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The virus has spread to where restaurants have reopened or masking warrants were absent

Even as officials in Texas and Mississippi lifted mask warrants statewide, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday offered new evidence of the importance of headgear, reporting that the warrants mask wear were linked to fewer coronavirus and Covid infections – 19 deaths in counties across the United States.

Federal researchers also found that counties opening restaurants for on-site dining – indoors or out – saw an increase in daily infections about six weeks later, and an increase in Covid death rates. -19 about two months later.

The study does not prove cause and effect, but the results are consistent with other research showing that masks prevent infection and that indoor spaces promote the spread of the virus through aerosols, tiny respiratory particles that persist in the air.

“You have a decrease in cases and deaths when you wear masks, and you have an increase in cases and deaths when you dine out in person,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said on Friday. “And so we would be arguing for policies, certainly while we’re at this plateau of high caseloads, that would listen to this science of public health.”

On Friday night, the National Restaurant Association, which represents one million restaurants and food outlets, criticized the CDC’s study as “an ill-informed attack on the industry hardest hit by the pandemic.” He pointed out that the researchers had not controlled for factors other than dining out – such as business closures and other policies – that could have contributed to coronavirus infections and deaths.

“If a positive correlation between ice cream sales and shark attacks is found, it would not mean that ice cream causes shark attacks,” the association said in a statement.

The group also criticized federal researchers for failing to measure adherence to safe operating protocols, and noted that the research did not distinguish between indoor and outdoor dining, or whether restaurants had adhered to distancing recommendations or had adequate ventilation.

“It is irresponsible to pin the spread of Covid-19 on a single industry,” the association said.

The findings come as city and state officials across the country grapple with increasing pressure to reopen schools and businesses as the rate of new cases and deaths declines. Authorities recently authorized dining in New York. On Thursday, the Connecticut governor said the state would end capacity limits later this month at restaurants, gyms and offices. Masks are always required in both locales.

“The study is not surprising,” said Joseph Allen, associate professor at the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard and director of the university’s Healthy Buildings program. “What’s surprising is that we are seeing some states ignore all the evidence and open up quickly, remove the mask warrants and open a full dining hall.”

Other researchers said the new study confirmed the idea that viral transmission often takes place through the air, that physical distance may not be enough to stop the spread in some settings, and that masks at least block in part airborne particles.

President Biden’s health advisers have said in recent days that now is not the time to relax. As of Thursday, the seven-day average of new cases was still 62,924 per day, according to a database maintained by the New York Times.

Although that figure is down 14% from two weeks earlier, new cases remain close to the peaks reported last summer. Although deaths have started to decline, in part due to vaccination campaigns in nursing homes, it remains common for 2,000 deaths to be reported in a single day.

Mr Biden on Wednesday criticized decisions by the governors of Texas and Mississippi to lift statewide mask mandates and reopen businesses without restrictions, calling the plans a “big mistake” reflecting “Neanderthal thinking. “.

The president, who asked Americans to wear masks during his first 100 days in office, said it was essential for officials to follow the advice of doctors and public health officials as the vaccination campaign against the coronavirus is gaining momentum. As of Thursday, around 54 million people had received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

“It may seem tempting, in the face of all of this progress, to try to get back to normal as if the virus is in the rearview mirror,” White House pandemic adviser Andy Slavitt said on Friday. “It’s not.”

CDC researchers looked at associations between mask warrants, dining at indoor or outdoor restaurants, and coronavirus infections and deaths last year between March 1 and December 31. and the dead.

Infections and deaths declined after counties mandated mask use, the agency said. Daily infections increased about six weeks after counties allowed restaurants to open for dining there, and death rates followed two months later.

The authors of the report concluded that mask warrants were linked to statistically significant decreases in coronavirus cases and death rates within 20 days of implementation. Dining in restaurants, indoors or out, was associated with increased case and death rates from 41 to 80 days after reopening.

“State mask warrants and a ban on on-site eating in restaurants help limit potential exposure to SARS-CoV-2, reducing community transmission of Covid-19,” the authors wrote.

Shortly after the report was released, the CDC amended it, urging establishments that resume serving diners to follow agency guidelines to reduce transmission in restaurants.

“The message is that if restaurants are to open their doors for on-site dining, it’s important to follow CDC guidelines for doing so safely and efficiently,” said Gery P. Guy, team scientist. Covid intervention from the CDC and corresponding study author. .

