ABC - Health 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.



(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.


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.



(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.



(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.


Covenant House International/Getty Images for A Night of Covenant House StarsBy CARENA LIPTAK, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Dolly Parton and Sara Evans are among the female artists lending their voices to "PINK," a new collaboration benefitting the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, a nonprofit working to end breast cancer.

The star-studded, cross-genre single also features appearances from Jordin Sparks, Monica and Rita Wilson, the latter of whom is a breast cancer survivor. Evans, who has long been passionate about raising funds and awareness for this cause, says the new song is even more special because it represents women coming together in solidarity for a common cause.

"There is something magical that happens when women band together to have a positive impact on the world for our sisters and our daughters," she noted.

The song's lyrics offer support for those battling the disease, looking forward toward a better day when nobody has to face breast cancer.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with the disease during her lifetime, meaning that nearly everyone will be touched by cancer at some point, either personally or through someone they love.

Each year, breast cancer kills over 42,000 women and men in the U.S. To learn more or make a donation, visit the Susan G. Komen website.

Watch the music video for "PINK" here:

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Juan Duran-Gutierrez is now a single father raising three young children, including a newborn, after his wife, Aurora Chacon-Esparza, died of COVID-19 during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Chacon-Esparza was healthy and following safety precautions, according to Duran-Gutierrez, when she contracted COVID-19 in June while seven months pregnant with the couple's third child together.

"I really thought she was going to pull through," Duran-Gutierrez, of Minnesota, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "She’s always been a really strong woman. She didn’t have any pre-existing conditions. She was healthy."

Chacon-Esparza, who would have turned 36 in August, was hospitalized on June 14 after one week of isolating with COVID-19 symptoms at home, along with other family members who had also been exposed to the virus, according to Duran-Gutierrez.

Just around five days later, Chacon-Esparza was placed on a ventilator.

"She continued to get short of breath and her lung disease worsened to the point where she was struggling to breathe," said Dr. Todd Stanhope, the OBGYN who treated Chacon-Esparza at North Memorial Health in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota. "I counseled both her and Juan the day that she was intubated that she was struggling to breathe and without intubation, she would have exhausted herself trying to breathe."

Shortly after being intubated, Chacon-Esparza had to undergo an emergency cesarean section to deliver her third child, a healthy baby girl that Duran-Guiterrez named Andrea.

The baby, who tested negative for COVID-19, was born at 30 weeks weighing 4 pounds, according to Stanhope, who performed the emergency C-section.

Less than one month after giving birth, Chacon-Esparza passed away, leaving behind a husband, three children ages 7 and younger, two older stepchildren and her extended family.

"I thought until the end that she was going to make it," Duran-Gutierrez said of his wife, whom he was able to finally see in the hospital just before she passed away. "I was holding her hand and talking to her."

"She really took care of herself," he said. "She protected herself whenever she went out, I’m talking face masks, and she had a whole bunch of hand sanitizers and hand wipes in her SUV, so she was really taking care of herself."

The impact of COVID-19 on pregnant women

Just as Duran-Gutierrez, a Lyft driver, is now looking ahead to his future as a single dad, he is also coming to terms with what he now knows about how COVID-19 affects pregnant women.

"For pregnant women, be very careful," he said. "I’m not trying to alarm anybody when I share this story. I don’t want pregnant women to feel like it’s going to happen to them, but they should take all the precautions because it could happen to them."

For 35-year-old Ruth González Esparza, her bout with COVID-19 came in the 38th week of her pregnancy.

The mother of two told GMA through a translator that she never thought she would be infected by the virus, though she was admitted to Denver Health in Colorado, after having a sore throat. She tested positive for COVID-19 immediately following the birth of her son, Jose Luis Sanchez González, on March 31.

Esparza had a normal labor and delivery with no symptoms, according to Denver Health. It was only after her delivery that Esparza began feeling symptoms that included fever, cough and muscle pain.

"I also had high blood pressure and the baby’s heart rate was very low," Esparza said, adding that she was afraid, even for her 5-year-old daughter who was at home.

"We didn’t know this could happen to us," she said. "You immediately think the worst and all the news scared me even more."

Esparza was one of the first mothers to have COVID-19 at Denver Health. After she tested positive, she was intubated in the intensive care unit for two weeks and separated from her newborn for one month.

Esparza made the decision to separate from him for protection.

