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Utah officials announce new pandemic strategy, mask mandates

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah is implementing a new strategy to fight the coronavirus pandemic as the number of confirmed cases and hospitalizations continued to surge, state officials announced Tuesday.

The state will move away from its color-coded health system and instead place counties under restrictions based on their COVID-19 transmission rates, said Gov. Gary Herbert. Each county will be listed as high, moderate or low level transmission areas.

Six counties — Salt Lake, Utah, Cache, Garfield, Juab and Wasatch — have been designated as high transmission areas. Masks will be required in all indoor settings in these counties, and social gatherings must be limited to 10 people or fewer, said Rich Saunders, acting director of the Utah Department of Health.

In moderate transmission areas, gatherings will be limited to 25 or fewer unless masks are worn, said Saunders. Gatherings will be limited to 50 or fewer in low transmission areas if people don’t wear masks.

As a two-week “circuit breaker,” masks must be worn in all moderate transmission counties until Oct. 29, said Saunders.

Utah has been in the midst of a record-setting surge in reported coronavirus cases over the past month. The state ranks fifth in the country for newly confirmed infections per capita, according to data from Johns Hopkins. Utah’s health department reported a seven-day average of 1,182 new positive test per day on Tuesday, just below Saturday’s record of 1,189.

“We are having one of the worst outbreaks in the country, and this is unacceptable,” Herbert said.

There have been over 87,000 reported virus cases in Utah and 522 people have died, according to state data. The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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Wear Mask In Maplewood Village, Especially Teens

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — Maplewood Mayor Frank McGehee and Health Officer Candice Davenport said in a letter Monday night that mask-wearing is now mandatory in the Maplewood Village area, and he also encouraged young people not to throw crowded house parties.

“Recently our Board of Health issued an emergency resolution to mandate mask wearing at all times in Maplewood Village,” the pair wrote. “…Because there has been an inconsistency in face covering usage in the Village, this is a proactive effort by our township to prevent more illness. Mandatory face covering in high density, high pedestrian traffic business areas boosts public confidence to shop and frequent local businesses and reinforces mask wearing compliance. It also helps our small businesses stay in business.”

The pair sent out this note to the community on Monday night:


The State of COVID in Maplewood — A note from Health Officer, Candice Davenport and Mayor McGehee

As we continue to adjust to our new normal it is important to note that our FIRST PRIORITY continues to be the health and safety of our residents by reducing any possibilities of community spread and keeping our COVID cases low.

Recently our Board of Health issued an emergency resolution to mandate mask wearing at all times in Maplewood Village. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), masks/face coverings help to control the spread of disease by reducing the exposure to infected respiratory droplets. Because there has been an inconsistency in face covering usage in the Village, this is a proactive effort by our township to prevent more illness.

Mandatory face covering in high density, high pedestrian traffic business areas boosts public confidence to shop and frequent local businesses and reinforces mask wearing compliance. It also helps our small businesses stay in business.

Signage placed prominently around the Village will serve as a reminder that face coverings in public spaces are required during this public health emergency as per the Office of the Governor.

Here are the facts:

  • While our cases may be low, they are increasing in other areas all across the state.

  • NJ has been added to Massachusetts’ Higher Risk States List, and now if you travel to MA you are required to fill out a travel form and quarantine.

  • Last Thursday, Governor Murphy reported that our state had 1,301 new positive cases in one day – Thursday’s number was the most announced in one day since late May.

  • The Essex County 7 day average positive new case count has more than doubled from 24 to 56 in the last 30 days.

  • 1,091 people have died in Essex county and 27 people have died in Maplewood.

  • State COVID hospitalizations have been increasing every day – hitting a mark of 666 late last week – the highest mark since Aug. 5th.

  • Maplewood has had 378 confirmed cases to date and while we saw 17 new cases in August and 16 in September, just 11 days into October, we have 9 new active cases

You should smile behind your mask. Here’s why.

The short answer: Yes, because it can affect your emotions as well as theirs. Here are the reasons you should continue smiling behind your mask.

