among hospitalized patients of around 20 percent since the height of the pandemic. However, this doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods, yet. According to NPR, many more people will die, even though the rate has dropped. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) estimates the total death count in the United States could reach about 390,000 by February. U.S. COVID-19 cases will increase significantly in about a week, according to a leading health expert, as U.S. daily averages continue climbing toward the summer’s peak and several states set hospitalization records, reported CNN. According to CNN, 10 states have recorded their highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations Tuesday. These include Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. Volunteers in U.K. will be given COVID-19 to test vaccine A new study based in the United Kingdom will test a potential COVID-19 vaccine by giving volunteers the virus that causes the disease. Called a human challenge trial, volunteers will be given the experimental vaccine and then exposed to SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The study will be small with no more than 90 volunteers, but it could accelerate vaccine approval if the results find the vaccine is safe and effective. Blunder puts COVID-quarantined people at risk; New York among lowest positivity rates in U.S. Over 200 former residents of COVID-19 quarantine facilities in Australia are being urged to get tested for blood-transmitted diseases that include HIV, after authorities admitted that the same blood-testing devices were used for multiple guests, reported CNN. “Blood glucose level testing devices intended for use by one person were used across multiple residents. This presents a low clinical risk of cross-contamination and blood borne viruses — Hepatitis B and C, and HIV,” Australian health agency, Safer Care Victoria confirmed in a statement. According to CNN, the agency is contacting 243 people who received a blood glucose level test before August 20, because there was a risk of cross-contamination and bloodborne viruses, including HIV. According to a recent press release from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, the statewide positivity rate is now 1.21 percent. However, the state’s hot spots stand at just over 3 percent. “I think the context is important so people know what 1 percent means or what 2 percent means, which means New York has one of the lowest positivity rates in the nation,” said Cuomo. The Governor emphasized that this is “because we’re very aggressive about it and when we see a flare-up or a hotspot we jump all over it.” COVID-19 cases surpass 40 million worldwide The number of confirmed, worldwide COVID-19 cases has surpassed 40 million, reported the Associated Press (AP). According to data from Johns Hopkins University, this milestone was reached on the morning of Oct. 19. The AP also reported that some U.S. states are relying on targeted measures as case numbers continue to rise. For example, in New York’s most recent round of virus shutdowns, the state is focusing on individual neighborhoods of only a few square miles and closing schools and businesses in those ‘hot spots.’ Fauci ‘not surprised’ Trump developed COVID National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director Dr. Anthony Fauci, said he’s “absolutely not” surprised President Donald Trump developed COVID-19 after seeing him surrounded by people not following the best public health practices to prevent spread of the disease. Dr. Fauci said on a recent episode of CBS’ 60 Minutes, “I was worried that he was going to get sick when I saw him in a completely precarious situation of crowded — no separation between people, and almost nobody wearing a mask,” reported USA Today. No Pfizer vaccine until after election In an open letter published Oct. 16 on Pfizer’s website, the drugmaker says they’re close to confirming the effectiveness of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate and expect to apply for an emergency use authorization after the presidential election in mid-November. “Assuming positive data, Pfizer will apply for Emergency Authorization Use in the U.S. soon after the safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November,” wrote Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla. “All the data contained in our U.S. application would be reviewed not only by the FDA’s own scientists but also by an external panel of independent experts at a publicly held meeting convened by the agency.” COVID-19 will spike this winter, says experts As the United States nears 8 million COVID-19 cases and currently averages more than 50,000 new cases daily, experts say this signals the country is in for a tough winter, reported CNN. Many U.S. states are currently reporting rising COVID-19 cases, which has “proven in the past to be a very good prediction of a surge in cases, which ultimately leads to a surge in hospitalizations, and then ultimately, in some individuals that will obviously be an increase in deaths,” Fauci said on Good Morning America Oct. 15, according to CNN. Remdesivir failed to prevent COVID-19 deaths in major trial A large trial studying the antiviral drug remdesivir has found that it failed to prevent deaths from COVID-19, according to the New York Times. A study of more than 11,000 people in 30 countries by the World Health Organization found little evidence that the drug could help treat people severely ill with COVID-19. The drug has been given emergency approval by the FDA in the United States and was used to treat President Donald Trump when he developed COVID-19. The findings haven’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. London faces second lockdown as COVID-19 surges London city officials are implementing more social restrictions in an effort to stop a surge of COVID-19 cases. People will still be allowed to go to restaurants and bars, but they won’t be able to mix with people from other households. London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the rise in cases meant restrictions were needed. “There are no good options. I know these further restrictions will require Londoners to make yet more sacrifices, but the disastrous failure of the test, trace, and isolate system leaves us with little choice,” he said, according to Business Insider. United Airlines tries to reassure passengers by studying viral transmission on plans United Airlines claims the risk of COVID-19 exposure on its aircrafts is “virtually nonexistent” according to new research findings saying that with mask use, there’s only a 0.003 percent chance particles from one passenger can enter the breathing space of a passenger sitting beside them, reported ABC News. The study was conducted by the Department of Defense in partnership with United Airlines. A mannequin was used along with an aerosol generator to see how particles moved in the aircraft. “99.99 percent of those particles left the interior of the aircraft within 6 minutes,” United Airlines Chief Communication Officer Josh Earnest told ABC News. “It indicates that being on board an aircraft is the safest indoor public space, because of the unique configuration inside an aircraft that includes aggressive ventilation, lots of airflow.” Barron Trump tested positive for COVID-19 The 14-year-old son of the President tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month according to first lady Melania Trump. Barron Trump reportedly tested positive days after his parents but is doing well according to a statement posted by the first lady. “Luckily he is a strong teenager and exhibited no symptoms,” Melania Trump said in the statement. “In one way I was glad the three of us went through this at the same time, so we could take care of one another and spend time together. He has since tested negative.” COVID-19 immunity may last 5 to 7 months A new study published in the medical journal Immunity suggests that people may be immune to SARS-CoV-2 for about 5–7 months after contracting the virus. The study comes as multiple cases of reinfection have been reported. In the study, researchers found evidence that people who had developed COVID-19 and recovered had neutralizing antibodies for about 5–7 months after. This may mean they’re immune to another case of COVID-19 during that time. Holiday gatherings increase COVID-19 risk; two vaccines might meet FDA guidelines by end of year “In the public square, we’re seeing a higher degree of vigilance and mitigation steps in many jurisdictions,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Robert Redfield said during a call with U.S. governors, reported CNN. The director emphasized that this holiday season posed a particular risk. “But what we’re seeing as the increasing threat right now is actually acquisition of infection through small household gatherings,” Redfield said. “Particularly with Thanksgiving coming up, we think it’s really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting.” More than 100 COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in some stage of testing, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Of those, 42 are being evaluated in clinical studies, and only 2 could possibly meet the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization guidelines by the end of 2020, reported The Motley Fool, a popular business-focused news service. The two vaccines are Pfizer’s and BioNTech’s jointly produced BNT162b2 and Moderna’s mRNA-1273. ‘Unexplained illness’ pauses another vaccine trial Pharma giant, Johnson & Johnson, has paused the clinical trial of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine due to unexplained illness in one of their volunteers. “Adverse events — illnesses, accidents, etc. — even those that are serious, are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies,” said the company in a statement. They emphasized that “We must respect this participant’s privacy,” and that researchers are “learning more about this participant’s illness, and it’s important to have all the facts before we share additional information.” First U.S. patient to contract COVID-19 twice A 25-year-old man in Nevada is the first person in the United States to have been contracted SARS-CoV-2 on two separate occasions, reported CNBC. He’s only the fifth patient reported as reinfected with COVID-19 worldwide. A recently published study in the Lancet showed the patient became seriously ill following the second infection. Antibody cocktail for COVID-19 appears to work in monkeys and hamsters A potential COVID-19 treatment that was taken by President Trump appears to be effective at lowering viral load in monkeys, according to a new report. The antibody cocktail made by Regeneron was tested in both rhesus monkeys and golden hamsters. In their report published in Science, the researchers found that animals given the drug, who were then exposed to the virus, had less viral load in their upper and lower airways. More research needs to be done before the drug will be approved for widespread use in the United States. New report estimates additional 75,000 people died due to pandemic this spring A new study published in the JAMA medical journal found that between March and July another 75,000 people may have died due to the COVID-19 pandemic than what has currently been reported. However, these deaths weren’t due directly to COVID-19. Instead, these deaths were likely exacerbated by the pandemic because people delayed medical care or the lockdown lead to emotional crises. Researchers looked at death certificates and found signs of “excess deaths” in states hit hard by the pandemic. “There have been some conspiracy theories that the number of deaths from COVID-19 have been exaggerated,” said Dr. Steven Woolf, director emeritus of the Center on Society and Health at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. “The opposite is the case. We’re actually experiencing more death than we thought we were.” COVID ‘brain fog;’ Trump’s physician says he’s no longer a transmission risk A French report published in August looked at 120 patients who had been hospitalized for COVID-19 to find that 34 percent had memory loss and 27 percent had concentration problems months later, reported the New York Times. “It is debilitating,” Rick Sullivan, 60, of Brentwood, California, told the Times. He has experienced episodes of brain fog since July after a several week bout with COVID-19 breathing problems and body aches. “I become almost catatonic. It feels as though I am under anesthesia.” CNN’s White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond, posted a memorandum from the President’s physician to his social media, which claims he’s no longer “considered a transmission risk to others.” “By currently recognized standards [the President] is no longer considered a transmission to others,” wrote Dr. Sean Conley in the memo. Birx warns infection risk from social gatherings; COVID-19 kills Utah livestock White House coronavirus task force member, Dr. Deborah Birx, said she’s concerned about the rise in COVID-19 cases in the Northeastern United States, also noting that more people are contracting the virus because of indoor family gatherings and social events, reported the Associated Press. “The spread of the virus now is not occurring so much in the workplace as people have taken precautions,” said Birx. “It’s happening in homes and social occasions and people gathering and taking their mask off and letting down their guard and not physically distancing.” Thousands of farmed minks in Utah have died of COVID-19, forcing affected sites to quarantine as the state veterinarian investigates the outbreak, reported NBC News. The virus was discovered among the animals in the United States earlier in August, shortly after ranch workers tested positive. Prominent medical journal urges Americans to vote out leaders who failed in COVID-19 response The New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) released a blistering editorial calling for political change due to the failure to control the COVID-19 pandemic. The prestigious medical journal didn’t call politicians out by name or party, but emphasized a lack of federal response in fighting the deadly disease. “Our current leaders have undercut trust in science and in government, causing damage that will certainly outlast them,” the editors wrote. “Instead of relying on expertise, the administration has turned to uninformed ‘opinion leaders’ and charlatans who obscure the truth and facilitate the promulgation of outright lies.” The editors also said “at least tens of thousands” of American lives have been lost due to “weak and inappropriate government policies.” Regeneron seeks emergency approval for antibody cocktail given to Trump The pharmaceutical company Regeneron is seeking emergency FDA approval for an experimental antibody cocktail that was given to President Trump. The company submitted an application to the FDA asking for emergency use approval, meaning the treatment could be used before it gets a full FDA approval due to the lack of treatments for COVID-19. The treatment is still in clinical trials and it’s unclear how effective it is and what potential safety issues there are. They also said that only about 50,000 doses would be currently available. In a video, President Trump referred to an unproven “antibody cocktail” being developed by drugmaker Regeneron as a miracle cure, reported the New York Times. The president said he planned to make this treatment, which hasn’t yet been government approved, free to anyone who needs it. Trump received the drug combination under something known as a “compassionate use” request, reported the Associated Press. He was given the experimental treatment at the White House, before being taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Could flu vaccine offer protection against COVID-19? A certain type of flu vaccine might offer some protection against COVID-19, virologist Robert Gallo, director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and chairman of the Global Virus Network, told NPR. Gallo said he believes it’s possible that “live attenuated” flu vaccines, where the virus isn’t fully killed, may help protect people against both the flu and COVID-19. Gallo explained that in the past these vaccines have protected against other respiratory diseases, not just the seasonal flu. “You watch,” said Gallo. “People who get the live flu vaccine will also be protected against COVID-19. That’s the hypothesis.” With flu season starting this month, getting the flu vaccine is still a good idea even if it won’t protect you from COVID-19. Few details about Trump and COVID-19; top vaccine official resigns Dr. Sean Conley, physician to the President, announced that Trump “reports no symptoms” of COVID-19 after he was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, according to Fox News. Fox also reported that Stephen Miller, senior adviser to the President, announced that following the outbreak at the White House that transmitted the virus to Trump and others, he has now tested positive, too. As he recovers for a second day at the White House, President Donald Trump remains out of sight and his administration offers few details about his health, reported The Denver Post. Dr. Rick Bright, one of the federal government’s top vaccine officials, resigned from his position at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) after accusing his superiors of politically motivated retaliation for his criticism of the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic, reported the Washington Post. According to his whistleblower complaint, “Dr. Bright sounded the alarm about the shortage of critical supplies, such as masks, respirators, swabs, and syringes that were necessary to combat COVID-19.” Eli Lily seeks emergency FDA approval for COVID-19 treatment Pharmaceutical company Eli Lily is seeking emergency use approval for their monoclonal antibody cocktail to be used as a COVID-19 treatment. According to STAT news, the company issued a press release explaining that patients who took the monoclonal antibody cocktail were less likely to need hospitalization. But this information hasn’t yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Monoclonal antibodies are synthetic versions of the antibodies found in our blood stream. Researchers hope synthetic antibodies can help fight off viral infections. Joint Chiefs of Staff quarantine; WHO says COVID-19 vaccine by year’s end The Joint Chiefs of Staff, our nation’s top military leaders, are in quarantine after coming in contact with a senior officer who developed COVID-19, a Defense Department official told USA Today. The official who tested positive is identified as the second highest officer at the Coast Guard, Admiral Charles Ray. According to USA Today, the leaders now quarantined include Admiral Mark Miller, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and Admiral Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations. A vaccine against COVID-19 may be ready by year-end, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Oct. 6, reported Reuters. “We will need vaccines and there is hope that by the end of this year we may have a vaccine. There is hope,” Tedros said in closing remarks to the WHO’s executive board meeting that examined the global response to the pandemic, reported the Washington Times. FDA says White House blocked new vaccine guidelines designed to ensure safety An official from the FDA reportedly told the Associated Press that the White House blocked the publication of new safety guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines. However, the FDA did release the guidelines in a memo posted before a key meeting by the vaccine advisory panel scheduled for later this month. Under the guidelines, pharmaceutical companies would need to follow people who received the vaccine for at least 2 months to ensure there are no associated long-term medical risks. CDC says coronavirus is airborne After weeks of controversy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that SARS-CoV-2, the virus which causes COVID-19, is airborne. The CDC now posted guidance on their website that the virus can be spread via airborne transmission. Early on in the outbreak, experts and health agencies had been uncertain if the virus was able to spread via very small aerosols that could travel further than 6 feet. Now medical experts say it’s clear the virus can be spread via these small aerosols. “Some infections can be spread by exposure to virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours,” CDC officials wrote on the website. “These viruses may be able to infect people who are further than 6 feet away from the person who is infected or after that person has left the space.” The CDC had initially posted similar information last month but then took it down, leading to criticism. Inflammatory syndrome seen in adults An inflammatory syndrome previously seen mainly in children has now been found in adults, according to a recent CDC report. According to the report, 16 patients ranging from ages 21 to 50 have been found to have multisystem inflammatory syndrome. Symptoms include heart damage and other signs of inflammation in the body. Trump says he will return to the White House President Donald Trump may be able to return to the White House later today [Oct. 5], despite being on multiple COVID-19 medications. The president tweeted today that he will leave Walter Reed Medical Center Monday evening. On Sunday, doctors reported that over the course of Trump’s COVID-19 symptoms, he had previously experienced two episodes of ‘transient drops’ in his oxygen levels, indicating he may have been positive for the virus earlier than reported. New York experiences new COVID spike For the first time since easing coronavirus restrictions, New York City seeks to reverse course in some neighborhoods, reported CBS2 New York. An alarming increase in cases experienced in certain neighborhoods means nonessential businesses and public and private schools in those areas could be shut down later this week. “In some parts of our city, in Brooklyn and Queens, we’re having an extraordinary problem — something we haven’t seen since the spring,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told CBS2. Trump taken to hospital President Donald Trump was taken to Walter Reed Medical Center one day after being diagnosed with COVID-19. According to a statement from the White House, Trump was taken for tests as a precaution. “Out of an abundance of caution, and at the recommendation of his physician and medical experts, the President will be working from the presidential offices at Walter Reed for the next few days,” the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said according to USA Today. The president was given an antibody cocktail developed by the pharmaceutical company Regeneron. Trump is being given experimental treatment after being diagnosed with COVID-19, according to a letter from his physician. In addition to the antibody cocktail, he’s also taking zinc, vitamin D, melatonin, daily aspirin, and famotidine, a heartburn medication under the brand name Pepcid AC. #BREAKING: President Trump on Friday received a single 8-gram dose of Regeneron’s polyclonal antibody cocktail after he tested positive for the coronavirus, White House physician Sean Conley said.Read the full memo: pic.twitter.com/AzcDpGwgD2— NPR Politics (@nprpolitics) October 2, 2020 Over 19,000 Amazon workers test positive On Thursday, Amazon released data showing that 19,816 presumed or confirmed COVID-19 cases have been detected across approximately 1.37 million Amazon and Whole Foods Market frontline employees in the United States. “Testing regularly and broadly will help identify people who have contracted the coronavirus but are asymptomatic and therefore might not otherwise be tested. Identifying asymptomatic carriers means catching the virus earlier, before it spreads, which will have real benefits for our communities,” said Amazon in a statement. The company added that Amazon employees are regularly screened for symptoms and increasingly being tested at work, whether or not they show symptoms, in order to identify asymptomatic cases. Joe Biden and Vice President Mike Pence test negative Both Joe Biden and Vice President Mike Pence have tested negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The news comes after the revelation that President Donald Trump has tested positive for the disease. While Biden and Pence have initially tested negative, they may need to be monitored and tested in the future. The virus can incubate for up to 14 days and may not be detectable by tests soon after exposure. President Donald Trump tests positive for COVID-19 President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump have tested positive for COVID-19. Trump tweeted Oct. 1 that he and his wife tested positive and will be in quarantine. They were tested after his close aide Hope Hicks had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier that day. Tonight, @FLOTUS and I tested positive for COVID-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 2, 2020 The president’s physician Sean P. Conley released a letter that was posted by CNN, which addressed Trump’s condition. Conley said both the president and first lady are both “well at this time.” “I expect the President to continue carrying out his duties without disruption while recovering,” Conley wrote. First lady Melania Trump posted on Twitter that she and her husband are “feeling good” and have postponed upcoming events. As too many Americans have done this year, @potus & I are quarantining at home after testing positive for COVID-19. We are feeling good & I have postponed all upcoming engagements. Please be sure you are staying safe & we will all get through this together.— Melania Trump (@FLOTUS) October 2, 2020 Rising COVID-19 cases threaten new surge Leaders in many U.S. states are warning about rising COVID-19 cases that experts say could foreshadow a new surge, reported CNN. In New York, concern began with 6 zip codes in Brooklyn and Queens, and positivity rates within many of them continue to grow on a daily basis, reported NBC New York. “All of this is a stark reminder that we need to stay smart and vigilant — wear a mask, socially distance, follow the public health guidance — because this thing is not over,” said NY Governor Andrew Cuomo in a statement. Wisconsin reported its highest number of COVID-19 hospitalizations on record, with hospitalized patients nearly doubling in the state since September 18. At least 27 states have reported additional new cases since the previous week, with only 9 reporting a decline, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. “As we see an uptick in cases, we can expect an uptick in more severe outcomes, like death,” the Wisconsin Department of Health Services recently posted on social media. Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images Moderna CEO says no vaccine until next year The CEO of Moderna pharmaceutical company said that the company would not seek FDA approval for a COVID-19 vaccine until after the election. According to CBS News, CEO Stéphane Bancel said Wednesday that the earliest they would seek approval for their experimental vaccine is November 25 and that next year is more likely. Additionally, even if the vaccine is approved, it will take months before it can be distributed, so it would not be widely available until spring or summer next year. Trump administration erodes FDA credibility, vaccine doubts grow An op-ed published in the Washington Post claims political interference from the Trump administration undermines the credibility of U.S. public health agencies during the pandemic. Written by 7 former commissioners of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the op-ed warns this can undermine the FDA’s credibility at a critical time — when a vaccine against COVID-19 will soon be rolled out. “This came in the wake of acknowledged acts of political influence on the FDA’s coronavirus communications, significant misstatements by the secretary and other political leaders about the benefits of hydroxychloroquine and convalescent plasma, and the overruling of FDA scientists on the regulation of COVID-19 laboratory tests. At risk is the FDA’s ability to make the independent, science-based decisions that are key to combating the pandemic and so much more,” wrote the former FDA commissioners. According to a recent Pew Research poll, roughly half of U.S. adults (51 percent) either would definitely, or probably, get vaccinated against COVID-19 if a vaccine were immediately available. However, 49 percent said they would definitely or probably not choose vaccination at this time. According to Pew Research’s new national survey conducted from September 8–13, intent to get a COVID-19 vaccine has declined across all major political and demographic groups. Early results in for COVID-19 vaccine trial for older adults The Moderna pharmaceutical company released results of a small phase 1 COVID-19 vaccine study that focused on older adults. The results found that the vaccine appeared to be well tolerated and may elicit some immune response. The results published in the New England Journal of Medicine looked at 40 adults over age 56. They found the side effects were mild or moderate with fatigue, chills, headache, muscle aches, and pain among the most common symptoms. Researchers also detected antibodies in the people who were given the experimental vaccine. More testing will need to be done to determine if the vaccine is effective against SARS-CoV-2. Global COVID-19 deaths hit 1 million Less than a year after SARS-CoV-2 was first detected in China, more than 1 million people have died due to the virus. The WHO also said that the actual situation is likely worse than the recorded numbers. A WHO official said that the fatality count is likely higher than what’s recorded. The pandemic still shows no sign of slowing, with another surge reported in the United States. Fauci calls for ‘intensified’ health measures Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, called for intensified public health measures as the cold weather season begins. “We really need to intensify the public health measures that we talk about all the time,” he told Good Morning America (GMA). Fauci cautioned that going into fall and winter, “You really want community spread to be as low as you can possibly get it.” He added that: “There are states that are showing [an] uptick in cases and increase in hospitalizations in some states, and I hope not, but we very well might start seeing increases in death.” Rapid tests roll out worldwide Two rapid COVID-19 tests that show results in 15 to 30 minutes will soon be distributed worldwide, reported The Guardian. One test has already received emergency approval from the WHO, while the other is expected to get it shortly. Catharina Boehme, CEO of the nonprofit Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND), a key player in the initiative, told The Guardian they had quickly placed bulk orders for these tests, so low and middle income countries wouldn’t “lose out in the global scramble for rapid tests.” She emphasized that FIND needed to secure tests for low and middle income countries, “before all the other countries place their orders and the poor populations again lose out.” Case numbers could soon ‘explode,’ Midwest sees COVID-19 surge We could see an explosion of COVID-19 cases this fall and winter, reported CNN. Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), told CNN there are two reasons why. “First, as case counts have come down in some states, we tend to see that people become less careful, they tend to have more contact,” said Murray. “But then the most important effect is the seasonality of the virus, that people go indoors, transmission happens more.” The IHME, an independent global health research center at the University of Washington, has been projecting COVID-19 deaths and cases through the end of the year. The IHME model indicates that the United States currently sees about 765 daily deaths from COVID-19, but the number of daily deaths could rise to 3,000 by late December. The number of positive tests for COVID-19 is surging past 25 percent in several Midwestern states as hospitalizations also surge in the region, reported Reuters. According to the report, although increased testing might explain some of the rise, hospitalizations are also surging, something not influenced by the number of tests performed. U.S. still in first wave, warns Fauci The United States remains in the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic since cases never declined significantly to a good baseline, according to National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) director, Dr. Anthony Fauci. “Rather than say, ‘A second wave,’ why don’t we say, ‘Are we prepared for the challenge of the fall and the winter?’” Fauci told CNN reporters. Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), informed lawmakers that over 90 percent of the U.S. population remains susceptible to infection. “A majority of Americans are still susceptible to this virus,” he said Wednesday. Immune weakness and severe COVID-19 Two recently published studies found that a significant minority of patients with serious COVID-19 have an immune response “crippled by genetic flaws or by rogue antibodies,” reported Science. According to experts, these findings may be a red flag for plasma donations from recovered patients. “You should eliminate these patients from the pool of donors,” Elina Zuniga, PhD, an immunologist who studies interferons (proteins that protect against infection), at the University of California, San Diego told Science. “You definitely don’t want to be transferring these autoantibodies into another person.” Contact tracing stymied when nearly half of COVID-19 patients don’t give close contact info A new report from the CDC found that many people with COVID-19 don’t report their close contacts, making tracking the spread of disease difficult. The report published this week in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report focused on cases from North Carolina and found that 48 percent of people with COVID-19 didn’t report their close contacts. Without that information, contact tracers have difficulty tracking where outbreaks are likely to occur. Trump says he might override FDA COVID-19 vaccine regulations President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he may override new COVID-19 vaccine regulations by the FDA, according to CNN. The FDA is expected to announce stricter guidelines for vaccine approval as multiple COVID-19 vaccine candidates are in phase 3 testing. New guidelines mean that an approval for a COVID-19 vaccine before election day is extremely unlikely. The global COVID-19 vaccine development process has reached unprecedented speed. If a vaccine is approved within the next few weeks or even months, it would be the fastest vaccine to ever be developed and approved. The previous record is held by the mumps vaccine, which took 4 years to be released. The virus is mutating, potentially more contagious Houston-based researchers have released a new study, which hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, of over 5,000 coronavirus genetic sequences to analyze the virus’s continued mutations. They found one of them may make it more contagious, reported the Washington Post. “The genomes were from viruses recovered in the earliest recognized phase of the pandemic in Houston, and an ongoing massive second wave of infections,” study authors wrote. Researchers emphasized that this doesn’t mean the virus has become more dangerous. “We found little evidence of a significant relationship between 77 virus genotypes and altered virulence,” said the study. Airlines offer testing In a pilot testing program United Airlines plans to extend to other destinations, the airline will offer COVID-19 testing for Hawaii-bound passengers leaving San Francisco beginning October 15, reported CNN. “Both visitors and Hawaiian residents returning home who tests negative on either test would not be subjected to the state’s current 14-day quarantine requirement,” United said in a statement. They added that customers traveling on United from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii can choose between a rapid test at the airport or a self-collected, mail-in test before they travel. Yesterday, German airline Lufthansa announced they would also start rapid COVID-19 testing for first class and business class passengers. Johnson & Johnson begins phase 3 trials Johnson & Johnson has announced that a fourth COVID-19 vaccine candidate will begin phase 3 clinical trials on Wednesday, reported NBC News. This trial isn’t expected to yield results for at least 2 months. Although the previous three vaccine candidates require 2 doses, Johnson & Johnson’s drug will be studied as a single-dose solution. However, Johnson & Johnson plans to run a separate phase 3 trial in collaboration with the U.K. government to examine the effectiveness of 2 doses, according to a recent press release. “With our vaccine candidate now in our global phase 3 trial, we are one step closer to finding a solution for COVID-19,” said Mathai Mammen, MD, PhD, global head, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, Johnson & Johnson, in a statement. U.S. hits grim milestone with over 200,000 COVID-19 deaths The COVID-19 pandemic shows no sign of stopping in the United States, with the total number of related deaths now topping 200,000. The pandemic response now varies widely from state to state with some local governments ordering mask mandates and a shutdown of restaurants and bars, while other areas haven’t pushed for shutdowns or wearing masks. The highest positivity rates — the number of people who test positive for COVID-19 — are currently in the Midwest and Plains states. States with more than a 16 percent positivity rate include Idaho, Wisconsin, South Dakota, and Iowa, according to Reuters. CDC delays vaccine decision, issues new guidance for holiday season It’s expected that a CDC committee will delay voting on how to prioritize who will receive a coronavirus vaccine first, reported Reuters. The vote had been scheduled for Sept. 22, but an Agency spokesperson told Reuters that no voting is planned for that session. However, according to the FDA, there’s still no approved vaccine against COVID-19. The CDC has issued COVID-19 guidance for the holidays, in a new, Monday night posting on its website, reported CNN. “Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Halloween, Día de los Muertos, Navratri, Diwali, Thanksgiving, Día de la Virgen de Guadalupe, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and New Year’s, typically include large gatherings of families and friends, crowded parties, and travel that may put people at increased risk for COVID-19,” cautioned the CDC. The CDC also advises that you should assess current COVID-19 levels in your community to determine whether to postpone, cancel, or limit guests attending any planned festivities. CDC criticized after pulling COVID-19 airborne information The CDC has drawn criticism after posting and then deleting information about COVID-19. On Friday, Sept. 18, the agency posted on their website a warning that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, could be spread by airborne particles, reported Reuters. Today, the CDC removed that information from their website saying it hadn’t been reviewed properly. “Unfortunately an early draft of a revision went up without any technical review,” CDC spokesman Jay Bulter told the Washington Post. Initially, the CDC had posted that according to initial guidance, virus particles can remain suspended in the air and travel beyond 6 feet. “There is growing evidence that droplets and airborne particles can remain suspended in the air and be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond 6 feet,” reads the CDC website. They had emphasized that, “In general, indoor environments without good ventilation increase this risk.” Multiple studies have found that COVID-19 is likely airborne and spread by aerosols. The World Health Organization posted information finding that airborne transmission is likely, especially in hospital settings, but that it’s still under investigation. The news that the guidance on COVID-19 aerosolization was taken down led to some health experts expressing worries that the agency had bowed to political pressure. 1/ The @CDCgov was SLOW to recognize airborne/aerosol (vs droplet) spread of coronavirus. After months, they finally change their guidance, and almost immediately, that guidance is retracted. https://t.co/3AUfcLcrUr— Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA (@celinegounder) September 21, 2020 Gates says pandemic may last into 2022 Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that while he expects vaccine approvals to come by early next year and the United States to start returning to normal by summer 2021, he believes we won’t see the end of the pandemic until 2022, reported CNN. “The end of the epidemic, best case is probably 2022. But during 2021, the numbers, we should be able to drive them down, if we take the global approach,” Gates told Fox News. “So, you know, thank goodness vaccine technology was there, that the funding came up, that the companies put their best people on it.” Cases of COVID-19 surge with more than 30 million cases since start of pandemic It’s been over 9 months since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and there’s no sign the outbreak will end anytime soon. There are now over 30.2 million people who have contracted SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Global deaths are currently just under 950,000. While gains have been made in slowing the spread in certain countries, some areas are seeing a resurgence. Europe is seeing COVID-19 case numbers close to their former peak last spring. India is also seeing a dramatic surge in cases that puts it just below the United States with over 5.2 million cases. In the United States, COVID-19 cases continue to decline from a peak of over 75,000 daily cases in July. But daily cases remain high, jumping between 30,000 to over 40,000 in recent days. Casinos have set up plexiglass to avoid spreading COVID-19. Getty Images CDC now says ‘you need a test’ if you’ve been exposed to COVID-19 Officials from the CDC have now changed testing guidelines for COVID-19 after news reports that officials rebuffed CDC scientists. The CDC now says “You need a test” if you’ve been within 6 feet of a person with SARS-CoV-2 for at least 15 minutes. Last month, the guidelines said that people without symptoms of COVID-19 may not need a test even if they were exposed to the new coronavirus. Health experts widely disagreed with those recommendations. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the controversial testing recommendations was published by officials from the Department of Health and Human Services over the objections of scientists at the CDC. As COVID-19 cases spike to record numbers, European governments are imposing strict local measures and considering further lockdowns to halt a second wave of the pandemic, reported CNN. “Last week, the region’s weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients,” said World Health Organization (WHO) regional director Hans Kluge. He also warned that the increase in cases should serve as a warning of what’s to come. “Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March,” Kluge said in a conference. CDC says a vaccine — if approved — will not be widely available until mid-to-late 2021 Even if a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, it will take time before hundreds of millions of doses can be manufactured and distributed. CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield said yesterday that most Americans would not be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine till mid-to-late 2021. Redfield spoke at a congressional hearing yesterday on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic and said that a COVID-19 vaccine may be initially available to select groups in November or December. But he clarified that most Americans will likely not have access to a vaccine until mid-to-late 2021. While multiple COVID-19 vaccines are in phase 3 testing, they haven’t yet been approved for use or been found to be safe and effective. Government announces free COVID-19 vaccines The federal government has outlined a sweeping plan Sept. 16 to make COVID-19 vaccines available free for all Americans, reported the Associated Press. In a report to Congress and accompanying “playbook,” federal health agencies and the Defense Department outlined plans for a free vaccination campaign that could begin in January or even later this year. According to the Press, while the Pentagon will be involved with distribution, civilian health workers will be responsible for administering the shots. An investigation by USA Today finds the CDC failed to provide sufficient guidance and consistent information about the pandemic to local public health authorities in order to save lives. “They are incapable of responding to the emergency,” Dr. Pierre Rollin, former deputy chief of a CDC branch on viral pathogens, told USA Today. Wastewater increasingly used to track spread of COVID-19 Since people with COVID-19 can spread the disease even without symptoms, healthcare experts are turning to an unexpected tool to track the disease: wastewater. Last month, the CDC announced a national wastewater surveillance system in order to help identify where the virus that causes COVID-19 is spreading. This month multiple colleges and universities have said they’re testing wastewater as students return to campus in order to identify potential hotspots. The University of Idaho was able to identify 6 students with COVID-19 after testing wastewater at the dorms. Bill Gates slams FDA commissioner Microsoft founder Bill Gates, having long warned against pandemic risks, is “dumbfounded” by the Trump administration’s response to the COVID-19 crisis, reported STAT news. “You know, this has been a mismanaged situation every step of the way,” said Gates in a wide-ranging interview with STAT. “It’s shocking. It’s unbelievable — the fact that we would be among the worst in the world.” Gates especially criticized FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, whom Gates said mischaracterized findings from a Mayo Clinic study on COVID-19. Wearing a mask and physically distancing can reduce the risk of developing COVID-19. Getty Images NIH officials ‘very concerned’ about AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine candidate Officials from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have said they’re very concerned over a lack of information given from a COVID-19 vaccine trial. The AstraZeneca phase 3 trial was halted in the UK after one person was hospitalized with symptoms associated with transverse myelitis. The trial was allowed to resume in the UK, but NIH officials say they’re worried they don’t have enough information. According to CNN, Dr. Avindra Nath, intramural clinical director and a leader of viral research at the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke, said the pharmaceutical company needs to be more transparent about a potential complication. “The highest levels of NIH are very concerned,” Nath told CNN. “Everyone’s hopes are on a vaccine, and if you have a major complication the whole thing could get derailed.” AstraZeneca restarts vaccine trial after hospitalization Pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca has restarted its phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial a week after pausing the study. The trial is only restarting in the UK at this point. Other trials taking place in Brazil and the United States remain on hold. The phase 3 trial was stopped last week after a participant was hospitalized with symptoms associated with transverse myelitis — inflammation around the spine. The stoppage gave researchers time to investigate if the vaccine is the likely cause of the symptoms. Virus that causes COVID-19 may attack brain cells A preliminary study finds that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, may attack certain brain cells. Researchers examined tissue from 3 people who died from COVID-19 and also used mouse models to see how the disease can affect the brain. They found evidence that the disease can take over brain cells called neurons. They could also affect other neurons leading to these cells dying off. The study has not yet been printed in a peer-reviewed journal. Experts are still learning how COVID-19 affects the body. The new study may shed light on why some people experience brain fog or delirium after developing COVID-19. China tests new COVID-19 vaccine China has begun human testing of a COVID-19 vaccine that’s sprayed in the nose rather than injected, reported Bloomberg. The nasal spray contains weakened flu virus carrying segments of coronavirus’ spike protein, in hopes that it will stimulate an immune response against COVID-19. COVID-19 may have been in Los Angeles in December A new analysis suggests that COVID-19 may have been in California as early as last December. Researchers from UCLA analyzed 10 million health records and found a sudden spike in people with coughs and respiratory failure that started in December 2019 in Los Angeles. The increase was so drastic it accounted for a 50 percent rise in cases as compared to the same time period in the previous 5 years. The cases haven’t been confirmed as being COVID-19 since samples weren’t tested by the researchers. “We may never truly know if these excess patients represented early and undetected COVID-19 cases in our area,” Dr. Joann Elmore, the study’s lead author and a professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA said. “But the lessons learned from this pandemic, paired with health care analytics that enable real-time surveillance of disease and symptoms, can potentially help us identify and track emerging outbreaks and future epidemics,” Elmore said. Half-million children test positive Over a half-million U.S. children have tested positive for COVID-19, according to a joint report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Children’s Hospital Association (CHA), reported U.S. News and World Report. According to the report, Aug. 20 through Sept. 3 saw a 16 percent increase in cases for this age group. As of Sept. 3, at least 513,415 child cases have been documented, which is 10 percent of the total cases in the United States. “These numbers are a chilling reminder of why we need to take this virus seriously,” said AAP President Sara Goza, MD, FAAP, in a statement. “A disproportionate number of cases are reported in Black and Hispanic children and in places where there is high poverty. We must work harder to address societal inequities that contribute to these disparities.” Why obesity is a risk factor Overweight people have a much higher risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms, even if they’re young, for a broad range of reasons, reports the journal Science. The reasons include: abdominal fat can restrict breathingobesity increases the risk of blood clotsa tendency to have high blood pressure “BMI [body mass index] remains a strong independent risk factor for severe COVID-19, according to several studies that adjusted for age, sex, social class, diabetes, and heart conditions,” Naveed Sattar, an expert in cardiometabolic disease at the University of Glasgow, told Science.  Pharma companies pledge to release vaccine only if it’s backed by data In an open letter, the CEOs of nine pharmaceutical companies said they would pursue FDA approval for a COVID-19 vaccine only if there’s enough data that it’s safe and effective. The CEOs of AstraZeneca, BioNTech, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, Moderna, Novavax, Pfizer, and Sanofi said they would only release a vaccine if they have key scientific data finding that the vaccine will protect against COVID-19 and be safe for a wide swath of the population. The race to create an effective COVID-19 vaccine has led to more than 200 potential vaccine candidates being researched. The newly released letter comes as health experts have said they’re worried the FDA may approve a COVID-19 vaccine before they have enough data from critical phase 3 trials. More than one-third of Americans have said they won’t get a COVID-19 vaccination if offered one free of cost. COVID-19 antibody evidence Antibody levels held steady for about 4 months after developing COVID-19, finds a new study from Iceland published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Sept. 1. “Our results indicate that antiviral antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 did not decline within 4 months after diagnosis. We estimate that the risk of death from infection was 0.3%,” wrote the study authors. The findings are in line with those in a preprint article published last month showing antibody levels were stable for at least 3 months in patients who had recovered from the virus in New York City, reports NBC News. Diabetes drug may treat disease New research suggests not only that diabetes is a risk factor for severe COVID-19, but the disease may also induce diabetes. Consequently, Danish drug company Novo Nordisk A/S is investigating the effectiveness of a new class of diabetes treatment called GLP-1 drugs, to fight COVID-19, reports Bloomberg. They include Novo’s Ozempic for diabetes and Saxenda for obesity. Corticosteroids treat COVID-19 Researchers pooled data from hospitals across 8 countries to find that inexpensive steroid drugs can improve survival rates in patients critically ill with COVID-19. According to a joint press release from the University of Pittsburgh and Imperial College London, the findings were made through the Randomized Embedded Multifactorial Adaptive Platform-Community Acquired Pneumonia (REMAP-CAP) trial and are published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). “It is relatively rare in medicine that you find drugs where the evidence of their effectiveness in saving lives is so consistent,” said lead author Derek Angus, MD, MPH, professor and chair of the department of critical care medicine at the University of Pittsburgh in a statement. “This is, in many respects, the single clearest answer we’ve had so far on how to manage terribly ill COVID-19 patients,” he continued. HHS gets ready for COVID-19 vaccine release despite controversy In a recent memo, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), advised the nation’s health departments to have vaccination plans drafted before October 1, “to coincide with earliest possible release of COVID-19 vaccine.” The memo also specifies a Vaccine Administration Monitoring System “is in development to facilitate vaccination clinic scheduling, record-keeping for the vaccine recipient, and reporting.” Health experts have raised concerns that the FDA could approve the COVID-19 vaccine before critical phase 3 trial data is available. That data is crucial in showing that a vaccine is safe and effective. FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said in an interview with the Financial Times that the FDA may give emergency approval to a COVID-19 vaccine before all phase 3 data is available, but that its approval wouldn’t be based on politics. Face masks are key in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. Getty Images First person in U.S. diagnosed with reinfection of COVID-19 Researchers have spotlighted the first confirmed case of COVID-19 reinfection in the United States. Researchers released a preprint of a medical case study August 27 on the Lancet. A preprint means the study has not been peer-reviewed. The 25-year-old man from Reno, Nevada initially tested positive for COVID-19 in April. He had mild symptoms and after recovering tested negative on two separate tests. At the end of May he reported having serious symptoms including dizziness, fever, cough, and diarrhea. He later was found to have low oxygen levels and was hospitalized, where he received oxygen and other treatment. The news comes as researchers are learning more about how the immune system reacts to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Earlier this month, researchers documented the first known time a patient was reinfected with COVID-19 in Hong Kong. This new case shows that COVID-19 reinfection may occur regularly, although it may not be common. In this Nevada case, the man didn’t have any conditions that would make him immunocompromised which could make him have a higher risk for reinfection. The researchers were able to tell via genetic sequencing that the man contracted two different strains of COVID-19. New $5 COVID-19 test gets FDA emergency approval A new test for COVID-19 will have results available in just 15 minutes according to the company. Abbott announced today that the FDA has given emergency approval for their COVID-19 test that will cost just $5. The company says they expect to be able to ship out about 50 million tests, which is about the size of a credit card, every month starting in October. The test is an antigen test which looks for pieces of viral material in samples. These tests aren’t as accurate as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests that look for the genetic material of the virus. “Our nation’s frontline healthcare workers and clinical laboratory personnel have been under siege since the onset of this pandemic,” Dr. Charles Chiu, PhD, professor of laboratory medicine at University of California, San Francisco, said in a statement released by Abbott. “The availability of rapid testing for COVID-19 will help support overburdened laboratories, accelerate turnaround times, and greatly expand access to people who need it,” Chiu continued. Health experts warn the seasonal flu could further complicate the COVID-19 pandemic and everyone is urged to get a flu shot. Getty Images Fauci says school officials “better think twice” about reopening during COVID-19 Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that school officials in districts where there’s high cases of COVID-19 “better think twice” about allowing students to return. Fauci spoke at a Healthline town hall on August 18. He pointed out that since COVID-19 isn’t spreading uniformly throughout the country, some districts may be able to reopen safely. However, multiple clusters of COVID-19 cases have been linked to schools reopening with the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill announcing this week that they’ll go fully remote after multiple COVID-19 clusters were detected. In areas where COVID-19 testing positivity rate is over 10 percent, Fauci said administrators should be wary of in-person instruction. “You really better think twice before you do that because what might happen is what you’ve seen, you go in, people get infected, and boom they close them down,” he said speaking of schools closing shortly after reopening. “It’s better to ease in with virtual until you see what’s going on when you’re in a really hot zone,” Fauci said.  NYC death rate from COVID-19 about two thirds of 1918 flu pandemic A new study found that over 100 years after the deadly 1918 flu pandemic, the COVID-19 outbreak took a deadly toll on New York City. Research published in JAMA found that at the height of the COVID-19 crisis, the death rate in New York City was only 30 percent less than at the height of the 1918 flu pandemic. The researchers looked at the deaths over 61 days in 1918 and in 2020. In 1918 there were 31,589 deaths for 5,500,000 residents, meaning about 287 deaths per 100,000 persons. In 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 outbreak in New York, there were 33,465 deaths among 8,280,000 residents. This means there were 202 deaths per 100,000 persons. This is in spite of all the medical and technological advancements of the last century. Many tools were used in identifying and treating the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 that hadn’t been invented in 1918 when the field of virology was just starting. But preventing the spread of disease is not so different from 1918. Experts still advise social distancing and wearing a mask. Some states have allowed hair dressers to return to work if they cut hair outside. Getty Images Scientists find COVID-19 may spread nearly 16 feet indoors A new study has found that the virus that causes COVID-19 may be able to spread nearly 16 feet in certain spaces. The researchers from the University of Florida looked at air samples from a hospital room where two patients with COVID-19 were being treated. They were able to isolate viable SARS-CoV-2 from the air samples taken. The genetic sequence of the virus was identical to that of viral samples taken from one of the patients. There are some caveats regarding the study including the fact that the research hasn’t yet been peer reviewed. The concentration of airborne viral material in the room ranged widely in the samples taken, and it’s not clear that there would be enough viral material to be infectious. Additionally, the results are likely not applicable for all public areas. A hospital room where two people are being treated for COVID-19 will likely have far higher amounts of SARS-CoV-2 than areas where people are not being treated. Experts have been debating whether or not to call COVID-19 airborne for weeks. Earlier this summer hundreds of health experts asked the World Health Organization to consider if the virus could be considered airborne. Getty Images Los Angeles may cut off water and power to houses that host parties during pandemic Mayor Eric Garcetti said officials may cut off water and power to houses if they see they’re hosting large gatherings in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Garcetti said the order wouldn’t target small gatherings but places that have hosted large gatherings multiple times. Getty Images “These are focused on the people determined to break the rules, posing significant public dangers and a threat to all of us,” Garcetti said during a COVID-19 news conference, according to CNN. Television news crews shot footage of a large party in the Hollywood Hills earlier this week and officials said it wasn’t an isolated incident. Additionally, county health officials said they’re also investigating a potential superspreader event linked to three fraternities at the University of Southern California. Los Angeles has been dealing with a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent months. Los Angeles County has nearly 200,000 reported COVID-19 cases and over 4,800 related deaths. School in Georgia reports COVID-19 case after reopening One day after reopening for the new academic year, a school in Georgia is disinfecting a classroom after a second-grade student tested positive for COVID-19. The student’s class and teacher are currently quarantined and the school is being cleaned, according to NBC News. The infection shows how difficult school reopenings are likely to be as COVID-19 continues to spread in the United States. While many school districts don’t start the school year until later this month or September, schools in parts of Georgia have already reopened. The reopened schools have already made headlines. A photo of a crowded hallway in a high school went viral on social media this week as it showed few students wearing masks. Parents are trying to figure out how to send kids back to school safely. Getty Images States want federal government to make COVID-19 treatment more affordable California State Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Lousiana State Attorney General Jeff Landry are asking the federal government to step in and lower the cost for the COVID-19 treatment remdesivir. The drug remdesivir is an antiviral and one of only a few treatments for COVID-19 that appears to decrease mortality. The drug is produced by Gilead Pharmaceutical and is priced at about $3,200 per treatment. Becerra and Landry want the federal government to get involved and license remdesivir to third party pharmaceutical companies in order to increase access and affordability. Under the Bayh–Dole Act, the NIH and FDA are allowed to step in and ensure affordable access to a drug like remdesivir in an emergency. “Americans ill from COVID-19 should have options in their medical treatment, and today’s petition will hopefully ensure they can access and afford remdesivir,” said Landry in a statement. “Despite millions and millions of taxpayer-funded assistance, Gilead has neither established a reasonable price nor met the health and safety needs of the public,” he said. “So our bipartisan coalition is calling on the federal government to exercise its rights to help increase the supply of remdesivir and lower its price.” Getty Images COVID-19 outbreak found on cruise ship in the arctic A Norwegian cruise line is reporting an outbreak of COVID-19 on a ship currently north of the Arctic circle. The Hurtigruten cruise line reported that there are at least 41 people with COVID-19 on ship MS Roald Amundsen. The ship is currently far north in Norway. According to CBS News, there have been 36 crew members and 5 passengers who developed COVID-19. However, since the ship stopped at multiple ports in the far northern region of Norway, authorities are concerned that the virus could have been spread at multiple sites. They’re asking anyone who was in contact with people onboard the ship to reach out to local authorities. Getty Images Deborah Birx says COVID-19 is ‘extraordinarily widespread’ in U.S. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, told CNN on Sunday, August 2, that the COVID-19 pandemic has reached a new phase in the country with rural areas being affected in addition to urban areas. “To everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus,” Birx said on CNN. “If you’re in multi-generational households, and there’s an outbreak in your rural area or in your city, you need to really consider wearing a mask at home, assuming that you’re positive, if you have individuals in your households with comorbidities.” Birx also said the virus was “extraordinarily widespread” and that schools shouldn’t open if they’re in states where the testing positivity rate is over 5 percent. Children may carry 100 times as much virus as adults A new study out this week found that children may carry far more viral material in their nose and throat than adults. The study, published in JAMA Pediatrics, looked at nasal swabs from children and adults diagnosed with COVID-19. The researchers found children had as much viral material in their swabs as adults — and sometimes up to 100 times more. While other studies have found that very young children are less likely to spread the virus that causes COVID-19, this new research shows that these children are still very much at risk for spreading the disease. Experts say these findings should be another factor that’s considered as the debate on opening schools continues. “The school situation is so complicated — there are many nuances beyond just the scientific one,” Dr. Taylor Heald-Sargent, a pediatric infectious diseases expert at the Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, who led the study, told the New York Times. “But one takeaway from this is that we can’t assume that just because kids aren’t getting sick, or very sick, that they don’t have the virus.” Herman Cain dies due complications from COVID-19 Former presidential candidate Herman Cain has died after being hospitalized for COVID-19. In a post on Cain’s website, the editor Dan Calabrese confirmed Cain’s death due to COVID-19. Former presidential candidate Herman Caine has died after developing COVID-19. Getty Images “Herman Cain — our boss, our friend, like a father to so many of us — has passed away,” Calabrese wrote. “We knew when he was first hospitalized with COVID-19 that this was going to be a rough fight.” “He had trouble breathing and was taken to the hospital by ambulance. We all prayed that the initial meds they gave him would get his breathing back to normal, but it became clear pretty quickly that he was in for a battle,” continued Calabrese. Cain’s death has put a spotlight on political rallies after he attended President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa which didn’t require attendees to wear a mask. Cain was photographed at the event without a mask, but it’s unclear if he developed the disease while at the rally. Cain, the former CEO of the Godfather pizza chain, made headlines when he ran for president in 2012. He was 74 years old. Getty Images Europe fears second wave of COVID-19 as cases rise COVID-19 cases are rising again in multiple parts of Europe, raising fears of a second wave. Cases are on the upswing in Belgium, France, Germany, and Spain according to the Washington Post. Some countries are pulling back again after reopening. In Spain, nightclubs and gyms are closed in Barcelona and a popular beach is also being closed. In France, the government is now mandating that everyone wear face masks while in shops or indoor venues. The Belgium Prime Minister has now outlined a variety of new measures to stop the spread of COVID-19. These include limiting contact to people outside your home to only 5 other households. People can only stay inside a store for 30 minutes at a time, and they must shop alone. Study finds evidence that drug for autoimmune issues may help fight COVID-19 symptoms A new study finds evidence that a drug originally designed to treat autoimmune diseases and types of lymphoma may help treat COVID-19. Published in the journal Nature, the study found that the drug called LAM-002A may help stop the virus that causes COVID-19 from replicating. The study looked at infected cells in a lab so further tests need to be done in people to see if the drug is an effective way to combat COVID-19. According to a press release by Yale University, the drug may also be combined with remdesivir to treat COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccine trial in U.S. reaches critical phase 3 A major vaccine trial is underway in the United States with researchers planning on involving at least 30,000 participants. Those involved in the study will be divided into two groups with one group getting the experimental vaccine candidate and another group getting a placebo. According to CNN, people who are part of the trial will get two doses of either the vaccine candidate or the placebo over 28 days to see how their immune system reacts. A phase 3 trial is designed to verify that a medication or vaccine is effective, safe, and find out its effective dosage. The vaccine has been developed by Moderna and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. This trial is just one of at least 2 dozen going on globally in the hunt to find an effective COVID-19 vaccine. Despite the early good news about a potential COVID-19 vaccine, it is possible this vaccine will not be approved for use. In the past, many drugs can appear effective in phase 1 or 2 trials only to be found ineffective or dangerous in phase 3 trials. Poll finds 3 out of 4 Americans support mask requirements A new poll from the Associated Press and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that a large majority — or about 3 out of 4 Americans — support requiring people to wear masks while outside. The study results come as the United States is seeing new record high cases of COVID-19. The country is nearing 4 million cases with over 140,000 deaths. While mask wearing has become politicized, the study found that the majority of both Democrats (83 percent) and Republicans (58 percent) support mask requirements. A vast majority of Americans — about 95 percent of Democrats and 75 percent of Republicans — say they’re donning face coverings when they leave their home. Health authorities have supported wearing facial coverings like masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. Some cities may have to shut down again as COVID-19 spreads. Getty Images Red Cross running low on convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients The American Red Cross announced July 22 that they’re running out of vital convalescent plasma used to treat people with COVID-19. The plasma is taken from people who have already recovered from the illness and have crucial antibodies that can help fight the virus. With the surge in COVID-19 cases in the United States, the Red Cross says there’s more demand for the plasma than supply. “It is critical that COVID-19 survivors give their antibody-rich plasma now to ensure this blood product is available to help those actively battling this coronavirus,” Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of American Red Cross Biomedical Services said in a statement. “Convalescent plasma has been used for decades as a potentially lifesaving treatment until virus or disease specific treatments and vaccines are developed,” Young continued. “It remains crucially important today in the fight against this COVID-19 pandemic.” A lack of testing access has compounded the plasma shortage. If people are unable to be tested when they have the disease, they may not be able to donate plasma after they recover. People who have tested positive for COVID-19 and want to donate plasma can learn more about the process here. Over 100,000 people volunteer to take part in COVID-19 vaccine trials In just 2 weeks, at least 138,000 people have volunteered to be studied in COVID-19 vaccine trials, according to Forbes. The National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) put out a call this month for volunteers to take part in vaccine trials this fall. At least 120,000 people are needed to take part in four different vaccine trials that will examine the efficacy and safety of COVID-19 vaccine candidates. “While this early response is very gratifying, it is important to note that this is just a fraction of the number of people needed to participate in various trials and ensure adequate representation of various demographic categories,” a spokesperson for the NIAID told Forbes. Actual COVID-19 rate may be 10 times higher than current number A study published July 21 in JAMA Internal Medicine found evidence that the number of Americans who have developed COVID-19 may be 10 times higher than the reported number. The CDC examined samples from over 1,600 people in multiple states to look for signs of COVID-19 antibodies. Researchers found the percentage of people with COVID-19 antibodies ranged widely from state to state with nearly 7 percent of people in New York having antibodies while only 1 percent of people in San Francisco having them. Researchers estimate that the actual number of COVID-19 cases is likely 10 times higher than the recorded number, which may be due to people with mild or no symptoms. “The findings may reflect the number of persons who had mild or no illness or who did not seek medical care or undergo testing but who still may have contributed to ongoing virus transmission in the population,” the study authors wrote. Additionally, many people with symptoms have been unable to get tested for the disease due to a lack of supplies. Getty Images White House tells hospitals to bypass CDC when sending COVID-19 data The White House is telling hospitals to send important data on COVID-19 cases and deaths directly to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), bypassing the CDC. The HHS oversees the CDC. The CDC has been collecting data on COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths since the outbreak began. Infectious disease experts told NPR they’re concerned that the agency is being ignored and politicized during the pandemic. The CDC has long-standing relationships with hospitals nationwide and collects data from hospitals and state governments about a variety of infectious diseases including foodborne outbreaks and seasonal flu. “It’s really hard not to see this as some kind of interference or snub [to] the CDC,” University of Arizona epidemiologist Saskia Popescu told NPR. “With so many concerns over the politicization of data right now, this is concerning.” Oklahoma governor tests positive for COVID-19 Governor Kevin Stitt announced yesterday that he has developed COVID-19. Stitt said he had been getting tested periodically and that his symptoms were mild. “I feel fine. I felt a little bit achy yesterday, didn’t have a fever but just a little bit achy,” the governor said, according to NPR. “So just did my regular testing and it came back positive.” The governor had attended President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa Oklahoma last month, although it’s unlikely he contracted the virus at that event since it occurred nearly a month ago. Stitt is the first U.S. governor to test positive for COVID-19. Other politicians to get the disease include Senator Rand Paul and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms. New York reported no deaths related to COVID-19 in a 24 hour period. It’s the first day without COVID-19 deaths since March. Getty Images Study finds about half of people have signs of heart abnormality after developing COVID-19 A new study found that over half of people who had survived COVID-19 had signs of cardiac abnormalities. Published in the European Heart Journal, researchers looked at data from 1,261 people who had been treated for COVID-19. The research subjects were between ages 52 and 71. About 70 percent of the patients were men. The researchers found that slightly more than half of the total patients — or 667 people — had an abnormal echocardiogram. Among people who didn’t previously have heart disease, about 46 percent had an abnormal echocardiogram. The abnormalities seen included issues with the left and right ventricles of the heart and inflammation of the heart muscle. About 15 percent of those studied had severe cardiac disease, including fluid around the heart muscle that can impact its ability to function. Woman who was first in U.S. to get experimental COVID-19 vaccine says she feels fantastic The first person in the United States to get an experimental COVID-19 vaccine says she hasn’t had any side effects. Jennifer Haller, 43, told KOMO News in Seattle that in the months since she was given the experimental vaccine she feels “fantastic.” “It’s been 16 weeks since I had the first dose,” Haller told KOMO News. “I feel fantastic.” The trial is run by Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, and the experimental vaccine was developed by Moderna and the National Institutes of Health. It uses messenger RNA in the hopes of priming the immune system to develop antibodies. Haller said she’s still taking precautions, since it’s not clear if the experimental vaccine will provide immunity. During initial phase 1 trials, researchers look to make sure that the vaccine is safe. A phase 3 trial is expected later this year that may shed light on how effective the vaccine is. Spring lockdowns saved 370,000 lives, according to new research States that had shelter-in-place orders this spring helped save the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The new data was released as the United States is seeing a record number of COVID-19 cases after shelter-in-place orders were lifted in late May and early June. But the report from Health Affairs found that those shelter-in-place orders likely saved many U.S. lives in the early months of the pandemic. According to the report, between 250,000 and 370,000 lives were saved by May 15 as a result of shelter-in-place orders. The report found that effects of physical distancing orders on COVID-19 cases and deaths were less clear. COVID-19 cases are reaching record highs in the U.S. Getty Images Medical workers face another shortage of crucial protective gear With cases of COVID-19 hitting new highs in the United States, medical providers are again facing shortages of critical protective equipment. Medical providers in states that are seeing surges — including Texas, Florida, and California — may be increasingly likely to contract the virus if they have to start reusing protective material like face masks or eyewear. The New York Times reported that staff at a Houston hospital have been told to reuse N95 masks for over 2 weeks. National Nurses United said that their members are reporting serious shortages of key equipment. “We’re 5 months into this and there are still shortages of gowns, hair covers, shoe covers, masks, N95 masks,” Deborah Burger, president of National Nurses United, told the Associated Press. “They’re being doled out, and we’re still being told to reuse them.” At least 87 percent said they had to reuse respirator masks, and another 72 percent said they had exposed skin or clothing when treating patients, making them more susceptible to COVID-19. According to a report from Kaiser Health News, nearly 600 healthcare workers in the United States have died after developing COVID-19. U.S. cases of COVID-19 rise 1 million in 28 days The number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 has now topped 3 million in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins data. U.S. disease transmission is accelerating, with 1 million people testing positive in just the last 28 days. The new hotspots of the disease are in Florida, Arizona, Texas, and California. Many of these states have started to pull back on reopening as the disease has spread more widely. This new milestone comes as officials are trying to figure out how or if schools should reopen in the fall. President Donald Trump said he wanted schools to reopen and threatened to cut funding for schools that stayed closed. Over 3 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Getty Images Woman has COVID-19 symptoms for over 100 days While many people who develop COVID-19 recover within weeks, one woman says she still has symptoms of the disease months after she was first diagnosed. Ann Wallace told CBS Boston that she was diagnosed with COVID-19 back in March and has had symptoms ever since. Wallace, who has multiple sclerosis and survived cancer, told CBS that she has been to the emergency room 5 times and spent weeks unable to walk more than a few steps. “For weeks on end I couldn’t get off my couch,” Wallace told CBS. “I would come downstairs in the morning, lie down on my couch. I would come downstairs because there I could be close to my refrigerator so I could get water or a snack, and I could be close to the bathroom… But I couldn’t take more than 10 or so steps at a time. If I did, I would feel myself start to black out. It is a terrifying virus to have.” Wallace said she’s currently in pulmonary rehab but still feels burning in her lungs. Brazilian President tests positive for COVID-19 The president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, has tested positive for COVID-19. Bolsonaro has been criticized by health experts for downplaying the pandemic. According to the Associated Press, as of July 7 more than 65,000 people in Brazil have died from the disease and more than 1.5 million have developed COVID-19. Bolsonaro said he had fever, muscle aches, and malaise. He’s also taking the antimalaria medication hydroxychloroquine, despite recent studies finding it doesn’t help treat COVID-19 and can increase risk of irregular heartbeat. In recent months Bolsonaro has been seen in crowds without a mask. He has also been critical of local leaders who wanted to shut down to stop the virus from spreading further. FDA gives emergency authorization to COVID-19 test that takes 15 minutes The FDA approved the emergency use of a new COVID-19 test designed to take just 15 minutes. The FDA is allowing the new test to be released under its emergency use authorization. This means that there’s evidence the test works and can be used due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it hasn’t yet been fully vetted by the FDA, so it’s not officially FDA approved. The test from the medical technology company Becton, Dickinson and Company is both portable and quick. Test results may be available within 15 minutes according to a company statement. The test works by looking for signs of antigens to detect signs of SARS-CoV-2. These tests can detect viral proteins in the body. Getty Images COVID-19 parties with prize money In Tuscaloosa, Alabama, young people are throwing COVID-19 parties, reports CNN. People with the virus are encouraged to attend so they can pass the virus on to others who are willing to contract it. The first person to receive a diagnosis of COVID-19 reportedly wins the proceeds from ticket sales for the gathering. “We thought that was kind of a rumor at first. We did some research — not only do the doctors’ offices confirm it, but the state confirmed they also had the same information,” said Sonya McKinstry, a Tuscaloosa City Council member. Checking the virus by region A new tool can better compare transmission risk by region. Danielle Allen, a professor and director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University, and her colleagues at the Harvard Global Health Institute collaborating with scientists across the United States, have created an online COVID-19 risk assessment map.  “It allows you to compare a rural area in upstate New York compared to New York City and have an apples-to-apples comparison for relative impact and relative caseload,” said Ellie Graeden, PhD, the founder and chief executive officer at Talus Analytics and a faculty member at the Center for Global Health, Science, and Security at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. Europe bans U.S. travelers Leaders of the European Union have announced that most travelers from the United States will be barred from entering when countries reopen their borders. The European leaders said they’re taking the action because the spread of COVID-19 is still too prevalent in the United States. They also said the list of countries from which travelers can arrive will be reviewed every 2 weeks and could be revised. Summer indoor activities More time spent indoors to escape summer’s heat may increase risk of COVID-19, according to Edward Nardell, a professor of medicine and global health and social medicine at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts. “The states that, in June, are already using a lot of air conditioning because of high temperatures are also the places where there’s been greater increases in spread of COVID-19, suggesting more time indoors as temperatures rise,” Nardell told the Harvard Gazette. “As people go indoors in hot weather and the re-breathed air fraction goes up, the risk of infection is quite dramatic,” he said. WHO says pandemic is ‘speeding up’ Tedros Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, the director-general of the WHO, cautioned at a briefing, “Although many countries have made some progress, globally the pandemic is actually speeding up.”  He explained that while many countries have used “unprecedented measures” to contain the virus, those measures have only slowed the spread — not stopped it. Ghebreyesus concluded that “the hard reality is: this is not even close to being over.” Pregnant women face higher risk According to a recent Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report (MMWR) from the CDC, pregnant women may be at increased risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms that could require hospitalization. The most recent CDC data suggests that pregnant women are more likely to be hospitalized. They also have an increased risk of being placed on a ventilator, compared with women who aren’t pregnant. Have 20 million Americans had the virus? Government experts estimate that more than 20 million Americans may have contracted the new coronavirus — 10 times the official count. This means more people without symptoms have gotten the virus than previously thought. Fauci ‘optimistic’ on vaccines Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that he’s “cautiously optimistic” that we’ll have one or more effective COVID-19 vaccines available by the end of this year. However, he warned “no vaccine is 100 percent effective,” but with COVID-19, he’d settle for 70 to 75 percent effectiveness. COVID-19 cases rise, symptoms may last months June 25 saw 40,401 new U.S. cases of COVID-19, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. However, according to the CDC, those numbers are very likely understated. “Every epidemiologist was telling, screaming as loud as we could, that three weeks after Memorial Day we’d have a peak in the cases, and five weeks after Memorial Day we’d begin to see a peak in hospitalizations and deaths,” epidemiologist Larry Brilliant told CNN. “If you let everybody out without face masks and without social distancing in the middle of a pandemic, this is what was predicted,” he said. Although COVID-19 typically resolves in weeks, a significant number “are still suffering with symptoms 3 months into the illness,” Dr. Helen Salisbury of University of Oxford wrote in the British Medical Journal. Meanwhile, scientists are just beginning to understand the array of health problems caused by the coronavirus, which may affect both patients and health systems for some time. Texas stops reopening amid surge in COVID-19 Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that reopening will be paused as the state sees a major surge in COVID-19 cases. The state reported 5,500 cases in a single day this week. Over 125,000 cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the state since the outbreak began. Texas is one of many states seeing a massive uptick in COVID-19 cases. Arizona and Florida are also seeing major rises with each state seeing record numbers of cases this week. California is also seeing a surge in cases with over 5,000 daily cases reported this week. In all, 26 states are seeing some increase in COVID-19 cases. While Abbott announced a pause in reopenings due to the disease, he said that he will not reimplement shutdowns. “The last thing we want to do as a state is go backwards and close down businesses,” Governor Abbott said in a statement. “This temporary pause will help our state corral the spread until we can safely enter the next phase of opening our state for business. I ask all Texans to do their part to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing a mask, washing their hands regularly, and socially distancing from others.” Federal funding for 13 COVID-19 testing sites to be cut The funding for 13 COVID-19 testing sites is expected to be cut by the federal government, according to NBC News. Federal funding for the sites will end June 30 even as COVID-19 cases continue to surge in the United States. Seven of the testing sites are in Texas which is seeing a spike in cases after reopening at the end of May. On June 23, state officials reported a new daily high of 5,000 cases. Federal officials said they weren’t slowing down on testing and hundreds of sites will remain open. “We have expanded from the original 41 sites to over 600 in 48 states and the District of Columbia in the federal bundled payment program to pharmacies, and enabled over 1,400 additional pharmacy sites through regulatory flexibility empowering pharmacists and facilitating billing and reimbursement,” Brett Giroir, the administration’s testing czar, told NBC News. The other sites affected by the loss of federal funding are in Illinois, New Jersey, Colorado, and Pennsylvania. President Trump made headlines this weekend after saying that he wanted to slow down testing. He later said he wasn’t joking about the statement. States are seeing major surges of COVID-19 cases after reopening. Getty Images EU may bar American visitors due to rising COVID-19 cases The European Union may bar visitors from the United States due to rising COVID-19 cases, according to the New York Times. The United States currently has the most reported number of COVID-19 cases in the world with over 2.3 million. Additionally, daily cases have begun to increase again in recent weeks as states have reopened. According to the New York Times, if these rules are finalized, Americans would be barred from entering the European Union along with people from Brazil and Russia which have the next highest levels of COVID-19 cases after the United States. Some essential travel between America and the E.U. would be allowed, according to the report. Using plasma from recovered patients appears to be safe for people battling COVID-19. Getty Images Next 2 weeks are ‘critical’ in U.S. as cases surge, Fauci says Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director for the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, addressed the congress today to give an update in the fight against COVID-19. Fauci, speaking at a congressional panel along with other members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said that the next 2 weeks will be critical to see if deaths are likely to increase. While deaths from COVID-19 have been declining, cases of the disease have started to tick back up as states have reopened. “The next couple of weeks are going to be critical in our ability to address those surges we are seeing in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and other states,” Fauci told the panel, according to the New York Times. As cases have risen, Fauci also said that they will be doing more testing despite President Donald Trump saying at a rally he wanted officials to slow down testing. “It’s the opposite. We’re going to be doing more testing, not less,” Fauci told Congress. Fauci pointed out that doing more testing and surveillance is critical to know where infections are occurring. Fauci also said health officials are “cautiously optimistic” that a vaccine for COVID-19 may be available next year. Although he cautioned it would need to be tested in the real world before it’s fully approved. WHO reports highest 1-day increase of COVID-19 cases Six months into the COVID-19 pandemic and the virus is still surging across the globe. On Sunday, June 21, the World Health Organization reported the largest single-day increase in COVID-19 cases with over 183,000 cases reported. The center of the outbreak has shifted from Asia to Europe and now to North and South America. "It seems that almost every day we reach a new and grim record.Yesterday, more than 183,000 new cases of #COVID19 were reported to WHO – easily the most in a single day so far"-@DrTedros— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) June 22, 2020 Brazil reported over 50,000 cases in one day, while the United States reported over 30,000 cases. While COVID-19 cases had been decreasing in the United States since a peak in May, in recent days, cases have started to increase again. As states have reopened, COVID-19 hotspots have appeared in multiple states including Arizona, Texas, and Florida. Plasma from people who survived COVID-19 is safe treatment for the disease A new study out June 18 finds that using plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 is safe for people currently battling the disease. The study published in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings involved 20,000 people and found that the treatment, called convalescent plasma, appeared to be safe for people with COVID-19. The first group, about 5,000 people who received the plasma, had a mortality rate of around 12 percent in the subsequent week. In the early stages of the study, plasma was in short supply and people who received the treatment were severely ill. As plasma became more readily available, people were able to get the treatment earlier in their disease when it’s more likely to be effective, and the mortality rate went down. However, it’s unclear if there were other advancements happening simultaneously that could also explain that change. For the larger study, the mortality rate for people who received the plasma was under 9 percent, according to the Washington Post. Because of the way the study was conducted, it wasn’t conclusively clear if the plasma helped lessen COVID-19 symptoms. There wasn’t a control group of people who didn’t receive treatment. “You’d like to have the gold standard [of evidence] in something this important, and I feel like it always ends up here with this approach,” said Jeffrey P. Henderson, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University in St. Louis, told the Washington Post. “It’s pushed into action quickly, because there’s no other option, and there’s a theoretical reason in the moment that it works.” Researchers say more studies are needed to determine if receiving plasma helped effectively treat people with COVID-19. COVID-19 cases are still rising in 21 states. Getty Images Florida, Arizona, and Texas see surge in cases amid reopenings The epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak is now shifting in the United States from the east and west coast to southern and western states including Florida, Arizona, and Texas. Texas reported an increase of 11 percent in COVID-19 cases in a single day with over 2,700 new cases reported on Wednesday. Over 93,000 cases of COVID-19 have been diagnosed in the state and over 2,000 people have died from the disease, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. In Arizona, over 2,300 cases of COVID-19 were reported on Wednesday. Hospitals in the state are being put under pressure as well, with over 1,500 people hospitalized yesterday and at least 500 people in ICU beds, according to AZ Central. Florida is also seeing a spike in cases with over 2,700 cases reported on Tuesday. In Florida, over 82,000 cases have been reported with more than 3,000 deaths. At least 21 U.S. states are seeing an increase in cases, although former hotspots in New York and New Jersey are seeing their cases decline. Staying outside is one way to decrease your risk of developing COVID-19. Getty Images UK will use steroid to treat COVID-19 after reported benefits Health officials in the United Kingdom said they will start using a common steroid to treat people with COVID-19 after a study reportedly found the drug could help improve outcomes for patients. Researchers at Oxford University said that they’ve seen benefits from using a common cheap steroid called dexamethasone to treat people with COVID-19. The team announced the findings in a statement today, but haven’t yet released the findings in a published study. However, the early reports have led health officials in the U.K. to conclude that they will use the steroid to treat people with COVID-19. “This drug, dexamethasone, can now be made available across the NHS, and we’ve taken steps to ensure we have enough supplies, even in the event of a second peak,” UK prime minister Boris Johnson said, according to The Guardian. According to reports from the researchers, the drug helped reduce the mortality rate for the sickest COVID-19 patients — those on ventilators — by a third. Other patients who took the drug had their mortality rate reduced by one-fifth. FDA revokes emergency use approval for hydroxychloroquine The FDA is officially revoking emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine to be used as a treatment for COVID-19. The drugs, designed originally as antimalarial medication, have been studied as a potential treatment for COVID-19. The drugs were also touted by President Donald Trump, who took hydroxychloroquine for 2 weeks, despite little evidence it could be used to prevent COVID-19. Recent studies of the drugs have found little evidence it helped people with the disease. Additionally, the drugs are known to increase risk of cardiac complications. Over 2 million people in the U.S. have had COVID-19. Getty Images Rare antibodies may help researchers develop vaccine for COVID-19 California researchers say that a rare type of antibody may help them develop a vaccine for COVID-19. Researchers from the University of California San Francisco and Stanford University are investigating neutralizing antibodies from people who have recovered from COVID-19, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. Researchers say that just 5 percent of people with COVID-19 develop these antibodies. Additionally, these antibodies develop in low numbers, so researchers want to see if they can take enough of these antibodies to turn them into a serum that can be given to anyone. More research needs to be done, but researchers hope they can use these antibodies to create a vaccine that can protect against SARS-CoV-2. Formerly healthy woman in her 20s has lung transplant after contracting virus A formerly healthy woman in her 20s who developed COVID-19 underwent a successful lung transplant, according to physicians at Northwestern Medical Center. The woman, whose name hasn’t been released, had been hospitalized for weeks after developing COVID-19. Doctors not only put her on a ventilator, they had to put her on an extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) machine that oxygenates her blood, essentially doing the work of her lungs. After putting her name on the organ transplant list, they had a match within 48 hours. The patient is now in stable condition and her health is improving, the physicians said. Dr. Ankit Bharat, chief of thoracic surgery and director of the lung transplant program at Northwestern Medical Center, said the patient is awake and talking. “Yesterday, the patient smiled and told me ‘Thank you for not giving up on me,'” Bharat said via the Northwestern Medical Center Twitter. “There’s nothing more gratifying to hear. This is why we do what we do.” U.S. will fund three major COVID-19 vaccine trials The U.S. government will fund three major studies on potential COVID-19 vaccines, according to the Wall Street Journal. Each trial is a phase 3 trial — traditionally the last phase before a medicine or vaccine can be approved for use — often involving thousands of volunteers. The three trials are being conducted by three different pharmaceutical companies each looking at a different vaccine candidate. According to CNN, the studies will start with Moderna’s trial in July and then an Oxford/AstraZeneca’s trial in August. Johnson & Johnson announced today that they moved up their trial to start in July. Early successes in phase 1 and phase 2 trials don’t mean any of these vaccine candidates will be successful in their phase 3 trials. However, due to the number of vaccine candidates being tested, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director for the National Institutes for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Healthline this week that he’s cautiously optimistic there may be a viable COVID-19 vaccine by the end of the year. “Hopefully by the end of this year we will develop a vaccine we can deploy,” he told Healthline. “We can never guarantee that. You can never, ever guarantee the success of a vaccine. We just have good experience to know that we are aspirationally, cautiously optimistic that we will have one by the end of the year.” Lockdowns and physical distancing likely stopped millions of U.S. cases. Getty Images Over half a billion COVID-19 cases likely prevented by lockdowns A new study finds that over half a billion COVID-19 cases were likely prevented by a variety of lockdowns in six countries including the United States and China. Published June 8 in Nature, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley looked at how six countries — China, South Korea, Italy, Iran, France, and the United States — responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically in the United States, the study found that lockdown measures, which occurred to some degree in nearly all states, helped stop the spread of the disease and that 60 million COVID-19 cases were likely avoided. “Without these policies employed, we would have lived through a very different April and May,” Solomon Hsiang, director of the Global Policy Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley, and lead author of the study, told the Washington Post. He said the shutdowns and other mitigation measures were “saving more lives in a shorter period of time than ever before.” Another study also published June 8 found that measures taken by 11 European countries helped curb the transmission of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 and likely helped stop 3.1 million deaths. A new study finds hydroxychloroquine does not prevent COVID-19. Getty Images Major medical journals retract studies on hydroxychloroquine as treatment for COVID-19 The Lancet medical journal has retracted a study on hydroxychloroquine that made headlines last week. Researchers, who published the study looked at more than 96,000 people hospitalized with COVID-19. The study was retracted due to data used in the study that had not been directly obtained by the researchers themselves. In their retraction letter the researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said they worked with the company Surgisphere Corporation to obtain data. After other medical experts raised concerns about the company, the researchers conducted a review of the data. However, the Surgisphere Corporation would not give the full dataset to the reviewers meaning they could not do a full independent analysis of the data leading them to retract their study. In the now-retracted study, the drug had been found not to improve people with COVID-19 and more people died after taking the drug. Additionally, the New England Journal of Medicine also reacted a study on COVID-19 and cardiovascular health since it also used data from the company. Hydroxychloroquine fails to prevent COVID-19 in a new study Unlike the studies mentioned above, a new study released today has not been retracted. The large study found that taking hydroxychloroquine wasn’t effective as a prophylactic treatment against COVID-19. Researchers looked at 821 people with no symptoms of COVID-19. Over 87 percent had close contact with someone with the disease. About half of the people — 414 — were given hydroxychloroquine and the other participants were given a placebo. Researchers found the infection rate among the two groups was statistically similar, meaning hydroxychloroquine didn’t show any ability to protect people from contracting the virus that causes COVID-19. They found side effects were more common in people taking hydroxychloroquine but there was no major reactions reported. A new study finds plasma may help treat symptoms of COVID-19. Getty Images Study finds plasma therapy may help people with COVID-19 A new study found that plasma from people who recovered from COVID-19 may be an effective treatment for the disease. The small study published on June 2 in The American Journal of Pathology examined 25 patients with severe or life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19. The patients were given plasma infusions from 9 donors who had already recovered from the illness. The primary goal of the study was to see if plasma transfusions were safe. The researchers found no adverse events from the transfusion in 24 hours after it was administered. Additionally, the researchers reported that 19 of the 25 patients improved after being given the plasma infusions. Three deteriorated and one patient died from causes unrelated to plasma infusion. “While physician scientists around the world scrambled to test new drugs and treatments against COVID-19, convalescent serum therapy emerged as potentially one of the most promising strategies,” Dr. James M. Musser, PhD, chair of the department of pathology and genomic medicine at Houston Methodist and corresponding author for the study, said in a statement. “With no proven treatments or cures for COVID-19 patients, now was the time in our history to move ahead rapidly,” he said. A new poll found many Americans are skeptical of a potential COVID-19 vaccine. Getty Images People with cancer are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 A major study published Thursday, May 28 found a 13 percent fatality rate for people with cancer who contract COVID-19. The study published in the medical journal The Lancet found people with advanced cancer were nearly 5 times as likely to die after contracting COVID-19 than people without cancer, according to CNN. Even for people whose cancer was relatively stable had double the risk of death if they contracted the disease. “The death rate for this group of patients as a whole was 13 [percent] more than twice that reported for all patients with COVID-19… Certain subgroups, such as patients with active (measurable) cancer and those with an impaired performance status, fared much, much worse,” said Dr. Jeremy Warner, MS, associate professor of medicine and biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University, the study’s corresponding author in a statement. However, the team didn’t find that undergoing treatment for cancer, including chemotherapy or having surgery, impacted the risk of dying by COVID-19. They advised that these treatments shouldn’t be delayed due to the pandemic since it can cause worse outcomes for patients. People hug through a plastic sheet to stay safe during the pandemic. Getty Images CDC releases guidelines for going back to the office safely The CDC has released new guidelines on how to safely reopen offices amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Among their recommendations, the CDC advises companies to assess the building itself to make sure it has enough ventilation to prevent the virus from recirculating. Additionally, they advise separating workspaces and desks so people can maintain 6 feet of separation at all times. They point out that staggered start times, temperature checks, and disinfecting common space areas can also cut down on risk of transmission. Even with all these safeguards, the CDC recommends all workers wear face masks to protect themselves and others from aerosolized viral particles. In Brooklyn, circles denote areas that are appropriately physically distanced from each other. Noam Galai/Getty Images Study finds shutting down just 2 weeks earlier could have saved over 50,000 lives in U.S. As the United States starts to reopen, new research looks into the devastating impact of waiting to implement lockdowns when the virus first started to spread. Researchers from Columbia University looked at lockdown measures in the United States and the spread of the virus. While the nation was never completely locked down, widespread shelter-in-place orders started in mid-March. The preprint of the research reports that if wider lockdown measures had been implemented 2 weeks earlier on March 1 over 53,000 lives could have been saved. Some states are allowing stores and restaurants to reopen. Brett Carlson/Getty Images WHO warns COVID-19 “may never go away” Officials from the WHO said that the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19 may never go away. During a briefing on May 13, WHO emergencies expert Dr. Mike Ryan warned reporters that the public needs to be ready to deal with the virus for the long term. “I think it is important we are realistic and I don’t think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear,” he said. “I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be.” While dozens of potential vaccines are being studied, there’s no guarantee they’ll work effectively enough to eliminate the virus. Children just as likely as adults to spread virus New studies find children are just as likely as adults to spread the new coronavirus. These early findings could make potential school openings especially fraught. A German study, which is not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal, looked at 60,000 people with COVID-19 in addition to 47 children with the disease. The team found that children had just as much viral load or even higher amounts of viral load than some adults. This early research focusing on how children can spread the virus could be pivotal in helping officials combat a second wave as some states weigh loosening shelter-in-place orders. Another study out of China found that school closures drastically helped lower transmission of the virus and lessen the severity of the outbreak. “While proactive school closures cannot interrupt transmission on their own, they can reduce peak incidence by 40-60 percent and delay the epidemic,” the authors said. Experts point out this is early research and more information is needed. “Are any of these studies definitive? The answer is ‘No, of course not,’” said Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University. But, he said, “to open schools because of some uninvestigated notion that children aren’t really involved in this, that would be a very foolish thing.” The CDC recommends all adults wear face masks to cut down on developing COVID-19. Getty Images COVID-19 may increase stroke risk In late March, doctors at Mount Sinai Hospital noticed something strange happening to patients’ blood, reported Reuters. “Across New York City, we were seeing a large number of strokes and that these strokes were extremely concerning, and they were blocking big vessels to the brain,” Dr. J. Mocco, a Mount Sinai neurosurgeon, said in an interview. Reuters also reported that under a new protocol, higher doses of a blood thinner normally used to dissolve clots will be given to COVID-19 patients at Mount Sinai before any clots are detected. “We’re seeing clots everywhere, high rates of clots in veins of the legs. So, across the board, for sure, we all believe that — and there’s objective evidence that this disease increases clot formation,” Mocco said. The American Society of Hematology has noted COVID-19-associated clotting. Its guidance to physicians states the benefits of blood-thinning therapy for those patients not already showing signs of clotting are “currently unknown.” New studies find many more people than previously thought have had COVID-19. Antonio Masiello/Getty Images First COVID-19 death in U.S. happened weeks earlier than previously thought The deaths of two people with COVID-19 in California has shed new light on when SARS-CoV-2 was first circulating. The Santa Clara County Medical Examiner reported Tuesday, April 21, that two people who died at home in early February had the virus. The cases were identified after the medical examiner tested samples from the patients for COVID-19 due to their flu symptoms. Both of these people likely developed the disease via community spread and not from travel. The first death occurred on Feb. 6 and the second on Feb. 17. Previously, the first known U.S. death from COVID-19 was said to occur in Washington state in late February. “What these deaths tell us is that we had community transmission probably to a significant degree far earlier than we had known and that indicates that the virus was introduced and circulating in our community far earlier than we had known,” Santa Clara Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody told reporters. Hospitals in New York report few beds amid growing COVID-19 outbreak. Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images FDA relaxes blood donation restrictions for gay and bisexual men The FDA announced April 2 that they’re relaxing restrictions that prohibit many gay and bisexual men from donating blood or plasma. The FDA will now allow gay and bisexual men to donate blood if they haven’t had sex with a man in the last 3 months. Previously, there was a ban on giving blood for men if they had sex with another man within the previous year. Prior to 2015, any man who had ever had sex with another man was banned from donating blood or plasma. How to stock your medicine cabinet As the outbreak continues to spread, there are ways you can prepare. Among them is simply stocking up your medicine cabinet with over-the-counter cold and flu medications. While they can’t cure the virus, they can help relieve symptoms of mild cases.

