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Health

Mom warns parents after her toddler is hospitalized for swallowing a battery

Ta'Sha GarrettBy NICOLE PELLETIERE, ABC News

(INDIANAPOLIS) -- An Indiana mother whose toddler accidentally ingested a button battery is speaking out in hopes to warn parents of this potential risk that could exist inside the home.

The battery, which was approximately the size of a quarter, was surgically removed late September at IU Health Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis after doctors said that 1-year-old Mahziere likely swallowed it two weeks prior.

"He brought me the battery and I broke down," mom Ta'Sha Garrett told Good Morning America of the surgeon who removed the battery. "I knew the severity of swallowing batteries. I didn't think that would happen to us..I'm really careful when it comes to things like that."

Garrett said Mahziere had still been eating well, sleeping, playing, laughing and otherwise behaving, until one day she noticed his breathing was off.

"That day I had picked his brother up from school and he was really lethargic," she said. "Everything about him was moving slow. He ended up sleeping on the car ride home."

Garrett said when they got home, she heard Mahziere whimpering in the other room. She went to check on him and saw bubbles coming out of his mouth. She and Mahziere's grandmother brought Mahziere to the local hospital where they tried to administer a COVID-19 test, though Garrett insisted they take x-rays, she said.

Mahziere was transferred to Riley, where medical staff weren't exactly certain of what Mahziere had swallowed until surgery was performed.

"Up until then, I was pretty optimistic it wasn't a battery," Garrett said. "I don't have watches around the house."

Dr. Fred Rescorla is the pediatric surgeon who removed the 22-milliliter lithium battery from the bottom of Mahziere's throat near his clavicle. Mahziere ended up being hospitalized for a week and a half.

"His mother, she's a great mom," Rescorla told GMA. "She knew right away something was wrong...I was a little apprehensive when I went up to see her. When I approached her, she just wept. She never left his bedside."

Rescorla told GMA that the actual operation took about 30 minutes, although anesthesiologists had issues getting an airway during the bronchoscopy since the battery burned a hole in Mahziere's esophagus and caused some swelling.

"I think he's doing really well," Rescorla said. "We really want to make sure he doesn't get any narrowing or scarring on the esophagus where it was damaged."

Rescorla said that two years ago, he saw three cases of children ingesting batteries.

Emily Samuel, program director at the nonprofit child safety organization Safe Kids Wordwide, said on average, more than 6,300 children are seen in he emergency room each year after having ingested a battery.

hildren under the age of 5 are more likely to be seen in the emergency room for swallowing a button battery, and toddlers ages 1-3 are at the highest risk for swallowing. This data was compiled via the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"Younger children under the age of 5 are curious and they're actively learning and developing new skills," Samuel told GMA, adding that children are also exploring their senses, including taste.

"Which is why we often find toddlers putting things in their mouth around the home," she said. "It's important if you have button batteries around the house that you store them in a safe and secure place."

Garrett said the battery that Mahziere swallowed was a battery from a watch. She learned this after Googling the serial numbers on the battery, she added.

Garrett said her son may have gotten a hold of the battery while playing at a relative's house.

Her message to other parents is to be overly attentive to your kids, especially small children.

"They move really fast. Even if you think you're watching them, you have to be mindful that kids move quicker than you," Garrett said. "If a lot of times people are watching your kids or your kids are going places, warn others what your child is capable of and getting into. Let them know your child is Curious George."

"It was definitely scary," she added. "I watched him from going to a breathing tube and not being [himself]. It's a very traumatic experience for the child and the parent."

According to Safe Kids, when a a button battery is swallowed, the saliva triggers an electrical current.

"This causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours," the organization writes on its website.

In addition, symptoms of battery ingestion could be tricky to recognize but may include coughing, drooling and discomfort.

"If you think a child has swallowed a button battery, go to the emergency room right away," Samuel said. "No eating, no drinking and don't induce vomiting."

Samuel said parents can also call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline (800-498-8666) for additional treatment information.

Here are tips on how to stay safe, according to Safe Kids:

  • Keep greeting cards, remotes, cameras, watches, flameless candles and any other items that may contain batteries out of reach.
  • Keep loose batteries locked away.
  • Place a piece of duct tape to secure battery compartments.
  • Search your home and any place your child goes for items that may contain coin-sized lithium batteries.
  • Share this life-saving information with caregivers, friends, family and babysitters.
  • If you have any doubts, bring your child to the hospital and request an x-ray.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Predictions of more suicides, overdoses and domestic abuse during COVID are coming true

Wacharaphong/iStockBy DR. YALDA SAFAI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the stay-at-home measures and disruptions to daily life that aimed to slow the spread of the virus and save lives led many public health specialists to worry that the nation also could see an uptick in suicides, drug overdoses and domestic violence.

Nine months later, those grim predictions look like they're coming true.

"There is a mental health wave to this pandemic," Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer of the National Alliance for Mental Illness, told ABC News. "We as a species don't do well with uncertainty."

The pandemic, for many Americans, has exacerbated already-stressful scenarios -- deaths of loved ones, illnesses, loss of income -- according to psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe.

Additionally, stay-at-home orders and school closures -- important actions to prevent virus spread -- created downstream consequences such as social isolation, eroding support networks and additional financial strain.

All of these factors are contributing to more suicides, overdoses and violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And specialists warn that this mental health pandemic within the virus pandemic also will disproportionately affect Blacks, Hispanics, the elderly, people of lower socioeconomic status of all races, and health care workers.

Many of these accelerating public health crises already were worsening before COVID-19.

In 2018, the U.S had the highest age-adjusted suicide rates since 1941. By June, a CDC survey of 5,470 US adults found that one-third reported anxiety or depression symptoms. About 10% said they had considered suicide during the last month, and the rate of suicidal thoughts was highest among unpaid caregivers, essential workers, Hispanic or Black respondents and young adults.

People age 18 to 25 may be the most affected group, Duckworth explained.

"We need to take a look at the age impact," Duckworth added. "In the age where identity is developed, young adults are missing college."

