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COVID-19 By The Numbers
Friday, April 29
10:49 a.m.: BART reinstates a mask mandate for passengers
The San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District has temporarily roasted a mask mandate for riders on the rail system a week after it was dropped, according to the Associated Press.
The BART board of directors decided Thursday to require riders to wear masks aboard trains and all areas of stations within fare gates. A district statement says children ages 2 and under, as well as people with medical conditions that prevent them from wearing masks, are exempt.
The new mandate is effective until July 18 unless it gets extended.
The San Francisco Chronicle says the directors are concerned about protecting immunocompromised people and children who are not yet eligible for vaccinations against the coronavirus.
Black and Hispanic Americans remain far more cautious in their approach to the COVID-19 pandemic than white Americans — that’s according to recent polls that reflect diverging preferences on how to deal with the pandemic as federal, state and local restrictions decline.
Sixty-three percent of Black Americans and 68% of Hispanic Americans say they are at least somewhat worried about themselves or a family member being infected with the virus, compared with 45% of white Americans, according to an April poll from the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Experts say divided opinions among racial groups reflect the unequal impact of the pandemic on people of color and apathy among some white Americans.
The Food and Drug Administration has set tentative dates in June to publicly review COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest American children, according to the Associated Press.
The FDA said it plans to convene its outside panel of vaccine experts on June 8, 21 and 22 to review applications from Moderna and Pfizer for child vaccines vaccines. Currently, only children ages 5 or older can be vaccinated in the U.S. with Pfizer’s vaccine.
Dates are tentative, and regulators say they will provide more details later. The meeting announcements follow months of frustration from families impatient for a chance to vaccine their young children, along with complaints from politicians bemoaning the slow pace of the process.
Thursday, April 28
Moderna is asking U.S. regulators to open its COVID-19 vaccine to the nation’s youngest children, according to the Associated Press.
Kids between 6 months to 5 years of age are the only group in the U.S. not yet eligible for vaccination. Frustrated parents are waiting impatiently for a chance to protect them.
Moderna submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday. The company hopes FDA will rule in time for tots to start getting vaccinated by summer.
It’s a complex decision partly because while other countries give Moderna shots to older children, the U.S. so far has restricted them to adults.
Rival Pfizer also is studying its vaccine in the littlest kids.
Facing a rise in COVID-19, several U.S. universities are reinstating mask mandates, sometimes just days after dropping them.
As reported by the Associated Press, mandates were shed widely in the wake of spring break as case numbers dropped following the omicron-fueled winter surge. However, several Northeast cities have seen a rise in hospitalizations in recent weeks, as the BA.2 subvariant of omicron continues to spread throughout the country rapidly.
The latest clampdown means the end of the school year has been upended by the virus for three straight academic years, leaving many rising seniors to not have experienced a pre-pandemic campus life.
Scientists say a United Kingdom patient with a severely weakened immune system has had COVID-19 for almost a year and a half, according to the Associated Press.
This case underscores the importance of protecting vulnerable people from the coronavirus. There’s no way to know for sure whether it was the longest-lasting COVID-19 infection because not everyone gets tested, but at 505 days, it seems to be a record.
Researchers say their study investigated which mutations arise — and whether variants evolve — in people with super long infections. These cases are different from long COVID.
Wednesday, April 27
Dr. Anthony Fauci has given an upbeat assessment of the state of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S., saying that the country is actually now “out of the pandemic phase” on new infections, hospitalizations and deaths.
As reported by the Associated Press, Fauci says the pandemic appears to be making a transition to becoming an endemic disease — regularly occurring in certain areas.
On Tuesday, he told PBS NewsHour it’s still a pandemic for much of the world, so the threat is not over for the U.S.
In comments Wednesday to The Washington Post, Fauci seemed to clarify his remarks, saying that unlike the “full-blown explosive pandemic phase” of the winter omicron surge, he was describing an apparent transition towards COVDI-19 becoming endemic.
His comments come as health authorities wrestle with how to keep COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations manageable while learning how to live with a virus that is still mutating in unpredictable ways.
Government researchers say three out of every four U.S. children have been infected with the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
Among Americans of all ages, more than half had signs of previous infection.
The figures come from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released on Tuesday. It looked in the blood of more than 200,000 Americans for virus-fighting antibodies made from infections, not vaccines.
They found that signs of past infection rose dramatically between December and February when the omicron variant surged.
CDC officials stressed that the previously infected should still get COVID-19 vaccines, however.
The report came out the same day that Pfizer sought permission to offer a booster dose to kids ages 5 to 11 — just like how people 12 and older can get a booster.
After two years at the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccines and treatments, the U.S. could soon have to begin taking a number, according to the Associated Press.
The White House is warning that other countries are already moving ahead of the U.S. in putting their advance orders for the next generation of therapies. The problem? Lack of funding.
Many in Congress are willing to vote for the billions now needed, but Senate Republicans are demanding that as part of the deal, Democrats must agree to extend pandemic-related, Trump-era border restrictions.