"I felt mentally very sad, depressed, scared because even though I had a lot of faith in God, I was scared; every day I didn’t get better is another day that I felt more sick, more tired and the only thing that keep me going was the calls with my mom, with my husband and with my daughter, Kerem," Esparza said.

More than 26,000 pregnant women in the United States have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since January and 45 pregnant women have died due to complications from the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Among the diagnosed cases of pregnant women with COVID-19, an overwhelming majority were, like Esparza and Chacon-Esparza, women of Hispanic and Latina descent, according to the CDC.

In a study released this summer, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found the rate of virus exposure among Black and Hispanic women to be five times higher than among white and Asian women.

Researchers have not yet determined why Hispanic women are disproportionately affected by COVID-19, according to Dr. Rashmi Rao, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles.

"There could be an increased amount of pre-existing conditions. It could just be that there are racial disparities in care in the United States," Rao told GMA. "Some of it has to do with social determinants, like socioeconomic status or possibly the way people are cohorted in certain areas in the country, where depending on how many people live with you, can you really socially distance, and that may be present in some populations more than others."

"There are many theories, but the truth is from a science standpoint, we have not concluded anything based off a certain race that would make them more predisposed to it just based on their racial background or ethnicity," she said.

More than eight months into the virus hitting the U.S., there are also still many questions remaining for all pregnant women about how they could be impacted by COVID-19.

"What I’ve been telling my patients is the one thing I can tell you for sure is that pregnant women get COVID," said Rao. "Everything else I think is still a little bit of conjecture."

Researchers are learning as they go when it comes to how COVID-19 affects pregnant women because the virus is still relatively new and full-scale studies are just underway.

For instance, roughly nine months into the pandemic, researchers are just now able to see what complications, if any, there are at delivery for women who contracted COVID-19 early on in their pregnancy, according to Rao.

"That's another concern that pregnant women have and I’ve had to tell them that we’ll have to wait on this," she said. "As of right now, there’s nothing overwhelmingly glaring to us about the baby’s birth weight or birth timing but stay tuned because we are keeping a close eye on that."

What doctors do know is that pregnancy causes changes to the immune and respiratory systems, which has led to speculation that pregnant women might be more vulnerable to the disease.

Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security, agreed. Adalja's work focuses on infectious disease and pandemic preparedness.

"We tend to be more cautious of pregnant women because pregnant women are considered immunosuppressed and they also have physiological changes, as they go along in their pregnancy," Adalja told GMA, adding that there's still a lack of data. "It makes them more prone to get into respiratory distress quicker."

Adalja said pregnant women with COVID-19 may be mere likely to be admitted to the ICU, since doctors are watching these patients closely considering we're dealing with a novel disease.

"We're cautious with pregnant women but what we've seen so far, is not necessarily the same with what we've seen with for example, Zika or the same with influenza," Adalja said.

One recent study on non-hospitalized pregnant women found that symptoms for pregnant women with COVID-19 can be prolonged, lasting two months or longer for a quarter of the women who participated in the study.

The common early symptoms for pregnant women were cough, sore throat, body aches and fever, according to the study, all symptoms felt by Chacon-Esparza before she was hospitalized.

"It all started with body aches, then the nauseous came, a lot of coughing, high fevers and then shortness of breath, which is the reason she went to the hospital," Duran-Guiterrez said of his late wife. "She was admitted immediately because her oxygen was pretty low."

A study in June from the CDC found that while pregnant women don't seem any more likely to die of COVID-19 than other groups, they do appear to be more likely to become extremely sick, and even become hospitalized, once they get infected.

Despite worse symptoms seen in pregnant women with COVID-19, there was no difference in the risk of death between pregnant and non-pregnant women with COVID-19, the study found.

While every woman needs to consult with her own doctor, there so far is no broad evidence to suggest that otherwise healthy women should avoid getting pregnant during the pandemic, according to Rao, who emphasizes that getting pregnant is a very personal decision for each woman and her doctor.

"From a health standpoint, we are not recommending that people delay pregnancy for COVID, mostly because this isn’t getting better anytime soon and as of right now we are not seeing any overwhelming reason why pregnancy in and of itself is causing an increased risk or susceptibility to COVID," said Rao. "If that data were to come out, sure we might make different recommendations, but right now, from a health standpoint, there’s no contraindications to getting pregnant at this time."

After a month-long stay in the hospital, Esparza was released as doctors continued to monitor her recovery process. She is now doing well and raising her children with her husband, Federico González.

