Archive for June 9th, 2020

Coronavirus hospitalizations rise sharply in several states following Memorial Day – The Washington Post

June 9th, 2020

Many of these states that have experienced an increase in cases have also had an increase in hospitalizations, with a handful of states also nearing bed capacity. Hospitalizations nationwide are difficult to track, with states reporting hospitalization numbers in varying ways, or not at all. Even states that do report hospitalization numbers may not have always received complete data from every hospital in the state at the time of their reports.

Texas has reported 75,616 cases since the pandemic began, and in 10 of the past 15 days, the state’s seven-day average of new cases has increased.

As of Tuesday, it has reported two consecutive days of record-breaking coronavirus hospitalizations. The state has seen a 36 percent increase in new cases since Memorial Day, with a record 2,056 current hospitalizations as of early Tuesday afternoon. It was up from a high of 1,935 hospitalizations on Monday.

Texas was one of the first states to relax their stay-at-home order. Businesses started to open up in early May. According to the state’s health department, Texas has 28.14 percent of available hospital beds open, and 1,723 available intensive-care unit beds.

In Arizona, 28,296 cases have been reported as of Tuesday, and in 13 of the past 15 days the state’s seven-day average of new cases has increased. There have been a record number of hospitalizations in the state over the past few days. As of Tuesday, Arizona reported 1,243 current hospitalizations, a 49 percent increase since Memorial Day, when there were 833 hospitalizations.

Arizona has also been struggling with its bed capacity. On Friday, Banner Health, one of the largest health-care systems in the country, confirmed that ICUs in Arizona were nearing capacity. Roughly 50 percent of all those hospitalized are in Banner Health facilities. As of Monday, 76 percent of all ICU beds in Arizona were in use, according to data from the state health department.

Arkansas has reported 10,080 cases, and in 11 of the past 15 days the state’s seven-day average of new cases has increased. It has had an 88 percent increase in hospitalizations since Memorial Day. Arkansas had 173 hospitalizations reported on Tuesday, compared with 92 on May 25.

According to local reports, hospitals statewide remained below capacity on Monday, and none of the new coronavirus cases had been linked to recent protests in the state.

The Carolinas have also seen a rise in hospitalizations, with North Carolina experiencing the second-largest spike in the nation behind Texas. North Carolina’s upward trend began after Memorial Day. On May 26, the state reported 621 hospitalizations but two weeks later, that number has climbed to 774.

In South Carolina, hospitalizations sharply increased Monday. In that 24-hour span, there were 30 new hospitalizations, or a 6 percent jump, for a total of 507 covid-19 patients. With the current spike, 12 counties in South Carolina have reached 75 percent of hospital capacity or greater, according to the state’s health department.

Mississippi has reported 18,109 cases since the pandemic begin. On Tuesday, it recorded 671 hospitalizations, a new daily high. It has seen an 17 percent increase in hospitalizations since Memorial Day, with 573 reported on May 25.

In Utah, new covid-19 cases are on the rise and as a result, so are hospitalizations. Utah’s coronavirus task force tweeted that the state has seen a spike in coronavirus cases, and it wasn’t because of testing or a lone outbreak.

Similar to other regions, Utah’s numbers have climbed steadily since Memorial Day, as the seven-day average of new cases has increased 12 of the past 15 days. Over that two-week span, Utah’s current hospitalizations more than doubled, and as of Tuesday afternoon, 230 patients were hospitalized with covid-19.

Arizona tourist sites were packed for Memorial Day weekend. Lake Havasu, a popular vacation destination, was full, according to local officials. In South Carolina, a host of entertainment venues, including zoos, aquariums and water parks, were allowed to open the weekend ahead of Memorial Day. In North Carolina, restaurants were allowed to open at reduced capacity and public pools at 50 percent capacity during Memorial Day weekend.


In the W.H.O.’s Coronavirus Stumbles, Some Scientists See a Pattern – The New York Times

June 9th, 2020

Even as the World Health Organization leads the worldwide response to the coronavirus pandemic, the agency is failing to take stock of rapidly evolving research findings and to communicate clearly about them, several scientists warned on Tuesday.

In a news briefing on Monday, a W.H.O. official asserted that transmission of the coronavirus by people without symptoms is “very rare.” Following concerted pushback from researchers, officials on Tuesday walked back the claim, saying it was a “misunderstanding.”

But it is not the first time the W.H.O.’s assessment has seemed to lag behind scientific opinion.