The opioid epidemic, previously considered the greatest public health threat in the U.S., also has worsened since the virus outbreak. After overdose deaths briefly plateaued in 2017 -- stricter regulations of prescription drugs were enacted -- deaths began creeping upward again because of illegal synthetic substitutes like fentanyl.

"We were making some improvement in terms of treatment options for opioid addiction prior to the pandemic," Dr. Harshal Kirane, medical director of Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research, told ABC news. "However, there were still major treatment gaps that have worsened now that we have a superimposed pandemic."

More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related deaths since then pandemic struck, according to the American Medical Association.

Overdoses -- both fatal and non-fatal -- have increased 20% compared with the same time period in 2019, according to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program.

"The incidence of first-time users is also on the rise," Kirane added. "Isolation, economic pressure and family conflict during quarantine are all factors for this."

Reports of domestic violence are also are rising, with many experts worried the cases reported are but a small fraction of those happening. Just in New York City, "there has been a substantial increase in calls to the domestic violence hotline," said Kellie Owen, executive director of the National Domestic Abuse Hotline.

"The calls to the hotlines dropped in the first few weeks of the pandemic, increased by 30% in April, and increased by 76% by August. They have remained elevated into September," she added.

The United Nations warns that the pandemic is likely to undermine efforts to end gender-based violence globally, while stay-at-home and social distancing orders may effectively trap the abused with their abusers.

The CDC recognized that violence is a serious public health problem. It affects people in all stages of life, and many violence survivors suffer from long-term physical, mental and emotional health problems.

"It is important to keep in mind the domestic violence is usually under-reported," Owen added.

Public health specialists and policy makers are taking steps to try to address these alarming trends. For example, many states have eased restrictions for telehealth, making it easier to access a medical provider during a crisis. Some are making it easier to prescribe medication for opioid-use disorder without an in-person visit.

Over the summer, the CDC released guidance for people experiencing abuse and for those coping with extreme stress during the pandemic. The CDC recommends making a plan if you live in an unsafe home, practicing self-care as much as possible and trying to maintain virtual social connections with people outside your immediate home.

Community-level solutions should prioritize young adults, racial and ethnic minorities, essential workers and adult caregivers, according to the CDC, which said these efforts should include economic support, efforts to reduce stresses related to racial discrimination, promoting community social connections and care for those at risk of suicide.

"This pandemic isn't going anywhere," Duckworth said. "My advice is: Lower expectations, stay connected with people, reach out for professional help when needed, don't skip your flu shot and remain physically active."

  • If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support. Call 1-800-273-8255 for help.
  • If you are a victim of domestic violence, call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you're unable to speak safely, you can log on to thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522. The Safe Center also has a 24/7 hotline that can be reached at 516-542-0404.
  • For resources regarding mental health treatment, the NAMI HelpLine is a free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resource referrals and support to people living with mental health conditions, their family members and their caregivers. Call 1-800-950-NAMI or text NAMI to 741741.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Highly anticipated COVID-19 vaccine data from Pfizer unlikely to come before Election Day: CEO

simon2579/iStockBy ARIELLE MITROPOULOS and ERIC M. STRAUSS, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Pfizer executives said in a third-quarter investor presentation on Tuesday they have not seen the first interim efficacy data yet. The Data Monitoring Committee, an independent group of experts monitoring the clinical studies and the data collection, "has not conducted any interim efficacy analyses to date," according to Pfizer.

The slight delay from an earlier prediction of data by the end of October means results will likely not be known by Election Day, despite claims by President Donald Trump for months that a vaccine is "weeks away."

The Data Monitoring Committee has thresholds for review that are triggered when a certain number of trial volunteers become sick with COVID-19. The first interim analysis is scheduled to happen when 32 people develop COVID-19, according to Pfizer's extensive clinical trial protocol.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said, however, the company is still on track for a November application for authorization, if the vaccine shows to be effective and, just as importantly, safe.

Bourla had previously said the company "may know whether or not our vaccine is effective by the end of October."

Once there are 32 volunteers infected with COVID-19, Pfizer will analyze how many of them received the vaccine and how many received a placebo. If more than 76.9% of the grouping is in the placebo group, Pfizer will consider the vaccine efficacious.

Once an independent review board releases information on the trials, the company will need a week to review it internally, Bourla said.

Pfizer plans to release the interim data if it is negative (worse than 11.8%) or positive (better than 76.9%) for efficacy. If the data is somewhere in between, Pfizer will wait for more conclusive results, Bourla said.

"In case of a conclusive readout, positive or negative, we will inform the public as soon as we complete the necessary administrative work, which we estimate to be completed within one week from the time we know," he explained to investors, adding that the company "reached the last mile here and we expect these things will start coming soon, so let's all have patience."

He said he is "cautiously optimistic" the vaccine will work based on earlier studies.

Pfizer said it expects efficacy and safety data will be available in November, and if it is, it will apply for emergency use authorization.

Pfizer's vaccine candidate was also developed with the German biotech firm BioNTech. There are 150 clinical trial sites around the world.

More than 42,000 participants have been enrolled and nearly 36,000 have received a second dose of the vaccine. Expanding the number of participants has allowed trials to include additional populations, among them children between 12 and 18 and people with preexisting conditions.

When asked about manufacturing and supply, Bourla said Pfizer's contract with the U.S. government is to produce 100 million doses by March. Forty million doses could be available in the U.S. by year-end if the Food and Drug Administration authorizes the vaccine, which means that 20 million people can be immunized, most likely high-risk individuals like health care providers and the elderly.

Bourla also pledged transparency with the data, reminding investors that the company has not taken money from the government in order "to stay out of politics." Pfizer, along with the other pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines, have pledged to uphold the integrity of the scientific process.

"This will not be a Democratic vaccine or Republican vaccine; this will be a vaccine for the world," he said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


COVID-19 risk on planes 'very low' with proper measures, Harvard review says

EllenMoran/iStockBy MINA KAJI and AMANDA MAILE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard a plane is "reduced to very low levels," Harvard researchers concluded. The onboard ventilation systems coupled with measures such as masks, frequent cabin cleaning, and distancing during boarding and deplaning help keep the virus from spreading.

