COVID-19 infections appear to be creeping higher in about half of U.S. states as winter approaches, suggesting that the nation may not have seen the last of the delta variant surge of the virus that throughout the pandemic has killed more than 750,000 Americans.
Cases rose week-over-week in 24 states in the seven-day period that ended Wednesday, a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data suggests. The rolling average of seven-day case counts nationwide has more or less leveled off around 500,000 over the last 10 days after weeks of broad, steady decline.
It’s too soon to know the impact of colder weather as outdoor gatherings wane and people head indoors. Cases are rising, however, primarily in colder states that hadn’t been as hard-hit in the worst of the delta wave. They included Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin.
– Mike Stucka
Also in the news:
►New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams told MSNBC he wants to “revisit” the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for city workers. Adams said he will encourage Mayor Bill de Blasio to “sit down with the unions” that have resisted the edict.
►Damara Holness, 28, pleaded guilty in Fort Lauderdale federal court to conspiring to commit wire fraud involving $300,000 in COVID relief funds. She is the daughter of Dale Holness, who holds a 12-vote lead following Tuesday’s Democratic primary for a seat in the U.S. House.
►The Maine Health Department is looking for kids age 5 to 17 to create and submit half-minute videos they think will persuade children and parents to get vaccinated. The first-place winner’s school will receive $50,000.
►The Navajo Nation, the country’s largest, reported 80 more COVID-19 cases, but no coronavirus-related deaths for the 23rd time in the past 35 days.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded 46.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 750,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 248.3 million cases and 5 million deaths. More than 192.9 million Americans – 58.1% of the population – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: A study of deer in Iowa that have contracted the coronavirus suggests they could become “a major reservoir host” that allows the virus to mutate and re-enter humans.
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Britain on Thursday became the first nation to approve a pill to treat COVID. British Health Secretary Sajid Javid said the treatment will be a “game changer” for those most vulnerable to symptoms of the virus. The tablet, called molnupiravir, was developed by New Jersey-based Merck and will be given twice a day to patients recently diagnosed with the disease. Javid said the drug, initially developed as a treatment for the flu, can cut the risk of hospitalization or death in half.
Merck said in a statement that the antiviral medicine was authorized for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19 in adults who have at least one risk factor for developing severe illness. The company said it is submitting applications to other regulatory agencies around the world.
Dr. Mark Denison and his team at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Tennessee, along with colleagues at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Emory University, led the development of molnupiravir starting in 2016. Here’s a look at how it happened.
Moderna is scaling back expectations for the number of COVID-19 vaccine deliveries it expects to make this year. Issues including longer delivery lead times for exports and a temporary impact from expanding the company’s capacity may shift some deliveries to early 2022, the drugmaker said Thursday. The company now expects full-year, 2021 product sales of $15 billion to $18 billion, down from an August estimate of $20 billion. CEO Stephane Bancel said the issues stemmed from scaling up production so quickly.
“Our supply chain became more complex with increased deliveries to countries around the world,” Bancel said.
Workers at larger businesses must get vaccinated by Jan. 4 or face regular testing under federal rules being released Thursday. Workers who choose the testing option may have to bear the cost. They also will be required to wear a face mask on the job, beginning Dec. 5. The rules fill in the details for the vaccination requirement President Joe Biden announced in September for businesses with 100 or more employees.
“COVID-19 continues to hold back our workforce and our economy – and it will continue to do so until more Americans are vaccinated,” Labor Secretary Marty Walsh and Jeff Zients, the White House COVID-19 response coordinator, wrote in an opinion piece for USA TODAY.
– Maureen Groppe
U.S. life expectancy fell by almost two years in 2020 from 2019 as the pandemic shook the world, according to a study of 37 nations published in the BMJ, formerly the British Medical Journal. Life expectancy fell by about 2.3 years for American men, while American women lost 1.6 years. Russia had the steepest drop, 2.33 years for men, 2.14 years for women. The U.S. was second. The study, led by an Oxford University public health researcher, looked at 37 upper-middle and high income countries or regions “with reliable and complete mortality” data. A handful of countries were able to minimize the decline.
“More than 28 million excess years of life were lost in 2020 in 31 countries, with a higher rate in men than women,” the authors said in summary.
The coronavirus appears to have infected many of Iowa’s deer, posing risks the virus could mutate in the animals and then re-enter the human population in an altered version, a new study says. The paper, which has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal, has been posted online. The findings were a surprise to the researchers, including veterinary microbiologists Suresh Kuchipudi and Vivek Kapur who led the Penn State study.
“Our results suggest that deer have the potential to emerge as a major reservoir host” for the coronavirus, the Penn State University study says.
– Andrea May Sahouri, Tony Leys and Donnelle Eller, Des Moines Register
More than 10,000 patients were diagnosed with COVID in a U.S. hospital last year after they were admitted for something else, according to federal and state records analyzed exclusively for KHN. The number is certainly an undercount, since it includes mostly patients 65 and older, plus California and Florida patients of all ages.
About 21% of the patients who contracted the virus in the hospital from April to September last year died, the data shows. In contrast, nearly 8% of other Medicare patients died in the hospital at the time. Read more here.
– Christina Jewett, Kaiser Health News
The overall number of suicides in 2020 was 3% lower than in 2019 despite the pandemic, according to the study conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. However, the report found the suicide rate among Hispanic males increased 5% from 2019 to 2020. And rates increased for all males ages 10 to 14 by 13%, and 5% among those 25 to 34.
“Suicide is complex and multifaceted and just having an increase in risk factors does not translate to more deaths by suicide,” said the study’s lead author Sally Curtin, a health statistician at NCHS. “The findings illustrate the complexity of suicide.”
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Young children began receiving COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday in what was a moment of joy not only for their parents but the kids themselves. The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, a group of immunization and public health scientists from California, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington, concluded that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective for children aged 5 to 11 on Wednesday. The workgroup’s decision reinforces the FDA’s authorization of the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds, and officially allowed California to start vaccinating young children.
President Joe Biden said Wednesday that 20,000 sites nationwide would be available by next week to administer the children’s vaccine, and he pointed out that minors make up one-fourth of the COVID-19 cases in the country.
“Vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 and boosters (to) provide additional protection for seniors and others are two major steps forward that are going to accelerate our path out of this pandemic,” Biden said.
Now that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in children 5 through 11, there’s concern that some will develop myocarditis, a swelling of the heart muscle. But it’s not clear how many – and millions of children will have to be vaccinated before it is known. Trials in younger children have been too small to show the rare side effect, just as trials in adults did not reveal myocarditis as a possible side effect of the shots.
“Getting COVID I think is much riskier to the heart than getting this vaccine, no matter what age and sex you are,” Dr. Matthew Oster, a pediatric cardiologist with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, told an advisory committee Tuesday. “The risk of having some sort of bad heart involvement is much higher if you get COVID than if you get this vaccine.”
– Karen Weintraub
Contributing: The Associated Press