Task force sees ‘unrelenting’ COVID-19 spread; daily U.S. cases up by record 91,000

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House coronavirus task force warned that much of the country is in the grips of an “unrelenting” surge in COVID-19 cases and urged tough countermeasures, as the number of U.S. infections reported on Thursday hit a new daily record of more than 91,000.

FILE PHOTO: Healthcare workers wearing powered air purifying respirator (PAPR) hoods process COVID-19 test samples at a drive-thru testing site operated by Avera Health inside the former Silverstar Car Wash, as the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak continues in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, U.S., October 28, 2020. REUTERS/Bing Guan/File Photo

The hardest-hit regions in the West and Midwest encompass a number of battleground states expected to play a pivotal role in Tuesday’s U.S. presidential election contest between Republican incumbent Donald Trump and his Democratic challenger, Joe Biden.

“We are on a very difficult trajectory. We’re going in the wrong direction,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, a leading task force member and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said coronavirus cases were on the rise in 47 states, and patients were overwhelming hospitals across the country.

“If things do not change, if they continue on the course we’re on, there’s gonna be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations, and deaths,” Fauci said in a CNBC interview on Wednesday night.

The White House coronavirus task force has warned states in the middle and western parts of the country that aggressive measures will be necessary to curb the virus’ spread, according to weekly state reports seen by CNN.

“We continue to see unrelenting, broad community spread in the Midwest, Upper Midwest and West. This will require aggressive mitigation to control both the silent, asymptomatic spread and symptomatic spread,” one state’s report said.

The ominous assessment was echoed on Thursday by Dr. Ashish Jha, Brown University’s dean of public health, who told Reuters, “things are very, very bad in the United States right now.”

“We are having some of the largest breakouts that we’ve had during the entire pandemic,” he said, adding that the initial waves of infections last spring were more localized.

“And nine, 10 months into this pandemic, we are still largely not quite prepared.”

At least a dozen states – Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio and Oregon – reported record one-day increases in COVID-19 cases on Thursday, according to a Reuters tally.

Seventeen states reported a record number of hospitalizations, a metric that has soared across the country and is independent of how much testing is being done.

Nationally, health authorities on Thursday confirmed 91,248 more people tested positive for COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, the highest single-day increase in cases reported to date, according to a Reuters tally. The previous 24-hour record tally was 84,169 cases, set just last Friday.

The number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 stood at

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Space Force vice chief of space operations tests positive for COVID-19

Lt. Gen. David D. Thompson, Vice Commander of the United States Space Force, seen at the Air Force Association, Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., in February, tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Photo by Jonathan Snyder/U.S. Air Force

Lt. Gen. David D. Thompson, Vice Commander of the United States Space Force, seen at the Air Force Association, Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., in February, tested positive for COVID-19 this week. Photo by Jonathan Snyder/U.S. Air Force

Oct. 29 (UPI) — Space Force’s vice chief of space operations tested positive for COVID-19 Wednesday, Space Force announced.

According to a press release issued jointly by the Space Force and the Air Force, Gen. David D. Thompson took a test for the virus after learning that a close family member had tested positive.

Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Thompson has not shown symptoms of COVID-19 so far and was on leave last week, but returned to the Pentagon for work on Monday and Tuesday to address a virtual symposium for the National Defense Industrial Association and Texas A&M University.

He is now self-isolating and working from home.

According to Stefanek, Chief of Space Operations Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown, Jr., and Air Force Secretary Barbara M. Barrett have not tested positive for the new virus within the past 24 hours.

Raymond and Brown recently ended a period of isolation after a potential exposure among the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“The Department of the Air Force continues to follow established DoD and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policies and guidelines for COVID. Measures include temperature testing, social distancing to the greatest extent possible, the wearing of masks when social distancing is not possible, and contact tracing and quarantining, if needed,” the press release said.

As of Thursday morning a total of 55,443 COVID-19 cases had been reported in the military since the beginning of the pandemic, with 8,839 of those reported among Air Force personnel.

Earlier this month Marine Corps assistant commandant Gen. Gary Thomas and Adm. Charles Ray, vice commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, tested positive for COVID-19.

And last week United States Forces Korea said 13 service members had tested positive for the virus, the second time in two weeks that USFK reported personnel arriving in Korea had tested positive.

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Second highest ranking officer in US Space Force tests positive for Covid-19

“General David D. Thompson, Vice Chief of Space Operations, tested positive today for COVID-19. He took the test today after learning that a close family member, with whom he had contact, tested positive for the virus,” the statement read. “In accordance with established COVID policies, General Thompson is self-quarantining and working remotely from home.”