Esparza's message to expectant mothers is to wear a mask and visit your doctor if you feel any symptoms of illness.

"Especially if you have complications, take care of yourself," she said. "You owe it to your baby to not become one of the statistics."

Five tips for moms-to-be

If a woman is pregnant during the pandemic, there are things she should do to help keep herself safe throughout her pregnancy.

Here are five tips from experts.

1. Wear a face mask and practice good hand hygiene: "Face coverings are a must and frequent hand washing is an absolute must and that’s probably one of the most important things," said Rao.

For hand washing, CDC guidelines are to wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.

Face masks should be worn in addition to "prevention actions like washing hands frequently and avoiding close contact with other people," according to the CDC. Pregnant women should both wear masks themselves and avoid contact with others who are not wearing masks.

2. Practice social distancing: Pregnant women should limit their travel and try their best to avoid outings in places where they cannot social distance, according to Rao.

The CDC recommends that pregnant women say at least 6 feet away from people outside their household.

3: Continue with all doctors' appointments:
Pregnant women should not skip routine healthcare appointments or avoid going to the hospital in an emergency, experts say.

If you have concerns because of COVID-19, the CDC recommends that women talk with their health care providers ahead of time about what protocols they have in place to keep healthy patients away from those who may be sick and to minimize any potential exposure to COVID-19.

4. Quarantine before delivery: "For the mom or parents or anyone who is going to be in contact with the child, it’s important to quarantine around the delivery time so that way the baby is not exposed after birth," said Stanhope.

5. Get recommended vaccines: The CDC recommends that women get vaccinated against influenza during pregnancy, as well as the whooping cough (Tdap) vaccine.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


inhauscreative/iStockBy JACQUELINE LAUREAN YATES, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Just when you didn't think things could get any creepier this season (or this year), a DIY vampire fang Halloween hack gone wrong has made its way to TikTok.

Popular TikTok personality Whitney Kait, known as @muawk, shared a video of herself trying to remove fake fangs where she begins to breathe hysterically and panic after realizing they aren't budging.
Since posting, Kait's video has received more than 10 million views and more than 6,000 comments from other TikTokkers who were just as freaked out by her experience.

"The panicking, I felt that!" one person said, with another chiming in, "please tell me you got them off" along with a surprised face emoji.

Her viral vampire fang fiasco might be even more dangerous than it first appears. She later posted a video update where she's seen brushing her teeth with the fangs still stuck in place. She also admitted in her caption, "Okay I need actual help!!!! I used nail glue (yes I'm dumb) but how do I get them off!!!!!!!"

A few people directly entertained Kait's plea for help responded with "try eating an apple and see if they fall off." Someone else suggested for her to embrace her new look, saying, "just accept that you are now a vampire for life."

There was a response video posted by Illinois-based dentist Dr. Julie Davis, who advised Kait to call a dentist for safe removal.

"Be really careful until they fall off or a dentist removes them," she captioned the video, along with a look of concern. She also offered to help Kait if she is in Chicago.

Another Michigan-based dentist, Dr. Zainab Mackie, also known as "Your TikTok Dentist," posted a video informing everyone not to use nail glue.

"It's poisonous and won't come off," she says.

As an alternative, Mackie suggests if you are using acrylic nails as your fangs to try using denture glue as it is safe and easy to take off. She also said orthodontic wax is an alternative that won't stay on but is great for pictures.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


simon2579/iStockBy SONY SALZMAN and VICTOR ORDONEZ, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Most Americans may have access to a COVID-19 vaccine by early spring, one which could potentially immunize them by June, according to Operation Warp Speed's chief adviser, Dr. Moncef Slaoui.

"It's not a certainty, but the plan -- and I feel pretty confident -- should make it such that by June, everybody could have been immunized in the U.S.," Slaoui told ABC News' Bob Woodruff Wednesday morning.

President Donald Trump's Operation Warp Speed is an effort created to accelerate a vaccine rollout without sacrificing safety. The program has pumped billions of dollars into numerous pharmaceutical companies in hopes of developing one or more safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. The money is intended to help ramp up development, trials and manufacturing while removing financial risk from the companies, in case the vaccines don’t work out.

Despite the rapid pace of vaccine development, Slaoui said he has not received any improper pressure from the White House to expedite the process beyond what he considers safe.

"I've had absolutely no pressure, really, no pressure," Slaoui said, adding that he would have quit if that were the case. "And I have [always] said, if I get undue pressure, I will say it and I will resign."

