DUBLIN — Fifteen percent of all COVID-19-related deaths worldwide “could be attributed to long-term exposure to air pollution,” according to a German-led team of researchers.

Published in the journal Cardiovascular Research, the estimate is based on analysis of pollution and pandemic data by the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry, Harvard University’s public health school and The Cyprus Institute’s Climate and Atmosphere Research Center.

The authors said that deaths linked to both COVID-19 and air pollution represent “potentially avoidable, excess mortality.”

Exposure to air pollution likely aggravates “co-morbidities that could lead to fatal health outcomes of the virus infection.”

“If you already have heart disease, then air pollution and coronavirus infection will cause trouble that can lead to heart attacks, heart failure and stroke,” said co-author Thomas Muenzel of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

More than a quarter of coronavirus-related deaths in Asia could be linked to air pollution, the researchers estimate, compared with Europe’s 19% and North America’s 17%.

Eli Lilly antibody drug fails in a COVID-19 study, but other testing goes on

U.S. government officials are putting an early end to a study testing an Eli Lilly antibody drug for people hospitalized with COVID-19 because it doesn’t seem to be helping them.

Independent monitors had paused enrollment in the study two weeks ago because of a possible safety issue. But on Monday, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which sponsors the study, said a closer look did not verify a safety problem but found a low chance that the drug would prove helpful for hospitalized patients.

It is a setback for one of the most promising treatment approaches for COVID-19. President Trump received a similar experimental, two-antibody drug from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. on an emergency basis when he was sickened with the coronavirus earlier this month.

In a statement Lilly notes that the government is continuing a separate study testing the antibody drug in mild to moderately ill patients, to try to prevent hospitalization and severe illness. The company also is continuing its own studies testing the drug, which is being developed with the Canadian company AbCellera.

Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help it be eliminated. The experimental drugs are concentrated versions of one or two specific antibodies that worked best against the coronavirus in lab and animal tests.

Lilly and Regeneron have asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to grant emergency use authorization for their drugs for COVID-19 while late-stage studies continue. Lilly says its request is based on other results suggesting the drug helps patients who are not hospitalized, and that it will continue to seek the FDA’s permission for emergency use.

Delta, United and Alaska airlines have banned more than 900 passengers for not wearing masks

With airlines imposing mandatory mask requirements on flights amid the coronavirus pandemic, many unhappy passengers have made headlines for being removed from flights for refusing to wear a mask. And with some carriers keeping no-fly lists of passengers who violated the policy, it is now clear that more than 900 passengers have been banned from airlines because of their refusal to put on a mask.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in a memo to employees that 460 people are now banned from the airline for refusing to wear a mask.

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Travelers check in at a United Airlines kiosk with help from a United employee in the main terminal of Denver International Airport this month in Denver. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has strengthened its guidance on wearing masks on all mass and public transportation. David Zalubowski/Associated Press

And Delta isn’t the only one: United and Alaska Airlines said via email on Monday that the carriers have banned “roughly 300” and 146 passengers, respectively. That means at least 906 travelers have now been banned from U.S. airlines for not wearing a mask.

Alaska Airlines said the banned passengers “won’t be able to fly with us as long as our mask policy remains in effect.” JetBlue did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the number of passengers it has banned.

American and Southwest airlines said they do not release tallies of passengers they discipline for not wearing face coverings.

“We expect our customers to comply with our policies when they choose to travel with us,” American Airlines spokesperson Curtis Blessing said. “We take action when that is not the case, but the vast majority of our customers have supported and welcomed our continuing efforts to strengthen our face covering policy based on the CDC’s guidance … we may deny future travel for customers who refuse to wear a face covering for the duration of this requirement.”

Southwest spokesperson Brian Parris said via email that the airline “does not track face covering compliance issues for public release. Southwest’s approach is to prevent individuals who choose not to wear a face covering or mask from boarding our aircraft by informing them of our mandatory face covering policy prior to travel.”

Coronavirus deaths are rising again in the U.S., as feared

BOISE, Idaho — Deaths per day from the coronavirus in the U.S. are on the rise again, just as health experts had feared, and cases are climbing in nearly every state, despite assurances from President Donald Trump over the weekend that “we’re rounding the turn, we’re doing great.”

