COVID-19 Updates: Olympic Concerns and Classroom Masks

Noam Galai/Getty Images More than 4 million people have died from COVID-19 globally.More than half of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated.New COVID-19 cases are on the rise in virtually every U.S. state. Update on COVID-19 numbers Globally, ther…

Noam Galai/Getty Images
  • More than 4 million people have died from COVID-19 globally.
  • More than half of U.S. adults are now fully vaccinated.
  • New COVID-19 cases are on the rise in virtually every U.S. state.

Update on COVID-19 numbers

  • Globally, there have been more than 190 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 4 million associated deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
  • The United States has reported more than 34 million confirmed cases and more than 609,000 associated deaths.
  • Currently, more than 186 million people in the United States have received their first COVID-19 vaccine dose. More than 161 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.

7/19/21 9:53 a.m. PDT — U.S. Olympic gymnast tests positive for COVID-19

It’s just 4 days before the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and COVID-19 has already cast its shadow over the games, reported CBS News.

Officials say there are at least 12 new COVID-19 cases connected with the games since Sunday, including a U.S. gymnast and cases among other athletes within the Olympic Village.

In a statement released today, USA Gymnastics confirmed that a replacement athlete for the women's artistic gymnastics team had tested positive and that “the local government determined that the affected replacement athlete and one other replacement athlete would be subject to additional quarantine restrictions.”

“Accordingly, on Monday, the Olympic athletes moved to separate lodging accommodations and a separate training facility, as originally planned, and will continue their preparation for the Games,” the team said. 

The news on the gymnast came just hours after U.S. tennis player Cori “Coco” Gauff announced she had tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the Olympic Games.

Pediatricians recommend masks for all schoolchildren, vaccinated or not

Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommended that all children over 2 years of age wear masks when returning to school this year, regardless of vaccination status.

Officials at the AAP also said that school employees should wear masks. The AAP calls the new guidance a “layered approach.”

“We need to prioritize getting children back into schools alongside their friends and their teachers — and we all play a role in making sure it happens safely,” Dr. Sonja O’Leary, chair of the AAP Council on School Health, told NBC. “Combining layers of protection that include vaccinations, masking, and clean hands hygiene will make in-person learning safe and possible for everyone.”

Unvaccinated people facing ‘most serious’ virus of their lives, expert says

With vaccination rates still short of the threshold needed to stop the spread of COVID-19, most unvaccinated people in the United States will likely contract the rapidly spreading delta variant, according to Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

“And for most people who get this delta variant, it's going to be the most serious virus that they get in their lifetime in terms of the risk of putting them in the hospital,” Gottlieb told CBS' “Face the Nation” yesterday.

The delta variant, already detected in every U.S. state, is estimated to account for more than half of new COVID-19 cases in 5 of the 10 regions into which the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services divides the country, reported ABC News.

“Variant proportions are dynamic and difficult to predict due to reporting delays, the presence of multiple variants, and changing incidence,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told ABC News in a statement.

Recent research examining 62 cases of the delta variant found viral loads roughly 1,200 times higher than viral loads in 63 cases from the 2020 epidemic wave, reported CNN.

The delta variant is also sending younger, previously healthy people to hospitals, the majority of whom are unvaccinated.

7/16/21 2:33 p.m. PDT — 38 states see at least 50% increase in COVID-19 cases

At least 38 states are seeing at least a 50 percent increase in COVID-19 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Many experts have attributed this rise to slowing vaccination rates, with less than 50 percent of the United States fully vaccinated.

“We're seeing this because the public misunderstood the CDC guidance for fully vaccinated people as ‘We can now do whatever we want. Even if we are unvaccinated, we can now behave as if we are vaccinated,’” CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen told CNN‘s Anderson Cooper yesterday, according to the network.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), pandemic cases are going up everywhere in the United States, with an average of new cases at least 10 percent higher than a week ago.

6 New York Yankees test positive for the coronavirus

Outfielder Aaron Judge is among six New York Yankees baseball players who tested positive for the coronavirus yesterday, forcing postponement of the team's home game against the Boston Red Sox and leaving other players on the American League All-Star team undergoing testing to confirm they didn't contract an infection, ESPN was reportedly told by sources.

“It's a fluid situation that could spread,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told ESPN. “It has spread to some degree.”

According to ESPN, this is the second outbreak on the Yankees team this year despite exceeding the 85 percent vaccination threshold allowing teams to enjoy relaxed protocols.

“I guess the last year, year and a half, has in some ways kind of prepared you for this kind of stuff,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone told ESPN. “Certainly disappointing and frustrating, and don't want to be sitting here talking about this, and desperately want us to go back to as normal as possible.”

7/15/21 3:37 p.m. PDT — Missouri health officials request alternate care site amid surge of patients

Officials in Missouri are asking for help from the State Emergency Management Agency to set up an alternate care site to help treat the growing number of people with COVID-19.

According to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department in Missouri, cases have risen in the county by 43 percent in the last 7 days.

LA County officials say every hospitalized person with COVID-19 at county hospital is unvaccinated

The delta variant is continuing to spread in the United States, mainly among unvaccinated populations.

In Los Angeles, health officials have highlighted how rare hospitalizations are for people who are fully vaccinated.

Dr. Christina Ghaly, county health services director, said that no one with COVID-19 at a county hospital was vaccinated against the disease, according to CNN.

“To date, we have not had a patient admitted to a [Department of Health Services] hospital who has been fully vaccinated, with either the J&J, Pfizer or Moderna vaccine,” Ghaly told the board of supervisors, according to CNN.

“Every single patient that we've admitted for COVID is not yet fully vaccinated,” she said.

Republican vaccine resistance ‘major challenge’ in fight against pandemic

Increasing conservative resistance to COVID-19 vaccines is alarming public health experts and creating a major challenge as the United States tries to move past the COVID-19 pandemic.

Attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) cheered talk of a lower-than-expected vaccination rate over the weekend, according to The Hill.

Also, Tennessee will end outreach to teens regarding vaccination, including for COVID-19, amid pressure from the state’s Republican lawmakers.

This resistance helps explain why more than 30 percent of U.S. adults remain unvaccinated, with even higher percentages in Republican-leaning states, reported The Hill.

“It’s really profoundly sad to note that essentially almost 100 percent of every person who’s admitted to the hospital today with COVID could have been prevented,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, told The Hill.

Experts say more than 99 percent of the people now dying from COVID-19 are unvaccinated, reported The Hill.

COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be remarkably safe and effective after tens of millions of people have received them.

7/14/21 1:13 p.m. PDT — Delta variant accounts for almost 60% of U.S. COVID-19 cases, CDC says

The highly contagious delta variant of the novel coronavirus initially identified in India now accounts for roughly 60 percent of all COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported ABC News.

According to ABC News, data updated yesterday evening by the CDC shows the delta variant, also known as B.1.617.2, is estimated to be responsible for 57.6 percent of newly confirmed cases nationwide from June 20 through July 3.

The estimate was only 31.1 percent for the 2 weeks prior.

“The delta variant is ripping around the world at a scorching pace, driving a new spike in cases and death,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a COVID-19 press briefing on July 12, reported ABC News.

Children at risk as delta variant spreads

Dr. Peter Hotez, vaccinologist and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, told CNN that if adult vaccination rates, and rates of children 12 and older, continue to lag amid increased spread of COVID-19, the youngest members of the population will be most affected.

“Transmission will continue to accelerate… and the ones who will also pay the price, in addition to the unvaccinated adolescents, are the little kids who depend on the adults and adolescents to get vaccinated in order to slow or halt transmission,” Hotez told CNN.

Hotez emphasized that although many people may brush off the risk that low vaccination rates pose to children, citing their low COVID-19 death rates, children remain at risk of serious complications, reported CNN.

Yesterday, health officials from Mississippi announced that seven children were in the ICU as a result of the delta variant and two were on life support, reported ABC News.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the rates of new cases this past week are at least 10 percent higher than the rates of new cases the previous week in 46 states.

7/13/21 3:10 p.m. PDT — Health officials want to investigate COVID-19 booster shots for side effects

The United States is reviewing the need for a third COVID-19 booster shot among people who have already been vaccinated, but more data is needed to know whether additional shots could increase the risk of serious side effects, a U.S. health official said today, reported Reuters.

The official added that the second dose for two-shot COVID-19 vaccine regimens was associated with higher rates of side effects, and suggested a third dose might come with more serious side effects.

“We’re keenly interested in knowing whether or not a third dose may be associated with any higher risk of adverse reactions, particularly some of those more severe — although very rare — side effects,” said Jay Butler, deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), during a media briefing, reported Reuters.