The US Space Force is a newly formed military service branch structured within the Department of the Air Force that “trains, equips and maintains mission-ready space forces that provide missile warning, space domain awareness, positioning, navigation and timing, communications and space electronic warfare,” according to the US Defense Department.

Thompson isn’t the first Defense Department official to have been diagnosed with the virus. The vice commandant of the US Coast Guard, Adm. Charles Ray, tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month. His diagnosis prompted Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley and several members of the Pentagon’s senior leadership to quarantine.
Additionally, during the coronavirus outbreak among members of President Donald Trump’s inner circle who had attended a Rose Garden event earlier this month, at least one staffer — who is military personnel directly assigned to support the President in the Oval Office and residence — tested positive, according to a person familiar with the matter at the time.
The Defense Department has struggled with several coronavirus outbreaks during the pandemic. CNN reported earlier this month that the coronavirus had returned to the USS Theodore Roosevelt, the same aircraft carrier that experienced a major outbreak earlier this year, the handling of which caused the ship’s captain to be fired and led to the resignation of the acting Navy secretary.
In March, the department banned travel for members of the armed services, Defense Department civilian employees and their family members who are living on or serving at military properties to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
As of Wednesday morning, there had been 81,288 cases of coronavirus and 105 deaths from the virus among Defense Department personnel, according to department data. That includes military, civilian, dependents and contractors.

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Colon Cancer Screening Should Start at Age 45: Task Force | Health News

By Dennis Thompson
HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay)

TUESDAY, Oct. 27, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Average folks should start being screened at age 45 to prevent colon cancer, five years earlier than is now recommended, the nation’s top preventive medicine panel says.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force currently recommends that people aged 50 to 75 be regularly screened for colon cancer, one of a handful of cancers that can be prevented outright.

But new data suggests that screening earlier could save even more lives, said task force member Dr. Michael Barry, director of the Informed Medical Decisions Program in the Health Decision Sciences Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

“We have epidemiologic data that the risks of colorectal cancer are increasing before age 50, particularly in that 45- to 49-year-old age group,” Barry said.

Computer models suggest that about 25 colon cancer deaths are prevented for every 1,000 Americans between 50 and 75 who are screened, Barry said.

The earlier start is expected to prevent at least one more death per every 1,000 screened, Barry said.

Under the Affordable Care Act, health insurance companies are required to cover the full cost of any screening test recommended by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF). The task force is an independent, volunteer panel of national experts in prevention and evidence-based medicine.

This guideline covers people at average risk for colon cancer, Barry said. People with factors that put them at higher risk — for example, a strong family history of colon cancer — might need to start screening even earlier, and should discuss it with their doctor.

Colon cancer almost always develops from precancerous polyps that form in the colon or rectum. These screening tests detect the presence of these polyps, so they can be removed before they turn into cancer.

Colonoscopy is the most widely known colon cancer screening method, but it’s not the only one, Barry said.

“There are a whole group of tests that can reduce the risk that someone will die of colorectal cancer,” he said.

For example, people can have their stool tested for the presence of tiny amounts of blood, which can indicate the presence of either cancer or polyps.

“That strategy, according to our modeling, can be about as good as colonoscopy in terms of reducing risk,” Barry said.

The frequency a person undergoes screening would depend on the type of test they choose, Barry said. A person with a clean colonoscopy wouldn’t have to be rechecked for a decade, while stool blood tests are often done every one to three years.

When the USPSTF last updated its colon cancer guidelines in 2016, it kept the age at which screening begins at 50 because they were concerned about the strength of the data supporting an earlier start, explained Robert Smith, senior vice president of cancer screening for the American Cancer Society.

The American Cancer Society updated its guidelines in 2018 to recommend that colon cancer screening start at age 45, he added.

“By 2018,

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Medical task force recommends lowering suggested age for colorectal screenings

The Task Force announced Tuesday morning their proposal to lower the suggested age for when to start colorectal screenings, moving it up five years, from 50, to 45 years old. The move may indicate a growing call for awareness and accelerate action amongst an age group that may not know they’re at risk.

“The prognosis is so much better if you catch it at an earlier stage,” Dr. Kimmie Ng, the director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told ABC News. “These new guidelines are hugely significant. They support and validate the alarming epidemiologic trends we’ve been seeing: This cancer is rising at about a rate of 2% per year, in people under the age of 50, since the 1990s.”