  • Aspirin May Help Prevent Serious COVID-19 Complications: Here’s Why
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Aspirin can help prevent blood clots, something that can affect people hospitalized with COVID-19. Grace Cary/Getty Images Researchers say aspirin may help people hospitalized with COVID-19, because of the drug’s abilities to reduce the risk of blood clots.Experts say the study is promising, but more research needs to be done.Experts point out that aspirin is not a preventive medicine and can cause side effects such as excessive bleeding. A daily dose of aspirin may help reduce the risk of serious complications from COVID-19. That’s according to researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine. The researchers examined the records of 412 adults with COVID-19 who were admitted to hospitals across the United States between March and July. Slightly more than 23 percent of the people who were studied were given a daily low dose of aspirin within 24 hours of their admission to the hospital or in the 7 days prior to their admission. The researchers reported that people taking aspirin were 44 percent less likely to be put on a ventilator and 43 percent less likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). The researchers also reported that those who took aspirin had a 47 percent decrease in risk of dying from COVID-19 when compared with those studied who were not taking a daily dose of aspirin. “Our analysis suggests that aspirin use may have beneficial effects in patients with COVID-19,” the study authors wrote in their study. “The results of our study are intriguing, especially because aspirin has been thoroughly studied in chronic cardiovascular disease, has a well-described safety profile, and is readily available throughout the world,” they added. The researchers argue the findings of their retrospective, observational study warrant further investigation in a randomized controlled trial. Dr. Dean Blumberg, head of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of California, Davis, says the findings of the study are promising but need to be confirmed. “It’s interesting, and there’s reason to believe it makes sense because we know COVID-19 induces a hypercoagulable state (increased risk of blood clotting) and that patients have had complications related to blood clots,” Blumberg told Healthline. “That being said, this study is an observational study, so it wasn’t a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. So, I would interpret this as promising; I don’t know that I would change practice on the basis of this.” Should the results be confirmed through further studies, Blumberg says, the findings could assist in outpatient treatment options. “It would be nice to have something that would be available on an outpatient basis to prevent complications for those who are at lower risk but still at risk for complications, so this could be something that could be incorporated for outpatient treatment protocols,” he said. “It’s possible that the anticoagulation that is more aggressive than aspirin, maybe that’s not needed, and obviously the more aggressive anticoagulation you give, this could result in tipping the balance so the patient will actually have bleeding complications. So, something milder like aspirin may result in less complications,” Blumberg added. Blood clots and COVID-19 People with COVID-19 are at an increased risk of blood clots, particularly if they are in the ICU. Some studies suggest between 30 percent and 70 percent of people with COVID-19 in the ICU will develop blood clots in the legs or lungs. “This is part of the inflammatory response and… involves the lining of blood vessels, particularly small, medium-sized blood vessels,” explained Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee. “When that happens, the blood that flows through, it gets a little bit sluggish and begins to clot; and when that happens, that’s not good because the tissues supplied by those blood vessels are deprived of oxygen, and if the clots are in sufficiently large vessels, they can break off and cause strokes and heart attacks.” Aspirin could be useful as an anti-inflammatory drug that could lessen the body’s inflammatory response to COVID-19 as seen in phase two of the illness, Schaffner told Healthline. But it can’t be used to prevent the virus. “It would constrain the overly exuberant inflammatory response that causes the most severe part of the illness, and that occurs in phase two of the illness,” said Schaffner. “It has nothing to do, we’re sure, with inhibiting the virus itself, and that’s the phase one of the illness. So it wouldn’t be something we could use ‘prophylactically’ or as a preventive but as an early therapeutic agent.” Aspirin’s benefits, side effects Aspirin works by reducing the clumping action of the blood’s clotting cells known as platelets. This helps prevent blood clotting and causing blockages that can result in cardiac events or stroke. Aspirin is commonly used to reduce pain and inflammation. At a low dose, it can also assist in maintaining cardiac health.  “There’s no question that aspirin is probably one of the more important drugs that we have in terms of treating and reducing secondary events,” Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease specialist at Stanford University in California, told Healthline. “Aspirin is a drug that has been around for well more than 100 years, and in the last 40 years, we have certainly taken advantage of its effects both as an anti-inflammatory agent and its direct effect on inhibiting platelet function to reduce these vascular events,” he added. But aspirin isn’t without its side effects. Winslow says more research is needed before aspirin is regularly used in people with COVID-19. “I certainly wouldn’t recommend that everybody just start taking aspirin, because if you look at people who are otherwise healthy, you may end up with more complications, including gastrointestinal bleeding and other things like that. The risks may potentially outweigh the benefits,” Winslow said. Not a preventive treatment All the experts who spoke with Healthline emphasize that although the results of this small study are promising and warrant further investigation, aspirin will not be a silver bullet that will protect the population from developing COVID-19. “This doesn’t prevent you from catching COVID-19. Until we get an effective vaccine, we need to absolutely emphasize the point that prevention, prevention, prevention are the three most important things, and that means social distancing, wearing face coverings, avoiding crowded indoor environments,” Winslow said. Blumberg argues that although there is yet to be a preventive medication or vaccine against COVID-19, it doesn’t mean we don’t have proven options to protect the population. “We have proven preventative options and that’s social distancing and wearing masks — those are proven to work and to prevent infection. In terms of medications that will do that, we don’t have those yet,” he said. But until there is further investigation in the form of a prospective controlled, double-blind trial, Schaffner advises against premature excitement. “There was a lot of enthusiasm about hydroxychloroquine. It looked so great. Everybody was very excited. Many of us, myself included, were very hopeful,” he said. “Then, of course, the very rigorous, prospective controlled trials showed us that our enthusiasm was, shall we say, a little bit early because it didn’t work out. So, we need to address the hard realities, and they will be revealed by a rigorous prospective controlled trial.”