Social contact is important for humans (including introverts)

Bea de Gelder, professor of cognitive neuroscience at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, says that, as social creatures, humans weren’t designed to obscure our facial expressions with cloth coverings. “Social contact,” she says, “is as essential to survival as food and drink.” It’s more than the fact that we rely on others to meet our basic needs in both the early and late stages of life, she says. Research shows that social contact improves physical and mental health, increases immunity and reduces stress.

This sense of connection supports our well-being, whether we realize it or not. Michelle “Lani” Shiota, associate professor of psychology at Arizona State University, explains: “When we’re smiling and engaging with other people, it’s the engagement with other people that makes us feel better,” adding, “it turns out that that’s even the case if you’re introverted.” She was referring to the work of psychology researcher Luke Smillie, including a 2019 Journal of Experimental Psychology study and a 2017 Emotion study, which found that people — including introverts — tended to experience better moods when acting like extroverts.

Facial expressions are key to social contact

According to Alex Sel, psychology lecturer at the University of Essex, the face is one of, if not the most “important places in the body to look at for social information.”

Shiota says smiling can convey much more than happiness or pleasure. She cites a 2018 PLOS One study that found that living in a geographical area with a high level of ancestral diversity and a history of cultural heterogeneity was a predictor of smiling. According to Shiota, this data suggests we smile to signal that we’re “safe.” Smiles, she says, are “this big kind of obvious way that we say, ‘Not a threat!’ ”

Research also shows that when you smile, you tend to view others’ facial expressions as more positive. Sel performed a study in which subjects were asked to adopt a smile or a neutral expression while rating the happiness level of people in pictures as electrodes measured their brain activity. Her team found that, based on activity in the visual cortex, people were more likely to perceive neutral faces as positive when they themselves were smiling.

Sel says it’s reasonable to extrapolate that if you stop smiling beneath your mask, you might “perceive other people as less cheerful or less happy.”

But don’t fake it till you make it

Although smiling conveys important social cues, it may not affect our emotional state as strongly as the psychology community was led to believe by a widely cited 1988 study.

The two experiments were designed to test the facial feedback theory, which hypothesizes that the act of smiling, regardless of the feeling underneath it, influences our sense of well-being. Subjects were instructed to view cartoons while either holding

COVID-19 cases fell 75% in Ariz. after mask mandate, CDC report says


In the scramble to protect against the coronavirus, counterfeit masks and other supplies flooded the market. Fake medical gear was just one of the problems uncovered in a joint Associated Press/Frontline/Global Reporting Centre investigation. (Oct. 6)

AP Domestic

PHOENIX — COVID-19 cases in Arizona spiked 151% after a statewide stay-at-home order expired and dropped 75% following local mask mandates, a new report says.

The report, published this week by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was authored by officials with the Arizona Department of Health Services, including director Dr. Cara Christ.

A stay-at-home order in Arizona expired May 15 and two weeks later — between June 1 and June 15 — the daily average number of COVID-19 cases jumped by 151%, the report says. The incubation period for a person exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus to develop COVID-19 is approximately two days to two weeks.

The spike in cases ended up overwhelming the state’s health care system with a surge of extremely ill COVID-19 patients needing care.

On June 6, as COVID-19 hospitalizations in Arizona climbed, Christ sent a letter to hospitals in the state urging them to “fully activate” their emergency plans.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Arizona peaked between June 29 and July 2, stabilized between July 3 and July 12, and declined by approximately 75% between July 13 and August 7, the report says.

“Mitigation measures, including mask mandates, that are implemented and enforced statewide appear to have been effective in decreasing the spread of COVID-19 in Arizona,” the report says.

Restriction on local jurisdictions missing from report

What the report doesn’t make clear is that local jurisdictions were prevented by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey from imposing mask requirements until June 17, when the new coronavirus that causes COVID-19 was already aggressively spreading throughout the state. Arizona does not have a statewide mask mandate.

