Health Highlights: July 15, 2020

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

CDC Will No Longer Receive Hospitals’ COVID-19 Data

U.S. hospitals have been told by the Trump administration to send all COVID-19 information to a central database in Washington, D.C., instead of to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The order means that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will now collect daily reports about COVID-19 patients in each hospital, the number of available beds and ventilators, The New York Times reported.

White House officials say the change will streamline data gathering and improve distribution of supplies, but health experts are concerned that the data will be politicized or kept from the public.

“Historically, CDC has been the place where public health data has been sent, and this raises questions about not just access for researchers but access for reporters, access for the public to try to better understand what is happening with the outbreak,” Jen Kates, director of global health and HIV policy at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation, told the Times.

“How will the data be protected?” she asked. “Will there be transparency, will there be access, and what is the role of the CDC in understanding the data?”

“Centralizing control of all data under the umbrella of an inherently political apparatus is dangerous and breeds distrust,” Dr. Nicole Lurie, who served as assistant secretary for preparedness and response under former President Barack Obama, told the Times. “It appears to cut off the ability of agencies like CDC to do its basic job.”

Two CDC officials told the Times that the Trump administration order came as a shock to the agency. They didn’t want to be identified because they weren’t authorized to discuss the matter.

The CDC’s system is inadequate and it will be linked with the HHS system, according to HHS spokesman Michael Caputo, who added that the CDC would continue to make data public, the Times reported.


Baby May Have Been Infected With Coronavirus During Pregnancy: Study

The new coronavirus appears to have been transmitted through a pregnant woman’s placenta to her fetus, a new case study says.

The 23-year-old mother had COVID-19 and her baby tested positive for the new coronavirus after being born in a Paris hospital.

The baby developed symptoms of inflammation in his brain, according to Dr. Daniele De Luca, chief of the division of pediatrics and neonatal critical care at Paris-Saclay University Hospitals, The New York Times reported.

The baby, born in March, recovered without treatment and is “very much improved, almost clinically normal,” De Luca said.

The study was published July 14 in the journal Nature Communications.

While there have been some cases of newborns with coronavirus, there hasn’t been strong evidence that transmission of the virus can occur during pregnancy, the Times reported.


CDC Has “Toxic Culture” of Racism, Employees Say

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention needs to correct “a pervasive and toxic culture of racial aggressions, bullying and marginalization” against black employees, more than 1,000 workers at the agency say in a letter to CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield.

“After decades of well-meaning, yet underfunded, diversity and inclusion efforts, we have seen scant progress in addressing the very real challenges Black employees experience at CDC,” the letter states, The New York Timesreported.

It cited a “lack of inclusion in the agency’s senior ranks” and “ongoing and recurring acts of racism and discrimination.”

The letter was first reported by National Public Radio and a copy was obtained by the Times.

“Dr. Redfield received the letter and responded,” a CDC spokesman said in an email, without providing details on the response, the Times reported.

“CDC is committed to fostering a fair, equitable and inclusive environment in which staff can openly share their concerns with agency leadership,” the spokesman said.


Squirrel With Bubonic Plague Found in Colorado Town

After a squirrel tested positive for the bubonic plague in the town of Morrison in Colorado, health officials are warning that the disease can be contracted by household pets and people.

Humans can be infected through flea bites, the cough of an infected animal or through direct contact with blood or tissue from an infected animal, Jefferson County Public Health officials said in a statement, CBS News reported.

But they added that the risk “for getting plague is extremely low as long as precautions are taken,” the statement said.

The officials advised pet owners who live near wild animal populations, or suspect their pets are ill, to consult a veterinarian, CBS News reported.

“Presently, human plague infections continue to occur in rural areas in the western United States, but significantly more cases occur in parts of Africa and Asia,” according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

If not treated, the plague can be deadly in up to 90% of cases, but modern antibiotics are effective in treating it, the CDC says.


Most U.S. Parents Think Reopening Schools is Risky: Survey

As President Donald Trump pushes for schools to reopen, 71% of American parents believe it would be moderately or very risky to send their children back to school, a new survey finds.

Black parents were most likely to feel this way (89%), followed by 80% of Hispanic parents and 64% of white parents, according to the Axios-Ipsos poll, the Washington Post reported.

Only 1 in 3 respondents said they trust the federal government to look out for their family’s interests during the coronavirus pandemic, the survey found.

Trump has been insisting that children return to school, and has even threatened to halt federal funding to districts that don’t reopen, the Post reported.