COVID19 ๐Ÿฆ  Newsbites
‘Things will get worse,’ Dr. Fauci warned. They did.
For the second day in a row, the United States set a record for daily reported deaths: at least 4,111. And public health officials recorded a new daily case record, too: at least 280, 292 new infections. (That excludes two days with figures driven up by reporting anomalies, and it is possible that the new highs in deaths and cases may reflect reporting lags tied to the holidays.)

Biden plans to release nearly all available vaccine doses in an attempt to speed delivery.
In a sharp break with the Trump administration, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. intends to release nearly all available doses of the coronavirus vaccine soon after he is inaugurated, rather than hold back millions of vials to guarantee second doses will be available.

The decision is part of an aggressive effort to “to ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible,” the Biden transition team said on Friday. The vaccination plan, to be formally unveiled next week, also will include federally run vaccination sites in places like high school gyms and sports stadiums, and mobile units to reach high-risk populations.

The president-elect has vowed to get “at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people” during his first 100 days in office.

The decision to release the vast majority of vaccine doses set off a sharp debate among public health experts. The two vaccines that have received emergency approval each require two doses, and the Trump administration has so far been holding back about half of its supply to ensure that booster doses will be available for those already inoculated.

Releasing a vast majority of the vaccine doses would go against the recommendation of officials from the Food and Drug Administration, but a transition official told The Times that Biden would use the Defense Production Act, if needed, to ensure that enough doses were available.

More states are detecting the highly contagious virus variant.
The list of states to identify the dangerous new coronavirus variant is growing.

Texas, Connecticut and Pennsylvania confirmed their first cases on Thursday, joining California, Colorado, Georgia, Florida and New York.

Florida has at least 22 confirmed cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. California has reported at least 26.

Experts have warned that the United States is woefully ill-equipped to track the rapidly transmissible variant. Without a robust, national system to identify genetic variations of the coronavirus, states are left on their own to identify the variant.

Post-infection coronavirus immunity usually robust after 8 months, study shows
The human body typically retains a robust immune response to the coronavirus for at least eight months after an infection, and potentially much longer, researchers said in a study published in the journal Science. About 90 percent of the patients studied showed lingering, stable immunity, the study found.

The coronavirus has been shrouded in unknowns and uncertainties since it emerged a little more than a year ago, and one of the biggest questions has been whether people can get reinfected, and if so, how quickly. There have been isolated reports of people having a second case of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, but that appears to be rare, and the new study bolsters the case that immunity usually persists.

The review of blood samples from nearly 200 patients also saw that multiple elements of the immune system — not just antibodies — continued to be effective at recognizing and responding to the virus. The human body appears to retain a memory of the invader and is poised to generate a coordinated counterattack of antibodies and killer T cells quickly if exposed again.

... There is one obvious cautionary note in the new research: About 10 percent of people infected with the coronavirus see their immune response degrade. There is no clear explanation for why this happens in some people. The human immune system is enormously complex, and the immune response varies greatly from person to person.

Storming of Capitol was textbook potential coronavirus superspreader, experts say
Wednesday’s storming of the U.S. Capitol did not just overshadow one of the deadliest days of the coronavirus pandemic — it could have contributed to the crisis as a textbook potential superspreader, health experts warn.

Thousands of Trump supporters dismissive of the virus’s threat packed together with few face coverings — shouting, jostling and forcing their way indoors to halt certification of the election results, many converging from out of town at the president’s urging. Police rushed members of Congress to crowded quarters where legislators say some of their colleagues refused to wear masks as well.

“This was in so many ways an extraordinarily dangerous event yesterday, not only from the security aspects but from the public health aspects, and there will be a fair amount of disease that comes from it,” said Eric Toner, senior scholar at the John Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Experts said that resulting infections will be near-impossible to track, with massive crowds fanning out around the country and few rioters detained and identified. They also wondered if even a significant number of cases would register in a nation overwhelmed by the coronavirus. As Americans shared their shock and anger at the Capitol breach Thursday, the United States reported more than 132,000 people hospitalized with the virus, and more than 4,000 deaths from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus — making it the highest single-day tally yet.

“It is a very real possibility that this will lead to a major outbreak but one that we may or may not be able to recognize,” Toner said. “All the cases to likely derive from this event will likely be lost in the huge number of cases we have in the country right now.”

Trump devotees who flocked to the capital this week said they were unconcerned by the virus, belittling common precautions known to slow its spread and echoing the president’s dismissive attitude toward rising case counts. Trump had encouraged them to gather in defiance of his election loss: “Big protest in D.C. on January 6th,” he tweeted last month. “Be there, will be wild!”3

Biden assembling multitrillion-dollar stimulus plan with checks, unemployment aid
President-elect Joe Biden said Friday he is assembling a multitrillion-dollar relief package that would boost stimulus payments for Americans to $2,000, extend unemployment insurance and send billions of dollars in aid to city and state governments, moving swiftly to address the nation’s deteriorating economic condition and the rampaging pandemic.

The package will also include billions of dollars to improve vaccine distribution and tens of millions of dollars for schools, as well as rent forbearance and assistance to small businesses, especially those in low-income communities, Biden said at a news conference in Wilmington, Del.

“We need to provide more immediate relief for families and businesses now,” Biden said.

“The price tag will be high,” he said, adding, “The overwhelming consensus among leading economists left, right and center is that in order to keep the economy from collapsing this year, getting much, much worse, we should be investing significant amounts of money right now.”

Sweden passes law allowing coronavirus lockdowns, expects to use it soon
Sweden’s parliament passed an emergency law Friday empowering the government to impose coronavirus-related lockdowns after nearly a year of avoiding some public health measures that have become the norm across Europe and much of the world.

... “If necessary, it will be possible to prohibit public gatherings of a certain size at places to which the public have access and close premises that serve food and drink,” the statement continues.

“We will see if we can do more in public transport, but it could also be about gyms, sports facilities, events and businesses that operate premises for parties,” Lรถfven said of the law’s application. “It could also be about stores.”

Sweden had until recently followed a largely voluntary approach to virus precautions such as social distancing. It also avoided widespread school closures and mask mandates. But the attention-grabbing decision to keep communities and economies open came at a cost: With more than 9,200 deaths related to covid-19, Sweden has the highest per capita death rate of all Scandinavian countries.