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Surge in new virus cases driven by people under 30

BOSTON (AP) — The recent surge in confirmed coronavirus cases in Massachusetts is being driven in large part by an increase among younger people, Gov. Charlie Baker said Tuesday.

Whereas 15% of new cases in April were among people under age 30, now 37% of the new confirmed cases are people in that age group, the Republican governor said at a news conference at which he urged people to stop partying.

“According to our most recent data, about 300 people per day under 30 have contracted COVID-19, have tested positive for it, with about 38,000 people in this age group diagnosed since March,” he said.


More than half the new cases have been traced to social gatherings and household transmission, and there have been more reports of indoor parties as the weather has turned cooler, Baker said. He reminded people that outdoor trick-or-treating on Halloween is safer than an indoor party.

“To keep case rates down, and help us not only keep people healthy, but also ensure that our hospitals continue to have the capacity they need to serve their patients, our young people need to be serious about dealing with COVID,” he said.

Baker also urged people to limit Thanksgiving gatherings to members of the same household, or if mixing households, limit the number of guests to as few as possible.

He also shed new light on the state’s decision last week to close indoor skating rinks for two weeks in response to an increase in cases linked to youth hockey games.

He blamed the closures on “irresponsible” parents and coaches who didn’t cooperate with state contact tracers, including some who refused to supply team rosters.

“Youth hockey needs to make some changes,” he said.

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VIRUS BY THE NUMBERS

The state Department of Public Health reported more than 1,000 new confirmed coronavirus cases for the fourth consecutive day on Tuesday, as the 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate and daily new cases in the state continued to rise.

The state reported 1,025 new confirmed cases and seven deaths Tuesday.

The 7-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Massachusetts has now risen over the past two weeks from 0.95% on Oct. 12 to more than 1.5% on Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

The 7-day rolling average of daily new cases in Massachusetts has also risen over the past two weeks from more than 600 on Oct. 12 to more than 1,041 on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins.

The number of people in the state’s hospitals with the disease rose to 567, up from 550 the previous day. The number of patients in intensive care rose to 109 from 105.

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UNEMPLOYMENT HELP

About 17,000 Massachusetts residents who have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic but were ineligible for additional federal benefits are getting an additional $1,800 from the state.

The bill providing the extra cash was passed by the Legislature on Monday and signed into law by Baker

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health

Help for people who suffer seasonal and pandemic depression

“I went through a depressive swing. It was unbearable,” she says. Eventually, Hornickel told her roommate she wanted to die.

Since then, Hornickel has been in a partial hospitalization program to treat suicidal ideation, depression and bipolar disorder, and she recognizes that her initial reaction to quarantine was a manic episode. Although she’s doing a lot better, there’s a nagging worry: wintertime.

“For me, personally, the nighttime is really hard,” Hornickel says. “And when there’s not sunlight and sunshine and things to do — at that time in the winter — it definitely compounds those feelings.”

Hornickel is describing seasonal depression, known as seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. It’s a type of depression that occurs when it gets colder, there’s less light and it’s more difficult to get outside. Mental health experts worry that, because the pandemic has already triggered depressive symptoms in many Americans, more people will experience seasonal depressive symptoms this winter. 

A survey study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in September found that U.S. adults were reporting levels of depressive symptoms more than three times higher during the pandemic than before it. A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in June yielded similar results, with more U.S. adults reporting adverse mental health symptoms, particularly in young adults, racial and ethnic minorities and essential workers. (On the flip side, a survey done of U.S. teens from May to July found that teens actually fared well when it came to depression and loneliness.)

The American Psychological Association has seen a sharp increase in suicidal ideation, particularly among young adults, during the pandemic, according to Vaile Wright, senior director of health-care innovation. “I think that’s, in large part, due to the level of uncertainty around covid,” she says. While most disasters have a beginning, middle and end, she adds, the pandemic has continued — with no end in sight. 

Summer offered a bit of a respite. As evidence mounted that socializing outdoors is safer, “I think people really relied on their ability to take advantage of the nice weather,” Wright says. But the coming winter months will probably complicate how people are experiencing depression, whether they also suffer from SAD or not, experts say.

Although only a small percentage of people typically report seasonal depression (most estimates put it at 6 percent of the U.S. population for severe symptoms and 14 percent for mild symptoms), Wright says she wouldn’t be surprised if there’s another increase in depressive symptoms among the population in general as the cold weather compounds social isolation.

