FDA warns against rapid Covid tests for asymptomatic people

The covid has now killed more than 762,000 people worldwide. More than 21 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with covid. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some national governments are hiding or downplaying the scope of their outbreaks. The United States is the worst-affected country in the world, with more than 5.3 million diagnosed cases and at least 168,396 deaths.

Reversing an earlier decision, Columbia University will now hold all undergraduate courses online this fall. Though six weeks ago Columbia University thought that it could safely house 60 percent of Columbia College and Engineering undergraduates in its residence halls, today it has concluded that it must drastically scale back the number of students it can accommodate in residence on campus, thereby limiting residential-style living only to Columbia College and SEAS undergraduates who must be present on campus due to personal or academic circumstances. Columbia University blamed the protocols in place in New York state, including the mandatory 14-day isolation period for people traveling from out of state, for deciding against in-person instruction.

With few undergraduate students living on campus, Columbia University has decided that all undergraduate courses will be virtual. There is the physical capacity to conduct many undergraduate courses in person, but students now will be living in so many locations, and under such varied circumstances, that online instruction is the only realistic approach. Other nearby Ivy League schools, such as Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania, are allowing for at least some on-campus learning.

Princeton University, however, has said all classes will be remote this fall.

People without covid symptoms and who are not known to have been exposed to the virus should not necessarily be screened with a rapid test. This raises questions about whether businesses, sports teams, and others are too reliant on the rapid tests to screen asymptomatic people because they are less sensitive than PCR tests. Negative results should be considered as ‘presumptive negative’ and healthcare providers should consider them in the context of clinical observations, patient history, and epidemiological information.

Rapid diagnostic tests are done with a nasal or throat swab and can deliver results in an hour or less. They can be molecular or antigen tests, but not antibody tests. One day after pulling a lawsuit against Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp is new set to announce new mask guidance. The state’s current covid executive order is set to expire tomorrow at midnight with Kemp set to announce a renewal.

However, the order that banned requiring masks has been modified. Local governments will be allowed to issue the orders, but they will only be permissible inside businesses if the owners agree with it. You will see language in the Executive Order that allows local governments to require face coverings on their own property if they meet specific health-related metrics.

However, if they implement such a requirement, there are numerous exceptions and a limit on penalties.

Of most importance, this order will contain very strong protections for business owners and private property. Specifically for businesses, the owner will still be able to decide whether to have a face covering requirement or not. If the owner decides to have a face covering requirement, the owner can decide who enforces it. This summary does not cover every section, but it hits the high points for coverage.

Georgia became one of the first states in the country to reopen following the pandemic, which caused an increase in cases. Georgia has more than 230,000 cases, fifth-most among states. Georgia’s positivity testing rate is 10.8%, 10th-worst among 49 states. The University of North Carolina has identified two clusters of covid in Ehringhaus Community and Granville Towers, two dorms on campus.

The college made the announcement in a letter to students and faculty on Friday afternoon. The college did not provide an exact number of cases. The individuals in these clusters have been identified and are isolating and receiving medical monitoring. The college has also notified the Orange County Health Department and is working with them to identify additional potential exposures.

Contact tracing was taking place and those who came into contact with the infected individuals were being notified.

The college began classes just this past week (August 10, 2020) and had taken precautions to limit the spread of covid, such as smaller class sizes and longer periods between classes to allow for more social distancing. The college’s main campus at Chapel Hill is the second-largest college in the state with about 30,000 students. The state of Michigan has postponed its high school football season to spring over covid concerns.

The Michigan High School Athletic Association made the announcement Friday, just weeks before the season was to start. However, all other fall sports in the state will continue with the association saying they were less likely to spread the virus. The Michigan High School Athletic Association did everything it could to find a path forward for football this fall.

But there is just too much uncertainty and too many unknowns to play football this fall. No one is willing to take the risk of covid being passed on because of a high-risk sport. Decisions have to be made on our other sports as well, but none of those carry the same close, consistent, and face-to-face contact as football. Michigan is one of a growing number of states to postpone or cancel football in the fall, including Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Washington.

Wisconsin has allowed individual schools to choose to play in the fall or spring.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sent out a note Friday clarifying incorrect reporting that said people are immune from covid for three months following a positive diagnosis. People can continue to test positive for up to three months after diagnosis and not be infectious to others. Contrary to media reporting today, it does not imply a person is immune to reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes covid, in the three months following infection.

Researchers in more than 15 international and United States studies have found that the duration of infectiousness in most people with covid is no longer than 10 days after symptoms begin and no longer than 20 day in people with severe illness. The number of confirmed covid cases across the globe has now reached 21,010,700. The United States leads with the most cases at more than 5.2 million, followed by Brazil and India.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said McKesson Corporation will be a central distributor of future covid vaccines and related supplies. McKesson was among the favored medical suppliers under the Jared Kushner-backed program “Project Airbridge”, in which the federal government picked up the tab to fly medical supplies from overseas. Today’s announcement puts another building block in place as the Nation moves toward a safe and effective covid vaccine.

