The 1918 flu is even more relevant in 2022 thanks to omicron

Over the past two years, historians and analysts have compared the coronavirus to the 1918 flu pandemic. Many of the mitigation practices used to combat the spread of the coronavirus, especially before the development of the vaccines, have been the same as those used in 1918 and 1919 — masks and hygiene, social distancing, ventilation, limits on gatherings (particularly indoors), quarantines, mandates, closure policies and more.

Yet, it may be that only now, in the winter of 2022, when Americans are exhausted with these mitigation methods, that a comparison to the 1918 pandemic is most apt.

The highly contagious omicron variant has rendered vaccines much less effective at preventing infections, thus producing skyrocketing caseloads. And that creates a direct parallel with the fall of 1918, which provides lessons for making January as painless as possible.

In February and March 1918, an infectious flu emerged. It spread from Kansas, through World War I troop and material transports, filling military post hospitals and traveling across the Atlantic and around the world within six months. Cramped quarters and wartime transport and industry generated optimal conditions for the flu to spread, and so, too, did the worldwide nature of commerce and connection. But there was a silver lining: Mortality rates were very low.

In part because of press censorship of anything that might undermine the war effort, many dismissed the flu as a “three-day fever,” perhaps merely a heavy cold, or simply another case of the grippe (an old-fashioned word for the flu).

Downplaying the flu led to high infection rates, which increased the odds of mutations. And in the summer of 1918, a more infectious variant emerged. In August and September, U.S. and British intelligence officers observed outbreaks in Switzerland and northern Europe, writing home with warnings that went largely unheeded.

Unsurprisingly then, this seemingly more infectious, much more deadly variant of H1N1 traveled west across the Atlantic, producing the worst period of the pandemic in October 1918. Nearly 200,000 Americans died that month. After a superspreading Liberty Loan parade at the end of September, Philadelphia became an epicenter of the outbreak. At its peak, nearly 700 Philadelphians died per day.

Once spread had begun, mitigation methods such as closures, distancing, mask-wearing and isolating those infected couldn’t stop it, but they did save many lives and limited suffering by slowing infections and spread. The places that fared best implemented proactive restrictions early; they kept them in place until infections and hospitalizations were way down, then opened up gradually, with preparations to reimpose measures if spread returned or rates elevated, often ignoring the pleas of special interests lobbying hard for a complete reopening.

In places in the United States where officials gave in to public fatigue and lobbying to remove mitigation methods, winter surges struck. Although down from October’s highs, these surges were still usually far worse than those in the cities and regions that held steady.

In Denver, in late November 1918, an “amusement” lobby — businesses and leaders invested in keeping theaters, movie houses, pool halls and other public venues open — successfully pressured the mayor and public health officials to rescind and then revise a closure order. This, in turn, generated what the Rocky Mountain News called “almost indescribable confusion,” followed by widespread public defiance of mask and other public health prescriptions.

In San Francisco, where resistance was generally less successful than in Denver, there was significant buy-in for a second round of masking and public health mandates in early 1919 during a new surge. But opposition created an issue. An Anti-Mask League formed, and public defiance became more pronounced. Eventually anti-maskers and an improving epidemic situation combined to end the “masked” city’s second round of mask and public health mandates.

The takeaway: Fatigue and removing mitigation methods made things worse. Public officials needed to safeguard the public good, even if that meant unpopular moves.

The flu burned through vulnerable populations, but by late winter and early spring 1919, deaths and infections dropped rapidly, shifting toward an endemic moment — the flu would remain present, but less deadly and dangerous.

Overall, nearly 675,000 Americans died during the 1918-19 flu pandemic, the majority during the second wave in the autumn of 1918. That was 1 in roughly 152 Americans (with a case fatality rate of about 2.5 percent). Worldwide estimates differ, but on the order of 50 million probably died in the flu pandemic.

In 2022, we have far greater biomedical and technological capacity enabling us to sequence mutations, understand the physics of aerosolization and develop vaccines at a rapid pace. We also have a far greater public health infrastructure than existed in 1918 and 1919. Even so, it remains incredibly hard to stop infectious diseases, particularly those transmitted by air. This is complicated further because many of those infected with the coronavirus are asymptomatic. And our world is even more interconnected than in 1918.