With Election Day just over a week away, average deaths per day across the country are up 10% over the past two weeks, from 721 to nearly 794 as of Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Confirmed infections per day are rising in 47 states, and deaths are up in 34.

Health experts had warned that it was only a matter of time before deaths turned upward, given the record-breaking surge in cases engulfing the country. Deaths are a lagging indicator — that is, it generally takes a few weeks for people to sicken and die from the coronavirus.

Michael Osterholm, a University of Minnesota expert on infectious diseases who warned over the summer of a fall surge, said what’s happening now is a confluence of three factors: “pandemic fatigue” among people who are weary of hunkering down and are venturing out more; “pandemic anger” among those are don’t believe the scourge is a real threat; and cold weather, which is forcing more Americans indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

“When you put those three together, we shouldn’t be surprised what we’re seeing,” Osterholm said.

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Sasha Jacquez tests The University of Texas at El Paso student Ariona Gill for coronavirus Friday, Oct. 16, at the UTEP Fox Fine Arts Center in El Paso. Deaths per day from the coronavirus in the U.S. are on the rise again, just as health experts had feared, and cases are climbing in nearly every single state. In El Paso, authorities instructed people to stay home for two weeks and imposed a 10-p.m.-to-5-a.m. curfew because of a surge that has overwhelmed hospitals. Mark Lambie/The El Paso Times via AP

The virus is blamed for more than 8.6 million confirmed infections and over 225,000 deaths in the U.S., the highest such totals anywhere in the world.

Deaths are still well below the U.S. peak of over 2,200 per day in late April. But experts are warning of a grim fall and winter, with a widely cited model from the University of Washington projecting about 386,000 dead by Feb. 1. A vaccine is unlikely to become widely available until mid-2021.

The seven-day rolling average for daily new cases hit a record high on Sunday of 68,767, according to Johns Hopkins, eclipsing the previous mark of 67,293, set in mid-July. The U.S. recorded more than 80,000 new cases on both Friday and Saturday — the highest marks ever — though testing has expanded dramatically over the course of the outbreak, making direct comparisons problematic.

The true number of infections is thought to be far higher because many Americans have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected without feeling sick.

Read the full story here.

 

Coronavirus surges into the nation’s last untouched areas

Few places would seem better able to ride out an infectious-disease pandemic than Petroleum County, Mont., whose 500 people spread over 1,656 square miles, much of it public lands and cattle ranches. For most of this year, it did just that, becoming the last county in the state and one of the final few in the nation to have logged no cases of the novel coronavirus.

Then came October. Three residents tested positive, knocking Petroleum off zero-case lists, forcing the county’s lone school to close for a week and proving, as Sheriff Bill Cassell put it, that “eventually we were going to get it,” and that the virus “ain’t gone yet.”

That is a lesson people in many other wide-open places have been learning as the coronavirus surges anew. Months after it raced in successive waves along the nation’s coasts and through the Sun Belt, it is reaching deep into its final frontier – the nation’s most sparsely populated states and counties, where distance from others has long been part of the appeal and this year had appeared to be a buffer against a deadly communicable disease.

In Montana, which boasts just seven people per square mile, active cases have more than doubled since the start of the month, and officials are warning of crisis-level hospitalization rates and strains on rural health care. In Wyoming, which ranks 49th in population density, the National Guard has been deployed to help with contact tracing. Those two states, along with the low-density states of Idaho, North Dakota and South Dakota, now have some of the nation’s highest per capita caseloads. Even Alaska, the least-crowded state, is logging unprecedented increases, including in rural villages.

A snowstorm approaches Anaconda, Mont., on Oct. 21. It sits in Deer Lodge County, where several guests who attended a wedding later fell ill with COVID-19. photo for The Washington Post by Tony Bynum.

“People here make the joke that we’ve been socially isolating since before the state was founded,” said Christine M. Porter, an associate professor of public health at the University of Wyoming. “In terms of the reason this happened now and it didn’t happen before, it was essentially luck-slash-geography. It’s a disease that spreads exponentially once it’s taken root, unless you take severe measures to stop it.”

The bulk of these states’ cases are clustered in their relatively small cities, but infections are fanning out. In Montana, about 55% of cases were in population centers by mid-month, down from nearly 80% over the summer. And although the caseloads may look low, they loom large for local public health officials and facilities.