Lisa Carlson, president of the American Public Health Association, agrees. According to Carlson, seasonal depression is more common in people who have a history of depression. “It may be the people who are at risk of seasonal affective disorder may be the same people for whom covid has already triggered depression,” she says. “So, we may have a lot of overlap in those people.” Carlson also says seasonal depression and clinical depression

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health

South Korea urges people to get flu vaccinations despite concerns about deaths

South Korean commuters wear protective masks as they crowd after getting off the subway during rush hour on September 15, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.

Chung Sung-Jun | Getty Images

South Korea urged citizens to get vaccinated against influenza and reduce the chances of an outbreak that coincides with the battle on the coronavirus, as it kicked off free inoculations for the last eligible group.

Public anxiety over the safety of flu vaccines has surged after at least 48 people died this month following vaccinations, while, last month, about 5 million doses had to be disposed of after not being stored at recommended temperatures.

Authorities have said they found no direct link between the deaths and the flu shots and have sought to reassure South Koreans about the safety of the vaccines against flu, a disease that kills at least 3,000 each year.

“Vaccination offers far greater benefits compared to side effects, and both the WHO and domestic and overseas experts agree,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a briefing on Sunday, in a reference to the World Health Organization.

Last year, more than 1,500 elderly people died within seven days of receiving flu vaccines, but those deaths were not linked to the vaccinations, the government said.

As South Korea presses on with its inoculations, southeast Asia’s tiny city state of Singapore became one of the first nations this week to call a temporary halt to the use of two influenza vaccines, as a precaution.

Singapore has reported no deaths linked to flu vaccinations.

South Korea ordered 20% more flu vaccines this year to ward off the prospect of what it calls a “twindemic” of concurrent major flu and coronavirus outbreaks in winter.

At least 1,154 instances of adverse reactions have been reported from among more than 9.4 million people inoculated since the effort began in September.

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South Korea urges people to get flu vaccinations despite death tolls

By Sangmi Cha

SEOUL (Reuters) – South Korea urged citizens to get vaccinated against influenza and reduce the chances of an outbreak that coincides with the battle on the coronavirus, as it kicked off free inoculations for the last eligible group.

Public anxiety over the safety of flu vaccines has surged after at least 48 people died this month following vaccinations, while, last month, about 5 million doses had to be disposed of after not being stored at recommended temperatures.

Authorities have said they found no direct link between the deaths and the flu shots and have sought to reassure South Koreans about the safety of the vaccines against flu, a disease that kills at least 3,000 each year.

“Vaccination offers far greater benefits compared to side effects, and both the WHO and domestic and overseas experts agree,” Health Minister Park Neung-hoo told a briefing on Sunday, in a reference to the World Health Organization.

Last year, more than 1,500 elderly people died within seven days of receiving flu vaccines, but those deaths were not linked to the vaccinations, the government said.

As South Korea presses on with its inoculations, southeast Asia’s tiny city state of Singapore became one of the first nations this week to call a temporary halt to the use of two influenza vaccines, as a precaution.

Singapore has reported no deaths linked to flu vaccinations.

South Korea ordered 20% more flu vaccines this year to ward off the prospect of what it calls a “twindemic” of concurrent major flu and coronavirus outbreaks in winter.

At least 1,154 instances of adverse reactions have been reported from among more than 9.4 million people inoculated since the effort began in September.

(Interactive graphic tracking global spread of coronavirus: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps)

(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; Editing by Miyoung Kim and Clarence Fernandez)

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Down syndrome: People with the syndrome face 10 times the risk of death from Covid-19

“This was after adjustment for cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases and care home residence, which our results suggest explained some but not all of the increased risk,” the researchers wrote.

Their analysis involved more than 8 million adults who were part of a coronavirus risk assessment project sponsored by the British government. Of the 8.26 million people in the tracking study, 4,053 had Down syndrome. Of those, 68 people with the disability died and 40% were killed by Covid-19. Seventeen died of pneumonia or pneumonitis and 35% died of other causes.

Those numbers compare with more than 41,000 people without Down syndrome who died, but just 20% died from the coronavirus, 14% from pneumonia or pneumonitis and 65% died of other causes.

Down syndrome is not included in any guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the UK’s health ministry as a condition that would put people at increased risk for Covdi-19.