That is why, given the contagiousness of omicron, the lessons of the past are even more important today than they were a year ago. The new surge threatens to overwhelm our public health infrastructure, which is struggling after almost two years of fighting the pandemic. Hospitals are experiencing staff shortages (like in fall 1918). Testing remains problematic.

And ominously, as in the fall of 1918, Americans fatigued by restrictions and a seemingly endless pandemic are increasingly balking at following the guidance of public health professionals or questioning why their edicts have changed from earlier in the pandemic. They are taking actions that, at the very least, put more vulnerable people and the system as a whole at risk — often egged on by politicians and media figures downplaying the severity of the moment.

Public health officials also may be repeating the mistakes of the past. Conjuring echoes of Denver in late 1918, under pressure to prioritize keeping society open rather than focusing on limiting spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its isolation recommendations in late December. The new guidelines halved isolation time and do not require a negative test to reenter work or social gatherings.

Thankfully, we have an enormous advantage over 1918 that offers hope. Whereas efforts to develop a flu vaccine a century ago failed, the coronavirus vaccines developed in 2020 largely prevent severe illness or death from omicron, and the companies and researchers that produced them expect a booster shot tailored to omicron sometime in the winter or spring. So, too, we have antivirals and new treatments that are just becoming available, though in insufficient quantities for now.

Those lifesaving advantages, however, can only help as much as Americans embrace them. Only by getting vaccinated, including with booster shots, can Americans prevent the health-care system from being overwhelmed. But the vaccination rate in the country remains a relatively paltry 62 percent, and only a scant 1 in 5 have received a booster shot. And as in 1918, some of the choice rests with public officials. Though restrictions may not be popular, officials can reimpose them — offering public support where necessary to those for whom compliance would create hardship — and incentivize and mandate vaccines, taking advantage of our greater medical technology.

As the flu waned in 1919, one Portland, Ore., health official reflected that “the biggest thing we have had to fight in the influenza epidemic has been apathy, or perhaps the careless selfishness of the public.”

The same remains true today.

Vaccines, new treatments and century-old mitigation strategies such as masks, distancing and limits on gatherings give us a pathway to prevent the first six weeks of 2022 from being like the fall of 1918. And encouraging news about the severity of omicron provides real optimism that an endemic future — in which the coronavirus remains but poses far less of a threat — is near. The question is whether we get there with a maximum of pain or a minimum. The choice is ours.

Unemployment claims jumped to 419,000 last week, a sudden increase reflecting an unsettled labor market

Unemployment claims jumped last week, as the delta variant of the coronavirus sparked rising caseloads around the country and renewed fears about the potential for more restrictions and business closures.

The number of new claims grew to 419,000 from 368,000, the third time in six weeks that they had ticked up, according to data from the Department of Labor.

Economists said the uptick was concerning but cautioned that it was too early to tell whether it was a one week aberration or telegraphed a more concerning turn for the labor market.

“The unexpected bump in claims could be noise in the system, but it’s also not hard to see how the rise of the covid-19 delta variant could add thousands of layoffs to numbers that already are double what they were pre-Covid,” said Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union.

Overall, unemployment numbers have been falling gradually from the peaks at other stages of the pandemic, but they are still well above pre-pandemic averages.

The jobless numbers have provided a jarring catalogue about the economic devastation wrought by the pandemic — spiking to records as the pandemic unfolded in March 2020, and remaining at historic high levels throughout most of 2020.

The coronavirus surge last fall helped precipitate a rise in claims that saw the labor market, as seen in the monthly jobs report, slide backward too.

But until recently, the last few months been marked by strong jobs growth and a sense of optimism as vaccinations picked up, giving economists hope that the country was back on track to recovering the nearly 7 million jobs it is still down from before the pandemic.

Now, the delta variant is driving an alarming increase in covid-19 cases around the country, according to public health officials: the number of new cases increased more than 40 percent in the last week, sending jitters through the stock market, and is raising questions about whether state and local health authorities will reinstitute restrictions to slow the virus’ spread.

A new mandate in Los Angeles county to wear masks indoors has sparked protests and anger from local officials, as other counties where cases are increasing mull similar actions.

Frick said that the report showed the potential for unemployment claims to start trending upward after months of steady declines.