The agency delayed endorsing masks for the general public until Friday, claiming there was too little evidence that they prevented transmission of the virus. Virtually all scientists and governments have been recommending masks for months.

The W.H.O. has said repeatedly that small airborne droplets, or aerosols, are not a significant factor in the pandemic’s spread, although a growing body of evidence suggests that they may be.

“The W.H.O. has been out of step with most of the world on the issue of droplets and aerosols,” said Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at the University of Minnesota.

These scientific disagreements have wide policy implications. Many countries, including the United States, adopted lockdown strategies because they recognized that isolating only people who were sick might not be enough to contain the epidemic.

If the virus is transmitted by small airborne droplets, people will need to continue to avoid congregating in poorly ventilated spaces, even if they practice rigorous hand hygiene.

The W.H.O. traditionally has taken a cautious approach to evaluating scientific evidence. But the pace of research has changed: Now scientists are rushing to publish preliminary research, even before their results can be thoroughly vetted by other experts.

The avalanche of findings may bring advances — like a vaccine — in record time. But the onslaught also has led to confusion, even retractions of high-profile results.

“On the one hand, I do want to cut the W.H.O. some slack, because it is hard to do this in an evolving pandemic,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “At the same time, we do rely on the W.H.O. to give us the best scientific data and evidence.”

The W.H.O.’s thinking on asymptomatic transmission does not appear to have changed much since February, when the W.H.O. China Joint Mission reported that “the proportion of truly asymptomatic infections is unclear, but appears to be relatively rare and does not appear to be a major driver of transmission.”

Studies later estimated this number could be as high as 40 percent; the current best estimate from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is 35 percent. The research prompted many countries, including the United States, to endorse use of masks by everyone.

But on Monday, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the W.H.O.’s technical lead for coronavirus response, said that “it still seems to be rare that an asymptomatic person actually transmits onward to a secondary individual.”

Her statement provoked an immediate backlash from scientists, who noted that study after study had shown transmission of the virus from people before they ever felt symptoms.

The reaction prompted the W.H.O. to clarify its position in a live session hosted on Facebook and Twitter. Dr. Van Kerkhove said her comment had been based on only two or three studies.

“I was just responding to a question, I wasn’t stating a policy of W.H.O. or anything like that,” she said. Dr. Van Kerkhove said her statement was also based on unpublished evidence that some countries have shared with the W.H.O.

But critics, including its own officials, said the organization should be transparent about its sources. “W.H.O.’s first and foremost responsibility is to be the science leader,” said Lawrence Gostin, director of the W.H.O. Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law.

“And when they come out with things that are clearly contradicted by the scientific establishment without any justification or citing studies, it significantly reduces their credibility.”

A key point of confusion is the difference between people who are “pre-symptomatic” and will go on to develop symptoms, and those who are “asymptomatic” and never feel sick. Dr. Van Kerkhove suggested that her comments were about people who are truly asymptomatic.

A widely cited paper published in April suggested that people are most infectious up to two days before the onset of symptoms, and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms.

W.H.O. refers to such people as pre-symptomatic. “OK, technically fine,” Dr. Jha said. “But for all intents and purposes, they are asymptomatic — they are without symptoms.”

Dr. Van Kerkhove said that by using the two terms, W.H.O. officials are in fact trying to be very clear about the group of people they are referring to.

“Unfortunately, that’s not how everybody uses it,” she said. “I didn’t intend that to make things more complicated.”

The W.H.O. continues to maintain that large respiratory droplets expelled by sneezing or coughing are the main route of transmission and to downplay a possible role for aerosols, smaller particles that may linger in the air.

But evidence is piling up that aerosols may be an important route.

“What they haven’t recognized is that activities like coughing and talking, even breathing in some cases, are also aerosol-producing procedures,” said Linsey Marr, who studies airborne transmission of viruses at Virginia Tech.

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  • Frequently Asked Questions and Advice

    Updated June 5, 2020

    • Does asymptomatic transmission of Covid-19 happen?

      So far, the evidence seems to show it does. A widely cited paper published in April suggests that people are most infectious about two days before the onset of coronavirus symptoms and estimated that 44 percent of new infections were a result of transmission from people who were not yet showing symptoms. Recently, a top expert at the World Health Organization stated that transmission of the coronavirus by people who did not have symptoms was “very rare,” but she later walked back that statement.

    • How does blood type influence coronavirus?

      A study by European scientists is the first to document a strong statistical link between genetic variations and Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Having Type A blood was linked to a 50 percent increase in the likelihood that a patient would need to get oxygen or to go on a ventilator, according to the new study.

