Trump rallies linked to 30,000 COVID cases

A new Stanford study concludes that Trump rallies resulted in more than 30,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and likely caused more than 700 deaths among attendees and their close contacts.

“The communities in which Trump rallies took place paid a high price in terms of disease and death,” concludes the research, conducted by economists from the university’s Institute for Economic Policy Research.

The new analysis, which is not peer-reviewed, studies the trajectory of the pandemic in counties that were the sites of 18 Trump campaign rallies last summer in cities such as Phoenix, Tulsa and Pittsburgh. It compared case counts before and after rallies, as well as case counts in rally counties to counties without rallies.

Video: CNN analysis shows new rise in coronavirus cases in counties that held Trump rallies

Although published in the waning days of the campaigns, it asserts that its goal was scientific.  It compared the number of confirmed cases in rally counties with matched counties where there was no rally — revealing the impact of large group gatherings on viral spread.

The events had been criticized by public health officials for not enforcing social distancing guidelines and mask-wearing. Photographs show gatherings of large crowds with signs and banners. Some rallies were indoors, such as a June 23 event at a Phoenix megachurch.

In response, the Trump campaign said it took steps to protect rally attendees, such as posting signs that urge the use of masks.

“Americans have the right to gather under the First Amendment to hear from the president of the United States, and we take strong precautions for our campaign events, requiring every attendee to have their temperature checked, providing masks they’re instructed to wear, and ensuring access to plenty of hand sanitizer,” Courtney Parella, the campaign’s deputy national press secretary, said in a statement.

The Biden campaign seized on the study, saying it is further evidence that Trump is holding “super-spreader” events.

“Donald Trump doesn’t even care about the very lives of his strongest supporters,” spokesman Andrew Bates told The Washington Post.

The study was led by economics professor B. Douglas Bernheim, who is also chair of Stanford’s Department of Economics and a Senior Fellow at the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research. Three doctoral students — Nina Buchmann, Zach Freitas-Groff and Sebastian Otero — contributed to the project.

Trump rallies have several distinguishing features that lend themselves to a study of contagion, according to the team.

For example, they are individual events that occur on identifiable days.  Also, because they take place in a specific county, their consequences can be compared with similar counties without such gatherings. It is also possible to compare COVID-19 prevalence before and after the rallies.

The team concluded that the rallies increased the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 by more than 250 per 100,000 residents in those counties.

 

 

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Miniature organs help test potential coronavirus drugs; GI symptoms linked to severe COVID-19

By Nancy Lapid

(Reuters) – The following is a roundup of some of the latest scientific studies on the novel coronavirus and efforts to find treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus.

Miniature lungs, colons help test COVID-19 treatments

Tiny organ-like structures grown in the laboratory to behave like human lungs and colons can be used to rapidly screen drugs and identify those with potential as COVID-19 treatments, researchers reported on Wednesday in Nature. Compared with traditional pre-clinical approaches, in which drugs are tested in cells from monkeys or from human cancer patients, these so-called organoids more faithfully mimic the complex cell types and structure of human tissues, according to Dr. Shuibing Chen and Dr. Robert Schwartz of Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. Their team developed organoids containing types of lung and colon cells that are known to become infected in people with COVID-19. In collaboration with teams at Columbia University and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, they screened 1,200 FDA-approved drugs and found three that showed activity against the novel coronavirus, including the cancer drug imatinib, sold as Gleevec by Novartis. It is currently being tested in four different COVID-19 clinical trials. (https://go.nature.com/34CLDtS)

GI symptoms linked with more severe COVID-19

Gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms are associated with more severe COVID-19 and worse outcomes, two research teams reported on Monday, a reversal of earlier data that suggested the opposite was true. One team reviewed 38 earlier studies of a total of more than 8,400 patients and found those with diarrhea were 63% more likely to develop severe COVID-19. Dr. Subash Ghimire of Guthrie Robert Packer Hospital in Pennsylvania suggested that patients with diarrhea may have higher viral loads, which can potentially lead the body to fight back with more severe responses. The other team studied 921 patients and found that the roughly 22% with at least one GI symptom had higher rates of hospital and intensive-care unit admissions and greater need for mechanical breathing assistance. The more GI symptoms patients had, the more their risk for these outcomes increased, Dr. Darbaz Adnan of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago reported. He said doctors evaluating COVID-19 patients need to bear in mind that GI symptoms may signal a markedly higher risk of a worsened disease course. Both studies were presented at the American College of Gastroenterology virtual annual meeting. (https://bit.ly/37OgZQh)

