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Gov. Gavin Newsom tests positive for COVID-19
WHO expert says monkeypox won’t turn into pandemic, but there are many unknowns
Shanghai moves towards ending its latest lockdown
The COVID surge may be larger than reported
Long COVID is more likely to affect older adults
COVID-19 By The Numbers
Tuesday, May 31
8:50 a.m.: Gov. Gavin Newsom tests positive for COVID-19
Governor Gavin Newsom has tested positive for COVID-19, his office announced on Saturday.
Officials said the governor tested positive on Saturday morning and has mild symptoms. Newsom plans to isolate through at least June 2 and until he tests negative. The plan is for him to continue to work remotely during this time.
Newsom recently got his second booster shot on May 18 and has also gotten a prescription for the COVID-19 antiviral drug, Paxlovid.
The governor’s most recent public appearance was on Friday, when he met with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the San Francisco Botanical Garden to sign an international climate agreement.
8:39 a.m.: WHO expert says monkeypox won’t turn into pandemic, but there are many unknowns
The World Health Organization’s top monkeypox expert, Dr. Rosamund Lewis, said she doesn’t expect the hundreds of cases reported to date to turn into another pandemic.
However, she acknowledged there are still many unknowns about the disease, including how exactly it’s spreading and whether the suspension of smallpox immunization decades ago may be speeding its transmission.
Lewis said the WHO is investigating questions, including whether monkeypox is spread via sex, in the air and if people without symptoms can transmit the disease, as reported by the Associated Press.
She said there’s still time to contain the current problem.
On Monday, Congo reported nine deaths and 465 cases this year. Nigeria reported its first monkeypox death this year and the U.K. reported 71 more cases.
Two cases have been reported in Sacramento County, one of which has been confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
8:19 a.m.: Shanghai moves towards ending its latest lockdown
Shanghai authorities say they will take major steps Wednesday toward reopening China’s largest city after a two-month COVID-19 lockdown that has throttled the national economy and largely confined millions of people to their homes.
According to the Associated Press, full bus and subway service will be restored, as will basic rail connections with the rest of China. Schools will also partially reopen.
Shopping malls, supermarkets, convenience stores and drug stores will reopen gradually at no more than 75% of their total capacity. Cinemas and gyms will remain closed.
Officials who earlier set June 1 as the target date for reopening appear ready to accelerate what has been a gradual easing in recent days.
Friday, May 27
9:16 a.m.: The COVID surge may be larger than reported
COVID-19 cases are on the rise yet again, NPR reports. The U.S. is seeing an average of more than 100,000 reported new cases across the country every day, nearly double the rate a month ago and four times higher than this time last year.
And the real number of cases is likely much higher than that, according to health officials.
Because many people now rely on at-home tests, “we’re clearly undercounting infections,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told reporters at the most recent COVID press briefing.
Hospitalizations are trending upwards too, though only gradually still in most places.
So how big is the surge really? Here’s some answers to your questions.
8:54 a.m.: Long COVID is more likely to affect older adults
Research in U.S. veterans provides fresh evidence that long COVID-19 can happen even after breakthrough infections following vaccination, as reported by the Associated Press.
In the study published on Wednesday, about 1% who had COVID-19 shots had breakthrough infections, and about one-third of that group showed signs of long COVID.
A separate government report found that 1 in 4 adults age 65 and up developed at least one symptom of long COVID up to a year after an initial infection when compared with 1 in 5 younger adults.
Long COVID involves long-term symptoms like fatigue, shortness of breath, brain fog and blood clots.
8:47 a.m.: There’s widespread global disbelief over North Korea’s COVID-19 fatality numbers
About two weeks after North Korea acknowledged its first domestic COVID-19 outbreak, it says about 3.3 million people have come down with fever, but only 69 have died.
If they were all virus patients, it would suggest a coronavirus fatality rate of 0.002%, something no other country has achieved, but there are widespread doubts about the credibility of North Korean tallies.
According to the Associated Press, experts say the impoverished country would be more likely to suffer greater deaths because it has few people vaccinated against COVID-19. It also has a sizable portion of undernourished people and lacks facilities to treat critical patients.
Observers say the real reason for underreported fatalities may be to protect leader Kim Jong Un at all costs or to bolster control of its 26 million people.
Thursday, May 26
2:27 p.m.: Sacramento County moves from 'low' to 'medium' COVID-19 level
Sacramento County moved from "low" to "medium" in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's community level Thursday as case counts continue to rise in the region.
The county recorded 296 cases per 100,000 people over the past seven days. The limit to stay in the CDC's low tier is 200.
Hospitalizations have also risen, with 132 patients in Sacramento County hospitals with COVID-19 as of May 23. That's up from 52 one month ago.
Sacramento joins a number of local counties in the medium level, including Placer, Yolo, San Jaoquin and Yuba. Much of the state is also in the medium level, though none have met the threshold for the "high" level yet.
9:50 a.m.: Sacramento City schools could reimplement student masking soon
The Sacramento City Unified School District released a notice Wednesday noting the county may soon reach the CDC's “medium” or “high” community transmission level as soon as today, which could force a change in mask rules.
The district said that a move into the “medium” category could prompt a shift in their current masking policy, while a jump into the “high” category will trigger an automatic return to universal indoor masking for students and staff at all SCUSD schools.
