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Wear masks, Michigan Medicine leaders tell public as hospitalizations surge

ANN ARBOR, MI — Michigan Medicine leaders are calling on the public to not let its guard down as hospitals across the state experience rapid surges in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

It’s imperative Michigan caregivers stay healthy so they can take care of an expected surge in cases this winter, Marschall Runge, Michigan Medicine CEO and dean of the University of Michigan’s medical school, said in a Thursday, Nov. 18 news conference that also announced a joint nationwide campaign to encourage mask wearing.

Michigan Medicine has joined around 100 of the nation’s top health care systems in the #MaskUp campaign, which urges all Americans to mask up, in an effort to slow the surge of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, Runge said.

A large surge in cases requiring hospitalizations for COVID-19 due to the lack of adherence to mitigation strategies has the potential to overwhelm health systems, said Laraine Washer, Michigan Medicine’s medical director of infection prevention and epidemiology.

“I’m very glad that we at Michigan Medicine are joining with healthcare systems nationwide to encourage the simple behaviors that are proven to work: Mask up, socially distance, wash your hands,” Washer said.

Like many other hospitals across the state, Michigan Medicine is facing short staffing, Runge said, adding the healthcare system is developing a plan to make sure it can provide necessary care.

“Given the widespread community transmission, hospitals are also managing staffing limitations due to employee illness, absences and responsibilities for childcare,” Washer said.

During the past three weeks, Michigan Medicine has seen an increase in COVID-19 patients, Runge said. This week alone, Michigan Medicine had as many as 75 COVID-19 positive patients at one time, with up to 20 of them being critically ill and requiring ICU care, officials said.

“Following the spring and early summer COVID surge — the first wave, so to speak — we resumed care of many non-COVID patients that need hospitalization, and our hospitals are about 90% full as a result,” Runge said. “With that high occupancy, which we did manage pre-COVID, that puts additional strain on our response to the pandemic.”

The health system’s testing capacity is approximately 10,000 COVID-19 tests per week, while its laboratories continue to develop new strategies to implement different types of COVID tests, officials said.

Michigan Medicine’s testing results recently showed about 14% of those tested are testing positive for COVID, well above the 5% mark reported for most of the summer months, Runge said.

“At Michigan Medicine, and all of Michigan’s healthcare providers, we need your help,” Runge said. “To combat a pandemic we need supplies, we need space and most importantly staff.”

The increased hospital capacity is putting a burden on the number of beds, as well as staff and healthcare providers, Runge said. A large surge of cases also carries a risk of challenging the amount of personal protective equipment required to keep healthcare workers safe, health officials said.

The number of confirmed cases in Michigan reached more than 277,800 this week, including 8,190 deaths.

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What kind of mask should you wear to vote in-person on Election Day?

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 as coronavirus cases continue to surge nationwide. 

“Face the Nation” moderator Margaret Brennan spoke with 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.


Gottlieb warns of “dangerous tipping point” a…

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“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 told “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,” he said on 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

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health

Florida parents sue school board over mandate that requires students to wear masks

A group of parents in Florida is suing the Sarasota County school board for requiring students to wear face masks, which are recommended by federal health officials to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The suit was filed last week in a Sarasota County court by parents Amy Cook, Gustavo Collazo, Nicholas Eastman, and Catherine Gonzales after the school board approved an emergency 90-day mask mandate that extends its policy through to the end of the year.

The policy requires students attending in-person class to wear masks, with a few exceptions, for most of the school day, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The parents argue in the suit that forcing children to wear masks at school denies them their right to an equal education.

“The policy of mandatory facemask wear for students of tender years leaves parents with little choice: subject their children to a policy that is not in the best interest of the child, or to be compelled to home school their children in a manner that is both separate, and unequal, and also results in additional harms unrelated to COVID-19.”

The 59-page complaint cites the Florida constitution as its reasoning as to why students shouldn’t be forced to wear masks. It also goes on to say that parents should be the ones making decisions for their children, not the school board.

