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COVID-19 By The Numbers
Wednesday, August 17
The World Health Organization has renamed two monkeypox variants that were named after countries and regions in order to align with “current best practices,” NPR reports.
The new names, Clade I and Clade II, replace the names Congo Basin clade and West African clade, respectively.
Subsequent variants will be named using Roman numerals for the clade and lowercase letters for the subclade.
This comes after calls to rename the poxvirus to something else failed. Critics have called the name “monkeypox” racist and incorrect.
“Monkeypox should be renamed for two major reasons,” said Dr. Ifeanyi Nsofor, a global health equality advocate and senior New Voices fellow at the Aspen Insitute. “First, there’s a long history of referring to Blacks and monkeys. Therefore, ‘monkeypox’ is racist and stigmatizes Blacks.”
“Second, ‘monkeypox’ gives a wrong impression that the disease is only transmitted by monkeys. This is also wrong,” he said.
Despite growing criticism of the name, the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses said that even if the name is changed in a year or two, “monkey” will still likely be part of any revamped name.
While WHO names diseases, the ICTV determines the formal names of viruses.
Tuesday, August 16
First Lady Jill Biden has tested positive for COVID-19 and is experiencing “mild symptoms,” as reported by the Associated Press.
The White House announced it on Tuesday.
The first lady has been vacationing with President Joe Biden in South Carolina and began experiencing symptoms on Monday. She’s been prescribed the antiviral drug Paxlovid and will isolate at the vacation home for at least five days,
Joe Biden tested negative for the virus on Tuesday morning but will wear a mask indoors for 10 days in line with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance. The president recovered from a rebound case of the virus on Aug. 7.
The Bidens have been twice-vaccinated and twice-boosted with the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.
Germany’s health minister says European Union drug regulators may authorize the use of vaccines that are effective against two variants of the coronavirus.
According to the Associated Press, German Health minister Karl Lauterbach said he expected the European Medicines Agency to meet on Sept. 1 to consider a vaccine that would protect against the original virus and the omicron variant.
He says the EU agency would likely meet again on Sept. 27 to review a combined vaccine against the original virus and omicron offshoot, BA.5, which is responsible for the latest global surge in COVID-19 cases.
Germany has procured sufficient amounts of both vaccines and would be able to start rolling them out a day after they received authorization, he said.
Monday, August 15
10:47 a.m.: CDC drops quarantine, distancing guidelines
The nation’s top public health agency is relaxing its COVID-19 guidelines and dropping the recommendation that Americans quarantine themselves if they come into close contact with an infected person.
As reported by the Associated Press, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also said that people no longer need to stay at least 6 feet away from others.
The changes come more than 2 ½ years after the start of the pandemic. They are driven by a recognition that an estimated 95% of Americans 16 and older have acquired some level of immunity, either from being vaccinated or infected.
Congressional panel leaders say an additional 135 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine from a troubled Baltimore factory will have to be destroyed due to quality problems.
The announcement Thursday follows a May report detailing how more than 400 million vaccine doses made at Emergent BioSolutions plant would have to be trashed, according to the Associated Press.
The latest round of doses slated for destruction were made between August 2021 and February 2022. Johnson & Johnson says that no doses produced at the site since the factory restarted have reached the market.
Friday, August 12
Los Angeles County has dropped out of the high COVID-19 community level under federal guidelines, as infections and rates of hospitalizations continue to fall, according to the Associated Press.
The move to the medium tier under criteria set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention comes two weeks after LA County dropped a plan to impose a new mask mandate as the latest coronavirus surge eased.
LA County health director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday that the trends are encouraging — but she reminded residents that face covering remains an effective tool to reduce spread.
Health officials say it’s possible that hundreds of people in New York state have gotten polio and don’t know it.
As reported by the Associated Press, the pronouncement came Friday after they said the virus that causes the potentially deadly disease has been detected in New York City’s wastewater.
Authorities say the presence of the virus in wastewater suggests that it’s circulating locally.
They are urging parents to get their children vaccinated.
