COVID-19: Science behind vaccination development. Weekly updates with statistics and the latest news


It took Moderna 48 hours to produce a vaccination.  It took 48 years to accomplish that feat. 

As you read this account, did you or your children elect to forgo vaccinations for Polio, Tetanus, Influenza, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Rubella, Measles, Whooping Cough, Streptococcus vaccine, Mumps, Chickenpox, and Diphtheria?  What about the pain inflicted from shingles, did you get your Shingrix shot?

Understanding the science behind the rapid production of the COVID-19 vaccinations is both fascinating and critically important to understand.  Recognizing the role of women in facilitating this scientific breakthrough is vital.  The average population is ill-informed about the steps leading up to the vaccination development process.  Some are ignorantly afraid, consumed with conspiracy theories, religious bias, political bipartisanship, and a strong opinion that the vaccination was produced too quickly.  Their invalid conclusion, therefore, is that it is unsafe, ineffective, especially by not understanding that development took decades.  Half the voters who supported Trump in the last U.S. elections refuse to get vaccinated, a demographic of less-educated whites.  Many are consumed by conspiracy theories that the vaccination will result in a chip being inserted in your body so that Bill Gates will track you or that the devil will reside within your DNA.

In a New York Times article, they discuss how white Evangelical’s vaccine refusal could prolong the pandemic, impacting the need for herd immunity where at least seventy percent of the population is vaccinated.  Their objections included: “She believed it contained aborted cell tissue.”  A preacher “received a divine message that God was the ultimate healer and deliverer: The vaccine is not the savior.” Another: “she did not need the vaccine because God designed the body to heal itself if given the right nutrients.”  There are about 41 million white evangelical adults in the U.S.  According to the Pew Research Center, about 45% said in late February that they would not get vaccinated against COVID-19, making them among the least likely demographic groups to do so.  Some high-profile conservative pastors and institutional leaders have endorsed the vaccines.  Franklin Graham told his 9.6 million Facebook followers that Jesus would advocate for vaccination.  Pastor Robert Jeffress commended it from an anti-abortion perspective on Fox News. “We talk about life inside the womb as a gift from God.  Well, life outside the womb is a gift from God, too.” Southern Baptist Convention, J.D. Greear, president, tweeted a photo of himself receiving a vaccination.  Across white evangelical America, reasons not to get vaccinated have spread as quickly as the virus that public health officials hope to overcome through herd immunity.

By the end of March 2021, more than 551,000 Americans died of COVID-19.  Within my one immediate family, seven got infected from this virus, with one dying.  On March 31, 2021, 2.4 million Americans are getting vaccinated daily, yet cases and deaths are trending up again. 

On January 11, 2020, Chinese researchers published the genetic sequence of the virus. Moderna finalized the mRNA vaccine in about 48 hours.  The reality is that the science of genetic engineering started in 1972.  It is what preceded this January 2020 date that is critical in understanding how the vaccine could be developed quickly.  The vaccination topic piqued my curiosity.  What role did science and technology play in bringing the vaccine to market in under one year?  That is the subject of three books that I read recently, identified below.

On March 22, 2021, while watching The Late Show on CBS with Stephen Colbert (7 minutes 15 seconds) interviewing Walter Isaacson to discuss his newly published book The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, I decided that I needed to know more.    It is a phenomenal work, a great read, and I recommend everyone who has the slightest interest in this topic to read Isaacson’s book.  Isaacson’s book was published on March 9, 2021.  During this interview, Walter describes Jennifer’s work with CRISPR and gene editing.  With my understanding that Pfizer and Moderna used this technology to develop their vaccines to fight COVID-19, I was interested in learning more.

“Look at the halo of letters—GCACGUAGUGU—on the cover of this book. It is a snippet of the RNA that creates the part of the spike protein that binds to human cells, and these letters became part of the code used in the new vaccines.”

After additional research, I requested from the library A Crack In Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution by Jennifer A Doudna and Samuel H Sternberg, published August 21, 2018.

To put it mildly, I was so impressed with Jennifer and Samuel’s work that I purchased the book for my 14-year-old granddaughters.  I encouraged them to read the book and added the following comments to the inside cover of their book.

If you read this book, I believe that you will learn the following:

  • Jennifer read a chemistry book at age 12 that established an ambition to study for an undergraduate degree, Masters, and Doctorate that ultimately led to a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2020.  (Update: the book Jennifer read was The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, by James D. Watson.  See additional detail below).
  • Jennifer turned 57 on February 19, 2021.  She amassed numerous awards for her life work.
  • Jennifer is unquestionably an intellectual with deep thought, expressing cogent and rational arguments.
  • Jennifer did not do it on her own.  She stood on the shoulders of many people globally, clearly understanding the benefit of collaboration.  She published her research frequently.
  • The science was applied to horticulture, animals, fish, insects, bacteria, and eventually humans.
  • Jennifer’s book got published before the COVID virus, but her work led to the Pfizer and Moderna vaccinations that protect us today.
  • Jennifer attracted $500,000 investments for her team to carry out research.

  • There are many scientific and biological terms that you are unlikely to understand; I do not.  Read past them, but do not let that stop you from getting significant value from reading this book and understanding her process—words including Gene Editing, DNA, RNA, CRISPER, Cas9, GMO, and more.
  • The further you read, the more exciting and educational the book becomes.
  • One concern is if we use this technology to influence the characteristics of newborn babies, eugenics for short.  Jennifer screams aloud that human selection is unacceptable.
  • The bottom line: Reading the book will provide a way to universally understand science and government regulations controlling or limiting innovative thinking. An open mind helps.
  • As you read this book, could you be an author telling such a compelling story? (One twin has ambitions of becoming an author).
  • Remember, you can ask questions.  Try your dad, mom, or me—a pleasure to help.
  • Use Google to search “YouTube CRISPER” and other technology to learn more.

My motivation was two-fold in providing this encouragement.  When I grew up, I was not encouraged to study in any field other than engineering.  I was tested in high school and recommended by an industrial psychologist to follow a career in accounting.  While in engineering school, we had one female scholar in a class of over one hundred students.  Somehow, the thinking back in my day was, women do not have a place in science and technology.  A myth I wanted to be dispelled for my granddaughters.

After reading Jennifer’s book, I have dived into Walter Isaacson’s book.  I was blown away by his research.  He interviewed everyone that influenced Jennifer’s career, laboratory students appointed by her, competitors, scientific publishers, and business partners.  The book consists of noticeably short chapters that hold your interest with page-turning excitement—58 chapters in 476 pages, or 8.5 pages per chapter, on average.  The detail is reverting and exciting in the extreme.  Consider intellectual property patent intrigue.  Can you imagine a patent lawsuit being retried multiple times over eight years?  Jealousy and envy are terrible diseases in a competitive field, resulting in backstabbing.  Sadly, competitive relationships can become highly toxic, benefitting no one and creating a bitter relationship between former colleagues.  What about using this technology for terrorism?  What did the U.S. government invest in protecting or reversing nefarious use?  What position did religious leaders take?  How would or did politicians react to this technology?  How did the global community respond, vilify, or support?  What happens when a potential solution results in death?  What if international companies promote gene editing for newborn babies with desired characteristics?  What if the protagonist ends up being found guilty in a court of law with a heavy fine and jail time?

My mom died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2019.  Might it be possible to convert the APOE4 gene into a benign version?  The Alzheimer’s Association projects that by 2050 people 65 and older with Alzheimer’s will reach 12.7 million. The most significant protection against a person or laboratory using the technology to pursue eugenics, is lawsuits.

With Walter’s book, you do not require a doctorate or even an undergraduate degree in chemistry or biology.  Everything is explained in simple terms. It helps develop one’s understanding of the science involved with these breakthrough vaccinations.

Walter interviewed many collaborators, competitors, partners, and Jennifer’s team members.  Walter references 365 people in his book.  He provides cameos of multiple people, making the biographical story more human and exciting.  The text reads like a murder mystery, not that anyone got murdered, but some of the intrigues in the competitive laboratories are both exciting and entirely unbelievable.  Who stole ideas from whom?  Why the lies?  Could it be the result of competitiveness, who was the first to make a breakthrough scientific discovery? As with any scientific or technological endeavor, one must contend with charlatans out for publicity and fame.  The repercussions can be devastating, especially for the naïve coconspirators.  

The book challenges one on many moral issues.  If a deaf couple has a baby, it will likely be born deaf.  Should the medical profession take action to ensure the child is not deaf?  If technology allows the embryo to be altered so that the child will be a regular hearing child, is that morally acceptable?  Or what if you are a black couple wanting a light-skinned child?  Could Prince Harry and Megan Markle have made use of this process with Archie?  (Recall the troubling comments made during the Oprah Winfrey interview about Royal’s concern about the couple having a dark-skinned baby.  Racism anyone?).  Or short parents wanting to give birth to a tall child?  Should we morally establish a goal of inheritable gene edits?  Eradicate sickle cell disease?

I know that I have never been involved in this industry, and I am surprised when I read about the events that have taken place over the decades, how uninformed I am. 

If my granddaughters read Jennifer’s book, I plan to purchase Walter’s book for them to read.

Walter’s book is an essential read to understand what may be possible regarding baby selection in terms of desirable traits.  We cannot stop science or the inevitable outcome of what parents may choose within the characteristics and health of their offspring.  What if society becomes a robotic clone of each other? 

Isaacson’s book is an essential read.  I would challenge that the title Code Breaker is misleading.  The book challenges one to understand developments that have taken place in recent years in terms of genetics and the potential for how it could be employed in the future. What if this technology was only affordable by the ultra-wealthy?

I was so enamored with Isaacson’s book that I will reread it.  It is worth my time to gain even more knowledge after my initial read.  Think about the effort that went into multiple laboratories to develop a COVID-19 test.  None of the labs wanted the tests to be a moneymaking venture, only a way to isolate patients with the virus.

The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, by James D. Watson.  By identifying DNA structure, the molecule of life, Francis Crick and James Watson revolutionized biochemistry and won a Nobel Prize.  At the time, Watson was only twenty-four, a young scientist hungry to make his mark.  The book was first published in 1968 and republished on August 16, 2011.  I consider myself a detailed person.  With my engineering and computer background, I am used to reading technical information.  I found, in an amusing way, that Watson wrote like a raconteur.  Do I need to know which pub Watson had dinner in London and what he ate?  Watson uses this tactic to explain the process they went through on their path to their breakthrough discoveries.  I can only imagine that Watson kept a diary of what he did daily to document all this detail.  That, or he must have a phenomenal memory.  The book consists of noticeably short chapters, a few pages each, resulting in an easy and quick read.

As a reminder, Jennifer Doudna’s reading this book as a child set her career choice.  I appreciate the coincidence that the last three letters of her last name are “DNA.”

James D. Watson was born in Chicago on April 6, 1928. After graduation from the University of Chicago, he worked in genetics at Indiana University, receiving his Ph.D. in 1950.  He spent a year at the University of Copenhagen, followed by two years at the Cavendish Laboratory of Cambridge University, England.  There he met Francis Crick, and the collaboration resulted in their 1953 proposal of a structure for DNA.  After two years at Cal Tech, he joined the Harvard faculty, where he remained a biochemistry and molecular biology professor until 1976. In 1962, together with Francis Crick and Maurice Wilkins, Dr. Watson was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.  It has been recognized that Watson and his colleagues did not correctly attribute colleague Rosalind Franklin for her contributions to the discovery of the double helix structure.

In Watson’s book, he is critical of Rosalind or Rose as she was known.  In a prologue written for the re-release, he apologized for his unkind words and recognized her contribution.

My message to my granddaughters.  Reading Watson’s book will teach you that scientific breakthroughs do not happen in a blink of an eye.  It is the result of years of dedication, disappointments, persistence, and ultimately a positive outcome.  It is not necessarily a guaranteed result.

To add to our interest, we watched the 1997 movie Gattaca.  DNA sequencing is a laboratory technique used to determine the exact sequence of bases (A, C, G, and T) in a DNA molecule.  Gattaca was made up of those four letters. “A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.” Well, it is science fiction but provides food for thought of the possibilities. 

Update August 15, 2021.  I discovered another worthwhile educational video.  Netflix Explained, Season 1, “Designer DNA.” 18-minutes, released May 23, 2018.  Scientific feat or a terrifying social experiment?  Specialists in the field discuss the high stakes and ethical controversies of gene editing.  Just 18 years ago, scientists successfully mapped the human genome, identifying all the genes that make us who we are. These genes determine our eye color and our blood type. They affect our height, our risk of heart disease, how strong our bones are, and even our body odor. And sometimes they cause life-threatening diseases like cystic fibrosis and breast cancer.  Now we have the technology to edit our genes. Scientists have figured out how to reprogram an ancient bacterial immune system called “CRISPR” to track down and edit genes in any organism, allowing us to tinker with the source code of life.

The bottom line: I am disappointed at the amount of disinformation and ignorant comments I have read about these life-saving vaccinations.  Get a life.  Get vaccinated.

I extracted partial information from the weekly text detail below to create the table to rapidly see COVID developments in the USA over time.

Date COVID Cases Deaths Fully Vaccinated One-Dose Vaccination Rate/Day
April 10, 2021 31,084,962 566,238 68,202,458 114,436,039 3.1 million
April 17, 2021 31,574,340 565,260 80,609,818 127,743,096 3.9 million
April 24, 2021 31,730,950 567,352 91,175,995 137,234,889 2.28 million
May 1, 2021 32,091,429 572,190 101,407,318 144,894,586 2.36 million
May 8, 2021 32,403,159 577,041 110,874,920 150,416,559 1.75 million
May 15, 2021 32,681,787 581,573 120,258,637 155,251,852 1.82 million
May 22, 2021 32,885,010 584,975 127,778,250 161,278,336 1.76 million
May 29, 2021 33,041,551 590,212 133,532,544 166,388,129 1.38 million
June 5, 2021 33,148,701 593,377 137,455,367 169,735,441 1.01 million
June 12, 2021 33,259,537 596,572 142,095,530 172,758,350 1.09 million
June 19, 2021 33,341,986 598,713 148,459,003 176,290,249 1.36 million
June 26, 2021 33,425,231 600,859 151,615,554 178,491,147 735,800
July 3, 2021 33,514,681 602,731 156,255,896 181,650,678 1.09 million
July 10, 2021 33,631,656 604,251 158,629,431 183,542,871 599,100
July 17, 2021 33,836,677 606,190 160,686,378 185,424,899 562,000
July 24, 2021 34,312,832 608,113 162,435,276 187,579,557 500,000
July 31, 2021 34,818,278 610,264 164,184,080 190,509,183 590,000
August 7, 2021 35,530,951 613,658 165,918,256 193,764,457 650,000
August 14, 2021 36,410,213 617,787 167,699,170 197,081,471 650,000
August 21, 2021 37,396,282 624,213 169,998,983 200,421,787 750,000
August 28, 2021 38,527,411 632,786 172,646,952 203,475,192 820,000
September 4, 2021 39,668,869 643,405 175,538,025 206,461,869 840,000
September 11, 2021 40,703,234 654,409 172,899,458 208,704,230 890,000
September 18, 2021 41,754,903 668,442 180,572,171 211,097,597 720,000
September 25, 2021 42,635,447 682,646 182,958,696 212,861,380 600,000
Date COVID Cases Deaths One-Dose Booster Doses Vaccination Rate/day
October 2, 2021 43,409,950 696,603 214,597,690 3,023,065 720,000
October 10, 2021 44,105,375 708,784 216,573,911 7,284,455 930,000
October 16, 2021 44,709,010 720,228 218,318,056 10,023,131 950,000
October 23, 2021 45,235,796 731,931 219,900,525 12,037,101 680,000


Date COVID Cases Deaths One Dose Fully Vaccinated Booster Doses Vaccination Rate/day
October 30, 2021 45,759,230 741,566 220,860,887 191,997,869 16,682,269 840,000
November 6, 2021 46,268,465 749,876 222,902,939 193,425,862 22,271,357 1,310,000
November 13, 2021 46,783,309 757,663 225,606,197 194,747,839 27,660,515 1,350,000
November 20, 2021 47,471,270 768,619 229,291,004 195,920,566 33,454,832 1,490,000
November 27, 2021 47,916,623 773,779 231,367,686 196,168,756 37,449,004 1,370,000
December 4, 2021 48,767,329 783,215 234,743,864 198,211,641 44,035,293 990,000
December 11, 2021 49,593,113 791,963 238,143,066 201,279,582 51,749,171 1,910,000
December 18, 2021 50,479,372 800,939 240,775,382 203,479,206 58,185,916 1,600,000
December 25, 2021 51,574,787 809,300 241,520,561 204,730,406 64,475,171 1,480,000
January 1, 2022 53,795,407 820,355 243,527,564 205,811,394 68,810,709 650,000
January 8, 2022 58,689,973 831,729 246,050,320 207,229,983 73,814,228 1,790,000
January 15, 2022 64,285,467 844,841 248,338,448 208,791,862 78,961,755 1,230,000
January 22, 2022 69,437,067 858,909 250,262,153 210,021,766 83,012,754 1,190,000
January 29, 2022 73,512,366 876,632 249,473,925 211,343,818 86,955,357 860,000
February 5, 2022 75,937,801 894,810 250,539,665 212,336,183 89,288,662 700,000
February 12, 2022 77,345,683 912,757 251,755,851 213,563,173 91,109,196 540,000
February 19, 2022 78,161,630 928,723 252,650,507 214,602,856 92,589,369 490,000
February 26, 2022 78,644,344 942,301 253,232,298 215,318,037 93,811,640 500,000
March 5, 2022 79,031,738 953,569 253,904,022 215,987,252 94,941,167 340,000
March 12, 2022 79,291,207 963,287 254,379,621 216,497,318 95,739,353 270,000
March 19, 2022 79,522,906 967,769 254,870,034 216,952,347 96,439,386 240,000
March 26, 2022 79,736,014 973,515 255,146,100 217,316,148 97,093,580 180,000
April 2, 2022 79,947,165 978,254 255,582,575 217,703,007 97,793,707 190,000
April 9, 2022 80,146,451 981,748 256,062,152 218,235,689 98,533,836 470,000
April 16, 2022 80,403,894 985,523 256,481,233 218,740,564 99,267,892 530,000
April 23, 2022 80,700,973 988,287 257,105,236 219,208,559 99,888,928 460,000
April 30, 2022 81,094,164 990,527 257,565,087 219,610,128 100,509,996 500,000
May 7, 2022 81,574,159 994,511 257,995,280 220,022,176 101,095,571 410,000
May 14, 2022 82,196,077 996,653 257,738,565 220,447,145 102,061,741 370,000
May 22, 2022 83,080,655 999,254 258,106,038 220,878,432 102,694,522 380,000
May 28, 2022 83,712,396 1,001,313 258,463,968 221,190,484 103,217,414 390,000
June 4, 2022 84,424,159 1,003,308 258,682,487 221,411,336 103,712,931 450,000
June 11, 2022 85,191,231 1,006,062 258,896,220 221,640,799 104,252,029 290,000
June 18, 2022 85,921,461 1,008,196 259,198,178 221,924,152 104,718,138 300,000
June 25, 2022 86,625,392 1,010,599 259,426,758 222,123,223 105,093,591 280,000
July 2, 2022 87,407,521 1,013,261 259,957,415 222,271,398 106,275,891 280,000
July 10, 2022 88,174,283 1,015,568 260,327,743 222,455,652 106,615,227 190,000
July 16, 2022 89,067,445 1,018,578 260,728,030 222,682,315 107,004,061 170,000
July 23, 2022 89,972,868 1,021,546 261,204,035 222,950,194 107,468,726 150,000
July 30, 2022 90,895,306 1,024,611 261,654,261 223,245,563 107,924,198 220,000
August 6, 2022 91,805,380 1,028,062 261,591,428 233,035,566 107,490,375 250,000
August 13, 2022 92,560,911 1,031,426 261,981,618 223,457,170 107,872,738 210,000
August 20, 2022 93,240,120 1,034,668 262,323,837 223,648,995 108,217,633 170,000
August 27, 2022 93,880,573 1,037,953 262,643,277 223,914,723 108,540,822


September 3, 2022 94,487,185 1,041,816 262,908,216 224,113,439 108,806,974 96,169
September 10, 2022 94,973,074 1,044,461 263,103,582 224,367,691 108,953,688 251,584
September 17, 2022 95,412,766 1,047,741 263,415,633 224,636,858 109,201,576 439,887
September 24, 2022 95,795,378 1,050,631 263,812,108 224,980,931 109,578,270 475,556
October 1, 2022 96,143,199 1,053,789 264,112,767 225,284,115 109,970,532 536,190
October 8, 2022 96,443,656 1,056,702 264,562,221 225,870,613 110,560,974 547,736
October 15, 2022 96,713,658 1,059,390 265,111,489 226,200,755 110,835,775 327,641
October 22, 2022 97,063,357 1,065,152 265,591,330 226,594,560 111,367,843 394,318
October 29, 2022 97,329,787 1,066,351 266,031,472 226,933,827   118,813
November 5, 2022 97,604,763 1,068,667 266,401,911 227,377,753   411,287
November 12, 2022 97,889,652 1,070,947 267,032,055 227,802,408   297,391
November 19, 2022 98,174,364 1,073,115 267,476,279 228,154,832 Not Reported 
November 26, 2022 98,481,551 1,075,779 267,804,921 228,390,445  
December 3, 2022 98,777,220 1,077,303 267,346,533 228,369,460  
December 10, 2022 99,241,649 1,080,472 267,654,789 228,604,758  
December 17, 2022 99,705,095 1,083,279 267,907,969 228,831,995  
December 24, 2022 100,216,983 1,086,197 268,143,349 228,989,746  
December 31, 2022 100,622,056 1,088,481 268,363,272 229,135,170  
January 7, 2023 101,094,670 1,091,184 268,546,218 229,254,623  
January 14, 2023 101,518,229 1,095,149 268,556,888 229,359,062  
January 21, 2023 101,873,730 1,099,866 268,765,902 229,508,443  
January 28, 2023 102,171,644 1,103,615 268,927,705 229,619,755  
February 4, 2023 102,447,438 1,106,824 269,064,626 229,719,115  
February 11, 2023 102,736,819 1,110,364 269,208,743 229,820,324  
February 18, 2023 102,998,014 1,113,254 269,332,266 229,914,797  
February 25, 2023 103,268,408 1,115,637 269,459,752 229,996,296  
March 4, 2023 103,499,382 1,117, 856 269,554,116 230,075,934  
March 11, 2023 103,672,529 1,119,762 269,650,595 230,142,115  
March 18, 2023 103,801,821 1,121,512 269,743,532 230,211,943  
March 25, 2023 103,957,053 1,123,613 269,853,963 230,283,056  
April 1, 2023 104,137,196 1,125,366 269,965,210 230,368,815  
April 8, 2023 104,242,889 1,127,104 270,045,602 230,418,632  
April 15, 2023 104,348,746 1,128,404 270,142,789 230,467,642  
April 22, 2023 104,445,294 1,129,573 269,971,358 230,485,008  
April 29, 2023 104,538,730 1,130,662 270,047,396 230,553,196  
May 6, 2023 104,618,931 1,131,819 270,129.68 230,582,699  
May 13, 2023     270,227,181 230,637,348 CDC stopped publishing statistics

Periodic Updates.

 Update April 5, 2020. Queen Elizabeth’s speech to the United Kingdom.  Here is the text of the 93-year-old monarch’s address, only the fifth special televised broadcast she has made during her reign, the longest in British history.  “I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time. A time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.  “I want to thank everyone on the NHS (National Health Service) front line, as well as care workers and those carrying out essential roles, who selflessly continue their day-to-day duties outside the home in support of us all. I am sure the nation will join me in assuring you that what you do is appreciated and every hour of your hard work brings us closer to a return to more normal times.  “I also want to thank those of you who are staying at home, thereby helping to protect the vulnerable and sparing many families the pain already felt by those who have lost loved ones. Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it.  “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge. And those who come after us will say the Britons of this generation were as strong as any. That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet good-humoured resolve and of fellow-feeling still characterise this country. The pride in who we are is not a part of our past, it defines our present and our future.  “The moments when the United Kingdom has come together to applaud its care and essential workers will be remembered as an expression of our national spirit; and its symbol will be the rainbows drawn by children.  “Across the Commonwealth and around the world, we have seen heart-warming stories of people coming together to help others, be it through delivering food parcels and medicines, checking on neighbours, or converting businesses to help the relief effort.  “And though self-isolating may at times be hard, many people of all faiths, and of none, are discovering that it presents an opportunity to slow down, pause and reflect, in prayer or meditation.  “It reminds me of the very first broadcast I made, in 1940, helped by my sister. We, as children, spoke from here at Windsor to children who had been evacuated from their homes and sent away for their own safety. Today, once again, many will feel a painful sense of separation from their loved ones. But now, as then, we know, deep down, that it is the right thing to do. While we have faced challenges before, this one is different. This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal. We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us.  “We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.  “But for now, I send my thanks and warmest good wishes to you all.” 

Update June 16, 2021.  Pfizer had evidence the mRNA vaccine could stop the virus. The vaccine is composed of a lipid nanoparticle, a sphere of fat molecules encapsulating a strand of messenger RNA, which instructs human cells to make proteins that trigger antibodies and prime the immune system against future viral invasions.  But it would do little good unless Pfizer could rapidly take the new nanoparticle technology from lab to mass production — a feat never before accomplished — making immunizations available in America and around the world.  The company and its vaccine partner BioNTech would ultimately master the job of churning out large batches of mRNA vaccine, making it the clearest winner among drug companies to emerge from the pandemic. The company is producing vaccines in greater quantities than any other company and has secured an advantage in the quest to use next-generation mRNA technology for treatments of other diseases.  The company says it expects to make enough for 3 billion shots in 2021, twice as much as initial projections and enough of the two-dose immunization for 1.5 billion people. It has said it will make $26 billion in vaccine sales in 2021, which would make it the biggest-selling medicine ever.

