Covid-19 is not mutating, health experts say, but that doesn’t mean it’s not dangerous.
So far, evidence does not show that the coronavirus is changing to become more severe or more transmittable, but complacency by people and local governments could increase its spread, World Health Organization infectious disease epidemiologist Maria Van Kerkhove said Wednesday at a news briefing.
Almost 20,000 new US cases were reported Wednesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, and officials warn that packed protests over the death in police custody of George Floyd could exacerbate the pandemic that has killed at least 107,175 people nationwide.
“I remain concerned about the public health consequences both of individual and institutional racism (and) people out protesting in a way that is harmful to themselves and to their communities,” US Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams said in an interview published Monday. “Based on the way the disease spreads, there is every reason to expect that we will see new clusters and potentially new outbreaks moving forward.”
Protesters should get tested, CDC director says
Oklahoma State linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga tested positive for the virus after attending a protest, he tweeted Tuesday.
“Please, if you are going to protest, take care of yourself and stay safe,” he wrote.
“I do think there is a potential, unfortunately, for this to be a seeding event,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Thursday of the protests.
To prevent transmission, Redfield said people who attend protests should tell their loved ones that they were out in public and get tested within three to seven days.
The use of tear gas by police may help the virus spread, since it makes people cough, Redfield said during a House committee hearing on the coronavirus response.
New York state, long an epicenter of the US outbreak, reported 49 coronavirus-related deaths Tuesday, the lowest death toll since the pandemic began, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.
But in parts of the West and the South, spreading has continued.
CDC chief: Public health system weaknesses exposed
The coronavirus pandemic has “highlighted the shortcomings of our public health system that has been under-resourced for decades,” Redfield said Thursday.
That’s especially true in the field of information technology, said Redfield.
“Never has it been more clear that our nation’s public health IT infrastructure requires modernization, to support and collect reportable, reliable, comprehensive and timely data,” he told a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the Covid-19 response.
“When we confront any disease threat, CDC and public health departments must make real-time decisions based on real-time data. Data forms the roadmap, and it informs policy. Data is the backbone of any disease threat response,” he said.
Some numbers move in ‘right direction,’ others don’t
As US states push forward with reopening plans, nearly as many are seeing coronavirus caseloads trending upward as those where case numbers are declining, an analysis of Johns Hopkins data shows.
Nineteen states have averaged more new cases over the past week than the prior week, while 13 are holding steady and 18 are seeing a downward trend.