Flu may worsen testing delays, experts warn; US sees 'rolling hotspots' — 4 COVID-19 updates

Experts are voicing concern about COVID-19 testing delays amid flu season, while "rolling hotspots" appear to be the nation's new normal.

Four updates:

1. "Rolling hotspots" are marking the U.S. pandemic experience, with Sun Belt states seeing progress as cases rise in the Midwest, CNN reports. The seven-day average of new cases per 100,000 people in the South dropped from 19.64 on Aug. 12 to 16.15 on Aug. 19, according to CNN data. Meanwhile, the seven-day average of new cases in the Midwest rose from 12.87 on Aug. 12 to 13.57 on Aug.19. Inconsistent regulations at state and city levels, quarantine fatigue and the fact that the Midwest hasn't seen a large surge of cases yet are some reasons for this trend, experts say.

2. An uptick in flu and other respiratory illnesses this fall could worsen COVID-19 testing delays, experts told The New York Times. Typically, physicians don't test patients for flu and just assume they have the seasonal illness based on symptoms. However, this year physicians will need to test every patient for flu or COVID-19, since the two illnesses have similar symptoms. This demand is expected to further strain testing supply shortages, experts warned.

3. FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, MD, clarified his remarks on the benefits of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients Aug. 24. In a string of tweets, Dr. Hahn said the decision to grant emergency approval for plasma was made by FDA career scientists and not politically motivated. He also said criticism he received from outside scientists and experts over remarks he made Aug. 23 about plasma's benefits were "entirely justified." 

"What I should have said better is that the data show a relative risk reduction not an absolute risk reduction," Dr. Hahn tweeted.

4. At least 53 COVID-19 cases have been tied to an Aug. 7 wedding in Maine, an official with the Maine CDC told the Portland Press Herald. The outbreak was first announced Aug. 17, when the number of known cases linked to the reception was 24. Of the now confirmed 53 infections, 13 were secondary and 10 were tertiary. One woman who wasn't at the reception died Aug. 21 after contracting COVID-19 from someone who did attend the event. The venue has received an imminent health hazard citation for violating an executive order limiting indoor gatherings to 50 people, NPR reports.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 5,741,189
Deaths: 177,284
Recovered: 2,020,774

Counts reflect data available as of 8:30 a.m. CDT Aug. 25.

More articles on public health:
Number of COVID-19 patients in ICU, state by state: Aug. 24
Plasma wins emergency approval; 1st case of COVID-19 reinfection confirmed — 5 updates
Number of COVID-19 hospitalizations, state by state: Aug. 25


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