COVID-19 Updates: India Death Toll Tops 300,000

Alisha Jucevic/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The United States currently has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths in the world.More than 3.4 million people have died from the disease globally.The CDC says peop…

Alisha Jucevic/Bloomberg via Getty Images
  • The United States currently has the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and related deaths in the world.
  • More than 3.4 million people have died from the disease globally.
  • The CDC says people who are vaccinated can meet indoors without taking physical distancing measures.

Update on COVID-19 numbers

  • Globally, there have been more than 167 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 3.4 million associated deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The United States has reported more than 33.1 million confirmed cases.
  • More than 590,000 people in the United States have died from the disease.
  • Currently, more than 163.9 million U.S. people have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose. More than 130.6 million people are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.

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

5/24/21 2:43 p.m. PDT India records 300,000 COVID deaths amid black fungus outbreak

On Monday, India became the third country to record 300,000 COVID-19 deaths amid growing fears about the potentially fatal fungal infection striking some patients who have battled the virus. Only Brazil and the United States have reported more deaths.

“Black fungus cases were first seen in Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Karnataka has been reporting it only in the last three days and demand for medicines has gone up,” federal minister DV Sadananda Gowda said on Friday, reported the New Indian Express.

On Saturday, Gowda said nearly 9,000 cases had been reported in India so far, leading to a shortage of amphotericin B, the drug used to treat the condition, reported the Associated Press (AP).

According to AP, the infection, called mucormycosis, has a high mortality rate and was already present in India before the pandemic. While not contagious, its frequency in the past month has left doctors shocked.

“It is a new challenge, and things are looking bleak,” Dr. Ambrish Mithal, the chairman and head of the endocrinology and diabetes department at Max Healthcare, told AP.

He added that this fungal infection preys on patients with weakened immune systems and underlying conditions, particularly diabetes, and “irrational usage” of steroids.

Possibility dogs can sniff out COVID-19 in people, early research suggests

A new study published May 23 indicates dogs might be able to help in the fight against COVID-19. According to CNN, scientists and the group Medical Detection Dogs completed an early trial examining if dogs could smell and identify COVID-19 cases.

Researchers said the dogs could pick up the scent of COVID-19 after 6 to 8 weeks of training, reported CNN. These early results have been published in a preprint study that hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal.

“The results are extremely exciting,” James Logan, PhD, a project lead on the study, told CNN.

5/21/21 2:37 p.m. PDT — Death toll from COVID-19 is probably 2 to 3 times higher than reported

Officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) say that the global death toll is probably around two to three times the number reported, according to Reuters.

Currently, more than 3.4 million people have died from COVID-19. But the new report from the WHO would mean around 6 to 9 million people have died from the disease.

In many countries, a surge of COVID-19 cases meant that some people died before they were able to be tested for the disease, so their deaths were not officially linked to the pandemic.

People in India recover from COVID-19 only to die from ‘black fungus’

According to CNN, doctors in India began raising the alarm in early May about a rise in mucormycosis, a rare and potentially deadly infection. It's also known as black fungus.

“One of the ways mucormycosis travels is by invading the blood vessels,” Dr. Hemant Thacker, consultant physician and cardiometabolic specialist at Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai, told CNN. “It compromises the circulation to the distal organ, and thus produces what is called as necrosis or death of tissue, which then becomes black. So it is then given the name black fungus.”

Many people with a mucormycosis infection also have COVID-19, or have recently recovered from it, whose immune systems were weakened by the virus or who have underlying conditions, particularly diabetes.

In the past few weeks, thousands of mucormycosis cases have been reported across India, with hundreds hospitalized and at least 90 dead, CNN reported. Two states in India have declared it an epidemic, and the central government has made it a notifiable disease.

5/20/21 2:09 p.m. PDT — Current COVID-19 vaccines protect against variants, says WHO Europe

COVID-19 vaccines currently used in Europe appear able to protect against all currently circulating variants that are causing concern, the World Health Organization's (WHO) regional director Hans Kluge said on May 20, reported Reuters.

He also said health authorities should remain vigilant on the rising number of cases in the region caused by the variant first detected in India, but stressed that vaccination and infection control measures would help prevent further transmission.

“All COVID-19 virus variants that have emerged so far do respond to the available, approved vaccines,” Kluge told a media briefing.

Since the variant (B.1.617) was first identified in India, it has spread to at least 26 countries out of the 53 in the WHO's European Region, said Kluge: “From Austria, to Greece, Israel to Kyrgyzstan.”

According to Reuters, Kluge said the WHO's regional office was cautiously optimistic to see COVID-19 cases in the region declining.

“We are heading in the right direction, but need to keep a watchful eye,” he said. “In several countries, there are pockets of increasing transmission that could quickly evolve into dangerous resurgences… The pandemic is not over yet.”

COVID-19 vaccine data on kids expected by fall, says CDC director

Health officials expect to have more data regarding COVID-19 vaccination and younger children by late fall, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said May 19, reported Fox News.

According to Fox, Walensky, while testifying before a Senate subcommittee on the agency’s budget request, said deescalation studies involving children down to age 9 are ongoing and will involve younger children as more data come in.

“We’re working toward getting a vaccine that’s available for all people,” Walensky said. She added that the agency hopes to “have more available data in late fall and by the end of the year.”

5/19/21 3:35 p.m. PDT — AstraZeneca vaccine works well as third booster, study finds

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine works well as a third booster dose. It increased antibodies to the coronavirus spike protein among participants in a not-yet-published study, the Financial Times reported today.

The AstraZeneca vaccine is an adenovirus-based, viral vector vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that a viral vector vaccine uses a harmless version of a different virus, called a “vector,” to deliver information to the body that helps protect it against infection.

This technology raised concern among experts that the doses might lose potency if booster shots become necessary to fight coronavirus variants.

“However, the mRNA vaccines may have an advantage over the adenovirus-vectored vaccines if annual boosters are needed,” Dr. Julian Tang, a clinical virologist and honorary associate professor in the department of respiratory sciences at the University of Leicester, said in a statement.

“The development of host antibodies to the adenovirus-vector may limit these vaccines’ usefulness if such annual boosters are needed to maintain longer term protection,” he said.

60% of U.S. adults have been vaccinated, CDC director says

The United States has reached a “landmark day” in the COVID-19 pandemic as 60 percent of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, reported CNN.

She also said that more than 3.5 million people ages 12 to 17 have received their first vaccine dose.

White House COVID-19 Response Team senior adviser Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith told CNN that more People of Color are being vaccinated, marking “encouraging national trends.”

According to the network, in the past 2 weeks 51 percent of people vaccinated in the United States were People of Color, which is higher than the 40 percent of the general population those groups represent.

India records highest number of COVID-19-related deaths in a single day

India has set a new global record during the pandemic for the number of COVID-19 deaths in a single day.

At least 4,529 deaths were reported in India today, bringing the country's total COVID-19 death toll to more than 280,000, according to The Associated Press.

India has seen a massive COVID-19 surge in recent weeks after restrictions were eased. Only Brazil and the United States have recorded more deaths from COVID-19.

5/18/21 4:02 p.m. PDT — Tokyo doctors call for Olympic Games to be canceled due to pandemic

A top medical organization in Japan has backed calls to cancel the Tokyo Olympics, saying hospitals are already overwhelmed as the country fights a surge in COVID-19 cases with less than 3 months from the start of the games, reported Reuters.

The Tokyo Medical Practitioners Association, which represents about 6,000 primary care doctors, said hospitals in Tokyo, the Olympic Games host city, “have their hands full and have almost no spare capacity” amid a spike in infections, according to Reuters.

“We strongly request that the authorities convince the IOC (International Olympic Committee) that holding the Olympics is difficult and obtain its decision to cancel the Games,” the association announced in a May 14 open letter to Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, which was posted to the organization’s website yesterday, reported Reuters.

According to Reuters, the number of cases throughout the island nation dropped to 3,680 on May 17, the lowest level since April 26, but the number of severe infections hit a record high of 1,235 on May 18.

Over 600,000 children 12–15 were vaccinated last week

COVID-19 vaccinations are picking up for those under age 16 with more than 600,000 children between the ages of 12 and 15 getting vaccinated last week.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky cited this new statistic on Twitter today.

The COVID-19 vaccination rate has slowed in recent weeks after it hit a high in April.

Officials have been hoping that the United States can reach herd immunity in the coming months, which would happen when around 70 to 90 percent of the population is immunized.

5/17/21 2:26 p.m. PDT — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson urges ‘heavy dose of caution’ as country reopens

As the United Kingdom starts to allow reopenings and social gatherings, the prime minister is urging people to be careful.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson cautioned U.K. citizens to use a “heavy dose of caution” as pubs and other gathering places reopen, according to The Guardian.

The United Kingdom previously reopened with fanfare only to face another strict lockdown as COVID-19 cases surged.

What the new mask guidance means for unvaccinated kids

Once 12- to 15-year-olds are fully vaccinated, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says it's safe for them to remove their masks in most settings, just like fully vaccinated adults, according to NPR.

However, state and local laws apply, as do school and business policies. Masks will still be required on buses, trains, and planes, and at stations and airports.

But there are no COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in children under 12 in the United States, meaning that they need to continue masking.

All unvaccinated people age 2 and older “should wear masks in public settings and when around people who don't live in their household,” states the CDC mask guidelines.

Experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) say unvaccinated children 2 years old and older should continue to wear masks around others when indoors, especially when among at-risk adults, like people who are immunocompromised or over age 65, reported NPR.

“We know children over age two can safely wear masks to protect themselves and others from transmitting the COVID-19 virus,” Dr. Yvonne Maldonado, chair of the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases, said in a statement, reported NPR.

“We've already seen how the masks have helped prevent the spread of respiratory infections within schools, camps and other community settings,” she added. “Particularly when everyone wears them, washes hands, and follows other infection control guidance.”

It will likely be at least a few more months until a vaccine is approved for children under 12, and Pfizer says it won't be ready to ask for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for its COVID-19 vaccine in that age group until September.

5/14/21 2:47 p.m. PDT — Coronavirus outbreak hits the Yankees

At least eight people affiliated with the New York Yankees have tested positive for the coronavirus even though all eight were vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine, according to The New York Times.

While these kinds of “breakthrough” infections among people who are vaccinated are rare, they are expected to occur in a small number of cases. However, it's likely that the vaccines still provide protection against severe symptoms.

Seven of the eight people who tested positive had no symptoms. The one person who did have symptoms said they ended within days. It's likely that these cases were caught only because testing is required for major league teams.

New CDC mask guidance approached cautiously by some states

Federal health officials cleared the way yesterday for fully vaccinated people to drop mask wearing in most situations, with some states lifting mask mandates and others taking a more cautious approach, reported The New York Times.

According to the Times, the governors of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Virginia and the mayors of New York City and Washington, D.C., all said they would take the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) mask guidance under advisement before adopting it.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state had “always relied on the facts and the science to guide us throughout the worst of this pandemic,” and that he would review the new federal guidelines with the state health department and health experts in neighboring states, reported the Times.

In a video posted to social media, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said the CDC announcement was “news that we have all been waiting for.” He also encouraged state residents to take advantage of “hundred of thousands” of available vaccine appointments.

