- The United States currently has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths in the world.
- More than 3.2 million people have died from the disease globally.
- The CDC says people who are vaccinated can meet indoors without taking physical distancing measures.
- Globally, there have been more than 155.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3.2 million associated deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
- The United States has reported more than 32.5 million confirmed cases.
- More than 579,000 people in the United States have died from the disease.
- Currently, more than 148.5 million U.S. people have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose. More than 107.3 million people are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Healthline updates this page on weekdays. For up-to-date information about the virus, go here.
The Biden administration is now in favor of waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to fight the pandemic.
World Trade Organization members discussed the potential of waiving these rights today, according to CNN.
Just a small fraction of the world’s population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with most vaccinations occurring in wealthy countries.
U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai issued a statement today citing the “global health crisis” as a reason for “extraordinary” measures.
“The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” Tai wrote in the statement.
“We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) needed to make that happen. Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved. ”
India accounts for nearly half of all new COVID-19 cases
India continues to face a mounting COVID-19 surge. The country now makes up 46 percent of new COVID-19 cases globally, according to Reuters.
The country broke another record this month with more than 400,000 cases recorded in a single 24-hour period.
India is now second only to the United States in total cases with more than 20 million COVID-19 cases reported.
Biden aims to get 70% of adults partially vaccinated by July 4
President Joe Biden announced changes to the country’s vaccination program in an effort to reach 70 percent of adults in the United States by July 4.
Now, vaccinations are slowing due to a decrease in demand rather than supply. The vaccination rate has slowed considerably since the high in mid-April.
Biden said his administration would now focus on sending vaccines to pharmacies and other smaller outlets rather than the massive vaccination sites that have characterized the rollout.
AstraZeneca, Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines 87% effective after first shot, South Korean data shows
One dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine was nearly 87 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among those ages 60 and older, according to real-world data released by South Korea on May 5.
According to Reuters, data by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) shows the Pfizer vaccine was 89.7 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 at least 2 weeks after a first dose was given, and the AstraZeneca shot was 86 percent effective.
The analysis was based on over 3.5 million people in South Korea, ages 60 and older, for 2 months from Feb. 26. It included 521,133 people who received a first dose of either a Pfizer or AstraZeneca shot.
COVID-19 cases in India have now topped 20 million, according to Johns Hopkins.
Only the United States has documented more COVID-19 cases at this point.
Deaths are also surging in India, where oxygen canisters have been hard to come by.
Experts also say the reported case count in India is likely far below the actual case count.
Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, told NPR he believes that India may be detecting just 3 to 4 percent of total COVID-19 cases.
“So we’re talking about every day, maybe 5 million infections a day in India right now. That’s a huge number,” he told NPR.
More than 222,000 people have died in the country, although reports suggest the death toll is far higher.
Children account for over 20% of COVID-19 cases
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that while the number of U.S. children getting COVID-19 is lower than the highs set at the start of 2021, children now account for more than one-fifth of new COVID-19 cases in states releasing data by age, reported NPR.
According to NPR, experts link this trend to several factors, but chief among them is high vaccination rates among older adults.
But other dynamics are also in play, from coronavirus variants to recently lifted restrictions on school activities.
“We are seeing more outbreaks than we had related to school and school activities. We’ve seen those all along, and we’re seeing a little bit more of those now proportionately than we had,” said Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice chair of the AAP’s Committee on Infectious Diseases, in an interview with NPR.
“And I think that’s also due to a combination of factors,” he continued. “Again, the variants, but also more kids in the last couple of months are in in-person school than they had been in prior months.”
According to Reuters calculations that are based on recently published data from Russia’s statistics agency, the nation recorded more than 400,000 excess deaths from April 2020 to March 2021.
Reuters notes that excess deaths are typically defined as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths during the same periods.
Rosstat, the Russian statistics agency, said Russia recorded around 250,000 deaths related to COVID-19 from April 2020 to March 2021, reported Reuters.
The death rate was around 25 percent higher in March 2021 compared with the same month a year ago.
Russia’s official COVID-19 task force said last week that the authorities had recorded more than 4.8 million cases nationwide since the start of the pandemic, reported Reuters.
Most populous U.S. county records 0 COVID-19 deaths
Los Angeles County reached a major milestone after it recorded zero COVID-19 deaths in a 24-hour period, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The most populous U.S. county, it was previously a major hot spot for the coronavirus last winter.
Now as vaccinations rise, the county reported no new COVID-19 deaths on May 2.
While it’s possible deaths were undercounted, public health officials said that the positive coronavirus infection rate has reached its lowest level since the start of the pandemic.
Reaching herd immunity may be unlikely
Widely circulating coronavirus variants and persistent vaccine hesitancy will keep herd immunity out of reach, reported The New York Times.
But vaccinating the most vulnerable may be enough to restore normalcy.
According to the Times, over half of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
However, daily vaccination rates are slipping. The consensus among scientists and public health experts is that the herd immunity threshold won’t be reached — not in the near future, and perhaps not ever.
Continued vaccinations, especially for people at highest risk because of age, potential exposure, or health status, will be crucial to limiting the severity of outbreaks, if not their frequency, experts believe, reported the Times.
“The virus is unlikely to go away,” Rustom Antia, PhD, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University in Atlanta, told the Times. “But we want to do all we can to check that it’s likely to become a mild infection.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top adviser on COVID-19, acknowledged this shift in experts’ thinking, reported the Times.
“People were getting confused and thinking you’re never going to get the infections down until you reach this mystical level of herd immunity, whatever that number is,” he said.
“That’s why we stopped using herd immunity in the classic sense,” he added. “I’m saying: Forget that for a second. You vaccinate enough people; the infections are going to go down.”
As EU member states start to issue vaccine certificates, the European Parliament made an announcement in a press release that put guidelines on these certificates.
In the press release, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) also agreed that a new “EU COVID-19 certificate” should only be in place for 12 months “and not longer.”
“The document, which may be in digital or paper format, will attest that a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus or, alternatively, that they have a recent negative test result or have recovered from the infection,” reads the press release.
“However, EU COVID-19 certificates will neither serve as travel document nor become a precondition to exercise the right to free movement,” it states.
According to MEPs, holders of an EU COVID-19 certificate should not be subject to travel restrictions that include quarantine, self-isolation, or testing.
They also stressed that to avoid discrimination against people who have not been vaccinated, and for economic reasons, EU countries should “ensure universal, accessible, timely, and free of charge testing.”
Skipping second vaccine dose could prolong pandemic, study finds
The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that nearly 38 percent of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, reported Fox News.
But officials warn about a portion of the 55 percent who have only received a first dose and are skipping out on the second.
According to a new study, 8 percent of people are skipping their second dose and potentially prolonging the pandemic.
Researchers also said this could be a more serious problem for marginalized racial and ethnic groups that have historically had higher attrition rates for multidose vaccines.
They found that Black and Latinx respondents were much less likely than white respondents to believe COVID-19 vaccines provided strong protection after the second dose, and significantly more likely to be unsure.
“These findings suggest that there is a real need — and opportunity — for the medical community to provide fuller guidance and greater contextual explanations to vaccines, about how life can change after vaccination as we gradually return to normalcy,” the study authors wrote.
More than 200,000 people are known to have died from COVID-19 in India. Many more deaths may have gone uncounted, according to reports.
More than 360,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 in India in a single 24-hour period, marking another global record for daily cases in a country.
Indian COVID-19 vaccine found to neutralize virus variant from India
There are some signs of good news as COVID-19 continues to worsen in much of the globe.
According to a press release from drugmaker Bharat Biotech, COVAXIN is 100 percent effective against severe COVID-19 disease, with an impact on reduction in hospitalizations.
“This (B1.617 variant) is something where we’re still gaining data on a daily basis, but the most recent data was looking at convalescent sera of COVID-19 cases and people who received the vaccine used in India, the COVAXIN,” Fauci said during a virtual press briefing, reported CNN. “It was found to neutralize the 617 variants.”
Fauci confirmed vaccination is the way forward for India to resolve its current pandemic surge.
“Despite the real difficulty that we’re seeing in India, vaccination could be a very, very important antidote against this,” he said.
Child with COVID-19 dies in Hawaii
Health officials in Hawaii confirmed the state’s first COVID-19 death attributed to a child in a press release yesterday.
The child, a boy with underlying health conditions, had traveled to the state by plane with his two fully vaccinated parents.
According to the Hawaii Department of Health, he developed COVID-19 symptoms shortly after arrival and was taken to a hospital, where he later died.
The press release revealed no other details about the child or his parents. It’s not clear where he may have contracted the coronavirus.
According to a Department of Health spokesperson, both parents tested negative for COVID-19 before boarding the flight from the U.S. mainland to Oahu.
“I can tell you that both parents had been vaccinated, fully vaccinated. And both parents had tested negative before traveling from the mainland to Hawaii,” spokesperson Brooks Baehr told Hawaii News Now.
“So soon after arrival that it is very likely this child was infected with COVID while on the mainland or perhaps in transit,” he said.
As of last week, more than 3.7 million children had contracted the coronavirus nationwide.
Of those cases, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recorded 291 deaths, reported Hawaii News Now.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released
The CDC now says if people are fully vaccinated, they can safely go outdoors without wearing a facial covering in most cases.
“Beginning today, gathering with a group of friends, in a park, going for a picnic,” President Biden said, addressing reporters. “As long as you are vaccinated and outdoors, you can do it without wearing a mask.”
But fully vaccinated people do need to wear a mask if they’re at a crowded outdoor event like a concert, advises the CDC.
Child dies of COVID-19 complications in Minnesota
Minnesota Department of Health officials say they’re “deeply saddened” to confirm a school-aged child under the age of 10 has died due to complications from COVID-19, reported CBS Minnesota.
According to the Department of Health, this isn’t the first such death.
“While COVID-related deaths in children are rare, they can occur even in otherwise healthy children. Since the start of the pandemic, three Minnesota children under age 18 have died due to COVID-19,” the health department said in a statement, reported CBS.
Minnesota’s governor expressed his concern about the death and a reminder that even with the vaccine, the pandemic is ongoing.
“I’m heartbroken to hear COVID has taken the life of a first grader. My thoughts are with the Minnesota family grieving the loss of their beloved child,” Gov. Tim Walz posted on social media. “As vaccines help us turn the page on COVID-19, we can’t forget that this deadly disease is still present in our communities.”
CBS reported that according to the school district, 22 students and staff are in quarantine at the elementary school.
The school superintendent said they’re following Department of Health guidelines, with no grades changing from in-person learning at this time.
Dr. Brooke Moore, pediatric pulmonologist for Children’s Minnesota Hospital, told CBS that most children who get COVID-19 won’t develop symptoms, and if they do, they will experience mild to moderate illness, but around 10 percent of cases are severe.
New coronavirus cases hit a record peak for a 5th day in India, with infections rising by 352,991 in the last 24 hours, and crowded hospitals running out of oxygen supplies and beds, reported Reuters.
According to Reuters, countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, and United States pledge to send urgent medical aid to India to help battle the crisis overwhelming its hospitals.
