R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic.
About an hour after the Indiana State Department of Health announced yet another record high of new coronavirus cases Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the Midwest numbers suggest the region is going in the wrong direction.
In a press call discussing the situation in six states, including Indiana, Dr. Henry Walke, incident manager for the CDC’s COVID-19 response team, said his colleagues were working with local and state health officials to mitigate spread of the virus.
The CDC region that includes Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota has seen a 27% increase in cases and 37% increase in deaths in the past seven days, Walke said.
Indiana has seen a 68% increase in deaths, a 13.7% increase in cases and an 8.7% increase in positivity in that time period, CDC officials said.
Friday, Oct. 23:2,519 new cases, 27 new deaths reported
The statistics suggest “we may be going backwards in our efforts” to contain the virus, Walke said. He echoed the message that state health officials have sent repeatedly to wear a mask, social distance, and wash your hands often.
Over recent weeks, Indiana’s numbers indeed have gone in the wrong direction. Indiana on Thursday reported 2,880 additional cases, bringing its seven-day moving average of cases above 2,000 for the first time. The seven-day average for deaths has been in the low 20s, a level last reached at the end of May.
The state has increased testing by about 4,000 daily tests over the past month to about 25,000 a day, but a greater share are coming back positive. As of last Thursday, the moving average for the positivity rate for all tests was 6.9%. A month earlier it was 4%.
Fishers firefighter Paul Ashbt conducts a coronavirus test at the City Services Building over the summer. Indiana is seeing both its deaths and positive cases increase. (Photo: Grace Hollars/IndyStar)
Hospitalizations also have risen to a level not seen since early May, when the state was still in the most restricted phase of its Back on Track plan. On Thursday Indiana reported 1,515 people hospitalized across the state for COVID-19.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, who moved the state into the final phase of its reopening plan last month, has resisted calls from his Democratic opponent and others to restore some of the measures of the previous months that aimed to stem viral spread.
“Where we need to make improvements is on the front of what we can control,” he said. Holcomb said Wednesday during his weekly coronavirus news briefing. “We’re not living in a police state. … The last thing we need to do and the last thing I want to do or need to do is go back to a stay at home.”
Instead, Holcomb has said that the state’s homeland security department is helping local officials in hard-hit areas with
Home improvement retailer Lowe’s Cos. (LOW) is adding a number of fitness brands to the merchandise lineup heading into the holidays, including Echelon Fitness, Spirit Fitness and Body Flex Sports.
Echelon Fitness offers items like connected stationary bikes and “smart” rowing machines. Spirit Fitness and Body Flex Sports sell treadmills, elliptical machines and more.
These are among the “unexpected brands” that Bill Boltz, Lowe’s executive vice president of merchandising, said the company will stock for the holiday season.
See: Walmart will spread Black Friday deals over multiple days as retailers try new ways to drive holiday traffic
Customers are “making their homes work harder and smarter for them this year” due to the coronavirus, he said in a statement. Lowe’s says that it aims to sell the items that will help shoppers’ homes meet all of the needs of this “unique” year.
In addition to fitness equipment, the second largest home improvement chain in the U.S. has also added a number of toy brands, like Crayola and KidCraft Toys. And items like air hockey tables, record players and projectors are available.
Lowe’s, like most other retailers, is already jumping into the holiday shopping season, with promotions scheduled to begin on Thursday and last until December.
Starting on Oct. 30, Lowe’s will also offer free fresh Christmas tree delivery. And the home improvement retailer is offering a variety of contactless ways for customers to pickup their purchases.
An NPD Group report says that home improvement projects and purchasing, which has increased during COVID-19, are expected to continue well into the future.
Also: Target giving workers a $200 bonus
“The heightened attention paid to where we live, and spend so much of our time, has resulted in increased consumer demand for home improvement solutions, but also an expanded customer base,” said Shay Krafft, NPD’s president of U.S. home improvement & major appliances.
“The home improvement industry has an opportunity to strengthen these new consumer relationships that will support future success.”
Lowe’s stock has gained 48.8% for the year to date while the S&P 500 index (SPX) is up 7% for the period.
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 8 million on Friday as health officials from coast to coast scramble to contain the rising rate of infections.
The case numbers are steadily increasing daily, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The country has averaged more than 53,000 new daily cases for the past week — an increase of more than 55% in just over a month — and Friday’s caseload was not the exception, according to Johns Hopkins data.
Unlike previous rises, this time it appears that no region is safe. The Northeast, which has remained relatively stable since the spring, is seeing a rise in cases as is the Pacific Northwest. The increases come as the numbers of new cases in the Midwest hasn’t slowed.
At least four states — Idaho, Illinois, North Carolina and Wyoming — reported their highest daily Covid-19 case count to date on Friday, state health officials said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, warned that infection rates are far too high heading into the end of the year. Other experts say is setting the country up for a very difficult winter.
“You can’t enter into the cool months of the fall and the cold months of the winter with a high community infection baseline,” Fauci said in a John Hopkins virtual event posted Friday.
CVS and Walgreens to distribute approved vaccines, officials say
While the US faces a new rise in cases, the Trump administration discussed some of its plans for vaccine distribution.
Federal officials confirmed Friday that CVS and Walgreens pharmacies have been designated to distribute free coronavirus vaccines, once they are approved, to long-term care facilities.
The partnership is expected to help “jurisdictions solve a logistical hurdle and decrease the burden of distributing, administering, and reporting COVID-19 vaccination for both states and long-term care facilities,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a statement.
The retailers are best placed to send out mobile units to vaccinate seniors and other vulnerable people on site, said Paul Mango, deputy chief of staff for policy at the Health and Human Services Department, said during a Friday telephone briefing with reporters.
Earlier on Friday, President Donald Trump said seniors would be the first to get any vaccine once one is approved.
“Seniors will be the first in line for the vaccine and we will soon be ending this pandemic,” Trump said during a visit to Ft. Myers, Florida.
No coronavirus vaccines have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration so far but the CDC posted an optimistic forecast about coronavirus vaccines Wednesday, promising some vaccines by the end of the year.
Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said he’s still “pretty