Slaoui said the pharmaceutical companies Moderna and Pfizer are likely to be the first with vaccine candidates to apply for emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration, possibly as soon as November or December. If a vaccine is authorized before the end of the year, Slaoui said approximately 20 to 40 million doses of it will be stockpiled and ready for distribution for a limited population.

"Then we can start immunizing the highest risk people, front-line workers, the health care workers, before the end of the year," Slaoui told ABC News. "Now, not every one in that population can be immunized in December, but the companies will continue to manufacture and produce vaccine doses -- and in January, we plan to have about 60 to 80 million doses of those two vaccines."

Slaoui said AstraZeneca's clinical trial is due to resume in the U.S. "imminently."

This comes as clinical trials for AstraZeneca's vaccine was put on regulatory hold by the FDA and pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson's vaccine candidate was put on a voluntary pause to investigate why certain volunteers developed unexplained illnesses during the trial. AstraZeneca has already resumed its trials in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

But halting the two late-stage clinical trials may have caused some vaccine skepticism, despite most scientists saying it's a sign the process is working, and pointing out that many clinical trials are slowed to investigate potential problems before moving on.

Slaoui worries vaccine attitudes may also be influenced by recent politics.

"I think, unfortunately, it's the politics around it," Slaoui said. "And I think if these same events were happening two years ago, far away from an election time, I'm sure the same scrutiny would happen, but it would have a different tone to it."

In September, prior to halting these clinical trials, a Gallup Poll indicated that only about half of Americans would take a vaccine if it were free and available now.

The goal of Operation Warp Speed is to have multiple vaccine options available for the American people. Already eight are in human trials. So, Slaoui is encouraging more people to volunteer for ongoing and future COVID-19 vaccine trials.

He visited George Washington University's Vaccine Research Center -- one of the sites of an ongoing Moderna vaccine trial -- for a press conference Wednesday morning, and is now urging people to sign up.

Slaoui said Moderna has obtained nearly 29,000 volunteers of the 30,000 required to complete their phase 3 study. Like many of the vaccines currently being tested, Moderna's requires two shots administered a few weeks apart.

Once an independent monitoring board says the data from these late-stage trials is ready to be evaluated, it may take the FDA about three weeks to make its authorization decision.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


sshepard/iStockBy ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- In El Paso, Texas, funeral directors are preparing for a worst-case scenario.

Over the past two weeks, COVID-19 infections have risen 500%, according Angela Mora, the city's health director. While El Paso is doing more testing, rising hospitalizations and a 12.7% positivity rate for COVID-19 tests suggest that El Paso's outbreak is worsening.

The World Health Organization recommends that governments get their positivity testing threshold below 5%.

While experts consider deaths from COVID-19 to be a lagging indictor of the outbreak’s severity, funeral home directors in the city say they have seen between a 30% and 40% increase in deaths. A third of those deaths are COVID-19 cases.

At Sunset Funeral Homes, the staff is preparing to be "overwhelmed" in coming weeks, funeral director Christopher Lujan told ABC News. Across town, Perches Funeral Home is doing its own preparations. The funeral home chapel was turned into a refrigerator truck to ensure there was sufficient space to store corpses if deaths continue to rise.

As of Tuesday, El Paso had reported more than 34,000 COVID-19 infections and 560 deaths from the virus, according to city data. Young people between the ages of 21 and 39 are driving the recent rise in infections, according to El Paso Mayor Dee Margo, who added that El Paso residents, of whom more than 85% are Latino, are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 infection and death.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News Photo IllustrationBy GMA TEAM, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- She, he, they, ze, her, him, them, zir.

They're little words that are a part of our everyday language. But to many, the way these words -- known as pronouns -- are used can make a big difference in acknowledging identity.

"Using the correct pronouns not only shows that we recognize others for who they are, but it’s also a sign of respect and courtesy," said Carmarion D. Anderson-Harvey, Alabama state director for the Human Rights Campaign. "When someone is misgendered, meaning, when another person uses incorrect pronouns or descriptors to refer to them, we’ve found that it can be upsetting, invalidating, hurtful and even a cause of harm."

International Pronouns Day is celebrated on the third Wednesday of October. It seeks to make "respecting, sharing and educating about personal pronouns commonplace," and encourage inclusive language for those who may identify as transgender, gender nonconforming, non-binary, gender neutral and more.