Unless Congress can break that impasse, the White House says, more Americans will get COVID and die.
Tuesday, April 26
Yolo County health officials say a more contagious strain of the omicron variant is starting to drive an increase in transmission of COVID-19.
Officials say the local test positivity rate has risen over the past week and that higher virus levels have been detected in wastewater in Davis, which can indicate community spread before formal testing.
“Data show that COVID-19 is spreading in Yolo County, especially in Davis," Yolo County Health Officer Dr. Aimee Sisson said in a statement. "Yolo residents are encouraged to take additional precautions to guard against infection.”
Sisson said she strongly recommends masking indoors and getting tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms, have been exposed, or attended a large gathering. She also encourages everyone eligible to get a booster shot.
According to California Department of Public Health data, Yolo County's test positivity rate and daily average case rate are still below the state average, though increasing in recent days.
Officials say the increase has been driven by the BA.2.12.1 subvariant of omicron. The new variant now makes up nearly half of cases on the UC Davis campus after first being detected in late March.
Vice President Kamala Harris has tested positive for COVID-19, the White House says, as reported by the Associated Press.
Harris' diagnosis underscores the persistence of the highly contagious virus even as the U.S. eases restrictions in a bid to revert to pre-pandemic normalcy.
Neither President Joe Biden nor first lady Jill Biden was considered a “close contact” of Harris in recent days. The White House said that Harris tested positive on both rapid and PCR tests.
Harris says she “has exhibited no symptoms.” Harris will isolate at her residence but continue to work remotely and would only return to the White House once she tests negative for the virus.
A new omicron mutant descended from the earlier “stealth omicron” has quickly gained ground in the United States.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that it was responsible for 29% of new COVID-19 infections nationally last week.
In the New York region, it caused about 58% of reported new infections. It’s also been detected in at least 13 other countries.
Scientists say it spreads even faster than the super contagious stealth omicron and are now trying to figure out how effective vaccines are against it.
President Joe Biden’s administration is taking steps to expand availability for the life-saving COVID-19 antiviral treatment, Paxlovid.
The administration is trying to reassure doctors that there is ample supply for people at high risk of severe illness or death from the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
Paxlovid is produced by Pfizer and was first approved in December. Supply of the regimen was initially very limited, but as COVID-19 cases across the country have fallen and manufacturing has increased, it is now far more abundant.
White Hose COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha says the administration wants to make the treatment available to anyone who needs it.
Monday, April 25
A new report shows that nearly 2,000 homeless people died in Los Angeles County during the first year of the pandemic — an increase of 56% from the previous year — mainly due to drug overdoses.
According to the Associated Press, the findings released Friday in a report from the county’s Department of Public Health showed that despite initial fears, the virus itself was not the main culprit in deaths among California’s unhoused population.
But the pandemic did cut people off from mental health and substance abuse treatment after services were drastically reduced to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Department of Public Health reported 715 fatal overdoses among homeless people in the pandemic’s first year.
COVID-19 vaccines still offer strong protection against severe illness and death, but Moderna and Pfizer are testing combination shots as a possible new kind of booster.
The vaccines now available in the U.S. were made to fight the original version of the virus.
According to the Associated Press, variants are chipping away at some benefits, particularly their effectiveness against mild infection.
New vaccine versions are being tested as mixes between the original vaccine plus protection against the super-contagious omicron variant.
Other companies are pursuing nasal vaccines that might one day better prevent milder infections. The hunt for improvements comes amid concern that “booster fatigue” may dampen public confidence in the successful shots.
Beijing authorities have announced they will conduct mass testing of most of the city’s 21 million people as new COVID-19 outbreaks sparks worries among residents of a Shanghai-style lockdown.
According to the Associated Press, 70 cases have been found in the Chinese capital since the outbreak surfaced Friday.
Some residents are working from home and stocking up on food as a safeguard against the possibility that they could be confined to their homes, as has happened in multiple cities, including the financial hub of Shanghai.
Shanghai reported 51 deaths in the latest 24-hour period, topping 100 deaths from the ongoing outbreak.
The country’s borders remain largely closed as the economic impact from China’s hard-line response to the pandemic continues to grow.
Friday, April 22
Masks are not currently required in a growing number of public spaces, including many airlines and public transit systems.
This came soon after a judge struck down a federal mask mandate aimed at controlling COVID-19’s spread.
For immunocompromised people, the changes might lead to questioning whether it’s safe to travel.
UC-San Francisco Department of Medicine Chair Dr. Robert Wacther says in some cases, it may be okay to travel.
“If they are fully vaccinated, taken two boosters, four shots, and they’ve taken the monoclonal antibody that significantly decreases the risk of COVID for immuno-suppressed people, and they wear an N-95, I think it’s safe for them to fly,” he said.
Wachter said that for children between two and five years of age who can’t yet be vaccinated, wearing a mask on a plane is likely to be enough protection from contracting the virus.