According to Reuters, Butler also said he hasn’t seen evidence of waning immunity to the coronavirus among U.S. residents who received vaccinations in December or January.

He said existing vaccines provide significant protection against the coronavirus delta variant, which has become the dominant variant in the United States.

COVID-19 outbreak tied to Ohio church retreat

A COVID-19 outbreak was reported among attendees of a church retreat, officials announced, reported ABC News.

Health officials confirmed at least 30 positive cases have been identified in people who took part in the event.

According to ABC, Dayton and Montgomery County Public Health said more than 800 people attended the Baptist Church retreat in Miamisburg, Ohio, from June 27 to July 3.  

Dr. Michael Dohn, medical director for Dayton & Montgomery County Public Health, spoke about his concern, reported ABC.

“Unvaccinated people, including children under 12 years of age, are up to 100 times more likely to get sick after exposure to COVID-19 compared to fully vaccinated individuals,” he said.

“The outbreak demonstrates that the COVID-19 virus is still circulating and continues to make people sick,” Dohn added.

7/12/21 3:58 p.m. PDT — FDA to add warning about rare neurological disorder to Johnson & Johnson vaccine

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to add a warning to the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine saying that it may lead to a slightly increased risk of a rare nerve disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome, according to The New York Times.

Officials have detected about 100 suspected cases of the nerve disorder in the 12.8 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines administered in the United States.

Guillain-Barré syndrome is a rare neurological disorder in which the immune system attacks part of the nervous system.

Symptoms can include mild, temporary weakness and tingling to more serious issues, including some cases of paralysis. Most people recover from even serious cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome.

An estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people develop Guillain-Barré syndrome every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

COVID-19 cases increase nearly 50% in U.S.

As the coronavirus delta variant rapidly spreads, U.S. “hot spots” have seen rising cases.

The United States is averaging about 19,455 new COVID-19 cases over the last 7 days, a 47 percent increase from the week prior, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, reported CNN.

“In places like Missouri where ICUs are packed, you're going to see a surprising amount of death,” CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner told CNN.

At Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri, more than 90 percent of ICU patients are on ventilators. Many patients are in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer, told CNN July 11.

This is especially concerning, he explained, because during last year’s peak, there were only 40 to 50 percent of ICU patients on ventilators.

According to Reiner, rising COVID-19 death rates typically follow 3 to 4 weeks behind spikes in cases. It takes a week for people to get sick enough to need hospitalization, and then often another couple of weeks for the infection to become fatal, reported CNN.

“We will start to see an increase in mortality in this country,” Reiner said.

Rare case shows it’s possible to contract 2 coronavirus variants at same time, says expert

Scientists have found evidence that it's possible to contract two different coronavirus variants at the same time.

Researchers from Belgium have presented a case study of an unvaccinated older woman who was found to have infections with both the alpha and beta coronavirus variants.

Experts presented the case study at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases this weekend, announcing it’s believed to be the first known case of double infection, which underscores the need to be alert to this possibility.

The research has not yet been peer-reviewed.

The 90-year-old patient died in a hospital in Belgium in March.

“This is one of the first documented cases of co-infection with two SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern,” said lead study author and molecular biologist Dr. Anne Vankeerberghen from the OLV Hospital in Aalst, Belgium, in a statement.

“Both these variants were circulating in Belgium at the time, so it is likely that the lady was co-infected with different viruses from two different people. Unfortunately, we don't know how she became infected,” she said.

Israel will start giving COVID-19 vaccine booster shots to high-risk adults

Israel has become the first country to start giving COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, according to The Washington Post.

The Israel's Ministry of Health is giving booster shots only to severely immunocompromised adults.

In the United States, the CDC has said there's not enough evidence that booster shots are needed.

However, Pfizer and BioNTech have said they will ask for emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 booster shots.

7/9/21 2:57 p.m. PDT — Booster shots not yet needed, CDC-FDA joint statement says

On July 8, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a joint statement regarding whether fully vaccinated people in the United States require a “booster” shot of COVID-19 vaccine.

“The United States is fortunate to have highly effective vaccines that are widely available for those aged 12 and up,” reads the statement. “People who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country such as delta.”

The CDC and FDA also emphasized that people who are not vaccinated remain at risk, and “virtually all” COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths are among unvaccinated people.

“We encourage Americans who have not yet been vaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible to protect themselves and their community,” advised the agencies.

In a statement to CNN today, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, “We don't know whether booster vaccines will be needed to maintain protection against COVID-19 until additional data is collected,” adding that “limited data available on how long the protection from current doses lasts and whether an additional booster dose would be beneficial and for whom.”

Pfizer, BioNTech ask for emergency authorization for booster shots

While the FDA and CDC say U.S. people do not need a booster shot at this time, Pfizer and BioNTech are already planning to ask for authorization to start administering COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, according to Reuters.

The pharma companies will ask that a booster shot be allowed under emergency circumstances due to a greater risk of infection about 6 months after the vaccine and due to the rise of new, more infectious variants.

CDC says vaccinated students, teachers don’t need to wear masks

CDC officials have released new back-to-school guidelines about how to prevent COVID-19 transmission.

The CDC now prioritizes reopening schools to avoid learning loss for children.

While vaccinations are recommended for those eligible, the CDC also has guidance for what teachers and school officials can do to cut down on the risk of transmitting the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Among its recommendations, the CDC is advising unvaccinated students and teachers to stay masked indoors, and that physical distancing measures be used to decrease the risk of transmission.

The CDC says students and teachers don't need masks outdoors. Additionally, the CDC says testing measures should be used to ensure an outbreak isn't missed.

7/8/21 3:41 p.m. PDT — Global COVID-19 deaths top 4 million

Eighteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, its death toll has now topped 4 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

While cases have slowed in some countries, like the United States and United Kingdom, due to vaccinations, low vaccination rates and new, more infectious variants have led to a surge in cases in other areas.

Fauci says healthy vaccinated people don’t need to mask indoors

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, clarified his statements about wearing a mask while being fully vaccinated.

In an interview set to air tomorrow, July 9, on SiriusXM Doctor Radio's “Doctor Radio Reports” with Dr. Marc Siegel, Fauci said most vaccinated people will be safe without needing to wear a mask.

“If you're a healthy person, you really don't have to wear a mask indoor or outdoors because the protection that's afforded to you by the vaccines that we have available, particularly the mRNA vaccines that are 94 and 95 percent effective,” he said. “You're really very, very highly protected.”

Fauci clarified that in a previous interview he had mentioned that in rare cases, vaccinated people living in places with low vaccination rates may want to consider going the “extra mile” depending on the state of their health.

“I said, depending on your personal situation, you… might want to consider wearing a mask even if you are fully vaccinated,” he said.

“For example, someone who's an elderly person who may not actually have a full robust protection, even though the protection is very, very high, or someone with an underlying condition,” he said.

FDA approval for vaccines could be this month, says expert  

Twenty-four states have seen COVID-19 cases increase by at least 10 percent over the past week, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Health experts and the federal government are pressing for more people to get vaccinated, reported CNN, and the delta variant has only increased the pressure.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, the delta variant accounted for nearly 52 percent of all new COVID-19 cases in the United States over the last 2 weeks that ended July 3.

“We should think about the delta variant as the 2020 version of COVID-19 on steroids,” Andy Slavitt, a former senior adviser to Joe Biden's COVID Response Team, told CNN. “It's twice as infectious. Fortunately, unlike 2020, we actually have a tool that stops the delta variant in its tracks: It's called vaccine.”

Slavitt also explained that for fully vaccinated people, the delta variant “presents very little threat to you, very unlikely that you're gonna get sick.”

According to Slavitt and other experts, full approval for COVID-19 vaccines from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) might encourage more people to get vaccinated, reported CNN.

According to the network, Slavitt added that full approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could come as early as this month.

Tokyo bans Olympic spectators amid COVID-19 emergency

The Tokyo Olympics will take place without spectators, organizers said today, as rising infections force Japan to declare a state of emergency in the capital that will continue throughout the event, reported Reuters.

According to Reuters, although widely expected, this move still marks a sharp turnabout from weeks before, when organizers claimed they wanted to hold the global sporting showpiece with some spectators.

“It is regrettable that we are delivering the Games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections,” Tokyo 2020 President Seiko Hashimoto said following talks between government officials, Tokyo organizers, and Olympic and Paralympic representatives, reported Reuters. “I am sorry for those who purchased tickets.”