5/13/21 1:52 p.m. PDT — CDC issues new mask guidance for indoor locations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated mask guidance for people who are vaccinated, saying that fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks in most indoor settings.

These indoor settings include workplaces, restaurants and stores. But masks are still recommended in crowded indoor settings like public transportation, hospitals, and planes, reported The Associated Press.

“We have all longed for this moment — when we can get back to some sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, according to the AP.

Fauci stops short of saying schools should require vaccines for students

Dr. Anthony Fauci urges parents to vaccinate their kids against COVID-19 — but stopped short of saying the shots should be required to attend school, reported CBS News.

“Whenever you're talking about requiring something, that's always a charged issue. So I'm not so sure we should be requiring children at all,” Fauci said today on “CBS This Morning.” “We should be encouraging them,” he said.

The CDC cleared the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine yesterday for all 12- to 15-year-olds nationwide. Pfizer says its vaccine was 100 percent effective in its clinical trial for this age group.

CDC data finds K–12 schools are not a significant source of coronavirus transmissions within their communities, and many schools across the country have already reopened for in-person classes.

But this hasn’t stopped debates over whether schools should require students returning in the fall to be vaccinated.

Acknowledging the issue, Fauci still fears the mandate may do more harm than good.

“You've got to be careful when you make the requirement of something, that usually gets you into a lot of pushback — understandable pushback,” he cautioned, reported CBS.

5/12/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — Georgia among first states to offer COVID-19 vaccine to kids under 16

When the state of Georgia made COVID-19 vaccinations available to children as young as 12 yesterday, Atlanta residents Jenny and Jeffrey Brower pushed to schedule an appointment for their twin 13-year-old girls, reported Reuters.

According to Reuters, they were the lucky ones. Providers in their state, along with Delaware and Arkansas, were offering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 12 to 15 just a day after U.S. regulators authorized the vaccine for emergency use in this age group.

Young people in most states who were contacted by Reuters told the news service that they would have to wait at least until later in the week to receive their doses.

A spokeswoman for Georgia's public health agency told Reuters the state chose to give shots right away to avoid turning young people away and risking them not coming back for the first jab of the two-shot regimen.

According to Reuters, more than a dozen states, including Texas, Idaho, Arizona, New York, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Minnesota, said they would wait for the go-ahead from an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before administering the vaccine to children under 16.

That advisory committee voted to recommend the vaccine for children 12 to 16 on Wednesday.

Washington state hit by 4th wave of infections

As COVID-19 outbreaks recede in many parts of the United States, the Pacific Northwest is an outlier, still fighting against a late spring surge that's filling hospitals in the areas around Seattle and Portland, reported NPR.

According to NPR, recent weeks have seen the governors of both states hit the brakes on reopening plans in hopes of countering the swift spread of a more contagious coronavirus variant named B.1.1.7, which was first identified in the United Kingdom.

“We have seen a clear fourth wave of hospitalizations,” Dr. Michael Anderson, chief medical officer of Virginia Mason Franciscan Health, which has hospitals throughout Washington, told NPR. “The rise of the curves for admissions has been scary in that it has taken off so quickly.”

Gov. Jay Inslee has enacted a statewide pause on loosening any pandemic restrictions in Washington and instituted more stringent rules on several regions last month, including the state's second-most populous county just south of Seattle, reported NPR.

5/11/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — Triple-mutant variant from India classified as ‘variant of concern’

A World Health Organization (WHO) official said yesterday that the highly contagious triple-mutant coronavirus variant spreading in India is reclassified as a “variant of concern,” indicating it’s now a global health threat, reported CNBC.

WHO’s technical lead for COVID-19, Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, said the agency will provide more details today in its weekly situation report on the pandemic, but added that the variant, called B.1.617, was found in preliminary studies to spread more easily than the original virus, reported CNBC.

There's also evidence that B.1.617 might evade some protections provided by vaccines; however, the shots are still considered effective.

“Even though there is increased transmissibility demonstrated by some preliminary studies,” Van Kerkhove said during a press conference, as reported CNBC, “we need much more information about this virus variant in this lineage in all of the sub lineages, so we need more sequencing, targeted sequencing to be done.”

5/10/21 3:26 p.m. PDT — The FDA authorizes Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 12–15

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as age 12.

Previously, the vaccine was approved only for people who were age 16 or older.

“Today’s action allows for a younger population to be protected from COVID-19, bringing us closer to returning to a sense of normalcy and to ending the pandemic,” Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, MD, said in statement. “Parents and guardians can rest assured that the agency undertook a rigorous and thorough review of all available data, as we have with all of our COVID-19 vaccine emergency use authorizations.”

Time may soon come to relax mask mandates, Fauci says

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), federal guidance on wearing face masks indoors may change.

On Sunday, May 9, ABC News asked Fauci whether it's time to start relaxing indoor mask requirements. He replied, “I think so, and I think you're going to probably be seeing that as we go along, and as more people get vaccinated.”

Fauci also said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will be updating its guidance almost in real-time, as more Americans get vaccinated.

Mutation of highly contagious Brazilian COVID-19 variant identified in Florida

A new mutation of the highly contagious Brazilian COVID-19 variant has emerged in Florida, health officials said.

The new variant, called P2 or P.1.1, has a slightly different sequence than Brazil’s P1 strain, found to be more likely to reinfect those who have already had the virus, reported the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

The variant was detected in a 74-year-old man in Broward County and a 51-year-old woman in Duval County, according to the state Department of Health. Scientists are monitoring this variant to find out whether it behaves similarly to the P1 strain and how easily it can be transmitted.

5/7/21 3:32 p.m. PDT — Global COVID-19 death toll may be double official estimates

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused nearly 6.9 million deaths across the world, more than double the number officially recorded, estimates a new analysis from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), reported Reuters.

According to Reuters, the IHME is an independent health research organization that provides comparable measurement of the world's health problems and has been cited in the past by the White House. Public health officials watch its reports closely.

The IHME says COVID-19 deaths go unreported as many countries only record those that occur in a hospital setting, or in people with confirmed infection. For this reason, the IHME is changing how these figures are calculated.

“In other countries, such as Ecuador, Peru, and the Russian Federation, the discrepancy between reported deaths and analyses of death rates compared to expected death rates, sometimes referred to as ‘excess mortality,’ suggests that the total COVID-19 death rate is many multiples larger than official reports,” the IHME said in a statement.

In the United States, the IHME analysis estimated COVID-19-related deaths of more than 905,000, reported Reuters, while official figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on May 5 estimated 575,491 deaths due to COVID-19.

Pfizer and BioNTech to seek full FDA approval for COVID-19 vaccine

In a new announcement, Pfizer and BioNTech stated they will seek full approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their COVID-19 vaccine.

Currently, the vaccine is allowed to be administered under emergency use authorization. Getting the full FDA approval will likely take several months.

India cases surge again, breaking global record

India’s struggle against the pandemic continues, with the country reporting today another record in COVID-19 cases over the past 24 hours with more than 414,000 cases, reported The Washington Post.

India has so far recorded more than 21.4 million confirmed cases and at least 234,083 deaths.

“Countries wrestling with new coronavirus surges are trying to ensure they aren’t hit by an India-style disaster. More world cases have been reported in the past two weeks than in the entire first six months of the pandemic,” said the World Health Organization (WHO) director general, reported The Associated Press.

5/6/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — COVID-19 may spark diabetes, doctors find

Health experts are finding that people may have a higher risk of developing diabetes after recovering from COVID-19.

When Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly’s research team told him how often diabetes affected survivors of COVID-19, he thought the data must be wrong and asked his colleagues to crunch the numbers again, reported Bloomberg.

However, after weeks spent sifting through millions of patient records, they confirmed the figures.

By then, Al-Aly’s own investigation into the literature had brought him face to face with an alarming fact. COVID-19 wasn’t just more dangerous for people with diabetes, it also triggered the disease in many who didn’t have it before.

“It took a while to convince me,” Al-Aly, who directs the clinical epidemiology center at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Health Care System in Missouri, told Bloomberg. “It was hard to believe that COVID could be doing this.”

According to Bloomberg, among the pandemic’s ripple effects, worsening of the global diabetes burden could carry a heavy public health toll. Some doctors suspect the SARS-CoV-2 virus might damage the pancreas, a gland that makes insulin needed to convert sugar into energy.

Al-Aly and colleagues are the first to measure this effect in the United States based on evidence from the national healthcare databases of the Department of Veterans Affairs.

They found COVID-19 survivors were about 39 percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes in the 6 months following COVID-19 compared to users of the VA health system that didn't have COVID-19.

Moderna says booster shot is effective against COVID-19 variants

Drugmaker Moderna announced on May 5 that the company’s booster shot could be effective against some COVID-19 variants.

According to a Moderna press release, human trials showed that those given a third shot after receiving their 2-dose vaccine had an increased immune response to the COVID-19 strains initially identified in South Africa and Brazil.

“As we seek to defeat the ongoing pandemic, we remain committed to being proactive as the virus evolves. We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that our booster strategy should be protective against these newly detected variants,” Moderna said in the statement.

Moderna's CEO is confident mRNA technology will be key in controlling the transmission of coronavirus variants.

“Our mRNA platform allows for rapid design of vaccine candidates that incorporate key virus mutations, potentially allowing for faster development of future alternative variant-matched vaccines should they be needed,” said Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, in the statement.

5/5/21 3:14 p.m. PDT — Biden administration favors waiving patent for COVID-19 vaccine

The Biden administration is now in favor of waiving intellectual property rights for COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to fight the pandemic.

World Trade Organization members discussed the potential of waiving these rights today, according to CNN.

Just a small fraction of the world's population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with most vaccinations occurring in wealthy countries.

U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai issued a statement today citing the “global health crisis” as a reason for “extraordinary” measures.

“The Administration believes strongly in intellectual property protections, but in service of ending this pandemic, supports the waiver of those protections for COVID-19 vaccines,” Tai wrote in the statement.

“We will actively participate in text-based negotiations at the World Trade Organization (WTO) needed to make that happen. Those negotiations will take time given the consensus-based nature of the institution and the complexity of the issues involved. ”

India accounts for nearly half of all new COVID-19 cases

India continues to face a mounting COVID-19 surge. The country now makes up 46 percent of new COVID-19 cases globally, according to Reuters.

The country broke another record this month with more than 400,000 cases recorded in a single 24-hour period.

India is now second only to the United States in total cases with more than 20 million COVID-19 cases reported.

Biden aims to get 70% of adults partially vaccinated by July 4

President Joe Biden announced changes to the country's vaccination program in an effort to reach 70 percent of adults in the United States by July 4.

Now, vaccinations are slowing due to a decrease in demand rather than supply. The vaccination rate has slowed considerably since the high in mid-April.

Biden said his administration would now focus on sending vaccines to pharmacies and other smaller outlets rather than the massive vaccination sites that have characterized the rollout.

AstraZeneca, Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines 87% effective after first shot, South Korean data shows

One dose of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine was nearly 87 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among those ages 60 and older, according to real-world data released by South Korea on May 5.

According to Reuters, data by the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) shows the Pfizer vaccine was 89.7 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 at least 2 weeks after a first dose was given, and the AstraZeneca shot was 86 percent effective.

