Vaccinated U.K. Health Secretary Tests Positive For COVID-19 – NPR

U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured in 2015, tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday. The nation is poised to lift sweeping restrictions, despite a spike in cases led by the delta variant. Leon Neal/AP hide caption

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Leon Neal/AP

U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured in 2015, tested positive for coronavirus on Saturday. The nation is poised to lift sweeping restrictions, despite a spike in cases led by the delta variant.

Leon Neal/AP

Sajid Javid, the top government official tasked with leading the United Kingdom’s coronavirus response, announced Saturday that he has tested positive for COVID-19 after being vaccinated.

In a video posted to Twitter, the health secretary said he learned of his results from a rapid lateral flow test, generally used for people without coronavirus symptoms, and was awaiting a more accurate PCR test as he isolates at home.

Javid said he took the test on Saturday after “feeling a bit groggy” the night before. He has had both doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and says his symptoms have so far been “very mild.”

It comes as England is poised to roll back restrictions following one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced earlier this month that by Monday face masking and social distancing requirements would be lifted, along with crowd limits at private gatherings, concerts and sporting events. At pubs, patrons will once again be allowed to order pints at the bar.

At the same time, infections are up sharply. In the past week, 300,000 people tested positive for the coronavirus in the U.K. — up 40% compared from a week earlier.

The delta variant, which has been found to spread about 225% faster than the original version of the virus, now accounts for more than 90% of infections in the country and is behind COVID-19 surges in some areas.

Two-thirds of British adults are fully vaccinated; children are not yet eligible.

Javid supports the national reopening. Days before his positive test result, he said vaccinations would build a “protective wall” to help “withstand a summer wave.”

On Saturday, Javid encouraged unvaccinated people to get their shots. He also recommended getting tested for COVID-19, whatever one’s vaccine status, if exposure to the disease is suspected or if symptoms are felt.

AstraZeneca says its vaccine fully protects against death and is 92% effective against hospitalization from the delta variant.

Javid has been serving as health secretary for less than three weeks. Matt Hancock abruptly stepped down last month after breaching coronavirus distancing rules. Hancock was caught on closed circuit TV kissing an aide.

COVID-19: The Coast Guard Has Addressed Challenges, but Could Improve Telework Documentation and Personnel Data – Government Accountability Office

GAO-21-539 Published: Jul 16, 2021. Publicly Released: Jul 16, 2021.

Fast Facts

The Coast Guard took steps to protect its staff from COVID-19, including expanding telework. As staff continue using this flexibility, the Coast Guard needs to ensure staff are following telework policies—now, and going forward.

Further, Coast Guard staff self-report their telework use and health statuses. The Coast requires this data to be audited weekly for accuracy, but it can’t confirm these audits are happening. As a result, the Coast Guard may be using inaccurate data to plan technology investments, determine staff’s mission readiness, and more.

We recommended ways for the Coast Guard to improve its telework and personnel data.

U.S. Coast Guard personnel help an individual disembark from a cruise ship tender during the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. Coast Guard helping an individual disembark from a cruise ship tender

Skip to Highlights

Highlights

What GAO Found

The U.S. Coast Guard took steps to safeguard its personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic by updating its policies and guidance, expanding telework, and administering COVID-19 vaccines, among other efforts. For example, the Coast Guard formed a COVID-19 Crisis Action Team comprising targeted working groups to address COVID-19-related issues and develop new policies and guidance. Further, from December 2020 through April 2021, the Coast Guard administered vaccines to 35,439 (about 64 percent) of its personnel.

Selected U.S. Coast Guard COVID-19 Crisis Action Team Working Groups

Selected U.S. Coast Guard COVID-19 Crisis Action Team Working Groups

The Coast Guard also took actions to address a variety of challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, officials from all nine sectors (i.e., operational field units) we interviewed identified challenges with information technology system functionality when the Coast Guard expanded telework in March 2020. This included insufficient network bandwidth and a lack of laptop computers. To address these challenges, the Coast Guard increased network bandwidth to allow more simultaneous users and provided additional laptops to field offices. In addition, the Coast Guard faced other challenges during the pandemic, including ensuring personnel continued to receive necessary training and on-the-job experience.

GAO found that the Coast Guard lacks controls over telework documentation and its personnel data are not reliable. First, the Coast Guard expanded its telework program during the pandemic, but lacks controls to ensure that teleworking personnel have valid and current telework agreements in place. Officials told us that high levels of participation in its telework program may continue following the pandemic. Thus, ensuring that all personnel who telework have valid and current telework agreements in place will provide the Coast Guard with the information needed to make decisions that require telework data, such as for space planning or technology investments. Second, the Coast Guard modified its personnel system to allow personnel to self-report and update their COVID-19 and telework statuses. GAO analyzed these data from April 2020 through April 2021 and found they were not reliable due to missing data and concerns about accuracy. In particular, Coast Guard officials could not provide assurance or evidence that weekly audits purposefully designed to verify the accuracy and completeness of these data were being conducted. Without such assurance, the Coast Guard may be relying on inaccurate and incomplete information when making decisions that rely on these data, such as for assessing its operational readiness.

