Posts tagged with "coronavirus deaths"

COVID-19 Trial Tests if Common Drug Can Keep Patients Out of Hospital

At-risk people diagnosed with COVID-19 across the United States and Canada can participate in a clinical trial testing whether a common drug can keep them from getting sicker and keep them out of the hospital.­­

The trial, conducted by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is based on a discovery by the University of Virginia School of Medicine’s Alban Gaultier, PhD, and a former graduate student, Dorian A Rosen, PhD.

Gaultier and Rosen found last year that the antidepressant fluvoxamine may stop the deadly inflammation known as sepsis, in which the immune response spirals out of control. The drug’s apparent benefit for dampening dangerous inflammation prompted the Washington University researchers to begin investigating its potential benefit for COVID-19, which can also cause dangerous overreactions of the immune system.

“If this clinical trial is proven successful, fluvoxamine could become a standard treatment for patients newly diagnosed with COVID-19, especially patients at risk,” Gaultier said. “Even the best vaccines do not protect 100% of the population, and discovery of safe and affordable treatments to prevent COVID-19-associated complications is critical.”

Fluvoxamine and COVID-19

Earlier this year, the Washington University researchers launched their first clinical trial of the drug in patients with COVID-19. That trial compared fluvoxamine with a harmless placebo in 152 adult outpatients. None of the 80 participants who received fluvoxamine became seriously ill after 15 days, while six patients who received placebo did. Of those six, four were hospitalized, for periods ranging from four to 21 days. One was on a ventilator for 10 days.

Based on those initial results, Washington University is now launching a much larger trial open to residents across the United States and Canada. The trial is seeking approximately 880 at-risk participants, age 18 and older, who have tested positive for COVID-19 and are experiencing mild symptoms.

Participants will be provided with either fluvoxamine or a placebo for approximately 15 days. No face-to-face contact is required; everything necessary will be sent to the participants’ doorsteps.

Contactless Check-Ins

The researchers will track the patients by videochat, email or telephone to determine if fluvoxamine provides a benefit and helps keep participants out of the hospital. During brief daily check-ins, trial participants will report their oxygen levels, blood pressure and temperature, along with whether they are feeling shortness of breath or have had any other problems.

The study team will continue to follow the participants for approximately 90 days after they have finished taking fluvoxamine or the placebo.

The trial is open to people who have at least one risk factor for severe COVID-19, such as being 40 or older, being part of a high-risk racial/ethnic group (such as African-American, Hispanic, Native American or biracial), or having one or more medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, a lung disease or an immune disorder such as rheumatoid arthritis.

For more information about the trial, visit this website.

Kaelen Felix Illustrates a COVID-19 Article for 360 MAGAZINE

Uptick in Nursing Home Covid Cases

New Nursing Home Cases In Midwest States Increase By More Than 400% Since September

AHCA/NCAL Calls On CDC To Give Long-Term Care Facilities The Highest Priority For Vaccine Distribution And On Congress To Replenish Emergency Funding 

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 14,000 nursing homes and assisted living communities across the country that provide care to approximately five million people each year. Today, they released an updated report showing nursing homes in the U.S. have now experienced the worst outbreak of weekly new cases since last spring due to the community spread among the general population, surpassing previous peaks since the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) started tracking cases in nursing homes.

Recent data released by Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) show that with the recent spike in new COVID cases in the general U.S. population, weekly nursing home cases are also on the rise. According to Johns Hopkins University, weekly new COVID cases in the general U.S. population rose by 330 percent to 1,043,040 new cases the week of November 15. A correlating uptick in new cases in nursing homes occurred when cases in the surrounding community started rising back in mid-September.

As experts have repeatedly noted, COVID-19 cases in a surrounding community is a top factor in outbreaks in nursing homes. University of Chicago’s Tamara Konetzka, a nationally recognized expert on long-term care, recently said, “Trying to protect nursing home residents without controlling community spread is a losing battle.” Dr. David Grabowski, Professor of Health Care Policy, Harvard Medical School recently stated, “The strongest predictor of whether or not we’ll see cases in [a particular setting] is community spread.”