UK population with COVID-19 antibodies is shrinking

A new wave of coronavirus infections has been spreading in the UK, but the proportion of the population there with antibodies to the virus has been shrinking, potentially leaving more people vulnerable, new data show. In a report posted on Tuesday on medRxiv ahead of peer review, scientists at Imperial College London say that while 6% of the population had COVID-19 antibodies around the end of June, that rate fell to just 4.4% in September. Antibodies are not the body’s only line of defense. Also important are immune cells called T cells and B cells that

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7-hour flight to Ireland linked to 59 covid-19 cases, researchers say

A seven-hour international flight to Ireland this summer has been linked to 59 coronavirus cases in the country, Irish researchers said in a report.

Thirteen of the 49 passengers onboard tested positive for the novel coronavirus, even though the flight was only 17 percent full, according to the report released last week by the Irish Department of Public Health. Those 13 passengers went on to infect 46 more people throughout Ireland, the report says, which “demonstrates the potential for spread of SARS-COV-2 linked to air travel.”

Researchers did not clarify where the flight originated but said the cases and their subsequent spread show that “restriction of movement on arrival and robust contact tracing” can limit travel-linked transmissions of the coronavirus.

Masks were utilized by nine of those 13 infected passengers, with one child not wearing a mask and three passengers’ mask use “unknown,” the report noted.

Out of the 13 who tested positive on the flight, 12 were symptomatic. The 13 ranged in age from 1 to 65. Four were hospitalized, with one ending up in intensive care.

The report showed the cases on an in-flight map of the aircraft, which had a three-by-three configuration.


A diagram shows passenger seating on flight to Ireland in summer 2020. (Health Service Executive)

“Four of the flight cases were not seated next to any other positive case, had no contact in the transit lounge, wore face masks in-flight and would not be deemed close contacts under current guidance from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC),” the report states. Researchers defined “close contacts” on the flight as passengers within two seats of one another in every direction.

Symptoms began to appear in the earliest cases two days after the flight, and the latest case linked to the plane experienced symptoms 17 days after the flight. Researchers noted that the “source case is not known,” although one passenger reported that a family member that had tested positive three weeks before the flight.

“Air travel has accelerated the global pandemic, contributing to the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) throughout the world,” the study said. Researchers say the flight-linked cases show “the nature of transmission on board, despite implementation of non-pharmaceutical interventions” such as masks.

In September, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that nearly 11,000 people have been potentially exposed to the coronavirus on flights. A study released this month by the Defense Department that simulated in-flight transmission of the virus suggested that air passengers would need to be near an infectious person on a plane for 54 hours to receive a significant dose of the virus. The study has not yet been peer reviewed.

The report was published the same week that Ireland reimposed a stay-at-home order for six weeks in an effort to curb the spread of the virus. Daily new

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Deadly listeria outbreak possibly linked to deli meat

Oct. 24 (UPI) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it’s investigating an outbreak of listeria possibly linked to deli-style meats that has caused at least one death.

The outbreak has sickened 10 people, all of whom were hospitalized, in Florida, Massachusetts and New York. The death was reported in Florida.

The CDC said all those who were sick reported eating Italian-style meats, including salami, mortadella and prosciutto. The sick said they purchased both prepackaged meats and those sliced at a deli counter.

“The investigation is ongoing to determine if there is a specific type of deli meat or common supplier linked to illness,” the agency said.

The CDC advised those who are at a higher risk of becoming sick with listeriosis to avoid eating deli meats unless they’re cooked to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

Listeriosis can cause fever, muscle aches, headaches, stiff neck, confusion, loss of balance, convulsions, diarrhea and gastrointestinal symptoms. In pregnant women, the infection can cause early delivery or miscarriage.

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More than 100 coronavirus cases and 3 deaths linked to North Carolina church event

A North Carolina church’s multi-day event has led to more than 100 cases of the coronavirus and three deaths, health officials said.