The analysis was based on over 3.5 million people in South Korea, ages 60 and older, for 2 months from Feb. 26. It included 521,133 people who received a first dose of either a Pfizer or AstraZeneca shot.

5/4/21 1:11 p.m. PDT — India becomes second country to top 20 million cases

COVID-19 cases in India have now topped 20 million, according to Johns Hopkins.

Only the United States has documented more COVID-19 cases at this point.

Deaths are also surging in India, where oxygen canisters have been hard to come by.

Experts also say the reported case count in India is likely far below the actual case count.

Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, told NPR he believes that India may be detecting just 3 to 4 percent of total COVID-19 cases.

“So we're talking about every day, maybe 5 million infections a day in India right now. That's a huge number,” he told NPR.

More than 222,000 people have died in the country, although reports suggest the death toll is far higher.

Children account for over 20% of COVID-19 cases

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that while the number of U.S. children getting COVID-19 is lower than the highs set at the start of 2021, children now account for more than one-fifth of new COVID-19 cases in states releasing data by age, reported NPR.

According to NPR, experts link this trend to several factors, but chief among them is high vaccination rates among older adults.

But other dynamics are also in play, from coronavirus variants to recently lifted restrictions on school activities.

“We are seeing more outbreaks than we had related to school and school activities. We've seen those all along, and we're seeing a little bit more of those now proportionately than we had,” said Dr. Sean O'Leary, vice chair of the AAP's Committee on Infectious Diseases, in an interview with NPR.

“And I think that's also due to a combination of factors,” he continued. “Again, the variants, but also more kids in the last couple of months are in in-person school than they had been in prior months.”

5/3/21 2:38 p.m. PDT — Russia records more than 400,000 excess deaths during pandemic

According to Reuters calculations that are based on recently published data from Russia's statistics agency, the nation recorded more than 400,000 excess deaths from April 2020 to March 2021.

Reuters notes that excess deaths are typically defined as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths during the same periods.

Rosstat, the Russian statistics agency, said Russia recorded around 250,000 deaths related to COVID-19 from April 2020 to March 2021, reported Reuters.

The death rate was around 25 percent higher in March 2021 compared with the same month a year ago.

Russia's official COVID-19 task force said last week that the authorities had recorded more than 4.8 million cases nationwide since the start of the pandemic, reported Reuters.

Most populous U.S. county records 0 COVID-19 deaths

Los Angeles County reached a major milestone after it recorded zero COVID-19 deaths in a 24-hour period, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The most populous U.S. county, it was previously a major hot spot for the coronavirus last winter.

Now as vaccinations rise, the county reported no new COVID-19 deaths on May 2.

While it's possible deaths were undercounted, public health officials said that the positive coronavirus infection rate has reached its lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

Reaching herd immunity may be unlikely

Widely circulating coronavirus variants and persistent vaccine hesitancy will keep herd immunity out of reach, reported The New York Times.

But vaccinating the most vulnerable may be enough to restore normalcy.

According to the Times, over half of U.S. adults have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

However, daily vaccination rates are slipping. The consensus among scientists and public health experts is that the herd immunity threshold won’t be reached — not in the near future, and perhaps not ever.

Continued vaccinations, especially for people at highest risk because of age, potential exposure, or health status, will be crucial to limiting the severity of outbreaks, if not their frequency, experts believe, reported the Times.

“The virus is unlikely to go away,” Rustom Antia, PhD, an evolutionary biologist at Emory University in Atlanta, told the Times. “But we want to do all we can to check that it’s likely to become a mild infection.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top adviser on COVID-19, acknowledged this shift in experts’ thinking, reported the Times.

“People were getting confused and thinking you’re never going to get the infections down until you reach this mystical level of herd immunity, whatever that number is,” he said.

“That’s why we stopped using herd immunity in the classic sense,” he added. “I’m saying: Forget that for a second. You vaccinate enough people; the infections are going to go down.”

4/29/21 1:58 p.m. PDT — EU COVID-19 certificates must facilitate free movement

As EU member states start to issue vaccine certificates, the European Parliament made an announcement in a press release that put guidelines on these certificates.

In the press release, members of the European Parliament (MEPs) also agreed that a new “EU COVID-19 certificate” should only be in place for 12 months “and not longer.”

“The document, which may be in digital or paper format, will attest that a person has been vaccinated against coronavirus or, alternatively, that they have a recent negative test result or have recovered from the infection,” reads the press release.

“However, EU COVID-19 certificates will neither serve as travel document nor become a precondition to exercise the right to free movement,” it states.

According to MEPs, holders of an EU COVID-19 certificate should not be subject to travel restrictions that include quarantine, self-isolation, or testing.

They also stressed that to avoid discrimination against people who have not been vaccinated, and for economic reasons, EU countries should “ensure universal, accessible, timely, and free of charge testing.”

Skipping second vaccine dose could prolong pandemic, study finds

The latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that nearly 38 percent of U.S. adults are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, reported Fox News.

But officials warn about a portion of the 55 percent who have only received a first dose and are skipping out on the second.

According to a new study, 8 percent of people are skipping their second dose and potentially prolonging the pandemic.

Researchers also said this could be a more serious problem for marginalized racial and ethnic groups that have historically had higher attrition rates for multidose vaccines.

They found that Black and Latinx respondents were much less likely than white respondents to believe COVID-19 vaccines provided strong protection after the second dose, and significantly more likely to be unsure.

“These findings suggest that there is a real need — and opportunity — for the medical community to provide fuller guidance and greater contextual explanations to vaccines, about how life can change after vaccination as we gradually return to normalcy,” the study authors wrote.

4/28/21 2:56 p.m. PDT — Deaths top 200,000 in India as COVID-19 continues to surge

More than 200,000 people are known to have died from COVID-19 in India. Many more deaths may have gone uncounted, according to reports.

More than 360,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 in India in a single 24-hour period, marking another global record for daily cases in a country.

Indian COVID-19 vaccine found to neutralize virus variant from India

There are some signs of good news as COVID-19 continues to worsen in much of the globe.

Dr. Anthony Fauci announced that India’s homegrown COVID-19 vaccine, called COVAXIN, has been found to neutralize the B1.617 variant, which was first identified in the South Asian nation, reported CNN.

According to a press release from drugmaker Bharat Biotech, COVAXIN is 100 percent effective against severe COVID-19 disease, with an impact on reduction in hospitalizations.

“This (B1.617 variant) is something where we’re still gaining data on a daily basis, but the most recent data was looking at convalescent sera of COVID-19 cases and people who received the vaccine used in India, the COVAXIN,” Fauci said during a virtual press briefing, reported CNN. “It was found to neutralize the 617 variants.”

Fauci confirmed vaccination is the way forward for India to resolve its current pandemic surge.

“Despite the real difficulty that we’re seeing in India, vaccination could be a very, very important antidote against this,” he said.

Child with COVID-19 dies in Hawaii

Health officials in Hawaii confirmed the state’s first COVID-19 death attributed to a child in a press release yesterday.

The child, a boy with underlying health conditions, had traveled to the state by plane with his two fully vaccinated parents.

According to the Hawaii Department of Health, he developed COVID-19 symptoms shortly after arrival and was taken to a hospital, where he later died.

The press release revealed no other details about the child or his parents. It’s not clear where he may have contracted the coronavirus.

According to a Department of Health spokesperson, both parents tested negative for COVID-19 before boarding the flight from the U.S. mainland to Oahu.

“I can tell you that both parents had been vaccinated, fully vaccinated. And both parents had tested negative before traveling from the mainland to Hawaii,” spokesperson Brooks Baehr told Hawaii News Now.

“So soon after arrival that it is very likely this child was infected with COVID while on the mainland or perhaps in transit,” he said.

As of last week, more than 3.7 million children had contracted the coronavirus nationwide.

Of those cases, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recorded 291 deaths, reported Hawaii News Now.

4/27/21 2:55 p.m. PDT — CDC says fully vaccinated people can stop wearing masks outside in most cases

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released updated guidance for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

The CDC now says if people are fully vaccinated, they can safely go outdoors without wearing a facial covering in most cases.

“Beginning today, gathering with a group of friends, in a park, going for a picnic,” President Biden said, addressing reporters. “As long as you are vaccinated and outdoors, you can do it without wearing a mask.”

But fully vaccinated people do need to wear a mask if they're at a crowded outdoor event like a concert, advises the CDC.

Child dies of COVID-19 complications in Minnesota

Minnesota Department of Health officials say they're “deeply saddened” to confirm a school-aged child under the age of 10 has died due to complications from COVID-19, reported CBS Minnesota.

According to the Department of Health, this isn’t the first such death.

“While COVID-related deaths in children are rare, they can occur even in otherwise healthy children. Since the start of the pandemic, three Minnesota children under age 18 have died due to COVID-19,” the health department said in a statement, reported CBS.

Minnesota’s governor expressed his concern about the death and a reminder that even with the vaccine, the pandemic is ongoing.

“I’m heartbroken to hear COVID has taken the life of a first grader. My thoughts are with the Minnesota family grieving the loss of their beloved child,” Gov. Tim Walz posted on social media. “As vaccines help us turn the page on COVID-19, we can’t forget that this deadly disease is still present in our communities.”

CBS reported that according to the school district, 22 students and staff are in quarantine at the elementary school.

The school superintendent said they’re following Department of Health guidelines, with no grades changing from in-person learning at this time.

Dr. Brooke Moore, pediatric pulmonologist for Children’s Minnesota Hospital, told CBS that most children who get COVID-19 won't develop symptoms, and if they do, they will experience mild to moderate illness, but around 10 percent of cases are severe.

4/26/21 2:54 p.m. PDT — Indian hospitals overwhelmed by pandemic, U.S. promises aid

New coronavirus cases hit a record peak for a 5th day in India, with infections rising by 352,991 in the last 24 hours, and crowded hospitals running out of oxygen supplies and beds, reported Reuters.

According to Reuters, countries including the United Kingdom, Germany, and United States pledge to send urgent medical aid to India to help battle the crisis overwhelming its hospitals.

“Currently the hospital is in beg-and-borrow mode and it is an extreme crisis situation,” a spokesman for the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in the capital, New Delhi, told Reuters.

Reuters also reported that the southern Indian state of Karnataka has ordered a 14-day lockdown starting tomorrow, April 27, joining the western industrial state of Maharashtra, where lockdowns will run until May 1. Some states were set to lift these measures this week.

Israel examines cases of heart inflammation

Israel officials say they're examining reported cases of heart inflammation in people who had the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.

This is an investigation, so there's not an established link between the two.

According to Reuters, Pfizer said it had not seen an increased number of these cases than what would be expected in the general population.

4/23/21 1:44 p.m. PDT — Vaccinations slow with over 50% of adults getting first dose

The rate of daily COVID-19 vaccinations given in the United States fell below 3 million for the first time in weeks on Thursday, according to data from the CDC.

According to CNBC, one reason for this slight dip might be the current pause in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which the FDA advised to suspend this month “out of an abundance of caution” after six women developed a rare blood clotting disorder.

The United States is currently reporting almost 62,000 new COVID-19 cases per day, based on a 7-day average of data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, reported CNBC.

This level is above the most recent low point of 53,600 per day in late March, but has trended downward over the past week.