“Currently the hospital is in beg-and-borrow mode and it is an extreme crisis situation,” a spokesman for the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in the capital, New Delhi, told Reuters.
Reuters also reported that the southern Indian state of Karnataka has ordered a 14-day lockdown starting tomorrow, April 27, joining the western industrial state of Maharashtra, where lockdowns will run until May 1. Some states were set to lift these measures this week.
Israel examines cases of heart inflammation
Israel officials say they’re examining reported cases of heart inflammation in people who had the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
This is an investigation, so there’s not an established link between the two.
According to Reuters, Pfizer said it had not seen an increased number of these cases than what would be expected in the general population.
The rate of daily COVID-19 vaccinations given in the United States fell below 3 million for the first time in weeks on Thursday, according to data from the CDC.
According to CNBC, one reason for this slight dip might be the current pause in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which the FDA advised to suspend this month “out of an abundance of caution” after six women developed a rare blood clotting disorder.
The United States is currently reporting almost 62,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, based on a 7-day average of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, reported CNBC.
This level is above the most recent low point of 53,600 per day in late March, but has trended downward over the past week.
Panel to assess Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Friday
A U.S. federal advisory panel will meet April 23 to possibly decide further action on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine rollout, as more reports emerge of rare but severe blood clots in women given the shot.
She also said she hopes for “a recommendation that takes into account the risk versus reward” of using Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine.
A recently published report warns the United States will likely reach a “tipping point” in the next 2 to 4 weeks when vaccine supply could outstrip demand.
The rapidly climbing number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 is good news, reported CNN. But tens of millions of Americans haven’t started their vaccinations yet.
National Institutes of Health (NIH) director
“We have to really figure out how to get the messages out there,” he continued. “So that those who are still undecided get the information they need to see why this is really something they would want to do.”
Parts of the country have already begun to see that pattern, with younger Americans less likely than older residents to claim they’ve been or will get vaccinated, according to recent poll data from Quinnipiac University.
About 40 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, with roughly 26 percent fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Efforts at all governmental levels are ongoing to increase those numbers.
“I think our effort shifts, and it shifts to younger people who just don’t think about COVID quite as much,” Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisor for COVID-19 response, told CNN.
Pregnant people vaccinated with mRNA vaccines not at high risk for side effects
A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that pregnant people who received an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy did not appear to have worse outcomes than those who weren’t vaccinated.
This study included 35,691 participants between ages 16 to 54.
Researchers analyzed data from the “v-safe after vaccination health checker” surveillance system, the v-safe pregnancy registry, and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).
They found that mRNA vaccination protects pregnant people against COVID-19 and its complications during pregnancy, and emphasize that emerging evidence shows SARS-CoV-2 antibodies could be transferred to the fetus after vaccination in the third trimester.
“Which suggests that maternal vaccination might provide some level of protection to the neonate,” the study authors wrote.
President Joe Biden said today that the United States would reach more than 200 million COVID-19 shots administered since the start of his administration.
Biden had doubled his original promise of 100 million shots in his first 100 days as vaccinations picked up.
Today, he said the administration had met its expanded goal a week before his 100 days were up.
Pfizer identifies fake COVID-19 vaccines abroad
Pfizer said the first confirmed instances of counterfeit versions of its COVID-19 vaccine have been identified in Mexico and Poland, reported The Wall Street Journal.
It’s the latest attempt by criminals exploiting the worldwide vaccination campaign.
According to the Journal, vials seized by authorities in separate investigations were tested by Pfizer and confirmed to contain bogus vaccine.
Additionally, the vials recovered in Mexico also had fraudulent labeling. A substance inside vials found in Poland was likely an anti-wrinkle treatment, Pfizer said.
“Everybody on the planet needs it. Many are desperate for it,” Lev Kubiak, Pfizer’s world head of security, told the Journal. “We have a very limited supply, a supply that will increase as we ramp up and other companies enter the vaccine space. In the interim, there is a perfect opportunity for criminals.”
Kubiak also said he expects counterfeiting to worsen as the rollout continues. “Right now, consumers are easily fooled,” he said. “They are desperate for the vaccine.”
So far, no counterfeit vaccines have been discovered in the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security, reported the Journal.
However, the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines and high demand could prompt people to seek doses outside official channels, particularly in countries like Mexico and Brazil.
COVID-19 cases are high in these countries, and there’s a history of counterfeiting prescription drugs, industry and security experts told the Journal.
According to CNN, in the past 7 days the United States reported more than 67,000 new COVID-19 cases daily on average, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
This is an almost 25 percent increase from last month’s 7-day average.
Experts say COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States are being distributed at an impressive rate, with all Americans 16 and older able to get the shot.
But a leading health official said the country remains in a “complicated stage,” reported CNN.
“More people in the United States are being vaccinated every single day at an accelerated pace,” CDC Director
“On the other hand,” she added, “cases and hospitalizations are increasing in some areas of the country, and cases among younger people who have not yet been vaccinated are also increasing.”
Experts told CNN that there are several reasons behind the rise in cases, including coronavirus variants, like B.1.1.7, which has helped fuel the current surge in Michigan.
“Pandemic fatigue” and more people moving around likely also contributed to the rise.
Rapid, at-home COVID-19 test available this week
Rapid COVID-19 tests will be available to consumers this week without a prescription. They will be sold by CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, and Walmart, reported USA Today.
Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW coronavirus self-test kits will be shipped to the three national chain retailers and also available online.
The two-test kit, which received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization for serial screening, will cost $23.99, the company said, reported USA Today.
Another rapid test made by Australia-based Ellume will be available at CVS stores in Rhode Island and Massachusetts for $38.99, but it can also be purchased online or at most CVS stores in other states by the end of May.
According to USA Today, both tests show results in about 15 minutes without requiring lab analysis.
“By Friday, we should have an answer as to where we’re going with it,” Fauci said. “I would think that we’re not going to go beyond Friday in the extension of this pause.”
Fauci’s prediction that the one-shot vaccination would resume comes as the United States reached the milestone of having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the arms of roughly half the adult population, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
All adults in all 50 states now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
All adults in the United States are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, something public health experts say is a major step toward ending the current pandemic, reported The Hill.
According to The Hill, people 16 and older in every state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico are eligible to receive one of the available COVID-19 vaccines as of today.
“It’s truly historic that we have already reached this milestone,” Dr. Nandita Mani, the associate medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Washington Medical Center, told The New York Times.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 5,800 people out of 77 million vaccinated people developed COVID-19, reported CNN.
That’s 0.008 percent of the fully vaccinated people who were included in the study. The agency plans to update these figures every Monday.
CDC officials said these “breakthrough cases” are expected because the vaccines are not 100 percent effective.
White House to track variant spread
The Biden administration announced today that it’s setting up a $1.7 billion network to track the spread of coronavirus variants.
The plan includes increased funding for the CDC and U.S. states to help track these new variants.
It will also create partnerships with six universities to conduct research and develop technologies to combat COVID-19.
The chief executive officer of Pfizer said Thursday that people may need to get a third COVID-19 vaccination within 12 months of being full vaccinated.
Albert Bourla added that annual inoculations may be needed to prevent future spread of the disease.
Researchers still haven’t determined how long protection against the disease lasts after someone is vaccinated.
Blood clots rare in Moderna, Pfzier vaccines
A new study reports that the number of blood clot cases is about the same for the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and AstraZeneca vaccines. The study has not yet been peer reviewed.
The researchers said about 4 in 1 million people who get the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will develop blood clots. The rate is about 5 in 1 million for the AstraZeneca shot.
They note that about 39 in 1 million people who develop COVID-19 get blood clots.
India reports 1-day record in COVID-19 cases
India reported a record 200,000 new cases of COVID-19 today, becoming only the second country after the United States to reach this sobering single-day toll, reported The Washington Post.
These new cases have pushed India’s total cases to more than 14 million and turned the nation into the pandemic’s global epicenter with little indication the outbreak will slow.
In an effort to contain the COVID-19 surge, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced curfew-like restrictions on the movement of people in the state from April 14 to May 1, reported The Indian Express.
Under these orders, no person is allowed to be in a public place without a valid reason.
All establishments, public spaces, activities, and services will remain closed, except for essential services that can remain open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on working days.
A U.K. “mix and match” clinical trial has been expanded to include the Moderna and Novavax COVID-19 vaccines.
The initial trial began in February using AstraZeneca and then Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in the two doses administered to participants.
The expanded trial will add Moderna and Novavax along with Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca.
The purpose of the trial is to determine the effectiveness of mixing vaccines and whether there are any side effects.
More than 1,000 people are now participating in the trials.
Regular exercise may reduce risk of COVID-19
A new study conducted by Kaiser Permanente reports that being consistently active is strongly associated with a reduced risk of experiencing severe COVID-19.
The research, published yesterday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at more than 40,000 adults who contracted the coronavirus.
Researchers found that people who got at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity — exercise guidelines issued by the
“It is well known that immune function improves with regular [physical activity] and those who are regularly active have a lower incidence, intensity of symptoms and mortality from various viral infections,” the study authors wrote.
Researchers pointed out that regular exercise also reduces the risk of systemic inflammation, a main contributor to the lung damage caused by COVID-19.
They also found that exercise benefits cardiovascular health, can increase lung capacity and muscle strength, and even improve mental health.
Leaving middle seats open on airplanes may reduce COVID-19 risk
Researchers report that keeping middle seats vacant on larger airplanes can reduce the spread of COVID-19.
The researchers say vacant middle seats increase the distance between passengers and provide more protection against airborne particles from the coronavirus.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are urging a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine due to an extremely rare but serious side effect, reported The New York Times.
The FDA and CDC reported six cases of a stroke-like illness in women who have taken the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
These cases are extremely rare with more than 6 million Johnson & Johnson vaccinations already given in the United States.
Today in a
The six cases all involved women under age 50. One case was fatal, while another led to a person being in critical condition.
This side effect has not been seen in people who have received the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.
Record high COVID-19 hospitalizations for children in Michigan
Children aren’t immune to COVID-19, reported the Detroit Free Press. They can get sick, just like adults do. They can be hospitalized, the same as adults, and on rare occasion, they can even die.
According to the Detroit Free Press, this is the message doctors at several of Michigan’s children’s hospitals want people to hear as that state confronts another massive surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.
There were 3,953 reported cases yesterday, April 12, surpassing the state’s November/December spike.
“The state is at a record high for hospitalizations for pediatrics during the entire pandemic and our hospital reflects that,” Dr. Rudolph Valentini, a pediatric nephrologist at Children’s Hospital of Michigan and group chief medical officer for the Detroit Medical Center, told the Detroit Free Press.
According to state data, 49 children were hospitalized April 12 with either confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.
CDC data shows Michigan’s case rate is 515.8 cases per 100,000 people over the last week, the worst in the United States and four times higher than that in neighboring Ohio.
COVID-19 pandemic growing ‘exponentially,’ says WHO
The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday, April 12, that the trajectory of the pandemic is now “growing exponentially,” with more than 4.4 million new COVID-19 cases reported over the last week, reported CNBC.