“There’s definitely a correlation, however loose, that the rise in covid does cause a rise in claims,” he said. “My fear is that the rise in the delta variant could cause claims to go back up…Certainly one week doesn’t show that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if we start to see claims rise.”

Texas for example, where cases have grown 54 percent in the last week, lead the way with an increase of 10,000 new claims.

However, there are also lots of signs that the economy continues to rebound despite rising caseloads.

The more than 2.2 million people that the Transportation Security Administration said it screened at airports on Sunday was the most since late February 2020 — and nearly three times the amount it was on the same day last year.

Restaurant dining has largely rebounded in recent months, at times surpassing the levels from before the pandemic — on Saturday the number of diners was 1 percent higher than the same day in 2019, according to data from Open Table.

Last week, some 12.5 million claims were filed for unemployment insurance overall, according to the most recent numbers — down from 32.9 million filed at the same point last year.

Nevada, Rhode Island and California topped the list of states with the highest number of people on unemployment, the Labor Department said.

Economic concerns in recent months have been more focused on the ways that workers are still held back from filling some of the more than 9 million job openings in the country, than unemployment, with high hopes that school re-openings in the fall will help many parents get back into the labor force.

It looks like what happens in Vegas isn’t staying in Vegas.

Travelers returning from the Covid-19 hot spot are potentially spreading the virus to virtually every state in the nation, according to a new mobility data study conducted on behalf of the non-profit investigative news organization ProPublica.

The findings highlight the connection between travelers and the spread of the virus during the pandemic.

The ProPublica study looked at a total of 12 days of cellphone data in three batches: four days in May, when Nevada was still shut down; four days in June, just after Las Vegas reopened to tourism; and four days in mid-July. In May, travel from Las Vegas was mainly regional. But since Las Vegas reopened in early June, the mobility of smartphones leaving Las Vegas has become progressively more widespread and nationalized.

Over the final four-day period, in July, the study identified 26,000 smartphones on the Las Vegas Strip, many of which later appeared in 47 states within the same four-day period — every state in the continental United States except Maine.

“About 3,700 of the devices were spotted in Southern California in the same four days; about 2,700 in Arizona, with 740 in Phoenix; around 1,000 in Texas; more than 800 in Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago and Cleveland; and more than 100 in the New York area,” reported ProPublica.

While the study did not determine how many of these travelers were infected with Covid-19 when they returned to their home states, it is reasonable to assume that many were. For the past several months, Las Vegas has been a hot spot for the disease.

Las Vegas is located in Clark County, Nevada, which is currently struggling with one of the highest rates of new COVID-19 infections in the country, with 26.9 new daily cases per 100,000 people tested over a rolling seven-day average, according to the Harvard Global Health Institute’s Covid-19 tracker. Any community with over 25 new daily cases is deemed to be at a tipping point where stay-at-home orders are necessary, according to Harvard researchers.

This isn’t the first data-driven study to show how travelers are spreading Covid-19 across the United States. In early July, the PolicyLab at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) released research indicating that the novel coronavirus was spreading along the nation’s interstate highways.

“Travel is certainly a huge driving factor,” the researchers wrote at the time. “We see spread along I-80 between central Illinois and Iowa, as well as along the I-90 corridor across upstate New York.” They pointed to a rise in cases along the I-95 corridor and concluded that interstate travel was creating renewed risk to regions like the Northeast that had successfully flattened the curve of the novel coronavirus.

Yesterday, Clark County’s Twitter account announced a grim milestone: The number of deaths attributed to Covid-19 in the community has now topped 1,000.





Florida Hits 10,000 Coronavirus Deaths—The Fifth State To Reach That Mark

Florida Hits 10,000 Coronavirus Deaths—The Fifth State To Reach ...


Over 10,000 Floridians have now died of coronavirus, marking a grim milestone that comes weeks after the state led the record U.S. coronavirus case surge earlier this summer.



10,049 Florida residents have died of coronavirus, according to the state, reaching that mark after adding 117 deaths Thursday.

Florida is the fifth state in the U.S. to record over 10,000 deaths, joining New York and New Jersey, where most deaths happened during the spring coronavirus surge, along with California and Texas, where most deaths occurred during the summer.