“However it is associated with immune dysfunction, congenital heart failure, and pulmonary pathology and, given its prevalence, may be a relevant albeit unconfirmed risk factor for severe COVID-19,” researchers concluded.

A community at risk

National Down Syndrome Society President and CEO Kandi Pickard said her group is grateful that the study has put a focus on the impact of Covid-19 on people with Down syndrome.

“From the beginning of the pandemic, we have been concerned about our community, especially given the complex medical histories of many of our loved ones,” Pickard said. “This recent study confirms our concerns.”

Kids struggle with Covid-19 and its months of aftermath
The society and other Down syndrome organizations worked together to issue the “Q&A on COVID-19 and Down Syndrome” resource guide to help caregivers and others. People with Down syndrome often communicate and understand information in different ways, and they may have trouble understanding social distancing, masking and other ways to prevent infection.

“People with Down syndrome may also have a hard time telling others when they don’t feel well,” according to the coalition. “They may have trouble knowing they have symptoms or how to describe them. For these reasons, they may not raise concerns or seek medical care quickly. Therefore, it is necessary to pay close attention and be watchful.”

Down syndrome is the most common genetic condition diagnosed in the United States every year, according to the CDC, with more than 6,000 babies born with the disability every year. Down syndrome occurs in one in every 700 babies.

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In Mississippi, more White people now have gotten Covid-19 than African Americans. Attitudes about masks might help explain why, official says

Early on, Black Mississippians accounted for roughly 60% of the state’s cases and deaths, the state health department says.

But the tide has turned in the Magnolia State.

The same happened with total Covid-19 cases around October 14. Both categories, then, are aligning closer to the state’s overall population: 59.1% White and 37.8% Black.
Mississippi's governor mandated masks in August in public gatherings and school. The state is top 5 for coronavirus cases per capita

While several factors may be at play, the state health officer suggests one in particular: He thinks large segments of the White population aren’t social distancing and wearing masks as wholeheartedly as much of the Black community has been recently.

“As far as the case trends, we have had really pretty good uptake by a lot of folks in the Black community with masking and social distancing,” state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs told reporters October 16, when asked about an uptick in White cases. “We’ve worked very aggressively to make sure that the Black community understands where the risks are and what can be done to prevent that.

“And I just will say … I think big parts of the White community, especially in areas that maybe weren’t as hard-affected (previously), have not been as compliant or engaged actively with social distancing and masking. And I think that does make a difference.”

Asked about this Thursday, Dobbs told CNN he’s relying somewhat on anecdotal evidence, but also “looking at how schools are operating. We are seeing a lot more enthusiastic compliance with … masking in public” and social distancing “in the Black community.”

And, “we’ve seen a lot of stuff (with) parent-sponsored youth events — dances, parties, things of that nature, that have really undermined a lot of our efforts to keep the schools open,” he said.

Dobbs highlighted a case to reporters earlier this week: Sumrall High School outside Hattiesburg closed for two weeks starting October 15 because of a Covid-19 outbreak that “seems to be related to an extracurricular social event put on by families and parents,” he said.

Sumrall High, with about 560 students, is in a county with a 75% White population. Another school also in Lamar County, Purvis Middle School, announced Sunday it also was closing for two weeks because of Covid-19, CNN affiliate WDAM reported.

Mississippi reissues mask mandates for some counties as cases rise

Dobbs’ words about mask-wearing and distancing come as Mississippi, like the country, is seeing rises in new daily cases after easing down from a summer surge.

After Mississippi reached a pandemic peak seven-day average of 1,360 new daily cases in late July, Gov. Tate Reeves announced a statewide mask mandate August 4 for social gatherings and indoor retail and school settings.
Covid-19 could kill 2,900 Americans a day in December, researchers say. Here's why, and how you can make fall and winter better

On September 14, Mississippi reported its post-peak low for average daily cases: 412, Johns Hopkins University data show. That meshes with the country’s post-peak case low of September 12. Reeves allowed the statewide mask mandate to expire September 30.

Case averages are now on the rise, reaching the 750s this week. On Monday, Reeves put nine of Mississippi’s 82 counties back on a

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B.C. urges social gatherings be limited to 6 people after record-high spike in cases

For more on today’s top stories and the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country, please refer to our live updates below throughout the day, as well as our COVID-19 news hub.

B.C.’s top doctor warns of COVID-19 spread through social gatherings, asks people to limit themselves to their ‘safe six’

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, expressed significant concern about COVID-19 transmission through social gatherings, as the province reported a recording breaking 274 new cases on Thursday.

