(CNN) — A top federal health official is issuing a dire warning: Follow recommended coronavirus measures or risk having the worst fall in US public health history.
Coronavirus has infected more than 5 million people and killed over 166,000 nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University. On Wednesday alone, there were 55,910 reported new cases and 1,499 deaths — the highest number of fatalities since May.
“For your country right now and for the war that we’re in against Covid, I’m asking you to do four simple things: wear a mask, social distance, wash your hands and be smart about crowds,” said Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“I’m not asking some of America to do it,” he told WebMD. “We all gotta do it.”
Without following the recommendations, this could be “the worst fall, from a public health perspective, we’ve ever had,” he said. In addition to taking measures to combat the pandemic, people should also get a flu vaccine.
“By getting vaccinated, you can protect your children,” he said. “When we look at the mortality that we see with flu, one thing is for certain. The kids that get vaccinated, they basically get protected against death.”
The CDC has bought 10 million doses of the flu vaccine for uninsured adults this year, compared to the typical 500,000 doses. On coronavirus vaccines, Redfield is cautiously optimistic one or more vaccines will be ready by the start of 2021.
Anti-vaxxers ramp up conspiracy theories
There are 270 active trials for coronavirus treatments, experts say.
And anti-vaxxers have taken to social media to spread lies about the future coronavirus vaccine. Some include claims it contains monkey brains or that it’s a CIA plot to take over the world. Others allege the vaccine will include an invisible trackable tattoo or it will disfigure those who take it.
As the lies spread, the government’s multi-billion-dollar vaccine effort has yet to come up with a public education campaign to counteract the propaganda.
“We are behind here,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health. “We haven’t done a good job of getting (coronavirus vaccine) information out there.”
The stakes are high. A third of Americans said they’d not get vaccinated against coronavirus, even if the vaccine is widely available and low cost, according to a CNN poll in May.
“Speaking for myself, I think I underestimated the level of public resistance,” Collins said. “I didn’t expect it to be that widespread.”
Dr. Tina Hartert of the Vanderbilt University Medical Center said lack of faith in the vaccine can lead to major outbreaks. She described the government’s communication on the vaccine as crucial.
“We should have started on this months ago but it’s never too late to start this important messaging. Because otherwise the messaging people will listen to is the story of one child from another parent,” Hartert told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.
Over 2,000 people quarantined as schools reopen
Coronavirus continues to spread at high rates across the South, Midwest and West — even as the total number of new cases has declined following a summer surge.
Nationally, over the past seven days, the United States is averaging about 53,000 new cases per day, down 11% from the week prior. As educators and parents clash over starting in-person classes, some schools that have reopened have seen new cases.
More than 2,000 students, teachers and staff have been placed under quarantine in the few reopened districts in several states, a CNN tally of reported cases show. Of those, at least 230 positive coronavirus cases have been reported among the school districts reopened for in-person learning.
In Georgia, just outside Atlanta, more than 1,100 students, teachers and staff in the Cherokee County School District are under quarantine due to dozens of Covid-19 positive cases or exposure. Schools reopened 10 days ago.
In Florida, a day after the Martin County School District reopened for in-person teaching, an entire elementary class and one bus route were placed under quarantine after a student showed coronavirus symptoms, spokeswoman Jennifer DeShazo said Wednesday.
Several states including Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma and Indiana reported cases of teachers, students and sports players testing positive for coronavirus. At Oklahoma’s Broken Arrow Public Schools District, 33 employees tested positive last week, Superintendent Janet Vinson said.
The White House released new recommendations for schools. They are primarily basic hygiene tips and don’t outline what schools should do if they find coronavirus cases in their halls. The recommendations also encourage the use of masks, but do not require students, teachers or staff to wear them.
President Donald Trump said the federal government will provide up to 125 million masks to school districts nationwide.
US gets over 1,000 deaths daily for 17 days
Deaths from the virus have remained high.
The seven-day average of daily coronavirus deaths was over 1,000 on Wednesday, the 17th consecutive day the US averaged over 1,000 deaths per day.
Adjusting for population, states in the Southeast are seeing the most new cases. Georgia and Florida — states led by Republican governors who have not issued face mask requirements — have the highest per capita new cases over the past seven days, followed by Alabama and Mississippi.
On Wednesday, Florida health officials announced more than 8,000 new case reports and 212 new deaths.
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