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Bars, restaurants are COVID-19 infection hotspots, study confirms

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Relaxation of face mask requirements in restaurants, coffee shops and bars could make those venues prime areas for transmission of the new coronavirus, research shows.

The new study compared the behaviors of people diagnosed with COVID-19 and those without such diagnoses.

It uncovered one clear difference: Newly ill people without any known contact with a person with COVID-19 were almost three times as likely to have patronized a restaurant over the prior two weeks, and almost four times as likely to have visited a bar or coffee shop, compared to uninfected people.

The study suggests that situations “where mask use and social distancing are difficult to maintain, including going to places that offer on-site eating or drinking, might be important risk factors for acquiring COVID-19,” the research team said.

The findings come at a moment when more locales are allowing eating establishments and bars to reopen. Just this week, officials announced that restaurants in New York City could serve customers again starting Sept. 30, albeit with a 25% occupancy limit.

“As we learn more about transmission, it is not surprising that activities that cannot maintain social distancing and are not amenable to mask wearing — such as eating and drinking in close proximity to others — would result in a higher transmission rate,” said Dr. Teresa Murray Amato, who heads emergency medicine at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills, a hospital in New York City.

She wasn’t involved in the new study, which was led by Kiva Fisher of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Response Team. Fisher and her colleagues conducted detailed interviews with 314 U.S. adults during the month of July, about half of whom were diagnosed with COVID-19.

Comparing the activities of people who did and did not have COVID-19, the investigators found no significant differences in their patronage of venues where the use of face masks at all times was required — activities such as taking public transportation, shopping or attending church.

Mask use was common among most of the study participants. A similar number of people with or without COVID-19 said they always wore some kind of mask or face covering when out in public — 71% and 74%, respectively.

The only big difference in terms of behavior between the infected and uninfected groups was a visit over the prior two weeks to a bar, restaurant or coffee shop, Fisher’s group found.

More than half — 58% — of study participants diagnosed with COVID-19 said that they’d had no close contact with a person known to have been infected with the new coronavirus. But these individuals did have 2.8 times the odds of having patronized a restaurant over the prior two weeks, and 3.9 times the odds of having been at a bar or coffee shop, compared to uninfected people.

The study wasn’t able to ascertain whether participants had consumed food or drinks in an indoor or outdoor space.

“The bottom line is that many people don’t put their mask back on when they aren’t eating and drinking, and may be engaged in conversation,” said Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “This very fact increases the risk of transmission, and is compounded by lack of enforcement by management at eating and drinking establishments.”

Glatter also noted that ventilation within restaurants or bars is often less than adequate, and research has shown that “aerosolized droplets containing virus in normal conversation may be transmitted to others in close proximity, but may also remain suspended in air for up to 3 hours and travel as far as 13 feet during normal conversation. Such aerosolized droplets may also travel as far as 26 feet during sneezes and 15 feet during coughs.”

Finally, he said, alcohol is often a factor. Drinking “makes people move closer together, speak louder,” Glatter said, “thereby generating more aerosolized droplets that may contain infectious viral particles.”

The study is published in the Sept. 11 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Limiting TV ads for foods high in sugar, salt, fat may reduce child obesity

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Limiting TV ads for sugary, salty and high-fat foods and drinks might help reduce childhood obesity, British researchers suggest.

They looked at advertising of these products between 5:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. If all such ads were withdrawn during those hours, the number of obese kids in Britain between the ages of 5 and 17 would drop by 5% and the number of overweight kids would fall 4%, the study found.

That’s equivalent to 40,000 fewer kids in Britain who would be obese and 120,000 fewer who would be overweight, the researchers said.

The findings were published online this week in the journal PLOS Medicine.

Oliver Mytton, an academic clinical lecturer at the Center for Diet and Activity Research at the University of Cambridge, led the study.

“Measures which have the potential to reduce exposure to less-healthy food advertising on television could make a meaningful contribution to reducing childhood obesity,” the authors said in a journal news release.

But they also pointed out that they could not fully account for all factors that would affect the impact of the policy, if implemented.

They added: “Children now consume media from a range of sources, and increasingly from online and on-demand services, so in order to give all children the opportunity to grow up healthy it is important to ensure that this advertising doesn’t just move to the 9-10 pm slot and to online services.”

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For more on childhood obesity, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Blood type may predict risk for severe COVID-19, studies say

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There’s more evidence that blood type may affect a person’s risk for COVID-19 and severe illness from the disease.

The findings are reported in a pair of studies published Oct. 14 in the journal Blood Advances.