    • How many people have lost their jobs due to coronavirus in the U.S.?

      The unemployment rate fell to 13.3 percent in May, the Labor Department said on June 5, an unexpected improvement in the nation’s job market as hiring rebounded faster than economists expected. Economists had forecast the unemployment rate to increase to as much as 20 percent, after it hit 14.7 percent in April, which was the highest since the government began keeping official statistics after World War II. But the unemployment rate dipped instead, with employers adding 2.5 million jobs, after more than 20 million jobs were lost in April.

    • Will protests set off a second viral wave of coronavirus?

      Mass protests against police brutality that have brought thousands of people onto the streets in cities across America are raising the specter of new coronavirus outbreaks, prompting political leaders, physicians and public health experts to warn that the crowds could cause a surge in cases. While many political leaders affirmed the right of protesters to express themselves, they urged the demonstrators to wear face masks and maintain social distancing, both to protect themselves and to prevent further community spread of the virus. Some infectious disease experts were reassured by the fact that the protests were held outdoors, saying the open air settings could mitigate the risk of transmission.

    • How do we start exercising again without hurting ourselves after months of lockdown?

      Exercise researchers and physicians have some blunt advice for those of us aiming to return to regular exercise now: Start slowly and then rev up your workouts, also slowly. American adults tended to be about 12 percent less active after the stay-at-home mandates began in March than they were in January. But there are steps you can take to ease your way back into regular exercise safely. First, “start at no more than 50 percent of the exercise you were doing before Covid,” says Dr. Monica Rho, the chief of musculoskeletal medicine at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in Chicago. Thread in some preparatory squats, too, she advises. “When you haven’t been exercising, you lose muscle mass.” Expect some muscle twinges after these preliminary, post-lockdown sessions, especially a day or two later. But sudden or increasing pain during exercise is a clarion call to stop and return home.

    • My state is reopening. Is it safe to go out?

      States are reopening bit by bit. This means that more public spaces are available for use and more and more businesses are being allowed to open again. The federal government is largely leaving the decision up to states, and some state leaders are leaving the decision up to local authorities. Even if you aren’t being told to stay at home, it’s still a good idea to limit trips outside and your interaction with other people.

    • What’s the risk of catching coronavirus from a surface?

      Touching contaminated objects and then infecting ourselves with the germs is not typically how the virus spreads. But it can happen. A number of studies of flu, rhinovirus, coronavirus and other microbes have shown that respiratory illnesses, including the new coronavirus, can spread by touching contaminated surfaces, particularly in places like day care centers, offices and hospitals. But a long chain of events has to happen for the disease to spread that way. The best way to protect yourself from coronavirus — whether it’s surface transmission or close human contact — is still social distancing, washing your hands, not touching your face and wearing masks.

    • What are the symptoms of coronavirus?

      Common symptoms include fever, a dry cough, fatigue and difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. Some of these symptoms overlap with those of the flu, making detection difficult, but runny noses and stuffy sinuses are less common. The C.D.C. has also added chills, muscle pain, sore throat, headache and a new loss of the sense of taste or smell as symptoms to look out for. Most people fall ill five to seven days after exposure, but symptoms may appear in as few as two days or as many as 14 days.

    • How can I protect myself while flying?

      If air travel is unavoidable, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Most important: Wash your hands often, and stop touching your face. If possible, choose a window seat. A study from Emory University found that during flu season, the safest place to sit on a plane is by a window, as people sitting in window seats had less contact with potentially sick people. Disinfect hard surfaces. When you get to your seat and your hands are clean, use disinfecting wipes to clean the hard surfaces at your seat like the head and arm rest, the seatbelt buckle, the remote, screen, seat back pocket and the tray table. If the seat is hard and nonporous or leather or pleather, you can wipe that down, too. (Using wipes on upholstered seats could lead to a wet seat and spreading of germs rather than killing them.)

    • Should I wear a mask?

      The C.D.C. has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks if they go out in public. This is a shift in federal guidance reflecting new concerns that the coronavirus is being spread by infected people who have no symptoms. Until now, the C.D.C., like the W.H.O., has advised that ordinary people don’t need to wear masks unless they are sick and coughing. Part of the reason was to preserve medical-grade masks for health care workers who desperately need them at a time when they are in continuously short supply. Masks don’t replace hand washing and social distancing.

    • What should I do if I feel sick?

      If you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus or think you have, and have a fever or symptoms like a cough or difficulty breathing, call a doctor. They should give you advice on whether you should be tested, how to get tested, and how to seek medical treatment without potentially infecting or exposing others.

