Health Headlines

ABC NewsBy ANGELINE JANE BERNABE and DOUG VOLLMAYER, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- At just 13 years old, Kyree Beachem has already been through so much in her young life.

When she was born, doctors diagnosed Kyree with Hirschsprung's disease, a rare intestinal disease, and ever since she has spent her life in and out of the hospital.

"I was pretty sick," Kyree told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I couldn't do a lot of stuff, I couldn't eat, I couldn't drink, I couldn't swim, I couldn't ride a bike… I couldn't do the stuff that normal kids did."

According to the Mayo Clinic, Hirschprung's disease is a "condition that affects the large intestine." The condition is present at birth due to missing nerve cells in the muscles of the baby's colon, making it difficult to digest food.

"Whenever she would try to eat or want to eat, she would have significant abdominal pain, significant belly pain," said George Mazariegos, MD, the chief of pediatric transplantation at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Kyree, who is among five adopted kids in her family of 10, had her first organ transplant at 3 years old, but unfortunately, her body rejected it. So while awaiting another, she received her nutrition through an IV, which was hidden away in a pink backpack that she carried around, since she had to be hooked up to the IV for 22 hours a day.

And because she was so sick, Kyree missed many milestones and events: birthdays, holidays and family gatherings.

"It was probably one of the scariest times of our life," said Kyree's mother, Nan Beachem, who recalled how difficult that time was for their family. "Every trip back and forth to the hospital was scary because we knew that we were losing her."

Finally in December 2015, just before Christmas, Kyree underwent a quadruple organ transplant to receive a new liver, pancreas and small and large intestines.

"If she hadn't gotten the transplant, she wouldn't be here at 13 years old and smiling," said Nan Beachem. "She could finally go to the beach without worrying about getting sand around the dressing. It opened up a whole world to her."

While Kyree's transplant was successful and things were going well for a few years, she's currently experiencing organ rejection again.

She'll also be on medication her entire life. Among other things, she's taking a low-dose steroid that's caused her face to swell. Occasionally, her ailments require her to be hospitalized.

Still through it all, Kyree continues to stay positive. During her hospital visits, she's described by hospital staff as sweet, kind, charming and sassy.

"Kyree is one of the most incredible little girls I've ever met," said Kory Antonacci, CEAT program coordinator at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh. "She truly lights up the room the minute she walks in."

"She is the patient that even if the nurses aren't assigned to her, they will go and visit with her because they love her so much," added Stace Cote, unit director of the 7B Transplant Intestinal Care Unit at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Because of the impact that hospital staff and doctors have made on her life, Kyree said she hopes to follow in their footsteps and become a nurse one day, to help other people in need.

"If people are crying or sad or they're not feeling good, I try to smile to make them feel better," said Kyree. "And people say that makes their day sometimes."

Because of her positive spirit, GMA's TJ Holmes surprised Kyree with a Halloween party during what she thought was a routine "virtual" appointment with her doctor from the hospital.

Her favorite singer, Kelsea Ballerini, also popped in to deliver a special message.

"It's been forever since I've seen you and I hope you're doing well," Ballerini told the 13-year-old. "I'm always thinking of you and wishing you well and your sweet mama, give her a hug for me. I'm just sending you so much love, and hopefully I'll get to see you super soon."

Kyree responded to the big surprise Friday, live on GMA.

"I love it," she said via video chat. "Thank you."

GMA also surprised all 300 children in the hospital with a gift card in Kyree's honor, since it's Kyree's wish that every single kid in the hospital can enjoy the holiday season.

Nestle was so inspired by Kyree's story that the company also gifted the hospital $15,000.

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InkkStudios/iStockBy ANGELINE JANE BERNABE, SANDRA TEMKO and ANTHONY KANE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- As temperatures drop across the country, many are still trying to squeeze as much time as they can outdoors during the coronavirus pandemic by purchasing fire pits for their backyards.

At stores like Home Depot and Lowes, there’s been a surge in sales for fire pits and other outdoor items. True Value also says it's also seen a 300% increase in wood-burning fire pit sales.

But while many are flocking to stores to purchase a fire pit of their own this fall season, fire and health departments across the country have posted safety alerts after seeing a rise in fire pit-related injuries.

“These devices are generally low, below the level of the knee,” said Dr. Michael Marano, the director of the burn center at St. Barnabas hospital in Livingston, New Jersey. “It’s very easy to trip and fall into them.”

Not only can people easily trip and fall into these fire pits, but fire pits can also explode if there’s no proper ventilation.

That’s what happened to Keith Faver and his daughter, Chloe, last winter, when they were enjoying the gas fire pit outside their Florida home. Because the fire pit didn’t have ventilation, it exploded and ended up tossing both of them in the air and scattering debris across their yard.

“I turned to find her and she had flown 12 feet in the air over the top of me,” Faver recalls from that incident.

Luckily they were both okay.

“We are very fortunate to get out of this incident without serious injury or even possibly being killed,” he said.

There were almost 3,000 injuries involving fire pits last year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Now, experts are urging people to be safe and to take extra safety precautions before purchasing a fire pit or before gathering by one this season.

Here are some fire pit safety tips from Maryland's Montgomery County fire and rescue service:

Don’t place a fire pit on a wood surface

“Fire pit[s] should be on natural grass, dirt or stone patio,” said Montgomery County fire chief Scott Goldstein.

For gas fire pits, make sure they have proper ventilation.

Don’t leave a fire pit unattended

“A fire pit needs to be 10 to 15 feet away from a combustible item,” said Goldstein. “You can’t turn your back and leave the fire pit unattended.”

One of the top mistakes that people with fire pits make is that they forget to put out the embers.

“What occurs is people go to bed at night, they leave some embers in there and it still burns,” said Montgomery County battalion chief Jay Blake.

Put out the fire safely

To put out a fire in a fire pit safely, Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service says to look at signs that indicate when it’s ready to be put out.

First, see that the fire is decaying, which is an indicator that you’re ready to turn in. Then, use a shovel to move the ashes around to get at the burning embers underneath.

After that’s done, use a hose to slowly and steadily dampen the area and put the fire out. Put all the ashes in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid to cool.

According to the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, coals and ashes can remain hot enough to start a fire for many days after a fire is out.

Things to remember:

For all fire pits, make sure all children and pets are supervised and don’t throw anything into a lit fire, especially gasoline or aerosols.

