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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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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Trump’s den of dissent: Inside the White House task force as coronavirus surges

Atlas also cultivated Trump’s affection with his public assertions that the pandemic is nearly over, despite death and infection counts showing otherwise, and his willingness to tell the public that a vaccine could be developed before the Nov. 3 election, despite clear indications of a slower timetable.

Atlas’s ascendancy was apparent during a recent Oval Office meeting. After Trump left the room, Atlas startled other aides by walking behind the Resolute Desk and occupying the president’s personal space to keep the meeting going, according to one senior administration official. Atlas called this account “false and laughable.”

Discord on the coronavirus task force has worsened since the arrival in late summer of Atlas, whom colleagues said they regard as ill-informed, manipulative and at times dishonest. As the White House coronavirus response coordinator, Deborah Birx is tasked with collecting and analyzing infection data and compiling charts detailing upticks and other trends. But Atlas routinely has challenged Birx’s analysis and those of other doctors, including Anthony S. Fauci, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, and Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn, with what the other doctors considered junk science, according to three senior administration officials.

Birx recently confronted Vice President Pence, who chairs the task force, about the acrimony, according to two people familiar with the meeting. Birx, whose profile and influence has eroded considerably since Atlas’s arrival, told Pence’s office that she does not trust Atlas, does not believe he is giving Trump sound advice and wants him removed from the task force, the two people said.

Pence did not take sides, but rather told Atlas and Birx to bring data bolstering their perspectives to the task force and to work out their disagreements themselves, according to two senior administration officials.

The result has been a U.S. response increasingly plagued by distrust, infighting and lethargy, just as experts predict coronavirus cases could surge this winter and deaths could reach 400,000 by year’s end.

This assessment is based on interviews with 41 administration officials, advisers to the president, public health leaders and other people with knowledge of internal government deliberations, some of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide candid assessments or confidential information.

Atlas defended his views and conduct in a series of statements sent through a spokesperson and condemned The Washington Post’s reporting as “another story filled with overt lies and distortions to undermine the President and the expert advice he is being given.”

Atlas said he has always stressed “all appropriate mitigation measures to save lives,” and he responded to accounts of dissent on the task force by saying, “Any policy discussion where data isn’t being challenged isn’t a policy discussion.”

On the issue of herd immunity, Atlas said, “We emphatically deny that the White House, the President, the Administration, or anyone advising the President has pursued or advocated for a wide-open strategy of achieving herd immunity by letting the infection proceed through the community.”

The doctor’s denial conflicts with his previous public and

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