Covid news summary: 10 January 2022
Omicron variant: latest news
Omicron covid-19 variant headlines:
- Common cold T-cells could protect against covid-19, study shows
- CDC covid quarantine guidelines change leads to Amazon cutting paid leave
- US seven-day test positivity rate up to 28.32 percent, according to CDC
- Novak Djokovic wins court appeal in Australia, but situation is far from resolved
- New CDC report shows increased risk of diabetes for children who test positive for covid-19
- Pediatric hospitalizations reach record high with children back at school
- Some hospitals are running low on treatments and medications against covid-19
General news and information
- Are the doses of the Moderna and Pfizer booster shots different?
- What is 'flurona' and what are the symptoms?
- Will swabbing your throat produce a more accurate result for a covid-19 rapid test?
- Is it normal to experience armpit pain after a vaccine or booster shot?
- New IHU variant detected in France: what's known about it?
- 'Deltacron' covid-19 variant discovered: what we know so far
Results from the clinical trials of the covid-19 vaccines that have been either authorized for emergency use in the US or approved, show that they are safe and effective. Currently, only the Pfizer covid-19 vaccine has been authorized for those under the age of 18.
The side effects experienced, if any, by young children were similar to those in people age 16 and older and were generally mild, lasting only for a few days. Infection with covid-19, however, has proven just as serious for young children as adults resulting in hospitalizations and almost 100 deaths of kids between 5 and 11 years old.
For parents concerned about any side effects,here’s what you need to know.
Over 70% of over-50s in Spain have received booster jab
More than 15.7 million of the Spanish population have now received the third Covid-19 booster jab, the national Health Ministry announced on Monday - over 70% of those over the age of 50 have now been given a booster jab. According to the latest data, 92.4% of the population over the age of 12 has received at least one dose of the vaccine with 90.4% of the population now fully vaccinated.
Peru reports highest-ever weekly Covid-19 case count
Peru reported an all-time high 70,000 Covid-19 infections in the first week of January, a health official told reporters on Monday, as a third wave of the pandemic spreads through the Andean nation driven by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
Dante Cersso, a government health official, told reporters that the new weekly case count had exceeded the previous record of 67,107 cases during the second week of April of last year. At the time, Peru was going through a brutal second wave that left the country with the world's worst per-capita death rate, according to Johns Hopkins University.
About 0.5% of Peru's population has died of Covid-19. Death counts have not spiked with the recent surge in cases, according to data from Peru's Ministry of Health. Other nations also have reported fewer deaths linked to skyrocketing Omicron infections. Over 65% of Peru's population has received two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data. Peru is also offering booster shots to all adults three months after receiving their second shot. While South America was battered by previous waves of the pandemic, it has emerged as the most vaccinated region in the world.
Omicron variant-targeted vaccine on the horizon, says Pfizer CEO
Pfizer Inc Chief Executive Albert Bourla said on Monday that moving toward a redesigned Covid-19 vaccine that is specifically targeted to combat the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is the "most likely scenario."
Speaking at the J.P. Morgan Healthcare Conference, Bourla said Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE are working on both an Omicron-targeted vaccine variant as well as a shot that would include both the previous vaccine as well as a vaccine which targets the Omicron variant. Bourla said the company could be ready to file for approval for a redesigned vaccine and start producing it as soon as March.
Experimental Lilly drug neutralizes Omicron
An experimental monoclonal antibody treatment from Eli Lilly & Co is effective against all known variants of the coronavirus, including Omicron, researchers have found. The drug, known as LY-CoV1404 or bebtelovimab, 'potently' neutralized engineered versions of numerous variants, including Alpha, Beta, Delta, Epsilon, Gamma, Iota, and Omicron, in test tube experiments, the researchers reported on Friday on bioRxiv ahead of peer review.
They noted that an experimental antibody drug from GlaxoSmithKline and Vir Biotechnology called sotrovimab also neutralizes Delta and Omicron, but said that bebtelovimab 'is equally effective in viral neutralization against all tested variants and is several-fold more potent.'
That could potentially allow for lower doses and injection under the skin rather than intravenous administration. A spokesperson for Eli Lilly said the company is 'urgently working with the FDA to make bebtelovimab available under an emergency use authorization and expect authorization' during the current quarter of 2022.
