Fall ’21 Winter ’22 COVID
The disease continued to ravage everywhere, though there seemed to be zones of relatively less contagion where most people had chosen to get the vaccination. In places where people continued to refuse or at least hesitate to get the effective vaccination choices, hospitals were overwhelmed.
October 1, 2021: Merck and Ridgeback Biotherapeutics said their results (still not peer-reviewed) demonstrate their novel drug molnupiravir cut in half the rate of hospitalization and death in persons with mild to moderate disease. If authorized by the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency use, the pill would become the first oral medicine to fight viral infection for Covid-19. [CNN article]
3,898,466 COVID Deaths Worldwide
October 2, 2021: 235,399,322 cases; 4,810,952 deaths worldwide
719,674 COVID Deaths USA
October 2, 2021: 44,491,504 cases; 719,674 deaths in the US
% Vaccinated (+18 old) USA
October 2, 2021: 64.6% at least once; 66.9 % both
US COVID Decline
October 11, 2021: the number of Covid-19 cases in the US continued to fall infections and hospitalizations declined. The average rate of daily new cases has dropped below 100,000, to 93,814 as of October 10, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
October 11, 2021: Merck said that it had submitted an application to the Food and Drug Administration to authorize what would be the first antiviral pill to treat Covid.
An approval for the drug, molnupiravir, would be a milestone in the fight against the coronavirus, experts said, because a convenient, relatively inexpensive treatment could reach many more high-risk people sick with Covid than the cumbersome antibody treatments currently being used. [NYT article]
4,913,952 COVID Deaths Worldwide
October 17, 2021: 241,456,533 cases; 4,913,952 deaths worldwide
744,546 COVID Deaths USA
October 17, 2021: 45,792,532 cases; 744,546 deaths in the US
% Vaccinated (+18 old) USA
October 17, 2021: 65.9% at least once; 68.4 % fully
Cold Weather Effect
October 18, 2021: the NY Times reported that even as the Delta-variant-driven virus wave was receding in much of the United States, many counties across the country’s northernmost regions were experiencing rising cases as colder weather arrived.
The top five states in new daily cases per capita were led by Alaska, which was logging the highest daily average: 125 cases per 100,000 people, according to a New York Times database. The next four states, with at least 67 cases per 100,000 people, were Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota and Idaho.
Cases were at least trending downward or holding steady in those states. The five states with the fastest rising caseloads were Vermont, Colorado, New Hampshire, Michigan and Minnesota, and the two counties with the most cases per capita in Vermont and New Hampshire were on the Canadian border.
US Falls Behind
October 24, 2021: the NY Times reported that the United States was one of the first countries to begin vaccinating its population, and by summer 2021, was leading most nations in getting shots in arms, with 67 percent of the population receiving at least one shot by July 4, 2021.
By October 2021, the United States, despite having a surplus of doses, had fully vaccinated only 57 percent of its population, according to a New York Time tracker. Resistance remained high among some demographic groups and within some specific work force sectors, including police officers and firefighters.
That left the United States lagging behind dozens of nations in the pursuit of full vaccination. Although, with a population of about 330 million, it ranks third in the sheer number of administered doses, more than 411 million, after China’s more than 2.2 billion doses and India’s more than one billion.
Cautious Optimism in US
October 27, 2021: rates of Covid-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths had sunk significantly in the US since a wave driven by the highly contagious Delta variant peaked in September.
4,995,959 COVID Deaths Worldwide
October 28, 2021: 246,251,235 cases; 4,995,959 deaths worldwide
744,546 COVID Deaths USA
October 28, 2021: 46,685,145 cases; 763,784 deaths in the US
% Vaccinated (+18 old) USA
October 28, 2021: 66.5% at least once; 69.1 % fully
Available, But Reluctant
October 29, 2021: the Food and Drug Administration authorization a Covid-19 vaccine for ages 5 to 11 which made 28 million unvaccinated children in the United States suddenly eligible for the shot and offered the country an opportunity to make big inroads in its efforts to achieve broad immunity against the coronavirus, but even many parents who were themselves vaccinated and approved the shot for their teenagers were churning over whether to give consent for their younger children, questioning if the risk of the unknowns of a brand-new vaccine was worth it when most coronavirus cases in youngsters are mild.