"This layered approach reduces the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission onboard aircraft below that of other routine activities during the pandemic, such as grocery shopping or eating out," the report stated.

The Aviation Public Health Initiative (APHI), comprised of faculty and scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published its Phase One report Tuesday, analyzing "gate-to-gate travel" onboard planes. It has not been peer-reviewed.

The initiative is sponsored by major U.S. airline lobbying group Airlines for America, along with other aircraft and equipment manufacturers, airline and airport operators. But the APHI insists its findings and recommendations are the "independent conclusions" of the Harvard researchers.

There have only been 13 peer-reviewed studies surrounding COVID-19 transmission on aircrafts.

"While investigation of the virus and its transmission is ongoing," researchers said, "the research to date indicates a relatively very low risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 while flying."

Three studies published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases found likely cases of COVID-19 transmission onboard international flights, but they occurred before airlines implemented mandatory mask requirements.

The virus' long incubation period combined with the lack of contact tracing limits the amount of data researchers can analyze surrounding transmission on planes.

"Until there has been widespread vaccination, there remains the risk of infection in all walks of public life," the report said. "As with any activity during this pandemic, the choice to fly is a personal one and depends on a traveler's health assessment, individual risk tolerance and the potential consequences of becoming infected."

The APHI plans to release its Phase Two report in two months, which looks at "curb-to-curb" travel and analyzes risks associated with one's time spent at the airport.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Dr. Deborah Birx calls out North Dakota for poor mask use during pandemic

Rattankun Thongbun/iStockBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx is criticizing North Dakotans for having what she called the poorest mask use in the country, as the state experiences one of the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission nationwide.

Birx spent two days in the state this week as part of a nationwide tour that's brought her to nearly 40 states during the coronavirus pandemic.

She told officials there that North Dakota had the worst mask use she had seen so far.

"Over the last 24 hours as we were here, and we were in your grocery stores, and in your restaurants and frankly even in your hotels, this is the least use of masks that we have seen in retail establishments of any place we have been," Birx said Monday during a roundtable with local leaders and health officials in the state capital of Bismarck.

North Dakota is one of 16 states that don't have a statewide mask mandate, according to Masks4All, a volunteer organization that advocates for more mask-wearing. Instead the governor has stressed personal responsibility, and mandates have been left up to individual mayors. In recent weeks, Fargo, Minot and Grand Forks have voted to implement a mask mandate, though Bismarck had not as of Tuesday evening.

Birx emphasized that mask-wearing is one of the main measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

"There is not only evidence that masks work, there is evidence that masks utilized as a public health mitigation effort work," said Birx, who noted that there is a "very high level" of COVID-19 in North Dakota.

"It doesn't matter if you're in a rural area, or if you're in an urban area," she said.

North Dakota currently has the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases per capita in the U.S., according to an analysis by the New York Times. In the most recent task force report, dated Oct. 18, the state also had the highest rate of cases in the country.

An ABC News analysis found that the daily rate of positivity and current hospitalizations in North Dakota have increased over the past two weeks.

On Tuesday, the state health department reported 896 new cases, for a daily positivity rate of 14.82%. The rolling 14-day positivity rate was 10.9% -- more than double the rate that health experts recommend.

North Dakota saw a 39.9% increase in week-to-week new cases on Oct. 20, according to an Oct. 26 Health and Human Services memo obtained by ABC News. The state also surpassed 1,000 daily new cases for the first time on Oct. 20, the memo said. The state's growing caseload has created a backlog, increasing the time it takes to notify people who have tested positive from 24 hours to 72 hours, according to HHS.

On the question of whether statewide mask mandates are effective, Birx said, "When you look at the states and when they implemented a mask mandate and you look at their cases per million and you look at their fatalities per million, they are lower than states that chose to recommend masks but not to mandate," the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Birx did not say Monday whether she recommended that Gov. Doug Burgum mandate that masks be worn in public.

The Republican governor defended the state's mask approach during Monday's roundtable.

"We know we don't have enforcement mechanisms in North Dakota where someone is going to force someone to wear a mask," he said. "So again, it comes back to individuals choosing the role that they want to play in the community."

Bismarck's city commission was expected to vote on a mask order Tuesday night, local TV station KFYR-TV reported. The mayor has voiced opposition to a mandate in the city.

Birx did praise what she called North Dakota's "superb" job of testing, while calling for all North Dakotans to practice social distancing and wear a mask, especially as the weather cools, to avoid what she called "silent spread" indoors.

"It starts with the community, and the community deciding that it's important for their children to be in school, the community deciding that it's important not to infect the nursing home staff who are caring for their residents -- for North Dakotans -- every day," she said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Medical task force recommends lowering suggested age for colorectal screenings

ipopba/iStockBy SASHA PEZENIK and DR. MIRANDA ROSENBERG, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- New recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force aim to offset what experts call an alarming trend in American health: a rising number of young people are getting diagnosed with, and dying from, colorectal cancer.

The Task Force announced Tuesday morning their proposal to lower the suggested age for when to start colorectal screenings, moving it up five years, from 50, to 45 years old. The move may indicate a growing call for awareness and accelerate action amongst an age group that may not know they're at risk.

"The prognosis is so much better if you catch it at an earlier stage," Dr. Kimmie Ng, the director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told ABC News. "These new guidelines are hugely significant. They support and validate the alarming epidemiologic trends we've been seeing: This cancer is rising at about a rate of 2% per year, in people under the age of 50, since the 1990s."

Colorectal cancer impacts the gastrointestinal system's final segment. While lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., colorectal cancer comes second, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- and yet, it remains one of the most treatable, even curable cancers, when caught in its early stages.

"Way too young" were the words resounding across the globe late this summer, when news broke that actor Chadwick Boseman, at just 43 years old, had died of colon cancer. Boseman had kept his long, difficult battle mostly private, but the shock of his loss was compounded by a common misconception: that the disease only strikes older people.

Even though overall incidence and mortality rates for colorectal cancer have decreased over the past few decades, colorectal cancer deaths among younger adults continue to climb. It's a concerning trend, experts told ABC News, pointing out the importance of testing and early intervention.