Spain's Covid-19 deaths hits grim milestone
The number of victims who died with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic in Spain reached a new landmark on Monday with the death toll standing at 90,136, the Ministry of Health reported. There were 202 deaths registered between Friday and Monday and a total of 373 deaths during the past seven days.
The number of patients in Intensive Care stands 23.58% with 16,496 coronavirus patients in hospital in Spain.
Italy's Covid problems "mainly caused by unvaccinated" says Draghi
The small number of Italians who refuse to be vaccinated against Covid-19 are largely responsible for the continued health crisis, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said on Monday. The government last week made vaccinations mandatory for everyone aged over 50, one of very few European countries to take such a step, in an attempt to ease pressure on its hospitals as new cases surge.
"We must never lose sight of the fact that most of the problems we have today are because there are non-vaccinated people," Draghi told a news conference. "For the umpteenth time, I invite all those Italians who are not yet vaccinated to do so, and to get the third shot."
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said 89.4% of all those aged 12 and over had received at least one vaccine dose, yet the unvaccinated accounted for two-thirds of all the Covid patients in intensive care units. Latest data released on Monday showed there were 1,606 people in intensive care with Covid-19, up 11 on the previous day, while the country reported 101,762 new cases and 227 additional deaths over the past 24 hours.
Piling further pressure on people to get inoculated, new restrictions came into force on Monday banning those not yet vaccinated from entering bars and restaurants or from using public transport. Only those who have recently recovered from Covid-19 will be exempted from the new rule.
New Covid-19 hospitalization record in the US
Covid-19 hospitalizations in the United States reached a fresh high of 132,646, according to a Reuters tally on Monday, surpassing the record of 132,051 set in January last year, amid a surge of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
Hospitalizations have increased steadily since late-December, doubling in the last three weeks, as Omicron quickly overtook Delta as the dominant version of the virus in the United States. Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, Vermont, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Wisconsin have reported record levels of hospitalized Covid-19 patients recently, according to the Reuters analysis.
While potentially less severe, health officials have warned that the sheer number of infections caused by the Omicron variant could strain the hospitals' systems, some of which have already suspended elective procedures as they struggle to handle the surge of patients amid staff shortages.
"Now we must learn to live with Covid" - WHO spokesman
World Health Organisation spokeman David Nabarro believes that we are nearing the end of the pandemic but should be braced for fresh outbreaks in the short to medium term. "The way this virus is behaving, and has behaved since we first met it, is that it builds up and surges quite dramatically and then it calms down again, then surges again about every three or four months. It's difficult to use past behaviour to predict the future, but I would agree that the pattern that I think is going to happen with this virus is continued surges. Living with Covid means being able to prepare for these surges and to react to them really quickly when they occur. Life can go on, we can get the economy going again in many countries but we just have to be really respectful of the virus and that means having really plans in place to deal with the surges", he said today.
Hospitalised Covid patients rising in England and Scotland
According to the latest figures, there were 17,120 Covid patients in hospital in England and 1,432 in Scotland, up from 14,210 and 1,033 respectively during the past seven days.
Europe eases Covid policies as Omicron takes out key workers
The Czech Republic said on Monday it would allow critical workers such as doctors and teachers to go to work after a positive Covid-19 test, the latest European country to ease restrictions to keep services running as cases surge.
The hours of work lost to the pandemic around the world in 2020 were equivalent to 258 million full-time jobs disappearing, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), and last year the figure still amounted to around 125 million jobs. Britain, France, Switzerland, Spain and Belgium have all cut quarantine periods in the last three weeks and eased some of the conditions for infected staff to return to work.
Czech ministers are drawing up a list of the critical workers who will be allowed to continue working despite a positive test, and have said health, social and education workers are likely to figure, along with drivers and those in other essential services such as laundry for hospitals.
In Spain - where the 14-day average infection rate hit a new record of 2,723 cases per 100,000 people on Friday, more than 10 times higher than at the beginning of December - the staffing squeeze is being felt across almost all sectors. The national police union said many officers were working double shifts to cover for colleagues in isolation. The national train operator Renfe said twice as many drivers were off with Covid-19 as in early December, and had to cancel some 40 services on Friday.
