The continued increase in local coronavirus cases has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to move San Diego County to its high-risk level for COVID-19.
The CDC tracks community levels of the virus based on geographic regions to determine the impact of COVID-19 in communities, and to allow individual jurisdictions to implement preventive strategies based on the latest local data.
San Diego had been in the medium-risk category since the end of May, but recent spikes in hospitalizations and new cases have led the CDC to increase the risk level for the region.
Actions You Can Take
The high-risk level means COVID-19 is widespread throughout the region and San Diegans should continue taking precautions to slow the spread of the virus. You should:
Wear a mask indoors when in public
Get all the vaccine doses and boosters
Stay home if you are sick and get tested
Avoid crowded places
Take other precautions, such as washing your hands and staying away from people who are visibly sick
The County continues to follow the California Department of Public Health’s SMARTER plan, which recommends vaccination, use of masks, testing and treatment among other things.
“San Diegans should take every precaution necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19,” said Cameron Kaiser, M.D., M.P.H., County deputy public health officer. “Most San Diegans have been vaccinated, but with this virus, and with the prevalence and infectivity of the new variants, a booster is highly recommended, especially for people who are immunocompromised or have other comorbidities.”
Got COVID? Get Treatment
If you do get COVID-19, County health officials say treatment is available. Treatment can help prevent high-risk individuals from getting sick enough to need hospital services and even from dying from COVID.
Oral medications, in the form of pills, and monoclonal antibodies, in the form of an intravenous infusion, are available at multiple locations and community pharmacies across San Diego. Antiviral medications require a doctor’s prescription and should be started within five days of developing symptoms of COVID-19. Monoclonal antibodies should be given no more than seven days after the onset of symptoms.
To determine which treatment is best for you, talk to your doctor or health care provider, or call 2-1-1 to find a provider.
Received at least one shot: Over 3.0 million or 89.7% of San Diegans age six months and older are at least partially vaccinated.
Fully vaccinated: Nearly 2.65 million or 79.2%.
Boosters administered: 1,396,563 or 57.8% of 2,418,004 eligible San Diegans.
13 additional deaths were reported since the last report on July 7. The region’s total is 5,370.
Of the 13 additional deaths, four were women and nine were men. They died between May 23 and July 7, 2022; five deaths occurred in the past two weeks.
Eight of the people who died were 80 years or older, two were in their 70s, two were in their 60s and one was in their 40s.
11 were fully vaccinated and two were not.
All had underlying medical conditions.
Cases, Case Rates and Testing:
5,576 COVID-19 cases were reported to the County in the past three days (July 11 to July 13, 2022). The region’s total is now 857,182.
12,948 cases were reported in the past week (July 7 through July 13) compared to 9,763 infections identified the previous week (June 30 through July 6).
San Diego County’s case rate per 100,000 residents 12 years of age and older is 43.95 for people fully vaccinated and boosted, 27.01 for fully vaccinated people and 87.71 for not fully vaccinated San Diegans.
12,747 tests were reported to the County on July 9, and the percentage of new positive cases was 14.9% (Data through July 9).
The 14-day rolling percentage of positive cases, among tests reported through July 9, is 14.5%.
The BA.5 omicron subvariant is pushing up coronavirus cases and hospitalizations yet again in Michigan and across the U.S.
“I do believe that we are now in another surge,” said Dr. Dennis Cunningham, medical director of infection control and prevention at Detroit-based Henry Ford Health. “This one is being primarily driven by the BA.5 omicron, although BA.4 is also very similar and causing some of the cases as well.”
The BA.5 subvariant now accounts for an estimated 65% of new cases in the U.S., said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. COVID-19 hospitalizations nationally have doubled since early May, she said.
Known cases of the virus in Michigan have risen nearly 34% in the last three weeks — from a daily average of 1,780 new cases in the week ending June 21 to 2,383 new daily cases reported in the week ending July 12, according to state data.
Hospital admissions of people with COVID-19 are up 13% over the last seven days in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, Cunningham said.
“We are not at the levels of previous surges,” he said. “I think we are early on in this. … We’re not slammed too bad, but I do expect it’s going to start looking like other surges soon.”
Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical officer, didn’t go so far as to say the Michigan has entered another coronavirus surge just yet.
Judging only by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 Community Levels map, she said Michigan appears to be a relatively low-risk state for coronavirus transmission.
“We are still looking fairly good with most of our regions in green,” Bagdasarian told the Free Press on Tuesday. “Now do I think we will we’ll stay that way? Probably not. We have to be prepared for cases to go up. We know that BA.4 and BA.5 are spreading throughout the country and in our in our region as well.”