In 2018, the American Cancer Society updated their guidelines, recommending that those at average risk of colorectal cancer begin regular screening at age 45. Experts hope the Task Force's update shines a light on the importance of the issue.

For years prior, screening was not generally recommended for the below-50 crowd. This led to potentially vulnerable, or even sick adults putting off testing thinking their symptoms did not rise to the level of firm diagnosis. Because of this lack of awareness, pernicious, possibly cancerous growths remained undetected for too long, experts say, and now, young patients are suffering from more advanced, harder to treat cancers.

"Cancer is simply not on their radar," Ng said, speaking more specifically about colon cancer. "They're otherwise young and healthy. So we need to emphasize that yes, this can happen in young people."

Nearly 25% of screening-eligible Americans have never been screened for colon cancer, and yet, it is expected to cause over 53,000 American deaths this year alone. Of the roughly 148,000 individuals who will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2020, about 18,000 of those cases will be young people, according to the American Cancer Society. And although most commonly diagnosed in older adults, about one in every 10 new cases occur in people under 50, according to data collected from the CDC's National Program of Cancer Registries.

And the trend seems to have no end in sight, as the rate of new colorectal cancer cases in young patients is expected to double by 2030.

The diagnosis strikes younger patients at a different stage in their lives, catching them unaware. Dr. Nancy You, a colorectal surgical oncologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, said she's been "in the trenches" with younger patients, and that tension between life and unexpected sickness.

"The emotions are high when these younger patients walk in the door," You told ABC. "It catches them completely off guard. They're finishing school, trying to make a career, building relationships, families, and then this."

"So, if we're able to move the needle at all, lowering the stage they're diagnosed, or when the tumor is smaller, hopefully, that's a window of intervention such that we never get to invasive cancer."

The new USPSTF guidelines are not yet final: For the next four weeks, the public will have the chance to peer review for feedback on the recommendation to the Task Force.

"We really approach this in an open way," Dr. Michael Barry, USPSTF member and director of Informed Medical Decisions in the Health Decision Sciences Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. "We really try to be transparent and take different perspectives into account, before we make a final recommendation. This is an opportunity for clarification."

With the adoption of this recommendation, more patients in an expanded age bracket will have access to screenings without having to worry about the out-of-pocket cost. Insurance coverage is "directly tied to this Task Force's recommendations," Ng said.

So, why has the median age for colorectal cancer shifted lower? "That is really the million dollar question we're working to understand," Ng said. One's diet and one's lifestyle choices are both suspected to have an impact, but Ng said, the "vast majority" of the younger patients she and her colleagues see live active, healthy lifestyles and have no family history.

There's another issue, one intertwined with the socioeconomic disparity linked to nutrition and quality of life: Rates of colorectal cancer are higher in Black people, according to the Task Force and experts on the matter.

"We see these well-known disparities in the incidence of colon cancer and mortality from colorectal cancer by race," Ng said, "Black people are much more likely to get this disease -- and at a younger age -- than white people, and more likely to die of colorectal cancer than white people. These new guidelines hopefully will contribute to helping to mitigate some of that."

Colon cancer screening methods run the gamut from clinical visits to at-home collection. Experts agree, the "best" test is the one that optimizes screening and understanding.

"The best test is the one that the patient will do," Barry said.

Ng also said that while a colonoscopy is considered the "gold standard," it just isn't for everybody. And not everybody will do it, as we've seen, because compliance rates with colorectal cancer screening across the U.S. are currently only about 60%.

Screening for colon cancer earlier won't have a specific downside: The risk of bleeding, or tears in the intestinal lining, that occur with colonoscopy occur more frequently in older patients, experts say. But the current guidelines -- even the new ones -- won't sweep worries or undiagnosed cases off the table.

"For a lot of people diagnosed under the age of 45, like Boseman, these new guidelines still won't help those younger patients," Ng said. "And so, research really has to continue, into who exactly we should target and why this is happening."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How to keep your newborn baby healthy during COVID-19 pandemic

SeventyFour/iStockBy DR. MIRANDA ROSENBERG, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Caring for a newborn in the midst of a pandemic may seem daunting and complicated, but there's good news: The core advice hasn't changed. Experts still agree on child care basics like rooming in, breastfeeding and regular visits to the pediatrician -- just with a few new modifications to protect everyone against COVID-19.
 
Three doctors shared their best advice with ABC News' Good Morning America in hopes of helping parents protect their newborns' health in the middle of a global pandemic.

1. Like always, bond with your baby from the beginning

Experts recommend parents and their new babies bond from the very beginning. This starts with mothers sharing a room with their baby while still in the hospital, a concept known as "rooming in." Even mothers who test positive for COVID-19 can sleep in the same room as their baby as long as proper safety precautions are taken, such as keeping 6 feet between the mother and baby, or placing the baby in an incubator, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The benefits of skin-to-skin contact are well established after birth and when it comes to breastfeeding, doctors agree it's not only safe, but highly recommended.

"At this point we don't have evidence that the virus passes through breast milk," said Dr. Julie Capiola, MD, FAAP, IBCLC, a New York pediatrician with Premier Pediatrics.

2. Breastfed infants are less likely to develop other viral infections

Breast milk contains many of the mother's infection-fighting antibodies, and while its effect on SARS-CoV-2 is not yet known, "breastfed infants are less likely to develop other viral infections," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"It's one of the reasons breast milk is so good for your baby," explained Dr. Katherine Campbell, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale New Haven Hospital.

According to Campbell, mothers who test positive for COVID-19 should talk to their doctor and decide on the best approach for them. They can continue to breastfeed by making sure to keep their breasts clean and dry, washing their hands before handling the baby and wearing a mask during feeding sessions. Alternatively, they can express their milk and have a healthy caregiver bottle feed their baby after.

3. See the pediatrician regularly

Keeping newborns healthy also means continuing to see the pediatrician regularly.

Even if a new baby seems healthy, "it's not OK to skip well visits," cautioned Capiola.

These checkups are essential to ensure birth abnormalities -- such as permanent heart, lung and bone problems -- are not missed. They are an opportunity to identify hearing and language troubles early, when interventions can often minimize longterm damage.

