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World Health Organization

WHO Director-General Worries COVID-19 ‘Tsunami Of Cases’ Could Drive Health Systems Towards Collapse

With COVID-19 cases once again rising — while breaking daily records — in countries like the United States, France, and Britain, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Director-General, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned in a press conference that an uptick could put a strain on health systems globally.

“I’m highly concerned that Omicron, being more transmissible, circulating at the same time as Delta, is leading to a tsunami of cases,” Tedros stated, adding that the COVID-19 surges could force “immense pressure on exhausted health workers.”

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Additionally, Tedros voiced his concerns that the new variants could grow further and become more resistant to the vaccines in place, putting greater importance on boosters. “As this pandemic drags on, it’s possible that new variants could evade our countermeasures and become fully resistant to current vaccines or past infection, necessitating vaccine adaptations.”

Tedros critiqued the failure of his goal for UN member states to reach 40% population immunization — only 102 out of 194 reached the mark — which he said was due to limited supply to low-income countries. “40% was doable. It’s not only a moral shame, it cost lives and provided the virus with opportunities to circulate unchecked and mutate.”

Tedros — who wants to reach 70% immunization in every country by July — encouraged nations to support each other in faster manufacturing and rollouts of vaccines, while also welcoming innovative solutions for reaching at-risk communities. Right now, only 48.3% of the entire world is fully vaccinated, while 57.5% have received at least one dose.

Despite the Director-General’s worrisome remarks, he expressed hope that 2022 could be the year that not only ends the “acute stage” of the pandemic, but puts the world on track for better health security while stating that “it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

As NBC News notes, 1.8 million COVID-19 cases were reported last week in the U.S., a 69.3% increase from the week prior. Dec. 27 saw 441,278 new cases, the highest total recorded since the pandemic hit the country in March 2020. Holiday travel played an obvious part in the rise, and continues a trend – Dec. 2020 and Jan. of this year saw high U.S. daily case increases as well.

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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in the week ending on Dec. 25, Omicron made up 58.6% of total COVID-19 cases in the U.S., while Delta made up 41.1%. Omicron is up 36.1% from Dec. 18, while Delta is down 35.9%.

Meanwhile, Britain saw over 128,000 new cases on Dec. 27 — their highest ever recorded — while France saw over 104,000 on Dec. 25. Across the globe, over 2.5 million cases have been recorded since Monday, while the seven-day average is at 946,035.

Despite the increases and rapid transmissions, standard procedures continue to be relaxed. On Monday, the CDC lowered their recommended isolation time from 10 days to five days for both asymptomatic vaccinated and unvaccinated. The CDC also recommended the wearing of masks around people for five days after isolation time.

Similarly, the U.K. reduced their isolation period for those who have tested positive from 10 days to seven days, assuming they’ve received negative lateral flow tests. WHO has not given a firm opinion on the isolation changes, with emergencies chief Dr. Michael Ryan only saying that “these are judgement calls countries make.”

WHO, CDC Warn Measles Outbreak Possible After 22 Million Infants Miss Their Vaccines

A study published by the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows the possibility of a global measles outbreak has increased after 22 million infants missed their vaccinations because of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, 3 million more than in 2019.

Two-thirds of the infants are located in just ten countries, which include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, Brazil, the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Angola, and Ethiopia.

According to the World Health Organization, measles are the world’s most contagious virus, but also the most “entirely preventable,” with the vaccine having averted more than 30 million deaths over the last 20 years.

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After a global measles resurgence from 2017-2019, the disease saw a drop in 2020 due to the pandemic. In the U.S., just 13 individual cases of measles were confirmed in 2020, down from 1,282 reported cases in 2019. However, the CDC notes that despite the decline, millions of children were more susceptible to measles at the end of 2020 than they were at the end of 2019.

There were a number of possible causes for the measles decline in 2020, one of them being lower transmission rates — thanks in part to social distancing and quarantining — and increased immunity. However, a more likely culprit is the underreporting of cases after “large and disruptive measles outbreaks in 2020.”

Per the WHO, despite there being a safe and cost-effective measles vaccination, there were 140,000 measles deaths globally in 2018, mostly among children under the age of five. On average, there are around 60,000 measles deaths a year, along with 7.5 million cases.

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The measles vaccine come in two doses, which is critical for it to be successful. The first dose coverage fell in 2020, while only 70% of children received their second vaccine dose, which the WHO explains is far below the 95% coverage needed to protect communities from a measles outbreak.

According to The Hill, the number of specimens sent to the WHO Global Measles and Rubella Laboratory Network hit a low that hasn’t been seen in more than a decade. 35 countries did not report rates for the first measles shot, while 50 countries did not report rates for the second measles shot.

