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Levels of stress and depression rose steadily in the United States as the coronavirus pandemic worsened, researchers reported Friday.
Their study of more than 6,500 people shows conflicting messages on news and social media may have worsened people’s stress, the researchers reported in the journal Science Advances.
“Unlike other studies, our unique study design allowed us to examine population-based trends in the early psychological consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic as it unfolded,” wrote Alison Holman, a specialist in behavioral research and trauma at the University of California Irvine, and colleagues.
They used polling data from three nationally representative groups of people interviewed at 10-day intervals in March and April.
“Approximately a quarter of the sample (23.5%) reported that they or a close other had been exposed to COVID-19 (e.g., experienced symptoms, were diagnosed),” they wrote. Another 30% were exposed at work.
People were immersed in news an average of seven hours a day, they found. Acute stress increased as time went on, the surveys showed.
“Acute stress and depressive symptoms were associated with personal exposure to the but not community exposures,” Holman’s team wrote. This suggests “concerns about contracting the disease outweighed concerns about pandemic-related disruptions in daily life,” they said.
An influential coronavirus model has updated its forecast for January, predicting a “most likely” scenario of 378,321 US deaths by January 1 – a drop compared to the estimation just a week ago.
The new Covid-19 forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington projects 36,769 fewer deaths than it did last week. In that earlier prediction, it forecast 415,090 US deaths from the coronavirus.
“This decline is driven by steeper than expected declines seen in deaths in several states. In our model, these declines push out further into January and February the expected seasonal surge, reducing the number of deaths expected by January 1,” the IHME explained.
“We expect over 3,000 deaths per day by the end of December. Between now and January 1 we expect approximately 180,000 deaths.”
Even fewer people would die if universal mask mandates were put in place, IHME said – an estimated 263,483 people. But if current mandates are eased, the number of projected deaths soars to 445,605.
If mandates are eased, the IHME calculates that 8,571 people would die every day in the US by Jan. 1. Currently, the model projects 3,268 daily deaths – and that would tumble to 1,322 if universal mask use were in place.
“Even if herd immunity were to occur at a low level, such as 40% (the level seen in Mexico City now) with cumulative infections, by January 1, the US epidemic would only be less than half over,” the IHME notes.
Baseball legend David Ortiz admitted Friday to having had Covid-19.
Ortiz told New England Sports Network announcers during Friday's Major League Baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.
"Yeah, man, I just got it. I just had my last test yesterday. Thank God I tested negative," Ortiz said, adding that he was asymptomatic so he didn't struggle too badly.
"My brother had it really bad, he had to be in the hospital for about a week. He ended up losing like 25 pounds and, man, this is no joke. You don't realize how crazy this is until it hits home."
The US reported 6.7 million cases of Covid-19 and over 198,000 deaths as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases.
Ortiz's bout with Covid-19 comes more than a year after he was shot in the Dominican Republic. He was in intensive care for almost two weeks and returned home in July 2019.
The young woman and her sister had traveled across Europe just as the coronavirus pandemic was taking off there, visiting Milan and Paris before heading to London.
When the woman left London on March 1, she had a sore throat and cough as she boarded a flight home to Vietnam. But no one noticed.
By the time she got off the flight in Hanoi 10 hours later, 15 other people who had been on the plane with her were infected, researchers reported Friday.
This story is one of two published Friday demonstrating how coronavirus can spread on airline flights, and suggesting that simply spacing people out a little will not fully protect them.
In another incident, passengers on a flight from Boston to Hong Kong appear to have infected two flight attendants.
Both cases involved long flights early in the pandemic, before airlines began requiring face masks.
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The idea that anyone can say there’s going to be a coronavirus vaccine before the studies have even been completed is stunning, Dr. Richard Besser, a former acting director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday.
US President Donald Trump promised earlier Friday that the United States will have enough Covid-19 vaccine for every American by April.
“My reaction is incredulity,” Besser told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
Trump said that as soon as a coronavirus vaccine is approved, the administration will deliver it to Americans immediately -- within 24 hours -- with at least 100 million doses also available before the end of the year.
Besser, now CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said he was optimistic there will be a Covid-19 vaccine, because of the large effort being put into making one and the variety of different vaccine types being tested.