7/7/21 2:43 p.m. PDT — COVID-19 vaccines protect against latest variant, says White House

The White House issued a vote of confidence that COVID-19 vaccines are effective against a new coronavirus variant that's causing concern among health experts.

The new variant is called lambda. The World Health Organization (WHO) has called it a “variant of interest” because it has mutated in a way that might make it more transmissible among humans, and it may not be affected by “neutralizing antibodies” produced inside the body by the vaccines, reported Yahoo! News.

“I’ll certainly leave it to doctors to discuss this, but early data suggests that the vaccines continue to work against the variants, including this variant, and that’s why we’ve been focusing so much on increasing vaccinations across the country,” press secretary Jen Psaki said in a White House briefing yesterday.

She emphasized that, as with every variant, getting vaccinated is the “best way” to protect yourself and others, and the administration will continue to assess data as it becomes more widely available.

Global health officials are also downplaying the lambda variant as a major new threat as the pandemic wanes in the United States and across the world, according to Yahoo.

“So far, we have seen no indication that the lambda variant is more aggressive,” Jairo Mendez-Rico, PhD, a WHO virologist, told a German media outlet, reported Yahoo! News. “It is possible that it may exhibit higher infection rates, but we don't yet have enough reliable data to compare it to gamma or delta.”

Biden warns nation that millions are still unvaccinated

In a July 6 briefing, President Biden again pushed for all eligible people in the United States to get vaccinated against COVID-19, emphasizing the importance of being protected against the rapidly spreading delta variant.

“So, if you’re vaccinated, you’re protected. But if you’re unvaccinated, you’re not, and you’re putting yourself and more importantly maybe, from your perspective, your family and your friends at risk,” Biden said. “So, please get vaccinated now. It works. It’s free. And it’s never been easier, and it’s never been more important.”

During the briefing, Biden outlined his administration’s plan to get unvaccinated people immunized against COVID-19. These measures include:

  • Renewed emphasis on getting the vaccines to more family doctors and healthcare professionals so more people can get vaccinated at their doctor’s office.
  • Increased efforts to get adolescents ages 12 to 18 vaccinated.
  • Sending out more mobile clinic units to vaccinate people at special events, summer festivals, sporting events, or places of worship.

7/6/21 3:04 p.m. PDT — Cases could surge in U.K. as pandemic restrictions lifted

Daily coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom could reach 100,000 this summer as the government moves to end almost all COVID-19-related restrictions later this month, the country’s health secretary, Sajid Javid, said today.

Javid told BBC Radio 4 that COVID-19 case numbers, currently around 25,000 each day, are expected to double ahead of the July 19 deadline to lift pandemic restrictions as the more transmissible delta variant drives a surge in infections.

“As we ease and go into the summer, we expect them to rise significantly, and they could go as high as 100,000 case numbers,” Javid said.

Even at its worst peak in January 2021, Britain’s daily cases never surpassed 60,000 a day, reported The Washington Post.

According to Public Health England (PHE), the delta variant accounts for at least 95 percent of new cases in the United Kingdom.

WHO declares lambda variant a ‘variant of concern’

The lambda variant, which is believed to be first detected in Peru about 1 year ago, is a new concern to scientists who say these virus mutations are potentially resistant to COVID-19 vaccines, reported Fox News.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said these mutations could increase the lambda variant's transmissibility or even its resistance to “neutralizing antibodies,” with the WHO declaring it a “variant of interest.”

7/2/21 2:40 p.m. PDT — Moderna and Pfizer vaccines prime T cells to fight virus variants, study finds

Researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) have found that T cells, or immune cells, from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 or received doses of the Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines are able to recognize several coronavirus variants, reported San Diego News.

The new study, recently published in Cell Reports Medicine, finds both CD4+ “helper” T cells and CD8+ “killer” T cells continue to recognize mutated forms of the coronavirus.

This response is key to our body’s complex immune response to the virus, and allows the immune system to eliminate infected cells and stop severe infections.

“This study suggests that the impact of mutations found in the variants of concern is limited,” said LJI professor Alessandro Sette, Dr.Bio.Sci., study senior author and member of the LJI Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research, in a statement. “We can presume that T cells would still be available as a line of defense against viral infection.”

The current study includes data on four of the most common variants of concern (VOC), according to an LJI press release.

LJI also announced that ongoing studies have been expanded to a larger panel of variants, including the delta variant, which became common after the study was initiated.

The research team has established relationships with more than 20 different laboratories around the world to help monitor T cell reactivity to VOCs.

“These variants are still a concern, but our study shows that even if there is a decrease in antibodies, as other studies have shown, the T cells remain largely unaffected,” said LJI instructor Alba Grifoni, PhD, in a statement. “The vaccines still work.”

NJ governor weighs in on reinstating mask mandates

According to, it’s been just over a month since New Jersey dropped its statewide mask mandate in most places amid increasing vaccinations and plummeting COVID-19 cases.

The rapid spread of the delta variant has prompted new and occasionally contradictory guidance on mask use in many areas worldwide, yet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend that vaccinated people don’t need to wear masks in most settings because they're protected against variants.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy was asked Wednesday if the delta variant might lead him to reinstate mask mandates in the state, according to

“I hope we don’t have to go back,” Murphy said. “We would not have taken the steps we’ve taken with any expectation that we would have to go backward.”

“If we have to, we will, clearly,” he added. “We’ll continue to monitor the data points that we’ve talked about every time we’ve been at this table for the past 16 months, and right now it’s hard to argue anything other than we are in really good shape, and we just hope it stays that way.”

Over 1,000 counties in U.S. have less than 30% vaccination coverage

While the overall vaccination rate for adults is hovering around 57 percent nationwide, pockets of the United States have vaccination rates far below that number.

Officials from the CDC reported that 1,000 counties have a COVID-19 vaccination rate under 30 percent.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said these counties are primarily in the Southeast and Midwest, and they remain at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission, especially as the more infectious delta variant continues to spread.

“There are communities that are vulnerable and where we are now seeing surges in cases, and indeed also hospitalizations, due to what could be the spread of the delta variant and low vaccination rates in these communities,” she said. 

Johnson & Johnson vaccine appears to protect against variants, effective for at least 8 months

New data from Johnson & Johnson has found that its COVID-19 vaccine appears to be protective against the new infectious delta variant.

Additionally, the vaccine appears to provide durable protection against infection for at least 8 months. The study has been ongoing for 8 months, and there's no sign the vaccine is likely to stop working at the 8-month mark.

“Current data for the eight months studied so far show that the single-shot Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine generates a strong neutralizing antibody response that does not wane; rather, we observe an improvement over time. In addition, we observe a persistent and particularly robust, durable cellular immune response,” Dr. Mathai Mammen, global head of research and development for Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson, said in a statement.

7/1/21 2:39 p.m. PDT — COVID-19 cases up 72% in U.K. last week as delta variant spreads

Officials in Britain said nearly 28,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported in the last week, a 72 percent increase compared with the previous week, according to Reuters.

While Britain has been able to push for a significant portion of the population to get vaccinated, it still has not reached herd immunity.

As the delta variant, believed to be more infectious, continues to spread, unvaccinated people are at significant risk of developing COVID-19.

The delta variant now accounts for more than 90 percent of COVID-19 cases in the United Kingdom.

New study finds pets may get COVID-19 from their owners

Researchers have found that pets may develop COVID-19 if their owners are sick.

The study, from Utrecht University in the Netherlands, is being presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases next weekend.

Researchers looked at pets in the homes of people known to have tested positive for COVID-19. They found pets in more than 20 percent of these households had antibodies to the coronavirus.

This doesn't mean the animals were severely ill, but it does show they can harbor the virus and potentially pass it on to other people or animals later.

“If you have COVID-19, you should avoid contact with your cat or dog, just as you would do with other people,” Els Broens, PhD, associate professor for veterinary medicine at Utrecht University and a study co-author, said in a statement.

“The main concern, however, is not the animals' health — they had no or mild symptoms of COVID-19 — but the potential risk that pets could act as a reservoir of the virus and reintroduce it into the human population,” she said.

Vaccinated people likely have fewer symptoms, lower viral load in rare cases of breakthrough infection

COVID-19 vaccines have been found to be very protective against the virus, but they're not perfect.

In rare cases, often in less than 5 percent of cases, breakthrough infections, or when a vaccinated person develops COVID-19, have been known to occur.

New research from an ongoing University of Arizona Health Sciences study finds that in these rare cases, the vaccines still provide protection.

Researchers from the University of Arizona found that vaccinated study participants tended to have milder symptoms, a shorter infection time, and a lower viral load, meaning less viral material in the body, than unvaccinated study participants who developed COVID-19.