Caroline Zucker, the school board chair, declined to comment on the lawsuit. Shirley Brown, the vice-chair of the Sarasota County School Board, said they are following guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“The mask isn’t so much to protect you, as to protect others from you,” she said in a phone interview Friday. “The masks, I think, are helping us keep our numbers down in the schools. It can’t just be optional.”

Brown also said that the mask requirement is just one of the steps the district is taking to prevent a potential outbreak. There are no assemblies at the schools and the number of visitors is limited.

“The bottom line is that the CDC says that the sooner we comply, the sooner we defeat this,” she said.

An attorney for the parents could not immediately be reached.

Collazo and Cook said in sworn affidavits that they have three children enrolled in the school district who have “severe” allergies and said that wearing a mask worsens their conditions.

“As parents, we should be able to decide what is in our children’s best interest when it comes to making medical decisions, and being compelled to wear a facemask is not in our children’s best physical and psychological interests,” Collazo and Cook said.

Eastman, who has one child in the district, and Gonzales, who has two, both said in their affidavits that the school board’s policy interferes with their parental rights and decision-making ability.

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Fact check: Trump falsely claims California requires people to wear ‘special’ and ‘complex’ mask at all times

At a campaign rally in Arizona on Wednesday — at which there was no social distancing and most attendees did not wear masks — Trump started mocking what he claimed are the mask requirements in California.

“In California, you have a special mask. You cannot, under any circumstances, take it off. You have to eat through the mask,” the President said.

He continued: “It’s a very complex mechanism. And they don’t realize, those germs, they go through it like nothing. They look at you with that contraption and they say, ‘That’s an easy one. …’ “

Moments later, Trump joked that a meal of spaghetti and meat sauce would mess up a mask someone was forced to wear while eating. The crowd laughed. But the President sounded serious enough when he made his other assertions about California’s mask rules that his claims are worth fact-checking.

Facts First: Trump’s story was false. Californians are not required to wear “complex” or “special” masks; basic face coverings, even homemade ones, are acceptable there. Though Gov. Gavin Newsom has imposed a statewide mask order, Californians are not required to wear masks at all times; they can remove them when at home, when alone in a room outside their home, when outdoors more than 6 feet from others, and when eating or drinking. And while people can transmit the coronavirus or get infected with it while wearing masks, face masks have proven effective in reducing the chances of transmission; they are much better than “nothing.”
Trump’s comments about Californians being forced to eat through their masks appeared to be a reference to an early-October tweet from Newsom’s office that told people “don’t forget to keep your mask on in between bites” when going out to eat with members of their households. The tweet was widely mocked, particularly in conservative circles.

Despite the tweet, California does not have a requirement to wear a mask in between bites at a restaurant. Newsom played down the tweet, saying at a virtual news conference that it was posted by “a staff member” and that its intent was merely to say that “if you’re just gonna read a book at a dinner table, it might be good after a while to put on a mask.”

Top health officials in the federal government, including National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield, have emphasized that the widespread use of masks is critical to the fight against the virus.

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health

Real-time pandemic data from Carnegie Mellon’s CovidCast shows why you should wear a mask

For all 50 states plus D.C., this chart plots the percentage of state residents who say they wear a mask in public all or most of the time (on the horizontal axis) and the percentage who say they know someone in their community with virus symptoms (on the vertical axis).

Take Wyoming and South Dakota, for instance, in the upper left-hand corner of the chart. Roughly 60 to 70 percent of state residents report frequent mask use, as shown on the bottom axis, which puts them at the bottom for mask rates. They also have some of the highest levels of observed covid-19 symptoms, approaching 40 and 50 percent.

Now, note what happens as you move across the chart. States farther to the right have higher rates of mask use. And as mask use increases, the frequency of observed covid-19 symptoms decreases: More masks, less covid-19.

