ASU Campus Coronavirus Cases Are Declining

TEMPE, AZ — Arizona State University is seeing a decline in active coronavirus cases across its campuses, even as the state sees an increase.

As of Thursday, the Tempe-based university reported 11 known positive cases among its faculty and staff, and 80 among its student population. The last update reported 13 additional student cases. The university has nearly 75,000 enrolled students.

The bulk of the cases came from off-campus students living in metro Phoenix, the university said. Just 19 are currently in isolation on the Tempe campus.

“Currently, there are no students in isolation on either the ASU Downtown Phoenix, ASU West or Polytechnic campuses,” the university said in its update.

ASU offers free tests for anyone who wants one, and has also implemented random, required testing since Aug. 27 for students both on and off-campus, and for the school’s employees. Since the start of the fall semester, ASU has conducted 94,931 coronavirus tests.

While ASU is seeing its cases fall, Arizona is seeing them rise.

As of Friday, the state reported 975 new cases and six deaths from the virus. While hospitalizations and ventilator use remains low, the number of tests returning positive is increasing. It was 5.5 percent last week, up from 3.9 percent just a few weeks ago.

Approximately 235,882 confirmed cases and 5,865 deaths have occurred in Arizona since the start of the pandemic.

In her Thursday blog post, Dr. Cara Christ, Director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, encouraged Arizonans not to let down their guard as the pandemic drags on.

“The increased cases and percent positivity show that COVID-19 is still actively circulating and highlights the need for Arizonans to continue taking the important prevention steps they have been following over the past few months: wearing a mask when out in public, staying physically distanced from people who are not in your household, washing your hands frequently, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home when sick,” she wrote.

This article originally appeared on the Tempe Patch

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The Americas are at risk of polio outbreak due to disruptions by the pandemic

Countries in the region must maintain polio vaccinations and surveillance during the pandemic to prevent an outbreak, according to experts at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Eradication of polio in Africa is 'great day,' WHO director general says

“Although as a region we have defeated polio once before, if we allow vaccination coverage rates to fall and become too low, we will be at risk for polio circulation in our communities once again,” said PAHO Director Carissa Etienne. “That is why it is more important than ever to do our part to protect and sustain polio elimination in our region while we wait for countries in other parts of the world to achieve this goal,” Etienne added.

The pandemic has stressed immunization and surveillance systems designed to catch and respond to vaccine-preventable diseases, according to PAHO.

“Now during the pandemic, we must work extra hard to not lose what we have gained,” said Cuauhtemoc Ruiz Matus, head of PAHO’s Immunization Program.

Ruiz said that strong political commitment from governments, strategic partnerships between international agencies, and the work of health care workers contributed to the success to the region’s fight against the virus.

“Without all of these things, we wouldn’t be where we are today,” said Ruiz.

Reported coverage for the polio vaccine for the Americas between 2016 and 2019 ranged between 85-87%, according to PAHO.

Coverage in 2020 might be lower “due to disruptions in primary health care activities caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to PAHO.

Polio once was a common virus. In some young children it can affect the nerves and cause muscle weakness or paralysis. There is no treatment and no cure but getting vaccinated can prevent infection.

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Coronavirus outbreaks connected to hockey are happening in New England states

Multiple New England states are experiencing issues with the coronavirus for hockey players, prompting suspensions in play.

Some states, including Massachusetts and New Hampshire, have paused ice skating and hockey activities for two weeks as facilities find ways to better prevent COVID-19 among people visiting and using the rinks.

Above video: Hockey parents speak out prior to mandatory COVID-19 testing announcement in New Hampshire

A rink is Vermont was linked to dozens of cases, and earlier this month, New Hampshire’s governor said over 150 cases in recent months were linked to hockey.

Hockey organizers and health experts in states have detailed ways to reduce risks in spreading the virus, stressing physical distancing and other measures. Materials typically cite Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Health officials have also noted an adult recreational game being connected with the virus, saying it happened in Florida and led to around a dozen positive cases.

“The ice rink provides a venue that is likely well suited to COVID-19 transmission as an indoor environment where deep breathing occurs, and persons are in close proximity to one another,” a Florida health official said.

NH introduces testing requirement for players

A new requirement says rink staff, players and coaches must undergo a COVID-19 test before Nov. 6.

It comes as New Hampshire is “pausing” all hockey activities in indoor rinks for two weeks following positive COVID-19 tests for 158 people associated with the sport over the last two months, Gov. Chris Sununu and health officials said Oct. 15.

