Over 95 percent of Americans killed by COVID-19 have been 50 or older
FDA, CDC urge pause of J&J vaccine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a joint statement on April 13 recommending that use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose COVID-19 vaccine be paused “out of an abundance of caution” while the agencies investigate six cases of a rare and serious type of blood clot, in combination with low levels of platelets, in women in the United States. As of April 12, more than 6.8 million doses of the J&J vaccine had been administered, so these incidents “appear to be extremely rare,” the statement says. The six women who experienced the clot are between the ages of 18 and 48 and the clots occurred between six and 13 days after they received the J&J shot. The statement urges people who have received the J&J vaccine and develop severe headache, abdominal pain, leg pain, or shortness of breath within three weeks after their vaccination to contact their health care provider. The J&J vaccine was created using a different technology than the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, and the federal agencies are not recommending any pause of those two products. A CDC advisory committee on April 14 voted to keep the pause in place until more information is available.
Leaving middle seats open on airplanes can reduce COVID exposure. A new CDC report based on a laboratory model found that when middle seats were left open on airplanes, risk of exposure to coronavirus particles was reduced by 23 to 57 percent, compared with full aircraft occupancy. However, it’s not yet understood whether the extra space could decrease virus transmission and infection. “Based on a data-driven model, approaches to physical distancing, including keeping middle seats vacant, could reduce exposure to SARS-CoV-2 on aircraft,” the authors write. Current CDC guidelines recommend delaying travel unless you are fully vaccinated.
Infections and hospitalizations continue to rise. The seven-day average of daily COVID-19 cases continues to rise and is now nearing 70,000 daily cases, according to CDC data. Hospitalizations are also on the rise — up about 7 percent from the previous seven-day period.
Drugmaker Regeneron to seek expanded authorization for antibody treatment. A phase 3 trial for Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody cocktail, REGEN-COV, found the drug has some preventive benefits. It significantly reduced the risk for COVID-19 infection in individuals living infected persons, the company reported on April 12. In individuals who developed symptomatic infections, the drug, given by injection, was found to shorten the duration of disease. “These data suggest that REGEN-COV can complement widespread vaccination strategies, particularly for those at high risk of infection. Importantly, to date REGEN-COV has been shown in vitro to retain its potency against emerging COVID-19 variants of concern,” said Myron Cohen, M.D., who leads the monoclonal antibody efforts for the NIH-sponsored COVID Prevention Network (CoVPN) and is Director of the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Regeneron says it plans to submit the data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to expand its authorization to include COVID-19 prevention “for appropriate populations.”
Two new CDC reports highlight racial and ethnic disparities during the pandemic. In each region of the country, the proportion of hospitalized COVID-19 patients was highest among Hispanics and Latinos, a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows. A second study released by the CDC found that Hispanic and American Indian and Alaskan Native individuals were 1.7 times more likely to seek care in emergency departments for COVID-19 from October-December 2020, compared to whites; Black individuals were 1.4 times more likely. “The COVID-19 pandemic and its disproportional impact on communities of color is just the most recent and glaring example of health inequities that threaten the health of our nation,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a press briefing on April 12. She added, “We must acknowledge the disparities that exist and commit to an equitable distribution of vaccines, particularly to those communities that have been hardest hit by the virus.”
CDC declares racism a serious public health threat. The CDC on April 9 declared racism a serious public health threat and highlighted the pandemic’s disproportionate and devastating impact on communities of color. “Yet, the disparities seen over the past year were not a result of COVID-19. Instead, the pandemic illuminated inequities that have existed for generations and revealed for all of America a known, but often unaddressed, epidemic impacting public health: racism,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “What we know is this: racism is a serious public health threat that directly affects the well-being of millions of Americans. As a result, it affects the health of our entire nation. Racism is not just the discrimination against one group based on the color of their skin or their race or ethnicity, but the structural barriers that impact racial and ethnic groups differently to influence where a person lives, where they work, where their children play, and where they worship and gather in community. These social determinants of health have life-long negative effects on the mental and physical health of individuals in communities of color.” The CDC pledged to continue to study the impact of the social determinants of health and make investments in disproportionately affected communities, among other efforts.
Coronavirus variants spread in U.S. The highly contagious B.1.1.7. variant, first identified in the United Kingdom, is now the most common lineage circulating in the U.S., federal health officials said on April 7. To date, 21,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S. have been caused by the B.1.1.7. variant.
COVID-19 linked to increased risk for neurological and psychiatric disorders. A new, large study published in TheLancet Psychiatry found that roughly 1 in 3 COVID-19 survivors experienced a psychiatric or neurological illness six months after being diagnosed with a coronavirus infection. Anxiety and mood disorders were among the most common illnesses recorded, and patients with severe COVID-19 were at greatest risk for developing a psychiatric or neurological condition. “Services need to be configured, and resourced, to deal with this anticipated need,” the study’s authors write. AARP’s Global Council on Brain Health has more information on COVID-19 and brain health.
Vaccine eligibility wide open by April 19. All American adults, and not just those prioritized based on their risk, should be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine by April 19, President Joseph Biden said on April 6 at the White House. Biden’s new direction to the states updates his earlier request that they make all U.S. adults eligible for a vaccine by May 1. Biden attributed the ability to move the eligibility date up by two weeks to getting enough vaccine supply, creating more places to get vaccinated and enlisting more people to provide the vaccinations. The administration had already announced that by April 19, 90 percent of all Americans would live within five miles of a vaccination site and 40,000 pharmacies would provide vaccines.
CDC updates guidance on cleaning surfaces. Cleaning surfaces with soap or detergent is enough to prevent the spread of coronavirus in most situations, according to new guidance issued April 5 by the CDC. “Disinfection is only recommended in indoor settings, schools and homes where there has been a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, within the last 24 hours,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said. People can get infected via contaminated surfaces, Walensky said, but the risk is low. Fogging, fumigation and electrostatic spraying is also not recommended and actually carries safety risks, she said.
COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death. The CDCreleased a report March 31 stating that the coronavirus was the third leading underlying cause of death in the United States in 2020, after cancer and heart disease. About 3.4 million deaths occurred in the nation last year and the death rate increased by nearly 16 percent from 2019, according to the report. COVID-19 deaths accounted for about 11 percent of U.S. deaths in 2020.
Substance abuse added to the list of conditions that increase risk from COVID-19. The CDC on March 29 streamlined its list of high-risk conditions that put someone at high risk of developing severe COVID-19. The agency also added substance use disorders (such as alcohol, opioid or cocaine use disorder) to the list.