COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Armenian president hospitalized with severe Covid-19
President Armen Sarkissian, who was in London over the New Year to visit his grandchildren, was hospitalized on Monday in the British capital.

Sarkissian is “very weak" and also suffering from pneumonia, Petroysan said.

"The President has the symptoms characteristic to this condition, including high fever.”

London has been experiencing some of the highest infection rates in the United Kingdom and was placed under the country's top level of restrictions before Christmas.

Yes, you can still get infected with Covid-19 after being vaccinated. Here's why
It takes time for vaccines to build up immunity, and the two authorized coronavirus vaccines both require two doses, given several weeks apart, to train the body's immune system. People can be exposed to coronavirus right before being vaccinated, or right after, and there won't be time for the body to develop its defenses.

... No vaccine is 100% effective, and the makers of coronavirus vaccines are still evaluating whether the shots protect against all infections, or just those that cause symptoms.

... The current coronavirus vaccines cannot infect anyone with the virus. They don't contain the virus.

Instead, they carry a small stretch of genetic material known as messenger RNA or mRNA. It instructs cells in the body to make a small piece of material that looks like a part of the virus. Those bits, in turn, get recognized by the immune system as a foreign invader, and it starts to make antibodies and immune cells that can recognize and neutralize the virus if the vaccinated person ever gets exposed.

"None of the authorized and recommended COVID-19 vaccines or COVID-19 vaccines currently in development in the United States contain the live virus that causes COVID-19. This means that a COVID-19 vaccine cannot make you sick with COVID-19," the CDC says.

No one knows how long the vaccines out now will protect people from infection.

Protection provided by vaccines can fade over time, and some vaccines require a booster shot years later. For example, the CDC recommends adults get a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. During measles or mumps outbreaks, the CDC says some people "may be recommended" to get an additional dose of the MMR vaccine for added protection.

There is also the possibility that the novel coronavirus might mutate in a way that makes the vaccines less effective. Influenza virus strains mutate constantly and that's one reason people need fresh flu vaccines every year.

Doctors hope coronavirus won't mutate like flu does. If that does happen, however, the technology used to make the new coronavirus vaccines is designed to be easily adapted. It should take far less time to update the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines than it takes to make new flu vaccines.

"It's possible that someone could get the vaccine but could still be an asymptomatic carrier," said CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician. "They may not show symptoms, but they have the virus in their nasal passageway so that if they're speaking, breathing, sneezing and so on, they can still transmit it to others."

Given these unanswered questions, the CDC says vaccinated people should still use "all the tools available to us" to stop the pandemic, including wearing a mask and staying at least 6 feet away from others.

Johnson & Johnson Expects Vaccine Results Soon but Lags in Production
The U.S. needs J.&J.’s one-shot vaccine more than ever. But the company is behind on manufacturing promises made in its Operation Warp Speed contract.

Johnson & Johnson expects to release critical results from its Covid-19 vaccine trial in as little as two weeks — a potential boon in the effort to protect Americans from the coronavirus — but most likely won’t be able to provide as many doses this spring as it promised the federal government because of unanticipated manufacturing delays.

If the vaccine can strongly protect people against Covid-19, as some outside scientists expect, it would offer big advantages over the two vaccines authorized in the United States. Unlike those products, which require two doses, Johnson & Johnson’s could need just one, greatly simplifying logistics for local health departments and clinics struggling to get shots in arms. What’s more, its vaccine can stay stable in a refrigerator for months, whereas the others have to be frozen.

But the encouraging prospect of a third effective vaccine is tempered by apparent lags in the company’s production. In the company’s $1 billion contract signed with the federal government in August, Johnson & Johnson pledged to have 12 million doses of its vaccine ready by the end of February, ramping up to a total of 100 million doses by the end of June.

Federal officials have been told that the company has fallen as much as two months behind the original production schedule and won’t catch up until the end of April, when it was supposed to have delivered more than 60 million doses, according to two people familiar with the situation who were not authorized to discuss it publicly. Carlo de Notaristefani, lead manufacturing adviser for Operation Warp Speed, the federal vaccine development program, acknowledged a delay, but said the company might be able to catch up with initial production goals by March.

More than 10 percent of the U.S. Congress has tested positive.
At least 60 sitting members of Congress — more than one in 10 — have tested positive for the coronavirus or are believed to have had Covid-19 at some point since the pandemic began. The list includes 44 Republicans and 16 Democrats.

That’s a higher proportion than the general population. As of Wednesday, a bit fewer than one in 14 Americans were known to have had the virus, according to a New York Times database, though many more cases have probably gone undetected.

Five House members have reported positive tests since the attack on the Capitol last week, when many lawmakers were holed up in a secure location together and some refused to wear masks — a situation that angered several Democrats, including Representative Pramila Jayapal of Washington, one of those who has since tested positive.

And on Wednesday, Representative Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts said that her husband, Conan Harris, who was at the Capitol to see her sworn in, has also tested positive. In a statement, Ms. Pressley said that Republican colleagues who had refused to wear masks while in a “confined space” had displayed an “arrogant disregard for the lives of others.”

The fallout from the Capitol siege has overshadowed the surging U.S. virus death toll.
As America slogs through this grimmest of winters, there is no relief in the daily tabulations of coronavirus-related deaths: More than 4,400 were reported across the United States on Tuesday, according to a New York Times database, a number once unimaginable.

Yet even as Covid-19 touches thousands of families, the nation is distracted by the political crisis gripping Washington in the last days of the Trump administration.

Tuesday’s death count, which set another daily record, represented at least 1,597 more people than those killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

The U.S. death toll, already the world’s highest by a wide margin, is now about 20,000 shy of 400,000 — only a month after the country crossed the 300,000 threshold, a figure greater than the number of Americans who died fighting in World War II.

Oklahoma, with no statewide mask mandate, grapples with a surging caseload.
Oklahoma is in the grip of a frightening surge of the coronavirus, the worst it has yet seen and one of the worst in America’s winter.

Mercy Hospital Ardmore, in rural Oklahoma, has so many Covid-19 patients that some people are being cared for in curtained-off areas of hallways and the emergency department’s waiting room.

It has been this way for weeks.

“The people coming in are very, very sick, and they don’t quickly get better,” said Paula Pfau, the hospital’s nursing director.

Oklahoma is averaging nearly 4,000 new cases each day, an increase of almost 50 percent from two weeks ago. Rural counties in the southern part of the state, including around Ardmore, are now among the hardest hit in the country relative to their populations.

Family gatherings and parties over the holidays are at least partly to blame, according to hospital officials and the Oklahoma State Department of Health.

... Oklahoma is experiencing the third worst outbreak in the country, behind Arizona, which is enduring a surge even worse than its summer peak, and California, where a weekslong flood of cases is wearing hospitals and their workers thin.

There is no statewide mask mandate in Oklahoma, although the city of Ardmore has had one since November.

A crush of new Covid-19 patients emerged seven to 10 days after Thanksgiving, and another after Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

... An indoor rally in July held by President Trump in Tulsa was linked to a spike in cases there by the director of the Tulsa Health Department, Dr. Bruce Dart, who had pleaded with attendees to wear face masks, which were not worn by most at Mr. Trump’s rally.

Now, pretty much everyone in the state knows someone who has been sick, said Dr. Jennifer Clark, a physician and former hospital administrator who is helping lead an effort by Oklahoma State University to keep rural health care providers updated on the pandemic.

“There’s a heavy sense of grief,” she said.