State health leaders, she said, are monitoring the situation closely, taking into account several metrics, including data derived from wastewater, the percentage of positive coronavirus tests, newly identified cases, hospitalizations and what appear to be geographic differences in coronavirus transmission.
“One of the things that we saw last summer was states in the South … had an uptick in cases before we did. It could have something to do with really hot states in the South, (where) people sort of move indoors into air-conditioned spaces in the summer,” Bagdasarian said.
“Whereas in places like Michigan, this is our fantastic weather and a lot of folks are moving outdoors for their socializing. So our uptick of cases came a little bit later last year. We started seeing an uptick right around the time that schools reopened. So I think there are a few different factors that have to be accounted for.”
Still, she acknowledged, it’s difficult to get a precise picture of how much the BA.5 subvariant is spreading in the state because genetic sequencing can take a week or longer to complete.
“Our sequencing data is always lagging a little bit. It’s never real-time data,” Bagdasarian said.
What’s clear, however, is that Michiganders ought to be prepared for a surge that might not be fully apparent for a few more weeks.
“We have the tools to be able to overcome another surge,” she said of vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, at-home tests and COVID-19 treatments. “It’s just a question of whether Michigan residents want to make use of them. I certainly hope that that we’re not so fatigued by the pandemic that we overlook or disregard these really amazing tools that we didn’t have two years ago.”
Why is BA.5 a concern?
More details are emerging about the BA.5 subvariant, but it’s still unclear whether it causes more severe disease than previous strains of the virus, Walensky said Tuesday.
“But we do know it to be more transmissible and more immune-evading,” she said. That means it can infect people who’ve recently had the virus. Some new research suggests it’s possible for a person to be reinfected as soon as four weeks after a previous infection with another variant of the virus.
It’s also more likely to cause breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated. That’s why COVID-19 vaccine boosters are so important now for people who are eligible, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the president’s medical adviser.
“If you’ve been infected or vaccinated and your time comes for a boost, that’s when you should go and get the boost,” he said.
The COVID-19 vaccines have offered protection against severe illness and death from other omicron subvariants, Walensky said, “and likely also for BA.4 and 5.”
But few Americans who are eligible for booster shots have taken them.
About 55% of Michiganders who are eligible for a first booster dose have gotten one, CDC data shows. And just 28.2% of Michigan residents ages 50 and older who are eligible for a second booster have gotten one.
“My message right now is very simple. It’s essential that these Americans … get their second booster shot right away,” Walensky said.
In addition to being able to re-infect people and evade vaccine protection, the BA.5 subvariant also is significantly more transmissible than previous strains of the virus.
“Over the last several months, we’ve seen each successive variant have a bit of a transmission advantage over the prior one,” Fauci said. “And right now we’re with BA.4/5, and we don’t know what the future will hold as we might get even more subvariants.”
Vaccines, he said, are the key to living life as normally as possible and to preventing new variants from emerging.
“We should not let it disrupt our lives,” he said, “but we cannot deny that it is a reality that we need to deal with. … The good news is that we have the tools to do this. We need to keep the levels of virus to the lowest possible level and that is our best defense. If a virus is not very robustly replicating and spreading, it gives it less of a chance of a mutation, which gives it less of a chance of the evolving of another variant.”
Should I wait to get a boost until there’s a vaccine that targets omicron?
No, said Dr. Asish Jha, White House Coronavirus Response coordinator.
“The data on this is very clear is if you’re over 50 that extra booster dramatically lowers your risk of getting into the hospital, going to the ICU (intensive-care unit) and dying,” Jha said. “And there are very few things we do in medicine that have the kind of benefit that we see from that extra shot.
“Let me be clear: If you get vaccinated today, you’re not going to be ineligible to get the variant-specific vaccine as we get into the later part of fall and winter. So this is not a trade off. We’ve got plenty. This is a great way to protect yourself.”
Henry Ford’s Cunningham agreed: “Get that second booster dose now,” he said. “With the universal vaccine, once the clinical trials are done, it still has to be analyzed. I don’t see that coming down anytime in the next couple of months.
“I think we’re going to be on this rollercoaster for a while.”
I’m not eligible for a booster. How can I protect myself?
“I think it’s time to break out the masks when we’re in crowded or public settings,” Cunningham said. “We’re at the point you need to seriously consider wearing masks, especially if you are vulnerable or you have risk factors for more severe COVID disease or if you live with someone who has more risk factors.”
