What you need to know about COVID-19: Pandemic adds risk to already dangerous job of firefighting

Related video above: New saliva test approved as US passes 170k deaths A study published this month by researchers at Colorado State University and the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station concluded that COVID outbreaks “could be a serious threat to the firefighting mission” and urged vigilant social distancing and screening measures in the camps.Thousands of firefighters from across the U.S. are battling dozens of wildfires burning throughout the West. It’s an inherently dangerous job that now carries the additional risk of COVID-19 transmission. Any outbreak that ripples through a camp could easily sideline crews and spread the virus across multiple fires — and back to communities across the country — as personnel transfer in and out of “hot zones” and return home.Though most firefighters are young and fit, some will inevitably fall ill in these remote makeshift communities of shared showers and portable toilets, where medical care can be limited. The pollutants in the smoke they breathe daily also make them more susceptible to COVID-19 and can worsen the effects of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Also, one suspected or positive case in a camp will mean many other firefighters will need to be quarantined, unable to work. The worst-case scenario is that multiple outbreaks could hamstring the nation’s ability to respond as wildfire season peaks in August, the hottest and driest month of the year in the western U.S.The number of acres burned so far this year is below the 10-year average, but the fire outlook for August is above average in nine states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Twenty-two large fires ignited on Monday alone after lightning storms passed through the Northwest.Virus among top causes of death in Florida so far this monthFlorida is registering an average of 156 coronavirus deaths per day this month, which likely makes COVID-19 the state’s No. 1 killer during that period. Cancer and heart disease each average about 125 deaths per day, according to the Florida Department of Health.The state recorded 4,300 new cases and 106 coronavirus deaths on Saturday.The number of new cases continues a downward trend from more than 10,000 cases per day a month ago. During the past week, the state’s positivity rate on tests has been 10.8%.Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have been declining. On Saturday, 4,773 patients were treated for the disease in Florida hospitals compared to Friday’s 4,909 and Thursday’s 5,340. That number has fallen from a peak above 9,500 on July 23.Overall, the state has nearly 600,000 confirmed cases since March 1 and 10,410 deaths.The latest numbersMore than 5.6 million Americans have been infected and at least 176,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.More mask use could save thousands of lives, researchers sayMore than 130,000 people could die over the next few months from COVID-19 if leaders across the U.S. don’t implement safety measures like mask mandates heading into fall, researchers say.If mask use increases from 53% to 95%, it could save almost 70,000 lives, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.”It really depends on what our leaders do,” Dr. Chris Murray, the head of the institute, said.At least 175,409 Americans have died since the pandemic began, a number the institute projects could reach nearly 310,000 by Dec. 1. The new prediction is about 15,000 deaths higher than their earlier forecast from two weeks ago due to several factors, Murray said.”In some states, California is a good example, cases peaked, they’re coming down but deaths haven’t,” Murray told CNN. “They’re sort of staying pretty steady.”And there is still increased transmission in states like Kentucky, Minnesota and Indiana, he said.”There’s more happening around Covid than we sort of expected for this time of the year and that’s playing out into these forecasts,” Murray added.Across parts of the U.S., cases have been on the decline for weeks but deaths remain relatively elevated. The country’s seven-day average for daily deaths topped 1,000 for at least 24 days in a row. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said earlier this week he expects deaths to begin declining by next week as a result of continued mitigation measures.Preventing another waveThe CDC director expressed concern that while parts of the country are reporting improvement in new cases, states in Midland America like Nebraska and Oklahoma seem to be “stuck” and cases aren’t falling.”We don’t need to have a third wave in the heartland right now,” Redfield said Thursday. “We need to prevent that.”Getting safety measures in place now is crucial, Murray said, before fall rolls around, when health officials have predicted the U.S. will see a resurgence of coronavirus cases on top of flu season. Redfield has previously said this fall and winter are likely to be one of the “most difficult times” in American public health.On Friday, the top health official for Seattle and King County in Washington state warned the state was seeing an increased number of cases linked back to social gatherings.”We expect COVID-19 to get worse in the fall and winter and people to spend more time indoors,” health officer Dr. Jeffrey Duchin said.To help prevent widespread infections, Murray said governors need to put mask mandates in place — mandates “with teeth,” that would allow local authorities to fine residents without a face covering.”It will take a concerted effort but the impact is extraordinary, it’s really quite extraordinary what it could achieve,” Murray said.6-year-old is Florida’s youngest COVID-19 victimIn Florida, a 6-year-old girl became the youngest person in the state to die from coronavirus complications. Health officials say they still don’t know if the child contracted the virus from a known case or if this was travel related.The report of her death comes just weeks after 9-year-old Kimora “Kimmie” Lynum, who had no known underlying health conditions, died from coronavirus complications in Florida. News about the young girl also come as schools across the U.S. have begun reopening. Some have adjusted plans after hundreds of students and staff were asked to quarantine in response to coronavirus cases.A Florida judge is expected to rule next week on whether physical schools should reopen. The expected ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by a Florida teacher’s union in efforts to stop the state from requiring school districts to reopen for in-person instruction five days a week.Across the country, students have also made their way back to college campuses. Despite safety measures in place universities in more than a dozen states have reported cases of the virus, many of which trace to gatherings, Greek Life or athletics. Many institutions have already announced they’ll begin the semester remotely.More than two dozen cases linked to motorcycle rallyMeanwhile, more than two dozen cases of the virus across three states are now being linked back to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, an annual gathering that usually draws in about half a million people.Minnesota reported 15 cases of the virus among people who attended the rally in South Dakota earlier this month, Kris Ehresmann, the Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director, said Friday.Among those cases, one person was hospitalized. Officials say they expect more cases over the next few days.In Nebraska’s Panhandle region, at least seven cases were tied to the rally according to Kim Engel, the director of the Panhandle Public Health District told CNN.And earlier this week, South Dakota officials announced a person who worked at a tattoo shop in Sturgis tested positive for the virus and could have exposed others during the event. Officials also said a person who spent hours at a bar during the rally also tested positive.Stop the spread of COVID-19To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask.Masks are required in public places in some states and businesses. Multiple major retailers have announced mask requirement policies as the nation continues to see a large number of cases reported in certain areas.The CDC also recommends you keep 6 feet of distance between yourself and others.Make sure to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.For more tips on how to stay safe, CLICK HERE.

