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Coronavirus update: Kids may be the biggest spreaders, CDC to resume data-collection role

Officials are expressing hope for a declining death rate

Photo (c) FamVeld - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 5,584,154 (5,540,022)

Total U.S. deaths: 174,442 (173,415)

Total global cases: 22,734,522 (22,473,382)

Total global deaths: 794,721 (789,103)

Children may be major drivers of outbreaks

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have completed a study that concludes children and young adults -- more likely to be asymptomatic than older people -- may nonetheless be major spreaders of the coronavirus (COVID-19).  

The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, featured nearly 200 children and young adults with suspected or confirmed coronavirus infections. Of the 49 who tested positive for the virus, only 25 had a fever.

But as they looked more closely, the researchers found the viral load in the infected children and young people was "significantly higher" than adults with severe COVID-19 cases. It’s those viral loads that increase the risk of transmitting the virus to others, the researchers said.

CDC back in charge of collecting data

The government is shifting gears and placing responsibility for collecting coronavirus case data back with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A few weeks ago, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) took away that responsibility and put hospitals in charge.

Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, disclosed the change this week at a meeting in Arkansas. She said the current reporting system was never designed to be permanent.

“CDC is working with us right now to build a revolutionary new data system so it can be moved back to the CDC, and they can have that regular accountability with hospitals relevant to treatment and PPE,” Birx told hospital executives and government health officials.

CDC official expects deaths to start declining next week

Despite an increase in COVID-19 deaths in July, the monthly death toll has declined each month since April. Whether August breaks that trend is an open question, but a top official at the CDC expects daily deaths to begin falling off next week.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said more stringent mitigation policies put in place over the last two months have begun to lower cases, but he admitted that it takes some time before that success is reflected in the death rate.

"It is important to understand these interventions are going to have a lag, that lag is going to be three to four weeks," Redfield said in an interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association. "Hopefully this week and next week you're going to start seeing the death rate really start to drop."

Breathalyzer offered as potential screening tool

A team of international researchers has developed a breathalyzer test to rapidly detect COVID-19, potentially solving the problem of prolonged delays in getting test results. The testing device is described as intelligent nanotechnology that can rapidly detect COVID-19 from specific volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in exhaled breath. 

The effectiveness of the testing device, which is made up of a nanomaterial-based sensor array, was demonstrated in March by a preliminary case-control clinical study in Wuhan, China.

The technology will reportedly be developed for the market by the company Nanose Medical. The researchers have published their findings in the journal ACS Nano.

Pandemic hasn’t slowed home sales

The coronavirus and its widespread impact haven’t been a drag on recent home sales. In fact, it may be serving as rocket fuel. The National Association of Realtors (NAR) reports that sales of existing homes rose a record 24.7 percent in July.

“With the sizable shift in remote work, current homeowners are looking for larger homes and this will lead to a secondary level of demand even into 2021,” said NAR’s chief economist, Lawrence Yun.

The only thing keeping sales from being even higher may be a lack of homes for sale. Total housing inventory at the end of July totaled 1.50 million units, down from both 2.6 percent from June and 21.1 percent from one year ago.

Around the nation

  • Illinois: Cases of the coronavirus are moving sharply higher in the state after they appeared to be under control a few weeks ago. State health officials report that the seven-day average of new cases is three times what it was at the pandemic’s low point.

  • Michigan: Children have returned to school in Michigan, but not without a worrisome uptick in coronavirus cases. State health officials are reporting 14 new outbreaks at schools around the state.

  • New York: Gov. Andrew Cuomo reports that the number of hospitalizations in the state has dropped to its lowest level since mid-March. Cuomo says the state has also seen 13 straight days of an infection rate below 1 percent.

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