Former CDC director doubles down on importance of masks and social distancing


A top health expert warns US needs a “comprehensive approach” to the Covid-19 pandemic, following a week of several states reporting alarming trends.



a group of people standing on a lush green field: NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 26: People with and without masks gather in Sheep Meadow, Central Park as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 26, 2020 in New York City. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)


© Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images
NEW YORK, NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 26: People with and without masks gather in Sheep Meadow, Central Park as the city continues Phase 4 of re-opening following restrictions imposed to slow the spread of coronavirus on September 26, 2020 in New York City. The fourth phase allows outdoor arts and entertainment, sporting events without fans and media production. (Photo by Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

“Testing does not replace safety measures including consistent mask use, physical distancing, and hand washing,” Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday.

His remarks came as a response to the President’s and the first lady’s positive Covid-19 tests. Their diagnoses, Frieden said, serve as “a reminder that Covid-19 is an ongoing threat to our country and can happen to anyone.”

Twenty-four states saw their number of new cases rise at least 10% this week from the week before, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The county’s seven-day average of new daily cases — about 42,400 — is more than 20% higher than where it was September 12, when it was at two-month low of about 34,300.

It’s still below a summer peak of roughly 67,000 from July — but health officials have said even daily cases in the 40,000s are far too high if the country wants to avoid a dangerous surge in the coming months, when cold weather will nudge people indoors more often.

Worrying trends across US

In many states, local and state leaders are reporting worrying milestones.

Kentucky on Friday recorded its second-highest number of cases reported in one day, at 999.

And that caps weeks of increases: Its seven-day average of new cases — more than 800 on Friday — is well above the 500s and 600s of early to mid-September, Johns Hopkins data show.

“This week is going to shatter last week’s record for number of cases,” Gov. Andy Beshear said Friday. “The situation is getting very dangerous in Kentucky.”

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced this week the state was facing a “cluster situation” with about 20 zip codes — many of them in New York City — reporting high positivity rates. That comes as thousands of students in New York City returned to schools.

And in Wisconsin, which reported on Wednesday its highest one-day Covid-19 death count — 27 — Gov. Tony Evers this week urged residents not to try and “live like we’re back to the way things used to be.”

Video: 26 states see increases in coronavirus cases (CNN)

26 states see increases in coronavirus cases

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But other US communities pushed further into reopening. Florida cleared the way for bars and restaurants to fully reopen. Mississippi lifted its mask mandate. In California, several counties moved into less restrictive tiers of the state’s reopening plan, while in Nevada, officials loosened limits on public gatherings.

Hospitalizations rise

According to the Covid Tracking Project, the average number of people hospitalized for coronavirus in a week rose recently for the first time since July.

This past week saw an average of about 30,000 hospitalized — a rise of 2.4% from the previous week, and the first jump after eight weeks of decline, CTP reported.

While daily deaths in the US are still dropping, “the decline appears to have slowed,” CTP said in a Thursday blog post.

In Wisconsin, hospitalizations more than doubled last month, according to CTP.

In one part of Wisconsin, a healthcare professional warned the community is “nearing a crisis.”

“This spike we’re seeing in Brown County, Wisconsin, should be a wake-up call to anyone who lives here that our community is facing a crisis,” said Dr. Paul Casey, medical director of the emergency department at Bellin Hospital in Green Bay, Wisconsin.

Wisconsin’s seven-day average of new daily infections soared in recent weeks, from the high 600s and low 700s in late August to its all-time high of 2,439 on Friday.

One of Green Bay’s four hospitals has more patients than the entire city had at its peak in April, Dr. Casey told CNN on Thursday.

Report: These should be the vaccination phases

Several companies are conducting Covid-19 vaccine Phase 3 trials in the US, but when a safe and effective vaccine will be available to the US population remains uncertain.

Experts advising the federal government say frontline healthcare workers and those who provide health care facility services should be the first to get vaccinated, followed by people at high risk of severe illness due to underlying health conditions.

Next should come older adults living in congregate settings, like nursing homes, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee said in a final report.

But local leaders should also give priority to vulnerable communities, the committee said. That addition comes after criticism over the group’s draft report that was issued last month, which did not mention minority communities that have been hit hardest by the pandemic.

The committee recommends that within each phase of vaccinations, authorities prioritize people in high vulnerability areas, identified by a tool like the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index. The index uses US Census variables to identify communities in particular need of disaster support which the committee says considers the factors that place racial minorities at higher risk of Covid-19.

The third phase proposes vaccination for young adults, children and those in industries where people may receive some protection but are still at risk of exposure, such as banks and universities.

A vaccination for children, the committee said, will depend on whether a vaccine has been tested in that population. Pediatric specialists recently called for Covid-19 vaccine trials to begin for children saying that population has been “stuck in neutral.”

The final phase covers anyone who has yet to receive vaccination.

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