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Scientists Can Detect COVID Outbreaks in Communities by Testing Sewage Samples

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Scientists have found another way to identify clusters of COVID-19 outbreaks in communities across the country.

According to a new report from CNN, researchers now test sewage for the coronavirus, checking the samples for signs of COVID-19 infections that often show up in human waste before people present symptoms. “It’s a leading indicator,” researcher Rosa Inchausti told the outlet. “The proof is in the poop.”

Mariana Matus, the CEO of Biobot Analytics, told CNN that testing sewage can often indicate a COVID outbreak before hospitals begin to crowd. Plus, the method can identify more infections since it doesn’t rely on individuals to submit to a COVID test — although the sewage method doesn’t flag sick people individually.

“People start shedding virus pretty quickly after they are infected and before they start showing symptoms,” said Matus, who added: “We are seeing an upturn in the wastewater data, which I think broadly matches what we are seeing across the country. It’s been interesting seeing this almost second wave.”

New U.S. infections have increased 41 percent in the last two weeks and hospitals in several states — primarily in the Midwest — are running out of ICU beds.

RELATED: More Than 40 States Have Spiking COVID Cases and Midwestern Hospitals Are ‘Struggling’ to Keep Up

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On Wednesday, the U.S. recorded the second-highest number of new infections in one day with 81,457, just below the all-time record of 85,085, set last Friday.

As of Thursday morning, more than 8.9 million Americans have tested positive for COVID-19, and at least 227,697 have died from the virus, according to The New York Times.

The White House’s head of coronavirus testing said that the record-breaking numbers of new infections in the U.S. are “real,” and not because of an increase in testing. Testing czar Admiral Brett Giroir confirmed that U.S. COVID-19 cases are rising.

RELATED: More Than 62,000 Used Masks and Gloves Found in Oceans and on Beach Shorelines: ‘A Significant Threat’

“Testing may be identifying some more cases, I think that’s clearly true, but what we’re seeing is a real increase in the numbers,” he told the Washington Post.

“Compared to the post-Memorial Day surge, even though testing is up, this is a real increase in cases,” he said. “We know that not only because the case numbers are up and we can calculate that, but we know that hospitalizations are going up.”

Giroir urged Americans to keep up hygiene practices, wear masks and social distance as the crisis could get worse. “We really have to reengage the public health measures that we know work or those hospitalizations can go up substantially,” he said.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information

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Empowering Faith Communities to Champion Black Health Equity Amid A Pandemic

Strengthen the capacity faith communities to understand the intersection of health, religion, race, and politics

RICHMOND, Va., Oct. 28, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Balm In Gilead Inc. is a leader in bringing public health and faith communities together to strategically address health disparities in the African American community. The Balm In Gilead Inc. will use its Annual Healthy Churches 2030 Conference (HC2030) to answer this call to action by bridging faith and healthcare to breakdown health disparities in the Black community. This one-of-a-kind virtual conference will equip African American faith-based institutions and public health professionals with the tools to confront racial inequities in healthcare and wellness programs.

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of building congregational health ministries within African American communities to offer rapid response to future public health crises. Healthy Churches 2030 Conference will examine the intersection and impact of health, religion, race, and politics on the lives of Black Americans.

Addressing the alarming rates of preexisting health conditions and lack of access to qualified medical professionals in African American communities, the conference will emphasize the urgent need to create locally accessible health and wellness programs. “The Black Health Agenda for the New Decade: The Intersection of Health, Religion, Race, and Politics,” the theme for this year’s conference, embodies the immediate need to confront health disparities and create prevention models within the Black community.

Participants will hear directly from some of the nation’s top public health officials, medical professionals, and faith leaders. This year’s Healthy Churches 2030 Conference speakers include:

  • Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Ph.D.; Clinician, Educator, Researcher, and Leader in Biopharmaceuticals and Life Sciences Industries

  • Dr. Kafui Dzirasa, Ph.D.; Assistant Professor and Resident Physician, Laboratory for Psychiatric Neuroengineering, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Center for Neuroengineering, Duke University Medical Center

  • Rev. Dr. Delman L. Coates, Ph.D.; Pastor of Mt. Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton, MD.

  • Rev. Dr. Shively T. J. Smith Ph.D.; Assistant Professor of New Testament at Boston University School of Theology

  • Dr. LaPrincess C. Brewer, MPH; Assistant Professor of Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester MN

  • Dr. Sam Dagogo-Jack, D.Sc.; Professor of Medicine & Chief, Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, Memphis, TN

  • Dr. Keith C. Ferdinand, FACC, FAHA, FNLA, FASCP; Professor of Medicine at the Tulane University School of Medicine

  • Fred Hammond; Grammy award-winning artist, vocalist, songwriter, musician, producer, and arranger.