ABC News' Good Morning America spoke with Anderson-Harvey about using pronouns, where she touches on these topics and more:

1. Never assume that you know a person’s pronouns and, when appropriate, how to ask someone about their pronouns.

2. Why using someone's pronouns is important.

3. Simple ways that you can integrate inclusive language, such as with your email signature and when you introduce yourself to others.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


jbk_photography/iStockBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- A 28-year-old pregnant woman who ran a mile in less than six minutes is showing that pregnancy has no limits.

Makenna Myler, who runs with the Valor Track Club in Orange County, California, ran one mile last week in 5 minutes and 25 seconds, and she did it while nine months pregnant.

Her husband, Mike, captured the feat on video and shared it on TikTok, where it has gone viral with tens of thousands of likes, comments and shares.

"I think pregnancy is a beautiful thing and it’s not an injury or a sickness, that you’re still really capable," Myler, who ran track at Brigham Young University, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I think a lot of women are showing that, that women are capable and that’s what matters."

Myler said she and her husband, whom she describes as her biggest supporter, jokingly bet each other $100 that she would not finish the mile in under 8 minutes, a bet Myler clearly won.

Myler, whose due date was Oct. 19, said that while her sub-6 minute mile is getting attention, she doesn't want other women to think her training during pregnancy has been a breeze.

"The first trimester I didn’t have that extra weight but I was exhausted and I was probably running slower than I am now," she said. "I’ve had to listen to my body and really let myself recover and get a workout in if I can, if my body is feeling it, but they’re definitely few and far between."

Myler added of her approach to workouts, "When people say, ‘What are you going to run this time?’ I say, ‘Whatever my body wants.' If I don’t want to do it, I’m not going to do it, because pregnancy and my health obviously comes first."

And while most women will not run nearly 5-minute miles, the workout done by Myler, who has dreams of representing the United States in the Olympics, is a safe one, experts say.

"For my patients, in general, I tell them that they can continue doing anything that they were doing before pregnancy as long as it remains comfortable and doesn’t cause any pain," said Dr. Danielle Jones, a board-certified OBGYN in College Station, Texas, who is not involved in Myler's treatment. "You don’t see it a lot because most people get uncomfortable by the third trimester and aren’t wanting to run a five-minute mile, but there’s definitely people out there who can comfortably continue that in their pregnancy."

Jones stressed that there are conditions that prevent women from exercising during pregnancy and that women should always consult with their doctors throughout their pregnancies and keep them informed of their exercise routine.

For pregnant women who are able to exercise, doing so offers many benefits, according to Jones.

"Maintaining a healthy exercise routine in pregnancy, just basically continuing the pregnancy routine that you had prior to pregnancy, is associated with shorter labors and a lower risk of c-sections because it helps with endurance, which labor and delivery is kind of like a marathon in itself," she said. "It also helps with recovery after delivery as well, so whether the patient has a vaginal delivery or a c-section, they’re going to get back to feeling better and like themselves faster if they’ve maintained a healthy and active pregnancy."

Myler said she has been under a doctor's supervision throughout her pregnancy and has used her training as an elite athlete to make sure she is getting the proper rest and nutrition to keep her baby healthy.

"I’ve been spending the last 10 or so years [as an athlete] listening to my body and hearing what it needs," she said. "[Other women] should not expect to run five-minute miles or compare themselves."

And while she plans to continue training after giving birth, Myler said she has no plans to "bounce back" into shape.

"I hate the term bounce back because I want to be a different person and I want to change," said Myler, who will be a first-time mom. "I hope this baby brings a lot of growth and change."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Tibrina Hobson/Getty ImagesBy MEGAN STONE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Actor Jeff Bridges announced on Monday that he has been diagnosed with cancer.

In an announcement on social media, the Big Lebowski actor didn't mince words about the seriousness of his diagnosis.

With a nod to one of his signature characters, Bridges began his statement by writing, "As the Dude would say.. New S**T has come to light."

"I have been diagnosed with Lymphoma," he continued. "Although it is a serious disease, I feel fortunate that I have a great team of doctors and the prognosis is good."

Bridges confirmed that he started treatment and he will "keep you posted on my recovery."

The Academy Award-winning actor, 70, extended his sincerest gratitude to all those that have rallied around him, writing that he's "profoundly grateful for the love and support from my family and friends." He ended his statement by encouraging people to vote on Nov. 3.