Let’s pause a minute to talk about where exactly this data comes from. Ideally you would want it to be from something like a random-digit-dial survey, the type typically used in public opinion polling, which with enough participants would produce a sample of each state that’s representative of its population and demographics. But the cost of running one such survey for all 50 states plus D.C. would be enormously prohibitive — to say nothing of doing so on a daily basis, which is necessary to produce the kind of real-time data of interest to epidemiologists.

“If Facebook’s users are different from the U.S. population generally in a way that the survey weighting process doesn’t account for, then our estimates could be biased,” cautioned Alex Reinhart, a Carnegie Mellon professor of statistics and data science who works on CovidCast and wrote a book on statistical methods. “But if that bias doesn’t change much over time, then we can still use the survey to detect trends and changes.”

He also cautioned that the old saw of “correlation doesn’t equal causation” applies here as well.

“There could be other explanations for the correlation,” he said. “For example, states that had worse outbreaks earlier in the pandemic both have higher mask usage now and more immunity.”

And, he added, “if people say they’re not wearing masks, they may not be taking other protective measures either. So perhaps what we see is a combination of mask usage, other social distancing behaviors and perhaps other factors we haven’t measured.”

Nevertheless, the chart is particularly useful in the context of all the other high-quality evidence showing that masks reduce the transmission of the coronavirus and other respiratory diseases. There’s good reason to suspect, in other words, that rates of mask use are driving at least part of the relationship seen in the chart above, even if the data can’t prove that definitively.

For people living in states that are driving the latest spike in coronavirus cases, the takeaway is clear: Wear a mask when you go out in public.

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Ben Carson attended indoor fundraiser where attendees didn’t wear masks: report

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson attended a fundraiser for a Virginia congressional candidate on Monday in which attendees were not wearing masks, BuzzFeed News reports.



a young man wearing a suit and tie: Ben Carson attended indoor fundraiser where attendees didn't wear masks: report


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Ben Carson attended indoor fundraiser where attendees didn’t wear masks: report

Carson attended a fundraiser for Republican Bob Good, who is running to represent Virginia’s 5th Congressional District against Cameron Webb (D). Press was denied access to the event, according to a reporter for the Prince William Times, but several photos of the event were posted on Facebook.

The photos posted show Carson and other attendees congregating at the indoor event without masks, going against the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Virginia Department of Health. While he is shown eating in some of the photos, he is also seen in others simply talking with other guests without wearing a mask.

The Virginia Department of Health requires people to wear masks “when spending time in indoor public settings.” However, it is unclear whether the event took place at a public or private setting.

Virginia also mandates that dining establishments separate parties six feet apart from each other, but the photos do not show the parties separated.

Carson appears to be contradicting his own public advice on face coverings. During an interview with ABC in June, Carson said of wearing masks: “If we all do it, it will make a dramatic difference.”

Video: AP FACT CHECK: Trump flubs study on masks and coronavirus (Associated Press)

AP FACT CHECK: Trump flubs study on masks and coronavirus

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The Trump administration has been downplaying wearing masks since the beginning of the pandemic, and has not let up despite mandates on face coverings across the country.

During an NBC town hall last Thursday, Trump misrepresented a September study from the CDC, falsely claiming that it showed 85 percent of individuals who wear masks contract the virus.

The study found that adults with confirmed COVID-19 cases were about twice as likely than those who tested negative to have reported dining at a restaurant before falling ill. The CDC later tried to correct misconceptions about the study, tweeting that “the interpretation that more mask-wearers are getting infected compared to non-mask wearers is incorrect.”

The president was asked if he had changed his mind on the effectiveness of masks after contracting coronavirus himself earlier this month, and said he had not.

Good has said he’s not convinced that wearing masks makes a difference.

“I had one doctor tell me that wearing a mask is like putting up a chain link fence to keep out mosquitoes,” he said in an interview with NBC Washington.

Trump endorsed Good in September after he beat out incumbent Rep. Denver Riggleman (R-Va.) in the state’s June primary election. Webb, a physician, has outraised Good in the predominantly right-leaning district on the Virginia-North Carolina state line.

The Hill has reached out to Carson and Good for comment.

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