While there are only three weeks left in the school year, the district explained that there are still many special end-of-year events such as graduations, promotions and proms, so they’re encouraging students and staff to test themselves.
Students will be coming home with rapid COVID-19 test kits this week before the Memorial Day holiday. Parents are urged to give their children a test on Monday before turning to school on Tuesday. They are then asked to register and upload their results.
More information about testing is available here.
9:29 a.m.: U.S. is making COVID-19 antiviral drug available at some testing sites
The White House has announced more steps to make the antiviral treatment, Paxlovid, more accessible across the U.S. as it projects COVID-19 infections will continue to spread over the summer travel season, as reported by the Associated Press.
The nation’s first federally backed test-to-treat site is opening Thursday in Rhode Island.
The site will provide patients with immediate access to the drug once they test positive. More federally supported sites are set to open in Massachusetts and New York City in the coming weeks, both with a marked rise in infections.
Next week, the U.S. will send authorized federal prescribers to several Minnesota-run testing sites, turning them into test-to-treat locations.
9:10 a.m.: New dominant omicron variant contains trace to the early stages of the pandemic
The coronavirus mutant that is now dominant in the United States spreads faster than its omicron predecessor, is adept at escaping immunity and might possibly cause more serious disease.
According to the Associated Press, the new variant is a member of the omicron family, but it carries a mutation called delta that was a feature of the formally dominant variant from 2021.
This appears to allow the virus to escape immunity from vaccines and proper infection, especially if someone was infected in the huge omicron wave that swept the world late last year and early this year.
Wednesday, May 25
9:53 a.m.: FDA says COVID-19 outbreak contributed to inspection delay at baby formula plant
The head of the Food and Drug Administration is testifying about a series of setbacks that led to a months-long delay in inspecting the plan at the center of a nationwide baby formula shortage.
FDA Commissioner Robert Califf is facing questions Wednesday from House lawmakers probing the formula shortage, as reported by the Associated Press.
Califf testified that a COVID-19 outbreak at Abbott’s formula plant led the FDA to delay its inspection from late December until January. He also detailed delays following up on a whistleblower complaint alleging serious violations at the baby formula plant last October.
9:46 a.m.: Despite COVID-19 surge, Americans are still returning to pre-pandemic summer routines
Surges in COVID-19 cases are causing disruptions in many parts of the U.S., but as the school year wraps up and Americans prepare for their summer vacations, many people have returned to their pre-pandemic routines.
According to the Associated Press, case counts are as high as they’ve been since mid-February and those figures are likely a major undercount because of unreported positive home test results and asymptomatic infections.
An influential modeling group at the University of Washington in Seattle estimates that only 13% of cases are being reported to U.S. health authorities. Yet vaccinations have stagnated and elected officials nationwide seem loath to impose new restrictions.
9:24 a.m.: Pfizer says 3 smaller doses of COVID-19 vaccine protects children under 5
Pfizer says three small doses of its COVID-19 vaccine can protect kids under 5.
As reported by the Associated Press, the company released preliminary results on Monday and said it plans to give the data to U.S. regulators later this week. It’s the latest step toward letting the youngest kids get the shots.
The 18 million tots under 5 are the only group in the U.S. not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. The Food and Drug Administration has begun evaluating data from Pfizer rival Moderna.
That company hopes to offer two kid-sizes shots by summer. The FDA has set tentative dates next month for its scientific advisers to publicly debate data from Pfizer and Moderna.
Tuesday, May 24
9:40 a.m.: Opponents of federal vaccine mandates seek court rehearing
A federal appeals court is being asked to reconsider its decision allowing the Biden administration to require that federal employees get vaccinated against COVID-19.
According to the Associated Press, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last month vacated a lower court ruling and ordered the dismissal of a lawsuit against the federal employee vaccine mandate, which President Joe Biden ordered in September.
However, the appellate panel's 2-1 ruling doesn't take effect until May 31. On Saturday, opponents of the mandate filed a petition asking that the April ruling be vacated and that the full 17-member court hear new arguments in the case.
9:33 a.m.: Beijing extends stay-at-home orders as COVID-19 cases rise
Beijing has extended orders for workers and students to stay home and ordered additional mass testing as cases of COVID-19 again rise in the city.
According to the Associated Press, numerous residential compounds have restricted movement in and out. However, conditions remain far less severe than in Shanghai, where millions of citizens have been under varying degrees of lockdown for two months.
Beijing reported an uptick in cases to 99, up from a previous daily average of around 50. Despite China’s small, local outbreaks, the central government has hewed to strict quarantine, lockdown and testing measures under its “zero-COVID” approach, even while the outside world is opening up.
9:16 a.m.: Sweden recommends fifth COVID-19 dose for specific populations with health conditions
Sweden recommends a fifth COVID-19 vaccine dose for people with an increased risk of serious illness, including pregnant women and anyone aged 65 and over, as reported by the Associated Press.
Authorities say the nation must “be prepared for an increased spread during the upcoming autumn and winter season.”
As of Sept. 1, Sweden recommends giving another booster shot to people aged 65 and older and people over 18 in high-risk groups.