This includes “everything from staff staying at home when they show signs of Covid or have tested positive or have been in contact with someone who has Covid, and requiring masks among employees as well as customers who don’t actively eat or drink, ”Dr. Guy mentioned.

Other steps include adequate ventilation, options for eating outside, spacing customers six feet apart, encouraging frequent hand washing, and sanitizing surfaces that are heavily touched, such as cash registers or payment terminals. , doorknobs and tables.

Even if restaurants limit their capacity, however, the aerosolized virus can build up if ventilation is inadequate, Dr Allen said.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a restaurant, a spin class, a gym, a choir practice – if you’re indoors without a mask, weak or no ventilation, we know that’s a higher risk.” , did he declare. “Respiratory aerosols accumulate inside. It is that simple. This is a real problem for restaurants. “

Linsey Marr, an aerosol transmission expert at Virginia Tech, said Americans couldn’t be expected to keep up with all of the latest science, and that many simply rely on what’s open or closed as an indicator of what’s sure.

But eating inside is particularly risky, she added. People typically sit in a restaurant for an hour or more and don’t wear masks when eating, making them vulnerable to airborne viruses.

“Limiting capacity will help reduce the risk of transmission, but eating indoors is always a high-risk activity until more people are vaccinated,” she said.

Restaurant owners are particularly exposed. Although they can wear masks, diners do not, which reduces protection against the virus. And workers spend many hours indoors every shift, Dr. Allen said.

He recommended that conservators wear a double mask, wearing a surgical mask covered with a fabric mask, or buy high-efficiency masks like the N95, usually reserved for healthcare workers, or the KN95 or KF94 masks. , taking steps to ensure that they are not counterfeit.

“Now is not the time to let our guard down and pull the controls when we are so close to getting a lot of people vaccinated,” Dr Allen said.

Eileen Sullivan contributed reporting.

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Former security officials spread blame for Capitol Riot failures

Mr Sund said the FBI report reached the Capitol Police the day before the attack, but not directly. He said an officer assigned to a joint law enforcement task force on terrorism received the document and sent it to an official in the force’s anonymous intelligence division.

“It doesn’t go any further than that,” Mr. Sund said.

Robert J. Contee III, the head of the Washington Metropolitan Police Department, who also testified, argued that the FBI should have reported the information more urgently with a phone call, rather than an email after normal business hours.

Although the FBI newsletter received wide attention, it was only one part of a larger patchwork of publicly available information indicating that Trump supporters who planned to protest in Washington on January 6 – fueled by Mr. Trump and his allies – were ready to storm Capitol Hill and, in some cases, commit violence.

And claims by former Capitol Security officials about a lack of intelligence seemed at odds with last month’s closed-door testimony from Acting Capitol Police Chief Yogananda D. Pittman. She told a House committee that the ministry knew there was a “high potential for violence” and that protesters would be armed, but had failed to take preventive measures.

Chief Contee also blamed the slow deployment of the National Guard on the Defense Department, noting that the military had expressed reluctance to send troops even as violence escalated. In written testimony, Mr. Sund reported that a senior general said during a 2:30 p.m. call on Jan. 6 that he did not like the “visual” of the military guarding the Capitol and that he would recommend the secretary of the army to refuse the request. even after the crowd entered the building.

“I was stunned by the response from the Department of the Army,” Chief Contee said on Tuesday.

In response to questions from Mr Peters and Ms Klobuchar, the three former security officials all confirmed that they believed the siege was coordinated.

“These people came with equipment, climbing equipment,” said Sund, adding that two explosive devices placed near the Capitol had distracted the authorities. Mr Contee noted that there was evidence the attackers had used hand signals and coordinated their use of irritants, such as bear spray.

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McConnell says ‘wacky lies’ spread by Marjorie Taylor Greene are ‘cancer’ on GOP

Senator Mitch McConnell said on Monday that the “wacky lies and conspiracy theories” embraced by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene amounted to “cancer” of the Republican Party, issuing what was in effect a scathing rebuke to the Republican freshman from Georgia.

In a statement reported by The Hill, Mr. McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, never named Ms. Greene, but he did refer to several of the far-fetched and bogus conspiracy theories she adopted and warned that of such statements prejudiced the party.