Why GAO Did This Study

The Coast Guard is a multi-mission maritime military service responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental protection, among other things. During the pandemic, the Coast Guard has faced challenges in balancing the need to safeguard its personnel with its responsibility to continue missions and operations.

In response to a CARES Act mandate and congressional requests, GAO reviewed the Coast Guard’s efforts to respond to the pandemic. This report examines (1) the Coast Guard’s actions to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure for its personnel; (2) challenges the Coast Guard faced in operating in a pandemic environment and how it addressed them; and (3) the extent to which the Coast Guard has collected and maintained valid and current telework documentation, as well as accurate and complete COVID-19 data on its personnel.

GAO reviewed Coast Guard COVID-19 policies and guidance, interviewed officials from headquarters and a non-probability sample of nine Coast Guard sectors, and analyzed data on the status of Coast Guard personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Skip to Recommendations

Recommendations

GAO recommends the Coast Guard ensure that (1) personnel have valid telework agreements in place, (2) these agreements are reviewed at least annually, and (3) weekly audits are conducted to verify the status of personnel. The Department of Homeland Security concurred with these recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
United States Coast Guard 1.
The Commandant of the Coast Guard should develop and implement additional internal controls to ensure that all personnel participating in the Coast Guard’s telework program have valid telework agreements in place. (Recommendation 1)

Open

When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

United States Coast Guard 2.
The Commandant of the Coast Guard should develop and implement additional internal controls to ensure that supervisors review telework agreements at least annually and document these reviews. (Recommendation 2)

Open

When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

United States Coast Guard 3.
The Commandant of the Coast Guard should ensure that required weekly audits are being conducted to verify the accuracy and completeness of data on the COVID-19 and telework statuses of Coast Guard personnel. (Recommendation 3)

Open

When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

Full Report

GAO Contacts

The US Surgeon General Is Asking You To Help Fight COVID-19 Misinformation : Shots – Health News – NPR

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who has helped the U.S. through other crises like the Zika outbreak, is now taking on health misinformation around COVID-19, which he says continues to jeopardize the country’s efforts to beat back the virus. John Raoux/AP hide caption

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John Raoux/AP

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, who has helped the U.S. through other crises like the Zika outbreak, is now taking on health misinformation around COVID-19, which he says continues to jeopardize the country’s efforts to beat back the virus.

John Raoux/AP

With about a third of adults in the U.S. still completely unvaccinated, and cases of COVID-19 on the rise, the U.S. surgeon general is calling for a war against “health misinformation.”

On Thursday, Dr. Vivek Murthy released the first surgeon general’s advisory of his time serving in the Biden administration, describing the “urgent threat” posed by the rise of false information around COVID-19 — one that continues to put “lives at risk” and prolong the pandemic.

Murthy says Americans must do their part to fight misinformation.

“COVID has really brought into sharp focus the full extent of damage that health misinformation is doing,” Murthy told NPR in an exclusive interview ahead of the advisory’s release. Surgeon general’s advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges that demand immediate attention.

In some cases, he says, the simplest way to stop the spread is to not share something questionable you read online: “If you’re not sure, not sharing is often the prudent thing to do.”

The U.S. has dealt with misinformation around other public health crises, including decades of persistent rumors about HIV/AIDS, but Murthy says the coronavirus pandemic is underscoring just how problematic the false information and rumors related to health can be.

Rates of COVID-19 are rising nationwide, driven in large part by the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant. A recent analysis by NPR shows that cases are highest in places where vaccination rates lag. Multiple factors, including inadequate access to vaccines, can keep vaccination rates low in some communities, but Murthy says fear about possible side effects or extremely rare adverse events are also a powerful driver of vaccine hesitancy.

In many cases, false information about the vaccines feeds that hesitancy. According to polling from the Kaiser Family Foundation, two-thirds of unvaccinated adults either believe vaccine myths or are unsure about whether they are true. Murthy says that means misinformation is literally putting lives at risk.

“Every life that is lost to COVID-19 when we have vaccines available, is a preventable tragedy,” Murthy says.

Talk to friends and family, the surgeon general suggests

Murthy hopes that drawing public attention to the harms of misinformation will lead more Americans to take action in their own lives, including through simple one-on-one conversations with friends and family who are reluctant to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Rather than judging others, Murthy encourages people to listen to their concerns and come prepared with sources of good information to counteract the bad. Research shows that vaccine-hesitant people are more likely to be open and listen to those they know. “These conversations are all driven by trust,” he says.

But Murthy also wants to see action on a larger scale.

In his advisory, he puts pressure on big tech companies to play a bigger role in combating health misinformation on their platforms. He wants to see algorithms tweaked to further demote bad information and companies to share more data with outside researchers and the government.

