A senior Trump administration official has tested positive for the coronavirus after a trip to Europe, sparking concerns over transmission of the virus among government personnel.
Peter Berkowitz, the director of policy planning at the State Department, met with officials at 10 Downing Street and the Foreign Office in London. He also had meetings in Paris and in Budapest, with Hungarian State Secretary Peter Sztaray and Deputy State Secretary Ferenc Dancs, earlier this month.
The diagnosis was first reported by The Washington Post, and an official told the paper that Berkowitz was inconsistent in following mask-wearing and social distancing guidelines.
The State Department denied that Berkowitz was lax in following health guidance.
Video: 19 times Trump promised to enact a health-care plan (The Washington Post)
“During all of Director Berkowitz’s engagements abroad, he consistently followed the mask-wearing protocol demonstrated by his counterparts from the host government. As Secretary Pompeo has said, we take the threat posed by COVID-19 very seriously, and extend every precaution to protect each member of our team as we carry out our diplomatic engagement during these unprecedented times,” a State Department spokesperson told The Hill.
“We are closely monitoring daily COVID-19 developments, and continue to apply the best science and the current public health recommendations to support the entire team as we continue to achieve results on behalf of the American people.”
Administration officials are reportedly in contact with government personnel in the three countries Berkowitz visited, and an official told the Post that no cases have been reported in Hungary that are related to the trip.
The news of the diagnosis comes as both the U.S. and Europe grapple with new rises in cases and hospitalizations from the coronavirus. Among the most high-profile outbreaks was last week’s news that several members of Vice President Pence’s staff had tested positive for the coronavirus, while Europe has reported more than 1.3 million new cases this past week.
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Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, Marc Short, tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday, Pence’s office announced.
Pence and his wife Karen both tested negative for the coronavirus on Saturday and “remain in good health,” Pence’s press secretary Devin O’Malley in a statement Saturday, and Short “began quarantine and assisting in the contact tracing process” the same day.
Three more of the vice president’s staff members along with an adviser to Pence have also reportedly tested positive for the virus.
“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 CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” O’Malley said.
Pence is currently on the campaign trail and held rallies in Lakeland and Tallahassee in Florida on Saturday. Less than two weeks out from the presidential election, he plans to travel to North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota soon as well.
Aides who were found to have had close contact with Short were reportedly taken off Pence’s trip before it began.
Short’s positive coronavirus diagnosis, the latest among many senior White House officials who have contracted the virus in recent weeks, comes nearly two weeks after President Trump tested negative for the virus after being hospitalized for several days with the virus earlier this month.
The CDC has recommended that essential workers who have had close contact with an individual who tested positive for the virus wear a mask for 14 days “at all times while in the workplace.”
More than 224,000 people have died after being infected with the coronavirus in the U.S., and more than 8 million people have contracted the virus.
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One day after the final presidential debate of 2020 , Vice President Mike Pence told supporters in Ohio that President Donald Trump “won the debate hands down.” (Oct 23)
WASHINGTON – Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, tested positive for COVID-19 Saturday, Pence’s spokesman said in a statement Saturday night after reports that another senior adviser had also tested positive.
Short began isolating Saturday and assisting in the contact tracing process, according to Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley.
Both Pence and his wife, Karen, tested negative Saturday and Pence is not curtailing his movements despite having been in close contact with Short.
“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 CDC guidelines for essential personnel,” O’Malley said in the statement.
Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, speaks with members of the media outside the White House, Nov. 19, 2019, in Washington. (Photo: Patrick Semansky, AP)
Pence is head of the White House’s coronavirus task force.
Bloomberg said it wasn’t immediately clear whether Obst had developed symptoms of COVID-19.
CNN reported that Obst tested positive earlier this week.
Obst did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Vice-president Mike Pence addresses supporters at a campaign rally Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in Tallahassee, Fla. (Photo: Steve Cannon, AP)
Both Obst and Short often travel with Pence.
Short, but not Obst, traveled with Pence to Indiana Thursday and interacted with the supporters who came out for Pence’s rally in Fort Wayne.