“If you get vaccinated, about 90 percent of the time you're not going to get COVID-19,” Dr. Jeff Burgess, associate dean for research and professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health and principal investigator of the study, said in a statement.

“Even if you do get it, there will be less of the virus in you and your illness is likely to be much milder,” he said.

6/30/21 3:28 p.m. PDT — CDC director says vaccines should protect people from delta variant

In a television interview, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said that the rise of the delta variant is concerning, but that vaccinated people are likely still safe.

She also addressed seemingly contradictory mask policies, like those advised by the World Health Organization and Los Angeles County health officials, that recommend people continue to wear masks regardless of vaccine status.

Walensky said those masking policies are really to protect unvaccinated people from the delta variant.

“Areas where we have low vaccination, that is where the virus is likely to take hold,” she said on ABC's “Good Morning America.” “Those masking policies are really to protect the unvaccinated.”

She reiterated that with nearly 2 out of 3 U.S. adults fully vaccinated, the delta variant is unlikely to cause many breakthrough infections.

“The vaccinated population we believe is still safe,” Walensky said.

Engineers create a face mask that can detect the coronavirus

Engineers from Harvard and MIT say they have created a face mask that can detect the coronavirus while being worn.

The masks have tiny disposable sensors that could potentially be altered to detect other viruses as well. The researchers were able to use freeze-dried synthetic biology sensors to detect virus material.

The sensors can be activated by the wearer, and the results are only visible inside the mask for privacy purposes.

It takes about 90 minutes to get test results after the test has started.

“This test is as sensitive as the gold standard, highly sensitive PCR tests, but it’s as fast as the antigen tests that are used for quick analysis of COVID-19,” said Peter Nguyen, PhD, a research scientist at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering and one of the lead authors, according to a press release.

The face mask is currently a prototype, but the engineers have filed a patent and are reportedly looking for manufacturers.

6/29/21 1:06 p.m. PDT — LA officials ask everyone to mask up indoors due to spread of coronavirus variants

Los Angeles County public health officials are asking all residents, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, to still wear masks indoors to avoid another spike of coronavirus infections.

The recommendation is a precautionary measure that officials hope will curb the spread of the new delta variant that's rapidly spreading throughout the globe.

The variant has led to a surge in COVID-19 cases in other countries, like Australia, that previously managed to keep a low case count during the pandemic.

According to Los Angeles County health officials, the delta variant now makes up half the variants being sequenced in the county, and it accounts for 1 in 5 new infections nationwide.

Europe may see ‘fourth’ wave of COVID-19 due to delta variant

The delta variant could cause another surge in COVID-19 cases in Europe, warned Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin, reported Yahoo! News.

Martin also said indoor dining would not reopen as planned in Ireland. Instead, it will be restricted to people who are fully vaccinated or those who have had a previous infection.

6/28/21 2:03 p.m. PDT — Study finds mRNA COVID-19 vaccines may protect against disease for years

A new study published today in Nature found evidence that the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech may provide lasting protection against the disease.

Researchers found evidence that the vaccine set off an immune response that may last indefinitely.

“It’s a good sign for how durable our immunity is from this vaccine,” Ali Ellebedy, PhD, an immunologist at Washington University in St. Louis who led the study, told The New York Times.

One major caveat is that the protection provided by these vaccines may not last if the coronavirus drastically mutates.

However, current virus variants do not appear to cause high rates of symptomatic infection in people who are vaccinated.

Australia grapples with new COVID-19 surge

Australia is grappling with a new surge of COVID-19 cases that has led to lockdowns in major cities, including Sydney.

This is the first time the country has seen multiple outbreaks in different territories at the same time, according to the BBC.

Experts say the new delta variant, which is likely more infectious, may be behind the rise in cases.

Brad Hazzard, New South Wales health minister, called the delta variant a “very formidable foe,” according to the BBC.

“No matter what defensive steps we're taking at the moment, the virus seems to understand how to counter-attack,” he said.

Officials are pushing people to get vaccinated to stop the spread of the virus.

Just 5 percent of Australia's population is currently fully vaccinated.

6/25/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — NIH starts COVID-19 vaccine study in people who are pregnant

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is starting a study on how the COVID-19 vaccine affects people who are pregnant. The study will follow 750 pregnant individuals and 250 people postpartum to see the impact the vaccine has on their health.

The participants and their newborns will be followed for the first year after birth to see the impact of the vaccines.

Experts have mostly been pushing people who are pregnant to get vaccinated, even though pregnant people were not included in original trials. Experts point out that the dangers of COVID-19 are particularly severe for people who are pregnant, since they're considered immunocompromised.

COVID-19 cluster seen in kindergarteners

Despite a nationwide drop in COVID-19 cases, Nevada officials are dealing with multiple outbreaks of the new delta variant.

One cluster, involving nine cases, was seen in 5- and 6-year-old students at an elementary school in Reno, Nevada, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

While young children are less likely to get severely ill from COVID-19, they're still at risk for developing the disease.

U.S. Surgeon General warns against misinformation

With a dangerous COVID-19 variant on the rise, health experts urge hesitant people to get vaccinated. However, the U.S. Surgeon General warns that a big obstacle stands in their way: misinformation.

“There is so much misinformation out there about the vaccine, coming through so many channels — a lot of it being spread on social media,” Dr. Vivek Murthy told CNN. “It's inducing a lot of fear among people.”

“Two-thirds of those who are unvaccinated in polls say that they either believe the myths about COVID-19 or think that they might be true,” he said, adding that he’s worried about those who are unvaccinated as the variant spreads.

Experts, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, estimate that 70 to 85 percent of Americans will need to become immune to COVID-19 either through vaccination or developing the disease in order to control community spread, reported CNN.

But after initial surges, vaccination rates have slowed, and only about 54 percent of the population has received at least one dose.

Critically, more than 1 in 10 people who received one dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine have missed their second dose, according to data shared with CNN by the CDC.

Australia and Israel face COVID-19 outbreaks despite high levels of vaccination

According to NPR, rising COVID-19 cases around the world are forcing some governments to reimplement lockdown measures to control disease transmission.

From Australia to Israel and around Europe, health officials are announcing new restrictions ahead of the weekend as they report clusters of outbreaks and try to mitigate further transmissions, reported NPR.

Decisions have come as the more transmissible COVID-19 delta variant becomes the dominant strain in several countries.

NPR lists Australia, Portugal, and Israel as nations reinstituting pandemic measures amid surges in new cases. This is occurring even while in the United States, many places are reopening despite warnings from health officials.

6/24/21 2:17 p.m. PDT — Delta variant has new mutation called ‘delta plus’

A mutation of the delta coronavirus variant has emerged. Called “delta plus,” it's starting to worry global experts, according to CNBC.

India has dubbed delta plus a “variant of concern,” and there are fears that it could potentially be more transmissible.

In the United Kingdom, where the delta variant is now responsible for most new COVID-19 cases, Public Health England noted in its last summary that routine scanning of COVID-19 cases in the country found almost 40 cases of the newer variant, which has acquired a spike protein mutation called K417N, or delta plus, reported CNBC.

Public Health England also noted that, as of June 16, cases of the delta plus variant have also been identified in the United States (83 cases when the report was published last Friday) as well as Canada, India, Japan, Nepal, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Switzerland, and Turkey.

The Indian health ministry released a statement on June 22 that said INSACOG, a consortium of 28 laboratories genome sequencing the virus in India during the pandemic, had informed the ministry that the delta plus variant has three worrying characteristics:

  • increased transmissibility
  • stronger binding to receptors of lung cells
  • potential reduction in monoclonal antibody response

Dr. Chandrakant Lahariya, a physician-epidemiologist as well as vaccines and health systems expert based in New Delhi, told CNBC that while the government should remain alert to the progress of the variant, there's “no reason to panic.”

“Epidemiologically speaking, I have no reason to believe that ‘Delta plus’ alters the current situation in a manner to accelerate or trigger the third wave,” Lahariya told the network via email.

Israel says as many as 50% of new COVID-19 cases from delta variant are in people already vaccinated

As Israel faces a surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the delta variant, the country’s health officials say as many as half of those cases are among people who were vaccinated, reported Business Insider.

According to Dr. Chezy Levy, Israel's health ministry director-general, fully vaccinated people in contact with the delta variant will now have to quarantine.

“Even though the numbers are low, the fact that this is reaching vaccinated people means… that we are still checking how many vaccinated people have also been infected,” Levy said, Haaretz reported.