The outbreak is linked to the United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte, which held convocations from Oct. 4 to Oct. 11.

Mecklenburg County’s Deputy Health Director said that a large number of people, including many from out of state, attended the events.

“I do not have a definitive count, I can say confidently from video that we’ve seen there were at least hundreds of people,” Raynard Washington said during a briefing Tuesday. “My understanding is that there were probably more than 1,000 involved over the course of that week.”

Local health departments in South Carolina, Georgia, New Jersey and New York have been made aware of the outbreak.

The United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 23, 2020. (Google Map)
The United House of Prayer for All People in Charlotte, N.C., on Oct. 23, 2020. (Google Map)

Health officials in Mecklenburg County, where the church is located, said Friday that 99 residents have tested positive, along with two in Iredell County. Of those confirmed cases, five have been hospitalized and a dozen are at the Madison Saints Paradise South Senior Living center.

One of the three deaths was at the center, Washington said, noting that at least four residents attended the church’s convocations.

The senior center declined to comment Friday and the church could not immediately be reached.

The health department said it is in the process of reaching out to more than 137 people who had close contact with the confirmed cases.

Around the country, church events have been linked to several coronavirus outbreaks.

In Maine, more than 40 people tested positive for the virus after Brooks Pentecostal Church in Waldo County held a fellowship rally earlier this month. Maine’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Nirav Shah said that about 100 to 150 people attended the rally and masks were available, but not routinely used.

And at least 10 cases have been tied to Calvary Baptist Church, also in Maine, after its pastor officiated an indoor wedding that has since been labeled a superspreader event linked to over a hundred infections and at least eight deaths.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said one outbreak at a church in Ohio County “spread like wildfire” after a man with the virus attended a single church service leading to at least 91 infections across five counties.

“We have been very careful throughout this pandemic to exempt religious services from any regulations,” the governor said. “The only exception to that is that we are now asking people who attend church to wear a mask.”

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Coronavirus cases linked to live music event at Virginia restaurant, attendees asked to self-quarantine

A live music event at a restaurant in Henrico, Va., is linked to a “cluster” of cases of the novel coronavirus, local health officials said this week when encouraging residents who may have been exposed to self-quarantine and monitor themselves for symptoms of COVID-19 over the next 14 days. 

Anyone who attended the live music event on Oct. 9 at JJ’s Grille on Staples Mill Road may have been exposed to the coronavirus, said officials with the Henrico County Health Department (HCHD) in a news release posted to the Virginia Department of Health website. 

Dr. Danny Avula, the director of Richmond’s and Henrico’s health districts, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the restaurant voluntarily closed for a temporary period of time after the cases were identified. (iStock)

Dr. Danny Avula, the director of Richmond’s and Henrico’s health districts, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the restaurant voluntarily closed for a temporary period of time after the cases were identified. (iStock)

“While there have been no reported cases of exposure associated with live music or group events held on dates before October 9, HCHD is still evaluating the potential for further exposures and would recommend that individuals who have visited the establishment after October 9 monitor for symptoms and consider being tested for COVID-19 infection,” health officials said. 

Dr. Danny Avula, the director of Richmond’s and Henrico’s health districts, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the restaurant voluntarily closed for a temporary period of time after the cases were identified. 

CAN MOUTHWASH PROTECT AGAINST CORONAVIRUS? EXPERTS DISCUSS RESULTS OF VIRAL STUDY

“In an office setting, you know everybody who works in the office and spent 15 minutes within 6 feet of an affected individual, but at these types of settings, it’s harder to do that,” Avula said of why the health district publically announced the outbreak, as a “lack of cooperation with contact tracing efforts and delays in testing” impacted health official’s efforts to notify everyone who could have been exposed, the newspaper reported. 

CDC REDEFINES CORONAVIRUS ‘CLOSE CONTACT’ TO INCLUDE MULTIPLE BRIEF EXPOSURES TO VIRUS

Officials did not provide a number of people who have tested positive, but Avula said some 75 people, including staff and restaurant patrons, have been contacted. 

CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE  CORONAVIRUS COVERAGE

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New England ice rinks shut down after coronavirus case clusters emerge linked to hockey

Health officials are concerned that indoor ice hockey could result in the spread of coronavirus this winter in several New England states, according to The Washington Post.

Massachusetts ordered all indoor ice rinks and skating facilities to close on Thursday, citing the 108 probable or confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been found to be linked to hockey games and their practices, according to a press release.

“This pause will allow for the development of stronger COVID-19 protocols to further protect players, families, coaches, arena staff and other participants, as well as communities surrounding hockey rinks,” the release stated.

New Hampshire made a similar move earlier in October. Health officials identified nearly 158 cases connected to hockey over a two-month period within the state, according to a press briefing held by Gov. Chris Sununu (R).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also released a study in October that revealed that 14 out of 22 Florida hockey players suffered COVID-19 symptoms following a game at an indoor arena in June. 

“The indoor space and close contact between players during a hockey game increase infection risk for players and creates potential for a superspreader event, especially with ongoing community COVID-19 transmission,” according to the study.

Youth hockey games in Maine were canceled after one referee contracted the virus and potentially exposed nearly 400 people over the course of one weekend, according to the Portland Press Herald.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott (R) issued a ban this month to keep rinks from taking new reservations for two weeks and will potentially add more restrictions, according to a news release.

Other states across the U.S. are preparing to brace for the winter amid spikes in coronavirus cases. The country has seen a total of 71,671 new cases and 865 deaths since Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Walmart sues US government in dispute linked to opioid crisis

Retail giant Walmart filed suit Thursday against the US Justice Department over what it said was an unfair attempt to hold it legally responsible for certain sales of opioid drugs.

The lawsuit is the latest legal battle linked to the opioid crisis in the United States, where widespread abuse has led to government efforts to address the problem and hold drugmakers accountable.

In its lawsuit brought before a federal court in Texas, the US retailer says its pharmacists and pharmacies were being put “in an untenable position” by the government.

The suit, which also names the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), says Walmart was acting preemptively to head off a separate civil suit that the Justice Department has been preparing to file against it.

Walmart said the government’s rules were unclear and that pharmacists could not be expected to know when a prescription written by a licensed doctor should not be filled.

“Walmart and its pharmacists should not be held responsible for the government’s failures to address the opioid crisis,” the suit says.

With the help of aggressive marketing from pharmaceutical companies, particularly through doctors, prescriptions for highly addictive opiate painkillers that had previously been reserved for serious cases skyrocketed in the late 1990s.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 500,000 Americans have died of opioid overdoses — both prescription and non-prescription — since 1999.

Walmart accuses the DEA of seeking to pass blame for its failures.

It alleges the agency “authorized manufacturers to produce ever-increasing quantities of the drugs, and largely abandoned its most potent enforcement tools against bad actors.”

It also said that “nearly 70 percent of the doctors whose prescriptions” the government intends to challenge “maintain their DEA prescription privileges to this day.”

Walmart alleges the government has spent years and considerable amounts of money on a criminal investigation that has not produced an indictment and was now turning to a civil lawsuit instead.

It is calling on the court to state that the company and its pharmacists are not subject to the legal responsibility with which the government is seeking to brand it.

Other large companies, including drug distributors Cardinal Health and McKesson, have been targeted in lawsuits by local and state authorities that accuse them of turning a blind eye to millions of opioid prescriptions despite knowing their addictiveness.

A settlement was reached between three distributors and two Ohio counties in October 2019, raising the possibility of a larger settlement.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced that Purdue Pharma, manufacturer of the drug OxyContin, had agreed to plead guilty as part of a deal worth some $8.3 billion.

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EPA refuses to reduce particulate pollution, linked by scientists to coronavirus deaths | Environment

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In April, as coronavirus cases multiplied across the country, the head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency rejected scientists’ advice to tighten air pollution standards for particulate matter, or soot.

In the next few weeks, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler likely will reaffirm that decision with a final ruling, despite emerging evidence that links particulate pollution to COVID-19 deaths.

There was enough evidence to support a stricter standard before the pandemic, said Christopher Frey, an environmental engineering professor at North Carolina State University who studies air pollution. The added threat from the coronavirus is like “icing on the cake.”

