US COVID Tests by Mail Back, Low Booster Rates, US Long Covid Deaths, Pfizer China Deal, World Covid Stats

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US: COVID tests by mail are back

© AP

COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations are on the rise, posing a major threat to nursing home residents and staff who are not up to date on their COVID-19 vaccinations.

  • Less than half of all nursing home residents and less than a quarter of staff have received a bivalent booster shot, according to federal data. As the coldest months approach, the low vaccination rates foreshadow a difficult and potentially deadly winter.
  • Hospitalizations have increased more than 25 percent in the past two weeks, primarily driven by older Americans and those with underlying health conditions.

Extreme heightened risk: Nursing home residents and staff are particularly susceptible to COVID-19 infection; one-fifth of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths have occurred among residents and staff in long-term care facilities, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The elderly population is also most at risk from other respiratory viruses like influenza and respiratory syncytial virus, which are seeing extremely high rates of transmission much earlier than in past years and straining hospitals across the country.

“The prospect of not being able to get into a hospital when you need it is scary,” said Katie Smith Sloan, president of LeadingAge, which represents nonprofit nursing homes. “We’re dealing with flu season colliding with the holidays, and it’s the perfect storm.”

The Biden administration recently launched a year-end sprint to improve lagging COVID-19 vaccination rates, with a focus on nursing facilities.

But experts and industry groups said the barriers nursing homes are facing have not changed since the first round of boosters last year, including pandemic fatigue, mixed messaging about the vaccine’s effectiveness and strict requirements about vaccine administration.

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CDC: Long COVID behind more than 3,500 deaths 

© AP

Pfizer has inked a deal with a Chinese-based pharmaceutical company to sell COVID-19 antiviral Paxlovid in the country, according to a new report.

The announcement with China Meheco Group, which Bloomberg reported was made in a filing with the Shanghai stock exchange, comes as China faces a surge in coronavirus infections as it eases its “zero COVID” policy.

  • China in February cleared the pill for use, and the companies’ agreement is effective immediately, Bloomberg reported.
  • The ability for the antiviral to enter the Chinese market could prove useful as the country battles a high level of coronavirus cases

Official case counts on the mainland have declined in recent days, but the decline comes as the country eases testing requirements as part of efforts to relax zero COVID following rare sizable protests and an economic slump. The country still appears to be experiencing mass outbreaks as it wanes what were some of the strictest pandemic restrictions in the world. Read more here.

WORLD COVID STATS

Coronavirus Cases:

656,549,416

Deaths:

6,667,974

Recovered:

630,611,869
Highlighted in green
= all cases have recovered from the infection
Highlighted in grey
= all cases have had an outcome (there are no active cases)

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Latest News

December 16 (GMT)

Updates

  • 153,602 new cases and 259 new deaths in Japan [source]

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