Speaking with state broadcaster Kan public radio, Levy said that approximately 40 to 50 percent of new cases were people who had been vaccinated. He did not appear to specify a time frame for the new cases, according to news reports.

6/23/21 3:12 p.m. PDT — CDC group reports 12.6 cases of heart inflammation per 1 million COVID-19 vaccine doses

A few rare cases of heart inflammation are “likely” associated with mRNA COVID-19 vaccines, according to experts on a panel convened by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to CNBC, panel experts reported there have been more than 1,200 cases of myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation) or pericarditis (inflammation of the membrane around the heart) in people who have received an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

Most of the people affected were men under 30. Nearly 80 percent of those affected have recovered, and nine people were hospitalized. Two were in intensive care as of June 11.

Over 70% of people over 30 have received at least 1 vaccine dose

The Biden administration won't reach its goal of getting 70 percent of U.S. adults at least partially vaccinated against COVID-19 by July 4, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said yesterday, reported USA Today.

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have reached the goal already. But some states have less than 50 percent of their adults vaccinated, Zients said at a White House briefing.

Still, the goal of at least partially vaccinating 70 percent of people ages 30 and older has been reached, he emphasized, adding that the administration is also on track to hit the 70 percent target for ages 27 and older by Fourth of July weekend.

“And let’s remember, when the president took office, we were at approximately 5 percent of adults with one shot. So, in just 5 months, we have been racing from 5 percent to 70 percent,” Zients said.

Zients explained that achieving 70 percent of adults vaccinated was an “aspirational target,” and pointed out that the administration has met or exceeded it for most of the adult population, calling this a “remarkable achievement.”

Delta variant ‘greatest threat’ to U.S. efforts against COVID-19, declares Fauci

White House Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday that the highly contagious delta variant is the “greatest threat” to the nation’s attempt to eliminate COVID-19, reported CNBC.

The virus strain makes up about 20 percent of all new cases in the United States, up from 10 percent about 2 weeks ago.

Fauci added that the delta variant appears to be “following the same pattern” as the alpha variant, which was first identified in the United Kingdom, with infections in the United States doubling roughly every 2 weeks.

“Similar to the situation in the U.K., the delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19,” Fauci said, reported CNBC.

According to the network, health officials say there are reports that the delta variant causes more severe symptoms, but more research is needed to confirm those conclusions.

6/22/21 1:40 p.m. PDT — Delta variant likely to become the dominant variant within weeks in U.S.

The highly transmissible delta variant is likely to become the dominant coronavirus variant in the United States within a few weeks, according to new data.

Originally detected in India, the delta variant is now being found throughout the United States, even as cases decline amid increasing vaccinations.

While vaccinations continue, the rate of people being vaccinated has been declining since a high in April. Experts are concerned that new coronavirus variants could continue to spread among unvaccinated people, prolonging the pandemic.

Missouri hospital sees surge of COVID-19 cases as vaccinations slow

With only 45 percent of U.S. people fully vaccinated and only 16 states that have fully vaccinated more than half their populations, health experts worry about the spread of the highly contagious delta variant, reported CBS News.

It’s 60 percent more contagious than the alpha variant first detected in the United Kingdom, which was the previous variant of concern, according to infectious disease expert Michael Osterholm, PhD.

“In the areas where they have large pockets of unvaccinated people, we can surely expect to see surges in cases, in some situations challenging the healthcare capacity of that local area,” Osterholm told CBS News.

According to the CBS, one hospital over capacity is Mercy Hospital in Springfield, Missouri. Mercy Hospital President Craig McCoy told CBS the hospital is “holding patients in the ER, waiting on admissions, waiting on discharges on any given day.”

McCoy told the network that at Mercy hospital, almost every COVID-19 patient is unvaccinated.

“We've only had two that have come out as inpatients that have been fully vaccinated. The vaccine, from everything we can see, does appear to be effective against the delta variant,” he said.

6/21/21 2:35 p.m. PDT — Ugandan coach tests positive for COVID-19 in Japan weeks before Olympics

A member of the Ugandan Olympic team tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival in Japan, according to the BBC.

The Ugandan team is only the second foreign Olympic team to arrive in Japan ahead of the Olympic Games scheduled to take place next month.

In recent months, Japan has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases, which has led to criticism that the Olympic Games should be canceled.

Officials have rebuffed these criticisms. This week, Japan announced that up to 10,000 spectators will be allowed to watch the games.

Additionally, COVID-19 cases are now declining.

The states lagging in vaccinations

While many states are making great strides in vaccinating residents against COVID-19, the ones that aren’t may soon need to deal with a more transmissible variant, experts say, reported CNN.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows about 45 percent of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

But states like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Wyoming have only fully vaccinated less than 35 percent of residents, according to CNN.

The delta variant, believed to be more transmissible and able to cause more severe disease, might cause an upsurge in infections, but those levels will vary depending on each region’s rates of vaccination, Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told “Face the Nation.”

“When we look across the United States, we see wide variance in terms of vaccination rates,” said Gottlieb, comparing places like Vermont and Connecticut that have high vaccination rates with other states currently struggling to achieve 50 percent of residents vaccinated.

Biden likely to miss goal of 70% partial vaccination in adults

It’s looking like the United States might miss President Biden’s target of 70 percent of adults being, at least partially, vaccinated by July 4.

A vaccine expert said time is running out to get ahead of the potential spread of virus variants, reported CNN.

“Vaccines are our only way out of this,” Dr. Paul Offit told CNN's Wolf Blitzer. “Unless we vaccinate a significant percentage of the population before winter hits, you're going to see more spread and the creation of more variants, which will only make this task more difficult.”

To attain herd immunity, or the point at which the virus is not easily transmitted in the community, experts have estimated it would require the inoculation through infection or vaccination of between 70 and 85 percent of the population, reported CNN.

“You would have thought at the beginning of this, knowing that vaccines are our only way out of the pandemic, the hardest part would have been figuring out how to construct these vaccines,” Offit continued. “The hardest part is convincing people to get it, which is remarkable.”

6/17/21 1:39 p.m. PDT — Delta variant now variant of concern

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared that the delta variant, first detected in India, is now a variant of concern (VOC), meaning it poses a significant threat to unvaccinated people, reported NPR.

“A very recent data — literally yesterday and the day before — shows that, in fact, it is a more dangerous virus in the sense that it can potentially make people more severely ill,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told NPR.

“So the combination of more transmissibility and a greater severity of disease appropriately prompted the CDC to elevate it to a variant of concern,” he said.

According to NPR, this virus variant is the most contagious yet, and the CDC estimates it may be responsible for nearly 10 percent of all new cases in the United States.

In certain western states, the delta variant may be responsible for nearly 20 percent of cases.

This risk has public health officials stressing the benefits of vaccination, which is shown to be highly effective against the delta variant.

“If you are vaccinated, you're going to be protected, which is another very good reason to encourage people strongly to get vaccinated,” Fauci told NPR. “If you are not vaccinated, you are at risk of getting infected with the virus that now spreads more rapidly and gives more serious disease.”

Rising COVID-19 cases in England are driven by unvaccinated people

COVID-19 cases are rising exponentially across England and are driven by younger and mostly unvaccinated people, according to scientists, reported the Guardian.

According to the Guardian, a study commissioned by the U.K. government called the REACT study found that infections increased by 50 percent between May 20 and June 7, which coincided with the rise of the delta variant that now dominates in the United Kingdom.

“We observed that growth was being driven by younger age groups, with five-fold higher rates of swab-positivity among younger children (ages 5 to 12 years) and young adults (18 to 24 years) compared with those aged 65 years and older, and 2.5-fold higher rates among those below 50 years compared with those 50 years and above,” the study authors wrote.

The study authors added that their findings suggest that imminent expansion of the vaccine program to people ages 18 and above “should help substantially to reduce the overall growth of the epidemic.”

6/16/21 3:27 p.m. PDT — WHO says delta variant now circulating in 80 countries

The delta variant of the coronavirus is now circulating in 80 countries, according to officials from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The delta variant was first identified in India in the fall of 2020, and has been rapidly spreading globally.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, COVID-19 technical lead for the WHO, said in an interview posted on Twitter that all four variants of concern are more transmissible than the original virus variant.

“If it can spread more easily, then more people can get infected quickly, and if a system is overwhelmed… it can overburden the health system,” she said.

New York lifts pandemic restrictions

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that since the state has reached 70 percent vaccination, he will lift pandemic restrictions.

Unvaccinated people are still required to use face masks as per federal guidelines, according to a press release from the governor’s office.