“Our worst fears have come true as COVID runs rampant among the general population, and long term care facilities are powerless to fully prevent it from entering due to its asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic spread,” stated Mark Parkinson, President and CEO of AHCA/NCAL.

“Our health care heroes are doing everything they can to prevent it from spreading further, but this level of COVID nationwide puts a serious strain on our workforce, supplies, and testing capacity,” said Parkinson. “Given the fact that our elderly population is the most vulnerable and the rising level of COVID across the U.S. shows no signs of stopping, it is paramount that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide the highest priority for the vaccine distribution to long term care residents and staff.”

During the week of November 15, nearly half (49 percent) of new COVID cases in nursing homes were from Midwest states with major spikes in the community spread in the upper parts of the region. As a result, the Midwest region saw more than a 400 percent increase in weekly COVID cases in nursing homes since mid-September.

After seven weeks of declining cases in nursing homes through mid-September, nursing home cases began to increase as nearly all 50 states started to see significant rising levels of COVID cases. New weekly cases in nursing homes grew by more than 177 percent nationwide between mid-September and the week of November 15.

The report also showed COVID-related deaths in nursing homes are starting to rise, crossing more than 2,000 residents lost the week of November 15—the first time since early-June. Nursing home residents are typically older adults with multiple chronic conditions, making them most vulnerable to COVID-19.

Residents of long term care facilities account for only seven percent of the nation’s cases, yet 40 percent of its deaths. While mortality rates decreased compared to the spring due to a better understanding of the virus, better treatments, and government resources to help reduce spread, as industry leaders predicted, the rising number of new COVID cases in facilities are resulting an increasing number of deaths.

“With millions of Americans failing to heed advice from public health experts and traveling during Thanksgiving, we are extremely concerned that this situation will only get much worse,” continued Parkinson. “At this point, long term care facilities desperately need public health officials at every level to take emergency steps to get control of the community spread and ensure our facilities have the resources they need, as well as for the CDC to make our residents and caregivers the top priority in distributing the vaccine in order to save thousands of lives.”

With record new COVID cases across the country, Parkinson said Congress must also prioritize frontline health care workers and long term care residents during the lame-duck session. Last week AHCA/NCAL released a list of actions that Congress should urgently take to help nursing homes and assisted living communities respond to the uptick in new cases.

Most of the $175 billion Provider Relief Fund provided by the CARES Act back in April has already been distributed and Parkinson said health care providers, including long-term care facilities, will need additional funds to continue the response to the COVID pandemic. The financial aid is crucial in helping long-term care facilities acquire personal protective equipment, conduct regular testing, and hire additional staff or reward current caregivers for their heroic efforts.

“Congress must fulfill its duty,” stated Parkinson. “Without adequate funding and resources, the U.S. is repeating the same mistakes made during the initial outbreak last spring and the major spike over the summer. We need Congress to prioritize our vulnerable seniors and their caregivers in long term care facilities, by passing another COVID relief package during the lame duck session on Congress.”

For more information, please visit www.ahcancal.org/coronavirus

ABOUT AHCA/NCAL

The American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living (AHCA/NCAL) represents more than 14,000 non-profit and proprietary skilled nursing centers, assisted living communities, sub-acute centers and homes for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. By delivering solutions for quality care, AHCA/NCAL aims to improve the lives of the millions of frail, elderly and individuals with disabilities who receive long-term or post-acute care in our member facilities each day. For more information, please visit www.ahcancal.org or www.ncal.org.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

Covid Risk Increases During Holidays

By Hannah DiPilato

With the holiday season quickly approaching, Covid cases are skyrocketing all over the country and officials are advising people to social distance this holiday season.

According to CNN, more than 12 million people in the United States have been infected with the coronavirus and over 260,000 people have died. With those that are elderly or immune-compromised, the risk of complications due to COVID-19 is higher.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated the safety guidelines for traveling. “CDC is recommending against travel during the Thanksgiving Day period,” Dr. Henry Walke, Covid-19 incident manager for the CDC, said in a conference call.

