Children may be more contagious than adults; deaths should fall next week, CDC director says — 6 COVID-19 updates

COVID-19 deaths should start dropping in the U.S. by next week, Robert Redfield, MD, director of the CDC, said in an Aug. 20 interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The nation's seven-day average of daily deaths has been above 1,000 for at least 24 days in a row, CNN reports. Dr. Redfield said COVID-19 precautions like shutting down bars can help reduce virus cases and deaths, but there is a three- to four-week lag until the numbers reflect such efforts. Currently, COVID-19 cases are falling in Southern hotspots, though cases in some Midwestern states are holding steady, Dr. Redfield said.

Six updates:

1. Children may play a larger role in community spread than previously thought, according to a new study from Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital. Published in The Journal of Pediatrics, the study followed 192 children under age 22 and found 49 children tested positive for COVID-19, while an additional 18 children had late-onset, virus-related complications. The infected children had significantly higher levels of virus in their airways than hospitalized adults in ICUs for COVID-19, meaning they are more contagious, the study authors concluded. 

2. The White House has blocked the FDA from regulating some lab tests, including ones used for COVID-19, The Washington Post reports. The move, announced Aug. 19 by HHS, is strongly opposed by the FDA, according to the Post. Administration officials said the decision was made because the FDA is only authorized to regulate lab-created tests through the slow process of formal legislation. Some experts say the change may result in unreliable tests and potentially worsen the testing crisis, while supporters said it could help get innovative tests to market more quickly.  

3. HHS is denying reports that the federal COVID-19 reporting process will return to the CDC, reports NBC affiliate KWES-TV. On Aug. 17, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, said the current COVID-19 data collection process was an "interim system" that would move back to the CDC after the agency finishes building "a revolutionary new data system." However, HHS Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs Michael Caputo said "the process for COVID-19 data reporting has not and is not changing," in a statement to the broadcasting company Tegna, which owns KWES-TV. Mr. Caputo clarified that Dr. Birx's mention of an interim system was referring to manual reporting processes the CDC is working to automate. 

4. Florida surpassed more than 10,000 COVID-19 deaths Aug. 20. The state is now the fifth to hit this death toll, alongside New York, New Jersey, Texas and California, reports the South Florida Sun Sentinel

5. About 1 in 5 nursing homes nationwide have faced severe shortages of staff or personal protective equipment, according to new research accepted for publication in Health Affairs. Nursing homes with confirmed COVID-19 cases, a larger Medicaid population and lower quality scores were more likely to report shortages.

6. The number of Americans filing unemployment claims rose again after two weeks of decline, reports CNN. More than 1.1 million Americans filed initial unemployment claims for the week ending Aug. 15, according to seasonally adjusted data released Aug. 20 by the U.S. Department of Labor. About 135,000 more claims were filed this week compared to revised levels for last week.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 5,576,206
Deaths: 174,290
Recovered: 1,947,035

Counts reflect data available as of 8:35 a.m. CDT Aug. 21.

More articles on public health:
US coronavirus death rates by state: Aug. 21
Number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, state by state: Aug. 21
20 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Aug. 21


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