US sees deadliest day of summer; major labs cut testing turnaround times — 6 COVID-19 updates

The U.S. saw its deadliest day of the summer Aug. 12, reporting 1,485 deaths — the highest single-day increase since 1,507 deaths were confirmed May 15, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.

At the same time, new COVID-19 cases are slowing nationwide. The seven-day new case average fell in 21 states, including hotspots like Arizona, Florida and Texas, according to an analysis of COVID Tracking Project data featured in Axios' "Vitals" newsletter Aug. 13.  

Six updates:

1. The White House appears to have unevenly distributed about 650 million cloth masks to U.S. agencies, nonprofit organizations and private companies, a STAT analysis found. The publication reviewed a document provided by HHS that outlined more than 60,000 mask recipients. In one instance, a Florida charter school with less than 150 students received 37,500 masks. In another case, a beekeeping company was improperly labeled as an "emergency services" provider and received 500 masks. An HHS spokesperson told STAT mask requests were "vetted and prioritized as they came in." Requests from community, civic and federal organizations serving high-risk populations or those with essential workers were "pushed to the front of the line," the spokesperson said. 

2. About 200,000 more people have died in the U.S. than usual between March 1 and July 25, according to a New York Times analysis of CDC excess death estimates. This figure is about 60,000 higher than the amount of deaths directly linked to the pandemic, suggesting the national death toll is higher than reported. 

3. LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics both said their average turnaround time for COVID-19 test results are down to one to three days. As of Aug. 10, LabCorp's average time to deliver test results is now one to three days, and testing for residents and staff of nursing homes in hot-spots, as well as hospitalized patients, is prioritized. Quest's average turnaround time is two to three days, with an average capacity of 150,000 tests per day. The company said it expects to scale up to 185,000 tests per day by Labor Day.  

4. Masks with valves or vents don't stop the spread of COVID-19, according to CDC guidance updated Aug. 7. Masks with exhalation valves or vents shouldn't be worn to prevent spreading COVID-19 to others, the CDC warns. Masks with one-way valves or vents allow air to be exhaled through a hole, which can expel respiratory droplets and reach others.

5. Thirty-four health experts said they are "extremely concerned" about the new COVID-19 data reporting processes in a letter obtained by The New York Times. The health experts are all past and current members of the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Committee, a federal advisory committee that provides guidance to CDC and HHS. In the letter, experts encouraged the government to allow CDC's data tracking team to be involved in COVID-19 data collection work. The White House updated its reporting processes last month, asking hospitals to bypass the CDC and report data directly to HHS.

6. Unemployment claims dipped below 1 million for the first time since March, with about 963,000 Americans filing initial unemployment claims for the week ending Aug. 8, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. About 228,000 fewer claims were filed this week compared to revised levels for last week.  

Snapshot of COVID-19 in the U.S.

Cases: 5,197,749
Deaths: 166,038
Recovered: 1,755,225

Counts reflect data available as of 8:30 a.m. CDT Aug. 13.

More articles on public health:
Physician viewpoint: Why my kids won't attend in-person classes this fall
Youths who vape at higher risk of getting COVID-19, study finds
25 states where COVID-19 is spreading fastest, slowest: Aug. 13

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