Related video above: New saliva test approved as US passes 170k deaths

A study published this month by researchers at Colorado State University and the U.S. Forest Service’s Rocky Mountain Research Station concluded that COVID outbreaks “could be a serious threat to the firefighting mission” and urged vigilant social distancing and screening measures in the camps.

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Thousands of firefighters from across the U.S. are battling dozens of wildfires burning throughout the West. It’s an inherently dangerous job that now carries the additional risk of COVID-19 transmission. Any outbreak that ripples through a camp could easily sideline crews and spread the virus across multiple fires — and back to communities across the country — as personnel transfer in and out of “hot zones” and return home.

Though most firefighters are young and fit, some will inevitably fall ill in these remote makeshift communities of shared showers and portable toilets, where medical care can be limited. The pollutants in the smoke they breathe daily also make them more susceptible to COVID-19 and can worsen the effects of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Also, one suspected or positive case in a camp will mean many other firefighters will need to be quarantined, unable to work. The worst-case scenario is that multiple outbreaks could hamstring the nation’s ability to respond as wildfire season peaks in August, the hottest and driest month of the year in the western U.S.

The number of acres burned so far this year is below the 10-year average, but the fire outlook for August is above average in nine states, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Twenty-two large fires ignited on Monday alone after lightning storms passed through the Northwest.

Virus among top causes of death in Florida so far this month

Florida is registering an average of 156 coronavirus deaths per day this month, which likely makes COVID-19 the state’s No. 1 killer during that period. Cancer and heart disease each average about 125 deaths per day, according to the Florida Department of Health.

The state recorded 4,300 new cases and 106 coronavirus deaths on Saturday.

The number of new cases continues a downward trend from more than 10,000 cases per day a month ago. During the past week, the state’s positivity rate on tests has been 10.8%.

Hospitalizations due to COVID-19 have been declining. On Saturday, 4,773 patients were treated for the disease in Florida hospitals compared to Friday’s 4,909 and Thursday’s 5,340. That number has fallen from a peak above 9,500 on July 23.

Overall, the state has nearly 600,000 confirmed cases since March 1 and 10,410 deaths.

The latest numbers

More than 5.6 million Americans have been infected and at least 176,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

More mask use could save thousands of lives, researchers say

More than 130,000 people could die over the next few months from COVID-19 if leaders across the U.S. don’t implement safety measures like mask mandates heading into fall, researchers say.

