CDC doubles down on ‘evidence-based public health strategies’ to curb worsening Covid spread

The United States has entered a phase of high-level coronavirus transmission amid colder weather, more time spent indoors and the ongoing holiday season, the CDC said Friday.

With about half of all new infections being transmitted by asymptomatic people, the CDC said that a “multipronged approach to implementing all evidence-based public health strategies at both the individual and community levels is essential.” That means, these actions make a difference, and we need to do them all: 

  • Universal use of face masks.
  • Physical distancing and limiting contacts.
  • Avoiding nonessential indoor spaces and crowded outdoor settings.
  • Increased testing, diagnosis, and isolation.
  • Prompt case investigation and contact tracing to identify, quarantine, and test close contacts.
  • Safeguarding persons most at risk for severe illness or death.
  • Protecting essential workers.
  • Postponing travel.
  • Increased room air ventilation, enhanced hand hygiene, and cleaning and disinfection.
  • Widespread availability and use of effective vaccines.

The CDC is urging every individual, household, and community to take these actions now to reduce Covid-19 transmission rates from the current level. “These actions will provide a bridge to a future with wide availability and high community coverage of effective vaccines, when safe return to more everyday activities in a range of settings will be possible,” the agency said.

Additional details on all ten recommendations can be found in the CDC website.


The U.S. counted more than 200,000 cases, 2,000-plus deaths on Friday

The U.S. counted 214,547 Covid-19 cases Friday, upping its current total to 14.4 million cases, according to NBC News’ tally. State and county health departments reported 2,669 deaths, bringing the current toll of the disease to 279,857.

The U.S. has averaged 182,296 cases and 2,125 deaths the past week. The last time the U.S. averaged more than 2,000 deaths per day in a week was in April when the virus was ravaging the Northeast.

Several states set single-day records:

  • Arkansas, 2,827 cases
  • Delaware, 942 cases
  • Iowa, 83 deaths
  • Maryland, 3,794 cases
  • Massachusetts, 272 deaths
  • Mississippi, 2480 cases
  • Oregon, 2,144 cases and 30 deaths
  • South Carolina, 2,950 cases
  • Tennessee, 95 cases

Covid-19 testing capacity strained by surge in demand

As Covid-19 cases surge across the United States, the outbreak is threatening to overwhelm the testing capacity at facilities that have spent months and millions of dollars to ramp up their capabilities, according to laboratory directors in six states.

Dr. Geoffrey Baird, who oversees all Covid-19 diagnostics as the acting chair of the University of Washington’s laboratory system, said he spent an estimated $30 million earlier this year to build up its labs, which now boast a total workforce of 1,500 — a tenth of that hired to focus on Covid-19.

But even that operation is now struggling to handle the surge.

Read the full article here

Moscow rolls out mass Covid-19 vaccinations

Moscow began distributing its coronavirus vaccine, the Sputnik V COVID-19 shot, in 70 clinics on Saturday, the city’s coronavirus taskforce said, beginning Russia’s first mass vaccination program.

The taskforce said the Russian-made vaccine would be available first to doctors and medical staff then teachers and social workers, as they ran the highest risk of exposure to the virus. 

The age for those receiving shots is capped at 60, while those with certain underlying health conditions, pregnant women and people who have had a respiratory illness in the past two weeks are also barred from vaccination.

Moscow has been the epicenter of Russia’s coronavirus outbreak and registered 7,993 new cases overnight, up from 6,868 a day before.

‘She was special and she cared’: Loss of beloved art and music teacher leaves void

Melinda Roellig, an art and music teacher in Clarksville, Indiana, had already prepared this year’s batch of Christmas presents for her family before she died last month of Covid-19.

The gifts she gave as an annual tradition, a mix of store-bought and handmade, were purchased and created with thought and precision, including her paintings, which were based on a shared memory with the recipient. Family members in Indiana and South Carolina looked forward to unwrapping them every year.

“She put her heart into it, and it just makes you smile because you know how much she cares about you and loves you,” said Alexandra Roellig, Melinda’s half sister. “I think it’s gonna be hard to open them [this year]. I don’t know if I want to open them or not, because it’s bittersweet.”

Read the full story here.

Americans couldn’t resist Thanksgiving travel, data shows

Americans couldn’t resist gathering for Thanksgiving, data from roadways and airports showed, as many ignored public health pleas to forgo holiday travel and contain the coronavirus‘ spread.

The nation’s unwillingness to limit travel offered a warning ahead of Christmas and New Year, as virus deaths and hospitalizations hit new highs this week.

Vehicle travel peaked on Thanksgiving Day at only about 5 percent less than the same pandemic-free period in 2019, according to StreetLight Data. Although air travel was much lower than last year, the Transportation Security Administration screened more than 1 million passengers on four separate days during the Thanksgiving period. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had urged people to stay home for the holidays, but officials acknowledged that many would not heed that advice and advised them to get tested before and after trips.

Christmas tree delivery services see a boost

Covid now leading cause of death in U.S., researchers say

Covid-19 is now the leading cause of death in the United States, researchers at the University of Washington said Friday.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said in a briefing that the number of coronavirus-related deaths in the last week, 11,820, “makes COVID-19 the No. 1 cause of death in the United States of America this week.”

The virus topped the nation’s perennial No. 1 killer, ischemic heart disease, which was said to be responsible for 10,724 deaths in the last week, according to the Washington team.

For the year, Covid-19 was projected to end up in second place, behind ischemic heart disease, researchers said. Tracheal, bronchus and lung cancer was in third place.

The institute said it estimates 15 percent of Americans have been infected. The United States recorded 2,802 virus-related deaths Thursday and 279,224 since the pandemic began, according to an NBC News tally.

“Our model projects 539,000 cumulative deaths on April 1, 2021,” the briefing states. “Daily deaths will peak at 3,000 in mid-January.”

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