COVID-19 Roundup: CDC Expands Mask-Wearing Guidance; Airflow Inside Cars; and COVID-Flu Combo Test

Masks are More Vital Than Ever to Slow Coronavirus Spread, Even at Home, CDC says

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has bolstered its recommendations on the use of masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 as cases are surging nationwide.

“Compelling evidence now supports the benefits of cloth face masks for both source control (to protect others) and, to a lesser extent, protection of the wearer,” state CDC officials in their latest update on measures the public can take.

Using face masks or coverings “is most important in indoor spaces and outdoors when physical distance of six feet or more cannot be maintained.” the CDC says.

In reinforced guidance, the agency is stressing the use of masks within households, especially if a member of the household is infected or has had recent potential COVID-19 exposure — such as contact with a known close contact or potential exposure related to occupation, crowded public settings, travel, or non-household members in your house. The CDC is stressing this point as the year-end holidays approach and more indoor gatherings are likely with “non-household members.”

Masks are so reliable in slowing the spread that some communities should consider giving them out, CDC officials said.

“A community-level plan for distribution of face masks to specific populations, such as those who might experience barriers to access, should be developed,” the CDC team wrote in the agency’s weekly update.

Researchers Simulate Airflow Inside Moving Car to Reduce Risk of COVID-19 Spread

If you’re traveling in a car with another person that’s not part of your household, there are steps you can take to reduce the risk of coronavirus spread, according to researchers at Brown University.

Using computer models, researchers studied airflow patterns inside a car that is traveling at 50 mph with two people inside. They tested various combinations of windows open or closed. The safest combination is for the passenger to sit in the back seat on the right side, researchers found. But there’s one extra step which they said is crucial: Drive with all four windows down for the safest ride possible.

The study, published in the journal Science Advances, also looked at aerosol particles being shared between a driver and a passenger in different window configurations.

“Driving around with the windows up and the air conditioning or heat on is definitely the worst scenario, according to our computer simulations,” said Asimanshu Das, a graduate student in Brown’s School of Engineering and co-lead author of the research. “The best scenario we found was having all four windows open, but even having one or two open was far better than having them all closed.”

Air pressure is usually more intense at the rear windows, researchers said. That’s because air tends to enter through a back window and exit through a front window when the car is moving.

In a press release, the researchers stress that “there’s no way to eliminate risk completely — and, of course, current guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) notes that postponing travel and staying home is the best way to protect personal and community health.”

What you don’t want to do is have all the windows up, since COVID-19 is most contagious in small enclosed spaces, they said. In the case of either an infected driver or an infected passenger, the best protection is to close only the window closest to the non-infected person. That’s the second best option if you can’t have all windows open.

FDA: First Authorized COVID-Flu Combination At-Home Test Requires Prescription

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved emergency use authorization (EUA) for the first at-home test to detect both COVID-19 and influenza (the flu), the agency has announced.

The FDA said it authorized the test by Quest Diagnostics for prescription use “by individuals who are suspected of respiratory viral infection consistent with COVID-19 when home collection is determined to be appropriate by an individual’s healthcare provider.”

Under a a doctor’s order, patients can collect a sample at home and ship it to a Quest Diagnostics laboratory for analysis following the instructions included with the self-collection kit, the FDA states.

“With the authorization of this test, the FDA is helping to address the ongoing fight against COVID-19 while in the middle of the flu season, which is important for many, including the most vulnerable of Americans,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., in a statement.

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