Colorectal cancer impacts the gastrointestinal system’s final segment. While lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., colorectal cancer comes second, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and yet, it remains one of the most treatable, even curable cancers, when caught in its early stages.

“Way too young” were the words resounding across the globe late this summer, when news broke that actor Chadwick Boseman, at just 43 years old, had died of colon cancer. Boseman had kept his long, difficult battle mostly private, but the shock of his loss was compounded by a common misconception: that the disease only strikes older people.

Even though overall incidence and mortality rates for colorectal cancer have decreased over the past few decades, colorectal cancer deaths among younger adults continue to climb. It’s a concerning trend, experts told ABC News, pointing out the importance of testing and early intervention.

PHOTO: A doctor speaks with a patient in this stock photo.

In 2018, the American Cancer Society updated their guidelines, recommending that those at average risk of colorectal cancer begin regular screening at age 45. Experts hope the Task Force’s update shines a light on the importance of the issue.

For years prior, screening was not generally recommended for the below-50 crowd. This led to potentially vulnerable, or even sick adults putting off testing thinking their symptoms did not rise to the level of firm diagnosis. Because of this lack of awareness, pernicious, possibly cancerous growths remained undetected for too long, experts say, and now, young patients are suffering from more advanced, harder to treat cancers.

“Cancer is simply not on their radar,” Ng said, speaking more specifically about colon cancer. “They’re otherwise young and healthy. So we need to emphasize that yes, this can happen in young people.”

Nearly 25% of screening-eligible Americans have never been screened for colon cancer, and yet, it is expected to cause over 53,000 American deaths this year alone. Of the roughly 148,000 individuals who will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2020, about 18,000 of

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Colorectal cancer screening should start at age 45, not 50, federal task force says

The draft recommendation statement, which was released Tuesday and is now open for public comment, marks a departure from its last update to the guidelines about five years ago. (Task force recommendations are typically revisited every five years.) The panel previously concluded that data on lowering the starting age was mixed and that beginning screenings before 50 would provide only a “modest” benefit. Its position stood in contrast with the American Cancer Society’s, which updated its recommendation in 2018 to say regular screenings should start at age 45.

Now, though, Barry said a review of more recent epidemiological studies on the risk of colorectal cancer increasing in younger people, coupled with simulation modeling, which suggests additional deaths could be prevented if screenings were to start at 45, led the task force to the same conclusion as the cancer society. The draft statement will be available for public comment until Nov. 23, with final recommendations expected to be released “within a few months,” Barry said.

Outside experts say the consensus among the leading organizations could have broad implications on access to care.

“These guidelines, if finalized, eventually will change standard of care for preventive medicine and how we recommend cancer screenings for average-risk Americans,” said Kimmie Ng, director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.

Many insurance companies, for instance, often base their coverage on recommendations from the task force, which evaluates screening tests, counseling services and preventive medications, Ng said. As it stands, the draft statement makes regular colorectal cancer screenings for people ages 45 to 75 a service that most private insurance plans are required by law to cover with no co-pay for patients, according to the task force.

“I think the result of all of this will be that life will be saved,” Ng said.

Robert Smith, senior vice president of cancer screening for the American Cancer Society, called the proposed update a “welcome change.” Although the existing guidelines from the cancer society and the task force are “both highly respected” and used frequently by health-care providers, Smith said he hopes “removing that barrier” of insurance coverage will increase the number of referrals for people in the 45-to-49 age group.

“It may very well be that a physician, who has been shown to be sensitive to the costs of care, would choose not to recommend getting screening at age 45, because they’re concerned that the patient would get a bill that they couldn’t afford to pay,” Smith said. “We’re already seeing screening rates go up in adults at age 45, but they’ll go up a lot more now.”

“It’s been shown that in the African American community, they have higher incidence and mortality of colorectal cancer, and there’s been the question whether this is due to biology or access to care,” said Robin Mendelsohn, co-director of the Center for Young Onset Colorectal Cancer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York. “More and more, we believe that it’s likely access to

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Dr. Fauci Says Trump Hasn’t Been to White House COVID-19 Task Force Meetings in ‘Several Months’

Donald Trump has been absent from White House COVID-19 task force meetings for “several months,” says White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Fauci.

According to CNBC, Vice President Pence leads the task force meetings that used to occur every day during the first few months of the pandemic but have now been scaled down to one virtual meeting a week despite cases continuing to rise.

