Daily US coronavirus cases have been ticking up recently, a trend medical experts have said they won’t want to see as a potentially complicated flu season approaches.
New daily cases averaged about 39,700 over a week as of Thursday. That average has risen the past few days, to 13% higher than the week before, data from Johns Hopkins University show.
This comes after weeks of decline from a summer surge. It’s well below the summer peak average of 67,300 on July 22.
But health experts have said they fear it might be too high to prevent big spikes this fall, as colder weather sends more people indoors, increasing the risk of spreading both COVID-19 and the flu.
“We really need to see flu vaccination uptake increased across the Northern Hemisphere … especially this year,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s technical lead for coronavirus, said Friday. “Because we have a tool against flu … that will help, and it will particularly help vulnerable populations.”
A possible silver lining: The nation’s top infectious disease expert says the US won’t necessarily see the worst of flu seasons.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pointed Thursday to the Southern Hemisphere, where it’s late winter, and where Australia has experienced an almost non-existent flu season.
A new study published by the CDC also suggests that measures taken against COVID-19, like social distancing and teleworking, could lead to a mild flu season.
“The key point here is still this: No. 1, if we don’t want to see a double whammy (of COVID-19 and flu), get your flu shot,” Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, epidemiologist and former Detroit health commissioner, said Friday.
“No. 2, make sure you wear a mask. No. 3, keep practicing safe social distancing.”
More than 6.6 million COVID-19 infections have been officially reported in the US since the start of the pandemic, and at least 197,633 people have died, according to Johns Hopkins.
The country has averaged 838 COVID-19 deaths a day over the past week — a rate below where it was weeks ago. Daily deaths hovered above 1,000 for 25 straight days from late July into mid-August.
Report: White House nixed plan to distribute 650 million face masks through USPS
The US Postal Service had planned to distribute 650 million face coverings for the Trump administration in April to curb coronavirus, according to newly obtained internal documents reviewed by CNN.
But the White House scrapped those plans to avoid sparking “concern or panic” among Americans, senior administration officials told The Washington Post.
The documents obtained by the transparency group American Oversight show the Postal Service was doing this in partnership with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the Department of Health and Human Services, and “a consortium of textile manufacturers.”
USPS was planning to ship the masks in April and to prioritize areas “which HHS has identified as experiencing high transmission rates of COVID-19,” according to a draft USPS release.
A separate draft media response statement said the packages would include “five reusable face cloths, which can be used up to 15 times each.”
The scrapped plan provides a fresh look at how the White House was responding to the pandemic in its early days. When reached by CNN, the White House declined to comment.
Teachers at risk across US
The country has continued to navigate its response to the crisis amid a back-to-school season like no other. While dozens of districts across the country opted to begin the year virtually, other students returned to class — and with them came more COVID-19 cases.
In Massachusetts, almost 30 teenagers were asked to quarantine after parents sent a child to school despite knowing the student was infected, according to the school district and town’s mayor. In Florida, the number of children under 18 who have contracted the virus statewide has jumped 26% since many public schools opened their doors last month.
The school openings come despite weeks of protests from education leaders who feared a return to school could be deadly.
The results of a new study now show between 42% and 51% of all school employees in the US met the CDC’s criteria for either having an increased risk for COVID-19 infection or potentially increased risk for Covid-19 infection.
The CDC says underlying health conditions like obesity, diabetes and heart disease and older age put people into the highest risk groups.
“Among all adults with CDC risk factors for severe COVID-19, between 33.9 million and 44.2 million had direct or within-household connections to schools,” the researchers with the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality wrote.
The results, the researchers wrote, highlight the “public health challenge that arises when the risk of school-related exposure is coupled with the potential for within-household transmission.”
Within-household transmissions have also been a concern among experts when it comes to college students, many of whom could return home for upcoming breaks or already are living with their parents.
It’s why Fauci has urged colleges and universities to isolate students infected with the virus on campus instead of sending them home. Colleges in all 50 states have reported positive cases of COVID-19.
“You send them back to their community, you will in essence be reseeding with individuals who are capable of transmitting infection, many communities throughout the country,” Fauci said earlier this month.