Industries from airlines to cruise ships to automakers are awaiting more details on the potential impact of the omicron variant to their businesses, Reuters reported. While markets crashed last Friday, wiping off nearly $2 trillion globally, the markets have thus far been calmer on Monday, despite the World Health Organization warned that the variant poses a high risk globally. Airlines are again dealing with global travel restrictions, with countries like Japan closing their doors to foreigners while many countries have banned travel to southern Africa. Automobile companies in the U.S., which shuttered their plants for two months in 2020, say they are watching the new variant. "We continue to strongly encourage our employees to get vaccinated given the broad availability of safe and highly efficacious vaccines," General Motors spokeswoman Maria Raynal said. "We will continue to review and adjust our protocols as new information regarding this variant becomes available." President Joe Biden is planning to meet with chief executives of major retailers on Monday to discuss how to ensure shelves are stocked for the U.S. holiday season.
On Sunday, Nov. 28, the TSA reached a new pandemic high in screening individuals nationwide. Across the entire U.S., 2,451,300 individuals were screened by the TSA on Sunday, TSA Public Affairs spokesperson Lisa Farbstein said on Twitter. Farbstein said that the checkpoint volume for the 10 days leading up to Sunday, as well as Sunday, was 89% of what pre-pandemic levels were at 20.9 million.
In an address to his nation, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said that the omicron variant may lead to a new surge in cases in South Africa, Bloomberg reported. The variant has shown up in all of South Africa’s provinces, but experts have yet to determine whether the variant increases the risk of reinfection, is more transmissible or more severe. “If cases continue to climb, we can expect to enter a fourth wave of infections within the next few weeks, if not sooner,” Ramaphosa said. Still, the government is keeping the country’s virus alert level at its lowest, saying it is premature to enact stringent restrictions. “We are still not sure how exactly [omicron] will behave going forward,” Ramaphosa said. Ramaphosa also blasted nations worldwide for banning travel from South Africa and other southern African nations, calling the bans discriminatory and unjustified. “We call on countries that have implemented travel bans to immediately lift these restrictions,” he said. To see more of Ramaphosa’s address, watch the video below.
Dallas Cowboys’ head coach Mike McCarthy has tested positive for COVID-19 and will be unavailable to coach Thursday’s game against the New Orleans Saints, ESPN reported. According to a statement from the Cowboys, McCarthy “will continue to direct, and be in involved in, all meetings and game preparations on a virtual basis for the remainder of the week, including Thursday's meetings in New Orleans.” The Cowboys are dealing with a large outbreak within the team’s coaching staff, with at least four other coaches out for Thursday’s game with COVID-19. So far, right tackle Terence Steele is the only player that is ineligible to play this week due to being on the league’s COVID-19 list, though ESPN’s Adam Schefter was told earlier on Monday that there are up to 8 positive tests within the team.
FILE - President Joe Biden speaks as he announces that he is nominating Jerome Powell for a second four-year term as Federal Reserve chair, during an event in the South Court Auditorium on the White House complex in Washington, Nov. 22, 2021. Biden will urge Americans to get vaccinated and receive a booster shot as he seeks to quell concerns Monday over the new COVID-19 variant omicron, but won't immediately push for more restrictions to stop its spread, his chief medical adviser said.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
The omicron variant is “not a cause for panic” in the U.S., President Joe Biden said on Monday. Biden provided an update on the COVID-19 variant on Monday to ensure residents that the administration is working quickly to prevent the spread of the virus. "We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we're learning more every single day,” Biden said, CNN reports. ”We’ll fight this variant with scientific and knowledgeable actions and speed -- not chaos and confusion.” He also encouraged Americans to get vaccinated, as well as receive their booster shots, against COVID-19.
In a technical brief issued Sunday, the World Health Organization warned that the omicron variant poses a “very high” risk as it may spread even faster than delta and may be resistant to vaccines and naturally acquired immunity, NPR reported. The WHO added that the risk to vulnerable populations in countries with lower vaccination rates could be “substantial.” However, large amounts of uncertainty remain over the variant’s transmissibility, severity and immune escape potential. "The vaccines were designed, basically, to keep people out of hospital, and they've stood up and they've done that very well," said WHO spokesperson Dr. Margaret Harris. "So we really need to know whether this particular version is going to change that picture." No deaths have currently been linked to the omicron variant, nor have there been any reported cases in the United States., though White House chief medical adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci believes that the omicron variant’s spread in the U.S. is inevitable.
As concerns rise over the omicron variant, New York City has issued an advisory strongly recommending that everyone in New York City wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status, CNBC reported. Dr. David Chokshi, the commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, says that the city is likely to detect an omicron case in a matter of days. “There are no omicron cases here in New York City at this moment. It is very likely there will be, but there are no cases at this moment,” said New York City mayor Bill de Blasio. “Our entire focus once again is going to be on vaccination. Based on everything we know, vaccination is crucial to any strategy for addressing omicron.” Meanwhile, a winter surge may already be hitting New York City a few weeks ahead of winter's official arrival, according to a report by Bloomberg. Hospitals in the Big Apple have seen a 25% rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations over the last two weeks.
The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that the Omicron COVID-19 variant could have "severe consequences” for parts of the world that are not able to contain it. According to UPI, the WHO said that the main concern surrounding the new variant is its capacity to mutate rapidly. The organization called for an increase in surveillance and sequencing efforts surrounding the variant. ”Given mutations that may confer immune escape potential and possibly transmissibility advantage, the likelihood of potential further spread of Omicron at the global level is high,” WHO said in a briefing on Sunday.
A petrol attendant uses next to a newspaper headline in Pretoria, South Africa, Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. As the world grapples with the emergence of the new variant of COVID-19, scientists in South Africa — where omicron was first identified — are scrambling to combat its spread across the country.. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert for the United States, said in an interview with Good Morning America that while there are no confirmed omicron cases in the country, officials remain on alert. Fauci added that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conduct variant surveillance in the United States, is actively looking for cases of the variant. “It's inevitable that sooner or later it's going to spread widely,” Fauci said, adding that the variant’s make up suggests it is highly transmissible.While some reports in South Africa and Israel suggest that omicron cases could be milder, Fauci says that he has heard from his colleagues that it will take at least another week or two to know the true severity of an omicron case. “There are three different kinds of individuals there, there are those who have not been vaccinated, there are those who have been vaccinated and there are those who have been infected and recovered, so the real question is how does this particular virus effect with regard to severity any of these groups,” Fauci said. For more of Dr. Fauci’s interview, watch the video below.
With many states not reporting new cases or vaccination numbers over the Thanksgiving holiday, the seven-day average of vaccines administered dropped down to less than 428,000, according to Johns Hopkins University figures. The seven-day average number of new COVID-19 cases also continued to drop, falling to just over 70,000 new cases. The positivity ratio, a measure of the percentage of tests that return a positive result, came in at 5.76%. Even with limited reporting, the United States posted the highest seven-day average of new coronavirus cases globally, followed by Germany, the United Kingdom and Russia. For more facts and figures on the state of the pandemic, watch the video below.
Coronavirus cases across the Czech Republic skyrocketed to a new record high on Tuesday after seeing nearly 26,000 daily cases, the Health Ministry said Wednesday. The total 25,864 cases recorded Tuesday amounted to roughly 3,000 more than the previous record recorded on Friday, ABC News reported. Over the past week, the country’s infection rate has nearly doubled compared to two weeks ago, leading the government to consider mandatory vaccination for certain groups of people who would be considered more vulnerable to the virus. Roughly 58% of the Czech population is fully vaccinated. The nation is also considering shortening the required time between the second shot and the booster from six to five months, according to ABC News.
Vaccinating any large chunk of the population limits the ability for the virus to mutate, providing yet another reason for Americans to vaccinate kids, The Associated Press reported. Cadell Walker, a mother of a 9-year-old girl, said getting her vaccinated was part of protecting her community. “Love thy neighbor is something that we really do believe, and we want to be good community members and want to model that thinking for our daughter,” Walker said. “The only way to really beat COVID is for all of us collectively to work together for the greater good.” Vaccinating kids also reduces the amount of asymptomatic spread, as most kids have little to no symptoms when they catch the disease. According to estimates from the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub, vaccinating all 5-to 11-year-olds could prevent 430,000 new COVID-19 cases from November through March 12, 2022.
Unable to halt an outbreak of the delta variant, New Zealand will adopt a new system of living with the virus, adopting a “traffic light” system for managing the disease, The Guardian reported. In the new system, regions will be put into a red, orange or green level that is based on the level of coronavirus spread and a regions’ vaccination rate. Auckland, the country’s capital city which has been in lockdown for more than 90 days, will begin at red. The new rules will allow the vaccinated to visit restaurants, bars, hairdressers and gyms even if the alert system rises to its highest level. However, for the unvaccinated, most hospitality businesses will be closed to the unvaccinated when alert levels rise. Of eligible New Zealanders, 91% have had at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, with 83% already fully vaccinated.
In a blog post, National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins revealed that an NIH study has potentially unveiled part of the mystery behind the delta variant’s impressive transmissibility. While many had assumed it was related just to mutations in the virus’s spike proteins, it turns out that a mutation in N protein region of the delta genome allows the virus to infect host cells with more of its RNA code. This finding matches what has been observed with the delta variant, which causes more virus production in the nose and throat than in other variants. Future therapeutics and treatments might be able to target the N protein to help slow the spread of the virus, Collins wrote.