“If they’d been allowed to do so earlier, a number of those jurisdictions, if not all of them, would have had those mandates in place earlier and our peak of infection would have been lower,” said Dr. Bob England, who until June spent a year as interim director of the Pima County Health Department and is a former Maricopa County health director.

Gov. Doug Ducey puts on his mask as he leaves a news conference at The University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in Phoenix on Aug. 31, 2020. (Photo: Patrick Breen/The Republic)

“But that’s all hindsight. What matters now as we head into the winter months and we all anticipate another surge of this infection coming, the locals need to have the continued ability to impose mitigating measures like masks.”

Will Humble, Arizona Public Health Association executive director, wrote in a blog post Thursday that the state’s report was  “wordsmithed” to leave out important information about the mask issue.

Humble wrote that “courageous elected officials in county and local government across the state” had requested authority from Ducey to issue mask requirements and that many of them later

Months Into the Pandemic, 16 States Don’t Mandate Mask Use. Why?

Editor’s note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape’s Coronavirus Resource Center.

Nils Hase, a retiree who lives in Tarpon Springs, Florida, is wearing a mask and loading his Home Depot haul into his car on a recent weekday afternoon. In the store, because Home Depot insists customers and staff across the country wear masks, most faces were covered. But out here in the parking lot, in a state with a serious infection rate but no mask mandate, plenty of those masks hang down around people’s chins.

“It bothers me. They are being defiant,” Hase said. “And most of the people I see that walk in without a mask are just looking for a fight. They are asking you to ‘Just ask me. Just give me a reason to yell at you.’ I just stay away from them and keep on with my own life.”

Six and a half months after President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus emergency, COVID-19 has killed more than 207,000 Americans and infected 7.3 million, now including Trump himself and the first lady.

Scientists are warning of a larger wave of infection this winter. They agree the simplest, easiest way to fight that surge is to get most people to wear masks most of the time.

Yet the political fight over face coverings rages. It plays out on city streets, in suburban grocery stores, in rural sheriff’s offices and at the highest echelons of government — all the way to the presidential debate stage this week in Cleveland. There, most of Trump’s contingent refused to wear required masks, and one of them tested positive soon afterward. Only time will tell if they spread the infection, but their behavior is mirrored across the nation.

Hefty Price in Iowa

In April, Iowa health officials cut an agreement with Iowa University to do modeling on the impact of coronavirus. Among the data are estimates of future death rates and the projection that more than a thousand Iowans could be saved by adopting a universal mask policy.

Later that month, the researchers warned Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds not to ease restrictions aimed at curtailing the virus, saying a spike would result later in the year. They also recommended a strong policy on facial coverings, producing a report that said face shields would dramatically lower the virus’s toll.

Reynolds took none of that advice. She started easing restrictions in late April. She argued it was more important to reopen the state’s economy while encouraging people to be responsible and wear masks than to throw down a mandate she called unenforceable.

“I think the goal is to strongly encourage and recommend that people wear them,” she said in late August. “I believe that people are.”

Yet at that moment, Iowa was proving the university’s predictions true, suffering the highest infection rate in the nation. In late September, the state was one of only seven that remained in the “red zone,” averaging more than 890 new infections a day.

The governor’s

‘It’s a Slaughter’; Trump Halts COVID Relief Talks; Mask Up Between Bites in Calif.

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William Foege, MD, the former CDC director under Presidents Carter and Reagan, suggested in a private letter to the agency’s current leader, Robert Redfield, MD, that he orchestrate his own firing by revealing the CDC’s failings and the meddling from the White House. “It’s a slaughter and not just a political dispute,” he wrote. (USA Today)

As of 8:00 a.m. ET Wednesday, the estimated U.S. COVID-19 toll reached 7,501,869 cases and 210,918 deaths — up 42,767 and 722, respectively, since the same time a day ago.

