Covid has now killed 1 in 1000 Americans in less than a year. How is it that in Australia it’s 3 out of every 100,000 people, and in New Zealand it’s 1 out of every 200,000 people, but here in America we’re dropping like flies? Chalk it up to Republican racism and a libertarian indifference More
Dr. Fauci Just Said: This State's COVID Situation Is 'Unimaginable'
FAUCI SAID THE U.S. IS IN A "VERY DIFFICULT SITUATION RIGHT NOW" OVERALL, BUT HE SINGLED OUT THIS STATE.
The COVID surge in the U.S. has dragged on into the new year with no end in sight. While most of the nation is combating COVID spikes, some areas have more of an uphill battle than others. Right now, the rates of new cases per capita are highest in three states, Arizona, Rhode Island, and California, not just in the U.S. but of any area in the world. However, during a new interview on Jan. 7, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), singled out one of those states as particularly concerning: California. To see why Fauci referred to California's COVID situation as "unimaginable," read on, and for a full look at how the country is doing, check out This Is How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.
During an interview with Washington University Internal Medicine on Jan. 7, Fauci commented on the worsening situation in California. "There are some regions of the country that are really getting to the point of what we consider the unimaginable where you actually have to triage and determine who's going to get taken care of and who's not," said Fauci. "I refer specifically to the very difficult situation that's going on in California."
Fauci added that he was speaking particularly about Los Angeles County "where they are running out of beds, and they have an exhausted staff working almost 24 hours a day." Earlier this week, as a sign of how stretched hospitals are, reports emerged that Los Angeles EMS workers were being told not to transfer patients to the ER who experience cardiac arrest or those who have a low chance of survival.
The NIAID director went on to describe what is happening in California as a truly "extraordinary situation." And for more up-to-date COVID news delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.
California's hospitals are nearly at capacity.
California's hospitals are completely overwhelmed by the volume of COVID patients seeking care, with ICUs across the state currently at 87 percent capacity. The state is also experiencing an oxygen shortage, according to The New York Times. Additionally, there are more than twice as many COVID patients in California hospitals now than there were at this time last month. To see if the new strain of COVID is in your state, check out The New COVID Strain Is Now in These 8 States.
California's new case rate is four times higher than it was during the summer surge.
California saw a scary surge of COVID cases over the summer, but The New York Times reports that the state's new case rate is currently four times higher than it was during that surge. To see what Fauci said about yet another new virus variant that's circulating, check out Dr. Fauci Just Issued This Warning About Another New COVID Strain.
Before singling out California, Fauci said the U.S. as a whole is struggling to combat COVID. "We are in a very, very difficult situation right now," said Fauci. "The numbers are so extraordinary that we've become numb to them. As of yesterday, there have been 360,000 deaths… Every day is a new record for the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19."
Dr. Fauci Says This Is What's Most "Concerning" With the Newest Strain
HE SAYS THE NEW STRAIN FROM SOUTH AFRICA MAY AFFECT THIS COVID PROTECTIVE MEASURE
Two new variants of COVID-19, which were first discovered in the United Kingdom and South Africa, respectively, have started to spread globally. There's been growing concern about how much faster these variants may be spreading the virus and what effect they'll have on our current vaccines. But Anthony Fauci, MD, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has another worry about the introduction of the South African strain in particular that you may not have considered. According to the nation's leading infectious disease expert, the newest COVID strain may affect our current treatments. Read on to find out why he's worried and for more on his vaccine concerns, check out Dr. Fauci Just Gave This Warning About COVID Vaccine Side Effects.
Fauci says the South African COVID strain
could affect coronavirus treatments.
In a Jan. 7 interview with Axios, Fauci admitted that the new South African variant, referred to as 501.V2, is "a little bit more concerning regarding the possibility of interfering with some of the monoclonal antibodies." Monoclonal antibodies are antibodies made in a laboratory to try to mimic natural antibodies that fight the virus in those infected. They're used in monoclonal antibody treatments, two of which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized for COVID in November.
Monoclonal antibody treatments have been created to target one part of the virus, which is why a mutation could cause serious issues. In an earlier interview with CNBC, Scott Gottlieb, MD, a former FDA commissioner, explained that antibodies bind to a part of the spike protein, called an epitope, which is what the South African variant has mutated. "If the mutation happens to be at that epitope, that could obviate the effect" of the treatment, Fauci said. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
However, it's not likely to affect the vaccine.
The U.K. strain has already been found in several states, but the South African strain has not yet been confirmed here. However, Fauci says it's most likely already in the U.S., too. "I would be surprised if it were not already in the United States, but you never know until you find it, and then prove it's here," he told Newsweek on Jan. 5. So far, the South African strain has been officially identified in multiple countries, like the U.K., Switzerland, Finland, Japan, Australia, Zambia, France, Ireland, and South Korea, among others. And to see how the virus is affecting your neck of the woods, find out just How Bad the COVID Outbreak Is in Your State.
But thankfully, it doesn't appear to create more severe illness.
The United States reported more than 4,200 deaths Tuesday, bringing the nation’s total to more than 381,000 deaths since the onset of the pandemic, according to Washington Post data.
