COVID-19 cases up 55% among college-aged adults; NYC to fine people who refuse to wear masks — 6 updates

The U.S. has reported an average of 43,144 new COVID-19 cases daily in the past week, up 13 percent from the average seen two weeks ago, reports The New York Times.

Six updates:

1. New York City's COVID-19 test positivity rate has climbed to 3.25 percent, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a Sept. 29 news conference. This figure is up from 1.93 percent Sept. 28 and marks the highest daily rate since June. During the same press conference, Mr. de Blasio said the city will offer residents free facemasks, and anyone who refuses to wear one will be fined, reports CBS News.

2. Political interference may undermine the FDA's credibility ahead of vaccine distribution, seven former agency commissioners wrote in an op-ed posted by The Washington Post. Recent misstatements and overruling of FDA scientists by political leaders makes it difficult for the agency to make independent, science-based decisions, according to the article penned by Robert Califf, MD; Scott Gottlieb, MD; Margaret Hamburg, MD; Jane Henney, MD; David Kessler, MD; Mark McClellan, MD, PhD; and Andy von Eschenbach, MD. These actions are eroding the public's trust in FDA decision-making, which could have dire implications, the authors warn, citing a declining number of Americans willing to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Political interference only prolongs the pandemic and erodes public health institutions, the former commissioners concluded.

3. COVID-19 cases among college-aged adults increased 55 percent nationwide between Aug. 2 and Sept. 5, according to the CDC. The finding is based on a CDC analysis of weekly COVID-19 incidence among people ages 18 to 22. The greatest jump in cases occurred in the Northeast (144 percent) and Midwest (123 percent). The CDC said these increases were not solely attributable to greater testing capacity. 

4. Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment may accelerate the recovery of non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients, according to early trial results released Sept. 29. Results show the antibody treatment REGN-COV2 caused virus levels to drop more quickly in COVID-19 patients, suggesting the therapy may help them recover faster. Health experts said the results could be promising, but more data are needed to fully understand how beneficial monoclonal antibody treatments will be, reports STAT.

5. CMS updated its COVID-19 testing methodology for nursing homes Sept. 29. The agency revised its color-coded system assessing COVID-19 community prevalence, affecting all nursing homes, which must test staff at a frequency based on local positivity rates. Counties with both fewer than 500 tests and fewer than 2,000 tests per 100,000 residents, and greater than 10 percent positivity over 14 days, are now classified as a "yellow" area instead of "red."

6. Alcohol use has increased during the pandemic, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open. Survey responses from a nationally representative sample of 1,540 adults show Americans are drinking alcohol more often and in larger volumes compared to 2019. Women and adults ages 30 to 59 reported the largest increase in frequency of alcohol consumption at 17 percent and 19 percent, respectively. View the full study here.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 7,191,406
Deaths: 206,005
Recovered: 2,813,305

Counts reflect data available as of 8:40 a.m. CDT Sept. 30.

More articles on public health:
31 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Sept. 30
COVID-19 hospitalizations by state: Sept. 30
States ranked by COVID-19 cases: Sept. 30

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