What We’re Reading: Europe COVID-19 Cases Rise; CDC Releases Data on Fetal Deaths; Testing Update Bypassed CDC Review

September 18, 2020

Europe sees an increase in COVID-19 cases; CDC releases data on racial disparities in fetal deaths; an update to COVID-19 testing strategies skipped CDC internal review.

Europe Reports Uptick in COVID-19 Cases

Weekly coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases are rising in Europe at a higher rate than at the pandemic’s peak in March, NPR reports. Worldwide, cases have surpassed 30 million, figures from Johns Hopkins University show. The regional director of the WHO in Europe addressed the increase during a virtual news conference noting a “very serious situation” is unfolding across the continent. In the past 2 weeks, more than half of all European countries reported an increase greater than 10%, compared with cases in the hundreds throughout June and July in Spain, France and the United Kingdom. The director said regional quarantines should remain in place.

Racial Disparities Highlighted in Fetal Death Data

In the United States, fetal deaths are disproportionately higher among Black women than among White women, new CDC data show. Between 2015 and 2017, the US fetal mortality rate was 6 per 1000 live births. For Black women, that number rose to 11.2 per 1000 live births and was around 5 per 1000 live births for Hispanic and White women. The number increased significantly to around 17 deaths per 1000 live births among Black women living in New Jersey, West Virginia, and Mississippi. Additional factors that increase risk of fetal death include maternal age below 20 or above 40 years and multiple-gestation pregnancy.

Controversial Testing Guidance Bypassed CDC Internal Review

Revised CDC guidance released in August that stated asymptomatic individuals exposed to COVID-19 may not need to be tested was published against scientists’ objections, The New York Times reports. HHS officials created the guidance and bypassed the CDC’s scientific review process, documents obtained by the Times show. Individuals familiar with the matter confirmed the finding, while Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary at HHS, said he did not know why the update did not go through the CDC’s usual scientific review. A new version of the testing guidance is expected to be posted today but will also circumvent the CDC’s usual internal review for scientific documents.