Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of May 18, 2020 – May 22, 2020.
As more tests become available, many states reportedly struggling to get more people tested for coronavirus
The Washington Post (5/17, A1, Thompson, Eilperin, Dennis) reports that as more coronavirus tests become available, many states are facing a new problem: “too few people lining up to get tested.” The Washington Post adds, “Experts say several factors may be preventing more people from seeking tests, including a lingering sense of scarcity, a lack of access in rural and underserved communities, and skepticism about testing operations.” However, some parts of the country are still struggling to keep up with demand.
CDC plans nationwide coronavirus antibody study to track virus’ spread
Reuters (5/18, Brown) reports the CDC “plans a nationwide study of up to 325,000 people to track how the new coronavirus is spreading across the country into next year and beyond, a CDC spokeswoman and researchers conducting the effort told Reuters.” The study, “expected to launch in June or July, will test samples from blood donors in 25 metropolitan areas for antibodies created when the immune system fights the coronavirus, said Michael Busch, MD, director of the nonprofit Vitalant Research Institute.” Dr. Busch “is leading a preliminary version of the study—funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases—that is testing the first 36,000 samples.”
The Hill (5/18, Bowden) reports that “news of the CDC’s study comes as some have called for the agency to take on a greater role in the nation’s fight against coronavirus.”
Study projects tripling of U.S. COVID-19 deaths by end of year
The Hill (5/19, Wilson) reports that a new study published in Health Affairs “suggests the number of Americans who will die after contracting the novel coronavirus is likely to more than triple by the end of the year, even if current social-distancing habits continue for months on end.” The study, conducted by the Comparative Health Outcomes, Policy and Economics Institute at the University of Washington’s School of Pharmacy, “found that 1.3% of those who show symptoms of the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus die, an infection fatality rate that is 13 times higher than a bad influenza season.” Anirban Basu, a health economist at the University of Washington who authored the study, found “if the infection fatality rate is accurate, and if the coronavirus continues spreading at current rates even before most states open their economies and relax social-distancing restrictions, the COVID-19 disease could claim between 350,000 and 1.2 million American lives by the end of this year.”
CDC: Coronavirus “does not spread easily” via touching surfaces, objects
USA Today (5/20, Flores) reports recently updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines say that the novel coronavirus “does not spread easily” by touching contaminated surfaces or objects, by animal-to-human contact, or vice versa. However, the agency warned that transmission via such routes “may be possible.” Meanwhile the CDC continues to warn “that the main way the virus is spread is through person-to-person contact, even among those who are not showing any symptoms,” and that “the main way to prevent infection” is social distancing, hand washing with soap, and “cleaning and disinfecting frequently-touched areas.”
CDC estimates that about one-third of coronavirus patients do not have symptoms
CNN (5/22, Azad) reports that in its “new guidance for mathematical modelers and public health officials,” the CDC “is estimating that about a third of coronavirus infections are asymptomatic.” The agency also “says its ‘best estimate’ is that 0.4% of people who show symptoms and have [COVID-19] will die, and the agency estimates that 40% of coronavirus transmission is occurring before people feel sick.” The CDC “cautions that those numbers are subject to change as more is learned about [COVID-19], and it warns that the information is intended for planning purposes.”
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