This article was last updated Oct. 28 at 2:16 p.m. ET.
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CDC: Most Americans Wear Face Masks, Though Fewer Young Adults Do
Oct. 28, 2:13 p.m.
More Americans wore face masks this summer than in the spring, but they were less likely to follow other public health measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, according to a new survey released Tuesday from the CDC.
In addition, younger people between ages 18-29 were less likely to wear face masks or follow the recommended behaviors.
“Improved communication and policy priorities are needed to promote recommended COVID-19 mitigation behaviors, particularly among young adults,” the CDC COVID-19 Response Team wrote.
The team surveyed 2,000 adults between April and June. In April, about 78% of U.S. adults said they wore face masks, which increased to 89% in June. In addition, most adults said they had canceled or postponed social plans and avoided most restaurants. Other behaviors — such as handwashing, social distancing and avoiding crowds — remained the same or declined during the time period.
Those who were 60 and older were most likely to follow the recommendations, and those between ages 18-29 were least likely to adhere. Between April to June, mask-wearing increased from about 84% to 92% in older adults and 70% to 86% in younger adults.
Older adults might be more concerned about the coronavirus and their higher risk of having severe COVID-19, the researchers wrote. Younger adults might be less likely to follow the recommended behaviors for “social, developmental and practical factors,” they added.
“There’s more we must do to reduce infection, but that’s an astounding increase — from 0% in less than 8 months,” Thomas Frieden, a former CDC director, told NPR.
Importantly, those who said they wore masks were more likely to follow other recommendations. Those who didn’t wear masks were less likely to follow the other recommendations by June.
“Significant declines in self-reported mitigation behaviors among those not reporting mask use suggests that a minority of persons might be increasingly resistant to COVID-19 mitigation behaviors,” the researchers wrote “Or unable to engage in mitigation behaviors because of the constraints introduced by their return to work, school or other settings.”
COVID-19 May Cause Brain Aging, Study Says
Oct. 28, 11:52 a.m.
The coronavirus can affect brain functioning and cause mental decline equivalent to the brain aging by about 10 years, according to a new study published on the preprint server MedRxiv. The study hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed.
Even those who have recovered from COVID-19 may face “chronic cognitive consequences,” they found. In the worst cases, the mental decline was similar to a drop in 8.5 IQ points.
“The results align with the ‘brain fog’ reported by many people who, even months after recovery, say they are unable to concentrate on work or focus how they did before,” Adam Hampshire, the lead research and a doctor at Imperial College London, told The Times of London.
The research analyzed cognitive tests for more than 84,000 people in the UK who had recovered from confirmed or suspected COVID-19. They saw that recovered patients performed worse on cognitive tests in multiple areas than would be expected for their age and other demographics. The tests included questions that measured problem-solving abilities, working memory, selective attention and emotional processing.
They found that the cognitive declines led to a “substantial effect size” and were greater based on the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. The shift was particularly evident among those who were hospitalized, they found, but it also appeared among those who weren’t hospitalized.
Those who were hospitalized and placed on a ventilator had an average score that equated to a 10-year decline in brain performance, the authors wrote. This is similar to an 8.5-point difference on a classic IQ test, they added. The difference was most noticeable for problem-solving tasks and visual selective attention, they wrote, which has been observed in previous studies of hospitalized patients with respiratory disease.
“Consequently, the observation of post-infection deficits in the subgroup who were put on a ventilator was not surprising,” the research team wrote. “Conversely, the deficits in cases who were not put on a ventilator, particularly those who remained at home, was unexpected.”
The findings are a “clarion call” for more research, the team wrote. A limitation of the study, for instance, is that the researchers weren’t able to do before-and-after cognitive test scores.
“The cognitive function of the participants was not known pre-COVID, and the results also do not reflect long-term recovery — so any effects on cognition may be short-term,” Joanna Wardlaw, a professor of applied neuroimaging at Edinburgh University, told Reuters.
The research is “intriguing but inclusive,” Derek Hill, a professor of medical imaging science at University College London, told Reuters.
“As researchers seek to better understand the long-term impact of COVID, it will be important to further investigate the extent to which cognition is impacted in the weeks and months after the infection and whether permanent damage to brain function results in some people,” he said.
