Current Events

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Current Events

COVID & KIDS

What we’ve learned about the nation’s most serious cases of COVID-19 in children.

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Backstory

  • The CDC issued a new report on children hospitalized due to COVID-19 in America between March 1 – July 25.
  • The CDC looked specifically at 576 hospitalizations across 14 states – *not* TOTAL COVID-19 hospitalizations in children nationwide.
  • Around the same time, children under 18 represented about 7% of COVID-19 cases in America and 1% of hospitalizations.
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Big Picture

CDC: Children are “at risk” for severe cases of COVID-19 BUT “most reported cases of (COVID-19) in children under 18 appear to be asymptomatic or minor.”

  • Children hospitalized = 8 per 100,000
  • Adults: 164.5 per 100,000

Once hospitalized, children had about the same chance of being admitted to the ICU (about 1 in 3) but lower rate of death.

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Characteristics

Median Age: 8 years old

Median length of hospital stay: 2.5 days.

  • Highest hospitalization rates: 2 years old and under (majority under 2 months old); “substantially lower” in those 2 to 17 years old.
  • Greatest number of hospitalizations overall: 12-17 year olds who made up nearly 42% of the group.

 

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Notable

Respiratory distress, shortness of breath were *not* the most common symptoms in children. Top 3 common symptoms:

  • fever/chills
  • poor eating
  • nausea/vomiting.

Cough was listed 4th along with a runny nose/congestion.

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Black and Hispanic children were much more likely to be hospitalized than white (this disparity is also seen in adult cases of COVID). The specific reason why remains unknown and data remains incomplete. One important statistic: 42% of ALL children had 1 underlying condition, the most prevalent, obesity.

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Do You Have COVID?

Researchers want to streamline categorizing your symptoms and try to predict your outcome.

New study reveals their current findings.

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Backstory

  • The list of symptoms for COVID-19 has evolved, including common ailments.
  • Researchers at King’s College used a database of 4M people from a “symptom tracker app” to identify symptoms, and grouped symptoms found in a subset of 1600 people.
  • They identified 6 separate categories of COVID-19 symptoms, and then attempted to associate these categories to potential severity of disease.
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The 6 Categories

1. Flu-like with no fever

2. Flu-like with fever

3. Gastrointestinal

4. Severe level 1, fatigue

5. Severe level 2, confusion

6. Severe level 3, abdominal and respiratory

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Potential “Early Warning”?

  • First three categories had lower rates of severe cases, hospitalization.
  • Researchers used symptoms experienced on Day 5 of infection & factored-in other variables (e.g. age, weight) to assign patients a category.
  • Since hospitalization often occurs more than a week into a COVID-19 infection, researchers want to create a model to help predict a more serious case and enable doctors to intervene early.
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“Certainly, we will have to see how this performs in the ‘real world.’ With widespread use, it should ‘learn’ and become progressively more effective.”

UC Berkeley professor of infectious disease and vaccinology Dr. John Swartzberg, who did not work on the study but says it could start helping doctors with care plans.
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For a complete list of category symptoms, click on our source page. The study is not "peer reviewed" - an important step that helps validate medical research. In the midst of the pandemic, many studies released to the public have not been peer reviewed as scientists have scrambled to understand this new illness.

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COINS & COVID

Has the pandemic left us short-changed?

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Cash, Coins & COVID-19

  • Under the Treasury Dept, the Bureau of Engraving & Printing makes paper currency; the U.S. Mint makes coins.
  • The Mint delivers coins to the 12 Federal Reserve Banks that distribute coins to (& receive coins from) our financial institutions, like banks & credit unions.
  • Before COVID-19, 70%+ of U.S. transactions were conducted in person (as opposed to online) & 35% of those were paid using cash.
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Short-Changed By COVID?

  • Problem: Recent closures and reduced hours at banks and stores caused major disruptions to both the supply and typical circulation pattern of coins.
  • Result: SLOWER movement of coins – NOT fewer coins overall, but a smaller inventory of coins in some areas.
  • Solution: The Federal Reserve says coin inventory issues will resolve as the economy opens and more people resume in-person banking & shopping.
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“While there is adequate coin in the economy, the slowed pace of circulation has meant that sufficient quantities of coin are not readily available where needed. With establishments like retail shops, bank branches, transit authorities and laundromats closed, the typical places where coin enters our society have slowed or even stopped the normal circulation of coin.”

