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Pence to continue campaigning after ‘close contact’ staff contract coronavirus

Multiple senior aides to the vice president have recently tested positive for COVID-19

While a number of people in Mike Pence‘s inner circle recently tested positive for COVID-19, the vice president reportedly has no plans to cancel his scheduled campaign events with the General Election drawing within a week away.

Pence apparently does not plan to self-quarantine to be sure not to spread coronavirus under the guise of being an essential worker, should he have unknowingly contracted the virus from one of his staff members. He and his wife, Karen Pence, tested negative on Saturday and Sunday, as reported by The New York Times.

According to spokesman Devin O’Malley, Pence’s chief of staff Marc Short tested positive for the disease on Saturday. In addition to Short, four other members of his staff have also contracted the virus that has caused a global pandemic. Marty Obst, one of Pence’s advisors, also tested positive earlier this week, a person familiar with the matter said.

Vice President Mike Pence (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)
Vice President Mike Pence (AP Photo/Steve Cannon)

 “While Vice President Pence is considered a close contact with Mr. Short, in consultation with the White House Medical Unit, the vice president will maintain his schedule in accordance with the C.D.C. guidelines for essential personnel,” O’Malley stated.

Pence, under his role as second in command to President Donald Trump, is in charge of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

READ MORE: Odell Beckham Jr. doesn’t think he can get COVID-19: ‘It’s mutual respect’

Despite these positive tests affecting people so near to him, Pence is choosing to continue traveling around the nation under his separate capacity as a vice presidential candidate and surrogate for the Trump reelection campaign, less than 10 days out from the Nov. 3 election. This comes weeks after Trump and First Lady Melania Trump contracted coronavirus earlier this month. The disease hospitalized the president for days.

Since the President’s diagnosis, it was reported that several other members of the Administration had contracted COVID-19. This includes former political advisor Kellyanne Conway, press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, policy advisor Stephen Miller and campaign manager Bill Stepien.

Questions surrounding the safety protocols at the White House concerning coronavirus have been raised heavily since it penetrated to heavily weeks ago. President Trump has also returned to holding public campaign rallies, and the Washington Post reported that during the first presidential debate against Democratic nominee Joe Biden, guests of Trump opted not to wear masks during the broadcast.

Pence plans to maintain an aggressive campaign schedule this week despite an apparent outbreak of the coronavirus among his senior aides, the White House says. O’Malley said the vice president and his wife “remain in good health.”

READ MORE: Fauci advocates mask mandate amid COVID-19 surge across US

Trump commented on Short early Sunday after his plane landed at Joint Base Andrews, outside Washington.

“I did hear about it just now,” he said. “And I think he’s quarantining. Yeah. I did hear

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Skip Costume Contact Lenses This Halloween | Health News

By Robert Preidt, HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay)

SUNDAY, Oct. 25, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Halloween is risky enough this year with the coronavirus pandemic, so don’t risk your vision as well by wearing costume contact lenses, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) says.

Costume contact lens packaging that claims “one-size-fits-all” or “no need to see an eye doctor” is false, the academy said.

Poorly fitted contact lenses can scrape the cornea (the outer layer of the eye), making the eye more vulnerable to bacteria and viruses that can cause infections.

People who buy contacts without a prescription have a 16-fold increased risk of developing an eye infection, research shows.

“As we follow new precautions to keep our families safe in this abnormal year, it’s important not to forget about the normal hazards that can occur during Halloween,” Dr. Dianna Seldomridge, a clinical spokesperson for the AAO, said in an academy news release. “Whatever you plan, please follow these tips to protect your eyes this Halloween.”

  • Get an Rx. Buy only U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved contact lenses. Color contacts or other decorative lenses are sometimes sold at corner shops or online, but such sales are illegal. Contact lenses must be bought with a doctor’s prescription.
  • Practice good hygiene. Wash your hands before putting your contacts in or touching the skin around your eye. Cleaning and disinfecting your contact lenses as instructed minimizes the risk of an eye infection. See an ophthalmologist immediately if you notice any swelling, redness, pain or discharge from the eye when using eye makeup or contacts.
  • Watch the clock. Don’t wear costume contact lenses longer than four or five hours. The dye in them can restrict oxygen flow to the cornea. Never sleep in contact lenses.
  • Keep them to yourself. Never share contact lenses or eye makeup. Doing so can spread germs and bacteria, which can cause infections.
  • Take safety precautions. If you’re decorating for Halloween, wear protective eyewear.