Florida has been the nation’s recent coronavirus epicenter, but the pandemic’s spread seems to have slowed there over the past few weeks, even as deaths, which lag behind other statistics, have been at record highs in the state.

New cases have recently reached their lowest daily increases in two months, and hospitalizations have trended downward since late July.

The testing positivity rate, seen as one of the first indicators of increased coronavirus spread, dropped below 10% Thursday—the first time the state has been below that threshold since June 21, and less than half the 20.71% positivity rate the state had at its highest point on July 8.



23.8%. Gov. Ron DeSantis said that’s what the positivity rate was Thursday for antibody testing at state-run drive-through sites. That number suggests a massive amount of Floridians, much higher than the record-setting confirmed case counts, were infected with coronavirus this summer.



There are five U.S. states that have over 10,000 deaths. That’s a number that only 14 countries around the world have hit, according to Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. continues to have by far the most coronavirus deaths of any country and could reach 175,000 deaths before the weekend.



The U.S. as a whole is on a downward trend when it comes to coronavirus metrics, which seems to be influenced by large states, like Florida, having a reduction in coronavirus spread.

States like California, Texas and Florida, the nation’s three most populated, were all setting records when the U.S. had its highest confirmed coronavirus spike earlier this summer. They now seem to be pushing the country in the other direction.





South Korea Warns Covid-19 Back In ‘Full Swing’ After Week-Long Case Spike

South Korea Warns Covid-19 Back In 'Full Swing' After Week-Long ...


South Korea officials warned Thursday that the country is in a “grave situation” after Covid-19 cases rose by triple digits for a week straight, as one of the countries most hailed for its success in containing the coronavirus sees a new resurgence of the virus linked to a far-right church and anti-government protest.



South Korea added 288 Covid-19 cases Thursday—slightly down from 297 cases Wednesday, the highest number observed in the country since March 8.

“Consider the COVID-19 pandemic now to be in full-swing,” Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention deputy director Kwon Jun-wook said, warning that the country could experience similar sustained outbreaks to the U.S. and Europe without aggressive contact tracing.

The new case spikes are largely tied to Sarang Jeil Church, which has been linked to 676 recent cases, and a large anti-government rally held in Seoul Saturday in which many church members participated.

The outbreak is the second time a church has been linked to a large outbreak in the country—5,200 cases in February and March were linked to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus—but officials warn this one has the potential to be worse, and the New York Times notes anti-government sentiment among the church’s members may make efforts to contain the virus more difficult.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has shut down churches in the country in response to the new outbreak, sparking a broader controversy as conservatives accuse the government of infringing on religious freedoms.

South Korea has been hailed for its effective response to the coronavirus, and was previously able to curb the Shincheonji church outbreak through widespread testing, self-isolation orders and contact tracing.



“We are standing on the cusp of the nationwide outbreak,” Kwon said at a briefing Thursday. “The wider capital region should brace for a massive wave of the outbreak.”



16,346: The total number of Covid-19 cases in South Korea since the start of the pandemic, as reported by Johns Hopkins University.



South Korea is one of many countries to see a worrying resurgence of Covid-19 in recent weeks, as Europe and countries that had successfully contained the virus see new spikes.

Spain and Italy posted new Covid-19 case number highs Wednesday, while France reported Wednesday that it had recorded new Covid-19 cases at the highest rate since May.

Germany reported its highest case count since April on Thursday, with 1,707 new cases.

Outside of Europe, India experienced its highest daily total yet of new Covid-19 cases Thursday—69,672 cases, also the fourth highest daily total reported globally—while Japan reported that more than a third of its 59,213 cases have been recorded since the start of August alone.

New Zealand, one of the countries that had most successfully contained the virus, went back into lockdown last week after seeing Covid-19 spread through community transmission for the first time in 102 days; the outbreak has so far resulted in 80 new cases.





Fearing a ‘Twindemic,’ Health Experts Push Urgently for Flu Shots

Fearing a 'Twindemic,' Health Experts Push Urgently for Flu Shots ...

There’s no vaccine for Covid-19, but there’s one for influenza. With the season’s first doses now shipping, officials are struggling over how to get people to take it.