The Swedish Public Health Agency said the latter includes pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems and people with heart and lung disease.
Monday, May 23
9:34 a.m.: Pfizer hopes to get young children’s COVID-19 vaccine approved soon
A third pediatric dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children 6 months to under 5 years of page prompted a strong immune response, with a safety profile that was similar to placebo, the companies said.
As reported by NPR, Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine has an efficacy of 80.3%, according to a preliminary analysis. The results are based on clinical trials in which kids from six months to age 5 got three doses of the company’s vaccine.
Pfizer and its partner BioNTech plan to submit the new data to the Food and Drug Administration this week, bringing families with young children one step closer to a long-awaited vaccine.
Also, on Monday, the FDA updated the schedule for its vaccine advisory committee, saying it’ll meet to discuss pediatric COVID-19 vaccines on June 15.
8:48 a.m.: WHO head says COVID-19 pandemic is 'most certainly not over'
The head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that the COVID-19 pandemic is “most certainly not over,” despite a decline in reported cases since the peak of the omicron wave.
As reported by the Associated Press, he told governments on Sunday that “we lower our guard at our peril.”
The U.N. health agency’s director-general told officials gathered in Geneva for the opening of the WHO’s annual meeting that “declining testing and sequencing means we are blinding ourselves to the evolution of the virus.”
The WHO leader noted that almost 1 billion people in lower-income countries still haven’t been vaccinated and said vaccine hesitancy worldwide has been fueled by “disinformation.”
8:39 a.m.: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and many others attend large funeral amid COVID-19 worries
A large number of North Koreans, including leader Kim Jong Un, have attended a funeral for a top official despite outside worries about its COVID-19 outbreak.
According to the Associated Press, photos showed leader Kim Jong Un carrying the coffin of the late official and throwing earth into his grave.
The photos showed a crowd of soldiers and officials at the cemetery and state media said “a great many” people turned out along the streets to express condolences.
Kim appears bare-faced, while most other people wore masks.
North Korea also maintains that its outbreak is subsiding, though outside experts doubt its figures. The omicron variant of the coronavirus was thought to have been spread by mass public events in late April.
Friday, May 20
9:45 a.m.: Nevada ends COVID-19 emergency declarations
COVID-19 emergency declarations for Nevada ended Friday, according to the Associated Press.
The public health agency for metro Las Vegas says it’ll continue to provide virus surveillance and assistance with vaccinating and testing as the pandemic continues.
Most of Nevada’s pandemic measures, including business restrictions and mask mandates, have already been lifted, but the Southern Nevada Health District said it was important to remind the public that COVId-19 continues to circulate.
Gov. Steve Sisolak on Thursday signed a proclamation ending the emergency on Friday, a planned action he announced two weeks ago. His administration is now focused on the state’s recovery.
9:27 a.m.: G-7 countries make a pact to better prepare for future pandemics
The Group of Seven countries has announced plans to strengthen epidemiological early-warning systems to detect infectious diseases with pandemic potential.
According to the Associated Press, Germany’s health minister Karl Lauterbach said that an existing World Health Organization office in Berlin would be used to gather and analyze data more quickly.
Lauterbach said the G-7 also wants to increase compulsory contributions to WHO by 50% in the long term to ensure the U.N. agency can perform and fulfill its global leadership role.
The ministers who met in Germany’s capital this week separately agreed to better protect the global population from the health impacts of global warming by making the adaptation to climate change part of the medical training.
Thursday, May 19
10:05 a.m.: US COVID-19 response coordinator stresses that many Americans should start wearing masks again indoors
COVID-19 cases are increasing in the United States — and could get even worse over the coming months, federal health officials warned Wednesday.
Officials are asking people in surging areas that are being the hardest hit to reconsider reissuing calls for indoor masking, according to the Associated Press.
Increasing numbers of COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are putting more of the country under U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that call for masking and other infection precautions.
Right now, about a third of the U.S. population lives in areas that are considered at higher risk — mostly in the Northeast and Midwest.
Officials said Wednesday those are areas where people should already be considering wearing masks indoors, but Americans elsewhere should also take notice.
9:50 a.m.: American weddings hit their lowest level in nearly 50 years in 2020
A new report finds far fewer Americans said “I do” during the first year of the pandemic when wedding plans were upended.
As reported by the Associated Press, there were 1.7 million weddings in 2020, a drop of 17% from the year before.
The number of U.S. marriages in 2020 was the lowest recorded since 1963. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released an analysis of the data on Tuesday. The pandemic threw many marriage plans into disarray with stay-at-home orders and restrictions on large gatherings.
The CDC has not yet released data on marriages in 2021.
9:32 a.m.: North Korea fights suspected COVID-19 outbreak with few tools
North Korean propaganda describes an all-out effort to fight a suspected COVID-19 outbreak that has sickened nearly 2 million people, according to the Associated Press.
However, defectors say fear is palpable among North Korean citizens who lack access to hospital care and struggle to afford even basic medicine.
The country’s main action appears to be isolating suspected patients, likely because it lacks vaccines, intensive care units and other medical assets that ensure millions of sick people in other countries survived.
Some experts say the outbreak could cause dire consequences if North Korea doesn’t accept international help.