Read the full story here.

Fox News anchors are quarantining after coronavirus exposure on debate flight

Eight days out from a presidential election, the president of Fox News and key members of the network’s election team have been told to quarantine after they were exposed to someone who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Until they test negative for the virus three times in a row, the anchors will be broadcasting their shows from home, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private health matters.

The infected person was on a flight chartered to transport Fox News employees returning to New York from the Thursday night presidential debate in Nashville. The person tested negative before departing Nashville and positive after returning.

Fox News anchor Bret Baier at the White House in April. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford

Those on the flight included Jay Wallace, the network’s president; Bret Baier, the chief political anchor; Martha MacCallum, anchor of Fox’s nightly news show “The Story”; as well as two other members of the network’s election team, Juan Williams and Dana Perino, who are co-hosts of “The Five.”

Everyone aboard the flight tested negative in rapid tests conducted by both Fox News and the Commission on Presidential Debates prior to the debate. Upon the return to New York, those on the flight were again tested immediately.

Fox News has been regularly testing its employees as some have returned to working on set. A Fox News spokesperson declined to comment, citing the privacy concerns of its employees. The news of the positive test result and subsequent orders to quarantine were first reported by the New York Times.

Some of the anchors have received the results of their first PCR tests, which were negative. It is unclear if there was more than one person who initially tested positive on the flight. But everyone aboard the flight is being tested repeatedly to determine if they need to continue quarantining.

The network engaged in contact tracing immediately after it learned of the positive test result Sunday.

Behind the scenes, Fox News has shown dedication to precautionary measures during the pandemic, including masks, social distancing and regular testing protocols.

But that attitude has not always been reflected on the air. In February and March, in the early days of the pandemic, key prime-time hosts such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham frequently attributed concerns over the virus as a mere excuse for Democrats and media to attack President Donald Trump.

Spike in virus cases overwhelms Texas hospitals

EL PASO, Texas — Residents in the Texas border city of El Paso have been urged to stay home for two weeks as a spike in coronavirus cases overwhelms hospitals.

The uptick in virus cases has also prompted the state to dedicate part of the city’s civic center as a makeshift heath care center for the ill. On Sunday night, El Paso County’s top elected official issued a stay-at-home order that imposes a daily curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Violators could be fined $500 under the order.

Earlier Sunday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said 50 hospital beds will be set up in the city’s convention center and another 50 beds could be added if needed. The state has already sent over 900 medical personnel to El Paso, some of whom will be staffing the convention center site.

El Paso County health officials reported 772 new coronavirus cases Sunday, a day after a record 1,216 new infections were reported.

Prague cancels traditional Christmas markets

PRAGUE — Prague has announced it is canceling its major traditional Christmas markets due to a record surge in coronavirus infections.

City Hall said Monday that it is necessary step “to curb the further uncontrolled spread of the pandemic.”

The decision applies to the most famed market at the picturesque Old Town Square that is considered by media one of the best in Europe, and also for the ones at Wenceslas and Republic squares.

Prague says it is still planning to erect a traditional Christmas tree at the Old Town market, and if the epidemic makes it possible, also allow few small stalls.

A number of cities across Europe have announced the same move while some others, such as Vienna, will go ahead as usual.

The Czech Republic had 258,097 confirmed cases, with about one third of the number registered in the last seven days. So far, 2,201 people have died, 1,528 of them in October.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases has risen over the past two weeks from about 46 new cases per 100,000 people on Oct. 11 to 112 new cases per 100,000 people on Sunday.

2nd German district goes into lockdown

BERLIN — A second German district is to go into a de-facto lockdown as new coronavirus infections surge in the country and across Europe.

News agency dpa reported that local authorities in Bavaria’s Rottal-Inn county, on the border with Austria, said Monday that the restrictions will begin at midnight. Rottal-Inn follows Berchtesgaden, another Bavarian county in Germany’s southeastern corner, which introduced similar restrictions last week.

Schools and kindergartens will be closed and events canceled, and people told not to leave their homes without good reason.

Rottal-Inn has recorded well over 200 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants over the past seven days. In Germany, districts are required to take measures once new infections top the 50 mark, and many have done so in recent weeks — imposing measures such as early bar closures and requirements to wear masks outdoors in some public places.