  • Current COVID-19 Surge Likely to Get Worse Before It Gets Better, Experts Say
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Experts are concerned about a continued surge in COVID-19 cases as cooler fall and winter weather arrives. Noam Galai / Getty Images Experts say the most recent surge in COVID-19 cases is likely to get worse as fall and winter weather sets in.A new estimate predicts that an additional 150,000 people could die from COVID-19 between now and February.Experts say it’s vital that people continue to wear masks and keep physical distancing during the next few months. This headline from Tuesday’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch may best sum up where we are in the COVID-19 pandemic: “There’s No Safe Place.” The news from around the country isn’t encouraging. El Paso County in Texas has seen a 160 percent increase in its COVID-19 positivity rate and a 300 percent spike in hospitalizations since the first of the month. Beds in the county’s intensive care units (ICU) reached capacity over the weekend. Overflow ICU patients are being airlifted to other cities. There’s a curfew in place for the next 2 weeks from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. Residents are required to stay home unless they’re traveling to or from work or need to use essential services. In Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers is urging residents to “stay home.” “If that’s considered a self-imposed lockdown, whatever it is, it’s important,” Evers said at a news conference Tuesday. “There is no way to sugarcoat it. We are facing an urgent crisis.” That warning comes as the state shattered single-day records of new COVID-19 cases, deaths, and hospitalizations. Hospital beds are at 84 percent capacity. Utah hospital officials have presented that state’s governor, Gary Herbert, with a proposal if hospitals face having to ration care in the next week or two. Already this month, two Utah hospitals have had to open overflow ICUs. The plan would move people who are getting worse out of the ICU despite receiving critical care. And if two patients had equal conditions, the younger patient would get treatment priority over the older one. Poised to get worse Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon and chief medical correspondent for CNN, said he is concerned that the United States if facing “exponential growth” of COVID-19 cases. Other experts agree. “The virus is really running unchecked,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Tennessee. “There is a surge, not only are cases going up, so are hospitalizations over a broad sweep of the country.” “We all anticipate this is going to get worse because we will spend more time indoors, close to each other for prolonged periods of time. That’s what the virus loves,” Schaffner told Healthline. And he says the crowds, indoors or out, are potential opportunities to spread the virus on a large scale. As an example, he points to the motorcycle rally in Sturgis, South Dakota, in August, an event he called a “well-documented accelerator outbreak.” Nearly half a million bikers gathered for 10 days. Few wore masks. More than 330 coronavirus cases and one death were connected to the rally directly. That’s what we know from the survey of 23 state health departments by The Washington Post, but there was little contact tracing. Many experts believe that event may be linked to the spread of the virus across the upper Midwest. Some of those states are now leading the country in new COVID-19 cases when you measure in terms of per capita. “At the family level, it’s the funerals and weddings. Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas are all coming up,” Schaffner noted. He explains the “twindemic” of influenza season and COVID-19 will likely put further strain on our healthcare system. That could result in overworked doctors and nurses, an acute shortage of critical care beds, and scarce personal protective equipment (PPE) all over again. New COVID-19 death estimates Experts say there’s a lag time between the spike in hospitalizations and the rise in the death rate. How much worse can it get? The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington has a new prediction out, and the news is grim. The institute estimates the number of people in the United States to die from COVID-19 could top 385,000 by the first of February. That’s an additional 150,000 deaths over the next 3 months. “Honestly, every time we do a projection, I wish and I pray that we are wrong, and whoever is predicting the smaller number is correct,” said Ali Mokdad, PhD, BS, a professor of global health at the University of Washington. What’s driving the projections? He says in part it’s personal behaviors. “Some people in their fatigue from the lockdown are letting down their guard, unfortunately,” Mokdad told Healthline. The IHME team says universal mask wearing, defined as 95 percent mask wearing in public, could save 130,000 lives through the end of February. “Mask wearing is very important,” Mokdad said. “Countries that have done it have controlled the pandemic and opened their businesses. They haven’t had to do shutdowns again.” “But in this country, we’re still debating. There is a middle ground here. We could keep our economy running if we do the right public health measures,” he said. “We have to sacrifice and change some of our ways of life until we have a vaccine.” Next steps? Experts say a vaccine may take longer than anticipated, at best early 2021. Even when it does become available, Schaffner says it will take time to vaccinate 330 million people. The vaccine may not be effective for everyone, which means we’d still need to mask up. “It’s going to take national discipline, a structured plan, and sustained commitment,” Schaffner explained. “There is no quick fix.” “People are looking for some sort of liberation, ‘get out of jail free card,’ so they can all go back to the old normal,” he said. “I think a year from now we’ll still be wearing masks, and that’s epidemic unhappiness but very realistic.”

