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November 11, 2020

Masks protect you (and not just those around you), CDC now says

Daily Briefing

    CDC on Tuesday released new evidence showing that wearing face masks or coverings not only protects other people against the novel coronavirus, but also those wearing the masks.


    The update came as the United States reported records of nearly 140,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus in a single day and more than 60,000 Americans hospitalized for Covid-19.


    US sets another single-day record, reporting nearly 140K new coronavirus cases


    The United States on Tuesday reported 139,855 new cases of the novel coronavirus, according to data compiled by the New York Times, once again setting a global record for the highest number of coronavirus cases reported in a single day since the pandemic began. Tuesday marked the eighth day in a row that the United States reported more than 100,000 new coronavirus cases in a single day.

    Overall, as of Wednesday morning, U.S. officials had reported a total of about 10,331,900 cases of the novel coronavirus since America's epidemic began, up from about 10,191,200 cases reported as of Tuesday morning.

    According to the Times, the United States' average daily number of newly reported coronavirus cases over the past week was 123,315—which is up by 69% when compared with the average from two weeks ago.

    As of Wednesday morning, data from the Times showed that the rates of newly reported coronavirus cases were "staying high" in Guam, Puerto Rico, and 47 states that have had a daily average of at least 15 newly reported cases per 100,000 people over the past week. Those states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

    According to data from Johns Hopkins University, Texas as of early Wednesday become the first U.S. state to report more than one million cases of the novel coronavirus, with the state reporting a total of 1,010,364 cases of the virus since America's epidemic began.

    Meanwhile, Hawaii, Maine, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Vermont, and Washington, D.C.—which have had comparatively low case rates—were seeing those rates "going up" as of Wednesday morning, according to the Times.

    The number of reported U.S. deaths tied to the novel coronavirus also is rising at a quicker pace, with the United States last week reporting more than 1,000 new deaths tied to the virus for four consecutive days for the first time since August. U.S. officials on Tuesday reported at least 1,448 new deaths tied to the coronavirus, according to the Times' data, bringing the country's reported total of such deaths as of Wednesday morning to about 240,241 since the country's epidemic began—up from about 238,700 deaths reported as of Tuesday morning.


    US Covid-19 hospitalizations reach a new peak


    Hospitalizations for Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, also are rising—and the number of Americans hospitalized for the disease reached a new peak in the United States on Tuesday. According to data from The Atlantic's Covid Tracking Project, 61,964 Americans were hospitalized for Covid-19 as of Tuesday, surpassing the United States' previous record of nearly 60,000 Covid-19 hospitalizations, which the country had reported during the summer. The data also shows that 22 states as of Tuesday were seeing their highest numbers of Covid-19 hospitalizations since the epidemic began, NPR's "Shots" reports.

    Overall, the number of Americans hospitalized for Covid-19 has more than doubled since September, according to data from the Covid Tracking Project, and that's increased the strain on hospitals throughout the United States. According to the Times, many hospitals are now facing critical staff shortages, which is limiting their capacity to add more hospital beds to treat the country's growing number of Covid-19 patients. The staffing shortages have been particularly acute in Western states, where attracting physicians and other medical personnel has long been an issue, the Times reports.

    And because new coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are rising in every state, there may not be as much flexibility to move resources between states as there was during previous surges, Mahshid Abir, an emergency physician at the University of Michigan and a researcher at Rand Corp., told NPR's "Shots."

    "Everywhere is either hard hit or is watching their Covid numbers go up, and are expecting to get a lot of flu patients," said Nancy Foster, a VP at the American Hospital Association. "The ability of health care professionals to pick up and leave their hometowns is very limited."

    Lauren Sauer, an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins University who studies hospital surge capacity, said, "We have legitimate reason to be very, very concerned about our health system at a national level."

    In response to the shortages, some state and hospital officials are implementing measures to ensure they have adequate staffing and enough hospital beds to treat the latest influx of Covid-19 patients.

    For example, in North Dakota, which currently has the highest coronavirus infection rate per person in the United States, Gov. Douglas Burgum (R), on Monday announced that health workers who test positive for the coronavirus but do not have Covid-19 symptoms can continue to work in hospitals and nursing homes under a few conditions, including that they only treat Covid-19 patients. The move aligns with CDC guidelines, which state that hospitals may use asymptomatic health care personnel during severe staff shortages.

    In El Paso, Texas, where officials had reported a total of 1,076 Covid-19 hospitalizations as of Tuesday, University Medical Center has set up tents to provide care to patients in a parking lot, and the city's downtown convention center has been converted to a field hospital. In addition, state officials have started to airlift dozens of intensive care patients to other cities to free up space for Covid-19 patients in El Paso.

    And in Wisconsin, which also is among the states hit the hardest by the latest coronavirus surge, a spokesperson for Aurora Health Care said the health system is pausing testing sites in Sinai, Green Bay, and Kenosha to focus its attention on bedside care for its influx in Covid-19 patients.


    CDC says universal mask wearing could 'help avert future lockdowns'


    Amid America's resurging coronavirus epidemic, CDC in a scientific brief released Tuesday provided new evidence showing that wearing a face mask or covering protects not only other people from contracting the novel coronavirus, but it also the person wearing the mask. According to the Times, the update goes "a step beyond [CDC's] previous declaration that said wearing masks would only protect those around" mask wearers.

    CDC in the brief wrote that both "[e]xperimental and epidemiological data support community masking to reduce the spread" of the coronavirus. For instance, CDC noted, "[s]tudies demonstrate that cloth mask materials can … reduce wearers' exposure to infectious droplets through filtration, including filtration of fine droplets and particles less than 10 microns."  

    In addition, the agency cited a June analysis by Goldman Sachs that showed "increasing universal masking by 15% could prevent the need for lockdowns and reduce associated losses of up to $1 trillion or about 5% of gross domestic product."

    CDC said the evidence shows that "adopting universal masking policies can help avert future lockdowns, especially if combined with other non-pharmaceutical interventions such as social distancing, hand hygiene, and adequate ventilation."

    According to The Hill, the update represents CDC's strongest endorsement of universal mask wearing since America's coronavirus epidemic began (Associated Press, 11/11; Stobbe, Associated Press, 11/10; Stone, "Shots," NPR, 11/10; New York Times [1], 11/11; Edwards, NBC News, 11/10; Weixel, The Hill, 11/10; CDC scientific brief, 11/10; New York Times [2], 11/11; Covid Tracking Project data, accessed 11/11).

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