Choose outdoor gatherings and events over those held indoors, he said.
“When you’re outdoors, I feel a whole lot safer. There’s more air movement, people tend to not be quite so close together,” Cunningham said.
But if you’re going to a big concert where people are close together, even if it’s outside, it probably makes sense to wear a mask,” he said.
Bagdasarian suggested stocking up on at-home rapid antigen tests.
“It’s really important to test if you are symptomatic, if you think you may have been exposed, or if you’re going to be gathering with people who are especially vulnerable, who may be immunocompromised, etc.” she said. “So keeping the supply of over-the-counter tests at home is really important.”
If you do contract the virus, she said it’s important to find out whether you’re eligible for treatments such as monoclonal antibody therapy or Paxlovid, the COVID-19 antiviral pill Paxlovid.
Could authorization of a second booster dose be coming soon for those under age 50?
Jha said Tuesday that conversations “have been going on for a while” about how federal authorities can better protect Americans from the virus. However, he said, those decisions are made by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the CDC.
“I know that the FDA is considering this, looking at it,” he said. “And I know CDC scientists are thinking about this and looking at the data as well. The decision is is purely up to them.”
Contact Kristen Shamus: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @kristenshamus.
Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted for the prevention of COVID-19 caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in individuals 18 years of age and older.
“Authorizing an additional COVID-19 vaccine expands the available vaccine options for the prevention of COVID-19, including the most severe outcomes that can occur such as hospitalization and death,” said FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf, M.D. “Today’s authorization offers adults in the United States who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine another option that meets the FDA’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization. COVID-19 vaccines remain the best preventive measure against severe disease caused by COVID-19 and I encourage anyone who is eligible for, but has not yet received a COVID-19 vaccine, to consider doing so.”
The FDA has determined that the Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted has met the statutory criteria for issuance of an EUA. The data support that the known and potential benefits of the vaccine outweigh its known and potential risks in people 18 years of age and older, and that this vaccine may be effective in preventing COVID-19. In making this determination, the FDA can assure the public and medical community that a thorough analysis and evaluation of the available safety and effectiveness data and manufacturing information have been conducted.
The Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted is administered as a two-dose primary series, three weeks apart. The vaccine contains the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and Matrix-M adjuvant. Adjuvants are incorporated into some vaccines to enhance the immune response of the vaccinated individual. The spike protein in this vaccine is produced in insect cells; the Matrix M-adjuvant contains saponin extracts from the bark of the Soapbark tree that is native to Chile.
“After a comprehensive analysis and evaluation of the data, and assessment of the manufacturing processes and information, as well as input from the FDA’s committee of external independent advisors, the FDA’s medical and scientific experts have determined that the vaccine meets the FDA’s high standards for safety and effectiveness for emergency use authorization,” said Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. “Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted provides another alternative for adults and adds another vaccine to the COVID-19 vaccine supply for the United States. The American public can trust that this vaccine, like all vaccines that are used in the United States, has undergone the FDA’s rigorous and comprehensive scientific and regulatory review.”
FDA Evaluation of Available Effectiveness Data
The vaccine was assessed in an ongoing randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled study conducted in the United States and Mexico. The effectiveness of the vaccine was assessed in clinical trial participants 18 years of age and older who did not have evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection through 6 days after receiving the second vaccine dose. Among these participants, approximately 17,200 received the vaccine and approximately 8,300 received saline placebo. Overall, the vaccine was 90.4% effective in preventing mild, moderate or severe COVID-19, with 17 cases of COVID-19 occurring in the vaccine group and 79 cases in the placebo group. No cases of moderate or severe COVID-19 were reported in participants who received the vaccine, compared with 9 cases of moderate COVID-19 and 4 cases of severe COVID-19 reported in placebo recipients. In the subset of participants 65 years of age and older, the vaccine was 78.6% effective. The clinical trial was conducted prior to the emergence of delta and omicron variants.
FDA Evaluation of Available Safety Data
The safety of the vaccine was assessed in approximately 26,000 clinical trial participants who received the vaccine and approximately 25,000 who received placebo. The most commonly reported side effects by vaccine recipients included pain/tenderness, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, muscle pain, headache, joint pain, nausea/vomiting and fever. Approximately 21,000 vaccine recipients had at least two months of safety follow-up after their second dose.
The Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine (Vaccination Providers) includes a warning that clinical trial data provide evidence for increased risks of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of tissue surrounding the heart) following administration of Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted. The Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers informs that in most people who have had myocarditis or pericarditis after receiving the vaccine, symptoms began within 10 days following vaccination and that vaccine recipients should seek medical attention right away if they experience any of the following symptoms after vaccination: chest pain, shortness of breath, feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart.
As part of this authorization, it is mandatory for the company, Novavax Inc., and vaccination providers to report the following to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS): serious adverse events, cases of Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome and cases of COVID-19 that result in hospitalization or death.
It is also mandatory for vaccination providers to report all vaccine administration errors to VAERS for which they become aware and for Novavax Inc. to include a summary and analysis of all identified vaccine administration errors in monthly safety reports submitted to the FDA.
The FDA has evaluated the pharmacovigilance plan submitted by the company to monitor the safety of Novavax COVID-19 Vaccine, Adjuvanted as it will be used under EUA to ensure that any safety concerns are identified and evaluated in a timely manner. As a condition of authorization, the company will conduct studies to further assess its safety, including studies to further assess the risks of myocarditis and pericarditis.
In addition, the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have several systems in place to continually monitor COVID-19 vaccine safety and allow for the timely detection and investigation of potential safety concerns.
The FDA also expects Novavax Inc. to continue their clinical trials to obtain additional safety and effectiveness data and pursue approval (licensure). The EUA was issued to Novavax Inc. The authorization will be effective until the declaration that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of the emergency use of drugs and biologics for prevention and treatment of COVID-19 is terminated. The EUA may be revised or revoked if it is determined the EUA no longer meets the statutory criteria for issuance.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.
Health officials are once again raising the alarm about the threat of a resurgence of COVID-19 infections across the country, as concerns grow about the new omicron subvariant, BA.5, which is now the dominant viral strain in the U.S.
The BA.5 variant, first detected in South Africa earlier this year, is currently estimated to account for more than half — 53.6% — of all new COVID-19 cases in the states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
BA.5 appears to have a growth advantage over the original omicron variant, according to the World Health Organization, and scientists are closely monitoring the increase in reported cases observed in many countries across the globe.
At this time, BA.5 does not appear to have increased in severity, but officials have previously stressed that research on the new subvariant is still in its “early days,” and much remains to be learned about it.
As BA.5 spreads, a growing proportion of U.S. counties are seeing increases in infections and related hospital admissions.
Nearly three-quarters of the U.S. population is now living in a county with a high or medium community risk level for COVID-19, as defined by the CDC, federal data shows. About one-third of those people — 31.9%– are living in a high-risk community, while 41.6% are living in a medium-risk county.
A high community level suggests there is a “high potential for health care system strain” and a “high level of severe disease,” and the CDC recommends that people wear a mask in public indoor settings, including schools. A medium-risk level suggests there is “some impact on [the] health care system,” and “more people with severe disease.” Under the CDC’s official guidance, individuals considered at “increased risk” are advised to speak with their health care provider about whether to wear a mask.
Counties on both coasts — most notably in California, Montana, New Mexico and Oregon — are moving up and entering the high-risk level. In Florida, nearly every county is currently considered high risk. Puerto Rico and California currently lead the nation in new cases per capita, followed by New York City, where officials are once again urging residents to wear high-quality masks in indoor public settings and around crowds outside, amid a renewed surge of infections in the city.
“We’re currently seeing high levels of COVID-19 in NYC. To help slow the spread, all New Yorkers should wear a high-quality mask, such as an N95, KN95 or KF94 in all public indoor settings and around crowds outside,” the New York City Health Department wrote in a tweet on Friday, after the city moved back into the high-risk level.
The average number of new cases across New York City is up by 25% in the last two weeks, according to federal data. City data also shows that an average of 15% of reported tests are now coming back positive, marking the highest seven-day positivity rate in months.
Nationally, the country is currently reporting an average of more than 100,000 new cases each day. However, health officials say that the total is likely significantly undercounted.
As previously reported, dozens of states have moved to shutter public testing sites, with more at-home COVID-19 tests now available in pharmacies and through the federal testing program. Most Americans are not reporting their results to officials, and, thus, experts said infection totals are likely significantly undercounted.
Last week, White House COVID Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told NBC News that hundreds of thousands of COVID-19 infections are likely going undercounted.
“There’s no question in my mind we are missing the vast majority of infections right now,” Jha said. “The truth is there are probably several hundred thousand — 400,000; 500,000 infections a day happening across the country.”