Having certain mental health conditions can place people at a higher risk of contracting a severe case of COVID-19, NPR reported. In fact, the United States’ government even prioritized booster shots for those with mental health conditions alongside physical conditions like diabetes and heart disease. Numerous studies have found a link between COVID-19 and mental health. “What we found was we had a higher level of mortality for those that had a prior psychiatric history,” said psychiatrist Dr. Luming Li, the Chief Medical Officer at the Harris Center for Mental Health and IDD in Texas. The study found that the risk of dying from the coronavirus goes up by 50% for those who have a history of mental illness compared to those who have no such history. A separate study found that having a mental disorder makes someone more likely to get infected. Researchers theorize that mental illnesses may change people’s behaviors to make them less likely to protect themselves and that people with mental illnesses tend to have poor health overall.
A pair of warehouses in Cape Town, South Africa, is the site of the efforts of a start-up that aims to reverse engineer the Moderna vaccine to help distribute vaccines across Africa, CBS News reported. Just 10% of people in Africa have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to more than 60% in North America and Europe. Petro Terblance, the managing director of Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, says that the company hopes to overcome these inequalities. "We can legally take this vaccine up to clinical trials without infringing any intellectual property," explained Terblanche, who added that they would need a license agreement with Moderna to distribute the vaccine. The company even hopes to improve the vaccine, making a version that does not require cold storage, with Terblanche says that the company looks forward to surprising the rest of the world with its capabilities. “We can, and we will.”
Just days after receiving his COVID-19 booster shot, Russian President Vladimir Putin says he has also taken an experimental nasal vaccine, The Associated Press reported. The nasal vaccine, which is being produced by Russia’s state-funded Gamaleya Center, the same institution that developed the country’s Sputnik V and Sputnik Light vaccines, says the nasal vaccine has not yet gone through clinical studies. Russia’s Health Ministry authorized a trial of the nasal vaccine on 500 volunteers last month. Putin says that he experienced no side effects from the nasal vaccine. "Exactly six months after vaccination," Putin said, the concentration of antibodies in his blood had dropped "and specialists recommended the procedure of revaccination, which I did.” Many Russians are skeptical about the benefits of Russia’s domestically engineered vaccines, with fewer than 40% of the population fully vaccinated despite cases and deaths surging to record highs over the past few weeks.
Actor Steve Burton, who has played Jason Morgan in more than 2,200 episodes of General Hospital, has been fired from the ABC soap opera after failing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, NBC News reported. Burton announced that he had been let go by the network on his Instagram account. “I did apply for my medical and religious exemptions, and both of those were denied. Which, you know, hurts. But this is also about personal freedom to me. I don't think anybody should lose their livelihood over this,” Burton said. Burton did not rule out a return to the show, saying that he might be able to finish his career as Jason Morgan if the vaccine mandate is lifted. Spoiler warning – in the latest episodes of the series, Burton’s character has been trapped in a cave and is presumed missing or dead.
South Korea is dealing with its largest coronavirus outbreak since the pandemic began, reporting more than 4,100 cases on Wednesday. According to reporting from Reuters, at the center of one of the country’s outbreaks is a small religious sect south of Seoul. The religious community, of which 90% is unvaccinated, lives in close contact with each other. "I believe it's the church's anti-government beliefs that refrained the believers to get the vaccine," a local official said, adding that the town that hosted the sect has been placed under lockdown. The pastor preforms an unusual ritual known as the “imposition of hands on eyes,” poking parishioners eyes to rid them of secular desire. "Such act is extremely dangerous and nonbiblical. It is an outright ban in Korean Christianity," Jung Yuon-seok, a cult expert at a think tank, told Reuters.
The price of oil has fallen sharply as the emergence of a new coronavirus variant in southern Africa has raised concerns worldwide, Al Jazeera reported. According to the most recent figures from OilPrice.com, the price of crude oil has dipped more than 12% down to $68.9 a barrel. Many global market indexes also saw their values drop as traders react to the threat of the new variant, which may be more transmissible and could evade the immunity provided by vaccines and previous infections. “This is a huge overreaction in terms of the market,” Amrita Sen, chief oil analyst at consultant Energy Aspects Ltd., told Bloomberg. “This is the market pricing in the worst possible scenarios.” Several countries have halted travel to southern Africa in response to the new variant.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said the U.S. is “rushing now to get that scientific data” in regards to the new COVID-19 variant that has emerged out of southern Africa. As countries in Europe and Asia have enacted new travel restrictions to the region, Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said U.S. health officials are “prepared to do everything you need to do to protect the American public,” according to Axios. “We want to find out, scientist-to-scientist, exactly what is going on,” Fauci said. “Right now, you’re talking about sort of like a red flag that this might be an issue, but we don’t know.”
The Biden administration on Friday said it will ban travelers from eight south African countries from entering the U.S. amid fears over the new emerging omicron variant, The Washington Post reported. The travel restrictions take effect Monday and apply to travelers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, and Malawi. U.S. officials were consulting with doctors in South Africa Friday to better understand this latest coronavirus variant. Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Joe Biden’s chief medical adviser, said scientists are specifically concerned about whether the vaccines work against the new variant. “We want to find out scientist-to-scientist exactly what is going on,” Fauci said of the meeting. He noted that more data is needed before recommending further action. U.S. officials’ move comes just hours after the European Union and Asian nations immediately restricted flights from six African countries. The variant initially known as B.1.1.529 was first detected in Botswana and Belgium.
The World Health Organization has assigned the Greek letter Omicron to the latest COVID-19 strain, which was recently identified in South Africa. Previously referred to as B.1.1.529, the variant was given the Greek letter designation following a summit of WHO officials. According to CNBC, around 100 omicron variant genomes have been identified in South Africa since cases first appeared in the country’s Gauteng province.
“This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the WHO said in a Friday statement. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other VOCs.”
People with masks walk at a shopping mall in Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday Nov. 26, 2021. Advisers to the World Health Organization are holding a special session Friday to flesh out information about a worrying new variant of the coronavirus that has emerged in South Africa, though its impact on COVID-19 vaccines may not be known for weeks. (AP Photo/Denis Farrell)
Pfizer and BioNTech have released a statement saying that they are monitoring the new, heavily mutated variant first detected in southern Africa, CNBC reported. Lab tests on the variant’s ability to evade the immunity provided by the vaccine are expected to be completed in two weeks. “These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally,” the companies said. Pfizer and BioNTech have previously stated that it will take them just six weeks to adapt their mRNA vaccine to new variants, saying doses can be shipped within 100 days.
Meanwhile, Johnson & Johnson says it has already started testing its vaccine against the new variant, which is expected to be named nu. “We are closely monitoring newly emerging COVID-19 virus strains with variations in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and are already testing the effectiveness of our vaccine against the new and rapidly spreading variant first detected in southern Africa,” the company said. The new variant has more than two dozen mutations to its spike protein, which is what allows the virus to bind to human cells. Little data exists on whether the new variant is more transmissible, more severe or resists immunity, but that has not stopped the European Union and other nations from temporarily halting travel from many countries in southern Africa.
On Friday, the Israeli Health Ministry announced that it detected the first case of a new, highly mutated coronavirus variant that was first discovered in Botswana, The Times of Israel reported. The infected individual was an Israeli citizen who had returned from Malwai; two others are also expected to the infected with the variant. All three of the likely infected individuals were vaccinated. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett banned the entry of foreigners from several southern African countries on Thursday night in response to the discovery of the variant. Bennett also ordered the government to buy testing kits that can detect the new variant. Israelis who return from the African countries of South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia and Eswatini will be required to isolate for a week and test negative twice.
Countries in the European Union have moved quickly to block flights from six African nations after cases of the B.1.1.529 variant were detected in the region, CNN reported. The variant, expected to be named the nu variant, has nearly double the number of mutations as the delta variant, causing some experts to fear it may evade vaccines and known treatment methods. Italy, Austria, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Malta have all announced travel restrictions against the region. Asian nations have also begun banning travel, including Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. The United States has not yet announced any new travel bans related to the variant’s emergence. "As soon as we find more information, we'll make a decision as quickly as we possibly can,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden.
Over 100 children in Iowa were recently given the wrong dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and MercyOne Hospital said new procedures are being implemented to prevent it from happening again. According to a statement, the Des Moines hospital said the children, aged 12 and under, were given 20 micrograms of the Pfizer vaccine rather than the prescribed 10-microgram dose. The adult dosage is 30 micrograms, according to The Associated Press. The hospital added that the higher dosage could lead to increased side effects for the children.
To slow the spread of the coronavirus and preserve the crucial winter ski tourism season, 20 small Italian towns in the northern Italian province of South Tyrol have entered a partial lockdown, The Associated Press reported. The restrictions include a nighttime curfew, the closure of bars and restaurants after 6 p.m. and mandating face masks on public transportation. South Tyrol, which borders recently locked down Austria, has consistently been among the least vaccinated in Italy. The towns are reporting more than 800 cases per 100,000 residents each week, with a vaccination rate of less than 70% of the population that is eligible to get the virus. Italy is more than 84% fully vaccinated, but, like other European countries, is seeing its caseload rise slightly.
Belgium has detected its first case of a new variant that was first identified in the country of Botswana, located in southern Africa, Reuters reported. Mar Van Ranst, a virologist who works in Belgium, tweeted out news of the discovery, saying the new variant was found in a traveler who returned to Belgium from Egypt on Nov. 11. The variant has not been formally identified in Egypt, though. The infected individual first developed symptoms on Nov. 22, 11 days after returning to Belgium. Health experts fear that the new variant may resist vaccines and treatment, leading countries like France and the United Kingdom to ban travel from Southern Africa, France 24 reported.
Following the identification of a new, troubling coronavirus variant in Botswana, market indexes around the world are seeing drops, CNBC reported. Dow Jones Industrial Average futures dipped by 756 points, or 2.11%. Markets in Asia also saw major dips, with Japan’s Nikkei 225 and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng index each falling by more than 2%. Travel-related stocks have also been hit hard, with airline stocks down more than 7%, and cruise ship companies like Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean down more than 10% in premarket trading. “It’s important to stress that very little is known at this point about this latest strain, including whether it can evade vaccines or how severe it is relative to other mutations. Therefore, it’s hard to make any informed investment decisions at this point,” Bespoke Investment Group’s Paul Hickey said.