They also worry the true scale of the outbreak is being concealed, and some say the country’s pandemic response will become a propaganda tool to boost leader Kim Jong Un’s image.
Wednesday, May 18
10:01 a.m.: Biden announces a third round of free at-home COVID-19 testing kits
The government website for requesting free COVID-19 at-home tests from the U.S. government is accepting a third round of orders.
As reported by the Associated Press, the White House announced on Tuesday that U.S. households can request an additional eight free at-home tests.
President Joe Biden committed to making 1 billion at-home tests available to the public free of charge, but the White House says just 350 million tests have been shipped to date.
A third round of orders is possible because hundreds of millions of tests are still available.
The latest round will bring to 16 the total number of free tests available to each household since the program was launched earlier this year.
9:00 a.m.: Trump officials and meat companies knew employees were at high risk during COVID-19 outbreak, congressional report says
A new congressional report says that in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, the meat processing industry worked closely with political appointees in the Trump administration to stave off health restrictions and keep slaughterhouses open even as COVID-19 spread rapidly among workers.
According to the Associated Press, the report issued Thursday says meat companies pushed to keep their plants open even though they knew workers were at high risk.
The lobbying led to health and labor officials watering down recommendations for the industry and culminated in an executive order from then-President Donald Trump designating meat plants as critical infrastructure that needed to remain open.
The North American Meat institute trade group says the report distorts the truth and ignores steps companies took to protect workers.
8:36 a.m.: North Korea claims one million residents have recovered from COVID-19, despite lack of medical supplies
North Korea on Wednesday added hundreds of thousands of infections to its growing pandemic caseload, according to the Associated Press.
The country also said that a million people have already recovered from suspected COVID-19 cases just a week after disclosing an outbreak.
Global experts are expressing deep concern about the dire consequences the outbreak could have on the secluded country’s people. It’s unclear how more than a million people recovered so quickly when limited medicine, medical equipment and health facilities exist to treat the country’s impoverished, unvaccinated population of 26 million.
State media said another 230,000 people have fevers and six more died. The cause is suspected to be COVID-19, but North Korea lacks tests to confirm so many.
Tuesday, May 17
9:45 a.m.: FDA approves booster shots for children ages 5 to 11
The Food and Drug Administration announced Tuesday that they have authorized the first COVID-19 vaccine booster for children ages 5 to 11 years.
The authorization makes all children in that age group who received their second shot at least five months ago eligible to receive a third shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to NPR.
Until now, only children ages 12 and older, plus adults, were eligible for a booster.
The companies requested authorization based on a small study that the companies and FDA said demonstrated a third shot is safe and can significantly boost antibody levels, countering waning immunity and providing added protection again the virus, including omicron.
9:32 a.m.: Monterey County school reinstates indoor masking mandate
Pacific Grove Unified School District has reinstated an indoor masking mandate due to rising cases of COVID-19, as reported by the Associated Press.
The Monterey Bay-adjacent has announced the new requirement on Monday.
Action came after the Monterey County Health Department reported a seven=dau average test positivity rate of 5.2% and a seven-day average of 12.4 cases per 100,000 residents.
Last month, the district’s board set thresholds for indoor masking when the test positivity rate exceeded 5% and the case rate surpassed 10 per 100,000 residents.
The district has about 2,000 K-12 students in five schools.
9:01 a.m.: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un faces huge dilemma with COVID-19 outbreak
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has made “self-reliance” his governing lynchpin during his decade in power and shunned international help for his people.
According to the Associated Press, a massive outbreak of suspected COVID-19 has left Kim at a critical crossroads — does he accept help or go at it alone even though a huge number of fatalities could undermine his leadership?
The outbreak is likely several times worse than what the North’s official media says since COVID-19 tests and medicine in the country are in short supply.
Some analysts say North Korea would not accept help from rival South Korea or the U.S. Instead, it’s more likely they would accept quiet, unofficial shipments from its ally China.
Monday, May 16
10:46 a.m.: Sacramento City Council may vote to continue virtual meetings
Sacramento City Council is scheduled to vote on Tuesday to continue holding virtual meetings. Every month, they’ve made this decision despite the state’s relaxed pandemic restrictions.
Virtual meetings could continue as long as California’s pandemic state of emergency is in place. For months, the city has argued it’s an effort to keep the most vulnerable safe while physical distancing is still recommended.
Gov. Gavin Newsom eliminated the state’s masking requirement entirely two months ago, and before that, he ended nearly all of his COVID-19-related executive orders.
By comparison, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors has held hybrid meetings. Only supervisors are in-person at count headquarters. Limited seating is available for the public, and speakers are able to call in to comment.
10:23 a.m.: US deaths from COVID-19 hit 1 million less than 2 and a half years into the pandemic
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has hit 1 million, less than 2 ½ years into the outbreak, as reported by the Associated Press.
This once-unimaginable figure, based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, only hints at the multitudes of loved ones and friends staggered by grief and frustration.
The number of dead is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 336 days. It's roughly equal to the number of Americans who died in the Civil War and World War II combined. It's as if Boston and Pittsburgh were wiped out.
Some of those left behind say they cannot return to normal. They replay their loved ones' voicemail messages or watch old videos to see them dance.
When other people say they're done with the virus, they bristle with anger or ache in silence.