But rules passed on 22 December are now allowing staff back to work without taking a coronavirus test. The Health Ministry has also set a viral load threshold below which an infected person who takes a PCR test can be considered non-infectious, and so fit to work - enabling medics, social workers and some police to report for duty even if they test positive.
EU regulator could issue decision on Pfizer Covid-19 pill 'within weeks'
The European Union's drug regulator said on Monday it could make a decision on whether to approve the use of Pfizer's Covid-19 pill, Paxlovid in the coming weeks after the US drugmaker submitted an application seeking authorisation.
The approval sought is for the treatment of mild-to-moderate Covid-19 in patients 12 years of age and older, weighing at least 40 kilograms and are at high risk of their illness worsening, the European Medicines Agency said.
The EMA "will assess the benefits and risks of Paxlovid under a reduced timeline and could issue an opinion within weeks, depending on whether the data submitted are sufficiently robust and whether further information is required to support the evaluation".
Covid-19 cases in the US are continuing to rise, with never before seen numbers of cases rocking the country. The latest national figure, from January 9, had 313,061 new cases. While this increase, more than 200 percent higher than two weeks ago, is large, it isn't reflected by a similar increase in deaths. Compared to two weeks ago, 16 percent more people have died. Cases are looking like they are peaking, but reported cases are always lower on weekends, so a fuller picture will be known later in the week.
While the situation was looking especially grim at the turn of the new year, vaccines are continuing to be effective against serious illness. Despite cases being at the worst level of the pandemic, there has been no move in Congress to pass another stimulus check.
Hospitals under pressure from Omicron spread
The number of covid-19 patients who need intensive care or ventilation is approaching levels similar to that of last winter. Compunding this, the sheer number of patients is overwhelming to hospitals, where staffing shortages are putting healthcare workers under immense strain.
Omicron sick or quarantine period hits US economy
With the Omicron wave of the pandemic rapidly spreading across the US, the robust economic recovery is facing a new threat that policymakers have little control over: people calling in sick.
What started as a series of holiday flight cancellations as pilots and other staff fell ill or were forced into quarantine is becoming a reality in factories, grocery stores and ports and again testing supply chains.
The widespread absenteeism is already constraining output, and several economists began the new year by downgrading their first-quarter forecasts. Even if the hit is temporary, as most anticipate, the disruptions and closures are likely to slow the fragile rebound in some sectors and weigh on businesses’ future plans.
The Omicron covid-19 variant is sweeping the globe, leading to record case numbers being recorded in several countries including the USA, the UK, France and Germany, placing national health systems under pressure.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of the dangers of a rise in the number of hospitalisations due to the highly contagious Omicron strain, which is less serious than Delta but spreading at a much faster rate, becoming the dominant strain worldwide in a matter of weeks since it was first detected in South Africa in November.
One of the worst possible scenarios for new variants is an amalgamation that creates a new variant possessing the properties of two potentially destabilizing factors.
We have a look at what is being seen on this front.
Common cold T-cells and covid-19 protection
High levels of T-cells from common cold coronaviruses can provide protection against covid-19, an Imperial College London study published today has found, which could inform approaches for second-generation vaccines.
Immunity against covid-19 is a complex picture, and while there is evidence of waning antibody levels six months after vaccination, T-cells are also believed to play a vital role in providing protection.
The study, which began in September 2020, looked at levels of cross-reactive T-cells generated by previous common colds in 52 household contacts of positive covid-19 cases shortly after exposure, to see if they went on to develop infection.
Alistair Smout reports for Reuters.
Some nations are already looking to a fourth vaccine dose to help contend with a huge Omicron-driven spike in covid-19 cases, but early signs suggest repeat vaccination may be a hard sell as beleaguered populations enter their third pandemic year.
Uptake of the first round of boosters in recent months - a third shot for most - has lagged initial vaccinations.
Disease experts say that rapidly shifting public health messaging in the face of a quickly-mutating virus has bred confusion and mistrust over the benefit of boosters.