The suspension, which also affects ice skating in general, is in effect until Oct. 29. Play can resume Oct. 30, and the state’s reopening task force has provided guidance, which includes wearing face coverings when people are not playing.

Dr. Ben Chan, state epidemiologist, previously said the cases are from 23 different hockey-related New Hampshire organizations and teams, “and there are additional connections with out-of-state ice hockey organizations.”

Chan said people who have acquired the virus through hockey have been associated with, and potentially exposed others, in at least 24 different K-12 schools throughout the state.

“This type of spread and exposure to other facilities and organizations within the community increases the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 in other settings outside of hockey,” Chan said.

Rinks will be cleaned and sanitized and guidance on the sport will be revised and more testing will be conducted.

College team activity is on hold, in addition to youth and amateur organization activities.

“We don’t know exactly where the pinpoints are here, whether it’s something on the ice or something in the locker rooms,” Sununu said.

Indoor hockey, skating suspended for 2 weeks in Mass.

Suspended play comes as outbreaks have been linked to 108 confirmed or probable COVID-19 cases, according to the Massachusetts health department.

Indoor ice hockey and skating have been suspended as of 5 p.m. Oct. 23, to at least Nov. 7 for youth hockey and adult leagues at both public and private facilities.

“This order is

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Chicago Coronavirus Positivity Rises 1.6 Points In A Week To 7%

CHICAGO — The coronavirus positivity rate in Chicago and the average number of new daily hospitalizations of people with coronavirus symptoms in the symptom each reached their highest levels since June this week.

In the third week of October, positivity rates continued rising across all but one of the state’s 11 COVID-19 resurgence mitigation regions. As of Friday, four of the regions are subject to state-ordered mitigation measures restricting indoor dining and other activities, including DuPage, Kane, Kankakee and Will counties.

In Chicago, Region 11 in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s mitigation plan, the positivity rate reached 7 percent Tuesday, the most recent day where the seven-day rolling average is available from the Illinois Department of Public Health. The city had seen eight days of increases out of the previous 10.

If a region’s positivity rate reaches a threshold of 8 percent and remains there for three days, state public health officials order the imposition of additional mitigation measures.

Meanwhile, the average number of new daily hospitalizations Chicago continued to rise. The rounded, rolling seven-day average of admissions to hospitals with “COVID-like illnesses,” or CLI, rose to 36 people a day Tuesday, up from 28 a week earlier — nearly twice the city’s hospitalization rate a month earlier.

Meanwhile, the number of counties considered to be at a warning level for COVID-19, meaning two or more county-level risk indicators show an increasing risk of the virus’ spread.

Half Illinois counties are now at the “orange” warning level: Adams, Bond, Boone, Carroll, Cass, Christian, Clay, Clinton, Crawford, DeKalb, Douglas, Edwards, Fayette, Ford, Franklin, Gallatin, Greene, Hamilton, Henderson, Jersey, Jo Daviess, Johnson, Kane, Kendall, Knox, LaSalle, Lee, Macon, Macoupin, McDonough, McHenry, Mercer, Morgan, Moultrie, Ogle, Perry, Pike, Pulaski, Rock Island, Saline, Shelby, Stephenson, Union, Vermilion, Wabash, Warren, Wayne, Whiteside, Will, Williamson and Winnebago.

(Illinois Department of Public Health)
(Illinois Department of Public Health)

Public health officials said some businesses continue to disregard social distancing and face covering requirements, noting in a statement that “mayors, local law enforcement, state’s attorneys, and other community leaders can be influential in ensuring citizens and businesses follow best practices.”

On Friday, the state public health agency reported and 3,874 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, including 31 deaths.

As of Thursday night, there were 2,498 people in Illinois reported to be hospitalized with COVID-19, up by 482 from a week earlier and 38 percent more people than were hospitalized with the virus two weeks ago.

Of those currently in the state’s hospitals, there were 511 patients in intensive care units, 111 more people in the ICU than a week earlier. There were 197 COVID-19 patients on ventilators, 46 more than a week earlier.

Less than 83,000 tests were reported in the previous 24 hours. The statewide preliminary seven-day average positivity rate, as a percentage of total tests, is 5.6 percent for the week ending Thursday, up by 0.5 percentage points from a week earlier.

Illinois Coronavirus Update Oct. 23: More Than Half Of Illinois Counties Now At ‘Warning Level’ — Don’t miss

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Colorado limits more gatherings as COVID cases spike

DENVER (AP) — Citing a steady increase in Colorado’s coronavirus hospitalization caseload, state health officials announced new limits Friday on personal gatherings of people from different households in more than two dozen counties.