In addition to the missed vaccines by infants, 24 measles vaccine supplemental campaigns in 23 countries were postponed due to COVID-19, leaving more than 93 million people at risk for the virus. These campaigns are important because they’re needed where people have missed out on measles-containing vaccines through routine immunization program.

In a statement, WHO Director of Immunization Dr. Kate O’Brien explained we are likely seeing “the calm before the storm” when it comes to a measles outbreak, and stressed the importance of continual vaccination against all diseases.

“It’s critical that countries vaccinate as quickly as possible against COVID-19, but this requires new resources so that it does not come at the cost of essential immunization programs. Routine immunization must be protected and strengthened; otherwise, we risk trading one deadly disease for another.”

Along with the risk of death, measles can also cause swelling, blindness, pneumonia, dehydration, diarrhea, and encephalitis, which can cause swelling of the brain. More basic symptoms include a high fever and rashes.

US To Ease Travel Restrictions For Fully Vaccinated International Visitors

Jeff Zients, White House Covid-19 response coordinator, said the new rules will take effect in November to give agencies and airlines enough time to prepare for the influx of travel that will likely come from these new standards.

CDC Claims Covid-19 Delta Variant Is As Transmissible As Chickenpox

The US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released an internal document this week that claims the Delta variant of the coronavirus is as contagious as chickenpox and could cause severe illness. 

The variant was already more likely to impact vaccinated Americans as well, which is why the report went on to explain that the CDC will be reversing their current mask guidelines for vaccinated Americans and will likely enforce all citizens to wear masks in public again. 

Previously the CDC said it was okay for vaccinated individuals to be unmasked indoors. Data has proven that the vaccines are still highly effective in preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death in vaccinated people against the variants. 

The report claimed that the Delta variant is more transmissible than the viruses caused by MERS, SARS, Ebola, the common cold, flu, and smallpox. 

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CDC director Rochelle Walensky told the New York Times that new research was showing vaccinated people infected with the Delta variant carried a majority of the virus in their nose and throats. 

Officials in general have been warning Americans about major increases in new Covid-19 infections all throughout the nation; particularly among unvaccinated individuals.

Vaccine hesitancy is prominent throughout the entire country, fueled largely by a slew of misinformation that has been spreading about Covid-19 since the Trump administration. Federal employees in Washington are either to get vaccinated or be subject to multiple Covid tests a week, these types of requirements will likely appear throughout multiple industries as the pandemic continues. 

The Biden Administration recently called on state and local government leaders to offer $100 stimulus payments for newly vaccinated Americans; which would be funded by the $350 billion federal aid grant approved of under the American Rescue Plan Act. 

CDC To Hold Emergency Meeting Over Rare Heart Inflammation Side Effect In Covid Vaccines 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced this week that they will be holding an emergency meeting on June 18th to discuss reports of heart inflammation following doses of both the Pfizer and Moderna Covid-19 vaccines. While the CDC claims that these reports have been rare, they’re still higher than initially expected, hence the meeting. 

The CDC has identified 226 cases that could meet the agency’s definition of myocarditis and pericarditis following the injections. A majority of those who experienced inflammation have recovered while 41 experienced ongoing symptoms, 15 are still currently hospitalized, and 3 are in the intensive care unit.

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“It’s a bit of an apples-to-oranges comparison because, again, these are preliminary reports. Not all these will turn out to be true myocarditis or pericarditis reports.”

Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, a CDC vaccine safety official, stated that so far their findings were mostly “consistent with reports of rare cases of heart inflammation that had been studied in Israel and reported from the US Department of Defense earlier this year.” 

A panel of independent advisers for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA0 will be meeting this upcoming Thursday to review the new details regarding myocarditis and pericarditis. The meeting will also serve to discuss how the FDA should approach giving an emergency use authorization for using these vaccines in younger children; the next phase of reaching herd immunity in America. 

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Pfizer already received an emergency use authorization for their vaccine in Americans 12 and up last month, and announced that they were already going through trials to make sure it’s safe for children as young as 6 months old. Moderna is also in the process of seeking a EUA for their vaccine in adolescents. 

Pfizer believes they can finish their children’s trials by the beginning of September, while FDA officials have warned that authorizing vaccines for younger age groups, especially babies and toddlers, could take longer due to how much their bodies are still developing. The FDA believes children will likely be able to receive their vaccines by mid to late fall at the earliest. 

“We recognize that some adverse reactions, for example myocarditis or pericarditis as discussed earlier today, may be too infrequent to detect in a safety database of typical size for pre-licensure clinical trials,” said Dr. Doran Fink, a top official in the FDA’s vaccine office.

