The dreaded fall and winter COVID-19 wave has arrived and with a vengeance. Much of the nation is experiencing a viral load of infections unlike those previously seen since the start of the pandemic.
Any one metric by itself doesn’t fully relay the significance of the threat, but coupling it with multiple metrics, like the number of daily new cases, percent positivity rate, infection rate, hospitalization rate and deaths, provide a more complete burden of the illness.
There are 50 epidemics playing out in the United States, each state with its own trajectory and prognosis. Only two states, Maine and Vermont, are trending in the right direction, having control on their epidemic, the remaining 48 states are all trending in the wrong direction.
To curb the spread of COVID-19, these are five measures that must be taken to prevent further amplification of cases, illnesses, hospitalizations and death.
1. Mandate face masks
The verdict is in, masks work. In a study published in Health Affairs, mask mandates in 15 states and the District of Columbia led to a slower daily COVID-19 growth rate that was seen over time.
Currently across the nation, 49% of Americans wear a mask in public, with only some states mandating wearing a face covering. If we increase this to 95%, we could save 129,000 lives, the study said.
2. Better risk communication on preventative measures
Communication can make or break any medical response. Countries, like those in Asia, that have been able to curtail the spread of COVID-19 have showcased effective risk communication with the general public — that is — telling the public in layman’s terms the good, the bad, the ugly and what we don’t know yet.
MORE: Massachusetts’ COVID-19 response was science-based, so why are cases rising?
Even more important is saying it with one voice, not mixed messages that erodes trust. During a time when many Americans are experiencing pandemic fatigue, are confused about the evolving science of COVID-19 and want to resume pre-pandemic activities, providing coherent, consistent and reliable guidance has never been more important.
Reliable guidance includes communicating what constitutes low-risk activities (outdoor events) versus high-risk activities (indoors, confined space and poor ventilation), as well as reminding people to stay home when sick, and continue physical distancing and hand-washing.
3. Surveillance at the local level
Early in this pandemic, the nation was blinded by the number of COVID-19 cases that were brewing in our communities. Fast forward 10 months, and we’ve learned a lot about this disease and the various indicators that can help track and trace where the virus is spreading.
Wearing a fitness device could help the battle to control the spread of Covid-19.
Scientists from the Scripps Research Translational Institute believe using a mobile app to collect activity from consenting adults may slow down the global pandemic. The DETECT Study was launched in March and has concluded that wearable devices like the Fitbit could identify Covid-19 symptoms including changes in heart rate, sleep, and activity levels.
“What’s exciting here is that we now have a validated digital signal for Covid-19. The next step is to use this to prevent emerging outbreaks from spreading,” said Eric Topol, MD, director and founder of the Scripps Research Translational Institute. “Roughly 100 million Americans already have a wearable tracker or smartwatch and can help us; all we need is a tiny fraction of them – just 1 per cent or 2 per cent – to use the app.”
Adults living in the U.S. have been invited to participate in the study by downloading the research app MyDataHelps, which will gather diagnostic health changes and also ask people to report any symptoms they may be experiencing. Changes detected by the fitness device will be analysed to see if they are outside of the individual’s normal range for sleep, resting heart rate, or activity level.
“One of the greatest challenges in stopping Covid-19 from spreading is the ability to quickly identify, trace and isolate infected individuals,” explained study author Giorgio Quer, PhD, director of artificial intelligence at Scripps Research Translational Institute. “Early identification of those who are pre-symptomatic or even asymptomatic would be especially valuable, as people may potentially be even more infectious during this period. That’s the ultimate goal.”
Experts are hoping a predictive model may eventually be able to identify coronavirus hotspots early.
More than 30,500 people had agreed to take part in the study as of 7 June, and scientists are hoping to get at least 100,000 individuals to participate.
The study was published in Nature Medicine.
El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego issued the curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Sunday night for the next two weeks to help curb the rising rates.
The county — which includes the city of El Paso and sits in the southwest border of Texas above Juarez, Mexico — has seen a 160% increase in positivity rate since October 1 and a 300% increase in hospitalizations, the judge said.