An amended state health order affecting 29 of the state’s counties limits personal gatherings to 10 people from no more than two households. Gatherings of up to 25 people were previously permitted in those counties, Colorado Public Radio reported.

Personal gatherings in 30 other Colorado counties were already restricted to 10 people. No new limits were imposed for five counties with lesser caseloads.

The Department of Public Health and Environment said it took the action after investigators determined that COVID-19 cases associated with social gatherings and community exposure had been more common since July.

“We need to keep gatherings smaller and with people from fewer households — we are asking everyone to ‘shrink their bubble’ to reduce the spread,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, the department’s executive director.

On Tuesday, Gov. Jared Polis appealed to residents to help stem what he called an alarming acceleration of new cases and hospitalizations. Upward trends in new confirmed cases and hospitalizations could strain hospital intensive-care capacity in December, the Democratic governor said.

There are roughly 1,800 intensive-care beds statewide for all health emergencies. More than three-quarters of those beds were occupied for all reasons over the week leading up to Monday, the state health department said.

The state reported 458 virus hospitalizations Friday. Health officials reported there were nearly 20 positive COVID-19 cases per 100,000 residents Friday, one of the highest, if not the highest, recorded rates of the pandemic.

More than 2,000 people have died of the virus in Colorado, which has reported more than 85,000 positive cases. The number of cases is probably higher because of a lack of testing and other reasons.

The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

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Bilingualism is good medicine for the brain

Shortly after Kathy Jones relocated to California, the retired professor decided she needed to learn to speak Spanish.

Staying Well Bilingual Brain for Wellness_00000020.jpg

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Staying Well Bilingual Brain for Wellness_00000020.jpg

“When I moved to San Diego, I would see all these young kids, mostly Latino kids, who could speak perfect Spanish and perfect English. And switch, back and forth, with fluidity. And I saw that and I don’t know why, but I said to myself, I want to be able to do that,” she says.

Jones looked forward to her weekly Spanish class, but what she really loved was the extracurricular activities organized by her teachers at the Culture and Language Center in San Diego.

“Before the pandemic, we had meet-ups for coffee, parties, craft workshops and excursions all over Latin America — all totally in Spanish. We haven’t been able to do any of that since March.”

Jones is still keeping up with her classes, but they’re all online now. Her classmate is a friend who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and their teacher is based in Tijuana. Her online sessions are providing some much-needed social interaction while Jones and her husband hunker down in their San Diego home.

The benefits

Since Jones has been such a dedicated pupil, she’s almost reached fluency. And that could be good for her brain.

Some of the most compelling research on bilingualism and aging comes from Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto.

She found that bilinguals are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease four to five years later than their monolingual counterparts.

“The more you use another language, the better you get at it. Well, that’s not surprising, but along with that, the more you use two languages, the more your brain subtly rewires,” she says.

And when it comes to the beneficial effects bilingualism has on the brain, education levels do not matter. In fact, the most profound effects were found in people who were illiterate and had no education. Bilingualism was their only real source of mental stimulation, and as they got older, it provided protection for their aging brains.

Tamar Gollan of the University of California San Diego Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center explains it this way: “Bilingualism doesn’t prevent you from getting Alzheimer’s disease; it doesn’t prevent brain damage from happening if you have the disease. What it does is it makes you continue to function, even in the face of having damage to the brain. You can imagine an athlete with an injury crossing the finish line, even though they’re injured.”

So why does being bilingual have any effect at all?

“The effect it has is, I believe, is on the attention system,” Bialystok says. “This is what cognition is, knowing what you need to attend to, and blocking out the rest.”

Brain changes

Bialystok believes the experience of using two languages effectively reorganizes your brain.

“So that means the more experience with bilingualism leads to greater changes. The longer you’re bilingual, the more the changes. The earlier you start

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Coronavirus surge closes schools on Eastern Shore

Dorchester County School Superintendent W. David Bromwell said about 20 percent of the school system’s 4,700 students were on campus part time — a number slated to more than double next week under a hybrid-learning plan for pre-K to grade 12.

“We were doing well and moving slowly,” he said. But a sudden spike in the prevalence of the coronavirus brought the plan to a halt.

The test-positivity rate jumped from 2.9 percent to 6.1 percent in a eight-day period, said Dorchester County Health Officer Roger Harrell.

Coronavirus cases have not spread in schools, school and health officials said. They called the closure a cautionary measure taken to prevent a school outbreak.