Copyright © 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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Pence to keep up travel despite contact with infected aide

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence plans to maintain an aggressive campaign schedule this week despite his exposure to a top aide who tested positive for the coronavirus, the White House said Saturday.

Pence himself tested negative, his office said. Under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria, the vice president is considered a “close contact” of his chief of staff, Marc Short, but will not quarantine, said spokesman Devin O’Malley.

O’Malley said Pence decided to maintain his travel schedule “in consultation with the White House Medical Unit” and “in accordance with the CDC guidelines for essential personnel.” Those guidelines require that essential workers exposed to someone with the coronavirus closely monitor for symptoms of COVID-19 and wear a mask whenever around other people.

O’Malley said Pence and his wife, Karen, both tested negative on Saturday “and remain in good health.”


After a day of campaigning in Florida on Saturday, Pence was seen wearing a mask as he returned to Washington aboard Air Force Two shortly after the news of Short’s diagnosis was made public. He is scheduled to hold a rally on Sunday afternoon in Kinston, NC.

Pence, who has headed the White House coronavirus task force since late February, has repeatedly found himself in an uncomfortable position balancing political concerns with the administration’s handling the pandemic that has killed more than 220,000 Americans. The vice president has advocated mask-wearing and social distancing, but often does not wear one himself and holds large political events where many people do not wear face-coverings.

By virtue of his position as vice president, Pence is considered an essential worker. The White House did not address how Pence’s political activities amounted to essential work.

Short’s diagnosis comes weeks after the coronavirus spread through the White House, infecting President Donald Trump, the first lady, and two dozen other aides, staffers and allies.

Short, Pence’s top aide and one of his closest confidants, did not travel with the vice president on Saturday.

Pence’s handling of his exposure to a confirmed positive case stands in contrast to how Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris responded when a close aide and a member of her campaign plane’s charter crew tested positive for the virus earlier this month. She took several days off the campaign trail citing her desire to act out of an abundance of caution.

Saskia Popescu, an infectious disease expert at George Mason University, called Pence’s decision to travel “grossly negligent” regardless of the stated justification that Pence is an essential worker.

“It’s just an insult to everybody who has been working in public health and public health response,” she said. “I also find it really harmful and disrespectful to the people going to the rally” and the people on Pence’s own staff who will accompany him.

“He needs to be staying home 14 days,” she added. “Campaign events are not essential.”

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CDC changes definition of coronavirus ‘close contact’

The Centers for Disease Control has changed its definition of who is considered a “close contact” with someone who has coronvirus.

Previously, CDC defined close contact as being within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. That definition was used to determine when a person should be quarantined. Now, a “close contact” is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person or persons for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period, indicating multiple brief encounters can contribute to spread of COVID-19.

While the CDC said data on the subject was limited, “15 cumulative minutes of exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less can be used as an operational definition (of a close contact) for contact investigation,” the guidance noted.

The change comes after a study looked at the spread of coronavirus at a Vermont prison when an employee contracted the virus after brief, close contact with infected incarcerated people that added up to more than 15 minutes over the course of an 8-hour shift.

Time of exposure does contribute to rate of transmission, however, CDC said.

“In general, the longer you are around a person with COVID-19 (even if they do not have symptoms), the more likely you are to get infected,” CDC said.

People who have come into close contact with a coronavirus-infected person are supposed to quarantine and be tested.

According to the CDC, the number of cases in the country are on an upswing with 70% of health districts experiencing an increase. The average daily case county in the past week was 13% higher than the previous 7 days, CDC said.

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Sharp decrease in reported COVID-19 exposures after NBISD changes ‘close contact’ definition

After changing its definition of a “close contact,” New Braunfels ISD reported a sharp decrease in the number of students and faculty exposed to COVID-19.

When NBISD began reopening, the school district northeast of San Antonio used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “close contact” guidelines.

READ ALSO: Billboard names two stars ahead of Selena on its Greatest of All Time Latin Artists list

By that definition, anyone exposed to COVID-19 cases — through a cough or being within 6 feet of the person for 15 minutes — had to quarantine for 14 days, even if they were wearing a mask.