One person suffered paralysis weeks ago because of a polio infection north of the city. Most people infected with polio have no symptoms but can still give the virus to others for days or weeks.
Thursday, August 11
Since May, barely 90 countries have reported more than 31,000 cases of monkeypox, as reported by the Associated Press.
The World Health Organization classified the escalating outbreak of the once-rare disease as an international emergency last month.
The U.S. declared it a national emergency just last week, but that doesn’t mean the monkeypox is the next global pandemic.
Since it doesn’t spread as easily as COVID-19, it’s not spreading into every country. Outside of African nations, 98% of cases have been reported in men who have sex with men.
However, this does not mean it couldn’t spread to any person regardless of gender or sexual orientation.
Scientists say stopping the outbreak among vulnerable groups could halt the disease’s transmission in Europe and North America.
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s sister says he suffered a fever while guiding the country to victory over the coronavirus.
According to the Associated Press, in a speech before thousands of North Koreans, she blamed rival South Korea for the country’s outbreak and vowed “deadly” retaliation.
Kim Yo Jong, a powerful official in charge of inter-Korean relations, glorified her brother’s leadership during the outbreak as he jubilantly described the country’s widely disputed success over the virus as an “amazing miracle” in global public health.
Experts believe the victory announcement signals Kim Jong Un’s intention to move to other priorities and are concerned his sister’s remarks potent a possible nuclear or missile provocation.
Wednesday, August 10
11:02 a.m.: COVID-19 deaths fall by 9% globally
The World Health Organization says in its latest weekly pandemic report that the number of coronavirus deaths fell by 9% in the last week while new cases remained relatively stable.
According to the Associated Press, the U.N. health agency said there were more than 14,000 COVID-19 deaths last week and nearly 7 million new infections.
The Western Pacific reported a 30% jump in cases, while Africa reported a 46% drop.
The WHO said that the omicron sub-variant BA.5 remains dominant globally, accounting for nearly 70% of all virus sequences shared with the world’s biggest publicly available virus database.
Cycling is growing in popularity in China as a sport, not just a way to get to work.
A coronavirus outbreak that shut down indoor sports facilities in Beijing earlier this year encouraged people to try outdoor sports, including cycling, according to the Associated Press.
Organized rides in the Chinese capital take cyclists to outlying suburbs or city landmarks. The sport’s rising popularity has boosted sales of bicycles and signals growing public awareness of environmental protection and low-carbon lifestyles.
Tuesday, August 9
Sacramento County declared monkeypox a local public health emergency Tuesday afternoon, allowing the county to access funding and be more proactive in its response to the outbreak
The county’s board of supervisors voted 4-1 in favor of the declaration, with District 4 supervisor Sue Frost the “no” vote. The emergency declaration allows.
“The proclamation of the state of local emergency, and local public health emergency does not signify an increase in risk to the residents,” said the county’s public health officer, Dr. Olivia Kasirye, at the meeting.
California state health officials announced a state of emergency on Aug. 2.
The county was notified of its first monkeypox case on May 21. As of Tuesday, the county reports 80 monkeypox cases.
Along with a vaccine, there is a treatment for monkeypox — a two-week series of pills known as TPOXX. But it is currently only being offered at UC Davis Medical Center and Kaiser.
Click here for more information about monkeypox signs and symptoms and where you can get a vaccine in Sacramento County.
After the disruption of online learning, first-year college students are arriving on campuses unprepared for the demands of college-level work, experts say.
The Associated Press reports that colleges from New Jersey to California have expanded summer bridge programs aiming to get students up to speed in math and English before they arrive this fall.
Experts say it’s clear that for some, remote instruction caused learning setbacks, most sharply among Black and Hispanic students.
The stakes are high — research shows that students who start college a step behind are less likely to graduate.
Some 80,000 tourists are stranded in the southern Chinese Beach resort of Sanya after authorities declared it a COVID-19 hot spot and imposed a lockdown.
According to the Associated Press, the restrictions came into force on Saturday morning as authorities sought to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the city on tropical Hainan Island.
