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15 U.S. Cities with the Biggest Decline in Air Pollution

This story originally appeared on Filterbuy.

While the recent wildfires in Western states have introduced new concerns about air quality, the U.S. has made huge strides in the reduction of air pollution in recent decades.

As a result of the Clean Air Act and modern pollution control technologies, emissions of common air pollutants have dropped by more than 70% since 1970, according to new data from the Environmental Protection Agency.

These reductions, which the EPA claims have significantly improved the environment and human health, occurred despite a growing population, increased energy use and more cars on American roads.

The EPA measures air quality through the Air Quality Index, or AQI. The AQI rates air quality with values between 0 and 500. An AQI over 100 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, and anything over 150 is unhealthy for everyone. Major pollutants accounted for by the AQI and regulated by the Clean Air Act include ground-level ozone, particle pollution (or particulate matter), carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and lead.

Components of air pollution pose dangers to the environment and to overall health. Health effects can include reduced oxygen levels; respiratory symptoms; eye, ear and nose irritation; damage to the nervous system; high blood pressure; and heart disease. Those most at risk from air pollution include unborn babies, children, older adults, and people with asthma, heart, and lung disease.

To determine the metropolitan areas with the largest decreases in air pollution over the past decade, researchers at Filterbuy ranked locations by the percentage change in median AQI between the five-year period ending in 2019 and the five-year period ending in 2009. Five-year periods were used to lessen the effects of annual variability in AQI on the overall results.

Here are the large metropolitan areas with the biggest improvement in air quality over the past decade.

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Only two US states report a decline of new cases and nationwide hospitalizations are increasing

Covid-19 cases are trending upwards across the US, with only two states reporting a decline of cases compared to last week. And hospitalizations across the country have also begun to rise, according to data from the COVID Tracking Project.



a man in a police car parked in a parking lot: People line up in their vehicles to undergo the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests, distributed by the Wisconsin National Guard at the United Migrant Opportunity Services center, as cases spread in the Midwest, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S., October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Alex Wroblewski


© Alex Wroblewski/Reuters
People line up in their vehicles to undergo the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) tests, distributed by the Wisconsin National Guard at the United Migrant Opportunity Services center, as cases spread in the Midwest, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S., October 2, 2020. REUTERS/Alex Wroblewski

Wisconsin health officials reported a record-high number of 141 new patients Wednesday, days after the state saw records in new Covid-19 cases and deaths. Gov. Tony Evers announced Wednesday the state will open a field hospital in response to the surge in hospitalizations.

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“We obviously hoped this day wouldn’t come, but unfortunately, Wisconsin is in a much different and more dire place today, and our healthcare systems are being overwhelmed,” Evers said.

Other state leaders say they’re not trailing far behind.

“Our hospitalization rates are surging and beginning to place a strain on our healthcare system (especially staffing),” Utah Lt. Gov Spencer Cox wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “Sadly, we are now seeing increased fatalities. The Wisconsin announcement should be a sobering reminder as Utah isn’t far behind in infection rates.”

Other states, including Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Wyoming have all seen record-high hospitalization numbers in the past days.

The uptick in Covid-19 patients comes as the US approaches winter with a daily Covid-19 base line that experts say is far too high. For the first time since August, the nation is averaging more than 44,000 new Covid-19 cases daily, according to data from Johns Hopkins University — an average that won’t help as the country enters what health officials say will be a challenging season. More cases will mean more community spread, more hospitalizations and ultimately, more deaths, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said.

At least half of US states, scattered across the Midwest and Northeast, are reporting more new cases than the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins. Only two states — Alabama and Hawaii — report a decline of cases.

More than 211,000 Americans have lost their lives to the virus, according to Johns Hopkins. And another 150,000 could die in the next three months, according to projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

State leaders take new measures

Some US leaders have pushed new measures hoping to curb the spread of the virus. In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear said the state is seeing the third major escalation of cases and his mask mandate would be renewed for another 30 days.

That announcement comes after Beshear said authorities had been instructed to step up mask enforcement.

Wisconsin also issued a new order earlier this week limiting public gatherings. And in New York, the governor announced restrictions for areas where Covid-19 clusters were occurring — including closing schools and limiting crowds at houses of worship.

Clusters

Metformin Linked to Reduced Cognitive Decline, Dementia Risk

Older people taking metformin, the first-line treatment for type 2 diabetes, show significantly lower rates of dementia and cognitive decline compared to those with diabetes not receiving the drug, with the former having dementia rates that are, in fact, similar to people without diabetes, new research shows.

“After controlling for dementia risk factors that might promote cognitive aging, metformin appeared to mitigate the effect of diabetes on cognitive decline in older people,” first author Katherine Samaras, MBBS, PhD, told Medscape Medical News.