“What New York has done is extraordinary. Not only do we have the lowest COVID positivity rate in the United States of America, we have hit 70 percent vaccination ahead of schedule. We successfully deployed the weapon that will win the war, and New York led the nation,” Cuomo said in the statement.

According to Cuomo, at one point the state had a COVID-19 positivity rate of 48.16 percent. The governor confirmed that the positivity rate is now 0.40 percent, the lowest rate in the country.

California also lifted most of its COVID-19 restrictions yesterday. The Golden State ended capacity limits, physical distancing, and, for people already vaccinated, mask requirements.

California's reopening allows vaccinated people to go without masks in most situations. This puts the state in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Masks are still required on public transportation, in hospitals and jails, and at schools and child care centers, pending updated guidance from the CDC.

899 people received expired COVID-19 vaccines at Times Square, need to get another shot

Nearly 900 who were vaccinated against COVID-19 at Times Square in New York City earlier this month received expired doses of the vaccine, reported Business Insider.

The 899 people received the expired doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the former NFL Experience building in Times Square between June 5 and June 10.

These people should schedule another shot as soon as possible, the New York City Health Department said, reported The Associated Press (AP).

“We apologize for the inconvenience to those receiving the vaccine batch in question and want people first and foremost to know that we have been advised that there is no danger from the vaccine they received,” ATC Vaccination Services, the company that administered the shots under contract to the city, said in a statement, reported AP.

6/15/21 2:25 p.m. PDT — Deaths from COVID-19 now top 600,000 in the U.S.

Despite dropping caseloads of COVID-19, the death toll continues to grow in the United States.

The country has now reported more than 600,000 deaths from the disease, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

The United States has reported the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths globally since the start of the pandemic.

New reported cases have dropped significantly as vaccinations have increased in the United States.

AstraZeneca antibody drug fails to prevent COVID-19 symptoms, large trial finds

A study key to demonstrating the effectiveness of AstraZeneca’s antibody drug combination, AZD7442, found it was only 33 percent effective at preventing symptoms of the disease in people exposed to the coronavirus, according to Bloomberg.

The outcome is disappointing for the drugmaker, as this drug was hoped to be a bright spot in the company’s efforts to fight the pandemic following the mixed success of its COVID-19 vaccine with the University of Oxford, reported Bloomberg.

“While this trial did not meet the primary endpoint against symptomatic illness, we are encouraged by the protection seen in the PCR negative participants following treatment with AZD7442,” AstraZeneca Executive Vice President Mene Pangalos said in a statement.

“We await results from PROVENT, our pre-exposure prevention trial and TACKLE, our treatment trial in preventing more severe disease, to understand the potential role of AZD7442 in protecting against COVID-19,” he said.

According to CNBC, AZD7442 belongs to a class of drugs called monoclonal antibodies, which mimic natural antibodies produced by the body to fight infections.

Similar therapies developed by drugmakers Regeneron and Eli Lilly have already received approval by U.S. regulators to treat nonhospitalized people with COVID-19.

Vermont reaches vaccination milestone, lifts all pandemic restrictions

Vermont crossed a major vaccination milestone yesterday with more than 80 percent of the state's eligible population receiving at least one vaccine dose, according to data from the state’s health department.

Consequently, Vermont Gov. Phil Scott has dropped all remaining pandemic restrictions throughout the state, fulfilling a promise he made last month to lift restrictions once the state eclipsed that milestone, reported NBC5 News.

“There are no longer any state COVID-19 restrictions,” Scott said during a news conference, reported NBC5. “None.”

“So unless there is a federal requirement in place, like for public transportation or long-term care facilities, employers, municipalities, and individuals can operate under the same conditions as before the pandemic,” he said.

6/14/21 12:20 p.m. PDT — Novavax notes success in latest vaccine trial

Today, drugmaker Novavax announced that its COVID-19 vaccine was 90 percent effective against disease and protected against virus variants in a large phase 3 clinical trial conducted in the United States and Mexico.

Company officials added that the vaccine was 100 percent effective in preventing moderate to serious disease.

The findings indicated that the two-shot vaccine had an overall effectiveness of about 90 percent, with preliminary data showing it was safe. This puts the vaccine at about the same level as the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccine.

“Today, Novavax is one step closer to addressing the critical and persistent global public health need for additional COVID-19 vaccines. These clinical results reinforce that NVX-CoV2373 is extremely effective and offers complete protection against both moderate and severe COVID-19 infection,” Stanley C. Erck, president and CEO of Novavax, said in a statement.

“Novavax continues to work with a sense of urgency to complete our regulatory submissions and deliver this vaccine, built on a well understood and proven platform, to a world that is still in great need of vaccines,” he said.

Novavax intends to file for regulatory authorization in the third quarter.

Delta variant likely to become dominant in U.S.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), told “Face the Nation” yesterday that the coronavirus variant known as delta is likely to become the dominant source for new infections in the United States and could lead to new outbreaks in the fall, with unvaccinated people being most at risk.

“Right now, in the United States, it's about 10 percent of infections. It's doubling every 2 weeks,” Gottlieb said. “That doesn't mean that we're going to see a sharp uptick in infections, but it does mean that this is going to take over. And I think the risk is really to the fall that this could spike a new epidemic.”

Gottlieb emphasized the delta variant is going to continue to spread, citing new data from prominent British epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, PhD.

“There was data out from Neil Ferguson this week showing it's about 60 percent more transmissible than 1.1.7, which was that old U.K. variant that they're now calling the alpha variant,” Gottlieb explained.

“So, this is more contagious. It appears that people who get this virus have higher viral loads and they have those viral loads for longer periods of time. So they shed more virus,” he said.

Black, Latino Americans have higher COVID-19 death rates

Black and Latino Americans once again have the highest death rates from COVID-19.

During spring 2020, Black Americans had the highest death rate. Last summer, Latino Americans had the highest rate, particularly from outbreaks in Texas and California.

This past winter, the pandemic spread across most of the nation, with white Americans having some of the highest death rates.

This summer, the high death rates have returned to Black and Latino communities.

Experts say these two groups have less access to health services, have lower vaccination rates, and are more likely to have jobs that put them in contact with the public.

6/11/21 12:20 p.m. PDT — Delta variant spread worries health experts

Many U.S. states and communities are far from achieving a level of COVID-19 vaccination that could prevent future outbreaks of the highly contagious COVID-19 Delta variant.

The variant, which fueled the recent surge of cases and deaths in India, presents some real risks. According to experts in the United Kingdom, the Delta variant is 40 to 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant that first emerged there in late 2020 and was up to 70 percent more transmissible than earlier versions of the coronavirus.

In Great Britain, the Delta variant is currently responsible for 91 percent of new COVID-19 cases, with cases doubling over the past week, according to The New York Times

Although all two-dose COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the variant when fully administered, a recent study from Public Health England (PHE) finds this variant’s “immune escape” properties reduce protection to only 33 percent of people between the first dose and second dose.

Delta is now driving “an epidemic among the unvaccinated and partially vaccinated populations in the U.K.,” Dr. Tim Spector, professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, told the Financial Times. “The U.K. has rapidly changed from one of the best performing nations to a nation again struggling with rising cases.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci has said the Delta variant’s spread and dominance in the United Kingdom could mean trouble for the United States, where the variant currently accounts for 6 percent of all infections, rising to 18 percent or higher in certain Western states.

Johnson & Johnson vaccine expiration dates extended

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced it is extending the expiration date on the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

Agency officials said the vaccine can be stored at low temperatures for 4.5 months instead of the 3-month limit originally ordered. Millions of doses were in danger of being tossed out next month.

FDA officials also ordered Johnson & Johnson to discard 60 million vaccine doses made at a Baltimore facility due to concerns the manufacturer had not followed proper practices. The agency is allowing 10 million doses from that complex to be distributed with a warning label.

CDC schedules emergency meeting on heart inflammation concerns

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has called an emergency meeting to discuss reports of heart inflammation issues after the administration of Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines.

The meeting of CDC advisors will take place on June 18.

So far, the agency has identified 226 cases believed to be myocarditis or pericarditis. Although the cases are a tiny fraction of the 130 million people in the United States who've received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, the numbers are still higher than expected.

6/10/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — Moderna asks FDA to allow COVID-19 vaccine to be given to children over 12

Officials at Moderna are asking the FDA to give emergency use authorization to their COVID-19 vaccine in people over the age of 12.

“We are pleased to announce that we have submitted for an emergency use authorization for our COVID-19 vaccine with the FDA for use in adolescents in the United States,” Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said in a statement. “We are encouraged that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2 infection in adolescents.”