10:14 a.m.: North Korean leader blasts officials over slow COVID-19 response in the country
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has blasted officials over slow medicine deliveries and ordered his military to respond to the largely undiagnosed COVID-19 crisis that has left 1.2 million people ill with fever and 50 dead in a matter of days.
According to the Associated Press, more than 560,000 people are in quarantine due to fever.
Eight more deaths and nearly 393,000 newly detected fevers were reported on Monday. It’s not known how many of those fevers are COVID-19 since North Korea likely lacks enough test kits.
It’s also not clear if North Korea’s urgent messaging about the outbreak indicates a willingness to receive outside help. It has shunned vaccines from a U.N.-backed program.
China and South Korea say they’re willing to help but indicated North Korea hasn’t requested any.
Friday, May 13
11:23 a.m.: US may be vulnerable to COVID-19 come this fall and winter season
The new White House COVID-19 coordinator is issuing a dire warning.
Dr. Ashish Jha said in an Associated Press interview that the U.S. will be increasingly vulnerable to the coronavirus this fall and winter if Congress doesn’t swiftly approve new funding for more vaccines and treatments.
Jha said in the interview that America’s immune protection from the virus is waning, and with the virus adapting to be more contagious, booster doses will be necessary for most people.
He predicted that the next generation of vaccines, which are likely to be targeted at the currently prevailing omicron strain, “are going to provide a much, much higher degree of protection against the virus that we will encounter in the fall and winter.”
But he warned that the U.S. is at risk of losing its place in the global vaccination line to other countries if Congress doesn’t act in the next several weeks.
11:16 a.m.: This is what may be behind N. Korea’s COVID-19 admission
North Korea’s recent admission of its first domestic COVID-19 cases has surprised many outsiders and prompted speculation about how back the outbreak is and whether it could handle a major humanitarian crisis in a country where public medical infrastructure is terrible.
As reported by the Associated Press, some experts say North Korea may face one of the world’s worst per-capita fatality and infection rates if it doesn’t get outside aid shipments soon.
Others argue that North Korea may just want to use the outbreak to tighten public vigilance against the virus and boost its control of its people.
11:05 a.m.: N. Korea reports six deaths attributed to COVID-19
North Korea says six people have died and 350,000 have been treated for a fever that has spread explosively across the country.
According to the Associated Press, the announcement came a day after it acknowledged its first COVID-19 cases of the pandemic.
The hermitic country likely doesn’t have enough testing supplies and said the cause of the fevers was unclear. Experts have warned a COVID0-19 outbreak could be devastating in a country with a broken health care system and an unvaccinated, malnourished population.
Leader Kim Jong Un was shown on state TV at a pandemic response meeting, where he took off his face mask and smoked a cigarette while talking with officials.
Thursday, May 12
9:33 a.m.: Biden marks 1 million US COVID deaths in a global summit
President Joe Biden has appealed to world leaders for a renewed international commitment to attacking COVID-19 as he leads the U.S. in marketing the “tragic milestone” of 1 million deaths in America.
Biden told the second global coronavirus summit Thursday: “This pandemic isn’t over,” as reported by the Associated Press.
The virtual meeting comes as a lack of resolve at home reflects the global response. Biden ordered the U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff to honor the dead in America.
He used last year’s first summit to pledge to donate 1.2 billion vaccine doses worldwide.
There are a few official death totals floating around. According to figures complied by Johns Hopkins University, the coronavirus has killed more than 999,000 people in the U.S.
Other counts, including the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association and American Nurses Association, have the toll at 1 million.
9:26 a.m.: Creeping COVID-19 cases still result in very few mask mandates at school
U.S. coronavirus cases are up, leading a smattering of school districts, especially in the Northeast, to bring back mask recommendations and requirements.
As reported by the Associated Press, their return comes for the first time since the omicron winter surge ebbed and the United States approaches 1 million deaths from the virus.
Districts in Maine, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have brought masks back in schools, with a few in Massachusetts also recommending them.
The uptick in cases is a vast undercount because testing has dropped considerably and most tests are being taken at home and are not reported to health departments.
9:08 a.m.: North Korea confirms first COVID-19 outbreak, orders countrywide lockdown
North Korea has imposed a nationwide lockdown to control its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak of the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
It had held for more than two years to a widely doubted claim of a perfect record keeping out the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world.
The outbreak forced leader Kim Jong Un to wear a mask in public, likely for the first time since the start of the pandemic.
The size of the outbreak isn’t immediately known, but it could have serious consequences because the country has a poor health care system and its 26 million people are believed to be mostly unvaccinated.
Some experts say the North, by its rare admission of an outbreak, may be seeking outside aid such as vaccines and COVID-19 treatment pills.
Wednesday, May 11
10:05 a.m.: Los Angeles School District to postpone COVID-19 mandate
A COVID-19 vaccination mandate for students 12 and older in the Los Angeles Unified School District has been postponed from this fall to next year, as reported by the Associated Press.
The Board of Education voted Tuesday to delay the mandate to no sooner than July 1, 2023, aligning the district with the state.
Last year, California announced that it would require all schoolchildren to receive the coronavirus vaccine, and Gov. Gavin Newsom estimated it would take effect for the 2022-23 school year.
