Airborne?: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention edited its website to remove recently added information about how Covid-19 spreads, according to The Washington Post. Last week, the agency’s website was changed to say that the virus “can transmit over a distance beyond six feet, suggesting that indoor ventilation is key.” Prior to that, the CDC’s website had explained that Covid-19 is mostly transmitted through larger droplets at close range. The information added last week has since been deleted and the website currently displays a message reading, “A draft version of proposed changes to these recommendations was posted in error to the agency’s official website. CDC is currently updating its recommendations regarding airborne transmission.” Jose-Luis Jimenez, a chemistry professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder who studies how aerosols spread the virus, told The Washington Post that the now-deleted information would have been valuable to the public: “This is a good thing, if we can reduce transmission because more people understand how it is spreading and know what to do to stop it,” he said.
- Also: Global Covid-19 deaths have topped 965,000, with the United States accounting for just over 200,000 of those deaths even as President Trump continues to hold large rallies where people are crowded together and mostly not wearing masks. There have now been over 6.8 million cases of Covid-19 in the U.S. and more than 31.3 million worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.
Reversing course: The CDC has reversed “heavily criticized guidelines” on who should be tested for the novel coronavirus, The Washington Post reports. The change comes after experts both inside and outside of the agency cited public confusion over testing guidelines, as well as general concern about the country’s ability to control the pandemic. The new recommendations call for testing anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid-19, including people who do not exhibit symptoms. Previous guidelines, put in place in August under directions from the White House coronavirus task force, stated that people who did not show symptoms did not need to get tested. “What had happened was wrong, and it was not good public health practice,” one federal health official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told The Washington Post about last month’s policy change. The new guidelines take into account the fact that up to 40 percent of people with Covid-19 may be asymptomatic but still able to spread the virus.
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Confrontations on the move: Confrontations over mask compliance on buses in New York City are becoming so common that city officials are now imposing a $50 fine on riders who do not wear masks on subways and buses, The New York Times reports. “This is a last resort for those very few people who refuse to wear a mask when offered,” Sarah Feinberg, interim president of New York City Transit, which runs the city’s subway and buses, told the newspaper. Since Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated that people wear masks on public transportation in mid-April, there have been at least 177 reported instances of riders harassing or assaulting transit workers who ask that passengers wear face coverings or observe social-distancing protocols. According to the transit agency, 95 percent of those cases have occurred on buses, where drivers are far more exposed to passengers than on subways whose conductors rarely come into direct contact with riders. Similar confrontations are playing out between bus drivers and passengers who refuse to comply with social-distancing rules in other cities, including San Francisco and Lubbock, Texas, where bus drivers were hit after asking passengers to cover their faces. In Bayonne, France, four passengers beat a bus driver to death after they were asked to wear masks.
Evicted: Around the country, nursing homes are finding minor reasons to send unprofitable patients—“primarily those who are poor and require extra care”—to emergency rooms or psychiatric hospitals and then refusing those patients re-entry when they are discharged, according to The New York Times. These findings are based on court filings, government-funded watchdogs in 16 states and over 60 lawyers, nursing home employees and doctors. In some cases, this practice violates federal laws that restrict nursing homes from abruptly evicting patients. Nursing homes already tended to look for ways to evict low-income Medicaid patients, particularly those requiring high levels of staffing, before the pandemic began. But the pandemic “has basically supercharged that,” Mike Wasserman, a former chief executive of Rockport Healthcare Services, which manages California’s largest for-profit nursing home chain, told The Times. Workers said they have faced increased pressure during the pandemic to get rid of the most expensive, least lucrative patients at facilities that have experienced severe staff shortages, with many employees sick or afraid to go to work.
Location matters: As college campuses open around the country, their varying pandemic protocols are being put to the test. Policies regarding student housing, testing, contact tracing and virtual learning all play a key role in a school’s success—or lack thereof—in safely reopening. But the luck of geography is proving to be just as essential a variable, reports The Washington Post. “The pandemic waxes in some regions as it wanes in others,” The Post reports. At the University of Vermont, more than 10,000 students returned to campus in Burlington, where the virus is largely contained; of almost 33,000 tests administered so far, there have been only 19 positive cases. At other schools, frequent testing, limiting density by restricting which students live in dorms and controlling a small campus environment by creating a tight bubble have been critical in helping to prevent outbreaks. However, instituting these types of changes at larger public universities, where budgets are far smaller, presents a substantial challenge.
Doubling down: Major oil companies in the United States are doubling down on oil and natural gas—a sharp contrast to their European counterparts, which are selling off oil fields, planning a reduction in emissions, and investing billions in renewable energy, according to The New York Times. While BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and other European energy companies are adjusting to growing concerns about climate change and declining oil prices, Chevron and Exxon Mobil are keeping their focus on oil and gas and “investing what amounts to pocket change in innovative climate-oriented efforts like small nuclear power plants and devices that suck carbon out of the air.” These divergent paths reflect a broader difference in how climate change is viewed on each side of the Atlantic: European leaders have made combating climate change a top priority, while President Trump refuses to acknowledge its existence and instead focuses on dismantling environmental regulations.
- Also: An investigation by ProPublica and The Desert Sun in Palm Springs, Calif. found that Chevron and other oil companies profited off oil spills in California that harm both workers and the environment—all with the knowledge of state regulators. For years, oil corporations have corralled spilled oil in some of California’s largest oil fields and then sold it, “garnering millions of dollars” from spills “that can foul sensitive habitats and endanger workers,” write Janet Wilson of The Desert Sun and Lylla Younes of ProPublica.
Climate facts: Facebook announced the launch of a climate change information page to promote facts about climate change from reliable sources and prevent misinformation. The new information hub is available to users in the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany. “We are hopeful this climate science information center will be very effective,” Facebook Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications Nick Clegg said on National Public Radio. “It provides a simple, easy-to-find repository for authoritative information about what is happening to our climate, how it’s changing. And our experience with the COVID information hub is that there is a real appetite for people to find out more for themselves.” The company says it partners with over 70 organizations to fact-check misinformation on a range of subjects, including climate change. But there has been controversy over what qualifies as “opinion” and therefore exempted from fact-checking, such as articles that deny the existence of climate change.
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