The Federal Reserve on June 30.
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In The Meantime …

  • The Federal Reserve created a task force and is temporarily overseeing the allocation of the existing coin supply.
  • Stores are doing their best to conserve coin inventories, with Wawa, CVS, & Dollar Tree asking customers to pay with exact change.
  • Some stores are asking customers to round up their purchase up to the next dollar rather than take their change, promising to donate it to charity.
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DID YOU KNOW? It costs about $0.019 to produce and distribute a penny - that's nearly double its value.

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For the second day, the President provided an update on the COVID-19 pandemic.

3 Highlights To Know

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“Nationwide, beyond the outbreak in several states, cases remain low and very stable.”

Pres. Trump says the percentage of Americans testing positive for COVID-19 is declining and lower than in the spring. Meanwhile, California surpassed New York Wednesday as the state having had the most cases of COVID-19 in the nation (413,000+). Ohio, Minnesota & Indiana issued statewide mask mandates; the Pres. said a decision about mask requirements on federal property is coming in the next 24 hours.
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“…we’re requiring increased testing of the nursing home personnel in states where you had the worst outbreaks.”

Pres. Trump said the federal government would distribute 15,000 rapid tests to nursing homes, calling the 5-15 minute tests "very accurate." *Separately,* The New England Journal of Medicine this week highlighted Congress allocating $1.5B for rapid, point-of-care COVID-19 testing with the hopes of being able to test 2% of the U.S. population, or 6 million people per day, by this fall.
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“Our strategy is to shelter the highest-risk Americans, while allowing younger and healthier citizens to return to work or school while being careful and very vigilant. “

Pres. Trump repeated that more than half U.S. COVID deaths are attributed to a group that makes up less than 1% of the U.S. population: those in nursing homes or long-term care facilities. The President said he is "comfortable" letting his child/grandchildren go back to school.
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The President said the U.S. gov't is looking carefully at how children transmit COVID-19 and to expect more information "over the next week." The President said the gov't secured doses of a potential vaccine, is focusing on therapeutics, and he remains hopeful for a "cure."

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The President updated the nation on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here’s Three Highlights

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“Ultimately, our goal is not merely to manage the pandemic but to end it.”

Pres. Trump says a vaccine remains a "top priority" and two candidates are moving ahead into the final stage of clinical trials. The President says the median age of those who died from COVID-19 is now 78-years-old - about 50% of all fatalities are those who resided in long-term care facilities or nursing homes, and fewer than 1% are children.
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“It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better.”

Pres. Trump noted that some areas of the country have made significant progress, while others - such as the Sun Belt - have seen concerning rises - primarily in those aged between 18 to 35-years-old. President Trump said "nearly 7,000 National Guard and military medical personnel" are supporting areas where the federal government is particularly watching hospital capacity: Texas, California, Florida, and Arizona
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“I’m getting used to the mask, and the reason is — think about patriotism.”

The President asked all Americans to use face masks, saying they can "potentially help." Pres. Trump said he "gladly" wears masks when he needs to do so, when social distancing is not possible. Remarking on the change in mask guidance over the last several months, the President said of health officials: "If they change their mind, that’s good enough for me."
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On Tuesday, Pres.Trump held the first White House COVID-19 news conference since April. Unlike the earlier briefings with the COVID-19 task force, only the President spoke. He said the next economic relief package (phase 4) is in the works and that both sides want "to get it done" in order to protect workers, schools, and families.

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The face-off between federal authorities and locals in Portland, Oregon.

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The Backstory

Portland, Oregon: Population 650,000+

50+ days of protests, civil unrest ignited by the death of George Floyd.

Local Reports: Gatherings have been both peaceful and violent.

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The Latest

Violence has escalated in recent weeks.

Citing the increased violence, the Dept. of Homeland Security sent federal law enforcement to support local police & secure federal property.

Locals have *also* accused federal law enforcement officers of increasing violence by overusing force and abusing their position.

 

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“Each night, lawless anarchists destroy and desecrate property, including the federal courthouse, and attack the brave law enforcement officers protecting it.”

Dept. of Homeland Security Sec. Chad Wolf on July 16, criticizing what he called a "failed response" by local leaders to calm civil unrest. He offered federal help, citing a list of recent crimes in the area - incl. the throwing of explosives at federal property and attacks on law enforcement officers. A complete list of allegations is on our source page.
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“It’s simply like adding gasoline to a fire.”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) says the presence of federal law enforcement in Portland, Oregon has conversely sparked more violence. The state's governor, a U.S. senator, and the Portland Mayor - all Democrats - have criticized the Trump administration for federal overreach. Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are calling for an investigation.
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“Dozens of people with shields, helmets, gas masks, umbrellas, bats, & hockey sticks approached the doors of the courthouse…people lit a fire within the portico in front of the federal courthouse. Others gathered around the fire adding wood & other debris to make it larger.”

