CDC no longer gently recommends COVID precautions most weren’t following anyway

Huge facade for CDC headquarters against a beautiful sky.

Enlarge (credit: Bloomberg | Getty Images)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its pandemic guidance today, offering slightly looser recommendations that likely won’t change much about how Americans handle the pandemic these days.

According to the updated guidance, people who are not up-to-date on their vaccinations—i.e., unvaccinated people or people who have not received the recommended number of boosters—no longer need to quarantine if they know they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. Instead, if a not up-to-date person is exposed, the CDC now recommends they wear a mask for 10 days after the exposure and get tested for COVID-19 on day 5. Currently, roughly 68 percent of the US population is not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccination.

This guidance update essentially ends all COVID-19-related quarantine recommendations since the CDC had previously said that those who are up to date on their vaccines do not need to quarantine but only wear a mask for 10 days and test.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #distancing, #infectious-disease, #isolation, #pandemic, #public-health, #quarantine, #science, #vaccination, #vaccines

Feds may expand 2nd boosters to all adults as anxiety surges over BA.5 wave

Feds may expand 2nd boosters to all adults as anxiety surges over BA.5 wave

Enlarge

The swift rise of omicron subvariant BA.5—with its increased immune-evading abilities and demonstrable growth advantage—has federal officials on edge. In a flurry of activity late Monday and early Tuesday, officials doubled down on pandemic measures, renewed calls for vigilance, and are considering expanding eligibility of second boosters to all adults.

In a press briefing Tuesday morning, White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Ashish Jha outlined a battle plan against BA.5, which, as of today, is estimated to account for 65 percent of cases in the US. Jha highlighted efforts and tools to prevent another towering wave of infection as seen with the original omicron in January. The plan includes a stronger push to get Americans vaccinated and boosted, plus renewed encouragement to test, treat, mask, and improve indoor ventilation.

US COVID-19 cases are currently plateaued at a high level of around 117,000 new cases per day—but that’s likely a significant underestimate given that many Americans are testing at home and not reporting their cases. Hospitalizations and intensive care admissions, meanwhile, are rising, with 17 percent and 21 percent increases over the past two weeks, respectively, according to tracking by The New York Times. Generally, the daily average of hospitalizations has more than doubled since the end of May, with the current average nearing 38,000.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#ba-4, #ba-5, #booster, #cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #fda, #infectious-disease, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #vaccine, #variant

Yet another omicron subvariant is raising concern as BA.5 sweeps the US

MUMBAI, INDIA JUNE 7: A health worker collects swab samples of a citizen for Covid-19 test after cases are on the rise in the city, at TMC's C.R. Wadia Hospital testing centre, in Thane, on June 7, 2022 in Mumbai, India.

Enlarge / MUMBAI, INDIA JUNE 7: A health worker collects swab samples of a citizen for Covid-19 test after cases are on the rise in the city, at TMC’s C.R. Wadia Hospital testing centre, in Thane, on June 7, 2022 in Mumbai, India. (credit: Getty | Hindustan Times)

As the omicron coronavirus subvariant BA.5 blazes through the US—accounting for an estimated 54 percent of cases in the country—experts are eyeing another subvariant that threatens to follow hot on its heels.

The subvariant is referred to as BA.2.75 and was first detected in India in late May. Amid a backdrop of BA.2 and BA.5 circulating in India, the newcomer BA.2.75 began quickly gaining ground in June. This week it reached 23 percent of recent virus samples there. Meanwhile, spread beyond India’s borders. It is now present in about 10 other countries, including the US, according to the World Health Organization.

Experts are concerned about the new subvariant, not just because of its rapid rise. It has several mutations in its spike protein—the critical protein that allows the virus to latch onto human cells and the protein that acts as a prime target for immune responses. In particular, BA.2.75 has key mutations that suggest it could be good at evading antibody responses in people who have been vaccinated and/or previously infected with earlier omicron subvariants.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#ba-2-75, #ba-4, #ba-5, #biology, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #medicine, #omicron, #sars-cov-2, #science, #subvariant

Switch to Moderna booster after Pfizer shots better against omicron in 60+

The Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech) and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

Enlarge / The Comirnaty (Pfizer/BioNTech) and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. (credit: Getty | Marcos del Mazo)

People ages 60 and older who were initially vaccinated with two Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses were better protected from the omicron coronavirus variant after being boosted with a Moderna vaccine rather than another dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

Those results are according to interim data from a small but randomized controlled clinical trial in Singapore and published this week in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The study—involving 98 healthy adults—can’t determine if the Moderna booster is simply superior to a Pfizer-BioNTech booster for older adults or if a mix-and-match booster strategy is inherently better. It also focused solely on antibody levels, which may or may not translate to significant differences in infection rates and other clinical differences. It also only followed people for 28 days after a booster, so it’s unclear if the Moderna booster’s edge will hold up over time.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#age-60-and-up, #booster, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #moderna, #older-adults, #omicron, #pfizer, #pfizer-biontech, #sars-cov-2, #science, #vaccine, #variant

Combo COVID booster is the way to go this fall, Moderna data suggests

A tray of prepared syringes for booster vaccinations with Moderna's vaccine.

Enlarge / A tray of prepared syringes for booster vaccinations with Moderna’s vaccine. (credit: Getty | Picture alliance)

A COVID-19 booster targeting two versions of the coronavirus in one shot offered stronger and broader protection than the current booster, which targets only one version, according to clinical trial results released this week by vaccine maker Moderna.

The results are preliminary and have not been peer reviewed or published in a scientific journal. But Moderna touted the findings as evidence that bivalent or multivalent vaccines—those that target two or more versions of the virus in a single shot—are the way forward for COVID-19 boosters.

Moderna and other vaccine makers are on a mission to develop boosters that could restore the once extraordinarily high levels of protection that mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines initially provided, while also protecting against future variants. The first-generation mRNA vaccines were all designed to target the ancestral version of SARS-CoV-2 isolated in Wuhan, China—and they did so quite effectively, showing efficacy against symptomatic disease in the ballpark of 95 percent. But the virus has evolved into variants that can evade vaccine-derived protections. The latest variant, omicron, significantly reduced vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease, though protection against severe disease remains strong. Booster doses of the current vaccine design buoy protection but don’t restore the high levels seen previously. And the virus continues to evolve.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#beta, #booster, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #infectious-disease, #moderna, #nih, #omicron, #pandemic, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #vaccine

“Implausible:” Zero deaths in Shanghai’s COVID spike spurs skepticism

A worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a swab sample from a resident for a COVID-19 test in a neighborhood placed under lockdown in Shanghai, China, on Saturday, April 9, 2022.

Enlarge / A worker in personal protective equipment (PPE) collects a swab sample from a resident for a COVID-19 test in a neighborhood placed under lockdown in Shanghai, China, on Saturday, April 9, 2022. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Shanghai and more than a dozen other cities in China are now under full or partial lockdown as the country faces its most significant spike of COVID-19 cases yet in the pandemic. But amid rapid increases in cases from the ultratransmissible omicron variant and China’s relatively low vaccination rate among its elderly, some experts are left scratching their heads over the lack of reported deaths.