Panel to assess Johnson & Johnson vaccine on Friday

A U.S. federal advisory panel will meet April 23 to possibly decide further action on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine rollout, as more reports emerge of rare but severe blood clots in women given the shot.

The CDC is looking to its advisers to help determine the true magnitude of this risk — and how to balance it against the need to protect millions still developing COVID-19 every day.

“I appreciate the importance of acting swiftly,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told AP.

She also said she hopes for “a recommendation that takes into account the risk versus reward” of using Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine.

4/22/21 2:28 p.m. PDT — U.S. to reach “tipping point” with vaccine supply outpacing demand

A recently published report warns the United States will likely reach a “tipping point” in the next 2 to 4 weeks when vaccine supply could outstrip demand.

The rapidly climbing number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 is good news, reported CNN. But tens of millions of Americans haven't started their vaccinations yet.

National Institutes of Health (NIH) director Dr. Francis Collins told CNN that a lot of people are still not sure they want to take part in “this amazing opportunity to put this virus behind us.”

“We have to really figure out how to get the messages out there,” he continued. “So that those who are still undecided get the information they need to see why this is really something they would want to do.”

Parts of the country have already begun to see that pattern, with younger Americans less likely than older residents to claim they've been or will get vaccinated, according to recent poll data from Quinnipiac University.

About 40 percent of the U.S. population has received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, with roughly 26 percent fully vaccinated, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Efforts at all governmental levels are ongoing to increase those numbers.

“I think our effort shifts, and it shifts to younger people who just don't think about COVID quite as much,” Andy Slavitt, the White House senior advisor for COVID-19 response, told CNN.

Pregnant people vaccinated with mRNA vaccines not at high risk for side effects

A study recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that pregnant people who received an mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy did not appear to have worse outcomes than those who weren't vaccinated.

This study included 35,691 participants between ages 16 to 54.

Researchers analyzed data from the “v-safe after vaccination health checker” surveillance system, the v-safe pregnancy registry, and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

They found that mRNA vaccination protects pregnant people against COVID-19 and its complications during pregnancy, and emphasize that emerging evidence shows SARS-CoV-2 antibodies could be transferred to the fetus after vaccination in the third trimester.

“Which suggests that maternal vaccination might provide some level of protection to the neonate,” the study authors wrote.

4/21/21 3:20 p.m. PDT — Biden administration reaches goal of 200 million vaccinations

President Joe Biden said today that the United States would reach more than 200 million COVID-19 shots administered since the start of his administration.

Biden had doubled his original promise of 100 million shots in his first 100 days as vaccinations picked up.

Today, he said the administration had met its expanded goal a week before his 100 days were up.

Pfizer identifies fake COVID-19 vaccines abroad

Pfizer said the first confirmed instances of counterfeit versions of its COVID-19 vaccine have been identified in Mexico and Poland, reported The Wall Street Journal.

It's the latest attempt by criminals exploiting the worldwide vaccination campaign.

According to the Journal, vials seized by authorities in separate investigations were tested by Pfizer and confirmed to contain bogus vaccine.

Additionally, the vials recovered in Mexico also had fraudulent labeling. A substance inside vials found in Poland was likely an anti-wrinkle treatment, Pfizer said.

“Everybody on the planet needs it. Many are desperate for it,” Lev Kubiak, Pfizer’s world head of security, told the Journal. “We have a very limited supply, a supply that will increase as we ramp up and other companies enter the vaccine space. In the interim, there is a perfect opportunity for criminals.”

Kubiak also said he expects counterfeiting to worsen as the rollout continues. “Right now, consumers are easily fooled,” he said. “They are desperate for the vaccine.”

So far, no counterfeit vaccines have been discovered in the United States, according to the Department of Homeland Security, reported the Journal.

However, the limited supply of COVID-19 vaccines and high demand could prompt people to seek doses outside official channels, particularly in countries like Mexico and Brazil.

COVID-19 cases are high in these countries, and there's a history of counterfeiting prescription drugs, industry and security experts told the Journal.

4/20/21 12:53 p.m. PDT — COVID-19 cases up 25% in U.S.

According to CNN, in the past 7 days the United States reported more than 67,000 new COVID-19 cases daily on average, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

This is an almost 25 percent increase from last month’s 7-day average.

Experts say COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States are being distributed at an impressive rate, with all Americans 16 and older able to get the shot.

But a leading health official said the country remains in a “complicated stage,” reported CNN.

“More people in the United States are being vaccinated every single day at an accelerated pace,” CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 briefing yesterday, reported CNN.

“On the other hand,” she added, “cases and hospitalizations are increasing in some areas of the country, and cases among younger people who have not yet been vaccinated are also increasing.”

Experts told CNN that there are several reasons behind the rise in cases, including coronavirus variants, like B.1.1.7, which has helped fuel the current surge in Michigan.

“Pandemic fatigue” and more people moving around likely also contributed to the rise.

Rapid, at-home COVID-19 test available this week

Rapid COVID-19 tests will be available to consumers this week without a prescription. They will be sold by CVS Pharmacy, Walgreens, and Walmart, reported USA Today.

Abbott Laboratories' BinaxNOW coronavirus self-test kits will be shipped to the three national chain retailers and also available online.

The two-test kit, which received Food and Drug Administration (FDA) emergency use authorization for serial screening, will cost $23.99, the company said, reported USA Today.

Another rapid test made by Australia-based Ellume will be available at CVS stores in Rhode Island and Massachusetts for $38.99, but it can also be purchased online or at most CVS stores in other states by the end of May.

According to USA Today, both tests show results in about 15 minutes without requiring lab analysis.

4/19/21 11:38 a.m. PDT — Fauci expects J&J vaccine pause to end Friday

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a series of interviews yesterday that the nationwide “pause” in the use of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine will likely end by Friday, April 23.

“By Friday, we should have an answer as to where we’re going with it,” Fauci said. “I would think that we’re not going to go beyond Friday in the extension of this pause.”

Fauci’s prediction that the one-shot vaccination would resume comes as the United States reached the milestone of having at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in the arms of roughly half the adult population, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

All adults in all 50 states now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

All adults in the United States are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, something public health experts say is a major step toward ending the current pandemic, reported The Hill.

According to The Hill, people 16 and older in every state, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico are eligible to receive one of the available COVID-19 vaccines as of today.

“It’s truly historic that we have already reached this milestone,” Dr. Nandita Mani, the associate medical director of infection prevention and control at the University of Washington Medical Center, told The New York Times

4/16/21 12:12 p.m. PDT — CDC releases COVID-19 ‘breakthrough case’ numbers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that 5,800 people out of 77 million vaccinated people developed COVID-19, reported CNN.

That's 0.008 percent of the fully vaccinated people who were included in the study. The agency plans to update these figures every Monday.

CDC officials said these “breakthrough cases” are expected because the vaccines are not 100 percent effective.

White House to track variant spread

The Biden administration announced today that it's setting up a $1.7 billion network to track the spread of coronavirus variants.

The plan includes increased funding for the CDC and U.S. states to help track these new variants.

It will also create partnerships with six universities to conduct research and develop technologies to combat COVID-19.

4/15/21 12:30 p.m. PDT — Pfizer CEO says we may need annual vaccinations for COVID-19

The chief executive officer of Pfizer said Thursday that people may need to get a third COVID-19 vaccination within 12 months of being full vaccinated.

Albert Bourla added that annual inoculations may be needed to prevent future spread of the disease.

Researchers still haven't determined how long protection against the disease lasts after someone is vaccinated.

Blood clots rare in Moderna, Pfzier vaccines

A new study reports that the number of blood clot cases is about the same for the Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech, and AstraZeneca vaccines. The study has not yet been peer reviewed.

The researchers said about 4 in 1 million people who get the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will develop blood clots. The rate is about 5 in 1 million for the AstraZeneca shot.

They note that about 39 in 1 million people who develop COVID-19 get blood clots.

India reports 1-day record in COVID-19 cases

India reported a record 200,000 new cases of COVID-19 today, becoming only the second country after the United States to reach this sobering single-day toll, reported The Washington Post.

These new cases have pushed India’s total cases to more than 14 million and turned the nation into the pandemic’s global epicenter with little indication the outbreak will slow.

In an effort to contain the COVID-19 surge, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced curfew-like restrictions on the movement of people in the state from April 14 to May 1, reported The Indian Express.

Under these orders, no person is allowed to be in a public place without a valid reason.

All establishments, public spaces, activities, and services will remain closed, except for essential services that can remain open between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m. on working days.

4/14/21 11:35 a.m. PDT — Moderna and Novavax added to U.K. ‘mix and match’ vaccine trial

A U.K. “mix and match” clinical trial has been expanded to include the Moderna and Novavax COVID-19 vaccines.

The initial trial began in February using AstraZeneca and then Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in the two doses administered to participants.

The expanded trial will add Moderna and Novavax along with Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca.

The purpose of the trial is to determine the effectiveness of mixing vaccines and whether there are any side effects.

More than 1,000 people are now participating in the trials.

Regular exercise may reduce risk of COVID-19

A new study conducted by Kaiser Permanente reports that being consistently active is strongly associated with a reduced risk of experiencing severe COVID-19.

The research, published yesterday in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at more than 40,000 adults who contracted the coronavirus.

Researchers found that people who got at least 150 minutes per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity — exercise guidelines issued by the Department of Health and Human Services — showed significantly lower rates of hospitalization, ICU admission, and death due to COVID-19.

“It is well known that immune function improves with regular [physical activity] and those who are regularly active have a lower incidence, intensity of symptoms and mortality from various viral infections,” the study authors wrote.

Researchers pointed out that regular exercise also reduces the risk of systemic inflammation, a main contributor to the lung damage caused by COVID-19.

They also found that exercise benefits cardiovascular health, can increase lung capacity and muscle strength, and even improve mental health.

Leaving middle seats open on airplanes may reduce COVID-19 risk

Researchers report that keeping middle seats vacant on larger airplanes can reduce the spread of COVID-19.

A study published today by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) concluded that open middle seats can reduce the risk of exposure to the coronavirus by 23 to 57 percent.

The researchers say vacant middle seats increase the distance between passengers and provide more protection against airborne particles from the coronavirus.

4/13/21 11:36 a.m. PDT — FDA and CDC recommend pause on Johnson & Johnson vaccine over rare side effect

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are urging a pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine due to an extremely rare but serious side effect, reported The New York Times.

The FDA and CDC reported six cases of a stroke-like illness in women who have taken the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

These cases are extremely rare with more than 6 million Johnson & Johnson vaccinations already given in the United States.

Today in a press briefing, health officials stressed that they want to prepare healthcare professionals to recognize the signs of rare but serious side effects, and that they're still investigating whether the vaccine caused these side effects.

The six cases all involved women under age 50. One case was fatal, while another led to a person being in critical condition.

This side effect has not been seen in people who have received the mRNA vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna.

Record high COVID-19 hospitalizations for children in Michigan

Children aren't immune to COVID-19, reported the Detroit Free Press. They can get sick, just like adults do. They can be hospitalized, the same as adults, and on rare occasion, they can even die.