Update June 27, 2021: Paddy Doherty, of County Donegal, Ireland, recently became the fifth person in the world to have cells deep inside his body altered by the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9.  Two researchers behind CRISPR won the Nobel Prize last year, including American scientist Jennifer Doudna, and it has already been used to edit blood cells removed from the body and infused back in, as well as genes in the eye.  But the trial Doherty participated in was the first time anyone’s whole body has been infused with the CRISPR tool.  It seems to have worked as planned.  In Doherty and five others with the same condition, the one-time treatment appears to have turned off a gene that was causing a fatal build-up of protein in their tissues. The three who got the lowest dose saw more than a 50% decline in their blood levels of the protein, according to a presentation Saturday morning and a publication in The New England Journal of Medicine.  Doherty and two others who got a three-times higher dose saw an 87% reduction. He thinks he was the one in the group identified as having a 96% reduction.  But if such CRISPR gene-editing continues to show as much promise, the results could herald a new era for transthyretin amyloidosis and dozens of other genetic conditions, including hemophilia, sickle cell disease, and a more common trigger for heart failure.  CRISPR/Cas9 (which stands for Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats and CRISPR-associated endonuclease-9) has mostly been used as a research tool since its 2012 discovery.  Patrick Doherty had always been very active. He trekked the Himalayas and hiked trails in Spain.  The breathlessness on a hillside walk last fall wasn’t Doherty’s first sign of trouble, but it was the one that finally got him to go to the doctor.  Doherty, 65, a mechanical engineer, lost his father at age 67, and two uncles died young, too.  After months of appointments and scans, Doherty ended up with a devastating diagnosis: an inherited form of a disease called transthyretin amyloidosis with polyneuropathy. It meant clumps of proteins were slowly clogging up his heart and nerves, and after years of pain and progressive heart failure, would kill him.  So Doherty was thrilled when he found out that doctors were testing a new way to try to treat amyloidosis.

Updated July 8. 2021: New study on delta variants reveals the importance of receiving both vaccine shots, highlights challenges posed by mutations. New laboratory research on the swiftly spreading delta variant of the coronavirus is highlighting the threats posed by viral mutations, adding urgency to calls to accelerate vaccination efforts across the planet. A peer-reviewed report from scientists in France, published Thursday in the journal Nature, found that the delta variant has mutations that allow it to evade some of the neutralizing antibodies produced by vaccines or by a natural infection. A single shot of a two-dose vaccine “barely” offers any protection. But the experiments found that fully vaccinated people — with the recommended regimen of two shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine — should retain significant protection against the delta variant. That echoes another report authored by a collaboration of scientists in the United States and published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Update August 13, 2021.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizes extra vaccine doses for immunocompromised patients to bolster protection against the coronavirus.  Regulators took steps today to shore up the defenses of millions of vulnerable Americans against the coronavirus, authorizing extra doses of two widely used vaccines for some people with weakened immune systems.  Details about how the shots will be administered — and who exactly will be eligible for them — are expected to be hashed out on August 14, during a meeting of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advisers.  The discussions have become increasingly urgent as the delta variant wreaks havoc in many parts of the country, and some studies indicate a waning of the vaccines’ protection over time.  According to the CDC, about 7 million people, are immunocompromised. Some, like transplant patients, take immune-suppressing drugs to prevent organ rejection. Others have blood cancers and other illnesses that damage the immune system. Still, others are on cancer chemotherapy. 

Update August 23, 2021.  Federal regulators granted full approval today to the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine — a milestone that could help increase inoculation rates and spark a wave of vaccine mandates by employers and universities amid a surge of new cases and hospitalizations fueled by the ferocious delta variant.  The Food and Drug Administration action marks the first licensing of a vaccine for the coronavirus, which has swept the United States in repeated and punishing waves since early 2020, exhausting nursing staffs, filling intensive care units, and raising fears among the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.  The vaccine has been approved for two doses, three weeks apart, in people 16 and older. It remains available under emergency use authorization for adolescents ages 12 to 15.  In the end, the vaccine approval was the fastest in the agency’s history, coming less than four months after Pfizer-BioNTech filed for licensing on May 7.

Update August 31, 2021.  Another variant of COVID-19 detected in nine countries is causing concern among scientists because it is more transmissible and resistant to vaccines than other variants of the virus.  A pre-print study that emerged last week said the C.1.2 variant, which was first detected in South Africa in May, has since been found in Botswana, China, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Kingdom, Mauritius, New Zealand, Portugal, and Switzerland.  There are four other variants of concern of COVID-19 among scientists—Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta—and another four variants of interest—Eta, Iota, Kappa, and Lambda—in global circulation. Alpha, Beta, and Delta have had the most impact globally in terms of transmission and immune evasion.  But the newly discovered variant seems to have an unusually high mutation rate and more mutations of other variants of concern (VOCs), the study, led by a team of South African scientists, noted. It also noted that it is more likely to cause severe COVID-19 than other variants.

Update September 10, 2021.  President Biden announced sweeping new coronavirus vaccine mandates Thursday designed to affect tens of millions of Americans, ordering all businesses with more than 100 employees to require their workers to be immunized or face weekly testing.  Biden also said that he would require most healthcare facilities that accept Medicare or Medicaid funding to vaccinate their employees, which the White House believes will cover 50,000 locations.  And the president signed an executive order compelling all federal employees to get vaccinated — without an option for those who prefer to be regularly tested instead — in an effort to create a model he hopes state governments will embrace. He is also ordering all staffers in Head Start programs, along with Defense Department and federally operated schools for Native Americans, to be vaccinated.  Taken together, the moves represent a major escalation by Biden of the pressure against those who have resisted vaccination. The announcement comes amid growing signs that the highly contagious delta variant, and the persistence of vaccine resistance, are combining to drag out the pandemic, slow the economic recovery and prevent Biden from turning his focus to other matters.  The delta variant has upended calculations on the virus, sending new infections surging to more than 150,000 a day and daily deaths to 1,500.  The American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second-largest teachers union, applauded the effort. “We stand in complete support of this plan and of the administration’s effort to protect as many people as possible,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten.  Republican leaders in the United States are blasting President Biden’s sweeping new coronavirus vaccine mandates for businesses and federal workers, decrying them as unconstitutional infringements on personal liberties and promising to sue.  Republican governors from Texas to Missouri and Georgia threatened to fight back. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the mandates “an assault on private businesses” and said the state is “already working to halt this power grab.” Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon said he asked his state’s attorney general “to stand prepared to take all actions to oppose this administration’s unconstitutional overreach of executive power,” and South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem said, “See you in court.” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the group “will sue the administration to protect Americans and their liberties.”

Update September 23, 2021.  The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday authorized a Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus booster shot for people 65 and older and adults at risk of severe illness, an effort to bolster protection for the most vulnerable Americans against the highly transmissible delta variant of the virus.  In addition to older Americans, boosters should be made available to people 18 through 64 years of age at high risk of severe illness from the coronavirus and those “whose frequent institutional or occupational exposure” to the virus puts them at high risk of serious complications from the disease caused by the virus, the agency said.  The agency said the extra dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine should be administered six months after its standard two-shot regimen.  In a rare move, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky late Thursday overruled her agency’s advisory panel and added a recommendation for boosters for people whose jobs put them at risk of infection.

Update October 27, 2021.  Election ‘distracted’ Trump team from pandemic response, Birx tells Congress, saying more than 130,000 people died unnecessarily.  “I felt like the White House had gotten somewhat complacent through the campaign season,” said Deborah Birx, whom President Donald Trump chose to steer his government’s virus response, according to interview excerpts released by the House select subcommittee on the pandemic.  Birx, who sat for interviews with the subcommittee on Oct. 12 and 13, also detailed advice that she said the White House ignored late last year, including more aggressively testing younger Americans, expanding access to virus treatments and better distributing vaccine doses in long-term care facilities.  “I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining, the getting friends and family to understand the risk of gathering in private homes, and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30-percent-less to 40-percent-less range,” Birx said.  The White House coronavirus task force, which was chaired by Vice President Mike Pence, met only sporadically in the run-up to the election. Trump also downplayed the pandemic in public comments last fall, saying at one September 2020 campaign rally that the virus “affects virtually nobody” younger than age 18.

Update October 29, 2021.  Regulators authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for children 5 to 11 years old, a watershed moment celebrated by parents yearning for a return to normal life but viewed with ambivalence and outright skepticism by others worried about the potential risk of unknown side effects.  The Food and Drug Administration’s emergency action cleared the first pediatric coronavirus vaccine in the United States — a two-shot regimen administered three weeks apart. The dose, 10 micrograms, is one-third of that used for adolescents and adults. In a clinical trial of 5- to 11-year-olds, the vaccine was almost 91 percent effective at preventing covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. The vaccine’s safety was studied in about 3,100 children who received the shot and had no serious side effects, the agency said.  The issue of safety was a main focus of regulators and their advisers partly because the vaccine has been linked to rare cases of cardiac side effects in another group — male adolescents and young men. The symptoms of the side effects — myocarditis and pericarditis, which are inflammation of the heart muscle and lining, respectively — tended to be mild and treatable, doctors say.

Update November 2, 2021.  Today, CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., endorsed the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that children 5 to 11 years old be vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine. CDC now expands vaccine recommendations to about 28 million children in the United States in this age group and allows providers to begin vaccinating them as soon as possible.  COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, MIS-C (inflammatory syndromes) and long-term complications, such as “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for months. The spread of the Delta variant resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases in children throughout the summer. During a 6-week period in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased fivefold. Vaccination, along with other preventative measures, can protect children from COVID-19 using the safe and effective vaccines already recommended for use in adolescents and adults in the United States. Similar to what was seen in adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 5-11 years. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild, self-limiting, and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm.

Update November 19, 2021.  All American adults became eligible for coronavirus vaccine boosters on Friday (19th), ending months of confusion over complicated guidelines that had slowed their uptake and prompted unilateral moves by governors from Maine to California to make the shots available more broadly.  Federal health officials hope a straightforward boosters-for-all policy will prompt millions of more people to get the shots before they travel or gather with friends and family over the holidays. Many are concerned about the worsening picture as winter approaches. After new cases dipped to almost 69,000 on Oct. 25 — their lowest point in months — they began climbing again, with the seven-day average rising 40 percent to more than 96,000 on Thursday (18th).  The final piece of the booster-policy overhaul fell into place early Friday evening when Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accepted two unanimous recommendations from the agency’s independent experts. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said anyone 18 and older may get a booster and — to stress the urgency of increasing protection for the most vulnerable age group — anyone 50 and older should make sure they get one.

Update November 27, 2021.  A new variant of the coronavirus that causes covid-19 is raising concern around the globe.  South Africa on Thursday confirmed that scientists there had detected a variant with a high number of mutations that could make it more easily transmissible. On Friday, the World Health Organization labeled it a “variant of concern,” a classification it has given to only four other variants so far. The global health agency also gave it a Greek-letter designation: omicron.  Several countries, including the United States, moved to curb flights on Friday Saturday from southern Africa, while pharmaceutical makers vowed to keep a close watch on how well their vaccines hold up against the new variant.  Thus far, there is too little research to draw conclusions, with experts urging caution but not panic.  “This is the most concerning variant we’ve seen since delta,” Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Translational Institute, said in an interview Friday. “It’s going to take a really high bar for something to take over for delta, and we don’t know whether this is going to do it.”  Although it is unknown where the variant came from, it was first detected in the southern region of Africa. On Tuesday, scientists in South Africa made data of the variant public. Noticing the distinct sequence, a virologist at Imperial College London, Tom Peacock, raised alarms about the “really awful Spike mutation profile.” In South Africa, where just 35 percent of the adult population is fully vaccinated, the variant has begun to spread rapidly. A number of factors could be contributing to the rising caseload, including the nation’s low vaccination rate. Researchers are also working to determine if the mutations make the variant more easily transmissible or if it has a mechanism that allows the variant to escape a natural or vaccine-acquired immune response. Thus far, some cases have also been identified in Britain, Belgium, Botswana, Hong Kong, and Israel. But officials from a number of countries warn that the variant, also known as B.1.1.529, may already be spreading undetected.

Update December 1, 2021.   How a Missing Gene Led South African Scientists to Find Omicron.  In early November, laboratories in South Africa’s Gauteng province began picking up something unusual while processing Covid-19 tests: they weren’t able to detect the virus gene that creates the spike protein enabling the pathogen to enter human cells and spread. Around the same time, doctors in the region saw a sudden flood of patients with fatigue and headaches. The new cases appeared after weeks of calm that ensued following a delta variant-driven third coronavirus wave, which had ripped through Johannesburg and the capital Pretoria in July. The developments heralded the onset of a wave of infections with the omicron variant in the country. It swiftly became the dominant strain and has driven a new surge in cases. The Nov. 25 announcement of its discovery triggered global panic and a market meltdown, with countries including the U.K. and the U.S. imposing flight bans to and from South Africa. By Tuesday, the mutation had been found in at least 15 countries. The anomalies in samples were first detected by scientists at the privately-owned Lancet Laboratories, who sounded the alarm, according to Glenda Gray, the president of the South African Medical Research Council. “They didn’t know what was wrong so they alerted the virologists, who began to sequence the samples,” she said in a Nov. 29 interview. Junior Lancet scientist Alicia Vermeulen was credited with making the initial find on the afternoon of Nov. 4, when she noticed an anomaly in a single positive test and told her manager, according to News24, a South African news website. Over the next week, the same anomaly was picked up several times, and Allison Glass, head of molecular pathology at Lancet and a member of the government’s Ministerial Advisory Council on Covid-19, was informed, the website said. Together with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases, Lancet was able to determine by Nov. 22 that there was a new variant, initially known as B.1.1.529, News24 reported. The S-gene couldn’t be detected because it had mutated, it said.  The speed of the discovery is a testament to South Africa’s gene-sequencing capabilities that were built up with the aid of research money that was plowed into tackling other diseases. The country has the most people infected with HIV in the world and has one of the largest tuberculosis epidemics.

Update January 14, 2022.  America’s COVID-19 vaccination campaign saved 241,000 lives and prevented almost 1.2 million hospitalizations in the six-month period between December 12, 2020, and June 30, 2021, according to a new study published January 11, 2022, in the journal JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Network Open.  Researchers also determined that 14 million cases of COVID-19 were averted thanks to vaccines during that same time frame.  Dr. Sudhakar Venkata Nuti, an internal medicine physician at Massachusetts General Hospital, told NBC News that the findings validate the scientific community’s message on vaccines.  “The messaging that we as a health care system provided to the public has been that this vaccine will be helpful to prevent you from getting sick and prevent you from dying. Looking back, what we said was true and we saved lives, reduced suffering, and prevented another wave of Covid,” Nuti said. “We wouldn’t have had those benefits if not for vaccines.”  Unfortunately, vaccine adoption declined in the second half of last year, which blunted the impact of the vaccines.  “As new variants of SARS-CoV-2 continue to emerge,” the study concludes, “a renewed commitment to vaccine access, particularly among underserved groups and in counties with low vaccination coverage, will be crucial to preventing avoidable COVID-19 cases and bringing the pandemic to a close.”

Update February 12, 2022.  Booster effectiveness wanes after 4 months, but showed sturdy protection against hospitalization, CDC study shows.  Booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines lose substantial-effectiveness after about four months — but still provided significant protection in keeping people out of the hospital during the omicron surge, according to a study published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Researchers found the booster shots remained highly effective against moderate and severe Covid-19 for about two months after a third dose. But their effectiveness declined substantially after four months, suggesting the need for additional boosters, the study said.  The vaccine was 91 percent effective in preventing a vaccinated person from being hospitalized during the two months after a booster shot, the study found. But after four months, protection fell to 78 percent.  Protection faded more in preventing trips to urgent care and emergency departments, falling from 87 percent in the first two months to 66 percent after four months. After more than five months, vaccine effectiveness fell to roughly 31 percent, but researchers noted that estimate was “imprecise because few data were available” for that group of people.  “There may be the need for yet again another boost — in this case, a fourth-dose boost for an individual receiving the mRNA — that could be based on age, as well as underlying conditions,” Fauci said.  Vermont, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Maine have vaccinated the largest share of people who had already been vaccinated. The lowest rates for booster doses are in Alabama, Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, and the District.

Update February 22, 2022.  Cape Town becomes home to first mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub on the African continent.South Africa and the World Health Organization have announced the first African beneficiaries of the very first mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub on the African continent.  Located at Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines in Cape Town, the mRNA vaccine technology transfer hub will capacitate and facilitate low to middle-income countries to enable the production of mRNA vaccines through training centres and will work with a network of technology recipients (spokes) from these countries.  On Friday, the WHO director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus said the first African countries to benefit from the hub are: South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Tunisia, Kenya and Senegal.  The countries’ heads of state gathered for the formal announcement hosted by WHO South Africa, the European Council, and France in Brussels, Belgium.  Dr Ghebreyesus said: “Currently, 116 countries are off track for our shared target of vaccinating 70% of the population of every country by the middle of this year. More than 80% of the population of Africa is yet to receive a single dose.  “Much of this inequity has been driven by the fact that globally vaccine production is concentrated in a few, mostly high-income countries.”  President Cyril Ramaphosa said countries serious about vaccine access should ensure that the Trips waiver (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) is approved.  “In South Africa, full operationalisation of the mRNA has been hampered by intellectual property barriers. This for us is a serious matter.  “Today, of all the vaccines applied in Africa, one percent are produced in Africa. And rightly so, the goal is in 2040, to have reached the level of 60% of vaccines produced in Africa that are administered in Africa.”

Update March 15, 2022.  Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, consultant Doug Haddix reported Sunday that since July 1 (when the lifesaving vaccine was widely available), the 14 states with the highest death rates were all run by Republican governors. This included Florida (at about 153 deaths per 100,000 residents), Ohio (142 deaths per 100,000), Arizona (138) and Georgia (134). Contrast that with the deep-blue District of Columbia (only 27 deaths per 100,000) and California (58 per 100,000). Using data mostly from Johns Hopkins found similar results. The 16 states with the highest coronavirus death rates since July 1 were all run by Republicans. The worst was West Virginia (about 204 deaths per 100,000), followed closely by Oklahoma, Tennessee, Wyoming, and Florida.  The states with the lowest death rates, by contrast, were all run by Democrats.  The best jurisdictions were D.C., Vermont, Hawaii, and California.  Florida residents were, since vaccines have been widely available, nearly seven times as likely to die from covid-19 as residents of D.C., nearly three times as likely to die as residents of California and 2½ times as likely to die as residents of New York.  Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis has been among the most outspoken in raising fears of the coronavirus vaccine (most recently suggesting, falsely, that it could harm women’s fertility), suing to stop vaccine mandates, promoting ineffective cures, blocking rules requiring face masks, scolding mask-wearing kids for “covid theater” and touting misleading statistics.  Since May, people in the most pro-Trump tenth of U.S. counties had a death rate more than three times as high as those in the most anti-Trump tenth.

Update March 19, 2022.  New COVID variant is spreading across the US. Here’s what you need to know about BA.2.  First detected two months ago, BA.2 is making its way across the U.S. and spreading more quickly in the Northeast and West. The BA.2 variant appears to be on its way to becoming the dominant COVID strain, having roughly doubled each week for the last month, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. BA.2 is considered by the World Health Organization as a “sublineage” of the highly transmissible omicron variant. It’s a different version of omicron than BA.1, which was responsible for the surge that hit the Northeast late last year. It has a different genetic sequence from BA.1 and was first dubbed the “stealth variant” because it wasn’t as easy to detect. In the U.S., BA.2 accounted for about a quarter (23.1%) of the cases for the week ending March 12, the CDC says. That’s up from 14.2% the week ending March 5. BA.2 made up 39% of cases in New Jersey and New York, the week ending March 12, up from 25.4% the previous week, the CDC says. In the West, which includes Arizona, California and Nevada, BA.2 accounts for 27.7% of cases, up from 17.1% the previous week. In the upper West, including Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, BA.2 made up 26.2% of cases, up from 16%, the CDC says. BA.2 cases have risen in recent weeks in the rest of the U.S., accounting for 12% to 20% of cases in other states for the week ending March 12.  Studies have shown that BA.2 is “inherently more transmissible” than omicron BA.1, according to the World Health Organization. What’s not yet known is if BA.2 causes severe illness as did omicron BA.1 did, which prompted a rapid surge in cases, hospitalizations and deaths for a month before plummeting just as quickly.  So far, it doesn’t look as if BA.2 is making a noticeable impact. But public health officials say they are closely monitoring its spread.  Vaccines were shown to be as effective against BA.2 as they were against omicron BA.1, according to British scientists. That means the vaccines may not prevent infection, but they work well in fending off severe illness.

Update April 1, 2022.  In research breakthrough, California scientists help decode the entire human genome.  An international team of scientists, led by geneticists at UC Santa Cruz and the National Institutes of Health, has published the first truly complete human genome, a dramatic advance in understanding the role of genetics in disease and evolution that closes the last gaps in cataloging the 3 billion paired molecules that make up our DNA.  The full genetic sequence — first reported last summer, but officially unveiled in the journal Science on Thursday— finally fills in the roughly 8% of the human genome that scientists had been unable to work out since publishing their first draft more than 20 years ago.  The effort involved an unprecedented, grassroots collaboration of scientists around the world — many working remotely during the pandemic — who applied novel sequencing technology to sort through massive, previously unmapped strands of DNA located primarily in the dense centers of human chromosomes.  The work thrusts into sharp detail areas of the genome that previously were cast in shadow and largely unexplored. One scientist involved in the project compared it with seeing the first high-resolution photographs of distant planets after decades of only having access to blurred, black-and-white images — or no visibility at all.  The complete sequence means scientists can now confirm that the human genome is made up of 3.055 billion base pairs — the molecular building blocks referred to by the letters A, C, G and T that form the genetic recipe for building humans from a single cell — which are sorted into 19,969 functionally useful genes.  The complete sequence should help scientists better understand the underlying genetics of all kinds of human disease, including cancer.

Updated April 19, 2022. Covid vaccines compared. There are three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the U.S. The Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are all highly effective in protecting you from the virus that causes COVID-19.  The CDC says there’s a preference for the mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. This is based on data from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). It discussed vaccine safety, vaccine effectiveness, rare negative side effects, and U.S. vaccine supply.

Vaccine developer:




Johnson & Johnson


How it works

Messenger RNA

Messenger RNA

Inactivated cold virus

Modified cold virus 

Stabilized form of the coronavirus spike protein

When approved/expected approval 

Given full FDA approval Aug. 23, 2021

Dec. 18, 2021 

Not yet available. Phase III clinical trials in progress as of Feb. 27

Feb. 27

Not yet available. Results from phase III clinical trials published June 14.

What percentage of people did it protect from getting infected in clinical studies? 




66.1% globally; 72% in the U.S.; 86% effective against severe disease


Who is it recommended for?

People 5 years and older

People 18 years and older

Not yet available

People 18 years and older

Not yet available

How many shots do you need?

Two doses, 3 weeks apart

Two doses, 4 weeks apart

Two doses, a month apart

One dose

Two doses, 21 days apart

When might you become eligible for a booster shot?

At least 5 months after your primary COVID-19 vaccination series (for people 16 years and older). Teens between 12 and 17 may only get the Pfizer booster shot.

At least 6 months after your primary COVID-19 vaccination (for people 18 years and older)

To be determined

At least 2 months after your primary J&J COVID-19 vaccination (for people 18 years and older)  

What are the side effects?

Fatigue, headache, chills, muscle pain, especially after the second dose

Fever, muscle aches, headaches lasting a few days. Effects worse after second dose. 

Pain where you get the shot, fever, muscle aches, headache

Pain where you get the shot, headache, fatigue, muscle pain

Pain and tenderness where you get the shot, fatigue, headache, muscle pain

Any warnings?

The FDA issued a warning in June about heart inflammation. Since April 2021, there have been more than a thousand reports of myocarditis and pericarditis. These cases are still relatively low.

The FDA issued a warning in June about heart inflammation. Since April 2021, there have been more than a thousand reports of myocarditis and pericarditis. These cases are still relatively low.


In July, the FDA issued a warning about an increased risk for  developing Guillain-Barre syndrome.


What about pregnant women and nursing moms?

Pregnant women or nursing moms who want the COVID-19 vaccine should get one, experts say. The vaccine has not yet been studied in pregnant women. Read guidelines here

There’s limited data. Studies in rats that were immunized before and during pregnancy found no safety concerns. The CDC says pregnant women may choose to receive the vaccine.

Not yet available

Discuss your options with your health care provider. 

Not yet available

Is there anyone who shouldn’t get the vaccine?

People with a history of serious allergic reactions, anyone with a history of allergic reactions to vaccine ingredients, including polyethylene glycol, and anyone with a history of allergic reactions to polysorbate

People with a history of serious allergic reactions, anyone with a history of allergic reactions to vaccine ingredients, including polyethylene glycol, and anyone with a history of allergic reactions to polysorbate

Not yet available

Anyone who’s had an allergic reaction to an ingredient in the vaccine, like polysorbate 

Not yet available

Any significant side effects? 

Extremely rare cases of anaphylaxis in people who received the vaccine.

Extremely rare cases of Bell’s palsy, a type of temporary facial paralysis, reported in people who received the vaccine.

Extremely rare cases of anaphylaxis in people who received the vaccine.

Extremely rare cases of Bell’s palsy, a type of temporary facial paralysis, reported in people who received the vaccine.

Four total serious side effects, including two cases of transverse myelitis

There is a possible, rare relationship between this vaccine and blood clots with low platelets.

Not yet available

What about people with lowered immune function? 

OK for people whose immune function is lowered by HIV or immunosuppressing drugs if they have no other reasons to avoid it. There is limited safety data in this group. Discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.