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narvikk/iStockBy ERIN SCHUMAKER and ARIELLE MITROPOULOS, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Massachusetts' initial pandemic response is considered to be among the best in the country.

Residents have been wearing masks and the state has collected COVID-19 data and launched one of the nation's first contact tracing programs. For months, the safety measures seemed to be working, but now, cases are on the rise once again.

On Thursday, Massachusetts reported 1,243 new COVID-19 cases, according to the health department, marking the sixth day in a row it logged more than 1,000 single-day cases.

Daily case counts now look similar to what the state was experiencing in mid-May, with a seven-day average for new cases up nearly 339% since early September, according to an ABC analysis of state data.

In addition to rising case counts, 121 communities across Massachusetts are currently considered "high risk," according to the state department of health. Identified communities have an average rate of new cases greater than eight per 100,000 over the past 14 days.

To date, Massachusetts has reported more than 151,740 COVID-19 cases. The state has also had 9,727 deaths, more than 65% of which were in long-term care facilities, according to analysis of data provided by the state health department.

"The only silver lining is that the number of deaths has stayed fairly stable since the springtime," said Dr. Howard Koh, a professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

"But we also know that when cases go up, hospitalizations and ultimately deaths generally follow," said Koh, the former public health commissioner in Massachusetts during the late 1990s and early 2000s.

"Everyone is watching those indicators carefully," he added.

Dr. Sandro Galea, an epidemiologist and dean at the Boston University School of Public Health, thinks it's too soon to draw a storyline about what's driving Massachusetts' rebound.

"There's enormous patchiness," he said of the state's outbreak, which looks very different in Boston than it does in rural areas in western Massachusetts.

And while there's evidence that people under the age of 30 are driving the rebound in new cases this fall, Galea doesn't think the rise is related to Boston's high density of universities, some of which have opened in person.

"Transmissions are quite low," he said of schools.

Instead, he pointed to informal gatherings, especially among young people.

"Whether those can come under control is an open question," Galea said. "It's fluctuating day by day."

The weather isn't helping either. States across the country have seen rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in recent weeks.

"Drier conditions are creating more transmission," said Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital and an ABC News contributor. "People are starting to spend more time indoors with the temperature coming down."

A 'tenacious' virus

What Massachusetts' rising case count doesn't show is that the state took a more proactive COVID-19 response than almost any other place in the country and seemed to have the virus in check throughout the late spring and summer.

That's in part because of the strong public health infrastructure that existed in the state before the pandemic, including a hub of universities and hospitals in Boston.

"This is a state with a strong public health position and a concentration of medical and public health expertise," Koh said. "This is a state that has been science-based in its response. They've been looking at data every day."

But even in a gold-standard public health environment, stemming COVID-19 without wrecking the economy has proved challenging.

"We're seeing a rise in cases over recent weeks, especially in the last month. This is a tenacious virus," Koh said. "You just cannot be too cautious."

Disparities on display in Boston and Lawrence, Massachusetts

Boston, Massachusetts' biggest city, has unsurprisingly led the state in COVID-19 infections.

And similar to other cities around the country, those nearly 20,000 cases are concentrated in Black and brown neighborhoods. Although Boston's population is only 25% black and 20% Latino, Black and Latino residents are significantly more likely to be infected with COVID-19 than white residents are, according to city data.

Boston's average positive test rate has risen to 7.8%, Mayor Marty Walsh warned at a Thursday press conference. The uptick was even more pronounced in Dorchester, a majority Black neighborhood in the city, which reported a more than 10% testing positivity rate for the week ending Oct. 24.

"All the neighborhoods that are getting hit hardest are the lower-income neighborhoods, these are places where you have multi-generational households, you have many people who are essential workers, who are the ones having to bear the brunt," Brownstein said.

In Lawrence, Massachusetts, an 80,000-person city north of Boston near the New Hampshire border, where most residents are Latino, the 14-day average positive test rate topped 9% on Oct. 28, nearly twice the level that the World Health Organization recommends.

"The pandemic has disproportionately hit communities of color," Koh said. "They have all the social forces that put communities at risk, like being low-income and having multi-generational housing."

The hard reality of balancing public health and economics

In June, as infections declined, Massachusetts laid off at least 200 members of the state's 1,000-person contact tracing team, an investigation by ABC affiliate WCVB-TV found. In September, as cases ticked upward, the state started hiring contact tracers back.

Koh wishes that the state had kept those people on staff -- permanently.

"I hope contact tracers can be permanent members of revitalized workforce for the future," he said.

Contact tracing is most effective when tracers are trusted members of their local communities, Koh explained. For some residents, it's also a lifeline. Tracers ensure that people in quarantine and isolation have access to food and medicine through social services and have their basic needs met.

"Their value goes well beyond infectious control," Koh said.

"A large part of the suffering we're seeing reflects the fact that we have an under-resourced public health system," he said of the United States.

In Galea's opinion, Massachusetts officials have done their best to balance the state's public health and economic needs. He applauded leaders for ramping up contact tracing and for giving the public clear public health messaging about COVID-19.

"If you did a Melbourne-style lockdown, you would probably bring cases down," Galea said, noting that at one point last month, Massachusetts had the highest unemployment rate in the country.

"That's really hard," he added.

As for places that could be improved, Galea pointed to testing.

"Testing remains hampered by general federal chaos," he said. "It's hard to think of ways Massachusetts could be better in the vacuum, absent a broader federal strategy."

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Courtesy of Nathan TireyBy HALEY YAMADA and ERIC NOLL, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- One veteran is truly showing what it means to be “Army Strong.”

When former Army Sgt. Nathan Tirey found out that he had blood cancer in 2019, he was determined to fight the illness alongside his fellow Americans battling the same disease.

Tirey decided to complete one push-up for each American diagnosed with blood cancer annually. This October, Tirey completed his 176,200th push-up.

Tirey documented the personal challenge on his YouTube channel, Pushing Through Cancer, which he used to raise awareness about his mission and those affected by blood cancer.

Even on the days he received treatment, Tirey would average around 484 push-ups a day.

“I’m in treatment right now, so I’m doing it while I’m getting treated,” Tirey shared on YouTube.

Tiery’s children, Nathan Tirey Jr. and Victoria Tirey, joined him on his last day of push-ups nearly a year after he was diagnosed.

After the final push, his wife, Megan Tirey, gave him a kiss. Nathan Tirey was overcome with gratitude for all of the support.

“Dealing with the treatment and everything this year... This helped me [with] mentally being able to withstand that,” Tirey said in a YouTube video.

