- As the coronavirus continues to spread across the country, more cities and states are adopting mask mandates.
- Many gyms and indoor training facilities require masks when working out to help slow the spread of coronavirus and COVID-19.
- A new study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that wearing a mask does not hinder performance or oxygen levels.
Though gyms and fitness studios have slowly reopened, that doesn’t mean the spread of coronavirus is under control. To help mitigate the spread, many gyms and indoor training facilities require clients to wear masks or face coverings. The good news: Early research suggests they don’t actually hinder your performance in terms of time to exhaustion or peak power output, and had no discernible negative effect on blood or muscle oxygenation levels, rate of perceived exertion, or heart rate in young, healthy adults.
Researchers at the University of Saskatchewan gathered a small sample of 7 men and 7 women, ranging from slightly inactive (not meeting the Physical Activity Guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week in Canada) to elite cyclists and tested the effects of wearing a three-layer cloth face mask, a surgical mask, and no mask on their exercise performance. (The Association of American Medical Colleges suggests that cloth masks should have at least two layers whenever possible to be most effective.)
The study participants started with a brief warmup on a stationary bike, then underwent a progressive-intensity exercise test, during which they had to maintain the same pedal rate while the resistance was continually increased until exhaustion, Phil Chilibeck, Ph.D., professor at the University of Saskatchewan College of Kinesiology and co-author of the study explained to Runner’s World. Heart rate, blood oxygen saturation, and rate of perceived exertion were recorded every 30 seconds.
Each of the three tests were done on a different day to allow full recovery between tests, Chilibeck added. Additionally, participants were required to maintain similar diet, sleep, and exercise routines for 24 hours before each test.
The results, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that wearing a mask had no effect on performance or muscle oxygen levels. Since there was no difference in time to exhaustion between conditions, the peak power reached at the end of each test was similar in mask and no-mask conditions for all participants, Chilibeck explained. Researchers also did not see any effects of the masks during exercise on arterial (blood) oxygen levels, which would decrease if breathing was affected.
And while droplet spread was not measured, all masks used were tested in a previous study in which they were shown to effectively minimize droplet spread, according to Chilibeck.
By Ernie Mundell and Robin Foster HealthDay Reporters
MONDAY, Nov. 2, 2020 (HealthDay News) — During a rally in Florida late Sunday night, President Donald Trump suggested that he would fire the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, as soon as the presidential election is over on Tuesday.
As he expressed frustration that the coronavirus remains prominent in the news — U.S. case counts are at their highest levels since the pandemic began — supporters in the crowd began chanting, “Fire Fauci,” the Associated Press reported.
Trump replied with this: “Don’t tell anybody, but let me wait until a little bit after the election.” He has previously expressed that he was concerned about the political blowback of removing the popular and respected doctor before Election Day. He added he appreciated the “advice” of the crowd.
Fauci, who heads up the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has begun to challenge the president publicly, saying that Trump has ignored his advice for containing the virus and that he hasn’t spoken with Trump in more than a month. He has also warned repeatedly that the nation is heading for a tough winter if more isn’t done soon to slow the spread of the disease which has killed more than 230,000 Americans so far this year, the AP reported.
The latest case counts suggest Fauci is right: More than 9.2 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and the seven-day average of new daily coronavirus infections in the United States hit a new high of 81,740 on Sunday, the Washington Post reported. Record-shattering numbers of hospitalizations were also recorded in nine states: Alaska, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, South Dakota and Utah.
“There is no way to sugarcoat it: We are facing an urgent crisis, and there is an imminent risk to you, your family members, your friends, your neighbors,” Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin said last week, The New York Times reported.
Evers’ state has been hard by coronavirus: More than 200 coronavirus deaths were announced last week, and as case numbers have exploded, hospitals have been strained.
But Wisconsin is not alone. The surge that started in the Upper Midwest and rural West has now spread far beyond, sending infection levels soaring in places as disparate as El Paso, Chicago and Rexburg, Idaho, according to the New York Times.