They have also filed for authorization in Canada and the European Union.

Currently, the only COVID-19 vaccine available to children between the ages of 12 and 16 is the one made by Pfizer-BioNTech. Another vaccine on the market may help children get more access to the vaccines.

Unvaccinated at risk for a more dangerous coronavirus variant, surgeon general says

Although there is an ongoing decline in COVID-19 cases in the United States, the surgeon general warns those still unvaccinated to not let their guard down, reported CNN.

“For those who are unvaccinated, they are increasingly at risk as more and more variants develop,” said Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Wednesday, reported CNN. He specifically cited the B.1.617.2, or Delta variant, that was first identified in India.

“The news about the Delta variant is evidence of really why it's so important for us to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” Murthy said, adding that the Delta variant is more transmissible and potentially more dangerous.

According to CNN, many health experts and officials share concerns over the risk of variants bringing an end to a nationwide reopening.

“We don't want to let happen in the United States what is happening currently in the U.K., where you have a troublesome variant essentially taking over as the dominant variant, which has made it a very difficult situation in the U.K.,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Wednesday, according to CNN.

Fauci added that the Delta variant accounts for over 6 percent of sequenced virus in the United States.

Houston hospital suspends nearly 200 employees who refused vaccination

A Houston hospital has suspended 178 staff members who have refused to follow the facility’s mandate that all employees be fully vaccinated by Monday, reported NBC News.

Almost 25,000 Houston Methodist staff members have been fully protected against COVID-19 as part of a vaccination requirement announced in April, Houston Methodist's president, Dr. Marc Boom, said in a statement Tuesday, according to the network.

However, 178 unvaccinated employees who did not receive religious or medical exemptions for the mandate were suspended without pay. This number includes 27 staff who were only partially vaccinated.

“We won't have the final numbers for 2 weeks, as employees can still get vaccinated with their second dose or with the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine,” Boom's statement said, according to NBC. “I wish the number could be zero, but unfortunately, a small number of individuals have decided not to put their patients first.”

6/9/21 1:36 p.m. PDT — Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine effective against variants, study finds

A new study has found that Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine initiates multiple immune responses, making it highly protective not only in the United States but also in Brazil and South Africa, where different coronavirus variants are circulating. 

The researchers found that people in various parts of the world who received the shot were protected against severe disease, no matter which virus variant was circulating.

“Functional non-neutralizing antibody responses and T cell responses were largely preserved against SARS-CoV-2 variants,” the study authors wrote. “These findings have implications for vaccine protection against SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern.”

Thousands of Johnson & Johnson vaccines may expire before they’re used

Hundreds of thousands of Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccines may expire before they can be administered, according to Kaiser Health News.

The shots last for 3 months when refrigerated and up to 2 years when frozen.

Local health departments may have a backlog of shots as demand for vaccines has waned.

While the vaccines can be redistributed to other areas or countries in need, Johnson & Johnson and the Food and Drug Administration are also waiting for new evidence to see whether the vaccine will remain viable after its initial expiration date.

6/8/21 2:05 p.m. PDT — Pfizer begins testing COVID-19 vaccine in children under 12

Pfizer announced today it will begin testing its COVID-19 vaccine in a larger group of children younger than 12 after selecting a lower dose of the shot in an earlier stage of the trial, reported Reuters.

The study will enroll up to 4,500 children at more than 90 clinical sites in the United States, Finland, Poland, and Spain, the company said.

According to Reuters, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been authorized for use in children as young as 12 in Europe, the United States, and Canada. Children receive the same dose as adults, 30 micrograms.

Vaccinating children and young people is considered a critical step toward reaching herd immunity and taming the COVID-19 pandemic, reported Reuters.

We must redouble vaccination efforts to hit president’s July 4 goal, expert says

Despite signs of normalcy returning across the United States, from in-person graduations to maskless Memorial Day weekend celebrations, experts warned CNN that the country must redouble efforts to get more people vaccinated by July 4.

According to CNN, President Joe Biden has called for 70 percent of all adults to have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose by July 4.

But a recent CNN analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data finds we’re not likely to hit that target until mid-to-late July.

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, told the network he agrees the country isn't on track to hit the milestone.

“So we've got to redouble of our efforts,” he told CNN. “States really have to pick up pace. If we just keep going at the status quo I don't think we're going to hit that 70 percent by July 4.”

6/7/21 12:20 p.m. PDT — July 4th vaccination goal of 70% may be tough to reach

Experts are expressing concern the United States may miss the vaccination goal set by President Joe Biden for July 4.

They say that goal of 70 percent of U.S. adults receiving at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose may not be reached until mid-July.

The country is now averaging about 1 million vaccinations a day, down from the peak of 3.3 million in April.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Friday that the best way for the country to avoid COVID-19 surges is to get vaccinated.

“It ain't over ’til it's over — and it is not over yet,” Fauci said at an event hosted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Complacency, he added, could lead to “another surge — particularly with variants floating around — that could set us back to the time when we had to shut down things.”

Vaccination rate still low in Black communities

Another concern is the pace at which Black Americans are being vaccinated.

Officials say the vaccination blueprint that’s worked with other ethnic and racial groups isn’t doing enough to win over Black Americans.

According to the most recent CDC data, less than 10 percent of Black Americans have been fully vaccinated against the disease.

“It’s a tough layer that we have to address — it requires relationship building and it’s going to take a little longer,” Octavio Martinez, executive director of the Hogg Foundation for Mental Health, who sits on the White House’s COVID-19 Health Equity Task Force, told Politico. “We have a systemic issue here.”

6/4/21 4:10 p.m. PDT — CDC director urges teens to get vaccinated

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), urged teens to get vaccinated and recommended parents who have questions to speak with their child’s health providers, local pharmacists, or health departments, reported The Washington Post.

“I strongly encourage parents to get their teens vaccinated, as I did mine,” she said during a briefing yesterday, reported the Post.

Walensky added that until teens are fully vaccinated, “they should continue to wear masks and take precautions when around others who are not vaccinated to protect themselves, their friends, family and community.”

6/3/21 12:00 p.m. PDT — Biden administration outlines plan to send 25 million vaccines to other countries

With vaccination demand in the United States waning, the Biden administration is now looking to send millions of doses abroad to fight COVID-19, according to Reuters.

About 19 million doses will be given to COVAX, the campaign run by the World Health Organization to get vaccines to developing countries. The other 6 million doses will be given directly to countries including Canada, Mexico, India, and South Korea.

While more than 50 percent of the U.S. population has had at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, many countries have yet to even start a mass vaccination campaign.

The World Health Organization has been pushing for wealthier countries to donate vaccines to poorer countries to fight the pandemic globally. Should a strain develop in other parts of the world, it can quickly spread to the United States.

COVID-19 cases lowest since pandemic began

The United States has brought new COVID-19 cases down to their lowest level since the pandemic began in March 2020.

The country averaged about 15,622 new cases per day over the past week, which is a 30 percent improvement over the week before. Also, new cases declined in 43 states, with the other seven holding steady, reported Axios.

Additionally, since vaccinations are rising, there's less chance that we could see another major spike similar to what we saw this winter.

According to a recent story in The Washington Post, the risk for unvaccinated people is still about as high as it’s ever been, with an average of roughly 500, mostly unvaccinated, people dying per day from COVID-19 in the United States.

India orders unapproved COVID-19 vaccine as nation struggles against second wave

Today, India signed its first order for an unapproved COVID-19 vaccine, one day after criticism from the South Asian country’s supreme court over a bungled vaccine rollout that left millions of people vulnerable after almost 338,000 deaths, reported Reuters.

According to Reuters, only 4.7 percent of the 950 million adult population has received two vaccine doses, as the world's second most populous country reels from a nationwide second wave of infections that has killed about 170,000 people in April and May alone.

The government will buy 300 million vaccine doses from local firm Biological-E, and has put down an advance of $205.6 million, the health ministry said, even though the vaccine is still going through phase 3 clinical trials, reported Reuters.

“The arrangement with Biological-E is part of the wider endeavor of the government of India to encourage indigenous vaccine manufacturers by providing them support in research & development and also financial support,” the ministry said in a statement, reported CTV News.

According to CTV News, the official recorded caseload since the start of the pandemic now stands at 28.4 million, which is the second-highest in the world after the United States.

6/2/21 7:00 p.m. PDT — 12 states have already achieved Biden’s goal of 70% adults vaccinated against COVID-19

Twelve states have now reached the Biden administration’s goal to vaccinate 70 percent of adults with at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by July 4, according to data published yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reported CNN.