America’s march toward one or more safe and effective covid vaccines is a combined effort between American industry and the federal government.

The CDC is executing an existing contract with McKesson, which distributed the H1N1 vaccine during the pandemic in 2009-2010, to support vaccine distribution for the covid. Once the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes one or more vaccines, McKesson will work under the CDC’s guidance to ship it. The number of Americans who know someone in the United States who has tested positive for covid has reached a new high.

Half of the country’s population now says they know someone who has contracted covid, up from 41% last month. The survey also shows that covid has touched all regions of the country, with 51% in the Midwest and South knowing someone who has tested positive, 49% in the Northeast and 47% in the West. While the numbers were comparable among racial groups, Black and Hispanic people are much more likely than white people to know someone who has died from covid.

For Black and Hispanic people, the numbers are respectively 35% and 28%. For white people, the number is 16%. The study also showed that pessimism in the country remains, with two-thirds of people saying the situation is getting worse. Moreover, 74% of Americans favor a national face mask mandate. President Donald Trump does not want to tell people to wear masks.

If people feel more comfortable wearing masks, they absolutely should.

It is a public health, a good thing to do. But Trump does not believe that Washington should be telling people how to live their lives. Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden has taken the opposite stance, saying that governors should institute mask mandates. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Friday that museums and cultural institutions can reopen in New York City beginning August 24, 2020.

They have been closed since mid-March. Cuomo said they will operate at 25% capacity and both timed ticketing and face coverings will be required. There will also be pre-set staggered entries. Other businesses are also set to reopen, with bowling alleys starting Monday. Protocol for gyms will be released Monday. Cuomo also provided an update on covid cases in the state.

Out of the 85,455 tests reported Thursday, 727 were positive. Total hospitalizations fell to 554 and there were 4 covid deaths in the last 24 hours. A newborn is believed to have contracted covid through her mother’s womb. This is likely the first baby in the nation to have contracted covid in such a manner. The baby’s mother had tested positive for covid in April and had to give birth to her child prematurely, though it was not immediately clear if covid played a factor in the early birth.

When the baby was born, doctors administered 2 covid tests and the baby tested positive both times.

Doctors also tested the mother’s placenta. Having the testing positive of the placenta, the most likely explanation was the transmission of infection was when the baby was in the mother’s womb. The baby began to develop a fever and required supplemental oxygen. However, the baby is now home and healthy with her mother. The CDC predicted in its latest forecast that the United States covid death toll could reach 200,000 by Labor Day as children across the country head back to school.

Its national ensemble forecast predicts that 4,200 to 10,600 new covid deaths will be reported for the week ending on September 5 and that 180,000 to 200,000 total covid deaths will be reported by that date. Last month, the CDC predicted there would be between 160,000 and 175,000 deaths by August 15th. As of August 13, with more than 1,000 deaths a day every day for more than two weeks, there have been 167,097 deaths.

The United States surpassed 100,000 covid deaths on May 27, 2020. New cases continue to decrease across the country week-over-week, but the rate of new deaths have increased over the same period. There were 7,517 deaths recorded from August 5 to 12, 2020, which marked a 2.3% increase in new deaths compared with the previous week. The national test-positivity rate remains at 6.5%.

An impasse over the next round of covid aid looks likely to drag on after Democrats and Republicans described themselves as hopelessly far apart on a deal to combat raging economic and health-care crises.

An agreement on legislation, let alone passage of a bill, looks weeks away. The Senate wrapped up its session Thursday afternoon and will not return this month unless negotiators strike an agreement. The House had already left Washington for all of August pending a deal on pandemic relief. Leaders in Washington followed a familiar script Thursday.

They indicated the sides have made no progress toward an agreement. They do not know when meaningful negotiations will restart. They called the opposing party unreasonable as millions of Americans wonder whether they can afford food or housing in the coming days and weeks. Negotiators’ path to resolving vast differences of opinion over the best tools to stabilize a country ravaged by the pandemic looks murkier than ever.

As the stalemate drags on, an ineffectual response from Congress risks hampering efforts to contain the world’s worst virus outbreak and blowing up positive steps toward an improved economy. The parties’ 2020 political conventions will consume their attention over the next two weeks. If they return next month without an agreement, lawmakers will have to consider covid aid while trying to avoid a government shutdown by September 30.

It is unclear now when Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer will sit down with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows to resume discussions.

Pelosi and Mnuchin last made contact by phone on Wednesday, when Mnuchin once again said the White House would not double the GOP’s roughly $1 trillion aid offer. On Thursday, Pelosi said she does not have a timeline for when the sides will talk again. The talk can not wait until September 30, people will die. A fifth covid relief package has gone nowhere in 2½ weeks as financial lifelines continue to fall by the wayside.

