Prepare for vaccine distribution as soon as late October, CDC says; US redirects WHO funds to vaccine efforts — 4 COVID-19 updates

After declining since late July, the nation's seven-day average of new COVID-19 cases has plateaued in the last two weeks, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project. 

As of Sep. 2, the seven-day average was 40,932 cases, compared to an average 41,214 cases reported a week prior.

Four updates:

1. The CDC urged public health officials nationwide to prepare for vaccine distribution as soon as late October or early November, according to The New York Times. The agency sent three planning documents to health officials in all 50 states and five cities Aug. 27. The documents include detailed instructions on the distribution of two unidentified vaccine candidates, which would both require two doses a few weeks apart. In a joint report, Kaiser Health News and the Associated Press spoke with dozens of physicians, nurses and health officials who expressed concern about the nation's current readiness and ability to conduct mass vaccinations. Health officials will need to rapidly determine how they will track who has gotten which vaccine dose and how they'll keep health workers safe, while also ensuring they have enough syringes and personal protective equipment on hand.

2. Dozens of hospitals may ignore the emergency authorization for plasma use and instead only commit to a clinical trial, Kaiser Health News reports. Following an Aug. 23 emergency use authorization from the FDA, some hospital officials say they plan to either avoid or minimize convalescent plasma use for COVID-19 patients, and instead are considering joining a clinical trial to determine whether the therapy is helpful. As many as 45 hospitals nationwide have expressed interest in collaborating on a clinical trial sponsored by Nashville, Tenn.-based Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said principal investigator Todd Rice, MD.

3. The U.S. is redirecting most of the $62 million it owes the World Health Organization to vaccine efforts, reports The New York Times. Most of the money will go to children's immunization and flu surveillance, State Department officials said Sept. 2. The Trump administration formally announced July 7 the U.S. withdrawal from WHO starting July 6, 2021. The U.S. accounted for about 22 percent of the agency's budget, or about $120 million, and had already paid $58 million when the notice of withdrawal was delivered.

4. Many hospitals in New Orleans sent older COVID-19 patients home to die amid a surge in cases this spring, according to an investigative report from ProPublica. The nonprofit newsroom analyzed coroner records of more than 460 COVID-19 deaths that occurred in New Orleans through early May. ProPublica also spoke to the families of 35 patients who died at home. Eighteen patients were hospitalized and then sent home to die under hospice care, families said. Most of these patients came from facilities affiliated with New Orleans-based Ochsner Health. Eight families also said health system employees pressured them into accepting hospice care for their loved ones. While some of Ochsner's routine hospice agencies said they could not take COVID-19 patients during the surge, CMO Robert Hart, MD, said the system proactively worked to identify the ones that met CMS requirements and were adequately equipped to take COVID-19 patients.

"Our team is very experienced at having conversations about palliative care and hospice with families, and we do everything we can to ensure there is a comfortable hand off and transition into hospice," he told Becker's.

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 6,115,638
Deaths: 185,756
Recovered: 2,231,757

Counts reflect data available as of 9:00 a.m. CDT Sept. 3.


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