Coronavirus Today: Flipping the script on COVID-19

Good night. I’m Karen Kaplan, and it’s Tuesday, June 21. Here’s the newest on what’s taking place with the coronavirus in California and past.

California has been averaging 13,768 new coronavirus instances per day over the past week. If well being officers had reported a quantity like that again within the early months of the pandemic, we’d have been significantly freaking out.

What makes me so certain? It’s not less than 4 occasions increased than any statewide case depend reported through the pandemic’s first spring, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In truth, California didn’t see instances attain that stage till late November 2020, when the devastating fall-and-winter surge was taking off. (We had been undoubtedly freaking out at that time.)

Now that we’re two-plus years into the outbreak, that case depend barely registers with the general public as a trigger for concern.

Pretty a lot each public well being chief from CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky on down has lobbied onerous for folks to get their COVID-19 boosters, however solely 47% of eligible Americans have performed so. State and local well being officers “strongly” advocate that folks put on masks in indoor public settings, however most don’t.

To a point, this nonchalance is an indication of COVID-19 burnout. We’re uninterested in letting the coronavirus dictate what we are able to and can’t do. We simply need our lives to return to regular.

At the identical time, there’s a motive that masks are “strongly recommended” however not required (not less than, not but): Although the Omicron variant is circulating extensively and the present wave consists of the third-highest peak of the pandemic, the variety of folks hospitalized with COVID-19 remains to be fairly manageable, and deaths aren’t rising uncontrolled.

Friends from Palisades Charter High School experience the MTA Expo Line in Los Angeles.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

That’s to not say the deaths are negligible — California reported 74 deaths on Monday and was averaging 30 deaths every day over the prior week. (Plenty of these deaths had been preventable; the chance of demise for unvaccinated folks is greater than 10 occasions increased than for many who are vaccinated and boosted, state health officials report.)

But in contrast with earlier durations of the pandemic, we now have much more instruments at our disposal to stave off COVID-19’s worst results. And these instruments are much more focused than the stay-at-home orders, capability restrictions and mandates we’ve had up to now.

The most vital instruments are vaccines: 72% of Californians are absolutely vaccinated, and 58% of these eligible have acquired not less than one booster shot.

Adding to that’s the pure immunity folks have gained by surviving an an infection. In December, the CDC estimated that nearly 95% of Americans had coronavirus antibodies attributable to vaccination, previous an infection or a mix of each.

There are additionally plentiful coronavirus take a look at kits, antiviral capsules similar to Paxlovid and Lagevrio (also referred to as molnupiravir) and the IV drugs Veklury (remdesivir). (Monoclonal antibodies was once on this record, however they aren’t very effective towards Omicron and its subvariants.)

And let’s not low cost all of the expertise medical doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists and different healthcare professionals have acquired by caring for hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 sufferers.

This helps clarify why the present wave, fueled by the Omicron subvariant often called BA.2.12.1, has seen far fewer hospitalizations than final yr’s Delta surge — regardless of inflicting extra infections.

The present wave peaked with about 16,700 new day by day instances in California, in contrast with virtually 14,400 through the Delta days. But Delta despatched 8,342 coronavirus-positive patients to the state’s hospitals on its worst day, whereas BA.2.12.1 hasn’t surpassed 2,808.

ICU admissions diverged much more. With Delta, there have been as many as 2,008 contaminated sufferers in intensive care models all through the state on the similar time. That quantity hasn’t risen above 300 within the present wave.

“At the very beginning of the pandemic, we noted right away the game-changers were going to be vaccines, easy access to testing and therapeutics — and now we have all those things,” Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer advised my colleague Luke Money.

That progress is one thing to understand, but it surely doesn’t assure we’re out of the woods. If one other variant comes alongside that’s in a position to circumvent our vaccines and coverings, we might return to seeing hospitalizations and deaths rising increased for a given improve in infections.

“We certainly are not at a level at these numbers where you would say, ‘OK, it’s now, quote, endemic, and we just go about business as usual,’” UCLA epidemiologist Dr. Robert Kim-Farley advised Money.

“I think, though, it is probably indicative of what we might see in the future,” he added. “Hopefully these surges become fewer, more spread out and less intense as we go forward.

By the numbers

California instances and deaths as of 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday:

As of June 21, 2022, California had recorded 9,945,980 coronavirus cases and 91,314 COVID-19 deaths.

Track California’s coronavirus unfold and vaccination efforts — together with the newest numbers and the way they break down — with our graphics.