“The tech companies actually have a much better sense of how much misinformation is being transacted on their platforms, and without understanding the full extent of it … it’s hard to formulate the most effective strategies,” he says.

The new surgeon general’s advisory comes as welcome news to Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, a group that tracks COVID-19 misinformation online. But Ahmed also says that asking individual Americans to fight misinformation won’t be enough.

His group has identified a dozen major spreaders of vaccine misinformation, and many continue to operate unchecked on social media. “At our last count 30 of 89 social media accounts for those 12 people have been taken down, but that means 59 are still up,” he says. “They’ve still got millions of viewers being pumped misinformation and lies on a daily basis.”

Social media companies profiting off clicks are spreading misinformation faster than it can be counteracted, Ahmed says. He’d like to see the surgeon general exert even more pressure on those companies.

“On tobacco packets they say that tobacco kills,” he says. “On social media we need a ‘Surgeon general’s warning: misinformation kills.'”

13 July 2021 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: July 13, 2021 – FDA.gov

For Immediate Release:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced the following actions taken in its ongoing response effort to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Today, the FDA is announcing revisions to the vaccine recipient and vaccination provider fact sheets for the Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) COVID-19 Vaccine to include information pertaining to an observed increased risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) following vaccination. GBS is a neurological disorder in which the body’s immune system damages nerve cells, causing muscle weakness, or in the most severe cases, paralysis. Based on an analysis of Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting (VAERS) data, there have been 100 preliminary reports of GBS following vaccination with the Janssen vaccine after approximately 12.5 million doses administered. Of these reports, 95 of them were serious and required hospitalization. There was one reported death. Each year in the United States, an estimated 3,000 to 6,000 people develop GBS. Most people fully recover from the disorder. GBS has also been observed at an increased rate associated with certain vaccines, including certain seasonal influenza vaccines and a vaccine to prevent shingles.  Although the available evidence suggests an association between the Janssen vaccine and increased risk of GBS, it is insufficient to establish a causal relationship. No similar signal has been identified with the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines. FDA continues to work with its partner in vaccine safety surveillance, the CDC, to monitor reports of GBS following vaccination with the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine. Importantly, the FDA has evaluated the available information for the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and continues to find the known and potential benefits clearly outweigh the known and potential risks.

    The Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine (Vaccination Providers) has been revised to include a warning about GBS and the Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers has been revised to include information about GBS. The warning in the Fact Sheet for Healthcare Providers Administering Vaccine notes that reports of adverse events suggest an increased risk of GBS. Additionally, the Fact Sheet for Recipients and Caregivers notes that vaccine recipients should seek medical attention right away if they develop any of the following symptoms after receiving the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine: weakness or tingling sensations, especially in the legs or arms, that’s worsening and spreading to other parts of the body; difficulty walking; difficulty with facial movements, including speaking, chewing or swallowing; double vision or inability to move eyes; or difficulty with bladder control or bowel function.

  • Today the agency authorized the use, under the emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine, of an additional batch of vaccine drug substance manufactured at the Emergent facility. To date, a total of five batches of Janssen drug substance that were manufactured at the Emergent facility have been authorized. The FDA conducted a thorough review of facility records and the results of quality testing performed by the manufacturer. Based on this review and considering the current COVID-19 public health emergency, the FDA has concluded that these batches are suitable for use. While the FDA is not yet ready to include the Emergent BioSolutions plant in the Janssen EUA as an authorized manufacturing facility, the agency continues to work through issues there with Janssen and Emergent BioSolutions management.
  • The FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has published a From Our Perspective on the FDA’s Clinical Methodologies Group’s recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) award, which will fund expansion of the CURE ID platform. The platform will allow automated anonymized data collection from electronic health records and clinical disease registries for COVID-19 and other difficult-to-treat infectious diseases. This work may facilitate the clinical, research, and regulatory communities to identify signals of potentially safe and effective COVID-19 therapies that may also be candidates for additional study in randomized clinical trials. In the future, CURE ID’s expansion will also include a platform for patients with long COVID to upload information on their treatments, in addition to the treatment outcomes they consider most important.
  • As part of the FDA’s effort to protect consumers, the agency issued a warning letter to one network operating two websites, www.premierdream.com and www.eirmed360.com, for marketing unapproved drugs for multiple diseases, including COVID-19. Drugs that have circumvented regulatory safeguards may be contaminated, counterfeit, contain varying amounts of active ingredients or contain different ingredients altogether. Consumers can visit BeSafeRx to learn about how to safely buy medicine online. Consumers concerned about COVID-19 should consult with their health care provider.
  • Testing updates: 
    • As of today, 396 tests and sample collection devices are authorized by the FDA under emergency use authorizations (EUAs). These include 282 molecular tests and sample collection devices, 85 antibody and other immune response tests and 29 antigen tests. There are 52 molecular authorizations and one antibody authorization that can be used with home-collected samples. There is one molecular prescription at-home test, three antigen prescription at-home tests, five antigen over-the-counter (OTC) at-home tests and two molecular OTC at-home tests.
    • The FDA has authorized 11 antigen tests and seven molecular tests for serial screening programs. The FDA has also authorized 572 revisions to EUA authorizations.