France announced Thursday that all adults will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster shot in light of a “fifth wave” of infections. The shots will be available to anyone age 18 or older starting Saturday, and the wait time following the second dose of the initial vaccination was reduced from six to five months, UPI reported. The booster shot will become a requirement for a valid “vaccine passport” following Jan. 15, French Health Minister Olivier Veran announced. The passports allow users to enter restaurants and other public spaces and will expire for those who have not received the booster seven months after their last shot.
Despite three nights of rioting after the Dutch government said it would consider restricting the unvaccinated’s access to public places, the nation’s government is set to introduce new pandemic curbs on Friday, Reuters reported. Despite 85% of the Netherlands’ adult population being vaccinated against the coronavirus, new cases surged to a record 23,709 on Wednesday, a nearly 40% rise from the previous week. "The infection rate is higher than ever before," Prime Minister De Jonge wrote in letter to parliament. "Hospital admissions keep exceeding expectations and we have not seen the worst yet." The Dutch government has already introduced mask-wearing requirements and reimposed a partial lockdown, measures that have seemingly not stopped the rise in cases.
New Zealand is planning on allowing most fully vaccinated travelers into the country by April, allowing them to forgo mandatory quarantine period, The New York Times reported. Travelers will still face major restrictions, including a seven-day home isolation period and testing on departure and arrival into the country. About 84% of New Zealanders ages 12 and up are fully vaccinated, leaving some in the country’s tourism industry to push for restrictions to be loosened earlier. The tourism industry contributed nearly $30.2 billion to New Zealand’s economy and employed nearly 230,000 people before the coronavirus pandemic. “It’s very encouraging that we as a country are now in a position to move towards greater normality,” said Chris Hipkins, the minister responsible for New Zealand’s pandemic response. “I do want to emphasize, though, that travel in 2022 won’t necessarily be exactly the same as it was in pre-2020 travel.”
With many European nations breaking their all-time coronavirus case records despite being highly vaccinated, agencies are reconsidering lockdowns and their policies on booster shots, Reuters reported. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) significantly shifted its guidance, recommending boosters for all adults over 40s; previous guidance said extra doses should only be considered for the elderly and immunocompromised. "Available evidence emerging from Israel and the U.K. shows a significant increase in protection against infection and severe disease following a booster dose in all age groups in the short term," the ECDC said Wednesday. Other E.U. countries are being advised to speed up their booster shot rollouts. “[Boosters] could potentially reduce the transmission in the population and prevent additional hospitalizations and deaths,” said ECDC head Andrea Ammon.
Portugal officials are bringing back some restrictions despite the country’s highly vaccinated population, The Associated Press reported. Prime Minister António Costa said Thursday that a recent influx in cases forced officials to act. Many pandemic restrictions were lifted two months ago after 86% of the population became fully vaccinated. Officials said wearing a face mask will become mandatory in enclosed spaces once again starting Dec. 1. In addition, proof of vaccination will be necessary to enter restaurants, movie theaters and hotels. Officials are also urging residents to work from home as much as possible, the AP said.
The Biden administration will require essential, nonresident travelers that cross U.S. land borders to be fully vaccinated beginning on Jan. 22, The Associated Press reported. The rules only pertain to those who are not American citizens or permanent residents. The rule had been delayed more than two months; non-essential visitors have been required to be vaccinated since Nov. 8. Truck drivers, who are vital to trade across the North American continent, have been arguing against the mandate. “These requirements are another example of how impractical regulations will send safe drivers off the road,” said Norita Taylor, the spokeswoman for the trucking group Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association. About 47 million American adults remain unvaccinated.
Scientists reenact the calibration of equipment at an Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines facility in Cape Town, South Africa, Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. In a pair of warehouses converted into airlocked sterile rooms, young scientists are assembling the equipment needed to reverse engineer a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to reach South Africa and most of the world's poor. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)
A new variant of the coronavirus has been identified in South Africa, and scientists in the country have detected almost 100 cases linked to the new variant, Bloomberg reported. The variant is being identified as B.1.1529, until officials assign it a Greek letter. “Here is a mutation variant of serious concern,” South Africa’s Health Minister, Joe Phaahla, said at a press conference. “We were hopeful that we might have a longer break in between waves -- possibly that it would hold off to late December or even next year January.” Officials in South Africa are now wary of this new variant causing the fourth wave of the virus to spread through the country and elsewhere around the globe.
The Danish Health Authority approved the use of COVID-19 booster shots as cases and hospitalizations continue to rise across the country, The Associated Press reported. Thursday’s announcement will allow anyone in Denmark that is 18 or older to get a third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Previously, the booster shot was only eligible to older people and others at a higher risk of severe complications. The Danish Health Authority said that the decline in immunity in younger age groups was one of the reasons for approving the booster shots. As of Thursday, 86.4% of adults in Denmark were fully vaccinated, the AP said.
A new coronavirus variant that contains an “extremely high number” of mutations has been discovered in Africa, The Guardian reported. The variant’s genomic structure has sparked concern because the mutations may help the new strain evade immunity. In a series of tweets, Dr. Tom Peacock, a virologist at the Imperial College of London, said that the high amount of spike mutations in the variant was concerning, adding that the strain should “very, very much should be monitored due to that horrific spike profile”, but added that it may turn out to not be very transmissible. “I hope that’s the case,” he wrote. The first cases of the new variant were identified in Botswana on Nov. 11, with another case in South Africa discovered three days later.
Mayor Michael Hancock announced that the city of Denver will be requiring people to wear masks indoors until Jan. 3, unless stores and venues check patrons’ vaccine cards the door, Bloomberg reported. Colorado has seen a rise in cases that puts the state’s health care system at risk of being overwhelmed, with Denver’s hospitals alone at 95% capacity. “I know it’s disappointing that the decisions of some again mean additional restrictions on our vaccinated residents, and I certainty share in that disappointment,” Hancock added. Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has said that a statewide mask mandate is not being considered, but local authorities can implement the masking restrictions they choose. For more, watch the video below.
Unvaccinated NFL star Aaron Rodgers, who missed 10 days of the regular season after testing positive for the disease, said Wednesday that he suffered a fractured toe and is not suffering from an ailment known as "COVID toe," as he had claimed a day earlier. Rodgers has been suffering from a toe injury, the exact cause of which had been a mystery until he revealed more details on The Pat McAfee Show, calling the affliction “COVID toe" on Tuesday. But on Wednesday, according to Matt Schneidman, the Green Bay Packers beat reporter for The Athletic, Rodgers claimed he had been joking about the "COVID toe" ailment. "I have a fractured toe," Schneidman quoted Rodgers as having said.
The proper dermatological term for COVID toe is pernio or chilblains, which causes discoloration and lesions on the toes, which can be extremely painful, according to The Wall Street Journal. “The way I would think about it is it’s basically a side effect of how your own immune system is fighting the virus,” said Esther Freeman, a doctor for the COVID-19 Dermatology Registry. “It’s part of our body’s response to the response to the virus. It’s almost too much of a good thing.” The condition can make it painful for patients to wear shoes and cold weather, like that in Green Bay, Wisconsin, can aggravate the condition. “The best way to avoid COVID toes is to get vaccinated,” Freeman told the Journal.
With cases rising across the country as millions of Americans travel for the Thanksgiving holidays, health care workers are preparing for COVID cases to continue to rise, The Guardian reported. Unlike last years’ holidays, though, tools like booster shots and vaccines could limit the spread. Antiviral medications from Merck and Pfizer may also be authorized in the coming weeks, but they could come too late for many Americans. “It is a race against time,” said Kyle Enfield, the associate chief medical officer of critical care at University of Virginia Health. More than 92,000 Americans are infected every day with more than a thousand dying. Still, 20 million Americans are expected to fly this Thanksgiving. “I do think that we are likely going to see an increase in cases over the next couple of weeks,” said Enfield. “Winter can be a busy time in the hospital because of the regular flu and pneumonia [cases] that people get, but this year, I think we’re going to add in ongoing Covid transmission.”
Doug Jones, a former pitcher for the Houston Astros, has died from complications from COVID-19, according to his former teammate Greg Swindell, The Houston Chronicle reported. Jones, who posted 62 career saves over his career with the Astros, was 64. "Sad to tweet that a long time friend, teammate, husband, father, grandfather and one hell of a pitcher Doug Jones has passed from complications from COVID," Swindell tweeted on Monday afternoon. "RIP JONSEY. Please keep the family in your prayers." Jones posted one of his five All-Star seasons with the Astros, saving 36 games. It is unknown whether Jones was vaccinated against COVID-19.
Israel is starting to vaccinate kids ages 5-11 with doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as infections rise again in the country, Reuters reported. Nearly half of Israel’s newly confirmed infections are among kids ages 11 and under. "The kids go to school, they (mix) with (other) kids, and they are doing a lot of social activities. We are very excited (to) vaccinate them and get (back) to normal life," said Katy Bai Shalom, whose son and daughter were vaccinated on Monday. Of the 9.4 million people in Israel, nearly 1.2 million are 5-to-11, and scientists and officials do not believe it is possible that the country can reach “herd immunity” without vaccinating kids. One poll from Israeli healthcare provider Maccabi found 41% of parents were positive that they will get their kids vaccinated, while 38% say they will not.
