The spring coronavirus swell that’s turning into the summer coronavirus surge is starting to result in more hospital admissions, although the amount of serious illness is still far less than before widespread vaccination. There’s better news on vaccines for infants and toddlers: just three weeks after shots for the littlest tots were approved, Bay Area counties are seeing uptake rates higher than statewide and national figures.
White House plans to offer second booster shots to all adults, report says
The Biden administration is working on a plan to roll out a second coronavirus vaccine booster shot to all U.S. adults as COVID-19 hospitalizations reach their highest level since March, according to a report by the Washington Post. With the highly transmissible, immune evasive BA.5 subvariant of omicron rapidly becoming the dominant virus strain nationally, public health officials are concerned reinfections will drive another surge of cases. Second boosters are currently available only to those over 50 and those 12 and older who are immunocompromised. White House coronavirus coordinator Ashish Jha and Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, have already endorsed the plan to expand the availability of booster shots to those under 50, according to officials who spoke to the newspaper. But regulators and public health officials will have to sign off on the plan before it goes into effect.
Some COVID survivors have ‘disabling symptoms’ that can last months, say federal officials
Some people infected with the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 can experience long-term effects from their infection for weeks, months, or years, according to an update on post-COVID conditions published Monday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency said symptoms of long COVID are more common in people who have a severe illness because of the virus but can also occur in those with mild symptoms or none at all. According to the most recent data, about 13.3% of people who had COVID-19 reported long-haul symptoms after one month, with that proportion jumping to more than 30% for 6 months or longer among patients hospitalized with COVID-19. Ashish Jha, the White House’s COVID response coordinator, said in an interview with NPR that the Biden administration is working on a coordinated response to the growing health crisis. “The estimates here are hard but in the single digits, 5, 10% of people who end up having significant symptoms, sometimes disabling symptoms, that last months. Of course, there are some people who have had it now for two years. That is a real problem.”
BA.2.75 subvariant has been in the Bay Area since last month
Seven cases of the BA.2.75 subvariant of omicron were detected in the United States in June, according to data from GISAID, a global genomic sequencing database. COVID-19 cases tied to the subvariant have been identified in at least 12 countries, including India, where it is driving a new surge. Nationally, two cases were found in California and one each in Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Texas and Washington. The California cases were picked up in Bay Area wastewater samples from mid-June. The World Health Organization has categorized BA.2.75 as a “variant of concern — lineage under monitoring,” which means the agency is closely observing the omicron offshoot. “There are still limited sequences to analyze but this subvariant seems to have a few mutations on the receptor-binding domain of the spike protein, so obviously that’s a key part of the virus that attaches itself to the human receptor,” said Dr. Soumya Swaminathan, WHO chief scientist, in an update. “So we have to watch that.”
Fourth vaccine dose cut COVID deaths in older adults by 72% in new study
A fourth dose of the COVID-19 vaccine led to a 72% reduction in death rates among older adults, according to a study by researchers in Israel. Scientists at Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University and the Health Ministry compared data on 24,088 people in care homes who received a fourth dose of the BNT162b2 vaccine, made by Pfizer-BioNTech, against that of 19,687 care home residents who only received three doses. The study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, also found the additional dose reduced the risk of infection by 34%, and decreased hospitalization by more than 60%.
Judge throws out Republican suit blaming China for COVID-19
A federal judge on Friday threw out a lawsuit by Missouri Republican Attorney General Eric Schmitt that blamed China for the coronavirus pandemic, the Associated Press reports. The complaint filed in April 2020 alleges that Chinese officials are “responsible for the enormous death, suffering, and economic losses they inflicted on the world, including Missourians.” U.S. District Judge Stephen Limbaugh said in his 38-page ruling that in this case, federal rules prohibit a sovereign foreign entity from being sued in American courts. “All in all, the court has no choice but to dismiss this novel complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction,” Limbaugh stated in the final line of the dismissal order. The judge noted earlier in the opinion that the civil suit against China is one of many filed “amidst the wreckage of the COVID-19 pandemic.” Schmitt’s office said it would appeal the ruling.
Senate Majority Leader Schumer tests positive for COVID-19
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has tested positive for COVID-19 and reports experiencing very mild symptoms, his spokesman said Sunday night. Schumer, 71, is fully vaccinated and has received two booster shots, spokesman Justin Goodman said in a statement. The New York Democrat will follow federal health guidelines and quarantine this week while working remotely, the Associated Press reports. “Anyone who knows Leader Schumer knows that even if he’s not physically in the Capitol, through virtual meetings and his trademark flip phone he will continue with his robust schedule and remain in near-constant contact with his colleagues,” Goodman said.