Tirey told ABC News' World News Tonight on Wednesday that fighting through hard times is what brings Americans together.

“It’s always a grind to go through hard times and I want America to remember that we all have hard times. That’s something that bonds us together,” Tirey said. “We all go through hardships and hard times, but we can get through it if we just push through and put one foot in front of the other.”

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Magic WheelchairBy ZOE MOORE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- An 8-year-old boy from Rhode Island might just have this year's best Halloween costume.

Over the weekend, Max, who has muscular dystrophy, was surprised with a fun costume for his wheelchair.

Max's costume -- made by Bonnie Regan, a volunteer from Magic Wheelchair -- is modeled after one of his favorite television characters, Stinky the garbage truck from The Stinky & Dirty Show.

The costume comes complete with real headlights and acrylic eyes.

Regan visited Max for the big reveal and helped him get into his new costume. The nonprofit Magic Wheelchair funded the entire project.

"Our mission is to bring communities together to create unforgettable moments for children around the world by transforming their wheelchairs into magic," reads a statement on Magic Wheelchair's website.

Magic Wheelchair's founder, Ryan Weimer of Kaizer, Oregon, was inspired to launch the nonprofit in 2015 after gaining recognition for the wheelchair costumes he built for his two sons who were born with spinal muscular atrophy.

"As an organization that promotes inclusion and self-expression for children with disabilities, we were thrilled to have Amazon Prime help us bring to life Max's Magic Wheelchair idea from his favorite show," Weimer told ABC News' Good Morning America. "We're so grateful to Bonnie, Max's Magic Wheelchair Builder, and Amazon Prime for helping make these unforgettable memories."

Even though Halloween will look a little different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Max will still be celebrating in style.

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Meyer & Meyer/iStockBy VICTOR ORDONEZ and BOB WOODRUFF, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses are reportedly being manufactured and stored in several facilities around the country. Pfizer and Moderna will allegedly have somewhere between 20 million and 40 million doses of their vaccine stockpiled by the end of December, Operation Warp Speed's chief adviser, Dr. Moncef Slaoui, told ABC News last week.

Their vaccine candidates could also be two of the first to be granted emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, which they claim may come as soon as mid-December as both companies near completion of their late-stage clinical trials.

Distributing the first wave of doses will be a massive undertaking by both private and government entities alike, including the military. The current plan only lays out the first few months of distribution, with nursing homes and long-term care facilities slated to receive the first doses.

Private companies will deliver the vaccine, not the military


The military will likely handle logistics and not directly deliver vaccine vials, despite President Donald Trump's recent claims. Instead, FedEx and other private delivery companies will take on the task.

"There will not be this vision that some people have that there'll be Army trucks driving through the streets delivering vaccines," Army Gen. Gustave Perna, chief operating officer of Operation Warp Speed, said at a press conference Tuesday. "That's not feasible or the right way to do it."

Operation Warp Speed is a program created to accelerate a vaccine rollout without sacrificing safety, the Trump administration said. It has pumped billions of dollars into numerous pharmaceutical companies in hopes of developing one or more safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines. The funding was initially intended to help ramp up development, but a recent deal with Walgreens and CVS aims to hasten and coordinate distribution as well.

'We're likely to get to every nursing home that signs up within 3 weeks'


Roughly a third of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. have occurred among residents of long-term care facilities. CVS claims it's prepared to begin administering COVID-19 vaccines in those facilities before the end of the year if one is approved.

As part of the recent deal between Operation Warp Speed, CVS and Walgreens, facilities that opt into the program will have pharmacists and technicians come and administer vaccine doses on-site -- free of charge to residents and staff.

"Ultimately, we're going to be looking to get to every nursing home that signs up with us as a partner within a three week period," Chris Cox, senior vice president of CVS Health, told ABC News. "It is a huge undertaking, but it's also well within the scope of what CVS already does."

If a facility decides not to opt-in to the program, it will need to find a way to offer the vaccine through other sources, such as local pharmacies that have been approved as vaccinators by state or local jurisdictions to administer the vaccine.

CVS and Walgreens were selected because they have the broadest reach from a geography perspective, according to Operation Warp Speed officials. These two companies already support more than 35% of long-term care facilities nation-wide -- but Cox Claims CVS is prepared to surpass that estimated reach.

"The exact percentage that we end up with is still to be determined, but we are preparing and will be ready for as much as 50-60 percent in the event that it were to come to that," Cox said.

Transportation and storage

Each COVID-19 vaccine in development has its own set of storage and transportation requirements. Pfizer's vaccine candidate, for example, must be stored at below 80 degrees Celsius.

"We start off very conservative and we say to ship at this temperature -- where we have proven that the vaccine is safe and or the vaccine is safe in terms of not degrading," Phil Dormitzer, vice president and chief scientific officer of viral vaccines at Pfizer, told ABC News.

However, Cox says all CVS pharmacies are equipped with refrigerators and freezers that would allow them to store Pfizer's vaccines. As for transportation, Pfizer will use refillable dry ice containers.

"We call them pizza boxes because they have roughly that shape full of vaccine and they're packed around with dry ice in these very insulated containers," said Dormitzer. "Once you get to the point where they're going to be used, that can be taken out of the dry ice, put in the refrigerator for five days -- so there's some flexibility on when the vaccine can be used."

CVS prepared to vaccinate general public by early 2021

As for when the general public will have access to a COVID-19 vaccine remains unclear, but Cox says CVS will be prepared to begin vaccinating the general public "within the first couple of months of 2021."

"We're going to make this effort once we get to a general population stage, an appointment only type of model," said Cox. "It will allow us to ensure that we don't have more people lining up for a vaccine than we actually have in stock -- but we're going to try to make that appointment capacity as large as possible."

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The Frei FamilyBy KATIE KINDELAN, ABC News

(SYRACUSE, Utah) -- A teen girl who had both of her legs amputated after a car she was riding in was hit by an alleged drunk driver received a hero's welcome home after spending nearly three months in the hospital.

Sarah Frei, 17, of Syracuse, Utah, was surprised by her doctors, nurses, physical therapists and the University of Utah cheerleading squad when she left the Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital in Salt Lake City on Oct. 14.

The hospital staff and cheerleaders lined the hospital's exit to say goodbye to Sarah, who underwent 20 surgeries after the Aug. 1 crash, in which the car she was riding in with three friends was hit head-on.