However, last month the Newsom administration put off the requirements to at least summer 2023 because school administrators worried they would not have enough time to implement the mandate.
9:53 a.m.: Pandemic infections are harder to track due to official testing plummeting
Testing for COVID-19 has plummeted globally, making it tougher for scientists to track the course of the pandemic and spot worrisome viral mutants as they emerge and spread.
Experts say testing has dropped by 70-90% worldwide from the first to the second quarter of this year, as reported by the Associated Press.
Rates are particularly low in low-income countries, however, that’s the opposite of what experts say should be happening with new omicron variants on the rise in places such as the U.S. and South Africa.
In the U.S., a shift toward home testing has also obscured efforts to track the virus.
9:43 a.m.: China defends their ‘zero-COVID’ approach
China on Wednesday defended sticking to its strict “zero-COVID” approach, calling critical remarks from the World Health Organization “irresponsible.”
According to the Associated Press, the response from the Foreign Ministry came after WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he had been discussing with Chinese experts the need for a different approach in light of new knowledge about the virus.
Tedros said the policy characterized by strict lockdowns, mass testing and compulsory quarantining for anyone who tests positive or has contact with someone infected was not sustainable and urged China to change strategies.
Earlier Wednesday, a Shanghai health official said that while China’s largest city has seen progress, any relaxation in anti-virus measures could allow the outbreak to rebound.
Tuesday, May 10
9:38 a.m.: In rare cases, some who took Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill have gotten infected again
A small number of COVID-19 patients are relapsing after taking Pfizer’s antiviral pill, raising questions about the drug at the center of the U.S.' response effort.
Paxlovid has become the go-to option against COVID-19 because of its at-home convenience and impressive results in heading off severe disease.
According to the Associated Press, the U.S. government has presented more than $10 billion to purchase enough pills for 20 million people.
However, doctors have begun reporting cases of patients who see their symptoms return several days after treatment — making it one of the several questions about how the drug is holding up against a changing virus.
Pfizer mainly studied the drug in unvaccinated patients during the delta variant wave, but most Americans now have had at least one shot as omicron variants dominate the outbreak.
8:56 a.m.: Here’s how COVID-19 pills work
COVID-19 patients have two treatment options that can be taken at home, but that convenience comes with a catch — the pills have to be taken as soon as possible once symptoms appear.
The challenge for patients is getting tested, getting a prescription and then starting the pills within five days of the start of symptoms, according to the Associated Press.
U.S. regulators authorized the pills from Pfizer and Merck late last year. Both were shown to reduce the chances of hospitalization or death from COVID-19 in high-risk patients.
The pills are intended for those with mild or moderate COVID-19 who are more likely to become seriously ill.
8:52 a.m.: Norway discards excess COVID-19 vaccines as demand declines in low-income countries
Norwegian health authorities say the country has a surplus of COVID-19 vaccines and has already discarded more than 137,000 doses because there is declining demand in low-income countries.
According to the Associated Press, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said that it plans a further disposal of doses if global demand does not change.
In Norway, there’s high vaccine coverage, while globally a demand for donations has fallen.
Earlier this month, health officials in neighboring Denmark said that 1.1 million excess COVID-19 vaccines would be discarded because their expiration date is near, and efforts to donate them to developing countries have failed.
Monday, May 9
10:16 a.m.: Employers added nearly 430,000 jobs last month despite inflation
America’s employers added 428,000 jobs in April, extending a streak of solid hiring that has defied punishing inflation, chronic supply shortages, the Russian war against Ukraine and much higher borrowing costs.
According to the Associated Press, last month’s hiring kept the unemployment rate at 3.6%, just above the lowest level in a half-century.
Employers have added at least 400,000 jobs for 12 straight months. Still, the job growth, along with steady wage gains, will help fuel consumer spending and likely keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise borrowing rates sharply to fight inflation.
That would lead to increasingly heavy borrowing costs for consumers and businesses. Higher loan rates could also weigh down corporate profits.
10:11 a.m.: New York City plans to continue some outdoor car-free areas set up during pandemic
As New York City forges ahead with its recovery, the pandemic is leaving lasting imprints, especially on city roadways — less room and for cars and more space for people, as reported by the Associated Press.
As the COVID-19 outbreak ravaged New York City two years ago, the bustling metropolis found itself transformed into grids of mostly deserted streets and sidewalks as businesses shuttered and virus-wary denizens shut themselves in.
Now the city is drafting new rules that would allow eateries to make outdoor dining permanent, although the policy is being challenged in court. The city is also announcing plans to close off even more streets to vehicles on Sundays, so pedestrians have more room to roam in warmer months.
9:44 a.m.: Italy and Greece welcome back tourists after relaxing pandemic restrictions
For travelers going to southern Europe, summer vacations just got a lot easier.
According to the Associated Press, Italy and Greece have relaxed some COVID-19 restrictions before Europe’s peak summer tourist season as life increasingly returns to normal after the pandemic.
Greece’s civil aviation authority announced Sunday it was lifting all COVID-19 rules for international and domestic flights except for wearing face masks during flights and at airports.
Air travelers were previously required to show proof of vaccination, a negative test, or a recent recovery. Italy did away with the health pass that had been required to enter restaurants, cinemas, gyms and other venues.