The single-day death total, which is a record, and peak levels of new infections and hospitalizations are grim milestones for a country still reeling from the attempted insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last week.
President Trump has announced sweeping changes to coronavirus vaccine rollouts, quickly making all vaccine supplies accessible, encouraging states to provide shots to residents 65 and older and cautioning states with slow vaccine rollouts that they could lose some of their supply to faster-moving states.
Here are some significant developments:
Scientists at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine have discovered a new variant of the virus that is similar to the mutation found in the United Kingdom but probably originated in the United States, researchers announced Wednesday. The new mutations challenge scientists to determine whether they will cause vaccines and therapeutic approaches to be less effective, according to one of the lead researchers.
Texas became the second state to record 2 million coronavirus infections since the start of the pandemic, the Houston Chronicle reported. California reached that figure in December.
New, more transmissible variations of the coronavirus have popped up in Britain, South Africa and Brazil, prompting scientists to learn more about how those variants might be causing a worldwide increase in infections, the New York Times reported. On Sunday, Japan announced that it had discovered a new variant in four travelers arriving from Brazil.
New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) confirmed Wednesday that 15 cases of the U.K. variant have been detected in his state. New Mexico also announced its first case of the variant.
A one-dose vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is safe and generates an immune response to the coronavirus in nearly all people who received the vaccine in a trial, according to data published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
More than 92 million people around the world have been infected with the coronavirus since it emerged in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and more than 1.9 million have died, according to Post data.
Gallery: If You're Under This Age, You're More Likely to Get the New COVID Strain (Best Life)
Increasing infections, deaths and virus mutations are pushing world leaders to implement new approaches to quell the impact of the virus.
Switzerland on Wednesday announced firmer restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and its mutations, banning events and closing restaurants and nightlife establishments while avoiding a full lockdown, Reuters reported.
“Infection rates are stagnating at a very high level and with the new, much more infectious virus variants, there is a threat of a rapid resurgence,” the government said in a statement to the news outlet.
Switzerland, which has had less stern coronavirus measures compared with other countries, has reported more than 487,000 coronavirus infections and more than 8,400 related deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Entertainment, sports and leisure establishments will remain closed until the end of February.
In addition, Switzerland, which was the first country in continental Europe to start immunizing its citizens with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, will require companies to allow its employees to work from home when feasible, according to Reuters.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin ordered mass vaccinations beginning next week, Reuters reported. Russia has recorded more than 3.4 million infections and nearly 62,000 deaths.
The country was hit with a second wave of infections starting in September but refrained from imposing a nationwide lockdown, opting for focused restrictions, according to the news outlet.
The threat of the variants emerging from the U.K. and South Africa has erased the possibility for German and Danish residents to see eased restrictions. Health measures were set to relax in Germany on Feb. 1, but Health Minister Jens Spahn said the risk the U.K. variant could pose could extend them for two or three months, Deutsche Welle reported.
Germany will also require travelers from other countries with high case counts to be tested upon entering the nation, according to Reuters.
Concerns about infection rates grew among Danish lawmakers as more than 200 cases of the new variant had been verified in the country, triggering leaders to extend its business and gathering restrictions by three weeks, according to the Local.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told Parliament on Wednesday that the extension of the restrictions was needed to prevent the spread of the U.K. mutation.
5 Reasons to Wear a Mask Even After You’re Vaccinated
As an emergency physician, Dr. Eugenia South was in the first group of people to receive a covid vaccine. She received her second dose last week — even before President-elect Joe Biden.
Yet South said she’s in no rush to throw away her face mask.
“I honestly don’t think I’ll ever go without a mask at work again,” said South, faculty director of the Urban Health Lab at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “I don’t think I’ll ever feel safe doing that.”
And although covid vaccines are highly effective, South plans to continue wearing her mask outside the hospital as well.
Health experts say there are good reasons to follow her example.
“Masks and social distancing will need to continue into the foreseeable future — until we have some level of herd immunity,” said Dr. Preeti Malani, chief health officer at the University of Michigan. “Masks and distancing are here to stay.”
Malani and other health experts explained five reasons Americans should hold on to their masks:
1. No vaccine is 100% effective.
Large clinical trials found that two doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines prevented 95% of illnesses caused by the coronavirus. While those results are impressive, 1 in 20 people are left unprotected, said Dr. Tom Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Malani notes that vaccines were tested in controlled clinical trials at top medical centers, under optimal conditions.
In the real world, vaccines are usually slightly less effective. Scientists use specific terms to describe the phenomenon. They refer to the protection offered by vaccines in clinical trials as “efficacy,” while the actual immunity seen in a vaccinated population is “effectiveness.”
The effectiveness of covid vaccines could be affected by the way they’re handled, Malani said. The genetic material used in mRNA vaccines — made with messenger RNA from the coronavirus — is so fragile that it has to be carefully stored and transported.
Any variation from the CDC’s strict guidance could influence how well vaccines work, Malani said.
2. Vaccines don’t provide immediate protection.
No vaccine is effective right away, Malani said. It takes about two weeks for the immune system to make the antibodies that block viral infections.
