How Milo Ventimiglia Thinks 'This Is Us' Will Handle Mandy Moore's Pregnancy

Bringing her baby bump to set! Milo Ventimiglia exclusively told Us Weekly about working with pregnant Mandy Moore on This Is Us.

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“I’m sure as she’s evolving in her birth, as her belly is growing, then we’ll probably be playing some of those notes up to the Big Three’s birth,” the actor, 43, said on Tuesday, October 20, referencing Kate, Randall and Kevin Pearson on the NBC show.

The California native added, “As far as I understand it, Mandy’s not really showing right now, but I think … it’s gonna creep up on all of us!”

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Moore, 36, announced last month that she is pregnant with her and husband Taylor Goldsmith’s first child. “Baby Boy Goldsmith coming early 2021,” the actress captioned a September Instagram slideshow.

Later that same month, the New Hampshire native described the food aversions she was experiencing during her pregnancy. “Just sitting here thinking: will I ever enjoy coffee again?” the “When I Wasn’t Watching” singer said on her Instagram Story. “It makes me feel sad because I used to dream about coffee before bed. I am fully expecting that my love of coffee will come back. If not, all good. Small price to pay. The food aversions, though, can we talk about that? Coffee’s not the only one. … I had the worst food aversions, I still can’t think about some things or look at them in the fridge.”

The Princess Diaries star added that she had a “really tough first 15 weeks,” praising her husband’s help.

While Moore films season 5 of This Is Us, she and her fellow cast members are taking precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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Ventimiglia explained to Us on Tuesday: “Mandy and I were inches away on Saturday doing a few scenes together. She’s regularly tested [and] I’m regularly tested because of the seriousness of COVID and knowing that Mandy’s pregnant. We have 150 souls on our crew and nobody wants to put them at risk. I trust Mandy and how she goes about her life away from work, and I think Mandy trusts me for how I go about my life away from work. We’re always mindful of that.”

The Gilmore Girls alum went on to say that fans wouldn’t see “Mandy kissing [a] Jack dummy or Milo kissing [a] Mandy dummy” in future episodes.

With reporting by Emily Longeretta

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Leaders in US, Europe divided on response to surging virus

Virus cases are surging across Europe and many U.S. states, but responses by leaders are miles apart, with officials in Ireland, France and elsewhere imposing curfews and restricting gatherings even as some U.S. governors resist mask mandates or more aggressive measures.

The stark contrasts in efforts to contain infections come as outbreaks on both sides of the Atlantic raise similar alarms, including shrinking availability of hospital beds and rising deaths.

Governors of states including Tennessee, Oklahoma, Nebraska and North Dakota are all facing calls from doctors and public health officials to require masks.

In Utah, a spike in cases since school reopened has created a dynamic that Republican Gov. Gary Herbert has called “unsustainable.”

But schools remain open and Herbert, who has been pressured by an outspoken contingent of residents opposed to masks, has resisted a statewide mandate. Instead, he announced last week that they would be required only in six counties with the highest infection rates, while leaving it to others to make their own rules. Meanwhile, many hospitals are being pushed to the breaking point.

“We are not just managing COVID. We are also managing heart attacks and strokes and respiratory failure and all those other things that need ICU-level care,” said Dr. Kencee Graves, chief medical officer for inpatient care at the University of Utah Health hospital in Salt Lake City. The hospital’s intensive care unit was filled by the end of last week, forcing the reopening of a backup intensive care unit.

“The sooner we take care of each other, wear masks, physically distance, the sooner we can have some gatherings in a safe way,” Graves said.

In Oklahoma, where the number of people hospitalized for the virus has reached record levels, doctors have called on officials to do more.

“We need face mask mandates to protect more of our Oklahoma citizens,” Dr. George Monks, the president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, said in a tweet Sunday.

But Gov. Kevin Stitt has said repeatedly he has no plans to do so, citing concerns about how such a mandate would be enforced.

Oklahoma health officials reported a record high of 821 people hospitalized Tuesday with the virus or under investigation for the infection. Wyoming also reported a record high number of patients hospitalized for the virus.

New virus cases in the U.S. have surged in recent weeks from a daily average of about 42,000 in early October to about 58,000—the highest level since late July, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In one of the most troubling outbreaks, 10 residents of a nursing home in northwest Kansas have died from the virus, health officials said. All 62 residents of the Andbe Home in Norton County, as well as an unspecified number of employees, have tested positive for the infection.

