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A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention model seems to show that up to 1.36 million US covid cases were averted by contact-tracing efforts over a 60-day period during winter in 2020-21. Separately, as the overall US death count sadly continues to grow, the rate has dramatically slowed.

CIDRAP: Contact Tracing May Have Averted 1.4 Million US COVID Cases In 2 Months

A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) modeling study used data from 59 US case investigation and contact tracing (CICT) programs to estimate that the programs prevented 1.11 to 1.36 million COVID-19 cases, and 27,000 to 34,000 hospitalizations over 60 days in winter 2020-21, well before the Delta and Omicron variant surges. The researchers collected data from Nov 25, 2020, to Jan 23, 2021, for analysis from July to September 2021. (3/28)

And more on the spread of covid —

The New York Times: US Virus Deaths Drop To Lowest Point Since Summer

Fewer than 800 coronavirus deaths are being reported each day in the United States, the lowest daily average since before the Omicron variant took hold late last fall. The last time the rate was this low was in mid-August, according to a New York Times database. Trends in deaths lag behind cases and hospitalizations by weeks because of the time it takes for people to become seriously ill, and the time needed to complete and file death records. (Hassan and Cahalan, 3/29)

The Texas Tribune: Texas Pandemic Deaths Push Past 85,000

At 16, Sha’Niyah McGee could see her future clearly. She wanted to go to college to become a pediatrician and own a nail salon and somehow, some way, she wanted her younger siblings to come to a university with her. “She’s that kind of person,” her grandmother, Laurena Ellis, said. “She didn’t have a bad bone in her body.” But unfortunately, none of this will come to pass. On Sept. 28 — the day Sha’Niyah emerged from her bedroom where she spent days recovering from COVID-19 to return to school — she collapsed in her Dallas home and died, becoming one of over 100 Texas coronavirus fatalities under the age of 19 (Park and Martinez, 3/29)

Houston Chronicle: Don’t Be Alarmed. Houston-Area Spike In COVID-19 Cases Is Related To A Reporting Lag, Not Infections

Officials with the Texas Department of State Health Services said a Houston-area lab last week reported more than 9,000 old cases dating back to Jan. 1. That led to an outsized number of cases reported March 22 to March 25, which caused other Texas Medical Center metrics, like the rate of community spread, to surge. Among the new data released Monday, the medical center reported a testing positivity rate of 2.1 percent, the lowest percentage in more than a year. “The positivity rate has been rock-solid stable,” said Dr. James McDeavitt, senior vice president and dean of clinical affairs at Baylor College of Medicine. “That’s a sign there’s not more disease in the community.” (Gill, 3/28)

AP: Speaker: Alaska House Dealing With COVID-19 Outbreak

Alaska House Speaker Louise Stutes said masks will be required in the House chambers until further notice, citing COVID-19 cases. Stutes, in a statement, said the House is dealing with an “active outbreak of COVID-19, with several members testing positive over the last few days.” (3/29)

Salt Lake Tribune: Utah To Shut Down Many COVID-19 Test Sites As Daily Case Counts Remain Low

Utah is shutting down some state COVID-19 testing sites and turning others over to private companies, the state health department announced Monday. The move was announced as the state transitions to a more “long-term, sustainable response” to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a news release from the Utah Department of Health. The health department on Monday also reported a total of 255 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend — 65 on Friday; 87 on Saturday; and 112 on Sunday. There have been fewer than 200 new cases reported in Utah each day for the past 20 days in a row. (Pierce, 3/28)

AP: Minnesota Makes Free At-Home COVID-19 Tests Available Online

Minnesota is launching a new online program to provide free at-home rapid COVID-19 tests. Beginning Tuesday, Minnesotans can order two test kits per home for a total of four tests via mn.gov/covid19. (3/28)

In related news about the flu —

CIDRAP: CDC: Influenza Activity Increasing Across US

Late last week, the CDC Fluview update showed that rates of flu activity in the Unites States are increasing in a second wave of activity, though numbers are still below baselines for the 2021-22 flu season. Influenza A (H3N2) accounts for almost all influenza case detections, and 7.7% of submitted clinical lab samples were positive for flu in the past week. States in the Midwest and Southwest saw the highest levels of influenza positivity. (3/28)

CIDRAP: COVID-19, Flu An Especially Dangerous Pair

Adult COVID-19 patients also infected with the flu are four times more likely to require mechanical ventilation and 2.4 times more likely to die than if they had COVID-19 alone, finds a UK study published late last week in The Lancet. (Van Beusekom, 3/28)

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

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