“Someone who suggested that no planes hit the Pentagon on September 11, that horrific school shootings were pre-staged, and that the Clintons crashed JFK Jr.’s plane doesn’t live in reality, ”McConnell said. “It has nothing to do with the challenges facing American families or the intense substantive debates that can make our party stronger.”

Last week, Republican House leaders were mostly silent as pressure mounted to respond to the cascade of problematic Ms Greene’s social media posts and videos that surfaced last week, in which she endorsed a seemingly endless array of conspiracy and violence theories. behavior, including the execution of Democratic leaders. At the same time, they are weighing calls from within their ranks by loyalists to former President Donald J. Trump to strip Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of her leadership position as punishment for her vote to impeach. Mr. Trump.

In a separate statement reported by CNN, Mr. McConnell weighed in on behalf of Ms. Cheney, who represents Wyoming’s only congressional district, calling her a “leader with deep convictions and the courage to act on it.”

Mr McConnell, who believes Mr Trump has committed uneasy crimes, has made it clear that he is ready to vote to condemn the former president for “inciting insurgency”, although he voted with the great majority of Republicans last week to dismiss the case as unconstitutional.

Mr McConnell’s twin statements were a rare step for Washington’s most powerful Republican to insert himself into an increasingly ugly intra-partisan feud.

They have stepped up pressure on Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, who is due to meet with Ms Greene later this week amid calls from outside Republican groups and some members of his own party to revoke committee appointments. of Georgia’s first year. This leaves Mr McCarthy on uncomfortable middle ground after Ms Greene said over the weekend that she spoke to Mr Trump and received his support, essentially defining any action Republican leaders might take against she as defiant by proxy.

Ms Greene offered her own reply in response to Mr McConnell on Twitter, saying the party’s “real cancer” was “weak Republicans who only know how to lose gracefully.”

House Democrats said Monday they were prepared to unilaterally remove Ms Greene from her committees if Mr McCarthy does not act, pushing forward a measure to strip her of her assignments which will be considered by the Rules Committee. Room Wednesday.

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Reddit bans the forum dedicated to supporting Trump, and Twitter is permanently suspending its allies who spread conspiracy theories.

Social news and message board site Reddit on Friday banned a forum dedicated to discussing and promoting President Trump on its site, and Twitter permanently suspended the accounts of several prominent Trump supporters who used the platform to disseminate conspiracy theories, the latest major technological advances. platforms to digitally diminish Mr. Trump after his supporters staged an assault on the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday.

The Reddit forum, known as the subreddit, was one of many areas where Trump supporters congregated on the site, which is used by more than 330 million people to discuss broad current events and other topics. The “Donald Trump” subreddit had tens of thousands of subscribers before it was deleted and was considered one of the few highly visible places online where Trump supporters could congregate and express their solidarity with the president.

The pullout, which had been reported earlier by Axios, follows suspensions of Mr. Trump by major platforms this week. On Wednesday, Facebook and Twitter deleted some of his messages considered to be an incitement to further violence. And Facebook went further on Thursday, banning Mr. Trump from accessing his Facebook page at least until the end of his term, if not indefinitely.

Although the subreddit flourished for years, Reddit officials deleted the page on Friday after many members glorified and instigated the violence that took place on the Capitol on Wednesday, despite a number of official warnings from the company. .

“Reddit’s site-wide policies prohibit content that encourages hatred, or encourages, glorifies, incites or calls for violence against groups of people or individuals,” said a spokesperson for Reddit. “In line with this, we have proactively reached out to moderators to remind them of our policies and offer them support or resources as needed. We have also taken steps to ban the r / donaldtrump community given the repeated violations of policy in recent days regarding violence on the U.S. Capitol.

Reddit has always been reluctant to step in and ban certain types of content on its platform, and in the past it was a haven for racists and predators to come together online. But the company has shown its willingness to ban more extremist content in recent years.

In June, Reddit banned the subreddit “The Donald,” another forum dedicated to supporting the president, for repeated violations of harassment and hate speech. The company also banned over 2,000 subreddits at the time for similar violations.

Twitter has permanently suspended several accounts, including those of attorney Sidney Powell and former Trump national security adviser Michael T. Flynn. He also suspended Ron Watkins, a former administrator of a popular QAnon forum who some claim was the architect of the conspiracy theory.

The accounts were deleted for violating a policy against coordinated harmful activity, according to a Twitter spokesperson.