Portland Police said they were "not present" & didn't engage crowds during the July 19-20 events, but cited federal law enforcement presence.
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“A van pulls up right in front of us. I am basically tossed into the van. I had my beanie pulled over my face so I couldn’t see, and they held my hands over my head.”

Mark Pettibone said he was given no reason for his July 15 arrest by federal agents. He says he was taken to the federal courthouse, searched, photographed, read his Miranda rights, and held in a cell before his eventual release a short time later.
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What Does The Law Say?

Generally speaking, in America you cannot be taken into custody by law enforcement unless they have probable cause of a crime.

Federal courthouses, like all federal properties, are under the protection of federal law enforcement. U.S. Marshals, which are part of the Department of Justice, are responsible for protecting federal courthouses.

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On Friday, the Oregon Attorney General sued the federal gov't, alleging the civil rights of citizens were violated when they were detained without probable cause. Last month, federal law enforcement were deployed to Seattle, Portland, Washington D.C. & Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in light of recent unrest.

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The Longest War

Reports of “bounties” for the killing of U.S. soldiers serving in America’s longest war.

What To Know

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Big Picture: Afghanistan

  • The Taliban controls more territory in Afghanistan now than at any other time in America’s longest war.
  • In February, the U.S. signed a “peace deal” with the Taliban based on certain conditions that *could* lead to the withdrawal of American forces.
  • A recent State Dept. assessment says the Taliban and other al-Qaeda-linked groups continue violent attacks despite the deal’s terms.
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Reports: What To Know

  • Several media outlets recently released stories about a Russian military agency paying “Taliban-linked” militants to kill American soldiers.
  • All reports *cite anonymous sources.*
  • Reports: U.S. intel identified money flowing from Russian military to Taliban accounts “most likely” connected to bounties.
  • Reports: A car bomb that killed 3 Marines last year suspected to be part of bounty.

 

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“There was not a consensus among the intelligence community. And, in fact, there were dissenting opinions within the intelligence community, and it would not be elevated to the president until it was verified.”

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany during an afternoon briefing Monday. The White House continues to call the reports "unverified."
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“I do not understand for a moment why the president is not saying this to the American people right now and is relying on ‘I don’t know,’ ‘I haven’t heard,’ ‘I haven’t been briefed.’ That is just not excusable.”

Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Ca) as reports, referencing the anonymous officials, cite the President heard of these reports in February.
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“We are still investigating the alleged intelligence referenced in recent media reporting, and we will brief the president and congressional leaders at the appropriate time. This is the analytic process working the way it should. Unfortunately, unauthorized disclosures now jeopardize our ability to ever find out the full story with respect to these allegations.”

Dir. of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe
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The Politics

The President’s critics point to the story as highlighting further evidence that the President isn’t tough enough on Russia.

The President’s allies say this story lacks evidence and serves as another attempt to hurt the President by tying him to false allegations of Russian collusion.

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America entered Afghanistan because the Taliban provided al-Qaeda a safe harbor to organize, train, and plot September 11th terror attacks. A shooting on a Navy base in Florida last year was recently tied to al-Qaeda. Read more on our source page.

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America’s high court weighs in on one of the most significant abortion law challenges in recent years.

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What To Know

  • U.S. Abortion Laws Vary By State
  • 1973: Supreme Court legalized abortion with limits; a woman’s right to an abortion is *not* absolute. Abortion is legal in first trimester, but states can regulate and even outlaw at certain points in pregnancy, *unless* there is a threat to the health/life of mother.
  • 1992: Supreme Court ruled states can’t impose an “undue burden” on the right of a woman to obtain an abortion.
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The 2020 Abortion Case

  • A 2014 Louisiana law requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a hospital w/in 30 miles of abortion site. It never took effect b/c of lawsuits.
  • The Supreme Court struck down a nearly identical Texas law in 2016, finding it imposed an “undue burden.”
  • Supporters of the law said it was meant to protect women.
  • Opponents of the law said it was meant to limit access to abortion.
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Why The Case Matters

