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News Scan for Jul 30, 2020



Study shows higher COVID-19 exposure rates in pregnant black, Hispanic women

Pregnant black and Hispanic women at two Philadelphia hospitals were five times more likely than their white and Asian peers to have been exposed to COVID-19, according to a study published yesterday in Science Immunology.

Overall, 80 of 1,293 pregnant women (6.2%) who went into labor from Apr 4 to Jun 3 tested positive for coronavirus antibodies. But 9.7% of black women (95% confidence interval [CI], 7.3% to 12.5%) and 10.4% of Hispanic women (95% CI, 5.7% to 17.1%) tested positive, versus only 2.0% of white women (95% CI, 0.9% to 3.8%) and 0.9% of Asian women (95% CI, 0.0% to 5.1%).

As of June, 23,160 COVID-19 infections had been reported in Philadelphia, home to nearly 1.6 million people, suggesting an infection rate of about 1.4%—more than four times lower than the estimates generated in this study.

Of the 72 pregnant women with COVID-19 antibodies, 46 (64%) also tested positive for coronavirus on polymerase chain reaction (PCR), compared with 18 (1.7%) of 1,037 women with no antibodies against the virus. The researchers noted that the clinical significance of coronavirus antibodies in immunity remains unclear.

They also said that identification of the disparities in virus exposure could lead to a discovery of the causes of these differences, including systemic racism, and inform public health measures to limit future infections and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

“Pregnant women are fairly representative of community exposure, and these data provide more evidence, on top of what we already know with COVID-19, that health and socio-economic equity are inextricably linked,” coauthor Scott Hensley, PhD, said in a University of Pennsylvania press release. “Hopefully, this will help lead to policies that address these inequities.”
Jul 29 Sci Immunol study
Jul 29 University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine press release


Physical distancing in COVID-19 pandemic varies strongly by income, research finds

A modeling study published yesterday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has revealed another burden for low-income communities amid the COVID-19 pandemic: less ability to limit virus exposure by staying home and physical distancing.

Researchers at the University of California at Davis who analyzed mobile device location data from January to April of this year found that, in a complete reversal, wealthy communities went from being the most mobile before the coronavirus pandemic to the least, while residents of poorer neighborhoods went from least mobile to most mobile.

Wealthy communities saw a 25% jump in those staying home completely, versus only a 10% increase in lower-income areas. The study didn’t determine the causes of this reversal, but the authors said that it could be because lower-income workers more often have essential jobs that require them to be onsite rather than work remotely from home.

Previous research has already shown that low-income people are more vulnerable to COVID-19 because they have higher rates of underlying medical conditions and less access to healthcare.

Coauthor Michael Springborn, PhD, MA, said in a University of California at Davis press release that the findings point out another way in which residents of low-income areas are especially vulnerable in the pandemic.

“As policymakers are thinking about emergency relief packages, this points to the need for lower-income regions to be an area of focus in order to build capacity for social distancing and other measures critical to reduce the spread of this disease,” he said.
Jul 29 PNAS study
Jul 29 University of California at Davis press release


Another Ebola case reported in the DRC, 69 total with 32 deaths

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has confirmed one more Ebola case in its Equateur province outbreak in the northwest of the country, raising the overall total to 69 cases, the World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office said today on Twitter.

On more death was reported, and it’s unclear if that involves the patient who was recently diagnosed. The death raises the outbreak’s fatality count to 32.

The outbreak began in early June, and cases have been reported from 23 health areas from 7 health zones, with several cases reported from Mbandaka, the provincial capital. The event marks the DRC’s 11th Ebola outbreak and is occurring in the same province where the country battled its 9th outbreak in 2018.
Jul 30 WHO African regional office tweet

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