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Among those under age 65, COVID-19 takes greater toll on nonwhite Americans – CDC
11 July 2020, 5:35 AM

Coronavirus deaths among Americans ages 65 and younger are more common among nonwhites than among whites, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in a publication released on Friday.

Overall, 34.9% of Hispanic patients who died were younger than 65, while 29.5% of nonwhites who died were under 65, compared to only 13.2% of white, non-Hispanic decedents.

Researchers analysed 10 647 COVID-19 deaths between February 12 and April 24 from 16 public health departments in 15 states. Most of the deaths were in New York City, New Jersey and Washington state – three areas hit by the pandemic early on.

Most of those who died were older than 65 years and had underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease or diabetes, according to the report in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

The percentages of Hispanic and nonwhite people under age 65 who died of COVID-19 were greater than their share of the US population, the report said.

While underlying medical conditions are known to be risk factors in coronavirus-related deaths, researchers were not able to assess how race or ethnicity contributed. The researchers noted that more Hispanic and nonwhite people work in occupations or essential activities that do not allow physical distancing.

In June, the US Department of Health and Human Services asked laboratories to report a patient’s age and ethnicity along with COVID-19 test results, to better understand why the respiratory illness affects certain demographics more severely.

While further studies are needed, the researchers said understanding factors contributing to mortality differences may help improve communication to encourage at-risk groups to promptly seek care if they fall ill.

Australia’s Victoria state records another day of high coronavirus infections
11 July 2020, 4:44 AM

Australia’s second most-populous state on Saturday reported one of its highest daily increases in new coronavirus infections and warned the numbers would get worse before they got better as it began its first weekend under a six-week lockdown.

Victoria state recorded 216 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19 in the 24 hours to Saturday morning, down from a record 288 cases the previous day but still one of the biggest daily increases of any part of the country since the pandemic arrived.

The state put its capital city, Melbourne, into lockdown this week amid concern that community transmission was causing a second wave of the virus. The authorities had previously attributed most new cases to people returning from overseas.

“It will get worse before it gets better,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews told a televised news conference.

“We will see more and more additional cases. This is going to be with us for months and months.”

“Nobody is enjoying being locked at home. It is frustrating,it is challenging, but the strategy will be successful if we all play our part.”

There were 100 separate outbreaks in Victoria, the state’s chief health officer, Brett Sutton, told the news conference.

Australia has avoided the high COVID-19 casualty numbers of other countries after closing its borders and going into nationwide lockdown in March.

The country has recorded about 9 200 infections and 107 deaths, including the death of a man in his 90s in Victoria overnight, Andrews said.

The country’s other states have been relaxing restrictions on movement but tightened their border closures to Victoria.Victoria, home to a quarter of the country’s 25 million people, has also become the first state to ask people to wear masks.

Though there is no proven vaccine or cure for the coronavirus, Australia gave provisional approval to Gilead Sciences Inc’s remdesivir as the first treatment option for virus, joining the United States and the European Commission which have given it conditional clearance.

Amazon.com bans, then un-bans TikTok app from employee mobile devices
11 July 2020, 4:25 AM

In the span of a few hours on Friday, Amazon.com Inc banned and then unbanned the TikTok video sharing app from employee mobile devices, calling the move a mistake.

The news generated widespread attention for the Chinese-owned social media platform coming the same week US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the United States is “certainly looking at” banning TikTok, suggesting it shared information with the Chinese government.

It was not immediately clear what led to the initial ban by Amazon. One person familiar with the matter said senior Amazon executives were unaware of the request to delete TikTok from employee devices. The ban was reversed after TikTok and Amazon representatives discussed the matter, according to an email sent to TikTok employees.

Earlier this week, Wells Fargo sent a note to employees who had installed TikTok on company-owned mobile devices telling them to remove the app immediately.

“Due to concerns about TikTok’s privacy and security controls and practices, and because corporate-owned devices should be used for company business only, we have directed those employees to remove the app from their devices,” Wells Fargo said in a statement.

“We have not been contacted by Wells Fargo, but as with any organization that has concerns, we are open to engaging with them constructively and letting them know about the actions we have taken to protect data security for our users,” a TikTok spokesman told Reuters in a statement.