  • New Study Found 80% of COVID-19 Patients Were Vitamin D Deficient
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    A growing amount of research is finding a link between vitamin D and COVID-19, leading some experts to believe the “sunshine vitamin” may be helpful in the fight against the virus. Brothers91/Getty Images A new study that looked at 216 people with COVID-19 found that 80 percent didn’t have adequate levels of vitamin D in their blood.The study also found that people who had both COVID-19 and lower vitamin D levels also had a higher number of inflammatory markers such as ferritin and D-dimer, which have been linked to poor COVID-19 outcomes.A different study found that COVID-19 patients who had adequate vitamin D levels had a 51.5 percent lower risk of dying from the disease and a significant reduced risk for complications.Medical experts theorize that maintaining adequate vitamin D levels may help lower risk or aid recovery from severe COVID-19 for some people, though more testing is needed. Recent research discovered a correlation between vitamin D deficiency and a higher risk of COVID-19. Now, another new study has found the same — noting that more than 80 percent of people with COVID-19 didn’t have adequate levels of the “sunshine vitamin” in their blood. As part of the new study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, researchers looked at 216 COVID-19 patients in a hospital in Spain. The scientists matched the patients to controls from another dataset. Of all the patients, 82.2 percent were deficient in vitamin D. In the research, men had lower vitamin D levels compared to women. People who had COVID-19 and lower vitamin D levels also had higher inflammatory markers such as ferritin and D-dimer. Those have been linked to poor COVID-19 outcomes. People with vitamin D deficiency had a higher prevalence of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. They also had longer hospital stays for COVID-19, the study showed. Comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, and obesity are associated with low vitamin D status, said Dr. Hans Konrad Biesalski, a professor at the University of Hohenheim who has evaluated vitamin D and COVID-19. “It looks like patients with a poor vitamin D status may have more severe COVID-19,” he told Healthline. But the new study didn’t find that relationship. Vitamin D and COVID-19 recovery Nevertheless, in addition to the correlation between vitamin D levels and COVID-19 risk, many people are looking at how it may protect people or help them recover from the disease. “One approach is to identify and treat vitamin D deficiency, especially in high-risk individuals such as the elderly, patients with comorbidities, and nursing home residents, who are the main target population for the COVID-19,” said study co-author José L. Hernández, PhD, of the University of Cantabria in Santander, Spain. He said people at high risk for COVID-19 — older adults, those with underlying conditions, and people in nursing homes — can be treated with vitamin D. “Vitamin D treatment should be recommended in COVID-19 patients with low levels of vitamin D circulating in the blood since this approach might have beneficial effects in both the musculoskeletal and the immune system,” Hernández said in a statement. Protecting yourself Many Americans have a vitamin D deficiency, according to previous research. It’s a global health issue, other research notes. Should you have your vitamin D levels checked? Is taking a supplement enough to protect yourself, or at least to lower your chance of getting COVID-19? Dr. Michael F. Holick, who has researched vitamin D and leads the Bone Health Care Clinic at Boston University, said that Endocrine Society Practice Guidelines don’t recommend everyone should be screened. It’s reasonable to keep tabs on vitamin D levels in those with fat malabsorption syndrome, people with obesity, or those who have other medical issues, Holick told Healthline. The Endocrine Society recommends that infants should get anywhere from 400–1,000 IUs daily, children 600–1,000 IUs daily, and adults 600–2,000 IUs daily. The amount needed depends on your current levels or if you’re trying to raise them. Adults with obesity may need 2 to 3 times more, Holick noted. If vitamin D status is low, supplementation may be helpful, Biesalski agreed. There are several publications that have suggested that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased risk for upper respiratory tract infections including influenza and the coronavirus, Holick explained. His team’s study on 191,000 COVID-19-positive patients revealed that vitamin D deficiency increased risk of acquiring the disease by 54.5 percent. “This was observed in all 50 states and for all ethnicities,” Holick said. In another small study he did, Holick observed that COVID-19 patients who had adequate vitamin D levels had a 51.5 percent lower risk of dying from the disease and a significant reduced risk for complications. For people with COVID-19, Holick said there are no downsides to increasing your vitamin D intake unless a person has a rare disorder such as sarcoidosis and other granulomatous disorders.  Based on the literature and his own experience, it’s reasonable for children and adults to take an adequate amount of vitamin D as recommended by the Endocrine Society to help reduce risk for acquiring the virus, as well as reducing morbidity and mortality if a child or adult develops COVID-19, he said. We don’t know that vitamin D has a preventive effect on the body, noted Dr. Steven Abrams, a pediatrics professor at the University of Texas at Austin. “Very low vitamin D status has lots of negative consequences and this could be the case for COVID-19, but that’s not the same as saying that routine vitamin D supplementation will prevent severe infection,” he told Healthline. A look ahead More research is needed to better understand the link between vitamin D and COVID-19. There’s already evidence that getting enough vitamin D regulates the immune system for optimal health. Holick said it would be interesting to know if taking vitamin D with the vaccine would improve the vaccine’s effectiveness.  Biesalski would like to know how a balance of vitamin A and D would impact the success of the vaccine, as has been shown for influenza and measles, he said.