According to the Detroit Free Press, this is the message doctors at several of Michigan's children's hospitals want people to hear as that state confronts another massive surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

There were 3,953 reported cases yesterday, April 12, surpassing the state's November/December spike.

“The state is at a record high for hospitalizations for pediatrics during the entire pandemic and our hospital reflects that,” Dr. Rudolph Valentini, a pediatric nephrologist at Children's Hospital of Michigan and group chief medical officer for the Detroit Medical Center, told the Detroit Free Press.

According to state data, 49 children were hospitalized April 12 with either confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19.

CDC data shows Michigan's case rate is 515.8 cases per 100,000 people over the last week, the worst in the United States and four times higher than that in neighboring Ohio.

COVID-19 pandemic growing ‘exponentially,’ says WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday, April 12, that the trajectory of the pandemic is now “growing exponentially,” with more than 4.4 million new COVID-19 cases reported over the last week, reported CNBC.

“This is not the situation we want to be in 16 months into a pandemic where we have proven control measure,” said Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, the agency’s technical lead for COVID-19, reported CNBC.

“It is the time right now where everyone has to take stock and have a reality check of what we need to be doing,” she said. “Vaccines and vaccinations are coming online, but they aren’t here yet in every part of the world.”

According to the network, Van Kerkhove also said that cases climbed by 9 percent worldwide last week for the seventh consecutive weekly increase, with deaths jumping 5 percent.

Van Kerkhove is also asking governments to support their citizens in implementing pandemic safety measures, reported CNBC.

4/12/21 2:25 p.m. PDT — Pfizer vaccine less effective against variant first detected in South Africa, study finds

According to a new but not yet peer-reviewed study conducted in Israel, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine might not offer sufficient protection against the coronavirus variant first detected in South Africa.

Researchers examined whether people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and got an infection were likely to contract one of two coronavirus variants compared with people who were not vaccinated.

According to the study findings, vaccinated people who contracted an infection at least a week after the second vaccine dose disproportionately contracted the variant first detected in South Africa, B.1.351.

“These results overall suggest that vaccine breakthrough infection is more frequent with both VOCs (viruses of concern), yet a combination of mass-vaccination with two doses coupled with non-pharmaceutical interventions control and contain their spread,” the study authors wrote.

Record-high vaccinations, but unvaccinated young adults at risk

A record-high 4.6 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered in 1 day, according to data published April 10 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported CNN.

“Amazing Saturday! +4.63M doses administered over total yesterday, a new record,” Dr. Cyrus Shahpar, the White House COVID-19 data director, tweeted. “More than 500K higher than old record last Saturday. Incredible number of doses administered.”

But CNN also reported that more than 75 percent of the U.S. population isn’t yet fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky warns that for the third straight week, new COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are increasing.

“Cases and emergency room visits are up,” said Walensky, as reported by CNN. “We are seeing these increases in younger adults, most of whom have not yet been vaccinated.”

She added that, nationwide, more Americans ages 18 to 64 have gone to emergency departments for COVID-19 complications, and these trends are magnified in the Upper Midwest.

“CDC is working closely with public health officials in this region to understand what is driving these cases and how we can intervene,” Walensky said.

Timothy A. Clary – Pool/Getty Images

COVID-19 surge seen in Michigan

Despite increasing vaccinations, COVID-19 cases are surging in Michigan.

On average the state is seeing more than 7,000 new cases daily, far higher than the average of around 1,500 cases seen in February, according to The New York Times.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has said she will extend workplace COVID-19 restrictions for at least 6 months due to the increase in cases.

Whitmer said she will ask the federal government for more vaccines as the virus is spreading rapidly, but she has not said she will enforce new shutdowns in the state.

4/9/21 12:47 p.m. PDT — Variant first found in Brazil on the rise in U.S., CDC report says

With new U.S. COVID-19 cases trending upward, and nearly 80,000 new infections reported yesterday, health officials warn about the spread of multiple, more transmissible coronavirus variants, some of which have caused outbreaks in states such as Michigan and California, reported The Washington Post.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom, B.1.1.7, accounts for nearly 20,000 cases in all 50 states, becoming the new dominant variant.

“CDC is closely monitoring these variants of concern (VOC). These variants have mutations in the virus genome that alter the characteristics and cause the virus to act differently in ways that are significant to public health,” according to the CDC website.

According to The Washington Post, the variant P.1, which was first detected in Brazil, has taken the No. 2 spot.

At least 434 people in the United States have contracted this coronavirus variant. The largest number of cases are in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Florida.

Pfizer to seek EUA for COVID-19 vaccine for children

Currently, no COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for children under age 16. But that could soon change as Pfizer and BioNTech have asked the Food and Drug Administration to expand their emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine to include children as young as 12.

New data released by the companies has reportedly shown that the vaccines appear to be effective and safe in younger children.

Scientists work toward development of COVID-19 pill

We now have vaccines that prevent most cases of COVID-19, and we even have drugs that help with the most severe symptoms of the disease, reported STAT.

Experts are now focusing on a creating a COVID-19 treatment that doesn't need to be given via an injection or infusion.

According to STAT, experts are hoping to create a pill calibrated to target the coronavirus that's both economical and has tolerable side effects.

It could potentially also work as well as antibody treatments that require an hourlong intravenous infusion.

“We’re looking for something I could give everyone in an urgent care setting who comes in with exposure or a positive test,” Dr. Nathaniel Erdmann, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, told STAT. “An easy, oral, safe drug.”

STAT reported that drugmaker Merck is expected to present pivotal data on an oral treatment similar to remdesivir.

And there's a treatment from Atea Pharmaceuticals, first developed for the hepatitis C virus, that could also have pivotal results in the coming months.

However, the most promising is an antiviral from Pfizer engineered specifically for the coronavirus. It entered its first clinical trial last month.

4/8/21 1:56 p.m. PDT — Over 1 in 4 adults have been vaccinated against COVID-19

Over 25 percent of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported NBC News.

The milestone comes as states are increasingly opening eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination.

However, even as vaccinations are picking up, new coronavirus variants are spreading rapidly in the United States, and COVID-19 cases are again ticking upward.

Online scammers push phony vaccine cards

Scammers are offering false and stolen vaccine cards for sale as businesses and states consider using proof of COVID-19 vaccination to relieve pandemic restrictions, reported The New York Times.

The pandemic has seen many instances of people taking advantage of the crisis, like people hoarding hand sanitizer or cheating recipients out of their stimulus checks.

Online scammers have now latched on to the newest way to prey on the public: proof that you’ve been vaccinated against COVID-19.

These critically important vaccine cards began showing up for sale on popular websites like Facebook, eBay, and Twitter beginning in late January, reported The New York Times.

All were forged or falsified copies of the CDC vaccine cards.

“We found hundreds of online stores selling the cards, potentially thousands were sold,” Saoud Khalifah, founder of Fakespot, a service that offers tools to detect fake listings and reviews online, told The New York Times.

Profiteers have pressed ahead as airlines and other companies have recently said they may require proof of COVID-19 immunization so that people can safely travel or attend events, reported the Times.

“We’re seeing a huge market for these false cards online,” Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, told the Times. “This is a dangerous practice that undermines public health.”

U.K., Europe change guidance on AstraZeneca vaccine

The U.K. government and health experts in the country rushed to defend the COVID-19 vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford following concerns over a possible link to blood clots, reported CNBC.

They now recommend that anyone younger than 30 should receive an alternative vaccine.

“No effective medicine or vaccine is without risk. We continually monitor safety during widespread use of any vaccine,” Dr. June Raine, chief executive of Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, said in a statement.

“This is to ensure vaccines are performing as expected, to identify any new side effects that may arise, and to ensure the benefits continue to outweigh the risks,” she said.

A new model finds U.K. may reach herd immunity this month

According to a new report, the United Kingdom may reach herd immunity this month.

The Telegraph reported that the United Kingdom could theoretically reach herd immunity by Monday based on modeling done by University College London.

That threshold may be reached due to both increased vaccinations and the fact that people who previously had COVID-19 will likely have some immunity against reinfection.

The modeling finds that 73.4 percent of people in the United Kingdom will have some protection against the disease by April 12, meaning the nation may start to reach herd immunity.

However, this remains theoretical. It's unclear whether cases will continue to drop after April 12.

4/7/21 3:37 p.m. PDT — COVID-19 ‘brain disease’ affects up to one-third of people, study says

Mental health or neurological symptoms are diagnosed in up to 34 percent of people who have had COVID-19, according to research published yesterday in The Lancet Psychiatry.

Researchers analyzed the health records of more than 236,000 people, mostly Americans, who recovered from COVID-19. Researchers compared them with people who had other respiratory tract infections in the same time period.

According to the researchers, these COVID-19 survivors typically received a psychiatric or neurological diagnosis within 6 months of their original coronavirus infection.

The most common condition was anxiety, followed by mood disorders.

Psychiatric or neurological symptoms were more severe in people who were hospitalized for COVID-19, but they were also common in people treated for COVID-19 in outpatient settings.

Researchers also found that people who had recovered from COVID-19 had a significantly increased risk of brain hemorrhage, stroke, and dementia.

“Our study provides evidence for substantial neurological and psychiatric morbidity in the 6 months after COVID-19 infection,” the study authors wrote. “Risks were greatest in, but not limited to, patients who had severe COVID-19.”

Nearly half of new COVID-19 cases come from these 5 states

Almost 50 percent of new COVID-19 cases in the United States are concentrated in just five states.

It includes New York, which had the highest number of new infections across the nation last week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, reported the New York Post.

According to the outlet, New York, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey accounted for 44 percent of all new cases between March 29 and April 4, with about 197,500 cases out of around 452,000 seen nationwide.

Just behind New York was Michigan, which has been experiencing a new surge and recorded 47,036 new cases over the last week, or an average of about 6,719 each day.

That's almost double what it was 2 weeks ago, reported the New York Post.

4/6/21 3:23 p.m. PDT — Biden says all U.S. adults will be eligible for vaccine on April 19

President Joe Biden said today that the administration will now allow anyone over 16 to be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine on April 19. Originally Biden had aimed for widespread eligibility to open on May 1.

Vaccines are not yet approved for children under age 16, although studies are still ongoing.

The news comes as many states have already started to allow anyone over 16 to be eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

While eligibility will be more widespread, it may be difficult to get a vaccination appointment as there won't be enough doses for all adults until later in the spring and summer.

Dangerous coronavirus variant has spread to all states 

A highly contagious coronavirus variant first detected in the United Kingdom has now been reported in every U.S. state.

Experts are concerned that coronavirus variants could send U.S. cases surging, reported CNN.

According to the network, more than 15,000 cases of the potentially more deadly variant have been reported in the United States in the midst of efforts to get all Americans vaccinated.

Experts are asking the public to follow pandemic precautions for a little while longer.

“America appears to be done with the pandemic,” Michael Osterholm, PhD, director for the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN. “The virus is not done with us.”

The good news, Osterholm told CNN, is that existing vaccines are very effective against the variants.

But the United States may not be able to administer vaccines fast enough to avoid the next surge.

“We are not going to have enough vaccines, the way we are going, into the arms of enough Americans over the course of the next 6 to 10 weeks with this surge that we are going to stop it,” Osterholm told CNN. “It's just simply not going to happen.”

