Indiana and Indianapolis have spent millions to hire contact tracers to reach out to people infected with the coronavirus and others they have been in contact with to help stop the spread. Here’s how that works.
Local health authorities should look to universities for examples of the best way to deal with current coronavirus outbreaks, government experts told Southern Indiana officials at meetings earlier this week.
Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force met with hospital staff and county officials from the southwest and southeast corners of the state, which have seen their coronavirus cases, positivity rates, and hospitalizations climb dramatically.
Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota have all seen coronavirus spread in rural areas, Birx said in a telephone interview with IndyStar on Friday. She said she has been meeting with officials in rural areas to ensure that they are aware of how serious the virus can be. People living in rural areas may be wrongly assuming that because they do not live in crowded surroundings they are safe from infection.
“We really talked about how much spread there is again in the rural area and our concern that individuals in rural areas sometimes believe that they’re naturally socially distanced,” she said. “Often rural communities have smaller community hospitals that can easily get overrun.”
While statewide more than 30% of intensive care unit beds are currently available, in the southwestern corner of the state just under 21% are open, and in the southeastern corner of the state just 11% of beds are open.
Some communities might consider following in the footsteps of universities that have implemented randomized testing programs to find asymptomatic students and quarantine them, which helps curb the spread of the virus, Birx said.
“Because they’re able to find that silent spread, they can do that 10-day isolation of asymptomatic students and prevent that community spread,” she said.
Communities might decide to use the new federal antigen tests being provided to states to conduct random weekly surveillance among populations such as first responders, police, prison staff, health care workers and others to try to ferret out the coronavirus.
Universities that have such programs in place have done a better job at controlling virus spread than others that do not have such programs, Birx said. But even with such programs, campuses such as the University of Michigan and the University of Notre Dame have seen recent spikes in cases due to parties and other social gatherings.
Off-campus many cases of the coronavirus also trace back to smaller gatherings with friends and family members when people let down their guard and their masks, Birx said. She said persuading people to take the steps known to prevent virus spread — wearing a mask, watching social distance, and washing hands — can be challenging, especially because people may be infected and not realize it.
“That concept of being infectious but not showing any symptoms is still a difficult concept,” Birx said. “That is hard for people to
By Robert Preidt, HealthDay Reporter
TUESDAY, Oct. 20, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Measures enacted to slow the spread of the new coronavirus also appeared to reduce hospitalizations for asthma, a new study finds.
Researchers compared weekly data on hospitalizations at 272 hospitals in Japan in the first five months of 2020 to the same period in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Asthma hospitalizations in 2017-19 and 2020 showed similar trends until week eight, but in 2020 hospitalizations began to decline in week nine, the study found.
Hospitalizations for COVID-19 were first recorded during week seven of 2020. Further analysis found a significant decrease in the average number of asthma hospitalizations during weeks nine to 22 of this year compared to 2017-19.
The findings were published Oct. 13 in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice.
“Asthma hospitalizations usually indicate that an individual’s asthma is not currently under control,” corresponding author Dr. Atsushi Miyawaki, of the University of Tokyo, said in a journal news release. “This would suggest that asthma control improved during the pandemic. It illustrates the importance of environmental factors when it comes to treating and managing patients with asthma.”
One possible explanation is that increased hygiene to prevent COVID-19 would also reduce exposure to asthma triggers, according to the researchers. Enhanced precautions — such as frequent cleaning and reduced smoking — by people concerned that COVID-19 may trigger asthma may also have helped reduce triggers.
Other possible explanations include people being more likely to use preventative asthma medications, and community COVID-19 prevention measures helping reduce other respiratory infections, which can cause worsen asthma.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on asthma.
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