  • 6 Tips for Talking to Kids About the 2020 Election
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Rather than assuming kids won’t understand issues or processes, welcoming questions about the 2020 election can help give them a greater understanding. Cavan Images/Getty Images As Election Day nears, kids are bound to hear political talk.Talking to children and teens about the election process and party ideology can help them navigate the climate.Informing kids about protests is a good way to prepare them for post-election reactions. Political talk is everywhere — on the news and social media, in-person between friends and family, and most likely at your kitchen table. While talking politics is natural leading up to Election Day, the chatter can make its way to kids, too. “Politics are front and center right now, making it a great time to talk to kids about the democratic process,” Mery Taylor, PhD, pediatric psychologist at CHOC Children’s healthcare system, told Healthline. “It’s not something that is abstract — we are all watching it unfold,” Taylor said. “Now that many kids are back in school, there is sure to be buzz about current events. It’s important for parents to get ahead of the information, so they can be prepared.” A 2019 study of almost 200 elementary-aged children before and after the 2016 election found that 88 percent of the children supported Clinton over Trump, a preference that didn’t vary by the participants’ gender or race. Also, in an open-ended inquiry after Trump’s win, researchers found that 63 percent of children reported negative emotions about it, while 18 percent reported positive emotions. A survey from October 2020 of teenagers conducted for mental health resource WellBeings.org found that societal concerns are important to those surveyed. In fact, 23 percent of teens ranked the environment as the most important societal issue, followed by racial strife (21.8 percent), and an ineffective government (20.5 percent). While kids develop their own political opinions, parents can help navigate processing information. Experts say the following 6 tips can help parents do that in positive ways. 1. Encourage their curiosity Rather than assuming kids won’t understand issues or processes, welcoming their questions can help give them a greater understanding. “Children and adolescents are naturally curious creatures and you might be surprised by the questions that they will ask. You may find a conversation with your child or teen might even help you to articulate your own views more clearly,” Taylor said. 2. Explain the right to vote Laura Ross, 2020 School Counselor of the Year, said to talk to kids about why people vote and how voting works. For younger children, she suggests reading picture books that illustrate the process and for older kids watching YouTube videos that break down the process. “Then have a discussion about it afterwards… by asking your child if there is anything they have observed so far in this year’s election cycle that doesn’t align with what you’ve just learned about the democratic process,” Ross told Healthline. Focusing on the right to vote is a positive way to spin the discussion, Taylor added. “Explain to them that everyone has a voice. While [kids] may not be able to vote, encourage your kids to get involved at school or in the community with issues that are important to them, such as the environment or the economy, for example. Let them know their contributions can make a big difference,” she said. If getting involved isn’t possible, help them think about issues they care about and how candidates feel about related causes. “Are they passionate about saving turtles? Help them learn about candidates’ views on animal welfare. Do they want to be a business owner someday? Help them research candidates’ views on small business. Are they interested in health and science? Find out about the candidates’ policies on science and education funding,” Taylor said. 3. Display respect for all parties Giving kids a breakdown of the general ideology behind parties can help them understand why people vote one way or the other. “Explain to your children the process of evaluating candidates’ policies and the impact of those policies on individuals, the environment, and the American society as a whole,” Taylor said. Ross suggests referencing what you value as a family, the importance of understanding different points of view, and how to have a discussion with someone who has different beliefs and ideas than you. “It’s important that while we are making sure our youth know that participating in the democratic process is important, and we may feel strongly about our views and beliefs, that not everyone shares those beliefs, and they have different experiences and backgrounds that inform their beliefs,” said Ross. She said to stress the importance of listening to understand, and disagreeing without becoming insulting.  4. Prepare kids for opinions from peers Whether it’s via e-learning or in the classroom, or during a play date, kids may hear their peers talk about candidates or policies. Ross said to urge your kids to listen with empathy. “[To understand] why some students may be so passionate and assertive in their talks about politics or specific political candidates, help them [see] things from that peer’s perspective,” she said. Ensuring what your child is hearing from their peers is factual can help them navigate information, too. “We need to help our students process any information they hear (from peers or in media) through a lens of truth. Not everything that their peers are sharing is truthful. They may hear some truths, they may hear some statements that sound like fact or truth, but they aren’t really, and they will hear many opinions,” Ross said.  5. Ease their concerns about particular issues Adolescents and teenagers may be concerned about certain issues that could directly affect them, their family, or community. Ross said this is particularly true for those who are in marginalized groups. “Many of the big issues being discussed by both parties in this election cycle can have a major impact on the ways that they are supported by their government and what rights they can exercise. Proposed actions from some politicians can upend the way they live, learn, and work in their community,” she said. Because of this, it’s understandable that some kids may feel anxious, confused, or uncertain. “Validate how they are feeling and normalize those feelings because so many other people are feeling the same way. Sometimes that’s all our youth need — someone to listen and really hear them,” said Ross. To give them reassurance, she suggests reminding kids that the U.S. government is set up to provide a certain level of checks and balances. “While we have seen some of those being bent in partisan favor, there are still other community members and politicians that are working hard to make sure their lives are protected and supported by the government. Point out times where this has happened to help your child identify supporters and helpers,” Ross said. 6. Warn kids about post-election responses While kids may hear about, witness, or participate in rallies and protests leading up to the election, it can be helpful to inform them about the potential for heightened emotions and violent responses after a president is elected. Taylor said to emphasize to younger children that as their parent, you’ll ensure their safety. With older children, discuss how free speech is a protected right and can be used to speak out about injustices and grievances. “[Talk about how] some protests can turn violent for a variety of reasons; this can be confusing to adults let alone children and teens. You don’t have to have all the answers, but be willing to engage in a dialogue with them. This can help to dispel any misinformation they might have and ground them in values you want to promote as a family,” said Taylor. Ross agreed, adding that it can help kids to know that sometimes people are impacted negatively by decisions and laws created, which can alter their life. “As we have witnessed very recently, there may be a few other community members who see the protest as an opportunity to make poor decisions, but help our youth focus on the majority and the purpose behind the protest,” she said. Cathy Cassata is a freelance writer who specializes in stories around health, mental health, and human behavior. She has a knack for writing with emotion and connecting with readers in an insightful and engaging way. Read more of her work here.