The surge in new cases prompted a change of heart Monday from the mayor of North Dakota’s largest city, in favor of a mask mandate.

Tim Mahoney, who in addition to being Fargo’s mayor is also a general surgeon, has been largely supportive of Republican Gov. Doug Burgum’s approach of leaving management of the virus to local officials.

Mahoney, himself, cast the deciding vote against a mask mandate at a recent meeting of city officials. But with North Dakota leading the nation in new cases and up to one in four city residents now testing positive, Mahoney said a statewide change is in order.

The dynamic contrasts sharply with Europe, where national officials are battling a similar spike with measures including new lockdowns and smart phone apps that track the virus’ spread.

In Ireland, Prime Minister Micheal Martin announced a lockdown starting at midnight Wednesday that will close all non-essential stores, limit restaurants to carryout service and require people to stay within three miles (five kilometers) of their homes, while banning visits to other households.

It marks a near-return to restrictions imposed by the government in March, although schools, construction sites and manufacturing industries will remain open. If people comply with the restrictions, which will be in place until Dec. 1, the country will be able to celebrate Christmas “in a meaningful way,” Martin said.

But as cases surge, some decisions by European leaders to impose new restrictions are facing stiff opposition at the local level. After a tense faceoff, Britain’s government said Tuesday it had failed to reach agreement with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who has rejected tough new measures without money to support the workers and businesses that will be most affected.


Britain’s Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick expressed disappointment with Burnham, saying the mayor “has been unwilling to take the action that is required to get the spread of the virus under control.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Tuesday he would impose the restrictions, drawing criticism from Burnham.

“It cannot be right to close people’s place of work, to shut somebody’s business, without giving them proper support,” Burnham said. He said Manchester had sought 90 million pounds ($117 million) from the national government to help people get through the winter. It was unclear how much the city would receive.

In the Netherlands, which has one of the highest infection rates in Europe, a judge in The Hague rejected an appeal by more than 60 Dutch bars and restaurants to overturn a government four-week closure order.

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US hoping for two Covid-19 vaccines by end of November

Two American companies expect to apply for emergency approval for their COVID-19 vaccines by late November, welcome news as the US hits a third surge of its coronavirus epidemic and approaches its eight millionth case.

Pfizer said Friday it hopes to move ahead with its vaccine after safety data is available in the third week of November, a couple of weeks after the November 3 presidential election.

The announcement means the United States could have two vaccines ready by the end of the year, with Massachusetts biotech firm Moderna aiming for November 25 to seek authorization.

“So let me be clear, assuming positive data, Pfizer will apply for Emergency Authorization Use in the US soon after the safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November,” the company’s chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in an open letter. The news lifted the company’s shares two percent in the US.

But experts warn that even when vaccines are approved, it will take many months until they are widely available.

In any case, they are unlikely to be a good substitute for mask wearing, social distancing and other recommended behavior to curb transmission because we don’t know how effective they will be.

Indoor gatherings in colder weather

After falling numbers throughout the summer, the country hit an inflection point in its coronavirus outbreak around the second week of September—with a new daily case average of more than 50,000 according to the latest figures, and the trajectory is upward.

With a shade under eight million confirmed infections and more than 217,000 deaths, America is the hardest-hit country in the world.

The US never came close to returning to its baseline after its first wave in spring, meaning the current spike can be more accurately termed a third surge.

Geographically, the major hotspots are in the Upper Midwest and parts of the Rocky Mountains in the west, while parts of the Northeast that were hit hard in spring are seeing their outbreaks starting to rekindle.

Harvard surgeon and health policy researcher Thomas Tsai told AFP there were multiple factors behind the rising cases—from under testing in the Midwest to authorities failing to monitor the reopening of bars and restaurants and dialing back when necessary.

What’s more, “from the contact tracing reports from various municipalities and states, the worry is that the spread is driven now, by indoor social gatherings in people’s homes,” he added, as the focus of social life shifts from public to private spaces in the colder weather.

One bright sign is that COVID-19 treatments have improved markedly, and since the cases are more spread out than before, hospitals aren’t being overwhelmed.

Widespread mask use might also mean that when people do get infected, they have less virus in their body which makes them less sick.

‘No magic bullet’

While vaccines are a crucial tool against the virus, experts have warned they can’t be a substitute for behavioral measures like masks and distancing.