“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic where we have proven control measure,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, the agency’s technical lead for COVID-19, reported CNBC.
“It is the time right now where everyone has to take stock and have a reality check of what we need to be doing,” she said. “Vaccines and vaccinations are coming online, but they aren’t here yet in every part of the world.”
According to the network, Van Kerkhove also said that cases climbed by 9 percent worldwide last week for the seventh consecutive weekly increase, with deaths jumping 5 percent.
Van Kerkhove is also asking governments to support their citizens in implementing pandemic safety measures, reported CNBC.
According to a new but not yet peer-reviewed study conducted in Israel, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine might not offer sufficient protection against the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa.
Researchers examined whether people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and got an infection were likely to contract one of two coronavirus variants compared with people who were not vaccinated.
According to the study findings, vaccinated people who contracted an infection at least a week after the second vaccine dose disproportionately contracted the variant first detected in South Africa, B.1.351.
“These results overall suggest that vaccine breakthrough infection is more frequent with both VOCs (viruses of concern), yet a combination of mass-vaccination with two doses coupled with non-pharmaceutical interventions control and contain their spread,” the study authors wrote.
Record-high vaccinations, but unvaccinated young adults at risk
A record-high 4.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered in 1 day, according to data published April 10 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported CNN.
“Amazing Saturday! +4.63M doses administered over total yesterday, a new record,” Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, the White House COVID-19 data director, tweeted. “More than 500K higher than old record last Saturday. Incredible number of doses administered.”
But CNN also reported that more than 75 percent of the U.S. population isn’t yet fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
“Cases and emergency room visits are up,” said Walensky, as reported by CNN. “We are seeing these increases in younger adults, most of whom have not yet been vaccinated.”
She added that, nationwide, more Americans ages 18 to 64 have gone to emergency departments for COVID-19 complications, and these trends are magnified in the Upper Midwest.
“CDC is working closely with public health officials in this region to understand what is driving these cases and how we can intervene,” Walensky said.
COVID-19 surge seen in Michigan
Despite increasing vaccinations, COVID-19 cases are surging in Michigan.
On average the state is seeing more than 7,000 new cases daily, far higher than the average of around 1,500 cases seen in February, according to The New York Times.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she will extend workplace COVID-19 restrictions for at least 6 months due to the increase in cases.
Whitmer said she will ask the federal government for more vaccines as the virus is spreading rapidly, but she has not said she will enforce new shutdowns in the state.
With new U.S. COVID-19 cases trending upward, and nearly 80,000 new infections reported yesterday, health officials warn about the spread of multiple, more transmissible coronavirus variants, some of which have caused outbreaks in states such as Michigan and California, reported The Washington Post.
According to the
“CDC is closely monitoring these variants of concern (VOC). These variants have mutations in the virus genome that alter the characteristics and cause the virus to act differently in ways that are significant to public health,” according to the CDC
According to The Washington Post, the variant P.1, which was first detected in Brazil, has taken the No. 2 spot.
At least 434 people in the United States have contracted this coronavirus variant. The largest number of cases are in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Florida.
Pfizer to seek EUA for COVID-19 vaccine for children
Currently, no COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children under age 16. But that could soon change as Pfizer and BioNTech have asked the Food and Drug Administration to expand their emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine to include children as young as 12.
New data released by the companies has reportedly shown that the vaccines appear to be effective and safe in younger children.
Scientists work toward development of COVID-19 pill
We now have vaccines that prevent most cases of COVID-19, and we even have drugs that help with the most severe symptoms of the disease, reported STAT.
Experts are now focusing on a creating a COVID-19 treatment that doesn’t need to be given via an injection or infusion.
According to STAT, experts are hoping to create a pill calibrated to target the coronavirus that’s both economical and has tolerable side effects.
It could potentially also work as well as antibody treatments that require an hourlong intravenous infusion.
“We’re looking for something I could give everyone in an urgent care setting who comes in with exposure or a positive test,” Dr. Nathaniel Erdmann, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told STAT. “An easy, oral, safe drug.”
STAT reported that drugmaker Merck is expected to present pivotal data on an oral treatment similar to remdesivir.
And there’s a treatment from Atea Pharmaceuticals, first developed for the hepatitis C virus, that could also have pivotal results in the coming months.
However, the most promising is an antiviral from Pfizer engineered specifically for the coronavirus. It entered its first clinical trial last month.
Over 25 percent of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported NBC News.
The milestone comes as states are increasingly opening eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination.
However, even as vaccinations are picking up, new coronavirus variants are spreading rapidly in the United States, and COVID-19 cases are again ticking upward.
Online scammers push phony vaccine cards
Scammers are offering false and stolen vaccine cards for sale as businesses and states consider using proof of COVID-19 vaccination to relieve pandemic restrictions, reported The New York Times.
The pandemic has seen many instances of people taking advantage of the crisis, like people hoarding hand sanitizer or cheating recipients out of their stimulus checks.
Online scammers have now latched on to the newest way to prey on the public: proof that you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.
These critically important vaccine cards began showing up for sale on popular websites like Facebook, eBay, and Twitter beginning in late January, reported The New York Times.
All were forged or falsified copies of the CDC vaccine cards.
“We found hundreds of online stores selling the cards, potentially thousands were sold,” Saoud Khalifah, founder of Fakespot, a service that offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online, told The New York Times.
Profiteers have pressed ahead as airlines and other companies have recently said they may require proof of COVID-19 immunization so that people can safely travel or attend events, reported the Times.
“We’re seeing a huge market for these false cards online,” Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, told the Times. “This is a dangerous practice that undermines public health.”
U.K., Europe change guidance on AstraZeneca vaccine
The U.K. government and health experts in the country rushed to defend the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford following concerns over a possible link to blood clots, reported CNBC.
They now recommend that anyone younger than 30 should receive an alternative vaccine.
“No effective medicine or vaccine is without risk. We continually monitor safety during widespread use of any vaccine,” Dr. June Raine, chief executive of Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said in a statement.
“This is to ensure vaccines are performing as expected, to identify any new side effects that may arise, and to ensure the benefits continue to outweigh the risks,” she said.
A new model finds U.K. may reach herd immunity this month
According to a new report, the United Kingdom may reach herd immunity this month.
The Telegraph reported that the United Kingdom could theoretically reach herd immunity by Monday based on modeling done by University College London.
That threshold may be reached due to both increased vaccinations and the fact that people who previously had COVID-19 will likely have some immunity against reinfection.
The modeling finds that 73.4 percent of people in the United Kingdom will have some protection against the disease by April 12, meaning the nation may start to reach herd immunity.
However, this remains theoretical. It’s unclear whether cases will continue to drop after April 12.
Mental health or neurological symptoms are diagnosed in up to 34 percent of people who have had COVID-19, according to
Researchers analyzed the health records of more than 236,000 people, mostly Americans, who recovered from COVID-19. Researchers compared them with people who had other respiratory tract infections in the same time period.
According to the researchers, these COVID-19 survivors typically received a psychiatric or neurological diagnosis within 6 months of their original coronavirus infection.
The most common condition was anxiety, followed by mood disorders.
Psychiatric or neurological symptoms were more severe in people who were hospitalized for COVID-19, but they were also common in people treated for COVID-19 in outpatient settings.
Researchers also found that people who had recovered from COVID-19 had a significantly increased risk of brain hemorrhage, stroke, and dementia.
“Our study provides evidence for substantial neurological and psychiatric morbidity in the 6 months after COVID-19 infection,” the study authors wrote. “Risks were greatest in, but not limited to, patients who had severe COVID-19.”
Nearly half of new COVID-19 cases come from these 5 states
Almost 50 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the United States are concentrated in just five states.
It includes New York, which had the highest number of new infections across the nation last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, reported the New York Post.
According to the outlet, New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey accounted for 44 percent of all new cases between March 29 and April 4, with about 197,500 cases out of around 452,000 seen nationwide.
Just behind New York was Michigan, which has been experiencing a new surge and recorded 47,036 new cases over the last week, or an average of about 6,719 each day.
That’s almost double what it was 2 weeks ago, reported the New York Post.
President Joe Biden said today that the administration will now allow anyone over 16 to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on April 19. Originally Biden had aimed for widespread eligibility to open on May 1.
Vaccines are not yet approved for children under age 16, although studies are still ongoing.
The news comes as many states have already started to allow anyone over 16 to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.
While eligibility will be more widespread, it may be difficult to get a vaccination appointment as there won’t be enough doses for all adults until later in the spring and summer.
Dangerous coronavirus variant has spread to all states
A highly contagious coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom has now been reported in every U.S. state.
Experts are concerned that coronavirus variants could send U.S. cases surging, reported CNN.
According to the network, more than 15,000 cases of the potentially more deadly variant have been reported in the United States in the midst of efforts to get all Americans vaccinated.
Experts are asking the public to follow pandemic precautions for a little while longer.
“America appears to be done with the pandemic,” Michael Osterholm, PhD, director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN. “The virus is not done with us.”
The good news, Osterholm told CNN, is that existing vaccines are very effective against the variants.
But the United States may not be able to administer vaccines fast enough to avoid the next surge.
“We are not going to have enough vaccines, the way we are going, into the arms of enough Americans over the course of the next 6 to 10 weeks with this surge that we are going to stop it,” Osterholm told CNN. “It’s just simply not going to happen.”
Biden administration steps up worldwide effort against pandemic
The Biden administration said April 5 that it’s stepping up efforts to combat COVID-19 worldwide.
The administration has appointed a veteran diplomat to run its global COVID-19 response, and pledges to support more equitable production and distribution of vaccines, reported The Washington Post.
“This pandemic won’t end at home until it ends worldwide,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement while announcing the appointment of Gayle Smith, former director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as global COVID-19 response coordinator.
“We have a duty to other countries to get the virus under control here in the United States,” he added. “But soon, the United States will need to step up our work and rise to the occasion worldwide.”
A new variant of the coronavirus has been found in the San Francisco Bay Area, reported Fox News.
According to the network, a spokesperson for Stanford Health Care said the Stanford Clinical Virology Lab has identified and confirmed one case of the emerging variant through genomic sequencing.
At least seven presumed cases of the variant, first identified in India, were also found.
This variant has been called a “double mutant” because it carries two mutations in the virus that helps it latch itself onto cells, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. It might be responsible for a new surge in cases in India.
“This Indian variant contains two mutations in the same virus for the first time, previously seen on separate variants,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Chronicle.
“Since we know that the domain affected is the part that the virus uses to enter the body, and that the California variant is already potentially more resistant to some vaccine antibodies, it seems to reason that there is a chance that the Indian variant may do that too,” he said.
Game-changing COVID-19 vaccine enters clinical trials
A new COVID-19 vaccine is entering clinical trials in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, and Vietnam that could change how we fight the pandemic, reported The New York Times.
The vaccine is called NDV-HXP-S. It’s the first vaccine to use a new molecular design widely expected to create more potent antibodies than the current generation of vaccines.
A key advantage is that the new vaccine can be mass-produced in chicken eggs like other flu vaccines made in factories around the world.