California workplace regulators have extended mandatory pay for workers affected by the coronavirus through the end of 2022.
They acted more than two months after state lawmakers restored similar benefits through September, as reported by the Associated Press.
The Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board kept the regulations Thursday.
Its chairman says the workplace rules and pay are still needed and that another surge may be imminent. Business groups say the dual benefits are redundant and confusing, while employee advocates say they are essential to allow sick workers to stay home.
The debate comes as a highly transmissible omicron variant becomes dominant in California and across the U.S.
9:04 a.m.: Philadelphia flips on masking mandate
Philadelphia health officials say they’re ending the city’s indoor mask mandate, abruptly reversing course just days after people in the city had to start wearing masks again amid a sharp increase in infections.
According to the Associated Press, the Board of Health voted Thursday to rescind the mandate. The Philadelphia health department released a statement announcing the change that cited “decreasing hospitalization and a leveling of case counts.”
The health department did not release data to back up its reversal on masking, saying more information would be provided Friday.
Philadelphia became the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate but faced fierce blowback as well as a legal effort to get the mandate thrown out.
Thursday, April 21
The facility in Los Angeles County has faced scrutiny since it opened. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration hired global health care company PerkinElmer to run the lab after awarding a no-bid contract worth up to $1.7 billion.
In a letter obtained by CapRadio, the state told the company it would terminate the contract within 45 days.
The Newson administration declined an interview request.
In a statement, it said antigen tests and commercial labs offer more flexibility.
PerkinElmer also declined an interview request. In a statement, the company claimed the state terminated the contract based on the overall drop in cases and demand for testing.
State inspectors identified significant deficiencies shortly after the lab opened. During the omicron surge this past winter, it also struggled to meet its 48-hour turnaround commitment.
It’s unclear what will happen to the large facility that the state spent $25 million to build out.
The World Health Organization says that the number of reported new COVID-19 cases worldwide decreased by nearly a quarter last week — that means there’s been a decline in reported infections since the end of March.
The Geneva-based U.N. health agency said in a weekly report that nearly 5.59 million cases were reported between April 11 and 17, which is 24% fewer than in the previous week.
The number of newly reported deaths dropped 21% to 18,215. WHO said new cases declined in every region, though only by 2% in the Americas.
Health experts also said that “these trends should be interpreted with caution as several countries are progressively changing their COVID-19 testing strategies, resulting in lower overall numbers of tests performed and consequently lower numbers of cases detected.”
Wednesday, April 20
A new poll finds that a majority of Americans continue to support mask requirements for people traveling on airplanes and other shared transportation.
The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 56% of Americans favor requiring people on planes, trains and public transportation to wear masks — that compares with 24% opposed and 20% who say they’re neither in favor nor opposed.
Interviews for the poll were conducted before a federal judge in Florida on Monday struck down the national mask mandate on airplanes and mass transit.
Airlines and airports immediately scrapped their requirements that passengers wear face coverings to protect against the coronavirus, including the Sacramento International Airport and SacRT.
The Justice Department says it will not appeal a federal district judge’s ruling that ended the nation’s federal mask mandate on public transit unless the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes the requirement is still necessary.
On Monday, a judge in Florida ended the sweeping mandate, which required face coverings on planes and trains and in transit hubs, as reported by the Associated Press.
Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said Tuesday that officials believe the federal mask order was “a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health.”
The CDC continues to assess public health conditions, and if the agency determines a mandate is necessary, the Justice Department will file an appeal.
A health official in China said 4 million more people in Shanghai have been allowed to leave their homes as coronavirus quarantine rules ease, according to the Associated Press.
The official, Wu Ganyu, said a total of almost 12 million people have been allowed to leave their homes as the country’s largest city tries to contain virus outbreaks.
Authorities confined most of Shanghai’s 25 million people to their homes starting March 28 following a surge in infections.
China’s case numbers in its latest infection surge are relatively low, but the ruling Communist Party is enforcing a “zero-COVID” strategy that has shut down major cities to isolate every case.
Tuesday, April 19
U.S. airlines are lifting mask mandates after a federal judge in Florida ruled against the Biden administration's mandatory mask mandate for travelers on planes and other public forms of transportation.
Monday's ruling quickly reshaped U.S. air travel, as a cascade of carriers from Delta and United to Southwest and American said masks are now optional for travelers aboard their aircraft.
The massive shift means many airline employees no longer have to wear masks — and won't have to enforce the rule on passengers. But airlines also warn that travelers should still bring a mask on their trip to conform with the rules where they land, particularly for international flights.
As of Tuesday morning, Delta, United, Southwest, American and Alaska Airlines have made masks optional for passengers. Read more about what airlines are requiring from NPR.
— Jonathan Franklin, Bill Chappell, NPR
Moderna hopes to offer updated COVID-19 boosters in the fall that combine the original vaccine with protection against the latest variant. Now it's reporting a hint that such an approach might work, according to the Associated Press.