“Risk-benefit considerations to determine whether to issue an emergency use authorization for use of a COVID-19 vaccine into healthy pediatric individuals will need to account for this information, and risk-benefit consideration will likely be different, not only compared to those for adults, but also they may be different for younger versus older pediatric groups,” Dr. Marion Gruber, director of the FDA’s vaccine office, said at the meeting.

Delays In Adolescents Receiving Their Covid-19 Vaccinations Could Hinder US Recovery

Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, an expert epidemiologist, recently spoke to the press about how some US populations are seeing an amazing increase in vaccination rates, while other groups in the nation are experiencing lags in their distribution, especially among adolescents, which could lead to a major delay in the country’s recovery as a whole. 

Children currently account for 25% of all Covid-19 cases in America due to the fact that they’re not yet vaccinated. 

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“As we’ve gotten more and more of our seniors vaccinated, more and more people with pre-existing conditions, more and more people who may be healthy and younger, the question becomes how do we protect our children?”

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently performed a study in which they examined more than 200 adolescents aged from 12 to 17-years-old who were hospitalized within the first three months of 2021, likely with Covid-19. The report showed that while there were no deaths, a third of the adolescents were admitted to intensive care units because of their illness, and 5% required mechanical ventilation. 

“Every single one of those hospitalizations, every single one of those kids in the ICU, can now be prevented now that vaccinations are available to those 12 to 17. As certain states lag behind the national average vaccination rate, however, it could spell trouble for the youngest and most vulnerable populations. What we also see is that the same places where adults are lagging, teens are lagging,” emergency physician Dr. Anand Swaminathan said to CNN. 

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About 13 states have hit President Joe Biden’s goal of getting 70% of all US adults vaccinated with at least one Covid-19 vaccine by July 4th. However, experts like Leana Wen claim that the parts of the nation with lower vaccination rates are expected to experience another wave of coronavirus infections among its unvaccinated residents. 

“Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Wyoming, Tennessee and West Virginia have the lowest vaccination rates – with less than 50% of adults having received at least one dose. Vermont, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maine and New Jersey boast the highest, with 75% or more of their adult population partially vaccinated. One issue for where vaccinations are lagging is lack of access and messaging in certain communities,” Dr. Swaminathan explained.

“There are people who don’t understand the fact that this is free. That messaging hasn’t been done as much as it should be.There are barriers for people who can’t get paid time off of work or have issues finding childcare that prevent them from getting the vaccine.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases told CNN that he’s optimistic children younger than 12 could receive their vaccinations by Thanksgiving this year. 

“We are now doing studies that are ongoing, studies that are looking at what we call age de-escalation, children from 12 to 9 and ten 9 to 6 and then 6 to 2 and then 6 months to 2 years. We hope that as we approach the end of the calendar year we’ll have enough information to vaccinate children of any age.” 

Medical Masks

CDC Director Defends Controversial New Mask Guidelines 

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, took to Capitol Hill this week to justify the CDC’s decision to release new guidelines that allow vaccinated individuals to go without a mask in most outdoor and indoor settings. 

Initially, Walensky was just going to discuss the CDC’s proposed budget with the press, however, she quickly began being confronted with questions about the guidelines and the controversy surrounding it; many people think the CDC was premature in their announcement, and are giving non-vaccinated individuals a free pass to go without a mask in public. 

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“The country is not uniform, you really need to interpret our guidence in the context of what is happening in your community.” 

The major issue with this statement from Walensky is that America is so large, and so many individuals feel differently about being vaccinated. She continued to discuss how the “United States is not a homogenous country, so the CDC is letting states and localities decide how to implement the new guidance.” 

Although the CDC released these new guidelines, they did not tell any governors or local leaders how to implement the guidance based on their specific infection and vaccination rates. This has left political leaders completely blind, and confused, as to when it’s safe enough to lift their mask mandates. 

Wednesday’s press conference proved that America’s lawmakers are just as confused as average Americans, which is a major problem considering our political leaders have been the main authority figures throughout this pandemic. Now that the CDC has more of an authority in the White House, it’s confusing that they’re not helping specific state leaders determine when to lift their mandates. 

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Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin spoke out against the confusion: “What should workplaces be doing right now? I’m especially concerned with food-processing plants, of which Wisconsin has a high number. Many such plants are crowded facilities where there’s going to be a mix of vaccinated and unvaccinated workers. My state also experienced multiple coronavirus outbreaks in a number of meat-processing plants last spring.”

United Food and Commercial Workers International is a union that represents people in the food service industry in America. They also spoke out against the CDC’s general guidelines, claiming that the guidance “fails to consider how it will impact essential workers who face frequent exposure to individuals who are not vaccinated and refuse to wear masks. We worry that these workers could be forced to become the vaccination police, asking people about their status, and potentially asking them to mask up.” 