“Right now, especially as we are seeing exponential growth in cases and the opportunity to translocate disease or infection from one part of the country to another leads to our recommendation to avoid travel at this time,” Walke continued.

The CDC has also recommended people stay in their immediate households for the holiday season. Even without traveling across the country, seeing those you don’t usually see can lead to a breakout of coronavirus.

Walke said he does not plan to visit his own family for the holiday season. “I haven’t seen my parents since January. I’m staying home and that’s been difficult as I have older parents who would like to see me and who would like to see my children as well,” he said.

“It’s been a long outbreak, almost 11 months now, and people are tired. And we understand that and people want to see their relatives and their friends in the way they’ve always done it,” he continued, “But this year, particularly, we’re asking people to be as safe as possible and limit their travel.”

If you plan to gather with those outside of your immediate household, there are important precautions to take to prevent the spread of coronavirus. First, keep gatherings as small as possible. Many states have restrictions in place which limit the number of people allowed to gather inside. Check your local and state regulations to ensure your gathering is following the laws.

The CDC’s Dr. Erin Sauber-Schatz said, “The safest way to celebrate Thanksgiving this year is at home with the people in your household.”

If possible, move your Thanksgiving dinner outside. Coronavirus is less likely to spread outside where there is better ventilation than indoors. Although many places are getting cold, tell your guests to load up with blankets and winter gear. If it’s too cold for an outside gathering, keep the windows open to ventilate the area.

One of the most important and simplest things you can do to stop the spread of Covid is to wear a mask. In many states, masks are required in public places and Thanksgiving dinner should be no exception. Keep your mask on unless eating and remain six feet away from other guests.

It is also recommended that guests handle making their own food and bringing their own utensils to Thanksgiving dinner this year. This prevents the spread of germs as well as cross-contamination between households. Remember to frequently wash your hands when cooking, eating and generally to stop the spread of germs.

Covid cases are rising in communities as well as healthcare networks which is making the virus even harder to handle. Many more people are becoming hospitalized due to the virus and healthcare workings are at risk.

According to the Associated Press, 905 staff members at The Mayo Clinic Health System have been infected with coronavirus in the last two weeks. The Mayo Clinic Health System is a network of clinics and hospitals in the midwest that are run by Mayo Clinic.

Executive dean of Mayo Clinic Practice, Dr. Amy Williams, said that most cases came from exposure within the community and not from work. “It shows how widely spread this is in our communities and how easy it is to get COVID-19 in the communities here in the Midwest,” she said.

If a virtual gathering isn’t in your Thanksgiving plans this year and you will be seeing people outside of your family in person, consider isolating yourself beforehand. Since the incubation period of the virus is 14 days, a negative test result doesn’t necessarily mean a person does not carry the virus. Although a negative test result for coronavirus isn’t a sure sign of safety, it is an extra precaution everyone should add before mingling this holiday season.

Besides getting a coronavirus test, people should also consider a 14-day quarantine before seeing loved ones, or afterward. Isolating before seeing family will decrease the risk of spreading the disease within your holiday circle. If you plan on traveling for the holiday, consider isolating yourself after returning to prevent the spread of covid in your community.

The CDC has predicted this will be a dark winter and although a vaccine is in the works, it likely won’t be ready for mass distribution for a few more weeks. The holiday season will only lead to more cases with an increase in travel and group gatherings. As the weather in many places gets colder, inside gatherings are more likely to occur.

The CDC also recommends everyone get their flu shot for the upcoming flu season. By protecting yourself from the flu, you can help the healthcare system more easily manage the large influx of people going to the hospital.

In all states except Hawaii, Maine and Vermont, there is an active or imminent outbreak of coronavirus according to Covid Act Now. Even these three states are at risk for an outbreak. Currently, North Dakota has the highest number of new daily cases per 100,000 people with 159.6 cases. Wyoming and New Mexico follow closely behind.

