Read AMA Morning Rounds®’ most popular stories in medicine and public health from the week of Oct. 19, 2020 – Oct. 23, 2020.

The New York Times (10/16, Belluck) reported that “a potential therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [ALS]...may allow patients to live several months longer than they otherwise would have, according to” findings published in Muscle and Nerve.

MedPage Today (10/16, George) reports that researchers found that “starting treatment earlier with” the “investigational, proprietary combination of sodium phenylbutyrate and taurursodiol – dubbed drug AMX0035 – led to longer survival in patients with” ALS.

Reuters (10/19, Shepardson) reports that on Monday, the CDC “issued a ‘strong recommendation’ that all passengers and employees on airplanes, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-share vehicles should wear masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.” Furthermore, the interim guidance “calls for facial coverings at transportation hubs like airports and train stations.” The CDC said, “Broad and routine utilization of masks on our transportation systems will protect Americans and provide confidence that we can once again travel more safely even during this pandemic.”

The Washington Post (10/19, Sun) reports the new “guidance was issued following pressure from the airline industry and amid surging cases of the coronavirus and strong evidence on the effectiveness of masks in curbing transmission, according to CDC officials.”

USA Today (10/19, Woodyard) reports that “if passengers don’t comply, those who won’t put on masks should be ordered to get off when possible, the CDC says in its interim guidance.” Airlines and “other transportation providers should, ‘at the earliest opportunity, disembark any person who refuses to comply.’”

The Washington Post (10/20, Bernstein) reports, “The coronavirus pandemic has left about 299,000 more people dead in the United States than would be expected in a typical year, two-thirds of them from [COVID-19] and the rest from other causes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.” The agency “said [SARS-CoV-2] has taken a disproportionate toll on Latinos and Blacks, as previous analyses have noted.” In addition, the pandemic “has struck 25- to 44-year-olds very hard: Their ‘excess death’ rate is up 26.5 percent over previous years, the largest change for any age group.”

The Washington Post (10/21, Sun) reports the CDC “issued new guidance on Wednesday that greatly expands the pool of people considered at risk for [SARS-CoV-2 infection] by changing the definition of who is a ‘close contact’ of an infected individual.” The expanded definition “is likely to have its biggest impact in schools, workplaces and other group settings where people are in contact with others for long periods of time.”

The AP (10/21, Stobbe) reports the CDC previously “said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus,” but now it has been changed “to a total of 15 minutes or more – so shorter but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes over a 24-hour period now count.”

USA Today (10/22, Rice) reports that on Thursday, the FDA “approved the antiviral drug remdesivir as a treatment for patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization.” While the treatment was “previously authorized by the FDA for emergency use to treat COVID-19,” it “is now the first and only approved COVID-19 treatment in the United States, Gilead said in a release.”

The AP (10/22, Marchione) reports that the treatment “cut the time to recovery by five days – from 15 days to 10 on average – in a large study.”

Reuters (10/22, Beasley) reports that “also on Thursday, the FDA issued a new emergency use authorization for remdesivir to treat hospitalized pediatric patients under age 12 who weigh enough to receive an intravenous drug.”

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