54% of US counties lack testing site; new guidance out on resuming surgeries — 7 COVID-19 updates

The U.S. has reported 1,528,661 COVID-19 cases and 91,938 related deaths as of 7:45 a.m. CDT May 20. Globally, there have been 4,922,137 reported cases and 323,723 deaths, while 1,706,539 have recovered.

Seven updates: 

1. The CDC released official reopening guidelines this week, according to The Washington Post. The 60-page document comes about two weeks after the White House reportedly tabled the guidelines over concerns they were too restrictive. The document offers a roadmap on how to reopen schools, childcare facilities, restaurants and public transit via a three-phase approach. At present, all 50 states have reopened their economies in some capacity, according to The New York Times.

2. About 54 percent of U.S. counties don't have a testing site for COVID-19, according to a report from the software company Castlight Health. Among metro counties with 50,000 residents or more, 38 percent didn't have a testing site. This figure jumped to 68 percent for rural counties with fewer than 10,000 people. The report's authors said retail clinics could help close this gap in testing access. 

3. Industry groups shared additional guidance for resuming elective surgeries May 19. The Association of periOperative Registered Nurses, American Hospital Association and AdvaMed developed the guidance on how to ensure the safe reentry of device representatives into hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The guidance builds on the existing roadmap on resuming elective surgeries that AHA rolled out April 17 with AORN, the American College of Surgeons and American Society of Anesthesiologists, according to AHA News.

4. Moderna didn't release enough data to prove its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is effective, some vaccine experts told STAT. Moderna released data from an early trial that showed its vaccine created an immune response against COVID-19, though most of the information was words instead of data statistics, according to STAT. Furthermore, the figures that were released don't mean a lot on their own because critical information needed to interpret the data was not included, the experts argued.

The results came from just eight people, and the results were released two weeks after patients received their second dose, too early to know if antibodies will last, experts told STAT. In phase 2 of the trial, Moderna plans to test the vaccine on at least 600 people. 

5. A data scientist who created Florida's COVID-19 dashboard claims she was removed for refusing to manipulate data, according to NPR. Rebekah Jones, PhD, served as manager of the Florida health department's Geographic Information System team, which created a dashboard that organized COVID-19 cases by ZIP code. On May 15, Dr. Jones notified public health researchers that she'd been removed from the project and now says she's been fired from the Florida Department of Health. Her dismissal allegedly came after she refused to "manually change data to drum up support for the plan to reopen," Dr. Jones said in a statement to CBS12 News

Helen Aguirre, communications director for Gov. Ron DeSantis, said Dr. Jones "exhibited a repeated course of insubordination during her time with the department, including her unilateral decisions to modify the department's COVID-19 dashboard without input or approval from the epidemiological team or her supervisors," in a statement to The Miami Herald.

6. A federal judge has ruled that Texas voters can cast mail-in ballots in the November presidential election, citing COVID-19 exposure risks at polling places, according to The New York Times. U.S. District Judge Fred Biery upheld the state Democratic Party's claim that Texans required to physically vote could be exposed to the virus, though Attorney General Ken Paxton vowed to appeal, claiming the ruling "ignores the evidence and disregards well-established law." Similarly, Michigan said it will send absentee ballot applications to all of its voters.

7. Nonessential travel to Canada has been banned through June 21, according to a tweet by Canadian radio station 660 NEWS Calgary. On May 19, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the U.S. agreed to Canada's request to extend the mutual ban until June 21. President Donald Trump is also considering a Brazil travel ban after the country's COVID-19 cases jumped, according to The Hill. As of May 20, Brazil has the third highest case count, behind the U.S. and Russia. 


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