COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
India Hits Case Highs Not Seen in Months as Festivals Begin
India has directed regional governments to deploy law enforcement officials to ensure that people are wearing masks and maintaining distance. And the country has also curtailed exports of Covid-19 vaccines, inciting a setback for inoculation drives in other countries, especially in poorer ones that do not have the infrastructure to produce their own.

India is desperate for all the doses it can get. Infections are soaring, topping 50,000 per day, more than double the number less than two weeks ago. And the Indian vaccine drive has been sluggish, with less than 4 percent of India’s nearly 1.4 billion people getting a jab, far behind the rates of the United States, Britain and most European countries.

The latest surge is crippling life in several regions of Maharashtra, which has recorded the highest number of cases in the country — 2.6 million. The state is home to densely populated Mumbai, the country’s financial hub, where millions live, sometimes in very close quarters. The Dharavi slum was sealed off for nearly two months during the first wave of infections.

Even as cases rose in the city, business continued as usual in some pockets. But entire districts of the state have gone back into lockdown, and the government in Maharashtra is imposing a nightly curfew starting Sunday. Malls will also close at 8 p.m.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/27/world/asia/india-covid-surge.html

U.S. Is In A Race Between Vaccines And Variants, Says Public Health Expert
COVID-19 vaccinations are on the rise in the U.S. — and so are coronavirus cases.

After a plateau lasting several weeks, the number of cases is once again on the increase in parts of the country.

New cases, test positivity rates and hospital admissions are creeping upward. An increase in daily COVID-19 deaths is likely to follow, says WHO.

Calling it a race between vaccinations and variants, Ashish Jha, a public health policy researcher and dean of Brown University's School of Public Health, tweeted: "Well, despite phenomenal vaccination rates, variants pulled ahead this week."

According to a daily report from the White House COVID-19 team, more than 410,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the U.S. this past week — a 9% increase from the previous week. More than 33,000 people were admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 this past week, representing a 2% increase.


The number of new cases and hospitalizations per day is still far lower than an all-time peak in mid-January, when the U.S. recorded around 250,000 new daily cases. Still, the current trend in cases raises concerns among health officials that the U.S. could see a fourth surge in coronavirus infections as states discard masking mandates and some members of the pandemic-fatigued public flaunt mitigation measures.
Read the full article: https://www.npr.org/sections/coronavirus-live-updates/2021/03/28/982086058/u-s-is-in-a-race-between-vaccines-and-variants-says-public-health-expert

Thousands Attend Experimental Indoor Concert in Barcelona

A concert for 5,000 people was held at a Barcelona arena on Saturday, one of several planned in Europe to test how crowds can gather safely during the pandemic. Attendees were screened for the coronavirus before the show.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/europe/100000007679032/barcelona-concert-coronavirus-pandemic.html

GOP Rep.-elect Julia Letlow urges Republicans to get Covid vaccine after husband's death
Louisiana Rep.-elect Julia Letlow on Sunday urged Republicans to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, citing her own tragic experience losing her husband to complications of Covid-19.

"Look at my family. Use my story," the Louisiana Republican said on CBS' "Face the Nation" when asked her message to Republicans, a group that recent polling shows is less likely to be willing to get inoculated against the virus.

"You know, I experienced a tragedy in my immediate family, and Covid can touch every family out there," Letlow continued. "And so there is a vaccine that has life-saving capabilities, I want to encourage everyone to trust it and get the vaccine."

Letlow won a special election in Louisiana earlier this month to take the seat that her late husband Luke, who had won last year's election, was never able to hold. He was 41 when he died in December.

Vaccine hesitancy among Republicans has emerged as a key obstacle in the federal government's effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic. A CNN poll released earlier this month found that 46% of Republicans indicated that they won't try to get a vaccine.

Reluctance among conservatives to get vaccinated against Covid-19 has caused growing concern inside the White House, people familiar with the matter told CNN earlier this month, even as President Joe Biden's administration has rapidly scaled up nationwide efforts to administer shots. Conservatives will now be one of the primary target audiences for a massive public relations campaign that could launch as early as this week, officials said at the time. And the administration, through its partners, has been working with NASCAR, country music organizations and several rural organizations on vaccine confidence efforts meant for conservative eyes and ears.
Read the full article: https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/28/politics/julia-letlow-covid-vaccine-republicans/index.html

Trump’s former pandemic coordinator suggests restrained response may have cost hundreds of thousands of lives.
In interviews broadcast on CNN Sunday night, former President Donald J. Trump’s pandemic officials confirmed in stark and no uncertain terms what was already an open secret in Washington: The administration’s pandemic response was riddled with dysfunction, and the discord, untruths and infighting likely cost many lives.

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, Mr. Trump’s coronavirus response coordinator, suggested that hundreds of thousands of Americans may have died needlessly, and Adm. Brett P. Giroir, the testing czar, said the administration lied to the public about the availability of testing.

The comments were among a string of bombshells that emerged during a CNN special report that featured the doctors who led the government’s coronavirus response in 2020.

Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who was also interviewed, accused Mr. Trump’s health secretary, Alex M. Azar, and the secretary’s leadership team, of pressuring him to revise scientific reports. “Now he may deny that, but it’s true,” Dr. Redfield said. Mr. Azar, in a statement, denied it.

Dr. Stephen K. Hahn, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said his relationship with Mr. Azar grew “strained” after the health secretary revoked the agency’s power to regulate coronavirus tests. “That was a line in the sand for me,” Dr. Hahn said. When Dr. Gupta asked him if Mr. Azar had screamed at him, Dr. Hahn replied: “You should ask him that question.”

... Several of the officials, including Dr. Anthony S. Fauci — who unlike the others is a career scientist and is now advising President Biden — placed blame on China for not being open enough with the United States. And several, including Dr. Redfield and Dr. Giroir, said early stumbles with testing — and the attitude within the White House that testing made the president look bad by driving up the number of case reports — were a serious problem in the administration’s response.

And the problems with testing went beyond simply Mr. Trump’s obsession with optics. Dr. Giroir said that the administration simply did not have as many tests as top officials claimed at the time.

“When we said there were millions of tests — there weren’t, right?,” he said. “There were components of the test available but not the full deal.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/28/world/cnn-birx-fauci-giroir-interviews-trump.html

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