“It’s welcome news that there will be one more thing that can help prevent COVID transmission,” said Priya Sampathkumar, an infectious disease doctor and professor at Mayo Clinic.

“But I think we need to be cautious and understand that a vaccine isn’t a magic bullet,” she added.

Pfizer and Moderna, both funded by the US government, launched Phase 3 of their clinical trials at the end of July, and both were producing their doses at the same time.

They aim to deliver tens of millions of doses in the US by the end of the year.

Both are “mRNA vaccines,” an experimental new platform that has never before been fully approved.

They both inject people with the genetic material necessary to grow the “spike protein” of SARS-CoV-2 inside their own cells, thus eliciting an immune response the body will remember when it encounters the real virus.

This effectively turns a person’s own body into a vaccine factory, avoiding the costly and difficult processes that more traditional vaccine production requires.

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People in Soweto told us about their fears in the first weeks of South Africa’s lockdown

South Africa’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak was swift and assertive. The country quickly instituted testing, tracing, and quarantining those affected with COVID-19. But the financial and social effects of quarantine hit people, who were already struggling, especially hard. Racial and economic inequalities were amplified in South Africa, as elsewhere, through the new coronavirus threat.

In March, the government introduced extreme lockdown restrictions barring South Africans from leaving their homes except to buy essential goods and seek medical care. We conducted a study to capture how people were coping during lockdown in Soweto, a large conglomerated urban area southwest of Johannesburg. Psychological assessments were done between April 2019 and March 2020; and again in the first six weeks of the lockdown.

We called 957 adults living in Soweto who had been enrolled in existing studies on the epidemiology of syndemics, or synergistic epidemics. We spoke to them about how they perceived and experienced lockdown and COVID-19. A large majority of our sample were female, middle aged (average age was 43 years old), and shared a room at home. Nearly 91% of adults in our sample reported having at least one underlying health condition or more—a potential risk factor for COVID-19 infection.

We already had some information about them, such as early childhood trauma and current mental and physical health as they are already participants in research we are currently undertaking. We also conducted a brief mental health questionnaire on the phone during lockdown.

Our results show that people who viewed their risk of COVID-19 infection to be higher than others in their community exhibited greater depressive symptoms. Furthermore, people who reported histories of childhood trauma had worse depressive symptoms as a result of their perceived risk of getting COVID-19. These findings confirm existing research that shows that people who face more adversity during childhood may be more vulnerable to the effects of stress and trauma in the future—such as the stressors of the pandemic.

We found a strong relationship between COVID-19 risk perceptions and depressive symptoms. But an overwhelming majority (74%) of respondents didn’t think that their life under lockdown and wider pandemic conditions affected their mental health. This discrepancy potentially highlights the ever-present stigma and lack of awareness around mental health in Soweto and the country at large. Our study reemphasises the importance of prioritizing and providing accessible mental health services for resource-limited communities in Soweto and across South Africa.

Public perceptions

Many people called it a “virus that kills” and suggested they feared the virus in some way. This most likely inspired people to say that they frequently used preventative measures, such as “I wash my hands and stay home” or “wear a mask” or “keep my distance from people.” Many described feeling some anxiety because they are “always thinking about it.” Most worried about those with preexisting conditions, like HIV, diabetes, or heart disease. They considered these community members most at risk.

Social challenges were common. Many had already lost their jobs and worried about putting food on the table. Others worried because “since lockdown, movement is very difficult.”

Residents were scared to leave the house. One participant was scared because a neighbor’s house was bulldozed and his family had nowhere to go.

Few cases of COVID-19 were detected in Soweto during the first month of lockdown, although many people still perceived their risk to be high. Many described deep anxiety and fear over personal well being, and caring for those they love.

We found people perceived their own risk for COVID-19 infection differently relative to others in their community. About 58% of adults thought they were at lower risk of COVID-19 than others, while 29% reported having the same risk, and 14% having more risk. This risk perception was unaffected by personal characteristics such as age, finances, education, or household density. Greater knowledge of how to prevent coronavirus transmission and to keep their families safe was associated with lower perception that they were at risk of infection.

One in three people in South Africa is expected to experience a common mental disorder like anxiety or depression in their lifetimes. During lockdown, most did not think that COVID-19 had affected or could hurt their mental health. Nevertheless, we found a variety of stressors that caused deep worry, anxiety, and rumination (“thinking too much”) in approximately 20% of adults.