Many states have separated their cities and counties into different zones depending on the number of Covid cases present. The restrictions in place for these areas are then determined by the number of cases.

New York City is starting to enforce tighter restrictions as cases start to rise. “In the next week or two we should see some substantial restrictions,” said Mayor, Bill de Blasio. “I think indoor dining will be closed, gyms will be closed.  I’m not happy about it. No one is happy about it but that’s what’s coming.” There is currently a 10 person gathering limit and a curfew for nonessential businesses between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.

Similarly, in Boston, Governor Charlie Baker has released a stay-at-home advisory for the same time frame. People are urged to only go out between these hours for essentials. Indoor gatherings are limited to 10 people while outdoor gatherings should be capped at 25 people.

Things on the west coast seem just as bleak. According to the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, restaurants, bars, wineries and breweries will be closed for dine-in services for at least three weeks. People in Los Angeles are being advised to stay home and have a similar curfew to Boston and New York City.

In some cities where cases are skyrocketing, restrictions are not being put in place as heavily as in California and New York. In Miami, restaurants are able to be open to 100% capacity and seat 10 people per table. Most things in Miami are reopened, but with restrictions such as requiring masks.

It is crucial for everyone to work together to bring covid cases back down over the coming weeks. As cases spike, it is important to remember that each state has precautions in place for a reason. Although many states won’t fully shut down, you can decide to continue social distancing and only going out for essentials.

Covid-19 Reaches Dangerous Levels in the U.S.

By Hannah DiPilato 

As summer turns to fall, many cases of Coronavirus in The United States are beginning to spike. Fourteen states have set hospitalization records due to the virus and officials are concerned about how the virus will progress. 

According to the Covid Tracking Project, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin, all reported their highest number of hospitalizations this past week. 

The director for the National Institutes for Health, Dr. Francis Collins, told National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” on Tuesday that his family would not be gathering for Thanksgiving. 

“It is just not safe to take that kind of chance with people coming from different parts of the country of uncertain status,” said Collins. “The problem with this disease is it is so easy for people to be infected and not know it, and then spread it to the ones next to them without realizing it.”

“All of this, I’m afraid, happens because we have not succeeded in this country in introducing really effective public health measures,” he continued.

Deaths in the U.S. have now reached over 220,000 and experts are concerned this number will continue to escalate. The average of new daily cases was over 58,300, the highest the average has been since August.

It seems the most spikes are happening in the “Midwest, Great Plains and parts of the West,” according to CNN. Pennsylvania is on its 15th consecutive day of reporting over 1,000 coronavirus cases. Although, New York City, which got hit harder at the beginning of the pandemic, has not seen a marked increase in deaths. 

“We are not seeing an increase in overall deaths and that’s been true over the last several weeks to several months,” said Dave Chokshi commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Human Services. “The total number of deaths per day is averaging in the single digits.” 

New York City’s rate of positive tests is 2.52% and in open schools, the rate is only 0.17%. In other states, the positive rates are not so promising. According to the Florida Department of Health, Florida has reported 3,662 new cases of the virus and 86 additional deaths on Tuesday. 

Experts are warning that things regarding coronavirus are only going to get worse, predicting a bleak fall and winter. Vaccine scientist, Peter Hotez, reported that the next few months will be the worst of the pandemic. 

“The key is now hanging on now for the next four or five months, where we’re going to enter what may be the worst period during this epidemic,” said Hotez. “As bad as it’s been, it’s about to get worse.”

Covid and health illustration

Environmental Effects × COVID-19

MIT Sloan School of Management study shows potential long-term environment effects from COVID-19 and the findings show a decrease in clean energy investment could exacerbate health crisis

While the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced air pollution in the U.S., the longer-term impact on the environment is unclear. In a recent study, MIT Sloan School of Management Prof. Christopher Knittel and Prof. Jing Li analyzed the short- and long-term effects, finding that the actual impact will depend on the policy response to the pandemic. Their study suggests that pushing back investments in renewable electricity generation by one year could outweigh the emission reductions and deaths avoided from March through June 2020.