President Trump ordered his legislative team to halt negotiations with Congress on a coronavirus relief bill until after the election, but later tweeted that a total of $160 billion should be approved for airline relief and for paycheck protection. (The Hill)

Rick Bright, the administration’s vaccine-expert-turned-whistleblower, resigned from his job at NIH — a job he had been demoted to after being removed from his position as the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority. (STAT)

The FDA released its revised guidance for emergency use authorization of COVID-19 vaccines — guidance that would likely guarantee a vaccine wouldn’t be authorized until after Election Day. Stay tuned to MedPage Today for in-depth coverage of this issue.

Efficacy data from one or two COVID-19 vaccine candidates are expected in the next month or two, according to Moncef Slaoui, PhD, the chief advisor to Operation Warp Speed, the Trump administration’s project to speed up vaccine development. (Reuters)

In a small trial of patients with mild cases, the antidepressant fluvoxamine reduced the likelihood of clinical deterioration compared with placebo, the COVID-19 Early Treatment Fund announced.

Wondering how to ask a stranger to put on their mask? Be discreet, experts say. (AP)

And speaking of masks, going out to eat in a restaurant? Don’t forget to wear your mask between bites, say California officials. (CBS News)

Presidential adviser Stephen Miller and three other White House officials tested positive for COVID-19, while the top U.S. general and several senior Pentagon officials are quarantining after being exposed to a Coast Guard admiral who tested positive for the coronavirus. (New York Times, CNN)

Facebook removed a post from President Trump suggesting that influenza is more lethal than COVID-19, saying it broke the site’s rules regarding misinformation. For comparison, COVID-19 in the U.S. has now killed more people than the last five flu seasons combined. (CNN)

State officials are investigating Trump’s fundraiser last week at his Bedminster, N.J. country club to see whether it violated guidelines on large gatherings. (NBC News)

As if a bobblehead and donuts weren’t enough, now NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, MD, has his own action figure. (The Hill)

A Frontline/AP investigation published in The Washington Post details the breakdown in the U.S. supply chain for personal protective equipment to help fight the spread of COVID-19.

In other news:

Will a Face Mask Prevent The Flu And COVID-10? What MDs Say

  • Face masks might help protect against the flu in addition to novel coronavirus.
  • The CDC doesn’t officially recommend face masks for flu prevention, but does point to other “everyday preventative measures.”
  • Doctors reiterate that masks can prevent respiratory droplets from spreading, including for both the flu and COVID-19.

    Sure, people wear face masks these days mostly to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. But now experts say there might be an added benefit of wearing your mask when out in public: It could lower your odds of contracting the flu.

    Like COVID-19, the flu is a virus that’s mainly spread through infected respiratory droplets. “Wearing a mask will likely decrease transmission of the flu as well,” says Richard Watkins, MD, an infectious-disease physician in Akron, Ohio, and a professor of internal medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University.

    Rajeev Fernando, MD, an infectious-disease expert in Southampton, N.Y., expects that the 2020-21 flu season will actually be milder than usual because of coronavirus-prevention methods, including widespread mask wearing. “It’s the same concept as preventing the spread of COVID-19,” he says. “Masks can help prevent respiratory droplets from spreading.”

    That being said, you should still plan on getting a flu shot and practicing other flu prevention methods this year. Here’s what you need to know about protecting yourself from the flu—via face masks and other measures—this year.

    A mask should be just one part of your flu prevention plan this year.

    FWIW: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not currently list wearing a face mask in its main recommendations for preventing the spread of the flu. Instead, the CDC recommends avoiding close contact with people who are sick, covering your coughs and sneezes, washing your hands well with soap and water, avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and cleaning and disinfecting objects that could be contaminated with the viruses that cause the flu.

    However, the CDC does point people to “everyday preventative measures” for stopping the spread of COVID-19 as part of its tips for preventing the spread of the flu. And among those measures is advice to wear a face mask whenever you go out.

    Medical staff wear surgical masks when treating flu patients, Fernando says, and a cloth face mask can likely offer at least some level of protection. And if someone who has the flu wears a mask and the people around them also wear a mask, the odds of the infected person making others sick drops dramatically, Fernando says.