We found that those who perceived their risk for COVID-19 to be higher had more depressive symptoms and more severe histories of childhood trauma. This was true regardless of people’s mental health before lockdown, what they knew about COVID-19, how they coped, and their family and financial backgrounds.

But these measures were collected simultaneously. So we don’t know if these adults were depressed because they felt at risk, or whether they felt at risk because they were depressed. Because we controlled for recent psychiatric status in the first wave of our study before COVID-19, we can be more sure that COVID-19 risk and depression are tightly linked regardless of people’s mental health going into the pandemic.

Finally, we found preliminary evidence that the depressive effects of COVID-19 risk were worse among adults with histories of childhood trauma. In other words, those with greater childhood adversity exhibited worse psychological outcomes during the first six weeks of the lockdown compared to those with fewer accounts of childhood trauma.

Research has shown that adversity during childhood can increase risk for major depression later in life. More childhood trauma also may influence the severity of adult depression and increase how people respond emotionally to future stressors like the coronavirus.

Urgent need for services

Childhood trauma is well-known to influence how severely and for how long people experience depression.

This study shows how those who have experienced social adversity growing up may be struggling more than others in this current moment.

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Interim data from early US COVID-19 hotspot show mortality of disease were not associated with race/ethnicity

A study of interim data from two hospitals in an early US COVID-19 hotspot, to be presented at the ESCMID Conference on Coronavirus Disease (ECCVID, held online 23-25 September), shows that race and ethnicity were not significantly associated with higher in-hospital COVID-19 mortality, and that rates of moderate, severe, and critical forms of COVID-19 were similar between racial and ethnic groups.

The study, by Dr. Daniel Chastain (University Of Georgia College Of Pharmacy, Albany, GA, U.S.) and colleagues included data from adult patients hospitalised between March 10 and and May 22 with COVID-19, defined by laboratory-detected severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, in Southwest Georgia.

The authors compared severity of illness categories on presentation to the hospital between patients from different racial and ethnic groups based on criteria from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) COVID-19 treatment guidelines. They also studied outcomes including comorbidities, laboratory values, vital signs, and in-hospital mortality.

A total of 164 randomly selected non-consecutive patients were included with a median age of 61.5 years. These consisted of 119 African American patients, 36 Caucasian patients, and 9 Latinx patients. Thus the majority were African American (73%) and 51% were female. Rates of moderate, severe, and critical COVID-19 did not significantly differ between African American (9%, 56%, and 35%), Caucasian (0%, 69%, and 31%), and Latinx patients (0%, 56%, and 44%). In-hospital mortality was not statistically significantly different between groups but was highest among Caucasians (31%) followed by Latinx (22%) and African Americans (16%).

Caucasian patients had significantly higher Charlson comorbidity index scores (meaning more underlying conditions) (4.5) compared to African American (4) and Latinx (2) patients, while median BMI was significantly higher in African Americans (33.7 kg/m2) than in Caucasians (26.9) or Latinx patients (25.9).

Duration of time from symptom onset to admission was similar between groups, whereas median temperature on admission was significantly higher in African Americans (38.3C) than in Caucasians (37.9) or Latinx patients (37.8)

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Study takes us a step closer to a universal antibody test for COVID-19

A new study released by Houston Methodist takes researchers a significant step closer to developing a uniform, universal COVID-19 antibody test. The multicenter collaboration tested alternative ways to measure COVID-19 antibody levels that is faster and easier and can inexpensively be used on a larger scale to accurately identify potential donors with the best chance of helping patients infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus with convalescent plasma therapy.

The findings will also have applications beyond determining who the best plasma donors are. The consensus among the study authors is that, following donor identification, it will most likely next be used in practice to establish target levels of COVID-19 antibodies individuals will need to be considered candidates for vaccines and passive immune therapies.

Additional uses coming later that are likely to have the biggest societal impact, the researchers say, are to assess relative immunity in those previously infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus and identifying asymptomatic individuals with high levels of neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

It was also found that donors who experienced shortness of breath (or dyspnea) while infected with COVID-19 and those who were hospitalized or had severe disease were more likely to have a robust immune response and, thus, had higher levels of neutralizing antibodies in all the tests. In the absence of available testing, identifying such donor characteristics may be used as a contingency plan to determine which patients have developed higher antibody levels and inform efforts to recruit plasma donors for therapeutic purposes.