“We certainly interact with the vice president at the task force meetings, and the vice president makes our feelings and what we talk about there known to the president,” Fauci told MSNBC’s Chuck Todd. 

Related: Fauci quotes ‘The Godfather’ in response to Trump criticisms

Trump apparently receives all of his information via Pence and coronavirus advisor Scott Atlas, according to the director of the National Institutes of Health Dr. Francis Collins, who did an interview with NPR on Monday. Dr. Collins also sits on the task force.

“The President is routinely briefed about the coronavirus each and every day,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Matthews told CNBC in a statement. “The relevant information is brought to him on the big decisions, and then he moves forward in the way that’s best for our country.”

While the President misses task force meetings, the United States is averaging nearly 61,000 new cases of COVID-19 on a daily basis, CNBC cited. Texas currently has the most cases out of any other state of the last seven days, currently sitting at 35,292 according to CDC COVID data tracker.

Trump has also gone on record to ridicule Dr. Fauci, saying that he is tired of listening to him. 

“Fauci is a disaster. If I listened to him, we’d have 500,000 deaths,” he said, later repeating himself and raising the number even higher. “If there’s a reporter on, you can have it just the way I said it, I couldn’t care less.”

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Fauci: Trump has not been to a task force meeting in months

President TrumpDonald John TrumpMore than 300 military family members endorse Biden Five takeaways from the final Trump-Biden debate Biden: ‘I would transition from the oil industry’ MORE has not been to a White House coronavirus task force meeting in several months, Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump, Biden clash over coronavirus response, mounting death toll Stahl tells Pence he and Trump ‘insulted 60 Minutes’ by giving ‘campaign speeches’ How Trump lost to the coronavirus MORE said Friday.

During an interview on “Meet the Press Daily,” the nation’s top infectious disease doctor said he hasn’t directly interacted with or spoken to Trump in some time.

“I definitely don’t have his ear as much as Scott Atlas right now, that has been a changing situation,” Fauci said. 

Scott Atlas is a neuroradiologist and a fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank. He was added to the task force over the summer after appearing frequently on Fox News.

Atlas has emerged as one of Trump’s most influential advisers, but he has come under fire from public health experts inside and outside the administration who accuse him of feeding the president — and the public — misinformation.

Fauci said he meets virtually with the heads of federal health agencies, such as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, as well as task force coordinator Deborah BirxDeborah BirxScott Atlas: Fauci ‘just one person on the task force’ Overnight Health Care: Trump takes criticism of Fauci to a new level | GOP Health Committee chairman defends Fauci | Birx confronted Pence about Atlas Birx confronted Pence about Atlas MORE.

Fauci said that during the spring, the task force would meet almost every day, but once the focus of the White House shifted to the economics of reopening the country, the frequency of official task force meetings has dropped to once a week.

Fauci said most of his interactions with the White House now are with Vice President Pence.

“We certainly interact with the vice president at the task force meetings, and the vice president makes our feelings known to the president, but direct involvement with the president and discussions, I have not done that in a while,” Fauci said.

Fauci said the country is in a “precarious” position, and people really need to understand how difficult the winter will be if coronavirus infections continue to spike the way they are now.

The United States on Thursday reported at least 75,049 new coronavirus cases, the second-highest daily total so far. 

“We don’t want to shut the country down. Every time I talk about things that we need to do, people get concerned. We’re not talking about shutting down, but we’re talking about doubling down on some of the fundamental public health measures that we need to adhere to,” Fauci said, like the universal wearing of masks, physical distancing, avoiding large crowds and indoor dining.

“They seem rather simple, but they really do work,” he said.

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DVIDS – News – Task Force Illini Soldiers prepare for the new Army fitness test


LVIV, Ukraine – On Oct. 1, the implementation stage of the Army Combat Fitness Test (ACFT) began as the Army replaces the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) to assess Soldier fitness. Task Force Illini Soldiers are preparing for the new standards while deployed.

Prior to October 2020, Soldiers were required to take the 3-event APFT. The APFT included two-minutes of push-ups and sit-ups, and a 2-mile run. Participants were scored on the number of repetitions they completed against standards for their age and gender. Soldiers will not be required to take the ACFT for a record score until 2022.

The ACFT, now in its implementation stage, is the Army’s new 6-event test including a three-repetition maximum deadlift, a standing power throw, hand release push-ups, a sprint-drag-carry, leg tucks, and a two-mile run. The Army determined these events will better serve to gauge a Soldier’s physical readiness to complete basic Soldier tasks and perform to the classification of their Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) regardless of age and gender.