According to The New York Times, if the new vaccine proves safe and effective, drugmakers could potentially produce well over a billion doses of it a year.
“That’s staggering — it would be a game-changer,” Andrea Taylor, assistant director of programs at the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, told the Times.
The Times emphasized that clinical trials must first establish that this innovative vaccine actually works.
The first phase of clinical trials will conclude in July, and the final phase will take several months more.
“It’s a home run for protection,” Dr. Bruce Innes of the PATH Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, which has coordinated the development of NVD-HXP-S, told the Times. “I think it’s a world-class vaccine.”
Fears are growing that the nation could be facing a fourth surge of COVID-19 cases. Health experts are pleading with Americans to maintain pandemic precautions until they’re fully vaccinated, reported CNN.
“Please wait until you’re fully vaccinated before you’re traveling, before you’re engaging in high-risk activities,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, the network reported. “No doubt when you become vaccinated, the activities that were once higher risk are now going to be lower risk and so just wait until then.”
Wen added that she’s worried the United States is on the “precipice” of a fourth surge, with data showing infections are now skewing toward younger generations.
This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who told “NBC Nightly News” that while he’s feeling some pandemic fatigue himself, it’s important the United States maintain precautions while Americans are vaccinated, reported CNN.
“We need to hold out just a bit longer and give vaccines a chance to really get the upper hand in this,” Fauci said. “I’ll guarantee as we get into the late spring and the early summer, you’re going to see a return to gradual degree of normality that everyone is hoping for, but we don’t want to do it prematurely.”
The CDC changed travel
FDA authorizes changes to Moderna COVID-19 vaccine
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized two changes to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine that could provide extra doses from each vial, reported The Associated Press (AP).
According to the AP, the FDA approved new vials that increase the number of available doses from 10 to a maximum of 15.
Regulators also said healthcare professionals can safely extract up to 11 doses from the original 10-dose vials, and these changes will be added to instructions for healthcare workers, reported the AP.
1 in 7 people in U.K. may have signs of long-haul COVID-19
A new report finds that as many as 1 in 7 people living in the United Kingdom have symptoms associated with “long-haul COVID-19.”
The report from the U.K. Office for National Statistics found that as many as 13.7 percent of people in the United Kingdom had signs of long-haul COVID-19, including fatigue, muscle pain, and difficulty breathing.
A dosage mix-up at a Baltimore, Maryland, production facility ruined about 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.
The mix-up prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to delay shipments of the vaccine, according to Fox Business.
Reportedly, employees at Emergent BioSolutions, a production facility in Baltimore, mixed up two vaccine dosages.
U.S. officials said the vaccine spoilage wouldn’t affect plans to provide sufficient vaccines to immunize every adult by May, Fox Business reported.
The drugmaker said it expects to deliver its vaccine at a rate of over 1 billion doses by the end of the year.
Emergent BioSolutions has a string of citations from U.S. health officials for quality control problems, reported The Associated Press (AP).
According to records obtained by the AP through the Freedom of Information Act, the FDA has repeatedly cited Emergent for problems that include poorly trained employees, cracked vials, and problems managing mold and other contamination around one of its facilities.
“Human errors do happen,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci in an interview on “CBS This Morning,” reported the AP.
“You have checks and balances… That’s the reason why the good news is that it did get picked up,” he said. “As I mentioned, that’s the reason nothing from that plant has gone into anyone that we’ve administered to.”
Can vaccinated people still transmit the coronavirus?
It’s possible. Experts told the AP that the risk is low, but they’re still studying how well the shots slow transmission.
“A vaccinated person controls the virus better, so the chances of transmitting will be greatly reduced,” Dr. Robert Gallo a virus expert at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told the AP.
According to the AP, evidence from studies suggest if people do contract an infection despite vaccination, they’ll harbor less of the coronavirus in their nose than someone who has not been vaccinated, making transmission more difficult.
COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in 2020
COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the United States last year after heart disease and cancer, according to the
COVID-19 led to about 375,000 deaths during the year, and the age-adjusted death rate rose about 16 percent.
In total, more than 552,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States since the start of the pandemic last year.
Clinical trial results of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine find it’s 100 percent effective and well tolerated in children 12 to 15 years old, the drugmaker said today, reported CNN.
Pfizer plans to submit this data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as soon as possible for expanded emergency use authorization of the vaccine.
The phase 3 trial included 2,260 participants 12 to 15 years old in the United States. The vaccine elicited a strong antibody response 1 month after the second dose, according to Pfizer.
This data has yet to be peer reviewed.
Pfizer also said the side effects observed in this age group were similar to those among 16- to 25-year-olds, which include pain at the injection site, fatigue, and fever.
Participants will be monitored for protection and safety for 2 years after their second dose.
“We share the urgency to expand the authorization of our vaccine to use in younger populations and are encouraged by the clinical trial data from adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNN.
“We plan to submit these data to FDA as a proposed amendment to our emergency use authorization in the coming weeks and to other regulators around the world, with the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year,” he said.
3 reasons why COVID-19 cases are on the rise
Despite the U.S. vaccine rollout improving significantly, the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is again on the rise after falling significantly from January highs, reported Yahoo! Finance.
According to Yahoo! Finance, the latest 7-day average of confirmed U.S. cases was 60,425 on March 27, and is continuing to average roughly 50,000 new cases daily.
Dr. Calvin Sun, a New York City-based emergency medicine physician, told Yahoo! Finance that there are three main factors driving the recent surge: a mutating virus, the rolling back of safety measures, and a recent increase in travel.
A new study — which is awaiting peer review — finds that while less than 1 percent of adults report coronavirus reinfections, those who are could experience more severe symptoms if they contracted one of the several virus variants.
After major declines this spring, the number of COVID-19 cases has risen in recent weeks.
Cases of COVID-19 rose about 9 percent last week, according to Reuters.
At least 33 states have reported more COVID-19 cases in the last week compared to the previous week.
Experts are worried a fourth wave is about to hit the United States, even as vaccinations continue.
Hold on to that COVID vaccine card
Millions of adults who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 have little proof beyond the paper card they get when getting their first dose, reported the Wall Street Journal.
According to the WSJ, the United States currently has no central database to document vaccinations, and states only keep an incomplete patchwork of records.
Also, there’s no standard proof of COVID-19 vaccination like the yellow fever cards required for entry to many countries where that disease is prevalent.
As certain countries and businesses prepare to mandate digital proof of vaccination as a requirement for entry and travel, your paper card may be the only way to conduct business or access those countries.
“I’m glad we prioritized getting shots in arms,” Dr. Ami Parekh, chief medical officer at digital healthcare company Grand Rounds Inc., told the Journal. “But putting in rules about being vaccinated without giving people a way to properly track it is a little bit backwards.”
CDC chief scared where country is headed
COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are rising in the United States again, CDC Director
This may be the start of a surge experts have warned about for weeks.
“I’m going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom… We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” said Walensky, according to CNN. “But right now, I’m scared.”
According to a joint World Health Organization (WHO) and China study on the origins of COVID-19, the most likely scenario is that transmission of the coronavirus occurred from bats to humans through another animal.
In addition, a lab leak is “extremely unlikely,” according to a draft copy of the report obtained by The Associated Press (AP).
According to the AP, the report is expected to be made public on March 30. Experts are following closely because discovering the origins of the coronavirus might help scientists prevent future pandemics.
However, U.S. officials say that China’s involvement in the investigation raises serious questions.
“We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a recent CNN interview, reported the AP.
China addressed Blinken’s criticism today.
“The U.S. has been speaking out on the report. By doing this, isn’t the U.S. trying to exert political pressure on the members of the WHO expert group?” asked Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, reported the AP.
The discovery of COVID-19 cases before the outbreak in the Chinese market suggests the pandemic may have begun elsewhere, according to the AP.
The report also notes there could have been milder COVID-19 cases that were undetected, and that could be a link between the market and previous cases.
“No firm conclusion therefore about the role of the Huanan market in the origin of the outbreak, or how the infection was introduced into the market, can currently be drawn,” the report said, according to the AP.
In real-world setting, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provide over 90% protection
In a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers found that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines can provide 90 percent protection against coronavirus infections, The Washington Post reported.
The researchers studied 4,000 essential workers, which included healthcare workers, firefighters, and police. Half were vaccinated. The researchers tested the workers periodically to see whether they had contracted an infection.
Fully vaccinated participants had 90 percent protection against an infection.
In initial studies, the vaccines were providing about 94 to 95 percent protection against contracting a symptomatic infection.
But people with asymptomatic infections were not tested, so it was unclear how protective the vaccines were against infections with no symptoms.
Experts explain what we need to know about Johnson & Johnson vaccine
After receiving emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Johnson & Johnson-owned Janssen Pharmaceuticals is now the third company to make a COVID-19 vaccine available in the United States, reported the American Medical Association (AMA).
AMA Chief Health and Science Officer Dr. Mira Irons and AMA Board Member Dr. Sandra Fryhofer were interviewed on an episode of the “AMA COVID-19 Update” to tell people about the newly authorized vaccine.
“The good thing about the Janssen vaccine is it’s one dose and you’re done,” Fryhofer said.
That means “you don’t have to go back for a second dose. You don’t have to make a second appointment. You can get fully vaccinated at one visit,” she said.
While J&J’s vaccine has 66.3 percent effectiveness overall and 74.4 percent effectiveness in the United States, it has “100 percent efficacy against hospitalization and death from the virus,” Irons emphasized during the interview. “That’s really what we have to focus on.”
According to Fryhofer, a large body of evidence that includes an Ebola vaccine already tested in children and pregnant people, and approved in Europe, supports the technology used for this vaccine.
“The adenovirus vaccine uses a modified cold virus — an adenovirus called Ad26 — as the viral vector and several genes have been removed from this virus,” she explained. “It’s replication deficient, so it cannot multiply in the body.”
This means “it cannot give someone COVID-19,” Fryhofer said.
President Joe Biden announced today he plans to reach the goal of 200 million vaccines administered in his first 100 days in office.
Biden had originally pledged 100 million vaccines within the first 100 days. He reached that goal about 58 days into his administration.
Currently, more than 87 million people have received at least one vaccine dose.
Over 30 million people have developed COVID-19 in the U.S.
The United States has reached yet another pandemic milestone with more than 30 million people developing COVID-19 since the start of the outbreak.
The United States is currently the global leader for both COVID-19 cases and deaths.
AstraZeneca becomes controversial after missteps
AstraZeneca has likely produced a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine in only 9 months, a significant achievement that could help end the pandemic, reported CNN.
But missteps along the way have led to criticism from both policymakers and health officials.
The drugmaker mistakenly gave some volunteers only half a dose of the vaccine in clinical trials.
The company has also been criticized for omitting crucial information from public statements.
U.S. regulators have questioned the accuracy of AstraZeneca vaccine data, saying it didn’t include the most recent data.
Additionally, severe production delays in Europe have created a political firestorm and breakdown in relations with EU leaders.