Daily reports of deaths from the virus still remain far below their spring peaks, averaging around 800 a day, but those have also started to climb, the Times reported.
States say they don’t have enough money to distribute a COVID vaccine
Meanwhile, state health officials say they are frustrated about a lack of financial support from the federal government as they face orders to prepare to receive and distribute the first doses of a coronavirus vaccine by the unlikely target date of Nov. 15, the Post reported. And these officials stress that they don’t have enough money to pay for the massive undertaking.
A high-sugar diet is bad for gut health and possibly increases the risk of colitis, a type of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), concluded the authors of a new study published in Science Translational Medicine on Wednesday.
Researchers with UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas, studied the effects of dietary sugars, namely glucose, fructose and sucrose, in mice for seven days.
Prior to feeding the animals a solution of water with a 10% concentration of dietary sugars, the researchers used “gene-sequencing techniques to identify the types and prevalence of bacteria found in the large intestines.” They repeated this step seven days later after feeding the mice the sugary solution.
By the end, the researchers found that mice that were either genetically predisposed to develop the colitis, or those that were given a chemical to induce the condition, “developed more severe symptoms if they were first given sugar,” per a news release regarding the findings.
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More specifically, after seven days, the mice fed sucrose, fructose and “especially glucose,” the researchers said, “showed significant changes in the microbial population inside the gut.” The researchers also noted that the mucus layer that protects the lining of the large intestine was thinning after the mice were fed a high-sugar diet.
“Bacteria known to produce mucus-degrading enzymes, such as Akkermansia, were found in greater numbers, while some other types of bugs considered good bacteria and commonly found in the gut, such as Lactobacillus, became less abundant,” per the news release.
HOSPITALIZED CORONAVIRUS PATIENTS WHO TAKE DAILY ASPIRIN HAVE LOWER DEATH RISK, STUDY FINDS
Though the research only looked at the effects of sugar on gut health in mice, the study “clearly shows that you really have to mind your food,” Dr. Hasan Zaki, who led the effort, said in a statement, noting that this is especially true in Western countries, where diets are often higher in fat, sugar and animal protein. There is also a greater prevalence of colitis – which can cause “persistent diarrhea, abdominal pain and rectal bleeding” – in Western countries, the researchers noted.
Indeed: As of 2015, an estimated 1.3% of U.S. adults – about 3 million people – were diagnosed with an inflammatory bowel disease, an increase from 0.9% or 2 million adults in 1999, per federal health data.
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“Colitis is a major public health problem in the U.S. and in other Western countries,” added Zaki. “This is very important from a public health point of view.”
Flu shots are already considered an important factor in combating the coronavirus pandemic, since widespread inoculations will hopefully help prevent medical facilities from becoming overwhelmed by dual diseases. But new research suggests flu shots may also play some role in preventing COVID-19 infections in the first place, The Scientific American reports.
A study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found that workers at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands who received a flu shot during the 2019-20 season were 39 percent less likely than their colleagues to test positive for the coronavirus as of June 1, 2020. Non-vaccinated employees contracted the virus at a 2.23 percent rate, compared to only 1.33 percent of those who were vaccinated.
The preliminary research would certainly require further clinical trials — though the author of the study noted it would be unethical to compel a control group of subjects to be denied a flu shot — and there could be several reasons why the vaccinated group staved off infection more easily, including the possibility that they are generally more health conscious and took more COVID-19 precautions.
Still, there have been other studies that hint at a possible link between flu shots (and other vaccines, for that matter) and lower COVID-19 risk. Additionally, the Radboud research team conducted a laboratory experiment in which they took blood cells from healthy individuals, purified them, and exposed some of them to a flu vaccine. After allowing the cells to grow for a few days, the researchers exposed them to the coronavirus. A day later they found that the vaccinated cells produced more of several kinds of immune molecules that fight off pathogens than those that were initially left alone. Read more at The Scientific American.
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The proportion of people with antibodies against the coronavirus in England waned over the span of three months, according to new research out of the U.K. that raises new questions about the achievability of long-lasting herd immunity.