The attention underscores the hotseat that TikTok’s owner, China-based ByteDance, has found itself in over recent days.

The Chinese ownership of TikTok, among the fastest growing digital platforms ever, has come under heavy scrutiny on issues including their handling of user data. India banned TikTok and other Chinese apps in June.

The company has said user data is stored in the United States with a backup copy in Singapore. One person familiar with the matter said TikTok’s user data is primarily stored in the Google Cloud in its Virginia-based data center.

TikTok declined to comment. Google could not immediately be reached for comment.

That did not stop Pompeo from floating a possible ban of TikTok in the United States. Asked if Americans should download it, he told Fox News: “Only if you want your private information in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party.”

On Friday, the Republican National Committee asked its members via email not to download TikTok. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) on Friday also reiterated its guidance from December to stop downloading the app.

A person familiar with the matter said the DNC has been advising campaign staff for months not to use TikTok on their personal devices and to use a separate phone and account if they use the platform for campaign work because of the amount of data it tracks. A spokesman for the DNC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Two Republican senators in March introduced a bill aimed at banning federal employees from using TikTok on government-issued phones, citing national security concerns around the collection and sharing of data on U.S. users with China’s government.

Last year the United States Navy banned TikTok from government-issued mobile devices, saying the app represented a “cybersecurity threat.”

Last November, the US government launched a national security review of TikTok owner Beijing ByteDance Technology Co’s $1 billion acquisition of US social media app Musical.ly, Reuters first reported last year.

To address concerns over its Chinese ownership, ByteDance has taken steps to shift its center of power away from China, Reuters previously reported. It is also looking to make changes to TikTok’s corporate structure for the same reasons, a company spokesperson said this week.

But concerns persist. Last month, when Apple released to developers a test version of its iOS operating system with new privacy features, developers showed images of TikTok’s app triggering notifications that it was copying data from users’ clipboards, where data is temporarily stored while copying and pasting from one app to another.

China reports two new coronavirus cases in mainland
11 July 2020, 4:00 AM

China reported two new coronavirus cases in the mainland for July 10, compared with four cases a day earlier, the health authority said on Saturday.

Both of the new infections were imported cases, according to a statement by the National Health Commission.

There were no new deaths.

China reported four new asymptomatic patients, up from three a day earlier.

As of Friday, mainland China had 83 587 confirmed coronavirus cases, the health authority said.

The death toll remained at 4 634.

While the capital Beijing government reported no new cases for July 10, the fifth straight day of zero new cases as the city curbs the spread of the disease.

Johnson says England may need stricter face mask rules
11 July 2020, 3:16 AM

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said tighter rules on wearing face coverings may be needed to stop a resurgence in COVID-19 infections, and that he would like to see them worn more frequently in shops in England.

“I do think we need to be stricter in insisting that people wear face coverings in confined places where they are meeting people that they don’t normally meet,” Johnson said in a pre-recorded question-and-answer session with the public.

Britain has Europe’s highest coronavirus death toll, with almost 45 000 confirmed deaths, and weekly figures on Friday showed a small rise in the COVID-19 reproduction rate, although the number of new infections continues to fall.

People in England are only required to wear face masks on public transport and when visiting hospitals, but on Friday Scotland made it compulsory to wear them in shops as well.

Just over half of British adults who left their homes last week wore a mask, rising to 89% of people on public transport, according to official data published earlier on Friday.

Johnson said he believed the scientific evidence that face coverings were useful was stronger than at the start of the pandemic, and that as lockdown restrictions eased they would be important in stopping a flare-up in cases.

“So that’s why it’s mandatory already on public transport, and we’re looking at ways of making sure that people really do observe when you do have face coverings in shops for instance where … there is a risk of transmission,” he added.

Non-essential shops in England reopened to the public on June 15, and hairdressers, pubs and restaurants resumed business last Saturday.

However the number of customers in shops and cafes is only around half its pre-COVID level, and on Wednesday the government slashed value-added tax and announced other incentives to boost domestic tourism and encourage people to visit restaurants.

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