COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Fully vaccinated people can skip Covid quarantines, CDC says
That doesn't mean they should stop taking precautions, the CDC noted in updated guidance. It's just not necessary for them to quarantine.

"Fully vaccinated persons who meet criteria will no longer be required to quarantine following an exposure to someone with COVID-19," the CDC said in updates to its web page with guidance on vaccination. "Vaccinated persons with an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 are not required to quarantine if they meet all of the following criteria," the CDC added.

The criteria: They must be fully vaccinated -- having had both shots with at least two weeks having passed since the second shot. That's because it takes two weeks to build full immunity after the second dose of vaccine.

But the CDC says it's not known how long protection lasts, so people who had their last shot three months ago or more should still quarantine if they are exposed. They also should quarantine if they show symptoms, the CDC said.

"This recommendation to waive quarantine for people with vaccine-derived immunity aligns with quarantine recommendations for those with natural immunity, which eases implementation," the CDC said. The agency will update guidance as more is learned.

People who have been vaccinated should still watch for symptoms for 14 days after they have been exposed to someone who is infected, the CDC said.

And everyone, vaccinated or not, needs to follow all other precautions to prevent the spread of the virus, the CDC said. This is not least because it's possible even vaccinated people could harbor the virus in their noses and throats, and pass it to others.

"At this time, vaccinated persons should continue to follow current guidance to protect themselves and others, including wearing a mask, staying at least 6 feet away from others, avoiding crowds, avoiding poorly ventilated spaces, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often, following CDC travel guidance, and following any applicable workplace or school guidance, including guidance related to personal protective equipment use or SARS-CoV-2 testing," the agency said.
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Fauci Says All Americans Could Start to Get Vaccines in April
“As we get into March and April, the number of available doses will allow for much more of a mass vaccination approach,” he said in an interview with the “Today” co-host Savannah Guthrie.

States have so far been prioritizing vaccines for older people and health care and essential workers, as well as residents of long-term care facilities. Dr. Fauci has said in the past that vaccine availability was likely to increase significantly through the spring.

“I would imagine by the time we get to April, that will be what I would call, for better wording, ‘open season,’” he said on Thursday. “Namely, virtually everybody and anybody in any category could start to get vaccinated.”

It would take “several more months” after that to get the vaccines into most people’s arms, he said, adding that he hoped the overwhelming majority of people in the United States could be vaccinated by mid- to late summer.
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The Newest Diplomatic Currency: Covid-19 Vaccines
India, China, the U.A.E. and others dole out donations in countries where they seek sway. In some cases, they are sending doses despite pressing needs at home.

India, the unmatched vaccine manufacturing power, is giving away millions of doses to neighbors friendly and estranged. It is trying to counter China, which has made doling out shots a central plank of its foreign relations. And the United Arab Emirates, drawing on its oil riches, is buying jabs on behalf of its allies.

The coronavirus vaccine — one of the world’s most in-demand commodities — has become a new currency for international diplomacy.

Countries with the means or the know-how are using the shots to find favor or thaw frosty relations. India sent them to Nepal, a country that has fallen increasingly under China’s influence. Sri Lanka, in the midst of a diplomatic tug of war between New Delhi and Beijing, is getting doses from both.

The strategy carries risks. India and China, both of which are making vaccines for the rest of the world, have vast populations of their own that they need to inoculate. Though there are few signs of grumbling in either country, that could change as the public watches doses get sold or donated abroad.

“Indians are dying. Indians are still getting the disease,” said Manoj Joshi, a distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation, a New Delhi think tank. “I could understand if our needs had been fulfilled and then you had given away the stuff. But I think there is a false moral superiority that you are trying to put across where you say we are giving away our stuff even before we use it ourselves.”

The donating countries are making their offerings at a time when the United States and other rich nations are scooping up the world’s supplies. Poorer countries are frantically trying to get their own, a disparity that the World Health Organization recently warned has put the world “on the brink of a catastrophic moral failure.” With their health systems tested like never before, many countries are eager to take what they are offered — and the donors could reap some political good will in reward.