OK for people whose immune function is lowered by HIV or immunosuppressing drugs if they have no other reasons to avoid it. There is limited safety data in this group. Discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.

Not yet available

Not yet available

Not yet available

What about people with autoimmune diseases?

No data is available on the safety or effectiveness of mRNA vaccines in people with autoimmune disease. People with autoimmune conditions may still get the shots if they have no other reasons to avoid vaccination.

No data is available on the safety or effectiveness of mRNA vaccines in people with autoimmune disease. People with autoimmune conditions may still get the shots if they have no other reasons to avoid vaccination.

Not yet available

Not yet available

Not yet available

Is the vaccine safe for people with a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS)?

To date, no cases of GBS have been seen in people vaccinated for COVID-19. The CDC says a history of GBS is not a reason to avoid vaccination.

To date, no cases of GBS have been seen in people vaccinated for COVID-19. The CDC says a history of GBS is not a reason to avoid vaccination.

Not yet available 

There’s a possible, but rare risk in developing Guillain-Barre syndrome after this vaccine.

Not yet available


Update April 22, 2022.  The Biden administration will appeal a federal judge’s decision that struck down the mask mandate on public transportation.  The Justice Department filed notice of its plans to appeal after U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle of Florida on Monday concluded that the mandate exceeded the statutory authority of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The ruling blindsided the White House and sparked days of debate within the administration about how to proceed.  “It is CDC’s continuing assessment that at this time an order requiring masking in the indoor transportation corridor remains necessary for the public health,” the CDC said in a statement Wednesday evening. “CDC believes this is a lawful order, well within CDC’s legal authority to protect public health.”  Public health officials have worried that the ruling poses a risk to the CDC’s authority to take steps in the future to curb the spread of deadly diseases and protect the public health, and outside experts had exhorted the Biden administration to act.  Government officials face an uncertain reception at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, which reviews cases from Florida, Georgia and Alabama. A majority of the judges were appointed by President Donald Trump, as was Mizelle, a district court judge.

Update July 2, 2022.  How one doctor wrecked the pandemic response. 
In the very early days of the pandemic, a health policy expert and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Scott Atlas, wrote to a high-level government official in Washington that lockdowns and other measures were wrong. “The panic needs to be stopped both about the need for lockdown and even a frantic need for urgent testing,” he said on March 21, 2020. This set the tone for a strategy known as herd immunity that he advocated at the White House starting in July as an aide to President Donald Trump. It was misguided, costly and wrong.
The full extent of his advice and influence is disclosed in the majority staff report of the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis, published on June 21. Through emails and other documents, as well as interviews with participants, including Dr. Atlas, it provides a disturbing examination of the Trump pandemic response in that ill-fated election year before vaccines were available. According to the report, the administration embraced “a dangerous and discredited herd immunity via mass infection strategy,” which “likely resulted in many deaths that would have been prevented by an effective national mitigation strategy.” The House report underscores the role in this effort of Dr. Atlas, who attended meetings in the Oval Office, huddled with other White House advisers, edited the president’s prepared remarks, and altered guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The herd immunity idea advanced by Dr. Atlas and others called for protecting the most vulnerable, primarily the elderly, but allowing the virus to spread through the rest of the population to create natural immunity. The approach discouraged masks, lockdowns and testing. For example, in August, according to the report, Dr. Atlas provided extensive comments on draft testing guidance by the CDC, repeatedly inserting language to narrow testing recommendations. He also was against face masks, writing to other White House aides on Oct. 4, “In fact, there is vanishingly little hard evidence that masks actually work to block transmission of the virus.”
It’s true that natural immunity exists, and must be considered in any pandemic response. But in the Trump administration, herd immunity was too often an excuse for inaction. Masks did work. Testing is important. A strategy of mass infection risked exposing untold numbers to long covid. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, wrote in August that she could not join a meeting on herd immunity with people “who believe we are fine with only protecting the 1.5M Americans” in long-term care facilities “and not the 80M+ with co-morbidities.”
The House report doesn’t deal with Mr. Trump’s successful vaccine development and manufacturing drive. But it does show how Mr. Trump embraced a wrongheaded policy that appealed to his hope the virus would go away — along with the needed restrictions — while he campaigned for reelection.
How wrong was Dr. Atlas? In that March email, he said that judging by early estimates, the virus might cause about 10,000 deaths. In the end, it directly caused at least 1 million deaths in the United States and indirectly many more.

Update July 13, 2022. FDA authorizes Novavax coronavirus vaccine, adding to pandemic arsenal.  U.S. regulators Wednesday authorized the nation’s fourth coronavirus vaccine, a shot developed by Novavax, a Maryland biotechnology company that has been a straggler in the vaccine race. For a relatively small niche of people who want to be vaccinated, but can’t or won’t take existing vaccines, Wednesday’s decision by the Food and Drug Administration has been impatiently awaited. Some people are allergic to an ingredient in messenger RNA vaccines or simply prefer the more traditional technology at the core of Novavax’s shot, which is the United States’ first protein-based vaccine. Novavax’s two-regimen shot utilizes a technology used to make vaccines against influenza and shingles. Vaccines from Moderna and from Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech, use messenger RNA technology to instruct the body’s cells to build a protein. A vaccine from Johnson & Johnson uses a harmless cold virus. The federal government secured 3.2 million doses of Novavax’s vaccine, which will be available “in the next few weeks,” after the company completes quality testing, according to a statement Monday from the Department of Health and Human Services.  The Novavax vaccine is being manufactured by the Serum Institute of India, and a Novavax spokeswoman confirmed that doses had been shipped to the United States, arriving July 6.

Update August 18, 2022.  CDC director announces shake-up, citing COVID mistakes. The head of the nation’s top public health agency is shaking up the organization with the goal of making it more nimble.  NEW YORK — The head of the nation’s top public health agency on Wednesday announced a shake-up of the organization, saying it fell short responding to COVID-19 and needs to become more nimble.  The planned changes at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — CDC leaders call it a “reset”— come amid criticism of the agency’s response to COVID-19, monkeypox and other public health threats. The changes include internal staffing moves and steps to speed up data releases.  The CDC’s director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, told the agency’s staff about the changes on Wednesday. It’s a CDC initiative, and was not directed by the White House or other administration officials, she said.  “I feel like it’s my my responsibility to lead this agency to a better place after a really challenging three years,” Walensky told The Associated Press.  The Atlanta-based agency, with a $12 billion budget and more than 11,000 employees, is charged with protecting Americans from disease outbreaks and other public health threats. It’s customary for each CDC director to do some reorganizing, but Walensky’s action comes amid a wider demand for change.  The agency has long been criticized as too ponderous, focusing on collection and analysis of data but not acting quickly against new health threats. Public unhappiness with the agency grew dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts said the CDC was slow to recognize how much virus was entering the U.S. from Europe, to recommend people wear masks, to say the virus can spread through the air, and to ramp up systematic testing for new variants.  “We saw during COVID that CDC’s structures, frankly, weren’t designed to take in information, digest it and disseminate it to the public at the speed necessary,” said Jason Schwartz, a health policy researcher at the Yale School of Public Health.  Walensky, who became director in January 2021, has long said the agency has to move faster and communicate better, but stumbles have continued during her tenure. In April, she called for an in-depth review of the agency, which resulted in the announced changes.  “It’s not lost on me that we fell short in many ways” responding to the coronavirus, Walensky said. “We had some pretty public mistakes, and so much of this effort was to hold up the mirror … to understand where and how we could do better.”  Her reorganization proposal must be approved by the Department of Health and Human Services secretary. CDC officials say they hope to have a full package of changes finalized, approved and underway by early next year.  Some changes still are being formulated, but steps announced Wednesday include:  —Increasing use of preprint scientific reports to get out actionable data, instead of waiting for research to go through peer review and publication by the CDC journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.  —Restructuring the agency’s communications office and further revamping CDC websites to make the agency’s guidance for the public more clear and easier to find.  —Altering the length of time agency leaders are devoted to outbreak responses to a minimum of six months — an effort to address a turnover problem that at times caused knowledge gaps and affected the agency’s communications.  —Creation of a new executive council to help Walensky set strategy and priorities.  —Appointing Mary Wakefield as senior counselor to implement the changes. Wakefield headed the Health Resources and Services Administration during the Obama administration and also served as the No. 2 administrator at HHS. Wakefield, 68, started Monday.  —Altering the agency’s organization chart to undo some changes made during the Trump administration.  —Establishing an office of intergovernmental affairs to smooth partnerships with other agencies, as well as a higher-level office on health equity.  Walensky also said she intends to “get rid of some of the reporting layers that exist, and I’d like to work to break down some of the silos.” She did not say exactly what that may entail, but emphasized that the overall changes are less about redrawing the organization chart than rethinking how the CDC does business and motivates staff.  “This will not be simply moving boxes” on the organization chart, she said.  Schwartz said flaws in the federal response go beyond the CDC, because the White House and other agencies were heavily involved.  A CDC reorganization is a positive step but “I hope it’s not the end of the story,” Schwartz said. He would like to see “a broader accounting” of how the federal government handles health crises.

Update September 16, 2022.  National COVID-19 wastewater levels signal viral uptick ahead of fall.  Scientists say wastewater data has been helpful in monitoring the pandemic. Although reported COVID-19 case levels in the U.S. are still falling after a viral resurgence over the summer, there are preliminary indicators that infection rates may be back on the rise across the country. In recent weeks, federal data has shown that the number of U.S. wastewater sites reporting increases in the presence of COVID-19 in their samples appear to be back on the rise, following declines seen throughout the latter part of the summer. In the U.S., about 50% of wastewater sites, which are currently providing data to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, have reported an increase in the presence of the COVID-19 virus in their wastewater over the last 15 days, up from the 40% of sites reporting increases last month. From coast to coast, every area of the country has seen a rise, according to a regional breakdown from Biobot, a wastewater monitoring company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Northeast, in particular, appears to be seeing higher growth levels, reporting the highest wastewater levels of any region, Biobot data shows. “Increase in virus concentration found in wastewater has [predictably] been a key indicator of a forthcoming COVID surge. In fact, given the challenges in case estimation and the decline in testing, wastewater surveillance may be one the last remaining high-quality datasets public health can rely on,” said epidemiologist Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and an ABC News contributor, who is also a member on the board of advisers for Biobot. In Boston, wastewater levels had plateaued after a spring and summer surge, but in recent weeks, data indicates that COVID-19 sampling levels have increased again to their highest level in two months. However, on a national level, federal data is notably unavailable for many areas of the country, particularly across much of the South and the West. Since last spring, many states have moved to shutter public testing sites, with more at-home COVID-19 tests now available.

Update October 11, 2022 How much of right-wing opposition to vaccination was Fox News’s fault? Katie Lane’s father, Patrick, died of covid-19 in the summer of 2021. Hundreds of thousands of Americans did, of course, but Lane believes that her father was among the estimated 234,000 people whose deaths could have been prevented had he been vaccinated against the coronavirus.  She thought her father chose not to get a dose of the vaccine, Lane suggested that there were a number of factors, media consumption included. “He watched some Tucker Carlson videos on YouTube, and some of those videos involved some misinformation about vaccines,” Lane said, “and I believe that that played a role.” New research suggests that Patrick Lane was probably not the only consumer of the Fox News host’s rhetoric to turn away from being vaccinated. And, therefore, he was probably not the only one to die of covid-19 who might otherwise have lived. We’ve known for some time that there is a partisan divide in vaccine uptake. A lot of attention has been paid to the divide in vaccination rates by race — often because pointing at lower vaccination rates among Black Americans is used as a bit of whataboutism to rationalize low vaccination rates among Republicans. But research has consistently shown that White Republicans are far less likely than Black Americans to report having been vaccinated, and far, far less likely than White Democrats. Research published this month found a correlation between partisanship and rates of excess deaths during the pandemic. In places where vaccine uptake was lower — which correlates to support for President Donald Trump in the 2020 general election — Republicans died at a much higher rate than they did before the pandemic, a gap that primarily emerged in the months after the vaccine became widely available.  In part, we can point to the interplay of partisanship itself. As president, Trump tried to play down the danger of the virus and, with an eye to reelection, cast efforts to contain the virus as power plays from an overbearing government. This certainly helped influence behaviors among Republicans on vaccination, masking and social distancing. Research published last week, though, identifies a likely role for another prominent voice on the political right: Fox News. “Our results show that Fox News is reducing COVID-19 vaccination uptake in the United States, with no evidence of the other major networks having any effect,” the study from researchers at ETH Zurich concluded. “[T]here is an association between areas with higher Fox News viewership and lower vaccinations,” noting that “media emphasis on minority viewpoints against scientific consensus is linked to vaccination hesitancy.” Tracking vaccinations from March to June 2021 shows markedly lower rates of vaccinations among Fox News viewers under 65, particularly in May — the month after vaccinations were opened up to all adults. Recognizing that Fox News’s audience is heavily Republican, the researchers worked to extricate partisanship from their analysis — with success. “The other two major television networks, CNN and MSNBC, have no effect.” During the period of the study, there was one Fox News show in the top 10 shows mentioning the word “vaccine” most often on cable news: Tucker Carlson’s. What was Carlson saying about the vaccine in May 2021? It included his elevation of inaccurate numbers about purported deaths from coronavirus vaccines and touting the idea that natural immunity was as effective as vaccination — ignoring, of course, the risk posed by reaching natural immunity. Carlson played host to covid-vaccine opponent Alex Berenson more than once. (Berenson’s shaky grasp of the data had already earned him the apt title “the pandemic’s wrongest man.”) So the show that was most popular among those under 65 on Fox News was making ceaseless false claims about the vaccine or playing down its efficacy during a period when Fox News viewers under 65 were demonstrably less likely to get vaccinated against the coronavirus. The Department of Health and Human Services last week reported that vaccinations probably saved 330,000 lives among Medicare recipients in 2021. Most of them are 65 and over, the group most likely to get vaccinated.

Update October 17, 2022.  CDC officials describe intense pressure, job threats from Trump White House.  Trump appointees oversaw a concerted effort to restrict immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border during the pandemic, change scientific reports and muzzle top officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to emails, text messages and interviews gathered by a congressional panel probing the pandemic response.  Former CDC director Robert Redfield, former top deputy Anne Schuchat and others described how the Trump White House and its allies repeatedly “bullied” staff, tried to rewrite their publications and threatened their jobs in an attempt to align the CDC with the more optimistic view of the pandemic espoused by Donald Trump, the House select subcommittee on the coronavirus crisis concluded in a report released Monday. Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.), who chairs the panel, said that the report demonstrates how the Trump White House engaged in a concerted effort “to downplay the seriousness” of the pandemic. “This prioritization of politics, contempt for science, and refusal to follow the advice of public health experts harmed the nation’s ability to respond effectively to the coronavirus crisis and put Americans at risk,” Clyburn said in a statement. Clyburn’s panel has spent more than two years investigating the Trump administration’s pandemic response, issuing reports that detailed White House pressure on the Food and Drug Administration to authorize unproven coronavirus treatments, such as the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, and its efforts to overrule public health officials on coronavirus guidance for churches; and exploring how its focus on challenging the 2020 election outcome distracted from the virus response, among other findings. The panel concluded that Trump appointees had sought to “alter the contents, rebut, or delay the release” of 18 MMWRs (Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Reports) and one health alert on an inflammation syndrome in children who had previously tested positive for covid, and succeeded at least five times. The panel also details repeated attempts by Trump appointees to pressure Schuchat, such as a personal phone call from then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows — the first time any White House chief of staff had called the CDC deputy, she said — that left her “very shaken,” she told the panel, declining to offer details of the call on the advice of HHS counsel.

Update October 19, 2022.  Whites now more likely to die from covid than Blacks: Why the pandemic shifted.  (This is a detailed report together with graphics.  I extracted a few salient points.  To read the full report, click here.) The imbalance in death rates among the nation’s racial and ethnic groups has been a defining part of the pandemic since the start. To see the pattern, The Washington Post analyzed every death during more than two years of the pandemic. Deaths were concentrated in dense urban areas, where Black people died at several times the rate of White people. Over time, the gap in deaths widened and narrowed but never disappeared — until mid-October 2021, when the nation’s pattern of covid mortality changed, with the rate of death among White Americans sometimes eclipsing other groups. A Post analysis of covid death data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from April 2020 through this summer found the racial disparity vanished at the end of last year, becoming roughly equal. And at times during that same period, the overall age-adjusted death rate for White people slightly surpassed that of Black and Latino people. The nature of the virus makes the elderly and people with underlying health conditions — including hypertension, diabetes and obesity, all of which beset Black people at higher rates and earlier in life than White people — particularly vulnerable to severe illness and death. The virus also attacks unvaccinated adults — who polls show are more likely to be Republicans — with a ferocity that puts them at a much higher risk of infection and death. “We’re Republicans, and 100 percent believe that it’s each individual’s choice — their freedom” when it comes to getting a coronavirus shot, Hollie said in January. “We decided to err on the side of not doing it and accept the consequences. When the coronavirus appeared in the United States, it did what airborne viruses do — latched onto cells in people’s respiratory tract, evaded innate immune responses and multiplied. The pathogen, free of politics or ideology, had a diverse reservoir of hosts and found fertile pathways for growth in the inequalities born from centuries of racial animus and class resentments. The Post analysis revealed the changing pattern in covid deaths. At the start of the pandemic, Black people were more than three times as likely to die of covid as their White peers. But as 2020 progressed, the death rates narrowed — but not because fewer Black people were dying. White people began dying at increasingly unimaginable numbers, too, the Post analysis found. After delta’s peak in September 2021, the racial differences in covid deaths started eroding. The Post analysis found that Black deaths declined, while White deaths never eased, increasing slowly but steadily, until the mortality gap flipped. From the end of October through the end of December, White people died at a higher rate than Black people did, The Post found. So what contributed to the recent variation in death rates? And why? The easy explanation is that it reflects the choices of Republicans not to be vaccinated, but the reasons go deeper. Medical mistrust and misinformation raged. Skeptics touted debunked alternatives over proven treatments and prevention. Mask use became a victim of social stigma. Many Republicans decided they would rather roll the dice with their health than follow public health guidance — even when provided by President Donald Trump, who was booed after saying he had been vaccinated and boosted. Black people overcame that hesitancy faster. They came to the realization sooner that vaccines were necessary to protect themselves and their communities. During the pandemic, age-adjusted White death rates have risen compared with rates for Hispanic, Asian and Black people. Government efforts to bring a public health threat to heel are seen by some White Americans as infringing on their rights, researchers said.

Update December 10, 2022.  House COVID panel accuses Trump administration of exacerbating the pandemic in its final report. The House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis released its final report on Friday before Republicans take control of the House in the upcoming Congress, providing new findings on how the Trump administration’s actions negatively impacted the U.S. response. The report from the Democratic-led subcommittee, chaired by Rep. James Clyburn (S.C.), highlighted the Trump White House’s “failed stewardship over the pandemic response and persistent pattern of political interference.” The committee determined that the previous administration failed to adapt its response to the COVID-19 pandemic as public health experts’ understanding of the virus changed — and also failed to coordinate properly with public health officials. In particular, the report stated that the Trump White House’s focus on certain goals got in the way of mitigating the spread of the virus, such as its emphasis on symptomatic transmission of the virus and bringing back Americans who were overseas at the start of the outbreak. Among the pandemic response measures that were neglected under the Trump administration were the development of an accurate COVID-19 test and the mobilization of supply chains for PPE early on, according to the committee. The panel noted that supply chain management was delegated to former President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, then a White House senior adviser, who worked with a team of mostly young volunteers. “As this final report shows, in many instances, the Trump Administration’s poor management of relief programs left them particularly vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse,” he added.

Updated December 30, 2022.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday it is tracking a new variant of concern dubbed XBB.1.5. According to new figures published Friday, it estimates XBB.1.5 makes up 40.5% of new infections across the country. XBB.1.5’s ascent is overtaking other Omicron variant cousins BQ.1 and BQ.1.1, which had dominated a wave of infections over the fall. Scientists believe its recent growth could be driven by key mutations on top of what was already one of the more immune evasive strains of Omicron to date. “We’re projecting that it’s going to be the dominant variant in the Northeast region of the country and that it’s going to increase in all regions of the country,” said Dr. Barbara Mahon, director of the CDC’s proposed Coronavirus and Other Respiratory Viruses Division, in an interview with CBS News. Mahon said the agency had not listed XBB.1.5 separately in its earlier projections because the strain had not cleared a minimum threshold in the underlying sequences collected by the agency. The agency’s 40.5% figure is only a projection, Mahon stressed, with a probability interval ranging right now from 22.7% to 61.0%. XBB.1.5’s prevalence is largest in the Northeast, the agency estimates. Most of the earliest cases from XBB.1.5 recorded in global databases through early November were sequenced around New York and Massachusetts. More than 70% of infections in the regions spanning New Jersey through New England are now from XBB.1.5, the agency is projecting.

Updated March 22, 2023. ‘We Were Helpless’: Despair at the CDC as the Pandemic Erupted.  In early March 2020, as the nation succumbed to a pandemic, a group of young scientists walked out of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. They left quietly, one or two at a time, through the building’s front doors, flashing their badges at guards, instead of through side exits where their departures would be recorded.

Gathering in a small park across the street, they stood with their coffees in hand and agonized over some shocking developments. All through February 2020, agency scientists had been gathering evidence that the new coronavirus was being spread by people without symptoms. In early March, the CDC said that any employee who had been deployed elsewhere to track COVID-19 must isolate at home for 14 days, whether or not he or she had symptoms.

To the scientists gathered outside, trainees in the agency’s vaunted Epidemic Intelligence Service, the implication was clear: CDC leaders realized that the virus was being spread not just by people who were coughing and sneezing, but also by people who were not visibly ill. But the agency had not yet warned the public.

“All of us knew tens of thousands were going to die, and we were helpless to stop it,” said Dr. Daniel Wozniczka, one of the trainees. “It was really heartbreaking and difficult on a psychological level not to be able to do anything.”

It is generally known that morale at the CDC plummeted as Trump administration officials sought to squelch dissent among career scientists who disagreed with the White House’s handling of the pandemic. But few employees have described the despair inside the beleaguered agency as hospitals overflowed with patients and bodies piled up in makeshift morgues.

Interviews with 11 current and former agency employees, including trainees at the EIS, as well as a review of text messages and other documents obtained by The New York Times, portray an agency under intense pressure from the country’s political leaders. Some younger staff members wrestled with guilt, anger and a rising sense of powerlessness as administration officials meddled with or simply disregarded important scientific research.

If they were silent about the risks to the public, it was only because government researchers were muzzled by the Trump administration, she said. But “most of the media was vilifying the agency.”

The first big shock came in February 2020, when the Trump administration reprimanded Dr. Nancy Messonnier, a senior CDC official, for warning Americans to prepare for a pandemic.

Two days later, on Feb. 27, CDC employees were told that all messaging from the agency would be routed through Vice President Mike Pence, who had assumed leadership of the coronavirus task force.

It was only on March 30 that CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield warned of asymptomatic transmission of the novel coronavirus in a radio interview. On April 3, at a White House press briefing, the agency advised Americans to wear masks. Redfield did not respond to a request for comment, but he and other top officials at the CDC told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis that the White House denied the agency’s requests to hold press briefings on mask guidance. “For a while, none of our briefings were approved,” Redfield told the committee last year.

Update May 15, 2023.  ‘Project Next Gen’ would succeed ‘Operation Warp Speed’ with a mission to develop next-generation vaccines and therapies. The Biden administration is launching a $5 billion-plus program to accelerate the development of new coronavirus vaccines and treatments, seeking to better protect against a still-mutating virus, as well as other coronaviruses that might threaten us in the future. “Project Next Gen” — the long-anticipated follow-up to “Operation Warp Speed,” the Trump-era program that sped coronavirus vaccines to patients in 2020 — would take a similar approach to partnering with private-sector companies to expedite the development of vaccines and therapies. Scientists, public health experts, and politicians have called for the initiative, warning that existing therapies have steadily lost their effectiveness and that new ones are needed. “It’s been very clear to us that the market on this is moving very slowly,” Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus coordinator, said Monday. “There’s a lot that government can do, the administration can do, to speed up those tools … for the American people.” Jha and others said the new effort will focus on three goals: creating long-lasting monoclonal antibodies after an evolving virus rendered many current treatments ineffective; accelerating the development of vaccines that produce mucosal immunity, which is thought to reduce transmission and infection risks; and speeding the efforts to develop pan-coronavirus vaccines to guard against new SARS-CoV-2 variants, as well as other coronaviruses.

Update October 3, 2023. Nobel Prize Awarded to Covid Vaccine Pioneers. The physiology or medicine prize for Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman recognized work that led to the development of vaccines that were administered to billions around the world. Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman, who together identified a chemical tweak to messenger RNA, were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine on Monday. Their work enabled potent Covid vaccines to be made in less than a year, averting tens of millions of deaths and helping the world recover from the worst pandemic in a century. The approach to mRNA the two researchers developed has been used in Covid shots that have since been administered billions of times globally and has transformed vaccine technology, laying the foundation for inoculations that may one day protect against a number of deadly diseases like cancer. But the breakthroughs behind the shots unfolded little by little over decades, including at the University of Pennsylvania, where Dr. Weissman runs a lab.


Detail of COVID-19 Cases, deaths, fully vaccinated, one-shot, vaccinated by series, and rate of vaccination.

Update April 10, 2021. USA COVID-19 cases, 31,084,962, deaths 561,074.  Fully vaccinated 68,202,458, (20.5%) one-shot 114,436,039 (34.5%).  Currently, the concern is for a potential fourth wave, especially among younger adults.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 3.1 million per day

Update April 17, 2021. USA COVID-19 cases, 31,574,340, deaths 565,260.  Fully vaccinated 80,609,818, (24.3%) one-shot 127,743,096 (38.5%).  Currently, the concern is for a potential fourth wave, especially among younger adults.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 3.9 million per day.