  • How Overturning Roe v. Wade Could Impact People’s Health Nationwide
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    The Supreme Court now has a firm conservative majority that could endanger Roe v. Wade. Drew Angerer / Getty Images With the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the balance of the court has shifted to a firm 6:3 conservative majority.This could lead the court to overturn the landmark ruling Roe v. Wade. Experts say if states are given greater leeway to restrict abortion access, more people will be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. Under the tenure of President Donald Trump, the U.S. Supreme Court has veered right — leaving many reproductive health advocates concerned about the future of abortion rights in this country. With the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett, the balance of the court has shifted to a firm 6:3 conservative majority. This could potentially lead the court to overturn the precedent established in Roe v. Wade, which limits the authority of states to ban abortion. The court could also change the standard used to decide which abortion regulations are constitutional, increasing the ability of conservative lawmakers to restrict abortion access. If states are given greater leeway to restrict abortion access, more people will be forced to carry unwanted pregnancies to term. Others will cross state lines to get abortions or use illegal abortion services. “It leads to increased barriers and hardships that a person must face in order to obtain the healthcare they need,” Dr. Mai Fleming, a family medicine physician and abortion provider who works in California and Texas, told Healthline. “People may be forced to delay abortion care until later in pregnancy, or even be forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will if abortion is not readily accessible in their state,” she added. Changing abortion landscape When the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade in 1973, it found that state laws that ban abortion are unconstitutional. This decision helped make abortion more accessible and safe, but it didn’t have as much of an effect on birth rates as some might assume. That’s because people were already getting abortions, before they were legalized. “I think that it’s important to understand that most people who need abortions will have abortions, whether they’re legal or not,” said Dr. Jamila Perritt, president and CEO of the national advocacy organization Physicians for Reproductive Health. Historically, illegal abortions were medically riskier than legal abortions. Too often, they were performed in unsanitary conditions by people who lacked the necessary medical skills and training. Roe v. Wade opened the door to safer, legal alternatives, which led to fewer people developing complications or dying from illegal abortions. Roe v. Wade also helped drive down complication and death rates from legal abortions by enabling more abortion research and better training. Now, abortions aren’t only safer than they used to be, they’re also safer than carrying a pregnancy to term and giving birth. A study conducted in 2012 found that the risk of death associated with childbirth was about 14 times higher than the risk of death from legal abortion in the United States. Efforts to restrict abortion access When people want to get an abortion but struggle to access it, that puts their physical and mental health at risk. It can also cause financial strain if they need to take time off work or travel to get an abortion, pay steep prices for abortion services, or carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. That was true before Roe v. Wade, and it’s true today. Conservative lawmakers in many states have limited abortion access by requiring healthcare providers and patients to meet burdensome criteria. For example, many states have passed gestational age limit laws that ban abortion beyond a specific week of pregnancy. When researchers from the Turnaway Study examined the effects of these laws, they found far-reaching consequences. The results show that women who are denied abortions experience increased risk of poverty. They’re more likely to experience serious complications of pregnancy, anxiety, and reduced self-esteem, and more likely to stay in abusive relationships. Abortion clinic closures, restrictions on public funding for abortion, state-mandated waiting periods, and other regulations also make it harder for people in many parts of the country to access abortion. “People need to travel far distances, often for multiple days at a time, delay care until later in pregnancy, and stretch already strained budgets to take off work and obtain child care just to obtain a pill or a medical procedure,” Fleming said. “These long distances will only become longer if abortion is made illegal in certain states, forcing people to cross multiple state lines or potentially board a flight in order to obtain basic healthcare,” she added. Unequal impacts If the Supreme Court overturns or weakens Roe v. Wade, it will lead to increased inequalities in abortion access across the United States. Some states will continue to protect or expand the right to abortion care. Others will make abortion illegal or severely restrict the conditions under which it can be performed, predicts the Center for Reproductive Rights. This will compel more people to choose between carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term and getting an illegal abortion. For those who seek an abortion in the first 9 weeks of pregnancy, abortion pills now provide a safer option than the “back alley” abortions associated with the pre-Roe era. But people who use abortion pills or other abortion services outside of the formal medical system may face legal consequences. “People could be more likely to be criminalized, prosecuted, and imprisoned for managing their own abortion,” Perritt told Healthline. Members of already marginalized and heavily policed communities are more likely than others to face such consequences, Perritt said. “Who are the folks that are more likely to be prosecuted and persecuted by the criminal legal system? Those are the folks that are going to really feel the brunt of making abortion illegal,” she continued. “We’re talking about people of color, we’re talking about immigrants, we’re talking about young people, those with low income,” she added. Impact of Roe v. Wade on mental health According to Perritt, restricting abortion access worsens social inequalities and limits the ability of people to make decisions about their own lives. “I’m a physician, I’m an abortion provider, and I know that the patients that I care for are making thoughtful decisions about what they can and cannot manage in their lives,” she said. “Without a doubt, overturning Roe v. Wade will harm the people that I take care of,” she added. Even if Roe v. Wade is allowed to stand, many state laws that are currently on the books make it difficult for people in those states to access abortion. “I care for patients in both California and in Texas — a state with some of the most accessible abortion care and one with some of the least accessible care,” Fleming said. “Though abortion care is currently legal in Texas, it is by no means readily accessible in every community. So, the effects of overturning Roe v. Wade are already the reality for many people and families living in Texas and other states with restrictive abortion laws,” she added.

  • Here Are the States Where COVID-19 Is Increasing
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    An analysis by USA Today reports that new COVID-19 cases have risen in five counties in three states where President Trump has held rallies. ZAK BENNETT/Getty Images Editor’s note: This story will be updated regularly as new statistics are released. The October surge of new COVID-19 cases in the United States has escalated in the past week at a rate that is alarming some experts. The New York Times reports the daily average of new COVID-19 cases this past week has topped 71,000, a 40 percent increase from the average 2 weeks ago. The rate is almost 10,000 higher than the average reported late last week. The latest average includes the 1-day record of more than 83,000 new cases recorded on Friday as well as the 74,323 cases reported on Monday. The Times states that the higher numbers are being driven by a surge in parts of the Midwest and Rocky Mountain regions. Those increases are being reported in rural areas and small towns as well as in cities such as Chicago and Milwaukee. On Sunday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, said the nation is at “a dangerous tipping point.” Overall, the United States now has more than 8.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations have surpassed 40,000, which is significantly below the 50,000-plus numbers posted in late July but an increase from the 38,000 reported late last week. COVID-19 related deaths have now exceeded 226,000. That total places the viral illness as the third leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, trailing behind only heart disease and cancer. A forecast from the CDC states that the number of deaths in the United States could surpass 245,000 by the end of October. Another estimate predicts the United States will exceed 390,000 deaths by February 1 based on current conditions. A daily tracking graph from the New York Times shows 35 states where “new cases are higher and staying high.” That’s up from the 33 reported late last week. There are no states listed where cases are high but declining. The Times reports there are 9 states where new cases are lower but going up. There were 7 such states last week. It also notes there are 6 states where cases are lower and staying low. There were 10 states in this category last week. A weekly tracking graph by Reuters that was updated on Monday reports that there were more than 485,000 new COVID-19 cases recorded this past week, a 24 percent increase from the week before. It notes there are 44 states where new cases rose this past week. It says 36 states have experienced increases for at least 2 consecutive weeks. The news agency also reported there were 7.7 million COVID-19 tests performed nationwide last week, an increase of 5 percent from the previous week. Reuters reports that the rate of positive test results nationwide this past week rose to 6.3 percent from 5.4 percent. The World Health Organization considers a level above 5 percent to be “concerning.” South Dakota had the highest positivity rates at 40 percent. Idaho was next at 34 percent followed by Wyoming at 29 percent. A total of 14 states have positivity rates above 10 percent. Where cases are the highest In terms of percentage, Wisconsin showed the largest increase among states in new confirmed COVID-19 cases. It recorded 33,690 new positive tests this past week, a hike of nearly 100 percent from the previous week, according to Reuters. Vermont was next with an increase of 97 percent to 136 new cases. In third was Michigan, which showed an increase of 71 percent with 16,493 new cases. Alabama was fourth with 11,729 new cases, a jump of 61 percent. There are concerns about the continued increase of cases in the middle of the country. In addition to Wisconsin and Michigan, the states of Wyoming, South Dakota, Ohio, Illinois, and North Dakota all recorded increases above 20 percent. Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska also reported increases. North Dakota has the highest per capita of cases and deaths of any state. State officials have become so overwhelmed that they have ended almost all contact tracing. In terms of sheer numbers, Texas still leads the way in new COVID-19 cases, according to Reuters. Texas reported 41,089 new positive tests, an increase of 15 percent from the previous week. Wisconsin is now second with its 33,690 new cases, with Illinois right behind at 31,334, a hike of 23 percent. California is now fourth with 30,659 new cases, an increase of 49 percent. Florida is fifth overall with 23,616 new cases, a jump of 15 percent. In addition, Colorado set a 1-day record on Sunday with 2,102 new cases, smashing the previous mark of 1,604 cases set on Friday. There are concerns that recent rallies held by President Donald Trump are fueling spikes of COVID-19 cases. An analysis by USA Today reports that there have been increases in new cases after Trump rallies in five counties in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The newspaper notes that the case spikes could be caused by other factors. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer said a Trump rally held in Lansing on Tuesday was a “recipe for disaster.” In addition, Vice President Mike Pence continues to hold campaign events despite the fact five members of his staff have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Hospitalizations are rising An analysis by CNBC reports that 36 states have seen hospitalization rates rise by more than 5 percent in the past week. On Friday, Texas was listed as having 5,278 people hospitalized with COVID-19, about 300 more than reported late last week but well below the high of 10,893 reported in late July. El Paso County reported 853 hospitalizations for COVID-19 on Monday, a record high. Of those, 180 people were in intensive care and 99 were on ventilators. The county has imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew and has asked residents to stay indoors for 2 weeks to help curb the spread of the virus. Illinois is now second among states with 2,638 hospitalized patients, several hundred more than a week ago. California is third with 2,281 people hospitalized with COVID-19, slightly higher than last week. Florida has the fourth highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients with 2,258, slightly higher than last week. Indiana remains in fifth place with 1,666 hospitalizations, slightly more than a week ago. Georgia has the sixth highest number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients with 1,405, about the same as last week. Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Tennessee, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York are also above the 1,000 mark. Iowa reported on Monday that 561 people were in hospitals with COVID-19, a new record for that state. The death toll The New York Times lists 27 states where COVID-19 related deaths have risen the past 2 weeks. That’s up from the 24 reported last week. The Reuters graph lists 33 states where deaths had increased the previous week. That’s up slightly from the 26 listed a week ago. Reuters note that more than 5,600 people in the United States died this past week from COVID-19, an increase of 15 percent from the prior week. Wyoming had the highest percentage increase among states at 267 percent with 11 new deaths. Connecticut was next with a 192 percent increase and a total of 35 deaths. Minnesota was third with an 188 percent hike with 115 deaths. In terms of sheer numbers, Texas recorded the most deaths with 497 this past week, an increase of 2 percent from the previous week. Florida was second with 464 fatalities this past week, a drop of 25 percent. California was third with 389 deaths, a decline of 2 percent. Illinois was fourth with 301 deaths, a rise of 23 percent. Wisconsin was fifth with 225 deaths, an increase of 99 percent.

  • Severe Morning Sickness During Pregnancy Linked to Depression: What You Can Do
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Experts say women with severe morning sickness are more likely to be depressed during pregnancy as well as after the baby is born. Glasshouse Images/Getty Images New research shows that women with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) — severe morning sickness — are more likely to experience depression during and after pregnancy.For morning sickness or depression, early intervention can help women cope.Partners of pregnant women can help by keeping tabs on their partner’s well-being and encouraging open communication. Morning sickness and depression — both during and after pregnancy — are familiar ailments for many women who’ve had children. Now, a new study concludes that severe morning sickness is directly related to depression. Researchers from Imperial College London reported that women with hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) — a severe form of nausea in the early stages of pregnancy — are more likely to experience depression during and after pregnancy. Between 0.5 and 2 percent of pregnant women experience HG. In a clinical trial of more than 200 women, researchers found that those who showed signs of HG — about half of the participants — were more likely to be depressed. About half of this cohort experienced depression during pregnancy, while 29 percent experienced it after pregnancy. Among those who didn’t show signs of HG, only 6 percent were depressed during pregnancy, while 7 percent were depressed after pregnancy. “Our study shows that women with HG are around eight times more likely to suffer antenatal depression and four times more likely to have postnatal depression,” Dr. Nicola Mitchell-Jones, a specialist registrar in OB-GYN at Imperial College and study lead author, said in a release. Two experts interviewed by Healthline say the results are not particularly surprising and that the study underlines the need for pregnant women and people in their support system to keep tabs on their mental health. A common experience Dr. Melissa Goist, an assistant professor of OB-GYN at the Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, told Healthline that most pregnant women experience some form of morning sickness, which can actually occur anytime during the day or night, while a smaller subset experiences HG. She also noted that depression is not unusual. “Depression is quite common, affecting 15 to 25 percent of women during either pregnancy or the post-delivery time period,” she said. “The percentage is broad due to the difficulty in making the diagnosis, as many women try to hide these feelings, worried they may be looked at differently.” A woman’s experience during pregnancy can often carry over into the post-delivery period, says Dr. Jennifer Wu, an OB-GYN at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “I think a hard pregnancy can result in a harder entry into motherhood. Some women sail through pregnancy easily and they are well-rested and slept well, then they have a newborn and cope really well with it,” Wu told Healthline. “But if you’ve had severe hyperemesis and had a difficult pregnancy, then you can start motherhood feeling overwhelmed.” Getting a handle on it Depression is often stigmatized and hidden, which can compound problems down the line. Wu says that long-term results can be improved with early intervention. “If we can foresee problems for the mother or the baby, and try to get on them early, I think the results are always much better,” she explained. “For something like postpartum depression, if you have an indication that the mom will be at increased risk, and you get her counseling and therapy and possibly medication very early on in the process, it’ll be a much milder course of postpartum depression. Postpartum depression is one of those things that, if left untreated, can get really bad.” Pregnant women and their partners, friends, or others in their support system, should recognize the signs of depression. Wu notes that it may take the form of mild sadness or might manifest itself in days of crying. Open communication with a doctor, followed by an appointment with a therapist, is a way to get a handle on depression — during or after pregnancy. From there, it can be determined what the next steps could be. “Sometimes, therapy is all that’s needed,” said Wu. “But a small percentage of patients will need actual medication for depression, so they may see a psychiatrist who could prescribe the right medication for them and follow their medication dosages.” As with everything else related to pregnancy, it’s critical to keep your doctor in the loop, says Wu. “Many women, when they get pregnant, expect to have morning sickness,” she said. “They really should let their doctor know how they’re feeling and what’s going on because sometimes we have patients who’ve been having very bad hyperemesis, and they call us when things are really dire — like they haven’t kept food or water down for half a day. At that point, we have to hospitalize them, because they are in a very bad situation.” Helping hands A critical ingredient in helping women through difficult pregnancies is a support system — whether it’s a partner, friend, parents, or other family members. Goist says it can be helpful for pregnant women to simply communicate how they’re feeling to their partner. “I think partners just need to be open to listening to concerns, helping in whatever way needed. This is going to be very individualized based on maternal needs,” she said. “Allow the mother to feel supported with her time, giving her time to take care of herself — for exercise, a massage, or mediation — without the guilt that comes with taking time out for herself.” “Pregnancy is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ condition, and listening to the mother express their concerns and/or problems can significantly benefit her well-being,” Goist said.

  • You Are How You Couple — How Your Partner Can Influence Your Health
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Experts say couples can improve each other’s health by developing diet, exercise, and other routines together. Anchiy/Getty Images Researchers say couples tend to share the same health behaviors and risk factors.They say this trend could be because people tend to couple with those who have similar traits and interests.Researchers add that couples can also be negative influences on each other.They suggest couples work together to try to improve health factors such as diet and exercise.They also say the healthcare system should take the family unit into account when assessing an individual’s health status. Want to get a glimpse into what could be your health future? If so, turn away from the mirror and look at your significant other. A new study led by investigators from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston looked at more than 5,000 couples. The researchers reported that 79 percent fell into the “nonideal” category for cardiovascular health, unhealthy diets, and getting inadequate exercise — for both parties. Researchers say the study results indicate that we need to look at how our medical system views and treats us. “What motivated us (to do this study) was that we know the U.S. health system is built around the individual,” Dr. Samia Mora, MHUS, an associate physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a corresponding study author, told Healthline. “But we have very little information on the health of a domestic unit.” Details of the study The researchers studied 5,364 couples, all employees of Quest Diagnostics who submit to annual health screenings. The researchers determined whether each individual was in the ideal, intermediate, or nonideal category for each of the American Heart Association-defined “Life’s Simple 7” (LS7) risk factors and behaviors.  The LS7 include smoking status, body mass index, physical activity, healthy diet score, total cholesterol, blood pressure, and fasting blood sugar. The research team also gave each participant an overall cardiovascular health score. Data was collected from questionnaires, examinations, and laboratory tests. While they expected to see some correlation within a couple, Mora said the results went beyond what they anticipated. “We were surprised,” she said. “Four of five couples were in the nonideal group. We expected to see some shared risk factors, but it was a surprise to see that the vast majority of couples were in a nonideal category for overall cardiovascular health.” But, she said, there was good news. “For those who are in good health, their partner is too,” she said. How couples affect each other What’s behind this? It may range from simple factors, such as you live with someone you feel comfortable with, or to more complicated factors, such as a couple’s negative influence on each other. “People couple up for different reasons,” Mora said. “It’s that old ‘birds of a feather flock together.’” She said things such as socioeconomic background, diet, and lifestyle choices can be part of what binds a couple.  In a way, that makes sense, said Laurie Mintz, PhD, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Florida and a licensed psychologist. “Whether you are in a functional and happy relationship or not, this is the person you are ‘doing life with,’” Mintz told Healthline. Particularly in the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, couples tend to eat the same and do the same, be it watching television, eating extra food, or even smoking. How to influence The message from this study, Mintz said, may be for people to step up and be the health influencer in the couple. Jamie Hickey knows this firsthand. At one point, Hickey had obesity, so he decided to change his health and his life. He slowly got fit, becoming a certified fitness trainer on the way. Today, he’s healthy and has added to his resume the credentials NASM, FMS certified trainer, ISSA nutritionist, and founder of Truism Fitness.com. But the real bonus? His wife’s health improved along with his. “I made our environment a healthy one (quitting smoking, eating whole foods more, moving and working out) and eventually, she wanted to do it too,” Hickey told Healthline. Now they’re both nonsmokers, have better health, weigh less, and yet still savor the Italian fare his wife brings from her heritage. “She just knows how to make it healthier now,” Hickey said. The healthcare system’s role Mora said the study points to more than the need for couples to step up for one another. “This is a shortcoming in the healthcare system,” Mora said. “We are focusing on the one person and not the entire household, and that’s not right.” Mora said the World Health Organization has already pointed to the need for refocusing medical care on the family unit and not just the individual. She hopes this study helps point more in that direction. “Particularly in the time of a pandemic (when so many are with just a few close people most times), we need to address these (health challenges) on a family level,” she said. What you can do Mintz said there are things a person can do in the meantime to try to shift their couple unit to the positive side of that LS7 list. The first step, she said, is to just start. “Do it yourself, but invite them on the journey,” Mintz said. “Make a plan together. It can be as simple as a walk every night after dinner.” Mintz said that in this time, couples might even find short-term relief by making some changes together. “People are very stressed right now,” she said. “And what do we do when we are stressed? The shortcut is pizza, chocolate, and all that.” “Long-term relaxation is what we want,” she added. “Food choices impact that, so make different choices, even just one at a time. “Get some exercise. It will help you sleep better, and sleep is key to health,” she advised. One more thing to make sure you throw in the mix? Sex. “Throw it into your day. Have a sexual encounter,” she said. “Make out while laying on the couch, whatever you like. It will make you way happier than a piece of cake.” And most of all, she said, think beyond your couple unit. “Your children,” she said. “Think of them, too. Even if you think you don’t care about your own health, you care about your child, and you want to be a role model. Show them the skills you need to live a healthy life.” Mora would like to see more studies dig deeper to look at the reach of this into the entire family unit, as well as look at socioeconomic groups within couples. “We need to address this on a family scale,” she said.