    Yes, you still need to get your flu shot.

    The CDC specifically says that getting vaccinated against the flu this season “is more important than ever” and lists these as important reasons to get your shot:

    • It can reduce your risk of catching the flu, and of being hospitalized or dying from the flu if you do happen to contract it.
    • Getting a flu vaccine can save healthcare resources for the care of people who have COVID-19.

      “At this point, I would recommend as many preventive

      Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine wishes President Trump would wear a mask more

      COLUMBUS – President Donald Trump’s recent COVID-19 diagnosis proves frequent testing isn’t a substitute for wearing a mask, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Tuesday.

      “I wish the president would wear the mask more,” DeWine told reporters. “I wish he’d wear it all the time when he was in public. I said that before he had the coronavirus.”

      Trump revealed early Friday that he tested positive for COVID-19 and then spent three days at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. He returned to the White House Monday, tweeting “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”

      DeWine said Ohioans should not be afraid of the virus, but they should not discount it either.

      “Even the leader of our great country can get the virus,” DeWine said. “It can happen to anyone. No one is immune.” 

      When DeWine met Trump on Air Force One before a Dayton rally last month, the Republican governor and his wife wore masks while the president did not.

      DeWine has encouraged attendees of Trump rallies to wear masks. However, he has not limited attendance or enforced mask requirements there, saying that would violate the First Amendment right to political speech. 

      Even frequent coronavirus testing – like Trump receives and all attendees of the Cleveland debate were subject to – cannot substitute for mask-wearing and social distancing, DeWine said.

      “They have to go together,” DeWine said.

      Bengals allowed 12K fans – but that’s it

      Don’t expect more than 12,000 fans in Paul Brown Stadium anytime soon.

      DeWine’s administration recently allowed the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns to increase the number of fans in the stands from 6,000 to 12,000. But that’s likely it, the governor said.

      DeWine said there’s no magic number, but 12,000 fans seemed to be the right number to practice social distancing and reduce the opportunity for COVID-19 to spread. 

      “We have an obligation to provide a safe environment for people who go in there,” said DeWine, adding that games can last several hours in close proximity to many people under normal circumstances. 

      DeWine hasn’t yet made a decision about whether to change the 10 p.m. last call order on bars. Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley has asked DeWine to lift the order, citing unintended consequences of violence in the city.

      How to avoid unnecessary student quarantines 

      After hearing school administrator concerns about quarantining large numbers of students, Ohio’s leaders hope to deploy rapid testing to find out whether children who came in contact with an infected person get the virus. 

      Right now, students might be quarantined and kept home from school if they are in contact with a student who tests positive for COVID-19 even if they didn’t have prolonged exposure. 

      DeWine hopes to study the current guidance on student quarantine and come up with recommendations.

      However, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released yesterday emphasized that regardless of negative test results, people should self-quarantine for 14 days after exposure.

      Rapid antigen tests have been authorized for use only

      San Diego schools remove Trump letter from food boxes due to mask statements

      Volunteers stand with boxes of produce at a drive-up produce giveaway | AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

      Volunteers stand with boxes of produce at a drive-up produce giveaway | AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

      SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The San Diego Unified School District is removing letters from President Donald Trump that his administration placed inside food boxes as part of a federal coronavirus relief program for families in need.

      Superintendent Cindy Marten, who oversees one of the nation’s largest school districts, told POLITICO on Tuesday that she has directed her food and nutrition services department to remove all letters from food boxes that have not already been distributed “in order to protect local families from being misled on how to protect themselves from becoming infected.”


      The USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box Program redirects meat, dairy and produce to low-income families instead of the restaurants and other food-service businesses that normally receive them. The Trump administration has been criticized for mandating that a letter from Trump taking credit for the program be included in the food boxes weeks before Election Day.

      Critics have accused Trump of politicizing poverty and using the food relief program as a campaign tool.

      The letter, on White House stationary, is signed by Trump and says, “As part of our response to coronavirus, I prioritized sending nutritious food from our farmers to families in need throughout America.”

