COVID-19 hospitalizations hit 6-week high; J&J pauses vaccine trial over 'unexplained illness' — 9 updates

The U.S. is reporting the highest level of COVID-19 hospitalizations since Sept. 2, according to COVID Tracking Project data cited by The Wall Street Journal. 

As of Oct. 12, 35,056 people were hospitalized nationwide, up 16 percent from a week prior. That being said, hospitalizations are still lower than figures seen in July, when more than 59,000 people were hospitalized nationwide, according to WSJ.

Eight more updates:

1. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — can survive on some common surfaces for up to 28 days, though it is unclear whether the surviving amount of virus could infect someone, an Australian study published in Virology Journal found.

2. Johnson & Johnson voluntarily paused the clinical trial for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate Oct. 12 after a participant developed "an unexplained illness," the drugmaker told STAT.

3. While Belgium, Spain and the U.K. have higher overall COVID-19 death rates than the U.S., the U.S. death rate has far surpassed other high-income countries since May 10, according to a study published Oct. 12 in JAMA. The U.S. death rate since May 10 is 36.9 deaths per 100,000 residents. Sweden had the second highest rate at 23.5 per 100,000.

4. There was a 20 percent increase over expected deaths in the U.S. between March 1 and Aug. 1, according to a separate study published in JAMA. Of the 225,530 excess deaths researchers identified, 67 percent were attributed to COVID-19. 

5. Investing in testing and contact tracing for COVID-19 pays for itself at least 30 times over, two economists wrote in a viewpoint article for JAMA. They calculated that improved testing and tracing would cost the government about $6 million per 100,000 inhabitants and prevent an estimated $176 million in COVID-19 costs. Read the full article here.  

6. President Donald Trump has tested negative for COVID-19 "on consecutive days" with Abbott's rapid antigen test, according to an Oct. 12 memo from White House physician Sean Conley, DO. President Trump is "not infectious to others," based on those test results and "in concert with the CDC's guidelines for removal of transmission-based precautions," Dr. Conley wrote. However, some physicians have warned against relying too heavily on results from rapid tests, reports The Wall Street Journal. The CDC does not recommend using antigen tests to inform decisions about ending isolation, instead recommending a PCR test to confirm rapid antigen test results. Dr. Conley's most recent memo did not share PCR test results for President Trump.  

7. The number of Americans willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine dropped by 11 percentage points in one month, sitting at 50 percent in late September, according to a Sept. 14-27 Gallup poll of 2,730 adults. Sixty-six percent of respondents said they would receive an FDA-approved vaccine in July, while 61 percent said the same in August.  

8. Some COVID-19 survivors are experiencing "brain fog," or cognitive symptoms including memory loss, confusion, difficulty focusing and dizziness, reports The New York Times. "There are thousands of people who have that," said Igor Koralnik, MD, chief of neuro-infectious disease at Chicago-based Northwestern Medicine and head of a post-COVID clinic. Scientists are uncertain what causes the brain fog, which can affect people who were only mildly ill from COVID-19 and had no previous medical conditions. 

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 7,805,899
Deaths: 215,089
Recovered: 3,106,728

Counts reflect data available as of 8:50 a.m. CDT Oct. 13.

More articles on public health:
Tracking the White House outbreak: Who has COVID-19 & when they were diagnosed
5 regions see uptick in visits for flu, COVID-19 symptoms: 4 CDC updates
25 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Oct. 13

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 7,805,899
Deaths: 215,089
Recovered: 3,106,728

Counts reflect data available as of 8:50 a.m. CDT Oct. 13.

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