That policy led to 689 students and employees across multiple campuses having to quarantine. But administrators found that only five people out of that number contracted the virus from exposure at school.

Four of the five individuals had “close contact” in athletics, where masks were not being worn, NBISD Superintendent Randy Moczygemba wrote in a letter to parents on Oct. 13. The fifth person had “close contact” while at lunch without a mask.

“Our data indicates that when all students are wearing a mask, students have not contracted COVID-19 while at school,” Moczygemba wrote.

That data led school officials to change how they defined close contacts.

The new policy, which went into effect Monday, considers a person a “close contact” if they are coughed on or within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of at least 15 minutes. But if both individuals were properly masked, the exposed individual will not be considered a “close contact.”

Thus, they would not have to quarantine for 14 days. The district also barred neck gaiters as part of the adjustment.

“We feel confident about the change, but if the change results in students contracting COVID-19 while wearing a mask, we will come back and address that again,” Moczygemba told Community Impact Newspaper.

Since the beginning of the NBISD school year, 39 students and 13 staff members have tested positive for the virus.

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CDC Broadens Definition of ‘Close Contact’ in Tracing COVID Infections | Health News

By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
HealthDay Reporters

(HealthDay)

THURSDAY, Oct. 22, 2020 (HealthDay News) — In a move that widens the pool of people considered at risk for coronavirus infection, U.S. health officials released new guidance on Wednesday that redefines who’s considered a “close contact” of an infected individual.

The change, issued by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, will likely have the biggest impact in group settings where people are in repeated contact with others for brief periods over the course of a day, such as schools and workplaces, the Washington Post reported.

The CDC had previously defined a “close contact” as someone who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of a confirmed coronavirus case. Now, a close contact will be defined as someone who was within six feet of an infected individual for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. State and local health departments rely on this definition to conduct contact tracing, the Post reported.

The new guidance arrives just as the country is “unfortunately seeing a distressing trend, with cases increasing in nearly 75 percent of the country,” Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases, said during a rare media briefing Wednesday at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, the Post reported.

CDC scientists had been discussing the new guidance for several weeks, said an agency official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the Post reported. Then came unsettling evidence in a government report published Wednesday: CDC and Vermont health officials had discovered the virus was contracted by a 20-year-old prison employee who in an eight-hour shift had 22 interactions — for a total of over 17 minutes — with individuals who later tested positive for the virus.

“Available data suggests that at least one of the asymptomatic [infectious detainees] transmitted” the virus during these brief encounters over the course of the employee’s workday, the report said.

Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, called the updated guidance an important change.

“It’s easy to accumulate 15 minutes in small increments when you spend all day together — a few minutes at the water cooler, a few minutes in the elevator, and so on,” Rivers told the Post. “I expect this will result in many more people being identified as close contacts.”

At the same time, it’s not clear whether the multiple brief encounters were the only explanation for how the prison employee became infected, Rivers added. Other possibilities might have included airborne or surface transmission of the virus. She also noted that the new guidance “will be difficult for contact tracing programs to implement, and schools and businesses will have a difficult time operating under this guidance.”

Third COVID Surge Spreads Across the Country

Meanwhile, a third surge of coronavirus cases now has a firm grip on the United States, with an average of 59,000 new infections being reported across the country every day.

That tally is

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CDC redefines close contact; NJ Gov. Murphy

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Since the coronavirus pandemic started, the United States has recorded more than 8.2 million cases of COVID-19 and over 220,000 deaths.

USA TODAY

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows that, since the coronavirus pandemic began, the U.S. has seen nearly 300,000 more deaths than in recent years.

Usually about 1.9 million deaths are reported from February to September. This year, it’s closer to 2.2 million. The largest increase – 54% – was among Hispanic Americans. 

COVID-19 was involved in about two-thirds of the excess deaths, the CDC reported. That appears in line with Johns Hopkins University data putting the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus at more than 222,000.

The CDC also released updated definitions of the parameters of close contact with someone with COVID-19, which shows the coronavirus spreads much easier than previously believed.