“[They are] overpromising and underdelivering by massive amounts, we all see that they have bundled up at least twice their test data,” Philippe Lamberts, a member of the European Parliament, told the BBC’s “Today Programme,” reported the Express. “So everything points to a company that cannot be relied upon.”
Meanwhile, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) expressed concerns that AstraZeneca presented “outdated” data from a trial of the vaccine’s effectiveness.
India detects double mutant coronavirus variant
As India struggles to contain a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the country’s health officials report the discovery of a new mutant strain of the coronavirus.
According to a press release from the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there’s been an increase in virus samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations.
“Such mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity. These mutations have been found in about 15-20% of samples and do not match any previously catalogued VOCs (variants of concern),” the ministry said in the press statement.
However, according to the ministry, the number of cases linked to this double mutation isn’t high enough to explain the current nationwide spike in infections.
In what could be a game-changing development in the fight against COVID-19, drugmaker Pfizer has announced early stage clinical trials of an experimental oral antiviral drug to treat COVID-19.
This new treatment is a type of protease inhibitor — a technology also used to treat HIV and hepatitis C. It works by binding to a viral enzyme to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from replicating in cells.
“Tackling the COVID-19 pandemic requires both prevention via vaccine and targeted treatment for those who contract the virus,” Dr. Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer chief scientific officer, said in a statement. “Given the way that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating and the continued global impact of COVID-19, it appears likely that it will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic.”
According to Dolsten, this oral therapy could be given to patients at the first sign of infection, without requiring hospitalization or critical care.
Pfizer is also working on an intravenous antiviral therapy for COVID-19, which is currently being tested in a clinical trial involving hospitalized patients.
Right now, the only FDA-approved antiviral treatment for COVID-19 available is remdesivir, produced by drugmaker Gilead.
Flu shot associated with less severe COVID-19, study finds
Researchers at Michigan Medicine say they’ve found an association between receiving the flu shot and fewer, less severe COVID-19 cases, reported Fox News.
According to a University of Michigan press release, the study reviewed medical charts for more than 27,000 patients and also found that no one included in the data tested positive for both viruses at the same time.
These findings mean senior author Dr. Marion Hofmann Bowman, is continuing to recommend that her patients receive the flu shot, even as flu season may be winding down.
“It’s particularly relevant for vaccine hesitance, and maybe taking the flu shot this year can ease some angst about the new COVID-19 vaccine,” said Bowman in a statement. “Instead of a concerning connection between COVID-19 and the flu shot, our publication provides more confidence that getting your flu shot is associated with staying out of the hospital for COVID-19.”
Germany faces third wave of COVID-19 due to variants
Germans are facing a new surge in COVID-19 cases, and government leaders say that new variants may be to blame.
Cases are rising as the coronavirus B.1.1.7 variant is spreading through the country, according to the Guardian.
Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the government would impose a strict 5-day lockdown in Germany around Easter, according to CNBC.
She later reversed that decision after many pointed out that a strict lockdown would lead people to crowd together in grocery stores and other areas in an effort to get supplies before the lockdown started.
At least three people in Hawaii who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 later contracted an infection with the new coronavirus.
They did not become severely ill, and there is no known evidence of transmission to other people, reported KITV4. While the vaccines are partly effective against symptomatic cases in trials they have been fully protective against severe COVID-19 that resulted in hospitalization or death.
The Department of Health calls these “breakthrough cases,” according to KITV4.
Doctors who spoke with KITV4 said they’re not surprised and people should not be alarmed.
According to the
Doctors say the vaccine doesn’t prevent infection, but it does lower the risk of hospitalization and severe symptoms.
According to KITV4, one breakthrough case involved a healthcare worker who visited multiple U.S. cities and then tested positive for the virus after returning to Oahu.
Dr. Melinda Ashton, chief quality officer with Hawaii Pacific Health, told KITV4 that this is an example of why traveling may increase infection risk.
“Absolutely you need to be careful during those times when you’re in the airport, on the airplane, with other people in larger groups,” Ashton said.
Dr. Julius Pham, chair of the COVID-19 committee at Queen’s Medical Center, told KITV4 that he believes falling COVID-19 hospitalization numbers are a clear sign that vaccines protect against hospitalization.
“We haven’t seen those type of numbers since early in the pandemic,” Pham said. “We’re still having about 50 to 60 cases per day in the state but our hospitalization numbers are down more than the rate of infection in the state,” Pham said.
Ohio, West Virginia will permit people 16 years and older to be vaccinated
COVID-19 vaccine providers who have trouble filling appointments this week can open time slots to Ohioans ages 16 and older, Gov. Mike DeWine said March 22, reported the Dayton Daily News.
“While there are many places where there is a great demand for the vaccine, we do have some providers who are having a hard time filling appointments,” DeWine said. “If a local health department or hospital is not filling all their slots this week, they may book with anyone 16 and older.”
The news comes as West Virginia opened vaccinations to everyone over age 16. Gov. Jim Justice announced March 22 that the change in vaccination priority would be made immediately.
Ohio is scheduled to open vaccinations to all residents ages 16 and older on March 29, but those providers who are not filling appointments can open registration immediately to younger Ohioans.
AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine provided strong protection against sickness and eliminated COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths across all age groups, according to a late-stage study in the United States, the company announced today, reported the Associated Press (AP).
The vaccine appeared to be 79 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19. No cases of hospitalization or death were reported among people who were given the vaccine.
According to the AP, AstraZeneca said its experts did not identify any safety concerns related to the vaccine. They found no increased risk of rare blood clots like those identified in Europe.
The study included more than 30,000 volunteers. Two-thirds received the AstraZeneca vaccine while the rest received a placebo.
“These results are great news as they show the remarkable efficacy of the vaccine in a new population and are consistent with the results from Oxford-led trials,” Andrew Pollard, PhD, professor of pediatric infection and immunity, and lead investigator of the Oxford University trial of the vaccine, said in a statement.
“We can expect strong impact against COVID-19 across all ages and for people of all different backgrounds from widespread us of the vaccine,” he said.
According to the Oxford University press release, AstraZeneca will submit this data for scientific peer review and to regulators at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use approval.
Another COVID-19 surge is unlikely, but pandemic isn’t going away, expert says
Mass vaccinations and naturally acquired immunity from people who have already had a coronavirus infection will likely prevent a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases in the United States, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, reported CNN.
“We’re talking about some form of protective immunity in about 55 percent of the population,” Gottlieb said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” reported CNN. “There’s enough of a backstop here that I don’t think you’re going to see a fourth surge.”
In the United States, more than 82 million people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with that number rising every day.
And nearly 30 million people have had COVID-19 and recovered, with tens of millions more having contracted the coronavirus without a confirmed test, giving them some level of natural immunity.
Still, Gottlieb cautioned the United States will continue to see COVID-19 cases and deaths, particularly as a virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom spreads.
President Joe Biden announced that 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States in his first 58 days in office.
During the transition period Biden had pledged that 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses would be given in his first 100 days.
He later amended the goal to 150 million doses within the first 100 days.
Children should be vaccinated against COVID-19, says Fauci
Herd immunity is the point when enough people are protected against a virus to suppress transmission.
“I think we should be careful about wedding ourselves to this concept of herd immunity because we really do not know precisely, for this particular virus, what that is,” Fauci told a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, reported CNN.
Fauci also said he’s been estimating that anywhere between 70 and 85 percent of the population would need to be vaccinated or otherwise immune to the virus to get to the point of herd immunity.
“We don’t really know what that magical point of herd immunity is, but we do know that if we get the overwhelming population vaccinated, we’re going to be in good shape. We ultimately would like to get and have to get children into that mix,” Fauci said during the Senate hearing.
He added that when high school students are vaccinated, the United States might reach herd immunity.
First U.S. baby born with coronavirus antibodies
When 36 weeks pregnant, a South Florida healthcare worker was given her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
She gave birth 3 weeks later to a healthy baby girl who already had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, reported CBS News.
Dr. Paul Gilbert and Dr. Chad Rudnick of Florida Atlantic University Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine presented their findings in a preprint study ahead of peer review.
The doctors found that these antibodies were present at the time of delivery, after analyzing blood from the baby’s umbilical cord taken right after birth, and before placenta delivery.
They believe this newborn is the first known case of a child born with coronavirus antibodies in the United States, and that this may offer the infant some protection against the virus.
Most people who have had an infection with the new coronavirus are protected against reinfection for at least 6 months, but that immunity can diminish significantly with age, finds a
The study by Danish researchers highlights how important it is to vaccinate older populations, and people who have had a prior infection, during the pandemic, according to the study authors.
Researchers also discovered that natural infection could reduce the chances of reinfection by roughly 80 percent, but that’s lowered to only 47 percent for people over 65.
“The quality, quantity, and durability of protective immunity elicited by natural infection with SARS-CoV-2 are poor relative to the much higher levels of virus-neutralizing antibodies and T cells induced by the vaccines currently being administered globally,”
New COVID-19 surge could be on its way, expert says
We may be on the cusp of another surge of COVID-19 cases, according to one expert.
Health officials have repeatedly warned about this surge as states’ leaders have eased restrictions, with several lifting mask mandates, reported CNN.
“I think we are going to see a surge in the number of infections,” emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen told CNN.
“I think what helps this time though is that the most vulnerable, particularly nursing home residents, people who are older, are now vaccinated. And so we may prevent a spike in hospitalizations and deaths,” she said.
According to CNN, the first warning sign came when, after weeks of declines, case numbers appeared to level off, with the United States still averaging tens of thousands of new cases daily.
This kind of plateau has previously predicted surges, say some experts, according to CNN.
Although February is typically when flu season peaks in the United States, with doctors’ offices and hospitals packed with patients, that hasn’t happened this year, reported the Associated Press (AP).
The flu has “virtually disappeared,” with reports coming in at significantly lower levels than seen in decades, according to the AP.
Nationally, “this is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said
However, experts told the AP that measures to fend off the coronavirus, such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and virtual schooling, were big factors in preventing a potential ‘twindemic’ of flu and COVID-19.
According to CDC
The story has been different with COVID-19, reported the AP. The disease has killed more than a half-million people in the United States so far. Cases and deaths reached new heights in December and January before beginning a recent decline.
Moderna vaccine may be approved for children ages 12-18 by fall
There is no evidence that it’s unsafe for children to receive Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, the company’s president said Wednesday, reported NBC News.
In an exclusive interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “Today” show, Dr. Stephen Hoge said his company has begun testing its vaccine on children ages 6 months to 12 years. The new trial will likely take most of this year and involve almost 7,000 U.S. and Canadian children.
“We certainly have not seen anything concerning in any of our prior work that would suggest we can’t use the vaccine in children,” he said.
According to NBC, Moderna is also testing its vaccine in adolescents 12 to 18 years old in a separate study that began in December. Hoge hopes data from that trial will arrive by summer so children in that age group can be vaccinated going into the new school year.
Moderna is beginning vaccine trials that include children
Moderna pharmaceutical company has begun vaccine trials on children between the ages of 6 months to 12 years. The trial is based in the United States and Canada and will evaluate how well the COVID-19 vaccines work in children.