U.S. orders 3.2 million doses of Novavax vaccine
The Biden administration will buy 3.2 million doses of the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine after federal regulators give it the green light, the Department of Health and Human Services and the drugmaker announced Monday. The shot will be the fourth brand of coronavirus vaccine offered for free in the U.S. after the Food and Drug Adminstration authorizes it for emergency use and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends it, Reuters reported. Novavax’s version, used in more than 40 countries, is a more traditional, protein-based vaccine than the Pfizer and Moderna mRNA shots most widely used in the U.S. Maryland-based Novavax is hoping to make inroads with the 27 million U.S. adults who have not yet received vaccines.
Bay Area infants and toddlers are getting vaccinated faster than elsewhere
Vaccine uptake among babies and toddlers in the Bay Area appears to be far outpacing statewide and national rates, according to early figures provided by several local health departments. Nearly three weeks since vaccines became available for babies and toddlers, 12% of children under age 5 in San Francisco have gotten their first shot, comparable to the rate among kids 5 to 11 at the same stage in their earlier rollout, said the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Read more about the Bay Area’s surprising early success at getting the littlest tots their shots.
Bay Area hospital admissions rise amid persistent COVID surge
COVID-19 hospitalizations in California and the Bay Area have reached their highest point since February, when the region was still coming out of the winter omicron surge. As of Friday, there were 770 people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the Bay Area, and ICU admissions climbed to 94 from 63 a month ago. But the rate of hospitalization is still far below that of any previous surge and deaths are fortunately rare. Read more about the rising toll of the surge that won’t go away.
BA.2.75 subvariant detected in California — one of two cases in U.S.
A new sub-lineage of the omicron variant, of the coronavirus, labeled BA.2.75, has been detected in California, according to variant tracking data from GISAID. It is one of two confirmed cases of the new strain in the United States, with the other case identified in Washington. BA.2.75 is the fast becoming the dominant variant in India and has been reported in at least 10 other countries but little is known about it. It reportedly has 40 mutations, according to Dr. Ilan Shapiro, AltaMed medical director. “We do not know if our immunity will actually work against it, the natural immunity or with the vaccines,” he said in an interview with KCRA. “We are monitoring what is happening in India and other countries. Hopefully, we will do a good job and maintain the vaccination rates.”
FDA gives full approval to Pfizer vaccine for children 12-15 years old
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been given full approval for use in children between the ages of 12 to 15 years old, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Friday. “The approval follows a rigorous analysis and evaluation of the safety and effectiveness data conducted by FDA,” the agency said in a briefing. The vaccine has been available to the age group since May 2021 under emergency use authorization. The latest development may help move up the date when vaccine mandates for schools go into effect for middle and high school-age children.
Sewage can act as an early warning system for new variants, study says
Scientists are now able to detect new coronavirus variants before they appear in tests, according to research from UC San Diego. Rob Knight, a microbiologist who co-authored of the study that was published in Nature on Thursday, told Scientific American that over the past year his laboratory has tracked “wave after wave of different viruses” through wastewater sequencing. He said his lab detected the alpha and delta variants of the coronavirus in wastewater up to two weeks before the strains were picked up by swabbing and testing in clinics, and found omicron 10 days before the first person in San Diego tested positive for the variant. The scientists hope their research will help ramp up public health response before the next COVID-19 variant hits. “When the next strain comes through, we will be ready for it,” Knight said.
New York City officials recommend indoor masking as cases surge
Officials are urging New Yorkers to wear high-quality face masks indoors and near crowds due to a wave of new coronavirus infections. “We’re currently seeing high levels of COVID-19 in NYC,” the health department said Friday on Twitter. “To help slow the spread, all New Yorkers should wear a high-quality mask, such as an N95, KN95 or KF94 in all public indoor settings and around crowds outside.” The city’s test positive rate has reached 15.4%, the highest level since January. The city is also in the process of updating its COVID alert system due to the BA.4 and BA.5 variants. “A new variant, new variants, are finding their way into the city,” New York City Mayor Eric Adams said at a press briefing this week. “And as it comes about, as they come about, we continue to pivot and shift. We’re now looking at and bringing in experts from all across the globe, and finding out, how do we continue to prepare New Yorkers and Americans in dealing with the pivoting and shifting of COVID?”