Visitors to Italy also no longer have to fill out the EU passenger locator form, a complicated ordeal.
Sunday, May 8
10:13 a.m.: FDA restricts J&J COVID-19 vaccine due to rare blood clotting risk
U.S. regulators strictly limit who can receive Johnson & Johnson’s OVID-19 vaccine due to a rare but serious risk of blood clots.
According to the Associated Press, the Food and Drug Administration said Thursday the shot should only be given to adults who cannot receive a different vaccine or specifically request J&J’s vaccine.
The decision is the latest restriction to hit the company’s vaccine, which has long been overshadowed in the U.S. by the more effective shots from Pfizer and Moderna.
In December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended using the Moderna and Pfizer shots over J&J’s because of its safety issues.
Saturday, May 7
10:59 a.m.: Nevada governor sets May 20 date to lift state of emergency
Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak says that in two weeks, he’ll lift the state of emergency he declared during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic more than two years ago, according to the Associated Press.
In a statement on Friday, the Democrat who is running for a second term credited the declaration with giving the state flexibility to respond to challenges as they arose.
He put a May 20 end date to the statewide emergency he declared on March 12, 2020. Most measures, including business restrictions and mask mandates, have already been lifted.
As of the end of this week, state health officials have reported just over 665,000 known cases of COVID-10 and almost 10,800 deaths.
Friday, May 6
9:38 a.m.: Californian bill to allow preteens to get vaccinated without parental consent advances
A California measure that would allow children age 12 and up to be vaccinated without their parents’ consent, including against the coronavirus, has cleared its first legislative committee.
According to the Associated Press, if the proposal that advanced Thursday becomes law, California would allow the young people of any state to be vaccinated without parental permission.
Minors aged 12 to 17 in California currently cannot be vaccinated without permission from their parents or guardians unless the vaccine is to prevent a sexually transmitted disease.
Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener’s proposal is perhaps the most continuous measure remaining from lawmakers’ once-ambitious agenda after several other proposals lost momentum as the winter pandemic wave eased.
9:19 a.m.: A look at the nearly 1 million COVID-19 deaths in the US
The count of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 is nearly 1 million, and there’s a wealth of data that clarifies which groups have been hit the hardest.
According to the Associated Press, more than 700,000 people 65 and older died. Men died at higher rates than women, and white people made up most of the deaths overall.
Despite this, an unequal burden fell on Black, Hispanic and Native American people considering the younger average age of minority communities.
Racial gaps narrowed between surges and then widened again with each new wave. Most deaths happened in urban counties, but rural areas also paid a high price.
9:12 a.m.: China cancels the Asian Games due to omicron spreading
The Asian Games in China are being postponed because of concerns about the spreading omicron variant of COVID-19, as reported by the Associated Press.
The decision comes less than three months after the country hosted the Winter Olympics and Paralympics.
The World University Games have also been postponed. The Asian Games were to take place from Sept. 10-25 in the eastern city of Hangzhou and would involve more than 11,000 athletes — that’s more than the Summer Olympics.
The World University Games had been scheduled for June 26 - July 7 in the western city of Chengdu.
Thursday, May 5
10:13 a.m.: WHO estimates nearly 15 million excess deaths during with COVID-19 pandemic
The World Health Organization is estimating that nearly 15 million people were killed either by the coronavirus or by its impact on overwhelmed health systems in the first two years of the pandemic.
According to the Associated Press, that’s more than double the current official death toll.
In a report released on Thursday, the U.N. health agency said that most of the fatalities were in Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
Accurately counting COVID-19 deaths have been problematic as reports of confirmed cases represent only a fraction of the devastation wrought by the virus. This could be attributed to limited testing and global differences in how countries count COVID-19 deaths.
9:56 a.m.: Pfizer is trying to get their young children's vaccine approved by the FDA
Pfizer now hopes to tell U.S. regulators how well its COVID-19 vaccine works in children under 5 by early June, according to the Associated Press.
Currently, only children ages 5 or older can be vaccinated in the U.S. using Pfizer's vaccine.
Rival Moderna hopes to be the first to offer vaccinations to the youngest children and began filling its own data with the Food and Drug Administration last week.
The FDA has set tentative meetings in June to review data from one or both companies.
9:47 a.m.: COVID-19 health care coverage dries up despite US still being in the pandemic phase
For the first time, the U.S. came close to providing health care for alll for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic, but just for one condition — COVID-19.
Now, things are reverting to how they were as federal money for the uninsured dries up, as reported by the Associated Press.
Lack of an insurance card could become a barrier to timely care for COVID. A $20 billion government program that paid the pandemic bills of uninsured people has been shut down.
Special Medicaid COVID coverage likely faces its last months, even though the virus is not yet contained. To exacerbate matters, safety-net hospitals and clinics are seeing sharply higher operating costs. They fear they won’t be prepared if there’s another surge.
Wednesday, May 4
9:52 a.m.: Shasta County Board of Supervisors fires county health officer
The Shasta County Board of Supervisors voted to terminate county Health Officer Dr. Karen Ramstrom by a 3-2 vote during its closed session on Tuesday, and the announcement was made public soon after.