Before omicron struck, Moderna began testing a shot combining the original vaccine with protection against an earlier variant named beta. The company says people given that test combo shot developed more antibodies capable of fighting newer variants — including omicron — than today's regular booster.
Studies are underway to see if a combination shot that adds omicron-specific protection works better.
Earlier this year, truckers in Canada banded together to protest vaccine mandates. The so-called People’s Convoy is doing the same in the U.S., including a stop at the state Capitol in Sacramento on Monday.
Over 100 people gathered to protest several California COVID-19 bills about testing, vaccine requirements and preventing misinformation.
John Barbee has traveled with the convoy for weeks. He says the protests aren’t about being anti-vax or anti-mask, they’re about being pro-choice.
“I just thought it was time to get on with life,” he said of the pandemic. “The People’s Convoy is primarily about medical freedom. We're not anti-mask, we're not anti-vaccine, we're pro-choice. Personally, I've been vaccinated. I don't care if anyone else has been or hasn't been.”
One of the bills they’re protesting was withdrawn last week. It would have required K-12 students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to attend public school.
The group is returning Tuesday to protest outside the Capitol building for two more days.
Monday, April 18
Pfizer wants to expand its COVID-19 booster shots to healthy 5- to 11-year-olds, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. health authorities already urge everyone 12 and older to get one booster dose for the best protection. And those 50 and older have the option of a second booster. Pfizer said new data shows its kid-sized booster could help healthy elementary-aged children rev up virus-fighting antibodies.
Pfizer and its partner BioNTech plan to seek the authorization of a booster soon. While COVID-19 is a bigger threat to adults, youngsters can get severely ill. Omicron has recently caused a surge in children's hospitalization numbers.
Month by month, more of the roughly 40 million Americans who get help buying groceries through the federal food stamp programs are seeing their benefits plunge.
The reductions come even as the nation struggles with the biggest increase in food costs in decades.
As reported by the Associated Press, the payments to low-income individuals and families are dropping as governors end COVID-19 disaster declarations and opt-out of a still-ongoing federal program that made their states eligible for dramatic increases in SNAP benefits.
The increased benefits were in response to surging unemployment after the COVID-19 pandemic swept over the country. The result is that depending on the politics of a state, people find themselves eligible for significantly different levels of help buying food.
Officials say three people have died from COVID-19 in Shanghai, in the first reported deaths in the latest outbreak in China’s most populous and wealthiest city.
According to the Associated Press, a City Health Commission inspector says all three were elderly, had underlying diseases such as diabetes and hypertension, and were not vaccinated against the coronavirus.
However, there’s been some confusion over the total death count. The BBC reports that dozens of older adult patients at a hospital in Shanghai have died after contracting the coronavirus, but official government figures claim no deaths in the city have been caused by the disease since 2020.
Reporters say they have access to official documents that suggest at least 27 patients from a single hospital, who weren’t vaccinated, have died from what it called “underlying health problems.”
Most of Shanghai’s 25 million residents are being confined to their homes for a third week as China continues to employ a “zero-tolerance” approach to eliminate the virus.
Friday, April 15
The U.S. may be heading into another COVID-19 surge, with cases rising nationally and in most states after a two-month decline, according to the Associated Press.
Experts don’t know how high the mountain will grow, but they don’t expect a peak nearly as high as the last one, when the contagious omicron variant of the coronavirus ripped through the population.
Still, experts warn the coming wave will wash across the nation and push up hospitalizations in a growing number of states, especially those with low vaccination rates, in the coming weeks.
Most cases are now being caused by a subvariant known as BA.2, which is thought to be 30% more contagious.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization for what it says is the first device that can detect COVID-19 in breath samples.
The InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer is about the size of a piece of carry-on luggage, said the FDA. It can also be used in doctor’s offices, hospitals and mobile testing sites.
As reported by the Associated Press, the test, which can provide results in less than three minutes, must be carried out under the supervision of a licensed health care provider.
Officials at the FDA say the device is 91.2% accurate at identifying positive test samples and 99.3% accurate at identifying negative test samples.
The Biden administration has announced it will extend the nationwide mask requirement for public transportation through May 3 as it monitors an uptick in COVID-19 cases.
According to the Associated Press, the order was set to expire April 18, but the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionextended it by two weeks on Wednesday.
The administration hoped to roll out a more flexible masking strategy this week to replace the nationwide requirement, but that fell through.
In a statement this Wednesday, the CDC said it will take the time to “assess the impact the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity.”
Thursday, April 14
The California Department of Public Health is holding off on requiring the COVID-19 vaccine for schoolchildren until at least July 2023. The Federal Drug Administration still hasn’t granted full authorization for the shot for children under 16.
Meanwhile, a bill that would have required the shot for students has also been shelved.
Pediatrician and Democratic State Senator Dr. Richard Pan says a big factor in lagging child vaccination rates is access. He notes that not all doctors keep the COVID-19 vaccine on hand.