The study, which hasn’t been peer-reviewed, found that the number of people with COVID-19 antibodies declined about 26% over the study period.
Researchers examined three rounds of finger-prick tests from about 365,000 people in England from June through September. They found that about 6% of people had antibodies after the first test, which dropped to 4.4% after the last round.
The findings “suggest the possibility of decreasing population immunity and increasing risk of reinfection as detectable antibodies decline in the population,” according to the study.
Photos: Daily Life, Disrupted
“This very large study has shown that the proportion of people with detectable antibodies is falling over time,” Helen Ward, one of the authors of the study and professor at Imperial College London, said in a statement. “We don’t yet know whether this will leave these people at risk of reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19, but it is essential that everyone continues to follow guidance to reduce the risk to themselves and others.”
The finding that antibodies against COVID-19 wane is not unexpected, as declines in antibodies to other human coronaviruses after infection have been documented.
“This is consistent with evidence that immunity to seasonal coronaviruses declines over 6 to 12 months after infection and emerging data on SARS-CoV-2 that also detected a decrease over time in antibody levels in individuals followed in longitudinal studies,” researchers wrote in the study.
Still, many have questioned how strong the immune response is to the virus and how long it lasts.
A study out last month found that antibody levels rose for about two months after infection and then plateaued through the four-month mark. That research “provides hope that host immunity to this unpredictable and highly contagious virus may not be fleeting and may be similar to that elicited by most other viral infections,” experts from Harvard University and the U.S. National Institutes of Health, who did not participate in the study, wrote in a commentary published alongside the conclusions.
Massive virus surges across Europe and the U.S. are underway. Some have suggested the controversial idea of letting the virus spread to possibly reach herd immunity, which is generally considered to be around 70% of the population.
Many health officials have decried the notion, and the World Health Organization noted that “we don’t know enough about immunity to COVID-19” for it to be a viable option.
“Never in the history of public health has herd immunity been used as a strategy for responding to an outbreak, let alone a pandemic,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference earlier this month.
In the U.S., White House chief of staff Mark Meadows offered a glimpse into President Donald Trump’s coronavirus strategy on Sunday, saying the federal government would focus on developing vaccines
U.S. health officials are urging Americans to get their flu shots this year in the hopes of thwarting a winter “twindemic”—a situation in which both influenza and COVID-19 spread and sicken the public. But a new study suggests that there could be another key reason to get a flu jab this year: it might reduce your risk of COVID-19. The research, released as a preprint that has not yet been peer-reviewed, indicates that a flu vaccine against the influenza virus also may trigger the body to produce broad infection-fighting molecules that combat the pandemic-causing coronavirus.
The paper is in line with some other recent studies published in peer-reviewed journals that point to similar effects. But researchers caution the research is preliminary and needs to be bolstered by more rigorous experiments.
In the new study, Mihai Netea, an infectious disease immunologist at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands, and his colleagues combed through their hospital’s databases to see if employees who got a flu shot during the 2019–2020 season were more or less likely to get infected by SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind COVID-19. Workers who received a flu vaccine, the researchers found, were 39 percent less likely to test positive for the coronavirus as of June 1, 2020. While 2.23 percent of nonvaccinated employees tested positive, only 1.33 percent of vaccinated ones did. Netea and his team posted their findings on the preprint server MedRxiv on October 16.
These findings do not prove that flu vaccines prevent COVID-19, however. “This is an intriguing study, but it doesn’t provide definitive evidence,” says Ellen Foxman, an immunobiologist and clinical pathologist at the Yale School of Medicine. There could be other explanations for the association the Radboud scientists and their colleagues found. For instance, people who choose to receive a flu shot may be more health-conscious and more likely to follow COVID-19 prevention guidelines than individuals who do not get vaccinated. Netea agrees, noting that overall behavior, rather than the shot, might have made people in the former group less likely to get sick in his study.
Studies such as these, which find correlations between behaviors and outcomes, cannot establish cause and effect. Determining whether flu shots actually prevent COVID-19 “requires big clinical trials at the level of the [general] population,” says Maziar Divangahi, a pulmonary immunologist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center. Netea acknowledges this but points out that such a clinical trial would require a randomly chosen control group of subjects to be denied flu shots. “That’s not ethical,” he says.