In collaboration with Penn State, University of Texas at Austin and U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, study authors James M. Musser, M.D., Ph.D., and Eric Salazar, M.D., Ph.D., physician scientists at Houston Methodist, sought to find alternatives to measuring virus neutralization (VN) titers, which is the gold standard of COVID-19 antibody testing, as VN antibodies in the blood correlate with immunity. This kind of antibody testing, however, is not widely available, because it’s technically complex, requires days to set up, run and interpret, and needs to be performed in a biosafety level 3 laboratory. This leads to most donor plasma virus antibody levels remaining unknown prior to transfusions, so an easier, more readily available method is needed to identify more suitable convalescent plasma donors.

The research team, therefore, looked to another type of test, called ELISA assays, which can be implemented and performed with relative ease in a high-throughput fashion and are widely available and extensively used in clinical labs across the world. The ELISA tests, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays, look at whether antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 proteins are present and produce a quantitative measure of those antibodies. The UT Austin research team developed the ELISA antibody test for SARS-CoV-2 and provided the viral antigens for this study.

Specifically, scientists looked at the relationship of anti-spike ectodomain (ECD) and anti-receptor binding domain (RBD) IgG bloodstream antibody titers. The spike ECD and RBD proteins are physiological parts of the much-talked-about spike protein made by SARS-CoV-2 and critical to how the virus finds its way into the body, spreads and causes COVID-19 disease, so they are prime targets for antibody testing and vaccine development. The blood samples for the study were identified during an institutional surveillance program involving 2,814 Houston Methodist employees.

The goal of the study was to test the hypothesis that anti-ECD and anti-RBD IgG bloodstream antibody titers are correlated with VN titer, making these more accessible, easier-to-perform ELISA tests a surrogate marker to identify plasma donors with titers above the recommended U.S. Food and Drug Administration threshold for convalescent plasma donation.

In assessing the correlation between VN antibody levels and anti-RBD and anti-ECD ELISA protein titer data, the researchers found that the ELISA tests had an 80% probability or greater of comparable antibody level to VN titers at or above the FDA-recommended levels for COVID-19 convalescent plasma. These results affirm that all three types of tests could potentially serve as a quantitative target for therapeutic and prophylactic treatments.

They also found that convalescent donors maintain high levels of immunity over the course of many weeks and that frequent plasma donations did not cause a significant decrease in antibody or virus neutralization levels.

Perhaps most surprising is that they also identified 27 individuals from the surveillance cohort with high enough antibody titers across all three tests to indicate that some asymptomatic individuals may have plasma suitable for therapeutic use and may have a degree of relative immunity against SARS-CoV-2.

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New virus cases decline in the US and experts credit masks

The number of Americans newly diagnosed with the coronavirus is falling—a development experts credit at least partly to increased wearing of masks—even as the outbreak continues to claim nearly 1,000 lives in the U.S. each day.

About 43,000 new cases have been reported daily over the past two weeks across the country, down 21 percent since early August, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. While the U.S., India and Brazil still have the highest numbers of new cases in the world, the trend down is encouraging.

“It’s profoundly hopeful news,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, an infectious-diseases expert at the University of California, San Francisco, who credits the American public’s growing understanding of how the virus spreads, more mask-wearing and, possibly, an increasing level of immunity.

“Hopefully all those factors are coming into play to get this virus under control in this country that’s really been battered by the pandemic,” she said.

The virus is blamed for more than 5.7 million confirmed infections and about 178,000 deaths in the U.S. Worldwide, the death toll is put at more than 810,000, with about 23.7 million cases.

Jeffrey Shaman, a public health expert at Columbia University, said he is skeptical enough people are immune to significantly slow the spread. But he agreed that changes in Americans’ behavior could well be making a difference, recalling the impact that people’s actions had in containing Ebola in West Africa several years ago.

“Ebola stopped for reasons we didn’t anticipate at the time. It was so horrifying that people stopped touching each other,” Shaman said. Something similar may be happening with the coronavirus, he said.

“I know I don’t have nearly the number of contacts that I used to,” Shaman said. “But if we relax that, if we get complacent, will we just see another outbreak?”

The decline in newly reported cases in the U.S. comes even as deaths from the virus remain alarmingly high. Over the past two weeks, state officials have reported an average of 965 deaths a day from COVID-19, down from 1,051 a day in early August.