Despite cases rising nationwide, the latest Yahoo News/You Gov poll shows that 74 percent of Americans say that their lives have returned to “normal,” Yahoo News reported. Just 15 percent of adults say that the pandemic did not stop their lives from being normal. Just 19 percent of adults say that the pandemic still makes their daily life “not very normal” with just 7 percent saying their lives are “not normal at all.” The unvaccinated, which account for nearly all coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths, are very likely to say their lives are normal today, with 27 percent saying their lives never stopped being normal during the pandemic. The survey data suggests that those who are least protected against the coronavirus are the more confident that the pandemic is over. For more survey results, read the full article here.
Pfizer board member, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, says breakthrough COVID-19 infections are more common than people realize. Speaking to CNBC, Gottlieb said people should get their boosters as soon as possible because “there’s probably more infection happening among the vaccinated population” than the U.S. is currently monitoring.Covid vaccines diminish over time which means breakthrough infections are likely to happen in people nearly a year after becoming fully immunized. Getting a booster will almost immediately restore the antibody protection to original levels. While appearing on CNBC, Gottlieb urged Americans to get booster shots before Thanksgiving and advised parents to bring unvaccinated kids for shots before the holidays because children receive more immunity from their first dose than adults.
More than 92,000 new coronavirus cases and 1,462 coronavirus deaths were reported on Wednesday as Americans are set to gather for Thanksgiving, according to Johns Hopkins University figures. The seven-day average number of new cases continues to steadily climb towards 100,000 a day. More than 2 million coronavirus tests were recorded, and the positivity ratio, a measure of the percentage of tests that return a positive result, continues to hover just above 6%. Worldwide, the U.S. leads the world in reporting the highest seven-day average of new cases reported, followed by Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and France. For more facts and figures on the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, watch the video below.
Medical experts in Michigan are sounding the alarm as hospitalizations in the state climb to their highest numbers since the start of the pandemic, WXYZ News reported. According to a press release from the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, there are more than 3,700 hospitalized COVID-19 patients in the state with 784 in intensive care units. “The reality is most hospitals throughout the state have more patients in their emergency departments than they do available rooms and staff to care for them,” the release read, noting that the “vast majority” of those in the ICU are unvaccinated. Michigan’s medical leaders are urging the unvaccinated to get vaccinated as soon as possible and those who are eligible to get their booster shots.
As infections numbers skyrocket and hospitals become overwhelmed, the Dutch government is making social-distancing mandatory again for everyone 18 and over beginning Wednesday. According to the Associated Press, infection numbers climbed 39% Tuesday, hitting a new weekly record. The country’s public health institute also reported 265 COVID-19 deaths last week, raising the pandemic death toll in the Netherlands above 19,000. The new numbers were released as the government introduced legislation to restrict access for unvaccinated people to bars, restaurants and museums if infections keep rising.
A new mask mandate is about to go into effect in Denver on Wednesday, Nov. 24, with new infections and hospitalizations increasing across the city. Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock made the announcement on Tuesday morning, less than 24 hours before the new health order goes into effect. “If we don’t reduce this stress on our hospitals now, the impacts on capacity will mean those who need care, whether they have COVID or something else, could see that care being reduced or even rationed – and that will cost lives,” Hancock said.
Starting on Wednesday, anyone at least two years of age or older will be required to wear a face covering when at any indoor public area. Some exemptions will be permitted, including those who are under the age of two, people who “cannot medically tolerate a face covering” and people eating at a restaurant. A full list of the exceptions can be found here. The new health mandate is currently set to expire on Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.
A phase 3 trial from Pfizer and BioNTech has found that the companies’ vaccine for kids ages 12-15 was 100% effective in preventing coronavirus infections, Fox Business reported. Both companies hope that the finding will speed the process for full regulatory approval of the vaccine in the U.S. and globally. The trial, which had over 2,000 participants, saw 30 COVID-19 cases in the placebo group while none were reported in the group that received the vaccine. Data was collected from Nov. 2020 to Sept. 2021, a timeframe that includes the spread of delta. No serious side effects were noticed in the treatment group. "As the global health community works to increase the number of vaccinated people around the world, these additional data provide further confidence in our vaccine’s safety and effectiveness profile in adolescents," Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. "This is especially important as we see rates of COVID-19 climbing in this age group in some regions, while vaccine uptake has slowed."
Germany’s Defense Ministry is set to make coronavirus shots mandatory for soldiers and officers in the German military, adding the jab to the list of mandatory inoculations all soldiers must get, The Associated Press reported. The move to make soldiers get vaccinated against COVID-19 comes as some in the country debate making the vaccine compulsory for all. Currently, there are 1,215 active coronavirus cases within members of the military and the Defense Ministry’s civilian staff; just 2 German soldiers have died from the virus since the pandemic began. About 68% of Germany’s population has been fully vaccinated, less than the government’s target of at least 75%.
Projections from the World Health Organization’s Europe options show that more than 700,000 deaths are possible in the region over the spring as cases across the continent continue to rise, The Associated Press reported. WHO Europe also noted that there is growing evidence that the protection afforded by coronavirus vaccines wanes and argues that booster shots should be prioritized for the most vulnerable. “Today, the COVID-19 situation across Europe and Central Asia is very serious. We face a challenging winter ahead, but we should not be without hope, because all of us — governments, health authorities, individuals — can take decisive action to stabilize the pandemic,” said Dr. Kluge, the regional director for WHO Europe, in a statement. Cases are twice as high in the region as they were in September, with the delta variant, an easing of restrictions and unvaccinated members of society being blamed for the rise in cases. “We can expect that there will be high or extreme stress on hospital beds in 25 countries, and high or extreme stress in intensive care units (ICUs) in 49 out of 53 countries between now and March 1 2022,” a WHO Europe statement said.
French Prime Minister Jean Castex has tested positive for COVID-19. According to Politico, Castex received the news on Monday, just hours after meeting with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo. Both leaders are now self-isolating. Castex, who is fully vaccinated, according to the Washington Post, has recently been seen breaking precautionary recommendations, including shaking hands and speaking with people while unmasked. When asked about it at a routine press conference his spokesperson, Gabriel Attal, defended the prime minister. “We are all human ... There can be, from time to time, a moment of inattention.”
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department are advising against travel to Germany and Denmark, citing a rise in coronavirus cases in those countries, Reuters reported. The CDC’s travel recommendation scale, which ends with “Level Four: Very High,” was updated on Monday. Level Four, the level that Germany and Denmark were moved to, means that Americans should avoid all travel to those countries. There are currently about 75 countries at Level Four, including the European nations of Austria, Britain, Switzerland and Ireland, among others. The World Health Organization’s Hans Kluge is warning that the current transmission rates across Europe are far too high. "We must change our tactics, from reacting to surges of COVID-19, to preventing them from happening in the first place," Kluge said.
As families across the United States gather for Thanksgiving celebrations, experts are weighing in on how to protect the most vulnerable members of the family from the coronavirus, Reuters reported. The best advice is for people aged 5 and older to get vaccinated; about 59% of the U.S. population is currently vaccinated against the virus. Connie Perkins’ family is planning on celebrating Thanksgiving outdoors to avoid any inter-family conflicts over vaccination status. "We’re not going to present the opportunity for that to even come up and make anyone uncomfortable," Perkins said. Health officials say that as long as everyone is vaccinated, family members can safely gather indoors. However, with cases rising and many young kids not fully vaccinated, some are suggesting that outdoor gatherings and taking rapid tests can prevent Thanksgiving dinner from becoming the source of a family-wide outbreak.
Starting Dec. 21, unvaccinated Kenyans will be banned from bars, restaurants and public transportation, the BBC reported. Health Minister Mutahi Kagwe made the announcement, saying that the government hopes to boost the nation’s level of protection before the holiday season. "The current decline in the number of new infections may be attributed to a build-up of immunity both through natural exposure to the disease and the ongoing vaccination exercise,” Kagwe said. “Nonetheless we know that it's not yet time to celebrate.” Just 10% of Kenya’s population is fully vaccinated, meaning a large portion of the country could be barred from much of public life.
After three nights of violent protests in several Dutch cities, Prime Minister Mark Rutte spoke out publicly, calling the rioters “idiots,” Al Jazeera reported. About 145 people have been arrested across the country, with police firing shots to keep the crowd at bay. The protests are not the first that the Netherlands has seen since the pandemic – in January, rioters attacked police and set fires in Rotterdam. Rutte said he will defend the right to protest, but what he “will never accept is that idiots use pure violence against people … who keep this country safe,” and called the period of unrest “violence under the guise of protest.” The Netherlands is in the middle of a three-week partial lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Pete Petoniak, a meteorologist with the Fox-affiliated WLUK station in Wisconsin, has been hospitalized with the coronavirus, Newsweek reported. Despite being vaccinated, Petoniak was hospitalized with the disease, and his fellow anchors have asked their viewers to pray for his recovery. While COVID-19 vaccines are effective, breakthrough cases are expected, though hospitalizations are unusual. The vaccines do not 100% protect against illness and its protection wanes over time, leading the U.S. government to offer a booster shot to all American adults. "The better COVID-19 vaccines, the mRNAs, are, in fact, pretty good at protecting against infection, but some breakthroughs are inevitable," said John Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College. "However, these vaccines are still strongly protecting against serious COVID-19, which is why the overwhelming majority of the hospital-severity infections and deaths in the USA at the moment are in unvaccinated people."
While the number of new coronavirus cases is down in Russia, the number of deaths remains near the country’s record highs, The Associated Press reported. On Monday, 1,241 coronavirus deaths were reported, just 14 below the pandemic record of 1,254 new deaths, which occurred last week. Russia’s most recent surge in deaths and cases came as much of the population remained hesitant to get vaccinated, with the number of Russians fully vaccinated up to around 40% from 33% earlier in October. Russian President Vladimir Putin said he received a domestically developed boost shot on Sunday, saying he felt no side effects. The Russian statistical service, Rosstat, says about 462,000 Russians have died with the coronavirus between April 2020 and September 2021.