Netea and his team also conducted a laboratory experiment that suggested how flu shots could prevent coronavirus infections. First, they purified blood cells taken from healthy individuals. Then they exposed some of the cells to the Vaxigrip Tetra flu vaccine, made by Sanofi Pasteur, and let the cells grow for six days. After that, the researchers exposed the cells to the Sars-CoV-2 virus and analyzed them one day later.
The cells that had first been
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said he would like restaurants hire more staff that have previously contracted the coronavirus, according to The Daily Beast.
During a rally for Nick Freitas, a Republican candidate for Congress, in Central Virginia on Sunday, Paul suggested to a crowd that he would make the call himself if he had a restaurant.
“If I owned a restaurant, I’d have a whole wing for senior citizens or for anybody who is worried about getting sick, and I would say, ‘All my servers have already had it,'” Paul told the crowd, according to The Daily Beast. “If I had a cruise ship … everybody would have had the infection that works on the boat.”
Paul also referred to his previous coronavirus diagnosis during the rally, saying that once you’ve had COVID-19, you are immune.
“I’ve had it. I can’t get it again,” Paul said, according to The Daily Beast. “I can’t give it to you, and I can’t get it.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released guidance contradicting Paul’s stance. People are not immune to reinfection after recovering from the coronavirus, according to the CDC.
Paul contracted COVID-19 in March. He has publicly maintained that those who have had the virus do not need a face mask.
“I’m not telling you not to wear a mask,” Paul reiterated at the rally, according to The Daily Beast. “The cloth masks … I’m just telling you the truth, they don’t work. Ninety-seven percent of viruses go through a cloth mask.”
The CDC released guidance in August that stated wearing a mask is more sure to protect against the coronavirus than taking a vaccine.
Pressure to create a coronavirus vaccine is increasing by the day, but for a safe vaccine to enter the market, it takes time.
Arizona’s COVID-19 vaccine plan doesn’t say for certain who gets immunized first when vaccines roll out, but the working document suggests priority will go to a broad category of health care workers.
Officials with the Arizona Department of Health Services recently submitted its draft coronavirus vaccine plan to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was a requirement for all states.
The state plans were due Oct. 16. Arizona’s draft plan builds off a model it used during the H1N1 (swine flu) pandemic of 2009. Arizona’s plan will be updated as more details are provided to the state from federal partners, state health officials say.
A more detailed “operational” vaccine plan is expected to be completed further along in the process. State health officials say they don’t have a definitive date for when that plan will be released.
In Thursday’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump said there was a COVID-19 vaccine “that’s ready.”
But experts say it’s unlikely a vaccine will be available until the end of the year, and many place wide distribution at sometime in 2021. To date, no COVID-19 vaccine has been approved by the FDA, either through the regular approval process or by emergency use authorization.
Who might be immunized first?
While more than one COVID-19 vaccine may become available, there might not be enough supply to initially go around. That’s why government officials need to consider who to immunize first, and the ways that they will distribute it.
The state plan references priority populations outlined in the CDC’s COVID-19 Vaccination Interim Playbook released in September, as well as guidance contained in a federal report released earlier this month.
Both the CDC playbook and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report prioritize health care workers and first responders during the first phase of the vaccine rollout.
A state worksheet in the draft plan lists the priority order by category for receiving vaccines, before it would go to the general population:
- 1a: Health care personnel, among them pharmacists, pharmacy techs, school nurses, home health aides, health care support workers, practitioners and first responders.
- 1b: Other essential workers such as food industry workers, teachers and child care workers.
- 1b: People at increased risk for COVID-19 illness, including people age 65 and older.
- 2: People at increased risk of acquiring or transmitting the coronavirus, such as individuals attending colleges and universities and racial and ethnic minority groups.
- 2: People with limited access to routine vaccination services, including people with disabilities and people who don’t speak English.