Speakers and presenters will share strategies, resources, and tools to strengthen the capacity of congregational health ministries across the United States to increase health prevention, disease management, and participation in clinical trials. “By building a nationwide network of health ministries within African American churches, The Balm In Gilead is actively diversifying the healthcare delivery model by transforming churches into local health hubs,” said Dr. Pernessa C. Seele, founder and CEO of The Balm In Gilead, Inc.

The upcoming Healthy Churches 2030 Conference also features content from our elite sponsors. Diamond

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COVID Spikes Worsen Health Worker Shortages in Great Plains, Rocky Mountains | Healthiest Communities

COVID-19 cases are surging in rural places across the Mountain States and Midwest, and when it hits health care workers, ready reinforcements aren’t easy to find.

In Montana, pandemic-induced staffing shortages have shuttered a clinic in the state’s capital, led a northwestern regional hospital to ask employees exposed to COVID-19 to continue to work and emptied a health department 400 miles to the east.

“Just one more person out and we wouldn’t be able to keep the surgeries going,” said Dr. Shelly Harkins, chief medical officer of St. Peter’s Health in Helena, a city of roughly 32,000 where cases continue to spread. “When the virus is just all around you, it’s almost impossible to not be deemed a contact at some point. One case can take out a whole team of people in a blink of an eye.”

In North Dakota, where cases per resident are growing faster than any other state, hospitals may once again curtail elective surgeries and possibly seek government aid to hire more nurses if the situation gets worse, North Dakota Hospital Association President Tim Blasl said.

“How long can we run at this rate with the workforce that we have?” Blasl said. “You can have all the licensed beds you want, but if you don’t have anybody to staff those beds, it doesn’t do you any good.”

Photos: Daily Life, Disrupted

TOPSHOT - A passenger in an outfit (R) poses for a picture as a security guard wearing a facemask as a preventive measure against the Covid-19 coronavirus stands nearby on a last century-style boat, featuring a theatrical drama set between the 1920s and 1930s in Wuhan, in Chinas central Hubei province on September 27, 2020. (Photo by Hector RETAMAL / AFP) (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)

The northern Rocky Mountains, Great Plains and Upper Midwest are seeing the highest surge of COVID-19 cases in the nation, as some residents have ignored recommendations for curtailing the virus, such as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings. Montana, Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin have recently ranked among the top 10 U.S. states in confirmed cases per 100,000 residents over a seven-day period, according to an analysis by The New York Times.

Such coronavirus infections — and the quarantines that occur because of them — are exacerbating the health care worker shortage that existed in these states well before the pandemic. Unlike in the nation’s metropolitan hubs, these outbreaks are scattered across hundreds of miles. And even in these states’ biggest cities, the ranks of medical professionals are in short supply. Specialists and registered nurses are sometimes harder to track down than ventilators, N95 masks or hospital beds. Without enough care providers, patients may not be able to get the medical attention they need.

Hospitals have asked staffers to cover extra shifts and learn new skills. They have brought in temporary workers from other parts of the country and transferred some patients to less-crowded hospitals. But, at St. Peter’s Health, if the hospital’s one kidney doctor gets sick or is told to quarantine, Harkins doesn’t expect to find a backup.

“We make a point to not have excessive staff because we have an obligation to keep the cost of health care down for a community — we just don’t have a lot of slack in our rope,” Harkins said. “What we don’t account for is a mass exodus

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Asking Never Hurts: Telemedicine or In-Person Visit? The Pros and Cons | Healthiest Communities

As COVID-19 took hold in March, U.S. doctors limited in-person appointments — and many patients avoided them — for fear of infection. The result was a huge increase in the volume of remote medical and behavioral health visits.

Doctors, hospitals and mental health providers across the country reported a 50- to 175-fold rise in the number of virtual visits, according to a report released in May by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co.

The COVID-fueled surge has tapered off as patients venture back to doctors’ offices. But medical professionals and health experts predict that when the pandemic is over, telehealth will still play a much larger role than before.

“There are still a few doubting Thomases, but now that we’ve run our practices this way for three months, people have learned that it’s pretty useful,” says Dr. Joseph Kvedar, president of the American Telemedicine Association and a practicing dermatologist who teaches at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

For patients, the advantages of telemedicine are clear: You typically can get an appointment sooner, in the safety of your own home or workplace, saving time and money on gas and parking — in some cases, even avoiding a loss in wages for missing work.