Related Information

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COVID Cases In Parts Of Missouri And Arkansas Surge To Levels Not Seen Since Winter – NPR

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Springfield, Mo., in June. Vaccination rates in southern Missouri are low, a factor officials say is helping drive what’s now the nation’s largest outbreak. Nathan Papes/AP hide caption

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Nathan Papes/AP

A man receives a COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Springfield, Mo., in June. Vaccination rates in southern Missouri are low, a factor officials say is helping drive what’s now the nation’s largest outbreak.

Nathan Papes/AP

In Springfield, Mo., firefighters are giving vaccine shots. Churches are scrambling to schedule vaccine clinics. Students and staff at summer school at the public schools are back to wearing masks.

Dozens of traveling nurses are due to arrive at one of the city’s two biggest hospitals over the coming weeks; extra ventilators from around Missouri and Arkansas were transported to the other major hospital after it ran short over the July Fourth weekend.

The outbreak of COVID-19 in southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas has become the nation’s largest and is mostly driven by the highly contagious delta variant. Officials warn it could continue to grow unchecked if vaccination rates stay low.

“We are truly in a very dangerous predicament,” Springfield Mayor Ken McClure said Monday at a press conference. “While we are one of the unfortunate few early hot spots of the delta variant, we are not giving up. It is not too late. We need to stay the course.”

In Missouri, the seven-day average of new cases is near 1,400 new positive cases each day, up more than 150% from a month ago. In Arkansas, that number is up 287%.

Caseload and hospitalization rates in the Ozarks region have reached levels not seen since the winter, officials said. In several counties across Missouri and Arkansas, caseloads have now reached or surpassed their winter peaks.

According to the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the delta variant accounts for more than 73% of new cases in Missouri, by far the highest percentage of any state.

The Springfield-Greene County Health Department reported 17 new COVID-19 deaths in its most recent reporting period, which ended July 4. None had been fully vaccinated.

“Begging people to take the vaccine while there is still time. If you could see the exhaustion in the eyes of our nurses who keep zipping up body bags, we beg you,” tweeted Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth, a six-hospital system in southwest Missouri based in Springfield.

Hospitals in Springfield are feeling the brunt of the region’s outbreak

CoxHealth’s hospital in Springfield was treating 125 COVID-19 patients as of Monday. The city’s other major hospital, Mercy Hospital Springfield, reported 134 patients with COVID-19, including several children. More than 20 were on ventilators.

As a result of the influx, Mercy Hospital announced Sunday it was opening a sixth COVID-19 unit. Last year, it needed only five.

More than half of patients are from the rural counties around Springfield, according to Greene County health data.

There are few pandemic restrictions in place anymore in the southern part of Missouri, which is a haven for tourism in the summer. The lakes and rivers of the Ozarks attract tourists from around the region for camping, boating and lake house vacations. The city of Branson hosts dozens of live music shows every week. Memorial Day and July Fourth draw huge numbers of people to the area.

But many of the rural counties that make up this part of Missouri have among the lowest vaccination rates in the state. Overall, about 45% of Missourians have received their first shot, but in more than 20 counties in southern Missouri, fewer than a quarter of residents have done so.

“I think we were all hoping that we wouldn’t see COVID much this summer, but it is definitely not the fact here in Springfield,” said William Sistrunk, the lead infectious disease physician at Mercy Hospital, speaking to NPR.

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signs legislation last month restricting local officials’ ability to enact public health restrictions. David A. Lieb/AP hide caption

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David A. Lieb/AP

Missouri Gov. Mike Parson signs legislation last month restricting local officials’ ability to enact public health restrictions.

David A. Lieb/AP

Vaccination rates have risen slowly

Gov. Mike Parson has encouraged Missourians to get the vaccine, as he has done. He lifted the state’s pandemic restrictions in May and has been vocal about Missourians’ right to reject the vaccine if they choose. In June, he signed a bill limiting local governments’ ability to enact public health restrictions.

Parson said last week he would oppose a door-to-door vaccination campaign by government workers.

“We all should be working together trying to find a solution to get more vaccine in more people’s arms, not trying to force people to take it, not trying to scare them into it. Just make sure that they understand the facts,” Parson said, speaking to reporters in Kansas City.

Local officials in southern Missouri, especially Springfield, are taking a more active stand in encouraging vaccinations.

On Monday, the mayor and local health officials held a press conference at a church the city has partnered with to distribute vaccines, where they denounced misinformation and politicization about vaccines.

Asked about the cheers over low vaccination rates at the Conservative Political Action Conference over the weekend, the county’s acting health director said it was heartbreaking.

“To hear that people are cheering against the tool that can save lives when we’re sitting in the middle of a crisis where people are dying – it breaks my heart,” said Katie Towns, acting director of the county’s health department.