“The scary part is how quickly it flipped, and it seemed to be growing exponentially,” Bromwell said. “It just appears that it’s hitting rural America.”

The sharp increase has not been traced to a particular event or outbreak in any part of the county and has affected people across age levels, Harrell said. The county includes the city of Cambridge, amid an expanse of farmland and waterways.

“We’ve not really figured out why,” he said. “I wish we had the magic answer, but we don’t have it yet.”

It will take at least two weeks of consistently lower positivity rates before schools can reopen, officials said.

At that point, Thanksgiving — and the possibility of spread during family get-togethers — may be around the corner and “certainly a concern,” Bromwell said.

“It kind of takes the wind out of your sails,” he said. “You start to get the impression that you’re returning to normalcy, and then . . . it takes the wind out of you.”

In recent months, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and State Superintendent Karen Salmon have visited schools around the state, lauding efforts to revive classroom instruction. Hogan said in late August that school systems were fully authorized to begin safely reopening for in-person classes, based on improving health metrics.

Nineteen of the state’s 24 school systems have opened school buildings to students to some extent this fall, state officials said Friday.

Hogan’s office issued a statement Friday saying Dorchester’s approach is consistent with data-driven health metrics provided by the state.

“The recent rise in the county’s positivity rate is connected to a small number of family clusters, which is in line with trends we are seeing statewide,” spokesman Mike Ricci said.

Salmon called the changes in Dorchester “an example of the metrics being utilized to inform health-based decisions at the local level,” according to a statement provided by the Maryland Department of Health.

Dorchester opened Sept. 8 and soon brought back seniors in career programs and later students with special needs. More recently, it embarked on a hybrid approach that combined online and in-person learning for students in pre-K, kindergarten, sixth grade and ninth grade.

Since schools opened, nine people related to schools in Dorchester have tested positive: four students, all teenagers, and five employees, only some of whom worked in school buildings.


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Pediatric mental health screenings increasing, but need remains

The number of behavioral health screenings for children are increasing year-over-year, but experts said more can be done to catch mental health conditions early on, especially as they pose more of a risk to children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to data from the Connecticut Department of Social Services, behavioral health screenings billed to Medicaid for children aged four to 17 went up by 50,000 from 3,697 in 2013 to 53,756 in 2019. Similar screenings for children under the age of three went up from 27,992 to 73,262.

“I wish I could say it’s because of educating practices but the bottom line is those numbers are increasing as time goes on and more resources become available,” said Dr. David Krol, a pediatrician who is also vice president for health initiatives for the Child Health and Development Institute of Connecticut. “We’re seeing more pediatricians doing these screenings.”

Valerie Lepoutre, statewide peer recovery program manager for the National Alliance on Mental Illness’ Connecticut chapter, said screenings and loved ones keeping an eye out for mental illness in children is even more crucial as many experience new levels of stress given the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’re constantly…saying to keep an eye out to how your child is responding and acting during this time and not dismiss it,” Lepoutre said. “We don’t know what the long-term effects will be and it could lead to other mental health challenges. Even if it goes away, it’s better to get help now.”

While behavioral health screenings and mental illness awareness are increasing, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported in a 2017 study that up to 20 percent of children experience a mental health disorder and many remain untreated. Lepoutre said that it can take up to a year for some mental illnesses to be diagnosed.

These delays are costly, not only in setting out a treatment plan, but for a patient’s physical health. Lepoutre said delays in diagnosis can lead to many patients not getting help for their mental illness until their 20s at which point many young adults are on their own insurance and may struggle with finding the time to navigate the behavioral health care system and to find a care team. Mental health can also take a toll on physical health, particularly if a child experiences trauma at a young age.

“This could cause other challenges for our generation ahead of us to see how are they physically handling the stress,” Lepoutre said. “Children are resilient but that post-traumatic growth is huge. We have to be mindful of negative consequences and effects this can have later in their lives.”

But there’s a number of ways experts are working to improve early detection. NAMI hosts educational programs, including one called “Ending the Silence” which is designed to teach teens the signs of mental illness.

Lepoutre said that many pediatricians only see patients once a year for wellness visits. This means it’s important to educate family, teachers and students of the signs of mental illness since they’re

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A Snapshot of COVID’s Global Havoc

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Some medical societies feature sessions at their annual meetings that feel like they’re 24 hours long, yet few have the courage to schedule a session that actually runs all day and all night. But the five societies sponsoring the IDWeek conference had that courage. The first 24 hours of the meeting was devoted to the most pressing infectious-disease crisis of the last 100 years: the COVID-19 pandemic. They called it “COVID-19: Chasing the Sun.”