There were 229 confirmed cases on Friday and an additional 129 on Saturday.
Railway authorities banned all ticket sales and all flights were also canceled. Tourists wanting to depart Sanya have to test negative for the coronavirus on five PCR tests over seven days.
China sticks steadfastly to a “zero-COVID” approach. A recent outbreak in Shanghai spread so widely that authorities locked down the entire city for two months, trapping millions of people.
Monday, August 8
Pfizer is buying sickle cell drug maker Global Blood Therapeutics in an approximately $5.4 billion deal as it looks to accelerate growth after its revenue soared during the pandemic, according to the Associated Press.
Pfizer said that its latest acquisition will boost its work in rare hematology.
Global Therapeutics produces Oxybryta tablets for treating sickle cell disease. The pharma giant Pfizer has been flush with cash since its COVID-19 vaccine, Comirnaty, and treatment, Paxlovid, have hit the market.
It has now announced deals valued at a total of nearly $19 billion, counting debt, since late last year.
Federal prosecutors say a Texas man has been sentenced to 25 years in prison for attacking an Asian family because he thought they were Chinese and therefore responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Associated Press reports that court records show 21-year-old Jose Gomez III of Midland, Texas was sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty to three counts of committing a hate crime.
Gomez admitted that he used a knife to slash the man and his 6-and 2-year-old sons inside a Sam’s Club in Midland because he believed they were Chinese and spreading the coronavirus.
The man Gomez attacked is from Myanmar.
The March 2020 attack occurred as Asians faced verbal harassment and physical assaults across the U.S. after the virus began to spread nationwide.
11:28 a.m.: Spain struggles to limit monkeypox infections
Spain is struggling to curtail Europe’s leading monkeypox outbreak since the disease spread beyond the continent of Africa.
According to the Associated Press, the southern European nation counts 4,942 cases and two men have died from the disease.
Authorities and groups in the LGBTQ community are honing their campaigns to get vaccines to the neediest members of the demographic so far.
In the U.S. and Europe, the vast majority of monkeypox infections have happened in men who have sex with men.
However, health experts warn that if cases continue to rise, they will inevitably spread to other groups, similar to HIV/AIDS.
Given the dearth of vaccines, the focus is now on getting out the message that reducing sexual partners is critical.
Friday, August 5
Minks, hamsters, cats and dogs have all been recorded developing COVID-19, which leads to the question — how many species have been affected? How many cases have been there in the animal kingdom?
NPR reports that those are difficult questions to answer — just as it’s hard to come up with an accurate total for human cases since many people don’t report a positive test to health authorities.
Researchers say it’s an essential task because of the possibility that the virus could mutate into a more transmissible or virulent strain in animals that then passes back to humans.
12:03 p.m.: Polio samples found in New York state wastewater
New York state health officials have issued a more urgent call for unvaccinated children and adults to get inoculated against polio, citing new evidence of possible “community spread” of the virus.
According to the Associated Press, health officials said that the polio virus has now been found in seven different wastewater samples in two adjacent counties north of New York City.
So far, only one person has tested positive for polio — an unvaccinated adult in Rockland County who suffered paralysis.
But based on earlier polio outbreaks, Health Commissioner Mary Bassett said there may be hundreds of other people who have been infected but have no symptoms yet.
Thursday, August 4
The U.S. has declared monkeypox as public health emergency after it infected over 6,600 Americans, as reported by NPR.
A public health emergency can trigger grant funding and open up more resources for various aspects of a federal response.
It also allows the Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, to enter into contracts for treatments and other necessary medical supplies and equipment and more.
Public health emergencies last for 90 days but can be extended by the Secretary.
A Las Vegas-based corporate owner of thousands of residential rental properties in several U.S. states is investigating whether it improperly evicted tenants during the coronavirus pandemic while receiving millions of federal dollars to keep people in their homes.
The Associated Press reports probes of the Siegel Group announced by Nevada state Attorney General Aaron Ford and Clark County officials followed findings last week by a congressional oversight panel that company executives used deception, harassment and “potentially unlawful” tactics last year to force tenants out.