“Getting vaccines to kids is not that simple,” Pan said. “So you have to have storage, you have to get the vaccine, you have to make sure they’re maintained appropriately.”
Pan says access should be a priority before the state adds the shot to the list of vaccines already required to attend public or private schools.
The number of people seeking unemployment benefits in the U.S. ticked up last week but remained at a historically low level, reflecting a robust labor market with near record-high job openings and few layoffs.
Jobless claims rose by 18,000 to 185,000 this week, the Labor Department said, after nearly touching the lowest level since 1968 the previous week.
According to the Associated Press, the four-week average of claims, which levels out week-to-week ups and downs, edged up from 170,000 to 172,000.
Two years after the coronavirus pandemic sent the economy into a brief but devastating recession, American workers are enjoying extraordinary job security.
Weekly applications for unemployment aid, a proxy for layoffs, have remained consistently below their pre-pandemic level of 225,000.
The coronavirus pandemic ushered in what may be the most rapid rise in homeschooling the U.S. has ever seen. Now, even with schools back open and vaccines available, many homeschooling families are sticking with it.
Data obtained by the Associated Press found homeschooling numbers this year dipped from last year’s all-time high, but are still significantly above pre-pandemic levels.
Families may have turned to homeschooling as an alternative to hastily assembled remote learning plans.
Black families make up many of the homeschool converts. The proportion of Black families homeschooling their children increased by five times, from 3.3% to 16.1%, from spring 2020 to the fall, while the proportion about doubled across other groups.
One mother who spoke to the AP said she converted her dining room into a classroom and rearranged her work schedule to take over her children’s education, adding lessons on financial literacy, Black history and Caribbean history important to her heritage.
Many families say they’re keeping up with homeschooling for many reasons, including continuing COVID-19 health concerns, disagreements with school policies and a desire to keep what has worked for their children.
Anti-virus controls are shutting down some of China’s biggest cities and fueling public irritation as infections rise, hurting a slowing economy and prompting warnings of possible global shockwaves.
According to the Associated Press, Shanghai is easing rules that confined most of its 25 million people to their homes, but most of its businesses are closed.
Other cities are cutting off access to or closing factories and schools.
Nomura economists warned spring planting by farmers might be disrupted. That might boost demand for imported wheat and other food and push up already high global prices.
The closures are a setback for official government efforts to shore up slumping growth in the world’s second-largest economy.
Wednesday, April 13
Many Americans haven't gotten an initial COVID-19 booster, even though a second one is authorized for some.
Others not in the original pool of people eligible for a second booster are waiting to see if they can get one as well.
According to NPR, an FDA advisory committee met Wednesday to discuss what's next in the country's booster strategy.
Dr. Anthony Fauci tells NPR the path forward is paved with uncertainties about whether more variants will arise, how long booster production lasts and what kind of funding will be available for research.
Researchers are also looking to see what the future of the pandemic holds, with public health officials hoping to get early glimpses of it by monitoring wastewater treatment plans.
Federal data confirms that 2021 was the deadliest year in U.S. history.
New research is offering more insights into how it got that bad. As reported by the Associated Press, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quietly updated its provisional death statistics, showing there were more than 3.46 million deaths last year.
That ends up being about 80,000 more than 2020’s record tally. Experts say COVID-19 was the major reason.
However, a new study released on Tuesday shows an unprecedented spike in adolescent drug overdose deaths also played a role. Researchers also believe U.S. life expectancy dropped another five or six months in 2021 — putting it back where it was 20 years ago.
Soon, likely in the next few weeks, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus will surpass 1 million, according to the Associated Press.
Through wave after wave, the virus has compiled a merciless chronology of loss — one by one by one. If losing one person leaves such a lasting void, consider all that’s been lost with the deaths of 1 million.
The pandemic has left an estimated 194,000 children in the U.S. without one or both of their parents. It has deprived communities of leaders, teachers and caregivers.
Here’s a look at how the deaths of loved ones due to COVID-19 have affected families across the country.
Tuesday, April 12
9:24 a.m.: Here’s what we know about ‘stealth omicron’
Since “stealth omicron” was first identified in November 2021, BA.2 has been spreading around the globe, driving surges in parts of Asia and Europe.
It’s also now the dominant coronavirus strain in the U.S. and in more than five dozen other countries.
According to the Associated Press, it was given the “stealth” nickname because it looks like the earlier delta variant on certain PCR tests. The original omicron, by contrast, is easy to differentiate from delta because of a genetic quirk.
In rare cases, early research indicates BA.2 could infect people even if they've already had an omicron infection. However, COVID-19 vaccines appear to be just as effective with this strain as they were with previous variants.
Health officials are tracking other variants, including XE — a combination of BA.2 and the original omicron. It’s not yet a variant of concern or interest.
Philadelphia has become the first major U.S. city to reinstate its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections.
As reported by the Associated Press, the city’s top health official said she wants to forestall a potential new wave driven by the omicron subvariant.
Dr. Cheryl Bettigole said that COVID-19 cases in the city have risen more than 50% in 10 days — the threshold at which city guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors.