Protests over COVID-19 in the French overseas territory of Guadeloupe have surged out of control, with nighttime looting and a general strike shuttering stores across the country, Reuters reported. French President Emmanuel Macron called the situation is “very explosive,” with protestors rebelling against the mandatory vaccination of health care workers and health pass rules. "We must explain, explain, explain and convince, convince, convince, because one must not play around with the peoples' health," Macron said. Protestors in Guadeloupe broke into an arms depot in Point-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe’s main city, and stole rifles, leaving many residents on the island extremely concerned. "We just don't know how far this will still go," Point-a-Pitre Mayor Harry Durimel said.
A new surge in coronavirus cases across the United States is again pushing the limits of hospital capacity and shuttering classrooms, leaving health officials worried that tens of thousands more Americans will die of the virus this winter, Politico reported. Despite more than 70 percent of the country being vaccinated, the situation remains dire, with hospitals in multiple states operating under crisis standards of care. “I do think we will see more deaths than we are currently seeing,” said Eric Toner, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “People need to be cautious about traveling and getting together.” While the vaccinated remain largely protected from severe illness and death, a large swath of people remain unvaccinated and vulnerable. In addition to the coronavirus, the flu and RSV, other potentially serious respiratory viruses, are spreading nationwide and challenging already short-staffed hospitals. “December was when things started to accelerate,” Ryan Westergaard, Wisconsin’s chief medical officer, said. “The trend we are seeing is very concerning. The slope of the curve looks similar to what we saw last fall.”
In the Romanian capital of Bucharest, the city’s largest hospital is running out of capacity as the country suffers its fourth and worst wave of the pandemic so far, CNN reported. Just 36% of Romania’s population have been vaccinated, leaving much of the country still vulnerable to COVID-19. "I never thought, when I started this job, that I would live through something like this," said Claudiu Ionita, a nurse at Bucharest University Hospital. "I never thought such a catastrophe could happen, that we'd end up sending whole families to their graves." Much of the country is skeptical about the vaccines, with political and local community leaders expressing doubts about the vaccine’s safety and necessity. "The vaccine means the difference between life and death," said Ionita. "People should understand that. Maybe in their last hour they should understand that."
German chancellor Angela Merkel said the latest spike in COVID cases is worse than anything Germany has experienced so far, according to Bloomberg.com. The German leader made the comments at a meeting with her Christian Democratic party on Monday. She also said the situation is “highly dramatic” and that citizens don’t seem to understand the severity of the outbreak. Adding that vaccinations aren’t enough, she called on Germany’s 16 states to introduce more restrictions to curb the virus. The nation’s health minister, Jens Spahn, said in a news conference on Monday that people who aren’t vaccinated are almost certain to catch COVID-19. “Just about everyone in Germany will probably be either vaccinated, recovered or dead” by the end of this winter, Spahn said.
More than 90% of the 3.5 million federal employees have received at least one coronavirus vaccine dose ahead of today's deadline, Reuters reported. In total, 95% of federal workers have been vaccinated, are in the process of completing their vaccination or have an exemption. However, this means that 175,000 federal employees may not be in compliance with the rules, though officials note that the numbers may change as data can be submitted up to the end of Nov. 22. "Already 95% of (U.S. government) employees are in compliance with the president’s vax requirement. There are no disruptions related to the requirement; we’ll avoid COVID-related disruptions through vaccinations. Today isn’t a cliff and we’ll be working with employees," White House spokesman Kevin Munoz said on Twitter. Administration officials remain confident that once punishments are issued to workers who have opted to avoid vaccination, even more workers will get the jab.
Thanksgiving travel appears to be in full swing, with more than 4 million travelers screened by the Transportation Safety Administration on Friday and Saturday alone, according to tweets from TSA Spokesperson Lisa Farbstein. On Friday, more than 2.2 million people were screened by the agency, marking the highest number of airline travelers in the country since the beginning of the pandemic. More than 2 million travelers were also screened on Thursday and Saturday, with Saturday marking the first consecutive three-day period of more than 2 million travelers screened since August. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, masks are required for all domestic travelers on airlines and in airports.
Protests against new restrictions being put in place to contain increasing COVID-19 infections are taking place across several European cities. According to The Associated Press, tens of thousands of protesters, many from extreme-right groups, marched through Vienna over the weekend after the government announced a nationwide lockdown beginning Monday. Similar demonstrations took place in Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, Northern Ireland and the Netherlands. The AP reports protesters rallied against restrictions, mandatory vaccinations and COVID-19 passes required in many European countries to enter stores, events and restaurants. The Austrian lockdown will last at least ten days and comes as intensive care units reach capacity and average daily deaths tripled. The government also plans to make vaccinations mandatory starting Feb. 1.
On Friday, officials the at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and prevention approved booster shots for all adults, urging older adults to quickly sit down for the jab to prevent a wave of cases and hospitalizations over the winter holidays, The Associated Press reported. Previously, only adults who were at high risk of catching the disease or at developing severe illness were able to get the jab, rules that confused some Americans. Now, any American over the age of 18 can get any kind of booster dose. “We heard loud and clear that people needed something simpler — and this, I think, is simple,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said. Still, the country’s priority remains getting more of the unvaccinated vaccinated. More than 195 million Americans are fully vaccinated, but 47 million adults remain vulnerable to the disease. “In terms of the No. 1 priority for reducing transmission in this country and throughout the world, this remains getting people their first vaccine series,” said Dr. David Dowdy of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Fauci, a long-time advocate of expanding booster shot access, said he was pleased by the decision. "I think the data has been very, very clear," Fauci said.
The death toll from the coronavirus pandemic in the United States eclipsed 770,000 over the weekend, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. According to the Wall Street Journal, despite the availability of vaccines in 2021, more Americans have died from the coronavirus in 2021 than 2020. The seven-day moving average of new cases fell slightly to just over 92,000 on Sunday while the positivity ratio climbed to 6.36%. The U.S. continues to lead the world when it comes to reporting new coronavirus cases, followed by Germany, where the seven-day average of new cases is currently just above 49,000. For more facts and figures on the state of the global pandemic, watch the video below.
Charter schools in New York City now have on-site vaccination hubs as part of an effort to get more children vaccinated. Originally, only public schools had vaccine pods as part of the city’s initial rollout, NY1 reported. Charter schools must schedule vaccination pods, and Zeta Charter School, located in Washington Heights, had its first pod on Friday. “I want to make sure charter school students are safe, and that they are healthy, with COVID going around," Zeta Charter School Academic Director Kiwana Yates said. "And what better way? And we’re being equitable and showing that we care about every single student.”
Disney World will delay its vaccine mandate for employees, according to a report from Fox 35 in Orlando, which cited a cast member who worked at the theme park. The cast member, Nick Caturano, confirmed to Fox 35 that Disney had let employees know of the decision through an internal memo. "We all want to go back to a sense of normalcy," Caturano said. "We all hoped the vaccine would do the trick. And it seemed like it was starting to work but people are getting the COVID...to separate them it doesn't make sense."
"We believe that our approach to mandatory vaccines has been the right one as we’ve continued to focus on the safety and well-being of our Cast Members and Guests, and at this point, more than 90 percent of active Florida-based Cast Members have already verified that they are fully vaccinated," a Disney spokesperson told the news station in a statement. "We will address legal developments as appropriate." Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed new legislation that would protect state workers against vaccine mandates.
Over 34.5 million COVID-19 booster shots have been administered across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Nearly 19% of adults have received a booster shot and 40% of people 65 and older have received a booster shot, the CDC said. Booster shots are available for everyone 18 years and older who have either waited more than six months since receiving a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or have waited at least two months since a Johnson & Johnson vaccine.
Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s star wide receiver Antonio Brown has been accused by his former chef of forging his vaccination card, NFL.com reported. The report, which was first published in The Tampa Bay Times, cited supposed text messages between Brown’s girlfriend and the chef in which Brown’s girlfriend said the 33-year-old wide receiver would pay $500 for a fake vaccine card. In a statement issued Thursday, the Buccaneers said that all vaccine cards were reviewed by team personnel and that "no irregularities were observed." Brown’s attorney, Sean Burstyn, confirmed to the NFL Network that Brown is vaccinated. If Brown’s vaccination card was forged, he not only risks suspension or fines from the NFL, but criminal charges, as using a fraudulent vaccination card is a federal criminal offense.
Here are the latest global coronavirus numbers, provided by Johns Hopkins University:
Confirmed cases: 257,104,143
Vaccine doses administered: 7,370,153,271
Of the about 6 in 10 Americans who are fully vaccinated, more than half received their last COVID-19 shot more than six months ago, meaning that their protection is waning as coronavirus cases rise nationwide, NBC News reported. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that those who were vaccinated early in 2021 are likely to have their immunity wane. “What we’re starting to see now is an uptick in hospitalizations among people who’ve been vaccinated but not boosted,” Fauci said. On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the Moderna and Pfizer boosters for all adults, meaning that another 96 million Americans are set to become eligible to boost their protection.
As the Army’s deadline for active-duty soldiers approaches, the Army has announced that soldiers who remain unvaccinated will not allowed to reenlist, be promoted, receive awards or decorations or ask to be reassigned,CNN reported. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth made the announcement in a memo dated Nov. 16, matching similar guidance issued by the Navy and the Marine Corps which flags soldiers that refuse vaccination. The guidance also applies to the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. Active-duty soldiers must get vaccinated by Dec. 15 while National Guard soldiers can wait until June 30, 2022. "The Soldier will remain flagged until they are fully vaccinated, receive an approved medical or administrative exemption, or are separated from the Army," Wormuth wrote. The Marine Corps and the Navy have said that sailors and marines who do not get vaccinated without an approved exemption will likely be discharged.