Regular visits to the pediatrician are also important for ensuring the baby is up to date on routine vaccinations against diseases like pertussis, rotavirus and polio. The CDC recommends that infants 6 months or older get an annual flu shot.

"Immunizations are particularly important this year," Dr. Susan Coffin, attending physician for the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said. "They can prevent several common 'lookalike' infections: infections that have symptoms similar to COVID and would trigger testing and worry."

4. Get a flu shot

Parents and other people that plan to be around the newborn should be vaccinated against the flu, and once the baby turns 6 months old, your pediatrician will likely suggest the same for your new baby.

Your newborn won't be offered a vaccine for COVID-19 though. Only one U.S. trial is currently enrolling teenagers; none are testing their vaccine on younger children. Approval for its use on infants is not likely to come soon.

5. Keep your bubble small

Part of keeping babies safe from COVID-19 is keeping them healthy and out of the hospital.

"The strategies that prevent COVID transmission are also effective against other viruses," explained Coffin.

Infants can catch coronavirus the same way adults do: through droplets and aerosols in the air. When you're around a baby, "social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing really make a difference," Campbell said.
 
Restricting the number of visitors is also important.

"Newborns have an immune system that is very limited in its ability to fight infection," said Capiola.

Exposure to more individuals increases the infant's risk for infection. She recommends considering potential risks from those who want to meet the new baby. People who travel by air to visit, or those who go to a lot of restaurants, weddings and parties are likely to be at higher risk.

If you are going to socialize with people outside of your immediate family, consider doing so outdoors where transmission risk for COVID-19 is lower. Campbell suggests quick visits on a deck or a patio instead of socializing indoors whenever possible.

6. Don't panic if you get sick

But what should new moms do if they are worried they are getting sick themselves?

As Capiola said: "Put on a mask, continue to care for the baby as needed and get tested."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


For people with Down syndrome, the best medical information is now automated

Cristina Sanchez and her best friend and roommate, Gracie. (Ashley Sanchez)By GENEVIEVE SHAW BROWN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- At 28 years old, Cristina Sanchez is living the life.

She shares an apartment with her best friend Gracie and has a job she loves at the local Panera Bread. She's adored by her two sisters and her parents. She lives in a safe, walkable community in Austin, Texas, where people with disabilities live independently among the typically developing population.

Sanchez told ABC News' Good Morning America her independence is "a good thing."

"Living in an apartment is a good thing. [Being independent] is not that easy for anyone, with our disabilities," she said.

Cristina Sanchez has Down syndrome and her mom, Ashley, has been leading the charge on her medical needs since her daughter was born. Though there are 71 Down syndrome specialty clinics in the U.S., the Sanchez family doesn't live anywhere near one. So, Ashley Sanchez got a book that includes a list of questions to ask a primary care physician when the patient has Down syndrome. And while her daughter's doctor has always been great to work with, the trouble is, the book Sanchez is using is 10 years old.

Research for Down syndrome is happening at such a rapid pace that even Dr. Brian Skotko, a board-certified medical geneticist and director of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, has trouble keeping up.

And while Skotko has been running a successful clinic at MGH for years, it's not practical, nor affordable, for many families to travel to his or any other clinic. He told GMA that with 213,000 people living with Down syndrome in the U.S. alone, even if all 71 clinics were operating at maximum, they could only serve 5% of those people.

Enter Down Syndrome Clinic to You (DSC2U), a platform that brings the expertise of the clinic to the patient instead of the other way around.

DSC2U was created by Skotko, and the clinical and research teams from the Down Syndrome Program and Lab of Computer Science at Massachusetts General Hospital, a not-for-profit academic hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School. The team, Skotko said, worked in close consultation with key stakeholders, including parents and caregivers of people with Down syndrome, representatives of Down syndrome advocacy organizations, primary care physicians and national medical experts. It costs $49, a fraction of what an in-person visit might cost when transportation and lodging costs are factored in. It's meant to be used in conjunction with a primary care physician.

Cristina Sanchez was one of the initial patients enrolled in DSC2U during the test period. During that time, her mom said it was discovered that Cristina needed a pneumococcal vaccine much earlier than she thought, based on her book.

"I thought it was when she turned 50," Sanchez said.

Skotko said he's heard other success stories. Speaking at a conference, a mother stood up to share her experience with DSC2U.

"Her daughter had been having stomach issues, and they had seen nutritionists and doctors. If your stomach doesn't feel right, you aren't well and it can cause behaviors," Skotko said. "The family was on a hunt [to figure out what was wrong]."

Because they were one of the test families in DSC2U, the program suggested they have their daughter tested for celiac disease, a regular recommendation in any Down syndrome specialty clinic.

And as it turned out, the patient did in fact have celiac. Her diet became gluten free and the stomach issues disappeared.

"It's this kind of thing that really is life-changing," Skotko said of the medical information now available to everyone through DSC2U.

The platform was five years in the making and was funded by a $2 million grant from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and philanthropic support from LuMind IDSC Foundation. It's not to be confused with telemedicine, which, given the number of people living with Down syndrome as compared to the medical professionals who specialize in it, would not be scalable.

"The platform is real-time, customized, automated health care information that is auto-generated from algorithms created by Down syndrome specialists, and can reach any families and physicians around the globe, accessible, in English and Spanish," Skotko said, adding that they hope to expand to many other languages in the future.

While the U.S. has 71 clinics and that's not nearly enough, there are plenty of countries who have none, he said.

But best of all, DSC2U has the ability to help, in a similar way, a myriad other conditions that could benefit from the technology created.

"Any medical conditions that have a medical playbook can potentially benefit patients, caregivers and primary care providers," Skotko said. "We hope, for example, that other conditions such as Turner syndrome, adult congenital heart disease, diabetes, may be next."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Parents in so-called 'mom code' allegedly refuse to get kids tested for COVID-19 to help keep schools open

narvikk/iStockBy CAMERON HARRISON and SEAN SANDERS, ABC News

(DAVIS COUNTY, Utah) -- Health officials are sounding the alarm about a group of parents in Utah who are allegedly pledging to not have their children tested for COVID-19 in order to make infection numbers artificially appear lower.