Update April 24, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 31,730,950, deaths 567,352.  Fully vaccinated 91,175,995 (27.5%) one-shot 137,234,889 (41.3%).  Currently, the concern is a reluctance for people to get vaccinated.  Some states have more vaccinations available than people willing to get vaccinated.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 2.28 million per day.

Update May 1, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 32,091,429, deaths 572,190.  Fully vaccinated 101,407,318 (30.5%) one-shot 144,894,586 (43.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 51,134,807 Moderna 42,065,146 J&J 8,162,494.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 2.36 million per day.  Concerns that some people after receiving the first dose of Pfizer or Moderna are not returning for their second dose.

Update May 8, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 32,403,159, deaths 577,041.  Fully vaccinated 110,874,920 (33.4%) one-shot 150,416,559 (45.3%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 56,659,985 Moderna 45,501,811 J&J 8,665,290.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.75 million per day.  The best news is that the rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 14% daily cases for a positivity rate of 3.9%.  Our granddaughters, over the age of 12 will be vaccinated next week getting their first Pfizer dose, the only vaccination authorized for them currently.

Update May 15, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 32,681,787, deaths 581,573.  Fully vaccinated 120,258,637 (36.2%) one-dose 155,251,852 (46.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 62,113,204 Moderna 48,745,748 J&J 9,348,976.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.82 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 20.6% daily cases for a positivity rate of 3.4%.  Our granddaughters, over the age of 12 received their first shot of Pfizer vaccination.

Update May 22, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 32,885,010, deaths 584,975.  Fully vaccinated 127,778,250 (38.5%) one-dose 161,278,336 (48.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 66,045,495 Moderna 51,727,326 J&J 9,951,785.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.76 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 20.4% daily cases for a positivity rate of 4.7%.  Now states are bribing their citizens to get vaccinated.  Ohio offering a $1 million lottery prize, New Jersey, Maryland, and Connecticut a “shot and free beer,” vaccinations in Wisconsin at a pub for a day.  New York offers a vax and scratch lottery worth $5 million, Maryland offers $2 million and West Virginia offering saving bonds.  Krispy Kreme a free doughnut, some dispensaries—free marijuana.  Is this all to reward irresponsible behavior? Democrat Nancy Pelosi instructed all members of the House of Representatives to wear masks because Republicans refuse to get vaccinated or admit they have been vaccinated.  Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan announced a “$2 million Vax Cash promotion”. Every Marylander 18 and over who gets vaccinated will be entered into a daily drawing to win $40,000 from the Maryland State Lottery — culminating in a $400,000 drawing on July 4.  Meanwhile, the University of Virginia and Indiana University are joining a growing list of universities requiring vaccinations.  At least 389 colleges (universities) across that country have required vaccinations for at least some students or faculty, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.  For the first time since March 2020, the 7-day average for deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. has fallen below 500, White House coronavirus response senior adviser Andy Slavitt tweeted Friday. Dr. Scott Gottlieb’s comments Friday came as the country’s seven-day average of daily new coronavirus infections fell below 30,000 for the first time in almost a year; in late March, that figure was around 66,000.

Update May 29, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,041,551, deaths 590,212.  Fully vaccinated 133,532,544 (40.2%) one-dose 166,388,129 (50.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 68,735,221 Moderna 54,244,825 J&J 10,495,883.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.38 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 22.4% daily cases for a positivity rate of 2.5%.  Abbey Bugenske (22) who lives in Cincinnati is the first winner of $1 million Vax-a-Million lotteries in Ohio’s bid to encourage more people to get vaccinated.  Abbey was one of 2.76 million Ohioans who entered the drawing.  14-year-old Joseph Costello of Englewood won a four-year scholarship to any Ohio college/university he chooses as part of the lottery.  California on Thursday became the latest state to announce huge cash prizes to incentivize vaccination against the coronavirus, offering $116.5 million in giveaways — many smaller payments as well as a final drawing for 10 winners of $1.5 million each.  California will also give out 2 million $50 “incentive cards” starting Thursday for as long as supplies last, officials said.  Anyone who receives their full vaccine regimen — two shots if applicable — can get a card.

Update June 5, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,148,701, deaths 593,377.  Fully vaccinated 137,455,367 (41.4%) one-dose 169,735,441 (51.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 70,597,177 Moderna 55,914,615 J&J 10,884,243.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.01 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 32.8% daily cases for a positivity rate of 3%.  The country’s declining Covid-19 case rates present an unrealistically optimistic perspective for half of the nation — the half that is still not vaccinated.  The adjusted rates in several states show the pandemic is spreading as fast among the unvaccinated as it did during the winter surge.  For events like Covid-19 infection, rates are usually calculated by dividing the number of cases by the number of people in the population. For example, if there are 12 cases among a population of 100 people, the rate would be 12 people per 100. The Washington Post reduced the denominator to exclude most vaccinated people. So if 20 people got vaccinated, that would mean there were 12 cases out of the remaining 80 unvaccinated people, for an adjusted rate of 15 cases per 100 people.  Data shows vaccines are about 90 percent effective in preventing cases among people who have received the shot.  Cases among vaccinated people are called breakthrough cases.  To be conservative, The Washington Post estimated that up to 15 percent of the vaccinated population could still be infected.  So, in the example above, instead of removing all 20 vaccinated people, The Post removed 17.  That would leave 12 cases among 83 people, for an adjusted rate of 14.5 cases per 100 people.  But adjustments for vaccinations show the rate among susceptible, unvaccinated people is 73 percent higher than the standard figures being publicized.  The adjusted rates in several states show the pandemic is spreading as fast among the unvaccinated as it did during the winter surge. Maine, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Washington state all have Covid-19 case spikes among the unvaccinated, with adjusted rates about double the adjusted national rate.

Update June 12, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,259,537, deaths 596,572.  Fully vaccinated 142,095,530 (42.8%) one-dose 172,758,350 (52.0%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 73,593,112 Moderna 57,194,116 J&J 11,246,809.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.09 million per day.  Rates of COVID infections in the US are dropping by 11% daily cases for a positivity rate of 1.8%.  The latest CDC data shows that the gap between vaccination rates in Republican-controlled states and Democrat-controlled states is vast, and it’s only getting wider. Right now, the 10 Republican states that have fully vaccinated the smallest share of their residents are Mississippi (28 percent), Alabama (30 percent), Arkansas (32 percent), Louisiana (32 percent), Wyoming (33 percent), Tennessee (33 percent), Utah (34 percent), Idaho (34 percent), Georgia (34 percent) and Oklahoma (35 percent).  Meanwhile, the 10 Democrat states that have fully vaccinated the largest share of their residents are Vermont (60 percent), Massachusetts (57 percent), Maine (57 percent), Connecticut (56 percent), Rhode Island (54 percent), New Hampshire (53 percent), New Jersey (51 percent), Maryland (51 percent), Washington (49 percent) and New Mexico (49 percent).  The vast majority of the 100 U.S. counties with today’s highest per capita case counts (COVID infections) are in Republican conservative areas.  According to the most recent Yahoo News/YouGov poll, more than three-quarters of Democrats (76 percent) say they’ve already been vaccinated, while less than half of Republicans (49 percent) say the same.  A full 28 percent of Republicans say they will “never” get vaccinated.  The Biden administration is buying 500 million doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine to donate to the world as the United States dramatically increases its efforts to help vaccinate more of the global population.  The first 200 million doses will be distributed this year, with the subsequent 300 million shared in the first half of next year. The doses will be distributed by Covax, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to share doses around the globe, and they will be targeted at low- and middle-income countries.  Pfizer is selling the doses to the United States at a “not-for-profit” price.

Update June 19, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,341,986, deaths 598,713.  Fully vaccinated 148,459,003 (44.7%) one-dose 176,290,249 (53.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 77,705,677 Moderna 58,962,325 J&J 11,725,891.  Unknown 2-dose 65,110.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.36 million per day.  Republican Gov. Phil Scott announced Vermont had become the first state to vaccinate 80 percent of those eligible with at least one dose. Vermont has given out 131,473 doses per 100,000 population. By contrast, in Mississippi, only 35 percent of the overall population has received at least one dose. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts the Mississippi vaccination rate at less than half that of Vermont, or 61,278 administered per 100,000.  Where vaccine coverage is strong, the pandemic is receding.  The new delta variant is significantly more contagious and may lead to more severe disease than the earlier variants.  The worry is that those who are hesitating to get vaccinated now will be sickened in the fall.  The announcement that a new two-dose vaccine in the United States, developed by Novavax, is 90 percent effective in a large-scale clinical trial is a reason for hope. 

Update June 26, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,425,231, deaths 600,859.  Fully vaccinated 151,615,554 (45.7%) one-dose 178,491,147 (53.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 79,671,066 Moderna 59,859,140 J&J 12,017,294.  Unknown 2-dose 68,054.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 735,800 per day.  Nearly all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. now are in people who were not vaccinated, a staggering demonstration of how effective the shots have been and an indication that deaths per day — now down to under 300 — could be practically zero if everyone eligible got the vaccine.  Vaccination rates vary enormously across states: Some states have given at least one dose to two-thirds of the people, while others have given it to slightly more than one-third.  In Wisconsin, 48% were vaccinated.

Update July 3, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,514,681, deaths 602,731.  Fully vaccinated 156,255,896 (47.1%) one-dose 181,650,678 (54.7%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 82,684,230 Moderna 61,148,426 J&J 12,352,133.  Unknown 2-dose 71,107.  The current rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 1.09 million per day, a 52% increase over the week before.  CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said at a Thursday White House briefing that preliminary data reviewed by her agency suggests 99.5% of the people who died from Covid-19 over the past six months were unvaccinated, a stunning statistic in support of her assertion that nearly every virus-linked death is now preventable.  Several states and the District of Columbia have reached the 70 percent target, and more should follow soon.  Many states, particularly in the South and Midwest, are still far from reaching the threshold.  Infections and hospitalizations have been rising in many places with low vaccination rates.  Local officials are sounding the alarm over an increase in Covid-19 infections just as the nation prepares to celebrate a Fourth of July holiday that many hoped would mark the start of the resumption of normal life.  With July 4th holiday coming up and eventually kids going back to school, we have to be concerned that this would be a trend that could continue.  And if it does, it would appear that we may be in the beginning of the third surge of Covid-19 here in the state of Arkansas,” he said.  More than 90% of active virus cases are people who have not been vaccinated, Gov. Asa Hutchinson said during the briefing.

Update July 10, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,631,656, deaths 604,251.  Fully vaccinated 158,629,431 (47.8%) one-dose 183,542,871 (55.3%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 84,127,283 Moderna 61,840,480 J&J 12,587,850.  Unknown 2-dose 73,818.  National vaccination rates have slowed considerably from their mid-April peak of 3.3 million doses administered daily, on average.  In the last week, an average of 599,100 doses per day was administered, a 45% decrease over the week before. The vaccination campaign has slowed, and the delta variant is spreading rapidly.  New infections, which had started to plateau about a month ago, are going up slightly nationally.  Surges are likely driven by pockets of dangerously low vaccination rates.  The number of people catching the virus has risen in more than half of the states over the past two weeks. And 18 states have greater numbers of new infections now compared with four weeks ago, including Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Missouri, and Oklahoma, where new daily cases have doubled. In the last week, an average of 593,800 doses per day was administered, a 47% decrease over the week before.

Update July 17, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 33,836,677, deaths 606,190.  Fully vaccinated 160,686,378 (48.4%) one-dose 185,424,899 (55.9%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 85,373,703 Moderna 62,435,576 J&J 12,799,762.  Unknown 2-dose 77,337.  A doubling of COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks suggests the United States has entered a fourth wave of the pandemic.  Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the seven-day average of coronavirus infections soared nearly 70 percent in just one week, to about 26,300 cases a day. The seven-day average for hospitalizations has increased, too, climbing about 36 percent from the previous seven-day period, she said.  Florida emerged as a national hot spot, accounting for 1 in 5 cases in the past week. Four states were responsible for more than 40 percent of cases in the past week, health officials said. And 10 percent of counties have moved into “high transmission risk.”  More than 97 percent of hospitalizations are among those who are unvaccinated, Walensky said, and almost all covid-19 deaths — which climbed 26 percent in the past week — are among people who have not received a shot.  The delta variant has become the dominant strain worldwide and is responsible for the majority of U.S. cases, said Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Update July 24, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 34,312,832, deaths 608,113.  Fully vaccinated 162,435,276 (48.9%) one-dose 187,579,557 (56.5%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 86,495,061 Moderna 62,870,544 J&J 12,987,754.  Unknown 2-dose 81,917.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the U.S. is 0.50 million per day, down from a peak of 3.3 million doses administered per day in April.   Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a stark warning Thursday about the spread of the delta strain of COVID-19, saying the variant is one of the “most infectious respiratory viruses” scientists know of.  People infected with the variant appear to carry a viral load that is more than 1,000 times that of those infected with earlier forms of the virus, allowing the virus to spread rapidly among unvaccinated people, scientists have found.  The dire message comes amid urgency from public health officials that Americans get vaccinated.  The daily average of confirmed coronavirus cases has roughly quadrupled during July, from about 13,000 per day at the start of the month to 43,243 now.  The CDC said earlier this week that cases of the delta strain now make up about 83% of new infections in the U.S., and a majority of deaths from the disease are among unvaccinated people.  The strain is much more transmissible than the alpha strain, or the initial version of COVID-19, and has led to surging case numbers in every state in the nation.  The number of new cases has risen almost 250% since the beginning of July, and states with low vaccination rates, including Florida, Texas, and Missouri, are experiencing some of the worst outbreaks three states with lower vaccination rates accounted for 40 percent of all cases nationwide.  Coronavirus-related hospitalizations in Alabama have more than doubled this month, with 213 patients in intensive care units, up from 79 on July 1.

Update July 31, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 34,818,278, deaths 610,264.  Fully vaccinated 164,184,080 (49.5%) one-dose 190,509,183 (57.4%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 87,580,002 Moderna 63,322,317 J&J 13,195,772.  Unknown 2-dose 85,989.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.59 million per day, down from a peak of 3.3 million doses administered per day in April.  It is time to shift how people think about the pandemic.  The delta variant of the coronavirus appears to cause more severe illness than earlier variants and spreads as easily as chickenpox, according to an internal federal health document that argues officials must “acknowledge the war has changed.”  It captures the struggle of the nation’s top public health agency to persuade the public to embrace vaccination and prevention measures, including mask-wearing, as cases surge across the United States and new research suggests vaccinated people can spread the virus.  One thing is finally grabbing the attention of millions of unvaccinated Americans — the invasion of the hyper-contagious delta variant of the coronavirus. The document strikes an urgent note, to emphasize vaccination as the best defense against a variant so contagious that it acts almost like a different novel virus, leaping from target to target more swiftly than Ebola or the common cold.  Vaccinated people infected with delta have measurable viral loads similar to those who are unvaccinated and infected with the variant.  There is a higher risk among older age groups for hospitalization and death relative to younger people, regardless of vaccination status.  Estimates suggest that there are 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 164 million vaccinated Americans.

Update August 7, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 35,530,951, deaths 613,658.  Fully vaccinated 165,918,256 (50.0%) one-dose 193,764,457 (58.4%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 88,685,831 Moderna 63,726,330 J&J 13,415,537.  Unknown 2-dose 90,558.  In the past week new daily cases rose 40.4%, deaths rose 49.1% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 29.5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.65 million per day.  Dr. Anthony Fauci has a sobering prediction: “Things are going to get worse.”  The White House chief medical advisor made those remarks amid rising Covid cases nationwide, due largely to the virus’s newly dominant and more transmissible delta variant.  Though it’s tough to imagine a situation direr than the country’s current surge, “we’re looking to some pain and suffering in the future because we’re seeing the cases go up,” Fauci said.  Delta has run rampant through the U.S. in recent weeks, surpassing last summer’s peak of new daily cases and hitting the country’s relatively large population of unvaccinated people — 50% as of Thursday afternoon — particularly hard.  So long as a virus can spread, it can mutate and create more dangerous variants. And while the Covid vaccines in use appear to work well against current variants, “there could be a variant that’s lingering out there that can push aside delta,” Fauci said.  Most of the virus’s current ability to spread across the U.S. — which has a plentiful vaccine supply — is due to America’s large population of unvaccinated people. About 30% of the adult population in the U.S. has not received at least one dose, and roughly 33% of eligible children ages 12 -17 have yet to receive a shot.  New data from the CDC has also raised concerns about breakthrough cases, where vaccinated people can occasionally transmit the delta variant to other people.

Update August 14, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 36,410,213, deaths 617,787.  Fully vaccinated 167,699,170 (50.5%) one-dose 197,081,471 (59.4%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 89,857,077 Moderna 64,113,369 J&J 13,634,118.  Unknown 2-dose 94,606.  In the past week new daily cases rose 20.8%, deaths rose 26.8% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 22.6%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.65 million per day.  The highly transmissible coronavirus variant called delta is now the dominant strain in the United States.  Modeling shows that the variant now accounts for more than 90 percent of new infections, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has described the delta variant as a very different virus than the one that took hold last year, capable of generating infections even among vaccinated people, though those are likely to be far less severe.  “The delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us and to be an opportunist in areas where we have not shown a fortified response against it,” she said in July.  The CDC said that the variant may cause infections that are more severe than previous versions, and that vaccinated people can spread it.  Walensky has described delta as “one of the most infectious respiratory viruses we know of and that I have seen in my 20-year career.”  The good news, Walensky has said, is that all three coronavirus vaccines authorized in the United States offer strong protection against severe disease and death from covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Preliminary data from several states over the past several months suggests that 99.5 percent of covid-19-related deaths occurred among unvaccinated people, she has said.

Update August 21, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 37,396,282, deaths 624,213.  Fully vaccinated 169,998,983 (51.2%) one-dose 200,421,787 (60.4%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 91,440,711 Moderna 64,576,676 J&J 13,887,110.  Unknown 2-dose 94,486.  In the past week new daily cases rose 11.1%, deaths rose 43.4% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 11.2%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.75 million per day.  The United States on Wednesday became the latest country to embrace the widespread use of coronavirus vaccine booster shots, citing new data that shows the vaccines’ effectiveness waning over time.  The Biden administration said it plans to make booster shots available to Americans starting the week of Sept. 20, pending reviews by federal health agencies. Officials said those who received the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines can receive a booster shot eight months after the date when they got their second vaccine dose. Officials said they are waiting for additional data before setting a plan for people who received the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

Update August 28, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 38,527,411, deaths 632,786.  Fully vaccinated 172,646,952 (52%) one-dose 203,475,192 (61.3%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 93,259,507 Moderna 65,206,722 J&J 14,083,866.  Unknown 2-dose 96,857.  In the past week new daily cases rose 10.9%, deaths rose 34.9% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 5.8%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.82 million per day.  More than 100,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in the United States, a level not seen since Jan. 30 — when coronavirus vaccines were not widely available — as the country grapples with the delta variant’s spread.  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. More than 17,000 people are hospitalized with covid-19 in Florida, which has the most such hospitalizations of any state, followed by Texas, which has more than 14,000.  Amid a raging debate over mask requirements in schools, current pediatric hospitalizations for covid-19 have reached 2,100 nationally, topping 2,000 for the first time since August 2020.  New coronavirus cases are being reported across the country at levels similar to those seen in January.  About 151,000 new daily cases were being reported on average on Jan. 30; on Wednesday, that figure was 148,000.

Update September 4, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 39,668,869, deaths 643,405.  Fully vaccinated 175,538,025 (52.9%) one-dose 206,461,869 (62.2%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 95,227,588 Moderna 65,942,167 J&J 14,268,555.  Unknown 2-dose 99,715.  In the past week new daily cases rose 4.9%, deaths rose 28.7% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 1.1%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.84 million per day.  Nationally, covid-19 deaths have climbed steadily in recent weeks, hitting a seven-day average of about 1,500 a day Thursday, after falling to the low 200s in early July — the latest handiwork of a contagious variant that has exploited the return to everyday activities by tens of millions of Americans, many of them unvaccinated. Top federal health officials have warned the White House that the Biden administration’s plan to begin offering booster shots to most Americans later this month may have to be limited initially, with third shots made available only to people who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to people familiar with the matter.  Janet Woodcock, acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients on Thursday that their agencies may not be able to approve a more expansive coronavirus booster plan that they, along with other top doctors across the administration, endorsed last month.  Woodcock and Walensky told Zients they may be able to approve and recommend booster shots only for people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.  Americans were told they should plan to get a third shot eight months after they received their second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine. Biden said people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine would probably need a booster shot as well, but officials would need more time to analyze data.  Now, Woodcock and Walensky, who have faced criticism for endorsing a plan before FDA approval, have warned that their agencies may need more time to make a determination about recommending boosters for people who received the Moderna vaccine. The FDA has only partial data on Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters.

Update September 11, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 40,703,234, deaths 654,409.  Fully vaccinated 177,899,458 (53.6%) one-dose 208,704,230 (62.9%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 96,782,513 Moderna 66,608,458 J&J 14,406,820.  Unknown 2-dose 101,667.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 10.8%, deaths rose 4.9% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 0.8%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.89 million per day.  Fights about wearing masks in schools intensified Friday, as the United States reported a record number of infections among children in recent weeks after schools reopened.  In Florida, an appeals court sided with Gov. Ron DeSantis to reinstate a school mask ban, while the Education Department said it is investigating whether the state was violating the rights of students with disabilities by preventing school districts from requiring masks. In Texas, attorney general Ken Paxton filed lawsuits against six school districts for defying Gov. Greg Abbott’s order regarding mask mandates, adding that he expects to file more suits against noncompliant districts.  Nationally, Republican leaders blasted President Biden’s sweeping new coronavirus vaccine mandates for businesses and federal workers, decrying them as unconstitutional infringements on personal liberties and promising to sue.  Unvaccinated people were 11 times more likely to die of covid-19 than those who were fully vaccinated this spring and summer, according to one of three major studies published Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Update September 18, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 41,754,903, deaths 668,442.  Fully vaccinated 180,572,171 (54.4%) one-dose 211,097,597 (63.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 98,509,241 Moderna 67,388,413 J&J 14,570,912.  Unknown 2-dose 103,605.  In the past week new daily cases rose 1.7%, deaths rose 24.2% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 7%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.72 million per day.  Expert advisers to the Food and Drug Administration voted unanimously Friday to recommend that the agency authorize a booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine six months after vaccination for people 65 years and older and for anyone at risk for severe illness.  The raw number of deaths is horrifying – roughly equal to the populations of Las Vegas, Detroit, or Oklahoma City. So too is the proportion of Americans who have succumbed to the virus: 1 in 500.  It is a public health catastrophe that has taken loved ones from hundreds of thousands of families.

Update September 25, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 42,635,447, deaths 682,646.  Fully vaccinated 182,958,696 (55.1%) one-dose 212,861,380 (64.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 100,115,440 Moderna 68,051,592 J&J 14,685,582.  Unknown 2-dose 106,136.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 17.8%, deaths rose 1.4% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 7.6%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.60 million per day.  More people have died of covid-19 in the United States than are estimated to have died of influenza during the 1918 pandemic. More than 682,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the United States have been reported since Feb. 29, 2020.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that is roughly how many died of influenza in the United States from 1918 to 1919 — along with more than 49 million killed globally during the “deadliest pandemic of the 20th century.” (The coronavirus has killed nearly 4.7 million people globally.)

Update October 2, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 43,409,950, deaths 696,603.  Fully vaccinated 214,597,690 (64.6%) booster-dose 3,023,065.  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 101,414,770 Moderna 68,524,278 J&J 14,804,442.  Unknown 2-dose 108,926.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 10.9%, deaths fell 6.2% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 9.3%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.72 million per day.  Pharmaceutical giant Merck announced that in an international clinical trial, its drug, molnupiravir, reduced the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly half among higher-risk people diagnosed with mild or moderate illnesses. The company said it would seek regulatory approval as soon as possible, meaning the United States could have its first anti-coronavirus pill in a matter of months.  Merck and partner Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said in a news release they would apply for emergency use authorization for the drug.

Update October 9, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 44,105,375, deaths 708,784.  Fully vaccinated 216,573,911 (65.2%) booster-dose 7,284,455.  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 102,879,624 Moderna 69,003,393 J&J 14,923,459.  Unknown 2-dose 111,445.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 10.4%, deaths fell 8.3% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 7.9%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.93 million per day.  At least 120,000 American children lost a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19, according to a study published Thursday in the medical journal Pediatric which examined the fifteen-month period between April 2020 through June 2021. The study’s lead author told NPR that the number is closer to 175,000 today.  “This means that for every four COVID-19 deaths, one child was left behind without a mother, father and/or a grandparent who provided for that child’s home needs and nurture — needs such as love, security, and daily care,” Dr. Susan Hillis, the lead author, and a researcher and epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an interview with NPR.  Black and Hispanic children were particularly hard hit. They account for more than half of the children who lost a primary caregiver to the pandemic, even though their racial groups represent just 40% of the total population.

Update October 16, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 44,709,010, deaths 720,228.  Fully vaccinated 218,318,056 (65.8%) booster-dose 10,023,131.  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 104,091,511 Moderna 69,407,846 J&J 15,041,965, Unknown 2-dose 113,847.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 13.7%, deaths fell 8.4% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 7.4%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.95 million per day.  An independent advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday unanimously recommended a booster dose of the Moderna coronavirus vaccine for people 65 and older and for adults who are at high risk of severe illness because of underlying conditions or exposure on the job.  The recommendation will now be considered by FDA officials, who are expected to reach a decision on the Moderna booster within days. An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that makes recommendations on how vaccines should be used is scheduled to meet Wednesday.  Moderna presented studies of about 350 people who were given a booster dose six months after their initial shots.  Vaccination rates against COVID-19 in the United States have risen by more than 20 percentage points after multiple institutions adopted vaccine requirements, while case numbers and deaths from the virus are down.

