As US COVID-19 deaths near 200,000, CDC reverses itself again

Sept. 22, 2020

The United States edged close to the grim milestone of 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus as the drop in new COVID-19 cases seen in recent weeks across the country appears to be ending and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) again changes on guidance, this time regarding the mode of virus spread, wrote Chris Dall in a report for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP).

The current US totals stand at 6,859,117 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 199,911 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins COVID-19 online tracker.

After a steady decline in new cases from the peak of well over 60,000 a day in July, a Reuters analysis shows that US officials reported a 17 percent increase in the number of new infections last week compared with the previous seven days. The country is averaging more than 40,000 new COVID-19 cases a day.

Public health experts have been predicting that cases will rise as the school year kicks into gear and colder weather drives people indoors.

Among the states reporting increases in new cases in the past seven days are Wisconsin, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa.

As the country faces the prospect of another surge in cases, a new controversy erupted over the latest change in the official COVID-19 guidance from the CDC. The controversy involves the agency's position on how the coronavirus is transmitted from person to person.

On Friday, the CDC posted updated guidance on its website that said the coronavirus can spread through both large droplets and small particles, such as those in aerosols, and that airborne particles that form when an infected person coughs, sneezes, sings, talks, or breathes can remain suspended in the air, be breathed in by others, and travel distances beyond six feet.

The guidance indicated that this is the main way the virus spreads and suggested indoor spaces without good ventilation may increase the risk of spread. The previous guidance had focused on the virus spreading via respiratory droplets between people within six feet of contact.

But yesterday, the new guidance was taken down from the CDC website, with an accompanying note that said, "A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency's official website. CDC is currently updating its recommendation regarding airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). Once this process has been completed, the update language will be posted."

Last week, the CDC reversed coronavirus testing guidance on its website that had been updated in August with new recommendations that suggested that people who were exposed to an infected person but weren't showing symptoms don't necessarily need to be tested. The CDC clarified that such close contacts do need to be tested, which reflects guidance on its site before the August changes.

CIDRAP has the report.

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