CDC Recommends Face Masks in All Public Transportation SettingsBy Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
TUESDAY, Oct. 20, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- Seeking to slow the spread of coronavirus, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended on Monday that face masks be worn by everyone in all public transportation settings.
That includes both passengers and people working in stations, terminals and airports across the country, CBS News reported.
So far, the Trump administration has not issued any national mandate on face coverings, instead leaving that decision to state and local leaders.
In the new interim guidance, the CDC called masks "one of the most effective strategies available for reducing COVID-19 transmission." Wide use of masks helps protect those at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 as well as workers who frequently come into close contact with other people in airports, bus terminals, train stations and seaports, the guidance stated.
Most U.S. airlines, Amtrak and many other transport companies already require passengers and staff to wear masks, CBS News reported. The CDC urged passengers and workers on all airplanes, ships, ferries, trains, subways, buses, taxis and ride-shares to follow suit.
For months, research has shown that face masks help curb the spread of COVID-19. In the new guidance, the CDC said everyone "should wear masks that cover both the mouth and nose when waiting for, traveling on, or departing from public [transportation]. People should also wear masks at an airport, bus or ferry terminal, train or subway station, seaport, or similar area that provides transportation."
The guidance also urges transport operators to "refuse boarding to anyone not wearing a mask and require all people onboard, whether passengers or employees, to wear masks for the duration of travel," with exceptions for eating, drinking and medical disorders that prohibit mask wearing.
Reopened NYC schools not seeing surge in COVID cases
Three weeks after becoming the first big urban area to reopen public schools since the pandemic began, New York City is not seeing a feared surge in cases among students and staff.
Instead, health officials are seeing a surprisingly small number of COVID-19 cases, The New York Times reported.
Of the more than 15,000 staff members and students tested randomly in the first week of its testing regimen, the city has gotten back results for close to 11,000. There were only 18 positives: 13 staff members and five students, the Times reported. Even better, when officials put mobile testing units at schools near the Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods that have had new outbreaks, only four positive cases surfaced in more than 3,300 tests conducted since the last week of September, the newspaper said.
New York City is facing fears of a second wave of the virus fueled by local spikes in Brooklyn and Queens, and official have closed more than 120 public schools as a precaution, the Times reported.
Still, the sprawling system of 1,800 public schools is a bright spot as the city tries to recover from a pandemic that has killed thousands and weakened its economy.
When the city reopened its school system in September, roughly half of the city's students opted for hybrid learning, where they are in the building some days, but not others. The approach has enabled the city to keep class sizes small, the Times reported.
"That data is encouraging," said Paula White, executive director of Educators for Excellence, a teachers group. "It reinforces what we have heard about schools not being super spreaders."
Things are not going as well in other parts of the country, however. Last week, at least 20 states set record seven-day averages for infections, and a dozen hit record hospitalization rates, according to health department data analyzed by the Washington Post.
The jump in cases and hospitalizations has been followed by a more modest rise in COVID-19 deaths, most likely due to better patient care from now-seasoned medical workers. The widespread use of powerful steroids and other treatments has also lowered mortality rates among people who are severely ill, the Post reported.
Second COVID vaccine trial paused
A second coronavirus vaccine trial has been paused after an unexplained illness surfaced in one of the trial's volunteers.
Johnson & Johnson, which only began a phase 3 trial of its vaccine last month, has not offered any more details on the illness and did not say whether the sick participant had received the vaccine or a placebo. The trial pause was first reported by the health news website STAT.
While Johnson & Johnson was behind several of its competitors in the vaccine race, its candidate has an advantage in that it doesn't need to be frozen and it could be given in one dose instead of two, the Times reported. The J&J vaccine is also the focus of the largest COVID-19 vaccine trial, with a goal of enrolling 60,000 volunteers.
"Adverse events -- illnesses, accidents, etc. -- even those that are serious, are an expected part of any clinical study, especially large studies," the company said in a statement. "We're also learning more about this participant's illness, and it's important to have all the facts before we share additional information."
"It's actually a good thing that these companies are pausing these trials when these things come up," Dr. Phyllis Tien, an infectious disease physician at the University of California, San Francisco, a vaccine trial site for both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca, told the Times. "We just need to let the sponsor and the safety board do their review and let us know their findings."
Johnson & Johnson is not the first company to pause a coronavirus vaccine trial. Two participants in AstraZeneca's trial became seriously ill after getting its vaccine. That trial has been halted and has not yet resumed in the United States.
COVID continues to spread around the globe
By Tuesday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 8.2 million while the death toll passed 220,000, according to a Times tally.
According to the same tally, the top five states in coronavirus cases as of Tuesday were: California with over 882,600; Texas with more than 873,500; Florida with nearly 757,000; New York with over 490,000; and Illinois with more than 352,000.
Curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the rest of the world remains challenging.
Several European countries are experiencing case surges as they struggle with a second wave of coronavirus infections and hospital beds begin to fill up, the Post reported.
In England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has instituted a three-tier lockdown in a bid to slow a startling spike in coronavirus cases across the country. In the past three weeks, new coronavirus cases have quadrupled and there are now more COVID-19 patients hospitalized than before the government imposed a lockdown back in March, the Post reported.
Addressing the nation recently, Johnson warned Britons that the country's rise in cases was "flashing like dashboard warnings in a passenger jet."
Things are no better in India, where the coronavirus case count has passed 7.5 million, a Johns Hopkins tally showed.
More than 115,000 coronavirus patients have died in India, according to the Hopkins tally, but when measured as a proportion of the population, the country has had far fewer deaths than many others. Doctors say this reflects India's younger and leaner population.
Still, the country's public health system is severely strained, and some sick patients cannot find hospital beds, the Times said. Only the United States has more coronavirus cases.
Meanwhile, Brazil passed 5.2 million cases and had over 154,000 deaths as of Tuesday, the Hopkins tally showed.
Cases are also spiking in Russia: The country's coronavirus case count has passed 1.4 million. As of Tuesday, the reported death toll in Russia was over 24,000, the Hopkins tally showed.
Worldwide, the number of reported infections passed 40.4 million on Tuesday, with over 1.1 million deaths, according to the Hopkins tally.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.
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