Update October 23, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 45,235,796, deaths 731,931.  Fully vaccinated 219,900,525 (66.2%) booster-dose 12,037,101.  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 105,146,362 Moderna 69,765,141 J&J 15,151,881, Unknown 2-dose 116,169.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 13.3%, deaths fell 5.2% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 8.4%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.68 million per day.  The green light from Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, means that eligible Americans at risk of severe disease can choose any of the three boosters now authorized in the United States regardless of their original shot.  Tens of millions of Americans can sign up to get Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters beginning yesterday.  The evidence shows that all three COVID-19 vaccines authorized in the United States are safe — as demonstrated by the over 400 million vaccine doses already given.  The availability of boosters will be particularly welcome to the 15 million recipients of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, many of whom have been particularly fearful of breakthrough infections given that shot’s lower level of protection compared with the messenger RNA vaccines.

The number of persons in the USA potentially eligible for a booster dose, in millions, on October 22, 2021.

Age Group Pfizer Moderna J&J Total
18-29 4.7 3.0 2.4 10.1
30-49 11.9 8.3 4.5 24.7
50-64 13.2 10.1 4.0 27.3
65+ 17.3 17.7 1.9 36.9
Total 47.1 39.1 12.9 99.7


Update October 30, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 45,759,230, deaths 741,566.  Fully vaccinated 191,997,869 (57.8%) booster-dose 16,682,269 (8.7%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 106,315,307 Moderna 70,291,347 J&J 15,273,490, Unknown 2-dose 117,725.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 1.5%, deaths fell 9.7% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 5.5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.84 million per day. Health officials on Friday offered more evidence that vaccinations offer better protection against COVID-19 than immunity from a prior infection.  Unvaccinated people who had been infected months earlier were 5 times more likely to get COVID-19 than fully vaccinated people who didn’t have a prior infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded in a new study.  The study looked at data from nearly 190 hospitals in nine states. The researchers counted about 7,000 adult patients who were hospitalized this year with respiratory illnesses or symptoms similar to those of COVID-19.  About 6,000 of them had been fully vaccinated with the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines three to six months before they wound up in hospitals. The other 1,000 were unvaccinated but had been infected with COVID-19 three to six months earlier.  About 5% of the vaccinated patients tested positive for the coronavirus vs. about 9% of the unvaccinated group.  The study echoes some earlier research, including studies that found higher levels of infection-fighting antibodies in vaccinated patients.

Update November 6, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 46,268,465, deaths 749,876.  Fully vaccinated 193,425,862 (58.3%) booster-dose 22,271,357 (11.5%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 107,094,043 Moderna 70,779,636 J&J 15,431,868, Unknown 2-dose 120,315.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 14,961,889 Moderna 7,125,069 J&J 175,497 Unknown 8,902. In the past week, new daily rose 0.6%, deaths fell 14% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 4%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.31 million per day.  Pfizer Inc. said yesterday that its experimental antiviral pill, paxlovid, for COVID-19 cut rates of hospitalization and death by nearly 90% as the drugmaker joins the race to bring the first easy-to-use medication against the coronavirus to the U.S. market.  Currently, all COVID-19 treatments used in the U.S. require an IV or injection. Competitor Merck’s COVID-19 pill molnupiravir, is already under review at the Food and Drug Administration after showing strong initial results, and on Thursday the United Kingdom became the first country to OK it.  Researchers worldwide have been racing to find a pill against COVID-19 that can be taken at home to ease symptoms, speed recovery, and reduce the crushing burden on hospitals and doctors.  The number of people getting COVID-19 vaccine boosters in the U.S. is now far outpacing the number getting their first shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Update November 13, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 46,783,309, deaths 757,663.  Fully vaccinated 194,747,893 (58.7%) booster-dose 27,660,515 (14.2%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 107,858,398 Moderna 71,186,943 J&J 15,580,406, Unknown 2-dose 122,092.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 17,077,765 Moderna 10,283,624 J&J 291,110 Unknown 8,016. In the past week, new daily rose 8%, deaths fell 8% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 2%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.35 million per day.  Anxious about a surge of coronavirus infections enveloping Europe as cases tick up in the United States, senior health officials in the Biden administration are pressing urgently to offer vaccine booster shots to all adults. But support for the renewed push is not unanimous.  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky has expressed caution about making extra shots so broadly available now, according to several officials familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. As a result, tension is rising among officials over how quickly to proceed and who should get the shots.  The debate comes at a critical time for the Biden administration, with top advisers growing increasingly fearful the country could slide backward into a fifth pandemic wave amid colder weather and declining vaccine protection.

Update November 20, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 47,471,270, deaths 768,619.  Fully vaccinated 195,920,566 (59%) booster-dose 33,454,832 (17.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 108,533,298 Moderna 71,543,150 J&J 15,719,927, Unknown 2-dose 124,191.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 19,477,683 Moderna 13,555,019 J&J 412,992 Unknown 9,138. In the past week, new daily rose 24%, deaths rose 12% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 7%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.49 million per day.  Nearly 10 percent of 5- to 11-year-olds in the United States have received their first coronavirus vaccine dose, just two weeks into the immunization campaign for the 28 million young Americans in that age group, Jeff Zients, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, said Wednesday.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on a pediatric vaccine for younger children Nov. 2, and the nationwide drive to inoculate that age group was operational Nov. 8.

Update November 27, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 47,916,623, deaths 773,779.  Fully vaccinated 196,168,756 (59.1%) booster-dose 37,499,004 (19.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 108,683,233 Moderna 71,588,162 J&J 15,770,340, Unknown 2-dose 127,021.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 21,244,804 Moderna 15,753,167 J&J 491,148 Unknown 9,885. In the past week, new daily fell 22%, deaths fell 28% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.37 million per day.  On Thursday, top South African health officials held a news conference announcing the discovery of the more contagious variant, saying they began researching the possibility of a new mutation when they discovered a fast-growing cluster of cases in Gauteng, the country’s biggest province.  Officials say they are still trying to determine the origins of the variant — which is known as B.1.1.52 omicron— and that other cases have been discovered in Botswana and Hong Kong.  “Unfortunately, we have new detected a new variant, which is a reason for concern in South Africa. What we have done is to act very quickly,” Tulio de Oliveira, a scientist in South Africa, said at the news conference. “We are trying to identify what we are facing. The main message today is that we have to know the enemy that we fight.”  News of the latest variants arrives as Europe is already applying new lockdowns and travel restrictions for unvaccinated residents in an attempt to contain the latest surge of the virus. Reported deaths in Europe reached nearly 4,200 a day last week — twice the number since the end of September, according to the World Health Organization, which counts 53 countries as part of Europe.

Update December 4, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 48,767,329, deaths 783,215.  Fully vaccinated 198,211,641 (59.7%) booster-dose 44,035,293 (22.2%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 110,151,003 Moderna 72,012,779 J&J 15,918,533, Unknown 2-dose 129,326.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 24,322,471 Moderna 19,079,651 J&J 622,215 Unknown 10,956. In the past week, new daily rose 52%, deaths rose 42% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 10%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.99 million per day.  Scientists in South Africa say omicron is at least three times more likely to cause reinfection than previous variants such as beta and delta, according to a preliminary study published Thursday.  Statistical analysis of some 2.8 million positive coronavirus samples in South Africa, 35,670 of which were suspected to be reinfections, led researchers to conclude that the omicron mutation has a “substantial ability to evade immunity from prior infection.”  Scientists say reinfection provides a partial explanation for how the new variant has been spreading. The elevated risk of being reinfected is “temporally consistent” with the emergence of the omicron variant in South Africa, the researchers found.  Questions about the level of protection vaccines provide against the new variant remain unanswered, as the scientists did not have access to immunization data. But Juliet Pulliam, a South Africa-based epidemiologist and one of the study’s authors, said vaccines are likely to still offer the most effective protection against severe disease and death.

Update December 11, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 49,593,113, deaths 791,963.  Fully vaccinated 201,279,582 (60.6%) booster-dose 51,749,171 (25.7%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 112,495,506 Moderna 72,573,674 J&J 16,078,093, Unknown 2-dose 132,309.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 28,097,792 Moderna 22,853,120 J&J 786,149 Unknown 12,110. In the past week, new daily cases flat 0%, deaths fell 7% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 10%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.91 million per day.  Federal regulators Thursday authorized booster shots of Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for 16- and 17-year-olds, a step that officials said would bolster protection against delta, the variant behind surging infections in parts of the United States and could help tame the emerging omicron version.  The Food and Drug Administration’s decision came the day after new data from the companies suggested that boosters may play a critical role in helping to control the omicron variant by raising virus-fighting antibodies to block the pathogen, which echoed a finding by leading scientists in South Africa released earlier this week.  Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, endorsed the FDA move, citing the early data indicating that boosters strengthen the body’s defenses against the virus. She strongly encouraged all 16- and 17-year-olds who have been vaccinated to get a booster as soon as they are six months past their second shot.

Update December 18, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 50,479,372, deaths 800,939.  Fully vaccinated 203,479,206 (61.3%) booster-dose 58,185,916 (28.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 114,237,781 Moderna 72,907,173 J&J 16,199,169, Unknown 2-dose 135,083.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 31,367,565 Moderna 25,890,030 J&J 915,093 Unknown 13,228. In the past week, new daily cases rose 6%, deaths rose 5% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 25%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.6 million per day.  With the omicron variant sending coronavirus cases spiking across the country, the pandemic is once again upending daily life and evoking the early days of the outbreak as scientists race to understand the still-unknown implications of this new type of coronavirus.  The worrying signs suddenly seem everywhere: Professional sports leagues are canceling games. Colleges are sending students home from campus. Secretary of State Antony Blinken cut short his trip to Southeast Asia.  With the number of omicron cases appearing to double every two days, confirmed U.S. coronavirus infections have increased more than 50 percent in roughly two weeks, from 81,900 on Nov. 30 to 124,110 on Dec. 16.

Update December 25, 2021.  USA COVID-19 cases, 51,574,787, deaths 809,300.  Fully vaccinated 204,740,321 (61.7%) booster-dose 64,475,171 (31.5%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 115,189,845 Moderna 73,147,37 J&J 16,265,233, Unknown 2-dose 137,506.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 34,759,759 Moderna 28,709,418 J&J 991,941 Unknown 14,053. In the past week, new daily cases rose 50%, deaths fell 6% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 3%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.48 million per day.  Thousands of Christmastime flights have been canceled around the world as airlines say the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus is preventing staffers from working and causing travelers to rethink their plans.  As of late Friday afternoon, about 3,860 flights were canceled globally for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, according to the website FlightAware, and 2,000 other flights were scrapped Thursday. FlightAware said about a quarter of those canceled for Friday involved travel within, into or out of the United States. Airlines cited staffing shortages and falling demand amid a new pandemic wave and other issues.

Update January 1, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 53,795,407, deaths 820,355.  Fully vaccinated 205,811 (62.0%) booster-dose 68,810,709 (33.4%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 115,995,495 Moderna 73,344,705 J&J 16,326,663, Unknown 2-dose 144,531.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 37,101,650 Moderna 30,652,784 J&J 1,041,184 Unknown 15,091. In the past week, new daily cases rose 99%, deaths rose 30% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 32%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.65 million per day.  The United States on Thursday surpassed 550,000 covid-19 cases newly reported by states, underscoring the lightning spread of the coronavirus across the country, with the highly transmissible omicron variant triggering a familiar round of restrictions, disruptions and uncertainty heading into the pandemic’s third year.  The number of new cases reported nationwide totaled 562,111, even with five states (Alaska, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan and North Carolina) not reporting.  The uptick in cases prompted health officials to discourage large New Year’s Eve gatherings, though New York is among the cities set to forge ahead with outdoor festivities despite the warning.  There is some good news on the horizon on the vaccine front: The Food and Drug Administration is expected to authorize Pfizer-BioNTech booster shots for 12- to 15-year-olds shortly after the new year, while the Johnson & Johnson booster was shown in one South African study to curb 85 percent of hospitalizations amid the omicron wave.  In late November, more than 110 people gathered at a crowded Christmas party at a restaurant in Oslo. Most of the guests were fully vaccinated. One had returned from South Africa just a few days earlier and was unknowingly carrying the omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. Ultimately, about 70% of the partygoers were infected.  Scientists who traced this super spreader event concluded it was evidence that omicron was “highly transmissible” among fully vaccinated adults.

Update January 8, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 58,689,973, deaths 831,729.  Fully vaccinated 207,229,983 (62.4%) booster-dose 73,814,228 (35.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 117,035,180 Moderna 73,638,649 J&J 16,409,558, Unknown 2-dose 146,596.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 39,806,408 Moderna 32,882,883 J&J 1,108,673 Unknown 16,264. In the past week, new daily cases rose 76%, deaths fell 4% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 30%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.79 million per day.  The Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized booster shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for 12- to 15-year-olds, an effort to expand protection as schools reopen amid a surge of infections caused by the omicron variant.  The agency also said that Pfizer-BioNTech boosters can now be administered at least five months after the second dose. Previously, the minimal interval between the second and third shots of the vaccine was six months.  As omicron sickens millions of Americans, some disease experts are peering into the future, speculating that the massive winter wave of infections from this new coronavirus variant might produce something beneficial in the long run.  Infectious-disease experts say the idea that widespread omicron infection will create immunity in a broad swath of the population, and a shield against future variants is certainly plausible. But it’s unknown how durable that immunity would be or how well it would protect against a future variant.

Update January 15, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 64,285,467, deaths 844,841.  Fully vaccinated 208,791,862 (62.9%) booster-dose 78,961,755 (37.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 118,193,276 Moderna 73,972,238 J&J 16,495,167, Unknown 2-dose 131,181.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 42,739,842 Moderna 35,027,029 J&J 1,177,405 Unknown 17,479. In the past week, new daily cases rose 20%, deaths rose 20% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 13%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.23 million per day.  As millions of Americans scramble to navigate life disrupted by the easily transmissible omicron variant, public officials are urging them to view at-home antigen tests as an important tool to stem the surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.  At the same time, however, the tests, which are designed to quickly tell a person if they’re infected, have become harder to find.  High demand has left major retailers such as Walmart, Walgreens and CVS struggling to keep kits stocked in stores, and online orders have also been affected.  What’s more, emerging research is raising concerns about the efficacy of some rapid antigen tests and their ability to detect omicron — though further evaluations of performance are ongoing.  Most at-home tests are rapid antigen tests. These tests look for specific protein pieces of the virus to detect infection and can provide results in 10 to 15 minutes. The tests are a type of diagnostic test that typically use samples collected with a nasal swab.  The FDA has given emergency use authorization to nearly a dozen over-the-counter, self-collected rapid antigen testing kits, such as the Abbott BinaxNow and Quidel QuickVue tests.

Update January 22, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 69,437,067, deaths 858,909.  Fully vaccinated 210,021,766 (63.3%) booster-dose 83,012,754 (39.5%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 119,078,714 Moderna 74,250,792 J&J 16,559,051, Unknown 2-dose 133,209.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 45,135,168 Moderna 36,578,189 J&J 1,271,961 Unknown 18,436. In the past week, new daily cases fell 10%, deaths rose 11% COVID-related hospitalizations rose/fell 0%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 1.19 million per day.  Unvaccinated adults age 65 or older who contracted the coronavirus were 49 times more likely to require hospitalization than seniors who had received booster vaccine doses, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Unimmunized adults in that age group were also 17 times more likely to be admitted to a hospital than those who had received either two shots of an mRNA vaccine or one Johnson & Johnson dose. Meanwhile, unvaccinated people between 50 and 64 years old were 44 times more likely to need hospitalization compared with their boosted counterparts.  The CDC figures on boosters, drawn from between October and December 2021, provide a real-world snapshot of the efficacy of commonly used vaccines in the United States. The European drug regulator also said Friday it was becoming “increasingly clear that a booster dose is needed to extend vaccine protection,” particularly against the omicron variant.

Update January 29, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 73,512,366, deaths 876,632.  Fully vaccinated 211,343,818 (63.7%) booster-dose 86,955,357 (41.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 120,127,072 Moderna 74,509,265 J&J 16,572,527, Unknown 2-dose 134,954.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 47,447,382 Moderna 38,164,950 J&J 1,323,367 Unknown 19,658. In the past week, new daily cases fell 24%, deaths rose 17% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 8%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.86 million per day.  Just as the omicron surge starts to recede in parts of the U.S., scientists have their eye on another coronavirus variant spreading rapidly in parts of Asia and Europe. It’s officially called “omicron BA.2,” and this week scientists detected cases of it in several U.S. states, including California, Texas, and Washington.  Although BA.2 is currently rare in the U.S., scientists expect it to spread in the country over the next month. There’s growing evidence that it’s just as contagious as — or possibly a bit more contagious than — the first omicron variant, called “omicron BA.1.”  “It could be that BA.2 does have some small advantage,” says Emma Hodcroft, an epidemiologist at the University of Bern who has been tracking variants all around the world throughout the pandemic via the Nextstrain project. “BA.2 might well be, like, 1% to 3% more transmissible, or something like that.”  So the big question now is, will that small difference be enough for this variant to lengthen the ongoing surge in the U.S., as it has in Denmark?

Update February 5, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 75,937,801, deaths 894,810.  Fully vaccinated 211,343,818 (64.0%) booster-dose 89,228,662 (42.0%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 121,024,325 Moderna 74,701,000 J&J 16,619,171, Unknown 2-dose 136,969.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 48,892,773 Moderna 39,019,079 J&J 1,356,150 Unknown 20,660. In the past week, new daily cases fell 40%, deaths rose 7% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 14%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.70 million per day.  U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy is seeking to reassure parents that the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine for young children will be thoroughly reviewed, after the company’s submission to the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization this week.  “Please know that the FDA will not cut any corners in their review process. They know that they are the gold standard that all of us rely on,” Murthy said Wednesday during a White House news briefing.  The FDA requested that data from the two-dose trials be presented to initiate a “rolling submission” process in hopes of expediting the launch, according to a joint statement from Pfizer and BioNTech. The unusual approach has raised questions among some parents about whether they should rush to get their young children the shot as soon as it’s available. Only 22 percent of children ages 5 to 11 are vaccinated, according to Washington Post data.  The omicron wave in the United States has caused millions of families to struggle with unreliable childcare, irregular school, and day-care closures, quarantines, and fears about their children getting infected. Regulators could approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s authorization request as early as the end of this month.

Update February 12, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 77,345,683, deaths 912,757.  Fully vaccinated 213,563,173 (64.3%) booster-dose 91,109,196 (42.7%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 121,844,657 Moderna 74,919,390 J&J 16,660,319, Unknown 2-dose 138,807.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 50,019,116 Moderna 39,687,901 J&J 1,380,642 Unknown 21,537. In the past week, new daily cases fell 43%, deaths fell 7% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 18%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.54 million per day.  The US still isn’t getting Covid-19 data right.  As the Omicron wave recedes in the United States, public health officials are faced with a new round of decision-making on the best way for the country to move forward.  It’s a critical moment to rebuild the trust that has been lost among weary Americans over the past two years.  But the best way to gain that trust — offering a transparent, metric-based approach — is challenged by a fractured and undervalued health data infrastructure. “Lack of accurate, real-time information was one of the greatest failures of the US response to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at a hearing before the House Energy and Commerce Committee in March 2021.  States have led the way in public dissemination of Covid-19 data, but experts say the federal government — particularly the CDC — could have offered more leadership and guidance on priorities. On Wednesday, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky touted new tools, including wastewater surveillance, that reflect the agency’s “huge strides” in the ability to effectively monitor Covid-19.  “As we all look forward to this next step, I want to instill in everyone that moving forward from this pandemic will be a process that’s led by our surveillance and our data,” Walensky said. “I’m confident that CDC and our public health partners are well-positioned to lead the way.”

Update February 19, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 78,161,630, deaths 928,723.  Fully vaccinated 214,602,856 (64.6%) booster-dose 92,589,369 (43.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 122,610,731 Moderna 75,151,081 J&J 16,700,387, Unknown 2-dose 140,666.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 50,930,026 Moderna 40,233,229 J&J 1,403,532 Unknown 22,582. In the past week, new daily cases fell 39%, deaths fell 9% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 25%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.49 million per day.  Africa may have been hit harder by covid-19 than anyone knew.  It’s one of the enduring mysteries of covid-19: Why didn’t the pandemic hit low-income African nations as hard as wealthy countries in North America and Europe?  There is no simple answer to that question. But this week, two new studies added to our understanding of it. One suggested that the number of covid-19 cases may be vastly undercounted across the continent; another found good evidence that the number of deaths in at least one country could be significantly undercounted.  “In Africa, 83 percent of people still have not received a single dose,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Tuesday at a Vaccine Equity for Africa event in Germany. “This is not only a moral failure, it is also an epidemiological failure, which is creating the ideal conditions for new variants to emerge.”  According to Our World in Data, as of mid-February, 2.7 percent of all confirmed covid-19 cases were found on the continent. By comparison, North America saw 22 percent of all global cases; Europe more than a third.  The study found that levels of immunity in Africa appeared to be vastly higher than could be explained by official case numbers, even when combined with the continent’s paltry vaccination levels. Every nation surveyed had far higher levels of immunity than official figures showed; Nigeria had a ratio of 958 to 1.  By September 2021, over 65 percent of the continent had some form of immunity to covid-19, the study estimated. This, the authors write, suggests there had not been 8.2 million cases across the continent by that time — but 800 million.  Just 4 percent of deaths globally were recorded in Africa.  Africa wasn’t miraculously spared from the pandemic, and there’s little reason to think it could not be hit far harder next time.

Update February 26, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 78,644,344, deaths 942,301.  Fully vaccinated 215,318,037 (64.9%) booster-dose 93,811,640 (43.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 123,145,139 Moderna 75,299,250 J&J 16,731,250, Unknown 2-dose 142,398.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 51,691,189 Moderna 40,675,666 J&J 1,421,385 Unknown 23,400. In the past week, new daily cases fell 38%, deaths fell 13% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 19%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.50 million per day.  California’s governor announced a milestone Thursday, saying his state would become the first in the nation to treat the coronavirus as a manageable, endemic risk. His decision marks a significant new phase in the state’s covid response and could be a bellwether as officials elsewhere in the country look to resume a level of normalcy.  “We are moving past the crisis phase into a phase where we will work to live with this virus,” Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said at a news conference.  “People are looking forward to turning the page,” he added. “They also need to know we have their back; we’re going to keep them safe, and we’re going to stay on top of this.”  California’s plan, he said, shifts from a “crisis mentality” to emphasize prevention and adaptability, allowing officials to step up measures to detect and contain fresh outbreaks, as well as to look out for new variants. It also includes more public campaigns against misinformation and the stockpiling of tests and equipment rather than mask mandates and business shutdowns.  Newsom’s “Smarter” plan (standing for shots, masks, awareness, readiness, testing, education, and Rx) includes maintaining a store of 75 million masks, increasing vaccination and daily testing numbers, monitoring wastewater for virus remnants, and responding to surges in cases by quickly bringing in extra medical workers via contracts with national staffing companies.  This month, Anthony S. Fauci, chief medical adviser to the president, did not use the word “endemic” but told the Financial Times that the country was moving out of the coronavirus pandemic’s “full-blown” phase to a point where restrictions could be eased and the virus made more manageable.

Update March 5, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 79,031,738, deaths 953,569.  Fully vaccinated 215,987,252 (65.1%) booster-dose 94,941,167 (44%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 123,633,983 Moderna 75,432,652 J&J 16,776,359, Unknown 2-dose 144,258.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 52,393,451 Moderna 41,086,211 J&J 1,437,053 Unknown 24,452. In the past week, new daily cases fell 33%, deaths fell 19% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 21%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.34 million per day. President Biden on Friday urged for an end to remote work, framing the much-delayed return to the office for millions of white-collar workers as necessary for the United States to move beyond the pandemic.  Most Americans can remove their masks, return to work, and move forward safely,” the president said. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention loosened its guidance for face coverings last week.  The message about returning to the office is a new one for the president, whose rhetoric for much of his first year was marked by caution. But as Americans tell pollsters that they are ready to move beyond the pandemic, Biden has responded accordingly. 

Update March 12, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 79,291,207, deaths 963,287.  Fully vaccinated 216,497,318 (65.2%) booster-dose 95,739,353 (44.2%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 124,012,056 Moderna 75,539,974 J&J 16,799,383, Unknown 2-dose 145,905.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 52,885,124 Moderna 41,382,149 J&J 1,446,738 Unknown 25,342. In the past week, new daily cases fell 20%, deaths fell 17% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 27%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.27 million per day.  A hybrid omicron-delta variant has been identified in the U.S., with at least one case identified in California.  Dubbed “deltacron,” this COVID variant seems to have developed from a process called recombination, in which a person is infected with two variants at once. That can be cause for concern as it allows a virus to adopt many mutations suddenly, instead of evolving slowly over time.  The good news? The evidence so far suggests that it is not able to outcompete the variants that preceded it. Scientists are greeting it with more curiosity than concern.


Update March 19, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 79,522,906, deaths 967,769.  Fully vaccinated 216,952,347 (65.3%) booster-dose 96,439,386 (44.5%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 124,343,478 Moderna 75,636,164 J&J 16,825,111, Unknown 2-dose 147,594.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 53,339,189 Moderna 41,618,624 J&J 1,455,396 Unknown 26,177. In the past week, new daily cases fell 12%, deaths fell 13% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 22%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.24 million per day. Vaccines remained highly effective at preventing serious illness and death during omicron surge, CDC report says.  The coronavirus vaccines most widely used in the United States remained highly effective at preventing the worst outcomes from infections even in the face of the highly transmissible omicron variant in January, a report released Friday by federal disease trackers shows.  While protection against mild illness waned over time, the mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech provided a robust shield against death and needing mechanical ventilation, the study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.  The study comes as Pfizer and Moderna this week asked the Food and Drug Administration to consider authorizing a second booster shot following data published in Israel that showed vaccine effectiveness decreased as omicron surged. Pfizer requested the FDA allow adults 65 and older to get a second booster; Moderna asked regulators to authorize an additional booster for all eligible adults to allow flexibility for the CDC and health-care providers to determine which patients make good candidates for another dose.

