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COVID-19 news: The COVID-19 (novel Coronavirus) pandemic continues to pose serious challenges to health systems, governments and the population at large.  Staying on top of the latest COVID-19 news and information is critical. With that in mind, we will continue to provide regular updates via this blog and our COVID-19 Response Team.

  • Global Numbers: 117m cases, 2.6m deaths, 192 countries.(Source: Johns Hopkins)
  • United States:  29m cases, 527,612 deaths. (Source: Johns Hopkins).

 

Latest Updates:

  • The US CDC released guidelines for fully vaccinated Americans, saying they can safely visit other vaccinated people and some small groups of unvaccinated people, but should still avoid travel.
  • The US House is expected to vote tomorrow on a massive coronavirus relief package. The bill includes up to $1,400 stimulus checks for some Americans.
  • As of Tuesday, 47 states plus DC are now allowing teachers and school staff to receive Covid-19 vaccines. By next Monday, teachers will be eligible in all 50 states.

  • Rhode Island Gov. Dan McKee Tuesday announced a plan to get all teachers at least the first dose of the vaccine by the end of March.

  • WHO’s director-general warned against squandering the progress made fighting Covid-19, nearly one year after the UN health agency declared a pandemic.
  • Italy has become the sixth country to surpass 100,000 Covid-19 deaths.
  • Brazil reported a record high of Covid-19 deaths Tuesday, data from the ministry of health shows. On Tuesday, Brazil reported at least 1,972 new Covid-19 deaths over a 24-hour period, bringing the country’s total death toll to about 268,370.Brazil’s ministry of health reported at least 70,764 new Covid-19 cases, raising the country’s coronavirus case-count to about 11,122,429.

  • At Home Testing — Mailing rapid antigen tests to US residents to encourage frequent, widespread Covid-19 testing is a cost-effective way to prevent millions of infections and thousands of deaths, according to a study published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine.  Over a period of 60 days, if just half of the population tested themselves weekly and half of those who tested positive self-isolated for an appropriate period of time, the practice could help prevent about 2.8 million infections and 16,000 deaths, the researchers found. Even in the worst-case scenario modeled — where only a quarter of the population utilizes the at-home tests and a quarter of those who test positive self-isolate — about 3,400 lives could be saved.
  • Walgreens has administered approximately 5 million Covid-19 vaccines through its stores, dedicated clinics and long-term care facilities, according to a company statement. In the more than 60,000 clinics the company initiated in long-term care facilities, Walgreens says it vaccinated the majority of residents and staff who opted to get a vaccine. Now that the company is nearing the completion of its vaccination program for long-term care facilities, Walgreens is coordinating with the Biden administration and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to vaccinate teachers, children are workers and school staff included in the next vaccine priority group, the statement added.

  • The biotechnology company Novavax is currently manufacturing its coronavirus vaccine at 10 sites in eight countries — with two sites in the United States, in North Carolina and Texas, Dr. Gregory Glenn, president of research and development for Novavax, told CNN on Tuesday: “They’re all at different stages,” Glenn said. “Some are earlier, but all are up and running and working on the vaccine. So, we expect to have a very large capacity.

  • Biotechnology firm Novavax is developing a booster shot to its coronavirus vaccine, and company officials anticipate that vaccinated people might need boosters every six months or annually to stay protected against Covid-19. Similar to others, Novavax’s Covid-19 vaccine is administered as two doses given three weeks apart. After the second dose, “we’re seeing that at six months, there’s a pretty big decline in antibodies and I think all the vaccine makers are going to see that,” Dr. Gregory Glenn, president of research and development for Novavax, told CNN on Tuesday.

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, outlined today two ways Covid-19 vaccines could combat coronavirus variants: vaccinated people could get specific booster shots against each variant that crops up or a shot that offers protection against several variants: “Here is the challenge: Are we going to chase each variant in an almost ‘whack-a-mole’ way or are we going to try and get a vaccine that has a good degree of protection against several (variants) and get the level of virus so low that we don’t really have an outbreak proportion,” the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event Tuesday.

Older  News:

  • On February 22, the U.S. reached the tragic milestone of 500,000 deaths. President Joe Biden has addressed the nation as the US passed the figure of 500,000 Covid-related deaths, the highest number of any country. “As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate. We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow,” he said on Monday. The president and vice-president, and their spouses, then observed a moment of silence outside the White House during a candle-lighting ceremony.Confirmed US infections now stand at 28.1 million, also a global record. “Today I ask all Americans to remember. Remember those we lost and remember those we left behind,” President Biden said, calling for Americans to fight Covid together.

    The president ordered all flags on federal property to be lowered to half mast for the next five days. At the White House, he opened his speech by noting that the number of American deaths from Covid was higher than the death toll from World War One, World War Two, and the Vietnam War combined. “Today we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone – 500,071 dead,” he said. “We often hear people described as ordinary Americans,” he went on to say. “There’s no such thing, there’s nothing ordinary about them. The people we lost were extraordinary. They span generations. Born in America, emigrated to America. So many of them took their final breath alone in America.”