“We’ve had significant spikes to the point that our hospital capacity is really tapped. We’re probably at the end of our rope there,” Mayor Dee Margo told CNN’s Ana Cabrera on Newsroom Sunday night. “It’s not good here at all.”
US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) resources will arrive in Texas this week, including two 35-person Disaster Medical Assistance Teams and a Trauma Critical Car Team, according to a statement from Governor Greg Abbott’s office.
Curfew imposed to slow spread
“The curfew is enough to limit the economic consequences on local businesses by allowing the stores to stay open. We carefully thought about the economic impact if we were to impose a full stay at home order like we did at the beginning of this process,” Samaniego explained.
“We know the impact it would have for you not to be able to go to work. So we’re going to do everything possible to continue moving towards the balancing of the economy and making sure that we adhere to public health and everything that is required for us to continue our battle against this very insidious virus,” he added.
Those who don’t comply with orders could face a fine of $250 for not wearing a mask and $500 for not following the order, Samaniego said.
Mayor Margo said that while there hasn’t been one cause identified for the recent surge, many cases have been attributed to community spread and people letting their guard down.
“We did an analysis for two weeks on 2,404 cases from October 6 through October 20 and what we found is that 37% of our positives were from visiting large big-box stores, 22.5% were restaurants, and 19% were travel to Mexico,” Margo explained, adding that 10% were attributed to parties and reunions, 7.5% were due to gyms and only 4% were due to large gatherings.
The mayor urged people to
By Nancy Lapid
(Reuters) – The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.
Wildfire smoke likely helped to spread COVID-19
Large wildfires may be linked to increases in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the San Francisco area, according to a paper in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. Researchers found that between March and September, increases in smoke particles, other wildfire pollutants and carbon monoxide levels corresponded to increases in daily COVID-19 diagnoses and total COVID-19 deaths. While correlation does not necessarily mean causality, coauthor Sultan Ayoub Meo of King Saud University in Saudi Arabia said air pollution provides a means for viruses to move around the environment. These tiny pollution particles, along with the microorganisms they carry, “can easily be inhaled deep into the lungs and cause infections,” Meo said. “Carbon monoxide is a highly toxic gas which can damage our lungs, resulting as a triggering factor for an increase in COVID-19 cases and deaths in the wildfire region,” he told Reuters. (https://bit.ly/2FXvAh0)
Antiviral mouthwash could help curb coronavirus transmission
Mouthwashes with antiviral ingredients could help decrease COVID-19 transmission by reducing viral loads in the mouths of infected patients when they cough, sneeze or speak, according to a paper in the Journal of Dental Research published on Thursday. Studies have found that rinses containing cetylpyridinium chloride or povidone-iodine can reduce the oral coronavirus load; other promising compounds include hydrogen peroxide, chlorhexidine, cyclodextrin, Citrox, and certain essential oils. Coauthor Dr. Florence Carrouel of University Claude Bernard Lyon in France told Reuters everyone should be using these mouthwashes because people can be infected and not realize it. While more studies are needed to determine appropriate regimens, she suggests using three doses of antiviral mouthwash the day before a meeting, and one dose the morning of the event. COVID-19 patients should be using mouthwash regularly for seven to 10 days. (https://bit.ly/35r1efw)
Common-cold antibodies may hijack body’s COVID-19 response
A phenomenon called “antigenic sin” may explain why some COVID-19 patients become critically ill, researchers say. Because the new virus shares some features with coronaviruses that cause common colds, the body’s immune response can include antibodies that previously learned to recognize and attack those older viruses. This can in turn detract from the body’s ability to fight COVID-19, because the common cold antibodies do not reliably attack the new virus. In severely ill COVID-19 patients, the immune response directed at other coronaviruses is higher than in mildly ill patients, researchers reported on medRxiv ahead of peer review. This situation – when the body reacts to a new invader based on its “memory” of previous invaders – has been seen before and is called “original antigenic sin.” New vaccines must be able to prompt an immune response against this new virus, not merely boost immune responses toward common cold viruses, said coauthor Gijsbert van Nierop of Erasmus Medical