"We are all in this together," he stated.

Lymphoma is cancer of the body's lymphatic system, which helps fight germs, according to the Mayo Clinic. The organization added that treatment for the disease varies, but may involve chemotherapy, immunotherapy medications, radiation therapy, a bone marrow transplant or some combination thereof.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) -- Olivia Newton-John continually uses her platform to advocate for cancer research and now she is taking it a step further with the launch of her new foundation.

The four-time Grammy Award-winning singer and actress, who is currently battling breast cancer for the third time, launched the Olivia Newton-John Foundation this month to fund research for treatments and therapies to cure cancer.

The star was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992 and again in 2013. She revealed in 2018 that the disease returned and metastasized to her spine.

In a recent interview with ABC News' Good Morning America, the actress, 72, revealed she is "feeling really good" and spoke about what led her to launch this new charity.

"I feel really positive and very excited about bringing this foundation and a lot of knowledge to people, and funding research to find out lots of answers -- to find kinder treatments for cancer," she shared.

"The inspiration has been a long one because I've been on this cancer journey for 28 years," she added. "I'm a thriver of three times going through this process."

Having gone through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, she said she now is interested in funding treatments that aren’t as taxing to the body.

"I've always thought, 'Gosh, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could create kinder therapies that help boost the body's immune system instead of knocking us down?'" she said.

Newton-John is an outspoken advocate for plant medicine and says that’s largely due to the influence of her husband, John Easterling. She affectionately calls him "Amazon John" because he spent several years in the Amazon rain forest learning about this type of medicine.

"I'm very lucky that I have him in my corner, and teaching me about the plants and the herbs," she said. "He grows cannabis for me and I take tinctures that have helped me greatly."

Ongoing efforts are being made to research what role cannabis may play in the future.

"While some like Newton-John find relief of cancer-related pain and nausea from cannabis, it has not clinically proven to be the best choice," according to health expert Dr. Imran Ali, a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.

Newton-John says she believes there is a significant lack of progress in research for these treatments.

"There are lots of ideas on how we can help people with cancer and treat cancer, but there's been no real science behind the studies," she explained. "So the idea is to raise money to fund the research on the other kinds of things that are kinder, including a lot of plant medicine."

Newton-John is dedicating the foundation to all forms of cancer treatments -- not just breast cancer research -- because she dreams of one day "realizing a world beyond cancer."

"That's everything that drives me forward," she said. "To think that we could help people to live in a world where cancer was just something that you treated like diabetes, or asthma, or the flu, or you know, something that you could live well with, which I'm doing. And I hope to continue to do that for a long time."

She hopes to find ways to "support the body, mind and spirit of people going through cancer" through her new charity.

One of the first efforts she is doing to raise money for the ONJ Foundation is her upcoming auction with Julien’s Auctions on Nov. 30. More than 300 items, including artwork, memorabilia and more, are up for sale. The proceeds from the auction will be donated to her foundation.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Newton-John has been quarantined in her California home with her husband, and she said she is mainly focused on her health and positivity in her life.

"I think being at home so much, which has been wonderful for me because it's a novelty because I've been on the road most of my life it seems ... and to wake up every day and to hear the birds and see the sunshine in the trees," she shared on what she values. "I'm so grateful for every day."

Although the pandemic has largely affected the way many treat and prioritize their health, Newton-John says this is just the way of life for cancer patients.

"Because of this pandemic people have become extremely conscious of their health and how important it is to help boost their immune systems, how to eat properly, and how to protect each other and themselves," she said. "And people with cancer have been going through that, always, and they'll be doing that long after the pandemic is over."

"It's a good time to kind of reinforce the idea that, 'Yes, we're all going through something, but cancer patients have been dealing with this forever, sadly, and going forward, let's help them,’" she added.

Her message to women fighting breast cancer? Prioritize putting yourself first and remember "your mind is such an important part of your healing."

"The first time I had breast cancer was in 1992 and I'm still here," she said. "The treatments weren’t as good then as they are now, and there's a lot of information you can get online on how to support yourself and how to think well."

She urged those fighting cancer to take care of their mental health and surround themselves with good energy.

"We're not just a body going through cancer -- we're a whole human with the mind, body, spirit and soul," she said. "And we need to try and think positive thoughts. We need to surround ourselves with people who are going to give us positivity back. It really helps."

The actress implored survivors to "do something for yourself every day that you love."