Covid vaccines will take a little longer than other inoculations, such as the flu shot, because both the Moderna and Pfizer products require two doses. The Pfizer shots are given three weeks apart; the Moderna shots, four weeks apart.
In other words, full protection won’t arrive until five or six weeks after the first shot. So, a person vaccinated on New Year’s Day won’t be fully protected until Valentine’s Day.
3. Covid vaccines may not prevent you from spreading the virus.
Vaccines can provide two levels of protection. The measles vaccine prevents viruses from causing infection, so vaccinated people don’t spread the infection or develop symptoms.
While covid vaccines clearly prevent illness, researchers need more time to figure out whether they prevent transmission, too, said Phoenix-based epidemiologist Saskia Popescu, an assistant professor in the biodefense program at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government.
“We don’t yet know if the vaccine protects against infection, or only against illness,” said Frieden, now CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a global public health initiative. “In other words, a vaccinated person might still be able to spread the virus, even if they don’t feel sick.”
Until researchers can answer that question, Frieden said, wearing masks is the safest way for vaccinated people to protect those around them.
4. Masks protect people with compromised immune systems.
People with cancer are at particular risk from covid. Studies show they’re more likely than others to become infected and die from the virus, but may not be protected by vaccines, said Dr. Gary Lyman, a professor at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.
Cancer patients are vulnerable in multiple ways. People with lung cancer are less able to fight off pneumonia, while those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatment have weakened immune systems. Leukemia and lymphoma attack immune cells directly, which makes it harder for patients to fight off the virus.
Doctors don’t know much about how people with cancer will respond to vaccines, because they were excluded from randomized trials, Lyman said. Only a handful of study participants were diagnosed with cancer after enrolling. Among those people, covid vaccines protected only 76%.
Although the vaccines appear safe, “prior studies with other vaccines raise concerns that immunosuppressed patients, including cancer patients, may not mount as great an immune response as healthy patients,” Lyman said. “For now, we should assume that patients with cancer may not experience the 95% efficacy.”
Some people aren’t able to be vaccinated.
While most people with allergies can receive covid vaccines safely, the CDC advises those who have had severe allergic reactions to vaccine ingredients, including polyethylene glycol, to avoid vaccination. The agency also warns people who have had dangerous allergic reactions to a first vaccine dose to skip the second.
Lyman encourages people to continue wearing masks to protect those with cancer and others who won’t be fully protected.
5. Masks protect against any strain of the coronavirus, in spite of genetic mutations.
So far, studies suggest vaccines will still work against these new strains.
One thing is clear: Public health measures — such as avoiding crowds, physical distancing and masks — reduce the risk of contracting all strains of the coronavirus, as well as other respiratory diseases, Frieden said. For example, the number of flu cases worldwide has been dramatically lower since countries began asking citizens to stay home and wear masks.
“Masks will remain effective,” Malani said. “But careful and consistent use will be essential.”
The best hope for ending the pandemic isn’t to choose between masks, physical distancing and vaccines, Offit said, but to combine them. “The three approaches work best as a team,” he said.
Since long before the first rounds of the COVID vaccine went out, skeptics have been hard at work questioning every aspect of the new vaccine. To combat the misinformation, health experts—including Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)—have been doing their best to clarify misunderstandings and present accurate information about the vaccine. During a recent rapid-fire question and answer session, Fauci debunked some of the most common myths about the vaccine.
When Tirrell asked Fauci if you could get COVID from the coronavirus vaccine, citing the common misconception that you can get the flu from the flu vaccine, Fauci debunked the possibility swiftly. Although some of the common side effects of the vaccine are similar to the side effects you might experience with COVID, that doesn't mean you have the virus. Fauci said getting COVID from the vaccine is "absolutely impossible." And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
2 - Myth: The vaccine can alter your DNA.
Tirrell brought up another myth that has been floating around. Some people have said they are concerned the vaccine will alter their DNA, but again Fauci says that's "absolutely not" possible.
"They're getting a snippet of RNA, which is coding for a protein. It has nothing to do with your own genetic material," Fauci explained. "It gets injected. It gets into a cell, and it starts pumping out the spike protein that you want the body to make an immune response. It doesn't integrate into any aspect of your own genetic material. It's totally separate from your own genetic material." And for more insight from the infectious disease expert, Dr. Fauci Just Said You'll Be Able to Get the COVID Vaccine Even Sooner.
3 - Myth: The speed of development affected the vaccine's safety and efficacy. Many skeptics have noted how quickly the vaccine was developed in an attempt to use its speed against it. However, Fauci said the speed was just "a reflection of the extraordinary scientific advances that have been made in platform technologies for vaccines" over the past decade.
Fauci also credited the speed of the vaccine development to the "enormous amount of money" that was devoted to getting coronavirus vaccines prepared—even before approval. The NIAID director was adamant that the speed of the vaccine development "was not at the expense of safety, nor was it at the expense of scientific integrity."
4 - Myth: You can stop wearing a mask after you're vaccinated.
With the end of COVID in sight, many people are eager to toss out their masks, but Fauci says we can't do away with precautions just yet. "You need to keep wearing masks and doing the fundamental public health measures" even after you've been vaccinated, he said.