RISE examines the latest news on COVID-19. Among the many headlines: For every COVID-19 case reported, there actually are 10 other infections, according to health experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Meanwhile, as states begin to reopen, there has been a spike in cases and a new projection indicates that COVID-19 deaths in the United States could reach more than 180,000 by the fall. Despite the continued spread of the virus, the Trump administration has announced it will end federal support for some COVID-19 testing sites and asks the Supreme Court to invalidate the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
CDC data finds higher number of U.S. cases; expands list of those at-risk for serious illness
More than 20 million Americans may have contracted the coronavirus, 10 times more than reported, Robert Redfield, M.D., director of the CDC, told reporters on Thursday. During the press briefing, as reported by TIME, Redfield said the higher estimate is based on data from antibody testing.
Meanwhile, the CDC has updated and expanded its list of who is at increased risk for becoming severely ill from COVID-19. CDC now warns that risk increases steadily as you age and it’s not just those over the age of 65 who are at increased risk. Specific conditions also add to the threat, including:
- Chronic kidney disease
- COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease)
- Obesity (BMI of 30 or higher)
- Immunocompromised state (weakened immune system) from solid organ transplant
- Serious heart conditions, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, or cardiomyopathies
- Sickle cell disease
- Type 2 diabetes
- High blood pressure
That means that nearly one in four adult workers is vulnerable to severe illness from COVID-19, according to a new Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) report. Ninety million adults are at a greater risk due to underlying health conditions or age. Of these adults, KFF estimates that about 37.7 million were employed at a job or business in the prior year, including 10 million people age 65 and older. These at-risk workers comprise 24 percent of all adult workers.
Reopening measures lead to new projections of U.S. COVID-19 deaths
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington forecasts that nearly 180,000 people in the United States will die of COVID-19 by October 1. However, those numbers could drop to 146,800 if at least 95 percent of people wear masks in public.
“There is no doubt that even as states open up, the United States is still grappling with a large epidemic on a course to increase beginning in late August and intensifying in September,” said IHME Director Christopher Murray, M.D. “People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50 percent, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.”
The new forecast is lower than the 200,000 deaths that the IHME projected in mid-June. The new estimate is because although California and other states have seen an increase in case numbers, deaths are not rising at the same rate—a trend that could change in the coming weeks.
“States reporting the ages of confirmed cases suggest there are more cases being detected in younger people who are at substantially lower risk of death than older people,” Murray said. “It remains to be seen how this will unfold over the next few weeks, and if transmission continues to go up, we may see increasing infections in at-risk populations.”
Feds plan to stop funding COVID-19 test sites
The Trump administration reportedly will close 13 federally-run coronavirus testing sites in Colorado, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas at the end of the month. The move comes in the wake of President Trump’s repeated blame on the rise of cases on the expansion of testing, despite evidence that the virus is continuing to spread throughout the country, according to NPR. Meanwhile House and Senate Democrats have urged the administration to disburse nearly $14 billion for testing and contact tracing provided by Congress. “It's completely unacceptable that while billions in federal dollars Congress passed to support testing sit unspent, this Administration is closing testing sites in states where new COVID-19 cases are rapidly on the rise," said U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., in a statement Wednesday. She asked Trump to reverse the decision immediately.
Trump urges Supreme Court to axe ACA, despite uptick in coverage requests due to job losses
Despite the pandemic, the Trump administration continues to try to end the ACA. On Thursday, the administration filed a legal brief with the Supreme Court stating that the health care reform law became unconstitutional after Congress passed Trump’s tax overhaul in 2017 that eliminated the individual mandate that required individuals to obtain health insurance or pay a penalty. The filing does not mention COVID-19 but was filed the same day that CMS issued a report that 487,000 Americans gained coverage through the ACA marketplace as part of a special enrollment for individuals who have lost their jobs as a result of the virus. This was a 46 percent increase in enrollment compared with the same time last year.
“It remains unclear how many people will eventually look to Exchanges using HealthCare.gov to replace job-based coverage,” CMS said in the report. “While the magnitude may be unclear, job losses due to COVID-19 have led to increased enrollments on HealthCare.gov” through the loss of minimum essential coverage.
The latest statistics were released in the wake of new Commonwealth Fund survey findings that people who have employer health insurance are at risk for losing coverage due to job losses and furloughs. The survey found that Black and Hispanic workers have been disproportionately affected by job losses during the pandemic. As a result, health insurers should prepare for a volatile individual market and uncertainty due to the pandemic and the composition of risk pools, according to a new report from the American Academy of Actuaries.