Experts call for US to reset COVID-19 response as economy worsens

More than 1,000 health professionals have now signed an open letter calling for the United States to hit reset in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reset would essentially mean another shutdown in hot spot states, with all non-essential businesses closed, universal mask mandates, and a federally controlled response to the novel coronavirus.

Similarly, Johns Hopkins University's Center for Health Security published yesterday a new report called "Resetting our Response: Changes Needed in the US Approach to COVID-19." Like the letter, the report suggests shutting down non-essential business, including bars, in hot spots, and mandating the use of non-pharmaceutical interventions.

"The foundation for the response in every community should be what it has been for so many successful countries in the world: universal masking, individual physical distancing, hand hygiene, and avoiding large gatherings, particularly indoors. Without having these measures in place, it will be difficult to maintain control of outbreaks or turn the corner on an outbreak that is accelerating," the authors of the Johns Hopkins report, including former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Tom Frieden, MD, wrote. 

In hot spots, which could mean states, cities, or counties, the authors suggest governors start with a 2-week lockdown when hospital systems are close to capacity or cases are surging. 

"Closures do not need to mirror those implemented in the spring, when less was known about the epidemiology of COVID-19. Closures should include high-risk indoor settings where people congregate, like bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, gyms, and indoor religious spaces, and possibly indoor offices where transmission risk cannot be lowered through mitigation efforts," the report says.

Today on "Good Morning America," Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, of Harvard University, said the United States needs to focus on three key changes to stop the current trajectory of the pandemic: wear masks, fix testing, and avoid indoor gatherings.

Deaths rise as economy takes another hit

The US reported 70,766 new COVID-19 cases yesterday, with 1,403 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus database. Though the daily death toll is still below the spring's peak, numbers are expected rise.

In total, the US has 4,461,585 cases and 151,451 deaths.

Today new data from the Commerce Department show that US economic output fell by 9.5% in the second quarter — since the pandemic began in March and April — for a drop of 32.9% on an annualized basis.

According to the New York Times, this is the biggest drop in gross domestic production in modern US history.

The weekly report from the Labor Department shows that the number of Americans filing for new unemployment claims totaled 1.43 million last week, the second weekly increase in a row.  This is the 19th consecutive week that the number of Americans filing for unemployment breached 1 million. 

And most Americans who lost their jobs due to the pandemic have now received their last weekly $600 supplemental support check as part of the CARES Act. The weekly payments are set to expire tomorrow, and lawmakers have yet to agree on future supplemental payments. Republican Senate members have suggested $200 per week, white top Democrats are pushing to keep the amount at $600.

Other US news

  • Wisconsin is the latest state to issue a mandate for face coverings. Governor Tony Evers has said masks must be worn indoors through the end of September, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

  • The Ohio State Board of Pharmacies is banning pharmacies from dispensing hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine for use in COVID-19 patients.

  • The first human trials for Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine candidate begin today in the United States and Belgium. More than 1,000 healthy adults aged 18 to 55 years, as well as adults aged 65 years and older, will be included in the trial, according to Reuters.

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