 

  • The number of COVID cases in the U.S. has dropped dramatically. The seven- day average of new infections dropped below 100,000 on Friday, continuing at that level through Sunday. However, Andy Slavitt, White House Covid-19 senior adviser, said on MSNBC Monday the drop in Covid-19 cases could be “misleading,” and the virus could have “a lot of surprises in store for us.”Among those surprises are the variants, he said, noting that the variant first identified in the UK – or B.1.1.7 – is more virulent.

 

  • More than 65 million doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been administered in the United States, according to data published Tuesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC reported that 65,032,083 total doses have been administered, about 79% of the 82,114,370 doses delivered. That’s only about 850,000 more administered doses reported since yesterday, for a seven-day average of about 1.4 million doses per day.

  • President Biden’s coronavirus advisers told governors today that they believe an estimated two million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be available next week pending emergency use authorization, according to a source familiar with the conversation. A White House official confirmed the conversation and said, “If an EUA is issued, we anticipate jurisdictions will get an allocation of around 2 million doses of J&J supply next week.”

 

  • The UK variant could “impact the epidemic curve” and lead to more restrictions in Europe if it becomes the dominant strain, a World Health Organization official warns.

 

  • Researchers said they have identified a batch of similar mutations in coronavirus samples circulating in the United States. Virologist Jeremy Kamil, an author on the study, said “there’s really no excuse” why the US hasn’t done more sequencing to glean additional data on the virus. The genetic stretch that is mutated, or changed, is called 677. The researchers identified seven similar mutations at 677 — each one appearing to have arisen independently, they wrote in a pre-print report.

 

  • The company Kroger Health said Tuesday that it plans to sell a smartphone-enabled, at-home Covid-19 test kit online and at pharmacies in the US. The test, developed by Gauss and Cellex, has not yet received emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration, and cannot be sold until then. The company said it will share a price once the test is authorized.

 

 

  • More US states are loosening Covid-19 restrictions, even as experts warn the country is still not in the clear — especially as variants spread.

 

  • Double masking can significantly improve protection against the virus, new CDC data shows.

 

  • Tocilizumab, an intravenous anti-inflammatory drug used for rheumatoid arthritis, has been shown to reduce the risk of death for patients hospitalized with severe Covid-19, as well as reducing the risk of ventilation and the amount of time until discharged from hospital. The preliminary results came from the RECOVERY trial, which has been testing potential Covid-19 treatments since March 2020.

 

  • The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Africa has backed the use of the  Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine against Covid-19 even in countries reporting variants of the disease. “While a vaccine that protects against all forms of Covid-19 illness is our biggest hope, preventing severe cases and hospitalizations which overwhelm hospitals and health systems is crucial,” Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, the WHO regional director for Africa, said at a press briefing Thursday.The second wave of Covid-19 in Africa, which peaked in January, was more deadly than the first wave, according to Dr. Moeti. “Deaths have increased by 40% in the last 28 days compared to the previous 28 days,” she noted.

 

  • Japan will begin vaccinating its healthcare workers Wednesday with 40,000 doctors and nurses from 100 hospitals across the country receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, according to the head of Japan’s vaccine rollout Taro Kano.

 

  • Hong Kong is relaxing social distancing restrictions beginning Thursday after reporting its lowest daily number of new Covid-19 cases since late November.Food and Health Secretary Sophia Chan announced in a press conference Tuesday that people will be able to dine in at restaurants until 10 p.m. with up to four people per table.

 

  • The Israeli Cabinet has approved a further loosening of the restrictions on economic activity as coronavirus infection rates continue its gradual downward trend. From Sunday, shopping malls, markets, museums, and libraries will re-open to everyone. But Israelis will need to show proof they have been vaccinated, or have recovered from the disease, to gain access to gyms, sports, cultural venues and hotels, all of which have also received permission to re-open.

 

  • Hungary received the first 550,000 doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the country’s government told CNN. The country became the first European Union (EU) nation to approve the shot in late January. It also signed a deal with the Chinese manufacturer for the supply of 5 million doses of the vaccine.

 

  • Most European countries remain “vulnerable” despite a decline in Covid-19 cases, WHO Europe regional director Hans Kluge said Thursday. This decline in cases “conceals increasing numbers of outbreaks and community spread involving variants of concern, meaning that we need to watch overall trends in transmission carefully and avoid rash decisions,” Kluge told a news conference, stressing that the numbers registered in the European region are “still too high.”

    “At this point, the overwhelming majority of European countries remain vulnerable,”he added, saying that there’s now a “thin line between the hope of a vaccine and a false sense of security.”

    The coronavirus variant B.1.351 first identified in South Africa has been reported in 19 European countries, he said, adding that “although community transmission in Europe is not yet widespread, the variant has increasingly been linked to outbreaks in communities.”