Once Sarah left the hospital, she was welcomed home with a police-escorted parade that saw dozens of her family, friends and high school classmates lining the streets.

"I didn’t realize how big it could be," Frei told ABC News' Good Morning America. "Once we’d pass [people], they’d join in behind, holding signs."

Just one day after she returned home, Sarah, a cheerleader and high school senior, was able to join her teammates on the field for the last home football game of the season.

"I think that was probably the one thing she was looking forward to the most, just hoping that she would be able to go to that game and have that experience her senior year, the last football game," said Amy Frei, Sarah's mother. "The timing of her coming home that Tuesday and the game being that Wednesday, it was pretty amazing that she felt good and was able to do it."

Sarah has amazed her family and her doctors at every turn during her months-long recovery with both her determination and her optimism.

"We really are just in awe of her," said Amy Frei, a mother of six who has had to alternate with her husband being in the hospital with Sarah because only one visitor is allowed due to COVID-19 restrictions. "The first time she was able to sit up and she could actually see and feel her legs, there were no tears. The first thing she said was, ‘They did a good job.’"

"It was just beautiful," said Amy Frei. "She has stayed positive and held us through it and, almost in a way, made it easier on us."

Dr. Venessa Lee, the spinal cord injury attending who worked with Sarah the four weeks she spent at Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital, said she too watched as the teenager maintained her optimism through grueling physical therapy sessions and bad news about her prognosis.

"She made our job very easy because she wanted to work very hard every day," said Lee. "We would try to give her permission to complain or to say it’s OK to have a bad day or be grumpy, and she never complained."

Sarah's injury, a T11 spinal cord injury, means it is unlikely she will be able to use prostheses in the future and will need to rely on a wheelchair for the rest of her life, according to Lee, also an assistant professor at the University of Utah.

Even faced with that type of life-changing news, Lee recalled Sarah as always more concerned with finding solutions.

"Every time she chose to ask, ‘What’s next?,'" she said of Sarah, the youngest patient on the hospital's spinal cord injury floor. "There were multiple times that we had to go in and break bad news ... and she would look at us with a smile and say, ‘Well what do we do about it?’"

When Sarah had to miss her senior year homecoming dance, she, along with her family and friends, recreated the dance at the hospital.

And with family and friends not allowed to visit her much in the hospital due to COVID-19 restrictions, Sarah and her loved ones found creative ways to stay in touch.

Sarah's determination to overcome the odds and make the best of her situation has also inspired tens of thousands of people who are following her journey on Facebook and Instagram with the hashtag #SarahStrong.

"We are so grateful for [the support] and it’s been needed," said Frei. "This has been hard and the support that we have felt has really strengthened us."

Sarah's followers have helped organize a GoFundMe, a benefit concert and t-shirt sales to help the Frei family cover medical expenses and the cost of renovating their home to be fully wheelchair-accessible.

Also through her social media following, Sarah has connected with people with similar injuries who have told her about the full lives they now lead.

After completing school work while in rehab, Sarah plans to graduate on time with her senior class this year and wants to become a teacher.

"Everyone who has helped us has been so supportive, which shows that we just have all this love that we shouldn’t take for granted and that people are always there for us, there for me," she said. "I think it’s good for other people to know that they’re not alone, and that’s something that I’ve learned."

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jaflippo/iStockBy ERIN SCHUMAKER, ABC News

(TULSA, Okla.) -- Oklahoma reported a record 22 deaths from COVID-19 on Tuesday, the highest number of single-day fatalities from the virus in the state since spring.

The state's worsening outbreak prompted an outcry from doctors in Tulsa, who pleaded with local officials and the public to take the pandemic more seriously during a Tuesday news briefing.

"I never thought after the army I'd be on another battlefield," said Dr. Roger Gallup, a critical care physician and retired army doctor, who has been treating COVID-19 patients at Saint Francis Health System since the start of the pandemic.

"Our ICUs, COVID units and community have become home to an enemy that we're losing the fight against," Gallup added. "We are clearly headed in the wrong direction."

Indeed, daily infections, hospitalizations and deaths are all rising in Oklahoma, according to an ABC News analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project. As of Tuesday, Oklahoma had reported 118,409 COVID-19 infections and 1,273 deaths, according to the state health department.

In addition to rising case counts, an average of 34.7% of tests returned positive every day in the past week in Oklahoma as of Tuesday, according to an ABC News analysis of data from The COVID Tracking Project, which is nearly seven times higher than the rate that health experts recommend.

A high positivity rate can be a sign that a state is only testing its sickest patients and failing to cast a net wide enough to accurately capture community transmission, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The World Health Organization recommends that governments get their positivity testing threshold below 5%.

"It's worse now than it has ever been in our community, just as it is in our nation," Gallup said, pointing to "casualness" among Oklahoma residents about wearing masks and social distancing as driving forces behind the worsening outbreak.

"We need to get this under control before our region's health care system becomes strained to the point where we are out of options," he cautioned.

Jake Henry Jr., president of the St. Francis Health System, the largest hospital and health care system in Oklahoma, doubled down on the message. Oklahoma had a shortage of doctors and nurses even before the pandemic. Exhausted health care workers, Henry said, many of whom are working 12-hour days with no end to the outbreak in sight, aren't a renewable resource.

After risking their lives on the front lines, health care workers feel defeated when they leave the hospital and see "unmasked apathy in public spaces," he added. That apathy may be translating into an unwillingness to provide information to the health department when residents are exposed to the virus. Contact tracing is going poorly in Oklahoma and many residents decline to provide information about their close contacts or places they'd been after being exposed.

"I fear that we are entering a very, very dark winter," Henry said.

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Ta'Sha GarrettBy NICOLE PELLETIERE, ABC News

(INDIANAPOLIS) -- An Indiana mother whose toddler accidentally ingested a button battery is speaking out in hopes to warn parents of this potential risk that could exist inside the home.

The battery, which was approximately the size of a quarter, was surgically removed late September at IU Health Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis after doctors said that 1-year-old Mahziere likely swallowed it two weeks prior.

"He brought me the battery and I broke down," mom Ta'Sha Garrett told Good Morning America of the surgeon who removed the battery. "I knew the severity of swallowing batteries. I didn't think that would happen to us..I'm really careful when it comes to things like that."

Garrett said Mahziere had still been eating well, sleeping, playing, laughing and otherwise behaving, until one day she noticed his breathing was off.

"That day I had picked his brother up from school and he was really lethargic," she said. "Everything about him was moving slow. He ended up sleeping on the car ride home."