First, a moratorium on evictions from federally backed housing expired in late July. Then, enhanced federal unemployment insurance of $600 per week lapsed at the end of July. Over the weekend, the window to apply for Paycheck Protection Program small business loans closed. The job market has showed signs of improving despite sustained American failure to contain the virus.

But even after three straight months of torrid job growth, the United States unemployment rate of 10.2% in July stood slightly higher than at any point during the Great Recession. Financial markets have mostly shrugged off the the debacle in Washington, as the S&P 500 hovered just below its all-time high on Thursday. Earlier in the day, White House economic advisor Larry Kudlow said Democrats have asked for “too much money”.

Kudlow said Democratic-backed “voting rights” measures designed to make it safer for Americans to cast ballots during the pandemic are part of “liberal, left wish lists” the president would reject.

So far, it is a stalemate. After talks collapsed, Trump took executive action over the weekend that aims to extend extra jobless benefits at a level of at least $300 per week, promote eviction protections, sustain existing student loan relief, and create a payroll tax holiday. The orders could fall apart in court because Congress controls federal funding.

In any case, governors have warned it could take outdated state unemployment systems weeks to adjust to the new rules and pay out benefits. It leaves an elusive deal in Congress as the most effective way to offer relief. But Pelosi, equipped with a visual aid highlighting key differences between the Democratic and GOP offers, said Thursday that the sides are “miles apart in values”.

They have failed to bridge a gap on unemployment insurance as Democrats push to extend the $600 per week payment. Democrats want more than $900 billion for state and municipal aid, a figure the Trump administration has called unrealistic. Pelosi said Democrats have pushed for more than $60 billion in food assistance, while a Senate GOP bill released late last month called for only $250,000.

A House bill passed in May included $100 billion in assistance for rent and mortgage payments, while the Senate plan did not include any additional funds.

Pelosi also increased her request for school funding to $300 billion on Thursday, a jump from the $100 billion the House approved in May. Republicans have called for $105 billion for schools, with much of the money tied to physical reopening. Comments from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday showed just how intractable the issues may prove.

McConnell described the request for more state and local aid as a “slush fund”. McConnell batted away Pelosi’s request for the GOP to increase the price tag on its proposal by $1 trillion, which is apparently the one thing that could bring Democrats back to the table. McConnell calls it throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Covid has claimed 8 more lives in Oregon, raising the state’s death toll to 383, including Deschutes County’s 11th death – the 8th among residents of Mt. Bachelor Memory Care in Bend.

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) also reported 294 new confirmed and presumptive cases of covid as of 12:01 a.m. Thursday, bringing the state total to 22,300 cases and 444,963 negative test results. The new cases are in Baker (3), Benton (5), Clackamas (14), Columbia (1), Crook (1), Deschutes (4), Hood River (2), Jackson (16), Jefferson (13), Josephine (2), Klamath (2), Lane (7), Lincoln (7), Linn (4), Malheur (12), Marion (35), Morrow (6), Multnomah (84), Polk (6), Tillamook (1), Umatilla (20), Union (2), Wasco (2), Washington (36), and Yamhill (9). Deschutes County has now had 11 covid deaths, 621 cases, and 19,876 negative test results.

Crook County has had 1 death, 51 cases, and 1,857 negative test results.

Jefferson County has had 4 deaths, 392 cases, and 3,671 negative test results. OHA reported an 85-year-old Deschutes County resident tested positive on July 12 and died last Sunday at his residence. The man had underlying conditions. He was the 8th resident to die in hospice care at Mt. Bachelor Memory Care in Bend, where an outbreak in recent weeks has led to 66 confirmed covid cases.

As of Thursday, 43 residents and 23 staff have tested positive for the virus. The majority of staff who tested positive did become symptomatic. Two weeks with no new positive cases will be needed to declare the outbreak over. Frontier Management, which manages the facility, is saddened to confirm the passing of one of its residents over the weekend. This resident was on hospice prior to the pandemic and did test positive for covid.

Frontier Management continues to implement practices set forth by the CDC, as it has since the beginning of this unprecedented global event. A large majority of cases remain asymptomatic, or have passed the crucial 20- and 30-day mark. St. Charles Health System reported 10 covid patients as of 7:30 a.m. Thursday, 2 of whom were in the ICU on ventilators.

Oregon’s 383rd covid death is an 84-year-old man in Multnomah County who tested positive on July 30 and died on August 9 at Providence Portland Medical Center; he had underlying conditions.

Oregon’s 382nd covid death is a 78-year-old woman in Multnomah County who tested positive on August 6 and died on August 7 at Providence Portland Medical Center; she had underlying conditions. Oregon’s 381st covid death is a 55-year-old man in Columbia County who tested positive on August 7 and died on August 9 at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center; presence of underlying conditions is being confirmed.

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