The findings are notable considering the increased risk of cognitive decline that is associated with diabetes, said Samaras, leader of the Healthy Ageing Research Theme at the Garvan Institute and an endocrinologist at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, Australia.

“As they age, people living with type 2 diabetes have a staggering 60% risk of developing dementia, a devastating condition that impacts thinking, behavior, the ability to perform everyday tasks, and the ability to maintain independence,” she said in a press release issued by her institute.

And the results are particularly remarkable in that “few prior studies have controlled for multiple dementia risk factors, including the dementia susceptibility gene APOE4,” Samaras emphasized. 

As the front-line drug treatment for type 2 diabetes, metformin has been extensively studied and, with some other research also showing cognitive benefits, “these results are not surprising,” Mark E. Molitch, MD, told Medscape Medical News.

Nevertheless, “this reinforces the idea that metformin should be the first drug used to treat diabetes, and it should be continued if other drugs are added for blood glucose control,” said Molitch, of the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism & Molecular Medicine, at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois.

Significant Differences in Global Cognition, Executive Function 

In the observational, prospective study, published online in Diabetes Care, Samaras and colleagues identified 1037 community-dwelling people without dementia between the ages of 70 and 90 who were enrolled in the Sydney Memory and Ageing Study in Australia.

Among the participants, 123 (12%) had type 2 diabetes, including 67 who were treated with metformin; 34 as a single medication and 33 in combination with other medications, most commonly sulfonylureas (70%).

Of the 56 patients with diabetes who did not receive metformin, 34 were treated with diet alone, while the remainder were treated with other glucose-lowering medications.

There were no significant baseline differences between the groups in cognitive performance at baseline, after a multivariate adjustment. Their mean age was about 79.

All participants received neuropsychological testing for cognitive function every 2 years, including memory, executive function, attention, speed, and language tests.

In terms of cognitive decline over the 6 years, those treated with metformin had a significantly lower decline in global cognition compared to those with diabetes not taking metformin (P = .032), and the rate of decline of metformin-treated participants was not different compared to those without diabetes.

There was also a slower decline in executive function in those treated versus not treated with metformin (P =

New cases are on the decline in only three states

Only three US states are reporting a decline in new Covid-19 cases compared to last week.



Healthcare workers collect a test sample from a motorist at a drive-through coronavirus (Covid-19) testing center at M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism on September 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)


© Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images
Healthcare workers collect a test sample from a motorist at a drive-through coronavirus (Covid-19) testing center at M.T.O. Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism on September 29, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP via Getty Images)

As of Saturday night, new cases were down in Texas, Missouri and South Carolina, while 21 states reported a rise in cases and a little more than half held steady compared with the week before.

The mixed results come as the President joined the more than 7.3 million people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the US, a sobering reminder of the virus’ reach as health experts urge continued vigilance during the fall and winter months.

The 21 states reporting a rise in new cases are Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

Wisconsin reported a record number of 2,892 new daily cases on Saturday, according to data from the state’s department of health services. The previous record was set earlier in the week. The state’s governor urged residents to “get back to the basics” of fighting the virus.

“The surges we’re seeing across our state are not an indication that masks don’t work. This underscores what we’ve said all along which is that masks only work if everyone wears them,” Gov. Tony Evers said.

A comprehensive approach

Though still below the summer peak of about 67,000 in July, the seven-day average of new daily cases in the US is about 42,400. The average is more than 20% higher than it was on September 12 and, according to health officials, is far too high if the country wants to avoid a spike when the public moves indoors with the coming colder weather.

As the New York City Health Department tracks four “concerning clusters” in southern Brooklyn, Williamsburg, Central Queens and Far Rockaway, the state of New York announced that it conducted a record high of more than 130,000 coronavirus tests Friday.

In total, New York has administered 11 million total coronavirus diagnostic tests, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

But to get on top of the numbers, the US needs a more “comprehensive approach,” Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday.

“Testing does not replace safety measures including consistent mask use, physical distancing, and hand washing,” said Frieden.

Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear responded to the state’s record high of 1,275 cases in one day with a request that everyone wear masks and a reminder that “we have to do better.”

“We’ve got to get back to enforcing these rules because 1,275 cases are going to result in a lot of death, too,” Beshear said in a video statement. He said his office would provide details on Monday on how to

Slow Lung Decline Typical in Systemic Sclerosis

The interstitial lung disease that develops in a subset of patients with systemic sclerosis tends to be heterogeneous, with the majority of patients experiencing a slow pattern of decline in lung function, analysis of outcomes in the European Scleroderma Trials and Research (EUSTAR) database found.