  • Although the facts of the case were similar to the 2016 Texas case, this was the first abortion case for the Court with Trump appointees on the bench.
  • The ruling comes just months before Americans passionate about the issue will vote for President (the person who appoints Supreme Court justices).
  • States like Arkansas, Alabama & Indiana were waiting on the ruling before acting on further laws restricting abortion.
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“The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law, for the same reasons. Therefore Louisiana’s law cannot stand under our precedents.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with the Court's liberal wing, on why he voted to block the law. Notably, he voted *in favor* of upholding the Texas law in 2016, but said he was bound by the legal doctrine of stare decisis - which requires judges to treat like cases alike, absent special circumstances.
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We're watching several existing challenges to state abortion laws, like Alabama, but none have yet reached the Supreme Court for the next term starting in the fall.

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The Supreme Court blocks an attempt to end one of the most significant immigration policies in recent years.

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What Is DACA?

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

The program put in place under the Obama administration, allows *some* who came to U.S. illegally before age 16 to “defer” their illegal status & obtain work permits IF they meet certain qualifications (i.e. graduated from high school, no felony convictions).

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DACA TIMELINE

  • 2012: nearly 800,000 young people granted work permits & temporary protection from deportation. NO pathway to citizenship. Critics say it rewards illegal immigration, oversteps executive power.
  • 2017: Pres. Trump announced repeal of DACA program.
  • 2018: Federal court halted repeal & ordered gov’t to accept DACA renewal applications during legal challenge.
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ABOUT THE CASE

  • The Court was not tasked with deciding whether DACA or the decision to unwind it were sound policies.
  • The Court examined whether the Trump administration followed a procedural rule that it *must* provide a reasoned explanation for its decision.
  • The Court ruled 5-4 that it did not and that the decision to rescind DACA was “arbitrary and capricious” under the Administrative Procedure Act.
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“The basic rule here is clear: An agency must defend its actions based on the reasons it gave when it acted.”

Chief Justice John Roberts, who authored the Court's decision and cast the decisive fifth vote in the case alongside the "liberal" justices. In his decision he noted that although Pres. Trump has the power to end DACA, the administration didn't follow the proper procedure and failed to consider important factors, such as hardships to DACA recipients.
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“Today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision.”

Justice Clarence Thomas in a dissenting opinion. Many of those who disagree with the Court's decision have accused it from "legislating from the bench."
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BIG PICTURE

  • The decision is a defeat for Pres. Trump who announced the decision to end DACA during his first year in office and it comes months ahead of the election.
  • The DACA program was created by executive action meaning Pres. Trump (or any  subsequent president) may exercise executive action to repeal it.
  • The ruling may place pressure on the legislative branch to make DACA an act of Congress.
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NOW WHAT? The DACA program remains - at least for now. Current DACA recipients have been able to apply for renewals as the case worked its way through the system, but it's unclear when new eligible applicants will be able to apply.

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Class During COVID?

The CDC updates its guidance for returning Americans to work & play during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here are the highlights for kids going back to school.

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Something To Consider

Reminder: CDC is not providing a legal directive – just recommendations.

CDC says its “considerations are meant to supplement—not replace” local laws and guidance.

CDC suggestions include disclaimers such as “when practical” and “if feasible” – we didn’t include these everywhere (redundancy!) but they’re used often.

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Big Picture

“The more people a student or staff member interacts with, and the longer that interaction, the higher the risk of COVID-19 spread.”

CDC's May 19th "Considerations For Schools." This one sentence sums up a guiding principle for all the recommendations issued.
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Basic Recommendations

  • Temperature & symptom checks daily.
  • Hand washing or sanitizing frequently.
  • Masks for everyone as much as possible.*

*CDC acknowledges this is difficult for younger students, and says masks should be worn when social distancing isn’t possible. Question: How does this apply to small groups of young students in a contained classroom? TBD.

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Logistics

  • Seating: Students should face forward – not facing each other – and sit separated if sharing tables.
  • Hallways: “One-way” routes in hallways should be implemented to keep children/staff from passing each other face-to-face.
  • New Design: Physical barriers or “sneeze guards” should be installed between bathroom sinks and in high-traffic areas.
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Learning

Limit sharing – from books to balls to crayons to toys. Students should have their own assigned “gear” and not share.

Cohorts” – this is a key word found in the guidance. The CDC suggests limiting the widespread mixing of students and staff, and emphasizes keeping people in the same small groups (as a way to limit interactions, therefore preventing or slowing transmission of disease).