Vaccination rates have risen slowly but steadily in this part of Missouri. Mercy Hospital Springfield is seeing more demand for vaccination appointments in recent days, officials said, and is now vaccinating roughly 250 people per day, up from about 150 earlier in the summer.

“Gradually in the past week or couple weeks we have seen a small increase in the number of people who are interested. I think hopefully they’re realizing this is a pretty serious situation,” Dr. Nancy Yoon, chief medical officer for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, told NPR member station KCUR.

Health care workers are bracing for a long summer

Now, the outbreak that began in the Ozarks has started to spread around the state. Case data and sewer surveillance are showing an uptick in the Kansas City and St. Louis metro areas, state officials said. In St. Louis County, the county with the state’s third-highest vaccination rate, cases are up 63% over the last two weeks.

“Unfortunately, Missouri turned out to be among those several states that do have those vulnerable spots,” Dr. George Turabelidze, state epidemiologist at the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, told St. Louis Public Radio. “Those are spots where people are under-vaccinated, where people have low natural immunity levels and [where] some communities assumed the pandemic was already behind us.”

In Springfield, health care workers have braced for what they expect to be a long and challenging summer, as the number of people hospitalized in the county has persistently trended up.

“You feel like you’re kind of beating your head on that proverbial brick wall trying to tell people, understand what we’re seeing,” Erik Frederick, chief administrative officer at Mercy Hospital, said in an interview with NPR.

“This is real. It’s right here in front of us.”

St. Louis Public Radio and KCUR contributed to this report.

These Countries Are Looking Ahead to Living With Covid-19 – The Wall Street Journal

A handful of countries, including the U.S., are leading the way toward a future where Covid-19 has faded into the background.

Even as the highly contagious Delta variant of the coronavirus is propelling new infections world-wide, these governments are hoping that their high vaccination rates will protect many of the most vulnerable to the disease, allowing a return to more normal life.

It is a future where officials hope that they will be able to treat the coronavirus like influenza, which causes tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S. every year without prompting damaging economic lockdowns. Vaccinations are the key: Covid-19 causes many more fatalities per infection than the flu, but vaccines significantly reduce people’s chances of catching the coronavirus and the seriousness of the disease if they do.

The virus will remain, however, a fact of life. “This is a virus that we’re going to have to learn to live with, and we’re going to have to learn to manage and we’re going to have Covid-19 patients for the foreseeable future,” said Edward A. Stenehjem, an infectious-disease specialist at Intermountain Healthcare in Murray, Utah, where cases resulting from the Delta variant have risen lately.

These highly vaccinated countries are the exceptions in a world where most have largely unvaccinated populations. Their authorities’ appetite for risk varies—even across jurisdictions in the U.S. and Canada—but vaccinations are breaking a pattern seen earlier in the pandemic when rising case rates inevitably prompted tightening restrictions.

How We’ll Know When The COVID-19 Crisis Is Over – NPR

People relax at the Georgetown Waterfront Park on Monday in Washington, D.C. While pandemic restrictions have been lifted for much of the country, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is hospitalizing thousands of people in the U.S. who have so far not gotten a vaccine. Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images hide caption

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Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

People relax at the Georgetown Waterfront Park on Monday in Washington, D.C. While pandemic restrictions have been lifted for much of the country, the Delta variant of COVID-19 is hospitalizing thousands of people in the U.S. who have so far not gotten a vaccine.

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

In many ways, American life is returning to normalcy: Masks are no longer required in many locations, schools and universities are slated to re-open, and the days of social distancing begin to fade as concerts and sporting events bring spectators back.

In the U.S., we’re now averaging 154 deaths a day from COVID-19 — a tiny fraction compared to the pandemic’s peak — and there are still some safety measures and restrictions in place. Late pandemic American life hasn’t quite returned to the status quo, but it feels much closer to normal than it did six months ago.

But while we may long for authorities to give an all-clear and say the pandemic is history, the crisis isn’t over, in the U.S. or abroad.

The question of when the crisis will actually be over is a layered one — with different answers from a local, national and global perspective.

There are no set-in-stone metrics for when it’s over

The U.S. declared COVID-19 a national emergency on March 13, 2020.

After many months in which the U.S. led the world in coronavirus cases, the virus is now under much better control, due to wide availability of COVID-19 vaccines.

That federal emergency status is still in effect — it has been renewed several times, most recently in April. It can be extended by the Secretary of Health and Human Services for as long as the emergency is deemed to exist.

Healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers are honored for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic at the “Hometown Heroes” ticker tape parade in Manhattan on Wednesday. Newsday LLC/Newsday via Getty Images hide caption

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Newsday LLC/Newsday via Getty Images

Healthcare workers, first responders and essential workers are honored for their service during the COVID-19 pandemic at the “Hometown Heroes” ticker tape parade in Manhattan on Wednesday.