“Instead of securing a country by sending troops, you can secure the country by saving lives, by saving their economy, by helping with their vaccination,”
said Dania Thafer, the executive director of the Gulf International Forum, a Washington-based think tank.

China was one of the first countries to make a diplomatic vaccine push, promising to help developing countries last year even before the nation had mass produced a vaccine that was proved to be effective. Just this week, it said it would donate 300,000 vaccine doses to Egypt.

But some of China’s vaccine-diplomacy efforts have stumbled from supplies arriving late, a lack of disclosure about the efficacy of its vaccines and other issues. Chinese government officials have cited unexpectedly strong needs at home amid isolated outbreaks, a move that could blunt any domestic backlash.
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A cougar is the latest cat to become infected with the virus.
A cougar has tested positive for the coronavirus, the first such instance in the United States. And a tiger at the same Texas facility that exhibits wild animals also tested positive, the Department of Agriculture said on Wednesday.

After several cats at the facility, which the department did not name, began coughing and wheezing, the facility took samples for testing.

The National Veterinary Services Laboratory confirmed the infection in the two cats. While several tigers in the United States have caught the virus, along with lions, snow leopards and many domestic cats, this was the first report of a cougar.

The animals have mild symptoms and are expected to recover, according to the announcement, as have other zoo cats that have been infected with the virus.
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How to master the vaccine-appointment website: A guide for everyone
Five strategies to increase the chances of getting a free shot for yourself or someone you care about
  • Begin with the right frame of mind — and paperwork
    Tip: Experiment.
    Tip: Prepare for red tape.
  • You don’t necessarily need fancy computer skills
    Tip: Locate help at the library.
    Tip: There’s almost always a phone number
    Tip: You’ll likely need email to register online.
    Tip: A smartphone might speed up your appointment.
  • Information is your most valuable tool
    Tip: Sign up for alerts.
    Tip: Hunt for new-stock information.
    Tip: Look for crowdsourced information.
    Tip: Don’t forget the old-fashioned phone call.
  • Be on alert for fraud
    Tip: Start with trusted sources of information.
    Tip: If you weren’t expecting a message, be skeptical.
    Tip: Look for the lock.
  • Use tech to move faster
    Tip: Pre-fill your information.
    Tip: Type fast.
    Tip: Automate redialing.
    Tip: Look out for new technologies.
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Germany's Merkel Warns Coronavirus Variants Could 'Destroy' Gains Against Pandemic
German Chancellor Angela Merkel defended her government's decision to extend a COVID-19 lockdown into March, as she issued a stark warning that new strains of the coronavirus "may destroy any success" already achieved in keeping the pandemic in check.

Merkel's remarks before the Bundestag, Germany's parliament, on Thursday came a day after U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson cautioned Britons that they might need to "get used to the idea of vaccinating and revaccinating" to keep up with newly emerging strains of the deadly virus.

Merkel told lawmakers that the agreement between the federal government and state leaders to extend a nationwide lockdown until March 7, with an option to gradually reopen schools, day care centers and hairdressers earlier, was a prudent measure.

"We have to be extremely cautious that we don't get into this exponential growth spiral again," she said, warning that new coronavirus strains, which have already been detected in Germany, "may destroy any success" the country's had in limiting the spread of the disease.

New variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus were first detected in recent months in Britain, South Africa and Brazil. The variant found in the U.K., known as B.1.1.7, has spread rapidly and is now found in some 70 countries and in 34 U.S. states.

"I really support the fact that when it comes to further openings and reopenings we've decided on the basis of these new mutations, not to give dates, but to give infection rates," Merkel said.

More than 63,600 people have died from COVID-19 in Germany, with more than 2.3 million coronavirus infections there, according to Johns Hopkins University.
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Instagram Bars Robert F. Kennedy Jr. For Spreading Vaccine Misinformation
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is now blocked from Instagram after he repeatedly undercut trust in vaccines. Kennedy has also spread conspiracy theories about Bill Gates, accusing him of profiteering off vaccines and attempting to take control of the world's food supply.

"We removed this account for repeatedly sharing debunked claims about the coronavirus or vaccines," a spokesperson for Facebook, which owns Instagram, told NPR on Thursday.