Update March 26, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 79,736,014, deaths 973,515.  Fully vaccinated 217,316,148 (65.5%) booster-dose 97,093,580 (44.7%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 124,614,589 Moderna 75,709,340 J&J 16,843,115, Unknown 2-dose 149,104.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 53,751,837 Moderna 41,849,959 J&J 1,464,567 Unknown 27,217. In the past week, new daily cases fell 10%, deaths fell 29% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 14%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.18 million per day.  Covid vaccinations — including boosters — fall to lowest levels since 2020.  With another pandemic surge possibly on the way, vaccination for the coronavirus in the United States has all but ground to a halt, with initial doses and boosters plummeting to the lowest levels since the program began in late December 2020.  The daily total has been in free fall for the past six weeks. On Feb. 10, the nation was averaging more than 692,000 shots a day. Booster shots have been more common than first or second doses since October, and the low rates have long caused concern among some experts.  Federal health officials are now considering authorizing fourth shots for people 65 and older.

Update April 2, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 79,947,165, deaths 978,254.  Fully vaccinated 217,703,007 (65.6%) booster-dose 97,793,707 (44.9%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 124,885,538 Moderna 75,797,848 J&J 16,869,069, Unknown 2-dose 150,552.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 50.55M Moderna 39.25M J&J 1.38M Unknown 28.23k. In the past week, new daily cases rose 1%, deaths fell 16% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 8%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.19 million per day.  In a December study, the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation, which tracks U.S. health policy and outcomes, estimated that between June and November of 2021, unvaccinated American adults accounted for $13.8 billion in “preventable” COVID hospitalization costs nationwide.  Kaiser estimated that over that six-month period, which included the Delta wave, vaccinations could have averted 59% of COVID hospitalizations among U.S. adults. Kaiser tallied 690,000 vaccine-preventable hospitalizations, at an average cost of $20,000. And it is estimated vaccinations could have prevented 163,000 U.S. deaths over the same period.  If vaccine hesitancy accounted for half of the more than 1 million new U.S. COVID hospitalizations since December, the added cost of preventable hospital stays could amount to another $10 billion.

Unthinkable loss.  Pennsylvania’s Mifflin County offers a snapshot into how one hard-hit community, with over 300 dead, is coping.  The county 60 miles northwest of Harrisburg leans heavily Republican — 77% of votes cast in 2020 were for Donald Trump — and the former president’s downplaying of covid-19 found fertile ground there.  Mifflin has one of the highest covid death rates among U.S. counties with at least 40,000 people, according to government data compiled by Johns Hopkins University — 591 deaths per 100,000 residents as of mid-March, compared with 298 deaths nationally. Mifflin County offers a snapshot into how one hard-hit community moved from skepticism about the scientific reality of the covid virus, and then about the vaccine, to coping with unbearable loss and processing the trauma.  Mifflin County Coroner Daniel Lynch isn’t over the stress of covid even as deaths have declined this year. As of mid-March, his office had counted 337 covid deaths in the county — about 60 more than the official tally kept by the state.  Among the people in the coroner’s count, 311 hadn’t received even one covid shot. Few residents wore masks even when cases were high nationally and locally.  “It was pure hell,” Lynch said. “I have been a coroner since 1996 and never got calls from nurses reporting deaths crying on the phone or facilities reporting two or three deaths at one time.”

Update April 9, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 80,146,451, deaths 981,748.  Fully vaccinated 218,235,689 (65.7%) booster-dose 98,533,836 (45.2%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 125,233,592 Moderna 75,958,243 J&J 16,891,645, Unknown 2-dose 152,209.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 50.95M Moderna 39.52M J&J 1.38M Unknown 29.35. In the past week, new daily cases fell 1%, deaths fell 21% COVID-related hospitalizations fell 3%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.47 million per day.  In a pattern the world has seen twice over the past year, a new version of the coronavirus is sweeping across the globe. Omicron’s BA.2 subvariant is already by far the world’s dominant form of the coronavirus, as recorded in the GISAID international repository of coronavirus genetic sequences analyzed by The Washington Post.  The impact of the BA.2 subvariant is unclear. An uptick in coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom and parts of Europe is attributed to the new version of the virus. Some experts say a new wave could hit the United States amid relaxed safety protocols in the same way that delta hit last summer when many thought the coronavirus was finished.

Update April 16, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 80,403,894, deaths 985,523.  Fully vaccinated 218,740,564 (65.9%) booster-dose 99,267,892 (45.4%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 125,550,561 Moderna 76,128,414 J&J 16,907,627, Unknown 2-dose 153,962.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 51.34M Moderna 39.79M J&J 1.39M Unknown 30.49k. In the past week, new daily cases rose 26%, deaths fell 1% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 0%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.53 million per day.  Even as the highly transmissible BA.2 omicron subvariant extends its dominance across the U.S., including the western region that incorporates California, a new coronavirus mashup combining BA.2 and the original omicron strain is gaining attention.  Omicron XE, which was first detected in the United Kingdom, has been found in the U.S. and, most recently, in Japan. While much is still unknown about the subvariant and what effect it will have on COVID-19’s spread, here’s what we know so far.  The XE variant is what experts call a “recombinant” of the BA.1 and BA.2 variants. Its name derives from the “X” prefix assigned for recombinants, said Stacia Wyman, senior genomics scientist at the Innovative Genomics Institute at UC Berkeley.  The coronavirus group of viruses make recombinants “pretty readily,” according to Shannon Bennett, chief of science at the California Academy of Sciences. However, whether the recombinant can be detected depends on whether the two parent strains are sufficiently different, she said.  Wyman said the XE subvariant likely arose from a person infected with both the BA.1 and BA.2 versions of the virus. “When the virus was replicating, there was an error and the two viruses combined,” she explained. “Then the combined virus replicates and is spread to other people.”

Update April 23, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 80,700,973, deaths 988,287.  Fully vaccinated 219,208,559 (66%) booster-dose 99,888,928 (45.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 125,841,802 Moderna 76,281,565 J&J 16,929,884, Unknown 2-dose 155,308.  Number of people with a booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 51.68M Moderna 40.01M J&J 1.39M Unknown 30.28k. In the past week, new daily cases rose 20%, deaths fell 26% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.46 million per day.  Too many Americans seem to believe the covid-19 pandemic is over — or at least that conditions have improved to such an extent that they can forgo precautions. This is most evident in the knee-jerk response to the court order this week lifting mask mandates in transportation settings, with many transportation agencies and corporations immediately dispensing with their requirements.  This is misguided. In reality, the United States has experienced a concerning rise in cases in recent weeks because of the spread of new omicron subvariants. Failing to take this seriously could put vulnerable Americans at risk.

Update April 30, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 81,094,164, deaths 990,527.  Fully vaccinated 219,610,128 (66.1%) booster-dose 100,509,996 (45.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 126,091,096 Moderna 76,412,497 J&J 16,949,697, Unknown 2-dose 156,838.  Number of people with a first booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 51.98M Moderna 40.22M J&J 1.40M Unknown 31.14k. In the past week, new daily cases rose 28%, deaths fell 13% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 10%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.50 million per day.  Vaccines for young kids could be available as soon as June, FDA official says.  Moderna requested emergency use authorization for its vaccine on Thursday, and Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, are expected to request authorization for their vaccines in coming weeks. Both have started submitting data to the agency.  Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in an interview that the agency would not delay either vaccine to wait for the other. The vaccines’ applications, he said, would be considered as soon as they are ready.  Parents, pediatricians, and politicians have expressed rising frustration that children younger than 5 remain ineligible for the shots, long after other Americans have received vaccinations and in many cases boosters.

Update May 7, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 81,094,164, deaths 990,527.  Fully vaccinated 219,610,128 (66.1%) booster-dose 100,509,996 (45.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 126,091,096 Moderna 76,412,497 J&J 16,949,697, Unknown 2-dose 156,838.  Number of people with a first booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 51.98M Moderna 40.22M J&J 1.40M Unknown 31.14k. In the past week, new daily cases rose 28%, deaths fell 13% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 10%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.50 million per day. 

Update May 14, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 81,094,164, deaths 990,527.  Fully vaccinated 219,610,128 (66.1%) booster-dose 100,509,996 (45.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 126,900,478 Moderna 76,826,283 J&J 16,990,830, Unknown 2-dose 160,841.  Number of people with a first booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 53.21M Moderna 41.02M J&J 2.42M Unknown 33.74k. In the past week, new daily cases rose 28%, deaths fell 13% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 10%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.50 million per day. 

Update May 22, 2022.  I messed up in that I forgot to update on Saturday, so I am doing it on Sunday, a day late.  Due to the time zone difference, this may not be a problem.  USA COVID-19 cases, 83,080,655, deaths, 999,254.  Fully vaccinated 220,878,432 (66.5%) booster-dose 102,694,522  (46.5%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 126,091,096 Moderna 76,412,497 J&J 16,949,697, Unknown 2-dose 156,838.  Number of people with a first booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 51.98M Moderna 40.22M J&J 1.40M Unknown 31.14k. In the past week, new daily cases rose 20.6% deaths rose 7.6% COVID-related hospitalizations rose 12%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.38 million per day.  The coronavirus is on the rise. Cases are up 57 percent across the US in the last two weeks, according to. Walensky noted at the briefing that one-third of Americans live in an area currently experiencing high or medium levels of transmission. Hospitalizations and deaths aren’t yet growing at the same rate, which likely reflects vaccinations and the availability of antivirals, but any increase in Covid-19’s spread puts people more at risk. Unless the American public more broadly — and Congress in particular — continues to take Covid-19 seriously, the US will endure a lot of unnecessary sickness and death over the rest of the year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Thursday that children ages 5 to 11 get a third dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to boost their immunity as cases and hospitalizations tick upward in many pockets of the United States.  CDC director Rochelle Walensky greenlit the recommendation Thursday evening, and she also encouraged parents of children in that age group who have not yet been vaccinated to get their first shot soon.

Update May 28, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 83,712,396, deaths 1,001,313.  Fully vaccinated 221,190,484 (66.6%) booster-dose 103,227,414 (46.7%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 127,103,268 Moderna 76,921,271 J&J 17,003,898, Unknown 2-dose 162,047.  Number of people with a first booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 53.54M Moderna 41.16M J&J 1.42M, Unknown 34.43K. In the past week, new daily cases rose 5%, deaths rose 19.1%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 5.7%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.39 million per day.  For the third year, Americans are greeting the unofficial start of summer shadowed by the specter of the coronavirus amid rising covid-19 cases and hospitalizations across the country.
The United States is recording more than 100,000 infections a day — at least five times higher than this point last year — as it confronts the most transmissible versions of the virus yet. Immunity built up because of the record winter outbreak appears to provide little protection against the latest variants, new research shows. And public health authorities are bracing for Memorial Day gatherings to fuel another bump in cases, potentially seeding a summer surge.

Update Jun 4, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 84,424,159, deaths 1,003,308.  Fully vaccinated 221,411,336 (66.7%) booster-dose 103,712,931 (46.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 127,253,579 Moderna 76,978,624 J&J 17,007,188, Unknown 2-dose 162,945.  Number of people with a first booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 53.87M Moderna 41.28M J&J 1.42M, Unknown 34.94K. In the past week, new daily cases fell 12%, deaths fell 24%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 9%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.45 million per day.  White House coronavirus response coordinator Ashish Jha said Thursday that long-awaited vaccinations for children younger than 5 could begin as early as June 21, pending decisions by regulators and public health officials.  States can begin to order vaccines Friday, with 10 million doses initially available. States have been asked to prioritize distribution to high-risk children, hard-to-reach areas and sites such as children’s hospitals that will be able to vaccinate large numbers of children quickly.  Most shots are expected to be administered in pediatricians’ offices. There are about 19 million children under 5 in the United States.

Update Jun 11, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 85,191,231, deaths 1,006,062.  Fully vaccinated 221,640,799 (66.8%) booster-dose 104,252,029 (47%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 127,410,288 Moderna 77,054,076 J&J 17,012,661, Unknown 2-dose 163,774.  Number of people with a first booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 54.23M Moderna 41.42M J&J 1.42M, Unknown 35.59k. In the past week, new daily cases rose 16%, deaths rose 44%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 3%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.29 million per day.  Scientists at the Food and Drug Administration on Friday said Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for infants and young children was safe and effective, setting the stage for a review by the agency’s outside advisers Wednesday and a potential authorization by the end of the week.

Update Jun 18, 2022.  (The CDC did not update statistics today, so this from yesterday). USA COVID-19 cases, 85,921,461, deaths 1,008,196.  Fully vaccinated 221,924,152 (66.8%) booster-dose 104,718,138 (47.2%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 127,603,112 Moderna 77,129,172 J&J 17,026,792, Unknown 2-dose 165,076.  Number of people with a first booster dose by vaccine type Pfizer 54.53M Moderna 41.54M J&J 1.43M, Unknown 36.20k. In the past week, new daily cases fell 13%, deaths fell 23%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 2%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.30 million per day.  International travelers will no longer need to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding flights to the United States, federal health officialsannounced Friday, ending one of the nation’s last pandemic-related travel requirements.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said science and data show the requirement is no longer necessary.  “CDC has determined that travelers have access to tools (e.g., vaccines, therapeutics, and recommended prevention measures) and guidance that allow travelers to make informed choices about the use of pre-departure testing and other prevention measures,” the order read.  The agency said it continues to recommend that individuals test before and after travel and after any known exposure to a person with covid-19. The Food and Drug Administration on Friday authorized the Pfizer and Moderna Covid vaccines for use in children as young as six months of age, setting the stage for a government push to make the shots available for the youngest children. The decision comes less than two days after a panel advising the FDA voted unanimously to recommend authorization, saying their benefits would outweigh any risks for young kids. The FDA also authorized the Moderna vaccine, which was previously cleared in adults over 18, for older children and adolescents, meaning both vaccines are cleared for all ages over 6 months.  According to the Kaiser Family Foundation COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor from May 2022, over half — 56% — of unvaccinated adults said they identify as Republican or lean Republican. Previous surveys from KFF have shown that reasons for not being vaccinated included believing the media exaggerates how serious the pandemic is and that getting vaccinated is a personal choice.  The study found that in counties where 70% or more voted Republican in the 2020 presidential election, there were more than 70 additional deaths per 100,000 people compared to counties that vote Democratically.

Update Jun 25, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 86,625,392, deaths 1,010,599.  Fully vaccinated 222,123,223 (66.9%) booster-dose 105,093,591 (47.3%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 127,742,825 Moderna 77,179,875 J&J 17,034,315, Unknown 2-dose 166,208.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 4%, deaths rose 12%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.28 million per day.  Pediatricians are preparing to administer the nation’s first coronavirus vaccines for children under 5 in coming days, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday signed off on giving the shots to as many as 19 million children across the United States.  CDC Director Rochelle Walensky endorsed the agency’s advisory panel’s unanimous recommendation to vaccinate all children as young as 6 months old with one of two vaccines — one by Moderna and the other by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech.  “Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against COVID-19,” Walensky said in a statement. “We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can.”  COVID vaccines saved nearly 20 million lives in first year. Researchers from Imperial College London estimated the shots prevented 1.9 million deaths in the United States during the first year they became available.

Update July 2, 2022.  (CDC did not update data tracker today due to 4th July long weekend).  USA COVID-19 cases, 87,407,521, deaths 1,013,261.  Fully vaccinated 222,271,398 (66.9%) booster-dose 106,275,891 (47.8%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 127,869,416 Moderna 77,174,361 J&J 17,054,917, Unknown 2-dose 172,704.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 8%, deaths rose 12%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 6%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.28 million per day.  This fall, vaccine makers will begin rolling out coronavirus booster vaccines tailored to fight the current phase of the pandemic.  Two days after outside experts voted in favor of a new vaccine adapted to protect against omicron, the Food and Drug Administration announced that the fall shots would include a component from BA.4 and BA.5, the omicron subvariants gaining ground in the United States.  The change shows the FDA trying to be nimbler in efforts to keep up with a changing virus. The precise formula has not been tested in people yet, but studies showed that vaccines tuned to fight a previous version of omicron modestly increased the short-term immune response in people compared with more shots of the original. The agency will depend in part on that data as it reviews the new vaccines.

Update July 9, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 88,174,283, deaths 1,015,568.  Fully vaccinated 222,455,652 (67.0%) booster-dose 106,615,227 (47.9%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 127,996,640 Moderna 77,222,614 J&J 17,062,415, Unknown 2-dose 173,983.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 4%, deaths fell 12%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 11%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.19 million per day.  The worst virus variant just arrived. The pandemic is not over.  The pandemic is a relentless race against Mother Nature. Waves of infection took millions of lives, and only highly effective vaccines prevented even more deaths. Now, the coronavirus is speeding up once again, mutating, evading immunity and still on the march. The arrival of subvariant BA.5 should be a reminder that the finish line in this race is nowhere to be seen.  What’s BA.5? This is the latest subvariant of omicron, which stormed the planet late last year and caused a huge wave of infection. As of now, BA.5 and a closely related variant, BA.4, account for about 70 percent of all infections in the United States, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based in part on modeling. These two newcomers are easing out an earlier variant, BA.2.  The obscure names should not hide the punch of BA.5. Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine at Scripps Research, says that BA.5 “is the worst version of the virus that we’ve seen.” He adds, “It takes immune escape, already extensive, to the next level, and, as a function of that, enhanced transmissibility,” well beyond earlier versions of omicron.

Update July 16, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 89,067,445, deaths 1,018,578.  Fully vaccinated 222,682,315 (67.1%) booster-dose 107,004,061 (48.1%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 128,153,331 Moderna 77,281,225 J&J 17,071,585, Unknown 2-dose 176,174.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 22%, deaths rose 26%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 7%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.17 million per day.  The coronavirus pandemic coincided with the worst backslide in global vaccination coverage in a generation, according to new data from the United Nations. This came despite a historic effort to develop and distribute billions of coronavirus vaccines during the pandemic.  The BA.5 omicron subvariant, which is now the most prevalent coronavirus strain in the United States, is four times more resistant to COVID-19 vaccines, according to a new study.  The strain, which is considered “hypercontagious,” according to the Mayo Clinic, is more defiant against messenger RNA vaccines, which include Pfizer and Moderna. The BA.5 strain represented 65% of cases from July 3 to 9, according to data from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Update July 23, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 89,972,868, deaths 1,021,546.  Fully vaccinated 222,950,194 (67.2%) booster-dose 107,468,726 (48.2%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 128,333,930 Moderna 77,356,508 J&J 17,081,578, Unknown 2-dose 178,178.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 5%, deaths rose 3%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.15 million per day.  Second booster shots of the coronavirus vaccine for people younger than 50 are on hold as the Biden administration tries to accelerate a fall vaccination campaign using reformulated shots that target the now-dominant omicron subvariants, according to federal health officials.  Officials are hoping vaccine makers — Moderna and Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech — are able to make the updated shots available as soon as early to mid-September instead of later in the fall.  The retooled boosters will contain components from the omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 as well as the original formula, which was based on the version of the virus that spread globally in early 2020. The hope is that the redesigned boosters will be more effective in dealing with an evolving virus.

Update July 30, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 90,895,306, deaths 1,024,611.  Fully vaccinated 223,245,563 (67.2%) booster-dose 107,924,198 (48.3%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 128,490,041 Moderna 77,472,533 J&J 17,090,635, Unknown 2-dose 177,386.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 5%, deaths rose 3%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.22 million per day.  The Health and Human Services Department has secured 171 million doses of new Covid vaccines that target the omicron variant in preparation for a fall booster campaign.  The U.S. has agreed to purchase 66 million doses of Moderna’s new vaccine formula in a $1.74 billion deal, HHS announced Friday. The Moderna order comes on top of a $3.2 billion agreement to purchase 105 million doses of Pfizer’s updated shots that target omicron.  HHS expects to receive the first deliveries from Pfizer and Moderna early this fall. The new vaccines that target omicron still need to be authorized by the Food and Drug Administration and cleared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The FDA last month told Pfizer and Moderna to develop vaccines with a new formula that targets the omicron BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants in addition to the original strain of Covid that first emerged in Wuhan, China, in 2019.

Update August 6, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 91,805,380, deaths 1,028,062.  Fully vaccinated 223,035,566 (67.2%) booster-dose 107,490,375 (48.2%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 128,326,419 Moderna 77,468,499 J&J 17,054,930, Novavax 2-dose 2,365 Unknown 2-dose 178,754.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 8%, deaths rose 15%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 1%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.25 million per day.  Fauci warns of ‘trouble’ for those with BA.5 variant if not up to date on vaccines.  More than two years into the coronavirus pandemic, Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, said he understands people are exhausted, but is urging those who are not up to date on the vaccines to get the shots — this time, as the latest omicron subvariant, BA.5, has become the dominant strain in the United States.  BA.5, which has been called “the worst version of the virus,” accounts for more than 85 percent of cases of covid-19, with more than 41 percent of U.S. counties experiencing a high covid-19 community level, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  CDC data shows that 67 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated but only 48 percent has received the first booster shot. Only 32 percent of people 50 and older — who are eligible for a second booster — have received that extra dose.

Update August 13, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 92,560,911, deaths 1,031,426.  Fully vaccinated 223,475,170 (67.3%) booster-dose 107,872,738 (48.3%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 128,558,022 Moderna 77,647,511 J&J 17,064,965, Novavax 2-dose 2,472 Unknown 2-dose 178,784.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 15%, deaths fell 3%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 2%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.25 million per day.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday loosened many of its recommendations for battling the coronavirus, a strategic shift that puts more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions, to limit viral spread.  No longer do schools and other institutions need to screen apparently healthy students and employees as a matter of course. The CDC is putting less emphasis on social distancing — and the new guidance has dropped the “six foot” standard. The quarantine rule for unvaccinated people is gone. The agency’s focus now is on highly vulnerable populations and how to protect them — not on the vast majority of people who at this point have some immunity against the virus and are unlikely to become severely ill.  The new recommendations signal that the Biden administration and its medical advisers have decided that the lower fatality rate from covid-19 in a heavily vaccinated population permits a less demanding set of guidelines.

Update August 20, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 93,240,120, deaths 1,034,668.  Fully vaccinated 223,684,995 (67.4%) booster-dose 108,217,633 (48.4%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 128,685,014 Moderna 77,783,220 J&J 17,072,904, Novavax 2-dose 2,254 Unknown 2-dose 180,465.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 6%, deaths fell 1%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 3%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.17 million per day.  The term “long covid” came from early patients who called themselves “long-haulers” when their pandemic maladies lingered for months. It is now increasingly apparent that long covid presents a potential tidal wave of suffering — afflictions stemming from covid-19 that refuse to go away. The scope of the problem is still unknown. But a new study from the Netherlands offers important clues.  In a paper published in the Lancet, Aranka Ballering and colleagues at the Lifelines Corona Research Initiative report on an effort to discover the nature and prevalence of post-covid conditions based on a large population sample. The report corrects for those who had certain symptoms before the virus infection, and also for disease dynamics in the general population. That helped them drill down on actual damage caused by the pandemic. They found that post-covid symptoms lingered in about 1 in 8 people. If true, such a proportion could mean 70 million or more sufferers of long covid worldwide based on the total of over 588 million infected to date, and probably far more. Some studies have given even higher prevalence. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found in a recent large study that 1 in 5 adults from 18 to 64 years old who had covid, and 1 in 4 aged 65 years and over, had at least one persisting health condition related to their covid infection. Yet another survey put the prevalence at 43 percent.  The Netherlands study was based on digital questionnaires sent to patients between March 31, 2020, and Aug. 2, 2021 — mostly before the delta and omicron waves — and recorded long-covid symptoms from three to five months after the initial infection. The main symptoms bothering people were chest pain, difficulties with breathing, lump in throat, pain when breathing, painful muscles, heavy arms or legs, loss of taste and smell, alternating feelings of hot and cold, tingling extremities, and general tiredness. The study found some symptoms that were “not significantly increased” in severity at 90 to 150 days after infection, suggesting they might not be associated with long covid: headache, itchy eyes, dizzyness, back pain and nausea.  Other studies have identified a broader constellation of troubles among long-haulers affecting nearly every organ system. What the new study did not include, but remains a serious complaint among long-covid patients, is cognitive difficulty — so-called brain fog in the aftermath of covid.  A recent research plan published by the Biden administration makes the point that long covid is real, but the impact is not yet fully grasped. Disease and disability could force many people to work less, or differently, affecting the economy and workplace; the health-care burdens could be enormous; long covid could exacerbate racial, ethnic and economic disparities. The Biden plan notes, “Pandemics such as influenza and polio resulted in long-term consequences that persisted for decades.” So will this pandemic. The challenge is going to be how to cope with it for years to come.

Update August 27, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 93,880,573, deaths 1,037,953.  Fully vaccinated 223,914,723 (67.4%) booster-dose 108,540,822 (48.5%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 128,817,297 Moderna 77,824,706 J&J 17,080,700, Novavax 2-dose 2,591 Unknown 2-dose 182,348.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 7%, deaths rose 0%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.15 million per day.  Moderna sued Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech on Friday, alleging the rival firms improperly used its foundational technology in developing their coronavirus vaccine. The suit sets up a legal battle between the most prominent companies that helped curb the coronavirus pandemic in the United States by developing highly effective shots in record time.  “We believe that Pfizer and BioNTech unlawfully copied Moderna’s inventions, and they have continued to use them without permission,” Moderna Chief Legal Officer Shannon Thyme Klinger said in a company news release. The company said it filed suits in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts and in Germany, where BioNTech is headquartered.  The prospect of a legal battle between the mRNA vaccine makers points to the high stakes in the competition between Pfizer, a global pharmaceutical giant, and Moderna, a start-up biotechnology company based in Massachusetts that had never before sold a product before it won emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for itscoronavirus vaccine in late 2020.  Patent lawsuits, common in the biotech industry, typically play out over years and often wind up in federal appeals courts. It could be three to five years before Moderna’s dispute with Pfizer-BioNTech is resolved.  BioNTech stated that its “work is original, and we will vigorously defend it against all allegations of patent infringement.”  “We are filing these lawsuits to protect the innovative mRNA technology platform that we pioneered, invested billions of dollars in creating, and patented during the decade preceding the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moderna chief executive Stéphane Bancel said in the company’s release.