COVID-19 Antibodies Decline Over Time, English Study Shows
Oct. 27, 6:15 p.m.
A study of 365,000 people in England found evidence that coronavirus antibodies decline over a three-month period.
The participants did three rounds of finger-prick tests at home between June 20 and Sept. 28, according to a news release from the Imperial College London. Rather than building up immunity, the number of people with antibodies fell from 6% at the start of the study to 4.4% at the end – a drop of about 26.5%, the release said.
The decline was highest among people 75 and older and lowest in people 18-24. Health care workers showed no decline in antibodies.
“This very large study has shown that the proportion of people with detectable antibodies is falling over time,” said Professor Helen Ward, one of the lead authors of the report. “We don’t yet know whether this will leave these people at risk of reinfection with the virus that causes COVID-19, but it is essential that everyone continues to follow guidance to reduce the risk to themselves and others.”
The findings are a blow to scientists who think herd immunity will eventually bring down the coronavirus.
Herd immunity occurs when a large part of a population becomes immune to a disease by developing antibodies, either by vaccination or by becoming infected.
While every single individual may not be immune, the group as a whole has protection. Researchers have said 50% to 67% of the population would need to be resistant before herd immunity kicks in and the infection rates start to go down.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the Imperial College London program, emphasized that scientists still don’t know how much -- if any -- immunity is imparted by having COVID antibodies.
“Testing positive for antibodies does not mean you are immune to COVID-19,” he said. “It remains unclear what level of immunity antibodies provide, or for how long this immunity lasts. If someone tests positive for antibodies, they still need to follow national guidelines including social distancing measures, getting a swab test if they have symptoms and wearing face coverings where required.”
Delta Adds Hundreds to No-Fly List for Mask Refusal
Oct. 26, 3:16 p.m.
Delta Airlines has added 460 people to its no-fly lists for refusing to follow the company's requirement to wear masks during flights, according to ABC News.
Delta CEO Ed Bastian wrote about the number in an internal memo to employees regarding the company's efforts during Breast Cancer Awareness month. He encouraged employees to participate in the company's fundraising efforts but provided other updates as well, including the no-fly list information.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have focused our efforts on protecting our people, our customers and our communities,” Bastian wrote in the memo. ABC News obtained a copy of the memo.
Bastian discussed the major increase in coronavirus cases across the U.S. and emphasized that the pandemic calls for “multiple layers of defense.”
“Wearing a mask is among the simplest and most effective actions we can take to reduce transmission, which is why Delta has long required them for our customers and our people,” Bastian wrote. “As of this week, we've added 460 people to our no-fly list for refusing to comply with our mask requirement.”
Reviving the airline industry relies on stopping the spread of the coronavirus, he added.
“With the cold-weather months approaching, stopping the spread will be crucial to our recovery from the pandemic and Delta's return to growth and leadership within our industry,” he wrote.
Several airlines have banned passengers or removed passengers from flights after they refused to wear a mask. On Saturday, a Delta flight traveling from Detroit to Las Vegas was delayed for 90 minutes because a passenger refused to put on a mask, ABC News reported. Earlier this month, a passenger who refused to wear a mask hit a Delta flight attendant in the face on a flight from Miami to Atlanta. Similar scenarios occurred in July and September as well.
This summer, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, which represents more than 50,000 members across the industry, urged the federal government to mandate masks on all flights.
“Masks are essential to keep passengers, flight attendants, and frontline aviation workers safe during the Coronavirus pandemic,” the union said in a statement.
“It is also essential to rebuild confidence in air travel,” according to the statement. “The federal government has completely abdicated its responsibility to keep the flying public and aviation workers safe during COVID-19.”
The CDC has, however, encouraged transportation companies to refuse to board any passenger who refuses to wear a mask.
“Transmission of the virus through travelers has led to -- and continues to lead to -- interstate and international spread of the virus which causes COVID-19,” the CDC says in a guidance issued last week.
How many people have been diagnosed with the virus, and how many have died?
According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 44.09 million cases and more than 1.16 million deaths worldwide. More than 29.86 million people have recovered.
How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?
There are more than 8.78 million cases in the U.S. of COVID-19, and more than 226,770 deaths. More than 3.48 million Americans have recovered from the disease, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.