Kennedy has been a prominent voice in the anti-vaccine community for years, speaking out against childhood vaccines and promoting controversial and disproven claims that seek to link vaccines with autism.

In the past year, Kennedy's beliefs about vaccines have intersected with the COVID-19 pandemic. He has told his followers not to trust "mainstream media, government health officials" and doctors who say the coronavirus vaccines are safe, recently highlighting a rare and tragic case in which a woman died hours after receiving the vaccine.

Kennedy is the son of the late Robert F. Kennedy, the former attorney general and senator. He has been praised for his environmental activism and conservation efforts. But even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Kennedy's stance on vaccinations prompted some in his high-profile family to publicly repudiate his ideas.

"We love Robert F. Kennedy Jr., but he is part of a misinformation campaign that's having heartbreaking — and deadly — consequences," Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, Joseph P. Kennedy II and Maeve Kennedy McKean wrote in an opinion piece for Politico. Vaccination campaigns, they noted, save millions of lives every year.

Kennedy has shown no intention of listening to his critics, warning that the new mRNA technology that created some of the first SARS-CoV-2 vaccines is untested and can cause serious health problems. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease expert, has received the vaccine, saying scientific advances allowed it to be developed and approved less than one year after the novel coronavirus was identified.

"It would be terrible, with a tool as good as that, if people don't utilize that tool," Fauci said, citing the vaccine's efficacy rate of about 95% in preventing disease.

... In addition to Kennedy's account, Facebook says it has taken down a number of other accounts on both Instagram and Facebook, including We Are Vaxxed, which 154,000 people had liked, and Americans Unite 4 America, a pro-Trump group that had roughly 31,000 members.

The social media company says all of the pages violated its recently updated policies on false claims and misinformation about vaccines.
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Sweatpants are no longer ‘a defeat.’ Every day you get dressed is a win.
Legendary designer Karl Lagerfeld once famously declared sweatpants “a sign of defeat.” By that standard, a year into covid-19, we’ve all surrendered. Fashion inspires those who wear it or simply look at it. But it’s hard to motivate people to rise to the occasion when there are no longer any occasions to rise to.

So as the pandemic rages on, fashion’s most influential designers and labels are stuck balancing between meeting consumers where they are and offering hopes of more exciting days to come.

... The vast majority of us don’t seem to be dressing up much at home. Instead, it’s the most comforting and practical pieces we turn to again and again in a world that has never been more changeable. Fashion has always been a way to express who we are and define how we want to be regarded in the world. What does that mean when the world has shrunk to four walls and a screen?

... Right now, fashion exists in a state of polarized extremes. There is the basic utility of our day-to-day lives, filled with things practical, soft and easy to slip on and off. And then there is the hopeful, optimistic high-octane stuff of escapism: the tailored suits, silk gowns and impractical tulle dresses we fantasize about having an occasion to wear. There seems to be little else in between.

Perhaps that’s because the part of our lives that might have filled the space between the daily slog of working from home and the unlimited promise of our imaginations has vanished, at least temporarily. Covid-19 has made us all go casual, long as we might for heels, tailoring and tulle. A sign of defeat? Hardly. Every day you get dressed, be it in sweatpants or Regency-era robe, is a win.
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Trump Was Sicker Than Acknowledged With Covid-19
When he was hospitalized with the coronavirus in October, his blood oxygen levels had plunged and officials feared he was on the verge of being placed on a ventilator.

President Donald J. Trump was sicker with Covid-19 in October than publicly acknowledged at the time, with extremely depressed blood oxygen levels at one point and a lung problem associated with pneumonia caused by the coronavirus, according to four people familiar with his condition.

His prognosis became so worrisome before he was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that officials believed he would need to be put on a ventilator, two of the people familiar with his condition said.

The people familiar with Mr. Trump’s health said he was found to have lung infiltrates, which occur when the lungs are inflamed and contain substances such as fluid or bacteria. Their presence, especially when a patient is exhibiting other symptoms, can be a sign of an acute case of the disease. They can be easily spotted on an X-ray or scan, when parts of the lungs appear opaque, or white.

