COVID-19 may have been in LA as early as December; virus deaths tied to air pollution — 4 updates

The U.S. has reported an average of 35,616 new COVID-19 cases daily in the past week, down 16 percent from the average seen two weeks ago, reports The New York Times.

Four updates:

1. A disproportionate rate of COVID-19 deaths have been recorded in polluted areas, according to new peer-reviewed research by ProPublica and Syracuse, N.Y.-based State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Published Sept. 11 in Environmental Research Letters, the study examined air pollution and COVID-19 deaths in the roughly 3,100 U.S. counties and found a link between higher levels of hazardous pollutants and increased virus deaths. COVID-19 can be more severe — and, in some cases, more deadly — in areas with an industrial emission called hazardous air pollutants, researchers found. This association was recorded in both rural Louisiana and highly populated areas in New York.

2. COVID-19 may have been in the U.S. earlier than previously thought, with a surge of patients at a large Los Angeles medical system experiencing coughs and respiratory illness beginning in December. A study published Sept. 10 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research examined electronic health records at University of California, Los Angeles health facilities and found a 50 percent increase in patients with coughs and acute respiratory failure compared to the previous five years. This sudden spike continued through February. However, study authors cautioned that the results cannot prove that the virus reached California so soon.

3. COVID-19 death rates may be lower in nursing homes where employees have unionized, a study published in Health Affairs found. Researchers analyzed mortality rates and union status at 355 nursing homes in New York. The analysis included 3,298 confirmed COVID-19 deaths through May 31. Researchers found healthcare worker unions were linked to a 30 percent relative decrease in mortality compared to facilities without unions. Unions were also linked to greater access to personal protective equipment, which may help explain the lower mortality rates, researchers said.

4. The CDC will end enhanced screening processes for certain international travelers arriving at U.S. airports Sept. 14. The government currently requires flights from China, Iran, Ireland, Brazil, the U.K. and parts of Europe to land at one of 15 designated airports where officials screen travelers for COVID-19 symptoms and perform temperature checks. The CDC acknowledged that symptom-based screening has "limited effectiveness" due to the prevalence of asymptomatic cases. "Therefore, CDC is shifting its strategy and prioritizing other public health measures to reduce the risk of travel-related disease transmission," the agency said.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 6,397,629
Deaths: 191,802
Recovered: 2,403,511 

Counts reflect data available as of 8:30 a.m. CDT Sept. 11.

More articles on public health:
Number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, state by state: Sept. 11
24 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Sept. 11
70 COVID-19 cases linked to Minnesota wedding, state officials report

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