Fauci Predicts a Vaccine Answer in Mid-November

Dr Anthony Fauci

In the first segment, at 10 am Eastern time, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, began the day by noting that five of the six companies the US invested in to develop a vaccine are conducting phase 3 trials. He said, “We feel confident that we will have an answer likely in mid-November to the beginning of December as to whether we have a safe and effective vaccine”. He added he was “cautiously optimistic” that “we will have a safe and effective vaccine by the end of the year, which we can begin to distribute as we go into 2021.” He highlighted the COVID-19 Prevention Network website for more information on the trials.

Glaring Racial Health Disparities in US

Dr Carlos del Rio

Some of the most glaring health disparities surrounding COVID-19 in the United States were described by Carlos del Rio, MD, professor of medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. He pointed out that while white people have about 23 cases per 10,000 population, Blacks have about 62 cases per 10,000, and Latinos have 73 cases per 10,000. While whites don’t see a huge jump in cases until age 80, he said, “Among Blacks and Latinos you start seeing that huge increase at a younger age. In fact, starting at age 20, you start seeing a major, major change.”

COVID-19 Diagnostics

Audrey Odom John, MD, PhD, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, is working on a new way of diagnosing COVID-19 infection in children by testing their breath. “We’re really taking advantage of a fundamental biological fact, which is that people stink,” she said. Breath shows the health of the body as a whole, “and it’s easy to see how breath volatiles might arise from a respiratory infection.” Testing breath is easy and inexpensive, which makes it particularly attractive as a potential test globally, she said.

Long-term Effects of COVID-19

Post-COVID illness threatens to overwhelm the health system in the United States, even if only 1% of the 8 million people who have been infected have some sort of long-term deficit, “which would be a very conservative estimate,” said John O’Horo, MD, MPH, with the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. Neurologic dysfunction is going to be a “fairly significant thing to keep an eye on,” he added. Preeti Malani, MD, chief health

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Kansas sees record 7-day spikes in COVID-19 cases, deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas set new records Friday for its largest seven-day increases in new coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths with what its top public health official called “a generalized spread” of the COVID-19 virus.

The state has averaged more than 700 new cases a day this month, and the figure was a record 768 for the seven days ending Friday, beating the previous high mark of 757 for the seven days ending Wednesday. The state Department of Health and Environment reported 1,774 new confirmed and probable coronavirus cases since Wednesday, an increase of 2.4% that brought the total for the pandemic to 76,230.

Dr. Lee Norman, the state health department’s head, said the generalized spread of the virus in Kansas has resulted from resistance to wearing masks in public, continuing to have mass gatherings, crowded school athletic events, and bringing students back to college and university campuses.

“This is absolutely what we’ve been predicting,” Norman said in a text to The Associated Press. “It is the natural consequence of not following the anti-contagion measures in our communities.”

Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said this week that she wants to work with leaders of the Republican-controlled Legislature on imposing a bipartisan, statewide mandate for people to wear masks in public. She issued such an order July 2, but state law allowed counties to opt out, and most did.

Top Republican lawmakers have argued against a “one-size-fits-all” mandate on diverse communities. But rural counties are seeing the largest numbers of new cases per 1,000 residents, and of the 20 counties with the biggest per capita spikes over the past two weeks, only two, Nemaha and Reno counties, have more than 10,000 residents.

Some Kansas elected officials have argued that a decline in the COVID-19 death rate since the start of the pandemic represents real progress as production of a widely available vaccine grows nearer. But in Kansas, where deaths represent about 1.3% of the reported cases, that figure has slowly inched up this month.

The state health department reported an additional 23 COVID-19-related deaths since Wednesday, bringing the pandemic total to 975. The state saw a record average of 16.57 new deaths a day during the seven days ending Friday, though some of that high mark can be attributed to earlier deaths being included when death certificates are reviewed by local and state health officials.

Kansas also reported another 78 coronavirus hospitalizations to bring the total to 3,584. The state averaged a record 31 new hospitalizations a day in the seven days ending Friday. The previous high mark was 29, also set earlier this month.

Kansas’ latest report comes as Missouri and perhaps a handful of other states are seeing alarming increases in hospitalizations but are unable to post accurate data on COVID-19 dashboards because of a flaw in the federal reporting system.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park has angered some residents and split local elected officials by allocating $350,000 in federal relief funds for buying cameras to

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