Coronavirus

Small household gatherings help drive resurgence in COVID-19 cases, CDC chief says

(CNN) — Small gatherings are becoming a growing source of COVID-19 spread, a leading health expert said, as cases and hospitalizations are on the rise nationwide.

“In the public square, we’re seeing a higher degree of vigilance and mitigation steps in many jurisdictions,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said during a call with the nation’s governors on Tuesday. Audio of the call was obtained by CNN.

“But what we’re seeing as the increasing threat right now is actually acquisition of infection through small household gatherings,” Redfield said. “Particularly with Thanksgiving coming up, we think it’s really important to stress the vigilance of these continued mitigation steps in the household setting.”

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, professor of medicine at George Washington University, said Wednesday he’d advise people to consider not having indoor Thanksgiving dinners with others who aren’t in their immediate household.

“If you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the country where the weather will be moderate in November, do an outdoor Thanksgiving. (But) I think in the … places in the country where the winter comes early, I think you have to really be careful,” Reiner told CNN’s “New Day.”

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“The consequences of this virus, particularly for older folks — the people that we really want to gather with on Thanksgiving — can be really dire,” he said. And, frankly, I’d rather do a Zoom Thanksgiving with people that I love than expose them to something that might kill them,” he said.

“Next year is going to be much better. Let’s get through this, and let’s get through it safely.”

These comments come as the country’s seven-day average of new daily cases surpassed 51,000 Tuesday — the first time in more than two months that the figure was above 50,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The average is now more than 48% higher than it was about a month ago, when it dipped to as low as 34,354.

And hospitalizations have been increasing nationwide. More than 36,000 COVID-19 patients were in US hospitals Tuesday, the highest number since the end of August.

White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx gave a warning similar to Redfield’s last week, urging Americans to carefully weigh gatherings over Thanksgiving. Even if non-household members appear healthy, it’s impossible to know for sure without testing, she said.

Health officials have warned that the spike in cases probably will worsen as cold weather prompts more indoor social gatherings, and that surges could overwhelm the health care system and kill thousands in the coming months.

Many states are seeing rise in case rates

As of Tuesday, 36 states had seen their COVID-19 cases rise by more than 10% in the past week versus the week prior, Johns Hopkins data show.

Twelve states reported their highest seven-day case averages of the pandemic: Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said Wednesday she believes her state is “at the start of the fall resurgence in cases.” Pennsylvania’s one-week case average was above 1,000 for 10 straight days as of Tuesday, after more than four months below 1,000, Johns Hopkins data show.

In Utah, Gov. Gary Herbert said the state was “facing its most dire episode yet in this pandemic” and announced a new COVID-19 monitoring system for counties.

“We are utilizing 15.8% of our ICU beds to treat COVID-19 patients, more than double what we were before, and our total ICU utilization is at 69.6%,” the governor said in a Tuesday tweet. “This leaves our hospitals precariously close to being unable to treat COVID and non-COVID patients in need of critical care.”

In Wisconsin, hospitalizations have nearly tripled in the past month, the governor said, adding that residents should do all they can to help get the virus under control and prevent the state’s health care system from being overwhelmed.

In Washington state, one public health official warned of a dramatic rise in cases.

“We’re having over 140 cases reported each day over the past week,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for the Seattle and King County public health agency. “This is more than twice what we saw in late September.”

Several local leaders have pushed for new measures following a rise in cases. Oklahoma City leaders extended the local mask ordinance until at least December 7 amid a rise in Covid-19 hospitalizations, health officials said.

Hospitals there are experiencing shortages in equipment, space and staffing to accommodatethe incoming patients, said Heather Yazdanipour, director of the Regional Medical Response System.

Studies add to evidence that blood type might be linked with COVID-19 risk

Two new studies are adding to evidence that suggests your blood type could be linked with your COVID-19 risk, but more research is needed.

Published in the journal Blood Advances on Wednesday, the studies suggest that people with blood type O may be less vulnerable to COVID-19 infection and have a reduced likelihood of getting severely ill.

One of the studies, conducted by a research team in Denmark, found that among more than 473,000 people who were tested for COVID-19, only 38.4% with blood type O tested positive — even though, among a group of 2.2 million people who were not tested, that blood type made up 41.7% of the population.

That study involved analyzing data on Danish people who were tested between February 27 and July 30, and the distribution of blood types among those people was compared with data from people who had not been tested.

The other study, conducted by researchers in Canada, found that among 95 patients critically ill with COVID-19, a higher proportion with blood type A or AB — 84% — required mechanical ventilation compared with patients with blood type O or B, at 61%. The study also found those with blood type A or AB had a longer stay in the intensive care unit, a median of 13.5 days, compared with those with blood type O or B, who had a median of nine days.

That study involved analyzing data on ICU patients who were admitted to six metropolitan Vancouver hospitals between Feb. 21 and April 28.

Both studies come with limitations. They show only an association between blood type and COVID-19 risk. More research is needed to determine whether this connection is true and what could be driving it.

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