Garrett said when they got home, she heard Mahziere whimpering in the other room. She went to check on him and saw bubbles coming out of his mouth. She and Mahziere's grandmother brought Mahziere to the local hospital where they tried to administer a COVID-19 test, though Garrett insisted they take x-rays, she said.

Mahziere was transferred to Riley, where medical staff weren't exactly certain of what Mahziere had swallowed until surgery was performed.

"Up until then, I was pretty optimistic it wasn't a battery," Garrett said. "I don't have watches around the house."

Dr. Fred Rescorla is the pediatric surgeon who removed the 22-milliliter lithium battery from the bottom of Mahziere's throat near his clavicle. Mahziere ended up being hospitalized for a week and a half.

"His mother, she's a great mom," Rescorla told GMA. "She knew right away something was wrong...I was a little apprehensive when I went up to see her. When I approached her, she just wept. She never left his bedside."

Rescorla told GMA that the actual operation took about 30 minutes, although anesthesiologists had issues getting an airway during the bronchoscopy since the battery burned a hole in Mahziere's esophagus and caused some swelling.

"I think he's doing really well," Rescorla said. "We really want to make sure he doesn't get any narrowing or scarring on the esophagus where it was damaged."

Rescorla said that two years ago, he saw three cases of children ingesting batteries.

Emily Samuel, program director at the nonprofit child safety organization Safe Kids Wordwide, said on average, more than 6,300 children are seen in he emergency room each year after having ingested a battery.

hildren under the age of 5 are more likely to be seen in the emergency room for swallowing a button battery, and toddlers ages 1-3 are at the highest risk for swallowing. This data was compiled via the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS) from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

"Younger children under the age of 5 are curious and they're actively learning and developing new skills," Samuel told GMA, adding that children are also exploring their senses, including taste.

"Which is why we often find toddlers putting things in their mouth around the home," she said. "It's important if you have button batteries around the house that you store them in a safe and secure place."

Garrett said the battery that Mahziere swallowed was a battery from a watch. She learned this after Googling the serial numbers on the battery, she added.

Garrett said her son may have gotten a hold of the battery while playing at a relative's house.

Her message to other parents is to be overly attentive to your kids, especially small children.

"They move really fast. Even if you think you're watching them, you have to be mindful that kids move quicker than you," Garrett said. "If a lot of times people are watching your kids or your kids are going places, warn others what your child is capable of and getting into. Let them know your child is Curious George."

"It was definitely scary," she added. "I watched him from going to a breathing tube and not being [himself]. It's a very traumatic experience for the child and the parent."

According to Safe Kids, when a a button battery is swallowed, the saliva triggers an electrical current.

"This causes a chemical reaction that can severely burn the esophagus in as little as two hours," the organization writes on its website.

In addition, symptoms of battery ingestion could be tricky to recognize but may include coughing, drooling and discomfort.

"If you think a child has swallowed a button battery, go to the emergency room right away," Samuel said. "No eating, no drinking and don't induce vomiting."

Samuel said parents can also call the National Battery Ingestion Hotline (800-498-8666) for additional treatment information.

Here are tips on how to stay safe, according to Safe Kids:

  • Keep greeting cards, remotes, cameras, watches, flameless candles and any other items that may contain batteries out of reach.
  • Keep loose batteries locked away.
  • Place a piece of duct tape to secure battery compartments.
  • Search your home and any place your child goes for items that may contain coin-sized lithium batteries.
  • Share this life-saving information with caregivers, friends, family and babysitters.
  • If you have any doubts, bring your child to the hospital and request an x-ray.

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Wacharaphong/iStockBy DR. YALDA SAFAI, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the stay-at-home measures and disruptions to daily life that aimed to slow the spread of the virus and save lives led many public health specialists to worry that the nation also could see an uptick in suicides, drug overdoses and domestic violence.

Nine months later, those grim predictions look like they're coming true.

"There is a mental health wave to this pandemic," Dr. Ken Duckworth, chief medical officer of the National Alliance for Mental Illness, told ABC News. "We as a species don't do well with uncertainty."

The pandemic, for many Americans, has exacerbated already-stressful scenarios -- deaths of loved ones, illnesses, loss of income -- according to psychiatrists Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe.

Additionally, stay-at-home orders and school closures -- important actions to prevent virus spread -- created downstream consequences such as social isolation, eroding support networks and additional financial strain.

All of these factors are contributing to more suicides, overdoses and violence, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And specialists warn that this mental health pandemic within the virus pandemic also will disproportionately affect Blacks, Hispanics, the elderly, people of lower socioeconomic status of all races, and health care workers.

Many of these accelerating public health crises already were worsening before COVID-19.

In 2018, the U.S had the highest age-adjusted suicide rates since 1941. By June, a CDC survey of 5,470 US adults found that one-third reported anxiety or depression symptoms. About 10% said they had considered suicide during the last month, and the rate of suicidal thoughts was highest among unpaid caregivers, essential workers, Hispanic or Black respondents and young adults.

People age 18 to 25 may be the most affected group, Duckworth explained.

"We need to take a look at the age impact," Duckworth added. "In the age where identity is developed, young adults are missing college."

The opioid epidemic, previously considered the greatest public health threat in the U.S., also has worsened since the virus outbreak. After overdose deaths briefly plateaued in 2017 -- stricter regulations of prescription drugs were enacted -- deaths began creeping upward again because of illegal synthetic substitutes like fentanyl.

"We were making some improvement in terms of treatment options for opioid addiction prior to the pandemic," Dr. Harshal Kirane, medical director of Wellbridge Addiction Treatment and Research, told ABC news. "However, there were still major treatment gaps that have worsened now that we have a superimposed pandemic."

More than 40 states have reported increases in opioid-related deaths since then pandemic struck, according to the American Medical Association.

Overdoses -- both fatal and non-fatal -- have increased 20% compared with the same time period in 2019, according to the Overdose Detection Mapping Application Program.

"The incidence of first-time users is also on the rise," Kirane added. "Isolation, economic pressure and family conflict during quarantine are all factors for this."

Reports of domestic violence are also are rising, with many experts worried the cases reported are but a small fraction of those happening. Just in New York City, "there has been a substantial increase in calls to the domestic violence hotline," said Kellie Owen, executive director of the National Domestic Abuse Hotline.

"The calls to the hotlines dropped in the first few weeks of the pandemic, increased by 30% in April, and increased by 76% by August. They have remained elevated into September," she added.