Newsday LLC/Newsday via Getty Images

It’s not clear whether the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will issue any sort of all-clear. The CDC did not respond to NPR on the matter.

Ali Mokdad, an epidemiologist at the University of Washington, hopes that the CDC will eventually give Americans that go-ahead sign. He previously served in numerous roles over nearly 20 years at the CDC.

When the time comes, Mokdad tells NPR, “It’s very important for our own CDC … to say ‘We’re out of danger right now. We should move on with our lives.’ “

He says there aren’t set-in-stone metrics to determine when a pandemic is over, because the situation is dynamic and changing so fast. And the virus itself is evolving, too.

“When you look at the genetic makeup and sequencing of the virus … and how it has been changing, there’s still a lot of room for it to mutate. It’s not at the end of the mutation cycle that it can do. So that virus could still carry a lot of surprises,” he says.

The Foo Fighters reopened Madison Square Garden last month in New York City. The concert, with all attendees vaccinated, was the first in a New York arena to be held at full capacity since March 2020. Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for FF hide caption

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Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for FF

The Foo Fighters reopened Madison Square Garden last month in New York City. The concert, with all attendees vaccinated, was the first in a New York arena to be held at full capacity since March 2020.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for FF

How a pandemic officially ends

The World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11 last year – the same day that life began to change dramatically in much of the U.S.

So when the virus eventually is under control, will WHO declare the pandemic over?

Basically, yes.

When the worldwide spread of COVID-19 stops, it will no longer be considered a pandemic. “In general, if the worldwide spread of a disease is brought under control to a localized area, we can say that it is no longer a pandemic but instead, an epidemic,” WHO tells NPR.

But it emphasized that the characterization of the outbreak as a pandemic has no formal meaning under international law.

What does have a formal meaning is a “public health emergency of international concern” – a status assigned to COVID-19 at the end of January 2020. That’s the highest level of health alarm under international law.

WHO convenes an international committee every three months to determine if an outbreak should still be considered such a global health emergency. When it’s over, WHO says it’s over. That’s what it did last summer regarding an Ebola outbreak in Africa.

But it will most likely be a while before that happens.

As WHO’s Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus frequently states: none of us will be safe until everyone is safe.

The U.S. is not out of the woods yet

The Delta variant has spread just as fast through the U.S. as epidemiologists feared it would. It now accounts for more than half the cases in the U.S., and far more than that in certain states.

Lynn Goldman, an epidemiologist and dean of the school of public health at George Washington University, says the U.S. has certain things working for it, and some against it.

The good news is we’ve shown the ability to lower rates of transmission and deaths from the virus. And of course, Americans have widespread access to COVID-19 vaccines.

The bad news is there’s resistance to the two main ways to prevent transmission – getting vaccinated and wearing a mask.

“And unfortunately, those two attributes tend to coincide within the same people and within the same population subgroups,” Goldman says. In other words, many of the same people who don’t want to get a vaccine also don’t want to wear a mask.

Graduates participated in a USC commencement ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in May. Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag hide caption

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Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

Graduates participated in a USC commencement ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in May.

Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Imag

As a result, Goldman says, we’re likely to see continued transmission of the virus in the U.S., concentrated in the areas with lowest rates of vaccination.

The current vaccines are highly effective against COVID-19, including the Delta variant. That means vastly different outcomes for those who are vaccinated and those who aren’t. Last month, for example, 92 people died of COVID-19 in the state of Maryland. All of them were unvaccinated.

Local numbers can tell you more than state or national ones

The most precise indicators of progress or problems are very local.

National and even state-level metrics for infection or vaccination rates can be misleading, Mokdad says. A state’s overall vaccination rate can disguise much lower numbers in certain pockets that remain highly vulnerable to outbreaks.

Low vaccination rates make it easier for fast-spreading variants to take hold.

While there are many ways to track progress (or not) in controlling the virus, Mokdad says one especially useful metric is hospitalizations.

“There is no way to make a mistake or underreport hospitalization for COVID-19, because everybody who goes to a hospital right now is being tested for COVID-19,” says Mokdad.

That’s in contrast to cases, which can go uncounted due to a lack of testing, and the number of deaths, which can spike weeks behind other indicators when an outbreak hits.

Accompanied by his family, a student gets vaccinated at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Tuesday in Winnetka, Calif. Mario Tama/Getty Images hide caption

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Mario Tama/Getty Images

Accompanied by his family, a student gets vaccinated at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic on Tuesday in Winnetka, Calif.

Mario Tama/Getty Images

Coronavirus will likely spike again this winter

Even though U.S. cases are much improved from the peak, unvaccinated people will continue to die from COVID-19 until we successfully control transmission.

Experts say the next big challenge will come this winter. Another wave is expected as people move inside during colder months. There will likely be some outbreaks as students go back to school — children under 12 are not yet eligible for the vaccines.

How dangerous the virus continues to be will depend on vaccination levels of the population and the lethality of the variant circulating when winter comes. How quickly a state or local government is willing to go back into restrictive measures – like wearing masks indoors — will play a role, too.