“Social gatherings are where we are seeing significant transmission of COVID-19 in our province and the impact is far reaching,” Dr. Henry said. “Social gatherings, especially recently, wedding and other celebrations, are proving to be high risk for all of us.”

She added that these exposures and resulting cases have “spilled over” into the B.C. health system through healthcare workers and people working in long-term care facilities, and other workplaces, and are spreading across the province.

“People are not sticking with their COVID-19 safety plans for social gatherings, particularly ones like gathering and funerals,” Dr. Henry said. “We may have the best intentions to keep them small, to make sure that we aren’t having buffets,…that people are keeping their physical and social distance, but it is hard and right now it is not working for many reasons.” 

“Every gathering needs to be our own household only and at maximum, our safe six.”

B.C.’s provincial health officer said additional public health measures can and will be put in place if they are needed, like conditions tied to wedding licenses, more restrictions to gatherings and other measures.

“We are also seeing that people are having one event with a smaller number and another event with a different group of people, and that again introduces more risk,” Dr. Henry said.

When asked about Thanksgiving gatherings, B.C.’s provincial health officer said she knows of “at least one or two” that are related “quite large” family gatherings to celebrate the holiday.

Dr. Henry indicated that most recently, COVID-19 cases related to social gathering have not been disproportionally in the younger age group, like it was in the summer.

More details on first school outbreak

On Wednesday, B.C. reported its first school outbreak in Kelowna at at École de l’Anse-au-sabe. Dr. Henry has confirmed up to five COVID-19 cases are related to this school community and there are 160 people isolating.

She added that there have been 213 exposure events related to schools and six clusters of more than one person being infected with the virus.

“We are not seeing return to school cause amplification in our communities but it does, as we’ve been expecting, reflect what is going on in our communities,” Dr. Henry said.

B.C.’s provincial health officer said as the public health investigation is conducted, another cohort may have to be isolated or the school may need to be closed if other exposures come to light. Dr. Henry added that she thinks a school closure, based on her knowledge

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Nearly 50 people sick after fellowship event at a small church in Maine

A total of 49 cases have been linked to an outbreak at the Brooks Pentecostal Church in Waldo County, the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention Director Dr. Nirav Shah said at a news conference Thursday.

“We expect that number to increase over the next days,” Shah said.

Seven of the cases are associated with the Lighthouse Christian Academy, a church-affiliated school on its property in the town of Brooks.

The pastor of the church on Facebook expressed his sadness over the outbreak.

M.W. Shaw added that church officials were following quarantine measures before the first positive test was announced.

“Though the origin of the virus is unclear, we will be addressing all recommendations and guidelines provided to us by the CDC,” Shaw wrote. “Our church will be addressing our continuity of worship in a safe and orderly manner.”

CNN has reached out the church for comment but has not heard back.

The latest on the coronavirus pandemic

Bayview Manor, a residential care facility in nearby Searsport, also has one case connected to the outbreak, Shah said. The individual is a staff member and investigators are trying to determine whether there has been virus transmission at the facility.

Chad Cloutier, CEO of facility operator DLTC Healthcare, denied that the case was related to the outbreak and said that the facility had tested all residents and staff Sunday, immediately after learning an employee had tested positive. All results came back negative, Cloutier said.

Three elementary schools are under investigation as part of the outbreak. The state is not aware of any cases of transmission related to these schools as of yet, Shah said.

Shah emphasized that the schools and the facility are not experiencing outbreaks within themselves, but rather there are individuals who have tested positive as part of the outbreak who “have involvement” with them.

Officials are monitoring members of other churches and a Bible college where there may have been transmission of the virus from people who attended the fellowship event, which took place at the beginning of the month.

About 100 to 150 people attended the event, Shah said.

Coronavirus cases tied to a Maine wedding reception hit 147, with 3 deaths

He implored residents to get tested if they attended service at Brooks Pentecostal Church or came into contact with someone who did.

The state health department is working with the church and school officials to identify more cases and will expand testing within the county, Shah said. Waldo County has about 40,000 residents, 1,100 of whom live in Brooks.

CNN has reached out to the Maine CDC for additional comments.

CNN’s Anna Sturla and Julian Cummings contributed to this report.