Another approach to have a look at issues

If you’re having bother swallowing the glass-half-full outlook outlined above, you’re not alone. What seems like hard-won progress to some looks like complacency — and even capitulation — to others.

Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal is most undoubtedly within the latter camp. In an Op-Ed, the editor in chief of Kaiser Health News lays out the litany of the way during which America has merely surrendered the struggle towards the coronavirus.

The nation’s vaccination price has stalled out at round 67% (although it’ll in all probability rise a bit now that the pictures have been made accessible to the nation’s 18.7 million kids underneath 5). Boosters are even much less common than the preliminary doses.

President Biden requested $22.5 billion to proceed funding the nation’s COVID-19 response, together with cash to pay medical doctors who look after uninsured sufferers and money to purchase vaccines, assessments and coverings. The Senate responded with a $10-billion package deal that doesn’t embody any funds to assist squelch outbreaks abroad. Now even that compromise invoice is being held up by the politics of immigration.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House COVID coordinator, has warned that “we would see a lot of unnecessary loss of life” if the cash doesn’t materialize. So far, that hasn’t been sufficient of an incentive to interrupt the deadlock.

The lack of urgency is shared by state and native governments, in Rosenthal’s view. They’ve rescinded masks mandates even for high-risk settings, together with locations like bars and music venues the place folks crowd collectively indoors. Health officers aren’t appearing with urgency to get extra folks boosted though it’s develop into more and more clear {that a} booster dose is crucial to keep at bay Omicron.

When the federal government received’t take preventive measures significantly, it’s onerous guilty personal employers for following swimsuit. Few shops nonetheless require employees and prospects to masks up; even when masks guidelines are nonetheless posted, they’re not often enforced. (The latest example: Broadway theaters in New York City introduced Tuesday that masks use throughout performances would develop into “optional” subsequent week.)

In March, the Biden administration unveiled a plan to assist Americans coexist with the coronavirus as safely as attainable. The plan’s said objective is “to get back to our more normal routines.” Who wouldn’t get behind that?

“Unfortunately, in response, our elected representatives and much of the country essentially sighed, preferring to move on and give up the fight,” Rosenthal writes.

The drawback isn’t simply that persons are sick of caring about public well being. The drawback is that it’s inherently tough to make folks care about it.

“That’s because if public health officials are respected, well-funded and allowed to do their job here’s the result: Literally nothing happens,” Rosenthal writes. “Outbreaks don’t lead to pandemics.”

A woman in a face mask sits at a desk speaking into a phone as she looks at a laptop.

Maria Fernanda works on contact tracing in a half-empty workplace on the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County in 2020.

(Lynne Sladky / Associated Press)

Health officers can’t go round crowing in regards to the unhealthy stuff that didn’t occur. But when folks don’t take their warnings significantly, they’re those who’re blamed.

They’re additionally those who get quick shrift from politicians and the general public. In the yr earlier than the pandemic, the CDC’s funds was lower by 9%, according to the Trust for America’s Health. Money for packages like suicide prevention and HIV care was solely barely increased in 2020 than it was in 2008, after accounting for inflation.

At the state stage, spending on public well being didn’t see vital development between 2008 and 2018, apart from packages geared toward stopping accidents, in keeping with a 2021 study in the journal Health Affairs. State well being departments weathered large cuts to deal with the Great Recession, and that funding hadn’t been restored by the point COVID-19 got here alongside, leaving them “ill equipped to respond,” the examine authors wrote.

The cuts have resulted within the elimination of at least 38,000 state and local public health jobs, Rosenthal notes. “That’s partly why states and cities have yet to spend much of the $2.25 billion allocated in March 2021 by the Biden administration to help reduce COVID disparities,” she writes. “There are now too few on-the-ground public health officials who know how to spend it.”

Public well being was entrance and middle for awhile within the pre-vaccine period, when folks had been extra afraid of the coronavirus and of getting to make use of an iPad to say goodbye to a liked one hooked as much as a ventilator in an ICU. Now our consideration has shifted to mass shootings, inflation, the conflict in Ukraine and the abortion case earlier than the U.S. Supreme Court.

A trio of anthropologists from George Washington University agree it’s vital to maintain COVID-19’s victims on the prime of our minds, particularly when a lot of the tradition is decided to behave as if issues are already again to “normal.” And they’ve some concepts for doing so.

Sarah E. Wagner, Roy R. Grinker and Joel C. Kuipers begin by suggesting a nationwide fee to take a tough have a look at how the nation allowed the pandemic’s demise toll to exceed 1 million. “By documenting how we got here, the country would be holding itself accountable — ultimately an act of healing for survivors,” they write.