In announcing its authorization of a lower-dose shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech for the age group, the F.D.A. said clinical trial data showed the shot was safe and prompted strong immune responses in children. The most common side effects were fatigue, fever and headache. [NYT article]
November 1, 2021: the number of people who have died from Covid-19 around the world has surpassed five million, according to data held by the Johns Hopkins University (JHU) Coronavirus Resource Center.
November 5, 2021: Pfizer announced that its pill to treat Covid-19 had been found in a key clinical trial to be highly effective at preventing severe illness among at-risk people who received the drug soon after they exhibited symptoms.
The antiviral pill was the second of its kind to demonstrate efficacy against Covid. It appeared to be more effective than a similar offering from Merck, which was awaiting federal authorization.
Pfizer’s pill, which would be sold under the brand name Paxlovid, cut the risk of hospitalization or death by 89 percent when given within three days of the start of symptoms. [NYT article]
5,064,597 COVID Deaths Worldwide
November 7, 2021: 250,601,987 cases; 5,064,597 deaths worldwide
775,218 COVID Deaths USA
November 7, 2021: 47,336,577 cases; 775,218 deaths in the US
% Vaccinated (+18 old) USA
November 7, 2021: 66.9% at least once; 69.8 % fully
November 8, 2021: the U.S. lifted restrictions on travel from a long list of countries including Mexico, Canada and most of Europe, allowing tourists to make long-delayed trips and family members to reconnect with loved ones after more than a year and a half apart because of the pandemic.
Starting on this date, the U.S. began accepting fully vaccinated travelers at airports and land borders, doing away with a COVID-19 restriction that dated back to the Trump administration. The new rules allowed air travel from previously restricted countries as long as the traveler had proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test. Land travel from Mexico and Canada would require proof of vaccination but no test. [NPR story]
November 16, 2021: Pfizer announced a deal to allow its promising Covid-19 treatment to be made and sold inexpensively in 95 poorer nations that are home to more than half of the world’s population.
Under the agreement through Knowledge Ecology International, a nonprofit that researches access to medical products, Pfizer would grant a royalty-free license for the pill to the Medicines Patent Pool, a nonprofit backed by the United Nations, in a deal that will allow manufacturers to take out a sublicense. They will receive Pfizer’s formula for the drug, and be able to sell it for use in 95 developing countries, mostly in Africa and Asia, once regulators authorize the drug in those places. The organization reached a similar deal with Merck for its Covid antiviral pill, molnupiravir, to be made and sold inexpensively in 105 poorer countries.
5,121,897 COVID Deaths Worldwide
November 16, 2021: 254,570,447 cases; 5,121,897 deaths worldwide
784,779 COVID Deaths USA
November 16, 2021: 48,072,898 cases; 784,779 deaths in the US
70.5% Fully Vaccinated (+18 old) USA
November 16, 2021: 68.3% at least once; 70.5 % fully (18+)
Covid-19 cases continued to rise across the United State and millions of Americans remained unvaccinated.
Such a designation is reserved for dangerous variants that may spread quickly, cause severe disease or decrease the effectiveness of vaccines or treatments. The last coronavirus variant to receive this label was Delta, which took off this summer and now accounts for virtually all Covid cases in the United States.
The W.H.O. said the new version, named Omicron, carries a number of genetic mutations that may allow it to spread quickly, perhaps even among the vaccinated. [NYT article]
5,294,744 COVID Deaths Worldwide
December 8, 2021: 268,078,671 cases; 5,294,744 deaths worldwide
813,904 COVID Deaths USA
December 8, 2021: 50,422,410 cases; 813,904 deaths in the US
71.2% Fully Vaccinated (+18 old) USA
December 8, 2021: 70.4% at least once; 71.2 % fully (18+)
National Guard Called Up
December 8, 2021: the governors of Maine and New York deployed the National Guard in response to dangerously low capacity at statewide medical facilities due to the pandemic.