“The pandemic raises two important questions related to the environment. First, what is the short-run impact on fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions? Second – and more important but harder to answer – what are the longer-term implications from the pandemic on those same variables? The health impacts from the pandemic could stretch out for decades if not centuries depending on the policy response,” says Knittel.

In their study, the researchers analyzed the short-term impact of the pandemic on CO2 emissions in the U.S. from late March to June 7, 2020. They found a 50% reduction in the use of jet fuel and a 30% reduction in the use of gasoline. The use of natural gas in residential and commercial buildings declined by almost 20% and overall electricity demand declined by less than 10%. However, the professors point out that the shutdown also halted most investment in the transition to low-carbon energy. In addition, clean energy jobs decreased by almost 600,000 by the end of April.

“The short-term impact of the pandemic is clear, but the long-term impact is highly uncertain,” says Li. “It will depend on how long it takes to bring the pandemic under control and how long any economic recession lasts.”

The best-case scenario, according to the researchers, is a swift and low-cost strategy to control the virus, allowing the economy to reopen by the end of 2020. In this scenario, investment trends prior to the pandemic will continue.

“Unfortunately, we view a second scenario as more likely,” notes Knittel. “In this scenario, the consequences of the pandemic will be greater, with many more deaths and deeper disruptions to supply chains, and a persistent global recession. The need to backpedal on the reopening of the economy due to flare-ups could destroy rather than defer the demand for goods and services.”

In this scenario, the delays in investments in renewables and vehicle fuel economy could lead to an additional 2,500 MMT of CO2 from 2020-2035, which could cause 40 deaths per month on average or 7,500 deaths during that time.

“Our findings suggest that even just pushing back all renewable electricity generation investments by one year would outweigh the emissions reductions and avoided deaths from March to June of 2020. However, the energy policy response to COVID-19 is the wild card that can change everything,” they wrote in an article for Joule.

Li explains that budgets will be strained to pay for the costs of the virus, making it challenging to invest in clean energy. And if a recession persists, there may be pressure to lessen climate change mitigation goals. However, stimulus packages could focus on clean energy, increasing clean air, clean jobs, and national security.

“Just stabilizing the economy can go a long way to putting clean energy trends back on track. We need to solve the pandemic and continue to address climate change. Otherwise, it will lead to even more tragedy,” adds Knittel.

Li and Knittel are coauthors of “The short-run and long-run effects of COVID-19 on energy and the environment” with Kenneth Gillingham and Marten Ovaere of Yale University and Mar Reguant of Northwestern University. Their paper was published in a June issue of Joule.

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, Don't Abandon the Mask

Texas and California Slow Reopening 

By Emmet McGewon

On March 27, a shadow, growing for weeks, reached monstrous proportions as Italy reached a grim milestone: 917 people passed away due to the novel coronavirus. The gloom pervaded for many more weeks as Italian streets emptied and hospitals overflowed. On the same day there were 5,906 new cases in the country. Yet, 2 months later dawn has broken the blackness and on Saturday, June 27, Italy reported only 8 new deaths and 175 new cases; the first time since the start of the outbreak that deaths were in single digits.Contrast this rapid recuperation with America’s two largest states: California and Texas. 

On the same day that Italy reported 175 new cases, California reported 27 times that number while Texas reported a case increase 33 times higher (4,810 and 5,747 respectively). Both states are betraying their namesake as California has not been golden in its response to the pandemic nor has Texas been a star. So why is it that Italy, the former epicenter of the outbreak, where shortages resulted in ventilators only being given to those under the age of 60, is in a recovery stage while the US suffocates under the weight of its caseload? 

“We are tired of not being able to buy the things that we need, go to the hairdressers, get our hair done. It’s time to open up.” These were the words of a middle-aged woman, sitting in her car, holding a makeshift American flag and pointing to the gray roots atop her head at a Michigan protest in mid-April. For many, this lady has become the embodiment of the entitled American who values her hairstyle over the potential loss of life that could occur from a rapid reopening. However, the uncomfortable reality is that she is not alone and that most, if not all Americans, are fatigued by the lockdown and eager to return to normality.

Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood, home to a vibrant Russian, Ukrainian, and LGBTQ+ scene was abuzz on Friday evening. Long lines traversed the hectic sidewalks as eager patrons queued to enter bustling bars. The thin trees, boasting splashes of purple among the leafy foliage, watched over the strip like solemn sentries as droves of people enjoyed Los Angeles’s convalescent club scene. The looseness of restrictions was matched only by the looseness of partygoers’ flimsy floral shirts which billowed softly in the California evening breeze. Nonchalance came to mind. It appeared, despite the scattered mask-wearing, that the pandemic was over. 

We feel guilty for wishing to return to regular life given that such a return could result in a spike of hospitalizations and deaths. Thus, we stifle our impatience and seek scapegoats. Indeed, many are under the illusion that the persistent nature of the virus in the US is due to conservatives like those who armed themselves and entered the Michigan State Capitol. Yet, the reality is that a wide and diverse cross-section of US society has ceased caring about the virus. Whether you’re a patriotic Michigander or a bored frequenter of the Hollywood Hills, the suspension of day-to-day life is disconcerting and infuriating. 

The combination of over 400 protests in all 50 states after the horrific murder of George Floyd has no doubt led to an increase in coronavirus cases, yet this is not the only reason. Bar reopening’s have acted as a catalyst for the spread of Covid-19. Indeed, California Governor, Gavin Newsom, issued an order on Sunday to close the bars in 7 California counties including LA county which has seen approximately 90,000 cases. His office also recommended, but did not order, they close in 8 others. Establishments that serve alcoholic beverages without serving food at the same time will no longer be allowed to open. Largely due to the nature of bars, it is close to impossible to maintain social distancing as well as contact tracing. People remove masks frequently to take drinks, talk louder (spreading more airborne particles), and mix with a large number of people meaning that were a case to be identified it would be very difficult to track and contain. “It is critical we take this step to limit the spread of the virus,” said Newsom.

In addition, in response to the surge of cases in Los Angeles, the LA County Board of Supervisors has decided to close all LA county beaches from July 3rd to July 6th. Those caught trespassing by local patrols could receive a $1000 fine. Furthermore, LA Mayor, Eric Garcetti, has placed a “hard pause” on movie theater reopening’s and has banned Fourth of July firework displays in an attempt to prevent the formation of crowds. 

Meanwhile, Texas has ordered the state’s four largest cities to stop offering elective surgeries in order to free up hospital space. Just a few days before Governor Abbott’s ban on elective surgeries, restrictions were eased on amusement parks and restaurants. The Lone Star state has, arguably, had the most aggressive reopening strategy with phase one commencing as early as May 1st – a month later allowing almost all businesses to operate at a 50% capacity. Abbott also issued an order to close bars on Friday, June 26th, also scaling back dine-in restaurants to 50% capacity. Previously, bars were allowed to operate at a 50% capacity and restaurants at a 75% capacity. More so, outdoor gatherings of over 100 people are now prohibited unless given explicit approval by local officials. 

Peter Hotez, a professor of virology at the Baylor School of Medicine in Houston, said that the pause in the reopening will be enough to maintain the status quo but that “the status quo is unacceptable,” and the Governor will soon have no choice but to “dial things back.” In San Antonio, ventilator availability dipped below 70% for the first time and in Houston, one hospital’s ICU reportedly was at 120% capacity, while another one was at 88%. On top of this, the Texas Medical Center in Houston said Tuesday that 97% of its ICU beds were occupied. These numbers are undoubtedly worrisome and only time will tell if more restrictions will be enacted.

Obviously, the crisis is not over, but from an outside perspective one is left wondering: does America even care? Our European counterparts appear to be coming out the other end of the pandemic while for the United States, there is no end in sight. 