Update September 3, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 94,487,185, deaths 1,041,816.  Fully vaccinated 224,113,439 (67.5%) booster-dose 108,806,974 (48.5%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 128,930,817 Moderna 77,898,576 J&J 17,087,399, Novavax 2-dose 3,738 Unknown 2-dose 185,029.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 5%, deaths rose 8%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 3%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.13 million per day.  The FDA gave emergency authorization to a “bivalent” vaccine that targets both the original virus and the BA.4 and BA.5 variants that now dominate the world.  An advisory committee to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is scheduled to meet Thursday to discuss who should receive the boosters. The CDC director will also need to sign off before the boosters become available.  As requested by the companies, the Pfizer-BioNTech booster was authorized for anyone ages 12 and up, while Moderna’s vaccine is authorized for adults only. Both were authorized for use at least two months after any previous COVID-19 shots.  The companies said they are ready to ship the modified boosters in September. Pfizer has said it has the capacity to provide up to 15 million doses by Sept. 9 from its Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin, production site.

Update September 10, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 94,973,074, deaths 1,044,461.  Fully vaccinated 224,367,691 (67.6%) booster-dose 108,953,688 (48.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 129,124,012 Moderna 77,949,931 J&J 17,094,523, Novavax 2-dose 4,872 Unknown 2-dose 185,940.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 23%, deaths fell 29%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell/rose 0%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.13 million per day.  As part of its push to encourage vaccine-weary Americans to get the updated Covid shot, the White House put forth a new selling point Tuesday: to view it as a first annual shot, akin to the annual flu shot. “If you are vaccinated and 12 and older, get the new COVID-19 shot this fall,” President Biden said in a statement Tuesday evening. “This once-a-year shot can reduce your risk of getting COVID-19, reduce your chance of spreading it to others, and dramatically reduce your risk of severe COVID-19.” The messaging from the White House — including a briefing earlier Tuesday where health officials outlined the rollout of the new bivalent booster shots authorized last week — reflects another transition point in the country’s fight against the coronavirus. Federal health officials last month, for example, tossed out quarantine and certain testing guidelines.  “It is becoming increasingly clear, that looking forward with the Covid-19 pandemic, in the absence of a dramatically different variant, we likely are moving towards a path with a vaccination cadence similar to that of the annual influenza vaccine, with annual updated Covid-19 shots matched to the currently circulating strains for most of the population,” Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease official, said at the briefing. Overall, the signal from the administration has been that the country has moved past the emergency phase of the pandemic, even as it urges people to get vaccinated and boosted to ensure they are well-protected. Even though Covid is not the threat it once was, some 400 people are still dying a day in this country, with higher death rates among people who are unvaccinated and who have not been boosted.

Update September 17, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 95,412,766, deaths 1,047,741.  Fully vaccinated 224,636,858 (67.7%) booster-dose 109,201,576 (48.6%).  Vaccine fully vaccinated by series: Pfizer 129,266,829 Moderna 78,050,658 J&J 17,099,935, Novavax 2-dose 6,278 Unknown 2-dose 187,441.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 10%, deaths rose 13%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 8%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.13 million per day.  WHO Chief Strikes Optimistic Tone On COVID: ‘The End Is In Sight.’  Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said global COVID deaths last week were the lowest since March 2020. Speaking at the U.N. agency’s COVID briefing on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said “we have never been in a better position to end the pandemic.” “We are not there yet, but the end is in sight,” he said. For the week starting on Sept. 5, the agency recorded over 11,000 deaths worldwide, a 22% decrease from the week before. Global case numbers also fell by 28% from the previous week. As of Sept. 13, the U.S. had the world’s highest number of reported deaths in the previous seven days, and the second-highest number of reported cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projected that COVID deaths in the U.S. “will remain stable or have an uncertain trend” over the next four weeks. Tedros cautioned that we still risk more variants, more deaths and further uncertainty.

Update September 24, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 95,795,378, deaths 1,050,631.  Fully vaccinated 224,980,931 (67.8%) booster-dose 109,578,270 (48.7%).  Note, the prior statistics are no longer available.  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 502,247,675 Moderna 309,366,020 J&J 31,272,300, Novavax 806,100 Unknown 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 12%, deaths fell 4%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 3%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.13 million per day.  “The pandemic is over” is surely what everyone wanted to hear. President Biden made the declaration in a Sunday “60 Minutes” broadcast. But before rushing out to the ticker-tape parade, sit down. The pandemic is still raging — in the sense that a dangerous virus is infecting, sickening and killing people, mutating to survive and haunting the globe. The pandemic has shifted — and normalcy has returned in many ways — but it is not over.  No hard-and-fast rules mark the exact moment a pandemic ends. The nation and the world have come a long way since the early lockdowns and the devastating delta and omicron waves. Vaccines against the coronavirus are safe and highly effective, giving people confidence to resume many activities. Classrooms are back in person, air travel has revived, commuter traffic is picking up. A lot of the worst misery is in the rearview mirror.  But the pandemic is surely not over. The seven-day moving average of daily deaths in the United States is nearly 400 and has plateaued at this terrible level since April. The average of new daily cases is 60,000, way higher than in the spring. Weighed down by the virus, average life expectancy of Americans fell in 2020 and 2021, the sharpest two-year decline in nearly 100 years. Covid-19 is the third-leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease and cancer. Long covid — those suffering a constellation of maladies after the immediate symptoms dissipate — threatens millions of people.

Update October 1, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 96,143,199, deaths 1,053,789.  Fully vaccinated 225,284,115 (67.9%) booster-dose 109,970,523 (48.8%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 508,950,075 Moderna 313,014,120 Moderna Updated Booster 9,122,200 J&J 31,296,200, Novavax 827,000 Unknown 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 11%, deaths rose 6%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 5%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.13 million per day.  The virus that causes COVID-19 can infect and replicate in fat cells, and cause inflammation in fat tissue, Stanford researchers found in a new study that could help explain why obese people are at higher risk for severe COVID.  Since the early days of the pandemic, doctors and researchers have observed that people who are obese, across many ethnic groups, experience disproportionately bad COVID outcomes, including hospitalization, ICU admission, mechanical ventilation and death. But it wasn’t clear how or why. The study , published last week in the journal Science Translational Medicine, offers some potential clues, though its authors caution there’s still much to uncover about the link between obesity and severe COVID. The analysis found that SARS-CoV-2 can infect two types of cells in fat tissue — the fat cells themselves, called adipocytes, as well as immune cells in fat tissue, called macrophages. When the virus infects macrophages, it results in a big inflammatory response, which potentially contributes to overall inflammation seen in severe COVID cases. The analysis also uncovered another important and potentially concerning finding: the fat around vital organs, known as visceral fat, can also be infected with the virus. This type of fat makes up a smaller proportion of the body’s fat than subcutaneous fat, which is just under the skin and makes up the majority of the body’s fat.

Update October 8, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 96,443,656, deaths 1,056,702.  Fully vaccinated 225,870,613 (68%) booster-dose 110,560,974 (48.9%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 514,275,775 Moderna 316,796,720 Moderna Updated Booster 12,532,500 J&J 31,320,600, Novavax 841,300 Unknown 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 22%, deaths fell 4%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 1%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.548 million per day.  Few Americans get new covid booster shot ahead of projected winter surge.  Thousands may die needlessly, some experts fear.  Many Americans, worn down by a never-ending pandemic and unsure about next steps as the nation enters its third covid winter. Some have stopped paying attention to health officials’ recommendations altogether, despite projections of a fall and winter wave with the potential to sicken millions and kill tens of thousands, particularly the elderly and sick. About half of Americans say they’ve heard little or nothing about the shots, according to a recent tracking poll by the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation.  “We have got to explain the value of these vaccines for the American people … [and] why this is probably the single most important health intervention they can make right now to protect themselves and their health for the next three to six months,” Ashish Jha, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator, said in an interview.

Update October 15, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 96,713,658, deaths 1,059,390.  Fully vaccinated 226,200,755 (68.1%) booster-dose 110,835,775 (49%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 519,363,315 Moderna 320,293,420 Moderna Updated Booster 15,449,200 J&J 31,338,500, Novavax 856,900 Unknown 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 1%, deaths fell 11%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 0%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.327 million per day.  Covid vaccines prevented at least 330,000 deaths and nearly 700,000 hospitalizations among adult Medicare recipients in 2021, the Health and Human Services Department said in a new report published Friday. The reduction in hospitalizations due to vaccination saved more than $16 billion in medical costs, according to the HHS report. A 10% increase in vaccination coverage was associated with a 12% and 15% decline in the chances of hospitalization and death, respectively, among adult Medicare recipients, according to the study. The HHS study looked at county-level data on vaccination rates and changes in hospitalization and death among a sample of Medicare beneficiaries ages 18 and older. Texas and Hawaii were not included in the study due to incomplete vaccination data. The overwhelming majority of Medicare recipients, 86%, are ages 65 and older. Select groups under 65, such as people with disabilities, are also eligible for coverage. People who are not seniors make up about 14% of Medicare beneficiaries, according to data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The elderly face the highest risk of severe disease and death from Covid. Nearly 93% of people ages 65 and older in the U.S. have received two doses of a Covid vaccine, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Despite the vaccine coverage within the highest risk group, more than 300 people are still dying each day on average from Covid, while more than 3,300 are hospitalized daily, according to CDC data. Dr. Ashish Jha, who heads the White House Covid task force, said 70% of Covid deaths are among people ages 75 and older. “This is unacceptable, particularly because we can now prevent almost every Covid death in the country with vaccines and treatments that we have,” Jha told reporters during a call Friday.

Update October 22, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 97,063,357, deaths 1,065,152.  Fully vaccinated 226,594,560 (68.2%) booster-dose 111,367,843 (49.1%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 41,359,740 Moderna 323,571,420 Moderna Updated Booster 18,371,100 J&J 31,353,900, Novavax 872,300 Unknown 0.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 17%, deaths rose 11%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 1%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 0.394 million per day.  Two new COVID variants could drive the next surge. Here’s why they’re causing surprise and concern. Concern is rapidly growing over emerging omicron coronavirus variant BQ.1 and its sibling BQ.1.1, which experts say appear to be strong candidates for a winter surge in the U.S. and could knock the BA.5 variant out of its dominant spot. The BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 variants, descendants of BA.5, were first identified in mid-July, according to UC Berkeley infectious disease expert John Swartzberg. They were first detected in the U.S. just a month ago and each rose quickly to account for 5.7% of cases sequenced nationwide for the week ending Oct. 15, according to updated estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s variant tracker. Meanwhile, BA.5, which has dominated the U.S. coronavirus picture since the summer, has been on the decline, dropping from its Aug. 20 height of 86.5% of sequenced cases to 67.9% on Oct. 15. BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 are worrisome because they both appear to be more transmissible and could possibly be more immune evasive than earlier variants. Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, expressed concern over the two new variants last week. “When you get variants like that, you look at what their rate of increase is as a relative proportion of the variants, and this has a pretty troublesome doubling time,” he said in an interview Friday with CBS News. Infections from BQ.1.1 have been doubling weekly since mid-September in the United Kingdom, leading to a significant increase in hospitalizations.

Update October 29, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 97,329,787, deaths 1,066,351.  Fully vaccinated 226,933,827 (68.4%).  (CDC is changing statistical results this week).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 52,235,215 Moderna 326,268,320 Moderna Updated Booster 20,757,900 J&J 31,364,200, Novavax 891,200 Unknown 0.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 9%, deaths rose 1%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 3%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 118,813 per day.  A common viral illness called respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, that can cause trouble breathing for infants and young children is on the rise across the country. While the disease typically produces mild cold-like symptoms, it can be very harmful for some.  According to the CDC, RSV detections and hospitalizations have increased, with some regions of the U.S. “nearing seasonal peak levels.” But this year, the rise is happening earlier and volumes are higher. And this is coming at a time when children’s hospitals are already facing limited resources due to patients with other issues, such as COVID-19 and the flu.

Update November 5, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 97,604,763, deaths 1,068,667.  Fully vaccinated 227,377,753 (68.5%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 553,982,505 Pfizer Updated Booster 51,178,140 Moderna 341,028,680 Moderna Updated Booster 24,034,600 J&J 32,496,900, Novavax 952,500 Unknown 0.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 2%, deaths rose 95%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 3%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 411,287 per day.  Pfizer announced Friday that its updated coronavirus booster shot targeting the omicron variant succeeded in strengthening the body’s army of disease-fighting antibodies, even as questions persist about the vaccine’s continued effectiveness against a swarm of later-generation versions of omicron.  The findings reinforce the public health message that the new bivalent boosters, which were rebooted in September to match newer omicron subvariants, could help protect people this fall and winter.  One of the most threatening new variants gaining ground in the United States, BQ.1.1, is related to BA.5, a component of the new booster, so Marks said he was hopeful the bivalent vaccine would hold up, particularly against severe illness and hospitalization.

Update November 12, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 97,889,652 deaths 1,070,947.  Fully vaccinated 227,802,408 (68.6%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 541,270,615 Pfizer Updated Booster 52,795,340 Moderna 331,456,120 Moderna Updated Booster 25,193,300 J&J 31,384,500, Novavax 935,500 Unknown 0.  (I am not sure what is going on here, but CDC figures for this week are lower than last week). In the past week, new daily cases rose 7%, deaths rose 1%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 2%.  The current average rate of vaccinations in the is U.S. 297,391 per day.  A cruise ship carrying some 800 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus docked in downtown Sydney on Saturday, triggering memories of a deadly ship-related outbreak in Australia’s largest city in the early, pre-vaccine days of the pandemic.  The Majestic Princess, which returned from New Zealand, is carrying more than 4,000 people, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC). Princess Cruises, the cruise line, said in a statement that all guests onboard took a rapid antigen test within 24 hours of disembarking and that passengers who had tested positive would exit separately and not take public transport. Australia no longer requires people who have tested positive for the virus to isolate, though local authorities have issued guidance that covid patients onboard ships should isolate for five days after testing positive.

Update November 19, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 98,174,364 deaths 1,073,115.  Fully vaccinated 228,154,832 (68.7%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 545,438,475 Pfizer Updated Booster 55,845,300 Moderna 333,4323,620 Moderna Updated Booster 26,741,700 J&J 31,395,600, Novavax 949,400 Unknown 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 2%, deaths fell 8%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 0%.  New coronavirus subvariants are rapidly spreading across the country, overtaking the strain that led to a U.S. summer wave. Cases have begun to tick upward after a monthslong decline, just ahead of the holidays and a cold weather front that will drive people indoors. While a rise in cases may be expected this winter, public health experts voiced optimism that any wave won’t be as severe as surges the past two winters. The uncertainty stems in part from dealing with an unpredictable virus that continues to evolve, giving rise to new emerging offshoots.  “The BQ.1, BQ.1.1, those are the variants that look like they’re going to predominate,” said Dr. Warner Greene, a senior investigator with the Gladstone Institutes. “They’re more immune-evasive, which means there will probably be more infections. But they don’t appear to have any greater pathogenicity than the original omicron, so that’s good news.”  He added, “There’s going to be a swarm of variants. Which ones take over may be different in different areas. But it’s unclear to what extent there will be a surge.”

Update November 26, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 98,481,551 deaths 1,075,779.  Fully vaccinated 228,390,445 (68.8%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 550,600,725 Pfizer Updated Booster 59,402,350 Moderna 335,687,270 Moderna Updated Booster 28,462,850 J&J 31,401,900, Novavax 963,800 Unknown 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 0%, deaths rose 24%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 4%.  For the first time, a majority of Americans dying from the coronavirus received at least the primary series of the vaccine.  Fifty-eight percent of coronavirus deaths in August were people who were vaccinated or boosted, according to an analysis conducted for The Health 202 by Cynthia Cox, vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation.  It’s a continuation of a troubling trend that has emerged over the past year. As vaccination rates have increased and new variants appeared, the share of deaths of people who were vaccinated has been steadily rising. In September 2021, vaccinated people made up just 23 percent of coronavirus fatalities. In January and February this year, it was up to 42 percent. It’s still true that vaccinated groups are at a lower risk of dying from a covid-19 infection than the unvaccinated when the data is adjusted for age. An analysis released by the CDC last week underscores the protection that additional booster shots offer against severe illness and death as immunity wanes.

Update December 3, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 98,777,220 deaths 1,077,303.  Fully vaccinated 228,369,460 (68.8%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 552,326,475 Pfizer Updated Booster 60,467,100 Moderna 336,568,120 Moderna Updated Booster 28,986,200 J&J 31,409,900, Novavax 970,900 Unknown 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 3%, deaths fell 41%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 22%.  Covid deaths skew older, reviving questions about ‘acceptable loss.’ The pandemic has become a plague of the elderly, with nearly 9 out of 10 deaths in people 65 or older.  More than 300 people are still dying each day on average from covid-19, most of them 65 or older, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While that’s much lower than the 2,000 daily toll at the peak of the delta wave, it is still roughly two to three times the rate at which people die of the flu — renewing debate about what is an “acceptable loss.” And while older Americans have consistently been the worst hit during the crisis, as evident in the scores of early nursing home deaths, that trend has become more pronounced. Today, nearly 9 in 10 covid deaths are in people 65 or older — the highest rate ever, according to a Washington Post analysis of CDC data. Unlike flu, which impacts both the very young and the very old, the coronavirus appears to put mostly older people at higher risk of severe disease and death. The proportion of deaths among those 65 or older has fluctuated from eight out of 10 in the first few months of the pandemic, to a low of 6 out of 10 when the delta wave struck in the summer of 2021, to a high of 9 out of 10 today.  When it comes to the coronavirus, though, deaths in Americans over 65 fell dramatically after the arrival of the original series of vaccines since seniors were the most likely to get them. But booster rates for older Americans are now lagging: According to the CDC, 98 percent of those ages 65 to 74 and 96 percent of people 75 and over completed an initial two-shot course. Those rates fall to 22 and 25 percent respectively for the new omicron-specific booster.

Update December 10, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 99,241,649 deaths 1,080,472.  Fully vaccinated 228,604,758 (68.9%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 555,832,115 Pfizer Updated Booster 62,685,100 Moderna 338,024,320 Moderna Updated Booster 29,948,300 J&J 31,416,400, Novavax 984,600 Unknown 0.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 57%, deaths rose 103%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 6%. More than previous versions of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, the emerging BQ.1, BQ.1.1 and XBB subvariants — descendants of the dominant omicron strain — are capable of getting around the immunity gained from vaccination or prior infection, studies warn. Their wily evasiveness makes approved vaccines less effective at preventing infection and compromises the capability of treatments meant to protect immunocompromised individuals, experts said, though noting that the latest booster is still better than no booster at all. Across the U.S., the BQ.1 and BQ.1.1 subvariants have rapidly become the leading sources of COVID-19, accounting for 68% of new infections, according to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. XBB, the subvariant with the most key mutations, currently makes up less than 5% of cases nationwide. The concern among scientists is that the BQ and XBB subvariants are “the most immune evasive yet,” said Nadia Roan, a senior investigator at Gladstone Institute of Virology, a Bay Area-based biomedical research center. This means they’re better able to slip past the immune system’s frontline defenses and infect an individual. “It’s not unexpected that these new variants have evolved ways to become more immune-evasive, but I do think it means that we should be more vigilant,” Roan said.

Update December 17, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 99,705,095 deaths 1,083,279.  Fully vaccinated 228,831,995 (68.9%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 559,352,465 Pfizer Updated Booster 64,638,010 Moderna 339,558,720 Moderna Updated Booster 30,966,700 J&J 31,425,900, Novavax 1,004,300, Other 200.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 0%, deaths fell 12%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 29%.  The Biden administration is again making some free COVID-19 tests available to all U.S. households as it unveils its contingency plans for potential coronavirus surges this winter.  After a three-month hiatus, the administration is making four rapid virus tests available through starting Thursday, a senior administration official said. COVID-19 cases have shown a marked increase after the Thanksgiving holiday, and further increases are projected from indoor gathering and travel around Christmas and New Year’s.  The administration is putting personnel and equipment on standby should they be needed to help overwhelmed hospitals and nursing homes, as was necessary in earlier waves of the virus. So far, there have been no requests for assistance, but surge teams, ventilators and personal protective equipment are ready, the official said. The Biden administration is also urging states and local governments to do more to encourage people to get the updated bivalent COVID-19 vaccines, which scientists say are more effective at protecting against serious illness and death from the currently circulating variants.

Update December 24, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 100,216,983 deaths 1,086,197.  Fully vaccinated 228,989,746 (69%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 562,146,285 Pfizer Updated Booster 66,511,930 Moderna 341,642,820 Moderna Updated Booster 32,076,900 J&J 31,433,200, Novavax 1,019,500, Other 1,056,400.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 10%, deaths rose 4%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell/rose 0%. We are nearly three years into the covid-19 pandemic, and the debate about the need for health measures such as vaccine and mask mandates is as hot as ever. One big reason for that: long covid.  Broadly speaking, the condition refers to any symptoms persisting weeks to months after an initial covid infection. But dozens of symptoms have been attributed to long covid — some mild or annoying, such as persistent loss of taste or smell, and others more severe, such as extreme fatigue or cognitive dysfunction (or “brain fog”). As a result, health agencies still do not have a uniform definition, and doctors lack clear guidance for diagnosing it. It would not be surprising to eventually find out that we have been lumping multiple distinct post-covid syndromes under one umbrella.  A recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made waves by suggesting that long covid has killed thousands of Americans since the start of the pandemic. But the study was more complicated than headlines suggest. While it found that thousands of people died with long covid listed as contributing cause on their death certificates, nearly one-third of those cases recorded another cause of death, such as cancer, Alzheimer’s disease and even unintentional injury. It’s also important to note that the age-adjusted death rate for long covid in this study was only 6.3 per 1 million persons. By comparison, the death rate for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) a rare but fatal disease better known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is about 17 per 1 million persons.

Update December 31, 2022.  USA COVID-19 cases, 100,622,056 deaths 1,088,481.  Fully vaccinated 229,135,170 (69%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 564,453,485 Pfizer Updated Booster 68,445,130 Moderna 342,216,120 Moderna Updated Booster 33,090,400 J&J 31,435,100, Novavax 1,022,300, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 21%, deaths fell 14%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 13%.  Nearly three years into the pandemic, scientists are still trying to figure out why some people get long COVID and why a small portion have lasting symptoms. Millions of people worldwide have had long COVID, reporting various symptoms including fatigue, lung problems, and brain fog and other neurological symptoms. Evidence suggests most recover substantially within a year, but recent data show that it has contributed to more than 3,500 U.S. deaths. Many studies and anecdotal evidence suggest that women are more likely than men to develop long COVID. Women’s immune systems generally mount stronger reactions to viruses, bacteria, parasites and other germs, noted Sabra Klein, a Johns Hopkins professor who studies immunity. Women are also much more likely than men to have autoimmune diseases, where the body mistakenly attacks its own healthy cells. Some scientists believe long COVID could result from an autoimmune response triggered by the virus. Women’s bodies also tend to have more fat tissue and emerging research suggests the coronavirus may hide in fat after infection. Scientists also are studying whether women’s fluctuating hormone levels may increase the risks. Another possible factor: Women are more likely than men to seek health care and often more attuned to changes in their bodies, Klein noted. “I don’t think we should ignore that,” she said. Biology and behavior are probably both at play, Klein said. Several studies suggest the ubiquitous Epstein-Barr virus could play a role in some cases of long COVID. Inflammation caused by coronavirus infection can activate herpes viruses, which remain in the body after causing an acute infection, said Dr. Timothy Henrich, a virus expert at the University of California, San Francisco. Obesity is a risk factor for severe COVID-19 infections and scientists are trying to understand why. Stanford University researchers are among those who have found evidence that the coronavirus can infect fat cells. In a recent study, they found the virus and signs of inflammation in fat tissue taken from people who had died from COVID.

Update January 7, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 101,094,670 deaths 1,091,184.  Fully vaccinated 229,254,623 (69.1%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 556,920,395 Pfizer Updated Booster 70,300,080 Moderna 342,955,820 Moderna Updated Booster 33,615,200 J&J 31,439,600, Novavax 1,027,300, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 17%, deaths rose 8%, COVID-related hospitalizations rose 4%.  The XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant that’s currently dominating the U.S. is the most contagious version of Covid-19 yet, but it doesn’t appear to make people sicker, according to the World Health Organization.  Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s Covid-19 technical lead, said global health officials are worried about how quickly the subvariant is spreading in the northeastern U.S. The number of people infected with XBB.1.5 has been doubling in the U.S. about every two weeks, making it the most common variant circulating in the country.  “It is the most transmissible subvariant that has been detected yet,” Van Kerkhove told reporters during a press conference in Geneva on Wednesday. “The reason for this are the mutations that are within this subvariant of omicron allowing this virus to adhere to the cell and replicate easily.”  It has been detected in 29 countries so far but it could be even more widespread, Van Kerkhove said. Tracking Covid variants has become difficult as genomic sequencing declines across the world, she said.

