Health Highlights: Aug. 7, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

U.S. Cancels Blanket Warning for International Travel

On Thursday, the Trump administration canceled its warnings against international travel because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reported.

Conditions no longer call for a blanket worldwide alert, the administration said.

The State Department lifted its worldwide health and returned to country-specific warnings, the AP said.

This came after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its COVID-19 travel advisory. The CDC lifted “do not travel” warnings for some 20 locations but advised staying away from most places in the world.

“With health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others, the department is returning to our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice in order to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions,” the State Department said in a statement.

“This will also provide U.S. citizens more detailed information about the current status in each country. We continue to recommend U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic,” the statement said.

The CDC’s revised its warning saying the changes were because the virus was spreading in different places, the AP said.

Seven places, including Thailand, Fiji and New Zealand, are low-risk, the CDC, said.

But older adults and those with certain underlying medical conditions should talk to their doctors before making the trip, the CDC said.

More than a dozen countries require no precautions, including Taiwan, Greenland and Laos.

But the CDC still advises against nonessential travel to more than 200 other international locations, the AP reported.

And because the United States has the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, many countries are currently barring entry to Americans.


Over 300,000 Americans Could Die From Coronavirus This Year: Report

The coronavirus could claim nearly 300,000 lives by December 1, but that would be cut significantly if Americans wore face masks, a new report projects.

Since the start of the pandemic, nearly 160,000 Americans have already died, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

In a statement, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said “the U.S. forecast totals 295,011 deaths by December.”

But, “the model doesn’t have to come true,” IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray told CNN. “The public’s behavior has a direct correlation to the transmission of the virus and, in turn, the numbers of deaths.”

If 95% of Americans wear face coverings, the number would drop to 228,271, and more than 66,000 lives would be saved, Murray’s team said.

The researchers looked at studies on the effect of masks and found they can cut spread of the virus by 40%, Murray told CNN.

“You get this really huge effect that accumulates over time,” he said, “because every individual that is wearing the mask is putting the brakes on transmission by 40%. That starts to add up.”

On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projected more than 181,000 deaths by August 29.

The U.S. can get COVID-19 case down to manageable levels by election day, Nov. 3, if it uses masks and other “fundamental tenets of infection control” — but it needs to get serious now, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Thursday.

“We can be way down in November … if we do things correctly, and if we start right now,” said Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“I really do believe, based on the data we see in other countries, and in the United States, in states and cities and counties that have done it correctly, that if we pay attention to the fundamental tenets of infection control and diminution of transmission, we can be way down in November,” Fauci said.

“Everybody on the team of American citizens needs to pull together. … It’s up to us,” he added.


Ohio Governor DeWine Tests Positive for Coronavirus

On Thursday morning, Ohio governor Mike DeWine said he had tested positive for the coronavirus, but by Thursday night a second test came back negative, NBC reported.

Why the two tests differed isn’t clear.

The first test result came before DeWine was to meet with President Trump at Burke Lakefront Airport in Cleveland. However, DeWine returned to Columbus and was tested for coronavirus a second time.

The second test was a PCR test, which is “extremely sensitive, as well as specific, for the virus,” the governor’s office said in a statement. The first test was an antigen test, NBC News said.

The PCR test was done twice for the governor and his wife and was negative each time, the office said.

“We feel confident in the results from Wexner Medical Center,” the office said of the PCR test. “This is the same PCR test that has been used over 1.6 million times in Ohio by hospitals and labs all over the state.”

Officials will be “working with the manufacturer to have a better understanding of how the discrepancy between these two tests could have occurred,” according to the statement, NBC noted.

Another PCR test will be given to the governor and his wife on Saturday to confirm the results.


Johnson & Johnson Makes $1 Billion Vaccine Deal

The U.S. government will pay Johnson & Johnson $1 billion for 100 million doses of its vaccine if it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.

Johnson & Johnson has said it will offer doses at a not-for-profit cost to provide global access to the vaccine.

The government can buy 200 million more doses, the Post reported.

If the vaccine is approved, the company says it will make more than 1 billion doses through 2021.

“We are scaling up production in the U.S. and worldwide to deliver a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine for emergency use,” Paul Stoffels, chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson, told the Post.

The vaccine has had promising early results. The company is now performing tests on volunteers in the United States and Belgium.

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