Short did not travel with Pence to Florida on Saturday. Aides who had been in close contact with Short were pulled from the trip before departure.
The New York Times reported that at least one additional Pence aide has also tested positive.
Pence has had a heavy traveling schedule, making at least one campaign stop most days this month.
“When Joe Biden is talking about shutting down our economy, we are opening up America again,” Pence said in Lakeland, Florida, before his second rally in Tallahassee.
He’s traveling to Kinston, North Carolina, on Sunday.
Karen Pence, is headlining an event in New Hill, North Carolina, Monday. On Tuesday, the vice president is scheduled to travel to Greensboro, North Carolina, and Greenville, South Carolina.
During the vice presidential debate this month, Pence was asked how the administration can expect Americans to follow COVID safety guidelines when those at the White House haven’t done so.
Pence said he and Trump trust people to make choices that are in the best interest of their health.
“Joe Biden and Kamala Harris consistently talk about mandates,” Pence said. “We’re about freedom and respecting the freedom of the
Two drugmakers announced Friday the resumption of U.S. testing of their COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
Testing of AstraZeneca’s vaccine candidate had been halted since early September, while Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine study was paused at the beginning of last week. Each company had a study volunteer develop a serious health issue, requiring a review of safety data.
The two coronavirus vaccines are among several candidates in final-stage testing, the last step before seeking regulatory approval.
The drugmakers said they got the go-ahead Friday from the Food and Drug Administration to restart tests in the U.S.
Such temporary halts of drug and vaccine testing are relatively common: In research involving thousands of participants, some are likely to fall ill. Pausing a study allows researchers to investigate whether an illness is a side effect or a coincidence.
Testing of the AstraZeneca vaccine, developed with Oxford University, has already resumed in the United Kingdom, Brazil, South Africa and Japan.
“The restart of clinical trials across the world is great news as it allows us to continue our efforts to develop this vaccine to help defeat this terrible pandemic,” Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s CEO, said in a statement.
AstraZeneca’s study involves 30,000 people in the U.S., with some getting the vaccine and others a dummy shot.
Testing was stopped after one British participant developed severe neurological symptoms consistent with a rare inflammation of the spinal cord called transverse myelitis. AstraZeneca testing had also been paused earlier in the summer.
Johnson & Johnson said it’s preparing to resume recruitment soon for its U.S. vaccine study. In a statement, the company didn’t disclose the nature of the volunteer’s illness but said a thorough evaluation “found no evidence that the vaccine candidate caused the event.”
The company added that it’s in talks with other regulators around the world to resume testing in their countries.
Follow Linda A. Johnson on Twitter: @LindaJ_onPharma
The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
In Alabama, the positivity rate for coronavirus tests reached 16.9 percent as of Thursday – the highest it’s been since mid-September.
But it’s hard to compare that rate over time, because data backlogs and changes in reporting here have made comparisons difficult. State data is messy and getting messier.
On Sept. 1, for instance, the state changed the way it reports tests and removed about 27,000 tests from the logs. And this week, roughly 2,500 new probable cases in Mobile weren’t accompanied by a similar increase in tests.
The data issues can make it difficult to monitor progress in Alabama. For example, this week the Alabama Department of Public Health reported more than 10,000 coronavirus cases in the state, but that includes those 2,500 from a backlog at a local lab in Mobile County. Those cases were from some time between June and October 18. And maybe some came from other counties near Mobile.
Prior to the large influx on Friday from that backlog, the state was seeing a rise in new cases. The 7-day average for total new virus cases reached 1,128 in Alabama on Thursday. That’s the highest it’s been since Sept. 5.
[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]
But the increase in new cases hasn’t been accompanied by an equal increase in tests. Between Oct. 1 and Oct. 22, the 7-day average for new cases has gone up by about five percent. Over the same span, the 7-day average for daily tests has done down by 23 percent.
The World Health Organization in May suggested countries should have positivity rates lower than 5 percent for at least 14 days before reopening.