They additionally advocate a nationwide day of remembrance for COVID-19 victims. Resolutions in each the House of Representatives and the Senate would flip the primary Monday in March into “COVID–19 Victims and Survivors Memorial Day.”

“A designated national memorial day would make the pandemic visible for decades to come,” they write.

California’s vaccination progress

As of June 21, 2022, 78.8% of Californians were at least partially vaccinated and 71.7% were fully vaccinated.
A map showing California's vaccination progress by county as of June 21, 2022.

See the newest on California’s vaccination progress with our tracker.

In different news …

It’s been a yr and a half because the first COVID-19 vaccines acquired emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. During that point, the dialog across the vaccines has shifted from how one can cease unscrupulous folks from leaping the road to how one can entice holdouts to roll up their sleeves.

So for those who discovered your self feeling ho-hum in regards to the newest vaccine news — that COVID-19 pictures at the moment are accessible for youths as younger as 6 months — attempt taking a look at it from McKenzie Pack’s perspective.

Pack has a 3-year-old son named Fletcher. He’s not sufficiently old to recollect a time earlier than the pandemic. But as soon as the vaccine builds up his coronavirus immunity, he can begin doing issues he would have in any other case taken as a right.

“He’s never really played with another kid inside before,” McKenzie Pack stated. “This will be a really big change for our family.”

That change was made attainable by the FDA’s choice to grant emergency use authorization to 2 COVID-19 vaccines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers. Both are reformulated variations of the mRNA vaccines accessible to U.S. adults.

The one from Moderna is a two-shot sequence for youths ages 6 months to five years. Each injection comprises one-quarter the dose used for adults. The two pictures ought to be given 4 to eight weeks aside; younger kids with compromised immune programs ought to get a 3rd dose as effectively.

The vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech requires three doses for everybody. The first two pictures are given three to eight weeks aside, and the third one follows not less than eight weeks after the second dose. It’s made for kids ages 6 months to 4 years, and comprises one-tenth the dose used within the grownup vaccine.

The CDC’s vaccine advisory panel spent two days debating the professionals and cons of the vaccines earlier than endorsing them on Saturday. Walensky accepted their recommendation and urged dad and mom and caregivers to make a date with a needle, even for kids who’ve already had COVID-19.

In scientific trials, the pediatric vaccines had been much less efficient than the grownup variations had been once they started rolling out 18 months in the past. That’s as a result of new coronavirus variants — particularly variations of Omicron — have develop into more proficient at evading antibodies induced by the pictures. The trial knowledge instructed the brand new vaccines would in all probability cut back the chance of COVID-19 signs in younger kids by 30% to 60%.

“We cannot let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” stated Dr. Oliver Brooks, chief healthcare officer of Watts Medical Corp. in Los Angeles and a member of the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. “That’s the bottom line.”

The advisors stated they had been persuaded by proof that younger kids’s antibody response to the brand new vaccines was on par with the antibody response seen in older kids and adults, two teams for which the vaccine has been proven to be protecting. Clinical trials additionally established that the vaccine was secure — amongst practically 8,000 younger kids, there have been no deaths and only a few severe opposed occasions, similar to excessive fever.

The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup — a coalition of public well being specialists from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington — carried out its personal assessment over the weekend and announced its support for the brand new vaccines on Sunday.

California has ordered virtually 400,000 doses, and it started permitting dad and mom and caregivers to guide appointments on the My Turn web site on Tuesday. But many suppliers that confirmed up in search outcomes didn’t seem able to accommodate the youngest kids.

The web site for the L.A. County Department of Public Health notified customers that vaccines for kids youthful than 5 had been on the best way. It provided a list of sites that had been “expected to offer the vaccine as soon as it arrives.” A spokesman for the division stated most of these websites ought to have doses accessible by Wednesday.

Both the county well being division and the state supplied a heads-up that pharmacies couldn’t vaccinate kids underneath age 3. That means a go to to a pediatrician or well being clinic is so as.

In different COVID-19 vaccine news, a study printed final week within the New England Journal of Medicine discovered that two preliminary doses with no follow-up booster supplied primarily no lasting safety towards an an infection with Omicron. Researchers additionally reported that an an infection was about pretty much as good as a booster at stopping a brand new Omicron-fueled sickness.

On the plus facet, the examine discovered that both sort of immunity supplied lasting safety towards severe sickness, hospitalization and demise.

“I think this is really the important part: The immunity against severe COVID-19 was really very much preserved,” stated examine co-author Laith Jamal Abu-Raddad, an infectious illness epidemiologist at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar.