“We have made it clear that we will take strong enforcement action on behaviors that may cause harm offline, and given the renewed potential for violence surrounding this type of behavior in the coming days, we will permanently suspend accounts that are only dedicated. to sharing QAnon content, ”the spokesperson said.

Twitter performed a first scan of accounts sharing QAnon material last July and said it would limit trends related to the topic. Other social media platforms, including Facebook and YouTube, have also eliminated accounts sharing QAnon plots.

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How is the variant of the coronavirus spread? Here’s what scientists know

A more contagious form of the coronavirus has started circulating in the United States.

In Britain, where it was first identified, the new variant has become the predominant form of the coronavirus in just three months, accelerating that country’s skyrocketing and filling its hospitals. It could do the same in the United States, exacerbating a steady rise in deaths and overwhelming the already strained healthcare system, experts have warned.

A variant that spreads more easily also means people will have to religiously adhere to precautions such as social distancing, wearing masks, hand hygiene and better ventilation – bad news for many Americans who rub themselves in. already to restrictions.

“The bottom line is that anything we do to reduce transmission will reduce transmission of all variants, including this one,” said Angela Rasmussen, an affiliate virologist at Georgetown University. But “it may mean that more targeted measures that don’t look like a full lockdown won’t be as effective.”

What does it mean for this variant to be more transmissible? What makes this variant more contagious than previous iterations of the virus? And why should we be worried about a variant that spreads more easily but doesn’t seem to make anyone sicker?

We asked experts to weigh in on the evolution of research on this new version of the coronavirus.

Many variants of the coronavirus have appeared since the start of the pandemic. But all the evidence so far suggests that the new mutant, called B.1.1.7, is more transmissible than the previous forms. It first surfaced in September in Britain, but already accounts for more than 60% of new cases in London and neighboring regions.

The new variant appears to infect more people than previous versions of the coronavirus, even when the environments are the same. It is not known what gives the variant this advantage, although there are indications that it could infect cells more efficiently.

It’s also difficult to say exactly how much more transmissible the new variant may be, as scientists have yet to do the type of lab experiments needed. Most of the conclusions have been drawn from epidemiological observations, and “there is so much possible bias in all the available data,” warned Muge Cevik, an infectious disease specialist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland and scientific adviser. from the British government. .

Scientists initially estimated the new variant to be 70% more transmissible, but a recent modeling study put the figure at 56%. Once the researchers sift through all of the data, it’s possible the variant will turn out to be only 10-20% more transmissible, said Trevor Bedford, evolutionary biologist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle.

Even so, Dr Bedford said, it is likely to spread rapidly and become the predominant form in the United States by March. Scientists like Dr Bedford are closely monitoring all known variants for any additional changes that could alter their behavior.

The new mutant virus can spread more easily, but in all respects it looks little different from its predecessors.

So far, at least, the variant doesn’t seem to make people sicker or lead to more deaths. Still, there is cause for concern: A more transmissible variant will increase the death toll simply because it will spread faster and infect more people.

“In that sense, it’s just a numbers game,” said Dr Rasmussen. The effect will be amplified “in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom, where the health system is really at its breaking point”.

The routes of transmission – through large and small droplets and tiny aerosolized particles drifting through congested indoor spaces – have not changed. This means that masks, limiting time with others, and improving ventilation in indoor spaces will all help contain the spread of the variant, as these measures do with other variants of the virus.

“By minimizing your exposure to any virus, you will reduce your risk of getting infected, and this will reduce transmission overall,” said Dr Rasmussen.

Some preliminary evidence from Britain suggests that people infected with the new variant tend to carry greater amounts of the virus in their nose and throat than those infected with previous versions.

“We are talking in the range between 10 times greater and 10,000 times greater,” said Michael Kidd, clinical virologist at Public Health England and clinical adviser to the UK government who has studied the phenomenon.

There are other explanations for the discovery – Dr Kidd and his colleagues have not had access to information on the timing of their illness, for example, which could affect their so-called viral load.

Still, the discovery offers a possible explanation why the new variant spreads more easily. The more viruses infected people harbor in their noses and throats, the more they expel into the air and onto surfaces when they breathe, speak, sing, cough or sneeze.

As a result, situations that expose people to the virus are more likely to sow new infections. Some new data indicates that people infected with the new variant are spreading the virus to more of their contacts.