The percentage of those testing positive for the disease has also declined over the past two weeks, from 7.3% to 6.1%. But that comes as the total number of tests administered has fallen from its August peak of more than 820,000 daily, leveling off in recent weeks at about 690,000 a day.

It’s not clear what will happen to case numbers as more school districts bring students back to classrooms and colleges reopen their campuses. In recent weeks, schools including the University of North Carolina and Notre Dame have moved instruction online after outbreaks on their campuses.

Officials at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville said Monday that four students are facing disciplinary proceedings after three hosted off-campus parties with no mask or other distancing and another left isolation to meet with others despite testing positive for the virus.

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US rescinds global ‘do not travel’ coronavirus warning

The Trump administration on Thursday rescinded its warnings to Americans against all international travel because of the coronavirus pandemic, saying conditions no longer warrant a blanket worldwide alert.

The State Department lifted its level-four health advisory for the entire world in order to return to country-specific warnings. That move came shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its COVID-19 travel advisory information. The CDC lifted “do not travel” warnings for about 20 locations but advised staying away from the vast majority of 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,” it said. “We continue to recommend U.S. citizens exercise caution when traveling abroad due to the unpredictable nature of the pandemic.”

The State Department invoked the blanket warning against all international travel on March 19 as the pandemic spread. The revised country-specific travel advice is available at travel.state.gov. However, Americans still face travel restrictions across the world because of the uncontrolled spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Earlier Thursday, the CDC revised its travel guidance, saying the changes were driven by how the virus was spreading in different places and how well the public health and health care systems were functioning in dealing with new cases.

Seven places, including Thailand, Fiji and New Zealand, are in a low-risk group, according to the CDC, although officials there advised that certain people, such as older adults and those with certain underlying medical conditions, talk to their doctors before making the trip. For more than a dozen other locations, it had no precautions. Taiwan, Greenland, and Laos are on that list.

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US cities with pro sports see more flu deaths

Sports leagues may want to consider calling a timeout on reopening their doors to fans, based on new West Virginia University-led research that links an uptick in seasonal flu deaths to U.S. cities with pro sports teams.

Analyzing Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 1962 to 2016, WVU economists found that flu deaths increased by between 5 and 24 percent during the NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB seasons, with the largest increase for NHL games.

Given that COVID-19 is believed to be more contagious and deadlier, Economics Professor Brad Humphreys has a message for sports leagues until a vaccine is available or herd immunity exists: “Don’t let the fans back into the games.”

“Opening pro sports games to fans is probably a terrible idea, in terms of public health,” said Humphreys, one of the authors of the paper “Professional Sporting Events Increase Seasonal Influenza Mortality in U.S. Cities.” “You’re right on top of people and everybody’s yelling, screaming, high-fiving and hugging. And you’ve got people eating and drinking. You could be putting the virus right into your mouth. The bottom line is we need to be very careful if we’re considering opening up games to the fans.”

Humphreys’ WVU co-authors include Jane Ruseski, associate professor of economics, and Alexander Cardazzi, a Ph.D. student.

Researchers examined cities that introduced a new sport franchise from the big four leagues over the 54-year timeframe. Welcoming new teams in all leagues led to an increase in flu mortality, according to the report.

“We found data that reported flu mortality by city by week dating back to the 1960s,” Humphreys said. “We decided the best experiment was to try to look at what happened when a city got a new pro sports team compared to cities that didn’t. As it turned out, after a new professional sports team came into a city, that flu season and every flu season afterward had more people dying of the flu.

“It isn’t one or two people dying. This is closer to 30 or 40 additional flu deaths over the course of flu season. When you blow it up to a virus that’s more fatal like COVID-19, we could be talking about hundreds of additional deaths because of these games.”

The study also showed a decline in flu deaths in U.S. cities during season stoppages. That means cities reported fewer flu deaths during the 2011 NBA lockout and the 1982 NFL strike.

Research began in March when organizations, such as the NBA, suspended play due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. Humphreys was further intrigued after reading about a soccer game in Italy that was believed to have been a catalyst in spiking that country’s positive cases.

On Feb. 19, the day of a soccer match between Atalanta and Valencia, there were only three confirmed cases in the country of Italy. Two weeks later, that number jumped to 997—just in Bergamo, northeast of Milan and home to the Atalanta team.

“At the time, they had the highest death rate anywhere in the world,” Humphreys said. “That game served as a super-spreader event.”

