While more than 94 million people have voted already in the 2020 presidential election, amounting to more than 67% of 2016’s overall turnout of 138 million votes, voters who plan to cast their ballot in-person are doing so ascases continue to surge nationwide.
“Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennanwith former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb last week for insight on just what masks work best and are safest for those looking to vote on Election Day.
Gottlieb said when it comes to masks that afford you the protection you need from others during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s quality that matters.
“A cloth mask may be 10% to 30% protective. A surgical mask, a level-two or level-three surgical mask, procedure mask, maybe about 60% effective. An N95 mask or an equivalent like a KN95 mask, which is the Chinese equivalent, or what we call an FFP2 mask, which is a European equivalent to an N95, that could be 90 to 95% protective,” Gottlieb said.
“If you want to mask to afford you a level of protection, wear a higher quality mask. If you only can get a cloth mask, thickness matters and cloth masks with polyester in them and a combination of polyester and cotton do better,” he added.
Gottlieb explained that masks largely serve two purposes: “One is to protect other people from you. So if you’re asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic, if you have a mask on, you’re less likely to expel respiratory droplets that can infect other people. The other purpose is to provide you some measure of protection if, in fact, you’re around people who are infected.”
His recommendation comes as the spread of the virus is accelerating in dozens of states, including across the Midwest and the Great Lakes region, while 15 states have a positivity rate above 10%. There is an expanding epidemic in all 50 states, he“Face the Nation” on Sunday.
Gottlieb has also been optimistic that measures to protect those who choose to vote in-person would be taken seriously, but ultimately everyone has a personal responsibility to protect themselves.
“I think when you go out to vote, the voting places are taking precautions. They’re sequencing people carefully. They’re cleaning the voting stations in between voters. Their lines are going to be long, but they’re going to take precautions inside those settings. And I think when people go out to vote, if they wear a high quality mask, they can adequately protect themselves,” heon October 18.
“The biggest risk are the settings where we’re not on guard, where we let our guard down, where we are not taking those kinds of precautions. So I think you can vote safely, even in places where there’s high prevalence. But you’re going to need to be careful,” he added.
Since the outset of the pandemic, there have been more than 9.2 million coronavirus cases in the U.S., and the death
As COVID-19 took hold in March, U.S. doctors limited in-person appointments — and many patients avoided them — for fear of infection. The result was a huge increase in the volume of remote medical and behavioral health visits.
Doctors, hospitals and mental health providers across the country reported a 50- to 175-fold rise in the number of virtual visits, according to a report released in May by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co.
The COVID-fueled surge has tapered off as patients venture back to doctors’ offices. But medical professionals and health experts predict that when the pandemic is over, telehealth will still play a much larger role than before.
“There are still a few doubting Thomases, but now that we’ve run our practices this way for three months, people have learned that it’s pretty useful,” says Dr. Joseph Kvedar, president of the American Telemedicine Association and a practicing dermatologist who teaches at Harvard Medical School in Boston.
For patients, the advantages of telemedicine are clear: You typically can get an appointment sooner, in the safety of your own home or workplace, saving time and money on gas and parking — in some cases, even avoiding a loss in wages for missing work.
James Wolfrom, a 69-year-old retired postal executive in San Francisco, has had mostly virtual health care appointments since the pandemic started. He particularly appreciates the video visits.
“It’s just like I’m in the room with the doctor, with all of the benefits and none of the disadvantages of having to haul my body over to the facility,” says Wolfrom, who has Type 2 diabetes. “Even after the pandemic, I’m going to prefer doing the video conferencing over having to go there.”
Telemedicine also provides care for people in rural areas who live far from medical facilities.
The growth of virtual care has been facilitated by Medicare rule changes for the COVID-19 emergency, including one that reimburses doctors for telemedicine at the same rate as in-person care for an expanded list of services. State regulators and commercial health plans also loosened their telehealth policies.
In California, the Department of Managed Health Care, which regulates health plans covering the vast majority of the state’s insured residents, requires commercial plans and most Medi-Cal managed care plans during the pandemic to pay providers for telehealth at parity with regular appointments and limit cost sharing by patients to no more than what they would pay for in-person visits. Starting Jan. 1, a state law — AB-744 — will make that permanent for commercial plans.
Five other states — Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Minnesota and New Mexico — have pay-parity laws already in effect, according to Mei Wa Kwong, executive director of the Center for Connected Health Policy. Washington state has one that also will begin Jan. 1.
If you are planning a telehealth appointment, be sure to ask your health plan if it is covered and how much the copay or coinsurance will be. The appointment may be through your in-network provider or a
WALLINGFORD, CT — A “large portion” of Wallingford’s coronavirus cases in October came from a single event in town, according to Health Director Stephen Civitelli.
In an update to the Town Council this week, Civitelli said health officials were able to contact trace the confirmed COVID-19 cases to the event and found there were relationships with multiple people that also ended up impacting schools.
Civitelli provided the update at Tuesday night’s meeting, which was the first in-person Town Council meeting since April because of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision to resume in-person council meetings was criticized by several people on the Wallingford Patch Neighbor Post page and a speaker at the meeting.
Coronavirus cases have been on the rise in Wallingford in October. There were 20 confirmed cases as of Oct. 13, compared to 33 cases in September, 24 in August and 18 in July.
There were 1,928 tests conducted from Sept. 26 to Oct. 3 with a positive test rate of .7 percent, according to Civitelli.
Phase 3 of the state’s reopening, which increased indoor restaurant and personal service capacity from 50 to 75 percent, began Oct. 8 and Civitelli said health officials are trying to monitor reopenings with the cases and “how we react to that as a community.”
“We’re trying to monitor everything as best we can to try and get a grasp on where cases are and get to those quickly, so that we can identify the situation and try to isolate the people before it becomes a greater issue,” Civitelli said.
Civitelli, who was appointed this week to Gov. Ned Lamont’s Vaccine Advisory Group, compared Wallingford’s case rate to two cities that were recently assigned a “Red” alert level for the state’s coronavirus warning system. Towns in the red threshold have the option to scale back to the state’s second reopening phase.
Based on a new case rate per 100,000 population, New London had a 14-day rolling average of 30.5, Norwich was 46.9 and Wallingford was at 3.7, according to Civitelli.
The school district notified parents several times within the past week of confirmed COVID-19 cases at five different schools. Councilor Chris Shortell asked Civitelli if there is a concern about the school system.
Civitelli said “not at this point” because contact tracing showed the cases originated from within the community and were not spread from students in the same cohort at school.
“If we’re identifying where everything is coming from, that’s a good thing,” Civitelli said. “It’s when I can’t wrap my arms around it, and there’s no way where I can trace it back, then that’s where we’re back in April and early May where it was just so widespread. At that point, then you have true community spread. As of right now, it seems like it’s fairly steady.”
In-person meetings resume in Wallingford
Council Chairman Vincent Cervoni opened the meeting saying it was “appropriate” for the council to resume in-person meetings.
“In the past month, children of Wallingford have returned