COVID-19 Roundup: CDC Guidance on Small Gatherings; First 'Fully' At-Home Test Approved; and More News

CDC Issues Guidance for ‘Small In-Person Gatherings’ During Holidays

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) outlines factors that can contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at small in-person gatherings. The CDC is urging everyone to avoid large gatherings during the holidays.

“As cases, hospitalizations, and deaths continue to increase across the United States, the safest way to celebrate the winter holidays is to celebrate at home with people who live with you,” states the agency in updated guidance.

Celebrating virtually, or with members of your own household who are always taking measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19, “poses the lowest risk for spread,” the CDC states.

Here are the factors that can contribute to the risk of getting and spreading COVID-19 at small in-person gatherings, according to the CDC:

Community levels of COVID-19 – High or increasing levels of COVID-19 cases in the gathering location, and in the areas where attendees are coming from, increase the risk of infection and spread among attendees. Family and friends should consider the number of COVID-19 cases in their community and in the community where they plan to celebrate when deciding whether to host or attend a gathering.

Exposure during travel – Airports, bus stations, train stations, public transport, gas stations, and rest stops are all places travelers can be exposed to the virus in the air and on surfaces.

Location of the gathering – Indoor gatherings, especially those with poor ventilation (for example, small enclosed spaces with no outside air), pose more risk than outdoor gatherings.

Duration of the gathering – Gatherings that last longer pose more risk than shorter gatherings. Being within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more greatly increases the risk of becoming sick and requires quarantine.

Number and crowding of people at the gathering – The CDC does not have a limit or recommend a specific number of attendees for gatherings. The size of a holiday gathering should be determined based on the ability of attendees from different households to stay 6 feet (2 arm lengths) apart, wear masks, wash hands, and follow state, local, territorial, or tribal health and safety laws, rules, and regulations.

Behaviors of attendees prior to the gathering – Individuals who did not consistently adhere to social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart), mask wearing, handwashing, and other prevention behaviors pose more risk than those who consistently practiced these safety measures.

Behaviors of attendees during the gathering – Gatherings with more safety measures in place, such as mask wearing, social distancing, and handwashing, pose less risk than gatherings where fewer or no preventive measures are being implemented. Use of alcohol or drugs may alter judgment and make it more difficult to practice COVID-19 safety measures.

FDA Approves First Over-the-Counter, Fully At-Home Diagnostic Test for COVID-19

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an emergency use authorization) for the first over-the-counter, “fully at-home diagnostic test for COVID-19.”

The Ellume COVID-19 Home Test uses an analyzer that is connected with a software application on a smartphone to help users perform the test and get results in about 20 minutes, the FDA said in a news release. The FDA has authorized more than 225 diagnostic tests for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, including more than 25 tests that allow for home collection of samples, which are then sent to a lab for testing.

The FDA boasted of the Ellume home test’s accuracy. The new home test correctly identified 96 percent of positive samples and 100 percent of negative samples in individuals with symptoms. In people without symptoms, the test correctly identified 91 percent of positive samples and 96 percent of negative samples. The test detects fragments of proteins of COVID-19 virus from a nasal swab sample from any individual 2 years of age or older.

“By authorizing a test for over- the-counter use, the FDA allows it to be sold in places like drug stores, where a patient can buy it, swab their nose, run the test and find out their results in as little as 20 minutes,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., in a prepared statement. “As we continue to authorize additional tests for home use, we are helping expand Americans’ access to testing, reducing the burden on laboratories and test supplies, and giving Americans more testing options from the comfort and safety of their own homes.”

The FDA reminds patients that all COVID-19 tests can have false negative and false positive results. Individuals with positive results should self-isolate and seek additional care from their health care provider, the FDA emphasizes.

“Individuals who test negative and experience COVID-like symptoms should follow up with their health care provider as negative results do not preclude an individual from COVID-19 infection,” the FDA states.

CDC: Death Rates From COVID-19 Higher Among Native Americans, Alaskan Natives

American Indian and Alaskan Native people have a significantly higher risk of death from COVID-19 compared to non-Hispanic whites, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Referenced as “AI/AN” in the CDC’s report, these Americans were twice as likely to die from the coronavirus, according to data collected between July 22 and Sept. 3 from 14 states. Researchers found that that the age-adjusted AI/AN population’s mortality rate was 1.8 times higher than whites with COVID-19. That rate translates to 55.8 deaths per 100,000, compared to 30.3 deaths per 100,000 in AI/ANs and whites, respectively, the CDC said.

Additionally, AI/AN adults who died from COVID-19 were younger overall, with 35 percent of deaths among those younger than 60, compared to just six percent among non-Hispanic whites. Among AI/AN adults, mortality increased with age, and was higher among men. AI/AN mortality rates tied to COVID-19 were 10.5, 11.6 and 8.2 times higher than those of non-Hispanic whites among people aged 20-29, 30-39 and 40-49, respectively.

“AI/ANs have experienced disproportionate rates of infection and mortality during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the CDC states. “The excess risk, especially for AI/AN males and persons aged 20–49 years, should be considered when planning and implementing medical countermeasures and other prevention activities.”

A total of 2,689 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported among AI/AN adults as of Dec. 2 in the U.S.

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