Record US Daily Deaths, England Opens Up, Who Gets Long Covid, More

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US: Omicron pushes deaths past 2,000 per day

 

© AP.

The average number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths this week surpassed the height of the delta surge earlier this fall and is at its highest point since last winter, when the nation was coming out of the peak winter surge.

The seven-day average of deaths hit 2,166 on Monday, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Average daily deaths in mid-September before the omicron variant was discovered peaked at around 1,900.

While increasing evidence shows omicron may be less likely to cause death or serious illness than delta, the sheer infectiousness and the speed at which it spreads has overwhelmed hospitals, primarily with people who have not been vaccinated.

The U.S. saw the highest numbers of deaths in the pandemic just over a year ago, before vaccines were widely available, when the daily average reached 3,400. The last time the U.S. topped 2,000 deaths was last February, as the country was slowly coming down from the January peak.

Caution urged: Infections are falling in states that were hardest hit earlier, as well as broadly across the nation. Hospitalizations are also falling, but deaths are a lagging indicator and are still increasing. CDC Director Rochelle Walsenky said deaths have increased about 21 percent over the past week.

The fact that the omicron variant tends to cause less severe disease on average also helped avoid an even greater crisis that would have occurred if it was as severe as the delta variant.

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Covid: Care home rules to ease and end of masks and Covid passes in England

England care home restrictions to ease

There will be no limit on the number of visitors to care homes in England, the government’s announced, as further restrictions are set to ease. This is being brought in from Monday, and the change also sees self-isolation periods cut and care homes only having to follow outbreak management rules for 14 days, not 28. The move means people could see more of their loved ones, says Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

An elderly woman's hands being heldImage source, Getty Images

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Face masks and Covid passes end in England

The latest Covid restrictions – wearing face coverings and using Covid passes – are ending in England from today. The government says they’re no longer legally required because of the vaccine rollout and because we have a better understanding of how to treat the virus. But some shops like Sainsbury’s are continuing to ask people to wear them. Rail operators are asking the same. Some smaller firms are also doing this, saying they’ll keep mask-wearing over safety concerns. They hope customers aren’t discouraged by their decision. Read more here.

Woman wearing mask with hand sanitizerImage source, Getty Images
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Female Period changes after jab short-lived

Changes to periods after having the Covid vaccine quickly return to normal, according to a leading UK menstruation expert. Writing in the British Medical Journal, Dr Victoria Male, from Imperial College London, says the changes are “small compared with natural variation and quickly reverse”. Studies from the US and Norway which tracked women’s cycles, are “reassuring”, she adds. Find out more here.

Woman predicting when her period will startImage source, Getty Images
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US has shared 400M vaccine doses globally

 

© Associated Press/Mary Altaffer

The United States has shared 400 million coronavirus vaccine doses with the global population, more than any other nation, the Biden administration announced Wednesday.

White House COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients announced the milestone during a public health briefing on Wednesday, saying that 400 million vaccine doses have been sent to 112 countries “for free, with no strings attached.”

The U.S. sent roughly 3.2 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to Bangladesh and 4.7 million doses to Pakistan this week, according to a White House official, bringing the total doses shared to 400 million. The vaccine doses are being shared through COVAX, the World Health Organization-backed initiative to vaccinate lower-income countries.

But, according to the Financial Times, COVAX is almost out of money, and can’t accept any new donations that don’t come with needed accessories like syringes.

Infectious disease doctor Peter Hotez tweeted the 400 million dose number is “nothing to brag about” and repeated a warning that failing to adequately vaccinate the world will lead to even more variants spreading out from under-vaccinated nations and prolonging the pandemic.

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How you may get long COVID-19

 

Long COVID-19 has had an air of mystery around it for months. Doctors have struggled to explain or understand why some people who contract COVID-19 end up having lingering symptoms like fatigue, difficulty thinking clearly, or shortness of breath weeks or even months later.

A new study published in the journal Cell helps shed some light on the condition, for the first time identifying four factors that can help predict whether someone will develop long COVID-19.

“Being able to identify the factors that can cause the disease, cause the chronic condition, is the first step towards defining that it actually is a condition that can be treatable,” Jim Heath, president of the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle, and an author of the study, said in an interview. “And then some of these factors also are in fact the kind of things one can imagine developing treatments for.”

The most important factor the study identified in predicting long COVID-19 is the presence of certain kinds of antibodies called autoantibodies, which mistakenly attack healthy parts of the body. Autoantibodies are associated with autoimmune diseases, like lupus, where your immune system attacks your own body.

But someone does not have to have an autoimmune disease to have autoantibodies present and be at higher risk for long COVID-19, Heath said.

Still, he said one practical application of the study is that lupus treatments could be “worth exploring” as treatments for long COVID-19.

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