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Want to protect people with preexisting conditions? You need the full ACA.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has been hammering home the points that the Trump administration backs that suit, that a Supreme Court with Amy Coney Barrett on it might be sympathetic to the challenge and that the ACA is what stands between voters and the old days when preexisting conditions could disqualify you from coverage.

President Trump, however, continues to insist that although the ACA is bad and should go, “we’re always protecting people with preexisting conditions.”

“I can’t say that more strongly,” he said during his town hall last week.

Republican Senators up for reelection have been making the same claim. “You know, preexisting conditions is something we all agree should be covered,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) said in a campaign ad this month.

There’s a danger that the two talking points will cancel each other out. (Both sides agree!) That’s why it’s important to understand the facts about why protections for preexisting conditions — the part of the ACA everyone seems to like — cannot be so easily saved if the rest of the law is overturned.

The ACA’s various taxes, subsidies and regulations make it possible for insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions (whose health care is generally more expensive). You can’t protect those people without the ACA or a substitute system — and the Republican opponents of the ACA have not offered a viable alternative.

Trump says that he has a competing plan, but what he’s done so far is the equivalent of waving a magic wand. Campaign-trail slogans aside, he issued an executive order saying it is the “policy of the United States” to “ensure that Americans with preexisting conditions can obtain the insurance of their choice at affordable rates.” But the president’s order carries no force of law.

Even if it did, you need a health insurance system, not a simple command from on high to achieve that goal. The details matter a lot here. First, truly protecting people with preexisting conditions requires a whole array of insurance regulations, not just one that generally prohibits discrimination against them. The ACA goes into significant detail to make sure there are no loopholes: It prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage, charging people higher premiums based on their health or gender, limiting benefits tied to preexisting conditions and capping insurance payouts for people who are very sick (either in one year or throughout their lifetimes).

Just as importantly, a plan to protect people with preexisting conditions has to contend with the economic forces that make doing so such a challenge. A key danger is what actuaries ominously call a “death spiral.”

If you guarantee comprehensive insurance to everyone, with no strings attached, people will tend to wait until they’re sick and need the insurance before buying it. With mostly sicker people in the insurance pool, premiums would go up, causing an even larger number of healthier people to drop their coverage. This process would continue and premiums would spiral out of control. The insurance market

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Upcoming Supreme Court Ruling Could Jeopardize Health Insurance for People with COVID

The death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg—and President Donald Trump’s controversial nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to fill her seat—have ignited concerns over how a court with a six-to-three conservative majority might rule on an upcoming case on the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to vote on Barrett’s confirmation this Thursday. On November 10 the court will hear Texas v. California. That case will decide whether to uphold a lower court’s ruling that the ACA’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance makes the entire act unconstitutional—or to declare that the mandate is “severable” from the rest of it. If the ACA as a whole is struck down, 20 million people in the U.S. would lose their insurance. Even if it is partially struck down, up to 129 million could lose protections for preexisting conditions—including the more than eight million who have had COVID-19. If she is confirmed before the case is heard, Barrett has given no assurances that she will vote to uphold the landmark health care law.

Many legal scholars say the case for nixing the entire ACA is very weak. But even if the court severs the mandate from most of the law—as Justice Brett Kavanaugh and others have hinted—and strikes down only parts of it, that decision could still do significant damage because the ACA is so intricately tied to the health care system, a number of experts say. Invalidating the law would “throw the nation into economic chaos, in addition to people not having health insurance,” says Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, a professional organization that promotes public health. “The unintended consequences of even a small tinkering of the ACA could have enormous implications.”

In 2012 the Supreme Court ruled in National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius that the ACA’s individual mandate was constitutional because the penalty for not being insured could be considered a tax. But in 2017 Congress passed a tax bill that lowered the penalty to $0, beginning in January 2019. As a result, Texas and other states filed a civil suit claiming the mandate was unconstitutional in 2018. A federal judge in Texas ruled that the individual mandate was unconstitutional and nonseverable, making the entire law unconstitutional—but he did not overturn it. The decision was appealed and eventually made it to the Supreme Court, which is now preparing to hear the case.

A range of different outcomes is possible, according to Katie Keith, a part-time research faculty member at the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University and a principal at the consulting firm Keith Policy Solutions. First, the court will have to determine whether the plaintiffs have standing to challenge the mandate. “If the answer is no, the case kind of goes away,” she says. Second, it must decide whether the mandate is constitutional or not. “Reasonable minds could disagree,” she says, but the case also goes away if the mandate is found to be constitutional.

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