The alleged push to avoid getting kids tested, dubbed the "mom code," is seen in messages shared on Facebook urging parents to keep their child at home if they show COVID-19 symptoms, but to not get tested.

The messages are reportedly being shared among parents in Utah's Davis School District, which oversees more than 73,000 students in Davis County, Utah.

"If there is a quarantine with a sports team or with any of the classrooms, they are encouraging each other not to have their children tested," said Genevra Prothero, a parent in the school district, who fears community spread if the "mom code" is encouraged. "This is a time where we need to really focus on tracing the virus so we can be able to stop the spread."

State health officials say it's unknown how many parents are actually taking part in the alleged "mom code," but warn that those who do could be contributing to the spread of COVID-19.

"Testing is a critical element of our response," health officials told Good Morning America in a statement, in part. "Identifying cases …is a key strategy to limiting the spread of disease in our communities."

Davis County currently has more than 8,000 reported cases of COVID-19. The state of Utah has more than 104,000 cases of COVID-19, according to state health data.

The United States is the worst-affected country, with more than 8.6 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19 and at least 225,230 deaths.

Emilie Daly, a mother of four young children, is running for the school board in Davis County. She told GMA that while she is not participating in the reported "mom code," she can understand why some parents would.

"It's not mandated to get tested, that's the thing," she said. "And so we need to remember that it is a choice and you need to make decisions based off of what you feel."

The Davis School District did not reply to ABC News' request for comment. ABC News also reached out to some of the parents allegedly involved in the so-called "mom code" and they also did not reply.

Students in the district are currently attending school on a varied, hybrid model of in-person and remote learning, according to the school district's website.

The school district's Board of Education last week released its quarantine protocols for students and staff, noting that in the case of a school outbreak, the classroom or school would enter a "14-day quarantine with students moving to remote learning."

“The longer I am involved in my position as a board member, the more clear it is to me that, regarding the pandemic -- there are no easy answers and no answers that are right for everyone," Board President John Robison said in a statement, in part, announcing the protocols. "What is right for some people is wrong for others."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


As cases increase, US coronavirus deaths surpass 225,000

Amornrat Phuchom/iStockBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus passed another grim milestone Sunday as the number of cases crossed the 225,000 mark.

The Center for Systems, Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University reported there were 225,111 COVID-19 related deaths across the country as of Sunday afternoon.

By comparison, there were 291,557 American soldiers killed in battle during World War II, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The U.S. leads the world in coronavirus deaths and in total cases, which are now over 8.6 million, according to Johns Hopkins. Brazil has the second-highest death toll with nearly 157,000 dead, followed by India with nearly 119,000 deaths, according to the data.

The U.S. surpassed 200,000 dead on Sept. 22.

States across the country continue to report jumps in new coronavirus cases.

On Friday, the Covid Tracking Project recorded a record number of new cases in the country, 83,010, a day after it recorded 82,668. The seven-day average of new cases has been steadily increasing this month, going from 42,348 on Oct. 2 to 66,557 on Oct. 24, according to Covid Tracking Project data.

The seven-day average for U.S. newly reported deaths has also increased throughout the month, going from 703 on Oct. 2 to 807 on Oct. 24, the Covid Tracking Project data said.

Several Midwestern states have seen the greatest increase in cases, including Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana, according to the health data.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


42 states, territories in upward trajectory of new COVID-19 cases: HHS memo

pixelfit/iStockBY: JOSH MARGOLIN AND EMILY SHAPIRO, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) -- Forty-two states and territories are in an upward trajectory of new COVID-19 cases, while only nine jurisdictions are improving, according to an internal Health and Human Services memo obtained by ABC News.

Just five jurisdictions are at a plateau.

The U.S. reported 428,793 new cases of the coronavirus in the week of Oct. 16 to Oct. 22 -- a 14.3% increase from the previous week, the memo said.

There were 5,530 deaths recorded from Oct. 16 to Oct. 22, marking a 15.1% increase in new deaths compared with the previous week, according to the memo.

The national test-positivity rate increased from 5.1% to 5.9% in week-to-week comparisons.

Across the country, 24% of hospitals have more than 80% of their ICU beds filled. That number was 17 to 18% during the summertime peak.

In Florida, new cases are up 30% among high school students compared to two weeks ago, and up 42% among young adults ages 18 to 24, the memo said.

In Kentucky, new deaths have been increasing over the last two weeks. Kentucky reported its second-highest daily fatality count on Wednesday, the memo said.

The state is preparing its surge capacity as hospitalizations rise.

Mississippi reported a 26.2% increase in cases over the last week, according to HHS.

COVID-19 related hospitalizations in Mississippi are up 24% since last week, with COVID-19 ICU hospitalizations up 7%.

The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, who primarily live in Neshoba County, are disproportionately affected by the virus. The tribe reported 22 new cases this past week with 43 active cases, according to the memo.

North Carolina reported its highest single-day death toll on Tuesday, with 53 more lives lost, the memo said.

In Greensboro, North Carolina, coronavirus-related hospitalizations hit record numbers Monday.

Smaller hospitals in North Carolina have reported running out of room. Forty-one percent of facilities reported that over 80% of their ICU space was in use, the memo said.

Oklahoma recorded a record high of 821 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Tuesday.

Tennessee also reported a record number of hospitalizations on Tuesday, with 1,259 confirmed COVID-19 patients, the memo said.

Over a quarter of Tennessee's COVID-19 patients were in the ICU on Sunday, the memo said.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Health official tears up delivering latest COVID-19 numbers in emotional briefing

WLS-TVBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) -- In an emotional briefing, Illinois' top health official teared up while she delivered the latest COVID-19 numbers for the state and urged residents not to get complacent in fighting the virus.

"I want to say happy Friday, but I understand the mental, the social and the emotional toll that this pandemic continues to have on people," Illinois Department of Public Health Department Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike began Friday's COVID-19 briefing.

While acknowledging the sacrifices she has asked people to make, Ezike noted that COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths continue to increase in the state.

"Yesterday we lost an additional 31 lives, for a total of 9,418 deaths," she said. "These are people who started with us in 2020 and won't be with us at the Thanksgiving table."