Currently, the COVID-19 vaccines are approved only for people over age 16.
Worldwide distribution of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine remains unaffected by the jab’s suspension in much of Europe following reports of blood clots in some people shortly after vaccination, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, reported The Washington Post.
The number of blood clots reported was not higher than what would be expected in a given population.
Australia announced March 16 that it would continue to use the vaccine.
“We are aware of some further European countries pausing the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to reports of blood clots in people who have been vaccinated,” Australian Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Kelly said in a statement.
“While the European Medicines Agency is investigating these events, it has reinforced its view that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is successful in protecting against COVID-19 and should continue to be used in the rollout,” he added.
According to the Post, WHO continues to caution against suspending access to vaccines and has also noted that no evidence links these events to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.
Pregnancy, birth, and life with a newborn baby in the middle of the pandemic have brought on high anxiety, ever-shifting hospital protocols, and intense isolation for millions of women who have done it worldwide, reported the Associated Press (AP).
According to the AP, the fear, anxiety, and chaos were especially severe in New York City in the beginning months of the pandemic, in what was one of the nation’s most devastating infection hot spots.
AP spoke with Nneoma Maduike, who was masked when she gave birth on August 1 to her second child, after a pregnancy filled with unknowns.
“The anxiety was absolutely awful. Information was evolving as quickly as anything you can imagine,” Maduike told the AP. “I didn’t know what guidance to follow. My husband’s a doctor, and he was still going in every single day, and that brought on even more anxiety.”
The Netherlands and Ireland have joined several other countries in temporarily suspending use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of abnormal blood clotting in several people, reported NPR.
The Dutch government said on March 14 that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine would not be used in the country until at least March 28, and officials in Ireland said earlier that day that they had temporarily suspended the shot as a precautionary measure, reported NPR.
However, the WHO has said there is no evidence the vaccine caused blood clots to form.
The AstraZeneca vaccine candidate is not authorized in the United States but is widely used in Europe. About 117,000 doses have been administered in Ireland, most doses given to frontline healthcare workers, reported NPR.
Some with ‘long COVID’ say vaccines help their symptoms
Some former patients still experiencing long-term health issues due to COVID-19 have reported that their symptoms were temporarily eased after receiving the coronavirus vaccine, according to a UK report, reported the New York Post.
Anecdotal reports suggest that a significant number of patients with long-haul COVID-19 may find symptoms, which include fatigue, headaches, and brain fog, eased after vaccination. However, the effects may be temporary, reported the Telegraph.
“We are getting people reporting improvements, and it’s quite widespread, about half of the people we are asking,” said Dr. David Strain, a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter, reported the Post.
However, many patients said the improvements were temporary – lasting only for about three weeks, while others reported feeling worse for a short time, too.
Professor Eleanor Riley, PhD, an immunologist at the University of Edinburgh, said the anecdotal reports were “interesting” but cautioned against taking them as fact before research is conducted on the subject, reported the Telegraph.
“I think it’s something to be followed up by scientific research,” said Riley. “I think we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. It’s possible it may turn out to be random.”
President Biden marked 1 year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic with his first prime-time address.
He mixed hard numbers on vaccine distribution with appeals of unity and his belief in the power of the United States to overcome any challenge.
The most important takeaways from the president’s speech include the following:
- Biden said he will use federal powers to ensure all U.S. adults are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1. This does not mean they will be able to get the vaccine by then, just that they will be eligible for an appointment.
- Biden tried to make people understand that we are at war with COVID-19. He said the country was on “war footing.”
- Biden said that by the Fourth of July, “there’s a good chance… you’ll be able to get together and have a cookout or a BBQ in your backyard.”
The president also cautioned that the situation is fluid. New virus variants present a significant risk.
“But a goal, a lot can happen. Conditions can change. The scientists have made clear that things may get worse again as new variants of the virus spread,” he said.
U.S. to partner with India, Australia, and Japan to increase vaccine supply
To help stop the pandemic, the Biden administration has announced that it will partner with other countries to increase vaccine supply globally, according to The New York Times.
The United States will partner with India, Australia, and Japan in an effort to provide vaccine doses to other developing countries. The Biden administration has been under pressure to help other countries get COVID-19 vaccines.
Russia and China have already started to ship out or donate their COVID-19 vaccines to other developing countries.
Don’t be fooled by low numbers, warns health expert
COVID-19 numbers may be on the decline in the United States, but with tens of thousands of deaths expected over the coming months, experts are warning people not to drop their guard yet, reported CNN.
“I think we are going to get fooled,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, CNN reported.
“I think what’s going to happen is you’re going to see that as we enter the summer months, numbers are going to go down, people will think great, we’re good,” he said.
“And then,” Offit added, “if we don’t get to what I think is going to be at least 80 percent population immunity from natural infection or immunization, when the winter comes, you’re going to see a surge again.”
For the third time this year, President Joe Biden will mark a landmark moment in the COVID-19 pandemic.
He will deliver his first prime-time address Thursday night to recognize 1 year since pandemic-related shutdowns swept across the United States, and to ask Americans for help with “what comes next,” according to ABC News.
“I’m gonna launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people,” Biden said on Wednesday, March 10, previewing his remarks.
“There is light at the end of this dark tunnel of the past year,” he continued. “But we cannot let our guard down now or assume the victory is inevitable. Together, we’re gonna get through this pandemic and usher in a healthier and more hopeful future.”
The United States is recording at least 56,200 new COVID-19 cases and at least 1,430 virus-related deaths each day, based on a 7-day average calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data, reported CNBC.
E.U. clears one-shot vaccine for authorization as global deaths top 2.5 million
The European Union’s drug regulator has recommended approval of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, potentially adding another weapon in the fight against this disease, reported CNBC.
The vaccine will be sent to the EU Commission for approval later today.
According to CNBC, if approved by the EU and once supplies are delivered, the vaccine could significantly help Europe’s struggling immunization program. The EU has already approved two-dose vaccines developed by Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca.
According to current data from Johns Hopkins University, these are the numbers for the United States and worldwide:
- over 29 million U.S. cases
- roughly 530,000 U.S. deaths
- more than 118 million cases globally
- about 2.6 million total deaths
The COVID-19 mask mandate in Texas officially expired today, with Gov. Greg Abbott presiding over the near total reopening of his state’s economy, reported The Washington Post.
However, the nation’s top public health experts warn against loosening restrictions like mask mandates as new virus variants spread across the country, and with spring break on the horizon.
“With the medical advancements of vaccines and antibody therapeutic drugs, Texas now has the tools to protect Texans from the virus,” Abbott said in a statement.
“We must now do more to restore livelihoods and normalcy for Texans by opening Texas 100 percent. Make no mistake, COVID-19 has not disappeared, but it is clear from the recoveries, vaccinations, reduced hospitalizations, and safe practices that Texans are using that state mandates are no longer needed,” he said.
Abbott emphasized that this does not mean abandoning practices used to reduce disease transmission during the past year.
Rather, it’s a reminder that we all play a role in our own personal safety and the safety of others, he said.
“With this executive order, we are ensuring that all businesses and families in Texas have the freedom to determine their own destiny,” Abbott said.
COVID-19 drug combo cuts risk of hospitalization, death by 87%, study finds
A combination of two Eli Lilly antibody drugs cuts the risk of COVID-19-related hospitalization and death by 87 percent, the drugmaker announced today in a press release.
This finding reinforces dosing recommendations already authorized by the
“These positive results reinforce our previous findings and support the authorized dose of bamlanivimab 700 mg with etesevimab 1400 mg,” Dr. Daniel Skovronsky, Eli Lilly chief scientific officer and president of Lilly Research Laboratories, said in the company’s statement.
According to Eli Lilly, the findings draw from a BLAZE-1 phase 3 cohort study involving 769 participants with mild to moderate COVID-19. Participants were 12 years and older, and at high risk of developing severe COVID-19.
There were 15 incidents, or “events,” including hospitalization or death, in the placebo group. Four incidents occurred in the group taking 700 milligrams (mg) of bamlanivimab and 1,400 mg of etesevimab.
This represents an 87 percent reduction in risk, Eli Lilly explained in its statement.
“The consistent results observed in multiple cohorts of this trial over several months, even as new strains of COVID-19 have emerged, indicate bamlanivimab with etesevimab maintains its effects against a range of variants, particularly those circulating in the U.S.,” according to the company.
Biden administration announces plan to buy another 100 million J&J vaccine doses
President Joe Biden has announced that his administration will buy another 100 million Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines doses, according to NBC News.
These additional doses will ensure that there are more than enough vaccine doses for every adult in the United States.
Findings from a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine suggests the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is highly effective against a virus variant first detected in Brazil, raising hopes that continuing vaccination efforts will help curb COVID-19.
The variant, known as P.1, has rapidly spread across Brazil since it was first detected there in early January, and it may be capable of reinfecting people who have already recovered from COVID-19, reported The Washington Post.
According to the
Public health experts warn that these more transmissible variants could drive another surge in COVID-19 cases, especially as state officials lift restrictions across the United States.
U.S. may achieve vaccine surplus within 2 months
Two months from now, the United States may have enough COVID-19 vaccine doses to fill a 55,000-gallon swimming pool.
Approximately 500 million 0.5- or 0.3-milliliter doses are expected to be shipped, reported USA Today. This means the nation could soon shift from vaccine dose scarcity to abundance.
This surplus means greater urgency to convince people to be vaccinated, according to experts. Otherwise, the abundance might become a stagnating surplus that could undermine the nation’s ability to get past the pandemic.
“It’s not a switch that flips, but it’s a sliding scale that happens differently community by community,” Andy Slavitt, senior adviser for the White House COVID-19 Response Team, told USA Today.
“This is not something that will start at some magical day in the future. It has begun today, and it’s something that we have to make sure we’re addressing,” he said.
Crucial that people maintain COVID-19 precautions, expert says
With a safer future just a few months away, it’s crucial that people in the United States keep practicing COVID-19 safety precautions and following health officials’ advice, Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC, told CNN.
“We’re not done yet, COVID isn’t done with us. The variants are still a risk,” he said. “You don’t declare victory in the third quarter.”
Dr. Chris Murray, the director of University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), told CNN that his team’s projections show “things will slowly but steadily get better. But in our worst scenario, where people stop wearing masks faster, start having gatherings faster, then you can see a surge in April.”
Oregon researchers find new SARS-CoV-2 variant with mutations from other variants
Oregon researchers have reported finding a new SARS-CoV-2 variant that has mutations that appear to be from different strains of the virus.
A person with COVID-19 was found to have a variant of SARS-CoV-2 with mutations that have appeared both in the variants that were first detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa, according to U.S. News and World Reports.
This new variant is concerning officials. They worry it could end up being more infectious than other strains.
Officials say more research needs to be done to understand the risk of new SARS-CoV-2 variants.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new guidelines for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The CDC says after full vaccination, people can meet with other fully vaccinated people indoors and without physical distancing measures or face masks.
The CDC also says that fully vaccinated people can meet with members of one other household even if that household isn’t vaccinated, as long as they’re not at high risk of severe COVID-19.