Particulate matter kills people. “It is responsible for more deaths and sickness than any other air pollutant in the world,” said Gretchen Goldman, a research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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Wheeler’s decision was specifically about fine particulate matter, or PM2.5, microscopic solid and liquid droplets less than one-thirtieth the width of a human hair. The pollution comes from cars, power plants, wildfires and anything that burns fossil fuels. It causes health complications that can lead people to die earlier than they would have, and it is linked to conditions such as COPD, asthma and diabetes.

Frey was part of a 26-member scientific panel that advised the EPA on particulate pollution until Wheeler disbanded the group in 2018. Twenty of the former members continued to review the science and provided unofficial advice to Wheeler as part of the public comment process. Their letter told Wheeler— a former coal lobbyist — that tightening the standard would avoid tens of thousands of premature deaths per year.

Firing the advisory panel and opting not to pursue a more stringent particulate standard were in keeping with the administration of President Donald Trump’s dim view of environmental regulation. By one tally compiled by The New York Times, 72 regulations on air, water and soil pollution, climate change and ecosystems have been canceled or weakened, with an additional 27 in progress. EPA leadership has sidelined or ignored research by agency scientists, and career staff are censoring their reports to avoid terms like “climate change” out of fear of repercussions from political staff.

The EPA has an “apparatus of particulate matter science denial” that rivals its attacks on climate science, Frey said. “If I wanted to get rid of [regulations on] particulate matter, I would do all the things Wheeler is doing.”

Wheeler made his decision “after carefully reviewing [the] scientific evidence and consulting with the agency’s independent science advisors,” an EPA spokesperson said in a statement. “The U.S. now has some of the lowest fine particulate matter levels in the world, five times below the global average, seven times below Chinese levels, and 20 percent lower than France, Germany and Great Britain.”

These

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About 38% of U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Are Linked to Nursing Homes


At least 84,000 coronavirus deaths have been reported among residents and employees of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for older adults in the United States, according to a New York Times database. As of October 20, the virus has infected more than 540,000 people at some 21,000 facilities.

Nursing home populations are at a high risk of being infected by — and dying from — the coronavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, is known to be particularly lethal to adults in their 60s and older who have underlying health conditions. And it can spread more easily through congregate facilities, where many people live in a confined environment and workers move from room to room.

While 7 percent of the country’s cases have occurred in long-term care facilities, deaths related to Covid-19 in these facilities account for about 38 percent of the country’s pandemic fatalities.

In 15 states, at least half of deaths are linked to nursing homes.

Share of state’s deaths linked to long-term care facilities

Cases and deaths in long-term care facilities, by state

United States 21,000 540,000 84,000 38%
New Hampshire 28 2,349 371 79%
Rhode Island 75 3,335 875 75%
Connecticut 346 10,603 3,270 72%
Minnesota 892 6,993 1,524 66%
Pennsylvania 1,013 29,434 5,585 65%
Massachusetts 702 25,214 6,209 64%
Maine 25 726 86 59%
Delaware 35 1,378 390 59%
Vermont 6 172 33 57%
Kentucky 346 8,725 771 55%

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*In New York, the case count is often the same as the death count because the state only reports the number of people who have died but not the number of overall infections.·States with insufficient data to calculate a share of Covid-19 deaths are shaded gray.

The share of deaths linked to long-term care facilities for older adults is even starker at the state level. In 15 states, the number of residents and workers who have died accounts for either half or more than half of all deaths from the virus.

Infected people linked to nursing homes also die at a higher rate than the general population. The median case fatality rate — the number of deaths divided by the number of cases — at facilities with reliable data is 16 percent, significantly higher than the 3 percent case fatality rate nationwide.

Facility fatality rates are much higher than the national average

Number of long-term care facilities by case fatality rate

20facilities40facilities60facilities80facilities100facilities0% 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60%

The U.S. case fatality rate is 3%.

The median case fatality rate in long-term care facilities is 16%.

Note: Only facilities with reliable case and death data and at least 50 cases are included.

In the absence of comprehensive data from some states and the federal government, The Times has been assembling its own database of coronavirus cases and deaths at long-term care facilities for older adults. These include nursing homes, assisted-living

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