Update January 14, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 101,518,229 deaths 1,095,149.  Fully vaccinated 229,359,062 (69.1%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 570,072,625 Pfizer Updated Booster 72,479,490 Moderna 344,684,420 Moderna Updated Booster 34,817,500 J&J 31,451,100, Novavax 1,041,300, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 10%, deaths rose 47%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 9%.  As the United States enters its third full covid winter, a top administration official is warning that the permanence of the coronavirus in the disease landscape could mean brutal and long-lasting seasonal surges of cold-weather illnesses for years to come, resulting in hospitals struggling to care for non-covid emergencies and unable to give patients timely, lifesaving treatments. Winter has traditionally been crunch time for hospitals because of influenza and another seasonal pathogen, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Now SARS-CoV-2 has joined them to form an unholy trinity of pathogens that surge in the cold months. White House covid-19 response coordinator Ashish Jha said the American health-care system may not be able to withstand the continued viral onslaught, straining the system’s ability to care for other serious illnesses. “I am worried that we are going to have, for years, our health system being pretty dysfunctional, not being able to take care of heart attack patients, not being able to take care of cancer patients, not being able to take care of the kid who’s got appendicitis because we’re going to be so overwhelmed with respiratory viruses for … three or four months a year,” Jha told The Washington Post

Update January 21, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 101,873,730 deaths 1,099,866.  Fully vaccinated 229,508,443 (69.1%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 572,281,155 Pfizer Updated Booster 74,011,640 Moderna 345,666,620 Moderna Updated Booster 35,496,100 J&J 31,456,100, Novavax 1,051,700, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 16%, deaths rose 19%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 10%.  Scientists advising the National Institutes of Health on Friday released a draft report urging intensified government oversight of experiments on dangerous pathogens, including broadening the definition of the kinds of pathogens that could trigger a pandemic.  The new report from two biosecurity working groups echoes their preliminary recommendations released last fall, which said the definition of   enhanced potential pandemic pathogens” should cover not just the most lethal viruses and bacteria, but also less deadly pathogens that are extremely transmissible — a description that fits the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2.

Update January 28, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 102,171,644 deaths 1,103,615.  Fully vaccinated 229,619,755 (69.2%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 574,615,505 Pfizer Updated Booster 75,502,210 Moderna 346,671,620 Moderna Updated Booster 36,181,900 J&J 31,468,300, Novavax 1,071,000, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 16%, deaths fell 21%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 9%.  The Food and Drug Administration is proposing a crucial change in the way the coronavirus vaccine is handled: Switching to a once-a-year shot that targets the strain expected to pose the greatest threat during the following winter — a system akin to what is used for the influenza vaccine. The agency, in briefing documents released Monday (March 23, 2023) for a meeting this week with its vaccine advisers, said evidence suggests that “moving forward, most individuals may only need to receive one dose” of a coronavirus vaccine “to restore protective immunity for a period of time.” The change in strategy will be one of the topics discussed at the meeting, scheduled for Thursday, 26th. The proposed change is designed to reduce the complexity of the vaccine regimen for the public, doctors, and manufacturers. It also reflects a view that “chasing variants” with ever-changing booster formulations is ultimately futile, in part because the public has little interest in getting repeated injections, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about it.

Two new studies published Wednesday report good news about the updated Covid-19 vaccine, with one suggesting it is more effective than the previous monovalent vaccine and the other showing that even though it targeted an earlier strain of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, its protection is holding up against current variants. The findings suggest the updated vaccine, which targets both the original SARS-2 virus and the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, is performing better than some critics of the decision to update the vaccine concluded, based on studies that only compared the levels of neutralizing antibodies each induced. The first study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found the updated vaccine was significantly more effective at protecting against severe illness, hospitalization, and death from Covid than the monovalent vaccine that was previously used. “It’s clear from this study that the bivalent booster, in that short-term following administration, provides additional protection above and beyond that of the monovalent,” said Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Diseases Research and Policy. “I think that’s clear, and this should be a reason why we can feel confident that it was the right decision to go with the bivalent vaccine.”

Update February 4, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 102,447,438 deaths 1,106,824.  Fully vaccinated 229,719,115 (69.2%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 576,279,635 Pfizer Updated Booster 76,669,820 Moderna 347,283,020 Moderna Updated Booster 36,561,400 J&J 31,479,000, Novavax 1,082,800, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 7%, deaths fell 12%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 5%.  Biden is ending the Covid public health emergency. Here’s what that means for you. When the federal Covid-19 public health emergency ends on May 11, it will be the end of an era for the American health system. For more than three years, in a nation where patients usually pay more for health care than residents of any other high-income country, tests, and vaccines were available to all Americans for free. Treatment was free for many people, too, including those without insurance. Healthcare providers adapted on the fly, moving services to the computer or the phone in order to continue treating patients. Hospitals got an important infusion of government funding at a time when, at least at first, they were forced to cancel many of their surgeries and other services in order to handle surges of patients as the coronavirus spread. But the Biden administration announced Monday that the public health emergency will end in May, which will stop some of those provisions. 1) People aren’t going to get free at-home Covid tests in the mail anymore. 2) The clock is now ticking on coverage for telehealth services and even Covid-19 antivirals. 3) Hospitals are about to lose more of their emergency Covid funding.

Update February 11, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 102,736,819 deaths 1,110,364.  Fully vaccinated 229,820,324 (69.2%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 578,036,915 Pfizer Updated Booster 77,808,240 Moderna 348,034,020 Moderna Updated Booster 36,978,000 J&J 31,502,000, Novavax 1,085,600, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 5%, deaths rose 7%, and COVID-related hospitalizations fell 2%.  This anti-vaccine propaganda movement has completely misrepresented stories of tragedy and medical emergencies. Claire Bridges had survived, but just barely. She’d flatlined three times. Her legs were gone below the knee. The surge of drugs pumping through her system, combined with the shock of her circumstance, had resulted in a bout of psychosis in the hospital. Bridges had survived COVID-19. She contracted the disease in January 2022, and a congenital heart condition called aortic valve stenosis had exacerbated the virus’s effect on her body. Tingles in her extremities quickly turned into a critical lack of blood flow. Surgery, life support, and dialysis followed. Rhabdomyolysis — damaged muscle tissue poisoning Bridges’ blood — necessitated amputation. On Twitter, anti-vaccine accounts omitted Bridges’ heart condition and focused on her vaccination status. The worst perpetrator, though, was “Died Suddenly,” a conspiracy theory film — produced by the far-right internet presence Stew Peters, who had previously made a video in which someone speculated that the vaccine contained snake venom — based on the belief that the COVID-19 vaccine is a global population control device created by elites to intentionally harm recipients. A year after Bridges’ hospitalization, the Died Suddenly Twitter account told its version of her story. Bridges “was a 21-year-old model when she received the mRNA vaccine,” the account tweeted, adding two syringe emoji. (Bridges was actually 20.) “Clair ended up having her legs amputated due to blood clots, and now suffers from myocarditis & kidney failure. #diedsuddenly.”

Update February 18, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 102,998,014 deaths 1,113,254.  Fully vaccinated 229,914,797 (69.2%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 579,613,165 Pfizer Updated Booster 78,876,110 Moderna 348,919,820 Moderna Updated Booster 37,393,700 J&J 31,529,100, Novavax 1,093,200, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 10%, deaths fell 18%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 3%.  About 2.6% of all U.S. counties have a high level of COVID-19 in their community, 20.2% have a medium level, and 77.3% have a low level, according to updated figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the XBB.1.5 omicron subvariant made up about 80.2% of cases in the week through Feb. 18, up from 74.7% of COVID-19 cases sequenced in the week ending Feb. 11. The BQ.1.1 and BQ.1 omicron subvariants together accounted for 15.8% of new cases, down from 20.4% last week. In the Western Region of the country, XBB.1.5 was detected in 70.4% of new cases, up from 56.9% last week. The emergent omicron subvariant CH.1.1 remained at a 1.2% prevalence nationwide. “This is really good news, in the sense that protection against severe disease and death after infection is really quite sustained at 10 months,” said senior study author Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the institute at the University of Washington. But public health experts insist that vaccination is the preferable way to build immunity, considering the many risks associated with COVID-19 and post-infection conditions.

Update February 25, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 103,268,408 deaths 1,115,637.  Fully vaccinated 229,996,296 (69.3%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 580,931,295 Pfizer Updated Booster 79,726,460 Moderna 349,537,120 Moderna Updated Booster 37,655,900 J&J 31,547,200, Novavax 1,115,800, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 4%, deaths fell 17%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 3%.  Covid can cause damage to the heart on a cellular level that can lead to lasting problems, including irregular heartbeats and heart failure, preliminary research suggests. Researchers from Columbia University in New York City examined autopsied heart tissue from people who had Covid, and found that the infection damaged the way cells in the heart regulate levels of calcium, a mineral that plays an important role in how the organ contracts and pumps blood throughout the body. The findings, presented Monday at the Biophysical Society Meeting in San Diego, have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. When a person is infected with Covid, the immune system The damage caused by inflammation during a Covid infection appears to prop these channels open, letting too much calcium leak from the cells of the heart, said Dr. Andrew Marks, a cardiologist and biophysics professor at Columbia University who co-led the study. launches a hefty inflammatory response in an effort to fight off the virus. That inflammation, the new study found, disrupts how calcium is stored in the heart.

Update March 4, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 103,499,382 deaths. 1,117,856 fully vaccinated (69.3%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 582,254,535 Pfizer Updated Booster 80,627,820 Moderna 350,174,620 Moderna Updated Booster 38,028, J&J 31,551,500 Novavax 1,147,600, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 15%, deaths fell 7%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 5%.  The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, a respected biomedical journal, surprised the public recently with a peer-reviewed article raising doubts about the effectiveness of wearing face masks and respirators during the pandemic. An author of the study, Tom Jefferson of the University of Oxford, declared of face masks in an interview, “There is just no evidence that they make any difference. Full stop.”

Not so fast. First, definitions. A face mask or surgical face mask has gaps at the sides, and the filter materials vary widely, so they do not provide full protection. A surgical mask might prevent droplets from reaching the nose or mouth, but it cannot protect well against smaller airborne particles. Respirators, such as the N95, have a tight fit against the face and far more efficient filtration that can stop smaller particles, so they are far more protective.

When the covid-19 pandemic began, it was feared the virus spread in larger droplets when people coughed, sneezed or sang in a choir. This was the reasoning behind social distancing — the droplets should fall to the ground within six feet. But we now know that covid particles can be much smaller and hover in the air for an hour or more. Through gaps in a surgical mask, they can reach the nose or mouth. But a respirator is more likely to stop them from being breathed in or out.

Dr. Jefferson and his colleagues set out to measure, using a mountain of data, whether physical methods such as masks and handwashing can interrupt or reduce the spread of respiratory viruses. The new report is an update to an earlier review of scientific research, drawing data from 78 different studies, including 11 new randomized controlled trials involving 610,872 participants. Six of the new trials were conducted during the covid-19 pandemic, but the overall data spans earlier periods with high levels of virus, such as the influenza epidemic of 2009, as well as periods when viral levels were relatively low. The authors acknowledged that drawing conclusions was hampered by “high risk of bias” in the trials, and “relatively low adherence” with the interventions being scrutinized.

Looking at all the data, the researchers expressed doubt about the effectiveness of face masks and respirators. Compared with no mask, “wearing a mask may make little to no difference in how many people caught a flu-like illness” or “COVID-like illness,” and “probably makes little or no difference in how many people have flu/covid confirmed by a laboratory test.” Moreover, they said, compared with wearing face masks, wearing respirators “probably makes little to no difference” in how many people get the flu or a respiratory illness.

Update March 11, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 103,672,529 deaths 1,119,762.  fully vaccinated 230,650,596 (69.3%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 583,678,325 Pfizer Updated Booster 81,485,210 Moderna 351,003,220 Moderna Updated Booster 38,435,900 J&J 31,552,000 Novavax 1,196,500, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 25%, deaths fell 14%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 6%. The shutdown was profoundly strange and has had lasting effects on our national psyche. But memories fade, circumstances change, opinions shift. Three years later, the decision by local, state and federal government officials to limit spread of the virus continues to spark rancorous battles in the pandemic-fueled arenas of the culture war.

So what will the country do the next time a deadly virus comes knocking on the door? During a late February teleconference, Nancy Messonier of the CDC said the virus would likely spread within the United States, a grave scenario that officials had avoided discussing publicly. She outlined the concept of non-pharmaceutical interventions — working from home, school closures, canceling mass gatherings, cleaning surfaces.

“I understand this whole situation may seem overwhelming and that disruption to everyday life may be severe,” she said.

For many Americans, the real sign that the coronavirus had arrived came on March 11, when the National Basketball Association suspended its season. That same day, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic. In truth,no one knew the extent of infections at that time. An early error in test development by the CDC, as well as inflexibility about the use of externally developed tests, limited national surveillance.

“We had no eyes on the virus. We were flying completely blind,” said Deborah Birx, the White House covid task force coordinator.

But modeling, according to the infectious-disease experts, showed exponential spread. Every infected person was spreading the virus to more than two other people, creating an epidemic curve that threatened to go vertical, as if aiming for the moon. It was obvious to epidemiologists that dramatic actions were necessary to prevent an explosion of sickness and death in major cities across the country.

“I could see the tsunami coming,” Birx said. “The whole thing was, could we limit it to 15 of our major metros, and what does it look like if spreads to all 25 or 30 major metros?”

Update March 18, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 103,801,821 deaths 1,121,512.  Fully vaccinated 230,211,943 (69.3%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 585,085,905 Pfizer Updated Booster 82,367,010 Moderna 351,772,040 Moderna Updated Booster 38,726,520 J&J 31,552,000 Novavax 1,223,700, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 16%, deaths rose 3%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 6%. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently sent a letter to Florida’s surgeon general debunking his claims about COVID-19 vaccines.  Last month, Dr. Joseph Ladapo had written his own letter to the federal health agencies, saying he was concerned about adverse effects from mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. He claimed there had been an increase in reports made to the CDC’s database, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).  In the system, anyone — be it a healthcare professional or the average citizen — can report an event they think might have been related to a vaccine they received. It serves as an early warning system for federal health officials to sift through the unverified reports to confirm if an investigation or further action is necessary.  In response, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said their agencies are constantly monitoring data to see if there are any potential risks — but added that Ladapo focusing on a rare, minor events can cause misinformation to spread and can undermine public health efforts.  “It is the job of public health officials around the country to protect the lives of the populations they serve, particularly the vulnerable,” the FDA and CDC wrote in their letter. “Fueling vaccine hesitancy undermines this effort.”

Update March 25, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 103,957,053 deaths 1,123,613.  Fully vaccinated 230,283,056 (69.4%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 586,424,075 Pfizer Updated Booster 83,131,980 Moderna 352,247,700 Moderna Updated Booster 39,006,980 J&J 31,552,000 Novavax 1,245,000, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 5%, deaths rose 5%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 5%. Despite the U.S. having the highest number of recorded Covid deaths and one of the highest fatality rates from Covid per capita globally, researchers found individual states had vastly different Covid experiences, with Hawaii and New Hampshire seeing the lowest cumulative Covid death rates and Arizona and Washington D.C. seeing the highest, according to the study, published Thursday in the Lancet. The study found that Covid exacerbated existing inequities: States with less access to quality health care, higher poverty rates and lower rates of educational attainment saw disproportionately high rates of Covid infections and death. Researchers also examined how political orientation impacted infection and death rates, and found that the share of the state that voted Republican in the 2020 presidential election was a key predictor of Covid infections and deaths. The research echoed findings from a 2022 study, which found people living in U.S. counties that voted for former President Donald Trump in 2020 were more likely to die from Covid than people who lived in counties that voted Democrat in the 2020 presidential election.

Update April 1, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 104,137,196 deaths 1,125,366.  Fully vaccinated 230,368,815 (69.4%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 503,821,755 Pfizer Updated Booster 84,040,030 Moderna 313,296,320 Moderna Updated Booster 39,251,300 J&J 31,552,000 Novavax 1,262,900, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases rose 15%, deaths fell 17%, and COVID-related hospitalizations fell 6%.  Do You Need Another COVID Booster? Here’s What Experts Say. It’s now been more than six months since the bivalent COVID-19 shot was authorized for use in adults in the U.S. The updated formula targets the original virus strain and the highly contagious omicron variant. In March 2022, the Food and Drug Administration did authorize a fourth coronavirus vaccine dose for certain populations. However, for the general U.S. adult population, “the FDA has not given us an emergency use authorization for a second bivalent booster.” Many people think it’s like a light switch, Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine in the department of health policy at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, explained. They think when they reach six months, they’re not protected at all, but that is not the reality. “You still have substantial residual protection,” Schaffner, said. “At the moment, the Food and Drug Administration seems directed at creating an annually updated booster. According to Schaffner, if you compare unvaccinated people with those who got the bivalent booster, you’ll see that unvaccinated people are 17 times more at risk for hospitalization. When compared with people who are partially vaccinated, those who did not finish the vaccine series are 2.5 times more at risk. If you have had the bivalent booster shot, hold tight for more news on a potential second dose or an updated booster in the coming months.

Update April 8, 2023.  USA COVID-19 cases, 104,242,889 deaths 1,127,104.  Fully vaccinated 270,045,602 (69.4%).  Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 504,445,815 Pfizer Updated Booster 84,851,810 Moderna 313,353,020 Moderna Updated Booster 39,508,700 J&J 31,552,000 Novavax 1,276,200, Other 0.  In the past week, new daily cases fell 31%, deaths rose 2%, and COVID-related hospitalizations fell 7%. The World Health Organization (WHO) is monitoring a new COVID-19 subvariant called XBB.1.16, which has been circulating throughout India for a few months and is causing a new surge of cases there. The Times of India reported on Apr. 3 that more than 3,600 new COVID cases had been recorded in the country since the previous day, marking India’s largest single-day jump in case of numbers in more than six months. “In India, XBB.1.16 has replaced the other variants that are in circulation,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s COVID-19 technical lead, during a Mar. 29 press conference. “So, this is one to watch.”

Update April 15, 2023. USA COVID-19 cases, 104,348,746 deaths 1,128,404. Fully vaccinated 230,467,642 (69.4%). Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 505,008,545 Pfizer Updated Booster 85,675,750 Moderna 313,410,420 Moderna Updated Booster 39,773,960 J&J 31,552,000 Novavax 1,291,300, Other 0. In the past week, new daily cases fell 13%, deaths fell 25%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 9%. The Biden administration is launching a $5 billion-plus program to accelerate development of new coronavirus vaccines and treatments, seeking to better protect against a still-mutating virus, as well as other coronaviruses that might threaten us in the future. “Project Next Gen” — the long-anticipated follow-up to “Operation Warp Speed,” the Trump-era program that sped coronavirus vaccines to patients in 2020 — would take a similar approach to partnering with private-sector companies to expedite development of vaccines and therapies. Scientists, public health experts and politicians have called for the initiative, warning that existing therapies have steadily lost their effectiveness and that new ones are needed. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus coordinator, and others said the new effort will focus on three goals: creating long-lasting monoclonal antibodies, after an evolving virus rendered many current treatments ineffective; accelerating development of vaccines that produce mucosal immunity, which is thought to reduce transmission and infection risks; and speeding efforts to develop pan-coronavirus vaccines to guard against new SARS-CoV-2 variants, as well as other coronaviruses.

A new coronavirus subvariant, XBB. 1.16, has been designated as a “variant under monitoring” by the World Health Organization. The latest omicron offshoot is particularly prevalent in India, where it has sparked a rise in infections, and a return to mask mandates in parts of the country. Arcturus was first detected in a sample in January and has now been documented in 29 countries, according to the World Health Organization. It is a subvariant of the omicron variant, which emerged in late 2021 and replaced delta as the dominant variant around the world. By late February, the Arcturus strain accounted for 0.21 percent of cases around the world. A month later, this had risen to 3.96 percent, according to WHO figures. In the United States, it is estimated to account for 7.2 percent of coronavirus infections for the week ending April 15, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Update April 22, 2023. USA COVID-19 cases, 104,445,294 deaths 1,129,573. Fully vaccinated 230,485,008 (69.4%). Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 505,338,835 Pfizer Updated Booster 86,418,460 Moderna 313,437,520 Moderna Updated Booster 40,059,760 J&J 31,552,000 Novavax 1,317,600, Other 0. In the past week, new daily cases fell 9%, deaths fell 10%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 7%.  More than any other single group, health-care workers bore the brunt of the covid-19 pandemic. In the early days and weeks of the crisis, doctors, nurses and emergency medical technicians were hailed as superheroes — immortalized in graffiti and balcony ovations from New York City to Paris and Madrid. But as the months and years passed, the astonishing casualties from covid-19 — more than 1 million lives lost in the United States and nearly 7 million globally — led to exhaustion, burnout and trauma, as well as infection and deaths among front-line workers. Workforce shortages and unrelenting stress added to their hardships, even as the public applause for their contributions faded. More than three years since the pandemic began, many of those workers are still ministering to the sick and dying, and often, putting others’ needs ahead of their own.  They endured covid. But some health-care workers mistrust the future. 

Update April 29, 2023. USA COVID-19 cases, 104,538,730 deaths 1,130,662. Fully vaccinated 230,533,196 (69.4%). Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 505,340,005 Pfizer Updated Booster 87,378,910 Moderna 313,437,520 Moderna Updated Booster 40,563,220 J&J 31,552,000 Novavax 1,346,200, Other 0. In the past week, new daily cases fell 3%, deaths fell 7%, and COVID-related hospitalizations fell 10%.  Thousands of people say they’ve developed tinnitus after they were vaccinated against Covid. While there is no proof yet that the vaccines caused the condition, theories for a possible link have surfaced among researchers. Shaowen Bao, an associate professor in the physiology department of the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona, Tucson, believes that ongoing inflammation, especially in the brain or spinal cord, may be to blame. A Facebook group of people who developed tinnitus after getting a Covid vaccine convinced Bao to look into the possible link. He ultimately surveyed 398 of the group’s participants. This suggests “that the vaccine is interacting with pre-existing risk factors for tinnitus. If you have the risk factor, you will probably get it from the first dose,” Bao said. He is still analyzing the results and has not published any preliminary findings.

When Congress and the White House failed to launch a national COVID-19 inquiry, the experts authored their own report. It is a compelling, disturbing account. They conclude the pandemic was not an inescapable tragedy. The United States could and should have done better. Looking back at the U.S. response to the pandemic, many setbacks and mistakes are well-known. But a closer examination by a team of seasoned experts has brought to the surface a profoundly unsettling conclusion. The United States, once the paragon of can-do pragmatism, of successful moon shots and biomedical breakthroughs, fell down on the job in confronting the crisis. The pandemic, the experts say, revealed “a collective national incompetence in government.” The United States started out “with more capabilities than any other country in the world,” they note. But it ended up with 1 million dead. On Feb. 24, 2020, President Donald Trump tweeted from India, “The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA … Stock market starting to look very good to me!” But according to the report, that same day, the White House task force concluded “containment was failing.” It was time to shift to mitigation. The next day, a high-ranking Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official, Nancy Messonnier, announced that community spread in the United States was inevitable. The stock market dived. “President Trump was furious,” the report recalls. He kept downplaying the danger. “It’s going to disappear,” he said on Feb. 27. “Everything is really under control,” he said on Feb. 29. Trump essentially detached himself from his own government,” the report says. “He moved toward questioning and challenging what other government officials were doing.”

Update May 6, 2023. USA COVID-19 cases, 104,618,931 deaths 1,131,819. Fully vaccinated 230,582,699 (69.5%). Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 505,344,115 Pfizer Updated Booster 88,991,850 Moderna 313,437,520 Moderna Updated Booster 41,413,640 J&J 31,552,000 Novavax 1,378,800, Other 0. In the past week, new daily cases fell 14%, deaths rose 6%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 8%.  The waning of the pandemic led to fewer deaths in America in 2022 than in 2021, according to preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But heart disease and cancer deaths rose, and covid-19 remained remarkably lethal, killing more than 500 people a day. The report shows an overall drop of 5.3 percent in the death rate from all causes, a signal that the country last year had exited the worst phase of the pandemic. Deaths from covid dropped 47 percent between 2021 and 2022. But covid has not magically become like the flu or a new type of cold. Even though the population had built up high levels of immunity from vaccination and natural infection, covid was the fourth leading cause of death in 2022, behind heart disease (699,659 deaths), cancer (607,790) and “unintentional injury,” which includes drug overdoses (218,064). The CDC estimated that covid was the underlying cause of 186,702 deaths and a contributing factor in another 58,284.

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 over as a global health emergency Friday, marking a historic end to a devastating chapter of the pandemic that claimed more than 7 million lives worldwide. WHO declared a public health emergency of international concern on Jan. 30, 2020, when only 100 cases were reported and the virus had no official name, said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a news conference Friday. More than three years later, the pandemic is on a downward trend.

Update May 17, 2023. This is my final entry as the CDC declared the pandemic over and will no longer update statistics.  USA COVID-19 cases, ??? deaths ???. Fully vaccinated 230,637,348 (69.5%). Vaccine delivered by vaccine type: Pfizer 505,345,015 Pfizer Updated Booster 90,661,580 Moderna 313,437,660 Moderna Updated Booster 42,037,340 J&J 31,552,000 Novavax 1,410,700, Other 0. In the past week, new daily cases rose 21%, deaths rose 69%, COVID-related hospitalizations fell 3%.  Here’s What Changes With the End of the US Covid Emergency. The US government has declared an official end to the country’s Covid-19 crisis. For months, President Joe Biden has asserted that the pandemic is “over.” But until May 11, the momentous public health emergency declaration of January 2020 had remained in place, expanding access to health care for millions of people. Its unwinding came just days after the World Health Organization ended its own emergency declaration, and US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky announced plans to step down, saying the nation had left behind “the dark days of the pandemic.” A policy that increased health coverage for low-income people had already been discontinued. Now, more changes are coming. They will impact how Americans access Covid vaccines, tests and treatments; how telehealth care is delivered; and how migrants seek asylum at the US border.