US surpasses 900,000 COVID deaths; ‘Stealth omicron’ slightly more infectious: COVID updates

Written by on February 4, 2022

The U.S. has reached one other bleak COVID-19 milestone because the pandemic’s death toll has surpassed 900,000. Whereas deaths are rising in a lot of the nation, the nation can be seeing hopeful information.

New COVID-19 instances are falling in 49 of 50 states, and new every day instances have plunged by nearly a half million nationwide since mid-January.

Whereas some consultants have expressed hope the worst of the pandemic could have handed, others have mentioned the respite could also be short-lived with deaths nonetheless rising in a minimum of 35 states, reflecting a lag between when individuals are contaminated and when they might die from the virus.

“We’re assured to have one other variant surge,” Melissa Nolan, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics on the College of South Carolina Arnold College of Public Well being, instructed USA TODAY. “Whereas the present vaccines and boosters labored for omicron, they’re much less prone to work towards future variants.”

Public well being officers have nonetheless emphasised the necessity for vaccinations, which have been proven to successfully forestall extreme sickness, hospitalization and loss of life.

Dr. Matthew Heinz, an internist in Tucson, Arizona, mentioned he’s “terrified” lax vaccination efforts are setting the world up for a variant that’s extremely transmissible like omicron but in addition has the next loss of life charge.

“The mind-blowing quantity ought to be sufficient to promote everybody on getting the photographs. And convincing reticent family members to do the identical,” Heinz mentioned.

Dee Tait, an RN in the ICU at St. Joseph Mercy Oakland Hospital in Pontiac, tends to an intubated COVID patient on Monday, Jan. 24, 2022.

Additionally within the information:

►The CDC on Friday continued its endorsement of Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for adults after U.S. regulators with the FDA gave the photographs their full approval earlier this week. 

►Homosexual and lesbian adults report higher COVID-19 vaccination rates than heterosexual adults, according to a CDC study published Friday. The research, which relies on a national survey conducted by the nonprofit research institute NORC at the University of Chicago, confirmed 85.4% of homosexual and lesbian adults over age 18 had acquired a minimum of one dose of a COVID vaccine in comparison with 76.3% by heterosexual adults.

► Austria turned the primary nation within the European Union to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for all adults after the higher home of the Austrian parliament voted in favor of the legislation Thursday, the Guardian reported.

► For greater than two years, the isolation of the Pacific archipelago nation of Tonga helped maintain COVID-19 at bay. However final month’s volcanic eruption and tsunami introduced outdoors deliveries of desperately wanted contemporary water and medication — and brought the virus.

► Amid extraordinary COVID-19 restrictions, Bob Costas says NBC has been dealt “the worst hand imaginable” with the Beijing Olympics, which kicks off Friday.

📈 As we speak’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded greater than 75 million confirmed COVID-19 instances and greater than 897,000 deaths, in accordance with Johns Hopkins University data. International totals: Greater than 388 million instances and over 5.7 million deaths. Greater than 212 million People — 63.9% — are totally vaccinated, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

📘 What we’re studying: Opposite to scientific proof and warnings from well being businesses, tons of of docs nationwide proceed to prescribe ivermectin – inspired by a little-known nationwide group of physicians – to forestall and deal with COVID-19. In the course of the omicron wave, they have been busier than ever, writing tens of thousands of prescriptions.

Maintain refreshing this web page for the newest information. Need extra? Join USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to obtain updates on to your inbox and join our Facebook group.

‘Stealth omicron’ barely extra infectious

The subvariant of omicron generally known as “stealth omicron’’ – technically BA.2 – has been gaining consideration because it spreads to about 50 international locations, together with the U.S.

The notion that it may be extra contagious than the unique omicron variant – BA.1 – is sufficient to increase issues, contemplating how a lot disruption the primary model has induced in taking up delta because the dominant pressure of the coronavirus.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Facilities for Illness Management and Prevention, acknowledged in a information briefing the marginally superior infectiousness of BA.2, however mentioned it’s linked to only one.5% of the nation’s instances.

“What we find out about BA.2 up to now is that it does have a modest transmission benefit over BA.1. Nonetheless, it’s not almost the transmission benefit that we’ve seen between omicron and delta,’’ Walensky mentioned. “Now we have not seen any research that recommend it’s extra extreme, nor have we seen research that recommend that it’ll evade our vaccines any extra so than omicron has already, and actually that our vaccines would work similar to they’ve with omicron.’’

Public well being consultants have mentioned the subvariant could decelerate the present drop in infections throughout the nation, however possible gained’t cease it. That’s usually what has occurred in different international locations, with some exceptions like Denmark, the place BA.2 has change into dominant.