As public health officials look to fall and winter, the specter of a new surge of Covid-19 gives them chills. But there is a scenario they dread even more: a severe flu season, resulting in a “twindemic.”

Even a mild flu season could stagger hospitals already coping with Covid-19 cases. And though officials don’t know yet what degree of severity to anticipate this year, they are worried large numbers of people could forgo flu shots, increasing the risk of widespread outbreaks.

The concern about a twindemic is so great that officials around the world are pushing the flu shot even before it becomes available in clinics and doctors’ offices. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been talking it up, urging corporate leaders to figure out ways to inoculate employees. The C.D.C. usually purchases 500,000 doses for uninsured adults but this year ordered an additional 9.3 million doses.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been imploring people to get the flu shot, “so that you could at least blunt the effect of one of those two potential respiratory infections.”

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been waging his own pro flu-shot campaign. Last month, he labeled people who oppose flu vaccines “nuts” and announced the country’s largest ever rollout of the shots. In April, one of the few reasons Australia allowed citizens to break the country’s strict lockdown was to venture out for their flu shots.

The flu vaccine is rarely mandated in the U.S. except by some health care facilities and nursery schools, but this month the statewide University of California system announced that because of the pandemic, it is requiring all 230,000 employees and 280,000 students to get the flu vaccine by November 1.

A life-threatening respiratory illness that crowds emergency rooms and intensive care units, flu shares symptoms with Covid-19: fever, headache, cough, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue. Flu can leave patients vulnerable to a harsher attack of Covid-19, doctors believe, and that coming down with both viruses at once could be disastrous.

The 2019-20 flu season in the United States was mild, according to the C.D.C. But a mild flu season still takes a toll. In preliminary estimates, the C.D.C. says that cases ranged from 39 million to 56 million, resulting in up to 740,000 hospitalizations and from 24,000 to 62,000 flu-related deaths.

According to the C.D.C., flu season occurs in the fall and winter, peaking from December to February, and so was nearing its end as the pandemic began to flare in the United States in March.

But now, fighting flu proactively during the continuing pandemic presents significant challenges: not only how to administer the shot safely and readily, but also how to prompt people to get a shot that a majority of Americans have typically distrusted, dismissed and skipped.

With many places where the flu shot is administered en masse now inaccessible — including offices and plants that offered it free to employees on site and school health clinics — officials have been reaching out to local health departments, health care providers and corporations to arrange distribution. From now through Oct. 31, publicity campaigns will blast through social media, billboards, television and radio. Because the shot will be more difficult to access this year, people are being told to get it as soon as possible, although immunity does wane. There will be flu shot tents with heaters in parking lots and pop-up clinics in empty school buildings.

Because of the efforts, vaccine makers are projecting that a record 98 million flu shots will be given this year in the United States, about 15 percent more than doses ordered last year. The Kaiser Permanente health care system will be flooding more than 12 million of its members with flu shot reminders via postcard, email, text and phone calls.

Pharmacies and even supermarkets are expected to play a bigger role than they have in previous years. As of this week, Walgreens and CVS will have flu shots available. Walgreens will be hosting additional off-site flu vaccine clinics in community centers and churches. To reduce contact time, CVS is allowing patients to fill out paperwork digitally.

In New York City, which averages about 2,000 flu-related deaths a year, the health department has been reaching out to hundreds of independent pharmacies to administer the shots, because they are often located in outer-borough neighborhoods where the coronavirus has been rampaging. The health department has a detailed online flu vaccine locator.

“Access is a problem for all adult vaccines,” said L. J. Tan, chief strategy officer for the Immunization Action Coalition, a nonprofit group that works to increase vaccination rates, who was an early promoter of the term twindemic. “Adults may think, If I can get the flu shot easily, I might consider it.”

But as difficult as getting the flu shot to people safely will be, perhaps harder still will be persuading them to actually get it. In the 2018-19 flu season in the United States, only 45.3 percent of adults over 18 got the vaccine, with rates for those ages 18 to 50 considerably lower.

Skepticism to this vaccine runs high, particularly in communities of color because of longstanding distrust and discrimination in public health.2017 study in the journal Vaccine noted that, compared with white people, “African Americans were more likely to report barriers to vaccination, were more hesitant about vaccines in general and the flu vaccine specifically, more likely to believe in conspiracy theories and use naturalism as an alternative to getting vaccinated.”