Other key takeaways from the CDC can be found here.
Experts in race against virus variants
Throughout most of last year, a majority of experts weren’t particularly worried about SARS-CoV-2’s ability to evolve, reported The Washington Post.
While the new coronavirus was changing, the process hadn’t amounted to anything especially concerning.
But in late fall, distinctive mutations of the new coronavirus started a surge of infections in Brazil, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
Now every time public health experts talk about the trajectory of the pandemic, they focus on these virus variants, a factor that could reverse progress made against COVID-19.
According to The Washington Post, mass vaccination campaigns that might have brought relief have become an urgent race against the changing virus.
Achieving herd immunity — or when the virus isn’t capable of sparking new outbreaks — is becoming more difficult. Vaccines may simply chase a continually changing virus.
“We do have to come to terms with the fact that I’m pretty confident that SARS-CoV-2 is going to be more like influenza, which is with us all the time because the virus is changing, and we have to worry about keeping our vaccines updated,” evolutionary biologist Jesse Bloom, PhD, told The Washington Post.
“On the other hand, I think that a year from now, it’s going to be much less of a problem,” he said.
U.K. variant will cause case surge, expert says
After months of devastation, the pandemic seemed to be improving, with officials reporting several weeks of significant declines in confirmed COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, reported CNN.
Now those declines have stalled, with infection numbers still at high levels and the United States averaging about 60,000 new cases a day this past week.
According to CNN, experts predict the nation may soon see another COVID-19 surge fueled by the B.1.1.7 variant, projected to arrive in the next 6 to 14 weeks.
“Four weeks ago, the B.1.1.7 variant made up about 1 to 4 percent of the virus that we were seeing in communities across the country. Today it’s up to 30 to 40 percent,” Michael Osterholm, PhD, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” on March 7.
Now health experts warn that pandemic fatigue in the United States might jeopardize hard-won progress against COVID-19.
Earlier this week, the governors of Texas and Mississippi announced they were lifting mask mandates and allowing businesses to operate at full capacity immediately or within days.
These announcements come as health experts warn the spread of more-transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants could produce a new surge in cases.
CNN reports that a person with the B.1.1.7 variant (first identified in the United Kingdom) can transmit the virus to 43 to 90 percent more people than other versions of the virus.
That’s according to evidence
“I understand the need to want to get back to normality, but you’re only going to set yourself back if you just completely push aside the public health guidelines, particularly when we’re dealing with anywhere from 55 (thousand) to 70,000 infections per day in the United States,”
B.1.526 variant spreading through New York City
A new SARS-CoV-2 variant known as B.1.526 is spreading across New York City after being discovered in February in the Washington Heights area in upper Manhattan, reported Yahoo News.
“I am concerned about its immune escape,” Dr. Eric Topol, a professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research in San Diego, told Yahoo News.
He noted the new variant’s increased ability to evade the body’s immune protections, including a vaccine.
According to Yahoo News, vaccines remain broadly effective against SARS-CoV-2, including B.1.526, but the emergence of new virus variants will require constant vigilance from virologists.
The risk of death from COVID-19 is roughly 10 times higher in countries where most of the population is overweight, according to a report released by the World Obesity Forum.
Researchers analyzed mortality data from Johns Hopkins University and the World Health Organization (WHO).
They reported that of the 2.5 million COVID-19 deaths reported by the end of February, 2.2 million were in countries where more than half the population is overweight.
“Look at countries like Japan and South Korea where they have very low levels of COVID-19 deaths as well as very low levels of adult obesity,” he said.
5 states roll back mask mandates, more may follow
So far, five states have announced that they’re rolling back mask mandates.
The move has caused some experts to wonder whether other states will join them, which would alter how the United States will deal with the pandemic at a crucial moment in the fight against the disease, reported USA Today.
Dr. Eric Rubin, an infectious disease specialist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Massachusetts, told the newspaper that “what they do in Texas matters to everybody else in the country.”
He noted the state’s status as the second most populated in the country and as second highest with COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began.
According to USA Today, mixed messaging is confusing populations in different regions.
Some local mayors and businesses continue to insist on mask use and other disease prevention measures while governors are saying those measures are no longer required.
Swedish officials warn that the country may need to implement its first lockdown of the pandemic as the number of COVID-19 cases surged 100 percent in Stockholm over the last 3 weeks, reported the New York Post.
The Swedish capital recorded 6,336 new cases of COVID-19 last week, compared with only 3,225 reported the first week of February, according to data compiled by the region.
According to Bloomberg, the surge in COVID-19 cases follows a warning from the government by Prime Minister Stefan Lofven that the Scandinavian nation might need to implement its first lockdown since the pandemic was declared last year.
“We have a third wave of transmissions — it’s here now,” Johan Bratt, the acting health and medical care director for the Stockholm region, said at a press briefing on March 3, Bloomberg reported.
Over 200,000 people sign up for health insurance after ACA marketplaces reopen
In just 2 weeks, more than 200,000 people have signed up for healthcare coverage on the reopened healthcare marketplaces, according to the Associated Press.
President Joe Biden directed that the marketplaces be reopened last month in order to help people get healthcare coverage during the pandemic.
Many people have been at risk of losing their health insurance due to job loss stemming from the pandemic.
Texas, other states ease COVID-19 measures amid warnings
On March 2, Texas became the biggest state to remove masking mandates and joined a rapidly growing movement by governors and other leaders across the nation to loosen COVID-19 restrictions.
This happened despite the pleas from health officials not to let their guard down — yet, reported the Associated Press.
Texas will also remove limits on the number of diners who can be served indoors, said Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, making the announcement at a restaurant in Lubbock, reported US News.
“Removing statewide mandates does not end personal responsibility,” said Abbott, speaking from a crowded dining room where many of those surrounding him were not wearing masks. “It’s just that now state mandates are no longer needed.”
President Biden plans to announce today that pharmaceutical company Merck will help produce Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, as his administration pushes to get the shot distributed to the public, reported The Wall Street Journal.
President Biden is expected to make this announcement today while he gives an update on the pandemic.
According to The Wall Street Journal, the assistance from Merck, a competitor of Johnson & Johnson, will help speed production following the one-shot vaccine’s authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Feb. 27.
Facing questions about the company’s slipping delivery schedule, Johnson & Johnson Vice President Richard Nettles told lawmakers on Capitol Hill last week that the drugmaker had faced “significant challenges” because of the vaccine candidate’s “highly complex” manufacturing process, reported the Associated Press (AP).
The AP also reported that the Biden administration now expects to have enough supply of the three approved vaccines to inoculate all eligible U.S. adults by June, although actually delivering the injections could take longer.
Experts worry as states reopen, Texas stops mask mandate
CNN reported that in California, Los Angeles County health officials announced the daily test positivity rate is the lowest it’s ever been.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week that COVID-19 hospitalizations had dropped to the lowest levels since Dec. 12.
In Texas, Governor Greg Abbott said the state’s mask mandate would end on Tuesday and that businesses could fully reopen.
But experty s told CNN this doesn’t mean we’re in the clear.
“We should not ease up, allow indoor dining, big groups… getting rid of mask mandates. We have to hold on for another two or three months in this condition,” Dr. Zeke Emanuel, who was a health adviser for the Obama White House and a member of the Biden Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, told CNN. “We’re still having on average 2,000 deaths a day. We cannot become inured to that.”
Emmanuel added that if people relax too early, COVID-19 numbers are “going to reverse and go up” in the United States.
WHO says hydroxychloroquine should not be used as COVID-19 treatment
The drug was originally developed to treat malaria. It had been touted by former President Donald Trump as a way to treat COVID-19 last year, but subsequent tests found the drug to be ineffective as a treatment for COVID-19.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this weekend added a third vaccine to the nation’s arsenal against COVID-19 — the Johnson & Johnson single-dose candidate.
The FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) on Feb. 27 for the vaccine, which is being shipped out on March 1 and administered this week.
“The emergency use authorization of a third vaccine against COVID-19 in the United States today, just over a year since the virus was identified, demonstrates extraordinary scientific commitment and progress,” the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) said in an emailed statement.
“The availability of another safe and effective vaccine that requires only one dose and that can be stored with only basic refrigeration opens new opportunities for delivery and expanded access for millions of people,” the IDSA added.
After an independent advisory panel voted to recommend that the FDA issue an EUA for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the FDA director signed off on that recommendation almost immediately, clearing the final hurdle before the drug can be distributed.
“There’s a kind of new urgency to it,” Dr. Eric Rubin, a member of the FDA vaccine advisory committee and a professor at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told CNN on Sunday. “Because there are new viral variants coming out right now, with some chance that some of them could eventually become somewhat resistant to the protection provided by vaccines, it’s really important to get it out there fast.”
Finland declares a state of emergency
With COVID-19 cases rising, the government of Finland has declared a state of emergency, according to Yahoo News.
Finland has seen a sharp rise in cases due in part to new coronavirus variants that spread so rapidly. Since the beginning of the outbreak, there have been more than 58,000 infections in the country and 742 recorded deaths.
Downtrend in COVID infections stalls
The steady decline in new COVID-19 cases across the nation appears to have stalled, according to public health officials. They warn that this might be because new, more transmissible COVID-19 variants are taking hold, reported The Washington Post.
According to the Post, the number of new infections remains critically high, with more than 125,000 cases reported over the weekend, even as COVID-related hospitalizations continue to go down.
However, this past weekend also saw promising developments regarding the pandemic.
USA Today reported Feb. 27 that the United States administered the most vaccines in a day on Feb. 26, with nearly 2.4 million shots given, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
USA Today also reported that the House approved President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package early Feb. 27. This is a key step that would provide millions of Americans $1,400 stimulus payments, ramp up vaccine distribution, and extend unemployment aid through the summer.
An advisory group recommended Friday, Feb. 26, that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issue emergency authorization of Johnson & Johnson’s coronavirus vaccine for people 18 and older.
COVID-19 vaccines might end pandemic, expert says
The U.S. COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 28.4 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than a half-million deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 94 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the United States, with only about 70 million administered so far.
While the numbers may seem daunting, The Harvard Gazette reported that current vaccines seem effective enough to end the pandemic. This is despite global concerns about new COVID-19 variants.
Galit Alter, PhD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a group leader at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT, and Harvard, told The Gazette that while the U.K. variant seems able to evade some vaccine protection, and the South African variant appears able to skirt even more, none have completely escaped the body’s post-vaccination immune responses.
“What we’re seeing is that these variants don’t seem to affect T-cell immunity all that much, and they [the T-cells] seem to be as effective in recognizing these variants as they do the original virus,” Alter told The Gazette. “What that means is that we actually have very important backup mechanisms built into our vaccines that will continue to provide protection against these newly emerging variants.”
COVID cases may be falling – but don’t underestimate virus, experts say
Across the United States, and the world, COVID-19 seems to be losing its grip — cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rapidly and steeply plunging, reported the New York Times.
However, researchers told the Times that they are worried Americans, so close to the end of the pandemic, might begin underestimating the virus.
