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Coronavirus Update: U.S. average daily deaths from COVID fall below 800 to lowest level since mid-August, and FDA allows second booster shot for people 50 and older

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The average number of daily deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. has fallen below 800 for the first time since the highly transmissible omicron variant was first detected in the fall, and is now trending at the lowest rate since mid-August, according to a New York Times tracker.

The seven-day average of new cases now stands at 29,157, down 11% from two weeks ago and the lowest level since last July. Hospitalizations are down 35% at an average of 17,856 a day, while the number of patients in ICUs has fallen 42% to 2,857. 

Tempering that good news, however, is the fact that new cases are climbing in 15 states, as well as in Puerto Rico and American Samoa, driven by the BA.2 omicron subvariant, which is even more contagious than the original omicron but seems no more lethal.

Northeastern states are being hardest hit, with cases up 78% in New York, up 77% in Connecticut, up 40% in Massachusetts and up 12% in New Jersey. Other hot spots include Colorado, where cases are up 35% from two weeks ago, and Texas, where they are up 14%.

Experts have said the U.S. is likely facing another wave of cases, following the recent one in Europe, which the U.S. has lagged by a few weeks all through the pandemic.

The White House is planning a virtual event later Tuesday that will focus on improving indoor air quality, as a means to reduce COVID transmission, according to a statement. Air quality was a key part of the administration of President Joe Biden’s American Pandemic Preparedness Plan released last September.

The Environmental Protection Agency launched a Clear Air in Buildings Challenge in March, and has released a guide aimed at helping a wide range of parties, from homeowners to landlords and business owners, enact measures to improve air quality.

The guide recommends such simple moves as propping open doors and windows, to upgrading ventilation systems with improved filters and portable cleaners. It comes at a time when states and localities have dropped face mask mandates and encouraged Americans to treat the virus as in an endemic phase, meaning it is still present but no longer likely to create waves that will overwhelm health care systems.

But not everyone agrees that the country has reached that phase yet, even though the government is running out of funds for testing, vaccines and boosters and treatments.

Other COVID-19 news you should know about:

• The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has expanded the emergency use authorization for companies including Pfizer
PFE,
+0.82%
,
BioNTech
BNTX,
+3.88%

and Moderna
MRNA,
+3.39%

for an additional vaccine booster in individuals aged 50 and older. The agency has also greenlighted a second booster for people above the age of 12 who are immunocompromised but have had a first booster of any of the authorized vaccines. The second dose is to be given at least four months after the first one.

• British police are fining 20 people over parties held by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his staff during coronavirus lockdowns, and said that more people could face penalties, the Associated Press reported. The Metropolitan Police force said it wouldn’t identify recipients of the fixed penalty notices, though Johnson’s office has said it would reveal it if he gets one. Opponents, and some members of the governing Conservative Party, have said Johnson should resign if he is issued a fine for breaking rules he imposed on the rest of the country during the pandemic.

• A two-phase lockdown of Shanghai’s 26 million people is testing the limits of China’s hard-line “zero-COVID” strategy and is shaking markets far beyond the country’s borders, the AP reported separately. China’s largest city on Tuesday entered the second day of the lockdown’s first phase, which includes the Pudong financial district and adjacent areas. The measures confining Pudong residents to their homes, closing nonessential businesses and requiring mass testing are to be lifted Friday. At that time, the vast Puxi area on the opposite side of the river will go under lockdown.

Hong Kong, which has faced a record surge in Covid-19 cases and the world’s highest death rate, has been under strict restrictions. WSJ’s Diana Chan reports on how everyday life has changed in the city, from panic buying to an exodus of residents. Photo: Emmanuel Serna/Zuma Press

• The European Medicines Agency, the drug regulator for the European Union, has started a rolling review of the vaccine booster developed by Spanish drug maker Hipra, AFP reported. “Preliminary results suggest that the immune response with Covid-19 vaccine Hipra may be effective against SARS-CoV-2, including variants of concern such as omicron,” the y EMA said in a statement.

Don’t miss: The U.S. is talking about a second round of COVID-19 booster shots, and it’s going to be even more complicated than last year

Here’s what the numbers say

The global tally of confirmed cases of COVID-19 topped 482.4 million on Tuesday, while the death toll rose above 6.12 million, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. leads the world with 79.99 million cases and 977,947 fatalities.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s tracker shows that 217.4 million people living in the U.S. are fully vaccinated, equal to 65.5% of the population. But just 97.3 million are boosted, equal to 44.8% of the vaccinated population.

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