James Wolfrom, a 69-year-old retired postal executive in San Francisco, has had mostly virtual health care appointments since the pandemic started. He particularly appreciates the video visits.

“It’s just like I’m in the room with the doctor, with all of the benefits and none of the disadvantages of having to haul my body over to the facility,” says Wolfrom, who has Type 2 diabetes. “Even after the pandemic, I’m going to prefer doing the video conferencing over having to go there.”

Telemedicine also provides care for people in rural areas who live far from medical facilities.

The growth of virtual care has been facilitated by Medicare rule changes for the COVID-19 emergency, including one that reimburses doctors for telemedicine at the same rate as in-person care for an expanded list of services. State regulators and commercial health plans also loosened their telehealth policies.

In California, the Department of Managed Health Care, which regulates health plans covering the vast majority of the state’s insured residents, requires commercial plans and most Medi-Cal managed care plans during the pandemic to pay providers for telehealth at parity with regular appointments and limit cost sharing by patients to no more than what they would pay for in-person visits. Starting Jan. 1, a state law — AB-744 — will make that permanent for commercial plans.

Five other states — Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Minnesota and New Mexico — have pay-parity laws already in effect, according to Mei Wa Kwong, executive director of the Center for Connected Health Policy. Washington state has one that also will begin Jan. 1.

If you are planning a telehealth appointment, be sure to ask your health plan if it is covered and how much the copay or coinsurance will be. The appointment may be through your in-network provider or a

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COVID-19 Surges In Rural Communities, Some Midwest Hospitals Overwhelmed : Shots

Rural communities across the country, places largely spared during the early days of the pandemic, are now seeing spikes in infections and hospitalizations.

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images


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Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Rural communities across the country, places largely spared during the early days of the pandemic, are now seeing spikes in infections and hospitalizations.

Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images

As the coronavirus outbreak surges across the country, many rural communities — places which were largely spared during the early months of the pandemic — are now seeing an unprecedented spike in infections and hospitalizations.

The pandemic’s grip on rural America is especially alarming because many of these less populated areas rely on small hospitals, which don’t have the beds or staff to absorb a crush of patients, especially those who require high levels of care.

In early September, the rate of new infections per capita started climbing quickly in the country’s most rural counties reaching what are now record levels — significantly higher than what is being seen in the major urban areas, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There is a similar trend in smaller metro areas, although not quite as dramatic.

“Rural is not a refuge,” says Keith Mueller, a professor at the University of Iowa College of Public Health and director of the Rural Policy Research Institute. These counties may be sparsely populated, but it also means that sparsely populated is not an assurance that spread won’t happen.”

In the Midwest, cases have climbed on average nearly 60% over the past two weeks, compared to 35% nationally. And across the country, most non-metropolitan counties have now recorded at least 100 cases or more per 10,000 people since the pandemic began — that’s almost double what it was in early September.

Even though the raw numbers may seem small compared to cities, rural counties in states like Kansas, Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska now have some of the highest rates of infections per capita in the country. And in many places, hospitalizations are also at record levels.

The surge in rural America is not uniform across the country; some communities got hit during the spring and summer for example, when there were big outbreaks at food processing plants.

This week, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine reiterated his concerns about the pandemic’s foothold in his state’s rural counties, saying that many of the residents being hospitalized are coming from those communities rather than the major cities.

“Please wear the masks,” DeWine pleaded, “rural counties, we’re not seeing the mask wearing is high, we would like to really see it get up.”

In North Dakota, Dr. Misty Anderson, an internist, is worried about the pandemic’s hold on small cities and towns like Valley City, N.D., where she lives — just an hour west of Fargo.

“I never lost any patients until recently and I lost a couple in just one week,” says Anderson, who’s also president of the North

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For COVID Long Haulers, Knowledge and Empathy Are Key to a Cure | Healthiest Communities

What is also undeniable is how ill-prepared the health system seems to be to meaningfully help these COVID “long haulers” return to wellness. In fact, the presentation of this apparent post-viral syndrome has stumped experts and clinicians who have struggled to find guidance on how to treat the condition. This hard reality has prompted long haulers to create or join social media-based support groups in search of answers, advice or, at the very least, solidarity.

The question, then, is: Why are we so stumped by these post-COVID long haulers?