Biden administration steps up worldwide effort against pandemic

The Biden administration said April 5 that it's stepping up efforts to combat COVID-19 worldwide.

The administration has appointed a veteran diplomat to run its global COVID-19 response, and pledges to support more equitable production and distribution of vaccines, reported The Washington Post.

“This pandemic won’t end at home until it ends worldwide,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement while announcing the appointment of Gayle Smith, former director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, as global COVID-19 response coordinator.

“We have a duty to other countries to get the virus under control here in the United States,” he added. “But soon, the United States will need to step up our work and rise to the occasion worldwide.”

4/5/21 2:51 p.m. PDT — New variant in California

A new variant of the coronavirus has been found in the San Francisco Bay Area, reported Fox News.

According to the network, a spokesperson for Stanford Health Care said the Stanford Clinical Virology Lab has identified and confirmed one case of the emerging variant through genomic sequencing.

At least seven presumed cases of the variant, first identified in India, were also found.

This variant has been called a “double mutant” because it carries two mutations in the virus that helps it latch itself onto cells, reported the San Francisco Chronicle. It might be responsible for a new surge in cases in India.

“This Indian variant contains two mutations in the same virus for the first time, previously seen on separate variants,” Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, told the Chronicle.

“Since we know that the domain affected is the part that the virus uses to enter the body, and that the California variant is already potentially more resistant to some vaccine antibodies, it seems to reason that there is a chance that the Indian variant may do that too,” he said.

Game-changing COVID-19 vaccine enters clinical trials

A new COVID-19 vaccine is entering clinical trials in Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, and Vietnam that could change how we fight the pandemic, reported The New York Times.

The vaccine is called NDV-HXP-S. It's the first vaccine to use a new molecular design widely expected to create more potent antibodies than the current generation of vaccines.

A key advantage is that the new vaccine can be mass-produced in chicken eggs like other flu vaccines made in factories around the world.

According to The New York Times, if the new vaccine proves safe and effective, drugmakers could potentially produce well over a billion doses of it a year.

“That’s staggering — it would be a game-changer,” Andrea Taylor, assistant director of programs at the Duke Global Health Innovation Center, told the Times.

The Times emphasized that clinical trials must first establish that this innovative vaccine actually works.

The first phase of clinical trials will conclude in July, and the final phase will take several months more.

“It’s a home run for protection,” Dr. Bruce Innes of the PATH Center for Vaccine Innovation and Access, which has coordinated the development of NVD-HXP-S, told the Times. “I think it’s a world-class vaccine.”

4/2/21 3:02 p.m. PDT — Get COVID-19 vaccine before going back to normal, experts plead

Fears are growing that the nation could be facing a fourth surge of COVID-19 cases. Health experts are pleading with Americans to maintain pandemic precautions until they’re fully vaccinated, reported CNN.

“Please wait until you're fully vaccinated before you're traveling, before you're engaging in high-risk activities,” said CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen, the network reported. “No doubt when you become vaccinated, the activities that were once higher risk are now going to be lower risk and so just wait until then.”

Wen added that she’s worried the United States is on the “precipice” of a fourth surge, with data showing infections are now skewing toward younger generations.

This sentiment was echoed by Dr. Anthony Fauci, who told “NBC Nightly News” that while he’s feeling some pandemic fatigue himself, it’s important the United States maintain precautions while Americans are vaccinated, reported CNN.

“We need to hold out just a bit longer and give vaccines a chance to really get the upper hand in this,” Fauci said. “I'll guarantee as we get into the late spring and the early summer, you're going to see a return to gradual degree of normality that everyone is hoping for, but we don't want to do it prematurely.”

The CDC changed travel guidance for people who are vaccinated today. They advise people who are fully vaccinated can travel without getting a COVID-19 test and do not need to self-quarantine after arriving in a new destination.

FDA authorizes changes to Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorized two changes to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine that could provide extra doses from each vial, reported The Associated Press (AP).

According to the AP, the FDA approved new vials that increase the number of available doses from 10 to a maximum of 15.

Regulators also said healthcare professionals can safely extract up to 11 doses from the original 10-dose vials, and these changes will be added to instructions for healthcare workers, reported the AP.

1 in 7 people in U.K. may have signs of long-haul COVID-19

A new report finds that as many as 1 in 7 people living in the United Kingdom have symptoms associated with “long-haul COVID-19.”

The report from the U.K. Office for National Statistics found that as many as 13.7 percent of people in the United Kingdom had signs of long-haul COVID-19, including fatigue, muscle pain, and difficulty breathing.

4/1/21 1:38 p.m. PDT — 15 million J&J vaccines thrown out after dosage mix-up

A dosage mix-up at a Baltimore, Maryland, production facility ruined about 15 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.

The mix-up prompted the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to delay shipments of the vaccine, according to Fox Business.

Reportedly, employees at Emergent BioSolutions, a production facility in Baltimore, mixed up two vaccine dosages.

U.S. officials said the vaccine spoilage wouldn’t affect plans to provide sufficient vaccines to immunize every adult by May, Fox Business reported.

The drugmaker said it expects to deliver its vaccine at a rate of over 1 billion doses by the end of the year.

Emergent BioSolutions has a string of citations from U.S. health officials for quality control problems, reported The Associated Press (AP).

According to records obtained by the AP through the Freedom of Information Act, the FDA has repeatedly cited Emergent for problems that include poorly trained employees, cracked vials, and problems managing mold and other contamination around one of its facilities.

“Human errors do happen,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci in an interview on “CBS This Morning,” reported the AP.

“You have checks and balances… That’s the reason why the good news is that it did get picked up,” he said. “As I mentioned, that’s the reason nothing from that plant has gone into anyone that we’ve administered to.”

Can vaccinated people still transmit the coronavirus?

It’s possible. Experts told the AP that the risk is low, but they’re still studying how well the shots slow transmission.

“A vaccinated person controls the virus better, so the chances of transmitting will be greatly reduced,” Dr. Robert Gallo a virus expert at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, told the AP.

According to the AP, evidence from studies suggest if people do contract an infection despite vaccination, they’ll harbor less of the coronavirus in their nose than someone who has not been vaccinated, making transmission more difficult.

COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in 2020

COVID-19 was the third-leading cause of death in the United States last year after heart disease and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

COVID-19 led to about 375,000 deaths during the year, and the age-adjusted death rate rose about 16 percent.

In total, more than 552,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States since the start of the pandemic last year.

3/31/21 2:28 p.m. PDT — Pfizer vaccine safe and effective for adolescents, drugmaker says

Clinical trial results of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine find it’s 100 percent effective and well tolerated in children 12 to 15 years old, the drugmaker said today, reported CNN.

Pfizer plans to submit this data to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as soon as possible for expanded emergency use authorization of the vaccine.

The phase 3 trial included 2,260 participants 12 to 15 years old in the United States. The vaccine elicited a strong antibody response 1 month after the second dose, according to Pfizer.

This data has yet to be peer reviewed.

Pfizer also said the side effects observed in this age group were similar to those among 16- to 25-year-olds, which include pain at the injection site, fatigue, and fever.

Participants will be monitored for protection and safety for 2 years after their second dose.

“We share the urgency to expand the authorization of our vaccine to use in younger populations and are encouraged by the clinical trial data from adolescents between the ages of 12 and 15,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla told CNN.

“We plan to submit these data to FDA as a proposed amendment to our emergency use authorization in the coming weeks and to other regulators around the world, with the hope of starting to vaccinate this age group before the start of the next school year,” he said.

3 reasons why COVID-19 cases are on the rise

Despite the U.S. vaccine rollout improving significantly, the daily number of confirmed COVID-19 cases is again on the rise after falling significantly from January highs, reported Yahoo! Finance.

According to Yahoo! Finance, the latest 7-day average of confirmed U.S. cases was 60,425 on March 27, and is continuing to average roughly 50,000 new cases daily.

Dr. Calvin Sun, a New York City-based emergency medicine physician, told Yahoo! Finance that there are three main factors driving the recent surge: a mutating virus, the rolling back of safety measures, and a recent increase in travel.

A new study — which is awaiting peer review — finds that while less than 1 percent of adults report coronavirus reinfections, those who are could experience more severe symptoms if they contracted one of the several virus variants. 

3/30/21 2:29 p.m. PDT — Most states seeing rise in COVID-19 cases

After major declines this spring, the number of COVID-19 cases has risen in recent weeks.

Cases of COVID-19 rose about 9 percent last week, according to Reuters.

At least 33 states have reported more COVID-19 cases in the last week compared to the previous week.

Experts are worried a fourth wave is about to hit the United States, even as vaccinations continue.

PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images

Hold on to that COVID vaccine card

Millions of adults who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 have little proof beyond the paper card they get when getting their first dose, reported the Wall Street Journal.

According to the WSJ, the United States currently has no central database to document vaccinations, and states only keep an incomplete patchwork of records.

Also, there's no standard proof of COVID-19 vaccination like the yellow fever cards required for entry to many countries where that disease is prevalent.

As certain countries and businesses prepare to mandate digital proof of vaccination as a requirement for entry and travel, your paper card may be the only way to conduct business or access those countries.

“I’m glad we prioritized getting shots in arms,” Dr. Ami Parekh, chief medical officer at digital healthcare company Grand Rounds Inc., told the Journal. “But putting in rules about being vaccinated without giving people a way to properly track it is a little bit backwards.”

CDC chief scared where country is headed

COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are rising in the United States again, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Monday.

This may be the start of a surge experts have warned about for weeks.

“I'm going to reflect on the recurring feeling I have of impending doom… We have so much to look forward to, so much promise and potential of where we are and so much reason for hope,” said Walensky, according to CNN. “But right now, I'm scared.”

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, at least 27 states have averaged about 10 percent more daily cases this past week compared to the previous week, reported CNN.

3/29/21 3:09 p.m. PDT — Animals likely source of pandemic, WHO report says

According to a joint World Health Organization (WHO) and China study on the origins of COVID-19, the most likely scenario is that transmission of the coronavirus occurred from bats to humans through another animal.

In addition, a lab leak is “extremely unlikely,” according to a draft copy of the report obtained by The Associated Press (AP).

According to the AP, the report is expected to be made public on March 30. Experts are following closely because discovering the origins of the coronavirus might help scientists prevent future pandemics.

However, U.S. officials say that China’s involvement in the investigation raises serious questions.

“We’ve got real concerns about the methodology and the process that went into that report, including the fact that the government in Beijing apparently helped to write it,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a recent CNN interview, reported the AP.

China addressed Blinken’s criticism today.

“The U.S. has been speaking out on the report. By doing this, isn’t the U.S. trying to exert political pressure on the members of the WHO expert group?” asked Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, reported the AP.

The discovery of COVID-19 cases before the outbreak in the Chinese market suggests the pandemic may have begun elsewhere, according to the AP.

The report also notes there could have been milder COVID-19 cases that were undetected, and that could be a link between the market and previous cases.

“No firm conclusion therefore about the role of the Huanan market in the origin of the outbreak, or how the infection was introduced into the market, can currently be drawn,” the report said, according to the AP.

GINA FERAZZI/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

In real-world setting, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines provide over 90% protection

In a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), researchers found that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines can provide 90 percent protection against coronavirus infections, The Washington Post reported.