The Omicron variant of the coronavirus has more than 30 mutations on the spike protein - the target of most current covid-19 vaccines. These changes have increased Omicron's transmissibility, and allowed the virus to evade protection from symptomatic disease induced by vaccines and prior infection. Yet vaccines remain the critical tool in preventing severe disease and death, experts say.
Julie Steenhuysen and Maayan Lubell report.
CDC quarantine guidance - for non-vaccinated
The date of your exposure is considered day 0. Day 1 is the first full day after your last contact with a person who has had covid-19.
CDC quarantine guidance - for vaccinated
The date of your exposure is considered day 0. Day 1 is the first full day after your last contact with a person who has had covid-19.
CDC covid quarantine guidance changes Amazon stance
Amazon is cutting paid leave time for US front-line workers who test positive for covid-19 or have to quarantine after exposure to the virus.
All US-based Amazon workers who test positive for covid-19 and those required to quarantine will now be eligible for one week, or up to 40 hours, of paid leave, according to a company notice sent to employees, which was viewed by CNBC.
An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the policy change.
Covid-19 quarantine time
Do you know how to calculate your quarantine period?
Based on the CDC guidance,
Day 0 - the date of your exposure
Day 1 - is the first full day after your last contact with a person who has had covid-19.
Stay home and away from other people for at least 5 days.
In California and beyond, there are serious concerns about how the quarantine period will impact on hospitals.
For those looking to get their third dose of the vaccine, there are slight differences between those available by Pfizer and Moderna.
For example, while Modern's booster is a half dose of the original vaccine, the Pfizer shot is a full dose.
Both companies ran clinical trials to determine which dosage would provide the best immunity, and the doses set are based on the findings.
Find out what you need to know with our covid booster summary.
Omicron: vaccinated vs unvaccinated
The graph below is further evidence of what we know about Omicron. Those who have been vaccinated, in general, are not ending up in hospital.
It's almost as if vaccines - those things most of us have been taking since birth - work.
AOC reveals she has tested positive for covid
Democrat Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says she has caught covid. This comes days after she was snapped partying maskless at a Miami drag brunch.
The Bronx Representative, 32, made the announcement on her official Twitter page Sunday night, sharing a statement on House of Representatives headed paper which said.
'Representative Ocasio-Cortez has received a positive test result for covid-19. She is experiencing symptoms and is recovering at home. The Congresswoman received her booster shot this Fall, and encourages everyone to get their booster and follow all CDC guidance.'
AOC then added some of her own guidance in a follow-up tweet, writing.
'For information on what to do if you're exposed to covid, test positive or want to schedule a test or vaccine in New York City -- see our round-up of CDC and NYC resources here,' before adding a link to a personal website.
Positive covid test, the school show must go on
As well as bringing you the science behind covid and the political decisions being made, we're also keeping our eyes open for real-life situations.
Here is Paul Harris, Deputy Editor of news at the Guardian US, explaining his consternation at his daughter's school teacher being forced to teach despite having a positive covid test.
Covid testing: what do we know?
What do covid-19 tests measure?
How accurate are the tests?
Do vaccines interfere with covid-19 diagnostic tests?
Can the tests detect viral variants?
Should I use a rapid at-home test or go in for a PCR test?
How long are the tests good?
Science News has a look into the covid testing questions on everyone's minds.
Covid cases in schools - county, state, CDC
Union County Public Schools posted on their website that they will no longer publish a weekly covid-19 dashboard.
The district said that from anyone looking for that information after 7 January would need to get it from the county’s health department, the state health department, and the CDC.
The district said they will still pass on some information to families.
Biden wants you boosted
This was President Joe Biden's most recent message about vaccinations in which he urged everyone to get their easier-than-ever booster.
The advice is that most adults 18+, regardless of which vaccine they first received, should get Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna (mRNA vaccines) for their booster dose. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is the only booster available to anyone ages 12-17. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Covid testing: opposing views
In case you missed it before, this was Governor Ron DeSantis' press conference from a couple of days ago. In it he questioned the value of getting medical tests done before feeling symptoms.
As many people pointed out, including numerous medical professionals, it is completely normal to get tests before you feel sick. It's known as preventative medicine.
