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Health Highlights: Sept. 16, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Other Nations Think U.S. Has Handled Pandemic Poorly

Eighty-five percent of people in 13 other wealthy democracies believe the United States has handled the coronavirus pandemic poorly, a Pew Research Center survey finds.

The United States leads the world in both COVID-19 cases and deaths, and this poll suggests that the country's reputation has plummeted to a new low due to its disorganized response to the pandemic, the Washington Post reported.

Among the nations surveyed, Belgians had the lowest opinion of the United States, and approval ratings for the United States fell to record lows in at least seven nations, including important allies like Britain and Japan.

Only 26% of Germans polled had a positive opinion of the United States, the lowest level since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the Post reported.


NYC Lockdown Reduced Coronavirus Spread by 70%

The spread of the new coronavirus fell by 70% after New York City's spring lockdown, researchers say.

They added that the spread of the virus could have been reduced even more with more consistency in mask wearing, the Washington Post reported.

City schools were closed on March 15 and stay-at-home orders for everyone other than essential workers were issued the next week. The measures remained in place until June, when officials began a gradual reopening.

The lockdown "likely contributed to the largest reduction in transmission in the population overall," but masks also played a crucial role, according to the Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene researchers, the Post reported.

After mandatory use of face coverings began on April 12, virus transmission fell by another 7% overall, and by 20% among people 65 and older. If everyone used masks correctly, overall transmission could be cut by as much as 32%, the scientists wrote.

The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.


Trump Appointee at HHS in More Hot Water

There's more controversy surrounding Michael Caputo, the Trump-appointed top spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Caputo, who was named top HHS spokesman in April, has been accused of trying to alter or derail U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports on the coronavirus pandemic to protect Trump.

On Monday, it was revealed that Caputo posted a video on his personal Facebook page in which he said government scientists were conspiring against Trump and that violence could erupt if Trump lost the election, the Associated Press reported.

On Tuesday, Caputo apologized to his staff for the video, an administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told the AP.

Congressional Democrats have called for HHS to fire Caputo, but so far the department is standing by him. Democrats also want HHS Secretary Alex Azar to resign.


Teens' Popularity Can Affect Future Heart Risk: Study

Teens who struggle to fit in may be at increased risk for future heart problems, a new study suggests.

It found that adults in Sweden who weren't popular with their peers at age 13 had a greater likelihood of circulatory system disease, including narrowed and hardened arteries and abnormal heartbeat, CNN reported.

The study was published in the journal BMJ Open.

"Although not many realize it, peer status is one of the strongest predictors of later psychological and health outcomes, even decades later," Mitch Prinstein, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina, told CNN.

"Several early studies revealed that our likeability among peers in grade school predicts life outcomes more strongly than does IQ, parental income, school grades, and preexisting physical illness," said Prinstein, who wasn't involved in the study.

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