Several infected after convention touting ivermectin; some hospitals overwhelmed ahead of Thanksgiving holiday: Latest COVID-19 updates – USA TODAY

Several people who attended a conference in Florida earlier this month where ivermectin was promoted as treatment against COVID-19 have since contracted the virus

Dr. John Littell, the Ocala-based physician who organized the Florida Summit on COVID at an equestrian center Nov. 6, said one physician got sick and that a “handful of others” had mild cases. 

The Food and Drug Administration says ivermectin is approved to treat or prevent parasites in animals. For humans, ivermectin tablets are approved to treat some parasitic worms, and there are topical formulations for head lice and skin conditions. The FDA has not authorized ivermectin for use in preventing or treating COVID-19 in humans or animals. 

Littell, who is unvaccinated and believes ivermectin is effective at treating and preventing the virus, said he does not believe the infections were spread at the conference. 

“Only one physician got sick and that’s because his father had been ill in the Florida Keys before he came,” Littell said. “In each case, everyone is healthy now and back in the saddle. And all were given early treatment and ivermectin and the usual combination of therapies.” 

Dustin Wyatt, The Ledger

Also in the news:

►Boston’s temporary outdoor dining program designed to help boost struggling restaurants has been extended to Dec. 31, Mayor Michelle Wu announced Wednesday. The extension applies to private patios and many public streets.

►Maryland will distribute 500,000 at-home COVID testing kits to health departments across the state. Gov. Hogan said the kits will give “Marylanders more options and more peace of mind as we head into the holiday season.”

►Honolulu and Maui counties will allow restaurants and bars to operate at 100% capacity and eliminate a requirement that groups sit 6 feet apart at restaurants when Hawaii eases some statewide restrictions at month’s end.

►Social distancing became mandatory again across the Netherlands on Wednesday. The country’s leading intensive care physician, Diederik Gommers, called for even tougher measures – including closing schools – to rein in soaring infection rates.

►Malaysia and Singapore said Wednesday they will partially reopen their borders next week to fully vaccinated citizens and some others, after nearly two years of closure.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 48 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 775,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 259.3 million cases and 5.17 million deaths. More than 196 million Americans — 59% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

📘What we’re reading: COVID-19 has pushed a decadeslong Michigan emergency medical service workers shortage into a crisis. How much longer before people call 911 and it’ll take too long for help to arrive, if it ever does at all? 

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch free newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Of Connecticut’s 169 cities and towns, 65% are in red alert level for COVID

The majority of cities and towns in Connecticut are now in the red alert level, the state’s highest of four levels for COVID-19 infections, according to state data released Wednesday.

Of the state’s 169 municipalities, 110, or 65%, were in the red zone – the most since April 22.

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont on Tuesday urged residents to take steps to protect themselves, noting New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont had higher rates of infection than Connecticut.

“That’s just a reminder that we’re not an island. That’s why we’ve got to continue to be very cautious,” he said.

Thanksgiving gatherings could add to COVID crowding at many hospitals

As families prepare to gather over the Thanksgiving holiday, some hospitals across the country are being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases and staffing shortages, and surges tied to holiday gatherings could make it worse. A potentially weekslong closure of a New York emergency department Monday was sparked by a staffing shortage after unvaccinated health care workers were not allowed to continue work due to a state rule. Mount Sinai South Nassau’s emergency room will direct patients to its Oceanside emergency department.

Officials in Denver said hospitals are filling up, with about 80% of those hospitalized for COVID-19 being unvaccinated, 9News reported. Dr. Robin Wittenstein, CEO of Denver Health, told the outlet their system is on the “brink of collapse.”

The University of Iowa’s hospital is also worried about hardship as COVID and flu cases are on the rise. In Dubuque County, hospitalizations for COVID-19 are as high as they were a year ago before vaccines were available.

“It’s cold now, and people are going to be indoors, and everyone’s tired of this,” Chief Medical Officer Theresa Brennan said. “People are hungry for human contact. And because of that, it’s likely people are going to be less strict about gathering, about masking, about distancing than they were last year.”

At-home testing strains efforts to track virus

Thousands of people traveling for the holidays this week will first test themselves for COVID-19 without a doctor, lab or any medical oversight. While these quick home tests are hailed as a major convenience and a smart way to protect loved ones, they’ve also raised a significant challenge for public health officials. It’s unclear how often customers report results from the dozen authorized home coronavirus tests that typically deliver results in 15 minutes outside a lab or doctor’s office. Private test manufacturers already make more home antigen tests than standard laboratory tests — and the gap could nearly double next month as new home tests flood the market. Read more here.

“The whole issue of us tracking every single case is just not going to be possible anymore with these (home) tests,” said Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “We need to move to a different approach.”

Ken Alltucker

Medical, other entities seek exemption from Tennessee COVID law

Dozens of Tennessee health care, higher education and consulting entities applied for an official exemption last week from the state’s new law that strictly curtails businesses from enacting COVID-19 restrictions.

The legislation, signed into law earlier this month by Gov. Bill Lee, prohibits most private businesses from requiring COVID-19 vaccines or proof of vaccination. But the bill carved out a provision for entities at risk of losing major federal funds if they followed the new Tennessee law, such as federal contractors, transportation authorities and health care providers that treat Medicare or Medicaid patients.

The Tennessee comptroller began accepting exemption applications Nov. 15 and received 76 by the end of the week, though legitimate applications were slightly less due to some duplicate and errant submissions. So far, denials have been rare.

Of the 76 applications, five were denied and 44 are awaiting approval. 

— Melissa Brown, The Nashville Tennessean

Contributing: The Associated Press

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