  • Junk Food Being Promoted on Popular YouTube Children Videos: What Parents Should Know
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Food and beverage companies spend $1.8 billion annually marketing products to children, and a portion of that budget is spent working with YouTube and other social media influencers. njekaterina/Getty Images A review of 418 videos from popular “kid influencer” channels on YouTube found that almost 43 percent included promotion of food and drink items.More than 90 percent of featured food and drink items included unhealthy branded food, drinks, and fast food. The videos in the study had been viewed more than 1 billion times.More than 80 percent of parents with children under age 12 allow them to watch YouTube. YouTube shows aimed at kids may be serving up some stealthy marketing for unhealthy food and drinks along with popular “unwrapping” videos and other programs. A review of 418 videos from the 5 most popular “kid influencer” channels on YouTube found that nearly 43 percent included promotion of food and drink items — more than 90 percent of which was considered unhealthy branded food, drinks, and fast food.  Not-so-healthy foods like fast food or processed foods were most frequently featured, followed by candy and soda. Some programming also included kids playing with toys obtained from fast food outlets, like McDonald’s Happy Meals. By contrast, unhealthy foods that weren’t branded was rarely depicted in the videos. And healthy food like fruit and yogurt only rarely made an appearance, regardless of whether it was branded or unbranded. These food videos had more than a billion views Researchers at the New York University School of Global Public Health and NYU Grossman School of Medicine said the YouTube videos that featured unhealthy food and drink — representing 178 of the 418 videos reviewed — had been viewed more than 1 billion times in the aggregate. “Kids already see several thousand food commercials on television every year, and adding these YouTube videos on top of it may make it even more difficult for parents and children to maintain a healthy diet,” said study senior author Marie Bragg, PhD, assistant professor of public health nutrition at NYU School of Global Public Health and assistant professor in the Department of Population Health at NYU Langone Health. “We need a digital media environment that supports healthy eating instead of discouraging it,” Braggs said. The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, focused on videos from the 5 most popular influencers among viewers ages 3 to 14 years old. The influencers themselves fell into the same age group. The most popular of these peer influencer channels included in the study was Ryan’s World, which in 2020 had nearly 27 million subscribers and features videos of channel star Ryan Kaji opening and playing with toys, performing science experiments, doing crafts, exercising, and eating.  Other kid-centric YouTube channels studied included TheEngineeringFamily, Sandaroo Kids, Daily Bumps, and The Tube Family. YouTube: massive audience, murky regulation YouTube is the second-most visited website in the world. More than 80 percent of parents with a child under 12 years old allow their child to watch YouTube, and 34 percent of parents reported that their kid watches YouTube regularly, according to a 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center. Food and beverage companies spend $1.8 billion annually marketing products to children, according to the NYU researchers. And an increasing share of that spending is going to social channels like YouTube and TikTok. “It’s a really inexpensive way to reach massive numbers of people,” Jason R. Rich, author of the “Ultimate Guide to YouTube for Business,” told Healthline.  “The allure of YouTube may be especially strong in 2020 as many parents are working remotely and have to juggle the challenging task of having young kids at home because of COVID-19,” added Bragg. Ryan’s World generated $26 million in revenue in 2019, making the then 8-year-old the richest star on YouTube, according to Forbes. In 2018, Ryan’s World earned $22 million from a mix of advertising, sponsorships, product placement, and spin-off products. “Influencers are making a lot of money on product placement and often not telling people about it,” said Rich, who said that while the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires disclosure of paid social media programming, product placement deals fall into a legal “gray area” and often aren’t revealed by video producers. Some social media stars have even developed their own food and drink products, which are marketed on their channels without disclosing the influencers’ ties to the product, Rich noted. “Parents may not realize that kid influencers are often paid by food companies to promote unhealthy food and beverages in their videos,” said Bragg. “Our study is the first to quantify the extent to which junk food product placements appear in YouTube videos from kid influencers.” “It was concerning to see that kid influencers are promoting a high volume of junk food in their YouTube videos, and that those videos are generating enormous amounts of screen time for these unhealthy products,” she said. Tough for parents to discern Bragg told Healthline that while kid influencers are trusted by their peers — and parents — because they seem to be ‘everyday people,’ it was often impossible to determine which food and drink products appeared in videos as a result of paid placement deals.  In some cases, she said, a product may simply appear on a shelf with its logo facing the camera. In others, the video may depict a seemingly unrelated activity, like playing with toys, before segueing into eating activities like lunching on a Carl’s Jr. hamburger.  “Woven into these videos is a kind of stealthy advertising we haven’t seen before,” Bragg said. In other videos, the food product is the focal point, such as segments featuring food challenges like “broccoli versus ice cream,” kids playing with a snack vending machine, or doing a craft experiment like melting Skittles to create color art. In 2019, a watchdog group filed an FTC complaint against Ryan ToysReview, alleging that the Ryan’s World-affiliated channel was engaged in deceptive marketing for not disclosing its sponsorship ties.  “We hope that the results of this study encourage the FTC and state attorney generals to focus on this issue and identify strategies to protect children and public health,” said study co-author Jennifer Pomeranz. Ryan’s World has disclosed some sponsorship deals with food companies, including Hardee’s and Chuck E. Cheese. Bragg noted that children under age 8 often have difficulty distinguishing between educational or entertainment programming and advertising. “When you see these kid influencers eating certain foods, it doesn’t necessarily look like advertising,” said Bragg. “But it is advertising, and numerous studies have shown that children who see food ads consume more calories than children who see non-food ads, which is why the National Academy of Medicine and World Health Organization (WHO) identify food marketing as a major driver of childhood obesity.” Rich said parents need to take an active role in helping kids distinguish between content meant to entertain and that meant to sell products.  “Parents should understand what their kids are watching, look at the content, and make their own appraisal,” he said.

  • Antibiotic-Resistant Infections Affect Millions: How We Can Fight Back
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Antibiotic-resistant infections have been on the rise in recent years. Luis Alvarez / Getty Images The U.S. government has released new objectives this month to prevent, treat, research, and boost awareness about antibiotic-resistant infections.Antibiotics are antimicrobial medicines that destroy bacteria. The more we take them, however, we can build up a tolerance to the medications and they may not work in the future. More than 2.8 million antibiotic-resistant infections occur each year in America as a result of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or superbugs. Those infections are responsible for 35,000 deaths per year. The U.S. government has released new objectives this month to prevent, treat, research, and boost awareness about antibiotic-resistant infections. “Combatting antimicrobial resistance is one of the most pressing challenges in medicine today. It threatens to pull medicine back to a pre-penicillin era,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Center for Health Security, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Antimicrobial resistance includes antibiotic resistance, as well as resistance to viruses, fungi, and other microorganisms. The National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria updates the original plan published in 2015. What’s antibiotic resistance? Antibiotics are antimicrobial medicines that destroy bacteria. The more we take them, however, we can build up a tolerance to the medications and they may not work in the future. That causes doctors to prescribe a stronger antibiotic, if available. Otherwise, the bacteria can survive and go on to harm us. “The more antibiotics are used, the less effective they become,” explained Dr. David Hyun, a senior officer on Pew’s antibiotic resistance project. “As bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, the bacteria adapt and become increasingly able to defeat the drugs. This evolution can happen gradually or quickly, but all antibiotic use accelerates the process.” “When antibiotic resistance develops anywhere, it is a threat to people everywhere. Superbugs don’t respect borders,” he added. Can we beat bacteria? Bacteria naturally exist in the world, including in animals, the environment and in humans. Antibiotics have been used for decades to treat infections when that bacteria start to grow out of control and affect our health. Some of those infections would have been fatal without antibiotics. Deaths from antibiotic-resistant infections are down, but microbial pathogens continually evolve and find new ways to evade the drugs designed to kill them, the report stated. Some of the report’s objectives include: lowering healthcare-associated antibiotic-resistant infections by 20 percent by 2025reducing community-acquired antibiotic-resistant infections by 10 percent by 2025creating 10 new resistance-related diagnostics projects by 2021ensuring 100 percent of acute care and 50 percent of critical access hospitals report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) Antibiotic Use Optiondeveloping 10 novel therapeutics by 2022 Sara Y. Tartof, PhD, an epidemiologist studying antibiotic resistance at Kaiser Permanente in Southern California, tells Healthline, that the plan has excellent recommendations for hospitals, governmental agencies, laboratories, researchers, drug companies, and others. “We need strong and long-standing commitment from all of us before we get a handle on this. There is no magic antibiotic coming down the pipeline,” Tartof added. What germs are the biggest threats? Last fall, the CDC released its Antibiotic Resistance Threats in the United States report, which lists 18 germs based on various threat levels. It lists these superbugs as urgent threats: carbapenem-resistant Acinetobacter, which can cause pneumonia and wound, bloodstream, and urinary tract infectionsCandida auris (C. auris), a fungus that can cause severe infections when it enters the bloodstreamClostridioides difficile (C. diff), a bacteria that can affect the gastrointestinal tract and cause severe diarrhea, fever, and nausea carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), a group of bacteria that includes E.colidrug-resistant Neisseria gonorrhoeae (N. gonorrhoeae), a bacteria that causes the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhea. How to battle antibiotic resistance You can work to avoid becoming resistant to antibiotics by trying to prevent infections and practicing regular handwashing. You can help combat antibiotic resistance by asking your doctor if an antibiotic is necessary in the event that they suggest taking one, Adalja said. And if you’re prescribed antibiotics, take them as directed.   “We all need to commit to reducing the overuse and misuse of antibiotics that fuels increasing resistance,” Tartof said. “We should not pressure our doctors for antibiotics, particularly when they recommend against it, even if we think it will help.” Hyun noted that 1 in 3 antibiotic prescriptions — about 47 million prescriptions annually — are not necessary, Hyun said. Unnecessary use puts patients needlessly at risk for adverse events, such as allergic reactions and C. diff infections, which can result in life threatening diarrhea and are deemed an urgent threat by the CDC. “Antibiotics do not work against viruses, such as those that cause the common cold or the flu. Patients should also talk to their doctors about the risks if an antibiotic is prescribed, and ask if an antibiotic is really necessary,” Hyun added. “Another role we have as consumers is to support companies that are committed to reducing unnecessary antibiotic use in animal food production, where overuse is also a big problem that can also affect human health,” Tartof said.   Will it work? Hyun said the new plan “lacks essential details regarding specific policies and how key priorities will be achieved,” especially when compared with the 2015 plan. He called that a “missed opportunity.” Some of the priorities Pew identified earlier this year were included in the plan at a high level. But the updated plan doesn’t directly incorporate goals from the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) 5-year plan to improve antibiotic stewardship in animals, Hyun noted. “We strongly support the prioritization of improving antibiotic prescribing in doctor’s offices and other outpatient healthcare settings, and increasing the number of hospitals reporting antibiotic use into CDC’s National Healthcare Safety Network,” Hyun said. “But the action plan lacks specific incentive strategies needed to help achieve these goals by 2025.” Though the plan sends a signal that the United States is working to combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, Hyun thinks there is also a lot more work to be done in order for the United States to be prepared to combat the “existential threat” of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

  • Should the FDA Have Approved Remdesivir to Treat COVID-19 Patients?
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    The FDA has approved the anti-viral drug remdesivir to treat COVID-19. The Washington Post / Getty Images The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the antiviral remdesivir, even after one study by the World Health Organization (WHO) showed limited benefit.A preliminary study from the WHO Solidarity trial of more than 11,000 participants found that remdesivir had little effect on how long people stayed in the hospital and no effect on death.Without a COVID-19 vaccine approved in the United States, doctors are anxious for an effective treatment for COVID-19. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the antiviral remdesivir as a treatment for COVID-19 in adults and children 12 years and older, paving the way for wider use of the drug. Dr. Lanny Hsieh, clinical professor of infectious diseases at UCI Health, said the FDA’s move is “very exciting.” “Putting together all of the scientific evidence we have on remdesivir to date, it remains the standard of care for hospitalized patients with COVID-19,” she said. “Ultimately, it is our patients who would benefit from this FDA approval.” However, research so far on remdesivir is mixed, and the drug is far from a cure for COVID-19. Mixed study results for remdesivir In May, the FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for remdesivir, marketed in the United States under the brand name Veklury. This allowed the drug to be used to treat those with severe COVID-19. The agency broadened the EUA in August to allow for its use on all hospitalized patients with COVID-19, regardless of how severe their illness.  President Trump took remdesivir along with several other treatments when he was hospitalized for COVID-19 in early October. The FDA based its decision on three randomized controlled trials. One study of 1,062 participants with mild, moderate, or severe COVID-19 was published earlier in October in the New England Journal of Medicine. Results from this trial show that remdesivir reduced the length of hospital stay by about 5 days — from 15 down to 10. Patients taking remdesivir also had a lower chance of dying after 28 days — 11.4 percent compared with 15.2 percent in patients receiving an inactive placebo. “This [study], along with other trials reviewed by the FDA, has led to remdesivir’s approval,” Hsieh said, who is the principal investigator on the remdesivir clinical trial at UCI Medical Center. The two other trials reviewed by the FDA had similar results. One of these also showed that a 5-day course of remdesivir worked just as well as taking the drug for 10 days. However, preliminary results from the World Health Organization (WHO) Solidarity trial of more than 11,000 participants found that remdesivir had little effect on how long they stayed in the hospital and no effect on death. This study was published as a preprint on medRxiv and hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, so the results should be viewed with some caution. The WHO plans to publish it in the New England Journal of Medicine. Given the results of the WHO study, Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at the Scripps Research Translational Institute, questioned whether the FDA should have granted remdesivir a full approval. “How can Remdesivir get a full [FDA] approval when there are such mixed data? Not supportive of this decision at all,” he wrote on Twitter. “Does it work early? Does it work late? Does it work anytime? So much unresolved.” However, Hsieh said the WHO’s study had several limitations, including not comparing remdesivir’s effects to a placebo, and looking at several potential treatments in the same study. “Although interesting, Solidarity’s findings do not take away from the results of [the NEJM trial],” she said, “which is a study that is conducted with the most scientific rigor to date.” Antivirals work best early in COVID-19 Without a COVID-19 vaccine approved in the United States, doctors are anxious for an effective treatment for COVID-19. Remdesivir’s approval finally gives them something to work with.  “Given the limited arsenal of effective or even marginally effective treatments for COVID-19, and the fact that we don’t have a fully curative therapy or a vaccine, it is good to have more options,” said Dr. Matthew G. Heinz, a hospital physician and internist in Tucson, Arizona. But he said remdesivir is still difficult to get in some parts of the country, especially in rural areas.  And it’s expensive. A 5-day course of treatment can cost $3,120 for people with private insurance, reports Vox. Remdesivir is also not without risks. In some people, it can cause elevated liver enzymes, which could be a sign of liver damage. The most common side effect, though, is nausea. “In specific situations for certain patients, I do think [remdesivir] is reasonable to use,” Heinz said, “because it can inhibit viral replication — if given at the right time point.” Remdesivir blocks the coronavirus from replicating, so it works best if given early.  “Remdesivir is likely going to be more useful for stopping serious progression of the disease,” Heinz said. “But to give it to someone who’s already critical — getting intubated or who has already been intubated — may not work.” The drug is less effective in later stages of severe COVID-19, when the damage is caused more by an overactive immune response than by the virus itself. At this point, doctors turn to other treatments that target the immune system. One of these is the corticosteroid dexamethasone, which dampens the immune response and has been shown to reduce deaths from COVID-19. Although remdesivir isn’t completely effective against COVID-19, many doctors on the front line are glad to have it as an option. “Given that it’s not shown to have significant safety concerns, and at least one good study does show some benefit, it is reasonable to have remdesivir as an available treatment — while we wait for better ones,” Heinz said.

  • COVID-19 and Dementia: Why Socializing Safely Is Vital for Senior Health
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    New research suggests that inadequate social stimulation may be putting older adults at greater risk for developing dementia. Oliver Rossi / Getty Images During the COVID-19 pandemic, many seniors are finding themselves more isolated.While social distancing may be reducing their risk of COVID-19, it may also be putting their health at risk in other ways.Researchers have found that social interaction plays an important role in keeping certain regions of the brain healthy.Inadequate social stimulation may be putting older adults at greater risk for developing dementia. Finding safer ways for them to engage socially may be beneficial in preventing this condition. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many older adults — especially those in care facilities — are finding themselves more isolated due to social distancing measures. While these policies are designed to keep them safe, researchers say they may be putting their health at risk in other ways. According to a new study, social interaction plays an important role in keeping certain regions of the brain healthy. Without adequate social stimulation, the researchers say, older adults may be at greater risk for developing dementia. What the study found Dr. Cynthia Felix, MPH, and her team used information on social engagement that they gleaned from 293 people who were part of the Health, Aging, and Body Composition (Health ABC) study. On average, the study participants were 83 years old. In order to study their brain activity, the researchers used a type of sensitive brain imaging scan called Diffusion Tensor Imaging MRI. This scan was used to measure the integrity of the brain cells in the part of the brain that’s involved in social engagement. Felix said the use of this type of scan was significant because, “No one has ever studied before the brain gray matter (brain cell) microstructural integrity in relation to social engagement among older adults.” “The sensitive diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) MRI we used can detect early, cellular damage in brain cells even when the conventional MRI may look normal,” she said. What she and her team found was that greater social engagement was related to better microstructural integrity. Maintaining this integrity is important because once brain cells die, dementia usually follows. What is dementia? According to Dr. Dylan Wint, Las Vegas Legacy Neuroscience Education Endowed Chair at Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, dementia is a decline in cognitive function that’s severe enough to interfere with independent living. Wint said one of the most common symptoms of dementia is memory loss. He described this memory loss as “forgetting things quickly and completely, struggling to keep track of the day and date, and messing up medications and missing appointments.” Other symptoms can be “language problems, such as routinely struggling to come up with words, or not understanding what others are saying; problems with judgment, reasoning, planning; and visuospatial problems, such as not being able to navigate or learn new routes,” said Wint. If a person begins exhibiting symptoms such as these, Wint suggests it’s a good idea for them to get checked by their primary care provider. When it comes to cognitive function, it’s important to “use it or lose it” Felix said it’s commonly hypothesized in the context of brain plasticity that it’s important to “use it or lose it.” What this means, she said, is that we need to keep using our brain cells in order to keep them healthy. Similar to the way we must make regular use of our muscles to keep them from atrophying, we must use our brain to keep it healthy, she explained. Felix said that social activities such as meeting with friends and family, remaining married, living with another person, attending church, attending group discussions, working, and volunteering can all give you a sense of social identity in your community. Wint suggested that during the pandemic, when social interaction may be more risky, one thing we can do is “tune into technology more.” For example, rather than meeting in person with people, older adults could rely more on regular telephone calls or video calls to increase their interaction with people. Regarding in-person interactions, Felix said, “We are not advocating rash measures; the keyword is ‘balance.'” “Awareness about our findings can help older adults plan a structured social calendar in safe ways with people who they know well and who they can safely coordinate logistics with,” she added. She further noted, “It does not necessarily require large groups or very frequent interactions.” Other ways you can protect yourself from dementia Wint said that other types of activities are also important in keeping your brain healthy and free from dementia. In particular, he pointed to physical activity. “Aerobic exercise at a moderate level, for an average of 150 minutes each week, or at a vigorous level for 100 minutes each week, is recommended,” said Wint. “Cognitive activities that require thinking, planning, and responding — things like puzzles, writing, picking up a new hobby, or learning a new skill [are helpful],” according to Wint. “Even fixing things in one’s own home instead of calling a repair person could be beneficial,” he said. “Anything where your brain is engaged and challenged, and particularly, things where you are learning something new.” “We want people to maintain high levels of social, cognitive, and physical activity,” added Wint. He further suggested that if you can’t do one type of activity, you still try to do the others. “For example, if you are unable to engage in aerobic exercise — perhaps because of a physical illness like lung or heart disease — I would suggest that you increase the amount of social and cognitive activities that you do,” he said. “So, if you can’t get the full 150 minutes of aerobic exercise, you could instead engage in an equivalent duration of social or cognitive activity,” Wint added. The bottom line Greater social interaction appears to keep a particular part of the brain active and healthy. Since brain cell death can lead to dementia, having an active social life may play a role in warding off cognitive decline as we age. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s especially important for older adults to have safe ways to maintain connections with others.

  • We Don’t Have Enough Women in Clinical Trials — Why That’s a Problem
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Men have been the primary participants in clinical trials in the past, especially in the early phases. MARTIN MEISSNER/Getty Images Experts say women are underrepresented in clinical trials for new medications.They say this sometimes results in women having more side effects to drugs due to incorrect dosages or biological differences.Experts maintain that a greater effort must be made to increase the number of women in trials, especially in early phases. Women are at greater risk for adverse side effects from medications due to a lack of female representation in clinical trials. That’s according to recent research on the issue. In one study, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of Chicago analyzed data from thousands of articles from medical journals. They say they found a gender gap in drug doses for 86 medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). “Sex inequality hides in plain sight today: most drugs are prescribed to women and men at the same dose,” the study authors wrote. “Many currently prescribed drugs were approved by the [FDA] prior to 1993, with inadequate enrollment of female animals in preclinical research and of women in clinical trials.” It was the adverse effects on women from Ambien, a popular sleep medicine, that sparked the study. Irving Zucker, PhD, lead author of the research and a professor emeritus of psychology and integrative biology at Berkeley, told Healthline, “The immediate impetus for me was the finding that the sedative/hypnotic drug zolpidem (Ambien), a widely used sleep medication, was causing serious side effects in women, including increased traffic accidents the morning after taking the drug. “The standard dose produced much higher blood concentrations and longer drug elimination times in women than men. The [FDA] then issued a directive that women should be given half the standard dose administered to men,” Zucker explained. “I wondered if there were other drugs that also had a robust pharmacokinetic (what the body does to a drug) sex difference, with women sustaining higher blood concentrations than men and whether this could contribute to the known increased risks to drug side effects in women.” What the research revealed Zucker, along with his co-author Brian Prendergast, PhD, a professor at the University of Chicago, analyzed studies in which women were given the same drug dosage as men. They reported that in more than 90 percent of cases, women experienced stronger side effects than men and experienced adverse drug reactions at nearly twice the rate of men. “I don’t believe anyone can reasonably find this acceptable. Some have tried to explain this in part as women have a lower threshold for reporting adverse drug effects, but much evidence suggests this is not the cause of the sex difference in adverse drug reactions,” Zucker said. Nancy Pire-Smerkanich, DRSc, is an assistant professor of regulatory and quality sciences in the School of Pharmacy at the University of Southern California. She says the results of the research aren’t surprising. “Men and women are different in the way they metabolize or process drugs,” Pire-Smerkanich told Healthline. “In women, the pharmacokinetics can be affected by several factors, including higher body fat composition, lower body weight, slower GI, less intestinal enzymatic activity, and slower kidney function. “For example,” she added, “while both men and women have the same types of enzymes… that metabolize drugs, there are sex-dependent differences in addition to genetic differences.” Pire-Smerkanich explained, “Men and women may be different in the way they respond to certain drugs. The pharmacodynamics (what the drug does to the body) can be affected by many factors, including sex hormones, which can fluctuate due to menstruation, pregnancy, menopause, [and] oral contraceptives. Other factors include the environmental differences and disparities in the practice of medicine between men and women.” Exclusion from clinical trials For decades, women were often excluded from clinical drug trials. This was based in part on the unsubstantiated belief that fluctuations in female hormones would make women difficult to study, Zucker argues. There were also concerns surrounding women of childbearing age in clinical trials. “Women of childbearing ages were long excluded because of concerns that drugs could harm fetuses, as occurred with the drug thalidomide that produced severe limb abnormalities and diethylstilbestrol that increased cancer risks in children exposed to the drug during gestation,” Zucker said. Although there’s been an increase in women in clinical trials in recent years, Pire-Smerkanich says there are still problems with female representation in early phases of drug trials. “Women are actually well represented in the later stage trials, those known as Phase 3 studies,” she said. “However, the dosing regimens used in later stage studies are based on the pharmacokinetic data collected in the early trials, where women continue to be underrepresented. “This is not just about metabolism or breaking down drugs but also what happens to them next — where do they go? Do they get absorbed? Do they get distributed or moved around? And how do they leave the body as excretions?” Pire-Smerkanich added, “The early phase studies are also where we learn about how the drug works in the body, so it would be important to include women as early as possible in the drug development process.” What needs to be done Dr. Judith Currier, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, says more work needs to be done to address the gender gap in clinical trials. “It’s an area of medicine that we need to put more focus on, and we need to ensure that women are involved and included in clinical studies of medications and that they participate,” she told Healthline. “We have to be smart about it in terms of using the knowledge we have about pharmacology to understand the medications where the potential for differences are greatest,” Currier added. Pire-Smerkanich says women are willing to participate in drug trials, as long as they’re informed of the risks involved. “Women need to be studied earlier in the drug development process and throughout the life cycle, and I think researchers are interested in doing this. Whether they are always supported in these efforts is another unknown,” she said. “What I do believe is that women are willing to be part of the process and can contribute to our understanding of drugs. [They] just need to be made aware of the need and how they can contribute because as a ‘subgroup’ we have tremendous potential.”