The NBA and NHL both plan to resume their seasons this summer, but without fans in attendance. In fact, NBA players will have the option of wearing an Oura smart ring that detects early signs of the novel coronavirus—which is part of research from the WVU Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute.

Details of the upcoming MLB and NFL seasons remain uncertain.

The economists hope this timely research will not only help inform sports league reopening policy decisions, but mass gatherings in general such as concerts, conferences and conventions.

“You’ll have some people say, ‘Oh, but everybody can wear a mask,'” Humphreys said. “But you’ve seen how people are complying with that, right? And if these arenas are at full capacity, social distancing isn’t happening.”

A COVID-19 model formerly used by the White House projects that more than 200,000 American could die from the virus by October. As of late Wednesday, 119,000 people have died of the novel coronavirus in the U.S., with a total of 2.2 million positive cases.

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Brazil now second in virus deaths, as US states see rising cases

Brazil on Friday claimed the unenviable position of having the second-highest coronavirus death toll worldwide behind the United States, where several states have posted record daily case totals, signaling the crisis is far from over.

US and European stocks ended the week on an upswing after a rout sparked by the US data and fresh evidence of the economic damage caused by virus-related lockdowns, with British GDP shrinking by a record 20.4 percent in April.

Meanwhile, in several European countries, the focus shifted to the courts, and who might eventually be pinned with the blame for the global financial and health crisis.

Brazil’s health ministry recorded 909 deaths in the past 24 hours, putting the total at 41,828—meaning the country of 212 million people has now surpassed Britain’s death toll.

Experts warn the actual number of cases in Latin America’s biggest economy could be many times higher than the confirmed figure of 828,810.

“Some areas are at a critical stage” in Brazil, with intensive care unit occupancy levels of more than 90 percent, World Health Organization emergencies director Mike Ryan told journalists in Geneva.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who threatened last week to quit the WHO over “ideological bias,” has dismissed the virus as a “little flu,” and berated state officials for imposing lockdowns.

Latin America is the latest epicenter in the world’s battle with the novel coronavirus, which emerged in China late last year.

The region has recorded more than 1.5 million infections and 76,000 deaths, with no signs the virus is slowing.

In the US, which has confirmed the most COVID-19 deaths—over 114,000—more than a dozen states, including two of the most populous, Texas and Florida, reported their highest-ever daily case totals this week.

“It’s important that we remember that this situation is unprecedented. And that the pandemic has not ended,” Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told a media briefing on Friday.

Nevertheless, US President Donald Trump and many local officials remain determined to get the world’s biggest economy back on track.

The virus and resulting lockdowns have caused a spike in US unemployment—44.2 million people have filed claims for jobless benefits since mid-March.

Worldwide, the pandemic has killed more than 425,000 people and infected more than 7.6 million.

Court action

In Italy, one of the countries hardest hit by the virus, prosecutors questioned Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte over his government’s initial response.

In the country’s northern Lombardy region, an investigation has been launched into why a quarantined “red zone” was not enforced around two towns sooner.

And in Bergamo province, 50 victims’ family members filed complaints this week over how the crisis was handled.

“All investigations are welcome. The citizens have the right to know and we have the right to reply,” Conte said this week.

Elsewhere, British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair launched legal action against the British government over a “flawed” 14-day coronavirus quarantine system introduced this week.

Europe’s reopening

Europe is pushing ahead with its exit from lockdown, with a number of countries preparing to reopen borders on a limited basis on Monday after the EU Commission urged a relaxation of restrictions.

France said it would gradually reopen its borders to non-Schengen countries from July 1.

Greece said it would welcome tourists again, though Britons remain barred—and passengers from Italy, Spain and the Netherlands must undergo tests on arrival.

Germany said it would end land border checks on Monday.

And Italy said it would allow amateur contact sports—including team sports—from June 25.

‘Fight not over’

Yet world health officials have warned that the virus is far from contained.

“The fight is not over,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

In evidence of the continued threat, eleven residential estates in the southern part of the Chinese capital were locked down due to a fresh cluster of coronavirus cases linked to a nearby meat market, officials said Saturday.

Seven cases have so far been linked to Xinfadi meat market, six of them confirmed on Saturday, officials added. Nine nearby schools and kindergartens have been closed.

China has largely brought domestic infections under control, and the majority of cases in recent months have been among overseas nationals returning home.

In India, experts are warning the worst is far from over.

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