In a letter addressed to the community and published in A News Cafe on Friday, Ramstrom wrote that she believed the board would consider her termination during this week’s meeting but that she had been given no notice that her performance was unsatisfactory.
“My performance review did not mention anything suggesting that my job was in jeopardy, and I have no specific information from the Board that my job performance was unsatisfactory in any way,” she wrote.
Ramstrom has frequently come under fire by some members of the community during board meetings for upholding COVID-19 safety measures and mandates. In her letter, she wrote that she and her colleagues had been no more restrictive than the state required.
9:37 a.m.: CDC restates recommendation for masks on public transportation
Despite a court ruling last month that struck down a national mask mandate on public transportation, U.S. health officials are restarting their recommendation that Americans wear masks on planes, trains, and buses.
As reported by the Associated Press, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday issued a statement saying people age 2 and older should wear a well-fitting mask when traveling in public spaces, like buses.
Last month, a federal judge in Florida struck down a government requirement for masking in public transportation. The Justice Department is appealing the decision.
9:25 a.m.: Despite COVID-19 cases increasing, mask mandates still seem off the table
As mask mandates and vaccination rules kept falling across the U.S., infections from the latest COVID variants have quietly taken hold in some places, sparking concern among public health officials.
According to the Associated Press, more cities are now in a new high-risk category that is supposed to trigger indoor mask-wearing, but there’s been little appetite to do so.
Nationally, hospitalizations are up slightly but still as low as at any point in the pandemic. Deaths have steadily decreased to nearly the lowest numbers in the last three months.
The muted response reflects the country's exhaustion after two years of restrictions and the new challenges that health leaders are facing at this phase of the pandemic.
An abundance of at-home virus test kits has led to a steep undercount of COVID-19 cases, which is an important benchmark.
Tuesday, May 3
9:39 a.m.: Kamala Harris tests negative for COVID-19 six days after testing positive
Vice President Kamala Harris tested negative on Monday for COVID-19, six days after she tested positive for the virus, according to the Associated Press.
She has been cleared to return to the White House on Tuesday. Harris press secretary Kirsten Allen said Harris, who was prescribed the antiviral treatment Paxlovid last week, was negative on a rapid antigen test.
Allen said Harris would continue to wear a “well-fitting mask while around others” in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines until her tenth day after her positive test.
9:31 a.m.: California’s population shrank second year in a row
Officials have announced that California’s population shrank in 2021 for the second year in a row, according to a new estimate from the California Department of Finance.
As reported by the Associated Press, state officials say California lost 117,552 people in 2021, giving it a population of just over 39 million residents.
California is still far ahead of Texas, which is No. 2 for population size in the U.S.
State officials blame the loss on a declining birth rate and more deaths because of the pandemic. Also, fewer people are moving from other states to California.
9:13 a.m.: Beijing shuts indoor dining during holiday to stem COVID-19 infections
Restaurants in Beijing have been ordered to close dine-in services over the May holidays as the Chinese capital grapples with a COVID-19 outbreak, according to the Associated Press.
Authorities said at a recent news conference that dining in restaurants has become an infection risk, cting virus transmissions between diners and staff.
Restaurants have been ordered to only provide takeout services from Sunday to Wednesday, during China’s Labor Day holidays.
Beijing began mass testing millions of residents earlier this week. Parks and entertainment venue are allowed to operate only at half capacity.
The stakes are high as the ruling Communist Party prepares for a major congress this fall at which President XI Jinping is seeking a third five-year term as the country’s leader.
Monday, May 2
9:22 a.m.: CDC says 60% of US adults have previously been infected with COVID-19
Most people in the U.S., including most children, have now been infected with COVID-19 during the omicron surge, according to a new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
NPR reports that at a briefing for reporters last Tuesday, the CDC’s Dr. Kristie Clarke said so many people caught omicron over the winter that almost 60% of everyone in the country now has antibodies to the virus in their blood.
That number is even higher for children — almost 75% of kids 11 and younger have antibodies to the virus.
Clarke said the finding means many people have at least some immunity to the virus but stresses that people should still get vaccinated since it still provides the strongest, broadest protection against getting seriously ill.
Immunity provided solely by a previous infection may or may not be as protective against severe disease.
9:18 a.m.: Here’s what to do if you test positive for COVID-19 while traveling
COVID-19 rules for travelers will vary depending on the destination, but testing positive for the virus could result in an unexpected change in plans, such as being required to stay isolated in a hotel.
As reported by the Associated Press, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warns that travelers going overseas should make contingency plans since they may have to stay longer than planned if they test positive.
Travel companies suggest getting insurance that covers the cost of recovery or isolation.
Those who do end up needing medical treatment are advised to check with their embassy for suggested health care providers.
8:55 a.m.: COVID-19 pandemic has changed office fashion
After working remotely in sweats and yoga pants for two years, many Americans are rethinking their wardrobes to balance comfort and professionalism as some offices reopen.
According to the Associated Press, they’re dropping structured suits, zip-front pants and pencil skirts worn before the pandemic and are experimenting with new looks.
Retailers and brands are rushing to meet workers’ fashion needs for the future of work with blazers in knit fabrics, pants with drawstrings or elastic bands, and casual twists on the button-down dress shirt.
Find older coronavirus updates on our previous blog page here
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