If mask use increases from 53% to 95%, it could save almost 70,000 lives, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

“It really depends on what our leaders do,” Dr. Chris Murray, the head of the institute, said.

At least 175,409 Americans have died since the pandemic began, a number the institute projects could reach nearly 310,000 by Dec. 1. The new prediction is about 15,000 deaths higher than their earlier forecast from two weeks ago due to several factors, Murray said.

“In some states, California is a good example, cases peaked, they’re coming down but deaths haven’t,” Murray told CNN. “They’re sort of staying pretty steady.”

And there is still increased transmission in states like Kentucky, Minnesota and Indiana, he said.

“There’s more happening around Covid than we sort of expected for this time of the year and that’s playing out into these forecasts,” Murray added.

Across parts of the U.S., cases have been on the decline for weeks but deaths remain relatively elevated. The country’s seven-day average for daily deaths topped 1,000 for at least 24 days in a row. Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said earlier this week he expects deaths to begin declining by next week as a result of continued mitigation measures.

Preventing another wave

The CDC director expressed concern that while parts of the country are reporting improvement in new cases, states in Midland America like Nebraska and Oklahoma seem to be “stuck” and cases aren’t falling.

“We don’t need to have a third wave in the heartland right now,” Redfield said Thursday. “We need to prevent that.”

Getting safety measures in place now is crucial, Murray said, before fall rolls around, when health officials have predicted the U.S. will see a resurgence of coronavirus cases on top of flu season. Redfield has previously said this fall and winter are likely to be one of the “most difficult times” in American public health.

On Friday, the top health official for Seattle and King County in Washington state warned the state was seeing an increased number of cases linked back to social gatherings.

“We expect COVID-19 to get worse in the fall and winter and people to spend more time indoors,” health officer Dr. Jeffrey Duchin said.

To help prevent widespread infections, Murray said governors need to put mask mandates in place — mandates “with teeth,” that would allow local authorities to fine residents without a face covering.

“It will take a concerted effort but the impact is extraordinary, it’s really quite extraordinary what it could achieve,” Murray said.

6-year-old is Florida’s youngest COVID-19 victim

In Florida, a 6-year-old girl became the youngest person in the state to die from coronavirus complications. Health officials say they still don’t know if the child contracted the virus from a known case or if this was travel related.

The report of her death comes just weeks after 9-year-old Kimora “Kimmie” Lynum, who had no known underlying health conditions, died from coronavirus complications in Florida.

News about the young girl also come as schools across the U.S. have begun reopening. Some have adjusted plans after hundreds of students and staff were asked to quarantine in response to coronavirus cases.

A Florida judge is expected to rule next week on whether physical schools should reopen. The expected ruling stems from a lawsuit filed by a Florida teacher’s union in efforts to stop the state from requiring school districts to reopen for in-person instruction five days a week.

Across the country, students have also made their way back to college campuses. Despite safety measures in place universities in more than a dozen states have reported cases of the virus, many of which trace to gatherings, Greek Life or athletics. Many institutions have already announced they’ll begin the semester remotely.

More than two dozen cases linked to motorcycle rally

Meanwhile, more than two dozen cases of the virus across three states are now being linked back to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, an annual gathering that usually draws in about half a million people.

Minnesota reported 15 cases of the virus among people who attended the rally in South Dakota earlier this month, Kris Ehresmann, the Minnesota Department of Health Infectious Disease Director, said Friday.

Among those cases, one person was hospitalized. Officials say they expect more cases over the next few days.

In Nebraska’s Panhandle region, at least seven cases were tied to the rally according to Kim Engel, the director of the Panhandle Public Health District told CNN.

And earlier this week, South Dakota officials announced a person who worked at a tattoo shop in Sturgis tested positive for the virus and could have exposed others during the event. Officials also said a person who spent hours at a bar during the rally also tested positive.

Stop the spread of COVID-19

To help stop the spread of the coronavirus, the CDC recommends wearing a face mask.

Masks are required in public places in some states and businesses. Multiple major retailers have announced mask requirement policies as the nation continues to see a large number of cases reported in certain areas.

The CDC also recommends you keep 6 feet of distance between yourself and others.

Make sure to wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

For more tips on how to stay safe, CLICK HERE.