The researchers studied 4,000 essential workers, which included healthcare workers, firefighters, and police. Half were vaccinated. The researchers tested the workers periodically to see whether they had contracted an infection.

Fully vaccinated participants had 90 percent protection against an infection.

In initial studies, the vaccines were providing about 94 to 95 percent protection against contracting a symptomatic infection.

But people with asymptomatic infections were not tested, so it was unclear how protective the vaccines were against infections with no symptoms.

Experts explain what we need to know about Johnson & Johnson vaccine

After receiving emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Johnson & Johnson-owned Janssen Pharmaceuticals is now the third company to make a COVID-19 vaccine available in the United States, reported the American Medical Association (AMA).

AMA Chief Health and Science Officer Dr. Mira Irons and AMA Board Member Dr. Sandra Fryhofer were interviewed on an episode of the “AMA COVID-19 Update” to tell people about the newly authorized vaccine.

“The good thing about the Janssen vaccine is it's one dose and you're done,” Fryhofer said.

That means “you don't have to go back for a second dose. You don't have to make a second appointment. You can get fully vaccinated at one visit,” she said.

While J&J’s vaccine has 66.3 percent effectiveness overall and 74.4 percent effectiveness in the United States, it has “100 percent efficacy against hospitalization and death from the virus,” Irons emphasized during the interview. “That's really what we have to focus on.”

According to Fryhofer, a large body of evidence that includes an Ebola vaccine already tested in children and pregnant people, and approved in Europe, supports the technology used for this vaccine.

“The adenovirus vaccine uses a modified cold virus — an adenovirus called Ad26 — as the viral vector and several genes have been removed from this virus,” she explained. “It’s replication deficient, so it cannot multiply in the body.”

This means “it cannot give someone COVID-19,” Fryhofer said. 

3/25/21 1:23 p.m. — Biden pledges 200 million vaccinations in his first 100 days

President Joe Biden announced today he plans to reach the goal of 200 million vaccines administered in his first 100 days in office.

Biden had originally pledged 100 million vaccines within the first 100 days. He reached that goal about 58 days into his administration.

Currently, more than 87 million people have received at least one vaccine dose.

Over 30 million people have developed COVID-19 in the U.S.

The United States has reached yet another pandemic milestone with more than 30 million people developing COVID-19 since the start of the outbreak.

The United States is currently the global leader for both COVID-19 cases and deaths.

AstraZeneca becomes controversial after missteps

AstraZeneca has likely produced a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine in only 9 months, a significant achievement that could help end the pandemic, reported CNN.

But missteps along the way have led to criticism from both policymakers and health officials.

The drugmaker mistakenly gave some volunteers only half a dose of the vaccine in clinical trials.

The company has also been criticized for omitting crucial information from public statements.

U.S. regulators have questioned the accuracy of AstraZeneca vaccine data, saying it didn't include the most recent data.

Additionally, severe production delays in Europe have created a political firestorm and breakdown in relations with EU leaders.

“[They are] overpromising and underdelivering by massive amounts, we all see that they have bundled up at least twice their test data,” Philippe Lamberts, a member of the European Parliament, told the BBC's “Today Programme,” reported the Express. “So everything points to a company that cannot be relied upon.”

Meanwhile, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) expressed concerns that AstraZeneca presented “outdated” data from a trial of the vaccine's effectiveness.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID, called it “an unforced error” that might erode trust in a “very good vaccine,” reported CNN.

India detects double mutant coronavirus variant

As India struggles to contain a recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the country’s health officials report the discovery of a new mutant strain of the coronavirus.

According to a press release from the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there's been an increase in virus samples with the E484Q and L452R mutations.

“Such mutations confer immune escape and increased infectivity. These mutations have been found in about 15-20% of samples and do not match any previously catalogued VOCs (variants of concern),” the ministry said in the press statement.

However, according to the ministry, the number of cases linked to this double mutation isn’t high enough to explain the current nationwide spike in infections.

3/24/21 3:49 p.m. PDT — Pfizer announces phase 1 trial of COVID-19 antiviral pill

In what could be a game-changing development in the fight against COVID-19, drugmaker Pfizer has announced early stage clinical trials of an experimental oral antiviral drug to treat COVID-19.

This new treatment is a type of protease inhibitor — a technology also used to treat HIV and hepatitis C. It works by binding to a viral enzyme to prevent SARS-CoV-2 from replicating in cells.

“Tackling the COVID-19 pandemic requires both prevention via vaccine and targeted treatment for those who contract the virus,” Dr. Mikael Dolsten, Pfizer chief scientific officer, said in a statement. “Given the way that SARS-CoV-2 is mutating and the continued global impact of COVID-19, it appears likely that it will be critical to have access to therapeutic options both now and beyond the pandemic.”

According to Dolsten, this oral therapy could be given to patients at the first sign of infection, without requiring hospitalization or critical care.

Pfizer is also working on an intravenous antiviral therapy for COVID-19, which is currently being tested in a clinical trial involving hospitalized patients.

Right now, the only FDA-approved antiviral treatment for COVID-19 available is remdesivir, produced by drugmaker Gilead.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Flu shot associated with less severe COVID-19, study finds

Researchers at Michigan Medicine say they’ve found an association between receiving the flu shot and fewer, less severe COVID-19 cases, reported Fox News.

According to a University of Michigan press release, the study reviewed medical charts for more than 27,000 patients and also found that no one included in the data tested positive for both viruses at the same time.

These findings mean senior author Dr. Marion Hofmann Bowman, is continuing to recommend that her patients receive the flu shot, even as flu season may be winding down.

“It's particularly relevant for vaccine hesitance, and maybe taking the flu shot this year can ease some angst about the new COVID-19 vaccine,” said Bowman in a statement. “Instead of a concerning connection between COVID-19 and the flu shot, our publication provides more confidence that getting your flu shot is associated with staying out of the hospital for COVID-19.”

Germany faces third wave of COVID-19 due to variants

Germans are facing a new surge in COVID-19 cases, and government leaders say that new variants may be to blame.

Cases are rising as the coronavirus B.1.1.7 variant is spreading through the country, according to the Guardian.

Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the government would impose a strict 5-day lockdown in Germany around Easter, according to CNBC.

She later reversed that decision after many pointed out that a strict lockdown would lead people to crowd together in grocery stores and other areas in an effort to get supplies before the lockdown started.

3/23/21 2:53 p.m. PDT — 3 vaccinated Hawaiian residents contracted an infection

At least three people in Hawaii who were fully vaccinated against COVID-19 later contracted an infection with the new coronavirus.

They did not become severely ill, and there is no known evidence of transmission to other people, reported KITV4. While the vaccines are partly effective against symptomatic cases in trials they have been fully protective against severe COVID-19 that resulted in hospitalization or death.

The Department of Health calls these “breakthrough cases,” according to KITV4.

Doctors who spoke with KITV4 said they're not surprised and people should not be alarmed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), current vaccines are between 66 and 95 percent effective.

Doctors say the vaccine doesn't prevent infection, but it does lower the risk of hospitalization and severe symptoms.

According to KITV4, one breakthrough case involved a healthcare worker who visited multiple U.S. cities and then tested positive for the virus after returning to Oahu.

Dr. Melinda Ashton, chief quality officer with Hawaii Pacific Health, told KITV4 that this is an example of why traveling may increase infection risk.

“Absolutely you need to be careful during those times when you’re in the airport, on the airplane, with other people in larger groups,” Ashton said.

Dr. Julius Pham, chair of the COVID-19 committee at Queen's Medical Center, told KITV4 that he believes falling COVID-19 hospitalization numbers are a clear sign that vaccines protect against hospitalization.

“We haven't seen those type of numbers since early in the pandemic,” Pham said. “We're still having about 50 to 60 cases per day in the state but our hospitalization numbers are down more than the rate of infection in the state,” Pham said.

Ohio, West Virginia will permit people 16 years and older to be vaccinated

COVID-19 vaccine providers who have trouble filling appointments this week can open time slots to Ohioans ages 16 and older, Gov. Mike DeWine said March 22, reported the Dayton Daily News.

“While there are many places where there is a great demand for the vaccine, we do have some providers who are having a hard time filling appointments,” DeWine said. “If a local health department or hospital is not filling all their slots this week, they may book with anyone 16 and older.”

The news comes as West Virginia opened vaccinations to everyone over age 16. Gov. Jim Justice announced March 22 that the change in vaccination priority would be made immediately.

Ohio is scheduled to open vaccinations to all residents ages 16 and older on March 29, but those providers who are not filling appointments can open registration immediately to younger Ohioans.

3/22/21 2:16 p.m. PDT — AstraZeneca vaccine safe for all ages, data shows

AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine provided strong protection against sickness and eliminated COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths across all age groups, according to a late-stage study in the United States, the company announced today, reported the Associated Press (AP).

The vaccine appeared to be 79 percent effective against symptomatic COVID-19. No cases of hospitalization or death were reported among people who were given the vaccine.

According to the AP, AstraZeneca said its experts did not identify any safety concerns related to the vaccine. They found no increased risk of rare blood clots like those identified in Europe.

The study included more than 30,000 volunteers. Two-thirds received the AstraZeneca vaccine while the rest received a placebo.

“These results are great news as they show the remarkable efficacy of the vaccine in a new population and are consistent with the results from Oxford-led trials,” Andrew Pollard, PhD, professor of pediatric infection and immunity, and lead investigator of the Oxford University trial of the vaccine, said in a statement.

“We can expect strong impact against COVID-19 across all ages and for people of all different backgrounds from widespread us of the vaccine,” he said.

According to the Oxford University press release, AstraZeneca will submit this data for scientific peer review and to regulators at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency use approval.

Another COVID-19 surge is unlikely, but pandemic isn’t going away, expert says

Mass vaccinations and naturally acquired immunity from people who have already had a coronavirus infection will likely prevent a fourth wave of COVID-19 cases in the United States, said Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, reported CNN.

“We're talking about some form of protective immunity in about 55 percent of the population,” Gottlieb said on CBS's “Face the Nation,” reported CNN. “There's enough of a backstop here that I don't think you're going to see a fourth surge.”

In the United States, more than 82 million people have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with that number rising every day.

And nearly 30 million people have had COVID-19 and recovered, with tens of millions more having contracted the coronavirus without a confirmed test, giving them some level of natural immunity.

Still, Gottlieb cautioned the United States will continue to see COVID-19 cases and deaths, particularly as a virus variant first identified in the United Kingdom spreads.

3/19/21 2:34 p.m. PDT — Biden administration has reached goal of 100 million vaccine doses

President Joe Biden announced that 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the United States in his first 58 days in office.

During the transition period Biden had pledged that 100 million COVID-19 vaccine doses would be given in his first 100 days.

He later amended the goal to 150 million doses within the first 100 days.

Children should be vaccinated against COVID-19, says Fauci

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said people are too focused on the thought of herd immunity against the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, reported CNN.

Herd immunity is the point when enough people are protected against a virus to suppress transmission.

“I think we should be careful about wedding ourselves to this concept of herd immunity because we really do not know precisely, for this particular virus, what that is,” Fauci told a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, reported CNN.