“But the studies haven't been done,” he added.
“And when you look at the past 30 years and infectious diseases that have devastated the world, that there's no vaccines for malaria, HIV, hepatitis C, dengue fever-- it’s not from, from a lack of trying.
“It’s because making vaccines is really, really hard.”
Besser urged health officials to continue communication around masks, social distancing and other mitigation practices, and “not wait for a vaccine to save the day.”
White House coronavirus task force member Dr. Scott Atlas told CNN’s Erin Burnett Friday that “there's no sound science that shows that you should have all populations wear a mask in all circumstances."
Atlas repeatedly stated that he agrees with US President Trump’s stance on masks.
“The President set the policy and I have agreed with his policy, which is wear masks when you cannot socially distance,” Atlas said.
Asked if he has concerns, as a doctor, about the large crowds of people gathering at Trump rallies without masks, Atlas said, “I have no problem with people taking independent responsibility for their lives.”
Trump April vaccine promise "factually true": During the interview, Atlas defended Trump’s claim that a Covid-19 vaccine will be widely available by April.
“Every American who wants the vaccine will be able to get the vaccine by April. That’s factually true,” Atlas told CNN’s Erin Burnett. “The President is exactly right on this.”
Atlas did acknowledge that no vaccine has actually been authorized or approved yet by the US Food and Drug Administration.
“Pending approval, of course, of a safe and effective vaccine, there's more than 100 million doses being manufactured by the end of the year,” Atlas said. “There are hundreds of millions being manufactured and delivered during the first three months.”
President Trump said today that the United States will have enough Covid-19 vaccines for every American by April.
There's been a lot of news about the race to develop a coronavirus vaccine lately. Here's a look at some of the biggest developments:
- Exercise patience: The idea that anyone can say there’s going to be a coronavirus vaccine before the studies have even been completed is stunning, Dr. Richard Besser, a former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said today. He said he is optimistic there will be a Covid-19 vaccine because of the large effort being put into making one and the variety of different vaccine types being tested.
- FDA head confident they'll produce a safe vaccine: US Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said he has “unwavering confidence and trust” in his agency’s ability to approve a Covid-19 vaccine that is safe and effective. “I am often asked about how and when FDA will authorize or approve a vaccine to protect against Covid-19. Here is my answer: when the agency’s scientific experts have completed their review and are ready to do so, and not a moment before,” he tweeted today.
- The latest timeline on vaccine results: CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said in a Senate hearing this week that the American public could expect to start seeing results from widespread coronavirus vaccination in the second or third quarter of 2021. Even if a vaccine for Covid-19 was released today, it would take six to nine months for enough people to receive it to create immunity, he said.
- What Trump is saying: Later in the day, the President told reporters Redfield was "confused" when he said that. "I think he made a mistake when he said that. It's just incorrect information," Trump said.
- The US' plan for free vaccines: The federal government released plans on Wednesday detailing how it will distribute Covid-19 vaccines once they've been OK'd. Operation Warp Speed aims to have Covid-19 vaccines moving to administration sites within 24 hours of an FDA license or emergency use authorization, an official said. And the aim is to make them free of charge.
Most children in British Columbia can now say goodbye to those icky swabs and uncomfortable Covid-19 tests as the province launches a new gargle method for students ages 4 to 19.
“It is one of the first of its kind around the world,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer at a news conference Thursday.
The BC Centre for Disease Control said the new test is just as accurate as tests using a nasal swab and is much easier to administer for children.
“This is a new saline gargle where you put a little bit of normal saline, so sterile water, in your mouth and you swish it around a little bit and you spit it into a little tube and that’s an easier way to collect it for young people,” said Henry.
Public health officials in British Columbia say they compared test results in both children and adults and found the rate of Covid-19 detection was very similar between the nasal swab and the new gargle test.
British Columbia is prioritizing children for the new test but hopes to expand to adults in the coming weeks.
While the sample will still have to be taken to a lab for processing, the test does not have to be administered by a health care professional.
With the majority of students in Canada are now attending school in person, Covid-19 testing is in high demand as Canada has seen a doubling of new daily cases in the last month.