Thousands of people traveling for holidays this week will first test themselves for COVID-19 without a doctor, lab or any medical supervision.
While these quick home tests have been hailed as a great convenience and a smart way to protect loved ones, they have also raised a major challenge for public health officials. How can agencies comprehensively track cases and trends when many consumers are not reporting home test results?
Federal and state health officials have worked since March 2020 to build the capacity to test, report, and follow up on cases of COVID-19. Public health officials say case reporting is critical to spotting trends and detecting sudden increases so that communities with hotspots can reduce risks and prepare hospitals for a rush of people seeking care.
But it’s unclear how often customers report the results of dozens of approved home tests for the coronavirus that usually deliver results within 15 minutes outside a lab or doctor’s office. The blind spot of public health data is set to grow even further.
Manufacturers of specialty tests are already doing more home antigen tests than standard lab tests — and the gap could double next month as new home tests flood the market.
– Ken Altucker, USA TODAY
Also in the news:
► From Monday, Massachusetts hospitals will have to scale back non-urgent scheduled procedures due to staff shortages and longer stays of patients, according to state health authorities.
► The number of air travelers this week is expected to approach or exceed pre-pandemic levels, and the AAA Automobile Club expects 48.3 million people to travel at least 50 miles from their homes during the holiday period.
More than 100 children at a vaccination event in Iowa on Saturday were given an incorrect dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, according to a statement from the hospital. A MercyOne spokesperson said there are no significant health risks associated with the higher dose, just the possibility that children may have more severe versions of the vaccine’s common side effects.
📈Today’s numbers: The United States has recorded more than 48 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 775,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: more than 259 million cases and 5.1 million deaths. More than 196 million Americans — 59.1% of the population — have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘What we read: During COVID, they thought home was safer than school. Now some parents in New York City are accused of neglect.
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White House: Most federal workers complied with vaccine mandate
When releasing individual agency vaccination rates, the Biden administration announced Wednesday that just over nine in ten federal employees have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by the requested deadline.
These rates were as high as 97.8% at USAID. The lowest rate of workers in the Department of Agriculture: 86.1%.
Federal employees had until the end of Monday to vaccinate or request a medical or religious exemption. Contrary to a rule the Biden administration wants to impose on private employers, federal workers are not allowed to opt out of the vaccine requirement if they agree to weekly testing.
According to the White House, workers who are not in the process of vaccinating or seeking an exemption will begin an “education and counseling period, followed by additional enforcement steps.”
– Maureen Group and Michael Collins, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press