Walensky mentioned identified that has coincided with the comfort of mitigation measures, including, “Which is why we’re at present conserving these in place, among the many causes.’’

CDC research: N95, KN95 masks cut back an infection at greater charges

The CDC launched a new study Friday that examined the constant use of face masks indoors and COVID-19 infections, discovering that higher-quality masks did a greater job of defending people in contrast with surgical or material masks. 

The research was performed in California and located constant use of a face masks or respirator whereas indoors was related to decrease odds of contracting the coronavirus.

Utilizing a material masks lowered the chances by 56%, whereas surgical masks did by 66%. However N95 and KN95 masks did essentially the most to forestall an infection, reducing an individual’s odds of contracting an infection by 83%, the research discovered. 

“The findings of this report reinforce that along with being updated with beneficial COVID-19 vaccinations, constantly sporting face masks or respirators whereas in indoor public settings protects towards the acquisition of SARS-CoV-2 an infection,” the CDC mentioned in the study. “This highlights the significance of enhancing entry to high-quality masks to make sure entry will not be a barrier to make use of.”

Analysis tasks US will fall wanting WHO 70% vaccination charge goal

The U.S. is anticipated to fall quick off the World Well being Group’s midyear vaccination goal charge of 70%, according to Our World in Data, a web based analysis and knowledge publication.

The U.S. is certainly one of over 100 international locations the group predicts will fall wanting the goal charge.

International locations together with Canada, Brazil, China, Australia and far of the European Union have already handed the goal of vaccinating a minimum of 70% of its inhabitants.

Most of Latin American and Asia have additionally both reached the goal or are anticipated to take action by mid-2022, whereas many African international locations are additionally projected to fall wanting the goal charge.

Our World in Information’s predictions are based mostly on the present charge at which international locations are vaccinating their populations. Consequently, “the projections don’t take into consideration future will increase or decreases within the velocity of vaccination, which may end result from adjustments in eligibility standards, vaccine deliveries or shortages, or new authorities insurance policies.”

Nursing scarcity has hospitals contemplating overseas healthcare staff

With American hospitals going through a dire scarcity of nurses amid a slogging pandemic, many are looking abroad for healthcare workers.

And it might be simply in time.

There’s an unusually excessive variety of inexperienced playing cards accessible this 12 months for overseas professionals, together with nurses, who need to transfer to america — twice as many as just some years in the past. That’s as a result of U.S. consulates shut down throughout the coronavirus pandemic weren’t issuing visas to family of Americans, and, by legislation, these unused slots now get transferred to eligible staff.

Amy L. Erlbacher-Anderson, an immigration lawyer in Omaha, Nebraska, mentioned she has seen extra demand for overseas nurses in two years than the remainder of her 18-year profession. And this 12 months, she mentioned, it’s extra possible they’ll get permitted to return, as long as U.S. consular places of work can course of all of the functions.

Why chilly temperatures may have an effect on outcomes of your at-home COVID take a look at 

On the identical time most People are going through chilly fronts and winter storms, they’re additionally anticipating their at-home COVID-19 tests from the government to reach within the mail. 

Most at-home COVID-19 take a look at manufacturers advocate storing the checks above 35 levels. The liquid reagent contained in the cartridge that comes with the at-home checks is inclined to freezing, and if that occurs the accuracy of the outcomes decreases, Cindy Pins, affiliate professor of epidemiology on the College of Florida, instructed USA TODAY.

With the federal authorities launching a program to ship free at-home COVID-19 checks to People who join by the web site, 1 billion checks have been ordered for distribution to People by through america U.S. Postal Service.

However may extended chilly or freezing temperatures have an effect on the outcomes of the government-sent checks? It is dependent upon how lengthy it has been chilly, consultants mentioned.

— Gabriela Miranda, USA TODAY 

‘I miss all the things’: For seniors, despair charges soar amid pandemic

Even earlier than the pandemic, advocates and well being consultants had warned of loneliness and social isolation among the many nation’s older grownup inhabitants. Now, almost two years in, they are saying authorities mandates and precautionary measures meant to manage the virus by limiting social interplay have taken an emotional, mental and physical toll.

Geriatric staff say charges of despair and anxiousness have risen amongst their purchasers in that point, and in additional extreme instances, these situations have led to cognitive and bodily deterioration, or worse.

“Folks skilled cognitive decline from having no stimulation, and that has continued,” mentioned Stacey Malcolmson, Senior Supply president and CEO. “For these with underlying psychological well being situations like dementia or Alzheimer’s, we’ve been discovering that that cognitive decline is irreversible.”

— Marc Ramirez, USA TODAY

Contributing: The Related Press

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