In Shanghai, a city of around 26 million that functions as the country’s financial hub, residents’ patience has run out as they enter a second week of full, draconian lockdown. Videos have circulated online of people screaming from their apartments and berating officials over food shortages. There are reports of people being denied medical care and forced into crowded quarantine facilities. At the beginning of lockdowns, officials were widely criticized for separating parents from young children, including breastfeeding infants.

China reported more than 200,000 infections in Shanghai since the outbreak began last month. The vast majority of those are said to be mild or asymptomatic. So far, Chinese officials have reported that only one case in the city has been considered severe, and no deaths from COVID-19 have been reported.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#china, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #deaths, #infectious-disaese, #lockdown, #omicron, #public-health, #science, #shanghai

Pfizer, Moderna vaccines aren’t the same; study finds antibody differences

A vial of COMIRNATY (Pfizer/BioNTech) and a vial of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

Enlarge / A vial of COMIRNATY (Pfizer/BioNTech) and a vial of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines. (credit: Getty | Marcos del Mazo)

The mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna have proven highly effective at priming our immune systems to fight the pandemic coronavirus—preventing substantial amounts of infection, severe disease, and death throughout several waves of variants. But, despite their similar design and efficacy, the two vaccines are not exactly the same—and our immune systems don’t respond to them in the same way.

An early hint of this was some real-world data that found startling differences in the effectiveness of the two vaccines, despite both shots performing nearly identically in Phase III clinical trials—95 percent and 94 percent. Amid last year’s delta wave, a Mayo Clinic study found that Pfizer’s effectiveness against infection dipped to 42 percent while Moderna’s only fell to 76 percent.

According to a new study in Science Translational Medicine, such differences might be explained by evidence that the two vaccines spur the immune system to produce slightly different antibodies against SARS-CoV-2.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#antibodies, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #immune-response, #infectious-diseae, #moderna, #pandemic, #pfizer, #sars-cov-2, #science, #vaccines

With a second booster now authorized for some, the question is when to get it

A health worker administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to an elderly resident at Ichilov medical center in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021.

Enlarge / A health worker administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to an elderly resident at Ichilov medical center in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

The US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday announced the authorization of second booster doses of both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for people ages 50 and above, as well as certain immunocompromised people.

The FDA’s decision, which was made without consulting its panel of independent expert advisers, was expected this week.

“Current evidence suggests some waning of protection over time against serious outcomes from COVID-19 in older and immunocompromised individuals,” Peter Marks, the FDA’s top vaccine regulator, said in a statement. “Based on an analysis of emerging data, a second booster dose of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine could help increase protection levels for these higher-risk individuals.”

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#authorization, #biontech, #booster, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #fda, #infectious-disease, #moderna, #omicron, #pfizer, #public-health, #science, #vaccines

Omicron is trouncing the argument for “natural immunity” to COVID

A 13-year-old celebrates getting the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Hartford, Connecticut, on May 13, 2021.

Enlarge / A 13-year-old celebrates getting the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Hartford, Connecticut, on May 13, 2021. (credit: Getty | JOSEPH PREZIOSO )

So-called “natural immunity” against COVID-19 has always been a dodgy argument for avoiding vaccination during the pandemic. But amid omicron, natural immunity is clearly rubbish.

Unvaccinated people who have recovered from an infection with the omicron coronavirus variant are left with paltry levels of neutralizing antibodies against omicron and almost no neutralizing antibodies against any of five other coronavirus variants, including delta. People who were vaccinated before getting an omicron infection, on the other hand, have strong protection against all five variants, and they are among the highest levels of neutralizing antibodies seen against omicron.

That’s all according to a new study surveying neutralizing antibody profiles in people who have all recovered from an omicron infection, with or without pre-existing immunity. The study was published Wednesday in The New England Journal of Medicine by a team of Austrian researchers. The researchers were led by virologist Janine Kimpel of the Medical University of Innsbruck.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#antibodies, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #immunity, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #pandemic, #public-health, #science, #variant

Murky case for fourth doses now with FDA as protection wanes, BA.2 looms

The US Food and Drug Administration in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Enlarge / The US Food and Drug Administration in Silver Spring, Maryland. (credit: Getty | Xinhua News Agency)

Vaccine-makers Moderna and Pfizer have now both submitted requests for the US Food and Drug Administration to authorize fourth doses—second boosters—of their COVID-19 vaccines.

Pfizer, along with vaccine partner BioNTech, announced Tuesday that they had asked the FDA to authorize fourth doses for adults age 65 and above. The move followed days of Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla saying in press interviews that a fourth shot is “necessary” for everyone.

Late Thursday, Moderna announced that it, too, had asked the FDA to authorize fourth doses—for all adults. Moderna addressed the broader request in its announcement, saying it’s intended to “provide flexibility” for the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to decide for themselves who should get a fourth dose—whether it’s specific age groups and/or groups with higher risks of disease.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#booster, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #fda, #fourth-dose, #infection, #infectious-disease, #moderna, #omicron, #pfizer, #science, #severe-disease, #vaccine

Florida’s latest anti-health political stunt is to cast doubt on kids’ vaccines

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Rosen Shingle Creek on February 24, 2022, in Orlando, Florida.

Enlarge / Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at the Rosen Shingle Creek on February 24, 2022, in Orlando, Florida. (credit: Getty| Joe Raedle)

Sometimes fighting a common enemy can unite a country, inspiring solidarity, bravery, and sacrifice. Ordinary citizens become heroes; leaders become icons. But sometimes—like in the United States right now—a common enemy wins by exploiting divisions.

As the US faced down a global viral threat two years ago, its people and leaders couldn’t seem more factious and impotent against a shared foe. Most Americans seemed to embrace the evolving consensus of public health experts, heeding advice to follow basic and simple measures, like getting a safe and effective vaccine and wearing a mask. These measures might otherwise seem uncontroversial and like minor inconveniences. A vocal minority of Americans, however, leaned hard in the opposite direction, claiming that joining the fight against a deadly enemy infringed on their freedom—as if the US Constitution enshrined the right to freely spread disease and suffering to family, friends, and fellow Americans.

Two years later, the US has tallied nearly 80 million cases. Nearly 960,000 people—grandparents, parents, siblings, children, infants, precious loved ones all—are dead. Nine hundred and sixty thousand. It’s an unfathomable loss—a toll one might at least hope would stir reconsideration in those not fighting for the greater good. Yet, here we are two years and nearly 1 million deaths later, and many have not changed their positions. Some Americans still deny the devastating realities of the pandemic. Some spread dangerous misinformation, twist facts, and squabble over trivial points as lives hang in the balance.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #desantis, #florida, #infectious-disease, #ladapo, #masks, #pandemic, #public-health, #science, #vaccines

Booster protection from omicron hospital stay dips from 91% to 78%

A vial containing Moderna COVID-19 booster vaccine at a vaccination center.

Enlarge / A vial containing Moderna COVID-19 booster vaccine at a vaccination center. (credit: Getty | SOPA Images)

COVID-19 booster doses are largely holding up against the ultratransmissible omicron variant, despite the fact that protection inevitably wanes over time, according to a recent study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, with the boosters’ inevitable waning and omicron’s ability to dodge some immune responses, fourth doses may be needed in the future to sustain or improve protection against COVID-19, the study authors note.

The study, published in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, estimated booster effectiveness against severe disease and hospitalizations. It charted a slight decline in booster effectiveness from less than two months after a booster dose to over four or five months after the third jab. The latter time frame is the latest for which there is available booster data, based on when the shots became widely offered. The study collected data from patients in 10 states, including from over 240,000 visits to emergency rooms or urgent care centers and more than 93,000 hospitalizations.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#booster, #cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #vaccine-effectiveness

Monkey study casts doubt on need for an omicron-specific booster

Extreme close-up photo of a gloved hand holding a tiny jar.

Enlarge / A vial of the current Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. (credit: Getty | Ivan Romano)

In a small group of monkeys, an omicron-specific version of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine did not protect against the omicron variant better than Moderna’s current, highly effective booster. This finding casts doubt on whether a switch to variant-specific doses is necessary.

The study was led by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and posted on a preprint server last Friday. The study has not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal. It also has all the limitations of an animal study and only involved eight monkeys. The study’s findings will have to be verified in human trials, which are currently underway.

Still, there’s good reason to think the finding will hold up. As the authors of the study note, this isn’t Moderna’s first variant-specific booster. The company had previously developed a booster against the concerning variant beta. As with the omicron-specific booster, the beta-booster didn’t outperform the original vaccine at protecting primates from beta. And that finding later held up in human trials.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#animal-study, #booster, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #moderna, #monkeys, #omicron, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #vaccine-efficacy, #variants

Omicron’s wave is at least 386% taller than delta’s—and crushing hospitals

Doctor in protective gear inspects patients.

Enlarge / Medical Director of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) checks the vital signs of a COVID-19 patien while her husband rests in a bed next to her at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California, on January 3, 2021. (credit: Getty | Apu Gomes)

Despite its widespread reputation for being mild, the ultratransmissible omicron coronavirus variant is sending a record number of people to emergency departments and hospital rooms in the US, swamping health care systems nationwide.

As of January 15, omicron’s highest seven-day average of daily cases was nearly 799,000—a 386 percent increase from the highest average of daily cases seen during the delta wave (from July to the end of October). Similarly, omicron’s highest daily average of emergency department visits was 86 percent higher than that of delta’s, and hospital admissions were 76 percent higher.

The latest data comes from a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday. The study highlights that, even though the omicron wave has been marked by relatively smaller proportions of severe cases and deaths, the variant’s extraordinary spread has still overwhelmed hospitals and extracted a devastating toll.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #hospitalization, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #public-health, #science

WHO warns of potential for more variants as omicron subvariant found in US

A man with a loosened necktie stands in front of a logo for the World Health Organization.

Enlarge / World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (credit: Getty | Fabrice Cof)

The head of the World Health Organization on Monday dampened optimism that the pandemic will subside in omicron’s wake, noting that global conditions are still ideal for the emergence of new variants.

“There are different scenarios for how the pandemic could play out and how the acute phase could end,” Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a WHO executive board meeting Monday. “But it is dangerous to assume that omicron will be the last variant or that we are in the endgame. On the contrary, globally, the conditions are ideal for more variants to emerge.”

Many US experts and officials have expressed cautious hope that the towering omicron wave could signal the final throes of the pandemic. In this beatific vision, the country will see a lull in transmission after COVID-19 cases peak and decline. With at least 15.8 million people infected just since the start of this year, the ultratransmissible variant is significantly boosting collective immunity across the US, which already has 63 percent of the population fully vaccinated.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #pandemic, #sars-cov-2, #science, #tedros, #variants, #who

COVID-infected hamsters in pet shop trigger animal cull in Hong Kong

People in protective gear stand outside a colorful storefront.

Enlarge / Workers with Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department inspect the Little Boss pet store in Hong Kong, China, on Tuesday, January 18, 2022. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Authorities in Hong Kong are planning to cull around 2,000 small animals after a pet store employee and several imported hamsters tested positive for COVID-19, according to a report by the Associated Press.

On Monday, the pet store employee tested positive and was found to be infected with the delta coronavirus variant. Several hamsters in the store, which had recently been imported from the Netherlands, were also positive. The city, meanwhile, has been grappling with an outbreak of COVID-19 cases caused by the omicron variant.

It’s unclear if the pet store cases are linked and, if they are, if the employee was infected by the hamsters or vice versa. But Hong Kong authorities say they can’t exclude the possibility that the hamsters spread the virus to the employee. As such, they aren’t taking any chances.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#animal-reservoir, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #hamster, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #public-health, #science, #zoonosis

FDA head: Omicron is a “natural disaster… most people are gonna get COVID”

A masked woman with a gray bob.

Enlarge / Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on January 11, 2022 in Washington, D.C. (credit: Getty | Shawn Thew)

US officials are comparing the ultra-transmissible omicron coronavirus variant to a natural disaster as the country continues to shatter records, logging over 1.4 million new COVID-19 cases Monday and seeing hospitalizations at all-time highs of over 140,000.

Officials are now bracing for the weeks ahead, which are expected to bring yet higher numbers of cases that will hamstring health care systems and other essential services nationwide.

“I think that we’re talking about a natural disaster,” Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food Drug Administration, said in a Senate Health Committee hearing Tuesday. “I think right now, we need to focus on continuity of operations for hospitals and other essential services as this variant sweeps through the population.”

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cases, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #fda, #hospitalizations, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #public-health, #science, #woodcock

Doctors fear health care collapse amid omicron surge

Emergency workers as seen through a window.

Enlarge / A medical worker in PPE works with a patient with Covid-19 in a negative pressure room in the ICU ward at UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester, Massachusetts on January 4, 2022. The hospital says it is overflowing with patients and doesn’t have many beds left. (credit: Getty | Joseph Prezioso)

Hospitals nationwide are once again buckling under the strain of COVID-19 cases as the ultratransmissible omicron wave crashes into health care systems that are already critically short-staffed and exhausted from previous waves of the pandemic.

The current situation is forcing states and hospitals to declare emergencies, deploy the National Guard, delay or cancel elective procedures, institute crisis standards of care, and allow health providers to stay at work even if they themselves are positive for COVID-19 because there is no one available to take their place. Together, the situation has some doctors openly worrying that the omicron wave will cause some systems to collapse in the coming weeks.

“The comforting news that this variant generally causes milder disease overlooks the unfolding tragedy happening on the front lines,” Craig Spencer, an emergency medicine physician and director of global health in emergency medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center, wrote in a New York Times opinion piece Monday.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #hospitalizations, #hospitals, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #public-health, #science

CDC head talks screwups, 4th doses, omicron’s wave in long-awaited briefing

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

Enlarge / The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday held its first COVID-19 press briefing in over a year. The briefing covered a wide range of pandemic-related topics, from the rise in pediatric COVID-19 cases to the trajectory of the omicron wave and the agency’s own missteps in communicating with the public.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky fielded most of the questions herself during the roughly 35-minute phone conference, as reporter after reporter expressed the need for more briefings and thanked her for being available today. Walensky noted that she had been in over 80 COVID-19 briefings held by the White House. However, the CDC had not given its own briefing on its pandemic-related work since January 6, 2021.

In the intervening year, the CDC has experienced periodic missteps and has taken heavy criticism for muddled messaging around ever-evolving pandemic guidance. The latest such episode unfolded last week after the agency said that certain individuals infected with COVID-19 could leave isolation periods early without having to test negative. The agency has stood by the decision, despite science-based criticisms and concerns that the CDC’s decision was influenced by political interests, namely avoiding the problem of test shortages.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #public-health, #science, #walensky

Omicron is not mild and is crushing health care systems worldwide, WHO warns

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference on December 20, 2021, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva.

Enlarge / World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press conference on December 20, 2021, at the WHO headquarters in Geneva. (credit: Getty| Fabrice Coffrini)

The World Health Organization on Thursday pushed back against the consistent chatter that the ultra-transmissible omicron coronavirus is “mild,” noting that the variant is causing a “tsunami of cases” that is “overwhelming health systems around the world.”

“While omicron does appear to be less severe compared to delta—especially in those vaccinated—it does not mean it should be categorized as ‘mild,'” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press briefing Thursday. “Just like previous variants, omicron is hospitalizing people, and it is killing people.”

The warning comes as the US is still experiencing a vertical rise in cases and hospitalizations from the quick-spreading variant. In the week ending on January 1, omicron was estimated to account for 95 percent of all cases in the US, according to the latest analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The delta variant, which was making up over 99 percent of US cases as recently as the week ending on December 4, has now been relegated to just 5 percent of cases.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cases, #coronavirus, #hospitalizations, #infections, #omicron, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #variant, #who

US sets global record with over 1 million COVID cases in one day

Long lines at a mobile COVID-19 testing tent in Queens, New York, on December 29, 2021.

Enlarge / Long lines at a mobile COVID-19 testing tent in Queens, New York, on December 29, 2021. (credit: Getty | Universal Images Group)

The United States reported over one million new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, setting a global record for a single-day total as the ultra-transmissible omicron coronavirus variant continues its savage spread.

The daily high likely includes a backlog of cases from the holiday weekend. But with more people relying on at-home testing for identifying COVID-19 infections, the number is still probably an underrepresentation of recent cases.

Though cases are rising nationwide, the Eastern US is seeing the highest case rates and steepest increases. New York, New Jersey, and Washington, DC, have the top-three highest infection rates in the country. Louisiana, Maryland, and Alabama are reporting the largest increase in cases over the last two weeks.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cases, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #hospitalizations, #infections, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #public-health, #science, #variant

FDA authorizes booster doses for 12- to 15-year-olds, shortens interval for adults

A health worker administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to an elderly resident at Ichilov medical center in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021.

Enlarge / A health worker administers a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to an elderly resident at Ichilov medical center in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

As the ultra-transmissible omicron coronavirus variant bears down on the US, the Food and Drug Administration on Monday announced a set of sweeping changes to the availability of Pfizer-BioNTech booster doses.

The regulator expanded access to third doses by authorizing their use for kids 12 to 15 years old. The agency also shortened the interval at which adults and children 12 and up can get a booster after their second dose—moving the time from six months to only five months. Last, the FDA made third doses available to immunocompromised children ages 5 to 11 who may not mount a strong response from only the first two doses.

The FDA’s moves are motivated by omicron and backed by data from Israel, which has a booster program further along than that of the US. In fact, Israeli officials on Monday began offering fourth doses (second booster doses) of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to people ages 60 and over in an effort to sustain high levels of protection in the population. The omicron variant, which is currently powering a vertical rise in cases in the US, has been found to thwart protection from only two vaccine doses, but it can still be defeated with booster doses.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#biontech, #booster, #cases, #cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #fda, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #pfizer, #science, #vaccines

Children’s hospitals are filling nationwide amid tidal wave of omicron

A Boston Medical Center pediatrician performs a checkup on an 8-month-old while her father provides her comfort in a pediatrics tent set up outside of Boston Medical Center in Boston on April 29, 2020.

Enlarge / A Boston Medical Center pediatrician performs a checkup on an 8-month-old while her father provides her comfort in a pediatrics tent set up outside of Boston Medical Center in Boston on April 29, 2020. (credit: Getty | Boston Globe)

The number of children hospitalized with COVID-19 in the US is skyrocketing amid the omicron wave, with new admissions up 66 percent in the last week and now past the all-time record high for the pandemic.

The surge in pediatric hospitalizations comes amid a record-smashing vertical rise in overall cases, which is being driven by the ultratransmissible omicron coronavirus variant. Though preliminary data continues to link omicron waves to milder disease and fewer hospitalizations compared with previous variants, it’s still unclear if the variant is intrinsically less virulent in people generally, and specifically children, specifically.

Laboratory studies continue to indicate that omicron causes milder lung disease in rodents than previous variants. But, mild omicron waves in humans have largely been seen in populations with high levels of preexisting protection from prior COVID-19 infection and/or vaccination. Such populations are expected to have less severe disease overall.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cdc, #children, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #hospitalization, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #pediatric, #public-health, #science

Omicron smashes US case records as experts are still trying to understand it

A healthcare worker conducts a test at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the Dan Paul Plaza on December 29, 2021 in Miami, Florida. In response to the increasing demand for COVID-19 tests, Miami-Dade County opened two new testing sites and expanding hours at the Zoo Miami testing location.

Enlarge / A healthcare worker conducts a test at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site at the Dan Paul Plaza on December 29, 2021 in Miami, Florida. In response to the increasing demand for COVID-19 tests, Miami-Dade County opened two new testing sites and expanding hours at the Zoo Miami testing location. (credit: Getty | Joe Raedle)

Average daily COVID-19 cases in the US reached over 267,000 Tuesday, a record high largely driven by an ultratransmissible coronavirus variant that experts are still scrambling to understand.

The current seven-day average of 267,305 daily cases has leapt above the previous record of around 250,000 cases, which was set in early January, 2021. And the current vertical rise in cases is expected to continue in to the coming weeks.

“The rapid increase in cases we are seeing across the country is in large part a reflection of the exceptionally transmissible omicron variant,” Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a White House press briefing Wednesday.

Read 21 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #disease-severity, #fauci, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #public-health, #rapid-tests, #science, #transmission

CDC draws criticism for shorter COVID quarantine, isolation as omicron bears down

Travelers wait in line to check-in at LaGuardia Airport in New York, on December 24, 2021. -On Christmas Eve, airlines, struggling with the Omicron variant of Covid-19, have canceled over 2,000 flights globally, 454 of which are domestic, into or out of the US.

Enlarge / Travelers wait in line to check-in at LaGuardia Airport in New York, on December 24, 2021. -On Christmas Eve, airlines, struggling with the Omicron variant of Covid-19, have canceled over 2,000 flights globally, 454 of which are domestic, into or out of the US. (credit: Getty | YUKI IWAMURA)

As the ultratransmissible omicron coronavirus variant bears down on the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday made a controversial decision to ease COVID-19 isolation and quarantine rules.

The country’s omicron surge has sent graphs of case counts vertical, and is already causing severe strain on health systems, shuttering businesses, and wreaking havoc on holiday travel and festivities. The US is currently averaging over 243,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, near the country’s all-time high of an average just over 250,000 per day set in early January 2021. Still, federal officials and public health experts say this is only the beginning of omicron’s towering wave, which may not peak until next month.

The CDC’s decision Monday is intended to ease the economic burden of the skyrocketing cases and follows an accumulation of data suggesting that infectiousness tends to wane two to three days after the onset of symptoms. However, some public health experts called the new rules “reckless” for not incorporating testing requirements.

Read 12 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #infectious-diseases, #infectiousness, #isolation, #omicron, #pandemic, #public-health, #quarantine, #rapid-tests, #science, #testing, #transmission, #variant

Current vaccines are enough to fight omicron, but massive wave is coming fast

Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President, during the daily press briefing at the White House on December 1, 2021, in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / Dr. Anthony Fauci, Chief Medical Advisor to the President, during the daily press briefing at the White House on December 1, 2021, in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Anna Moneymaker)

Though booster doses of current vaccines can foil the ultra-transmissible omicron coronavirus variant, a towering wave of omicron cases may peak in the US as soon as January, officials warn.

Scientists are still racing to fully understand the variant, which first gained international attention in late November. But a few things are becoming increasingly clear: The variant spreads stunningly fast, and it can largely circumvent protection from two vaccine doses. However, people who have received a third vaccine dose are well-protected against severe disease.

In a White House press briefing Wednesday, top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci reviewed the early laboratory and real-world data on vaccine effectiveness. Numerous laboratory studies have all shown that levels of neutralizing antibodies from two doses of a vaccine are significantly lower against omicron—potentially so low that they do not protect against the variant. But studies looking at neutralizing antibodies after a third dose consistently find a substantial increase in protection. One study found a 38-fold rise in the level of neutralizing antibodies against omicron after a third dose of an mRNA vaccine.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #fauci, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #pandemic, #sars-cov-2, #science

Hospital beds full, National Guard deployed amid crushing delta wave

A nurse in the ICU looks into a COVID patient's room filled with flowers and balloons at CentraCare St. Cloud Hospital in St. Cloud, Minn., on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021.

Enlarge / A nurse in the ICU looks into a COVID patient’s room filled with flowers and balloons at CentraCare St. Cloud Hospital in St. Cloud, Minn., on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021. (credit: Getty | The Washington Post)

The wave of COVID-19 driven by the hypertransmissible delta variant continues to grow throughout the US, with hospitals in Northeastern and Midwestern states now being crushed by a deluge of patients.

One of Pennsylvania’s largest health systems, Geisinger, announced Wednesday that it was overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated patients and running at 110 percent. Geisinger CEO Jaewon Ryu told the Associated Press that he only expects the situation to worsen in the coming weeks as case counts and test positivity numbers continue to rise in the state.

Meanwhile, New York and Maine have deployed members of the National Guard to their health systems overburdened by COVID-19 cases, which are largely in people who are not fully vaccinated.

Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cases, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #hospitalizations, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science

Anime convention of 53K is first US case study for omicron spread, CDC says

Costumed attendees take a break during Anime NYC at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City on November 20, 2021. Anime NYC is an annual three-day anime convention held in New York City.

Enlarge / Costumed attendees take a break during Anime NYC at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City on November 20, 2021. Anime NYC is an annual three-day anime convention held in New York City. (credit: Getty | Ken Betancur)

An anime convention held in New York City last month may inadvertently offer the US its first case study on the spread of the omicron coronavirus variant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fifty-three thousand anime fans from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and 27 other countries traveled to New York City for the Anime NYC convention, which ran from November 19 and 21 in the city’s Javits Center. Organizers reported afterward that they were overwhelmed by the large attendance and struggled with packed rooms and crowding—conditions ideal for coronavirus transmission.

Last week, officials in Minnesota reported that a resident tested positive for the omicron variant after attending the convention. At the time, it was only the second omicron case detected in the US. But since then, officials have identified cases in at least 18 other US states, as well as over 50 countries worldwide.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#anime, #cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #public-health, #science, #transmission, #variant

COVID vaccinations spike in US as delta rages and omicron looms

People line up outside of a free COVID-19 vaccination site that opened today in the Hubbard Place apartment building on December 3, 2021 in Washington, DC.

Enlarge / People line up outside of a free COVID-19 vaccination site that opened today in the Hubbard Place apartment building on December 3, 2021 in Washington, DC. (credit: Getty | Samuel Corum)

Amid a raging delta wave and fears of omicron, the United States on Thursday administered 2.2 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, the highest single-day vaccination total since May, shortly after the shots were made widely available to adults.

More than 1 million of the shots given yesterday were booster doses, according to Jeff Zients, White House COVID-⁠19 Response Coordinator. To date, nearly 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated, which is roughly 60 percent of the population, and 44 million are fully vaccinated and boosted.

“This is important progress,” Zients said in a press briefing Friday. “Vaccines clearly remain our most important tool… If you were fully vaccinated before June, it’s time for you to go get your booster. If you’re unvaccinated, go get your first shot today. And if your kids are five years or older and not yet vaccinated, get them the protection of the vaccine as well.”

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #public-health, #science

2nd US omicron case just traveled to NYC anime convention with 53K attendees

Costumed people attend Anime NYC at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City on November 20, 2021.

Enlarge / Costumed people attend Anime NYC at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City on November 20, 2021. (credit: Getty | Kena Betancur)

US health officials have identified a second case of the omicron coronavirus variant in a Minnesota man, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday. Unlike the first case, the man had not traveled internationally but had recently returned home to Minnesota from an anime convention in New York City attended by 53,000 people.

The case suggests that there is domestic transmission of the worrisome variant and that it has been circulating in the US undetected until now.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health and the CDC, the man is a resident of Hennepin County and traveled to New York City to attend the Anime NYC 2021 convention at the Javits Center from November 19 to 21. The man had been vaccinated. He developed mild symptoms on November 22 and sought COVID-19 testing on November 24. He has since recovered from the infection.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #pandemic, #public-health, #science, #variant

Omicron found in US—plus 23 other countries in 5 of 6 global regions

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to the president, delivers an update on the Omicron COVID-19 variant during the daily press briefing at the White House on December 1, 2021 in Washington, DC. The first case of the omicron variant in the United States has been confirmed today in California.

Enlarge / Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical adviser to the president, delivers an update on the Omicron COVID-19 variant during the daily press briefing at the White House on December 1, 2021 in Washington, DC. The first case of the omicron variant in the United States has been confirmed today in California. (credit: Getty | Anna Moneymaker)

The omicron coronavirus variant has now been detected in at least 24 countries in five of six global regions—and as of this afternoon, that includes the United States.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed this afternoon that the first US case was detected in a person in California who had returned to the US from South Africa on November 22 and tested positive on November 29. Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco carried out genomic sequencing identifying the omicron variant in the person, and the CDC confirmed that sequencing.

The CDC reported that the person was fully vaccinated and had only mild symptoms that are improving. In a press briefing Wednesday afternoon, top infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said it appeared the person had not yet received a booster shot. Public health experts suggest that booster shots will significantly improve protection against the new, still poorly understood variant.

Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #omicron, #public-health, #sars-cov-2, #science, #variant, #who

Child COVID cases are on the rise, jumping 32% in latest surge

A health care worker prepares to administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines at an elementary school vaccination site for children ages 5 to 11.

Enlarge / A health care worker prepares to administer Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines at an elementary school vaccination site for children ages 5 to 11. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

Cases of COVID-19 are increasing in children, and they continue to account for an out-sized proportion of infections, according to the latest data compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The fresh data comes at the start of a holiday week and a new surge in cases, worrying experts that the pandemic—and its impact on children—will only worsen as the country heads into the winter months. Travel during this week will likely rival pre-pandemic levels, according to estimates by AAA and the Transportation Security Administration. And many families are anxious to resume holiday traditions and packed family gatherings, in which unvaccinated children are at risk of getting and transmitting the virus.

In the week of November 11 to 18, nearly 142,000 children reported getting COVID-19. That’s an increase of 32 percent from two weeks ago. Overall, cases of COVID-19 in the US have increased 27 percent in the past two weeks.

Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#children, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #infection, #pandemic, #public-health, #science, #vaccine

White House hails vaccine mandates as number of unvaccinated drops 40%

FLORIDA, 11/09/2021: A boy gives a nurse a high-five before receiving a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site for children aged 5 to 11.

Enlarge / FLORIDA, 11/09/2021: A boy gives a nurse a high-five before receiving a shot of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site for children aged 5 to 11. (credit: Getty | SOPA images)

The White House touted the success of COVID-19 vaccine mandates Wednesday as more of the country’s unvaccinated are rolling up their sleeves.

In the last seven days, the country has averaged 300,000 first doses per day, White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients noted in a press briefing today. The weekly total is the highest in nearly a month, Zients added.

Overall, the number of unvaccinated people eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine (people ages 12 and up) has dropped 40 percent since July. That is, the number of unvaccinated fell from about 100 million to less than 60 million.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#biden, #boosters, #children, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #infectious-disease, #mandate, #public-health, #science, #vaccination, #vaccine

Passengers couldn’t fly after NHS vaccine passport went offline

Passengers couldn’t fly after NHS vaccine passport went offline

Enlarge (credit: VOO QQQ)

England’s COVID Pass system went offline for hours on Wednesday, causing British travelers to remain stranded at airports. Some passengers couldn’t board their flights, while others suffered delays as both the National Health Service (NHS) website and app experienced issues.

Delays and missed flights

An NHS system outage lasting approximately four hours left many British travelers unable to access their vaccination records and present their COVID Pass to the airlines. Prior to letting passengers board, most airlines in the UK require proof of vaccination in printed or digital form. But those without a paper copy were left in limbo as the NHS smartphone app kept throwing up errors.

Journalist Caroline Frost, who is vaccinated, is one of the many passengers who had a hard time getting by at the airport:

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#air-travel, #biz-it, #coronavirus, #covid, #nhs, #outage, #tech, #vaccine-passport

Idaho COVID crisis: Hospitals overflowing with sicker, younger patients

Large tents set up outside a brick building.

Enlarge / A coronavirus preparedness tent setup outside a hospital emergency room entrance at Gritman Medical Center in the northern Idaho city of Moscow in March 2020. (credit: Getty | Education Images)

Health officials in Idaho are reporting dire circumstances as hospitals around the state continue to crumble under the delta-fueled surge of COVID-19 cases.

“We continue to set record highs,” Dave Jeppesen, director of the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare, said in a press briefing Tuesday. With the latest data through September 18, the state saw a new record high of 686 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, a record high of 180 COVID-19 patients in intensive care units, and a record high of 112 COVID-19 patients on ventilators. The number of ventilated COVID-19 patients is nearly double what was seen in the last surge of COVID-19 cases in December.

“These numbers continue to increase, and we expect them to continue to increase,” Jeppesen added.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #crisis-standards-of-care, #deaths, #hospitalizations, #icu, #idaho, #infectious-disease, #science

COVID in children: Infections skyrocket 30X, now account for 30% of cases

A health care worker administers a COVID-19 test to a child at the Austin Regional Clinic drive-thru vaccination and testing site in Austin, Texas, US, on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021.

Enlarge / A health care worker administers a COVID-19 test to a child at the Austin Regional Clinic drive-thru vaccination and testing site in Austin, Texas, US, on Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

COVID-19 cases in children have risen 30-fold since late June and are now at record highs, with nearly 500,000 new child cases reported in the past two weeks, according to the latest data released by the American Academy of Pediatrics on Monday. Pediatric cases have “increased exponentially,” the AAP said in a statement.

The rise coincides with a dramatic surge in overall COVID-19 transmission driven by the hypertransmissible delta variant. But with more adults vaccinated, children are getting hit harder in this wave than ever before, and they make up a larger and larger share of the cases.

At this point, the US has recorded 5.3 million cumulative cases in children, accounting for 15.5 percent of total cases in the pandemic. That percentage has risen steadily during the current surge, up from 14.2 percent at the end of June.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#american-academy-of-pediatrics, #cases, #children, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #pandemic, #science

Unvaccinated are 5X more likely to catch delta, 11X more likely to die

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, March 14, 2020.

Enlarge / The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters stands in Atlanta, Georgia, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. (credit: Getty | Bloomberg)

COVID-19 vaccines are largely holding up against the hyper-transmissible delta coronavirus variant, particularly when it comes to preventing severe disease and death, according to three studies published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, fully vaccinated people are about five times less likely to become infected with delta, 10 times less likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 from delta, and 11 times less likely to die from the variant, according to the studies.

The fresh data lands just a day after President Biden announced sweeping vaccine mandates—the administration’s most aggressive action yet to push vaccine holdouts into getting the life-saving shot. About 80 million Americans eligible vaccination have yet to receive the free and readily available shots. Meanwhile, delta has spread across the country like wildfire since June, leading to one of the largest COVID-19 surges yet in the pandemic. Currently, the US is seeing nearly 150,000 new cases every day, with 100,000 hospitalizations and over 1,500 daily deaths—almost all of which are preventable with vaccination.

Read 11 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #fda, #pandemic, #science, #vaccine, #vaccine-effectiveness

Idaho begins rationing care as hospitals crumple under COVID load

Large tents set up outside a brick building.

Enlarge / Coronavirus preparedness tent set up outside hospital emergency room entrance at Gritman Medical Center in the northern Idaho city of Moscow in March 2020. (credit: Getty | Education Images)

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare on Monday activated its “crisis standards of care” in 10 northern hospitals hard-hit by staff shortages, hospital bed shortages, and a “massive increase in patients with COVID-19 who require hospitalization,” the department announced Tuesday.

The crisis standards mean that the quality of care in those hospitals will be reduced for all patients. Resources will be rationed, and patients with the best chances of survival may be prioritized.

In practice, that could mean that: emergency medical services may prioritize which 9-1-1 calls they respond to; some people who would normally be admitted to the hospital will instead be turned away; some admitted patients may be sent home earlier than typical or may find their hospital bed in a repurposed area of the hospital, like a conference room; and, in the worst cases, hospital staff might not be able to provide an intensive care unit bed or a ventilator to a patient that has a relatively low chance of survival.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#coronavirus, #covid-19, #crisis-standards, #hospital, #hospitalization, #idaho, #infectious-disease, #ration, #science

US sees jump in vaccinations amid devastating delta surge

A nurse administers a COVID-19 shot at a vaccination site in Florida on August 18, 2021.

Enlarge / A nurse administers a COVID-19 shot at a vaccination site in Florida on August 18, 2021. (credit: Getty | Sopa images)

The US reached a milestone of having 200 million people vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine on Friday. And for two days in a row now, over one million people rolled up their sleeves for a shot. Those are daily highs not seen in nearly seven weeks.

Of those one million vaccinations each day, approximately 562,000 and 534,000 shots went to people receiving their first dose, according to White House COVID-19 Data Director, Cyrus Shahpar. Earlier this week, the seven-day average of new first doses nationwide has been hovering around 400,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The boost in vaccinations comes amid a devastating wave of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths driven by the hypertransmissible delta variant, which now accounts for nearly all cases in the US. The surge stands to rival the country’s worst wave of the pandemic, which peaked in January 2021 with average daily new cases around 200,000. The country is now averaging over 130,000 cases a day, and that figure is still climbing.

Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cases, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #covid-19-vaccines, #deaths, #delta, #hospitalizations, #science, #vaccinatation, #vaccines

“We are set on a path that looks disastrous”: Alabama hospitals near collapse

Scott Harris, Alabama's State Health Officer, discusses his state's vaccination data in his office on June 29, 2021, in Montgomery, Alabama.

Enlarge / Scott Harris, Alabama’s State Health Officer, discusses his state’s vaccination data in his office on June 29, 2021, in Montgomery, Alabama. (credit: Getty | ELIJAH NOUVELAGE)

Medical professionals in Alabama are sounding the alarm over the monstrous surge of COVID-19 cases that is overwhelming the state’s hospitals—which are quickly running short on staff and space.

“We are set on a path that looks disastrous,” Dr. Donald Williamson, president and CEO of the Alabama Hospital Association, said in a state medical association COVID-19 update Thursday.

Currently, Alabama is reporting around 4,000 new cases per day. Medical experts in the Yellowhammer State expect that, sometime next week, Alabama will exceed its previous record in average daily cases, which was set in January at around 4,500 new cases per day.

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#alabama, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #hospital, #icu, #infectious-disease, #masks, #pandemic, #public-health, #science, #surge, #vaccines

What to know about the US COVID booster plan—and why WHO hates it

 A health professional holds a vial of the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19

Enlarge / A health professional holds a vial of the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19 (credit: Europa Press News)

US officials on Wednesday formally announced plans to offer COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to Americans—and the plans are already under fire from experts at the World Health Organization.

US officials are recommending that all Americans vaccinated with two doses of an mRNA vaccine (either the Moderna or Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine) get a third booster dose of the same vaccine eight months after receiving their second dose. As such, boosters will be rolled out based on the order in which people were initially offered vaccines, i.e., with frontline health workers, nursing home residents, and other seniors at the front of the line.

US officials are prepared to begin offering booster shots the week of September 20. However, the timing of the boosters is pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration and the recommendation of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, an independent committee of experts that advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read 22 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#boosters, #cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta-variant, #fda, #infectious-disease, #moderna, #pandemic, #pfizer, #public-health, #science, #vaccine, #who

Florida is ablaze with COVID-19—and its case data reporting is a hot mess

A man in a suit gestures while speaking at a podium

Enlarge / Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during an event on August 10, 2021. (credit: Getty | Joe Raedle)

With the hypertransmissible delta variant on the rampage, Florida has become the epicenter of transmission in the US. The state is experiencing its largest surge of COVID-19 cases yet in the pandemic. Hospitalizations have reached record levels, and deaths are on the rise.

But instead of focusing on the response to the dire public health emergency, state officials appear to be squabbling over pandemic data and health measures.

On Monday night, Florida’s health department blasted media outlets for reporting the state’s most recent daily COVID-19 cases counts—as the counts were relayed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cases, #cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #data, #florida, #infectious-disease, #masks, #pandemic, #public-health, #ron-desantis, #science

Record-setting COVID surge in Florida spurs pro-mask uprising against DeSantis

A man in a suit gestures while speaking into a microphone.

Enlarge / Florida man and Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference held at the Assault Brigade 2506 Honorary Museum on August 05, 2021, in Hialeah, Florida. (credit: Getty | Joe Raedle)

The dire COVID-19 situation in Florida continues to worsen as local and federal leaders push back against Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and his efforts to thwart public health measures.

DeSantis has banned businesses, local governments, and schools in Florida from requiring proof of vaccination. Last Friday, DeSantis issued an executive order barring schools from requiring children to wear masks. In signing the executive order, the governor’s office called federal recommendations for masks “unscientific” and claimed the order would “protect parents’ freedom.” The American Academy of Pediatrics has also recommended universal masking in schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Meanwhile, the delta coronavirus surge continues. On Wednesday, Florida recorded 20,133 new cases, its second-highest daily total of new cases in the entirety of the pandemic. The Sunshine State accounted for 22 percent of new cases detected in the US yesterday, despite making up just 6.5 percent of the country’s population. Today, a record-high of 12,888 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state. It is the fourth straight day of record-breaking hospitalizations.

Read 6 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#cases, #cdc, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #florida, #hospitalization, #infectious-disease, #masks, #pandemic, #science

After a COVID-free year, delta arrives in Wuhan, China

Residents line up for nucleic acid testing of COVID-19 on August 3, 2021, in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China.

Enlarge / Residents line up for nucleic acid testing of COVID-19 on August 3, 2021, in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. (credit: Getty )

After going a full year without any locally spread cases of COVID-19, the city where the coronavirus pandemic first began has now detected its first cases involving the delta variant.

Officials in Wuhan, China, on Monday confirmed three delta cases, prompting them to order coronavirus testing for all 12 million or so of the city’s residents.

“To ensure that everyone in the city is safe, city-wide nucleic acid testing will be quickly launched for all people to fully screen out positive results and asymptomatic infections,” Wuhan official Li Qiang said at a news briefing, according to the Associated Press.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

#china, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #delta, #infectious-disease, #pandemic, #public-health, #science, #testing, #variant, #wuhan

Facebook will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to campus

Earlier today, Google CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the company will require employees to be vaccinated before returning to work on-site. It was part of a larger letter sent to Google/Alphabet staff that also noted the company will be extending its work-from-home policy through October 18, as the Covid-19 Delta variant continues to sweep through the global population.

In a message to TechCrunch, Facebook’s VP of People, Lori Goler, confirmed a similar policy for the social media giant.

“As our offices reopen, we will be requiring anyone coming to work at any of our US campuses to be vaccinated,” Goler writes. “How we implement this policy will depend on local conditions and regulations. We will have a process for those who cannot be vaccinated for medical or other reasons and will be evaluating our approach in other regions as the situation evolves. We continue to work with experts to ensure our return to office plans prioritize everyone’s health and safety.”

The statement is worded similarly to the long letter penned by Pichai, which carved out an exception for “medical or other protected reasons.” The comment doesn’t offer an adjusted timeline for the return, which had initially planned to go half-capacity in September and full by October.

Last week, a spokesperson told The Wall Street Journal, “Expert guidelines state that vaccines are highly effective at preventing variants of COVID-19, including the Delta variant. Our timelines to reopen our offices haven’t changed.”

Both statements offer some wiggle room for the company, based on things like local and state regulations, medical or personal concerns and, presumably, access to the vaccine, which can vary greatly based on region.

Amazon also responded to TechCrunch’s inquiry on the matter, noting, “We strongly encourage Amazon employees and contractors to be vaccinated as soon as COVID-19 vaccines are available to them.”

The company’s current guidelines don’t appear to require vaccination in order to return to its offices, though unvaccinated employees are required to wear masks. Face coverings are optional for those who have verification of being fully vaccinated.

#amazon, #apps, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #facebook, #health, #vaccination

Want to work at a Google campus? You’ll need to be vaccinated

Even for tech companies who create the tools for remote work, returning to the office is proving a major challenge. After early work from home recommendations last March, companies like Google eventually closed up shop, requiring employees to take their work home with them. The intervening year and change have been a fraught balancing act for the company (along with most of the world), which began outlining return to work plans for some employees as early as May 2020.

As Delta and other Covid-19 variants threaten anticipated returns to normalcy, Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai offered a clearer look at the company’s new normal. In a letter to employees reprinted on the Google Keyword blog, Pichai notes that all employees working out of one of Google’s campuses will need to be vaccinated.

“We’re rolling this policy out in the U.S. in the coming weeks and will expand to other regions in the coming months,” Pichai writes. “The implementation will vary according to local conditions and regulations, and will not apply until vaccines are widely available in your area.”

Further complicating matters is the second bullet point. While the rise of the Delta variant is expanding the company’s work-from-home policy through October 18, it’s not entirely clear what happens after that date (assuming the virus doesn’t force another goal post shift) to unvaccinated employees, who may not be able work out of a Google office or remotely.

The post does, however, note some exception for those unvaccinated for “medical or other protected reasons.” Google hasn’t clarified how it will enforce such exceptions.

“For those of you with special circumstances, we will soon be sharing expanded temporary work options that will allow you to apply to work from home through the end of 2021,” Pichai writes,.“We’re also extending Expanded Carer’s Leave through the end of the year for parents and caregivers.”

Other tech giants like Apple have also pushed back return-to-office plans and implemented masks in retail stores, as mandates have gone into effect amid increasing Covid-19 rates. Others, including Facebook, are sticking with original Fall reopening plans.

“Expert guidelines state that vaccines are highly effective at preventing variants of Covid-19, including the Delta variant,” a spokesperson for the social media giant recently told The Wall Street Journal. “Our timelines to reopen our offices haven’t changed.”

#alphabet, #apps, #coronavirus, #covid-19, #google, #health, #remote-work, #sundar-pichai

Class, a Zoom-only virtual classroom, nears unicorn status after SoftBank check

Class, a virtual classroom that integrates exclusively with Zoom, announced today that it has raised $105 million in a financing led by SoftBank Vision Fund II. The 10-month old startup has now raised a total of $146 million in known venture funding to date, which eclipses the amount of capital raised by founder Michael Chasen’s now-public previous company, Blackboard.

Despite its infancy, Class is rapidly nearing unicorn status, confirming that it currently sports a post-money valuation of $804 million. Other investors in Class include GSV Ventures and Emergence Capital, who led the startups’ pre-seed round, as well as top U.S. edtech funds including Reach Capital, Owl Ventures, Insight Partners and Learn Capital.

Class, formerly Class for Zoom, uses management and instruction tools to bolster the video conferencing call experience. Since launch, Class has integrated exclusively with the videoconferencing giant, which rose to household name prominence during the initial months of the pandemic and continues to be a mainstay in synchronous communication. It’s part of a wave of Zoom alternatives and enhancements that have launched over the past year – and to date has over 250 customers.

Today’s announcement of the SoftBank stamp of approval means that Class is making two statements: one, that it’s taking global expansion seriously, and two, I’d argue that it’s signaling that it is not looking to be just an acquisition target for Zoom.

Globalization of edtech

SoftBank likes to back what it views as “winner” in one sector and throw millions into it to help it foothold international markets. Earlier this month, the Japanese conglomerate put millions into Clearco, formerly Clearbanc, to help the alternative financing startup grow into new geographies beyond Europe, Canada and the United States. At this point, I imagine SoftBank is looking for opinionated startups that are naturally pulled internationally, and then funds the heck out of them.

Class is no different. Chasen explained how international demand for the product has been high since Class announced its seed round. Schools from Europe, the Middle East and Japan reached out before Class had rolled out general availability. Now, with Class’ general availability rolled out on Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and Chromebook, Chasen is focusing on turning those on the waitlist into customers.

Class’ international expansion will see it build up local teams in target regions such as the UK and Ireland, EMEA, Latin American and APAC. The startup is expecting to add 100 new team members across the world to its already 200-person team.