Friday, December 3rd, 2021

We have our data team poised

Boosters shots are a crucial element in the effort to halt coronavirus surge because immunity is waning across all age groups, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.

Fauci, speaking on MSNBC, refuted a report out this week questioning the value and ethics of providing third “booster” shots to healthy Americans while many countries are unable to secure sufficient vaccine for first and second jabs. Fauci said the government is working to provide vaccine for the U.S. and the world.

The current U.S. surge will be difficult to curb without boosters, he said. The data is “strongly suggestive” that immunity wanes for people across all age groups over time. Boosters could be available as early as next week.

Fauci also reprised his call for all Americans to get jabbed, even if young and healthy.

“If you get infected, even if you don’t have any symptoms, it is likely that you will pass the virus on to someone else who might pass it on to someone else who might have a severe outcome leading to hospitalization and even death,” he said. “So you’ve got to look at it that you’re not in a vacuum, you’re part of society.”

Fauci noted that students under 12 are unable to get vaccinated and are thus vulnerable.

“The way you protect the vulnerable is to surround them with people who are vaccinated,” he said. “That is a fundamental public health principal.”

Also in the news:

►Despite a small downturn in new daily COVID-19 cases since a recent peak last week, Wisconsin’s coronavirus surge remains at levels last seen in winter.

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►Iowa school districts again have the power to enact mask mandates after a federal judge temporarily blocked a law banning them from doing so.

►Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is threatening local governments with $5,000 fines per violation for requiring their employees to get vaccinated.

📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 41 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more 662,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 225.3 million cases and 4.6 million deaths. Nearly 179 million Americans – 53.9% of the population – have been fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘What we’re reading: Most kids who suffer crippling long COVID-19 symptoms get better. Doctors worry about those who don’t.

Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Cases among children increase ‘exponentially’ with kids back in school
The number of children across the country who were infected with COVID-19 declined this week but is still at staggering levels: A more than 2,700% increase since the end of June. The American Academy of Pediatrics released new data Monday showing the number of cases among children has “increased exponentially” in recent weeks. The data shows more than 243,000 children were infected last week, a decline from the week before when nearly 252,000 cases were reported but still the “second highest number of child cases in a week since the pandemic began.” It’s a huge jump compared with the 8,447 cases reported at the end of June or the 12,100 at the start of July, data from the AAP shows.

The startling jump comes as more schools return to in-person learning and as tensions grow over mandates on vaccinations and masks across the country.

COVID threw millions out of work, many into poverty
Americans’ incomes fell last year and more people were living in poverty as the COVID-19 pandemic threw millions out of work. Median U.S. household income decreased 2.9% to $67,500, the Census Bureau said Tuesday, the first significant decline since 2011. That followed gains of 1.8% in 2017, 0.9% in 2018 and 6.8% in 2019. Household income includes bonuses, Social Security, public assistance payments and interest and dividend from investment, among other sources.

There were 37.2 million people in poverty last year, 3.3 million more than in 2019. The poverty rate rose after five straight annual declines, to 11.4% from 10.5% in 2019.

– Paul Davidson

Man who spent 16 years on death row before being freed dies of COVID
A man who spent a third of his life on death row following a wrongful murder conviction has died COVID-19. Damon Thibodeaux died two weeks ago, nine years after DNA evidence exonerated him and he was released from solitary confinement at Angola Prison in Louisiana. Thibodeaux had been arrested in 1996 for the murder of his 14-year-old cousin in New Orleans. The Innocence Project of New York later reinvestigated the case and Thibodeaux’s conviction was ultimately overturned.

“”He was only 47, so he lost 16 years of his life behind bars for something he hadn’t done,” Steve Kaplan, Thibodeaux’s former lawyer, told USA TODAY. Kaplan said. “The resilience and the strength of mind to endure what he went through on death row takes a mental strength that is beyond my comprehension.”

– Asha C. Gilbert

Kids can be long-haulers, too
Recovery for most kids infected with the virus is swift and the illness is mild. But about 2% to 3%, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky estimated, struggle with an array of puzzling and sometimes crippling symptoms that stretch on for weeks or months with no explanation and no clear end date. Clinics are popping up to provide care for these children, and researchers are studying how the virus triggered their lingering symptoms and how best to treat them. So far, the answers are few and the list of questions long.

“Everyone wants quick answers,” said Daniel Munblit, an expert in the pediatric immune system at Imperial College London researching long-haul COVID-19. “We do not have answers.”

– Kristen Jordan Shamus and Karen Weintraub

Putin to self-isolate because of COVID cases among inner circle
Russian President Vladimir Putin is going into self-isolation because of coronavirus cases in his inner circle, the Kremlin said Tuesday, adding that he tested negative for COVID-19. Putin has been fully vaccinated with the Russian coronavirus vaccine Sputnik V, receiving his second shot in April. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Putin is “absolutely healthy” but will self-isolate after coming in contact with someone who contracted the virus. On Monday, the Russian president attended several public events. He greeted Russian Paralympians, attended military exercises conducted in coordination with Belarus and met with Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“Even in my circle problems occur with this COVID,” the Russian leader was quoted by the state RIA Novosti news agency as saying. “We need to look into what’s really happening there. I think I may have to quarantine soon myself. A lot of people around (me) are sick.”

Who will be able to get a booster vaccine?
In just a week, COVID-19 vaccine boosters could begin to be available to all fully vaccinated Americans. But exactly who will be eligible and when won’t be decided until two key scientific advisory committees meet days before the Biden administration’s Sept. 20 start date.

That leaves little reaction time for health care system administrators such as Dr. Tammy Lundstrom, chief medical officer for Michigan-based Trinity Health, which operates 91 hospitals and 120 continuing care facilities in 22 states.

“We have our data team poised, ready to hit the button to help us identify all our patients who are ready for a booster,” Lundstrom said. “We’re anxiously waiting for guidance, as is everybody.”

Originally, President Joe Biden said a third shot booster dose for people with healthy immune systems would be offered beginning Sept. 20 to anyone who’d gotten their second shot of either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine at least eight months ago, pending authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.

But the administration walked that back slightly over concerns the announcement got ahead of recommendations from the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committees. The FDA committee meets Friday to discuss booster recommendations; the CDC committee meeting is not yet scheduled but could come the next day to meet the Sept. 20 goal.

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