Across all demographic groups, perhaps the most striking reason given for avoiding the flu vaccine is that people do not see it as efficacious as, say, the measles vaccine.

Indeed, it is a good vaccine but not a great one. It must be repeated annually. Immunity takes up to two weeks to kick in. But its efficacy also depends on how accurately infectious disease centers worldwide forecast which strains are expected to circulate in the coming year. And then those strains can mutate.

Although the flu shot confers immunity at all ages over six months, it can be less complete in people over 65. Depending on many factors, the shot’s effectiveness in a given year can range from 40 to 60 percent.

“But a vaccine not given won’t protect anyone,” said Dr. Jane R. Zucker, assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Immunization at the New York City Health Department, which has been hosting webinars for providers about how to have conversations about the flu shot with hesitant patients.

As health officials note, should a vaccinated person contract the flu, the severity will almost certainly be reduced, hospitalization rarely necessary. Especially with Covid-19 raging, public officials reason, those odds look pretty good.

Another reason people give for not getting the shot is they think it makes them sick.

“People who say ‘I’ll never get it because it gives me the flu’ have not had the flu and don’t know what it is,” said Patsy Stinchfield, senior director of infection prevention at Children’s Minnesota.

“What you’re feeling is your body’s immune response to the virus’s antigens,” said Ms. Stinchfield, a member of the C.D.C.’s influenza work group. “You may feel flu-ish. And that’s a good thing. It’s your body’s way of saying, ‘I am ready for the flu, and I won’t get as sick if I get the real one.’”

Public campaigns will describe the shot as a critical weapon during the pandemic. “Hopefully people will say, ‘There’s no Covid vaccine so I can’t control that, but I do have access to the flu vaccine and I can get that,’” Ms. Stinchfield said. “It gives you a little power to protect yourself.”

Other campaigns will emphasize familial and community responsibility.

Usually, flu vaccine compliance rates among people ages 18 to 49 are low. Vermont’s, for example, is only about 27 percent.

Christine Finley, the state’s immunization program manager, believes that rates will improve because of the pandemic’s stay-at-home households. “People are more aware that the risks they take can negatively impact others,” she said. “They’re often taking care of young children and older parents.”

If any example could prove instructive about protective behavior and flu vaccines during the coronavirus epidemic, it could well be Australia.

Australia’s flu vaccine rate tends to be modest, but this year demand was high. The government’s rollout of the shot began earlier than usual for the June-through-August winter because the coronavirus pandemic was exploding. Though the government had also issued strict no-entry limits among many states and territories and bans on international travel, the flu shot was one of the few reasons people could emerge from lockdown.

The prevalent strain circulating in the country is Type A, the most common and virulent form of flu, said Dr. Kelly L. Moore, a public health expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

According to the C.D.C., Type A is the most likely to circulate globally. It mutates readily, particularly as it jumps between animals and humans.

“There are two strains of Type A influenza in the vaccine,” Dr. Moore said, “and so the very best way to protect yourself is to get the shot.”

Reported cases of flu in Australia have dropped 99 percent compared with 2019.

Australia’s milder-than-usual flu season is likely the result of a number of factors — strong flu vaccination uptake, social distancing, but also severely decreased movement of people,” said Dr. Jonathan Anderson, a spokesman for Seqirus, a supplier of flu vaccine.

But though American public health authorities usually look to Australia’s flu season as a predictive, Australians say this year it’s not a reliable indicator.

“This situation is of no comfort as these measures do not apply to the United States where the populace has never been effectively physical distancing,” nor have the country’s entry restrictions been as onerous, said Dr. Paul Van Buynder, a public health professor at Griffith University in Queensland, Australia.

All that Americans can do is get vaccinated against flu, he added, because circulation of the coronavirus remains high.

“It is likely they will have a significant influenza season this northern winter,” he said.






More than 1,000 people in the US have died of coronavirus nearly every day this month

Corpse Starts to Move In Body Bag - Valdelucio Goncalves - YouTube

The Covid-19 death toll in the United States has soared to more than 170,000, just 18 days after the nation marked 150,000 lives lost.

