COVID-19 vaccine turns one, so here’s what to watch in the future
It’s the one year anniversary of the first COVID-19 vaccine, so what’s next for researchers? Here are some things to watch for the vaccine’s future.
Staff Video, USA TODAY
U.S. population growth dipped to its lowest rate since the nation’s founding during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to figures released Tuesday by the Census Bureau.
The coronavirus curtailed immigration, delayed pregnancies and killed hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents. The U.S. grew by only 0.1%, with only an additional 392,665 added to the U.S. population from July 2020 to July 2021. It’s the first time since 1937 that the U.S. population grew by fewer than one million people and the lowest numeric growth since at least 1900, when the Census Bureau began annual population estimates.
The population estimates are derived from calculating the number of births, deaths and migration in the U.S. For the first time, international migration surpassed natural increases from births outnumbering deaths. There was a net increase of almost 245,000 residents from international migration but only around 148,000 from natural increase.
Also in the news:
►Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Tuesday he will activate up to 500 members of the National Guard to support understaffed hospitals facing a surge of COVID-19 patients and to bolster non-emergency medical transportation needs.
►A White House aide who was in close contact with President Joe Biden on Friday tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, the White House announced. Biden tested negative through an antigen test Sunday and a PCR test Monday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki. Biden will be tested again Wednesday.
►Omicron has raced ahead of other variants and is now the dominant version of the coronavirus in the U.S., accounting for 73% of new infections last week, federal health officials said.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 51 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 807,800 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 275.3 million cases and 5.3 million deaths. More than 204 million Americans — 61.5% of the population — are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
📘What we’re reading: As COVID-19 rates spike in a time of omicron, here’s what you need know to stay safe during the holidays.
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Americans preparing to spend time with family and friends this holiday season don’t need to cancel plans, despite the latest infections surge, if they are vaccinated and boosted, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Tuesday.
Fauci, making the rounds of the morning news shows, acknowledged the alarming surge driven by the extremely infectious omicron variant. People ideally would be tested ahead of indoor gatherings, he said.
“If you don’t have the availability of the test and you are fully vaccinated and boosted, you should feel comfortable having a holiday meal or gathering with family members who are also vaccinated and boosted,” he said on NBC’s “Today.”
Speaking on CNN’s “New Day,” Fauci said hospitalization numbers are more important than infection numbers.
“If we have a larger number of people getting infected, but the degree of severity is very, very low, that would be very important,” Fauci said. “If you just count the numbers of infections, you may get a misrepresentation as to what is actually going on.”
Across the country, school districts and families are stumbling toward the finish line of a punishing semester.
At some points, nearly all schools appeared back to normal with daily, in-person instruction. COVID-19 exposures sent kids and staff home to quarantine. Teachers battled student misbehavior, from low-level defiance to more fights, threats and gun violence. Staffing shortages shot up. Parents waged their own arguments over race, public health and other issues.
And now, omicron. Schools and districts are shuttering and some are preparing to return to virtual instruction.
“We’re going to see a return, basically, to a good portion of how things looked last year,” said Dan Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association. “The schools want to stay open. But it’s a logistical nightmare.” Read more here.
– Erin Richards, USA TODAY
Dr. Laolu Fayanju, regional medical director at Oak Street Health in Cleveland, says it’s too soon to confirm the growing narrative that the omicron variant is more infectious but less dangerous than other forms of the coronavirus.
Fayanju cited a recent study from researchers at the Imperial College of London that looked at data from people who tested positive in the U.K. between Nov. 29 and Dec. 11 – and found no evidence the omicron variant is milder than delta. Even if the variant causes slightly milder symptoms, but is much easier to spread, and it has the capability of partially evading defenses in the immunized, “we are not out of the woods,” he said.
“The description of the omicron variant being mild as compared to other variants is not merely a myth, but a dangerous and potentially disastrous framing that we need to abandon,” Fayanju said.
As COVID-19 cases surge, Americans are wondering how to approach the holidays and safely travel and gather with friends and family. The pace of new cases in the U.S. is up 41% compared to a month ago, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data. For much of December, cases appeared to hover around 120,000 but have recently jumped to 140,000 a day.
Still, people who are fully vaccinated do not need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they develop symptoms, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. However, they should still get tested five to seven days after their exposure and wear a mask in indoor public settings for 14 days following exposure or until they get a negative test result. For more tips, read more here.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
California is poised for a surge in new coronavirus infections sweeping the nation, but experts are hoping the state can avoid another wave of crippling restrictions. California has fared far better than many other states so far, with areas in the Midwest and Northeast seeing the biggest surge in cases and hospitalizations amid frigid temperatures that have kept people indoors. And the state ranks near the top in percentage of vaccinated residents. Thus the nation’s most populous state could avoid the worst scenario – spikes in hospitalizations and deaths.
“It’s a highly transmissible respiratory virus and people are going to get it. And they are going to get it every winter,” said Dr. Monica Gandhi, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of California, San Francisco. “We have to go toward measuring our true success with a disease, which is how we’re doing with hospitalizations.”
President Joe Biden is expected to announce Tuesday the purchase of a half-billion, at-home rapid COVID-19 tests and the mobilization of 1,000 military medical personnel to overburdened hospitals in an effort to confront surging COVID-19 infections and the new, highly-transmissible omicron variant.
Building on the winter strategy he outlined earlier this month, Biden wants to ramp up the supply of rapid tests, as shortages have led to long lines and overwhelmed hospitals in hot spots as Americans crisscross the country for the holiday season.
An administration official who outlined the plans to reporters declined to say how many free, at-home tests Americans will be able to access through a new website but said they would be delivered through the mail.
– Maureen Groppe and Courtney Subramanian, USA TODAY
Although details about the omicron variant are still sketchy, a picture is starting to emerge – and it’s not all bad news. So far, it’s clear that omicron is highly contagious – roughly twice as contagious as delta and four times more than the original virus. Experts worry that even if it’s less virulent, which isn’t yet clear, it could still cause enough hospitalizations to overwhelm health care systems here and abroad.
But this is not 2020. Back then, only a handful of people on earth had been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. Everyone’s immune system was unprepared. And now we have vaccines.
“I think we should reassure people that if they’ve been vaccinated with two doses or naturally infected, they’re likely protected against serious illness,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatric infectious disease expert and director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
– Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY
A Royal Caribbean International ship, Odyssey of the Seas, briefly returned to port to disembark a passenger with COVID-19 one day after departing from Fort Lauderdale,
The cruise had set out Saturday on an eight-night itinerary from Florida before returning Sunday. The passenger and his family disembarked and there were “no additional close contacts,” said Lyan Sierra-Caro, spokesperson for Royal Caribbean.
“The guest, who was symptomatic prior to boarding but did not notify us, reported to the medical center and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19,” Sierra-Caro told USA TODAY. “He and his close contacts were quarantined (aboard the ship) and disembarked in Ft. Lauderdale to return home.”
– Morgan Hines, USA TODAY
Contributing: The Associated Press