In one, researchers compared more than 473,000 people in Denmark with COVID-19 to more than 2.2 million people in the general population.

Among the COVID-19 patients, there was a lower percentage of people with blood type O and higher percentages of those with with types A, B and AB.

The findings suggest that people with A, B or AB blood may be more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than people with type O blood. Infection rates were similar among people with types A, B and AB blood.

The other study included 95 critically ill COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Canada. Patients with type A or AB blood were more likely to require mechanical ventilation, suggesting that they had greater rates of lung injury from COVID-19.

More patients with type A and AB blood required dialysis for kidney failure, the study added.

The results suggest that COVID-19 patients with A and AB blood types may have an increased risk of organ dysfunction or failure than those with type O or B blood, according to the researchers.

They also found that while people with blood types A and AB didn’t have longer overall hospital stays than those with types O or B, on average, they were in intensive care longer, which may indicate more severe COVID-19.

“The unique part of our study is our focus on the severity effect of blood type on COVID-19. We observed this lung and kidney damage, and in future studies, we will want to tease out the effect of blood group and COVID-19 on other vital organs,” said study author Dr. Mypinder Sekhon, a clinical instructor in the Division of Critical Care Medicine at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.

“Of particular importance as we continue to traverse the pandemic, we now have a wide range of survivors who are exiting the acute part of COVID-19, but we need to explore mechanisms by which to risk stratify those with longer-term effects,” he added in a news release.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19.

Copyright 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.



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Personality traits govern success of workplace wellness programs, study finds

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Oct. 14 (UPI) — The personality traits of individual employees play a strong role in determining the success of workplace wellness programs designed to boost physical activity, a study published Wednesday by the journal PLOS ONE found.

Those identified as extroverted and motivated significantly improved their daily step counts by an average of 945 steps after participating in a competitive gamification program — which uses elements of game playing to encourage engagement — but did not sustain these gains over a 12-week period, the data showed.

Conversely, gamification programs generated 1,100- to 1,200-step improvements in introverted and less motivated study participants that they sustained over the 12 weeks they were monitored, the researchers said.

“This suggests that ongoing incentives and reminders may be necessary to sustain motivation for some groups of people,” study co-author Dr. Shirley Chen, an assistant professor of medicine at Mount Sinai Health System, said in a statement.

Workplace wellness programs have become increasingly popular as employers seek to improve staff health and well-being. However, recent studies have suggested that they offer limited benefits.

The study by Chen and her colleagues is a follow-up to the 2019 analysis of the STEP UP program, which aimed to increase the step counts of roughly 600 Deloitte professionals classified as being either obese or overweight over a period of six months.

In the STEP UP program, personalized daily step counts were established for each participant, but they were then randomly funneled into four different groups: one that just gave the participants their goals and a step tracker, and three others that mixed in different forms of nudges that were “gamified” using a point system, the researchers said.

For the new analysis, they divided participants into different classifications of certain psychological and behavioral characteristics that the researchers called “phenotypes.”

Study participants completed surveys to help researchers identify personality types and social support needs, according to Chen.

The phenotypes that emerged were “more extroverted and more motivated,” which made up 54% of study participants and “less active and less social,” which was 20%, the researchers said. The remaining participants — 25% — were classified as “less motivated and at-risk.”

The participants then were assigned to one of three gamification programs — supportive, collaborative or competitive.

In the supportive program, participants were asked to identify a friend or family member who encouraged them and received weekly reports on their progress.

Participants in the collaborative program were placed into teams of three and a designated member was selected each day to represent them in their step activity.

Participants in the competitive program were assigned into teams of three and received a weekly “leader-board” email to foster competition.

Although more extroverted and motivated participants in the competitive program saw an uptick in step counts, these same gains were not seen among those in the collaborative or supportive programs, the researchers said.

In addition, gains were not sustained over 12 weeks of follow-up, they said.

However, participants classified as “less active and less social” saw step count improvements ranging from 1,000 to 1,200 in all three programs — and these increases were maintained over the 12-week follow-up period, according to the researchers.

Conversely, those in the “less motivated and at-risk” group had no improvement during the study, the researchers said.

“A one-size-fits-all approach to nudging new behaviors within wellness programs can have limited success,” study co-author Dr. Mitesh Patel, director of the Penn Medicine Nudge Unit, said in a statement.

“We’ve shown that different forms of nudging can be effective, and in this latest study … we’ve now demonstrated that matching nudges to the right behavior profiles can unlock their full potential,” Patel said.



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