 

  • The Cuban government scientists say they have produced 150,000 doses of their most promising vaccine candidate, the communist party newspaper Granma reported Thursday. Cuba has been working with Iran to develop the Soberana 2 vaccine. Phase 3 trials will begin in March and the vaccine could be ready for widespread use in April, according to Granma, quoting Cuban scientists.

 

  • The number of newly reported global coronavirus cases declined by 13% in the week leading up to Jan. 31, the World Health Organization reported in an update Tuesday. WHO says 3.7 million new cases and 96,000 deaths were reported in the week leading up to Jan. 31 – the third consecutive week of declining cases. That brings the total to more than 102.1 million reported cases and 2.2 million deaths around the world since the pandemic began. When WHO declared Covid-19 an international public health emergency one year ago, the global count was 9,826 cases in 20 countries and 213 deaths, all in China.The US is currently reporting the highest number of new cases, by far, followed by Brazil, the UK and Northern Ireland, France, and Russia.

 

  • Serbia currently has one of the highest vaccination rates in Europe, despite not being a member of the European Union — and the country’s Prime Minister has said directly negotiating with manufacturers has helped his country. Rapid vaccine procurement and a government shift to digitization is behind the nation’s early success in rolling out the jabs, Prime Minister Ana Brnabić told CNN.

 

  • The U.S. will begin shipping doses of the Covid-19 vaccine directly to retail pharmacies next week, as the Biden administration expands how and where Americans can get inoculated. The initial shipment of 1 million doses will go to 6,500 stores starting Feb. 11, said Jeffrey Zients, the Biden administration’s Covid-19 coordinator.States were left by the Trump administration to devise their own distribution plans and some opted to use retail pharmacies in their states to help administer the vaccine to certain groups, like health care workers.

 

  • Pfizer said it expects to deliver 200 million doses of its Covid-19 vaccine to the United States by the end of May, according to slides published for its fourth-quarter 2020 earnings teleconference on Tuesday. The company was originally slated to deliver the 200 million doses by July 31, but Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said last week he expected the company’s production to be ahead of schedule by two months.

 

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci says people who’ve had Covid-19 could be reinfected if variants become dominant and urged Americans to get vaccinated to stop new strains emerging.

 

 

 

  • The biggest spreaders of coronavirus in the US are adults aged 20 to 49, and efforts to control the spread — including vaccination — should focus on that age group, researchers reported Tuesday. Children and older adults accounted for very little spread, the researchers said — suggesting that reopening schools may not contribute to spread, if transmission is controlled among younger adults, they said.

 

  • The Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine showed 66.7% efficacy against symptomatic disease starting two weeks after the second shot, according to a preprint posted Tuesday by researchers at the University of Oxford. The new analysis adds new trial sites and a month of new data to the mix, building upon earlier results announced by AstraZeneca that its vaccine had showed an estimated 70.4% efficacy. However, the latest analysis also suggests the vaccine may offer substantial protection after a single shot.

 

  • More than 100,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the United States so far in 2021, according to Johns Hopkins University data.Since Jan. 1, 2021, the US has reported a total of 100,317 deaths from Covid-19, according to Johns Hopkins. In total, since the pandemic began, the US has reported at least 446,272 total deaths.

 

  • French President Emmanuel Macron vowed Tuesday that all French people who want the vaccine will have it by the end of summer 2021. “That is exactly the same pace, the same method, as our German neighbors and our other European neighbors,” Macron said in a live interview with French TV channel TF1 on Tuesday. He added that all those in nursing homes who want a vaccine will be vaccinated by early March of this year – amounting to about 500,000 people.

 

  • Per CNN, “President Joe Biden has made some sweeping proposals about how he’ll handle the pandemic and has made it clear that getting Covid-19 under control is his top priority. He’s already proposed a $1.9 trillion “American Rescue Plan” that aims to help slow the spread of coronavirus and stimulate the economy. Among the slew of executive orders he signed are ones dealing with Covid-19 testing, school reopenings and ramping up the production of masks and other PPE. Another big issue the Biden team has wasted no time tackling: improving vaccine distribution and making it more transparent.”

 

  • The US “can and should” vaccinate up to 85% of adults by the end of summer, Dr. Anthony Fauci said.Dr. Vivek Murthy, President Joe Biden’s nominee for US surgeon general, told ABC that the goal of 100 million doses in the President’s first 100 days in office is “a floor; it’s not a ceiling,” and that the success of vaccine distribution also has to be measured by its equitability.

 

  • The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reviewing new data that suggests coronavirus variant identified in UK could be more deadly.

 

 

 

NOTE: TBG’s COVID-19 Team,  provides a comprehensive and integrated package of  COVID-19 Solutions covering Public Health, Testing and Tracing, Crisis Management, Research and Data Management, and PPE Supplies. To get access to the Team, just send an email.


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