Fauci also said he's been estimating that anywhere between 70 and 85 percent of the population would need to be vaccinated or otherwise immune to the virus to get to the point of herd immunity.

“We don't really know what that magical point of herd immunity is, but we do know that if we get the overwhelming population vaccinated, we're going to be in good shape. We ultimately would like to get and have to get children into that mix,” Fauci said during the Senate hearing.

He added that when high school students are vaccinated, the United States might reach herd immunity.

First U.S. baby born with coronavirus antibodies

When 36 weeks pregnant, a South Florida healthcare worker was given her first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

She gave birth 3 weeks later to a healthy baby girl who already had SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, reported CBS News.

Dr. Paul Gilbert and Dr. Chad Rudnick of Florida Atlantic University Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine presented their findings in a preprint study ahead of peer review.

The doctors found that these antibodies were present at the time of delivery, after analyzing blood from the baby's umbilical cord taken right after birth, and before placenta delivery. 

They believe this newborn is the first known case of a child born with coronavirus antibodies in the United States, and that this may offer the infant some protection against the virus.

3/18/21 3:15 p.m. PDT — Older adults especially vulnerable to reinfection without vaccine, study says

Most people who have had an infection with the new coronavirus are protected against reinfection for at least 6 months, but that immunity can diminish significantly with age, finds a new study published in The Lancet medical journal.

The study by Danish researchers highlights how important it is to vaccinate older populations, and people who have had a prior infection, during the pandemic, according to the study authors.

Researchers also discovered that natural infection could reduce the chances of reinfection by roughly 80 percent, but that's lowered to only 47 percent for people over 65.

“The quality, quantity, and durability of protective immunity elicited by natural infection with SARS-CoV-2 are poor relative to the much higher levels of virus-neutralizing antibodies and T cells induced by the vaccines currently being administered globally,” wrote immunologists commenting on the findings.

New COVID-19 surge could be on its way, expert says

We may be on the cusp of another surge of COVID-19 cases, according to one expert.

Health officials have repeatedly warned about this surge as states' leaders have eased restrictions, with several lifting mask mandates, reported CNN.

“I think we are going to see a surge in the number of infections,” emergency physician Dr. Leana Wen told CNN.

“I think what helps this time though is that the most vulnerable, particularly nursing home residents, people who are older, are now vaccinated. And so we may prevent a spike in hospitalizations and deaths,” she said.

According to CNN, the first warning sign came when, after weeks of declines, case numbers appeared to level off, with the United States still averaging tens of thousands of new cases daily.

This kind of plateau has previously predicted surges, say some experts, according to CNN.

3/17/21 3:30 p.m. PDT — Flu cases ‘disappeared’ during pandemic, COVID-19 measures responsible

Although February is typically when flu season peaks in the United States, with doctors’ offices and hospitals packed with patients, that hasn’t happened this year, reported the Associated Press (AP).

The flu has “virtually disappeared,” with reports coming in at significantly lower levels than seen in decades, according to the AP.

Nationally, “this is the lowest flu season we’ve had on record,” according to a surveillance system that is about 25 years old, said Lynnette Brammer of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported the AP.

However, experts told the AP that measures to fend off the coronavirus, such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and virtual schooling, were big factors in preventing a potential ‘twindemic’ of flu and COVID-19.

According to CDC estimates, influenza has resulted in between 9 million to 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations, and between 12,000 to 61,000 deaths each year since 2010.

The story has been different with COVID-19, reported the AP. The disease has killed more than a half-million people in the United States so far. Cases and deaths reached new heights in December and January before beginning a recent decline.

Moderna vaccine may be approved for children ages 12-18 by fall

There is no evidence that it's unsafe for children to receive Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, the company’s president said Wednesday, reported NBC News.

In an exclusive interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “Today” show, Dr. Stephen Hoge said his company has begun testing its vaccine on children ages 6 months to 12 years. The new trial will likely take most of this year and involve almost 7,000 U.S. and Canadian children.

“We certainly have not seen anything concerning in any of our prior work that would suggest we can’t use the vaccine in children,” he said.

According to NBC, Moderna is also testing its vaccine in adolescents 12 to 18 years old in a separate study that began in December. Hoge hopes data from that trial will arrive by summer so children in that age group can be vaccinated going into the new school year.

3/16/21 2:42 p.m. PDT

Moderna is beginning vaccine trials that include children

Moderna pharmaceutical company has begun vaccine trials on children between the ages of 6 months to 12 years. The trial is based in the United States and Canada and will evaluate how well the COVID-19 vaccines work in children.

Currently, the COVID-19 vaccines are approved only for people over age 16.

No evidence AstraZeneca vaccine caused blood clots, WHO says

Worldwide distribution of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine remains unaffected by the jab’s suspension in much of Europe following reports of blood clots in some people shortly after vaccination, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, reported The Washington Post.

The number of blood clots reported was not higher than what would be expected in a given population.

Australia announced March 16 that it would continue to use the vaccine.

“We are aware of some further European countries pausing the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine due to reports of blood clots in people who have been vaccinated,” Australian Chief Medical Officer Dr. Paul Kelly said in a statement.

“While the European Medicines Agency is investigating these events, it has reinforced its view that the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is successful in protecting against COVID-19 and should continue to be used in the rollout,” he added.

According to the Post, WHO continues to caution against suspending access to vaccines and has also noted that no evidence links these events to the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

Pregnancy during the pandemic brings fear, anxiety

Pregnancy, birth, and life with a newborn baby in the middle of the pandemic have brought on high anxiety, ever-shifting hospital protocols, and intense isolation for millions of women who have done it worldwide, reported the Associated Press (AP).

According to the AP, the fear, anxiety, and chaos were especially severe in New York City in the beginning months of the pandemic, in what was one of the nation’s most devastating infection hot spots.

AP spoke with Nneoma Maduike, who was masked when she gave birth on August 1 to her second child, after a pregnancy filled with unknowns.

“The anxiety was absolutely awful. Information was evolving as quickly as anything you can imagine,” Maduike told the AP. “I didn’t know what guidance to follow. My husband’s a doctor, and he was still going in every single day, and that brought on even more anxiety.”

3/15/21 12 p.m. Netherlands, Ireland join countries pausing use of AstraZeneca vaccine

The Netherlands and Ireland have joined several other countries in temporarily suspending use of AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine after reports of abnormal blood clotting in several people, reported NPR.

The Dutch government said on March 14 that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine would not be used in the country until at least March 28, and officials in Ireland said earlier that day that they had temporarily suspended the shot as a precautionary measure, reported NPR.

However, the WHO has said there is no evidence the vaccine caused blood clots to form.

The AstraZeneca vaccine candidate is not authorized in the United States but is widely used in Europe. About 117,000 doses have been administered in Ireland, most doses given to frontline healthcare workers, reported NPR.

Some with ‘long COVID’ say vaccines help their symptoms

Some former patients still experiencing long-term health issues due to COVID-19 have reported that their symptoms were temporarily eased after receiving the coronavirus vaccine, according to a UK report, reported the New York Post.

Anecdotal reports suggest that a significant number of patients with long-haul COVID-19 may find symptoms, which include fatigue, headaches, and brain fog, eased after vaccination. However, the effects may be temporary, reported the Telegraph.

“We are getting people reporting improvements, and it’s quite widespread, about half of the people we are asking,” said Dr. David Strain, a clinical senior lecturer at the University of Exeter, reported the Post.

However, many patients said the improvements were temporary – lasting only for about three weeks, while others reported feeling worse for a short time, too.

Professor Eleanor Riley, PhD, an immunologist at the University of Edinburgh, said the anecdotal reports were “interesting” but cautioned against taking them as fact before research is conducted on the subject, reported the Telegraph.

“I think it’s something to be followed up by scientific research,” said Riley. “I think we shouldn’t jump to conclusions. It’s possible it may turn out to be random.”

3/12/21 1:50 p.m. PST — Takeaways from Biden’s presidential address

President Biden marked 1 year since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic with his first prime-time address.

He mixed hard numbers on vaccine distribution with appeals of unity and his belief in the power of the United States to overcome any challenge.

The most important takeaways from the president’s speech include the following:

  • Biden said he will use federal powers to ensure all U.S. adults are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by May 1. This does not mean they will be able to get the vaccine by then, just that they will be eligible for an appointment.
  • Biden tried to make people understand that we are at war with COVID-19. He said the country was on “war footing.”
  • Biden said that by the Fourth of July, “there's a good chance… you'll be able to get together and have a cookout or a BBQ in your backyard.”

The president also cautioned that the situation is fluid. New virus variants present a significant risk.

“But a goal, a lot can happen. Conditions can change. The scientists have made clear that things may get worse again as new variants of the virus spread,” he said.

U.S. to partner with India, Australia, and Japan to increase vaccine supply

To help stop the pandemic, the Biden administration has announced that it will partner with other countries to increase vaccine supply globally, according to The New York Times.

The United States will partner with India, Australia, and Japan in an effort to provide vaccine doses to other developing countries. The Biden administration has been under pressure to help other countries get COVID-19 vaccines.

Russia and China have already started to ship out or donate their COVID-19 vaccines to other developing countries.

Don’t be fooled by low numbers, warns health expert

COVID-19 numbers may be on the decline in the United States, but with tens of thousands of deaths expected over the coming months, experts are warning people not to drop their guard yet, reported CNN.

“I think we are going to get fooled,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, CNN reported.

“I think what's going to happen is you're going to see that as we enter the summer months, numbers are going to go down, people will think great, we're good,” he said.

“And then,” Offit added, “if we don't get to what I think is going to be at least 80 percent population immunity from natural infection or immunization, when the winter comes, you're going to see a surge again.”

3/11/21 2:53 p.m. PST — ‘We cannot let our guard down,’ says President Biden

For the third time this year, President Joe Biden will mark a landmark moment in the COVID-19 pandemic.

He will deliver his first prime-time address Thursday night to recognize 1 year since pandemic-related shutdowns swept across the United States, and to ask Americans for help with “what comes next,” according to ABC News.

“I'm gonna launch the next phase of the COVID response and explain what we will do as a government and what we will ask of the American people,” Biden said on Wednesday, March 10, previewing his remarks.

“There is light at the end of this dark tunnel of the past year,” he continued. “But we cannot let our guard down now or assume the victory is inevitable. Together, we're gonna get through this pandemic and usher in a healthier and more hopeful future.”

The United States is recording at least 56,200 new COVID-19 cases and at least 1,430 virus-related deaths each day, based on a 7-day average calculated by CNBC using Johns Hopkins University data, reported CNBC.

E.U. clears one-shot vaccine for authorization as global deaths top 2.5 million

The European Union’s drug regulator has recommended approval of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine, potentially adding another weapon in the fight against this disease, reported CNBC.

The vaccine will be sent to the EU Commission for approval later today.

According to CNBC, if approved by the EU and once supplies are delivered, the vaccine could significantly help Europe’s struggling immunization program. The EU has already approved two-dose vaccines developed by Moderna, Pfizer, and AstraZeneca.

According to current data from Johns Hopkins University, these are the numbers for the United States and worldwide:

  • over 29 million U.S. cases
  • roughly 530,000 U.S. deaths
  • more than 118 million cases globally
  • about 2.6 million total deaths