As most of us have seen, many businesses have had to fight customers tirelessly who refused to wear a mask for whatever reason. The CDC claimed that they will be giving update guidance for workplaces and other settings, but it’s unclear as to when that will be; the White House was apparently completely surprised by the CDC’s initial announcement that vaccinated Americans don’t need to wear masks. 

Although there’s an obscene level of confusion among the individuals who are supposed to be keeping us safe and guiding us in the right direction toward the end of this pandemic, the rate in which Americans are being vaccinated is a major turning point for the past year. Hopefully more Americans will continue to get their vaccines, and life can really begin to feel normal again.

Medical Face Masks

CDC Says Vaccinated Individuals Can Go Without Masks Indoors And Outdoors 

The director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this Thursday that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practice social distancing indoors or outdoors, except under certain circumstances. 

“If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic. We have all longed for this moment when we can get back to some sense of normalcy.”

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Dr. Rochelle Walensky called this an “exciting and powerful moment. The science supports the updated CDC guidance that anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing.” She cited three studies — one from Israel and two from the United States — that show vaccines work.

The Israeli study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, and showed “the vaccine was 97% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 and 86% effective against asymptomatic infection in over 5,000 healthcare workers tested.” 

In the more than 117 fully vaccinated Americans there have been a small number of reports of breakthrough infections, however, Walensky noted that “the resulting infections are more likely to have a lower viral load, may be shorter in duration, and likely less risk of transmission to others.” 

People who are immunocompromised should still proceed with caution, and all mask mandates are still in effect for all forms of public transportation, including air travel. 

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“The past year has shown us that this virus can be unpredictable, so if things get worse, there is always a chance we may need to make a change to these recommendations. People who develop Covid-19 symptoms, even those who are vaccinated, should put their mask back on and get tested, Walensky said.

She explained how: “the science is clear, too, for unvaccinated people. You remain at risk of mild or severe illness, of death, or spreading the disease to others. You should still mask and you should get vaccinated right away. But once someone is fully vaccinated — two weeks after the final dose — you can shed your mask,” she said.

Some people may choose to continue wearing masks even if they are fully vaccinated, and that’s OK, federal Covid-19 response leaders said Thursday.

“People have to make their own personal choice,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during the White House Covid-19 briefing.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with an individual who has a certain level of risk aversion, as we know the risk is extremely low of getting infected whether you’re indoors or outdoors. But there are those people who don’t want to take that bit of a risk and there’s nothing wrong with that and they shouldn’t be criticized.”

Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

CDC Expected To Meet About J&J Vaccine Pause

The CDC and FDA are meeting to discuss the six blood clotting cases among people who received the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine.

CDC Tells Americans To ‘Limit Travel’ As Covid-19 Surges Continue Throughout Nation 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave Americans a stark warning this week, claiming that they should limit all travel, as Covid-19 cases are beginning to spike throughout the nation again, despite the roll out of multiple vaccines. 

Dr. Rochelle Walenshy is the director of the CDC, who said that travel is helping spread the coronavirus, as it has been for the past year now. During a White House briefing she said: “I would just sort of reiterate the recommendations from the CDC that tell us to please limit travel to essential travel only for the time being.”

Walensky warned Americans of an “impending doom” if they continue to go about their lives as they currently are. She even went as far as to express that she herself was scared for the future of the nation. 

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“We must act now, and I am worries that if we don’t take the right actions now, we will have another avoidable surge, just like we’re seeing in Europe right now and just as we are so aggressively scaling up vaccinations.” 

President Joe Biden has also asked all state officials to reinstate mask mandates to continue to combat the pandemic. Biden claimed that reckless behavior is leading to the virus spreading again. 

“People are letting up on precautions, which is a very bad thing. We are giving up hard-fought, hard-won gains. This is not a time to lessen our efforts.. We could still see a setback in the vaccination program. And most importantly, if we let our guard down now we could see a virus getting worse, not better,” Biden proclaimed. 

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As previously mentioned, these warnings are a result of new Covid cases rising throughout the country. According to the New York Times official Covid-19 dashboard new cases have been rising by 15% for the past two weeks, and the CDC blames that rise on an increase in travel. 

TSA data shows that more than one million people have been walking throughout the airports everyday since the beginning of March. For comparison at this point last year TSA screened around 180,000 people. 

The CDC is highly recommending everyone continue to abide by proper health and safety procedures until a greater herd immunity is met, and that includes not traveling even if you’re fully vaccinated. 

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have proven to be highly effective in the real world when it comes to preventing the transmission of Covid-19, however, the CDC thinks Americans are getting too comfortable too quickly, and need to continue to be patient until the rest of the nation can catch up with vaccinations.