Why you might need to sport a mask inside your own home

Here’s everything you need to know this week.

COVID-19 cases continue to escalate in many parts of the United States, particularly southern and southwestern states like South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and Texas. Over the past couple months, epicenters once confined to parts of the northeast and northwest, have sprung up in many more corners of the country, making it clear that no area in the country is immune. Now, especially, everyone needs to do their parts in preventing the spread of the novel virus.

People living with individuals who have risk factors for severe COVID-19 should consider wearing a mask at home

In a news conference on Sunday, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx made clear that the epidemic in the United States is no longer confined to hot spots. Instead, the pandemic has entered what she called a “new phase”: The virus is sprawling across the country, even seeping into rural areas, which were, at the beginning of the pandemic, largely case-free.

Americans traveling across the country have at least partially contributed to this ongoing spread of the virus. “If you’ve chosen to go on vacation into a hotspot, you really need to come back and assume you’re infected,” she said at the conference.

Asymptomatic spreaders, those who have coronavirus but don’t experience symptoms, are also likely behind the ongoing spread. She recommends those who are currently living in a coronavirus hotspot should consider wearing a mask at home, not just out and about, if a household member has risk factors for severe disease. Wearing a mask, social distancing, and washing your hands are three key and proven components to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is “cautiously optimistic” a coronavirus vaccine will be available by the end of the year

The United States’ foremost authority on infectious diseases, Anthony Fauci, told Congress on Friday that he was “cautiously optimistic” a vaccine for COVID-19 will be available by late 2020 or early 2021. “We hope that by the time we get into late fall and early winter, we will have in fact a vaccine that we can say that would be safe and effective,” Fauci told Congress, according to CNN. “One can never guarantee the safety or effectiveness unless you do the trial, but we are cautiously optimistic this will be successful.”

Researchers and drug companies around the world are racing to create a safe and effective vaccine in record time. Currently, there are six vaccines in the third and final clinical trial phase. Among them is a vaccine made in partnership with the National Institutes of Health and Moderna, a pharmaceutical company based in Massachusetts. The vaccine was the first to start human trials back in March and entered phase three last week.

Focus on COVID-19 is making the chances of other deadly diseases coming back greater

While the world’s doctors, researchers, and public health experts continue to keep COVID-19 on the front burner, other infectious diseases could be making a comeback, according to a report out today from The New York Times.

Tuberculosis, HIV, and malaria—all infectious diseases that researchers have been making progress on stifling for decades—are making a comeback as resources are being diverted to COVID-19. Lockdowns put in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus have made it tougher to test, diagnose, and treat other highly infectious illnesses.

According to a new report from the CDC, hundreds got the coronavirus at a summer camp in Georgia

Camp is certainly out of session for one summer vacation spot in Georgia. A CDC report published on Friday described how within a few days, summer camp staff members developed concerning chills which led to a complete shut-down. When the rest of the staff and campers were tested, 76 percent (of the 344-member camp) tested positive for the coronavirus. Staff and campers were required to test for coronavirus (and receive a negative result) within 12 days of showing up at their cabins, but masks weren’t a required part of the uniform for anyone.

This case report serves as a crucial reminder as the debate about reopening schools rages on large group settings like these can spread the virus. Social distancing, appropriate mask wearing, and other public health measures should be strictly enforced no matter what.

Claire Maldarelli

Claire Maldarelliis the Science Editor at Popular Science. She has a particular interest in brain science, the microbiome, and human physiology. In addition to Popular Science, her work has appeared in The New York Times, Scientific American, and Scholastic’s Science World and Super Science magazines, among others. She has a bachelor’s degree in neurobiology from the University of California, Davis and a master’s in science journalism from New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. Contact the author here.