Among patients with available lung function data for 12 months of follow-up, 12% had significant progression of decline in forced vital capacity (FVC), meaning a decline of more than 10%; 15% had moderate progression (decline of 5% to 10%); 48% were stable (decline or improvement of less than 5%); and 25% showed improvement (increase of 5% or more), noted Oliver Distler, MD, of University Hospital Zurich in Switzerland, and colleagues.

And over 5 years of follow-up, 58% of patients showed a slow pattern of decline, with more 12-month periods of stability or improvement than of decline, the researchers reported in their study online in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

The proportion of patients with systemic sclerosis who develop interstitial lung disease and the pattern of disease progression have not been fully elucidated, and risk factors to predict who may be at high risk for progression and irreversible organ damage are uncertain. The availability of an approved treatment that can reduce the decline in lung function in systemic sclerosis (nintedanib, Ofev) highlights the unmet need of initiating treatment early, before lung fibrosis and damage has occurred.

To explore these concerns, Distler and colleagues assessed the prevalence, disease course, and risk factors among patients enrolled in EUSTAR since 2010.

Of the 6,004 patients with systemic sclerosis included in the database, 2,259 had imaging evidence of interstitial lung disease and 826 had lung function data for at least 12 months and were included in the analysis.

In a multivariate analysis, baseline factors that were associated with significant progression in lung disease at 12 months were:

  • FVC, OR 1.02 (95% CI 1.01-1.03, P<0.001)
  • Symptoms of reflux or dysphagia, OR 1.97 (95% CI 1.14-3.40, P=0.016)
  • Modified Rodnan skin score, OR 1.06 (95% CI 1-1.12, P=0.036)

Among the 535 patients who had at least three FVC measurements over 5 years of follow-up, 9% had major declines of more than 20% in FVC; 14% had significant declines of 10-20%; 14% had moderate declines of 5-10%; 39% were stable, with changes of less than 5%; and 24% showed improvements.

During each 12-month period of the 5 years of follow-up, significant progression of interstitial lung disease was observed in 13-18%, and moderate progression in 9-10%. “These progressive periods rarely appeared in consecutive 12-month periods, and progressive periods were mostly followed by stable periods,” the researchers noted.

Whereas 58% of patients showed a slow pattern of decline in FVC, a steadily progressive pattern, with more periods of decline than stability or improvement, was observed in 34% of patients, and in 8% a rapidly progressive course was seen, meaning consecutive periods of decline without intervening periods of stability or improvement.

In a multivariate linear mixed-effect regression analysis, baseline factors that were most

The Latest: India Caseload Shows Decline, VP Tests Positive | World News

India recorded 80,472 new confirmed coronaviruses cases in the past 24 hours, showing a decline from a record high two weeks ago.

The Health Ministry raised India’s confirmed total to more than 6.2 million on Wednesday with 2.5 million in September alone. It also reported 1,179 fatalities in the last 24 hours, raising the death toll to 97,497.

India’s Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu tested positive on Tuesday and was advised home quarantine. His office said in a tweet that Naidu, 71, is asymptomatic and in good health. Home Minister Amit Shah had tested positive last month and recovered in a hospital.

India’s recovery rate crossed 83% on Tuesday and the number of cases under treatment were less than 1 million. The daily testing covered more than 1 million people, the ministry said.

Meanwhile, a serological survey showed that the infections were more prevalent in urban centers with high population density. The survey by the state-run Indian Council of Medical Research also found that 6.6% of the population above 10 years old have been exposed to the coronavirus.

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK

— COVID-19 cases rising among US children as schools reopen

— Lives Lost: Father, son doctors started as Cuban refugees

— As virus curbs Nepal’s festivals, devotees fear gods’ anger

— U.S. restaurants are moving warily into fall, hoping their slow recovery persists despite the new challenge of chilly weather and a pandemic that’s expected to claim even more lives. New York opens indoor dining on Wednesday, restricting capacity to 25%.

— The Tennessee Titans suspended in-person activities through Friday after the NFL says three Titans players and five personnel tested positive for the coronavirus.

— Chancellor Angela Merkel and the governors of Germany’s 16 states have agreed on plans meant to keep the country’s coronavirus infection figures from accelerating to the levels being seen in other European countries, while keeping schools and businesses open if possible.

Follow AP’s pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says the COVID-19 pandemic has taken “an unprecedent toll” especially on the economies of many developing countries and the world has not responded with “the massive and urgent support those countries and communities need.”

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that in the United States, Canada, Europe and most of the developed world, governments have adopted packages valued in double-digits of GDP to help tackle the coronavirus crisis and its impact.

“The problem is to mobilize the resources to allow the developing countries to be able to do the same,” he told a joint press conference Tuesday with Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who have been jointly spearheading high-level meetings to try to raise the resources.

Guterres urged the international community to increase resources to the International Monetary Fund, including through a new allocation of special drawing rights and a voluntary reallocation of existing special drawing rights. He said many countries