The concerns over BA.5 come amid the nation’s continued push to get people vaccinated. Although the U.S. is set to roll out new bivalent vaccines in the fall, which will address omicron, millions of eligible Americans are still without their additional shots.
To date, less than half of eligible Americans — 49.5% or 108.6 million people — have received their first booster. Similarly, less than one-third — 29.5% or 42.2 million — of eligible Americans over the age of 50 have received their second booster.
Overall hospitalization numbers and death rates have yet to see a significant resurgence, though experts say metrics may also be undercounted, due to a lack of reporting from states.
As of July 5, about 34,000 patients are currently receiving care in U.S. hospitals across the country. This still marks one of the highest numbers of patients hospitalized with the virus since March.
On average, more than 5,200 virus-positive Americans are entering the hospital each day — the highest number of daily admissions since February. Hospital admissions in the Southwest and the South are up by more than 10%, respectively, in the past week.
The average number of daily COVID-19-related deaths remains just below 300 reported each day. Totals are still much lower than during prior COVID-19 surges.
However, thousands of Americans are still losing their lives every week. Over the last seven days, the U.S. has reported nearly 2,000 deaths.
Michigan reported 13,102 new cases of coronavirus in the week ending July 10, down 8.7% from the previous week. The previous week had 14,353 new cases of the virus that causes COVID-19.
Michigan ranked 44th among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest on a per-person basis, a USA TODAY Network analysis of Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the most-recent week, coronavirus cases in the U.S. decreased 4.6% from the week before, with 750,600 cases reported. With 3% of the country’s population, Michigan had 1.75% of the country’s cases in the last week. Across the country, 24 states had more cases in the latest week than they did in the week before.
The Fourth of July holiday disrupted who got tested, when people got tested and when both test results and deaths were reported. This may significantly skew week-to-week comparisons.
St. Joseph County reported 37 cases and no deaths in the latest weekly period. A week earlier, it had reported 59 cases and zero deaths. Throughout the pandemic, it has reported 14,188 cases and 209 deaths.
Cases fell in 66 Michigan counties, with the steepest declines in Wayne County, with 2,255 cases from 2,638 a week earlier; in Oakland County, with 1,985 cases from 2,233; and in Macomb County, with 1,266 cases from 1,463.
Within Michigan, the highest number of weekly outbreaks on a per-person basis were in Gogebic County, with 293 cases per 100,000 per week; Kent County, with 214; and Washtenaw County, with 195. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a high level of community transmission begins at 100 cases per 100,000 per week.
Adding the most new cases overall were Wayne County, with 2,255 cases; Oakland County, with 1,985 cases; and Kent County, with 1,408. Weekly case counts rose in 14 counties from the previous week. The worst increases from the prior week’s pace were in Kent, Muskegon and Livingston counties.
In Michigan, 64 people were reported dead of COVID-19 in the week ending Sunday. In the week before that, 174 people were reported dead.
A total of 2,619,533 people in Michigan have tested positive for the coronavirus since the pandemic began, and 36,982 people have died from the disease, Johns Hopkins University data shows. In the U.S., 88,593,875 people have tested positive and 1,020,861 people have died.
Note: In the Johns Hopkins University coronavirus data, cases and deaths for the Michigan Department of Corrections and the Federal Correctional Institution separately from Michigan counties.
USA TODAY analyzed federal hospital data as of Sunday, July 10. Likely COVID patients admitted in the state:
Last week: 1,001
The week before that: 860
Four weeks ago: 1,037
Likely COVID patients admitted in the nation:
Last week: 69,400
The week before that: 63,341
Four weeks ago: 57,327
Hospitals in 39 states reported more COVID-19 patients than a week earlier, while hospitals in 35 states had more COVID-19 patients in intensive-care beds. Hospitals in 42 states admitted more COVID-19 patients in the latest week than a week prior, the USA TODAY analysis of U.S. Health and Human Services data shows.
The USA TODAY Network is publishing localized versions of this story on its news sites across the country, generated with data from Johns Hopkins University and the Centers for Disease Control. If you have questions about the data or the story, contact Mike Stucka at email@example.com.
But perhaps most surprisingly, after 27 months of tournament cancellations, spectator-free events, constant testing and bubblelike environments, tennis may have finally moved past Covid-19.
For nearly two years, longer than just about every other major sport, tennis struggled to coexist with the pandemic.
Last November, when the N.F.L. the N.B.A., the Premier League and most other sports organizations had resumed a life that largely resembled 2019, tennis players were still living with restrictions on their movements, conducting online video news conferences, and having cotton swabs stuck up their noses at tournaments.