The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued a face mask advisory for all residents, regardless of their vaccination status, FOX 2 News reported. Michigan is leading the nation in cases per 100,000, reporting 503.8 infections for every 100,000 Michiganders. The advisory recommends that everyone over the age of 2 should mask up regardless of whether they are fully vaccinated and asks establishments to ensure all customers and employees are masked. "The increases in case counts, percent positivity and hospitalizations have us very concerned," said Elizabeth Hertel, MDHHS director. "We are issuing the face mask advisory and are looking to Michiganders to do their part to help protect their friends, their families, and their communities by wearing a mask in indoor settings and getting vaccinated for COVID-19 and flu as soon as possible if they have not already done so.”
Austria is set to enter a nationwide lockdown for at least 10 days after new cases in the country spiraled out of control, and its neighbor Germany may not be far behind, shaking markets which had expected that the era of lockdowns was over, Reuters reported. German Health Minister Jens Spahn has warned that vaccinations alone will not halt the growing wave of infections in the country, which is Europe’s largest economy. "We are now in a situation - even if this produces a news alert - where we can't rule anything out,” Spahn said. The reality that European countries could reenter lockdowns even after the majority of their populations are vaccinated shook markets in Europe and the United States.
In Austria, where skepticism about the vaccines runs high among about a third of the population, protests against lockdown and the country’s imposition of a nationwide vaccine mandate are planned. “As of today Austria is a dictatorship,” said Freedom Party leader Herbert Kickl, who himself cannot attend his party’s protest Saturday because he has tested positive for COVID-19. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel lamented what she described as a "vaccination gap" that has enabled the virus to surge again. Watch below for more.
With data showing that Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for kids aged 5-11 is more than 90% effective against the coronavirus, Health Canada has approved the jab for some of Canada’s youngest, the CBC reported. The dose is one-third the size given to those who are twelve years or older. "After a thorough and independent scientific review of the evidence, the department has determined that the benefits of this vaccine for children between five and 11 years of age outweigh the risks,” Health Canada wrote. Dr. Michelle Barton-Forbes, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases, say the move to approve the vaccine could be game-changing. “Ultimately, not only will we help to keep kids from acute COVID-19 and its consequences, we will keep kids healthy and we will also keep them happy as they are allowed to do in-class learning and extracurricular activities," Barton-Forbes said, adding that it also means kids will be less likely to spread the virus to their parents and grandparents.
For the third straight day, Russian authorities have reported a record number of new coronavirus deaths, The Associated Press. Reported. Alongside more than 37,000 new cases, 1,254 new coronavirus deaths were reported on Thursday, a number just above the Wednesday’s high of 1,247. The number of new infections in Russia has been slowly decreasing following the country’s implementation of a nonworking week earlier in November. About 60% of the country’s residents remain unvaccinated despite the Russian Sputnik V vaccine having been available in the country for more than a year.
The Czech Republic and Slovakia have joined a host of European nations that are tightening restrictions on the unvaccinated in the hopes of incentivizing them to get the jab, Al Jazeera reported. Starting on Monday, only Czechs who are vaccinated or recently recovered from COVID-19 will be allowed to enter restaurants and use various other services. “The main goal of these measures is motivation for vaccinations,” Czech Health Minister Adam Vojtech said. A record number of cases were reported in the country on Wednesday.
In Slovakia, the government is imposing what Prime Minister Eduard Heger calls a “lockdown for the unvaccinated,” a move that Austria took earlier this week before extending the lockdown to all residents. Just 45% of Slovakia’s population is fully vaccinated, and many Slovakian hospitals are completely filled. Slovakia reported a record number of new cases on Tuesday, surpassing a record set last Friday.
NASCAR has announced that the stock car racing league will return to normal, allowing drivers to practice and qualify on race weekends, NASCAR.com reported. The league had decided to stop most practice and qualifying events to reduce the number of travel days and limit the number of personnel needed on-site during the pandemic. “NASCAR is excited to return practice and qualifying to its race weekends,” said Scott Miller, NASCAR senior vice president of competition. “We missed seeing cars and trucks on track all weekend long, and so did our fans. We worked closely with our broadcast partners, teams and racetracks to create an exciting, unique qualifying format, while keeping several of the efficiencies that helped our entire industry successfully navigate the pandemic.”
Pregnant people who are infected with COVID-19 are more likely to experience a stillbirth than those who are not infected with the virus, according to an analysis from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The analysis, which was released on Friday, provides further support for pregnant people to get vaccinated against the virus, The Hill reported. The data from the analysis showed that 1.26% of deliveries among infected people resulted in a stillbirth between March 2020 and September 2021, compared to 0.65% of deliveries that resulted in stillbirths when the person giving birth was not infected with the virus. “Implementing evidence-based COVID-19 prevention strategies, including vaccination before or during pregnancy, is critical to reducing the impact of COVID-19 on stillbirths,” the report stated.
With cases continue to rise across the country and hospitals being stretched thin, Germany’s disease control chief says the country has entered a “nationwide state of emergency,” The Associated Press reported. Lothar Wieler, the head of the Robert Koch Institute, says that regular health care cannot be guaranteed in parts of the country. “This is a nationwide state of emergency. We need to pull the emergency brake,” Weiler said. Neighboring Austria has announced that it will be entering a nationwide lockdown for at least ten days starting Monday.The virus resurgence is having a ripple effect across the country's fabled holiday culture. Germany’s largest Christmas market in Berlin has already announced it will be closed, but the fate of Dresden’s Christmas market, Germany’s oldest, is still up in the air. According to the AFP, the state of Saxony had given the go-ahead for its Christmas markets to open, but vendors are nervous the organizers of Dresden’s market will opt to close the treasured tradition “I think the problem is that the traders feel a bit abandoned,” said Markus Harich, a seller of Christmas beverages. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, are we going to open?” For more on the state of Germany’s Christmas markets, watch the video below.
Despite extremely high vaccine uptake and a relatively low number of cases, the government of the British-owned territory of Gibraltar has canceled its official Christmas celebrations, Newsweek reported. The government has allowed citizens to hold their own Christmas events, but it strongly advises against it. "Given the exponential rise in the number of cases, the Government for example intends to cancel a number of its own functions including official Christmas parties, official receptions and similar gatherings,” the government said, with cases rising to about 66 a day. Enough doses have been administered in Gibraltar to give two doses to 140.2% of the country’s population, making the territory the most vaccinated place in the world.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg announced that Austria will enter a nationwide lockdown for all residents regardless of their vaccination status on Monday, The Associated Press reported. The country’s lockdown will last for at least 10 days, closing most stores and events across the country. “We do not want a fifth wave,” Schallenberg said, according to ORF. “Nor do we want a sixth or seventh wave.” Austria has also announced that it will be making vaccinations mandatory for all citizens starting Feb. 1, making it the first European country to do so. Just 65.7% of Austria’s population is fully vaccinated, meaning the country has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Western Europe. Those who do not get vaccinated will likely be fined. “For a long time, the consensus in this country was that we didn’t want mandatory vaccination,” Schallenberg said. “For a long time, perhaps too long.”
A renewed coronavirus surge in the United States threatens to bring the seven-day average of new cases back up over 100,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. Just under 111,000 new cases were reported on Friday alone. The seven-day average currently sits at just under 95,000 new coronavirus cases, with the positivity ratio holding steady above 6%. With the country’s booster shot campaign continuing to gain steam, the number of people sitting down for jabs is continuing to increase, with the seven-day average for doses administered ticking upward to 1.68 million. Germany is also seeing a rise in cases. The country reported just under 45,000, the second-most in the world. For more facts and figures on the global pandemic, watch the video below.
After weeks of boosters only being available to certain adult populations, the Food and Drug Administration authorized both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna booster shots for all adults, The New York Times reported. If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agrees with the guidance, booster shots for all American adults could be made available as soon as Saturday. With coronavirus cases rising again and the immunity provided by vaccines waning, at least 10 states had already made booster shots available to all adults, taking advantage of loose language in the original authorization. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ leading infectious disease experts, has been arguing for full booster shot authorization for weeks, citing waning immunity. “Enough is enough. Let’s get moving on here,” he said Wednesday night. “We know what the data are.” Under the new regulations, everyone 18 years or older who has received a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least 6 months ago is eligible for a booster shot, while everyone who received a Johnson & Johnson shot remains eligible to get a booster dose after 2 months.
After spending 60 days on a ventilator and in a coma, a Maine woman managed to battle back against the coronavirus and wake up, much to the surprise of her doctors and family, WMTW News reported. Bettina Lerman, 69, was unvaccinated and had underlying conditions when she caught the disease in September. According to her son, Andrew Lerman, Bettina's doctors were convinced she would not make it, leaving the family to make funeral arraignments; in fact, the family was purchasing a headstone when her doctor called. “He goes, ‘Well I need you to come up to the hospital right away.’ I’m like, What? Is something wrong?’ He goes, ‘Well your mother just woke up,’” Andrew said. “I literally dropped the phone. I was like, what? I mean because we were supposed to be terminating life support that day.” After surviving the disease, Bettina now plans to get vaccinated.
As the number of COVID-19 cases increase in Arizona, the number of hospital beds available has dropped to 6% statewide.This is the lowest rate since the began, Arizona’s Family reported. “We continue to have adult patients in areas of the hospital that we usually, typically, hadn’t had adult patients — in some of our pediatric areas,” Valleywise Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael White told the news source. Valleywise hit 100% of adult capacity on Wednesday morning, with the COVID-19 ICU at 96% capacity. Hospitals have also been seeing patients with the flu, pneumonia or other seasonal illnesses that add additional stress on the staff.
All adults in Massachusetts are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 booster shot. According to The Associated Press, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker made the announcement on Thursday, and said it applies to all residents aged 18 or older. Those seeking a booster shot do not need to provide identification, health insurance documentation their vaccine cards. Health officials in the state recommend those seeking booster shots wait six months after their second dose of their initial vaccination. Massachusetts currently leads the nation in vaccinations, with more than 70% of residents fully vaccinated.