“For the short term, it will be seasonal, like what we see with the flu, simply because we don’t have enough vaccine to vaccinate everybody in the world,” Mokdad says.

If we do the right things like increasing production of the vaccine, he says, it’s possible we eventually won’t have to worry about COVID-19 anymore.

What the end of the crisis might look like in the U.S.

Goldman sees two possible scenarios for the U.S. in the near future.

One is that the virus evolves to more readily evade the vaccines that have been administered.

If that happens, she says, “then we’ll have to go into a whole other round of re-vaccinating everybody.” Drugmakers are already working on booster shots in case they become necessary.

On the other hand, that might not happen, and the current vaccines will continue to be highly effective.

In that case, Goldman believes that within the next several months “we’ll see near elimination of the pandemic, certainly in the United States and Europe, other wealthy countries, Japan, Taiwan,” while efforts will continue to immunize people in the rest of the world.

It’s very likely, Goldman says, that even when we can say the pandemic is over, transmission will continue in parts of the country that have low rates of vaccination.

But one thing is clear. No matter what happens, the effects of the pandemic — including long COVID, mental health issues, and economic fallout — won’t end when the official emergency does.

COVID-19 Vaccine Information – Portland State University

Anyone 12 years and older can be vaccinated against Covid-19 in Oregon. This includes international students. Three vaccines are available in Oregon – Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. The most common vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, require two doses that are usually given 2 weeks apart. The Johnson & Johnson vaccine only requires one dose.

SHAC International Student Vaccination Clinic

New students: If you have not been vaccinated, you must plan to arrive in the US a full 30 days before the term begins so that you can get vaccinated.

SHAC will offer a vaccine clinic on August 27 for newly arrived students and a booster clinic (for the second dose of vaccine) on September 24. Please complete this survey by August 20 to inform SHAC if you need to be vaccinated at these clinics so they can be sure to have enough vaccines available.

PSU Vaccine Requirement

Portland State University will require all students attending in-person classes and all employees working on campus to be vaccinated against COVID-19 starting fall term. The vaccines have been proven safe and effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus and are available for all Oregonians age 12 or older at no cost. Read more about the vaccine requirement. 

If you have already been vaccinated, you will be asked to verify the dates of your vaccinations in the Banweb system (instructions are coming soon!). PSU will accept all WHO-approved vaccines. If you received a non-WHO approved vaccine, you should contact SHAC.

Insurance and Cost

The vaccinations are FREE but vaccination sites ask people with health insurance to bring insurance information. When you go to your vaccination appointment, take your health insurance card with you.

Where to get a Vaccine

The Student Health and Counseling Center (SHAC) on campus is a vaccination site. SHAC hosts COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics most Fridays for PSU students. Students taking 5+ credits can register online using the SHAC Patient Portal. Students taking 1-4 credits should call SHAC at 503-725-2800 to schedule an appointment. SHAC is using the Moderna vaccine.

Many pharmacies also have vaccine supplies. There are several websites to help you find a vaccine. Here is the link to CDC’s (Center for Disease Control) vaccine finder website. You can choose the type of vaccine and zip code to find availability near you.

If you want to get vaccinated at a local pharmacy, check the pharmacy’s website for availability and appointment booking. These pharmacies are scheduling appointments: Walgreens, Safeway/Albertsons, Costco, Fred Meyer, Bi-Mart, Walmart, Health Mart, and CVS

If you live in Washington State, you are also eligible for vaccination. To find a vaccine near you, click here. Then click on “Vaccine Locator” and enter your zip code. Choose a location from the list and schedule your appointment.

What about the Second Dose? 

When you get a Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, you will be asked to schedule an appointment for your second dose before you leave. You cannot schedule the second dose before you get your first dose.

Other vaccination information?

  • Side effects of the vaccination
  • Why get vaccinated?
  • After being vaccinated, continue to follow the COVID-19 safety precautions.
    • If you are fully vaccinated, masks are no longer required everywhere but many stores, restaurants, and businesses still require them. Please respect these requirements.
    • If you are not fully vaccinated, you are required to wear a mask.
    • Gather only in small groups
    • Stay home when you are sick
    • Wash your hands often with soap and hand sanitizer
    • Keep a 2-meter distance from people you do not live with
  • For all the details about Oregon’s mask requirements, click here.

Scam Warning

Unfortunately, there are people who may try to take advantage of this situation to get personal and / or bank information from you. Here are some things to be careful about:

  • You will never be asked to give any bank, credit card, or other financial information in order to get a vaccine. If someone calls, emails, or texts you and asks for this information, DO NOT give it to them.
  • You are not required to have or provide a Social Security Number to get a vaccination. 
  • No payment is ever required.
  • The vaccine is available for anyone living in Oregon, this includes international students, scholars, and their families.
  • If you get a phone call, email or text about the vaccine that asks for your social security number, bank account or credit card information, hang up. It is a scam.