W.H.O. officials said they were aware that breathing and talking might result in aerosols, but questioned their importance in spreading the virus.

“To date, there has been no demonstration of transmission by this type of aerosol route,” said Dr. Benedetta Allegranzi, the W.H.O.’s technical lead on the coronavirus.

But the W.H.O. defines airborne transmission too narrowly, some scientists said. Airborne transmission also includes the possibility that the virus is aloft for shorter distances, then inhaled.

“They have a very early 20th century, very unsophisticated view of what aerosols and airborne transmission are,” said Dr. Don Milton, an expert on public health aerobiology at the University of Maryland.

Up until the 1950s, Dr. Milton said, tuberculosis was thought to be spread by prolonged close contact. “We now know that it’s only transmitted by aerosols,” he said.

Some scientists are suspicious that W.H.O.’s stance on masks and aerosols may stem less from scientific research than from a concern over supplies of personal protective equipment for medical workers.

The organization currently recommends respirator masks that would block aerosols only for health care workers doing medical procedures that produce aerosols.

Dr. Van Kerkhove said that the W.H.O.’s guidance was based only on science and not on any considerations of supply. While a shortage of P.P.E. is a problem, she said, “it doesn’t change what we recommend.”

All of the experts said it was not that the W.H.O. is wrong on all counts, but that given the implications of its statements, it should be more cautious in concluding that transmission by air or by people without symptoms is not significant.

“We don’t know,” Dr. Milton said. “But they also don’t know.”

Some experts said that when the W.H.O. uses the phrase “there is no evidence” to indicate uncertainty, it is in fact conveying certainty about the absence of a phenomenon.

Dr. Van Kerkhove conceded that point.

“That’s a fair statement,” she said. “There’s a lot of research that needs to be done to really understand this, and we are open to the fact that there is new research every day.”


COVID-19 cases are on the rise among young adults, but health experts aren’t sure why – The Globe and Mail

June 9th, 2020

Large crowd gathers at Trinity Bellwoods Park in Toronto on May 23, 2020.

Justin Mob/Handout

People in their 20s are helping to drive transmission of COVID-19 in many Ontario hot spots, but public-health experts say it’s unclear where they are getting infected, which could hamper efforts to contain further spread.

The issue is taking on increasing urgency as the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, Windsor and other populous parts of the province cannot move to the next stage of reopening their economies until they reduce their numbers of new cases.

For example, Toronto still has an average of 140 new cases a day.

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In recent weeks, the number of people in their 20s testing positive for COVID-19 in areas such as Toronto and Hamilton has risen compared with older age groups.

In Hamilton as of June 8, people in their 20s accounted for 40 per cent of all new COVID-19 cases reported in the previous 10 days. Over the same time period, people in their 50s accounted for 17.5 per cent of cases, while people in their 70s accounted for 5 per cent of cases. City officials are planning a social-media campaign to target young people about the risks of COVID-19.

Elizabeth Richardson, Hamilton’s Medical Officer of Health, said the upswing in cases in young people doesn’t appear linked to any particular workplace. Officials believe some people became infected during activities such as commuting, she said.

According to figures from Public Health Ontario, people in their 20s accounted for 31.5 per cent of new COVID-19 cases across the province on June 7, compared with just 12.6 per cent on April 26.

“Clearly, there were people in their 20s who were clustering together who were facilitating transmission of this infection,” said Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases physician at Toronto General Hospital.

Lauren Lapointe-Shaw, a general internist and clinical epidemiologist at Toronto’s University Health Network, said young people likely made up a substantial number of Ontario’s COVID-19 cases all along. But because the province had strict criteria on who could get tested until very recently, such as those with severe symptoms, many of the cases involving people in their 20s – who are more likely to have a mild illness – may have gone undetected, she said.

“Not diagnosing these people meant they were potentially infecting others,” Dr. Lapointe-Shaw said. “They didn’t have the chance to know they were infecting others.”

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A huge public outcry erupted last month after thousands of people, most of them young, congregated in Toronto’s Trinity Bellwoods Park, many of them shoulder-to-shoulder. Earlier this week, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health, Eileen de Villa, said there has been no spike in COVID-19 cases related to that day.

But Gerald Evans, chair of the division of infectious diseases at Queen’s University in Kingston, said it’s possible many were infected that day and didn’t get tested.

Barbara Yaffe, the province’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, in a briefing earlier this week also suggested that increased testing among the younger cohort may be playing a role.