 

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Playing & Eating

  • “Close communal use shared spaces such as dining halls and playgrounds with shared playground equipment if possible; otherwise, stagger use.”
  • Avoid spirit nights, assemblies, field trips and opt for virtual activities.
  • Eating: Serve meals in classrooms rather than cafeterias.
  • Sports: CDC advises to “minimize risk” with no specific guidance for different sports. More info. on our source page.
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Key Word: Staggered

Staggered seating on buses.

Staggered pick-up and drop-off times.

Staggered schedules or rotating schedules (virtual school some days, in-school classes other days).

Staggered use of shared spaces, like playgrounds.

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During the second week of May, lawmakers during a Senate hearing asked health officials, including CDC Director, for more guidance on getting kids back to school. In addition to the paramount goal of education, schools in America have a dramatic economic impact by providing childcare for working parents.

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Flush It Out

How monitoring your *Number 2* may help protect your Number 1.

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“Wastewater from an entire dorm, or an entire segment of a campus, could be tested to determine whether there is coronavirus in that sewage.”

Adm. Brett Giroir, a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service, on "experimental approaches, that look interesting, if not promising" for COVID-19 surveillance, answering a Senate hearing question about how children & young adults can safely return to school.
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Wait. What?

  • Scientists track viral shedding: how & when a sick person spreads the virus & level of contagion in different scenarios.
  • Genetic evidence of SARS-CoV-2 (virus that causes COVID-19) is present in stool samples (though we don’t know if it can spread that way).
  • Why It Matters: Monitoring wastewater *may* help early detection of COVID-19 cases in communities (without relying on individual tests).
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What To Know:

  • Precedent: Researchers have looked at city wastewater for presence of opioids, hormones.
  • Vancouver, WA sending daily sewage samples to Arizona State Univ, a leading lab in this field.
  • Bend, Oregon: one of 300+ cities participating in a study with a bio startup aligned w/ Harvard, MIT.
  • CDC to Politico: Gov’t itself considering monitoring sewage but hasn’t yet.
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Something To Consider:

“There is not a lot of evidence of transmission through stools. I know at least one tabloid in the UK got a lot of coverage by someone speculating that COVID-19 could be spread by flatulence or, to quote the headline, by farting. There really is not a lot of science behind that.”

CDC Deputy Dir. for Infectious Diseases, Dr. Jay Butler.
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A lead researcher in wastewater surveillance refers to our sewage systems as “the information superhighway under your feet.” Just how much sewage would be needed to get an accurate read of COVID-19 community outbreaks is TBD.

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What to know about a first-of-its-kind quick test for COVID-19.

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What To Know

FDA approved first “antigen test” for COVID-19.

Test looks for “fragments of proteins found on or within the virus” (FDA).

Uses a nasal swab and machines already available in many doctor’s offices.

Results in 15 minutes.

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“…positive results from antigen tests are highly accurate, but there is a higher chance of false negatives, so negative results do not rule out infection.”

The FDA advises using an additional test (PCR test) follow negative results. PCR tests read the genetic material of the virus. While rapid PCR tests exist, they can be more expensive, complex and take longer to get results. Bottom Line: Antigen tests can quickly confirm positive cases - negative results need subsequent testing.
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Context & Concerns

  • The World Health Organization advised against antigen tests in early April.
  • WHO: Significant chance for false negatives: “half or more of COVID-19 infected patients might be missed by such tests, depending on the group of patients tested.”
  • WHO: Antigen tests *could be* important “triage tests” to rapidly identify patients likely to have COVID.
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Can You Get Tested?

The FDA says this is hopefully the first of many antigen tests.

Antigen tests are widely used for flu and strep.

However, some doctors may still want to send you to test site. Not all offices will be able to follow protocols required for administering a COVID-19 test (ex: full protective gear for each & every test).

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COVID-19 Test: Cheat Sheet

3 main types of COVID-19 tests.

  • Antigen: nasal swab test measures for proteins attached to the virus during an active infection (someone sick).
  • PCR (polymerase chain reaction): often a nasal swab test for genetic fingerprint of COVID-19 during an active infection.
  • Antibody: blood tests looking for the presence of an immune response to COVID-19 (AFTER exposure to COVID).
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Fmr. FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb told the Washington Post: “We need these kinds of tests...This is a nice complement to the overall testing platform in this country.” In the past, as testing availability increases, infection numbers *do* rise but mortality rates go down. It's TBD if this will happen with COVID-19.

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