Her voice wavering, she reported there were 3,874 new cases on Thursday, for a total of 364,033 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.

The official then paused and stepped away from the podium to gather herself, before reporting that there were 2,498 people hospitalized overnight with COVID-19, including 511 in the intensive care unit and 197 on ventilators. Hospitalizations reached a record on Thursday, according to The COVID Tracking Project.

"My message to you is to stay strong," Ezike said. "I've never run a marathon, but I have the utmost regard for those who've been able to train and plan and finish a marathon. But this is a difficult race when you can't actually see the endpoint and I'm sorry that that's the message I have for you."

She pleaded with residents to "fight the fatigue" and continue to social distance, diligently wear a mask and reconsider large, in-person gatherings.

"This is what we'll have to do to bring the spread down in our community," Ezike said. "When we bring the spread down in our community, kids can go to school safely, people can go to work safely, activities, [and] family celebrations can be celebrations, instead of super-spreader events that result in disease and death."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


HBCUs trying to bridge medical distrust in Black community amid COVID-19

sshepard/iStockBy JADE LAWSON, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacts communities of color in the United States, dozens of historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) are stepping in to help lead the Black community to get tested more and to participate in vaccine trials. But medical misuse from past research experiments carries a daunting history of mistrust, causing many Black people to think twice before jumping in line to participate.

Meharry Medical College is expected to begin the Novavax vaccine trial in the coming weeks, according to Dr. Rajbir Singh, Interim Director, Clinical and Translational Research Center at the institution. Morehouse School of Medicine is also expected to begin vaccine trials in the coming weeks. HBCU counterparts will also serve as COVID-19 diagnostic centers.

Additionally, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation last week announced a $15 million donation over the next three years, in partnership with The Just Project, to help at least seven HBCUs serve as testing centers for students and members of their communities, considering most HBCUs sit in historically Black neighborhoods.

But appeals to HBCU communities to participate in the research and testing have caused controversy.

In early September, the presidents of Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) and Dillard University released a letter encouraging students and faculty to consider participating in the COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials. President Walter M. Kimbrough of Dillard and Dr. Reynold Verret, president of XULA, wrote that they participated in the trials and reported normal symptoms.

While Black people represent 13.4% of the U.S. population, they only represent 5% of clinical trial participants, making it more challenging to level the playing field for Black people in medical research advancement.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, diversity in clinical research is critical to ensuring the development of therapies that are simultaneously safe and effective for patients from diverse backgrounds.

However, the presidents' letter led to an uproar on social media from HBCU students and onlookers, with many saying it may have added additional pressure on Black students and faculty dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

"I think social media multiplies voices in interesting ways," Verrett told ABC News, countering the appearance of the retweets. "We generally received positive feedback from our alumni."

Blair Kelley, assistant dean of interdisciplinary studies and a history professor at North Carolina State University, sparked thousands of reactions with a tweet calling out the presidents for using university letterhead in the appeal.

"I think it's fine for them to encourage their peers and community to participate in trials, but I do think there's a power dynamic at play. I don't think you should use the power of your institution to do that work. I think you should use your influence as an individual," she told ABC News.

Some compared the vaccine trial to the 1932 Tuskegee syphilis study -- an unethical case where hundreds of Black men were injected with syphilis and left untreated. At least 128 participants died and 40 of their spouses and 19 children also contracted the disease.

Despite a $10 million out-of-court settlement for the participants and their families, the notorious experiment left a lasting stain on medical studies for the Black community for generations, building a stigma around medicine.

"Medical establishments have to do better. They have to re-train their faculty and staff to think in humane ways about their Black patients to treat them with the equity that we hope to see in every sector of society," Kelley said.

That is something the universities and presidents also consider. XULA is listed first among the nation's colleges and universities for African American students who continue their education and complete medical school, according to a special report compiled by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

"There have been so many missed opportunities because of the exclusion of African American tribes," Verrett said. "We cannot benefit from a health care system in which we are absent."

Verrett denied all allegations of any financial gain for XULA for asking students to consider participating in the trials. He said his goal with the letter was to educate and advance his students.

"There's a lot of thinking and learning that has to be done, and that learning is a teachable moment for our students," he said.

While HBCUs and Black community leaders work for more participation, clinical researchers say they're still struggling to maintain diverse trial participation. Clinical research consultants Sholeh Ehdaivand and Sherri Boykin say one root of that is that there's not enough diversity among clinical investigators involved in the research during the clinical vaccination trials.

"It all stems from who you know," Boykin told ABC News, explaining that the government selects clinical investigators, who run the trials, and people generally stay within the same circles -- leading to Ivy League schools' outsized involvement in trials.

"Investigators involved in the clinical research trials should look beyond large predominantly white institutions that usually get priority ... try going a few miles down the road to include minority institutions as well," Boykin, who founded Marlee Research Group, an organization working to increase diversity within clinical trials, with Ehdaivand, said.

Still, Ehdaivand and Boykin believe public health information and outreach is only half the battle; the Black community also owes it to themselves to do their research and "get involved with your own health care," Ehdaivand said.

As of Oct. 16, Moderna says approximately 36% of study participants in its COVID vaccine trials are from communities of color. Pfizer recently expanded their pool of COVID vaccine trial participants by including 16- and 17-year-old teens and higher numbers of Hispanic, Black, Asian and Native American participants.

While HBCUs prepare to expand COVID-19 testing across campuses and establish the beginning stages of vaccine trials, hoping to break generational mistrust in American medicine and further medical advances by including the people who need it the most, there are still myriad systemic forces at work amid the pandemic.

"We're dying at high rates because we're essential workers," Kelley said. "We're dying at high rates because we live in food deserts. We're dying at higher rates because we suffer from diseases at higher rates because we have less access to medical care. That's not being Black, that's racism."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Women diagnosed with breast cancer amid COVID-19 stress importance of mammograms

ABC NewsBy JOANNNE ROSA, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The coronavirus pandemic may have some people wondering which health checkups can be postponed until things calm down, but three breast cancer survivors say breast cancer screening is one to keep.