Health inspectors will start enforcing the mask mandate at city businesses starting April 18.
Most states and cities dropped their mask requirements in February and early March.
Shanghai has discharged over 11,000 recovered COVID-19 patients and health authorities emphasize that they must be allowed to return home despite the lockdown that has severely restricted movement in China’s largest city.
According to the Associated Press, the director of the Shanghai Health Commission says their families must not worry about them or discriminate against them.
Shanghai has been under lockdown since March 28, and authorities said that the strict measures would be lifted in areas with no new cases in the last 14 days following another round of mass testing.
The U.S. has advised its citizens to reconsider travel to China due to “arbitrary enforcement” of local laws and COVID-19 restrictions.
U.S. officials cited a risk of parents and children being separated. China protested the notice.
Monday, April 11
An extra-contagious version of the coronavirus has taken over the world. Omicron subvariant BA.2 is now dominant in at least 68 countries, including the U.S.
The World Health Organization says it makes up 94% of sequenced omicron cases submitted to an international coronavirus database, as reported by the Associated Press.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it was responsible for 72% of new U.S. infections last week.
One reason it’s gained ground: it’s about 30% more contagious than the original omicron, but it doesn't seem to cause more severe disease.
Vaccines appear just as effective against it, limiting hospitalizations and deaths.
The push to make personal protective equipment in the U.S. is running out of steam after an initial surge at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Associated Press identified more than $125 million of government grants to over 300 businesses in 10 states to spur the production of masks, gowns, sanitizer and other pandemic supplies.
But the AP found that many producers ran into troubles getting equipment materials and reliable buyers.
Some have quit or sold their equipment. Industry officials say they need more help from the federal government to ensure there is enough American-made protective gear for future pandemics or emergencies.
A series of deaths at a hospital for elderly patients in Shanghai underscores the dangerous consequences of China’s pursuit of a zero-COVID approach amid an escalating outbreak in the city of 26 million people.
According to the Associated Press, relatives say multiple patients have died at the Shanghai Donghai Elderly Care hospital.
They say their loved ones weren’t properly cared for after caretakers infected with the virus were taken away to be quarantined, in adherence to the strict pandemic regulations, depleting the hospitals of staff.
Family members have taken to social media to plead for help and answers and are demanding to see surveillance video after getting little to no information about their loved ones from the hospital.
Friday, April 8
A federal appeals court has upheld President Joe Biden's requirement that all federal employees be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the Associated Press.
In a 2-1 ruling Thursday, a panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed a lower court and ordered dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the mandate.
U.S. District Judge Jeffery Brown of Texas had issued a nationwide injunction against the requirement in January.
A different 5th Circuit panel had refused to block it on appeal. But Thursday's ruling said the federal judge didn't have jurisdiction in the case and those challenging the requirement could have pursued administrative remedies under Civil Service law.
Vaccine experts are grappling with how to formulate a U.S. strategy for future COVID-19 booster campaigns.
A panel of federal advisers to the Food and Drug Administration spent hours Wednesday debating key questions about updating vaccines. As reported by the Associated Press, they didn’t seem to reach any firm conclusions.
FDA regulators cautioned that waning vaccine effectiveness, new viral mutations and colder weather could lead to surges in the fall and winter.
The FDA experts agreed that boosting Americans every few months was not sustainable, and COVID-19 shots should only be reviewed if a strain lowers their ability to prevent hospitalization and death.
Germany’s health minister says the country may need to bring back a requirement for wearing face masks in public this autumn after lawmakers rejected a proposed coronavirus vaccine mandate.
According to the Associated Press, Karl Lauterbach, the country’s health minister, acknowledged that the Bundestag’s vote on Thursday against requiring COVID-19 vaccination for people 60 and over was a personal setback for him.
The bill was a watered-down compromise after some government lawmakers rejected a vaccine mandate for all adults.
Germany recently ended the requirement for mask-wearing in many indoor settings, though they are still compulsory on public transportation. Lauterbach also urged people to get tested for COVID-19 before traveling to visit relatives during the Easter holidays.
Thursday, April 7
The Sacramento City Unified School District will no longer require masks indoors starting April 18, the district announced Thursday night.
California dropped its statewide school mask mandate March 11, but SCUSD announced it would wait until Sacramento County was in the CDC's “low” COVID-19 community transmission for four consecutive weeks. The county met that requirement this week.
Schools will be out for spring break after Friday, coming back April 18, when the new rules will take effect.
The district said Thursday that it will still be "strongly recommending masking," and will provide take-home COVID-19 tests for students before spring break.
“Sacramento City Unified will continue to purchase and provide masks so that we can continue to support those who choose to continue masking,” SuperintendentJorge A. Aguilar said in a press release.
SCUSD is one of the last districts in the state to require masks indoors. The Los Angeles Unified School District ended its mask requirement March 23, and the Davis Unified School District will drop its rules April 11.