Within Alabama, from county to county, positivity rates are all over the map.
[Can’t see the map? Click here.]
As of Thursday, Lamar County in northwest Alabama had the highest rate in the state at 45 percent. In the week leading up to Thursday, 37 cases were reported in Lamar County, and just 83 tests.
DeKalb County, in northeast Alabama, had a similar positivity rate with nearly 10 times the test numbers. More than 42 percent of the 720 tests performed there over that span came back positive.
No Alabama counties were below 5 percent positivity rate as of Thursday.
[Can’t see the chart? Click here.]
Probable cases primarily include those found through antigen testing, and also those without any confirmed test but where the person has symptoms and has been in close contact with a confirmed case. The large increase in probables, along with confirmed cases, made this week’s total the highest since early August.
But that’s probably not a fair representation. Clicking on the ‘confirmed cases’ tab on the chart above controls for backlogs of probable cases and better shows the rise over recent weeks.
Confirmed cases are those with a positive molecular test, which takes longer but is considered more accurate. And though confirmed cases are slightly up, reported deaths are down significantly this week. The state reported 73 total virus deaths this
By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter
FRIDAY, Oct. 23, 2020 (HealthDay News) — A cough could spread a cloud of COVID-19 throughout a room, but a face mask can greatly shrink the size and spread of that cloud, a new study finds.
In fact, the volume of the cloud without a mask is about seven times larger than with a surgical mask and 23 times larger than with an N95 mask, the researchers found.
“We found that anything that reduces the distance traveled by the cloud, such as a mask, handkerchief, or coughing into an elbow, should greatly reduce the region over which the droplets disperse upon coughing, and therefore the chances of infection,” said researcher Rajneesh Bhardwaj, from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, in Mumbai.
Using jet theory and data from the literature, Bhardwaj and colleague Amit Agrawal found the first 5 to 8 seconds after coughing is critical for suspending droplets in the air and the spread of the disease. After that, the cough cloud starts to break up.
The study findings helped the researchers develop a formula to determine the maximum number of people that can be in a hospital ward, and the rate at which air in a room, elevator, movie theater, car, plane cabin or restaurant needs to be circulated to keep the air fresh and reduce the odds of infection.
The report was published online Oct. 20 in the journal Physics of Fluids.
“We estimate this volume of the air, which may help to design ventilation of closed spaces and consequently reduce the spread of the disease,” Agrawal said in a news release from the American Institute of Physics.
Copyright © 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
Tygart said he saw all of this as something of victory, since studies of doping prevalence from the past decade have recorded anonymous admissions of guilt from as many as 40 percent of respondents.
While the athletes in the USADA study admitted to far lower levels of doping, they expressed deep skepticism that their rivals were abiding by the rules. More than 50 percent said they believed international athletes had used the lull in testing caused by the pandemic as a doping opportunity, and 30 percent said they suspected American athletes had done so.
“Without testing, the confidence in the system goes way down,” Tygart said.
And the temptation remains. Just 42 percent of those surveyed said integrity in sports was more important than financial gain.
James Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the World Antidoping Agency, said testing numbers had been on the rise since May, though they still remain far behind last year’s figures, in part because so many competitions, where a lot of testing occurs, had been canceled. . In September, 17,643 tests were conducted, compared with 26,638 during that month in 2019.
Fitzgerald said national and regional antidoping organizations were doing their best while adhering to limits the local health authorities have placed on their activities. But he added that WADA does have other tools.
“While testing is important as a means to catch cheats and as a deterrent, it is not the only strategy available,” Fitzgerald said. “There are other angles of attack being pursued, which include intelligence and investigations, technology and research, sample storage and re-analysis, and the Athlete Biological Passport,” which can track dramatic changes in blood and hormone levels over time.
The damage to sporting integrity, though, may be done already. Studies have shown that even one cycle of performance-enhancing drugs that quickly leave the body can produce benefits that last as long as four years. That would certainly make a cycle that took place last spring beneficial at the Olympics next summer, or the Winter Games in Beijing in February 2022.