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Most American Families Facing Financial Danger During Pandemic: Poll

By
HealthDay Reporters

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 30, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- More than 60% of households with children in the United States have struggled with serious financial problems during the coronavirus pandemic, a new poll shows.

Black and Hispanic households with children have borne the brunt of the hardships, which include struggles to afford medical care, depletion of household savings and difficulty paying debts, the poll found.

Conducted by NPR, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the poll surveyed more than 3,400 adults, 1,000 of whom were living with children under the age of 18, between July 1 and Aug. 3.

Of the Hispanic households with children that responded, 86% reported these difficulties; in Black households, 66% reported them. In white households, the number hovers around 50%.

The stark racial differences were surprising, as they surfaced after federal and state governments invested heavily in programs for communities disproportionately affected by the pandemic, Robert Blendon, a director of the study behind the report and a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, told The New York Times.

"So much money was spent to put a cushion under households," Blendon said. Still, "the numbers of people in trouble, that is the shock," he added.

Experts worry that the financial fallout from the pandemic could be even worse than the poll depicts, as government measures to support households run out, Julie Morita, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, told the Times.

"It's a very large number of people who can't pay the basics," Blendon told the Times. "You have unbelievably vulnerable people over the next six months."

But on Tuesday, there were also signs of hope that more government relief might be on the way: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows both said they're hopeful they can reach agreement on a new economic stimulus bill, the Washington Post reported.

The new bill extends payroll support for the airline industry and includes new small business money, an additional round of $1,200 stimulus checks for individuals, an extension of expired $600 weekly unemployment benefits, around $500 billion for cities and states, support for schools and COVID-19 testing and tracing, and more. There is also money in the bill to support election security and the U.S. Postal Service, as well, the Post reported.

Globally, COVID death toll passes 1 million

The global coronavirus pandemic reached a grim new milestone on Tuesday: One million dead.

Americans made up more than 200,000 of those deaths, or one in every five, according to a running tally comprised by Johns Hopkins University.

"It's not just a number. It's human beings. It's people we love," Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan, told the Associated Press. He's an adviser to government officials on how best to handle the pandemic -- and he lost his 84-year-old mother to COVID-19 in February.

"It's people we know," Markel said. "And if you don't have that human factor right in your face, it's very easy to make it abstract."

It's taken the coronavirus just eight months to reach a worldwide death toll that's meant personal and economic tragedy for billions. Right now, more than 33.6 million people worldwide are known to have been infected with the new coronavirus, the Hopkins tally found.

In the meantime, Americans struggle to stay ahead of the virus. The U.S. government announced Monday that at least 100 million rapid COVID-19 tests will be distributed to states in the coming weeks.

Who will get them first? The White House is urging governors to use the tests to help reopen schools, the AP reported.

As an example, the Abbott Labs tests would allow teachers to be tested on a weekly basis, or for parents to know whether their symptomatic child has COVID-19, the AP reported.

This batch of tests is part of a 150 million order the federal government has placed with Abbott, the wire service said. The company's rapid test, the size of a credit card, is the first that does not require special computer equipment to process. It delivers results in about 15 minutes.

As the rapid tests are being sent out, new COVID-19 cases remain elevated averaging more than 40,000 a day -- while experts warn of a likely surge in the fall and winter, the AP reported.

Only in the last two months has U.S. testing capacity begun to exceed demand, the AP reported. Adm. Brett Giroir, the nation's testing czar, told Congress last week that the United States will soon have the capacity to run 3 million tests per day.

One-shot vaccine moves to larger trials

In news that might help make vaccinating all Americans against COVID-19 easier to accomplish, the first coronavirus vaccine that only requires a single shot has entered the final stages of testing in the United States, the Post reported.

The international trial will eventually recruit up to 60,000 participants. The vaccine, made by Johnson & Johnson, is the fourth to enter the large, Phase 3 trials that determine effectiveness and safety, the Post reported.

Paul Stoffels, the company's chief scientific officer, predicted last week there may be enough data to have results by the end of the year and the company plans to manufacture 1 billion doses next year.

Three other vaccine candidates have a head start, with U.S. trials that began earlier this summer, but the vaccine being developed by Johnson & Johnson could be easier to administer and distribute if it's proven safe and effective, the Post reported.

The company is initially testing a single dose, while the other vaccines require a second shot three to four weeks after the first one, the newspaper said. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine can also be stored in liquid form at refrigerator temperatures for three months, whereas two of the three other vaccines must be frozen or kept at ultra-cold temperatures for long-term storage, the Post reported.

"A single-shot vaccine, if it's safe and effective, will have substantial logistic advantages for global pandemic control," said Dan Barouch, director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, who partnered with Johnson & Johnson to develop the vaccine.

"It is a really good thing that we have this diversity of platforms because this is a critical crisis in terms of our global circumstance," said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. "Now, here in the U.S. with 200,000 deaths, we want to do everything we can without sacrificing safety or efficacy."

Cases keep mounting

By Wednesday, the U.S. coronavirus case count passed 7.2 million while the death toll passed 205,800, according to a Times tally.

According to the same tally, the top five states in coronavirus cases as of Wednesday were: California with over 817,800; Texas with more than 780,500; Florida with more than 704,500; New York with over 462,000; and Georgia with over 300,000.

Curbing the spread of the coronavirus in the rest of the world remains challenging.

By Wednesday, India's coronavirus case count had passed 6.2 million, just over one month after hitting the 3 million mark, the Times reported.

More than 97,000 coronavirus patients have died in India, according to the Hopkins tally, but when measured as a proportion of the population, the country has had far fewer deaths than many others. Doctors say this reflects India's younger and leaner population.

Still, the country's public health system is severely strained, and some sick patients cannot find hospital beds, the newspaper said. Only the United States has more coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile, Brazil passed 4.7 million cases and nearly 143,000 deaths as of Wednesday, the Hopkins tally showed.

Cases are also spiking in Russia: The country's coronavirus case count has passed 1.1 million. As of Wednesday, the death toll in Russia was over 20,630, the Hopkins tally showed.

Worldwide, the number of reported infections passed 33.7 million on Wednesday, with over 1 million deaths, according to the Hopkins tally.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.

SOURCES: Associated Press, Washington Post; The New York Times

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