Midwest cases skyrocket; HHS aides tried to 'water down' CDC reports, emails show — 9 COVID-19 updates

It's been more than six months since President Donald Trump declared the novel coronavirus a national public health emergency Jan. 31.    

COVID-19 cases are growing by 5 percent or more in 11 states as of Sept. 13, according to a CNBC analysis of weekly averages. Cases are rising in Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Eight other updates:

1. COVID-19 cases are skyrocketing in the Midwest as other parts of the nation report progress, according to The New York Times. Daily COVID-19 cases have dropped to fewer than 40,000 nationally, compared to more than 66,000 in late July. However, North Dakota, South Dakota, Missouri and Iowa added more recent virus cases per capita than all other states, as of Sept. 11. "We didn't get the initial surge that New York did, so people weren't as shellshocked," said Steve Stites, MD, chief medical officer for Kansas City-based University of Kansas Health System.

So far, the Midwest surge seems different from other U.S. outbreaks; hospitalizations haven't dramatically spiked, morgues haven't been overrun and lockdowns haven't been ordered. The surge has been tied to COVID-19 outbreaks on college campuses, a motorcycle rally in Sturgis, S.D., and a lack of adherence to public health measures like mask-wearing. 

2. Wisconsin hit a new weekly high average of daily COVID-19 cases, reporting 1,353 infections, a 32 percent increase from last week, according to a CNBC analysis. "Our community is experiencing its first sustained, significant surge of illness since this terrible pandemic began," said Joe Parisi, county executive in Dane County, Wis., according to The New York Times.

3. Politically appointed communications aides at HHS requested the right to review and seek changes to CDC's scientific reports for healthcare professionals, reports Politico. The publication reviewed internal emails and spoke to three people familiar with the matter, who characterized the actions of HHS spokesperson Michael Caputo and his team "as an attempt to intimidate the reports' authors and water down their communications to health professionals." The communications team has tried to add caveats to the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports or tweak them to downplay the risk of COVID-19, the sources claim. Mr. Caputo maintained that HHS is appropriately reviewing CDC reports. "Our intention is to make sure that evidence, science-based data drives policy through this pandemic — not ulterior deep state motives in the bowels of CDC," he said in a statement to Politico

4. Life may not return to "normal" until late 2021, said Anthony Fauci, MD, in a Sept. 11 interview with MSNBC. Dr. Fauci, head of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he is confident there will be a vaccine available by the end of 2020 or early 2021. However, he said the majority of the population wouldn't likely be vaccinated until the end of 2021. "If you're talking about getting back to a degree of normality prior to COVID, it's going to be well into 2021, towards the end of 2021," he said, according to NBC News.  

5. Children can and do spread COVID-19 to their households, according to a new CDC report. Researchers examined three virus outbreaks linked to child care facilities in Utah. A dozen children contracted COVID-19 at these facilities, causing the virus to spread to 26 percent of non-facility contacts who interacted with the children. Researchers found two asymptomatic children were responsible for transmitting the virus, and one parent required hospitalization. 

6. Google searches for gastrointestinal symptoms may predict future COVID-19 hotspots, a study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology found. Researchers at Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital used Google trends to assess interest in COVID-19-related gastrointestinal symptoms compared to actual COVID-19 incidence in 15 states between Jan. 20 and April 20. They found Google searches for words or phrases like "diarrhea" and "loss of appetite" increased four weeks prior to a jump in COVID-19 cases for most states. Researchers said Google trends may serve as a valuable tool to predict future COVID-19 hotspots, among other epidemic diseases with GI symptoms.  

7. AstraZeneca has resumed its COVID-19 vaccine trial in the U.K., the drugmaker said Sept. 12. AstraZeneca temporarily paused the trial after a participant developed neurological symptoms consistent with an inflammatory condition called transverse myelitis. 

8. Pfizer and BioNTech plan to expand their COVID-19 vaccine trial from 30,000 people to 44,000. The expansion, which still needs FDA approval, would allow the drugmakers to collect more trial data and recruit a more diverse participant pool. 

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 6,521,599

Deaths: 194,107

Recovered: 2,451,406

Counts reflect data available as of 8:40 a.m. CDT Sept. 14.

More articles on public health:
COVID-19 patients twice as likely to report dining in restaurant, CDC study finds
ED visits for COVID-19 fall for 8th week: 4 CDC findings
US coronavirus death rates by state: Sept. 14

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