“I would think part of it is that we’ve opened up testing to people with less severe symptoms, in fact, with no symptoms,” she said. “I don’t think we have a breakdown at this point of exposure sites by age group. So, it’s hard to say.”

Experts say that, to reduce transmission, the province needs to do a better job at figuring out how people are getting infected in the community.

Dr. Lapointe-Shaw said several of her patients with COVID-19 have no idea how they got it, and that the few trips they’ve made out of the house are to the grocery store.

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According to Ontario’s data, travel accounts for about 5 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the province, while close contact with a confirmed case and outbreaks account for 62.5 per cent of cases.

But 21.5 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the province are the result of community transmission, meaning those infected don’t know where they got the virus. And 11 per cent of cases have no information about how the individuals became infected.

Thinner crowds at the Black Lives Matter protests in Washington are allowing some people wary of COVID-19 to join the fray and show their support. And they say the importance of the push for social justice outweighs the risk of becoming infected by the virus. The Canadian Press

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Coronavirus Updates: One Blood Type May Protect Against Virus; Covid-19 Is Fauci’s ‘Worst Nightmare’ – Bloomberg QuickTake News

June 9th, 2020

Maria Van Kerkhove, the U.N. health agency’s technical lead on the virus pandemic, insisted Tuesday that she was referring only to a few studies, not a complete picture, in the comments she made Monday. Van Kerkhove’s remarks on Monday raised confusion and questions among outside experts who have recommended that people wear masks to try to prevent the virus from spreading.

Research from genetic-testing giant 23andMe Inc. found that people with blood type O may be less likely to be infected with Covid-19. Scientists have been looking at genetic factors to try to determine why some people who contract the new coronavirus experience no symptoms, while others become gravely ill, and the company found differences in a gene that influences a person’s blood type can affect a person’s susceptibility to the virus.

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Apple Tells Staff That First Phase of HQ Return Begins June 15 – Yahoo Finance

June 9th, 2020

Naughty Dog details the extensive accessibility in ‘The Last of Us Part II’ – Engadget

June 9th, 2020

Lexington County named a coronavirus hot spot in South Carolina –

June 9th, 2020

LEXINGTON COUNTY, S.C. — Lexington County is a coronavirus hot spot in South Carolina, according to state health officials.

On Monday, DHEC named 3 hot spots across the state, including Horry, Greenville and Lexington Counties.

So far in the pandemic, more than 800 cases have been confirmed in Lexington County. Right now, DHEC believes there have been more than 6,000 cases of COVID-19 in the county. On Monday, DHEC reported 48 new cases in Lexington County.

Dr. Brannon Traxler says people have not been practicing social distancing, not wearing a mask and have been hanging out in large gatherings.

“We are increasing our messaging, really trying to get the word out within those communities. We’re also looking to increase testing in any place that we identify as a hot spot,” said Dr. Traxler.

On Tuesday, DHEC released a statement with other health experts asking that people continue to practice social distancing and wear proper masks.

“There is rapidly growing medical evidence that the use of face masks along with social distancing can greatly reduce the transmission of the the virus in public spaces and places where people at higher risk of severe illness and death from this virus are likely to be present,” the statement says.

‪SCDHEC confirmed Lexington County is one of the hotspots for the coronavirus. They say it’s due to people not practicing social distancing, not wearing a mask and hanging out in large gatherings. Comment or post a video below on why you think the county is a hotspot for COVID-19‬ #StreetSquad19

Posted by Street Squad Lexington on Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Street Squad Lexington asked folks on Facebook their thoughts about wearing masks.

One person said, “I do not wear a mask and go out on a daily basis. I do wash my hands and use hand sanitizer regularly.”


RELATED: 434 new virus cases, 11 deaths in South Carolina

While some say they don’t go anywhere without wearing a mask, one family who didn’t want to go on camera told Street Squad they don’t feel like they should wear one unless they are required to.

After hearing the joint statement from health officials, they say they may wear it more often.

We reached out to Lexington County and they say they have been relying heavily on state officials for guidance throughout the pandemic.

The county plans on announcing measures they are putting place as they reopen.

For more information on coronavirus cases by county, click here.

RELATED: Lexington County giving free thermometers to help local businesses


Nintendo Confirms Extra 140000 User Accounts Have Been Compromised – IGN Daily Fix – IGN

June 9th, 2020

Edtech is surging, and parents have some notes – TechCrunch

June 9th, 2020

Quibi adds Chromecast support for watching shows on a big screen – The Verge

June 9th, 2020