According to CNN, those states are California, Maryland, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

About 168.5 million people — nearly 51 percent of the U.S. population — have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and nearly 41 percent of the population — roughly 136 million people — are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data, CNN reported.

New trial will research whether COVID-19 vaccines can be mixed and matched

The National Institutes of Health is examining whether COVID-19 vaccines can be mixed and matched for booster shots.

The NIH study will see whether fully vaccinated people do better if they receive a booster shot 20 weeks after initial vaccination. Those new booster shots will not need to match the original type of vaccine given to the participant.

“We need to prepare for the possibility of needing booster shots to counter waning immunity and to keep pace with an evolving virus,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is part of the NIH.

“The results of this trial are intended to inform public health policy decisions on the potential use of mixed vaccine schedules should booster doses be indicated,” he said.

6/1/21 2:55 p.m. PDT — COVID variants to be named after Greek letters, WHO announces

The World Health Organization (WHO) will assign simple, easy to say and remember labels for key variants of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by using letters of the Greek alphabet.

The WHO will assign labels for COVID-19 variants designated as Variants of Interest (VOI) or Variants of Concern (VOC) by WHO, and will be posted on the WHO's website.

“The U.K. variant, for instance, is labeled Alpha, the South African Beta, and the Indian as Delta,” reported BBC. The WHO said this was to simplify discussions but also to help remove some stigma from the names.

“No country should be stigmatized for detecting and reporting variants,” the WHO's COVID-19 technical lead, Maria Van Kerkhove, PhD, tweeted. Kerkhove also called for “robust surveillance” of variants and the sharing of scientific data to help stop the pandemic from worsening.

Moderna seeks full FDA approval for mRNA vaccine

Moderna asked the FDA for full U.S. approval of its COVID-19 vaccine today, reported CNBC, making Moderna the second drugmaker in the United States to pursue a biologics license that will allow them to market its vaccine directly to consumers.

According to CNBC, the drugmaker’s mRNA vaccine is currently being distributed under an emergency use authorization (EUA), granted by the FDA in December.

It gives conditional approval based on 2 months of safety data and isn’t the same as a biologics license application, or a request for full approval, which requires at least 6 months of data.

“We are pleased to announce this important step in the U.S. regulatory process for a Biologics License Application (BLA) of our COVID-19 vaccine,” said Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, in a statement. “We look forward to working with the FDA and will continue to submit data from our Phase 3 study and complete the rolling submission.”

5/28/21 9:55 a.m. PDT — Most Americans favor vaccine verification for travelers

About 70 percent of people in the United States favor vaccine verification while traveling by plane or staying in a hotel, a new PwC consulting survey found.

More than half of respondents to the survey, released on Friday, said they support policies that prevent people from traveling if they don’t show proof of vaccination.

About 14 percent reported they would be upset if asked for proof of vaccination while traveling.

President Biden delivers hopeful message on COVID-19

On Friday, President Joe Biden delivered a message of hope and optimism on the declining number of COVID-19 cases and increased vaccination rates ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

The president traveled to Virginia to outline the progress made across the country, and in Virginia specifically, in combating the pandemic since he took office.

5/27/21 2:26 p.m. PDT — New antibody treatment for COVID-19 is authorized by the FDA

There's a new COVID-19 treatment now authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The monoclonal antibody therapy sotrovimab will be able to be administered to people with mild to moderate COVID-19 over age 12.

This is the third such treatment given emergency use authorization by the FDA since the start of the pandemic, according to U.S. News and World Report.

“With the authorization of this monoclonal antibody treatment, we are providing another option to help keep high-risk patients with COVID-19 out of the hospital,” said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “It is important to expand the arsenal of monoclonal antibody therapies that are expected to retain activity against the circulating variants of COVID-19 in the United States.” 

First winner of Ohio vaccine lottery

An Ohio woman won the state’s first $1 million Vax-a-Million vaccination incentive prize, and a Dayton-area teen won the first full-ride college scholarship offered by the program, the state announced Wednesday night.

According to Associated Press, winners were selected in a random drawing held Monday and had their information confirmed before a formal announcement was made at the end of the Ohio Lottery’s “Cash Explosion” TV show.

The lottery announced Abbigail Bugenske of Silverton, Ohio as the $1 million winner, and Joseph Costello of Englewood, Ohio as the college scholarship winner.

“I would encourage anyone to get the vaccine,” Bugenske told the Cincinnati Enquirer. “If winning $1 million isn't incentive enough, I don't really know what would be.”

5/26/21 2:22 p.m. PDT — Belgium pauses J&J vaccine for people under 41 after death

On May 26, Belgium announced it would suspend vaccinations with Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 vaccine for people under age 41 following the death of a woman after she was given the vaccine, reported Reuters.

“The Inter-ministerial conference has decided to temporarily administer Janssen's vaccine to the general population from the age of 41 years, pending a more detailed benefit-risk analysis by the EMA (European Medicines Agency),” Belgium's federal health minister and seven regional counterparts said in a statement, reported Yahoo! News.

According to The Telegraph, the woman was a Slovenian diplomat and 39 years old. Belgian media reports she was vaccinated outside Belgium, through her employer.

Drugmaker Johnson & Johnson announced April 20 that it would resume rolling out its COVID-19 vaccine in Europe with a warning on its label after requesting that countries, including Belgium, pause distribution amid concerns over a possible link to rare blood clots.

CDC will not investigate mild cases of COVID-19 in vaccinated people

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced it will no longer investigate mild cases of COVID-19 in people who are vaccinated.

Breakthrough cases of COVID-19 — when a vaccinated person develops the illness — are extremely rare but not unexpected. A total of 10,262 COVID-19 cases were reported among the 101 million people who were fully vaccinated as of April 30.

That means about 0.0001 percent of people who were vaccinated developed COVID-19.

Among those who developed COVID-19, only 995 people actually were hospitalized and 160 died, although not all died of COVID-19.

5/25/21 12:59 p.m. PDT — Moderna says COVID-19 vaccine is effective in teens

In a statement released Tuesday, May 25, officials at Moderna say their COVID-19 vaccine is effective at protecting adolescents.

In a phase 2/3 study, 3,732 adolescents ages 12 to under 18 were given either a placebo or two vaccine doses. No cases of COVID-19 were reported in those who were fully vaccinated.

“We are encouraged that mRNA-1273 was highly effective at preventing COVID-19 in adolescents. It is particularly exciting to see that the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine can prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection,” said Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel. “We will submit these results to the U.S. FDA and regulators globally in early June and request authorization. We remain committed to doing our part to help end the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Can vaccinated people spread the coronavirus? Study says probably not

When the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its mask use guidelines on May 13, many Americans were left a little confused.

People who are fully vaccinated can now participate in indoor and outdoor activities, regardless of the number of people involved, without wearing a mask or observing physical distancing.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, said the new guideline is “based on the evolution of the science” and “serves as an incentive” for the almost two-thirds of Americans who are not yet fully vaccinated to go ahead and get the shot, reported Yahoo.

With restrictions lifting nationwide, people are starting to leave their masks at home. This worries some people who fear that someone who's been vaccinated can transmit the virus.

A preprint study (not yet peer-reviewed) finds that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine can produce coronavirus-fighting antibodies in the oral and nasal fluids.

Antibodies in the mouth and nose should then block COVID from getting into the body. This would also suggest that vaccinated people probably wouldn’t spread the virus through respiratory droplets.

“Our observations are in agreement with the Moderna vaccine clinical study, which determined that among adults aged 18 to 70 years of age, SARS-CoV-2 IgG antibodies were detected among all participants who received a COVID-19 vaccination series in serum samples by day 15,” the study authors wrote.

Vaccinations lag among younger Americans

Experts are turning their focus in the fight against COVID-19 to vaccinating young Americans — warning that even though they don't face a high chance of serious illness, they still risk long-term symptoms if they contract the coronavirus, reported CNN.

According to CNN, the United States has hit a new milestone with 50% of U.S. adults fully vaccinated, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data.

But many experts have identified younger Americans as a critical group for vaccine success and key to bringing the pandemic under control.

CDC data shows that among those 12 to 15 years old, only 1.5 percent have received at least one dose, while only 1.7 percent of 16- to 17-year-olds have, and 7.6 percent of 18- to 24-years-old have.

To reach the threshold of protection needed to limit the virus' spread, at least 70 to 85 percent of the U.S. population will need to be immunized through vaccines or infection, health experts told CNN.

5/24/21 2:43 p.m. PDT — India records 300,000 COVID-19 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.

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 as of May 19, 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.

* This article was originally published here