Testing rates fall for 1st time; new research points to lasting immunity — 7 COVID-19 updates

COVID-19 testing rates have fallen for the first time since the pandemic began, The New York Times reports.

On average, about 733,000 people have been tested each day in August, down from nearly 750,000 in July, according to the COVID Tracking Project. The seven-day test average dropped to 709,000 Aug. 10, the lowest in almost a month, before rising at the end of the week.  

Seven updates:

1. New research points to lasting immunity, even in people who only experienced mild COVID-19 infections, according to multiple new studies cited by The New York Times. The research shows certain antibodies and immune cells appear to persist months after infections have resolved. The studies have not yet been peer-reviewed.

2. The CDC has clarified an update to its isolation guidance, which said people who test positive for COVID-19 do not need to quarantine or get tested again for up to three months, as long as they do not develop symptoms again. On Aug. 16, the agency clarified that its guidance doesn't imply immunity, but instead suggests that retesting within three months of initial infection isn't necessary unless that person exhibits symptoms. Currently, the CDC is uncertain if someone can be re-infected with COVID-19, but cited data suggesting low levels of the virus may exist up to three months after recovering from the initial infection.

3. The CDC is working with four states to develop a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan, according to The New York Times. California, Florida, Minnesota and North Dakota, as well as Philadelphia, will advise the CDC and Department of Defense on how to most efficiently deliver doses of vaccine to vulnerable individuals. The communities were chosen because they each have a different demographic, ethnic makeup and population density, as well as its own infrastructure to store and deliver vaccine doses. The plan follows an announcement from federal officials last week that the administration expects to deliver tens of millions of vaccine doses by early 2021.

4. The White House Coronavirus Task Force added a new member last week. Scott Atlas, MD, a senior fellow with Stanford (Calif.) University's conservative Hoover Institution, joined the task force Aug. 10. Dr. Atlas investigates the impact of government and the private sector on access, quality and pricing in healthcare, global trends in healthcare innovation, and key economic issues related to the future of technology-based medical advances.

5. The FDA on Aug. 15 issued emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 saliva test developed by the Yale School of Public Health in New Haven, Conn. The SalivaDirect test offers a cheaper, less invasive testing method that does not rely on chemical reagents that have caused shortages of other tests. 

6. Americans should wear masks both indoors and outdoors to help prevent the virus's spread, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Deborah Birx, MD, said Aug. 15, according to USA Today. "We are really asking all communities, whether you are urban or rural communities, to really wear a mask inside, outside, every day," Dr. Birx said during a briefing at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City. 

7. The number and rate of new COVID-19 cases among children under 17 has steadily increased from March to July, the CDC said in a guidance updated Aug. 14. The true incidence of COVID-19 among children is unknown due to a lack of widespread testing. 

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 5,406,625
Deaths: 170,065
Recovered: 1,833,067

Counts reflect data available as of 8:50 a.m. CDT Aug. 17.

More articles on public health:
Fauci: Temperature checks often 'notoriously inaccurate'
ED visits for COVID-19 fall for 4th consecutive week: 4 CDC updates
5 public health issues flaring up amid the pandemic

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