The United Nations warns that the pandemic is likely to undermine efforts to end gender-based violence globally, while stay-at-home and social distancing orders may effectively trap the abused with their abusers.

The CDC recognized that violence is a serious public health problem. It affects people in all stages of life, and many violence survivors suffer from long-term physical, mental and emotional health problems.

"It is important to keep in mind the domestic violence is usually under-reported," Owen added.

Public health specialists and policy makers are taking steps to try to address these alarming trends. For example, many states have eased restrictions for telehealth, making it easier to access a medical provider during a crisis. Some are making it easier to prescribe medication for opioid-use disorder without an in-person visit.

Over the summer, the CDC released guidance for people experiencing abuse and for those coping with extreme stress during the pandemic. The CDC recommends making a plan if you live in an unsafe home, practicing self-care as much as possible and trying to maintain virtual social connections with people outside your immediate home.

Community-level solutions should prioritize young adults, racial and ethnic minorities, essential workers and adult caregivers, according to the CDC, which said these efforts should include economic support, efforts to reduce stresses related to racial discrimination, promoting community social connections and care for those at risk of suicide.

"This pandemic isn't going anywhere," Duckworth said. "My advice is: Lower expectations, stay connected with people, reach out for professional help when needed, don't skip your flu shot and remain physically active."

  • If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support. Call 1-800-273-8255 for help.
  • If you are a victim of domestic violence, call the 24/7 National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. If you're unable to speak safely, you can log on to thehotline.org or text LOVEIS to 22522. The Safe Center also has a 24/7 hotline that can be reached at 516-542-0404.
  • For resources regarding mental health treatment, the NAMI HelpLine is a free, nationwide peer-support service providing information, resource referrals and support to people living with mental health conditions, their family members and their caregivers. Call 1-800-950-NAMI or text NAMI to 741741.

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simon2579/iStockBy ARIELLE MITROPOULOS and ERIC M. STRAUSS, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Pfizer executives said in a third-quarter investor presentation on Tuesday they have not seen the first interim efficacy data yet. The Data Monitoring Committee, an independent group of experts monitoring the clinical studies and the data collection, "has not conducted any interim efficacy analyses to date," according to Pfizer.

The slight delay from an earlier prediction of data by the end of October means results will likely not be known by Election Day, despite claims by President Donald Trump for months that a vaccine is "weeks away."

The Data Monitoring Committee has thresholds for review that are triggered when a certain number of trial volunteers become sick with COVID-19. The first interim analysis is scheduled to happen when 32 people develop COVID-19, according to Pfizer's extensive clinical trial protocol.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said, however, the company is still on track for a November application for authorization, if the vaccine shows to be effective and, just as importantly, safe.

Bourla had previously said the company "may know whether or not our vaccine is effective by the end of October."

Once there are 32 volunteers infected with COVID-19, Pfizer will analyze how many of them received the vaccine and how many received a placebo. If more than 76.9% of the grouping is in the placebo group, Pfizer will consider the vaccine efficacious.

Once an independent review board releases information on the trials, the company will need a week to review it internally, Bourla said.

Pfizer plans to release the interim data if it is negative (worse than 11.8%) or positive (better than 76.9%) for efficacy. If the data is somewhere in between, Pfizer will wait for more conclusive results, Bourla said.

"In case of a conclusive readout, positive or negative, we will inform the public as soon as we complete the necessary administrative work, which we estimate to be completed within one week from the time we know," he explained to investors, adding that the company "reached the last mile here and we expect these things will start coming soon, so let's all have patience."

He said he is "cautiously optimistic" the vaccine will work based on earlier studies.

Pfizer said it expects efficacy and safety data will be available in November, and if it is, it will apply for emergency use authorization.

Pfizer's vaccine candidate was also developed with the German biotech firm BioNTech. There are 150 clinical trial sites around the world.

More than 42,000 participants have been enrolled and nearly 36,000 have received a second dose of the vaccine. Expanding the number of participants has allowed trials to include additional populations, among them children between 12 and 18 and people with preexisting conditions.

When asked about manufacturing and supply, Bourla said Pfizer's contract with the U.S. government is to produce 100 million doses by March. Forty million doses could be available in the U.S. by year-end if the Food and Drug Administration authorizes the vaccine, which means that 20 million people can be immunized, most likely high-risk individuals like health care providers and the elderly.

Bourla also pledged transparency with the data, reminding investors that the company has not taken money from the government in order "to stay out of politics." Pfizer, along with the other pharmaceutical companies developing vaccines, have pledged to uphold the integrity of the scientific process.

"This will not be a Democratic vaccine or Republican vaccine; this will be a vaccine for the world," he said.

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EllenMoran/iStockBy MINA KAJI and AMANDA MAILE, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- The risk of COVID-19 transmission onboard a plane is "reduced to very low levels," Harvard researchers concluded. The onboard ventilation systems coupled with measures such as masks, frequent cabin cleaning, and distancing during boarding and deplaning help keep the virus from spreading.

"This layered approach reduces the risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission onboard aircraft below that of other routine activities during the pandemic, such as grocery shopping or eating out," the report stated.

The Aviation Public Health Initiative (APHI), comprised of faculty and scientists at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published its Phase One report Tuesday, analyzing "gate-to-gate travel" onboard planes. It has not been peer-reviewed.

The initiative is sponsored by major U.S. airline lobbying group Airlines for America, along with other aircraft and equipment manufacturers, airline and airport operators. But the APHI insists its findings and recommendations are the "independent conclusions" of the Harvard researchers.

There have only been 13 peer-reviewed studies surrounding COVID-19 transmission on aircrafts.

"While investigation of the virus and its transmission is ongoing," researchers said, "the research to date indicates a relatively very low risk of acquiring SARS-CoV-2 while flying."

Three studies published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases found likely cases of COVID-19 transmission onboard international flights, but they occurred before airlines implemented mandatory mask requirements.

The virus' long incubation period combined with the lack of contact tracing limits the amount of data researchers can analyze surrounding transmission on planes.

"Until there has been widespread vaccination, there remains the risk of infection in all walks of public life," the report said. "As with any activity during this pandemic, the choice to fly is a personal one and depends on a traveler's health assessment, individual risk tolerance and the potential consequences of becoming infected."

The APHI plans to release its Phase Two report in two months, which looks at "curb-to-curb" travel and analyzes risks associated with one's time spent at the airport.