      Marten specifically took issue with the virus prevention advice in Trump’s letter, which advises people to “consider” wearing masks in public rather than telling them to do so. The letter landed right as Trump and various associates were diagnosed in the past few days with the disease.

      “Science is clear: wearing masks works to prevent the spread of the coronavirus,” Marten said in a statement Tuesday. “Wearing masks is required in California and on every San Diego Unified school campus. It is not optional, as the president wrote in his letter.”

      Marten also cites the letter’s focus on people over 80 years old, pointing out that more than 60,000 school-age children in California have been diagnosed with the virus.

      About 58 percent of San Diego Unified’s more than 122,000 students in the state’s second-largest district qualify for free and reduced price meals. Statewide, nearly 60 percent of California’s 6 million-plus K-12 students qualify.

      San Diego Unified Trustee Sharon Whitehurst-Payne said the letter is especially egregious because it goes to low-income people of color, who have comprised an outsized share of Covid-19 cases in California.

      “The COVID-19 virus has disproportionately impacted communities of color. Not only are we facing higher rates of infection and mortality from the coronavirus, we have also been the hardest hit in terms of unemployment and hunger. To take advantage of that suffering by distributing misleading medical information is appalling,” Whitehurst-Payne said.

      Some schools have received the boxes via local food banks. Several California school districts said they are not participating in the Farmers to Families Food Box Program, including Los Angeles Unified, Fresno Unified and San Francisco Unified. The food box program is separate from the National School Lunch Program that districts rely

      Doctors disturbed after Trump removes his mask upon returning to the White House

      “What White House staffer would still wanna go to work tomorrow???” Eric Feigl-Ding, an epidemiologist and health economist with the Federation of American Scientists, said in a tweet Monday night. “Epidemiologists just wanna vomit.”

      Dozens of medical professionals and commentators echoed Feigl-Ding’s concerns Monday night, slamming the president for posing and then reentering the White House without a mask even though he is still suffering symptoms of covid-19.

      Some medical experts were not just concerned for White House staff, but for the president himself.

      Ilan Schwartz, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta’s division of infectious diseases, said the president appeared to be struggling to breathe in a brief clip that showed him standing outside the White House.

      “This is a textbook example of increased work of breathing,” Schwartz tweeted.

      A White House spokesman responded to Monday’s widespread criticisms, saying the White House is taking “every precaution necessary” to protect the president, his family and staff.

      “Physical access to the President will be significantly limited and appropriate PPE will be worn when near him,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an email. “President Trump will continue to receive around-the-clock medical care and monitoring from his Physician and a team of dedicated physicians and nurses in the White House Medical Unit who function out of a state-of-the-art clinic, which includes many of the things a person would see in an urgent care clinic and much more, to ensure the Commander-in-Chief makes a full recovery and can continue to discharge his duties.”

      The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people diagnosed with covid-19 wait at least 10 days after the onset of symptoms and go at least 24 hours without a fever before having contact with other people. Asymptomatic carriers who test positive for the virus but do not experience symptoms should wait 10 days after their positive test, the CDC says. And those who suffer a severe case of covid-19 may need to isolate longer, up to 20 days after getting sick.

      Trump’s maskless moment at the White House and a short drive he took Sunday with several Secret Service agents to greet supporters outside of the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center appear to violate those recommendations.

      CNN’s chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta was also among the doctors disturbed by the president’s actions on Monday.

      “There is stuff that is pretty reckless, but at some point it’s just becoming absurd,” Gupta said, according to a tweet shared by one of his colleagues at CNN. “A person with known contagious deadly disease — without a mask on — is walking into the residence. Other people are around him.”

      The heightened risk of coronavirus for people working within the White House has had many on high-alert as the virus spread quickly among individuals who had close contact with Trump last week. At least 10 people who attended a ceremony in the Rose Garden last week to mark the Supreme Court nomination of Amy Coney Barrett have since tested