COVID19 🦠 Newsbites
U.S. Risks a 'Fourth Wave' Fueled by Variants and Eased Restrictions, Fauci Warns
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been warning about it since January: A more contagious and possibly deadlier variant of the coronavirus, first found in Britain, is likely to become predominant in the United States, perhaps leading to a wrenching surge in cases and deaths.

The first part of that warning seems to be coming true: The variant, known as B.1.1.7, is doubling its share of all new U.S. cases about every 10 days.


But the second part is harder to make out, at least so far. The steep fall in new cases from the January peak halted in mid-February, but the trend since then has been roughly steady or only slightly downward, rather than a feared “fourth wave.”

Experts are not sure why. The accelerating pace of vaccinations and the remaining virus-control measures in much of the country might be balancing out the spread of the more contagious variant, so that total cases neither rise nor fall very much. But it is difficult to know how long that equilibrium might last, or whether the next clear turn in the trend will be upward or downward.

The risk of a surge has by no means passed, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser on Covid-19, warned on Sunday.

The nation was averaging about 60,000 new cases a day as of Saturday, according to a New York Times database. That is the lowest seven-day average since October and about 10 percent below the average on Feb. 21, when the steep decline slowed. Still, the figure is close to the peak level of the surge last summer. Death reports are also falling but remain high, regularly topping 2,000 a day.

In an interview Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation,” Dr. Fauci said that over the past week and a half, the decline in cases had stalled. “We’re plateauing at quite a high level — 60 to 70,000 new infections per day is quite high,” he said.

This trend is particularly worrisome, he said, because in the United States over the past year, when the daily level of new infections plateaued at a high level, surges in cases followed. And recently in Europe, infection levels were declining, then plateaued and “over the last week or so, they’ve had about a 9 percent increase in cases,” Dr. Fauci said.

Experts say they need more data to understand why the United States has not yet seen a surge in cases as the fearsome B.1.1.7 variant has spread so rapidly, already accounting for more than one-fifth of new cases.

... The best way to prevent further spread is to “get people vaccinated as quickly and as expeditiously as possible and, above all, maintain the public health measures that we talk about so often: the masking, the physical distancing, and the avoiding of congregate settings, particularly indoors.” Dr. Fauci said. “That’s what you can do to prevent the spread of a worrisome variant.”
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/07/world/covid-variant-us-cases.html

US officials believe Russia launched a disinformation campaign against the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to boost the status of its own: Report
  • Russian intelligence is sowing disinformation about the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine, the WSJ reported.
  • Four foreign-owned outlets are disseminating info that questions the Pfizer vaccine's efficacy and safety.
  • US intelligence believes this effort to undermine Pfizer is a way to bolster Russia's vaccine.
Russia is pedaling misleading information designed to make Americans question whether the US rushed the approval process for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

"We can say these outlets are directly linked to Russian intelligence services," an official at the State Department's Global Engagement Center told the newspaper. "They're all foreign-owned, based outside of the United States. They vary a lot in their reach, their tone, their audience, but they're all part of the Russian propaganda and disinformation ecosystem."
Read the full article: https://www.businessinsider.com/russia-trying-to-sow-public-doubt-about-pfizer-covid19-vaccine-2021-3

Pope Francis' Iraq Trip Ends, but Coronavirus Fears Remain
The virus is far more easily transmitted indoors than outdoors, but most Iraqis wrongly believe that there is no outdoor transmission at all. In some cities where the pope appeared, thousands of people jammed together in the streets to await his arrival. At services, choirs were generally unmasked.

At a Mass in the town of Qaraqosh, about half the congregation was unmasked. Another service, on Sunday, was held in a stadium in Erbil, the Iraqi Kurdistan regional capital. Church officials had said that about 5,000 tickets would be distributed, but Kurdish television reported that about 10,000 people attended.


In the streets of Ankawa, the Christian enclave of Erbil, thousands of people holding flowers and olive branches stood behind plastic tape strung between barriers, hoping to catch a glimpse of the pope as he drove to the stadium. Musicians played drums and flutes as children danced on the sidewalk.

The pope himself was sometimes masked, sometimes not. He did not wear one when first arriving in Baghdad. Photos and a brief video of a meeting with one of Iraq’s most revered and vulnerable residents, 90-year-old Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, showed neither the pope nor the Shiite cleric masked.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/07/world/Pope-Francis-coronavirus-Iraq.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