A month later Novak Djokovic, then the No. 1 men’s singles player, contracted a second case of Covid just in time to secure, he thought, special entry into Australia to play the Australian Open, even though he was unvaccinated against Covid-19 and the country was still largely restricted to people who had been vaccinated. Australian officials ended up deporting him because they said he might encourage other people not to get vaccinated, a drama that dominated the run-up to the tournament and its first days.
The episode crystallized how tennis, with its kinetic international schedule, had been subjected to the will and whims of local governments, with rules and restrictions shifting sometimes weekly. The frequent travel and communal locker rooms made the players something like sitting ducks, always one nasal swab away from being locked in a hotel room for 10 days, sometimes far from home, regardless of how careful they might have been.
Tennis, unlike other sports that surged ahead of health and medical guidelines to keep their coffers filled, has had to reflect where society at large has been at every stage of the pandemic. Its major organizers canceled or postponed everything in the spring and early summer of 2020, though Djokovic held an exhibition tournament that ended up being something of a superspreader event.
The 2020 U.S. Open took place on schedule in late summer without spectators. To be at the usually bustling Billie Jean King National Tennis Center those weeks in New York was something like being on the surface of the moon. A rescheduled French Open followed in the chill of a Paris fall with just a few hundred fans allowed. Australia largely subjected players to a 14-day quarantine before they could take part in the 2021 Australian Open.
As vaccinations proliferated later in the year, crowds returned but players usually had to live in bubbles, unable to move about the cities they inhabited until the summer events in the U.S. But as the delta variant spread, the bubbles returned. Then came Australia and Djokovic’s vaccine confrontation, just as disputes over mandates were heating up elsewhere.
In recent months though, as public attitudes toward the pandemic shifted, mask mandates were lifted and travel restrictions were eased, even tennis has seemingly moved on, even if the virus has not done the same.
There was no mandatory testing for Wimbledon or the French Open. People are confused about what they must do if they get the sniffles or a sore throat, and tennis players are no different. Many players said they were not sure exactly what the rules were from tournament to tournament for those who started not to feel well. While two widely known players, Matteo Berrettini and Marin Cilic, withdrew after testing positive, without a requirement to take a test, they, and any other player, could have opted not to take a test and played through whatever symptoms they were experiencing.
“So many rules,” Rafael Nadal said. “For some people some rules are fine; for the others rules are not fine. If there are some rules, we need to follow the rules. If not, the world is a mess.”
After nearly two years of bubble life though, hard-edge complaints about a don’t-ask-don’t-tell approach and safety mandates were virtually nonexistent.
Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia, whose country had some of the strictest pandemic-related policies, said she remained cautious, especially at the bigger events, but she had reached the point where she needed to find a balance between safety and sanity.
“I just try to take care of myself as much as I can where I’m still not completely isolating myself, where it’s not fun to live,” said Tomljanovic, who lost to Rybakina in the quarterfinals.
Paula Badosa, the Spanish star, said she has stopped worrying about the virus.
“I had all type of Covids possible,” said Badosa, who first tested positive in Australia in January 2021 and has had it twice more. “I had vaccination, as well. So in my case, if I have it again, it will be very bad luck.”
Officials with the men’s and women’s tours said regardless of infection levels, their organizations had no intention of resuming regular testing or restricting player movements. They said they will follow the lead of local officials.
With testing, quarantine and isolation requirements having all but disappeared, or merely existing as recommendations, tennis finally seems to have entered stage of pandemic apathy, much like a lot of society, Omicron and its subvariants be damned.
There is, of course, one major exception to all of this, and that is Djokovic, whose refusal to be vaccinated — unique among the top 100 players on the men’s tour — will seemingly prevent him from playing in the U.S. Open.
U.S. rules require all foreigners entering the country to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Djokovic has said he believes that individuals should be allowed to choose whether to do so without pressure from governments.
Also, because he was deported from Australia, Djokovic would need a special exemption to return to the country to compete in the Australian Open in January. He has won the men’s singles title there a record nine times.
Unless the rules change, he may not play in another Grand Slam tournament until the French Open next May, something he said he was well aware of but would not shift his thinking about whether to take the vaccine.
In other words, Covid really isn’t done playing games with tennis.
Survey shows Americans souring on COVID-19 response
Americans are not happy with the country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new survey from Pew Research Center.