As cases have increased in the US, the lull between grim milestones has grown shorter. It took 54 days for the number of people killed by the virus to go from one to 50,000, and then 34 days to cross 100,000 mark on May 27. Now, more than 5.4 million people have been infected and 170,052 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
By September 5, the number of deaths could grow to 189,000, according to a projection from an ensemble forecast by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 1,000 coronavirus deaths have been reported nearly every day this month. Since July 27, only five days have been under that threshold.

Cases and deaths are climbing as a potential vaccine is still months away and as students return to school for in-person classes amid growing outbreaks among younger populations.


‘We’ve got to break through to our young people’

While older Americans are more at risk for severe illness from coronavirus, health experts and officials are continuing to warn that younger populations are at the forefront of its spread.
“We’ve got to break through to our young people that they are not immune to the virus,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said.
The city has seen a steady increase in cases, which she attributed to 18 to 29-year-olds.
Also steadily increasing is the number of cases among children, according to CDC guidance.
Early data led many experts to believe that children did not contract or spread the virus in the same way that adults do. But as more research has been done into their age group, that belief is changing, the CDC said.
“Recent evidence suggests that children likely have the same or higher viral loads in their nasopharynx compared with adults and that children can spread the virus effectively in households and camp settings,” the guidance states.
The new guidance comes as many schools have opened their doors to bring students back for in-person learning. Several have already experienced outbreaks, prompting quarantines and closures.
The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which will begin its school year virtually this week, is launching a new program “that will provide regular COVID-19 testing and contact tracing to school staff, students and their families,” Superintendent Austin Beutner announced in a news release Sunday.
“Extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary actions, and while this testing and contact tracing effort is unprecedented, it is necessary and appropriate,” Beutner said.

Infections reported as colleges reopen

Cases have also cropped up at colleges and universities as students return to campus.
Oklahoma State University announced Sunday that at least 23 sorority members in an off-campus house tested positive for the virus. The entire house is in isolation or quarantine and “will be prohibited from leaving the facility,” the university said.
Less than a week after starting classes, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill announced its fourth cluster of coronavirus on Sunday. The clusters were located at two residence halls, a private apartment complex that serves students and the Sigma Nu fraternity.
The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services defines a cluster as five or more cases in close proximity.
The latest cases come after some universities reported infections even before the new school year began.
Over the summer, at least 38 students living in 10 University of Washington fraternity houses tested positive for the virus. And officials at UC Berkley confirmed 47 cases in just one week in July. Most of those cases, the university said in a statement, came from “parties connected to the CalGreek system.”

Positivity rates climbing

Health officials are hopeful that a new saliva test could give Americans a fast and inexpensive way to learn if they have Covid-19 and help to prevent increasing spread.
The SalivaDirect test, from researchers at the Yale School of Public Health, received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration on Saturday.
“If cheap alternatives like SalivaDirect can be implemented across the country, we may finally get a handle on this pandemic, even before a vaccine,” said Nathan Grubaugh, a Yale assistant professor of epidemiology.
The test comes as frustration grows over testing delays and shortages. Seventeen states are performing fewer tests this past week compared with the previous week, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
But while testing has gone down in those states, test positivity rates have increased in 34 states.
The test positivity rate is the percentage of tests being performed that come back positive for the virus. It is one of the metrics experts encourage officials to monitor when making reopening decisions.
Part of Illinois will be under new guidelines after three days in a row with a test positivity rate of 8% or higher, according to a news release from Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
Beginning Tuesday, all bars, restaurants and casinos in the Metro East area of Illinois will close by 11 p.m. Party buses will be closed and gatherings will be limited to 25 people or less, Pritzker said Sunday.
“If the data shows we need to go backwards in our reopening, I won’t hesitate to tighten restrictions to protect our collective health,” said Pritzker.



‘We’ve got to do better than this’: College students raise alarm by packing bars, avoiding masks

As college students pack bars, local officials sound a dire ...

Music blared outside a row of off-campus houses on Saturday near the University of North Georgia as hundreds of students packed the streets and front yards. Virtually no one wore a mask.

The huge party in Dahlonega, Ga., captured in a viral Twitter video, was one of a number of mass gatherings around the country this weekend as tens of thousands of students returned to college towns already on edge amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Local officials from Georgia to Alabama to Oklahoma reacted with horror and anger on Sunday, warning that unless students take social distancing and mask rules seriously, the fall semester could come to a swift end.