Coronavirus and diabetes
“I noticed that I was so thirsty all the time. And I just thought that was part of the covid,” Nola Sullivan from Idaho says. “I was drinking gallons of water.”
As a pharmacy technician, though, she knew that excessive thirst can be sign of diabetes. So she decided to check her blood sugar.
A person is considered diabetic when levels of glucose in their blood reach 200 milligrams of glucose per deciliter of blood. Sullivan’s was over 500.
Tina Hesman Saey assesses a recent study linking covid-19 and diabetes.
Omicron protection: a CDC reminder
Are you feeling a little unsure about the best course of action for you, your family and friends? The CDC has issued its guidance to help keep you as safe as possible:
1. Get vaccinated
2. Get boosted
3. Wear a mask in public indoor settings
4. Consider taking a test before you gather
Find out more below...
Covid takes out Kyrgios, but he's "feeling healthy"
Nick Kyrgios has confirmed this morning that he has pulled out of the Sydney Tennis Classic after testing positive for covid-19, but hoped to be at the Australian Open next week "if all goes well".
Australian Kyrgios had withdrawn from the Melbourne Summer Set ATP tournament last week due to asthma, according to the organisers, and pulled out of his clash with Italian seventh seed Fabio Fognini on Monday.
"I just want to be open and transparent with everyone, the reason I have had to pull out of Sydney is because I tested positive for covid," Kyrgios said on Instagram.
"I am feeling healthy at the moment with no symptoms. I wish everyone all the best and to stay safe where you can. If all goes well I will see you all at the Australian Open."
As children return to school with cases surging, many districts are struggling to find substitute teachers, and some have even decided to move classes online. Although children have typically fair better against the virus, with such a high level of transmission many children are testing positive, even if their case may be asymptomatic.
This has led to a record-breaking increase in pediatric hospitalizations, especially among young and unvaccinated children. Hospitalizations are increasing, and many doctors are reporting that the majority of children are unvaccinated. Additionally, the vast majority in some areas have co-morbidities, that make them more vulnerable to the covid-19.
We bring you more on the questions being raised by concerned parents across the country.
Nadal on Djokovic covid situation
On a personal level, I'd much rather he didn't play (laughing).
It's sports, many interests move around it, on a general level, at an economic, advertising level. Everything is much better when the best can be playing.
The most important institutions in the world say that the vaccine is the way to stop this pandemic and the disaster that we have been living for the last 20 months.
Across the globe, covid has been causing havoc and this applies to the world of sport too with one aspect being certain players making headlines due to their stance on vaccines.
Over recent days, as you almost certainly know, world number one men's tennis player has been having issues getting into Australia over his own position on vaccination. This morning, a decision was made on his entry visa - an appeal which he won - but things don't appear as clear cut as first thought.
You can catch up with all the latest news as it breaks over on our dedicated live blog.
After a year of online learning, that limited the movement of children, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found an increase in the number of children diagnosed with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
More concerning, was the result that children who had tested positive for covid-19 were between 1.3 and 2.6 times more likely to be diagnosed as diabetic within the thirty days following their stint with the virus.
Maite Knorr-Evans brings you more on diabetes amid the covid pandemic.
Rapid covid tests: throat swab or not?
People self-testing for covid-19 should swab their throat as well as their nose when using rapid antigen kits to increase the chances of detecting the Omicron variant, a top Israeli health official said earlier today, via Reuters.
The recommendation goes against the advice of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has said manufacturers' instructions should still be followed and that any incorrect use of throat swabs could pose a safety risk. On Israeli Army Radio, Sharon Alroy-Preis, Israel's public health chief, said antigen tests, used widely in the country, are less sensitive than PCR tests in detecting illness.
'In order to increase their sensitivity we will from now on recommend swabbing the throat and the nose. It's not what the manufacturer instructs but we are instructing this,' she said.
The Health Ministry did not immediately respond when asked if it has checked throat swabs using nasal test kits work and whether it has sought advice from the manufacturers. With Omicron pushing daily infection cases to record highs, Israel's testing centres have been struggling, prompting health officials to prioritise risk groups for PCR testing and trust younger, vaccinated people to test at home if exposed to a carrier.