The survey of more than 10,000 US adults, conducted in early May, found that 62% think the country’s COVID-19 response has given too little priority to the needs of K-12 students, while significant shares say too little priority has been given to supporting overall quality of life (48%), business and economic activity (46%), and respecting individuals’ choices (46%).
The survey also found the proportion of US adults who rated public health officials as doing an excellent/good responding to the pandemic has fallen from 79% in March 2020 to 52%.
While many Americans appear to be moving on from the pandemic—45% of survey respondents said they now consider COVID-19 a minor threat—there are concerns that the highly transmissible and immune-evasive BA. 5 Omicron sub-variant, which now accounts for 53.6% of new US COVID-19 cases, could change the picture. That appears to be what’s happening in Europe, where BA.5 and BA.4 are driving a new wave of infections, a European Medicines Agency official said yesterday in an online briefing, according to the Associated Press.
The current 7-day average of new US COVID-19 cases is 105,971, with 303 daily deaths and 37,590 COVID-19 patients in hospitals, according to the Washington Posttracker. But as has been the case for several months, the true number of infections is likely much higher, given that many home tests are going unreported. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID-19 Community Levels Map, which is based on hospital admissions and inpatient bed metrics, shows that nearly 59% of US counties have medium-to-high COVID levels.
Meanwhile, the effort to vaccinate children under 5 has gotten off to a slow start. A senior Biden administration official told ABC News that to date, 300,000 children under 5 have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine—roughly 1.5% of the 19.5 million US children 4 years old and younger.
Overall, 67% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the latest CDC update. But booster uptake continues to lag—47.9% of those eligible have received their first booster dose — but only 27.7% of those eligible have received a second booster. Jul 7 Pew Research Center survey
Scientists at Scripps Research Institute and the University of California San Diego (UCSD) have developed a wastewater surveillance tool that—with just 2 teaspoons of raw sewage—can identify the SARS-CoV-2 variants circulating in a population and detect new variants of concern up to 2 weeks before clinical sequencing can.
The algorithm, described in a Nature study published yesterday, is a cheaper, faster, and more accurate method of analyzing SARS-CoV-2 RNA deposited in toilets and sinks by COVID-19–infected people to determine case levels in a population, the researchers said. Until now, they added, wastewater surveillance couldn’t differentiate between variants.
Developed with the San Diego Epidemiology and Research for COVID Health study, the scalable tool, called “Freyja,” was able to detect Omicron in San Diego wastewater 11 days before it surfaced in clinical reports. Many public health labs and communities around the world have since adopted the algorithm.
Co-senior author Kristian Andersen, PhD, of Scripps, said in a Scripps press release that traditional clinical surveillance for new variants is slow and cost-prohibitive. “But with this new tool, you can take one wastewater sample and basically profile the whole city,” he said.
The team used 131 autosamplers to collect wastewater from 343 buildings at UCSD and 17 public schools in four San Diego school districts and obtained samples from wastewater treatment plants in the county. They analyzed more than 20,000 wastewater samples, developed better ways to concentrate viral RNA in wastewater, and quantified SARS-CoV-2 variants from sequencing data.
In a UCSD press release, co-senior author Rob Knight, PhD, said that the new method enables detection of new variants in time to take action.
“Before wastewater sequencing, the only way to do this was through clinical testing, which is not feasible at large scale, especially in areas with limited resources, public participation or the capacity to do sufficient testing and sequencing,” he said. “We’ve shown that wastewater sequencing can successfully track regional infection dynamics with fewer limitations and biases than clinical testing to the benefit of almost any community.” Jul 7 Naturestudy Jul 7 Scripps press release Jul 7 UCSD press release
“The question is whether we are reaching a new plateau and this is just where we will be for some time, or whether this is the beginning of a more prolonged increase,” Dr. Ashwin Vasan, the commissioner of the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, said Thursday.
The CDC uses a “high,” “medium” and “low” classification, which is determined by the number of new cases in the county per 100,000 people in the past seven days; the number of new hospital admissions with COVID-19 in the past seven days per 100,000 people; and the percentage of staffed inpatient beds in use by patients with COVID-19 within a seven-day average.
With a “high” level, the CDC recommends wearing masks in indoor public areas and on public transportation. There are currently no local mask requirements in the affected areas, outside of the statewide requirement for them in bus and train stations, prisons, state-regulated care settings and homeless shelters.
The number of “high” counties in the state gradually increased earlier this spring and peaked in mid-May.
A number of counties in the Hudson Valley, Capital Region and Rochester and Finger Lakes region are now classified as having “medium” levels of COVID-19.
