January 22, 2021 by John Fernandez
COVID-19 Roundup: Mask Mandates Reduce Spread, New CDC Study Says; MMR Vaccines vs. Coronavirus?; and Did Airport Screenings Work?
CDC Study Confirms that Mask Mandates Slow the Spread of COVID-19
Local government mandates that require everyone to wear masks in public can reduce the spread of COVID-19, says a new report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that examined the effectiveness of such policies throughout counties in Kansas.
In early July, Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly issued an executive order for the state’s residents to wear face coverings in public places. Corovirus cases were surging when the governor issued the order. Kansas state law, however, allows individual counties to opt out of the state mandate and opt for less restrictive mesures. Of the state’s 105 counties, 24 adhered to the statewide mask mandate, but 81 opted out, the CDC said.
The CDC’s conclusion: COVID-19 rates in mask mandated counties — which are located in the more populated areas of the state — “declined markedly” after Gov. Kelly’s order, compared with those in nonmandated counties.
“Kansas counties that had mask mandates in place appear to have mitigated the transmission of COVID-19, whereas counties that did not have mask mandates continued to experience increases in cases,” the CDC said.
By mid-August, the CDC said that the COVID-19 incidence rate “decreased by 6 percent” among counties that adhered to the mask mandate. Coronavirus cases doubled in counties that did not require face coverings in public.
“The findings in this report are consistent with declines in COVID-19 cases observed in 15 states and the District of Columbia, which mandated masks, compared with states that did not have mask mandates,” the CDC said.
MMR Vaccine Potentially can Protect Against Severe COVID-19 Illness, Study Says
Can the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, more commonly known as MMR vaccine, help protect some against severe illness from COVID-19? It may offer some protection, potentially preventing serious symptoms or illness from the coronavirus, says a study published by the journal mBio.
Researchers found that among 50 U.S. adults under the age of 42 who received the MMR vaccine as children, eight had immunity against COVID-19 or no symptoms after becoming infected. The study linked this apparent immunity against COVID-19 to high levels of antibodies against the mumps. Overall, people with the highest mumps antibodies had only asymptomatic COVID-19.
Seventeen people who received the MMR vaccine, but had low mumps antibody levels, developed mostly mild COVID-19 symptoms. Those with the fewest mumps antibodies suffered moderate illness or needed to be hospitalized for treatment.
While the findings are promising, more research is needed to prove the vaccine prevents severe COVID-19, the study’s authors said.
“This adds to other associations demonstrating that the MMR vaccine may be protective against COVID-19,” said lead study author Jeffrey E. Gold in a statement. “It also may explain why children have a much lower COVID-19 case rate than adults, as well as a much lower death rate. The majority of children get their first MMR vaccination around 12 to 15 months of age and a second one from 4 to 6 years of age.”
CDC: Screening Travelers at U.S. Airports for COVID-19 was Ineffective
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined the effectiveness of the COVID-19 screening program utilized at U.S. airports from January through mid-September. The program identified about one case per 85,000 travelers screened, the CDC reported. There were a total of 766,044 passengers screened in the CDC’s study.
These findings demonstrate that temperature and symptom screening at airports detected few COVID-19 cases and required considerable resources, the CDC concluded.
The CDC said factors that contributed to this low yield were likely: asymptomatic infections; the relatively long incubation period of COVID-19; and an illness presentation with a wide range of severity, cases that did not present a fever, and nonspecific symptoms common to other infections. Additionally, there were travelers who might have denied symptoms or take steps to avoid detection of illness, the U.S. agency said.
The U.S. initiated the airport screening program for passengers arriving from certain countries with widespread, sustained transmission of COVID-19. The objectives of the screening program were to reduce the importation of COVID-19 cases into the U.S. and slow subsequent spread within states.
The CDC states that he screening process by airports and the airlines “has transitioned to enhancing communication with travelers to promote recommended preventive measures, strengthening response capacity at ports of entry, and encouraging predeparture and post-arrival testing.”