“While target groups and prioritization tiers may differ somewhat for each local jurisdiction, this worksheet will assist in estimations and reinforce key planning elements,” Arizona Department of Health Services spokesman Steve Elliott wrote in an email.
The state plan, CDC playbook and NASEM report all reference health inequities that need to be addressed
Here’s what you need to know:
Reports of new infections poured in at alarming levels on Saturday as the coronavirus continued to tear through the United States. Six states reported their highest-ever infection totals and more than 76,000 new cases had been announced by evening, one day after the country shattered its single-day record with more than 85,000 new cases.
The country’s case total on Saturday, which was sure to rise through the evening as more states reported data, was already the fifth highest in a single day. Case numbers on weekends are often lower because some states and counties do not report new data, so the high numbers on Saturday gave reason for alarm.
“This is exploding all over the country,” said Gov. Andy Beshear of Kentucky, whose state is among 16 that have added more cases in the past week than in any other seven-day stretch. “We’ve got to tamp down these cases. The more cases, the more people that end up in the hospital and the more people die.”
Officials in Alaska, Ohio, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Illinois announced more new cases on Saturday than on any other day of the pandemic.
Rural areas and small metropolitan regions have seen some of the worst outbreaks in recent weeks, but by Saturday, many large cities were struggling as well.
The counties that include Chicago, Oklahoma City, Minneapolis, Anchorage and El Paso all set single-day records on Saturday. Across the country, hospitalizations have grown by about 40 percent since last month, and they continued to rise on Saturday. Around Chicago, where new restrictions on bars and other businesses took effect Friday, more than twice as many cases are now being identified each day than at the start of October.
“This moment is a critical inflection point for Chicago,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot has said.
States in the Midwest and Mountain West have been reporting some of the country’s most discouraging statistics, but worrisome upticks are occurring all over. New cases have emerged at or near record levels recently in Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Arkansas and New Mexico.
“Over the next week, two weeks, three weeks, please be extremely conservative in deciding how much time to spend outside of the home,” Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico said Friday as she imposed new restrictions on businesses. “The visit to friends can wait — it’s not worth your life, or theirs.”
Experts worry that the growing numbers in need of hospital care will only get worse if cases continue to mount, especially in rural areas where medical facilities could be quickly overwhelmed.
The high case count in part reflects increased testing. With about one million people tested on many days, the country is getting a far more accurate picture of how widely the virus has spread than it did in the spring.
Universal Mask Wearing Could Save Some 130,000 Lives In The U.S., Study Suggests : Coronavirus Updates : NPR
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Universal mask wearing in public could greatly reduce the number of Americans who die by COVID-19 by February, a study published Friday in the journal Nature Medicine projects.
Researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation made estimates based on some assumptions under different scenarios.
In what they describe as the worst-case scenario, they project that COVID-19 deaths could exceed a million between September 2020 and February 2021 if what they call “the current pattern of easing” restrictions continues in states.
In a second scenario that they think is more likely, they say 511,000 could die between September and February under the assumption that “states would once again shut down social interaction and some economic activity” for six weeks once deaths reach a certain threshold per million residents.
But in a third scenario where 95% of the population dons face coverings and social restrictions are in place, the projection is for deaths to be about 381,000 — or about 130,000 fewer than under the second scenario.
If that mask percentage changes to 85% of Americans with restrictions, it could still save some 96,000 lives, they say.
The study analyzed previous COVID-19 deaths and cases between Feb. 1 and Sept. 21. Researchers also pulled information from various surveys — including ones by Facebook and YouGov — to estimate that as of Sept. 21, only 49% of Americans reported always wearing a mask.
The study also assumed a 40% reduction in risk of COVID transmission due to a mask usage. Earlier studies estimated masks can reduce transmission by at least 30%.
Researchers also noted that changes in policies and behavior could affect outcomes and that epidemics progress in a way that is are “difficult to observe directly and at scale.”
“It is unreasonable to expect any model to do everything well, so each model makes compromises to serve a purpose, while maintaining computational tractability,” researchers wrote.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 224,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus.