COVID-19 Outbreak: Daily Updates

Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

  • More than 4.6 million people globally have died from COVID-19.
  • More than half of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated.
  • New COVID-19 cases are on the rise in virtually every U.S. state.

Update on COVID-19 numbers

  • Globally, there have been more than 227.4 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 4.6 million associated deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The United States has reported more than 41.9 million confirmed cases and more than 671,000 associated deaths.
  • Currently, more than 211 million people in the United States have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with more than 180.5 million people fully vaccinated.

Healthline updates this page on weekdays. For up-to-date information about the virus, go here.

9/17/21 3:00 p.m. PDT — Key FDA panel votes to recommend COVID-19 booster shots for people over 65

Today, a key panel of both government and outside health experts convened to debate whether there’s enough evidence to recommend COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to a wide swath of people.

The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met for a lengthy meeting. The committee looked at evidence from Pfizer and BioNTech as well as Israel to see whether booster shots were safe and effective.

The committee unanimously voted to recommend booster shots for people over age 65 and those who are immunocompromised.

The committee voted against recommending booster shot for the general population.

The Biden administration had touted that booster shots would be available to people in the United States starting Sept. 20, pending authorization by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

But health experts, including those from the FDA, expressed skepticism that there was enough evidence to support giving a booster shot to people who were not at higher risk of severe disease.

The FDA does not have to follow the panel’s recommendations, but it often does.

By this weekend, COVID-19 will become the deadliest U.S. pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic will become the deadliest pandemic in U.S. history this month, surpassing the 1918 flu pandemic.

More than 675,000 people died in the United States during the 1918 flu pandemic, according to the CDC.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 671,000 people have died in the United States.

There were 3,415 deaths in the last 24 hours alone, according to The New York Times.

Could ‘hybrid immunity’ offer better protection?

While the FDA debates whether all people need a booster shot, experts told Yahoo! News that they’re learning more about “hybrid immunity.”

Hybrid immunity is the “super” immune response someone gets after having COVID-19 and then getting vaccinated.

“The best thing we can hope for is that three vaccine doses will emulate the super immune response, found among those previously infected with the virus,” Dr. Paul Goepfert, an infectious disease physician and director of the Alabama Vaccine Research Clinic, told Yahoo! News.

“This [type of immunity] will protect against variants in the future,” he added.

A June review published in Science found that people with hybrid immunity experience up to a 100-fold increase in antibody response than what they built up after having COVID-19.

Another (not yet peer-reviewed) study from August found that people who had an infection and then were vaccinated were protected against Delta, the most infectious coronavirus variant, and Beta, the most lethal.

9/16/21 3:28 p.m. PDT — Health departments plan for potential booster rollout

Local health departments across the United States are moving ahead with plans for a COVID-19 vaccine booster rollout starting next week, even though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to authorize boosters for most people.

Last month, President Biden announced plans for COVID-19 booster doses to be offered starting the week of Sept. 20, subject to sign-off from the FDA and CDC.

However, health departments planning on administering boosters can’t wait for these details to be finalized, according to CNN.

“We don’t want to be unprepared,” Lori Tremmel Freeman, CEO of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, told CNN on Wednesday.

She also confirmed that local health departments are planning now to be ready after the FDA reviews Pfizer’s data, especially as health departments are currently “really overwhelmed” responding to surges of COVID-19 cases, working to get unvaccinated people inoculated, and preparing for flu season.

Moderna study supports booster shots

Drugmaker Moderna has released data suggesting that while its COVID-19 vaccine is effective in preventing serious health issues or death from coronavirus “variants of concern,” vaccine effectiveness does decrease over time.

“It is promising to see clinical and real-world evidence adding to the growing body of data on the effectiveness of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine,” said Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, in a statement.

According to Bancel, the increased risk of breakthrough infections in study participants vaccinated last year compared with participants more recently “illustrates the impact of waning immunity” and supports the need for a booster shot to maintain high levels of protection.

“We hope these findings are helpful as health authorities and regulators continue to assess strategies for ending this pandemic,” he continued.

9/15/21 3:38 p.m. PDT — Alaska’s largest hospital begins rationing care due to COVID-19

ABC News reported that Alaska’s largest hospital is beginning to ration healthcare, as the facility is overwhelmed by a surge of COVID-19 patients.

“While we are doing our utmost, we are no longer able to provide the standard of care to each and every patient who needs our help,” Dr. Kristen Solana Walkinshaw, chief of staff at Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, wrote in an op-ed published by Anchorage Daily News.

According to Walkinshaw, the acuity and number of COVID-19 patients now exceeds hospital resources and ability to staff beds with professionals like nurses and respiratory therapists.

“We have been forced within our hospital to implement crisis standards of care,” she wrote.

Grim milestone: 1 in 500 Americans have died of COVID-19

The United States has reached a new milestone in the pandemic: 1 in 500 Americans have died from COVID-19.

As of Sept. 14, 663,913 people in the United States died of COVID-19, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The Census Bureau lists the U.S. population was 331.4 million as of April 2020.

Health experts have hailed vaccinations as the best protection against COVID-19, noting that most people hospitalized with and killed by COVID-19 are unvaccinated.

The CDC recommends everyone, including fully vaccinated people, wear masks indoors in areas with substantial or high community COVID-19 transmission.

Side effects from COVID-19 booster will be similar to 2nd shot

Officials from Pfizer and BioNTech said people could expect to have some mild side effects after getting a COVID-19 booster, similar to the side effects people experienced after their second dose.

The data comes from a new study that was submitted to the FDA as Pfizer and BioNTech ask for authorization to give vaccine booster shots to people over age 16.

In the study that involved 300 people, about 63 percent reported feeling fatigue, around 48 percent reported having a headache, and 39 percent had muscle pain.

Most of the reactions to the vaccine booster were mild or moderate, according to CNBC.

9/14/21 3:49 p.m. PDT — U.K. to offer COVID-19 vaccine boosters for everyone over age 50

The United Kingdom will start giving COVID-19 booster shots to everyone over age 50, according to The Associated Press.

The AP reported that a U.K. medical panel on vaccinations and immunizations advised that people over age 50 be allowed to get COVID-19 booster shots, as immunity may wane over the winter months.

Healthcare workers and people who are immunocompromised will also be able to get COVID-19 vaccine boosters.

Mu variant is the most resistant to antibodies from previous infection or vaccination, study finds

A new but not yet peer-reviewed study has found that the Mu variant is the most resistant variant to antibodies from either previous infection or vaccination.

“The Mu variant shows a pronounced resistance to antibodies elicited by natural SARS-CoV-2 infection and the BNT162b2 [Pfizer-BioNTech] mRNA vaccine,” the study authors wrote.

“Since breakthrough infections are a major threat of newly emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants, we strongly suggest to further characterize and monitor the Mu variant.”

Newsweek recently reported that Mu is now present in all 50 U.S. states.

However, according to the latest CDC data, the variant still represents only 0.1 percent of U.S. cases.

Job postings requiring vaccination have increased

As more people return to the workplace after months working remotely, vaccination status is becoming a condition of employment, according to CNBC.

Job postings requiring vaccination have spiked since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, according to jobs site Indeed, showing increasing numbers of employers requiring candidates be vaccinated, reported CNBC.

“A few weeks ago, job postings on Indeed requiring vaccination started to take off and have accelerated since,” AnnElizabeth Konkel, an economist at the Indeed Hiring Lab, told CNBC.

9/13/21 3:00 p.m. PDT — 60% of workers support vaccine requirements, survey says

According to USA Today, millions of workers face new federal vaccine rules in the wake of President Biden’s Sept. 9 order that employers of at least 100 people require staff to either be vaccinated or get weekly COVID-19 testing.

Most experts say that vaccine mandates are legal as long as employees can seek accommodations for legitimate medical or religious reasons, reported USA Today.

A survey released by business management platform Qualtrics found that 60 percent of workers support vaccine requirements, although 23 percent said they’d consider quitting if their employer imposed such a rule.

“The president’s order means employers can stop discussing whether to impose a vaccination requirement, and begin the next important step of communicating with their employees about how they will act on it,” Sydney Heimbrock, Qualtrics’ chief industry adviser for government, said in a statement, according to USA Today.

Mu variant affecting all 50 states

The Mu variant of the coronavirus is confirmed to be in all 50 U.S. states after the mutation was detected in Nebraska, reported Newsweek.

According to Outbreak.Info, as of Sept. 4, almost 6,000 Mu variant sequences have been detected worldwide. More than 2,400 of those sequences were discovered in the United States.

However, Mu is still relatively rare in the United States, despite at least one case in every state and the District of Columbia.

It’s not yet clear whether Mu is likely to have an impact similar to the highly infectious Delta variant, reported Newsweek.

Experts say even with increasing cases of Mu, the Delta variant remains the most concerning.

“In some countries, the proportion of cases with the Mu variant is increasing,” Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, WHO’s technical director for COVID-19, told Newsweek. “But in other countries, the proportion of Mu is decreasing. Where Delta is, Delta takes over really quickly.”

“I think the Delta variant, for me, is the one that’s the most concerning, because of the increased transmissibility,” she added.

Upstate NY hospital loses staff over vaccine mandate

A hospital in upstate New York is “pausing” deliveries of babies because of maternity unit employee resignations over the state’s COVID-19 vaccination requirements, health officials say, reported CNN.

According to CNN, Lewis County General Hospital in Lowville, about 60 miles northeast of Syracuse, will soon temporarily close its maternity ward.

“We are unable to safely staff the service after September 24. The number of resignations received leaves us no choice but to pause delivering babies at Lewis County General Hospital. It is my hope that the Department of Health will work with us in support of pausing the service rather than closing the maternity department,” Gerald Cayer, CEO of the Lewis County Health System, said at a news conference Sept. 10, reported CNN.

Cayer confirmed there are 165 employees throughout the Lewis County Health System who haven’t received a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine yet.

He added that several other departments were at risk “based on the number of unvaccinated individuals in those departments.”

9/10/21 3:04 p.m. PDT — Pfizer to seek FDA authorization to give vaccine to kids over age 5

The pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech will soon ask the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for authorization to give vaccines to children over the age of 5.

The news came from a report in the German news outlet Der Spiegel.

The New York Times reported that officials will be giving data from vaccine trials to the FDA in the coming weeks and ask that the emergency use authorization be expanded to allow children over age 5 to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for use in children 12 and over.

No vaccine is available for children under 12 in the United States.

Biden gives more details on plan to use vaccine requirements to battle pandemic

According to President Biden’s Sept. 9 speech to the nation, getting every American vaccinated along with masking and expanded testing to identify infections are essential measures to win the “battle” against COVID-19.

“This is a pandemic of the unvaccinated,” Biden said. “And it’s caused by the fact that despite America having an unprecedented and successful vaccination program, despite the fact that for almost five months free vaccines have been available in 80,000 different locations, we still have nearly 80 million Americans who have failed to get the shot.”

He also lambasted elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19.

Biden said that instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, these officials are ordering mobile morgues for unvaccinated people who are dying from COVID-19 in their communities.

Biden confirmed that almost 75 percent of those eligible have received at least one shot. But he emphasized that the number of people who are still unvaccinated is significant.

“That’s nearly 80 million Americans not vaccinated,” he said. “The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, are overrunning the emergency rooms and intensive care units.”

Biden gave more details in his plan:

  • An emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test at least once a week.
  • Extending the vaccination requirements that the administration previously issued in the healthcare field.
  • Requiring all executive branch federal employees and federal contractors to be vaccinated.

Texas sees most deaths since start of pandemic

In states across the South and Midwest, hospitals are once again overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, most of them unvaccinated — with Texas reporting the highest number of deaths since the pandemic began, reported WABC News.

According to WABC, Christina Martinez was in a coma for 6 weeks with COVID-19. She has a message to share about why she finally got vaccinated:

“People don’t like to be told what to do but it is for your own safety,” she told WABC.

However, there’s mounting resistance to Biden’s recently announced pandemic measures.

Some Republican governors are threatening to sue the Biden administration over the new mandates, reported WABC.

But the outlet pointed out that experts say the president appears to have solid legal standing under the executive orders and emergency rules.

9/9/21 3:16 p.m. PDT — Biden plan to require many employees to be vaccinated or tested

On Thursday, Sep. 9, President Biden announced new steps in his administration’s COVID-19 response. It will involve more vaccination requirements.

Biden’s plan will require companies with 100 employees to require their employees to either get vaccinated or undergo weekly testing.

Biden also announced other steps including increased access to rapid tests, requiring employers to provide paid time off for vaccinations, and requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated.

Biden had strong words for people who were still unvaccinated and pushed people to get vaccinated if they’re eligible.

“We’ve been patient but our patience is wearing thin,” he said. “And your refusal has cost all of us. So please do the right thing.”

Risk of severe breakthrough infection higher for older adults and those with underlying conditions

For people who are fully vaccinated, the risk of being hospitalized or dying from COVID-19 is much lower than the risk for unvaccinated people, reported CNN.

As of August 30, the CDC has received reports of only 12,908 severe COVID-19 breakthrough cases among fully vaccinated people that resulted in hospitalization or death.

That’s a miniscule fraction of the over 173 million people who have been fully vaccinated. It represents a less than 1 in 13,000 chance of experiencing a severe breakthrough case, reported CNN.

But in those rare cases when the fully vaccinated develop COVID-19, CDC data suggest that older adults and people with multiple underlying medical conditions are at greatest risk of severe illness.

United Airlines announces unvaccinated employees face unpaid leave, termination

United Airlines says that over half its employees who were unvaccinated last month have received their shots since the airline announced COVID-19 vaccination would be required, reported the Chicago Sun Times.

However, United Airlines has announced on Sep. 8 that most employees who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 after October 2 will face either termination or unpaid leave, reported the Independent.

According to CNBC, United said if an employee’s request for a religious exemption is denied, they must be vaccinated within 5 weeks of the denial notice and get the first shot by September 27 or face termination.

Pilots, flight attendants, gate agents, and airport customer service agents who interact with customers and are granted those exemptions can return to work “once the pandemic meaningfully recedes,” United said, without specifying the timeframe, reported CNBC.

Moderna says they’re working on joint flu and COVID-19 vaccine

The pharmaceutical company Moderna said in a presentation today that they’re working on a joint COVID-19 booster and flu shot, according to NBC News.

At this point, the joint vaccine is still in the experimental stage and it’s unclear if it will be effective at preventing disease.

The flu season is expected to start in the United States this fall.

9/8/21 2:16 p.m. PDT — More than one-quarter of new COVID-19 cases are in children

COVID-19 cases are surging, with an increasing proportion of them reported in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

More than 250,000 children tested positive for COVID-19 in just 1 week. Children now make up more than 26 percent of new COVID-19 cases, reported the AAP.

But there shouldn’t be a big increase in cases related to school reopenings “if we do it right,” according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“We’ve gotta get the school system masked in addition to surrounding the children with vaccinated people,” Fauci told CNN. “That’s the solution.”

He also stressed vaccination for those eligible is crucial.

However, schools, especially in the South, started the new semester in August. Many districts, particularly those without mask mandates, are seeing a big jump in cases, reported CNN.

According to the network, doctors and experts warn it could happen again when students in much of the rest of the country return to school after Labor Day weekend, unless there’s strong action to keep the coronavirus in check.

Biden to deliver major speech on next phase of COVID-19 response

President Joe Biden is prepared to give a major address on the next phase of his pandemic response this week, according to a report from CNN.

The speech is expected to cover issues related to COVID-19 and schools, private companies, and requirements for federal employees.

The speech was initially slated for today, but a White House official told CNN yesterday morning that the timing is still fluid, and it would instead be presented Thursday, Sept. 9.

“On Thursday, the President will speak to the American people about his robust plan to stop the spread of the Delta variant and boost vaccinations.

“As the President has said since Day 1, his administration will pull every lever to get the pandemic under control. On Thursday, the President will lay out a six-pronged strategy that will help us do just that, working across the public and private sectors,” the official said, reported CNN.

Doctors confirm Mu variant found in at least 50 Houston patients

Doctors at Houston Methodist Hospital have discovered cases of the Mu variant among patients being treated for COVID-19, the hospital confirmed Monday, reported Click2Houston.com.

Doctors confirmed cases of the Mu variant in roughly 50 patients.

“We had our first case of Mu back in May,” Dr. Wesley Long, medical director of diagnostic microbiology at Houston Methodist and a clinical pathologist, told Click2Houston.

Long pointed out they didn’t refer to those cases as from the Mu variant until the World Health Organization (WHO) designated the variant as such last week.

“Once the WHO declared that this would be the Mu variant, we went and looked and saw that we had had a few cases here and there dating back all the way till May,” Long told Click2Houston.

9/7/21 2:30 p.m. PDT — U.S. tops 40 million COVID-19 cases

In less than 2 years since COVID-19 was first detected, the United States has now topped 40 million cases of the disease.

Despite widespread access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, only about 62 people of people over age 12 have been fully vaccinated.

Additionally, the rise of the more infectious Delta variant has led to a significant rise in COVID-19 cases.

Florida sees deadliest COVID-19 surge of the pandemic

The Associated Press (AP) reported that while Florida’s vaccination rate is slightly higher than the national average, COVID-19-related death is still on the rise.

This may be due in part to the state’s larger elderly population and a state government that’s fighting mask mandates.

According to the AP, hospitals have had to rent refrigerated trucks to store more bodies, and funeral homes have been overwhelmed.

However, one positive sign is that the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Florida has dropped over the past 2 weeks from more than 17,000 to 14,200 on Sept. 3, indicating the surge is easing, reported the AP.

New U.S. infections up by over 300% since last Labor Day

Daily coronavirus infections are more than four times what the United States saw on Labor Day last year, with daily deaths almost twice as high, reported USA Today.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, this is a 316 percent increase over last year’s figures.

We can blame this rise on the highly infectious Delta variant and a significant number of people in the United States refusing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, reported USA Today.

The newspaper emphasized that some U.S. hospitals have become so crowded with COVID-19 patients that physicians may be compelled to make life-or-death decisions on who gets an ICU bed.

9/3/21 1:28 p.m. PDT — Officials may need more time before widely recommending booster shots

According to a new report, federal officials have told the Biden administration they may need more time to review data before recommending COVID-19 booster shots to most of the U.S. public.

The New York Times reported today that Dr. Janet Woodcock, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, who heads the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), told the Biden administration that they may only be able to recommend boosters for a subset of the U.S. population.

Reportedly, they may only have information for people who already received the Pfizer-BioNTech mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

The Biden administration had announced plans for a major push of COVID-19 booster shots pending FDA approval.

Pediatric COVID-19 cases on the rise

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), child COVID-19 cases are on the rise, with roughly 204,000 cases added last week.

For the week ending Aug. 26, children were 22.4 percent of reported weekly COVID-19 cases.

The AAP gathered COVID-19 data from 49 states, New York City, Puerto Rico, and Guam to find the rate of child COVID-19 cases was 6,374 cases per 100,000 children as of Aug. 26.

The AAP emphasized that while children are contracting infections, they’re not experiencing severe disease.

“At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is uncommon among children,” AAP said in a statement. “However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts of the pandemic on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.”

Mu variant not an ‘immediate threat,’ says Fauci

The coronavirus variant Mu, designated a “variant of interest” earlier this week by the World Health Organization (WHO), is not an “immediate threat” to the United States, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, reported The Washington Post.

Fauci said at a Sept. 2 news briefing that the Mu variant is “not at all even close to being dominant,” and that the Delta variant remained the cause of almost 100 percent of U.S. cases.

However, he confirmed that “we’re keeping a very close eye on it.”

According to the Post, the WHO says the Mu variant has “a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape.”

But the organization emphasized further study is needed to find out whether the Mu variant will be resistant to currently available vaccines.

9/2/21 2:06 p.m. PDT — 1 in 7 children with COVID-19 develop long-haul symptoms

A new study out of the United Kingdom has found that about 1 in 7 children who develop COVID-19 end up having long-term symptoms, reported Reuters.

The study looked at children between the ages of 11 and 17. While children in the study rarely had severe initial symptoms, they were at increased risk of having lingering symptoms weeks or even months later.

About 14 percent of children with COVID-19 reported symptoms including fatigue and headaches 15 weeks after developing the disease.

The study is a preprint and has not yet been peer reviewed.

COVID-19 cases milder in vaccinated people, study confirms

A recent study conducted in the United Kingdom offers large-scale, real-world data on how well vaccination protects us against “breakthrough” coronavirus infections, and how well it protects against severe illness.

Researchers found that people who contracted the coronavirus after being fully vaccinated were nearly twice as likely to feel no symptoms when compared with the wider population.

According to CBS News, the results are encouraging, and this study could help policymakers and epidemiologists fill a significant gap in understanding the true effectiveness of three of the major vaccines being used worldwide.

Survey says most U.S. companies could mandate COVID-19 vaccination in coming months

Over half of U.S. companies have planned to mandate COVID-19 vaccination in the workplace by the end of the year, with nearly 25 percent considering vaccination as a condition for employment, according to a national survey of nearly 1,000 employers, reported Reuters.

Google, Walmart, McDonald’s, and United Airlines are among a growing list of companies requiring some or all staff to be vaccinated, reported Fortune.

According to Reuters, the survey polled 961 U.S. companies that together employ nearly 10 million people.

The survey found that over half of employers could have one or more vaccine mandate requirements by the end of 2021, more than doubling the current number of employers requiring proof of vaccination.

9/1/12 2:08 p.m. PDT — Mu is the newest variant of interest

The World Health Organization (WHO) has added another variant of COVID-19 to its list of ‘variants of interest.’

According to The Guardian, the Mu variant (B.1.621) was added to the WHO’s watch list on August 30 after being detected in 39 countries and found to have mutations that could make it less susceptible to the immune protection many have acquired.

Data from the U.K. government shows there have already been 48 confirmed or probable cases in that country, while the Mu variant has been responsible for 852 cases in Colombia, according to information from the GISAID COVID tracking initiative.

The Mu variant has also been identified in Florida, reported WFLA News, with the new variant spreading quickly in the Jacksonville area.

Although the Mu variant makes up less than 0.1 percent of COVID-19 cases globally, it may be gaining ground in Colombia and Ecuador where it’s 39 and 13 percent of COVID-19 cases respectively.

COVID-19 will accelerate dementia pandemic, experts say

Scientists and psychiatrists warn that COVID-19’s degenerative effect on the brain will accelerate a dementia pandemic that could affect an estimated 80 million people by the end of the decade, reported the Financial Times.

On Wednesday, Sep. 1, Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI), the global federation of dementia associations, unveiled a specialist working group to better understand the problem’s scale and recommend ways to fight it.

“We don’t want to scare people unnecessarily,” Paola Barbarino, ADI chief executive, told the Financial Times. “But many dementia experts around the globe are seriously concerned by the link between dementia and the neurological symptoms of COVID-19.”

Recent research finds that COVID-19 damages the brain in several ways. It might attack brain cells directly, reduce blood flow to brain tissue, or trigger production of immune molecules harmful to brain cells.

“Infection with the coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, can cause memory loss, strokes, and other effects on the brain,” the study authors wrote.

Woman charged for using fake COVID-19 vaccine card in Hawaii

KITV Island News reported that a 24-year-old Illinois woman is behind bars on Oahu, charged with using a fake vaccination card to bypass mandatory quarantine.

According to KITV, the woman, identified as Chloe Mrozak, presented a vaccination card showing she’d been immunized with the ‘Maderna’ vaccine — a misspelling considered a clear sign that her document was fraudulent.

KITV reported that she’ll return to court on Wednesday, with the Illinois resident facing up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $5,000, if convicted.

Two FDA officials leave as agency debates COVID-19 vaccines for children

The New York Times reports that two vaccine regulators are leaving the Food and Drug Administration.

The resignations come as the FDA is reviewing data on the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines for children under age 12.

Dr. Marion Gruber, the director of the FDA’s vaccines office and her deputy, Dr. Philip Krause, will both leave by November. The officials are leaving in part due to concerns that COVID-19 booster shots are being recommended without enough evidence they’re effective, according to the New York Times report.

8/31/21 1:46 p.m. PDT — Moderna vaccine stimulates double the antibodies than Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, study finds

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine was able to generate more than double the antibodies of another mRNA vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech in new research directly comparing immune responses to the inoculations, reported Bloomberg.

The study involved nearly 2,500 workers at a major Belgium hospital system.

Researchers found that antibody levels among people who hadn’t contracted a coronavirus infection before receiving two doses of the Moderna vaccine averaged antibody levels of 2,881 units per milliliter, compared with only 1,108 units per milliliter in a similar group who were given two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.

According to Bloomberg, the results, published in a letter to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggest a reason for the difference could be due to Moderna’s vaccine having almost three times more active ingredient than the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, and the longer interval between shots.

Florida reports more COVID-19 deaths now than all of 2020

More deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in Florida this year than in 2020.

The disease is now the third leading cause of death in the state, according to a Florida Department of Health report released Aug. 27, reported USA Today.

According to USA Today, the report said cumulative COVID-19 deaths have reached 43,979 in Florida as of Aug. 26, with last year’s COVID-19 deaths recorded at only 21,673.

The latest data shows less than 9 months into 2021, 22,306 people died from the coronavirus or COVID-19-related complications, outpacing the number of dead in the last year, reported USA Today.

The first deaths from the pandemic in Florida were recorded in the first week of March 2020 and totaled 21,673 by Dec. 31, 2020.

Many other states have been reporting more COVID-19 deaths in 2021 than in 2020, even though a third of the year remains, reported USA Today.

8/30/21 2:27 p.m. PDT — 100,000 more people may die in U.S. from COVID-19 before pandemic is over

With almost 100,000 U.S. adults hospitalized due to COVID-19 and infections surging among the unvaccinated, possibly another 100,000 people could die from the disease by December, according to a recent University of Washington model.

“What is going on now is both entirely predictable, but entirely preventable,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN‘s Jake Tapper on Sunday, reported the network.

Fauci said while the outcome of this model is possible, “We know we have the wherewithal with vaccines to turn this around.”

“We could do it efficiently and quickly if we just get those people vaccinated,” he continued. “That’s why it’s so important now, in this crisis that we’re in that people put aside any ideologic, political, or other differences, and just get vaccinated.”

U.S. sticks with 8-month timeline on booster shots

The United States is sticking with its 8-month timeline for COVID-19 booster shots, at least for now, the nation’s top infectious disease expert said Sunday, reported USA Today.

According to USA Today, on Friday, President Joe Biden had suggested the administration was considering whether booster shots should be given as soon as 5 months after vaccination in response to the Delta variant that’s driving up COVID-19 rates across the country.

However, on Sunday, Fauci said health officials are open to shifting the recommendation based on evolving information, but the 8 months timeline will remain — for now.

“We’re not changing it, but we are very open to new data as it comes in. We’re going to be very flexible about it,” Fauci said, reported USA Today.

Unvaccinated, maskless teacher transmits virus to students in California

An unvaccinated California teacher transmitted the Delta variant to a group of elementary school students and others, according to a report from the CDC.

The CDC reported that the teacher from Marin County became symptomatic on May 19, and experienced symptoms such as cough, fever, and headache.

Initially attributing the symptoms to allergies, the teacher continued working — reading aloud to students without a mask or face covering, despite requirements from the school to do so when indoors, the CDC said.

The teacher tested positive for COVID-19 2 days later.

8/27/21 2:00 p.m. PDT — Florida sees largest single-day increase in deaths since pandemic began

According to the Miami Herald, on Aug. 26, Florida reported 21,765 more COVID-19 cases and 901 deaths to the CDC, according to Miami Herald calculations of CDC data.

All but two of the newly reported deaths occurred after July 25, with roughly 78 percent of those people dying in the past 2 weeks. The majority of deaths happened during Florida’s latest surge in COVID-19 cases, fueled by the Delta variant.

The Herald reported that this is the largest single-day increase to the death total in the state’s COVID-19 pandemic history.

‘We’ve lost hundreds of children,’ surgeon general says

According to CNN, returning to in-person learning has resulted in thousands of students across the United States being quarantined, as COVID-19 among children surges to levels not seen since winter.

With the increased threat, the U.S. surgeon general urges parents and officials to take measures that reduce children’s infection risk.

“If they are around people who are vaccinated, everyone in the household gets vaccinated, that significantly reduces the risk to our children,” Dr. Vivek Murthy said in a conversation hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, reported CNN.

In classrooms, Murthy continued, there are layers of protection that the CDC has laid out to keep children safe, including mask use, properly ventilating buildings, and regular COVID-19 testing.

“Even though our kids do better, that doesn’t mean that COVID is benign, it doesn’t mean that it’s harmless in our children,” Murthy said. “In fact, we’ve lost hundreds of children to COVID-19.”

Child dies of COVID-19 in Virginia

Yesterday, the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced the death of a child in the Northern Region who had COVID-19.

According to the VDH, the child was between 0 and 9 years old. The department will not disclose more information to protect privacy and out of respect for the child’s family.

VDH confirmed that this is the first reported COVID-19 death of a child in the Northern Region in Virginia.

“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of this child for their tragic loss,” State Health Commissioner Dr. M. Norman Oliver said in a statement.

“Across the country, COVID-19 continues to cause illness and death. The delta variant is now the most predominant strain across the country, and it spreads more easily from one person to another,” he continued.

“We urge everyone to take precautions to protect themselves and those around them. Everyone aged 12 and older who is eligible to get vaccinated is encouraged to do so as soon as possible.”

Evictions can resume, Supreme Court decides

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority is allowing evictions to resume across the United States, blocking the Biden administration from enforcing a temporary ban that was put in place because of the pandemic, reported The Associated Press (AP).

According to the AP, the court’s decision ends protections for about 3.5 million people in the United States who reported facing eviction in the next 2 months, according to Census Bureau data from early August.

Conservative justices ruled that the CDC lacked the authority to do so under federal law without explicit congressional authorization, reported the AP. Three liberal justices dissented.

“If a federally imposed eviction moratorium is to continue, Congress must specifically authorize it,” the court wrote, reported the AP.

8/26/21 2:30 p.m. PDT — White House accelerates rollout of Regeneron’s COVID-19 treatment

According to Yahoo! News, health officials agree that if you are newly diagnosed with COVID-19 and have an above-average risk of getting seriously ill, you should quickly seek treatment with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals’ monoclonal antibody therapy.

“Importantly, since July 1st, we have shipped over half a million lifesaving therapeutics to treat COVID patients — half a million therapeutics that are preventing hospitalizations and saving lives,” said Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, in a recent press briefing.

He added that the administration continues to accelerate the use of these treatments.

“In fact, in just the first two weeks of August, we shipped more than 10 times the amount of treatments we shipped to states in the entire month of June,” Zients said.

Yahoo reported that the federal government is covering the costs, with some states setting up free infusion centers for the antibody cocktail that’s been shown to reduce hospitalization rates by 70 percent for people at high risk of severe COVID-19 when they’re treated within 10 days.

Firing medical workers who refuse vaccine OK, proposed NY rule says

Medical workers who refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19 could be fired under an emergency edict expected to win New York State Health Department approval today, reported the New York Post.

“Covered entities may terminate personnel who are not fully vaccinated and do not have a valid medical exemption and are unable to otherwise ensure individuals are not engaged in patient/resident care or expose other covered personnel,” the proposed rule states, according to the Post.

This policy was first announced by former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s health department last week.

Healthcare workers will have until Sept. 27 to receive their first vaccine dose.

“This mandate will both help close the vaccination gap and reduce the spread of the Delta variant,” New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said in a statement. “I want to thank all New York State’s healthcare workers for stepping up once again and showing our state that getting vaccinated is safe, easy, and most importantly, effective.”

Demand for monoclonal antibody treatment ‘skyrocketing’

For most of this year, reported USA Today, the drugs former President Donald Trump credited for his quick recovery from COVID-19 have sat unused on government shelves, but now demand is skyrocketing.

According to USA Today, this week about 1,200 Houston-area patients will receive REGN-COV, a monoclonal antibody made by drugmaker Regeneron.

“We’ve seen an exponential rise in demand,” Dr. Howard Huang, who has led Houston Methodist Hospital’s monoclonal antibody effort, told USA Today.

He added that demand for sotrovimab, another monoclonal antibody used under emergency use authorization for COVID-19 treatment, has spiked nearly 300 percent over the past month.

New plan: COVID-19 booster shots starting at 6 months

According to The Wall Street Journal, federal regulators will likely approve a third COVID-19 shot for fully vaccinated adults starting at least 6 months after the second dose — rather than the 8-month gap announced previously — a person familiar with the plans told the Journal.

Data from vaccine manufacturers and other countries under review by the Food and Drug Administration is based on boosters being given at 6 months, the person added.

The unnamed source also told the Journal that approval for boosters for all three COVID-19 shots being administered in the United States — those manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson — is expected in mid-September.

Hospitalizations soar amid Delta surge

More than 100,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 in the United States, reported The Washington Post — a level not seen since Jan. 30 when COVID-19 vaccines weren’t widely available — as the country struggles to contain a surge of the highly infectious Delta variant.

Hospitalizations are highest across the South, where every state in the region has a higher portion of its population currently hospitalized with COVID-19 than the national level, according to a Washington Post database.

However, according to the Post, although many hospitals are under strain and report shortages of intensive care unit (ICU) beds, overall deaths are far lower.

The daily average of deaths by end of January was 3,100 and only about 1,100 as of Aug. 25.

Unvaccinated people have 29 times higher risk of hospitalization, CDC study finds

According to an Aug. 24 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on data out of Los Angeles County, unvaccinated people are nearly five times more likely to contract a coronavirus infection and over 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19.

“This means that vaccinated persons are much less likely to have severe illness and may only have mild symptoms,” Dr. Sharon Balter, one of the study’s authors and an infectious disease director at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, told NBC News. “This is a great reason to get vaccinated.”

Even as the highly infectious Delta variant increased from 8 percent of positive cases analyzed by the department to roughly 90 percent by the end of July, researchers found that COVID-19 vaccines were still offering effective protection against severe symptoms, reported NBC News.

“These infection and hospitalization rate data indicate that authorized vaccines were protective against SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe COVID-19 during a period when transmission of the delta variant was increasing,” said the report.

8/25/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — Studies find vaccine effectiveness declined sharply amid Delta spread, unvaccinated much more likely to be hospitalized

An updated report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds that while the now FDA-approved Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines were roughly 90 percent effective in preventing infection with the pandemic virus, SARS-CoV-2, from December to April 2021 — before the delta variant had spread throughout the U.S. Their effectiveness has now dropped to only 66 percent.

According to STAT News, experts say there are several factors that could be influencing the observed decline in effectiveness:

  • Delta is more capable of causing breakthrough infections than other forms of the virus, and study authors note some waning in the immune system’s ability to block infections could be occurring as well.
  • As mitigation efforts have eased, increasing social contact among individuals has caused transmission to pick up.
  • People are simply more likely to be exposed to COVID-19 than they were during the early days of vaccine rollout.

STAT News also reported that findings of another study published Tuesday show that in Los Angeles County, from May through July 2021, unvaccinated people had five times the rate of COVID-19 infections as those vaccinated, and were 29 times more likely to be hospitalized.

Johnson & Johnson booster shot generated big immune response, reported drugmaker

According to CNN, a second, booster dose of Johnson & Johnson’s single dose COVID-19 vaccine generated a “big spike” in antibodies against the pandemic virus, the company reported Wednesday.

The drugmaker announced that people who received a second shot, 6 to 8 months after their initial dose, experienced a nine-fold increase in antibodies 28 days after the latter, CNN reported.

“New interim data from these studies demonstrate that a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine generated a rapid and robust increase in spike-binding antibodies, nine-fold higher than 28 days after the primary single-dose vaccination,” the company said in its statement.

COVID-19 vaccines effective at preventing severe COVID-19, study finds

New research by scientists at Erasmus Medical Center and Radboud University in the Netherlands, examined vaccine “breakthrough infections” in a large group of vaccinated healthcare workers (HCWs).

Researchers used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definition of a breakthrough infection: the detection of SARS-CoV-2 RNA or antigen in a respiratory specimen collected from a person 14 or more days after completing all recommended doses of a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized COVID-19 vaccine.

The findings, not yet peer-reviewed, show that HCWs who received either an mRNA vaccine or viral vector vaccine between January and May 2021 experienced no serious infections, and none of the infected HCWs were hospitalized.

“Phase IV studies have confirmed that vaccination is highly effective at preventing COVID-19-related morbidity and mortality,” the study authors wrote. “Although vaccine effectiveness will never reach 100%. Our study supports the excellent effectiveness of vaccination in preventing severe SARS CoV-2 related disease.”

8/24/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — 1 in 5 COVID-19 cases are in children

A new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics has found that 1 in 5 new COVID-19 cases are in children.

At least 180,175 children tested positive for the coronavirus this past week, making up more than 22 percent of COVID-19 cases.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 4.5 million U.S. children have tested positive for the disease.

More employers expected to require employees to get COVID-19 vaccine

On Aug. 23, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) granted full approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for people 16 years and older.

Experts have said full approval may pave the way for employers to require workers to get vaccinated. President Joe Biden said as much in remarks he made after the FDA announcement.

“If you’re a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that — require it. Do what I did last month and require your employees to get vaccinated or face strict requirements,” he said.

Chevron reportedly enacted a policy requiring some employees to get vaccinated. Additionally, the New York City school system said that all staff will need to be vaccinated.

According to the most recent data from the CDC, only 51.6 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated so far. It’s unclear whether the FDA approval and employer requirements will drastically increase the vaccination rate.

However, Dr. Peter Hotez, vaccinologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, is skeptical that the FDA’s decision will have the desired effect on vaccination holdouts, but that the employer mandate could be key.

“I do think there will be a modest increase, but, look, we have a long way to go to fill this gap,” Hotez told CNN. “I think having the full approval will certainly convince some, but it’s just one of a dozen fake talking points put out there by the disinformation campaign. And, I think a number of people are just going to revert to one of the other ones.”

“The thing that may really motivate people to get those lifesaving vaccines is if the authorization paves the way for employers, businesses, and schools to mandate vaccinations,” he said.

Approval for children ages 12 and up could be coming soon

While the FDA has only approved the Pfizer-BioNTech shot for ages 16 and up, CNN reported that full approval for children 12 and older is likely coming soon.

“I don’t think it’ll be long before they extend it to 12 to 15,” Dr. Bob Frenck, director of the Vaccine Research Center at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, told CNN. “Maybe within a few weeks to a month or so.”

According to Frenck, it appears kids can get a much smaller dose of vaccine than adults and still get the same immune response — meaning vaccine supply can be stretched further.

“We took a step back after we did the adolescents, and we looked at the dosing, because we thought that we may be able to use a lower dose and be able to get the same immune response,” Frenck told CNN.

He explained that only one-third of the adult dose, just 10 micrograms, will stimulate a strong immune response in children as young as 5 years.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN he was confident the trials would show good efficacy among younger children.

“I don’t think there’s going to be any question that this is going to be effective in the children at that younger age. I have no doubt about that,” Fauci told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

8/23/21 4:17 p.m. PDT — FDA gives full approval to Pfizer vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine is now fully approved.

According to the FDA, the vaccine previously known as the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine will now be marketed as Comirnaty, for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older.

“The FDA’s approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic,” said acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock, in a statement. “While this and other vaccines have met the FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product.”

Dr. Peter Marks, director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in that same statement that the FDA evaluated scientific data and information included in “hundreds of thousands of pages,” conducted their own analyses of Comirnaty’s safety and effectiveness, and “performed a detailed assessment of the manufacturing processes, including inspections of the manufacturing facilities.”

“The FDA’s full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine marks a pivotal milestone in the nation’s quest to control the effects of this pandemic,” said Dr. Barbara D. Alexander, president of Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), in an emailed statement.

She emphasized that FDA approval is “the culmination of intense, collaborative scientific research.”

Parents catching COVID from their school-age children

As children go back to school, they are increasingly developing COVID-19 and passing it on to their parents, according to NPR.

NPR reported that in the 2 weeks leading up to classes, 3,255 students tested positive for the coronavirus in the Los Angeles Unified school district.

In Florida’s Brevard Public Schools, more than 3,000 students and staff had to go into quarantine. In Hawaii, some schools are canceling in-class learning completely in a return to remote instruction.

“Time and time again we’re seeing kids return to school and then come home — either after an exposure or sick themselves,” Dr. Nicole Braxley, an emergency medicine physician at Mercy San Juan Medical Center in Sacramento, told NPR. “The virus sheds for a couple of days before the patient has symptoms. Entire families are suddenly exposed.”

8/20/21 12 p.m. PDT — Texas schools allowed to enforce mask requirements

The Texas Education Agency says it will temporarily not enforce a ban on mask mandates in the state. Gov. Greg Abbott has faced criticism and legal challenges for banning schools from enforcing mask-wearing.

The decision comes after the state Supreme Court voted that schools could temporarily enforce mask requirements.

U.S. travel restrictions to Canada and Mexico to continue through Sept. 21

The Department of Homeland Security announced that nonessential travel will continue to be restricted for people using land or ferry crossings from Canada or Mexico.

The restrictions will be in place through at least Sept. 21. The agency said the restrictions are to help combat the rise of COVID-19 amid the surge in Delta variant cases.

Increasing COVID hospitalizations creating new demand for vaccine

The alarming rise in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations is convincing more Americans to get vaccinated now than in the past 6 weeks, reported CNN.

Over 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered Thursday, according to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

The average pace of those seeking vaccination is over 70 percent higher than 1 month ago.

The increase in vaccinations is occurring as hospitals and other healthcare systems report dire situations with patients flooding waiting rooms largely due to the highly infectious Delta variant. This week, Alabama officially ran out of ICU beds.

Lauren Meyers, director of the University of Texas Covid-19 Modeling Consortium, told CNN that area hospitals are at a “breaking point.”

“We are sort of in a very dire situation in Austin,” Meyers told CNN.

8/19/21 2:28 p.m. PDT — Vaccine protection remains strong, except for nursing home residents, CDC reports

According to a recent Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report by the CDC, mRNA vaccine protection against the most severe effects of COVID-19, such as hospitalization and death, remains strong.

Research published by the CDC as three articles finds that in New York, a total of 1,271 new COVID-19 hospitalizations occurred among fully vaccinated adults, compared with 7,308 among unvaccinated adults.

Another study evaluated 21 hospitals in 18 states to find the duration of mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) effectiveness against COVID-19-associated hospitalizations in adults ages 18 or older. It showed sustained effectiveness over a 24-week period, including among groups at higher risk of severe disease.

The third study found while two doses of mRNA vaccines were 74.7 percent effective against SARS-CoV-2 infection among nursing home residents from March to May 2021, from June to July 2021, when the Delta variant predominated, effectiveness declined significantly to 53.1 percent.

Alabama has run out of ICU beds

The state of Alabama has officially run out of ICU beds, according to the Alabama Hospital Association.

Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told WSFA 12 there were 11 patients who needed ICU care but did not have a bed available.

“We’ve never been here before. We are in truly now in uncharted territory in terms of our ICU bed capacity,” Williamson told WSFA 12.

In the past week, over 26,000 people have developed COVID-19 in Alabama, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Delta variant could force Israeli lockdown, new restrictions announced

Health officials say they’re worried that the new Delta variant could force Israel into lockdown, as the nation reaches a high number of active cases, compared with 2 months ago, according to The Jerusalem Post. The new strain originated in South America and was identified in the United States.

“If it reaches Israel, we will get to the lockdown that we so desperately want to avoid,” Dr. Asher Salmon, director of the Ministry of Health’s Department of International Relations, told the Knesset Law and Constitution Committee, reported the Post.

He added that the new variant appears to be more contagious and more resistant to the vaccines. According to the Post, a new system of travel restrictions came into effect on Monday.

All inbound travelers must now self-isolate, even if vaccinated or recovered, unless they arrived from a selected list of “yellow” countries. The Post also reported that with the previous system, nations that required quarantine had to be explicitly mentioned and approved.

Currently, the list of yellow countries includes Hong Kong, Hungary, Taiwan, Moldova, New Zealand, China, Singapore, and the Czech Republic, reported the Post.

Fully vaccinated adults with Delta ‘can match virus levels of unvaccinated’

Fully vaccinated adults can have virus levels as high as unvaccinated people, if they contracted the Delta variant. This is according to a ‘sweeping’ analysis of U.K. data, reported the Guardian.

According to an expert, the implications of this on transmission remain unclear.

“We don’t yet know how much transmission can happen from people who get COVID-19 after being vaccinated — for example, they may have high levels of virus for shorter periods of time,” Sarah Walker, professor of medical statistics and epidemiology at the University of Oxford, told the Guardian.

“But the fact that they can have high levels of virus,” she continued, “suggests that people who aren’t yet vaccinated may not be as protected from the Delta variant as we hoped.”

8/18/21 3:00 p.m. PDT — Federal officials say booster shots will be available this fall

Top U.S. health officials now say that COVID-19 booster shots will be made available to people within the coming weeks. Currently, only people who had mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, meaning people with Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines, will be eligible.

The decision came after new data found that the Delta variant led to an increase of COVID-19 breakthrough cases where people had mild to moderate disease symptoms.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will still have to review and approve administering boosters to the public.

Experts stress that the vaccines are still very effective for a large swath of people and that they protect against severe forms of disease for many.

CDC finds Delta variant accounts for almost 99 percent of U.S. cases

A Tuesday report from the CDC found that the Delta variant now accounts for over 98.8 percent of U.S. cases.

Cases in Riverside County, California, have reached levels not seen since February 2021. Four Oklahoma health systems pleaded with Oklahomans to be vaccinated and wear masks, as hospitals are being “crushed under the strain,” reported USA Today.

“Oklahoma, we really need to stop debating this vaccine and start fighting the virus and its variants,” Dr. Julie Watson, the chief medical officer for Integris Health, told USA Today.

“The virus is what is undermining our way of life, robbing mothers and fathers of health and of a future with their children — taking years away from those who deserve to live their lives to the fullest,” Watson said.

Texas governor tests positive for COVID-19

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tested positive for COVID-19, according to a press release from the Office of the Texas Governor.

“The governor has been testing daily, and today was the first positive test result. Governor Abbott is in constant communication with his staff, agency heads, and government officials to ensure that state government continues to operate smoothly and efficiently. The Governor will isolate in the Governor’s Mansion and continue to test daily. Governor Abbott is receiving Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody treatment,” announced the press release.

Abbott is fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and has not experienced symptoms of the disease. His wife has tested negative for the coronavirus.

Australia protects thousands of teenagers against COVID-19

The Wall Street Journal reported that health officials in Sydney, Australia, have rushed to protect thousands of students from COVID-19. This is ahead of in-person, end-of-year school exams that are feared could accelerate disease transmission in the country.

According to the Wall Street Journal, last week a concert hall was repurposed as a mass vaccination clinic for teenagers. Up to 40,000 shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, intended for rural towns, were diverted to children from Sydney’s suburbs that are current disease hot spots.

Authorities said more than 15,000 students were protected against infection by the end of last week.

8/17/21 2:26 p.m. PDT — White House expected to recommend COVID-19 booster shots for everyone

Officials in the Biden administration are expected to recommend that U.S. adults should receive a vaccine booster shot 8 months after their second dose, reported CNN.

The plan would involve administering third shots beginning in mid to late September if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives authorization.

Pfizer announced Monday that the drugmaker has submitted initial data to the FDA to support the use of booster doses for their COVID-19 vaccines.

“Vaccination is our most effective means of preventing COVID-19 infection — especially severe disease and hospitalization — and its profound impact on protecting lives is indisputable,” Albert Bourla, chairman and chief executive officer at Pfizer, said in a statement.

“The data we’ve seen to date suggest a third dose of our vaccine elicits antibody levels that significantly exceed those seen after the two-dose primary schedule. We are pleased to submit these data to the FDA as we continue working together to address the evolving challenges of this pandemic.”

The plan could be announced as soon as this week, reported CNN.

“ACP supports the approval of the use of an additional mRNA COVID-19 vaccine dose for those who are immunocompromised and are in immediate need,” said Dr. George M. Abraham, MPH, FACP, president, American College of Physicians (ACP), told Healthline in an emailed statement.

Single COVID-19 case sparks lockdown in New Zealand

According to the BBC, the case was detected in Auckland, which will be locked down for a week, while the rest of New Zealand will be in lockdown for 3 days. Authorities say they’re assuming the new case was caused by the Delta variant.

Roughly 20 percent of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated, reported BBC, and Coromandel, a coastal town the person with COVID-19 had visited, will also be in lockdown for 7 days.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the toughest “level 4” rules will be required, reported the network. This means closing schools, offices, and all businesses, with only essential services remaining operational.

BBC also reported that data released by New Zealand’s Ministry of Health on Monday showed that all COVID-19 cases detected at the country’s border in recent weeks had been Delta.

“We have seen what can happen elsewhere if we fail to get on top of it. We only get one chance,” Ardern said in a televised national address, reported BBC, calling the Delta strain “a game changer.”

New Zealand Health Chief Executive Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said the COVID-19 case was a 58-year-old man who became symptomatic on Saturday, reported the Express. The man’s wife was also tested and returned a negative result.

Mask shortage looms as Delta surges

On July 28, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its mask guidance to recommend masking for even fully vaccinated people in certain situations.

But according to new reports, masks are becoming hard to find — especially in some COVID-19 hot spots.

“While the growth in mask sales is not as high as last year, in part because people likely have leftover inventory, the double-digit growth in the last 3 weeks has been striking,” Vivek Pandya, Adobe Digital Insights lead analyst, told USA Today. “It has also moved in the same direction as the news uptick around the Delta variant.”

8/16/21 1:50 p.m. PDT — Number of children in hospital with COVID-19 hits record high

As COVID-19 cases surge, more and more children are being affected by the disease.

On Saturday, the number of children hospitalized for COVID-19 hit a record high of more than 1,900 cases according to Reuters.

Children under age 12 still cannot be vaccinated for the disease leaving them vulnerable to infection, even as over 50 percent of the U.S. is now fully vaccinated.

In a single week, more than 120,000 children tested positive for COVID-19, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

High school student dies from COVID-19 days before start of school

A16-year-old high school student recently died due to COVID-19, according to WRAL.com.

“He loved being active, he was in my gym class, he talked to everybody,” the student’s friend, Seth Marshall, told WRAL.

School officials said the child was airlifted to the hospital after his condition worsened, and he passed away days before the start of school, reported WRAL.

Marshall told WRAL that the death is affecting him because his friend felt more like family.

“It was just great seeing him every day, when you were down he boosted your spirit,” Marshall said. He added that his friend’s death is proof that COVID-19 is real and dangerous.

According to WRAL, school officials have not yet released the deceased teen’s name.

Babies born during pandemic experience many cognitive deficits, study finds

A not yet peer-reviewed study from Brown University, and published in preprint, found that babies born during the COVID-19 pandemic may have significantly reduced motor, verbal, and overall cognitive performance when compared to children born before it began.

For the study, Brown University researchers analyzed data from an ongoing longitudinal study of child neurodevelopment. They compared scores in 2020 and 2021 to those from 2011 to 2019.

The findings suggest that verbal, nonverbal, and overall cognitive scores have gone down since the pandemic began – with infants born during the pandemic demonstrating significantly lower performance than those born before.

“Our results seem to suggest that early development is impaired by the environmental conditions brought on by the pandemic,” the study authors wrote.

8/13/21 1:19 p.m. PDT — FDA authorizes additional vaccine dose for immunocompromised people

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that organ transplant recipients and others with severely weakened immune systems can receive a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to be better protected against the highly infectious Delta variant, which continues to surge.

This decision is an amendment to the emergency use authorization (EUA) under which mRNA vaccines are currently being used.

The decision doesn’t apply to the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which has seen far less use in the United States than the mRNA vaccines.

“The country has entered yet another wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the FDA is especially cognizant that immunocompromised people are particularly at risk for severe disease. After a thorough review of the available data, the FDA determined that this small, vulnerable group may benefit from a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines,” acting FDA Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said in a statement.

According to an FDA press release, the administration also authorized monoclonal antibody treatments for emergency use during the pandemic for people 12 years and older who weigh at least 88 pounds, have tested positive for COVID-19, and are at “high risk” for developing severe COVID-19, hospitalization, or both.

French police investigate COVID-19 vaccine certificate fraud

Police in France are investigating a series of COVID-19 vaccine certificate frauds after several doctors reported having their health service accounts hacked, according to the Guardian.

At least 55 false documents were obtained after hackers gained access to the online account of a doctor near Bordeaux, reported the Guardian.

Another physician in Marseilles also reported a similar incident. Other medical professionals have told authorities about attempts to access their accounts.

“Health pass fraud is very serious and is severely punished. Nobody should be cheating with the vaccine,” a local deputy prefect, Martin Guespereau, told journalists, reported the Guardian.

8/12/21 3:26 p.m. PDT — San Francisco becomes second major city to require vaccination for indoor activities

San Francisco has become the second major city to require vaccination for many indoor activities after New York City announced a similar requirement earlier this month.

One major difference is that people in San Francisco will have to be fully vaccinated, whereas in New York, people could be partially vaccinated.

Mayor London Breed made the announcement today and said that people visiting a variety of indoor settings including bars, restaurants, and gyms will be required to show proof of full vaccination.

People picking up takeout orders at restaurants will not have to show proof of vaccination.

New mask mandate in Philadelphia amid rising COVID-19 cases

Philadelphia officials announced a new mask mandate on Wednesday, August 11 as they try to fight the rising number of COVID-19 cases, reported 6ABC News. The city will require masks be worn inside businesses unless the business requires proof of vaccination.

According to 6ABC, the mask mandate became effective at 12 a.m. on Thursday.

“That means everyone in Philadelphia must wear a mask when going into any business or institution, with an exception for those that require vaccinations. Restaurants and bars will need to require masks for all staff and customers, except when people are seated and actively eating and drinking,” Acting Health Commissioner Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said.

People will be required to show their vaccination card or a photo of the card to prove their vaccination status.

In announcing the new mandate on Wednesday, Mayor Jim Kenney said the city would offer guidance to businesses if they needed it, but that they, essentially, are the enforcers. The city plans to fine noncompliant businesses, reported NPR.

“That’s part of running a business in this environment, in this pandemic, is checking that people follow the rules,” Kenney said, according to NPR, pointing to restaurants already requiring proof of vaccination.

8/11/21 3:09 p.m. PDT — CDC advises pregnant people to get a COVID-19 vaccine

The CDC is advising pregnant people to get vaccinated for COVID-19. Previously, they advised that people who are pregnant should be offered the vaccine.

The advisory change comes after new research found there was no increased risk of miscarriage in people given an mRNA vaccine during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Many major medical groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, had already advised that people who are pregnant should get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Growing support for vaccine passports as Delta threatens travel

According to CNBC, a survey found 81.8 percent of Americans support the idea of vaccine passports — digital or physical proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

Travel website Upgraded Points surveyed 1,000 people in June to find nearly 82 percent of U.S. respondents support vaccine passports proving COVID-19 vaccination — and almost 55 percent agree that hotels and other travel-related businesses should require proof of vaccination status.

Nearly 60 percent also believe unvaccinated passengers of airlines, cruise ships, trains, and buses should be segregated from vaccinated passengers.

Alex Miller, founder and CEO of Upgraded Points, told CNBC he suspects the acceptance of vaccine passports would have been lower had the survey been conducted just a few months ago.

“Vaccine passports have become more and more of a reality with time and appear to be a potential path to normalcy,” Miller said. “The more they are discussed and even introduced, the more likely people may be to get the vaccine, which will ultimately aid in the overall goal of limiting the spread of COVID-19.”

One mRNA vaccine could be more effective against Delta than the other, study finds

All COVID-19 vaccines currently administered in the United States are shown to dramatically reduce virus risk, severe disease, and death. But according to a recent, not yet peer-reviewed study, one mRNA vaccine stands out against the Delta variant.

“Although clinical trials and real-world studies have affirmed the effectiveness and safety of the FDA-authorized COVID-19 vaccines,” the study authors wrote, “reports of breakthrough infections and persistent emergence of new variants highlight the need to vigilantly monitor the effectiveness of these vaccines.”

Researchers compared the effectiveness of mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer in the Mayo Clinic Health System from January to July 2021, during which either Alpha or Delta variant was highly prevalent.

According to researchers, the efficacy of Moderna’s vaccine dropped from 86 percent in early 2021 to 76 percent by July, when Delta became the dominant strain. However, during the same period, Pfizer vaccine effectiveness saw a steep decline from 76 to just 42 percent.

8/10/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — Children under 12 at high risk for developing COVID-19

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the COVID-19 case rate has skyrocketed to levels last seen before current vaccines were available. There’s also new data showing that the Delta variant is more infectious and leading to increased transmissibility when compared with other variants — even in vaccinated individuals.

ABC News now reports that demand is skyrocketing for a vaccine to protect young children who aren’t yet eligible for treatment, a group facing more cases than ever before during the pandemic.

Over 94,000 children were diagnosed with COVID-19 last week, according American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) figures cited by ABC, and hospitals nationwide are reporting more and more children in their pediatric COVID-19 units.

Pfizer has said it will submit vaccine safety data on 5- to 11-year-olds by the end of September. Moderna has said it will do so in the middle of the fall. It will then be up to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on how quickly it grants the authorization.

The vaccine for children ages 5 through 11 would be the same composition, but a smaller dose.

The FDA also isn’t likely to require an extended period of safety data collection for the younger age group.

“Just so everyone understands, we are going to be very careful as we get down to smaller children,” said Peter Marks, the FDA’s vaccine chief, in a May event with the group BlackDoctor.org.

“We have to reduce the dose of the vaccine, we’re more cautious about side effects, it takes longer to do the development,” Marks added.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott calls for hospitals to stop nonessential procedures

With COVID-19 surging in Texas, the governor is calling on hospitals to stop nonessential surgeries.

Governor Greg Abbott is asking hospitals to postpone elective medical procedures in an effort to avoid overwhelming healthcare facilities.

Abbott’s administration is facing legal challenges from his handling of the COVID-19 surge. Local government leaders in Texas are suing over the governor’s directive that bans local municipalities from implementing mask mandates.

NIH to study how effective COVID-19 booster shots are for people with organ transplants

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has started a new study to see how effective a COVID-19 booster shot is for people who’ve had an organ transplant.

The study will look at people who’ve had a kidney transplant and who didn’t have an immune reaction to two doses of either the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. A third dose will be given to see whether it can spur the immune system to provide protection.

People who’ve undergone organ transplants have to take immunosuppressive drugs and can be at risk for a COVID-19 infection even after vaccination.

8/9/21 12:00 p.m. PDT— FDA approval may boost vaccination rates

Experts say full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for COVID-19 vaccines may significantly boost vaccination rates.

Michael Wolf, PhD, associate vice chair for research in the department of medicine at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, told CNN that full FDA approval could get roughly 5 to 10 percent more people vaccinated.

Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA’s vaccine advisory committee and director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said the FDA is working on getting the approval soon.

“I think from the standpoint of the public, it [FDA approval] really shouldn’t matter,” Offit said. “It’s been given to half of the American population. We have more than 300 million doses out there. This is far from experimental.”

Pentagon will require troops to get vaccinated against COVID-19

The Pentagon is going to require all troops to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 15, according to a report from The Associated Press.

A memo obtained by the AP from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recommended troops get ready for the new requirement.

“I will seek the president’s approval to make the vaccines mandatory no later than mid-September, or immediately upon” licensure by the FDA, “whichever comes first,” Austin said in the memo to troops, according to the AP.

8/5/21 2:17 p.m. PDT — Moderna vaccine still effective months later

Vaccine maker Moderna has released new data that their COVID-19 vaccine remains 93 percent effective 6 months after it’s administered.

The company said Thursday, August 5, that it’s also working on a single shot to provide an annual booster for COVID-19, as well as the flu and respiratory condition RSV.

While the data appears to show that the vaccine will remain effective, company officials say there may still be a need for a COVID-19 booster shot.

“We believe that increased force of infection resulting from Delta, non-pharmaceutical intervention (NPI) fatigue, and seasonal effects (moving indoors) will lead to an increase of breakthrough infections in vaccinated individuals,” the company said in an investor presentation posted to its website, NBC News reported.

The average COVID-19 cases nationwide are now running in excess of 120,000 a day.

Although some of those are breakthrough cases in the previously vaccinated, the CDC warns that the unvaccinated are 8 times more likely to contract Delta and 25 times more likely to die from it, reported NBC.

COVID-19 cases in children surge with 72,000 cases in 1 week

The Delta variant is now affecting many children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Children now make up 19 percent of — or nearly 1 in 5 — COVID-19 cases nationwide, according to the AAP. Pediatric cases have been steadily increasing in July as the Delta variant has swept through the United States.

Nearly 4.2 million U.S. children have been diagnosed with COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Southeast Asia hit hard from Delta variant

Nations across Asia are up against their worst COVID-19 outbreaks of the pandemic, spurred by low vaccine rates and the highly contagious Delta variant, according to CNN.

Southeast Asian nations that managed to contain outbreaks last year are now struggling with overwhelmed health services, a lack of hospital beds, equipment, and oxygen, reported CNN. They’ve also reimposed lockdowns, shuttering factories and restricting the movement of citizens already experiencing financial hardship.

A military coup in Myanmar has brought that country to the verge of collapse as an ensuing bloody crackdown shattered the health system — and completely stalled their vaccination program.

While wealthier countries, like the U.K. and Singapore, are seeing renewed outbreaks, they have fully vaccinated over half their populations, reported CNN.

By comparison, Vietnam has fully vaccinated less than 1% of its population, Thailand around 5%, the Philippines 9.3%, and Indonesia — the epicenter — only 8%, according to Our World in Data.

8/4/21 1:46 p.m. PDT — Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine may get full FDA approval by early September

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is projecting full approval for Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine by early September, The New York Times reported today, citing several people involved in the effort, according to Reuters.

The FDA issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the vaccine in December, and full FDA approval could convince more people to get vaccinated, as it might reduce any doubts about the drug’s safety.

Since the vaccine is currently available to everyone eligible who wants it, what’s the difference between an EUA and full approval?

The FDA says it’s a matter of scale. The FDA reviews much more data, over a longer time, before granting full approval.

“FDA makes its decisions based on its analysis of the benefits and risks for the intended population who will receive the vaccine, as well as the disease(s) to be prevented,” the FDA confirmed.

The FDA approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could initiate a series of vaccine mandates across the United States, including military personnel and civilians working for the Department of Defense, who must be vaccinated or face regular testing, according to The New York Times.

Up to 98% of COVID-19 cases in U.S. are from Delta variant

The Delta variant, including several of its sub-lineages, is currently responsible for roughly 93.4 percent of COVID-19 cases circulating in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This situation is even more dire in certain parts of the country. In Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska, the Delta variant accounts for more than 98 percent of circulating coronavirus.

The variant has driven a sharp surge in infections and hospitalizations just before most school years begin across the nation.

The Department of Education’s road map for returning to school includes guidance for wearing masks, which is pitting educators in many school districts against state officials.

WHO calls for moratorium on COVID-19 booster shots until more people have access to vaccines

Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) are calling for a moratorium on COVID-19 booster shots until at least 10 percent of people from all countries are able to get vaccinated.

The call for a moratorium comes as vaccination rates have risen in developed countries, while developing countries have had little or no access to the vaccines.

Israel is the first country to have started COVID-19 booster shots in people with compromised immune systems. Other countries including the United States are considering whether a booster shot would be beneficial.

“So far, more than 4 billion vaccine doses have been administered globally. More than 80 percent have gone to high- and upper-middle income countries, even though they account for less than half of the world’s population,” WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a briefing.

8/3/21 2:26 p.m. PDT — Biden to update nation as Delta variant surges

Today, President Biden will provide an update on his administration’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts as the Delta variant tears across the United States, a White House official told CNN.

The news comes as partial vaccinations in adults have reached 70 percent. This was a goal the Biden administration had hoped to reach by July 4.

According to reports, Biden will speak about recent actions by the private sector to require vaccinations, the recent uptick in vaccinations, “and the tremendous grassroots work Americans are doing every day to get their communities vaccines.”

Biden will also update the nation on his administration’s global vaccination efforts and announce that the United States has shipped more than 110 million COVID-19 vaccine doses to more than 60 countries, according to the White House.

The White House notes this is more vaccine donations than all other countries combined.

Biden will also announce that the work to vaccinate the rest of the world “has just begun,” according to the White House official.

In addition, starting at the end of the month, the administration will begin shipping 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine doses that the country has pledged to purchase and donate to 100 developing countries, reported CNN.

New York City will mandate vaccination to access gyms, restaurants, performances

New York City will be the first major U.S. city to mandate proof of COVID-19 vaccination for customers and staff at restaurants, gyms, and other indoor businesses as the United States enters a new phase in the battle against the Delta variant, according to Reuters.

About 60 percent of all New Yorkers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to city data. But certain areas, largely low-income communities and communities of color, have lower vaccination rates, reported Reuters.

The policy will begin Sept. 13 and is similar to measures taken in France to prevent disease spread.

“We know this is what’s going to turn the tide,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio told a news conference, reported Reuters.

Part of the initiative will be a “Key to NYC Pass” to serve as proof of vaccination for workers and patrons at fitness centers, restaurants, and entertainment venues, the mayor said.

Pandemic increasing risk of childhood nearsightedness, study finds

According to a new study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, more children may have become nearsighted as a side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Researchers analyzed eye test data from roughly 2,000 school-age children in Hong Kong.

They found that the rate of myopia (nearsightedness) was double that found in a pre-pandemic study of children the same age.

Researchers cautioned that both increased screen time and decreased outdoor time has been implicated in the development of myopia.

“We showed a potential increase in myopia incidence, significant decrease in outdoor time and increase in screen time among schoolchildren in Hong Kong during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the study authors wrote.

“Our results serve to warn eye care professionals, and also policy makers, educators and parents, that collective efforts are needed to prevent childhood myopia—a potential public health crisis as a result of COVID-19.”

8/2/21 2:09 p.m. PDT — Increased risk of hospitalization from Delta variant, studies find

As the Delta variant creates a new wave of coronavirus infections in the United States and worldwide, disease experts are researching whether this variant is making people sicker than before, especially those who are not yet vaccinated.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that Delta, first identified in India and now dominant worldwide, is “likely more severe” than earlier versions of the coronavirus, according to an internal report made public on July 30, reported Reuters.

The CDC cited research from Canada, Singapore, and Scotland that shows people with coronavirus infections from the Delta variant are more likely to be hospitalized than people earlier in the pandemic.

Disease experts have told Reuters that these three studies suggest increased risk from Delta, but the study populations were limited and findings have not yet been reviewed by outside experts.

“It’s difficult to pin down increase in severity and population bias,” Lawrence Young, PhD, a virologist at the Warwick Medical School in the United Kingdom, told Reuters.

The vast majority of COVID-19 cases that require hospitalization are now happening in people who are unvaccinated.

No lockdowns, even with current wave of Delta variant, says Fauci

Thanks to the more infectious Delta variant, COVID-19 cases are rising throughout the United States, according to the most recent CDC data.

However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, says new lockdown measures are unlikely.

“I don’t think we’re going to see lockdowns,” Fauci told ABC News yesterday. “I think we have enough of the percentage of people in the country, not enough to crush the outbreak, but I believe enough to not allow us to get into the situation we were in last winter.”

He also warned that “things are going to get worse” as the Delta variant spreads.

“We’re looking, not, I believe, to lockdown, but we’re looking to some pain and suffering in the future because we’re seeing the cases go up, which is the reason why we keep saying over and over again, the solution to this is get vaccinated and this would not be happening,” Fauci said.

He confirmed that what we’re seeing now is an “outbreak of the unvaccinated,” and that “from the standpoint of illness, hospitalization, suffering, and death, the unvaccinated are much more vulnerable.”

7/30/21 1:57 p.m. PDT — Delta variant is more infectious than common cold, according to CDC

The Delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads far more quickly, according to an internal federal health document covered in the Washington Post.

The internal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) slide presentation stated that the Delta variant was far more transmissible than previous strains.

The document also argues that officials must “acknowledge the war has changed.”

“Although it’s rare, we believe that at an individual level, vaccinated people may spread the virus, which is why we updated our recommendation,” an anonymous federal health official told the Post.

“Waiting even days to publish the data could result in needless suffering and as public health professionals we cannot accept that.”

CDC Director: The Delta variant is ‘unforgiving’

In an exclusive interview with Healthline published today, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky spoke about the work done by the CDC to protect Americans and explained why some guidance regarding masks has changed.

“What I will say is we have an extraordinary team and they are mission-focused, collaborative, and wanting to do right by the American people,” she said.

“Do they wish we were in a different and better place? I think everyone does. Are they tired? Yes, but that does not change their mission-critical focus right now. Everyone is determined. They want to help.”

She said that new data helped spur new guidance. According to this data, a vaccinated person who contracts the Delta variant may be able to pass it on to others.

“For those rare people, we thought it was really important for those people to know that they are at risk of giving disease to someone else,” Walensky said.

Does COVID-19 cause cognitive issues or potentially dementia symptoms?

According to USA Today, researchers are concerned that survivors of COVID-19 infection may experience long-term consequences that include dementia.

With large numbers of people complaining of “brain fog,” attention problems, and confusion after their illness, scientists are examining whether COVID-19 has long-term consequences for brain health.

Early trials have found an association between COVID-19 infection and brain changes commonly seen in people who develop dementia.

“While some studies suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infects brain cells directly, others found no evidence of the virus in the brain,” lead study author Feixiong Cheng, PhD, assistant staff in Cleveland Clinic’s Genomic Medicine Institute said in a statement.

“Identifying how COVID-19 and neurological problems are linked will be critical for developing effective preventive and therapeutic strategies to address the surge in neurocognitive impairments that we expect to see in the near future.”

While Cheng and his team discovered little evidence that COVID-19 directly targets the brain, they did discover close relationships between SARS-CoV-2 and the genes/proteins associated with several neurological diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

“We discovered that SARS-CoV-2 infection significantly altered Alzheimer’s markers implicated in brain inflammation and that certain viral entry factors are highly expressed in cells in the blood-brain barrier,” Cheng explained.

“These findings indicate that the virus may impact several genes or pathways involved in neuroinflammation and brain microvascular injury, which could lead to Alzheimer’s disease-like cognitive impairment.”

7/29/21 3:35 p.m. PDT — Biden announces federal workers must have vaccinations or tests

President Joe Biden announced new requirements for federal workers amid the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases pegged to the Delta variant.

Biden is requiring federal workers to either get vaccinated or face weekly testing, according to NPR. The Delta variant has led to an explosion of COVID-19 cases in the United States, quadrupling in a few weeks.

“Vaccines are the best defense against you getting severely ill from COVID-19 — the very best defense,” Biden said according to NPR.

Federal workers will also have to wear masks while at work if they’re not vaccinated. While not a vaccination mandate, the Biden administration is reportedly hoping that the new requirements will spur more federal employees to get vaccinated.

Postal workers union against federal vaccination mandates, but encourages members to get the jab voluntarily

The American Postal Workers Union (APWU) announced on Wednesday that it opposes a federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate from the White House, but still encourages workers to get vaccinated.

“Maintaining the health and safety of our members is of paramount importance. While the APWU leadership continues to encourage postal workers to voluntarily get vaccinated, it is not the role of the federal government to mandate vaccinations for the employees we represent,” the APWU said in a statement.

The Union emphasized that issues related to vaccinations and testing for COVID-19 in the workplace must be negotiated with the APWU, and at this time, “the APWU opposes the mandating of COVID-19 vaccinations in relation to U.S. postal workers.”

7/28/21 2:58 p.m. PDT — COVID-19 hospitalizations jump nearly 50% in a week

Hospitalizations related to COVID-19 are now surging as the United States deals with a major increase in the disease, pegged to the more infectious Delta variant.

According to CDC data, the 7-day average of COVID-19 hospitalizations has risen about 46 percent compared to the previous week.

Currently, the 7-day average for hospitalizations is about 5,186.

Unique qualities of Delta variant led to new CDC mask guidance

CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky explained that new evidence showing vaccinated people could transmit the Delta variant to others led the CDC to change its mask guidance.

“With prior variances, when people had these rare breakthrough infections, we didn’t see the capacity of them to spread the virus to others. But with the Delta variant… you can actually now pass it to somebody else,” Walensky told CNN.

“But with the Delta variant, we now see in our outbreak investigations that have been occurring over the last couple of weeks, in those outbreak investigations we have been seeing that if you happen to have one of those breakthrough infections that you can actually now pass it to somebody else,” she continued.

COVID-19 cases are surging in the United States, fueled by the Delta variant, and largely among unvaccinated individuals.

The U.S. 7-day average of new daily cases has quintupled from 11,790 on June 23 to 61,976 on July 27.

7/27/21 2:50 p.m. PDT — CDC advises some vaccinated people to wear a mask indoors

The CDC has issued new guidance for vaccinated people as COVID-19 cases surge again.

The CDC is now advising people in areas with a high amount of viral transmission to wear masks while indoors even if they are fully vaccinated.

They are also advising that everyone at K-12 schools wear a mask regardless of vaccine status.

The change comes after the more infectious delta variant has been sweeping through the United States, pushing a major increase in COVID-19 cases.

In a media briefing today, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said in rare cases people who were vaccinated were able to still transmit the virus and that clusters of COVID-19 cases have been reported in vaccinated people.

“The delta variant behaves uniquely differently from past strains of the virus,” she explained.

Five times greater risk of death for those ‘shielding’ from COVID-19, Scottish study finds

People at high risk cautioned to shield (self-isolate) in the first wave of COVID-19 were five times more likely to die after being infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus than those at low risk from the disease, according to new research from Glasgow University in Scotland.

The findings suggest that efforts to protect the most vulnerable population didn’t prevent significant rates of infection in these high-risk groups, with many people losing their lives to the pandemic virus.

“The 2.03% of people advised to shield were, nonetheless, eight times more likely to have confirmed infections than the low-risk category, five times more likely to die following confirmed infection and 49 times more likely to die from COVID-19 overall,” the study authors wrote.

According to researchers, while selective testing might explain the rate of confirmed infections, it doesn’t explain higher overall mortality, suggesting that the shielding strategy was “not as effective as was hoped.”

They add that 28.8 percent of the population would need to have been under lockdown to prevent 80 percent of deaths — but this isn’t currently considered politically expedient.

“Shielding is probably best viewed as an intervention to protect individuals, to be used alongside other population-wide interventions such as physical distancing, face coverings and hand hygiene,” study authors concluded.

Hundreds of San Francisco bars will require proof of vaccination to enter

Hundreds of bars in San Francisco will start requiring proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test from customers who would like to drink inside the premises, an industry group said Monday.

“Effective Thursday, July 29th, 2021, it will be the official position of the SF Bar Owner Alliance that any customer who wishes to remain inside our establishments show proof of vaccination or a 72-hour negative COVID19 test. Guests without these verifications are welcome to sit outside in parklets or other spaces we offer,” reads the statement as reported by KRON4 News.

The group, representing about 500 San Francisco bar owners, said it polled members before announcing the decision, with 85 percent agreeing with the move, reported NBC Bay Area.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed tweeted her support for the group.

7/26/21 2:39 p.m. PDT — Medical groups call on healthcare employers to mandate vaccination

The American Medical Association (AMA), the American College of Physicians (ACP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Public Health Association (APHA), and more than 50 additional groups have issued a joint statement calling on health and long-term care employers to institute COVID-19 vaccine mandates for their employees.

“This is the logical fulfillment of the ethical commitment of all health care workers to put patients as well as residents of long-term care facilities first and take all steps necessary to ensure their health and well-being,” reads the statement.

The statement also points out that highly contagious variants, including delta, and “significant” numbers of unvaccinated people, COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are again rising throughout the United States.

“Vaccination is the primary way to put the pandemic behind us and avoid the return of stringent public health measures,” the health organizations wrote.

According to the CDC, only 49 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, so far.

Biden administration says long COVID-19 can be considered a disability

On the 31st anniversary of the American Disabilities Act, the Biden administration has given guidance that having symptoms of long COVID-19 or long-haul COVID-19 can be considered a disability under civil rights laws.

This decision means some people dealing with debilitating symptoms from long COVID-19 may be entitled to protection from discrimination.

Diana Zicklin Berrent, an advocate for people with long COVID-19 and founder of Survivor Corps, wrote on Twitter that this was a “major step in the right direction.”

7/23/21 1:45 p.m. PDT — 40% of this week’s COVID-19 cases come from 3 states

About 40 percent of COVID-19 cases detected this week came from three states: Florida, Texas, and Missouri.

White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients confirmed that Florida contributed the highest number of COVID-19 cases, with 1 in 5 infections coming out of that state alone.

Zients added that those states with the highest case numbers, like Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada, have also had higher rates of newly vaccinated residents than the national average.

Zients pointed out that areas with increasing cases are also seeing a rise in vaccination numbers.

“For the second week in a row, states with lower vaccination and higher case rates are seeing their vaccination rates grow faster than the national average,” he said. “People in these states are feeling the impact of being unvaccinated and responding with action.”

According to the most recent figures from the CDC, only 48.8 percent of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated so far.

About 20% of new COVID-19 cases in LA are in vaccinated people, but few have symptoms

As the delta variant spreads, more people are becoming ill with COVID-19. While the vast majority are in unvaccinated people, health authorities say some vaccinated people are testing positive as well.

Los Angeles health officials said about 1 in 5 people who tested positive for COVID-19 were vaccinated.

But a key difference is that they were far less likely to become seriously ill and need to be hospitalized.

County officials estimate that just 0.0059 percent of all fully vaccinated people in Los Angeles County have had to be hospitalized for COVID-19.

Man with COVID-19 boards flight disguised as wife amid surge of infections

An Indonesian man with COVID-19 boarded a domestic flight disguised as his wife, wearing a niqab to cover his face and carrying fake IDs and a negative PCR test result, reported The Associated Press (AP).

According to the AP, police said a flight attendant aboard a Citilink plane traveling from Jakarta to Ternate in North Maluku province on Sunday noticed the man changing his clothes in the bathroom.

“He bought the plane ticket with his wife’s name and brought the identity card, the PCR test result, and the vaccination card with his wife’s name,” Ternate police chief Aditya Laksimada said after arresting the man upon landing, reported the AP. “All documents are under his wife’s name.”

7/22/21 2:24 p.m. PDT — Biden Says Full FDA Approval For COVID-19 Vax Likely by Fall

During a town hall on July 21 designed to reach Americans skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccines, President Joe Biden said he expects the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to give full approval this fall for the vaccines.

Biden said that he is not pressuring the FDA and that he came to this conclusion after talking with scientists.

“My expectation talking to the group of scientists we put together, over 20 of them plus others in the field, is that sometime maybe in the beginning of the school year, at the end of August, beginning of September, October, they’ll get a final approval,” Biden said according to The New York Times.

U.S. COVID cases triple in 2 weeks

COVID-19 cases nearly tripled in the United States over 2 weeks amid an abundance of vaccine misinformation that is straining hospitals, exhausting healthcare professionals, and pushing clergy into the fray, reported the Associated Press (AP).

“Our staff, they are frustrated,” Chad Neilsen, director of infection prevention at UF Health Jacksonville in Florida, told AP. “They are tired. They are thinking this is déjà vu all over again, and there is some anger because we know that this is a largely preventable situation, and people are not taking advantage of the vaccine.”

According to the AP, Jeremy Johnson, lead pastor of one of Missouri’s largest churches, said he has heard the reasons congregants are refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. He wants them to know it’s not only OK to get vaccinated, it’s what the Bible urges.

“I think there is a big influence of fear,” Johnson told AP. “A fear of trusting something apart from scripture, a fear of trusting something apart from a political party they’re more comfortable following. A fear of trusting in science. We hear that: ‘I trust in God, not science.’ But the truth is science and God are not something you have to choose between.”

7/21/21 11:38 a.m. PDT — Study says J&J vaccine not as effective against the delta variant

A new study that has not yet been peer-reviewed reports that Johnson & Johnson’s adenovirus vector COVID-19 vaccine may not be as effective against the delta variant as mRNA-based alternatives.

These findings contradict the vaccine maker’s claims of single-dose effectiveness against the variant.

According to researchers, the millions of people who received the J&J single-dose drug might need a second dose of mRNA technology vaccine.

“The message that we wanted to give was not that people shouldn’t get the J&J vaccine,” Nathaniel Landau, PhD, a virologist at New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine who led the study, told The New York Times. “But we hope that in the future, it will be boosted with either another dose of J&J or a boost with Pfizer or Moderna.”

Beta variant raises concerns in parts of Europe

As the United States struggles to contain the delta variant, parts of Europe are contending with the COVID-19 beta strain that was initially identified in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Already dealing with a surge in cases of the delta variant, the U.K. government changed its pandemic policy regarding international travelers from France – which has already recorded cases of beta in some of its territories.

“Anyone who has been in France in the last 10 days will need to quarantine on arrival to England in their own accommodation and will need a day 2 and day 8 test, regardless of their vaccination status,” the U.K. government announced. “This includes any fully vaccinated individual who transits through France from either a green or another amber country to reach England.”

According to CNBC, France defended its COVID-19 case record by noting that most cases of the Beta variant are in its overseas territories of La Reunion and Mayotte, both situated in the Indian Ocean and not on mainland France.

Former surgeon general urges everyone to wear masks

Dr, Jerome Adams, the former U.S. surgeon general for the Trump White House who once advised against face masks, now says even the fully vaccinated may need to mask up.

“More people than ever — vaccinated and unvaccinated — are going maskless,” he told NPR. “It doesn’t seem to have convinced anyone to get vaccinated.”

Adams added that the CDC needs to change its guidance on masking requirements in light of new COVID-19 outbreaks and the more contagious delta variant.

“Last year, Tony Fauci and I famously, prematurely, and wrongly advised against masks. I felt it was the best call at the time but now regret it,” Adams posted on social media.

He expressed concern that the CDC is making a similar misstep.

“I’m worried the CDC also made a similarly premature, misinterpreted, yet still harmful call on masking in the face of delta variant,” Adams wrote.

7/20/21 11:18 a.m. PDT — Delta variant now responsible for 83% of new U.S. COVID-19 cases

Health officials say the delta variant now accounts for 83 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the United States.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, told a Senate hearing today that the new variant has jumped from 50 percent of new cases on July 3 to its current rate.

Another CDC official told CNN last week that “we should think about the delta variant as the 2020 version of COVID-19 on steroids.”

Health officials say that current COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the delta variant, but more than half of the country remains unvaccinated.

Olympic COVID-19 isolation bubble already ‘broken,’ says expert

The “isolation bubble” system that Olympic Games organizers set up to prevent disease spread in the Tokyo Games Olympic Village is already broken, and there’s a risk that COVID-19 could spread more widely from inside it, a public health expert said today.

Olympic officials have reported the first positive test among athletes in the Olympic Village. There have been 67 cases detected so far among those accredited for the games since July 1.

According to The Associated Press, a new case among 13 added to the official total Tuesday includes a “games-concerned personnel” in Tokyo, a category that includes team officials and sports staffers who are not staying at the village.

“It’s obvious that the bubble system is kind of broken,” said Dr. Kenji Shibuya, the former director of the Institute for Population Health at King’s College London, who in April co-authored a British Medical Journal commentary that said the Olympics must be “reconsidered” due to Japan’s inability to contain coronavirus cases, reported Reuters.

“My biggest concern is, of course, there will be a cluster of infections in the village or some of the accommodation and interaction with local people,” Shibuya added.

U.S. is losing ground in pandemic battle, experts say

According to CNN, our battle against COVID-19 is far from over.

Among examples of the stymied efforts to contain the pandemic, the network reported that:

  • New guidance for schools released yesterday from the American Academy of Pediatrics on mask wearing dampened hopes that children could go back to mask-free school days this fall.
  • The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 700 points July 19 in its biggest drop of the year as alarm over delta variant infections “hammered” travel, leisure, and energy stocks previously buoyed by the idea of a summer of freedom.
  • First lady Jill Biden’s trip to Japan later this week will likely underscore the risk that the Summer Olympic Games will be defined by the pandemic, as positive tests cloud Friday’s opening ceremony, including one by a young U.S. gymnast.

According to CNN, all these developments represent the realization that any hopes COVID-19 would be in the “rearview mirror” this summer might be unfounded, and that a new national effort may be warranted.

“If we don’t get a significant proportion of these recalcitrant people vaccinated, you’re going to be seeing a smoldering of this outbreak in our country for a considerable period of time,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN on Monday.

7/19/21 9:53 a.m. PDT — U.S. Olympic gymnast tests positive for COVID-19

It’s just 4 days before the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and COVID-19 has already cast its shadow over the games, reported CBS News.

Officials say there are at least 12 new COVID-19 cases connected with the games since Sunday, including a U.S. gymnast and cases among other athletes within the Olympic Village.

In a statement released today, USA Gymnastics confirmed that a replacement athlete for the women’s artistic gymnastics team had tested positive and that “the local government determined that the affected replacement athlete and one other replacement athlete would be subject to additional quarantine restrictions.”

“Accordingly, on Monday, the Olympic athletes moved to separate lodging accommodations and a separate training facility, as originally planned, and will continue their preparation for the Games,” the team said.

The news on the gymnast came just hours after U.S. tennis player Cori “Coco” Gauff announced she had tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Olympic Games.

Pediatricians recommend masks for all schoolchildren, vaccinated or not

Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that all children over 2 years of age wear masks when returning to school this year, regardless of vaccination status.

Officials at the AAP also said that school employees should wear masks. The AAP calls the new guidance a “layered approach.”

“We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers — and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely,” Dr. Sonja O’Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health, told NBC. “Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking, and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone.”

Unvaccinated people facing ‘most serious’ virus of their lives, expert says

With vaccination rates still short of the threshold needed to stop the spread of COVID-19, most unvaccinated people in the United States will likely contract the rapidly spreading delta variant, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“And for most people who get this delta variant, it’s going to be the most serious virus that they get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital,” Gottlieb told CBS’ “Face the Nation” yesterday.

The delta variant, already detected in every U.S. state, is estimated to account for more than half of new COVID-19 cases in 5 of the 10 regions into which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services divides the country, reported ABC News.

“Variant proportions are dynamic and difficult to predict due to reporting delays, the presence of multiple variants, and changing incidence,” the CDC told ABC News in a statement.

Recent research examining 62 cases of the delta variant found viral loads roughly 1,200 times higher than viral loads in 63 cases from the 2020 epidemic wave, reported CNN.

The delta variant is also sending younger, previously healthy people to hospitals, the majority of whom are unvaccinated.

7/16/21 2:33 p.m. PDT — 38 states see at least 50% increase in COVID-19 cases

At least 38 states are seeing at least a 50 percent increase in COVID-19 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Many experts have attributed this rise to slowing vaccination rates, with less than 50 percent of the United States fully vaccinated.

“We’re seeing this because the public misunderstood the CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people as ‘We can now do whatever we want. Even if we are unvaccinated, we can now behave as if we are vaccinated,’” CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen told CNN‘s Anderson Cooper yesterday, according to the network.

According to the CDC, pandemic cases are going up everywhere in the United States, with an average of new cases at least 10 percent higher than a week ago.

6 New York Yankees test positive for the coronavirus

Outfielder Aaron Judge is among six New York Yankees baseball players who tested positive for the coronavirus yesterday, forcing postponement of the team’s home game against the Boston Red Sox and leaving other players on the American League All-Star team undergoing testing to confirm they didn’t contract an infection, ESPN was reportedly told by sources.

“It’s a fluid situation that could spread,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told ESPN. “It has spread to some degree.”

According to ESPN, this is the second outbreak on the Yankees team this year despite exceeding the 85 percent vaccination threshold allowing teams to enjoy relaxed protocols.

“I guess the last year, year and a half, has in some ways kind of prepared you for this kind of stuff,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told ESPN. “Certainly disappointing and frustrating, and don’t want to be sitting here talking about this, and desperately want us to go back to as normal as possible.”

7/15/21 3:37 p.m. PDT — Missouri health officials request alternate care site amid surge of patients

Officials in Missouri are asking for help from the State Emergency Management Agency to set up an alternate care site to help treat the growing number of people with COVID-19.

According to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department in Missouri, cases have risen in the county by 43 percent in the last 7 days.

LA County officials say every hospitalized person with COVID-19 at county hospital is unvaccinated

The delta variant is continuing to spread in the United States, mainly among unvaccinated populations.

In Los Angeles, health officials have highlighted how rare hospitalizations are for people who are fully vaccinated.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, county health services director, said that no one with COVID-19 at a county hospital was vaccinated against the disease, according to CNN.

“To date, we have not had a patient admitted to a [Department of Health Services] hospital who has been fully vaccinated, with either the J&J, Pfizer or Moderna vaccine,” Ghaly told the board of supervisors, according to CNN.

“Every single patient that we’ve admitted for COVID is not yet fully vaccinated,” she said.

Republican vaccine resistance ‘major challenge’ in fight against pandemic

Increasing conservative resistance to COVID-19 vaccines is alarming public health experts and creating a major challenge as the United States tries to move past the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) cheered talk of a lower-than-expected vaccination rate over the weekend, according to The Hill.

Also, Tennessee will end outreach to teens regarding vaccination, including for COVID-19, amid pressure from the state’s Republican lawmakers.

This resistance helps explain why more than 30 percent of U.S. adults remain unvaccinated, with even higher percentages in Republican-leaning states, reported The Hill.

“It’s really profoundly sad to note that essentially almost 100 percent of every person who’s admitted to the hospital today with COVID could have been prevented,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told The Hill.

Experts say more than 99 percent of the people now dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated, reported The Hill.

COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be remarkably safe and effective after tens of millions of people have received them.

7/14/21 1:13 p.m. PDT — Delta variant accounts for almost 60% of U.S. COVID-19 cases, CDC says

The highly contagious delta variant of the novel coronavirus initially identified in India now accounts for roughly 60 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to data from the CDC, reported ABC News.

According to ABC News, data updated yesterday evening by the CDC shows the delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, is estimated to be responsible for 57.6 percent of newly confirmed cases nationwide from June 20 through July 3.

The estimate was only 31.1 percent for the 2 weeks prior.

“The delta variant is ripping around the world at a scorching pace, driving a new spike in cases and death,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a COVID-19 press briefing on July 12, reported ABC News.

Children at risk as delta variant spreads

Dr. Peter Hotez, vaccinologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN that if adult vaccination rates, and rates of children 12 and older, continue to lag amid increased spread of COVID-19, the youngest members of the population will be most affected.

“Transmission will continue to accelerate… and the ones who will also pay the price, in addition to the unvaccinated adolescents, are the little kids who depend on the adults and adolescents to get vaccinated in order to slow or halt transmission,” Hotez told CNN.

Hotez emphasized that although many people may brush off the risk that low vaccination rates pose to children, citing their low COVID-19 death rates, children remain at risk of serious complications, reported CNN.

Yesterday, health officials from Mississippi announced that seven children were in the ICU as a result of the delta variant and two were on life support, reported ABC News.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the rates of new cases this past week are at least 10 percent higher than the rates of new cases the previous week in 46 states.

7/13/21 3:10 p.m. PDT — Health officials want to investigate COVID-19 booster shots for side effects

The United States is reviewing the need for a third COVID-19 booster shot among people who have already been vaccinated, but more data is needed to know whether additional shots could increase the risk of serious side effects, a U.S. health official said today, reported Reuters.

The official added that the second dose for two-shot COVID-19 vaccine regimens was associated with higher rates of side effects, and suggested a third dose might come with more serious side effects.

“We’re keenly interested in knowing whether or not a third dose may be associated with any higher risk of adverse reactions, particularly some of those more severe — although very rare — side effects,” said Jay Butler, deputy director at the CDC, during a media briefing, reported Reuters.

According to Reuters, Butler also said he hasn’t seen evidence of waning immunity to the coronavirus among U.S. residents who received vaccinations in December or January.

He said existing vaccines provide significant protection against the coronavirus delta variant, which has become the dominant variant in the United States.

COVID-19 outbreak tied to Ohio church retreat

A COVID-19 outbreak was reported among attendees of a church retreat, officials announced, reported ABC News.

Health officials confirmed at least 30 positive cases have been identified in people who took part in the event.

According to ABC, Dayton and Montgomery County Public Health said more than 800 people attended the Baptist Church retreat in Miamisburg, Ohio, from June 27 to July 3.

Dr. Michael Dohn, medical director for Dayton & Montgomery County Public Health, spoke about his concern, reported ABC.

“Unvaccinated people, including children under 12 years of age, are up to 100 times more likely to get sick after exposure to COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated individuals,” he said.

“The outbreak demonstrates that the COVID-19 virus is still circulating and continues to make people sick,” Dohn added.

7/12/21 3:58 p.m. PDT — FDA to add warning about rare neurological disorder to Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to add a warning to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine saying that it may lead to a slightly increased risk of a rare nerve disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome, according to The New York Times.

Officials have detected about 100 suspected cases of the nerve disorder in the 12.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines administered in the United States.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare neurological disorder in which the immune system attacks part of the nervous system.

Symptoms can include mild, temporary weakness and tingling to more serious issues, including some cases of paralysis. Most people recover from even serious cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome.

An estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people develop Guillain-Barré syndrome every year in the United States, according to the CDC.

COVID-19 cases increase nearly 50% in U.S.

As the coronavirus delta variant rapidly spreads, U.S. “hot spots” have seen rising cases.

The United States is averaging about 19,455 new COVID-19 cases over the last 7 days, a 47 percent increase from the week prior, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, reported CNN.

“In places like Missouri where ICUs are packed, you’re going to see a surprising amount of death,” CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner told CNN.

At Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, more than 90 percent of ICU patients are on ventilators. Many patients are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer, told CNN July 11.

This is especially concerning, he explained, because during last year’s peak, there were only 40 to 50 percent of ICU patients on ventilators.

According to Reiner, rising COVID-19 death rates typically follow 3 to 4 weeks behind spikes in cases. It takes a week for people to get sick enough to need hospitalization, and then often another couple of weeks for the infection to become fatal, reported CNN.

“We will start to see an increase in mortality in this country,” Reiner said.

Rare case shows it’s possible to contract 2 coronavirus variants at same time, says expert

Scientists have found evidence that it’s possible to contract two different coronavirus variants at the same time.

Researchers from Belgium have presented a case study of an unvaccinated older woman who was found to have infections with both the alpha and beta coronavirus variants.

Experts presented the case study at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases this weekend, announcing it’s believed to be the first known case of double infection, which underscores the need to be alert to this possibility.

The research has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The 90-year-old patient died in a hospital in Belgium in March.

“This is one of the first documented cases of co-infection with two SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern,” said lead study author and molecular biologist Dr. Anne Vankeerberghen from the OLV Hospital in Aalst, Belgium, in a statement.

“Both these variants were circulating in Belgium at the time, so it is likely that the lady was co-infected with different viruses from two different people. Unfortunately, we don’t know how she became infected,” she said.

Israel will start giving COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to high-risk adults

Israel has become the first country to start giving COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, according to The Washington Post.

The Israel’s Ministry of Health is giving booster shots only to severely immunocompromised adults.

In the United States, the CDC has said there’s not enough evidence that booster shots are needed.

However, Pfizer and BioNTech have said they will ask for emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 booster shots.

7/9/21 2:57 p.m. PDT — Booster shots not yet needed, CDC-FDA joint statement says

On July 8, the CDC and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a joint statement regarding whether fully vaccinated people in the United States require a “booster” shot of COVID-19 vaccine.

“The United States is fortunate to have highly effective vaccines that are widely available for those aged 12 and up,” reads the statement. “People who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country such as delta.”

The CDC and FDA also emphasized that people who are not vaccinated remain at risk, and “virtually all” COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated people.

“We encourage Americans who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves and their community,” advised the agencies.

In a statement to CNN today, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, “We don’t know whether booster vaccines will be needed to maintain protection against COVID-19 until additional data is collected,” adding that “limited data available on how long the protection from current doses lasts and whether an additional booster dose would be beneficial and for whom.”

Pfizer, BioNTech ask for emergency authorization for booster shots

While the FDA and CDC say U.S. people do not need a booster shot at this time, Pfizer and BioNTech are already planning to ask for authorization to start administering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, according to Reuters.

The pharma companies will ask that a booster shot be allowed under emergency circumstances due to a greater risk of infection about 6 months after the vaccine and due to the rise of new, more infectious variants.

CDC says vaccinated students, teachers don’t need to wear masks

CDC officials have released new back-to-school guidelines about how to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

The CDC now prioritizes reopening schools to avoid learning loss for children.

While vaccinations are recommended for those eligible, the CDC also has guidance for what teachers and school officials can do to cut down on the risk of transmitting the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Among its recommendations, the CDC is advising unvaccinated students and teachers to stay masked indoors, and that physical distancing measures be used to decrease the risk of transmission.

The CDC says students and teachers don’t need masks outdoors. Additionally, the CDC says testing measures should be used to ensure an outbreak isn’t missed.

7/8/21 3:41 p.m. PDT — Global COVID-19 deaths top 4 million

Eighteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, its death toll has now topped 4 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

While cases have slowed in some countries, like the United States and United Kingdom, due to vaccinations, low vaccination rates and new, more infectious variants have led to a surge in cases in other areas.

Fauci says healthy vaccinated people don’t need to mask indoors

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, clarified his statements about wearing a mask while being fully vaccinated.

In an interview set to air tomorrow, July 9, on SiriusXM Doctor Radio’s “Doctor Radio Reports” with Dr. Marc Siegel, Fauci said most vaccinated people will be safe without needing to wear a mask.

“If you’re a healthy person, you really don’t have to wear a mask indoor or outdoors because the protection that’s afforded to you by the vaccines that we have available, particularly the mRNA vaccines that are 94 and 95 percent effective,” he said. “You’re really very, very highly protected.”

Fauci clarified that in a previous interview he had mentioned that in rare cases, vaccinated people living in places with low vaccination rates may want to consider going the “extra mile” depending on the state of their health.

“I said, depending on your personal situation, you… might want to consider wearing a mask even if you are fully vaccinated,” he said.

“For example, someone who’s an elderly person who may not actually have a full robust protection, even though the protection is very, very high, or someone with an underlying condition,” he said.

FDA approval for vaccines could be this month, says expert

Twenty-four states have seen COVID-19 cases increase by at least 10 percent over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health experts and the federal government are pressing for more people to get vaccinated, reported CNN, and the delta variant has only increased the pressure.

According to CDC estimates, the delta variant accounted for nearly 52 percent of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States over the last 2 weeks that ended July 3.

“We should think about the delta variant as the 2020 version of COVID-19 on steroids,” Andy Slavitt, a former senior adviser to Joe Biden’s COVID Response Team, told CNN. “It’s twice as infectious. Fortunately, unlike 2020, we actually have a tool that stops the delta variant in its tracks: It’s called vaccine.”

Slavitt also explained that for fully vaccinated people, the delta variant “presents very little threat to you, very unlikely that you’re gonna get sick.”

According to Slavitt and other experts, full approval for COVID-19 vaccines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) might encourage more people to get vaccinated, reported CNN.

According to the network, Slavitt added that full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could come as early as this month.

Tokyo bans Olympic spectators amid COVID-19 emergency

The Tokyo Olympics will take place without spectators, organizers said today, as rising infections force Japan to declare a state of emergency in the capital that will continue throughout the event, reported Reuters.

According to Reuters, although widely expected, this move still marks a sharp turnabout from weeks before, when organizers claimed they wanted to hold the global sporting showpiece with some spectators.

“It is regrettable that we are delivering the Games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections,” Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said following talks between government officials, Tokyo organizers, and Olympic and Paralympic representatives, reported Reuters. “I am sorry for those who purchased tickets.”

7/7/21 2:43 p.m. PDT — COVID-19 vaccines protect against latest variant, says White House

The White House issued a vote of confidence that COVID-19 vaccines are effective against a new coronavirus variant that’s causing concern among health experts.

The new variant is called lambda. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called it a “variant of interest” because it has mutated in a way that might make it more transmissible among humans, and it may not be affected by “neutralizing antibodies” produced inside the body by the vaccines, reported Yahoo! News.

“I’ll certainly leave it to doctors to discuss this, but early data suggests that the vaccines continue to work against the variants, including this variant, and that’s why we’ve been focusing so much on increasing vaccinations across the country,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a White House briefing yesterday.

She emphasized that, as with every variant, getting vaccinated is the “best way” to protect yourself and others, and the administration will continue to assess data as it becomes more widely available.

Global health officials are also downplaying the lambda variant as a major new threat as the pandemic wanes in the United States and across the world, according to Yahoo.

“So far, we have seen no indication that the lambda variant is more aggressive,” Jairo Mendez-Rico, PhD, a WHO virologist, told a German media outlet, reported Yahoo! News. “It is possible that it may exhibit higher infection rates, but we don’t yet have enough reliable data to compare it to gamma or delta.”

Biden warns nation that millions are still unvaccinated

In a July 6 briefing, President Biden again pushed for all eligible people in the United States to get vaccinated against COVID-19, emphasizing the importance of being protected against the rapidly spreading delta variant.

“So, if you’re vaccinated, you’re protected. But if you’re unvaccinated, you’re not, and you’re putting yourself and more importantly maybe, from your perspective, your family and your friends at risk,” Biden said. “So, please get vaccinated now. It works. It’s free. And it’s never been easier, and it’s never been more important.”

During the briefing, Biden outlined his administration’s plan to get unvaccinated people immunized against COVID-19. These measures include:

  • Renewed emphasis on getting the vaccines to more family doctors and healthcare professionals so more people can get vaccinated at their doctor’s office.
  • Increased efforts to get adolescents ages 12 to 18 vaccinated.
  • Sending out more mobile clinic units to vaccinate people at special events, summer festivals, sporting events, or places of worship.

7/6/21 3:04 p.m. PDT — Cases could surge in U.K. as pandemic restrictions lifted

Daily coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom could reach 100,000 this summer as the government moves to end almost all COVID-19-related restrictions later this month, the country’s health secretary, Sajid Javid, said today.

Javid told BBC Radio 4 that COVID-19 case numbers, currently around 25,000 each day, are expected to double ahead of the July 19 deadline to lift pandemic restrictions as the more transmissible delta variant drives a surge in infections.

“As we ease and go into the summer, we expect them to rise significantly, and they could go as high as 100,000 case numbers,” Javid said.

Even at its worst peak in January 2021, Britain’s daily cases never surpassed 60,000 a day, reported The Washington Post.

According to Public Health England (PHE), the delta variant accounts for at least 95 percent of new cases in the United Kingdom.

WHO declares lambda variant a ‘variant of concern’

The lambda variant, which is believed to be first detected in Peru about 1 year ago, is a new concern to scientists who say these virus mutations are potentially resistant to COVID-19 vaccines, reported Fox News.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said these mutations could increase the lambda variant’s transmissibility or even its resistance to “neutralizing antibodies,” with the WHO declaring it a “variant of interest.”

7/2/21 2:40 p.m. PDT — Moderna and Pfizer vaccines prime T cells to fight virus variants, study finds

Researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) have found that T cells, or immune cells, from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 or received doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are able to recognize several coronavirus variants, reported San Diego News.

The new study, recently published in Cell Reports Medicine, finds both CD4+ “helper” T cells and CD8+ “killer” T cells continue to recognize mutated forms of the coronavirus.

This response is key to our body’s complex immune response to the virus, and allows the immune system to eliminate infected cells and stop severe infections.

“This study suggests that the impact of mutations found in the variants of concern is limited,” said LJI professor Alessandro Sette, Dr.Bio.Sci., study senior author and member of the LJI Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research, in a statement. “We can presume that T cells would still be available as a line of defense against viral infection.”

The current study includes data on four of the most common variants of concern (VOC), according to an LJI press release.

LJI also announced that ongoing studies have been expanded to a larger panel of variants, including the delta variant, which became common after the study was initiated.

The research team has established relationships with more than 20 different laboratories around the world to help monitor T cell reactivity to VOCs.

“These variants are still a concern, but our study shows that even if there is a decrease in antibodies, as other studies have shown, the T cells remain largely unaffected,” said LJI instructor Alba Grifoni, PhD, in a statement. “The vaccines still work.”

NJ governor weighs in on reinstating mask mandates

According to NJ.com, it’s been just over a month since New Jersey dropped its statewide mask mandate in most places amid increasing vaccinations and plummeting COVID-19 cases.

The rapid spread of the delta variant has prompted new and occasionally contradictory guidance on mask use in many areas worldwide, yet the CDC continues to recommend that vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks in most settings because they’re protected against variants.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was asked Wednesday if the delta variant might lead him to reinstate mask mandates in the state, according to NJ.com.

“I hope we don’t have to go back,” Murphy said. “We would not have taken the steps we’ve taken with any expectation that we would have to go backward.”

“If we have to, we will, clearly,” he added. “We’ll continue to monitor the data points that we’ve talked about every time we’ve been at this table for the past 16 months, and right now it’s hard to argue anything other than we are in really good shape, and we just hope it stays that way.”

Over 1,000 counties in U.S. have less than 30% vaccination coverage

While the overall vaccination rate for adults is hovering around 57 percent nationwide, pockets of the United States have vaccination rates far below that number.

Officials from the CDC reported that 1,000 counties have a COVID-19 vaccination rate under 30 percent.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said these counties are primarily in the Southeast and Midwest, and they remain at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission, especially as the more infectious delta variant continues to spread.

“There are communities that are vulnerable and where we are now seeing surges in cases, and indeed also hospitalizations, due to what could be the spread of the delta variant and low vaccination rates in these communities,” she said.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine appears to protect against variants, effective for at least 8 months

New data from Johnson & Johnson has found that its COVID-19 vaccine appears to be protective against the new infectious delta variant.

Additionally, the vaccine appears to provide durable protection against infection for at least 8 months. The study has been ongoing for 8 months, and there’s no sign the vaccine is likely to stop working at the 8-month mark.

“Current data for the eight months studied so far show that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine generates a strong neutralizing antibody response that does not wane; rather, we observe an improvement over time. In addition, we observe a persistent and particularly robust, durable cellular immune response,” Dr. Mathai Mammen, global head of research and development for Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement.

7/1/21 2:39 p.m. PDT — COVID-19 cases up 72% in U.K. last week as delta variant spreads

Officials in Britain said nearly 28,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the last week, a 72 percent increase compared with the previous week, according to Reuters.

While Britain has been able to push for a significant portion of the population to get vaccinated, it still has not reached herd immunity.

As the delta variant, believed to be more infectious, continues to spread, unvaccinated people are at significant risk of developing COVID-19.

The delta variant now accounts for more than 90 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom.

New study finds pets may get COVID-19 from their owners

Researchers have found that pets may develop COVID-19 if their owners are sick.

The study, from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, is being presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases next weekend.

Researchers looked at pets in the homes of people known to have tested positive for COVID-19. They found pets in more than 20 percent of these households had antibodies to the coronavirus.

This doesn’t mean the animals were severely ill, but it does show they can harbor the virus and potentially pass it on to other people or animals later.

“If you have COVID-19, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog, just as you would do with other people,” Els Broens, PhD, associate professor for veterinary medicine at Utrecht University and a study co-author, said in a statement.

“The main concern, however, is not the animals’ health — they had no or mild symptoms of COVID-19 — but the potential risk that pets could act as a reservoir of the virus and reintroduce it into the human population,” she said.

Vaccinated people likely have fewer symptoms, lower viral load in rare cases of breakthrough infection

COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be very protective against the virus, but they’re not perfect.

In rare cases, often in less than 5 percent of cases, breakthrough infections, or when a vaccinated person develops COVID-19, have been known to occur.

New research from an ongoing University of Arizona Health Sciences study finds that in these rare cases, the vaccines still provide protection.

Researchers from the University of Arizona found that vaccinated study participants tended to have milder symptoms, a shorter infection time, and a lower viral load, meaning less viral material in the body, than unvaccinated study participants who developed COVID-19.

“If you get vaccinated, about 90 percent of the time you’re not going to get COVID-19,” Dr. Jeff Burgess, associate dean for research and professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and principal investigator of the study, said in a statement.

“Even if you do get it, there will be less of the virus in you and your illness is likely to be much milder,” he said.

6/30/21 3:28 p.m. PDT — CDC director says vaccines should protect people from delta variant

In a television interview, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that the rise of the delta variant is concerning, but that vaccinated people are likely still safe.

She also addressed seemingly contradictory mask policies, like those advised by the World Health Organization and Los Angeles County health officials, that recommend people continue to wear masks regardless of vaccine status.

Walensky said those masking policies are really to protect unvaccinated people from the delta variant.

“Areas where we have low vaccination, that is where the virus is likely to take hold,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.” “Those masking policies are really to protect the unvaccinated.”

She reiterated that with nearly 2 out of 3 U.S. adults fully vaccinated, the delta variant is unlikely to cause many breakthrough infections.

“The vaccinated population we believe is still safe,” Walensky said.

Engineers create a face mask that can detect the coronavirus

Engineers from Harvard and MIT say they have created a face mask that can detect the coronavirus while being worn.

The masks have tiny disposable sensors that could potentially be altered to detect other viruses as well. The researchers were able to use freeze-dried synthetic biology sensors to detect virus material.

The sensors can be activated by the wearer, and the results are only visible inside the mask for privacy purposes.

It takes about 90 minutes to get test results after the test has started.

“This test is as sensitive as the gold standard, highly sensitive PCR tests, but it’s as fast as the antigen tests that are used for quick analysis of COVID-19,” said Peter Nguyen, PhD, a research scientist at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and one of the lead authors, according to a press release.

The face mask is currently a prototype, but the engineers have filed a patent and are reportedly looking for manufacturers.

6/29/21 1:06 p.m. PDT — LA officials ask everyone to mask up indoors due to spread of coronavirus variants

Los Angeles County public health officials are asking all residents, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to still wear masks indoors to avoid another spike of coronavirus infections.

The recommendation is a precautionary measure that officials hope will curb the spread of the new delta variant that’s rapidly spreading throughout the globe.

The variant has led to a surge in COVID-19 cases in other countries, like Australia, that previously managed to keep a low case count during the pandemic.

According to Los Angeles County health officials, the delta variant now makes up half the variants being sequenced in the county, and it accounts for 1 in 5 new infections nationwide.

Europe may see ‘fourth’ wave of COVID-19 due to delta variant

The delta variant could cause another surge in COVID-19 cases in Europe, warned Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin, reported Yahoo! News.

Martin also said indoor dining would not reopen as planned in Ireland. Instead, it will be restricted to people who are fully vaccinated or those who have had a previous infection.

6/28/21 2:03 p.m. PDT — Study finds mRNA COVID-19 vaccines may protect against disease for years

A new study published today in Nature found evidence that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech may provide lasting protection against the disease.

Researchers found evidence that the vaccine set off an immune response that may last indefinitely.

“It’s a good sign for how durable our immunity is from this vaccine,” Ali Ellebedy, PhD, an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis who led the study, told The New York Times.

One major caveat is that the protection provided by these vaccines may not last if the coronavirus drastically mutates.

However, current virus variants do not appear to cause high rates of symptomatic infection in people who are vaccinated.

Australia grapples with new COVID-19 surge

Australia is grappling with a new surge of COVID-19 cases that has led to lockdowns in major cities, including Sydney.

This is the first time the country has seen multiple outbreaks in different territories at the same time, according to the BBC.

Experts say the new delta variant, which is likely more infectious, may be behind the rise in cases.

Brad Hazzard, New South Wales health minister, called the delta variant a “very formidable foe,” according to the BBC.

“No matter what defensive steps we’re taking at the moment, the virus seems to understand how to counter-attack,” he said.

Officials are pushing people to get vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus.

Just 5 percent of Australia’s population is currently fully vaccinated.

6/25/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — NIH starts COVID-19 vaccine study in people who are pregnant

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is starting a study on how the COVID-19 vaccine affects people who are pregnant. The study will follow 750 pregnant individuals and 250 people postpartum to see the impact the vaccine has on their health.

The participants and their newborns will be followed for the first year after birth to see the impact of the vaccines.

Experts have mostly been pushing people who are pregnant to get vaccinated, even though pregnant people were not included in original trials. Experts point out that the dangers of COVID-19 are particularly severe for people who are pregnant, since they’re considered immunocompromised.

COVID-19 cluster seen in kindergarteners

Despite a nationwide drop in COVID-19 cases, Nevada officials are dealing with multiple outbreaks of the new delta variant.

One cluster, involving nine cases, was seen in 5- and 6-year-old students at an elementary school in Reno, Nevada, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

While young children are less likely to get severely ill from COVID-19, they’re still at risk for developing the disease.

U.S. Surgeon General warns against misinformation

With a dangerous COVID-19 variant on the rise, health experts urge hesitant people to get vaccinated. However, the U.S. Surgeon General warns that a big obstacle stands in their way: misinformation.

“There is so much misinformation out there about the vaccine, coming through so many channels — a lot of it being spread on social media,” Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN. “It’s inducing a lot of fear among people.”

“Two-thirds of those who are unvaccinated in polls say that they either believe the myths about COVID-19 or think that they might be true,” he said, adding that he’s worried about those who are unvaccinated as the variant spreads.

Experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, estimate that 70 to 85 percent of Americans will need to become immune to COVID-19 either through vaccination or developing the disease in order to control community spread, reported CNN.

But after initial surges, vaccination rates have slowed, and only about 54 percent of the population has received at least one dose.

Critically, more than 1 in 10 people who received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine have missed their second dose, according to data shared with CNN by the CDC.

Australia and Israel face COVID-19 outbreaks despite high levels of vaccination

According to NPR, rising COVID-19 cases around the world are forcing some governments to reimplement lockdown measures to control disease transmission.

From Australia to Israel and around Europe, health officials are announcing new restrictions ahead of the weekend as they report clusters of outbreaks and try to mitigate further transmissions, reported NPR.

Decisions have come as the more transmissible COVID-19 delta variant becomes the dominant strain in several countries.

NPR lists Australia, Portugal, and Israel as nations reinstituting pandemic measures amid surges in new cases. This is occurring even while in the United States, many places are reopening despite warnings from health officials.

6/24/21 2:17 p.m. PDT — Delta variant has new mutation called ‘delta plus’

A mutation of the delta coronavirus variant has emerged. Called “delta plus,” it’s starting to worry global experts, according to CNBC.

India has dubbed delta plus a “variant of concern,” and there are fears that it could potentially be more transmissible.

In the United Kingdom, where the delta variant is now responsible for most new COVID-19 cases, Public Health England noted in its last summary that routine scanning of COVID-19 cases in the country found almost 40 cases of the newer variant, which has acquired a spike protein mutation called K417N, or delta plus, reported CNBC.

Public Health England also noted that, as of June 16, cases of the delta plus variant have also been identified in the United States (83 cases when the report was published last Friday) as well as Canada, India, Japan, Nepal, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey.

The Indian health ministry released a statement on June 22 that said INSACOG, a consortium of 28 laboratories genome sequencing the virus in India during the pandemic, had informed the ministry that the delta plus variant has three worrying characteristics:

  • increased transmissibility
  • stronger binding to receptors of lung cells
  • potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response

Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, a physician-epidemiologist as well as vaccines and health systems expert based in New Delhi, told CNBC that while the government should remain alert to the progress of the variant, there’s “no reason to panic.”

“Epidemiologically speaking, I have no reason to believe that ‘Delta plus’ alters the current situation in a manner to accelerate or trigger the third wave,” Lahariya told the network via email.

Israel says as many as 50% of new COVID-19 cases from delta variant are in people already vaccinated

As Israel faces a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant, the country’s health officials say as many as half of those cases are among people who were vaccinated, reported Business Insider.

According to Dr. Chezy Levy, Israel’s health ministry director-general, fully vaccinated people in contact with the delta variant will now have to quarantine.

“Even though the numbers are low, the fact that this is reaching vaccinated people means… that we are still checking how many vaccinated people have also been infected,” Levy said, Haaretz reported.

Speaking with state broadcaster Kan public radio, Levy said that approximately 40 to 50 percent of new cases were people who had been vaccinated. He did not appear to specify a time frame for the new cases, according to news reports.

6/23/21 3:12 p.m. PDT — CDC group reports 12.6 cases of heart inflammation per 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

A few rare cases of heart inflammation are “likely” associated with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, according to experts on a panel convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to CNBC, panel experts reported there have been more than 1,200 cases of myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation) or pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart) in people who have received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

Most of the people affected were men under 30. Nearly 80 percent of those affected have recovered, and nine people were hospitalized. Two were in intensive care as of June 11.

Over 70% of people over 30 have received at least 1 vaccine dose

The Biden administration won’t reach its goal of getting 70 percent of U.S. adults at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said yesterday, reported USA Today.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have reached the goal already. But some states have less than 50 percent of their adults vaccinated, Zients said at a White House briefing.

Still, the goal of at least partially vaccinating 70 percent of people ages 30 and older has been reached, he emphasized, adding that the administration is also on track to hit the 70 percent target for ages 27 and older by Fourth of July weekend.

“And let’s remember, when the president took office, we were at approximately 5 percent of adults with one shot. So, in just 5 months, we have been racing from 5 percent to 70 percent,” Zients said.

Zients explained that achieving 70 percent of adults vaccinated was an “aspirational target,” and pointed out that the administration has met or exceeded it for most of the adult population, calling this a “remarkable achievement.”

Delta variant ‘greatest threat’ to U.S. efforts against COVID-19, declares Fauci

White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday that the highly contagious delta variant is the “greatest threat” to the nation’s attempt to eliminate COVID-19, reported CNBC.

The virus strain makes up about 20 percent of all new cases in the United States, up from 10 percent about 2 weeks ago.

Fauci added that the delta variant appears to be “following the same pattern” as the alpha variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, with infections in the United States doubling roughly every 2 weeks.

“Similar to the situation in the U.K., the delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” Fauci said, reported CNBC.

According to the network, health officials say there are reports that the delta variant causes more severe symptoms, but more research is needed to confirm those conclusions.

6/22/21 1:40 p.m. PDT — Delta variant likely to become the dominant variant within weeks in U.S.

The highly transmissible delta variant is likely to become the dominant coronavirus variant in the United States within a few weeks, according to new data.

Originally detected in India, the delta variant is now being found throughout the United States, even as cases decline amid increasing vaccinations.

While vaccinations continue, the rate of people being vaccinated has been declining since a high in April. Experts are concerned that new coronavirus variants could continue to spread among unvaccinated people, prolonging the pandemic.

Missouri hospital sees surge of COVID-19 cases as vaccinations slow

With only 45 percent of U.S. people fully vaccinated and only 16 states that have fully vaccinated more than half their populations, health experts worry about the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, reported CBS News.

It’s 60 percent more contagious than the alpha variant first detected in the United Kingdom, which was the previous variant of concern, according to infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm, PhD.

“In the areas where they have large pockets of unvaccinated people, we can surely expect to see surges in cases, in some situations challenging the healthcare capacity of that local area,” Osterholm told CBS News.

According to the CBS, one hospital over capacity is Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri. Mercy Hospital President Craig McCoy told CBS the hospital is “holding patients in the ER, waiting on admissions, waiting on discharges on any given day.”

McCoy told the network that at Mercy hospital, almost every COVID-19 patient is unvaccinated.

“We’ve only had two that have come out as inpatients that have been fully vaccinated. The vaccine, from everything we can see, does appear to be effective against the delta variant,” he said.

6/21/21 2:35 p.m. PDT — Ugandan coach tests positive for COVID-19 in Japan weeks before Olympics

A member of the Ugandan Olympic team tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Japan, according to the BBC.

The Ugandan team is only the second foreign Olympic team to arrive in Japan ahead of the Olympic Games scheduled to take place next month.

In recent months, Japan has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases, which has led to criticism that the Olympic Games should be canceled.

Officials have rebuffed these criticisms. This week, Japan announced that up to 10,000 spectators will be allowed to watch the games.

Additionally, COVID-19 cases are now declining.

The states lagging in vaccinations

While many states are making great strides in vaccinating residents against COVID-19, the ones that aren’t may soon need to deal with a more transmissible variant, experts say, reported CNN.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows about 45 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

But states like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wyoming have only fully vaccinated less than 35 percent of residents, according to CNN.

The delta variant, believed to be more transmissible and able to cause more severe disease, might cause an upsurge in infections, but those levels will vary depending on each region’s rates of vaccination, Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told “Face the Nation.”

“When we look across the United States, we see wide variance in terms of vaccination rates,” said Gottlieb, comparing places like Vermont and Connecticut that have high vaccination rates with other states currently struggling to achieve 50 percent of residents vaccinated.

Biden likely to miss goal of 70% partial vaccination in adults

It’s looking like the United States might miss President Biden’s target of 70 percent of adults being, at least partially, vaccinated by July 4.

A vaccine expert said time is running out to get ahead of the potential spread of virus variants, reported CNN.

“Vaccines are our only way out of this,” Dr. Paul Offit told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Unless we vaccinate a significant percentage of the population before winter hits, you’re going to see more spread and the creation of more variants, which will only make this task more difficult.”

To attain herd immunity, or the point at which the virus is not easily transmitted in the community, experts have estimated it would require the inoculation through infection or vaccination of between 70 and 85 percent of the population, reported CNN.

“You would have thought at the beginning of this, knowing that vaccines are our only way out of the pandemic, the hardest part would have been figuring out how to construct these vaccines,” Offit continued. “The hardest part is convincing people to get it, which is remarkable.”

6/17/21 1:39 p.m. PDT — Delta variant now variant of concern

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared that the delta variant, first detected in India, is now a variant of concern (VOC), meaning it poses a significant threat to unvaccinated people, reported NPR.

“A very recent data — literally yesterday and the day before — shows that, in fact, it is a more dangerous virus in the sense that it can potentially make people more severely ill,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told NPR.

“So the combination of more transmissibility and a greater severity of disease appropriately prompted the CDC to elevate it to a variant of concern,” he said.

According to NPR, this virus variant is the most contagious yet, and the CDC estimates it may be responsible for nearly 10 percent of all new cases in the United States.

In certain western states, the delta variant may be responsible for nearly 20 percent of cases.

This risk has public health officials stressing the benefits of vaccination, which is shown to be highly effective against the delta variant.

“If you are vaccinated, you’re going to be protected, which is another very good reason to encourage people strongly to get vaccinated,” Fauci told NPR. “If you are not vaccinated, you are at risk of getting infected with the virus that now spreads more rapidly and gives more serious disease.”

Rising COVID-19 cases in England are driven by unvaccinated people

COVID-19 cases are rising exponentially across England and are driven by younger and mostly unvaccinated people, according to scientists, reported the Guardian.

According to the Guardian, a study commissioned by the U.K. government called the REACT study found that infections increased by 50 percent between May 20 and June 7, which coincided with the rise of the delta variant that now dominates in the United Kingdom.

“We observed that growth was being driven by younger age groups, with five-fold higher rates of swab-positivity among younger children (ages 5 to 12 years) and young adults (18 to 24 years) compared with those aged 65 years and older, and 2.5-fold higher rates among those below 50 years compared with those 50 years and above,” the study authors wrote.

The study authors added that their findings suggest that imminent expansion of the vaccine program to people ages 18 and above “should help substantially to reduce the overall growth of the epidemic.”

6/16/21 3:27 p.m. PDT — WHO says delta variant now circulating in 80 countries

The delta variant of the coronavirus is now circulating in 80 countries, according to officials from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The delta variant was first identified in India in the fall of 2020, and has been rapidly spreading globally.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 technical lead for the WHO, said in an interview posted on Twitter that all four variants of concern are more transmissible than the original virus variant.

“If it can spread more easily, then more people can get infected quickly, and if a system is overwhelmed… it can overburden the health system,” she said.

New York lifts pandemic restrictions

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that since the state has reached 70 percent vaccination, he will lift pandemic restrictions.

Unvaccinated people are still required to use face masks as per federal guidelines, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“What New York has done is extraordinary. Not only do we have the lowest COVID positivity rate in the United States of America, we have hit 70 percent vaccination ahead of schedule. We successfully deployed the weapon that will win the war, and New York led the nation,” Cuomo said in the statement.

According to Cuomo, at one point the state had a COVID-19 positivity rate of 48.16 percent. The governor confirmed that the positivity rate is now 0.40 percent, the lowest rate in the country.

California also lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions yesterday. The Golden State ended capacity limits, physical distancing, and, for people already vaccinated, mask requirements.

California’s reopening allows vaccinated people to go without masks in most situations. This puts the state in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Masks are still required on public transportation, in hospitals and jails, and at schools and child care centers, pending updated guidance from the CDC.

899 people received expired COVID-19 vaccines at Times Square, need to get another shot

Nearly 900 who were vaccinated against COVID-19 at Times Square in New York City earlier this month received expired doses of the vaccine, reported Business Insider.

The 899 people received the expired doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the former NFL Experience building in Times Square between June 5 and June 10.

These people should schedule another shot as soon as possible, the New York City Health Department said, reported The Associated Press (AP).

“We apologize for the inconvenience to those receiving the vaccine batch in question and want people first and foremost to know that we have been advised that there is no danger from the vaccine they received,” ATC Vaccination Services, the company that administered the shots under contract to the city, said in a statement, reported AP.

6/15/21 2:25 p.m. PDT — Deaths from COVID-19 now top 600,000 in the U.S.

Despite dropping caseloads of COVID-19, the death toll continues to grow in the United States.

The country has now reported more than 600,000 deaths from the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

The United States has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths globally since the start of the pandemic.

New reported cases have dropped significantly as vaccinations have increased in the United States.

AstraZeneca antibody drug fails to prevent COVID-19 symptoms, large trial finds

A study key to demonstrating the effectiveness of AstraZeneca’s antibody drug combination, AZD7442, found it was only 33 percent effective at preventing symptoms of the disease in people exposed to the coronavirus, according to Bloomberg.

The outcome is disappointing for the drugmaker, as this drug was hoped to be a bright spot in the company’s efforts to fight the pandemic following the mixed success of its COVID-19 vaccine with the University of Oxford, reported Bloomberg.

“While this trial did not meet the primary endpoint against symptomatic illness, we are encouraged by the protection seen in the PCR negative participants following treatment with AZD7442,” AstraZeneca Executive Vice President Mene Pangalos said in a statement.

“We await results from PROVENT, our pre-exposure prevention trial and TACKLE, our treatment trial in preventing more severe disease, to understand the potential role of AZD7442 in protecting against COVID-19,” he said.

According to CNBC, AZD7442 belongs to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies, which mimic natural antibodies produced by the body to fight infections.

Similar therapies developed by drugmakers Regeneron and Eli Lilly have already received approval by U.S. regulators to treat nonhospitalized people with COVID-19.

Vermont reaches vaccination milestone, lifts all pandemic restrictions

Vermont crossed a major vaccination milestone yesterday with more than 80 percent of the state’s eligible population receiving at least one vaccine dose, according to data from the state’s health department.

Consequently, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has dropped all remaining pandemic restrictions throughout the state, fulfilling a promise he made last month to lift restrictions once the state eclipsed that milestone, reported NBC5 News.

“There are no longer any state COVID-19 restrictions,” Scott said during a news conference, reported NBC5. “None.”

“So unless there is a federal requirement in place, like for public transportation or long-term care facilities, employers, municipalities, and individuals can operate under the same conditions as before the pandemic,” he said.

6/14/21 12:20 p.m. PDT — Novavax notes success in latest vaccine trial

Today, drugmaker Novavax announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was 90 percent effective against disease and protected against virus variants in a large phase 3 clinical trial conducted in the United States and Mexico.

Company officials added that the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing moderate to serious disease.

The findings indicated that the two-shot vaccine had an overall effectiveness of about 90 percent, with preliminary data showing it was safe. This puts the vaccine at about the same level as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine.

“Today, Novavax is one step closer to addressing the critical and persistent global public health need for additional COVID-19 vaccines. These clinical results reinforce that NVX-CoV2373 is extremely effective and offers complete protection against both moderate and severe COVID-19 infection,” Stanley C. Erck, president and CEO of Novavax, said in a statement.

“Novavax continues to work with a sense of urgency to complete our regulatory submissions and deliver this vaccine, built on a well understood and proven platform, to a world that is still in great need of vaccines,” he said.

Novavax intends to file for regulatory authorization in the third quarter.

Delta variant likely to become dominant in U.S.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told “Face the Nation” yesterday that the coronavirus variant known as delta is likely to become the dominant source for new infections in the United States and could lead to new outbreaks in the fall, with unvaccinated people being most at risk.

“Right now, in the United States, it’s about 10 percent of infections. It’s doubling every 2 weeks,” Gottlieb said. “That doesn’t mean that we’re going to see a sharp uptick in infections, but it does mean that this is going to take over. And I think the risk is really to the fall that this could spike a new epidemic.”

Gottlieb emphasized the delta variant is going to continue to spread, citing new data from prominent British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, PhD.

“There was data out from Neil Ferguson this week showing it’s about 60 percent more transmissible than 1.1.7, which was that old U.K. variant that they’re now calling the alpha variant,” Gottlieb explained.

“So, this is more contagious. It appears that people who get this virus have higher viral loads and they have those viral loads for longer periods of time. So they shed more virus,” he said.

Black, Latino Americans have higher COVID-19 death rates

Black and Latino Americans once again have the highest death rates from COVID-19.

During spring 2020, Black Americans had the highest death rate. Last summer, Latino Americans had the highest rate, particularly from outbreaks in Texas and California.

This past winter, the pandemic spread across most of the nation, with white Americans having some of the highest death rates.

This summer, the high death rates have returned to Black and Latino communities.

Experts say these two groups have less access to health services, have lower vaccination rates, and are more likely to have jobs that put them in contact with the public.

6/11/21 12:20 p.m. PDT — Delta variant spread worries health experts

Many U.S. states and communities are far from achieving a level of COVID-19 vaccination that could prevent future outbreaks of the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant.

The variant, which fueled the recent surge of cases and deaths in India, presents some real risks. According to experts in the United Kingdom, the Delta variant is 40 to 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant that first emerged there in late 2020 and was up to 70 percent more transmissible than earlier versions of the coronavirus.

In Great Britain, the Delta variant is currently responsible for 91 percent of new COVID-19 cases, with cases doubling over the past week, according to The New York Times.

Although all two-dose COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the variant when fully administered, a recent study from Public Health England (PHE) finds this variant’s “immune escape” properties reduce protection to only 33 percent of people between the first dose and second dose.

Delta is now driving “an epidemic among the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated populations in the U.K.,” Dr. Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, told the Financial Times. “The U.K. has rapidly changed from one of the best performing nations to a nation again struggling with rising cases.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said the Delta variant’s spread and dominance in the United Kingdom could mean trouble for the United States, where the variant currently accounts for 6 percent of all infections, rising to 18 percent or higher in certain Western states.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine expiration dates extended

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced it is extending the expiration date on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Agency officials said the vaccine can be stored at low temperatures for 4.5 months instead of the 3-month limit originally ordered. Millions of doses were in danger of being tossed out next month.

FDA officials also ordered Johnson & Johnson to discard 60 million vaccine doses made at a Baltimore facility due to concerns the manufacturer had not followed proper practices. The agency is allowing 10 million doses from that complex to be distributed with a warning label.

CDC schedules emergency meeting on heart inflammation concerns

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called an emergency meeting to discuss reports of heart inflammation issues after the administration of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

The meeting of CDC advisors will take place on June 18.

So far, the agency has identified 226 cases believed to be myocarditis or pericarditis. Although the cases are a tiny fraction of the 130 million people in the United States who’ve received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the numbers are still higher than expected.

6/10/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — Moderna asks FDA to allow COVID-19 vaccine to be given to children over 12

Officials at Moderna are asking the FDA to give emergency use authorization to their COVID-19 vaccine in people over the age of 12.

“We are pleased to announce that we have submitted for an emergency use authorization for our COVID-19 vaccine with the FDA for use in adolescents in the United States,” Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said in a statement. “We are encouraged that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 infection in adolescents.”

They have also filed for authorization in Canada and the European Union.

Currently, the only COVID-19 vaccine available to children between the ages of 12 and 16 is the one made by Pfizer-BioNTech. Another vaccine on the market may help children get more access to the vaccines.

Unvaccinated at risk for a more dangerous coronavirus variant, surgeon general says

Although there is an ongoing decline in COVID-19 cases in the United States, the surgeon general warns those still unvaccinated to not let their guard down, reported CNN.

“For those who are unvaccinated, they are increasingly at risk as more and more variants develop,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Wednesday, reported CNN. He specifically cited the B.1.617.2, or Delta variant, that was first identified in India.

“The news about the Delta variant is evidence of really why it’s so important for us to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Murthy said, adding that the Delta variant is more transmissible and potentially more dangerous.

According to CNN, many health experts and officials share concerns over the risk of variants bringing an end to a nationwide reopening.

“We don’t want to let happen in the United States what is happening currently in the U.K., where you have a troublesome variant essentially taking over as the dominant variant, which has made it a very difficult situation in the U.K.,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday, according to CNN.

Fauci added that the Delta variant accounts for over 6 percent of sequenced virus in the United States.

Houston hospital suspends nearly 200 employees who refused vaccination

A Houston hospital has suspended 178 staff members who have refused to follow the facility’s mandate that all employees be fully vaccinated by Monday, reported NBC News.

Almost 25,000 Houston Methodist staff members have been fully protected against COVID-19 as part of a vaccination requirement announced in April, Houston Methodist’s president, Dr. Marc Boom, said in a statement Tuesday, according to the network.

However, 178 unvaccinated employees who did not receive religious or medical exemptions for the mandate were suspended without pay. This number includes 27 staff who were only partially vaccinated.

“We won’t have the final numbers for 2 weeks, as employees can still get vaccinated with their second dose or with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Boom’s statement said, according to NBC. “I wish the number could be zero, but unfortunately, a small number of individuals have decided not to put their patients first.”

6/9/21 1:36 p.m. PDT — Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine effective against variants, study finds

A new study has found that Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine initiates multiple immune responses, making it highly protective not only in the United States but also in Brazil and South Africa, where different coronavirus variants are circulating.

The researchers found that people in various parts of the world who received the shot were protected against severe disease, no matter which virus variant was circulating.

“Functional non-neutralizing antibody responses and T cell responses were largely preserved against SARS-CoV-2 variants,” the study authors wrote. “These findings have implications for vaccine protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern.”

Thousands of Johnson & Johnson vaccines may expire before they’re used

Hundreds of thousands of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines may expire before they can be administered, according to Kaiser Health News.

The shots last for 3 months when refrigerated and up to 2 years when frozen.

Local health departments may have a backlog of shots as demand for vaccines has waned.

While the vaccines can be redistributed to other areas or countries in need, Johnson & Johnson and the Food and Drug Administration are also waiting for new evidence to see whether the vaccine will remain viable after its initial expiration date.

6/8/21 2:05 p.m. PDT — Pfizer begins testing COVID-19 vaccine in children under 12

Pfizer announced today it will begin testing its COVID-19 vaccine in a larger group of children younger than 12 after selecting a lower dose of the shot in an earlier stage of the trial, reported Reuters.

The study will enroll up to 4,500 children at more than 90 clinical sites in the United States, Finland, Poland, and Spain, the company said.

According to Reuters, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorized for use in children as young as 12 in Europe, the United States, and Canada. Children receive the same dose as adults, 30 micrograms.

Vaccinating children and young people is considered a critical step toward reaching herd immunity and taming the COVID-19 pandemic, reported Reuters.

We must redouble vaccination efforts to hit president’s July 4 goal, expert says

Despite signs of normalcy returning across the United States, from in-person graduations to maskless Memorial Day weekend celebrations, experts warned CNN that the country must redouble efforts to get more people vaccinated by July 4.

According to CNN, President Joe Biden has called for 70 percent of all adults to have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by July 4.

But a recent CNN analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data finds we’re not likely to hit that target until mid-to-late July.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told the network he agrees the country isn’t on track to hit the milestone.

“So we’ve got to redouble of our efforts,” he told CNN. “States really have to pick up pace. If we just keep going at the status quo I don’t think we’re going to hit that 70 percent by July 4.”

6/7/21 12:20 p.m. PDT — July 4th vaccination goal of 70% may be tough to reach

Experts are expressing concern the United States may miss the vaccination goal set by President Joe Biden for July 4.

They say that goal of 70 percent of U.S. adults receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose may not be reached until mid-July.

The country is now averaging about 1 million vaccinations a day, down from the peak of 3.3 million in April.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Friday that the best way for the country to avoid COVID-19 surges is to get vaccinated.

“It ain’t over ’til it’s over — and it is not over yet,” Fauci said at an event hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Complacency, he added, could lead to “another surge — particularly with variants floating around — that could set us back to the time when we had to shut down things.”

Vaccination rate still low in Black communities

Another concern is the pace at which Black Americans are being vaccinated.

Officials say the vaccination blueprint that’s worked with other ethnic and racial groups isn’t doing enough to win over Black Americans.

According to the most recent CDC data, less than 10 percent of Black Americans have been fully vaccinated against the disease.

“It’s a tough layer that we have to address — it requires relationship building and it’s going to take a little longer,” Octavio Martinez, executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, who sits on the White House’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, told Politico. “We have a systemic issue here.”

6/4/21 4:10 p.m. PDT — CDC director urges teens to get vaccinated

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), urged teens to get vaccinated and recommended parents who have questions to speak with their child’s health providers, local pharmacists, or health departments, reported The Washington Post.

“I strongly encourage parents to get their teens vaccinated, as I did mine,” she said during a briefing yesterday, reported the Post.

Walensky added that until teens are fully vaccinated, “they should continue to wear masks and take precautions when around others who are not vaccinated to protect themselves, their friends, family and community.”

6/3/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — Biden administration outlines plan to send 25 million vaccines to other countries

With vaccination demand in the United States waning, the Biden administration is now looking to send millions of doses abroad to fight COVID-19, according to Reuters.

About 19 million doses will be given to COVAX, the campaign run by the World Health Organization to get vaccines to developing countries. The other 6 million doses will be given directly to countries including Canada, Mexico, India, and South Korea.

While more than 50 percent of the U.S. population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, many countries have yet to even start a mass vaccination campaign.

The World Health Organization has been pushing for wealthier countries to donate vaccines to poorer countries to fight the pandemic globally. Should a strain develop in other parts of the world, it can quickly spread to the United States.

COVID-19 cases lowest since pandemic began

The United States has brought new COVID-19 cases down to their lowest level since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The country averaged about 15,622 new cases per day over the past week, which is a 30 percent improvement over the week before. Also, new cases declined in 43 states, with the other seven holding steady, reported Axios.

Additionally, since vaccinations are rising, there’s less chance that we could see another major spike similar to what we saw this winter.

According to a recent story in The Washington Post, the risk for unvaccinated people is still about as high as it’s ever been, with an average of roughly 500, mostly unvaccinated, people dying per day from COVID-19 in the United States.

India orders unapproved COVID-19 vaccine as nation struggles against second wave

Today, India signed its first order for an unapproved COVID-19 vaccine, one day after criticism from the South Asian country’s supreme court over a bungled vaccine rollout that left millions of people vulnerable after almost 338,000 deaths, reported Reuters.

According to Reuters, only 4.7 percent of the 950 million adult population has received two vaccine doses, as the world’s second most populous country reels from a nationwide second wave of infections that has killed about 170,000 people in April and May alone.

The government will buy 300 million vaccine doses from local firm Biological-E, and has put down an advance of $205.6 million, the health ministry said, even though the vaccine is still going through phase 3 clinical trials, reported Reuters.

“The arrangement with Biological-E is part of the wider endeavor of the government of India to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers by providing them support in research & development and also financial support,” the ministry said in a statement, reported CTV News.

According to CTV News, the official recorded caseload since the start of the pandemic now stands at 28.4 million, which is the second-highest in the world after the United States.

6/2/21 7:00 p.m. PDT — 12 states have already achieved Biden’s goal of 70% adults vaccinated against COVID-19

Twelve states have now reached the Biden administration’s goal to vaccinate 70 percent of adults with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4, according to data published yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported CNN.

According to CNN, those states are California, Maryland, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

About 168.5 million people — nearly 51 percent of the U.S. population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 41 percent of the population — roughly 136 million people — are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data, CNN reported.

New trial will research whether COVID-19 vaccines can be mixed and matched

The National Institutes of Health is examining whether COVID-19 vaccines can be mixed and matched for booster shots.

The NIH study will see whether fully vaccinated people do better if they receive a booster shot 20 weeks after initial vaccination. Those new booster shots will not need to match the original type of vaccine given to the participant.

“We need to prepare for the possibility of needing booster shots to counter waning immunity and to keep pace with an evolving virus,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the NIH.

“The results of this trial are intended to inform public health policy decisions on the potential use of mixed vaccine schedules should booster doses be indicated,” he said.

6/1/21 2:55 p.m. PDT — COVID variants to be named after Greek letters, WHO announces

The World Health Organization (WHO) will assign simple, easy to say and remember labels for key variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by using letters of the Greek alphabet.

The WHO will assign labels for COVID-19 variants designated as Variants of Interest (VOI) or Variants of Concern (VOC) by WHO, and will be posted on the WHO’s website.

“The U.K. variant, for instance, is labeled Alpha, the South African Beta, and the Indian as Delta,” reported BBC. The WHO said this was to simplify discussions but also to help remove some stigma from the names.

“No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants,” the WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, tweeted. Kerkhove also called for “robust surveillance” of variants and the sharing of scientific data to help stop the pandemic from worsening.

Moderna seeks full FDA approval for mRNA vaccine

Moderna asked the FDA for full U.S. approval of its COVID-19 vaccine today, reported CNBC, making Moderna the second drugmaker in the United States to pursue a biologics license that will allow them to market its vaccine directly to consumers.

According to CNBC, the drugmaker’s mRNA vaccine is currently being distributed under an emergency use authorization (EUA), granted by the FDA in December.

It gives conditional approval based on 2 months of safety data and isn’t the same as a biologics license application, or a request for full approval, which requires at least 6 months of data.

“We are pleased to announce this important step in the U.S. regulatory process for a Biologics License Application (BLA) of our COVID-19 vaccine,” said Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, in a statement. “We look forward to working with the FDA and will continue to submit data from our Phase 3 study and complete the rolling submission.”

5/28/21 9:55 a.m. PDT — Most Americans favor vaccine verification for travelers

About 70 percent of people in the United States favor vaccine verification while traveling by plane or staying in a hotel, a new PwC consulting survey found.

More than half of respondents to the survey, released on Friday, said they support policies that prevent people from traveling if they don’t show proof of vaccination.

About 14 percent reported they would be upset if asked for proof of vaccination while traveling.

President Biden delivers hopeful message on COVID-19

On Friday, President Joe Biden delivered a message of hope and optimism on the declining number of COVID-19 cases and increased vaccination rates ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

The president traveled to Virginia to outline the progress made across the country, and in Virginia specifically, in combating the pandemic since he took office.

5/27/21 2:26 p.m. PDT — New antibody treatment for COVID-19 is authorized by the FDA

There’s a new COVID-19 treatment now authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The monoclonal antibody therapy sotrovimab will be able to be administered to people with mild to moderate COVID-19 over age 12.

This is the third such treatment given emergency use authorization by the FDA since the start of the pandemic, according to U.S. News and World Report.

“With the authorization of this monoclonal antibody treatment, we are providing another option to help keep high-risk patients with COVID-19 out of the hospital,” said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “It is important to expand the arsenal of monoclonal antibody therapies that are expected to retain activity against the circulating variants of COVID-19 in the United States.”

First winner of Ohio vaccine lottery

An Ohio woman won the state’s first $1 million Vax-a-Million vaccination incentive prize, and a Dayton-area teen won the first full-ride college scholarship offered by the program, the state announced Wednesday night.

According to Associated Press, winners were selected in a random drawing held Monday and had their information confirmed before a formal announcement was made at the end of the Ohio Lottery’s “Cash Explosion” TV show.

The lottery announced Abbigail Bugenske of Silverton, Ohio as the $1 million winner, and Joseph Costello of Englewood, Ohio as the college scholarship winner.

“I would encourage anyone to get the vaccine,” Bugenske told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “If winning $1 million isn’t incentive enough, I don’t really know what would be.”

5/26/21 2:22 p.m. PDT — Belgium pauses J&J vaccine for people under 41 after death

On May 26, Belgium announced it would suspend vaccinations with Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine for people under age 41 following the death of a woman after she was given the vaccine, reported Reuters.

“The Inter-ministerial conference has decided to temporarily administer Janssen’s vaccine to the general population from the age of 41 years, pending a more detailed benefit-risk analysis by the EMA (European Medicines Agency),” Belgium’s federal health minister and seven regional counterparts said in a statement, reported Yahoo! News.

According to The Telegraph, the woman was a Slovenian diplomat and 39 years old. Belgian media reports she was vaccinated outside Belgium, through her employer.

Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson announced April 20 that it would resume rolling out its COVID-19 vaccine in Europe with a warning on its label after requesting that countries, including Belgium, pause distribution amid concerns over a possible link to rare blood clots.

CDC will not investigate mild cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated people

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it will no longer investigate mild cases of COVID-19 in people who are vaccinated.

Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 — when a vaccinated person develops the illness — are extremely rare but not unexpected. A total of 10,262 COVID-19 cases were reported among the 101 million people who were fully vaccinated as of April 30.

That means about 0.01 percent of people who were vaccinated developed COVID-19.

Among those who developed COVID-19, only 995 people actually were hospitalized and 160 died, although not all died of COVID-19.

5/25/21 12:59 p.m. PDT — Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine is effective in teens

In a statement released Tuesday, May 25, officials at Moderna say their COVID-19 vaccine is effective at protecting adolescents.

In a phase 2/3 study, 3,732 adolescents ages 12 to under 18 were given either a placebo or two vaccine doses. No cases of COVID-19 were reported in those who were fully vaccinated.

“We are encouraged that mRNA-1273 was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 in adolescents. It is particularly exciting to see that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine can prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel. “We will submit these results to the U.S. FDA and regulators globally in early June and request authorization. We remain committed to doing our part to help end the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Can vaccinated people spread the coronavirus? Study says probably not

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its mask use guidelines on May 13, many Americans were left a little confused.

People who are fully vaccinated can now participate in indoor and outdoor activities, regardless of the number of people involved, without wearing a mask or observing physical distancing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said the new guideline is “based on the evolution of the science” and “serves as an incentive” for the almost two-thirds of Americans who are not yet fully vaccinated to go ahead and get the shot, reported Yahoo.

With restrictions lifting nationwide, people are starting to leave their masks at home. This worries some people who fear that someone who’s been vaccinated can transmit the virus.

A preprint study (not yet peer-reviewed) finds that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine can produce coronavirus-fighting antibodies in the oral and nasal fluids.

Antibodies in the mouth and nose should then block COVID from getting into the body. This would also suggest that vaccinated people probably wouldn’t spread the virus through respiratory droplets.

“Our observations are in agreement with the Moderna vaccine clinical study, which determined that among adults aged 18 to 70 years of age, SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies were detected among all participants who received a COVID-19 vaccination series in serum samples by day 15,” the study authors wrote.

Vaccinations lag among younger Americans

Experts are turning their focus in the fight against COVID-19 to vaccinating young Americans — warning that even though they don’t face a high chance of serious illness, they still risk long-term symptoms if they contract the coronavirus, reported CNN.

According to CNN, the United States has hit a new milestone with 50% of U.S. adults fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

But many experts have identified younger Americans as a critical group for vaccine success and key to bringing the pandemic under control.

CDC data shows that among those 12 to 15 years old, only 1.5 percent have received at least one dose, while only 1.7 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds have, and 7.6 percent of 18- to 24-years-old have.

To reach the threshold of protection needed to limit the virus’ spread, at least 70 to 85 percent of the U.S. population will need to be immunized through vaccines or infection, health experts told CNN.

5/24/21 2:43 p.m. PDT — India records 300,000 COVID-19 deaths amid black fungus outbreak

On Monday, India became the third country to record 300,000 COVID-19 deaths amid growing fears about the potentially fatal fungal infection striking some patients who have battled the virus. Only Brazil and the United States have reported more deaths.

“Black fungus cases were first seen in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Karnataka has been reporting it only in the last three days and demand for medicines has gone up,” federal minister DV Sadananda Gowda said on Friday, reported the New Indian Express.

On Saturday, Gowda said nearly 9,000 cases had been reported in India so far, leading to a shortage of amphotericin B, the drug used to treat the condition, reported the Associated Press (AP).

According to AP, the infection, called mucormycosis, has a high mortality rate and was already present in India before the pandemic. While not contagious, its frequency in the past month has left doctors shocked.

“It is a new challenge, and things are looking bleak,” Dr. Ambrish Mithal, the chairman and head of the endocrinology and diabetes department at Max Healthcare, told AP.

He added that this fungal infection preys on patients with weakened immune systems and underlying conditions, particularly diabetes, and “irrational usage” of steroids.

Possibility dogs can sniff out COVID-19 in people, early research suggests

A new study published May 23 indicates dogs might be able to help in the fight against COVID-19. According to CNN, scientists and the group Medical Detection Dogs completed an early trial examining if dogs could smell and identify COVID-19 cases.

Researchers said the dogs could pick up the scent of COVID-19 after 6 to 8 weeks of training, reported CNN. These early results have been published in a preprint study that hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal.

“The results are extremely exciting,” James Logan, PhD, a project lead on the study, told CNN.

Leave a Comment