COVID-19 is 3rd leading cause of death; HHS reporting process is temporary, Birx says — 5 updates

The seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases is down 16 percent from two weeks prior, with the nation reporting an average of 50,543 cases daily in the past week, reports The New York Times.

At the same time, the U.S. has reported on average more than 1,000 deaths daily for the past three weeks, reports CNN

Five updates:

1. COVID-19 is now the third most likely cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease and cancer, former CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, told CNN. For reference, heart disease and cancer respectively killed 647,457 and 599,108 Americans in 2017, according to the CDC. The agency lists accidents as the third leading cause of death, which killed 169,936 people in 2017. However, the nation's COVID-19 death toll has now surpassed this figure, with more than 170,559 deaths as of Aug. 18, according to data from Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University.

2. COVID-19 data collection processes will move back to the CDC after the agency finishes building "a revolutionary new data system," White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, said Aug. 17, according to CNN. The White House updated its reporting processes last month, asking hospitals to bypass the CDC and report data directly to HHS. Dr. Birx referred to the current COVID-19 reporting system as an "interim system" focused on gathering daily reports from hospitals.

3. Two new studies shed further light on COVID-19's disproportionate effect on communities of color. The first study published in JAMA analyzed data on 48,788 hospitalizations in 12 states through June 24. Researchers found hospitalization rates among Black patients far outweighed their representative portion of the population in every state. Hospitalizations involving Hispanic and American Indian patients exhibited similar trends in some states, while white patients were underrepresented among hospitalizations in all 12 states. In the second study, the CDC analyzed 210 workplace COVID-19 outbreaks in Utah. The agency found Hispanic or Latino and nonwhite employees made up 24 percent of the affected sectors' workforce, but accounted for 73 percent of cases. This suggests that Latino and Hispanic Americans are more likely to contract COVID-19 at work compared to white Americans. 

4. A large federal study is testing the benefits of remdesivir alongside a second drug, The New York Times reports. Sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, the clinical trial that backed Gilead's findings of remdesivir's modest success has entered a new phase, examining whether the addition of another drug can improve remdesivir effects on recovery time. The secondary drug, beta interferon, is used mainly to kill viruses or tame inflammation, and has already been approved for treatment of multiple sclerosis.

5. Texas is the fourth state to report more than 10,000 COVID-19 deaths, according to a data analysis by The Washington Post. Texas joins California, New York and New Jersey after recording more than a 29 percent increase in new cases over the past week.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 5,444,205
Deaths: 170,559
Recovered: 1,865,580

Counts reflect data available as of 8:40 a.m. CDT Aug. 18.

More articles on public health:
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