With previous versions of the virus, contact tracing suggested that around 10% of people in close contact with an infected person – within six feet for at least 15 minutes – inhaled enough virus to become infected.

“With the variant, we might expect 15 percent of these,” Dr Bedford said. “Currently, risky activities are becoming more risky.”

The variant has 23 mutations, compared to the version that erupted in Wuhan, China a year ago. But 17 of those mutations appeared suddenly, after the virus diverged from its most recent ancestor.

Each infected person is a melting pot, offering the possibility for the virus to mutate as it multiplies. With more than 83 million people infected worldwide, the coronavirus is amassing mutations faster than scientists expected at the start of the pandemic.

The vast majority of mutations bring no benefit to the virus and die off. But mutations that improve the ability or transmissibility of the virus are more likely to be felt.

At least one of the variant’s 17 new mutations contributes to its greater contagiousness. The mechanism is not yet known. Some data suggests that the new variant can bind more tightly to a protein on the surface of human cells, allowing it to infect them more easily.

It is possible for the variant to bloom in the nose and throat of an infected person, but not in the lungs, for example – which may explain why patients spread it more easily but do not develop more serious illnesses than those caused. by earlier versions of the virus. Some influenza viruses behave similarly, the experts noted.

“We have to view this evidence as preliminary and accumulating,” said Dr Cevik of the growing data on the new variant.

Yet research to date suggests an urgent need to reduce transmission of the variant, she added: “We need to be much more careful overall and look at the gaps in our mitigation measures. “

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Video: Protests spread across the United States as votes are counted

new video loaded: Protests spread across the United States as votes are counted



Protests spread across the United States as votes are counted

A wide range of protesters gathered Wednesday evening in Portland, Oregon, Philadelphia, Chicago and New York. Protesters have shown their support for all votes to be counted, Black Lives Matter and other causes.

Now because of it.

Recent episodes of United States and politics


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States undercount positive rapid tests, masking spread of disease

As rapid coronavirus tests become more widely available, delivering results within minutes for patients in doctors’ offices, nursing homes, schools and even the White House, officials warn against a significant undercoverage, blurring the spread of the virus nationally and in communities where these tests are more frequently used.

Public health officials say antigen tests, which are faster than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests but less able to detect low levels of the virus, are an important tool in limiting the spread of the coronavirus. But they warn that with inconsistent public reports, the undercount of cases may worsen as more ‘point-of-care’ antigen testing, as well as DIY and home testing kits, arrive. on the market.

“We want to be sure that we don’t now say ‘there is no disease’ when there is a lot of disease. All that has happened is the science with which we identify it has evolved, ”said Janet Hamilton, executive director of the State Council and Territorial Epidemiologists, the group that helps the Centers for Disease. Control and Prevention to define cases of coronavirus.

Public health experts say more rapid coronavirus tests will lead to a greater undercount of coronavirus cases, even in states that attempt to count them publicly. What’s going on?

Some states do not count cases based on antigen testing

Despite advice from the CDC to report cases based on PCR and antigen testing, Washington, DC and seven states do not publicly share the number of cases for those with positive antigen tests, including California, the New Jersey and Texas.

Six other states keep these counts separate from their total number of cases, and most of them report them less frequently.

Public reporting of antigen positive cases

Note: Data as of October 29. Texas and Missouri publish data on antigen testing, but cases do not. Local health agencies can report cases of antigens in states where the health department does not.·Source: national health agencies

The differences between states are due in part to each state’s comfort level with rapid tests, which are not “confirmatory” like PCR tests because they can miss low levels of the virus. Yet most states treat antigen-positive or “probable” cases the same as “confirmed” cases, following interviews and contact tracing. And a growing number of states, including New Mexico, Oregon and Utah, include people with positive antigen tests in their total number of confirmed cases.

People who test positive in rapid tests represent a small but growing share of all publicly reported cases. For example, in Florida, positive cases of antigen tests account for about 4% of all cases reported since March, the majority of which are based on PCR.But on a daily basis, antigen tests contribute a more visible share, accounting for as much as a third of the cases reported in recent days.

These numbers are expected to increase as rapid tests purchased by the federal government reach schools and nursing homes across the country this fall.

And cases based on antigen tests may be even larger in countries where such rapid tests have been more abundant.

For example, at least 26 of Texas’ 254 counties report antigen-positive cases on local health department websites, and several reveal a growing reliance on rapid test results. The state health department is yet to report them.