Moving on to remedies, Pfizer stated Paxlovid didn’t appear to assist COVID-19 sufferers who weren’t at excessive danger of changing into severely ailing. That grew to become clear in a examine testing its antiviral drug in a broader inhabitants of people that had been comparatively wholesome and unvaccinated, or who had been absolutely vaccinated however had a medical situation that made them extra weak to a severe case of COVID-19.

California is having bother getting Paxlovid to sufferers who want it. In the month because the state started its “test-to-treat” system, fewer than 800 folks acquired a prescription, though 1000’s of Californians grew to become contaminated every day.

The program’s objective is to make antivirals accessible straight away to high-risk sufferers who take a look at constructive for a coronavirus an infection, because the medication work greatest when taken shortly after signs start. A complete of 1,219 folks had been screened for the medication as of mid-June, and 768 bought Paxlovid capsules.

“I think it’s a new concept that people are still getting used to,” stated Katharine Sullivan, who oversees a test-to-treat web site in west Berkeley.

And lastly, the World Health Organization’s latest weekly report on COVID-19 stated there have been greater than 8,700 deaths within the week that ended June 12. That quantity is notable as a result of it represents a 4% improve over the prior week and the primary improve since early May.

The Americas noticed the biggest improve in the COVID-19 demise toll (21%), adopted by the Western Pacific area (17%). Europe, Southeast Asia, the jap Mediterranean and Africa all noticed declines.

Your questions answered

Today’s query comes from readers who wish to know: What’s the standards for having a “high” COVID-19 neighborhood stage?

This is vital as a result of if and when L.A. County crosses this threshold and stays there for 2 weeks, its indoor masks mandate will return.

To again up for a second, COVID-19 community levels are a measure the CDC makes use of to gauge how the coronavirus — and the illness it causes — are affecting folks’s well being in a specific place, both straight (by way of sickness) or not directly (by inserting undo pressure on native healthcare assets, making them unavailable to others). They are available three flavors: “low,” “medium” and “high.”

Three elements decide a county’s COVID-19 neighborhood stage: the variety of new infections recognized over the past week; the variety of new COVID-19 sufferers admitted to native hospitals over the past week; and the share of hospital beds occupied by sufferers with COVID-19.

There are a number of combos of those variables that may qualify a county (or state or territory) as having a “high” COVID-19 neighborhood stage.

Start with the coronavirus case depend. See whether or not your county has recorded not less than 200 new instances per 100,000 folks over the past week. L.A. County did: It noticed 337 instances per 100,000 residents within the final week.

Since we’re over the 200 mark, we’re ineligible for the “low” stage. But we are able to keep within the “medium” stage if we now have fewer than 10 new COVID-19 hospitalizations per 100,000 residents over the past week and fewer than 10% of hospital beds are crammed by COVID-19 sufferers.

The newest CDC figures present that L.A. County hospitals are admitting 7.3 new COVID-19 sufferers per 100,000 residents per week, and that 3.5% of hospital beds are dedicated to sufferers with COVID-19. That means our COVID-19 neighborhood stage remains to be “medium.” But if both metric climbs too excessive, we’ll be reclassified into the “high” class.

If our new case depend had been beneath 200 per 100,000 residents per week, we might nonetheless have a “high” COVID-19 neighborhood stage if we had not less than 20 new hospitalizations per 100,000 per week, or if not less than 15% of hospital beds had been crammed with COVID-19 sufferers. However, these combos are lots much less probably.

You can search for the COVID-19 neighborhood stage for any U.S. state, territory or county on the CDC website.

We wish to hear from you. Email us your coronavirus questions, and we’ll do our greatest to reply them. Wondering in case your query’s already been answered? Check out our archive right here.

The pandemic in photos

Dr. Anthony Fauci dons a mask during a Senate subcommittee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 17, 2022.

(Shawn Thew / Associated Press)

He was the final particular person I anticipated to catch the coronavirus, however this pandemic is stuffed with surprises.

The National Institutes of Health announced Wednesday that none apart from Dr. Anthony Fauci had come down with a gentle case of COVID-19. Fauci, 81, is absolutely vaccinated and double-boosted and nonetheless effectively sufficient to work at home, the place he’s isolating in keeping with CDC tips.

Less than two months in the past, the nation’s prime infectious illness professional heralded the arrival of “more of a controlled phase” of the pandemic. But he was fast so as to add: “By no means does that mean the pandemic is over.”

In this case, I’m certain he needs he’d been mistaken about that.


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