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U.K. countries note rise in deaths due to irregular heartbeat

California eases mask rules for prisons and shelters

California health officials on Tuesday updated their COVID-19 recommendations to allow masks to come off in congregate settings such as correctional facilities, homeless and emergency shelters, and cooling centers when the community COVID-19 levels are low, as designated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The change goes into effect Friday. It does not affect rules for health care and long-term care settings. “This shift in masking is consistent with California’s SMARTER Plan and gives Californians the information they should consider when deciding when to wear a mask, including the rate of spread in the community and personal risk,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón.

U.K. countries note a rise in excess deaths due to an irregular heartbeat

The number of deaths in England and Wales due to an irregular heartbeat saw a sharp increase in the first half of 2022, according to a report published Tuesday by the Office for National Statistics. Excess deaths due to cardiac arrhythmias were 37.1% above average in March and 23.1% in April, the data show. “Further work needs to be done to understand any link between the long-term effects of COVID and increasing cardiac deaths,” said Sarah Caul, the ONS head of mortality analysis. The total number of excess deaths due to all causes registered between March 2020 and June 2022 was 137,447. The agency’s report said that while COVID-19 accounted for many of these deaths, the higher-than-expected numbers “could be caused by a combination of factors.”

The demographics are changing for who dies now from COVID

As California settles into a third year of pandemic, COVID-19 continues to pose a serious threat of death. But the number of people dying — and the demographics of those falling victim — has shifted notably from the first two years. The virus remained among the state’s leading causes of death in July, trailing heart disease, cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease but outpacing diabetes, accidental death, and a host of other debilitating diseases. More non-Latino white people are dying now and fewer Latinos, while older people are still hit hardest. Read more about the changing profile of COVID’s victims in California.

Feds crack down on largest COVID fraud scheme to date

Federal authorities charged 47 people in Minnesota with conspiracy and other counts on Tuesday in what they called the largest fraud scheme yet to take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic by stealing $250 million from a federal program that provides meals to low-income children, reports the Associated Press. Prosecutors say the defendants created companies that claimed to be offering food to tens of thousands of children across Minnesota, then sought reimbursement for those meals through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s food nutrition programs. Prosecutors say few meals were actually served, and the defendants used the money to buy luxury cars, property and jewelry. “This $250 million is the floor,” Andy Luger, the U.S. attorney for Minnesota, said at a news conference. “Our investigation continues.” Many of the companies that claimed to be serving food were sponsored by a nonprofit called Feeding Our Future, which submitted the companies’ claims for reimbursement.

UCSF’s Wachter: COVID will be a leading cause of death in the U.S. indefinitely

Despite President Biden’s hopeful remarks on Sunday that the “pandemic is over,” COVID-19 is likely to remain a leading cause of death in the United States indefinitely, according to Dr. Bob Wachter. “It’s likely, when we think of the causes of death in our society, that COVID’s on the list probably forever,” the chair of UCSF’s department of medicine told NBC News. “Whether we call it a pandemic or not, it’s still an important threat to people.”

COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. for the past two years, behind heart disease and cancer, according to provisional data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the past three months, the nation has averaged about 400 deaths per day due to the virus. Public health experts say if that trend holds, the U.S. will be tracking between 113,000 to 188,000 COVID deaths annually. By comparison, influenza kills between 12,000 to 52,000 people each year. Wachter interpreted the comments from the White House to mean that the nation has moved out of the crisis mode of the pandemic and into a more stable era for the virus. “They are feeling like we have to shift our mindset to the long game here,” Wachter said. “This is no longer an acute threat in the same way it was.”

Scientists develop a mask that detects coronavirus, flu exposure

Chinese scientists have developed a face mask with a built-in electronic sensor that can detect exposure to the coronavirus or influenza virus, according to a peer-reviewed report published Monday in the scientific journal Matter. The researchers at Tongji University in Shanghai said the “wireless bioelectric mask” can successfully detect airborne SARS-CoV-2, H5N1, and H1N1 influenza viruses within 10 minutes and send a notification to a smart device. They hope the development will “facilitate wireless and real-time monitoring for personal protection and prevent infectious diseases in advance,” they wrote.

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