Cumulative cases of PCR and antigens in some Texas counties

Source: local health agencies (case of antigens); state and local agencies (PCR)

In Brown County in west-central Texas, antigen testing has been widely available since the summer, so the county is releasing positive cases from rapid tests and PCR to provide a more complete view of the infection, said Lisa Dick, administrator of the Brownwood- Brown County Department of Health.

“If we were just publishing PCR tests, we would just give the community the idea that things are getting better,” Ms. Dick said. “And people make decisions based on this information, from leaders to individuals.”

In Taylor County, rural west Texas, people who test positive with rapid tests account for more than half of all cases, as tests are available at many emergency care centers across the country. county, said Dr Annie Drachenberg, medical director of Abilene-Taylor. County health district.

Patients also tend to prefer same-day results that antigen tests offer, Drachenberg said, noting that the turnaround time for PCR results peaked at two weeks in the summer before to return to a day or two this fall.

“Once you break that trust with a patient to get that response quickly, it’s hard to regain that trust.”

Non-traditional testing centers can leave states in the dark

Whether states publicly report antigen-positive cases or simply track them internally, many public health officials say their counts are incomplete because they don’t know where rapid testing takes place in their jurisdictions.

And unlike laboratories that typically perform more complicated PCR testing, many “point-of-care” centers performing antigen testing, such as nursing homes, emergency care centers, and schools, do not realize that ‘they need to report lab data, or may rely on slower and less efficient methods such as phone calls and faxes.

“We don’t know for sure what we don’t know,” said Dr. Edward Lifshitz, medical director of the Communicable Disease Department at the New Jersey Department of Health, which does not publicly report antigen positive cases because the figure is incomplete.

Dr Lifshitz added that sharing data on antigen positive cases could make some areas of the state, where point-of-care testing centers report correctly, appear to be more disadvantaged than other areas. for which data is missing.

“It will sound like ‘boy, this part of the state is seeing an increase in cases’ when it really isn’t,” he said. “It’s just that they report what they are supposed to report.”

To avoid missing the results of the antigen tests, some health services had to do their own sensitization.

In Houston, where infections increased over the summer, health officials searched for rapid testing centers online, made phone calls and posted a “dear supplier” letter on their website. In New Jersey, officials collected the names of testing centers from manufacturers of antigen tests and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which distributed rapid tests to nursing homes across the state.

But even then, the test centers can still be missed.

Since the end of September, Alabama has reported three spikes in older cases because health centers neglected to report their antigen test results to public health officials. An emergency care group was responsible for the largest increase, which was reported on October 23, after the addition of older cases nearly tripled the daily number.

New cases reported daily in Alabama

Includes antigen cases

from unspecified days

Includes antigen cases

from unspecified days

Includes antigen cases

from unspecified days

Note: the majority of probable cases of the condition are identified by antigen testing.·Source: Alabama Department of Public Health

Alabama health officials say that upon learning of the existence of new testing centers, they train them to share test data in an electronic format they can easily work with. Health officials across the country in states like California, Georgia, New Jersey, Oklahoma, and Texas are doing the same, but training can be labor-intensive and time-consuming, and many centers test do not have the technical support they need.

“It’s a pipeline that is not well established,” said Kirstin Short, chief of the epidemiology office at the Houston Department of Health.

Many other tests are in progress

Scientists following the development of coronavirus testing say rapid testing capacity – most based on antigen – could reach 200 million tests per month by early next year and help the country reach levels of recommended test.

As of September, the country reported more than 20 million completed PCR tests and about 5 million antigen tests, although the latter is a significant undercoverage, according to Mara G. Aspinall, a professor of practice in biomedical diagnostics at Arizona State University following Covid-19 test.

Antigen testing is also expected to expand beyond “point-of-care” testing to include portable kits that individuals can administer on their own. In fact, about two dozen companies are working on these personal rapid tests, according to Ms Aspinall.

Public health officials say these home tests, just like a pregnancy test, can be almost impossible to follow. Some experts have also expressed concerns that home testing might present its own pitfalls as large groups of people inexperienced in administering tests use the products and try to interpret their results.

“We could potentially get these tests over the counter,” said Dr. Lifshitz of the New Jersey Department of Health. “From a public health perspective, this is a good thing. From a surveillance point of view that becomes a nightmare.