The scoring classifications for the ACFT are, in ascending score order: “moderate,” which includes occupations such as Wheeled Vehicle Mechanic and Unit Supply Specialist; “significant,” for occupations like Health Care Specialist and Human Resource Specialist; and “heavy” for occupations such as Cavalry Scout and Motor Transport Operator.

“I think it’s a good comprehensive assessment of someone’s fitness. I think it is going to be a challenge for unit leaders to implement. It will be a rough start, but I am optimistic that we’ll get past the learning curve,” said Capt. Jonathon Gosa, a Task Force Illini Brigade Fires Advisor from East Moline, Illinois.

Though Task Force Illini Soldiers are not currently required to take the ACFT during their deployment, but many members are still using their time to prepare themselves for the test.

“I’m getting in better shape for the new ACFT. As a junior non-commissioned officer, I can’t expect my Soldiers to do anything I can’t do myself,” said Cpl. Cody Gaboriault, an Artillery Repairer from Creve Couer, Illinois.

Soldiers said they are looking forward to challenging themselves to complete the new ACFT events, and they have noted what they need to work most on.

“The sprint-drag-carry seems like the most endurance heavy event. It will be a test of mental and physical strength,” said Sgt. Dayna Brown, an Automated Logistics Specialist from Decatur, Illinois.

The deadlift seems to be the event most Task Force Illini Soldiers are looking forward to. The event requires a Soldier to deadlift between 140 and 340 pounds depending on their physical requirement classification.

“I’m excited for deadlifting because it’s already a part of my workout routine,” said Spc. Gianna Polizzi, Supply Specialist and Chicago resident. “I think the ACFT will be beneficial for those who already love strength training and for those who want to get into it more.”

Task Force Illini is the command element of Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine, which is responsible

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San Antonio mayor to discuss Space Force, military medicine in Pentagon visit

Mayor Ron Nurenberg will spend Thursday in Washington talking with top Pentagon officials about bolstering the military’s many medical assets here, as well as the city’s hope to serve as the new home of U.S. Space Command.



Ron Nirenberg et al. standing next to a man in a suit and tie: Mayor-elect Ron Nirenberg attends the basic military training graduation of 526 airmen at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in 2017.


© Bob Owen /San Antonio Express-News

Mayor-elect Ron Nirenberg attends the basic military training graduation of 526 airmen at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in 2017.


He’ll meet with the Air Force’s chief of staff, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., as well as Gen. John “Jay” Raymond, U.S. Space Force’s chief of space operations, and the head of the Defense Health Agency, Lt. Gen. Ronald J. Place.

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The goal: Convince those leaders that San Antonio, “Military City, U.S.A.,” is ready to host Space Command, support other new Air Force operations here and help expand military medicine missions.

“I wanted them to know San Antonio is going to show up, even when the world’s on pause,” Nirenberg said, referring to the coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike the annual SA to DC lobbying trip to Washington, this one will be a small affair, with Nirenberg bringing only two others with him. Nirenberg called this trip a “precision exercise.”

“If SA to DC is sending in the cavalry, this trip is the air strike,” he said.

In setting up the meetings, Pentagon officials asked that the mayor keep the group to just three people because they were to meet with major decision-makers. The others with him retired Marine Maj. Gen. Juan Ayala, director of the city’s Office of Military and Veteran Affairs, and Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president/CEO of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation.

The big-ticket items on the agenda include Space Command and the Defense Health Agency, but there will be other stops. Nirenberg will talk with the undersecretary of the Army, and the Department of Defense’s office for Homeland Defense Integration and Defense Support to Civil Authorities.

The mayor’s office said Nirenberg will have specific “asks” or points of information for ongoing or future initiatives from the city or local military community that add value to Joint Base San Antonio, the largest joint base in the Department of Defense. The trip will encourage senior Pentagon leaders to consider keeping San Antonio at the top of their list to either relocate missions or activate new ones.

San Antonio made it through the initial cut as the Air Force seeks a permanent headquarters for the Space Command, now based in Colorado Springs, Colo. Governors from 26 states nominated 100 cities to be the command’s new home.

It was established as the 11th combat command in August 2019 and the Air Force is now in the evaluation phase of a selection process that aims to pick finalists in mid-to late-November. A decision is expected in January, and the new headquarters will take about six years to put in place.

Nirenberg has said San Antonio is a natural fit for Space Command because of its quality of life, a

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