Many medical providers have not received training on how to diagnose or treat the types of complex multiorgan disease triggered through the disruption of immune, endocrine, nervous and cardiovascular systems. Moreover, this lack of training has perpetuated the stigma that ME/CFS and similar conditions are not real. This is aggravated by the lack of a diagnostic test and the fact that most of the usual medical tests, ordered for nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, are likely to show no abnormalities.

Although these results can provide relief that the cause of a patient’s problems is not cancer or organ failure, the related “everything seems to be fine” talk minimizes the patients’ symptoms, invalidates their experiences and marks the beginning of a lonely road. Patients blame themselves for not shaking symptoms off. As time goes by, they may perceive or be outright told that their symptoms are psychological, implying they just need to try harder to feel better. Since ME/CFS appears to be an inflammatory brain condition that can also cause anxiety or depressive symptoms, many patients are referred to mental health services, reinforcing the perception that the problem must be “in their heads”.

To be sure, there is increasing recognition that treating post-COVID-19 syndrome will require biologic and holistic approaches, as well as extensive research. These insights have led to the creation of treatment centers to try to assist these patients. Experts have published management guidelines that can aid these centers.

However, initial approaches may create challenges. Although protocols that emphasize physical therapy and cardiovascular and respiratory rehabilitation offer a correct approach in general – particularly for those who were hospitalized – there are important caveats. Many patients with disabling symptoms will have normal respiratory and cardiac function, and related tests, although necessary, may not clarify the cause.

In addition, the traditional type of physical therapy recommended for ME/CFS by what is now considered a flawed study can backfire and make symptoms worse. In fact, research has shown that pacing is a pivotal component in the management of ME/CFS. Rehabilitation should be personalized, go slow and be monitored for relapse, recognizing that neuroinflammatory illness can “flame on” when pushed too hard.

As physicians and investigators ourselves, we understand the challenges of creating treatment guidelines in the absence of a significant body of research. However, while studies are being conducted, we ought to use the evidence that does exist on ME/CFS and related conditions, such as mast cell activation, to deploy the multidisciplinary

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‘The impact of work’: On-the-job coronavirus exposure a key driver in Black, Latino communities | Business News

Because it was a nice afternoon in March, Katrina Llorens Joseph and her husband Albert decided to sit outside for lunch at the Subway restaurant not far from City Park.

Afterward, she went back to her desk at the VA Hospital, and he got behind the wheel of a city bus.

“He dropped me off at work and then he went on to work,” she said.

As routine as the lunch was, it now seems like a fateful one to Joseph, 52. The couple had been very careful about isolating. She believes her husband, 53, came in contact with the virus that day at an emergency meeting with a bunch of other bus drivers. Within a few weeks, 1 in 8 Regional Transit Authority employees would test positive in a COVID-19 outbreak that led to the deaths of three workers.

Antonio Travis is 27 years old and the picture of health.

Days after that lunch, Albert Joseph left work early, suffering from fevers, chills and a high fever.

His wife snapped into action. “I figured he had the virus,” she said.

Katrina Joseph moved to the guest room. She began wearing a mask in the house, pulled out new toothbrushes for everyone, wiped down doorknobs, washed her hands and served food on paper plates.

Even so, the whole family became infected. For the next few weeks, the couple and their daughter, Danielle, 19, were all bedridden in separate rooms of their house in Chalmette. They spiked 104-degree fevers. Sometimes, they collapsed on the way to the bathroom. On four separate occasions, when fingertip monitors indicated dangerously low oxygen levels, they called 911, though the ambulances twice left empty.



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Albert Joseph, a bus driver for RTA, poses in his home in Chalmette, La., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2020. The Joseph family suffered coronavirus at the same time.




Once, paramedics took an oxygen-deficient Albert Joseph to the hospital for a four-hour stay. The second time, they carried out a very weak Katrina Joseph. She spent eight days in Ochsner Health Center in St. Bernard Parish, “lying there, knowing that I had this disease that was killing people all around me.”

The Josephs’ story is hardly unusual. But leading researchers say their experience and others like it offer a window into why the coronavirus has hit Black communities particularly hard across the nation. Many frontline workers who continued to work through the pandemic were exposed on the job and brought the virus home to infect entire households.

Workplace spread a driver

Within Louisiana, Blacks have accounted for nearly half of all COVID-19 deaths to date, despite making up a little less than a third of state residents. The biggest reason for the coronavirus’ cruel toll in Black communities seems to be its outsized infection rate there: when compared with White Louisiana residents, Black Louisianans have been three times as likely to contract the virus.



101120 Racialized Pandemic Work Risks

A new, much-discussed study concluded that the disproportionate spread in the Black community originates in

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