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Rattankun Thongbun/iStockBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx is criticizing North Dakotans for having what she called the poorest mask use in the country, as the state experiences one of the highest rates of COVID-19 transmission nationwide.

Birx spent two days in the state this week as part of a nationwide tour that's brought her to nearly 40 states during the coronavirus pandemic.

She told officials there that North Dakota had the worst mask use she had seen so far.

"Over the last 24 hours as we were here, and we were in your grocery stores, and in your restaurants and frankly even in your hotels, this is the least use of masks that we have seen in retail establishments of any place we have been," Birx said Monday during a roundtable with local leaders and health officials in the state capital of Bismarck.

North Dakota is one of 16 states that don't have a statewide mask mandate, according to Masks4All, a volunteer organization that advocates for more mask-wearing. Instead the governor has stressed personal responsibility, and mandates have been left up to individual mayors. In recent weeks, Fargo, Minot and Grand Forks have voted to implement a mask mandate, though Bismarck had not as of Tuesday evening.

Birx emphasized that mask-wearing is one of the main measures to limit the spread of COVID-19.

"There is not only evidence that masks work, there is evidence that masks utilized as a public health mitigation effort work," said Birx, who noted that there is a "very high level" of COVID-19 in North Dakota.

"It doesn't matter if you're in a rural area, or if you're in an urban area," she said.

North Dakota currently has the highest number of daily COVID-19 cases per capita in the U.S., according to an analysis by the New York Times. In the most recent task force report, dated Oct. 18, the state also had the highest rate of cases in the country.

An ABC News analysis found that the daily rate of positivity and current hospitalizations in North Dakota have increased over the past two weeks.

On Tuesday, the state health department reported 896 new cases, for a daily positivity rate of 14.82%. The rolling 14-day positivity rate was 10.9% -- more than double the rate that health experts recommend.

North Dakota saw a 39.9% increase in week-to-week new cases on Oct. 20, according to an Oct. 26 Health and Human Services memo obtained by ABC News. The state also surpassed 1,000 daily new cases for the first time on Oct. 20, the memo said. The state's growing caseload has created a backlog, increasing the time it takes to notify people who have tested positive from 24 hours to 72 hours, according to HHS.

On the question of whether statewide mask mandates are effective, Birx said, "When you look at the states and when they implemented a mask mandate and you look at their cases per million and you look at their fatalities per million, they are lower than states that chose to recommend masks but not to mandate," the Bismarck Tribune reported.

Birx did not say Monday whether she recommended that Gov. Doug Burgum mandate that masks be worn in public.

The Republican governor defended the state's mask approach during Monday's roundtable.

"We know we don't have enforcement mechanisms in North Dakota where someone is going to force someone to wear a mask," he said. "So again, it comes back to individuals choosing the role that they want to play in the community."

Bismarck's city commission was expected to vote on a mask order Tuesday night, local TV station KFYR-TV reported. The mayor has voiced opposition to a mandate in the city.

Birx did praise what she called North Dakota's "superb" job of testing, while calling for all North Dakotans to practice social distancing and wear a mask, especially as the weather cools, to avoid what she called "silent spread" indoors.

"It starts with the community, and the community deciding that it's important for their children to be in school, the community deciding that it's important not to infect the nursing home staff who are caring for their residents -- for North Dakotans -- every day," she said.

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ipopba/iStockBy SASHA PEZENIK and DR. MIRANDA ROSENBERG, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- New recommendations from the United States Preventive Services Task Force aim to offset what experts call an alarming trend in American health: a rising number of young people are getting diagnosed with, and dying from, colorectal cancer.

The Task Force announced Tuesday morning their proposal to lower the suggested age for when to start colorectal screenings, moving it up five years, from 50, to 45 years old. The move may indicate a growing call for awareness and accelerate action amongst an age group that may not know they're at risk.

"The prognosis is so much better if you catch it at an earlier stage," Dr. Kimmie Ng, the director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, told ABC News. "These new guidelines are hugely significant. They support and validate the alarming epidemiologic trends we've been seeing: This cancer is rising at about a rate of 2% per year, in people under the age of 50, since the 1990s."

Colorectal cancer impacts the gastrointestinal system's final segment. While lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in the U.S., colorectal cancer comes second, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- and yet, it remains one of the most treatable, even curable cancers, when caught in its early stages.

"Way too young" were the words resounding across the globe late this summer, when news broke that actor Chadwick Boseman, at just 43 years old, had died of colon cancer. Boseman had kept his long, difficult battle mostly private, but the shock of his loss was compounded by a common misconception: that the disease only strikes older people.

Even though overall incidence and mortality rates for colorectal cancer have decreased over the past few decades, colorectal cancer deaths among younger adults continue to climb. It's a concerning trend, experts told ABC News, pointing out the importance of testing and early intervention.

In 2018, the American Cancer Society updated their guidelines, recommending that those at average risk of colorectal cancer begin regular screening at age 45. Experts hope the Task Force's update shines a light on the importance of the issue.

For years prior, screening was not generally recommended for the below-50 crowd. This led to potentially vulnerable, or even sick adults putting off testing thinking their symptoms did not rise to the level of firm diagnosis. Because of this lack of awareness, pernicious, possibly cancerous growths remained undetected for too long, experts say, and now, young patients are suffering from more advanced, harder to treat cancers.

"Cancer is simply not on their radar," Ng said, speaking more specifically about colon cancer. "They're otherwise young and healthy. So we need to emphasize that yes, this can happen in young people."

Nearly 25% of screening-eligible Americans have never been screened for colon cancer, and yet, it is expected to cause over 53,000 American deaths this year alone. Of the roughly 148,000 individuals who will be diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2020, about 18,000 of those cases will be young people, according to the American Cancer Society. And although most commonly diagnosed in older adults, about one in every 10 new cases occur in people under 50, according to data collected from the CDC's National Program of Cancer Registries.

And the trend seems to have no end in sight, as the rate of new colorectal cancer cases in young patients is expected to double by 2030.

The diagnosis strikes younger patients at a different stage in their lives, catching them unaware. Dr. Nancy You, a colorectal surgical oncologist at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, said she's been "in the trenches" with younger patients, and that tension between life and unexpected sickness.

"The emotions are high when these younger patients walk in the door," You told ABC. "It catches them completely off guard. They're finishing school, trying to make a career, building relationships, families, and then this."

"So, if we're able to move the needle at all, lowering the stage they're diagnosed, or when the tumor is smaller, hopefully, that's a window of intervention such that we never get to invasive cancer."