District officials said they would reinstate a mask mandate if Sacramento County moves back into a "high" transmission level or if state or local health rules change to require masks again. It would consider a change if the county moves into the "medium: transmission level.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has tested positive for COVID-19, as reported by the Associated Press.
That’s a day after the 82-year-old Democratic leader appeared unmasked at a White House event with President Joe Biden.
Pelosi received a positive test result for COVID-19 and is currently asymptomatic, her spokesperson, Drew Hammill, said in a tweet. He said she had tested negative earlier in the week.
“The Speaker is fully vaccinated and boosted and thankful for the robust protection the vaccine has provided,” Hammill said.
He said she will “quarantine consistent with CDC guidance.” A congressional trip to Asia was postponed.
Federal prosecutors say a naturopathic doctor in Napa has pleaded guilty to selling fake COVID-19 immunization treatments and hundreds of fraudulent vaccination cards that made it seem like customers received Moderna vaccines.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. Department of Justice says Juli A. Mazi pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court in San Francisco to wire fraud and false statements related to health care matters.
The department says it was the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards for COVID-19.
Federal prosecutors say the 41-year-old provided the fake cards to a least 200 people.
She’s scheduled to be sentenced in July.
9:44 a.m.: COVID-19 bill stalled in Senate
A compromise $10 billion measure bolstering the government’s COVID-19 defenses has stalled in the Senate.
According to the Associated Press, it seems all but certainly sidetracked in that chamber for weeks due to a campaign-season fight over the incendiary issue of immigration.
There was abundant finger-pointing Wednesday but no signs that the two parties were near resolving their stalemate over a bipartisan pandemic bill that President Joe Biden and top Democrats wanted Congress to approve this week.
Along with the Senate Democrats’ top goal this week being the confirmation of Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, the COVID-19 bill seemed sure to slip at least until Congress returns after a two-week recess.
Wednesday, April 6
10:19 a.m.: US Rep. Adam Schiff tested positive for COVID-19
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff says he has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press.
The California Democrat made the announcement Tuesday evening in a tweet that says he’s feeling fine and will quarantine.
The 61-year-old Schiff says he’s been vaccinated and boosted and urged everyone to do the same.
Several other political figures have tested positive for COVID-19 recently, including White House press secretary Jen Psaki, CIA Director William Burns and New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy.
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, received his fourth dose of the coronavirus vaccine last week.
Vaccine experts are meeting to discuss the U.S. strategy for future COVID-19 booster campaigns.
Key questions include how often the vaccines should be updated against new viral strains and who should get them.
As reported by the Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration advisors won’t make any binding decisions during Wednesday’s virtual meeting. However, their advice could shape the government’s approach to vaccinations later this year and beyond.
FDA regulators cautioned that waning vaccine effectiveness, new viral mutations and colder weather could lead to surges in the fall and winter. The FDA’s vaccine chief says it’s important to begin discussing the process for updating vaccines as soon as possible.
The World Health Organization reports that the number of coronavirus cases reported globally has dropped for a second consecutive week, according to the Associated Press.
In its latest pandemic report, WHO said 9 million cases were reported last week, a 16% weekly decline. Even when accounting for the 26,000 new deaths from COVID-19 last week, cases are still in decline.
The U.N. health agency said confirmed coronavirus infections were down in all regions of the world. However, it warned that the reported numbers carry considerable uncertainty because many countries have stopped widespread testing for the coronavirus.
WHO says it is tracking an omicron variant that recombines two versions — BA.1 and BA.2 — which was first detected in Britain in January.
Tuesday, April 5
Teachers and other workers returned to schools in Sacramento following weekend negotiations that resolved a strike over better pay and more staffing that lasted nearly two weeks.
The Sacramento City Unified School District announced Sunday that it reached tentative agreements with the Sacramento City Teachers Association, and SEIU Local 1021, which represents classified staff without teaching credentials. .
Students were back in class this Monday. The strike at one of the districts in California’s capital began on March 23, affecting 43,000 students and 76 schools.
The teachers association tweeted that the deal will help address a severe staffing crisis. News of the settlement comes as Sacramento reels from a weekend mass shooting in a nightclub district that killed six people and wounded 12 others.
Senate bargainers have reached an agreement on a slimmed-down $10 billion package for countering COVID-19 with treatments, vaccines and other steps, as reported by the Associated Press.
But the compromise ended up dropping all funding to help nations abroad combat the pandemic.
It drew quick support from President Joe Biden, who initially pushed for a $22.5 billion package.He ended up settling for much less despite the administration's warnings that the government was running out of money to keep pace with the disease’s continued spread in the U.S.
Questions remain about whether objections by some Republicans might prevent the Senate from considering the bill this week, as Biden wants.
A city official says the COVID-19 outbreak in China’s largest city, Shanghai, remains “extremely grim” amid an ongoing lockdown confining 26 million people to their homes.
According to the Associated Press, China has sent more than 10,000 health workers from around the country to aid the city, including 2,000 from the military, and is mass testing residents. Some have been locked down for weeks.