Mr. Trump’s blood oxygen level alone was cause for extreme concern, dipping into the 80s, according to the people familiar with his evaluation. The disease is considered severe when the blood oxygen level falls to the low 90s.

It has been previously reported that Mr. Trump had trouble breathing and a fever on Oct. 2, the day he was taken to the hospital, and the types of treatment he received indicated that his condition was serious. But the new details about his condition and about the effort inside the White House to get him special access to an unapproved drug to fight the virus help to flesh out one of the most dire episodes of Mr. Trump’s presidency.

The new revelations about Mr. Trump’s struggle with the virus also underscore the limited and sometimes misleading nature of the information disclosed at the time about his condition.

The former president resisted being taken from the White House to Walter Reed, relenting when aides told him that he could walk out on his own, or risk waiting until the U.S. Secret Service was forced to carry him out if he got sicker, two people familiar with the events said.

While Mr. Trump was hospitalized at Walter Reed, his medical team sought to downplay the severity of the situation, saying that he was on an upswing. At 74 and overweight, he was at risk for severe disease, and was prescribed an aggressive course of treatments. He left the hospital after three days in which he at one point staged a brief ride in his armored sport-utility vehicle to wave at the crowd of supporters outside the building.

... Mr. Trump’s physician, Dr. Sean P. Conley, repeatedly downplayed concerns about Mr. Trump’s condition during his illness. At one briefing, Dr. Conley said Mr. Trump was receiving X-ray and CT scans. But when asked about whether there was evidence of pneumonia or damage to the tissue, he would only say there were “expected findings, but nothing of any major clinical concern.”

Dr. Conley also told reporters that while Mr. Trump’s oxygen level had dropped to 93 percent, it had never dropped to the “low 80s.”

Mr. Trump had trouble breathing at the White House. He was twice given oxygen before being taken to Walter Reed, as Dr. Conley acknowledged after it was reported by The New York Times.

While still at the White House, Mr. Trump received a drug developed by the biotechnology firm Regeneron Pharmaceuticals. The antibody cocktail — not widely available at the time — helps people infected with the virus fight it off.

After Mr. Trump was hospitalized, he began a regimen for a steroid, dexamethasone, which is usually recommended only for Covid-19 patients who have severe or critical forms of the disease, often those who need mechanical ventilation or supplemental oxygen.

And he received a five-day course of the antiviral drug remdesivir. Medical experts at the time believed that his medication course was a clear signal of significant issues related to his lungs.

In news conferences outside the hospital that weekend, Dr. Conley offered data that made it appear his patient was recovering quickly. He noted that Mr. Trump had fared well on a spirometry test, which measures lung capacity. “He’s maxing it out,” Dr. Conley said. “He’s doing great.”

Medical experts say a spirometry test is virtually meaningless with Covid-19 patients.

... In the weeks after his hospitalization, Mr. Trump was convinced that the Regeneron treatment had saved his life, telling aides, “I’m proof it works.”

That line became a running joke among top health officials, who would ask each other whether anyone was going to break it to Mr. Trump that he was in fact a failed clinical trial result for Regeneron, since the aim is to prevent people from being hospitalized after receiving it, one former senior administration official said.
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Short On Special Syringes, Japan May Waste Millions Of Pfizer Vaccine Doses
Japan may have several million fewer coronavirus vaccine doses than originally planned because the country does not have the appropriate syringes. It's another setback to one of the slower vaccination rollouts among developed economies.

The Pfizer vaccine normally contains five doses per vial. But a special syringe known as a low dead space syringe, which expels more medicine from the space between a syringe's needle and plunger, can eke out six doses per vial.

"We will use all the syringes we have that can draw six doses, but it will, of course, not be enough as more shots are administered," Health Minister Norihisa Tamura said Tuesday.

This means that the Pfizer vaccines, which could have been enough for 72 million people, would cover as few as 60 million. The Kyodo news agency reports that Japan will try to purchase additional doses from Pfizer.

"Since the vaccine is precious, many countries are trying to get six doses per vial," said Dr. Eji Kusumi, who runs the Navitas clinic in Tokyo. "You'd be lucky to get six, but if not, you end up with five. I think it cannot be helped."