Jennifer Gordon, Tanisha Worthy and Jennifer Grannis shared their stories on "The View" Thursday about how they almost delayed their annual mammograms due to fears of contracting COVID-19 during their appointments. They each ultimately went to their appointments, and those decisions might've saved their lives, as they were diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Things were really crazy," said Jennifer Gordon, a 41-year-old mother of two children. "My husband and I were working from home. We have a 3- and 5-year-old. We were trying to keep busy while we did our jobs."

Gordon had initially contemplated skipping her mammogram. But she had promised her good friend Summur Shaikh, a producer for "The View" who was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, that she would get one and therefore decided to go on Aug. 27. She was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer.

Gordon said she "just kept thinking, 'Why me?' And what was going to happen next."

After her diagnosis, Gordon underwent a successful double mastectomy and is now cancer-free.

"The morning of my surgery, my son told me to be brave and I focused on those words all morning, and as they rolled me in for surgery, it's what got me through," she said.

"I would never in a million years let my kids skip one of their doctors' appointments and I'm always encouraging my husband to make his doctors' appointments, so why was I so willing to skip mine?" Gordon added. "All it takes is putting yourself and your health first for 10 minutes every year."

Worthy, 48, had been given the all-clear after a mammogram in December 2019. But a month later, in January 2020, she came across a lump on her breast when she accidentally brushed her hand across her chest.

"I was hesitant to go to the doctor due to COVID, but it was important that I determine what was going on," Worthy said. "I scheduled the appointment and on June 19th I was diagnosed with breast cancer in both breasts."

"I had to tell my boys," she added. "That was the hardest conversation I had."

Worthy made the decision to have a bilateral mastectomy and is currently undergoing chemotherapy. In anticipation of the treatment's side effects, she decided to shave her head.

"Now I'm embracing the new me until it grows back," Worthy said.

"It's extremely important to get your annual mammogram. It's also very important to do self-examinations," Worthy went on to say. "Take action for your health."

Grannis, 49, put off her annual mammogram for five months because it was scheduled during "the height of the pandemic."

"I'm a busy mom. I'm navigating a divorce," Grannis said. "Having a mammogram wasn't even on my radar."

That all changed when Grannis' mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and her surgeon insisted all of her daughters get checked for breast cancer immediately.

"The call came three or four days later from my OB-GYN. [The doctor] said, 'I'm sorry, Jennifer. There's no easy way to tell you this, but you have breast cancer,'" Grannis said.

Grannis braved a double mastectomy, which she said her 18-year-old daughter "got very emotional over."

"The only advice I [could] give to her at that time was you just keep standing up," Grannis said she had told her daughter. "You take your legs and you just keep standing up."

After everything she's been going through this year, Grannis said, "I realize that breast cancer loves the woman who is too busy, too tired, too devoted to others or too afraid to stop and go to her mammogram appointment."

MORE: How 3 women trusted their instincts and discovered they had cancer
Dr. Elizabeth Comen, an oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center who focuses on breast cancer, shared some advice in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month on "The View" Thursday.

"I'm not just an oncologist who treats breast cancer. I'm also a busy working mom with three children," Cohen said. "We all can identify and relate with the anxiety associated with getting mammograms."

"Women, especially today, are being pulled in so many different directions. It's all the more reason that women need to be empowered to take care of themselves," she added.

Comen pointed out a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association that found breast cancer diagnoses had dropped over 50% during the pandemic.

"That's not because cancer is quarantining or sheltering in place," she said. "It's because people aren't showing up for their screenings."

Comen said this finding was worrying because it could result in "potentially thousands" of breast cancer-related deaths in the future.

"We want people to feel empowered to show up for their doctors' appointments -- for their mammograms -- [and] to know that it's safe," Comen said. "Everybody in the hospital wears a mask."

When it comes to modifiable risk factors for breast cancer, Comen said it's important to maintain a healthy weight by eating healthy, exercising and decreasing alcohol consumption.

Still, Comen said she understands these suggestions are no easy feat, especially during a global pandemic.

"We know that everybody is circling the kitchen right now stressed and anxious. They may not be able to go to the gym. You may be drinking more," Comen said. "It's really important that as a community, collectively, we encourage each other to eat better. I do Zoom workouts with my girlfriends in the morning. And if you are turning to drinking too much, [it's important] that you really reach out to a trained mental health professional to help with some of the stress and anxiety that so many people are feeling right now."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Officials warn families of COVID-19 carpool clusters: What to know

LPETTET/iStockBy SARAH MESSER, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As schools get back in session and more employees return to the office amid the coronavirus pandemic, health officials are warning about the potential risks of commuting together in cars, whether through neighborhood carpools or ride-share services.

"They're shedding virus in their mouth and their nose and they're speaking and talking, and in a small car, that individual is certainly going to transmit virus to the members of that car," Dr. Juan Salazar, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and physician-in-chief at Connecticut Children's, told Good Morning America.

Officials in both Connecticut and Rhode Island have warned that they are seeing clusters of COVID-19 cases from informal gatherings, including carpools.

With more than 8.3 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in the United States since the start of the pandemic, health officials are now sharing tips for how people can stay safe when sharing cars, whether in an Uber to work or a carpool to soccer practice.

"When you think about sort of the ways in which we're preventing transmission, it's not just one or the other," said Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist and ABC News contributor and the chief innovation officer of Boston Children’s Hospital. "It's a multi-layered strategy."

1. Wear a mask and wash your hands. Wearing a face mask is a must, experts say, as well as using hand sanitizer or soap and water to wash your hands after leaving the car. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends cleaning and disinfecting surfaces often.

2. Stay in the same carpool cluster. The CDC recommends both limiting the number of people in the car and riding with the same people day to day.

"Your additional contacts lead to potential risk so if you maintain the same contacts, you will reduce your own risk and the risk of spreading to others," said Brownstein.

3. Check your air conditioning mode. Set the air conditioning or heat in your car on non-recirculation mode, according to the CDC. This way you're bringing fresh air inside the car to dilute any possible virus particles in the air.

4. Sit far from the driver. In a rideshare, the best seat is the one as far as possible from the driver, likely the rear seat diagonally across from the driver, according to the CDC.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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