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

The Pandemic is Not Over

Nursing homes and aging care providers have been working for months to protect Illinois’ older adults from the threat of COVID-19. In the face of this virulent virus, they have faced heartbreak, shortages of life-saving tests and supplies, and personal risk to their health and safety. Now older adults are facing a new danger: complacency.

Although the coronavirus curve has been flattened in Illinois, the danger to older adults has not passed. “Our older family members and friends can only be as safe as the communities around them,” said Karen Messer, President/CEO of LeadingAge Illinois.“That’s why it’s so important that Illinois and states around the country include clear protections for older adults as we move forward.”

As of June 29, there are over 141,723 cases, including 6,888 deaths, in 101 counties in Illinois. Illinois has made great strides in reducing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths. As a result, all four regions have moved into Phase Four of the Restore Illinois plan.

Local policies need to prioritize older lives, planned and conducted with caution, thoughtfulness and respect for the rights and dignity of older adults. That’s why LeadingAge Illinois has worked with other state organizations to advise the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) on recommendations for a safe and phased-in plan on reopening strategies for nursing homes and assisted living communities. The plan has been submitted to the IDPH.

It’s essential that aging services providers – here and around the country – have the PPE, testing supplies, and financial resources they need to stem this rapidly spreading, deadly virus, so that a new crisis doesn’t threaten our oldest residents. Consistent messaging from the federal, state and local levels is imperative to ensuring providers can do everything they can to keep their residents safe.

LeadingAge Illinois is also joining our national association of nonprofit aging services providers, LeadingAge, to urge Congress to allocate $100 billion in new funding to help nursing homes and other aging services providers protect older residents and clients. They are also calling for hero pay, paid sick leave, and health care coverage for heroic frontline workers who are risking their own lives serving older people during this crisis. 

For older Americans, the coronavirus threat is not over. The good news is that we know what to do. It’s time to begin.

Follow LeadingAge Illinois: Facebook | Twitter

Mina Tocalini, 360 Magazine, COVID-19

Covid Death Reports

New research by a team at the MIT Sloan School of Management estimates that COVID-19 cases and deaths are 12 times and 1.5 times higher than official reports, respectively.  The study examined 84 of the most affected nations, spanning 4.75 billion people.  The researchers estimate 88.5 million cases and 600 thousand deaths through June 18, 2020. 

Despite substantial under-reporting, however, these nations remain well below the level needed for herd immunity.  Absent breakthroughs in treatment or vaccines, and with only mild improvements in policies to control the pandemic, the researchers estimate a total of 249 million (186-586) cases and 1.75 million (1.40-3.67) deaths by Spring 2021.

Earlier and stronger policies to reduce transmission when the pandemic was first declared, together with the deployment of extensive testing, could have averted approximately 197,000 deaths, nearly one third of the estimated total.

However, they say, future cases and deaths are now less dependent on testing and more contingent on the willingness of communities and governments to reduce transmission, such as by reducing contacts with others, physical distancing, and better hygiene, including masks. 

The nations with the highest estimated percentage of their populations infected to date include Ecuador (18%), Peru (16.6%), Chile (15.5%), Mexico (8.8%), Iran (7.9%), Qatar (7.3%), Spain (7.1%), USA (5.3%), UK (5.2%), and the Netherlands (4.8%).

The paper, Estimating the Global Spread of COVID-19, is co-authored by MIT Sloan’s Hazhir Rahmandad, Associate Professor of System Dynamics; Professor John Sterman, Director of the MIT Systems Dynamics Group; and Ph.D. candidate Tse Yang Lim.

Using data for all 84 countries with reliable testing data (spanning 4.75 billion people), they developed a dynamic epidemiological model integrating data on cases, deaths, excess mortality and other factors to estimate how asymptomatic cases, disease acuity, hospitalization, and behavioral and policy responses to risk affect COVID transmission and the Infection Fatality Rate (IFR)—the probability of death after becoming infected—across nations and over time. IFR depends not only on the age and health of the population, but on the adequacy of health care and the effectiveness of protections for the most vulnerable, including the elderly.  The researchers estimate IFR to be 0.68% on average (0.64%-0.7%), but find it varies substantially across nations: approximately 0.56% for Iceland, 0.64% New Zealand, 0.99% for the USA, 1.59% for the UK, and 2.08% for Italy.

