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CDC to study coronavirus antibodies in 25 metro areas

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is embarking on an expansive study of the prevalence of novel-coronavirus antibodies in people in 25 metropolitan areas, an effort to provide long-awaited insight into the way the virus is spreading and its presence in communities.

The study, which is scheduled to test 325,000 people by fall 2021, will build on an antibody study that has been underway in six of the cities since March, according to Michael Busch, who is overseeing the study and is director of the Vitalant Research Institute. CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund confirmed plans to announce the study but declined to discuss details.

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Starting in June, this vast new study will test samples from 1,000 blood donors each month for 12 months in the 25 metro areas. Researchers will test the samples for evidence of coronavirus antibodies, which are created by the immune system when someone is infected with the virus.

By determining who has antibodies, epidemiologists can figure out who has been infected with the virus, even if someone never reported a positive test or experienced symptoms. Several early studies suggest a large portion of those infected never display symptoms, making the extent of the virus’s spread more difficult to track.

A preliminary version of the study is underway, led by Busch and funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. That study began testing 1,000 donors each month in six major metro areas: Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, San Francisco, and Seattle. The CDC will provide $4.5 million for technical assistance as the study expands to 19 more metropolitan areas that remain to be determined.

Washington Post

Poll finds strong fear of second wave of infection

DES MOINES — Strong concern about a second wave of coronavirus infections is reinforcing widespread opposition among Americans to reopening public places, a new poll finds, even as many state leaders step up efforts to return to life before the pandemic.

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Yet support for public health restrictions imposed to control the virus’s spread is no longer overwhelming. It has been eroded over the past month by a widening partisan divide, with Democrats more cautious and Republicans less anxious as President Trump urges states to “open up our country,” according to the new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

The poll finds that 83 percent of Americans are at least somewhat concerned that lifting restrictions in their area will lead to additional infections, with 54 percent saying they are very or extremely concerned that such steps will result in a spike of COVID-19 cases.

Associated Press

Health care workers cited gear shortages into May

Front-line health care workers still experienced shortages of critical equipment needed for protection from the coronavirus into early May — including nearly two-thirds who cited insufficient supplies of the face masks that filter out most airborne particles, according to a Washington Post-Ipsos poll.

More than 4 in 10 also saw shortages of less protective surgical masks and 36 percent said their supply of hand sanitizer was running low, according to the poll. Roughly 8 in 10 reported wearing one mask for an entire shift, and more than 7 in 10 had to wear the same mask more than once.

The dire shortage of personal protective equipment for health care workers emerged in March as one of the earliest signals of the country’s lack of preparation for the pandemic.

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Washington Post

Software will help in creation of tracing apps

Apple and Google launched software Wednesday that will allow public health authorities around the world to create mobile applications that notify people when they may have come in contact with someone who’s been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

The effort, which the two tech giants call an ‘‘exposure notification’’ tool and utilizes bluetooth radios within smartphones, will be part of a new software update the companies will be pushing out Wednesday. State and federal governments can use it to create contact tracing apps that citizens can download via Apple’s App Store or the Google Play store. People who have updated their phones with the latest software will be able to share their bluetooth signal, logging when the radio recognizes other people who have downloaded an app that uses the software.

Apple and Google declined to provide a list of all the government agencies using it.

Washington Post

Schools choose traditional graduation ceremonies

HOOVER, Ala. — As high schools nationwide have canceled or postponed traditional graduation ceremonies to avoid worsening the spread of the new coronavirus, thousands of graduates, parents, siblings, and grandparents were to gather Wednesday night and again Thursday night in a nearly 11,000-seat stadium in the Birmingham suburb of Hoover.

That’s where two high schools will hold traditional commencement exercises despite COVID-19.

Two schools in nearby cities held ceremonies Tuesday, with chairs for more than 540 graduates spread apart across a football field at Thompson High and a keynote address by Alabama’s state school superintendent, Eric Mackey. Few of the attendees wore protective face masks, and seniors hugged and gathered in tight groups of friends for pictures.

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Dr. Michael Saag, who treats infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, said the threat of spreading the coronavirus poses too great a risk to hold such ceremonies.

Virus carriers without symptoms could unknowingly infect others, he said.

Saag has a special perspective: He survived COVID-19 after being infected in March.

School officials in Hoover announced the ceremonies in the city’s open-air baseball stadium, after Governor Kay Ivey eliminated state restrictions on the size of group gatherings, as long as people from different households stay 6 feet apart.

Associated Press

Free tests to be offeredat NYC nursing homes

NEW YORK — New York City will offer free coronavirus tests at the city’s 169 nursing homes and will provide staff to replace nursing home employees who test positive for the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

The announcement comes after some 3,000 residents of nursing homes in the city have died of COVID-19.

Associated Press