COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
Psaki refuses to praise Trump's role in vaccine distribution plan: 'I don't think anyone deserves credit when half a million people in the country have died'
  • Jen Psaki on Thursday refused to praise the Trump administration for its vaccine rollout.
  • "I don't think anyone deserves credit when half a million people in the country have died," she said.
  • Biden announced this week that there will be enough vaccines for every American adult by the end of May.
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COVID advice needs to be hopeful and realistic — and needs to tell people vaccines allow less restriction
  • Texas and Mississippi are lifting COVID restrictions too soon.
  • To get people to wait, you need to level with them about how long they'll be waiting.
  • That message should be "weeks, not months," because of the rapid vaccine rollout.
Gottlieb urged public officials to set date-specific targets for when in the future they expect to lift restrictions. This provides hope to the public and a good argument for continuing to comply with restrictions for now.

"March is a little bit premature, I think, to lift everything, but certainly getting on a glide path towards lifting a lot of these provisions right now makes sense," he said.

But he is worried the new CDC guidance about vaccines will instead be "overly prescriptive and conservative" — so onerous that people will just ignore it. Instead of making it seem like a choice between Texas-style free for all or months more of tight restrictions — which would result in many people choosing the former — a middle ground can keep people safe and encouraged to get the vaccine.

... Our lives are about to get a lot better. It's not just okay to say that — it's necessary, if you want people to listen to you about what to do along the way.
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Covid-19 testing numbers dropped in the US -- here's why testing still matters
Without testing, there's no way to keep track of where the pandemic is headed and whether vaccines are working. And there's no way to make use of one of the most important tools for fighting infectious diseases: contact tracing.

"While the public may view vaccination as a priority right now - and it is a priority - widespread testing still is essential for infection control," Romney Humphries, medical director of the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, said during an Infectious Diseases Society of America briefing Thursday.

"This will help us track the real impact. Are we truly seeing a reduction in cases?" she said. Testing can also help track variants.
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Fauci: US shouldn't loosen coronavirus restrictions until daily new cases fall below 10,000
The US shouldn't ease its pandemic restrictions before the number of new coronavirus cases falls below 10,000 daily and a substantial proportion of Americans are vaccinated, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN yesterday.

The last time the US saw fewer than 10,000 new daily cases was almost a year ago, on March 22, 2020. The number hasn't fallen below 50,000 daily cases since mid-October, and the seven-day average on Wednesday was more than 64,000.

... "We will be pulling back," said Fauci, President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser. "We're now up to about 2 million vaccinations per day. That means every day that goes by, every week that goes by, you have more and more people protected."

Fauci's comments come as some states begin to pull back restrictions, including doing away with mask mandates, allowing businesses to fully open and increasing the number of people allowed at mass gatherings.

That is "inexplicable," Fauci said earlier.

Not only are tens of thousands of Americans infected each day, but research suggests variants threaten another surge.

"I understand the need to want to get back to normality, but you're only going to set yourself back if you just completely push aside the public health guidelines -- particularly when we're dealing with anywhere from 55 (thousand) to 70,000 infections per day in the United States," Fauci told CNN's Erin Burnett on Wednesday.
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The countries making dubious claims over Covid-19 -- and what that means for the world
For the past year, countries around the world have shared data on Covid-19 cases and deaths with WHO -- information that is crucial in informing the global fight against the disease. However, three countries -- Tanzania, Turkmenistan and North Korea -- are being either less than transparent or in denial about the scale of the problem by not updating or reporting any Covid-19 data.

The East African nation of Tanzania has not updated its Covid-19 data since early May, leaving the last number of reported confirmed cases at 509 and the death toll at 21.

The Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan, a secretive, highly authoritarian state, "has not reported any Covid-19 cases to WHO to date," according to a WHO statement. But human rights groups say the disease is spreading widely there.

North Korea similarly has not recorded a single case of Covid-19. Most experts view that claim as suspect, however. The reclusive country has tested only a fraction of its nearly 26-million-strong population and has a shared border with China, where the pandemic began.

... "We encourage all countries to share data -- publicly or to WHO -- as this allows us to track the disease globally," Nitzan added. "As Covid-19 is a communicable disease, tracking cases is especially important, aiding in a prompt and appropriate public health response."
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GOP governors scorn pandemic restrictions as they compete for primacy in a pro-Trump party
By dropping its mask mandate, Texas offers a case study in post-Trump opposition to the more cautious pandemic response embraced by Biden. Gov. Greg Abbott joined Govs. Kristi L. Noem of South Dakota and Ron DeSantis of Florida, all Republicans, who have channeled “the rising anger of conservative constituents over government efforts to curb the coronavirus".

The governors — responsive to a Republican electorate radicalized by the pandemic and inflamed by animus against experts and government regulations — are jockeying to present themselves as chief adversaries to President Biden. And with vaccine distribution ramping up, there is political risk in delaying a return to normalcy.

Governors of both parties have eased up in recent weeks, on things from indoor dining to athletics, in an early sign that the Biden administration’s science-first approach may have little purchase for people eager to resume their old lives — to shop, eat and take recreation as they please. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey (R) on Thursday bought her state, which also has lagged behind in immunizations, a little more time. She said she will extend the state’s mask mandate only through April 9.

“While I’m convinced a mask mandate has been the right thing to do, I also respect those who object and believe this was a step too far in government overreach,” she said.
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Dining at restaurants and the lack of mask mandates are each linked to the spread of the virus in the U.S., the C.D.C. says.

As officials in Texas and Mississippi lifted statewide mask mandates, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered fresh evidence of the importance of mask use in a new study on Friday. Wearing masks, the study reported, was linked to fewer infections with the coronavirus and Covid-19 deaths in counties across the United States.

The researchers also found that counties opening restaurants for on-premises dining — indoors or outdoors — saw a rise in daily infections about six weeks later, and an increase in Covid-19 death rates about two months later.

The study does not prove cause and effect, but the findings square with other research showing that masks prevent infection and that indoor spaces foster the spread of the virus through aerosols, tiny respiratory particles that linger in the air.

“You have decreases in cases and deaths when you wear masks, and you have increases in cases and deaths when you have in-person restaurant dining,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the C.D.C., said on Friday. “And so we would advocate for policies, certainly while we’re at this plateau of a high number of cases, that would listen to that public health science.”

The findings come as city and state officials nationwide grapple with growing pressure to reopen schools and businesses amid falling rates of new cases and deaths. Officials have recently allowed for limited indoor dining in New York City. And on Thursday, Connecticut’s governor said would be ending capacity limits later this month on restaurants, gyms and offices. Masks remain required in both places.

Coronavirus cases and deaths are down significantly across the country compared to the devastating peaks around the holidays. But as more cases of worrisome virus variants have been detected and the U.S. vaccination campaign continues, President Biden and his team have stressed in recent days that now is not the time for Americans to relax, particularly on wearing masks.

... “The message is, if restaurants are going to open for on-premise dining, it’s important to follow C.D.C. guidelines to do so safely and effectively,” Dr. Guy said.
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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