Vermont Gov. Phil Scott is calling a special session for legislators on Monday to pass legislation that would give municipalities the authority to issue temporary mask mandates.The call for the session comes amid pressure from legislative leadership for Scott to do more to address the growing number of COVID-19 cases, The Associated Press reported. Scott said that he’s opposed to statewide mandates and restrictions at this time, but is offering the session as a compromise. On Thursday, Vermont saw its second-highest daily number since the start of the pandemic with 517 new COVID-19 cases. The governor said that if the number of hospitalizations increases over 80 people, it would be a significant strain on the system. A total of 62 people were hospitalized with the virus as of Thursday, according to the AP.
Covid infections are rising in nearly half of all U.S. states as the holiday season nears, threatening to strain hospitals, NPR reported. The country is now averaging 83,000 cases a day — a 14% increase compared to the week ending on Nov. 12. Outbreaks across the Midwest and Northeast are most responsible for the increase in national numbers, according to NPR. However, experts claim that this surge will not bring the same level of death and severe disease as the previous year due to the vaccine rollout.
Learn more here: https://www.accuweather.com/en/videos/holiday-season-raises-concerns-of-a-winter-surge-as-covid-cases-rise-in-the-us/Qn4dNJj8
After 10 residents of a care home in Portree, Scotland, died during a COVID-19 outbreak in the facility, new allegations have emerged that the facility was using air freshener as a disinfectant and sick residents were not being provided the oxygen they needed. The company that ran the home at the time, HC One, said they had “worked tirelessly” to protect the residents and staff members within the home, BBC reported. "Our thoughts and sympathies are with all families that have lost a loved one from coronavirus,” HC One said in a statement.
Since COVID-19 vaccines were first opened to the public, being fully vaccinated has meant that an individual has either received one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine or two doses of the Pfizer vaccine or the Moderna vaccine. On Wednesday, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said that for a person to be considered fully vaccinated the individual will have to get a booster shot, The Associated Press reported. Grisham added that health officials in the state are working to create incentives for residents to get a booster shot and did not rule out the possibility of mandates in the future. Over 290,000 booster doses have been administered across New Mexico which is higher than the national average, the AP said.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky urged Americans who are eligible for booster vaccines to go get them, Reuters reported. Walensky says that the CDC has seen vaccine effectiveness wane, especially in vulnerable groups that got their first dose almost a year ago. “Although the highest risk are those people who are unvaccinated, we are seeing an increase in emergency department visits among adults aged 65 and older,” she said, adding that the CDC has data from long-term care facilities showing that adults who have received a booster dose are much less likely to be infected with the virus. “Our boosters are working,” Walensky said. Watch the video below for more.
As the United States’ economy continues to recover from the pandemic even as cases rise again, the number of Americans who applied for unemployment benefits dipped last week to a pandemic low of 268,000, The Associated Press reported. Pre-pandemic, jobless claims averaged around 222,000 a week, a number that the country is inching closer to after seven straight weeks of drops. “[Unemployment claims] have been declining on a sustained basis and are moving closer to pre-pandemic levels,″ said Rubeela Farooqi, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “Layoffs are falling, reflective of companies holding on to workers amid a labor shortage.″ Still, the country has not returned to pre-pandemic jobs numbers, with the nation still 4 million jobs short from where it was in Feb. 2020.
As the number of new cases continues to rise in Austria, pressure is rising on the government to impose a total lockdown, Reuters reported. More than 15,000 new coronavirus cases were reported in the country on Thursday, a new pandemic record.. Currently, only the unvaccinated, roughly 33% of Austria’s population, have been placed under a lockdown. Still, cases are rising in the country, especially in Upper Austria, where the far-right, vaccine-criticizing Freedom Party dominates politically. "If no national lockdown is ordered tomorrow, there will definitely have to be a lockdown of several weeks in Upper Austria together with our neighboring province Salzburg as of next week," said Thomas Stelzer, the governor of Upper Austria, speaking to the province’s parliament. In Salzburg, the provincial government is preparing for demand for intensive-care units to potentially exceed supply.
As the number of COVID-19 cases again rises across the country, the National Football League will tighten its protocols and recommend testing players’ and employees’ family members, The New York Times reported. The league saw its highest number of positive cases in the last two weeks. “That wasn’t a total surprise to us because our numbers mirror the number of cases in the country,” said Dr. Allen Sills, the league’s chief medical officer. In the last two weeks, 34 players and 47 staff member tested positive, including star players like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, running back Nick Chubb, and defensive end Joey Bosa. But, with many players set to see family during the holidays, league officials worry cases could rise even further. To halt the rise in cases, all players, regardless of their vaccination status, will need to wear masks in indoor training facilities from Nov. 25 to Dec. 1 as players and staff return to their training facilities after Thanksgiving. Individual franchises are also encouraged to set up testing facilities for the friends and family of players and staff visiting for the holidays.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who himself tested positive for the coronavirus in Scotland, is warning residents that the holiday season may lead into a spike in cases, especially among the unvaccinated, The Associated Press reported. Garcetti is urging people to get vaccinated to keep the city’s caseload and hospitalization numbers down. “The answer to who should get the vaccine is simple: everyone,” Garcetti said. “If you have family members who are coming for Thanksgiving or Christmas or the holidays, get them vaccinated.” Garcetti also encouraged people to get their booster shot, something he says he put off, potentially leading to his positive test. Garcetti, who tested positive for the coronavirus while in Scotland, developed a mild fever, flu-like symptoms and temporarily lost his sense of taste and smell. “The United Kingdom is experiencing a surge. They’ve often been ahead of our surges, and we can expect this to hit us here in the coming weeks and months,” he said. About 81% of Los Angeles residents have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.
The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in the United States continues to climb, with the seven-day average of new cases topping 86,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University. The positivity ratio, a measure of the percentage of tests that return a positive result, shot above 6 percent. The seven-day average of vaccine doses administered held steady below 1.5 million, with 60% of the U.S. population now fully vaccinated. The United States continues to lead the world in new cases reported. Behind the U.S. is Germany, which reported more than 43,000 new cases, and the United Kingdom, which reported just under 39,000 new cases. For more facts and figures on the pandemic, watch the video below.
Officials in the Czech Republic will restrict unvaccinated individuals from access to public events and services, Reuters reported. Prime Minister Andrej Babis made the announcement on television Wednesday. The decision still needs to be approved by the country’s full cabinet and comes one day after a record 22,749 new infections were reported on Tuesday. Negative COVID-19 tests will no longer be acceptable ways to attend events or enter establishments, Reuters reported.
Actor Rockmond Dunbar has left Fox’s ‘9-1-1’ over his refusal to get a COVID-19 vaccine, Variety reported. An original member of the show, Dunbar’s character, Michael Grant, was written off Monday’s show after meeting the new COVID-19 protocols which require actors to be vaccinated. While Dunbar had applied for religious and medical wavers, he was denied. “We take the health and safety of all of our employees very seriously, and have implemented a mandatory vaccination confirmation process for those working in Zone A on our productions,” 20th Century Television, which produces the show, said in a statement. “In order to ensure a safer workplace for all, Zone A personnel who do not confirm their vaccination status and do not meet the criteria for exception will not be eligible to work.”
On Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced that the government will pay 1,000 hryvnias (about $38) to Ukrainians who get vaccinated, The Associated Press reported. The government will allocate 6 billion hryvnias to the program in total, 3 billion this year and 3 billion in 2022. “With this money, it will be possible to purchase a gym or fitness club membership, visit a cinema, theatre, museum, concert hall or exhibition center, or buy tickets for domestic travel,” Zelenskyy said. Ukraine’s population has been largely reluctant to get vaccinated, with just 19.8% of the population fully vaccinated despite vaccines being widely available. To further incentivize vaccination, the government has required teachers, doctors and government employees to get fully vaccinated by Dec. 1.
As coronavirus cases surge across Belgium, the government is set to mandate vaccines for health care workers by April 2022, The Associated Press reported. The government will set a three-month window for workers to get vaccinated starting on Jan 1. By April, workers without a proper justification for not getting the vaccine will be dismissed. About 60,000 health workers in Belgium are currently unvaccinated, and some in the sector fear that workers will leave if there is a mandate. “In addition to the physical fatigue, which is real, there is also this feeling of exhaustion, which does not help at all. And for the few who are not yet vaccinated, it’s one more way to tell them: ‘Perhaps it’s time for you to leave.’ So, the risks are really high,” said Alda Dalla Valle, the vice president of the nurses’ federation. New cases, hospital admissions and deaths in Belgium all went up by about 27% in the past week.
After last year’s celebration had been hampered by the pandemic, New Year’s Eve celebrations are scheduled to return to Times Square on Dec. 31, but only fully vaccinated people will be allowed to attend, with a few exceptions. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that the celebration would unfold “at full strength,” this year, according to The New York Times. “We want it to be big — we want it to be full of life,” de Blasio said. Despite the event being outside, he added that “it’s a different reality” when talking about an event such as the ball drop which involves a few hundred thousand people packed close together for hours. All spectators over the age of 5 will be required to show proof of full vaccination, Tom Harris, president of the Time Square Alliance, told The New York Times. Children younger than 5 years of age, who are not yet eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, will need to be accompanied by a vaccinated adult. Spectators who are unable to get vaccinated due to a disability will need to show that they tested negative for the virus no more than 72 hours before the event. In addition, masks will be required for all unvaccinated attendees.