She also recommended finding a person in your life to answer questions from those seeking information on your health -- so you can instead put your energy into "doing something that you love doing for yourself."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



(NEW YORK) — Antibody medicines like the one that earned President Donald Trump's praise after treatment earlier this month are not just for COVID-19. For the past 30 years, this type of medicine has been used to treat cancers, inflammatory diseases and infections. Although experts say this type of medicine could be a game-changer for COVID-19, they are not a "cure," as the president has sometimes touted, nor are they intended to replace a vaccine.

Antibodies are our natural response to an infection. They can be harvested from the blood of recovered patients, or -- using modern technology -- manufactured synthetically in a lab.

The idea to use antibodies as medical treatment dates back as early as the 1890s when Emil von Behring successfully treated children suffering from a severe bacterial infection called diphtheria using antibody-containing serum from the blood of horses recently exposed to the same bacteria. The discovery earned him the first Nobel Prize in medicine.

Nearly a century later, scientists Georges J.F. Köhler and César Milstein learned to engineer cells that produced many copies of a single antibody that could be used to treat disease in the 1970s. These drugs, known as monoclonal antibodies, use a concentrated, high number of identical antibodies to attack a very specific target.

The first monoclonal antibody was approved for kidney transplant rejection in the 1980s. By 2019, the Food and Drug Administration had approved 79 monoclonal antibody drugs.

"Antibodies form some of the most important medicines in the world for treating anything from cancer to autoimmune disease," said Dr. Eline Luning Prak, a professor of pathology at the University of Pennsylvania.

The drugs, sometimes referred to as "biologics," treat a diverse variety of diseases -- ranging from cancer to eczema to certain types of arthritis. Humira, the brand-name version of a drug called adalimumab, was the world's bestselling drug in 2018, bringing in $19.9 billion in sales revenue for drugmaker AbbVie.

And this past week, the biotechnology company Regeneron -- the same company that makes the drug Trump received -- won FDA approval for the first Ebola treatment, Inmazeb, a mixture of three monoclonal antibodies. These antibodies target parts of the external protein Ebola uses to attach to and infect human cells.

When it comes to COVID-19, antibody drugs -- all of which are still experimental and not yet proven to work -- block the virus's ability to attach to the body's cells and infect them. Companies like Regeneron, Eli Lilly and AstraZeneca are currently in late-stage trials.

"These antibodies have been engineered to bind to very specific sites on the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2," explained Dr. Thomas Campbell, a physician at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, who is leading the Colorado site for Regeneron's COVID-19 antibody treatment trials.

"It's a way of giving you rapid protection when you're already in trouble," said Prak. The drugs are designed to protect patients already infected when there is not enough time for the body to make its own immune response.

Monoclonal antibody drugs are not the same as convalescent plasma -- another high-profile experimental COVID-19 treatment. However, the treatments are similar, with both providing a shortcut to achieving the body's natural defense to a foreign invader -- a concept called passive immunity.

Convalescent plasma is "a mixture of hundreds or thousands of different antibodies" that target multiple sites on the virus, according to Prak. Monoclonal antibody treatments have a high concentration of a single, specific antibody, making the drug more potent than convalescent plasma.

These treatments, which are used for a wide range of illnesses, are not without risk. Depending on where in the body the antibodies bind, the drugs can produce different effects. The pharmaceutical company Genentech, for example, removed efalizumab, originally approved to treat psoriasis, from the U.S. market because it was associated with a risk of fatal brain infections in 2009.

Another company, Janssen, stopped making a synthetic antibody drug in 2010 partly due to severe side effects -- some of which were potentially fatal.

Although synthetic antibodies are currently being tested as a way to prevent COVID-19, in addition to treating the disease, researchers don't yet know if this type of drug can fend off the virus. And they say that even if it works, the protection will likely only last a short time.

"If they only last several weeks to a month, then they're probably not going to be protective in six months or a year," explained Campbell.

Alternatively, vaccines teach the body to recognize foreign invaders, such as the new coronavirus, and give the body longer-lasting immunity.

But experts say monoclonal antibodies could be a "bridge" to a vaccine and work in tandem with one to control the pandemic.

"The people who are most at risk for COVID are the ones who might mount rather poor vaccine responses," said Prak. "So, it's in that population where this kind of therapy could be very useful."

Miranda Rosenberg, M.D., is a dermatology resident at the University of Miami and a contributor to the ABC News Medical Unit.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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