Infections inch up; variant circumstances set document; J& J vaccine

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After new COVID-19 cases fell from their record highs in January in recent weeks, President Joe Biden’s senior health officials warned on Monday that the US “could lose the hard-earned ground we won” if the Cases would plateau at their current levels.

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said she was “deeply concerned” as the number of new cases stall but states continue to roll back virus-related restrictions.

“We can’t put up with 70,000 cases a day and 2,000 deaths every day,” said Walensky.

Sunday marked the first time most states reported rising case numbers in more than a month, and more cases were recorded in the past week than a week earlier, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data.

On Monday, new rollbacks also went into effect in the states, including Virginia, where the curfew was lifted from midnight to 5 a.m. and the capacity for outdoor gatherings was increased. In Wyoming, all restrictions on personal care businesses have been lifted. and Massachusetts is easing restaurant capacity restrictions and allowing a number of indoor spaces to be reopened with restrictions.

Globally, infections increased last week for six consecutive weeks, with total numbers falling, and World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said part of the reason was “easing public health policies.”

Also in the news:

► Former President Donald Trump and his wife Melania were silently vaccinated against COVID-19 before they left the White House on Jan. 20, the New York Times reported. Although other high-ranking elected officials were publicly vaccinated to emphasize the safety of the vaccines, Trump did not.

►Twitter says that starting Monday, tweets will be flagged with misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines. Since Twitter cracked down on misleading information about the coronavirus and vaccines, Twitter has removed more than 8,400 tweets and “challenged” 11.5 million accounts worldwide.

►The number of hospitals reporting full intensive care units has decreased by nearly 50% across the country since early January. This emerges from an analysis by USA TODAY of data from the Department of Health and Human Services.

► California Governor Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers have reached an agreement to incentivize public schools $ 2 billion to bring some students back by March 31st. School districts in counties in the second most restrictive tier of the state’s reopening plan would be eligible for additional funding if they reopen all elementary schools and at least one class of middle or high school.

►Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday that elementary school children may be vaccinated by the end of the year or early 2022, he said.

📈 Today’s numbers: The United States has more than 28.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 513,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The grand total: More than 114.3 million cases and 2.53 Million deaths. More than 96.4 million vaccine doses have been distributed and about 76.9 million administered in the United States, according to the CDC.

📘 What we read: The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in American nursing homes has fallen significantly since December as millions of vaccine doses were shot into the arms of residents and staff. Read the full story.

USA TODAY is tracking COVID-19 news. Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter to get updates straight to your inbox, or join our Facebook group to catch up on the coronavirus with others.

More US deaths in January and February than in the first 6 months of the pandemic

If warnings from CDC officials of a possible recurrence of COVID-19 cases are not enough to result in continued vigilance, a reminder of the US’s recent misery may do so.

It took the US just two months – January and February of this year – to accumulate 160,209 COVID deaths. That’s more than the country registered in the first six months of the pandemic and more than the current total for all but two nations, Brazil and Mexico.

It should also be sobering news that on Sunday, for the first time in more than a month, a majority of states – 29 total – reported rising case numbers.

These are the states with more infections in the past week than the week before: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

– Mike Stucka

“Fully Vaccinated” cruise to sail from Israel

To convince passengers of the safety of their cruises, Royal Caribbean is planning a “fully vaccinated” voyage departing from Israel in May.

The cruise line’s newest ship, the Odyssey of the Seas, will make her debut on this voyage and is the first time the company has sailed from Israel. The Middle Eastern country has already vaccinated half of its population against COVID-19.

“Royal Caribbean will be the first to offer fully vaccinated cruises, where both crew members and guests over the age of 16 are vaccinated against COVID-19,” said the cruise line’s website.

– Morgan Hines

Local pharmacies say they need more vaccines than CVS, Walgreens are speeding up admissions

Community pharmacies can play a crucial role in delivering COVID-19 shots, but so far drugstore giants CVS and Walgreens, as well as big stores like Walmart and Kroger, have the lion’s share of vaccines sourced from the initial allotment for independent retail pharmacies, say pharmacists.

Some independent pharmacists are frustrated that they are not getting as many vaccines as large chains of federal, state and local governments are receiving, and reject the suggestion that they do not have the technology needed to handle the planning process

Still representing about 1 in 3 of the country’s 60,000 pharmacies, these companies say their personal relationships with customers are critical to successful vaccine rollouts, especially low-income communities and people of color. Of the 63 main courses identified by the CDC for vaccine distribution, only 17 shots were initially assigned to locally owned pharmacies, according to the National Community Pharmacists Association.

– Nathan Bomey

Variant cases increased fivefold in February

The U.S. reported 306 new cases of coronavirus variants on Sunday, a record increase in viruses that can spread more easily, evade some treatments and immunities, or both. Almost all of the new cases involved three states: Florida, 104 cases out of 605; Michigan, up 85 cases out of 421; and Texas, 41 cases out of 102.

Among these, Florida added four cases to its previous case of P.1, a dangerous variant first seen in Brazil, and the first reported case of B.1.351, a variant first seen in South Africa.

The vast majority of cases – new and existing – involve B.1.1.7, a variant first seen in the UK that could become America’s dominant version later this month, according to the CDC. In February, known variant cases quintupled from 471 to 2,463, although the total number of coronavirus infections fell from a peak in January.

The President’s Advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci said Monday that a variant common in New York has raised concerns as there is some evidence that it can evade antibody treatment and make vaccines less effective.

– Mike Stucka

Florida’s oldest residents are lagging behind on COVID vaccinations, the state report shows

When Florida Governor Ron DeSantis restricted vaccinations to seniors 65 and over in December, he said, “The vaccines are used where the risk is greatest, and that applies to our elderly population.”

But with vaccinations increasing nationwide, Florida’s oldest residents are not getting the percentage of vaccinations that equates to the risk they carry from the coronavirus, especially in recent times.

Florida seniors aged 75 and older make up 62% of the 30,734 residents killed by COVID-19, but only 32% of the 1,642,800 people who received their second dose of the two-shot vaccine, according to one released on Saturday State report shows. Seniors 65 to 74 account for 21% of the death toll and about 41% of those immunized.

– Chris Persaud, Palm Beach Post

According to studies, COVID-19 survivors may only need one dose of vaccine

Six recent studies suggest that people who already have COVID-19 may not need a second dose of vaccine.

The federal government hasn’t changed its recommendation for a second dose, but studies looking at immune response show that people who have recovered from COVID-19 get a huge boost from a first shot while barely getting the second shot makes a difference.

“I think that makes perfect sense,” said Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital. Read more here.

– Karen Weintraub

COVID-19 test sites in the US are closing due to falling demand

Just five weeks ago, Los Angeles County was running more than 350,000 weekly coronavirus tests, many of them in a massive drive-through location at Dodger Stadium as health workers raced around the worst COVID-19 hotspot in the United States

Now district officials say the tests almost collapsed. More than 180 government-sponsored locations are only one-third busy.

“It’s shocking how fast we went from 100 mph to about 25 mph,” said Dr. Clemens Hong, who heads the district’s test operations. After a year of struggling to increase testing, communities across the country are seeing a drop in demand, testing sites closings, or even attempts to return supplies.

– Matthew Perrone, desert sun in Palm Springs, California

Featuring: Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press