The syringes are a specialty product for which demand is usually low, and the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine has set off a scramble among other countries to get more of the syringes.
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Coronavirus World Map: We've Now Passed The 100 Million Mark For Infections
In late January 2020 only a few dozen COVID-19 infections had been identified outside of China. Now the virus has spread to every corner of the globe. More than 100 million infections have been reported worldwide, and the death toll is above 2 million, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

The United States has far more COVID cases and deaths than any other country. India and Brazil have the second and third highest tally of cases respectively.
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Biden Announces Deal For 200 Million More COVID-19 Vaccines
President Biden has finalized deals to buy 200 million more COVID-19 vaccine doses from Pfizer and Moderna by the end of July, increasing the likelihood of delivering on his promise to have all Americans inoculated by mid-summer.

Biden announced the latest deals, which are part of a plan he unveiled two weeks ago, during remarks made at the National Institutes of Health on Thursday.

"We've now purchased enough vaccine supplies to vaccinate all Americans," Biden said. "Now we're working to get those vaccines into the arms of millions of people."
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Trump ‘Did Not Do His Job’ On Vaccine Rollout, Biden Says

It’s no secret that the vaccination program was in much worse shape than my team and I anticipated. We were under the impression and had been told that we had a lot more resources than we did when we came into office. While scientists did their job in discovering vaccines in record time, my predecessor — be very blunt about it — did not do his job in getting ready for the massive challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions of Americans. When I became president three weeks ago, America had no plan to vaccinate most of the country. It was a big mess that’s going to take time to fix, to be blunt with you. And we thought and we were led to believe there was a lot more vaccine available than there was. And when I said in the first hundred days, I guaranteed, I promised that we would get a hundred million shots in people’s arms, everybody said, “You can’t do that. That’s amazing.” Now I’m getting, “Why can’t you get more?” To get to the place where these guys legitimately always ask me is, When will we have enough vaccine to have that 300-plus-million people? We’re going to be in a position where it’s going to be, it’s not going to be by the end of the summer.
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People With Intellectual Disabilities Are Often Overlooked In Pandemic Response
Early studies have shown that people with intellectual and developmental disabilities have a higher likelihood of dying from the virus than those without disabilities, likely because of a higher prevalence of preexisting conditions. While some high-profile outbreaks made the news, a lack of federal tracking means the population remains largely overlooked amid the pandemic.

No one knows how many of the estimated 300,000 people who live in such facilities nationwide have caught COVID-19 or died as a result. That creates a blind spot in understanding the impact of the virus. And because data drives access to scarce COVID-19 vaccines, those with disabilities could be at a disadvantage for getting prioritized for the shots to keep them safe.

While facilities ranging from state institutions that serve hundreds to small group homes with a few people have been locked down throughout the pandemic, workers still rotate through every day. Residents live in close quarters. Some don't understand the dangers of the virus. Those who need help eating or changing can't keep their distance from others. Many facilities also have struggled to keep enough masks and staffers on hand.

The Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities has repeatedly asked federal agencies to hold facilities where people with disabilities live to the same pandemic rules as nursing homes, which must report COVID-19 cases directly to national agencies.
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Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a contagious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The first case was identified in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. It has since spread worldwide, leading to an ongoing pandemic.

Symptoms of COVID-19 are variable, but often include fever, cough, fatigue, breathing difficulties, and loss of smell and taste. Symptoms begin one to fourteen days after exposure to the virus. Most people (81%) develop mild to moderate symptoms (up to mild pneumonia), while 14% develop severe symptoms (dyspnea, hypoxia, or more than 50% lung involvement on imaging) and 5% of patients suffer critical symptoms (respiratory failure, shock, or multiorgan dysfunction). At least a third of the people who are infected with the virus remain asymptomatic and do not develop noticeable symptoms at any point in time, but can spread the disease. Some patients continue to experience a range of effects—known as long COVID—for months after recovery and damage to organs has been observed. Multi-year studies are underway to further investigate the long term effects of the disease.

Source: Coronavirus disease 2019 - Wikipedia