Nationwide, there are 667 counties the CDC said have “high” levels, up from 627 a week ago. Where once the vast majority of “high” counties was in the Northeast, now they are more scattered throughout the country.
This all comes as CDC data this week showed BA.5, an omicron subvariant, now accounts for an estimated 54% of cases in the U.S.
According to state data released Thursday by Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office, the state’s seven-day average of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 people stood at 28.30. In recent months, New York health officials and those in other states have started using cases per 100,000 residents, and not the more traditional percentage of positive results of those who have been tested, as a more accurate way of measuring infection rates.
Poland’s prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, will meet Poland’s Covid-19 Council on Friday to discuss the current epidemiological situation in the country, the government spokesperson has told PAP.
Piotr Mueller said preparing the health service to handle the growing Covid-19 infection rates would be on the agenda.
Government websites on Thursday reported that in the preceding 24 hours, 1,068 coronavirus infections had been confirmed, including 144 recurrent cases, and that nine people had died of the disease. A week earlier, on June 30, 589 cases were confirmed (82 recurrent) with no deaths.
“On Friday July 8, Prime Minister Morawiecki will talk to members of the Council on Covid-19 on the subject of the current epidemiological situation in the country,” Mueller said. “Also discussed will be the issue of preparing the Polish health service system for a growing number of coronavirus infections.”
Mueller added that “the decisions that the government takes in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic are widely consulted with a group of experts from the whole of Poland.”
The Council on Covid-19 is a prime ministerial advisory body made up of specialists from various fields of medicine, socio-economic sciences and officials from the Health Ministry and other institutions. Among its main tasks are analysis of the current health situation in the country as well as of the state of the economy and society. The council also makes proposals for dealing with the pandemic.
In total, since the first case of SARS-CoV-2 infection was recorded in Poland on March 4, 2020, 6,019,6333 cases have been confirmed with 116,449 fatalities of people with Covid-19.
On May 16, the state of epidemic that had been binding in Poland since March 20, 2020, was replaced with a state of epidemic threat.
At-home Covid tests have become a first-aid kit essential. But stocking up on them isn’t cheap. If your supply is dwindling, there’s good news: iHealth’s FDA-approved Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test is currently on sale at Amazon for $12 ($6 off). This is the lowest price we’ve ever tracked for this kit, which comes with two tests. The caveats? The deal is exclusively on Amazon and will expire at 2:59 am ET on July 7 (11:59 pm Pacific time on July 6).
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Get Reimbursed if You Have Insurance
Even though $6 off each test is a great deal, insurance companies (private and group health plans) are required to cover eight FDA-approved over-the-counter Covid-19 tests per month. If your insurance provider considers an iHealth test ordered through Amazon to be out of network, you can still be reimbursed for up to $12 per test—which will cover nearly the full cost of each test pre-tax.
Why We Like the iHealth Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test
The iHealth Covid-19 test works like any standard at-home kit. It’s also one of the easier tests to use of the many we’ve tested in our Rapid At-Home Covid-19 Tests guide. Inside the box, you’ll get two nasal swabs, two vials of solution, and two test cassettes. Taking a test is straightforward. Swab both nostrils to collect your sample, soak it in the solution, add three drops of it to the cassette, and wait 15 minutes for your results to appear on the card.
If the test is positive, two lines will appear on the cassette—one next to the “C” (control) line and the second next to the “T” (test line). If the result is negative, one line will appear next to the “C.” Since each pack comes with two tests, if you test negative you should test again within 24 to 48 hours, especially if you have recently been exposed to someone who tested positive. Once the test is complete, you’ll be able to upload your results to iHealth’s companion app. With negative test results, the app will grant you access to an iHealth pass on your device to use as digital proof.
If you’re buying Covid test kits in bulk, be sure to store them properly—out of direct sunlight and in a dry location where the temperature sits between 35 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. You should also keep an eye on the expiration dates. iHealth recently extended the shelf life of its test kits to nine months; you can check the new expiration of each test kit by lot number via iHealth’s site. It’s also important to make sure you use the included test cassette within one hour of opening the foil pouch.
Note: In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about counterfeit versions of the iHealth Covid-19 Antigen Rapid Test kits that haven’t been authorized for sale in the US. The images on the Instructions for Use pamphlet included with some counterfeit versions differ slightly from the authentic version. Both iHealth and the FDA are currently in the process of finding additional identifiable signs to look for. The link we have shared here to Amazon was provided to us by iHealth and is the FDA-approved version.
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