  • Interactive Gaming Can Help Children, Teens Battle Loneliness During Pandemic, Experts Say
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Experts say parents should ask children about the online games they are playing and how to deal with people they don’t know. Alessandro Biascioli/Getty Images Experts say that while playing video games alone can increase loneliness in children, interactive video gaming with online friends can help ease loneliness.They say this finding is especially important during the COVID-19 pandemic when children are confined to home for longer periods of time.Experts advise parents to talk to children about what games they are playing.They also advise parents to discuss with children how to interact online with people they don’t know. The “lonely gamer” stereotype is being challenged by a new study that has concluded that children who play video games interactively with friends are actually combating loneliness. The research comes from Geert Verheijen, MSc, a behavioral psychologist and video gamer in the Netherlands.  Over a 3-year period, Verheijen studied the gaming behavior of 705 children in 7th to 10th grades. Questionnaires and in-person observational studies were used to collect data from a mix of male and female students.  Verheijen concluded that while solo play for long periods does increase feelings of loneliness, the opposite is true when playing interactive games online with friends.  The research comes as more households may be dealing with issues surrounding screen time and video games during the COVID-19 pandemic. What experts have to say Experts told Healthline the social aspect of interactive gaming can encourage healthy development. “Game play is social, although it doesn’t always have the reputation of being so,” said Susan E. Rivers, PhD, social psychologist and expert in social and emotional learning. She is also the current executive director and chief scientist for the nonprofit iThrive Games Foundation.  “Social play requires us to practice and refine some social and emotional skills that we might not think about as much when we play alone,” Rivers told Healthline.  “When we play with real people, we have to be thoughtful about how we’re competing or collaborating, and we have to deal with the fallout if we’re less than gracious,” she said. Rivers says interactive gaming can provide “the opportunity to share our triumph and joy with others, amplifying those positive experiences.”  “Working together toward a shared in-game goal is a powerful way to build bonds with and get to know others, and that social connection is paramount for mental health,” she said. Dr. Shana Feibel, DO, a staff psychiatrist at the Lindner Center of HOPE in Mason, Ohio, who is affiliated with the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, told Healthline the social isolation due to the pandemic is pervasive in younger people who are used to spending time with others.  “I work in an inpatient psychiatric unit and have at least one to two new young patients every day who have this very issue,” said Feibel. “They have become depressed and even suicidal.” “Because of this, we need to become more open to a variety of social contacts which does include interactive gaming,” she explained. “Even though the people are not in the room together, a social connection inevitably forms which helps to combat social isolation.” Benefits of gaming during the pandemic There are obvious differences between in-person and online gameplay, but Rivers said that virtual play is no less valuable than in-person play. “Virtual play connects and nourishes us in many similar ways and has been a lifeline for many teens during physical distancing,” she said. Rivers said gaming offers the following benefits: reduces stress reduces feelings of isolationreduces feelings of lonelinessincreases feelings of competenceincreases engagement and empathy “While in-person was preferable in the past, in today’s society, safety comes first,” she said. “Social interaction is still vital and, therefore, we need to change our ways of thinking about spending time with others.”  Experts say online video gaming can provide social interaction as well as shared experiences. Alessandro Biascioli/Getty Images Online game playing is one such avenue to explore, according to experts. “An online play space offers new ways for friend groups to collaborate, be creative, resolve conflicts, regulate their emotions, and practice making amends when things go awry,” said Rivers. “Friend groups who play together online also have the benefit of a social network of family members who likely know one another and can stay connected about what’s happening both on and offline,” she added. However, you don’t need to play with your existing friend group to reap rewards. “All that said, we should never discount the value of online-only friends,” said Rivers. “Friends chosen based on a common interest and the common structure of shared in-game goals can and often do last a lifetime.” Advice for parents about internet safety  Interactive online gaming opens a new realm of social opportunity, but with that comes a certain level of risk.  There can also be a big difference in online games that range from Fortnite to Animal Crossing. How can you help your children and teens stay safe while playing online? Experts say stay in communication with your youngsters.  “The most important thing you can do is stay involved in and aware of what your kids are playing online, and with whom, but not only with the intent of setting boundaries,” said Rivers. “Take an active interest, get curious, ask your kids what games they love, and why they love them, and really listen.” “Remember that your kids are experts in this space, so you can open up an opportunity for them to shine by asking them to share the backstory of the characters or to teach you how to play,” she added. Feibel said this is particularly true during the COVID-19 pandemic. “With more children and teens staying home and reaching out to others for a gaming partner, there are plenty of others who are their age,” she said. “However, as with any online socializing, it is always important to be wary of strangers who may be out to harm your children.” Experts emphasize that it’s important for parents to talk to their children about the people they meet online and staying safe, especially during the pandemic.

  • This COVID-19 Spike Will Also Hit Our Mental Health with a ‘Second Wave’
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    The latest spike in COVID-19 cases will likely hit Americans’ mental health — from financial stress to worries of losing loved ones — much harder this time. martin-dm/Getty Images Scientists are predicting that we will experience a second wave of COVID-19 as we approach the fall and winter months.Mental health experts say we may also experience a second wave of mental health issues related to the pandemic.The high level of stress associated with the pandemic is making people more vulnerable to depression and anxiety.It is important to recognize when you are having problems so you can seek help.Taking steps to reduce your stress may reduce your risk. As we head into fall and winter, scientists are expecting that we will experience a second wave of COVID-19 infections. When the weather is dry and cold, it is believed that the virus will be more stable and therefore more likely to be transmitted from person to person, causing the number of infections to surge. However, experts say we may also be approaching a second wave of mental health issues as well. “In addition to the pandemic, the current political and racial tensions are leading to a ‘perfect storm’ in which many people are feeling threatened and/or traumatized,” said Corinna Keenmon, MD, a specialist in psychiatry and psychology at Houston Methodist. “We know high stress levels have a negative impact on both mental and physical health, particularly when the stress is this prolonged.”  Why is the pandemic putting our mental health at risk? Ken Yeager, PhD, director of the Stress, Trauma, and Resilience (STAR) program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, said there are several factors at play, depending on which age group people fall into. In people over the age of 75, Yeager said the pandemic represents a “real and growing” risk to their health. Also, they are losing friends and family members. “For many the answer is, ‘I’ve had a good life,'” said Yeager, “but for others that’s not how they see it or how they are feeling at all.” Among baby boomers, who are in the age range of 56 to 74, Yeager said the concerns are more about whether they will be able to retire. “After all, most are going to be directly impacted by the stock market and other economic challenges.” “The millennials and Gen X’s are looking back to the last recession and are asking if they will be able to survive this economic downturn, leading to depression and uncertainty.” Finally, Yeager said, “Today’s teens are feeling anxiety as they look to an uncertain future.” Yeager also pointed to the isolation that people are feeling as well as the effects of the economic downturn. “Many have lost jobs,” he said, “while others are essential providers so they are on the front line, which comes as its own risk.” “There is no doubt the disruption of the pandemic is widespread. Education, relationships, employment, finances, vacations, and normalcy have all been challenged,” he concluded. Who’s at the greatest risk? Keenmon said that around 40 percent of Americans are going through depression related to the pandemic. Young people and minorities are especially vulnerable, she explained. In addition, older adults, especially those in nursing homes, are becoming depressed due to the isolation. People who have lived through trauma are at increased risk as well. Also, people who have no real safety net or financial security are vulnerable. In addition, those who are already prone to mental illness are added risk, said Yeager. In particular, those who tend to suffer from holiday depression and seasonal depression should keep a close eye on their symptoms since the added stress of the pandemic may exacerbate their illness. Taking steps to reduce stress Yeager and Keenmon had several suggestions for coping with stress and reducing our risk for depression and anxiety: Build your resilience. “Find things that build positive energy for you,” said Yeager.Reach out to others in kind ways. Seek “to find the good in what you are doing every day.”Limit your screen time. “You’re not hearing more news. You’re just hearing the same bad news over and over,” said Yeager.Engage in hobbies. Yeager suggests activities like painting, gardening, playing games, doing puzzles, and other tasks which engage your brain.Understand that politics are just that. “Use your own mind to understand what your vote should be,” said Yeager. “All too often we are directed by newscasters who are telling us who or what to be fearful of. Use your own judgement.”Prioritize taking care of yourself. Keenmon suggests setting up a healthy daily routine and seeking to find balance in your life.Check in on your thoughts. “As humans we tend to be overly focused on what isn’t going well,” said Keenmon. “Keep a journal and spend some time reflecting on what’s good in your life or what is working well.”Recognize you are not alone.“Many people are suffering right now, and you are not alone in your pain,” said Keenmon. “‘Pain shared is half the pain, and joy shared is double the joy.’ Make the time and effort to connect with those you love — even if it’s through a phone call or Zoom chat.”Try starting a meditation or mindfulness practice. Keenmon suggests apps like Calm or Headspace as a good place to start.Seek help if you need it. “You can find support through an online support group, or even access online psychotherapy,” said Keenmon. She also recommends the National Alliance for Mental Illness as a good place to find resources. Recognizing when you may be having a problem Keenmon pointed to the following as signs that your mental health may be impacted: changes in sleeping patternschanges in eating habitssudden changes in activity levels, either extreme fatigue or restlessness and hyperactivityreliance on alcohol or drugs to copenegative thoughtsfeeling like you are in “survival mode”feedback from family and friends that they are worried about you If you find yourself having thoughts of suicide, Yeager suggests that you seek medical assistance. In addition, if you are feeling depressed or anxious, you should speak with your healthcare provider. “You may need medication,” said Yeager, “but that is not the only approach.” “Individual counseling may be a route that you find helpful,” he said. “It is most important to let others know what you are thinking. Your family can’t help you if you are not willing to share with them your concerns.”

  • No, Mouthwash and Nasal Rinses Aren’t Cures for COVID-19
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    Though mouthwash has been shown to render some types of coronavirus inactive in a lab setting, experts say it’s still unknown if it can help slow the spread of COVID-19 in humans. MonkeyBusinessImages/Getty Images New research examined if mouthwashes, antiseptics, and a nasal rinse were effective ways to kill a virus very similar to COVID-19.The study found that some of these products can be effective against a type of human coronavirus under lab-controlled conditions.However, experts say human trials with people with COVID-19 are needed to confirm how effective they would be at reducing the spread of the virus between people.Experts also say that mouthwash or nasal rinses are no substitute for using a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19. A new study from Penn State University suggests that commonly available oral antiseptics, mouthwashes, and nasal rinses might inactivate human coronaviruses, reducing risk of transmission. “We were looking for a simple over-the-counter (OTC) procedure to lower the transmission of coronavirus,” study author Craig Meyers, PhD, and a professor at Penn State University told Healthline. “A procedure that did not differ from the standard use.” The findings indicate that some OTC products may be effective at reducing the amount of coronavirus present in people’s mouths — potentially reducing spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. The study was published in the Journal of Medical Virology. According to Meyers, the results were surprising on two counts, “The first was how well certain products inactivated the virus. Second, how some products, those containing 1.5 percent hydrogen peroxide, had no effect.” “It definitely is an eye-opener,” agreed Dr. Nikhil Bhayani, an infectious disease physician with Texas Health Resources. What’s important to know about this study While the nasal and oral cavities are major points of entry and transmission for coronaviruses, Meyers and team used a test to replicate how the virus interacted with rinses and mouthwashes. The virus analyzed was human coronavirus 229e (HCoV-229e) and not the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 that causes COVID-19. There were also no human participants involved in this research. This study consisted of treating solutions that contained HCoV-229e, which was readily available and genetically similar to SARS-CoV-2. Researchers introduced different hydrogen peroxide antiseptic rinses and various brands of mouthwash into the coronavirus solution and allowed them to interact with the virus for 30 seconds, 1 minute, and 2 minutes, before they diluted the solution to prevent any further virus deactivation. Not the first study of mouthwash and coronavirus Meyers’ findings add to previous research looking at how effective oral rinses can be to inactivate human coronavirus. Although that study, published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, also relied on lab-controlled conditions and didn’t specifically investigate SARS-CoV-2. However, Meyers and team used longer contact times and OTC nasal and oral rinses not evaluated before, and he considers human trials on COVID-19-positive patients essential to confirm the findings. “With this said, human clinical trials are still needed,” said Meyers. “But again the data suggests that we do something we already should probably [be] doing that is simple and safe.” Those clinical trials are currently underway. According to Bhayani, while he thinks the findings are plausible, there are important questions that need to be answered, such as: At what stage of infection would oral or nasal rinses reduce the risk of transmission? A baby shampoo nasal rinse Strangely, a baby shampoo-based nasal rinse showed significant virus-killing ability. “A 1% baby shampoo nasal rinse solution inactivated HCoV greater than 99.9% with a 2‐min contact time,” the study authors wrote. The OTC mouthwash/gargle products investigated included Listerine and Listerine-like products which were “highly effective at inactivating infectious virus with greater than 99.9% even with a 30‐s [second] contact time. The Penn State researchers also pointed to studies showing that baby shampoo has been found to be safe and effective to treat chronic rhinosinusitis (an inflammation of the nasal tissues). When asked if antiseptics that kill coronaviruses in the mouth, throat, and nasal cavity could help delay or even prevent infection by SARS-CoV-2, Bhayani agreed that it might help “reduce the viral burden lowering the risk of transmission.” Mouthwash won’t replace mask use Finally, researchers put the solutions in contact with cultured human liver cells and waited a few days to see how many of these cells were still alive to calculate the percent of human coronavirus made harmless from exposure to mouthwash or nasal rinse. However, these results were the result of controlled lab conditions using a different type of coronavirus than SARS-CoV-2. The true effectiveness of these antiseptics in humans with the novel coronavirus can’t be firmly decided this way.  “This is not a replacement for masks or distancing,” insisted Meyers. “It is another layer to preventing the spread.” He explained that for those who are positive and go home to quarantine “it could help protect those they live with,” and could also provide another layer of protection to healthcare providers at high risk of infection. “Even if the use of these solutions could reduce transmission by 50 percent, it would have a major impact,” Meyers said in a statement. The bottom line Researchers investigated different OTC mouthwashes, antiseptics, and a nasal rinse to find how effective they are at rendering a virus very similar to SARS-CoV-2 harmless. While study findings suggest that some OTC products can be effective against a human coronavirus, reducing risk of infection or transmission, human trials with COVID-19-positive patients are needed to confirm how effective they can be against the novel coronavirus. Experts say while the idea is plausible, more research is needed to confirm the findings. They also say that mouthwash or nasal rinse is no substitute for using a mask to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

  • Any Potential COVID-19 Vaccine Will Have to Pass These FDA Requirements
    on October 29, 2020 at 1:36 pm

    The FDA is requiring COVID-19 vaccine candidates to show at least 50 percent efficacy in order to win approval. Anadolu Agency / Getty Images During a daylong meeting, experts advising the FDA on coronavirus vaccines talked about the approval process, ongoing clinical trials, and public concerns.Vaccine makers will be required to monitor clinical trial participants for an average of 2 months after their final dose to measure safety.Any approved vaccine will need to show at least 50 percent efficacy.Even after the phase 3 trials are concluded, additional clinical trials will be required to determine safety and efficacy in children, pregnant people, and other groups not included in the initial trials. Members of an expert panel advising the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on coronavirus vaccines met on Thursday, Oct. 22 to discuss key issues around the review of potential vaccines and how to convince the public to get vaccinated. No specific vaccines were reviewed because phase 3 clinical trials are still ongoing. The FDA expects to reconvene the expert panel in the future when vaccine makers apply for emergency authorization or standard approval. Here are the key takeaways from this daylong meeting. Speed is good, but safety comes first It normally takes years to develop a new vaccine, but the development of COVID-19 vaccines has moved at a breathtaking pace. This has been aided by advances in technology and a rapid influx of funding from government and industry. However, some people have been concerned that the process may be moving too quickly. These concerns have been fueled by President Trump’s continued push for an approved coronavirus vaccine before Election Day on Nov. 3. Marion Gruber, PhD, director of the FDA’s vaccine research office, sought to allay these fears. “Vaccine development can be expedited. However, I want to stress that it cannot — and must not — be rushed,” she said. In a briefing document released prior to the meeting, the FDA also laid out what it expects from companies during phase 3 trials. Vaccine makers will need to follow participants for an average of 2 months after their final dose. They will also need to see at least 5 severe COVID-19 cases in the group that received the inactive placebo. The FDA will also require that a vaccine show at least 50 percent efficacy. This means that a person in a phase 3 trial who received the vaccine would have a 50 percent lower risk of symptomatic COVID-19 compared to someone who got the placebo. These and other guidelines are intended to ensure that companies have enough data about the risks and benefits of a vaccine before submitting an application to the FDA. Emergency authorization is not the end of trials There are two regulatory approval routes that a coronavirus vaccine can follow. The first is emergency use authorization (EUA), which is a faster approval process reserved for public health emergencies, such as during a pandemic. The second is the standard regulatory review. Vaccine makers can apply for emergency authorization as soon as they have enough data showing that a vaccine provides some benefit. This could occur before the phase 3 trials — which include 30,000 or more participants — are finished. In comments submitted ahead of the meeting, drugmaker Pfizer indicated that if its vaccine receives an EUA, the company would like to be able to provide the vaccine to study participants who had received the placebo. The phase 3 vaccine trials are “blind,” meaning that participants don’t know if they’re receiving the candidate vaccine or the placebo. However, during the meeting, Dorian Fink, a deputy director in the FDA’s Division of Vaccines and Related Products Applications, said that the phase 3 trials should continue as long as possible in order to provide additional safety and efficacy data on the vaccines. “Once a decision is made to unblind an ongoing placebo-controlled trial, that decision cannot be walked back and that controlled follow-up is lost forever,” he said. The FDA also indicated that it wouldn’t consider emergency use authorization of a vaccine a reason for a company to end the phase 3 trial — the vaccine would remain experimental even after an EUA. A key reason for keeping the phase 3 trials going as long as possible is that data required for an EUA is less stringent than what’s needed for full review. Also, some adverse events may not show up until larger numbers of people have been vaccinated. In addition, EUA’s are sometimes revoked when later data is collected, as happened earlier this year with hydroxychloroquine, a drug that was proposed as a treatment for COVID-19 but turned out to offer few benefits. Additional clinical trials will be needed even after approval Even if the phase 3 trials are allowed to run fully to the end, additional clinical trials will be needed. Some of these are currently being planned. This includes phase 3 trials in children and pregnant people, groups that haven’t been included in the ongoing trials. Without trials involving these groups, scientists wouldn’t know if the vaccines are safe and effective in these populations. Pfizer announced last week that it would start enrolling children as young as 12 years old in a vaccine trial. Other studies will look at the link between vaccination coverage — how many people get vaccinated in an area — and rates of COVID-19 in those areas. Scientists will also continue to monitor the virus for genetic changes to see if any of these mutations reduce the protection offered by an approved vaccine. And then there’s the ongoing safety monitoring that’s routinely carried out by the FDA and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for all vaccines. Work needs to be done to build public support of a vaccine During the meeting, the Reagan-Udal Foundation, a nonprofit established by Congress to assist the FDA, talked about its efforts to counteract public concerns about coronavirus vaccines or the approval process. Their initial outreach identified several of these, including distrust of the healthcare system, concern about the speed of vaccine development, and distrust of the government. There were also concerns among certain groups that the vaccine wouldn’t work for their community. Some people who provided comments to Reagan-Udal questioned whether enough marginalized communities had been included in the vaccine trials. During the public comment period for the FDA meeting, Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, said transparency and openness about the vaccine approval process is needed. “Holding open online meetings allows the public to see for themselves how the process works,” she said.

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