Rising infection rates continue to plague countries throughout the world, most notably in the United States and in Western Europe. Germany and the United Kingdom combined for over 80,000 new infections on Tuesday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, while the U.S. totals 84,614 new cases of its own, pushing the American 28-day total to over 2.1 million new infections. The U.S. positivity ratio also climbed to 6.1% on Wednesday, the country’s highest rate since Oct. 7. For more information, watch the video below.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical advisor to the White House, on Tuesday suggested that the U.S. could get by the pandemic phase and reduce the coronavirus to an endemic part of life if booster shots are widely administered. "To me, if you want to get to endemic, you have got to get the level of infection so low that it does not have an impact on society, on your life, on your economy," Fauci said during a discussion at the Reuters Total Health conference. "People will still get infected. People might still get hospitalized, but the level would be so low that we don't think about it all the time and it doesn't influence what we do." Fauci said that if booster shots are approved for all Americans and people are quick to get the booster shots, the pandemic could be brought under control by springtime. Right now, booster shots are authorized only for people 65 and older, those who are immunocompromised and those at high risk of exposure due to their jobs, like health care workers. Watch a clip of Fauci's remarks below.
Foreign students are finding their way back to U.S. colleges in stronger numbers this year, The Associated Press reported. American colleges and universities saw a 4% annual increase in the number of international students studying at their institutions this fall, but that was not nearly enough to make up for a 15% decrease last year. Not all schools saw their numbers of international students go up, 20% saw decreases while an additional 10% saw no change. Still, there is optimism that these students return. “We expect a surge following the pandemic,” said Matthew Lussenhop, an acting U.S. assistant secretary of state. “[International students] continue to value a U.S. education and remain committed to pursuing studies in the United States.” Schools like to attract international students for a variety of reasons; they increase diversity on campuses and often pay higher tuition rates.
In a televised update to the nation over the state of the pandemic in the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson relied on weather metaphors to get his point across, Bloomberg reported. Johnson, noting a rise in cases across much of continental Europe, said that “storm clouds are gathering over parts of the continent.” According to Johnson, a new wave of the coronavirus has spread from Eastern and Central Europe to parts of Western Europe, nations that are much closer to Britain’s shores. “We don’t yet know the extent to which this new wave will wash up on our shores, but history shows we cannot afford to be complacent,” Johnson said. Johnson continued using weather metaphors to make his point. “And we’ve just got to recognize that there is always a risk that a blizzard could come from the east again, as the months get colder,” said Johnson, according to INews.
With coronavirus cases once again on the upswing in the United States as well as rising dramatically across Europe, some experts are warning that yet another surge of cases seems likely, Yahoo reported. Dr. Taison Bell, an assistant professor of medicine in the divisions of Infectious Diseases and International Health and Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine at the University of Virginia, believes that cases will soon rise in the U.S. “Unfortunately what we're seeing are cases rising in Europe, driven by areas that are unvaccinated,” Bell said. “We tend to run behind them by a few weeks.” As colder air leads more people to gather indoors, cases are climbing in the northern parts of the country. “This is not where we wanted to be going into the winter,” Bell added, noting that the vaccinated are still highly protected from severe coronavirus cases resulting in hospitalization or death. “Areas with low levels of vaccination, I think we're still going to have problems with surges in hospitals,” Bell said.
The British government extended a vaccine booster program on Monday for younger people. According to The Associated Press, the booster program has been extended in an effort to boost dwindling immunity levels ahead of a potential winter surge of COVID-19 cases. Up until now, only people age 50 or older, those working in care homes and hospitals or younger people considered vulnerable were eligible for the vaccine booster. Now, people aged 40 to 49 will also be eligible for the booster shot six months after their initial vaccination. “A new wave of COVID has steadily swept through central Europe and is now affecting our nearest neighbors in Western Europe,” British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. “Our friends on the continent have been forced to respond with various degrees of new restrictions, from full lockdowns, to lockdowns for the unvaccinated, to restrictions on business opening hours and restrictions on social gatherings."
The coronavirus will probably continue to mutate, but slower than it has in the past, Insider reported. Trevor Bedford, a biologist and genetics expert in the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, says he believes the virus has not yet finished evolving, but “that we're already seeing slowing between 2020 and today." There has not been a new variant that has threatened to take over globally since delta emerged in December 2020, though the AY.4.2 strain of the delta virus has been detected in multiple countries and 13 states. That strain, which may be slightly more transmissible, has struggled to take hold outside of the United Kingdom, where it accounts for roughly 15% of all cases.
Portuguese Prime Minister António Costa says that after having seen new coronavirus cases rise across Europe, the Portuguese government is considering precautionary measures against the disease, The Associated Press reported. Portugal has one of the highest levels of vaccination in the world, with 86% of the population vaccinated against COVID-19. Still, the government is concerned about the progression of the disease in the rest of Europe. “We can’t ignore the signs,” Costa said of the growing number of new confirmed cases across the European Union. “The later we act, the greater the risk.” Costa said that while restrictions on gathering sizes and mask-wearing are possible options, the government does not expect to impose lockdowns. Cases are climbing in Portugal, up to around 2,000 a day, up from fewer than 1,000 a day in October.
New COVID-19 cases reached over 83,000 on Monday in the U.S. — the highest single-day total yet this month, according to John Hopkins University data, with the positivity ratio ticking up to 5.95%. New cases also continue to rise across Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia, and Turkey. Meanwhile, vaccination progress continues across the states with California, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York all seeing over 60% of their population fully vaccinated. Over 55% of the population of Texas is also now fully vaccinated. Overall, only 59% of the U.S. population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For a closer look at the data surrounding the spread of the virus and the vaccination effort, watch the video below.
A study has found that coronavirus patients who were taking an antidepressant were less likely to die from the disease, MedPage Today reported. The study looked retrospectively at hospitalized patients and found that patients on antidepressants had an 8% reduced risk of death. Individual antidepressants were much more effective though. Patients treated only with fluoxetine, commonly known as Prozac, saw a 28% reduced risk of death, while there was a 26% reduced risk of death for patients on fluoxetine or fluvoxamine. "The results are encouraging," said co-study author Dr. Tomiko Oskotsky. "It's important to find as many options as possible for treating any condition. A particular drug or treatment may not work or be well tolerated by everyone."
For more information, click here to read the original study.
In case you have any qualms about gathering with family for the upcoming holidays, Dr. Anthony Fauci said you should “feel good.” As long as you’re vaccinated, that is. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Monday that vaccinated families should feel confident gathering for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, and “enjoy it with your parents, your children, your grandparents. There’s no reason not to do that,” ABC News reported.
“If you get vaccinated and your family’s vaccinated, you can feel good about enjoying a typical Thanksgiving, Christmas with your family and close friends,” Fauci said. He added, however, that individuals should still wear masks when they’re out in the community or around large groups of people indoors.
After first being detected in India nearly a year ago, the highly contagious delta variant now accounts for nearly all COVID-19 cases in the world, Reuters reported. The delta variant tore through India before spreading to nearly every country in the world, causing a renewed surge in cases across much of the world. Delta, while still managed by vaccines and new treatments, is hyper-transmissible – it is about twice as contagious as the original SARS-CoV-2 virus. One of the only places where Delta has not taken over is in South America, where a handful of other variants, like Gamma, Lambda and Mu, still are frequently reported. Scientists worry that a future mutation of delta could emerge that is more transmissible, more severe or that evades current vaccines. A new offshoot of the delta variant in the United Kingdom, AY.4.2, accounts for nearly 10% of cases. Scientists say that AY.4.2 may be slightly more transmissible than even the original delta variant.
Pfizer has agreed to let other manufacturers make its potentially game-changing coronavirus pill, a deal which could help make the treatment more available worldwide, The Associated Press reported. The drugmaker granted a license to the Medicines Patent Pool, which lets generic drug companies produce the drug in 95 countries worldwide. “It’s quite significant that we will be able to provide access to a drug that appears to be effective and has just been developed, to more than 4 billion people,” Esteban Burrone, head of policy at the Medicines Patent Pool, said. Pfizer will not receive royalties on the sales of the drug in low-income countries and will waive royalties in all countries until COVID-19 is no longer a public health emergency. Pfizer has said its drug cuts the risk of hospitalization and death by nearly 90%. The company is set to test the pill further in hard-hit Russia, Reuters reported.
Billions of people have been vaccinated, as have a number of jaguars, lions, tigers bears and other zoo animals, so where are the vaccines for cats and dogs? According to reporting from The New York Times, a vaccine for pets is feasible, but it is simply not a priority at this stage of the pandemic. Cats and dogs can catch the virus, evidence suggests that they do not spread it back to humans nor do they seriously fall ill themselves. “A vaccine is quite unlikely, I think, for dogs and cats,” Dr. Will Sander, a veterinarian at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said. “The risk of disease spread and illness in pets is so low that any vaccine would not be worth giving.” After pets globally began testing positive, Zoetis, a veterinary pharmaceutical company, began working on an animal vaccine and did come up with successful candidates. But, with most pets recovering quickly, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said in Nov. 2020 it would not accept applications for cat or dog vaccines. Other animals though, including minks, seemed to be reservoirs for the virus, with vaccine trials in minks ongoing. The mink vaccine has been administered in other animals, including in big cats, who seem to be more vulnerable to the coronavirus than their domesticated peers.
This year’s flu season may not be as tame as last year's. According to The New York Times, last year's fears of COVID-19 and flu outbreaks at the same time led to more Americans than usual to get the flu shot, leading to an overall very mild flu season. This year, however, the news outlet reports that the number of flu shots are down. As of Oct. 29, doses of flu shots were down 8% when compared to the prior year. “I think any indication that we’re going to have lower flu vaccination rates is of concern,” said Dr. Richard Webby, a faculty member of the Infectious Diseases Department at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Webby explained that because last year’s flu season was so tame, we don’t have a clear indication of how this year with fare with the flu and COVID-19. “We’re just headed into, really, an unknown,” he said.
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