More than one test
Alroy-Preis said that when exposed to a carrier, people should take more than one test or at least wait three days since exposure before testing with rapid kits. Some infectious disease experts have advocated throat swabbing with antigen tests because people can already transmit Omicron to others when it has infected their throat and saliva but before the virus reaches their nose.
A study released on Wednesday on medRxiv before peer review looked at 29 Omicron-infected workers in high-risk professions who had PCR and antigen tests done simultaneously on multiple days. The PCR tests of saliva detected the virus on average three days before rapid nose-swab samples became positive.
But the FDA tweeted on Friday: 'when it comes to at-home rapid antigen covid-19 tests, those swabs are for your nose and not your throat'. Throat swabs, it said, 'if used incorrectly, can cause harm to the patient'.
Israel has confirmed around 1.5 million infections since the pandemic began and more than 8,000 deaths. Around 60% of its 9.4 million population is fully vaccinated, Health Ministry data shows.
Covid approach and a national strategy
Half a dozen former members of President Biden's covid-19 transition advisory board are calling for a new approach. They argue the country needs a national strategy for a "new normal" — plus more covid testing, surveillance, vaccines and aggressive use of vaccine mandates.
Decisions must be supported by the science... but with an understanding that guidance can change as new information comes to light, or new variants move the goalposts.
Italy lined up 40,000 Merck antiviral drug doses
Italy will receive around 40,000 doses of Merck & Co's Covid-19 antiviral drug next week, which will add to nearly 12,000 already distributed to hospitals, the special Covid-19 commissioner said on Sunday.
"They are intended for clinical cases that risk a serious outcome of the disease," Commissioner Francesco Figliuolo told a television program on Italy's RAI 3 channel. Italy will also get 200,000 courses of Pfizer's Covid-19 drug in February, Figliuolo said, adding that Rome had an option to buy additional 400,000 doses of Pfizer's Paxlovid.
The office of the special commissioner for the Covid emergency said in November it had received a mandate from the health ministry to buy 50,000 courses of Merck's pill and another 50,000 of Pfizer's one. While vaccines are the main weapons against Covid-19 for governments, there are hopes Merck and Pfizer's experimental pills could be a game-changer in reducing the chances of dying or hospitalisation for those most at risk of severe illness.
Meanwhile in France... mandatory vaccines?
A mandatory order would not be the most efficient way to encourage those not vaccinated against covid-19 to get the shot and that plans to toughen health pass conditions were already yielding results, government spokesman Gabriel Attal said.
People in France already have to show either proof of vaccination or a negative test to enter restaurants and bars and use inter-regional trains. But with Omicron infections surging, parliament is debating legislation that will drop the test option.
President Emmanuel Macron this week said he wanted to irritate the unvaccinated by making their lives so difficult they would get the covid-19 shot.
Canada vaccine mandate for US truckers
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is pushing ahead with a vaccine mandate for international truckers despite increasing pressure from critics who say it will exacerbate driver shortages and drive up the price of goods imported from the United States.
Canada will require all truckers entering from the United States to show proof of vaccination starting on Saturday as part of its fight against covid-19.
That could force some 16,000, or 10%, of cross-border drivers off the roads, the Canadian Trucking Alliance (CTA) estimates. The government estimates 5% of drivers will be impacted, according to a government source.
The mandate is the first policy measure taken since the pandemic began that could limit cross-border trucking traffic.
Trucks crossed the border freely when the border was closed for 20 months because they were considered essential to keep supply chains flowing.
"We don't anticipate significant disruptions or shortages for Canadians," the source said.
Good morning and welcome to our latest daily live blog on the spread of the Omicron variant of covid-19, with a particular focus on the situation in the United States.
As has been the case across the globe, new infections in the US have surged since the emergence of the highly contagious strain, so much so that the country reported over 1m daily cases earlier in the week.
The most recent figures provided by the US' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released on Friday, placed the nation's latest daily case count at just over 831,000 new infections, while a Johns Hopkins University tally said 378,000 cases were registered in the US on Saturday.
However, this lower figure comes with the caveat that many infections registered over the weekend are not officially reported until Monday. We'll bring you the latest as it emerges...