Germany’s new infections have been increasing by sometimes record numbers over the past two weeks, though they are still considerably short of the numbers seen in many other European countries.

UK moves to tighten more restrictions

LONDON — British authorities are likely to tighten restrictions on more areas of the country this week, amid mixed signs about whether recent measures have stemmed a steep rise in coronavirus infections.

Government scientific advisers say there are some signs the increase has begun to level off since a three-tier virus risk system of restrictions came into effect, but that it’s too soon to be certain.

A large chunk of northern England, including the major cities of Liverpool, Manchester and Sheffield, has been placed in the top tier of “very high” risk, with pubs closed and people from different households barred from mixing.

The regional disparities are causing friction between local politicians in the north and Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative government, which has been accused of not doing enough to support people and businesses hit by the local lockdowns.

The government is talking to local leaders in other areas, including the city of Warrington in northwest England and the central England county of Nottinghamshire, about moving into the highest tier.

Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have established their own public health rules, with Wales introducing the strictest measure: a 17-day lockdown for all its 3 million people.

Britain has Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with almost 45,000 confirmed deaths.

Virus patients occupy over half of France’s ICUs

PARIS — Virus patients now occupy more than half of France’s intensive care units, and some doctors are urging tougher restrictions after another record jump in confirmed infections.

Dr. Jean-Francois Delfraissy, head of the government’s virus advisory body, expressed surprise Monday at the “brutality” of the rise, after more than 52,000 new cases were reported Sunday.

Speaking on RTL radio, he floated the idea of local lockdowns or extending France’s 9p.m. to 6 a.m. curfews, which currently cover about half of the country and more than two-thirds of its people.

The number of people hospitalized in France with the virus has climbed sharply in recent weeks, putting renewed pressure on ICUs. COVID patients now fill more than two-thirds of the ICUs in the Paris region.

Dr. Eric Caumes, head of the infectious and tropical diseases department at Paris’ Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital, told broadcaster Franceinfo on Monday that “we have lost control of the epidemic, though it doesn’t date from yesterday.”

France has been among countries hardest-hit by the pandemic, reporting 34,761 virus-related deaths. It is currently registering more than 340 positive cases per 100,000 people nationwide each week.

Delfraissy warns this latest wave of the virus could be “stronger than the first” and is spreading all around Europe.

Melbourne ends lockdown after 1st day without a new case

MELBOURNE, Australia — Australia’s former coronavirus hot spot Melbourne will largely emerge from lockdown after the city on Monday recorded its first day without a new COVID-19 case in more than four months.

Victoria state Premier Daniel Andrews said from 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday all shops, restaurants, cafes and bars will be allowed to open and outdoors contact sports can resume.

From 11:59 p.m. on Nov. 8, Melbourne residents will no longer be restricted to traveling within 25 kilometers (16 miles) of their homes.

Melbourne, the nation’s second-largest city, has been under strict lockdown measures since early July and the state government has been accused of inflicting unnecessary economic damage by not relaxing restrictions sooner.

The last time Victoria recorded a 24-hour period without a single case was June 9 before a second wave of infections began. A week has passed since Victoria lost a life to COVID-19. The death of a man aged in his 90s on Oct. 19 brought the state’s death toll to 817. Only 88 people have died with COVID-19 elsewhere in Australia.

Victoria’s daily infection tally peaked at 725 in early August.

India virus cases decline, but air pollution, festivals spur fears of new infections

NEW DELHI — India’s coronavirus cases are continuing to decline but rising air pollution and Hindu festivals are raising fears of new infections.

The Health Ministry said 45,148 new cases have taken India’s tally to 7.9 million on Monday. It also reported 480 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 119,014.

The Indian capital is seeing an upsurge with nearly 4,000 new cases, the highest in the past five weeks. Experts expressed concern over severe air pollution caused by farm fires, exhaust from diesel generators, dust from construction sites and burning of garbage.

“When you have high levels of air pollution you will see an increase of severe COVID-19 infections,” said Dr. Randeep Guleria, a government health expert.

The southern coastal state of Kerala is the second-worst state for active cases in the country. India’s Health Minister Harsh Vardhan blamed “gross negligence” during the 10-day Onam festival in late August.


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