December 13, 2021: the New York Times reported that as the coronavirus pandemic approached the end of a second year, the United States stands on the cusp of surpassing 800,000 deaths from the virus, and no group had suffered more than older Americans. All along, older people had been known to be more vulnerable, but the scale of loss was only now coming into full view.
Seventy-five percent of people who had died of the virus in the United States — or about 600,000 of the nearly 800,000 who have perished so far — had been 65 or older. One in 100 older Americans had died from the virus.
For people younger than 65, that ratio was closer to 1 in 1,400.
December 22, 2021: two new British studies provided some early hints that the omicron variant of the coronavirus might be milder than the delta version.
Scientists stressed that even if the findings of these early studies held up, any reductions in severity need to be weighed against the fact omicron spreads much faster than delta and was more able to evade vaccines. Sheer numbers of infections could still overwhelm hospitals.
The new studies seemed to bolster earlier research that suggested omicron might not be as harmful as the delta variant, said Manuel Ascano Jr., a Vanderbilt University biochemist who studies viruses.
“Cautious optimism is perhaps the best way to look at this,” he said. [AP article]
5,393,397 COVID Deaths Worldwide
December 22, 2021: 277,502,769 cases; 5,393,397 deaths worldwide
813,904 COVID Deaths USA
December 22, 2021: 52,510,978 cases; 833,029 deaths in the US
72.6% Fully Vaccinated (+18 old) USA
December 22, 2021: 72.6% at least once; 72.6 % fully (18+)
December 7, 2021: as daily coronavirus cases in the United States soared to near record levels, federal health officials shortened by half the recommended isolation period for many infected Americans, hoping to minimize rising disruptions to the economy and everyday life.
Virus-related staff shortages had upended holiday travel, ledd to the cancellation of thousands of flights, and threatened industries as diverse as health care, restaurants and retail. Yet health experts warned the country is only in the early stages of a fast-moving surge.
“The Omicron variant is spreading quickly and has the potential to impact all facets of our society,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The agency had previously recommended that infected patients isolate for 10 days from when they were tested for the virus, butit slashed that period to five days for those without symptoms, or those without fevers whose other symptoms were resolving. [NYT article]
Record Number of US Cases
December 28, 2021: the U.S. record for daily coronavirus cases was broken, as two highly contagious variants — Delta and Omicron — converged to disrupt holiday travel and gatherings, deplete hospital staffs and plunged the United States into another long winter.
As a third year of the pandemic loomed, the seven-day average of U.S. cases topped 267,000 , according to a New York Times database. The milestone was marked after a year that had whipsawed Americans from a relaxation of rules in the spring to a Delta-driven summer wave to another surge that accelerated with astonishing speed as Omicron emerged after Thanksgiving. [NYT article]
Free Home Testing
January 10, 2022: under a new policy announced by the White House, individuals covered by a health insurance plan who purchase an over-the-counter COVID-19 diagnostic test that has been authorized, cleared or approved by the Food and Drug Administration will be able to have those test costs covered by their insurance beginning this Saturday.
Insurance companies and health plans would be required to cover eight free over-the-counter at-home tests per covered individual per month, according to White House officials. For instance, a family of four all on the same plan would be able to get up to 32 of these tests covered by their health plan per month.
“We are requiring insurers and group health plans to make tests free for millions of Americans. This is all part of our overall strategy to ramp-up access to easy-to-use, at-home tests at no cost,” Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra stated in a news release. [NPR article]
5,538,904 COVID Deaths Worldwide
January 13, 2022: 320,721,656 cases; 5,538,904 deaths worldwide
813,904 COVID Deaths USA
January 13, 2022: 65,236,475 cases; 869,212 deaths in the US
73.4% Fully Vaccinated (+18 old) USA
January 13, 2022: 74.6% at least once; 73.4 % fully (18+)
ICUs Approach Capacity
January 14, 2022: the New York Times reported that the extremely contagious Omicron variant was fueling an enormous coronavirus wave that pushed hospitals close to their capacity limits in about two dozen states, according to data posted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Figures showed that at least 80 percent of staffed hospital beds were occupied in 24 states on January 14, including Georgia, Maryland and Massachusetts.