“Why?” tweeted Walt Maddox, mayor of Tuscaloosa, Ala., above a photo of hundreds of mostly mask-free University of Alabama students outside downtown restaurants. “We are desperately trying to protect @tuscaloosacity.”

Some universities are already battling coronavirus outbreaks, including the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill — where four viral clusters have emerged one week after in-person classes started — and Oklahoma State University, where a single sorority house has 23 confirmed cases.

There’s no national consensus on how to approach college this fall, with many schools going at least partially online and others trying mass testing of students. But other large schools are welcoming everyone back to campus and relying on masks and social distancing to avoid outbreaks — a plan, as local leaders noted this past weekend, that could crumble if students don’t abide by the recommendations.

In Dahlonega, university officials chided the hundreds of students who gathered at an off-campus housing complex for the Saturday night party. In-person classes are scheduled to start Monday for the school’s roughly 19,000 students.

“We are disappointed that many of our students chose to ignore COVID-19 public health guidance by congregating in a large group without social distancing or face coverings,” a school spokeswoman told the Gainesville Times.

At Alabama’s two biggest schools, football players were particularly vocal in sounding the alarm as they watched fellow students congregate without face coverings. Although many of college football’s biggest conferences have canceled their fall seasons, the Big 12, ACC and SEC are pushing ahead — assuming campus outbreaks don’t interfere.

At Auburn University, wide receiver Anthony Schwartz tweeted Saturday that he had “seen crowds of people and none of them are wearing masks.” Chris Owens, a center at the University of Alabama, tweeted a photo on Sunday afternoon of a crowd of students with barely any face coverings in sight, asking: “How about we social distance and have more than a literal handful of people wear a mask? Is that too much to ask Tuscaloosa?”

Alabama’s athletic director, Greg Byrne, also warned that the scenes in Tuscaloosa put the season at risk.

“Who wants college sports this fall?? Obviously not these people!!” he tweeted Sunday. “We’ve got to do better than this for each other and our campus community. Please wear your masks!”

Maddox, the mayor, said he would ask the school’s police force to help Tuscaloosa police enforce mask rules. “Wearing a mask and practicing social distancing is not much to ask for to protect yourself, your family, your friends … and the jobs of thousands of people,” he tweeted.

In Stillwater, Okla., the editor at Oklahoma State’s student newspaper shot videos this weekend of packed clubs and bars and long lines outside downtown establishments.

The campus was already on high alert after the school announced Saturday it had quarantined dozens of students inside the Pi Beta Phi sorority house following at least 23 positive tests on Friday. “I’ve decided.. I’m not going to class on Monday,” Tre Sterling, a defensive back on OSU’s football team, tweeted above videos of student crowds downtown.

Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce said the city council would consider new pandemic rules on Monday, including an “emergency declaration, if necessary.”

“Every single person in Stillwater has a responsibility to help,” he tweeted. “Take every precaution you can to slow the spread. Wear your mask, avoid crowded areas, wash your hands, be a good neighbor.”





Beware the office toilet

Coronavirus can be killed with disinfectant but beware high-touch ...

Returning to the office after months of lockdown may bring an unexpected risk for workers. According to the New York Times, the CDC recently closed some of its Atlanta offices after finding that its water sources contained Legionella, the bacteria that causes Legionnaire’s disease.

The bacteria can grow in stagnant water systems, including plumbing and air conditioning units. After a prolonged absence, inhaled vapors from flushing toilets, running taps or restarted air conditioners can carry Legionella into the lungs.

While older individuals with lung conditions are most vulnerable, Legionnaire’s pneumonia carries a 10 percent fatality rate—leading the CDC to publish reopening guidelines for building operators that include flushing long-dormant systems with heated water and additional disinfectant in advance of reopening, and the suggestion that at-risk individuals should wear an N95 respirator or facepiece when aerosol generation is likely. (Unsurprisingly, the guidelines have been criticized as overly vague and lacking prescriptive advice.)

As if we all didn’t have enough to worry about, don’t forget to bring a N95 mask for any bathroom breaks during your first day back at the office! (Or maybe just hold it.)