According to a New York Times database, hospitalizations are down 30 percent, and deaths have fallen by 22 percent, but these numbers are still high.
“Very, very high case numbers are not a good thing, even if the trend is downward,” Marc Lipsitch, D.Phil., an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston, told The Times. “Taking the first hint of a downward trend as a reason to reopen is how you get to even higher numbers.”
Critically, the new COVID-19 variants might mean, “We’re essentially facing a pandemic within a pandemic,” Adam Kucharski, PhD, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine told The Times.
According to the
Influenza cases have nearly disappeared from the United States, with reports coming in at far lower levels than has been seen in decades.
PBS News Hour reported that experts said measures to prevent virus spread, such as mask-wearing, physical or social distancing, and virtual schooling, were strong factors preventing a “
Dr. Nathan Mick, head of the emergency department at Maine Medical Center in Portland, the state’s largest hospital, told the Associated Press (AP), “I have seen zero documented flu cases this winter.”
Dr. Arnold Monto, a flu expert at the University of Michigan, told the AP that another possible explanation is that the coronavirus has “muscled aside” flu and other bugs that are more common in the fall and winter. He added that although scientists don’t fully understand this mechanism, it would be consistent with patterns seen when certain flu strains predominate over others.
Pfizer studying third booster shot against COVID-19
Even with the Pfizer vaccine’s 95 percent effectiveness at preventing coronavirus infection after two doses, the drugmaker is looking at the effectiveness of a third dose, reported NBC News.
Pfizer is trying to understand the effect of a booster shot on immunity against COVID-19 caused by circulating and any newly emerging COVID-19 variants.
“The study will draw upon participants from the Phase 1 study in the United States who will be offered the opportunity to receive a 30 µg booster of the current vaccine 6 to 12 months after receiving their initial two-dose regimen,” Pfizer said in a statement. “The study is part of the Companies’ clinical development strategy to determine the effectiveness of a third dose against evolving variants.”
FDA says that Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can be stored at regular freezer temperatures
The Food and Drug Administration
Previously the vaccine has only been allowed to be transferred and stored at temperatures between -80ºC to -60ºC (-112ºF to -76ºF). This meant using specialized freezers that are not widely available.
Being able to use conventional freezers may make it far easier to transport and store the vaccine.
A recently released Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
Johnson & Johnson says the company has 4 million doses of its COVID-19 vaccine ready to ship as soon as it receives an emergency use authorization (EUA), which could happen this week, reported CNN.
The FDA’s Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee will
According to CNN, upon authorization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) makes recommendations to the CDC on how the vaccine should be used, including age groups and what type of schedule.
“We’re hoping that ACIP will provide some guidance on the most effective use of the J&J one dose vaccine,” Claire Hannan, executive director of the Association of Immunization Managers, wrote in an email to CNN on Feb. 23.
COVID-19 variants will likely cause new surge in cases
COVID-19 infections across the U.S. are continuing to fall, with more Americans being vaccinated, but coronavirus variants may soon cause complications.
Experts think that several experts have predicted the highly contagious B.1.1.7 variant would likely fuel another surge of cases in the coming weeks, according to CNN.
The U.K. variant is roughly 50 percent more infectious than versions of the coronavirus that dominated for most of the pandemic, reported the San Francisco Chronicle.
This anticipated surge is why many experts highlight the need to maintain safety measures, such as mask use, social distancing, and avoiding crowded areas.
Biden administration plans to send 25 million masks to health centers and food banks
The Biden administration plans to send out 25 million masks this week to promote wearing a mask to stop the spread of COVID-19.
The masks will be sent to community health centers and food pantries to provide low-income areas with supplies. The reusable masks will be made of cloth and fitted for both adults and children, according to USA Today.
Even after you get vaccinated against COVID-19, you’ll still need to wear a mask and maintain physical distancing, USA Today reported.
However, “people are interested in taking the vaccine,” White House senior adviser on the COVID-19 response, Andy Slavitt, said at a news conference Monday, Feb. 22, “[because] they don’t want to be sick and they don’t want to die.”
Two shots of either the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can reduce someone’s risk of developing symptomatic COVID-19 by about 95 percent, according to the findings of large research trials.
“There are things, even if you’re vaccinated, that you’re not going to be able to do in society, for example, indoor dining, theaters, places where people congregate,” Fauci said.
Walensky added that vaccination will eliminate the need to quarantine after exposure.
She said the CDC has concluded that, “if you’ve been exposed and you’ve been fully vaccinated — two doses — there is no longer the need to quarantine after you’ve been exposed.”
Biden on track for 100 million doses in first 100 days
President Joe Biden’s administration is on track to deliver over 100 million doses within his first 100 days in office.
Biden made the promise during his transition, and later said they would aim for 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses.
Currently 49.5 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been released in Biden’s first 34 days in office.
Nearly 100 New Yorkers need to be revaccinated due to error
Dozens of people in New York were asked to get revaccinated for COVID-19 after their past dose was stored at an improper temperature, the New York Post reported.
This error affected 81 of 1,379 doses distributed at the Jones Beach, New York, vaccination site on Long Island last Monday, Feb. 15, a state department of health spokesperson told NBC New York.
New York state officials told the network that some vials warmed up too much in transit to the vaccination site, and that the affected people have been assured that “there will be no extra vaccine-related risks from revaccination.”
The nation has reached a milestone of 500,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
At 499,000, the present death toll is more than six average NFL stadiums worth of victims, according to CNN.
“It’s really horrible. It’s something that is historic. It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told CNN. “People decades from now are going to be talking about this as a terribly historic milestone in the history of this country, to have these many people to have died from a respiratory-borne infection.”
Fauci emphasized that this is why health officials keep insisting the public continue with public health measures.
“Because we don’t want this to get much worse than it already is,” concluded Fauci.
COVID-19 variant first detected in South Africa found in New York
The variant, known as B.1.351, was detected in a Nassau County, New York resident, and announced one week after the tri-state area’s first case was discovered in a Connecticut resident hospitalized in New York City, reported NBC News. State and county officials didn’t provide additional details regarding ongoing contact tracing or exposure risk in the Nassau County case.
According to the
The CDC also cautioned that the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine used in the United States “may be less effective” against this COVID-19 variant.
Physicians report first case of COVID-19 from organ transplant
For the first time, a person developed COVID-19 after receiving an organ transplant from a donor who had SARS-CoV-2.
A woman in Michigan developed COVID-19 and later died after undergoing a double lung transplant. Officials said the case appeared to be isolated with no other transplant-related coronavirus transmissions being documented, according to U.S. News and World Reports.
In a new press release, drugmaker Pfizer reported that their COVID-19 vaccine can now be stored at standard freezer temperatures.
The company is submitting data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to show that their vaccine can remain stable when stored at t -25°C to -15°C (-13°F to 5°F).
Previously the vaccine had to be stored at -80ºC and -60ºC (-112ºF to ‑76ºF), which necessitated the use of special freezers. If the FDA approves the new storage it could make it easier to ship and store the vaccine.
“We have been continuously performing stability studies to support the production of the vaccine at commercial scale, with the goal of making the vaccine as accessible as possible for healthcare providers and people across the U.S. and around the world,” said Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer of Pfizer, in the statement. “If approved, this new storage option would offer pharmacies and vaccination centers greater flexibility in how they manage their vaccine supply.”
Additionally, a new
Florida women disguised themselves to get vaccinated
According to Florida health officials, two women disguised themselves as senior citizens in an effort to receive their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine, reported ABC News.
The story says that the women showed up at the Orange County Convention Center wearing bonnets, gloves, and glasses in an effort to appear older, but are in their 30s and 40s, according to the Orange County Sheriff’s Office. This made them ineligible to receive vaccination outside of a healthcare or long-term care facility setting.
“So yesterday, we realized a couple of young ladies came dressed up as grannies to get vaccinated for the second time,” said Dr. Raul Pino, director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County, during a Thursday press briefing. “So I don’t know how they escaped the first time.”
The couple had valid vaccination cards from their first shot, but on their second attempt, there were issues with their identification, explained Pino.
ABC News also reported that deputies gave both women trespass warnings after their dates of birth didn’t match those previously used to register for the vaccines.
“This is the hottest commodity that is out there right now,” said Pino. “We have to be very careful with the funds and the resources that we are provided.”
Oregon infant is youngest to die with COVID-19
On Thursday the Oregon Health Authority (OHA) reported 466 new coronavirus cases and six deaths, including the state’s youngest victim, an infant from Umatilla County who died last month, reported The Oregonian.
“Today’s update on the number of COVID-19 related deaths includes an infant who had tested positive for COVID-19 and died the same day,” the OHA posted to social media. “Every death from COVID-19 is a tragedy, even more so the death of a child.”
According to KOMO News, the child also had significant underlying medical conditions.
Dr. Bukhosi Dube, a senior health adviser for OHA, told KOMO News they cannot release more details about the baby’s death because of HIPAA laws, but he did confirm the infant had underlying conditions.
Dr. Anne Vestergaard, a Portland pediatrician, told KOMO News that underlying conditions put babies at risk for many illnesses, including influenza and
She emphasized that she doesn’t want this news to panic parents.
“If you have a healthy baby, who doesn’t have underlying conditions, the likelihood of this occurring to your baby is very low,” said Vestergaard.
Health officials say life expectancy in the United States dropped by one year during the first half of 2020 as the coronavirus pandemic caused its first wave of deaths, reported the Associated Press (AP).
According to the AP, marginalized groups experienced the biggest impact, with Black people’s life expectancy falling by nearly three years and Hispanics by about two years.
“What is really quite striking in these numbers is that they only reflect the first half of the year … I would expect that these numbers would only get worse,” Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo, a health equity researcher and dean at the University of California, San Francisco told AP.
Pfizer and Moderna vaccines effective against British COVID-19 variant
The two COVID-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and Moderna appear to be highly effective against the more transmissible variant of the virus first detected in Britain, according to newly published studies in the New England Journal of Medicine. The finding is a potential boost to vaccination efforts around the globe, reported The Washington Post.
However, the vaccines also show a decreased ability to protect against the South African strain of the virus — pushing both drugmakers to develop an updated vaccine or booster shot.
According to the Post, the new findings add to concerns about this variant, which has shown significant resistance to the AstraZeneca vaccine in a small-scale trial. Those results caused South Africa’s government to scrap that vaccine in favor of the single-dose candidate produced by Johnson & Johnson.
The United Kingdom will be the first country in the world to conduct a COVID-19 “human challenge” study, following approval by the country’s clinical trials ethics body.
According to a statement from the British government, this first-of-its-kind COVID-19 study will try to discover the smallest amount of virus needed to cause infection.
Once the initial study has taken place, a small number of volunteers exposed to the virus might be given vaccine candidates already proven safe to help identify the most effective vaccines and accelerate their development.
The findings will give doctors greater understanding of COVID-19 and help the pandemic response by providing important information for vaccine and treatment development.
According to CNBC, the human challenge trial will take place in the next few weeks within the Royal Free Hospital’s specialist and secure clinical research facilities in London.