The new USPSTF guidelines are not yet final: For the next four weeks, the public will have the chance to peer review for feedback on the recommendation to the Task Force.

"We really approach this in an open way," Dr. Michael Barry, USPSTF member and director of Informed Medical Decisions in the Health Decision Sciences Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. "We really try to be transparent and take different perspectives into account, before we make a final recommendation. This is an opportunity for clarification."

With the adoption of this recommendation, more patients in an expanded age bracket will have access to screenings without having to worry about the out-of-pocket cost. Insurance coverage is "directly tied to this Task Force's recommendations," Ng said.

So, why has the median age for colorectal cancer shifted lower? "That is really the million dollar question we're working to understand," Ng said. One's diet and one's lifestyle choices are both suspected to have an impact, but Ng said, the "vast majority" of the younger patients she and her colleagues see live active, healthy lifestyles and have no family history.

There's another issue, one intertwined with the socioeconomic disparity linked to nutrition and quality of life: Rates of colorectal cancer are higher in Black people, according to the Task Force and experts on the matter.

"We see these well-known disparities in the incidence of colon cancer and mortality from colorectal cancer by race," Ng said, "Black people are much more likely to get this disease -- and at a younger age -- than white people, and more likely to die of colorectal cancer than white people. These new guidelines hopefully will contribute to helping to mitigate some of that."

Colon cancer screening methods run the gamut from clinical visits to at-home collection. Experts agree, the "best" test is the one that optimizes screening and understanding.

"The best test is the one that the patient will do," Barry said.

Ng also said that while a colonoscopy is considered the "gold standard," it just isn't for everybody. And not everybody will do it, as we've seen, because compliance rates with colorectal cancer screening across the U.S. are currently only about 60%.

Screening for colon cancer earlier won't have a specific downside: The risk of bleeding, or tears in the intestinal lining, that occur with colonoscopy occur more frequently in older patients, experts say. But the current guidelines -- even the new ones -- won't sweep worries or undiagnosed cases off the table.

"For a lot of people diagnosed under the age of 45, like Boseman, these new guidelines still won't help those younger patients," Ng said. "And so, research really has to continue, into who exactly we should target and why this is happening."

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SeventyFour/iStockBy DR. MIRANDA ROSENBERG, ABC News

(NEW YORK) -- Caring for a newborn in the midst of a pandemic may seem daunting and complicated, but there's good news: The core advice hasn't changed. Experts still agree on child care basics like rooming in, breastfeeding and regular visits to the pediatrician -- just with a few new modifications to protect everyone against COVID-19.
 
Three doctors shared their best advice with ABC News' Good Morning America in hopes of helping parents protect their newborns' health in the middle of a global pandemic.

1. Like always, bond with your baby from the beginning

Experts recommend parents and their new babies bond from the very beginning. This starts with mothers sharing a room with their baby while still in the hospital, a concept known as "rooming in." Even mothers who test positive for COVID-19 can sleep in the same room as their baby as long as proper safety precautions are taken, such as keeping 6 feet between the mother and baby, or placing the baby in an incubator, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The benefits of skin-to-skin contact are well established after birth and when it comes to breastfeeding, doctors agree it's not only safe, but highly recommended.

"At this point we don't have evidence that the virus passes through breast milk," said Dr. Julie Capiola, MD, FAAP, IBCLC, a New York pediatrician with Premier Pediatrics.

2. Breastfed infants are less likely to develop other viral infections

Breast milk contains many of the mother's infection-fighting antibodies, and while its effect on SARS-CoV-2 is not yet known, "breastfed infants are less likely to develop other viral infections," according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

"It's one of the reasons breast milk is so good for your baby," explained Dr. Katherine Campbell, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Yale New Haven Hospital.

According to Campbell, mothers who test positive for COVID-19 should talk to their doctor and decide on the best approach for them. They can continue to breastfeed by making sure to keep their breasts clean and dry, washing their hands before handling the baby and wearing a mask during feeding sessions. Alternatively, they can express their milk and have a healthy caregiver bottle feed their baby after.

3. See the pediatrician regularly

Keeping newborns healthy also means continuing to see the pediatrician regularly.

Even if a new baby seems healthy, "it's not OK to skip well visits," cautioned Capiola.

These checkups are essential to ensure birth abnormalities -- such as permanent heart, lung and bone problems -- are not missed. They are an opportunity to identify hearing and language troubles early, when interventions can often minimize longterm damage.

Regular visits to the pediatrician are also important for ensuring the baby is up to date on routine vaccinations against diseases like pertussis, rotavirus and polio. The CDC recommends that infants 6 months or older get an annual flu shot.

"Immunizations are particularly important this year," Dr. Susan Coffin, attending physician for the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said. "They can prevent several common 'lookalike' infections: infections that have symptoms similar to COVID and would trigger testing and worry."

4. Get a flu shot

Parents and other people that plan to be around the newborn should be vaccinated against the flu, and once the baby turns 6 months old, your pediatrician will likely suggest the same for your new baby.

Your newborn won't be offered a vaccine for COVID-19 though. Only one U.S. trial is currently enrolling teenagers; none are testing their vaccine on younger children. Approval for its use on infants is not likely to come soon.

5. Keep your bubble small

Part of keeping babies safe from COVID-19 is keeping them healthy and out of the hospital.

"The strategies that prevent COVID transmission are also effective against other viruses," explained Coffin.

Infants can catch coronavirus the same way adults do: through droplets and aerosols in the air. When you're around a baby, "social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing really make a difference," Campbell said.
 
Restricting the number of visitors is also important.

"Newborns have an immune system that is very limited in its ability to fight infection," said Capiola.

Exposure to more individuals increases the infant's risk for infection. She recommends considering potential risks from those who want to meet the new baby. People who travel by air to visit, or those who go to a lot of restaurants, weddings and parties are likely to be at higher risk.

If you are going to socialize with people outside of your immediate family, consider doing so outdoors where transmission risk for COVID-19 is lower. Campbell suggests quick visits on a deck or a patio instead of socializing indoors whenever possible.

6. Don't panic if you get sick

But what should new moms do if they are worried they are getting sick themselves?

As Capiola said: "Put on a mask, continue to care for the baby as needed and get tested."

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Chautauqua County adds 22 new cases of COVID-19, and 14th death in the pandemic... There are 22 new confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virust in Chautauqua County today... and, 124 total over the past w...

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