More troubling, the data showed that in 18 states and Washington, D.C., at least 85 percent of beds in adult intensive care units were full, with the most acute scarcity of beds in Alabama, Missouri, New Mexico, Rhode Island and Texas.
The pressure on I.C.U. capacity came as the Omicron variant had touched off a nearly vertical rise in infections and hospitalizations. The country as a whole and 26 states had reported more coronavirus cases in the past week than in any other seven-day period.
In that time, an average of more than 803,000 coronavirus cases had been reported each day in the United States, an increase of 133 percent from two weeks ago, according to a New York Times database, and 25 states and territories had reported their highest weekly caseloads yet. Deaths were up 53 percent to an average of roughly 1,871 a day.
Endemic vs Pandemic
January 20, 2022: some European countries such as Spain wre making tentative plans for when they might start treating COVID-19 as an “endemic” disease, but the World Health Organization and other officials warned that the world was nowhere close to declaring the pandemic over.
An AP article explained that diseases were endemic when they occured regularly in certain areas according to established patterns, while a pandemic referred to a global outbreak that caused unpredictable waves of illness.
The World Health Organization had said that redefining the coronavirus as an endemic disease was still “a ways off,” according to Catherine Smallwood, an infectious diseases expert in the agency’s European headquarters in Copenhagen, Denmark. “We still have a huge amount of uncertainty and a virus that is evolving quickly.”
School Masks Optional
February 9, 2022: Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced that the State would drop its statewide school mask mandate when it expired on Feb. 28. The state joined a growing list of liberal-leaning states that moved away from mask requirements.
The moves heralded a new phase of the coronavirus pandemic in the United States, where regions that had taken a cautious approach for two years were relaxing their guard as the Omicron variant receded. Baker was a Republican; other recent moves had come from Democratic governors in states like New Jersey, Connecticut and Oregon, and Illinois. [NYT article]
5,795,175 COVID Deaths Worldwide
February 9, 2022: 403,450,029 cases; 5,795,175 deaths worldwide
935,922 COVID Deaths USA
February 9, 2022: 678,824,393 cases; 972,200 deaths in the US
74.9% Fully Vaccinated (+18 old) USA
February 9, 2022: 76.3% at least once; 74.9% fully (18+)
CDC’s New Mask Strategy
February 25, 2022: the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered a new strategy to help communities across the country live with the coronavirus and get back to some version of normal life.
The new guidelines suggested that 70 percent of Americans could stop wearing masks, and no longer needed to social distance or avoid crowded indoor spaces.
The recommendations no longer relied only on the number of cases in a community to determine the need for restrictions such as mask wearing. Instead, they directed counties to consider three measures to assess risk of the virus: new Covid-related hospital admissions over the previous week and the percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid patients, as well as new coronavirus cases per 100,000 people over the previous week.
Based on these three factors, counties could calculate whether the risk to their residents was low, medium or high, according to the agency, and only areas of high risk would require everyone to wear a mask. [NYT article]
5,956,508 COVID Deaths Worldwide
February 25, 2022: 433,304,746 cases; 5,956,508 deaths worldwide
935,922 COVID Deaths USA
February 25, 2022: 80,532,307 cases; 935,922 deaths in the US
74.3% Fully Vaccinated (+18 old) USA
February 25, 2022: 75.6% at least once; 74.3 % fully (18+)
February 26, 2022: scientists released a pair of extensive studies that point to a large food and live animal market in Wuhan, China, as the origin of the coronavirus pandemic.
Analyzing a wide range of data, including virus genes, maps of market stalls and the social media activity of early Covid-19 patients across Wuhan, the scientists concluded that the coronavirus was very likely present in live mammals sold at the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in late 2019 and suggested that the virus spilled over into people working or shopping there on two separate occasions.
“When you look at all of the evidence together, it’s an extraordinarily clear picture that the pandemic started at the Huanan market,” said Michael Worobey, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Arizona and a co-author of both new studies.[NYT article]
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