Siegel Group says it wasn't called or interviewed by the U.S. House committee that produced the report. The company says it operates lawfully.
Wednesday, August 3
Hundreds of tourism projects nationwide are collectively getting about $2.4 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding, as reported by the Associated Press.
The money has aided everything from a gas station expansion in California to new sports facilities in Georgia and culturally diverse music in Nashville, Tennessee. Portland, Oregon, has categorized the purchase of 200 graffiti-resistant trash cans as a tourism project.
All the money comes from the American Rescue Plan, signed by President Joe Biden last year.
The flexible aid program for governments lists tourism as one of its eligible purposes, along such things as health care and housing.
The German government says basic coronavirus requirements will remain in place during the coming fall and winter when experts expect COVID-19 cases to rise again as people spend more time indoors.
According to the Associated Press, under rules recently announced, face masks and presenting proof of a negative coronavirus test will be mandatory from October until early April at hospitals, nursing homes and other locations with vulnerable people.
Passengers on airplanes and making long-distance trips by train and bus also will have to wear masks during that period, as they do now.
However, Germany's 16 states have the authority to adopt their own rules. State governments could decide to require masks and adopt regular testing at schools.
Tuesday, August 2
Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency to speed efforts to combat the monkeypox outbreak.
It makes California the second state in three days to take the step — nearly 800 cases have been reported in the state, according to the Associated Press.
Gov. Newsom said his Monday declaration will help California coordinate a government-wide response. He says the state will continue to work with the federal government to secure more vaccines, raise awareness about reducing risk and stand with the LGBTQ community in fighting stigmatization.
The move came after a similar declaration in New York state on Saturday and in San Francisco on Thursday.
President Joe Biden’s “loose cough” has returned as he faces a rebound case of COVID-19, his doctor said, though he “continues to feel well.”
According to the Associated Press, White House physician Kevin O’Connor provided an update on the president’s condition as he continues to test positive for the virus.
He said Biden “remains fever-free” and that his temperature, pulse, blood pressure, respiratory rate, and oxygen saturation “remain entirely normal.”
Still, Biden is required to remain in isolation through at least Thursday under Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines — and perhaps longer under tougher White House protocols if he continues to test positive.
Monday, August 1
Public health officials warn that moves by rich countries to buy large quantities of monkeypox vaccine could leave millions of people in African nations unprotected against a more dangerous version of the disease.
As reported by the Associated Press, scientists say that, unlike campaigns to stop COVID-19, mass vaccinations won't be necessary to curb monkeypox outbreaks. Targeted vaccinations and other measures could be enough to shut down the multiple outbreaks.
Monkeypox is much harder to spread than coronavirus, but experts warn that the need for vaccines could intensify if the disease spills over into the general population.
Brazil and Spain have just reported monkeypox deaths, the first in their nations.
President Joe Biden has tested positive for COVID-19 for the second straight day, in what appears to be a rare case of “rebound” following treatment with an anti-viral drug.
According to the Associated Press, White House Physician Dr. Kevin O’Connor said in a letter that the president “continues to feel well” and will keep on working from the executive residence.
After Biden tested positive on Sunday, he canceled upcoming plans to travel and hold in-person events. He’s isolating for at least five days per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.
The 79-year-old Biden first tested positive on July 21. He was treated with the anti-viral drug Paxlovid, and he had ended his isolation on Wednesday.
A man accused of selling a toxic industrial bleach as a coronavirus cure through his Florida-based church has been returned to the United States after being arrested in Colombia.
According to the Associated Press, records show 64-year-old Mark Grenon made his initial court appearance Thursday in Miami federal court.
Grenon and his three adult sons were indicted last year on one count each of conspiracy to commit fraud and two counts each of criminal contempt. He is the archbishop of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing in Bradenton, Florida.
Officials say the church sold chlorine dioxide and claimed the toxic solution can cure a vast variety of illnesses.
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