Follow MIT Sloan: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | YouTube

Covid and health illustration

MIT COVID-19 Research

Why does the coronavirus kill some Americans, while leaving others relatively unscathed?

A new study by researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management sheds light on that question. The study, by Christopher R. Knittel, the George P. Shultz Professor of Applied Economics at MIT Sloan, and Bora Ozaltun, a Graduate Research Assistant in the Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research (CEEPR) lab, correlates COVID-19 death rates in the U.S. states with a variety of factors, including patients’ race, age, health and socioeconomic status, as well as their local climate, exposure to air pollution, and commuting patterns.

The findings have important implications for determining who is most at risk of dying from the virus and for how policymakers respond to the pandemic.
Using linear regression and negative binomial mixed models, the researchers analyzed daily county-level COVID-19 death rates from April 4 to May 27 of this year. Similar to prior studies, they found that African Americans and elderly people are more likely to die from the infection relative to Caucasians and people under the age of 65. Importantly, they did not find any correlation between obesity rates, ICU beds per capita, or poverty rates.

“Identifying these relationships is key to helping leaders understand both what’s causing the correlation and also how to formulate policies that address it,” says Prof. Knittel.

“Why, for instance, are African Americans more likely to die from the virus than other races? Our study controls for patients’ income, weight, diabetic status, and whether or not they’re smokers. So, whatever is causing this correlation, it’s none of those things. We must examine other possibilities, such as systemic racism that impacts African Americans’ quality of insurance, hospitals, and healthcare, or other underlying health conditions that are not in the model, and then urge policymakers to look at other ways to solve the problem.”

The study, which has been released as a Center for Energy and Environmental Policy working paper and is in the process of being released as a working paper on medRxiv, a preprint server for health sciences, contains additional insights about what does, and does not, correlate with COVID-19 death rates. For instance, the researchers did not find a correlation between exposure to air pollution. This finding contradicts earlier studies that indicated that coronavirus patients living in areas with high levels of air pollution before the pandemic were more likely to die from the infection than patients in cleaner parts of the country.

According to Prof. Knittel, the “statistical significance of air pollution and mortality from COVID-19 is likely spurious.”

The researchers did, however, find that patients who commute via public transportation are more likely to die from the disease relative to those who telecommute. They also find that a higher share of people not working, and thus not commuting, have higher death rates.

“The sheer magnitude of the correlation between public transit and mortality is huge, and at this point, we can only speculate on the reasons it increases vulnerability to experiencing the most severe COVID-19 outcomes,” says Prof. Knittel. “But at a time when many U.S. states are reopening and employees are heading back to work, thereby increasing ridership on public transportation, it is critical that public health officials zero in on the reason.”

The proportion of Americans who have died from COVID-19 varies dramatically from state to state. The statistical models that Knittel and Ozaltun created yield estimates of the relative death rates across states, after controlling for all of the factors in their model. Death rates in the Northeast are substantially higher compared to other states. Death rates are also significantly higher in Michigan, Louisiana, Iowa, Indiana, and Colorado. California’s death rate is the lowest across all states.

Curiously, the study found that patients who live in U.S. counties with higher home values, higher summer temperatures, and lower winter temperatures are more likely to die from the illness than patients in counties with lower home values, cooler summer weather, and warmer winter weather. This implies that social distancing policies will continue to be necessary in places with hotter summers and colder winters, according to the researchers.

“Some of these correlations are baffling and deserve further study, but regardless, our findings can help guide policymakers through this challenging time,” says Ozaltun. “It’s clear that there are important and statistically significant difference in death rates across states. We need to investigate what’s driving those differences and see if we can understand how we might do things differently.”