Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of Aug. 17, 2020 – Aug. 21, 2020.

NBC News (8/14, Sandoval) reported, “Despite warnings about obesity and unhealthy diets, American kids and adolescents are eating even more fast food,” research from the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) indicates. The findings were published in NCHS Data Brief No. 375.

The Hill (8/14, Deese) reported research demonstrated that “young people received 13.8% of their daily calories from fast food between 2015 and 2018, up from 12.4% from 2011 to 2012.” What’s more, “adolescents between the ages of 12 to 19 consumed a higher percentage of fast food calories compared to children ages 2 to 11,” investigators reported.

According to HealthDay (8/14, Norton), “there were racial differences, too.” Among adolescents, “white kids downed an average of 15% of daily calories from fast food.” That increased “to 18.5% of Hispanic teens, and 21.5% of Black teens.”

The Washington Post (8/17, Schmidt) reports that on Monday, a U.S. District Court judge “blocked the Trump administration from removing non-discrimination protections for transgender people in health care, issuing a temporary set back to a major policy priority for social conservatives.” The administration’s “new rules, which were set to take effect on Tuesday, would have reversed Obama-era Affordable Care Act regulations that said discrimination protections ‘on the basis of sex’ should apply to transgender people.”

The New York Times (8/17, Sanger-Katz, Weiland) reports the court “found that the administration’s new rule, which was finalized in mid-June by the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, appeared to be incompatible with a Supreme Court case, decided days later, establishing that employers cannot discriminate against transgender people in the workplace.” The “ruling temporarily blocks enforcement of the new rule...while a lawsuit [moves] forward.”

The Washington Post (8/18, Wan, Balingit) reports that on Tuesday, the World Health Organization “warned...that young people are becoming the primary drivers of the spread of the novel coronavirus in many countries – a worrisome trend experts fear may grow in the United States as many colleges and schools begin to reopen.” Takeshi Kasai, the WHO’s Western Pacific regional director, said, “People in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving the spread. The epidemic is changing.” Kasai said that younger people often exhibit milder symptoms, which “increases the risk of spillovers to the most vulnerable: the elderly, the sick, people in long-term care, people who live in densely populated urban areas and underserved rural areas.”

The AP (8/19, Stobbe) reports HHS Secretary Alex Azar issued a directive permitting pharmacists in all states to give childhood vaccinations. Azar “took the step using emergency powers he has during the U.S. coronavirus epidemic, which was declared a public health emergency,” and the directive “will temporarily preempt restrictions in 22 states starting this fall.”

Reuters (8/19, Nadeem) reports the directive follows a drop in vaccinations during the pandemic. HHS said, “This decrease in childhood vaccination rates is a public health threat and a collateral harm caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The Washington Post (8/20, Cha) reports a study published in the Journal of Pediatrics “found that some children have significantly higher levels of virus in their airways than the most severely ill adults – suggesting their role in community spread may be larger than previously believed.” The study’s findings suggest that children “may have been acting as silent spreaders” throughout the pandemic.

Reuters (8/20, Beasley) reports researchers “at Boston’s Massachusetts General and MassGeneral Hospital for Children found that infected children have a significantly higher level of virus in their airways than adults hospitalized in intensive care units for COVID-19 treatment.” Reuters adds, “The high viral levels were found in infants through young adults, although most of the participants were age 11 to 17.”

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