Meanwhile, in Washington, the Senate failed by a 51-44 vote on Wednesday to pass a $500 billion emergency aid package that didn’t include $1,200 stimulus checks but would have given a federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits, sent $100 billion to schools and allocated funding for testing and vaccine development.  The vote was 51-44, short of the 60 votes required to allow the legislation to move forward. Nearly all Democrats opposed it over concerns that more money was needed to combat the virus and help Americans.  

Some significant developments:

  • USA TODAY’s experts foresee that at least one COVID vaccine will be approved in coming months. Then comes the hard part: Distribution.
  • Idaho is seeing its largest spike in cases since the pandemic began. In the past two weeks, infections are up 46.5%. The governor’s plan urges personal responsibility. 
  • First lady Melania Trump canceled her first campaign rally in months, citing a “lingering cough” from her coronavirus infection earlier this month. 

📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 8.3 million cases and 222,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 41.1 million cases and 1.1 million deaths.

🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.

This file will be updated throughout the day. For updates in your inbox, subscribe to The Daily Briefing newsletter.

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Puerto Rico shutters 911 call centers amid coronavirus outbreak

Both of Puerto Rico’s 911 call centers were shut down Wednesday night after several employees tested positive for the coronavirus, officials announced.

Public Safety Secretary Pedro Janer said people should call the island’s emergency management agency at 787-724-0124 or police at 787-343-2020 in an emergency. He said both agencies are operating 24 hours a day.

“This is serious,” said Nazario Lugo, president of Puerto Rico’s Association of Emergency Managers, adding he was shocked at the government’s temporary plan to handle emergencies in the U.S. territory of 3.2 million people.

It is the first time Puerto Rico has shut down its primary and secondary 911 call centers. Janer said the buildings will be thoroughly cleaned and that he will soon announce when operations

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Robust contact tracing is saving lives of Apache tribal members

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As the new coronavirus ravaged the White Mountain Apache Tribe in eastern Arizona, Eugenia Cromwell did her best to stay home to keep herself safe. Visits to the grocery store and post office were instead passed off to her daughter, with whom she shared a home near Whiteriver.

So it came as a surprise to the 79-year-old Apache woman when she learned in August she tested positive for COVID-19 along with two other people in her home. Knowing the virus could severely impact older adults, Cromwell feared for her life.

More than 15,000 members make up the White Mountain Apache Tribe, whose reservation spans 1.6 million acres of land across Gila, Apache and Navajo counties. Whiteriver, the tribe’s largest community and capital, is home to about 4,000 residents.

The tribe in early June surpassed the Navajo Nation in total number of COVID-19 cases per capita, meaning it had one of the highest infection rates in the country. By mid-August, about the time Cromwell tested positive for the virus, there were more than 2,300 identified COVID-19 cases and 38 known deaths.

However, the tribe’s number of new daily and active COVID-19 cases dropped in the last few months. The tribe’s number of COVID-19 related deaths through the pandemic also remained consistently low with a fatality rate on Wednesday of 1.6%, which is less than the state’s rate of 2.5% and country’s at 2.7%.

Health officials lend credit, in large part, to its robust contract tracing efforts on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. So does Cromwell, who tested negative for the virus about three weeks after her initial diagnosis. 

Eugenia Cromwell, 78, is a high-risk White Mountain Apache Tribe COVID-19 patient. (Photo: Nick Oza/The Republic)

“I’m crying because I’m happy, these are wonderful people,” she said last month with tears in her eyes. “I’m so glad that I’m alive today.”

Officials go beyond just tracing, visiting some almost daily for check-ups

A healthcare provider on the morning of Sept. 10 paid a visit to Cromwell’s home to do a wellness check, reserved for patients considered high risk for complications from COVID-19.

Like clockwork, Cromwell quickly set up a chair on her front patio, wheeled out an oxygen concentrator and masked up. Several cicadas buzzed from a tree overhead while Victoria Moses, a health tech at Whiteriver Indian Hospital, checked Cromwell’s oxygen levels and asked her questions.

It was one of several visits made to Cromwell’s home since members of her family began testing positive for the virus in August. The wellness checks, in large part, involve monitoring a patient’s oxygen levels while sitting and walking — which for Cromwell also meant dodging a handful of ducks and a pig roaming her front yard.

“The patients get so used to our team that we’ll receive phone calls saying no one’s come to my house yet today,

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