Most of eastern Shanghai, which was supposed to reopen last Friday, remains locked down along with the city's western half.
Concern is growing about the potential economic impact on China’s financial capital, also a major shipping and manufacturing center.
The city recorded another 13,354 cases on Monday, the vast majority of them asymptomatic.
Monday, April 4
A scathing report from the Sacramento County Grand Jury issued Monday afternoon accuses the County Board of Supervisors of ignoring Public Health Officer Dr. Olivia Kasirye's request for assistance in COVID pandemic response for five months.
The grand jury found that "the Board’s apathy during the most significant public health emergency in over a century, one that impacted every resident of Sacramento County, delayed needed OPH program funding and undercut public health order enforcement."
The grand jury found that the Officer of Public Health's COVID response activities should have been the Board of Supervisors' top priority and recommends that the County Board of Supervisors, the County Executive and the County Office of Public Health jointly develop a public health emergency response plan.
The Biden administration has given the go-ahead for another COVID-19 vaccine booster for people aged 50 and older and certain people who are immunocompromised.
As reported by NPR, they can now get another Moderna or Pfizer-BioNTech booster at least four months after their last dose.
But just because you can get an additional booster, does that mean you need to?
Health officials argue that protection provided by the COVID-19 vaccine booster shots wanes over time. And they are concerned about people considered to be at highest risk of getting severe COVID.
But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention didn’t make it clear how urgently people should be lining up for second boosters. The agency says these groups are “eligible” for the shots, but stopped short of saying if they should get them.
Some infectious disease experts say not everyone in this age group needs another booster shot now.
COVID-19 hospitalization numbers have plunged to their lowest levels since the summer of 2020, offering a much-needed break for health care workers and patients alike following the omicron surge.
According to the Associated Press, the number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus has fallen more than 90% in more than two months, and some hospitals are going days without a single COVID-19 patient in the ICU for the first time since early 2020.
The freed-up beds are expected to help U.S. hospitals retain exhausted staff, treat non-COVID-19 patients more quickly and cut down on inflated costs.
More family members can visit loved ones, and doctors hope to see a correction to the slide in pediatric visits, yearly checkups and cancer screenings.
“We should all be smiling that the number of people sitting in the hospital right now with COVID, and people in intensive care units with COVID, are at this low point,” said University of South Florida epidemiologist Jason Salemi.
But, he said, the nation “paid a steep price to get to this stage. ... A lot of people got sick and a lot of people died.”
China has sent more than 10,000 health workers from across the country to Shanghai, including 2,000 military medical staff.
According to the Associated Press, they’re struggling to stamp out a rapidly spreading COVID-19 outbreak in China’s largest city.
Shanghai is conducting mass testing of its 25 million residents as what was supposed to be a two-phase lockdown entered its second week.
Many factories and financial firms have been able to keep operating by isolating their employees, but concern is growing about the potential economic impact of an extended lockdown in China’s financial capital, which is also a major shipping and manufacturing center.
Friday, April 1
Federal lawmakers have moved to the brink of clinching a scaled-back bipartisan compromise to provide a fresh $10 billion to combat COVID-19.
According to the Associated Press, that could set up final congressional approval next week. The price tag was down from an earlier $15.6 billion agreement between the two parties that collapsed weeks ago after House Democrats rejected cutting unused pandemic aid to states to help pay for it.
President Joe Biden previously requested $22.5 billion in early March. With leaders hoping to move the package through congress quickly, the lowered cost seemed to reflect both parties’ calculations that agreeing soon to additional savings would be too hard.
The effort, which would finance steps like vaccines, treatments and tests, comes as Biden and other Democrats have warned the government is running out of money to counter the pandemic. At the same time, the more transmissible omicron variant, BA.2, has been spreading quickly in the U.S. and abroad.
When the stated end of the COVID-19 pandemic comes, it could create major disruptions for U.S. health care, the Associated Press reports.
Experts say the cumbersome health care system has been made more generous, flexible and up-to-date technologically through a raft of emergency measures.
Winding down those temporary policies could start as early as the summer if the Biden administration ends a federal public health emergency that’s been in effect for over two years.
A change like this would force an estimated 15 million Medicaid recipients to find new sources of coverage and require congressional action to preserve broad telehealth access for Medicare enrollees.
It also would scramble COVID-19 rules and payment policies for hospitals, doctors, insurers and patients.
About 16 million residents in Shanghai are being tested for the coronavirus as a staged lockdown shifts to the western half of China’s biggest city and financial capital, according to the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, eastern districts that were supposed to be ending their lockdown were told it might be extended in spots where COVID-19 cases are found. The lockdown of the city with 26 million people has rattled global markets, worried about the possible economic impact.
Residents sent to designated testing sites were met by long lines and waits of more than 90 minutes. People who are sick are sent to hospitals, and people who test positivity without any symptoms are sent to temporary isolation centers, including gymnasiums.
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