PSU Requirements

PSU is requiring all students and employees to be vaccinated for Fall 2021. Here are some of the important requirements right now:

  • Wear a mask or face covering at all times inside PSU buildings.
  • Keep a 2 meter/6 foot social distance from others
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Wash your hands often with soap and use hand sanitizer

Here is a website with PSU’s COVID-19 information and requirements.

More resources

If you want to know more about the COVID-19 vaccines, there are many resources online:

Vaccine finders: 

Addressing concerns about the vaccines

For Christian communities: English and Spanish 
For Jewish communities 
For Muslim communities

Spectators barred from Tokyo Olympics venues amid Japan’s COVID-19 state of emergency – ESPN

Fans were barred from the pandemic-postponed Tokyo Olympics that will open in two weeks, following a state of emergency issued on Thursday.

The ban was announced by the International Olympic Committee and Japanese organizers, reducing the games to a made-for-TV event.

Although widely expected, the move marked a sharp turnabout from just weeks earlier, when Olympic organizers said they aimed to hold the games with limited spectators.

“It is regrettable that we are delivering the games in a very limited format, facing the spread of coronavirus infections,” Tokyo 2020 president Seiko Hashimoto said Thursday after talks between government officials, Tokyo organizers and Olympic and Paralympic representatives. “I am sorry to those who purchased tickets and everyone in local areas.”

“Many people were looking forward to watching the games at the venues, but I would like everyone to fully enjoy watching the games on TV at home,” Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike said after the meeting.

Fans from abroad were banned months ago, and the new measures announced by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga will mean venues around Tokyo — indoor and outdoor — will not have any fans at all.

The emergency declaration made for a rude arrival in Japan for IOC president Thomas Bach, who landed in Tokyo on Thursday just hours before the new measures were announced. He was to spend three days in self-isolation at the five-star hotel that lodges IOC members.

Suga said the state of emergency would go into effect Monday and last through Aug. 22. This means the Olympics, opening on July 23 and running through Aug. 8, will be held entirely under emergency measures. The Paralympics open on Aug. 24.

“Taking into consideration the impact of the delta strain, and in order to prevent the resurgence of infections from spreading across the country, we need to step up virus prevention measures,” Suga said.

Suga, who had long favored fans in attendance, hinted at a no-fan Olympics in announcing the state of emergency.

“I have already said I won’t hesitate to have no spectators,” he added.

Just two weeks ago, organizers and the IOC allowed venues to be filled to 50% of capacity, but crowds not to exceed 10,000. The state of emergency has forced a late turnaround, which was always an option if cases rose.

The main focus of the emergency is a request for bars, restaurants and karaoke parlors serving alcohol to close. A ban on serving alcohol is a key step to tone down Olympic-related festivities and keep people from drinking and partying. Tokyo residents are expected to face stay-at-home requests and watch the games on TV from home.

“How to stop people enjoying the Olympics from going out for drinks is a main issue,” health minister Norihisa Tamura said.

The present state of emergency ends Sunday. Tokyo reported 896 new cases on Thursday, up from 673 a week earlier. It’s the 19th straight day that cases have topped the mark set seven days prior. New cases on Wednesday hit 920, the highest total since 1,010 were reported on May 13.

The no-fan atmosphere will include the opening ceremony at the $1.4 billion National Stadium, which is traditionally the most-watched event during the Olympics.

“It’s not too late. Cancel or postpone it,” said Yukio Edano, the head of the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, the largest opposition party to Suga’s LDP.

The uptick in infections has also forced the Tokyo city government to pull the Olympic torch relay off capital streets, allowing it to run only on remote islands off the Tokyo coast. It’s unclear how the torch will enter the stadium for the opening ceremony.

“The infections are in their expansion phase and everyone in this country must firmly understand the seriousness of it,” Dr. Shigeru Omi, a top government medical adviser, said.

He urged authorities to quickly take tough measures ahead of the Olympics, with summer vacations approaching.

The Olympics are pushing ahead against most medical advice, partially because the postponement stalled the IOC’s income flow. It gets almost 75% of its income from selling broadcast rights, and estimates suggest it would lose $3 billion to $4 billion if the Olympics were canceled.

About 11,000 Olympians and 4,400 Paralympians are expected to enter Japan, with tens of thousands of officials, judges, administrators, sponsors, broadcasters and media also entering. The IOC says more than 80% of residents of the Olympic Village will be vaccinated.

Nationwide, Japan has had about 810,000 cases and nearly 14,900 deaths. Only 15% of Japanese are fully vaccinated, still low compared with 47.4% in the United States and almost 50% in Britain.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: July 6, 2021 | FDA – FDA.gov

For Immediate Release:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced the following actions taken in its ongoing response effort to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • On Thursday, June 29, 2021, Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. and the Director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., discussed the updates on myocarditis and pericarditis following vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 Vaccines during a stakeholder call with Vaccinate Your Family and pediatric and healthcare groups. To watch and listen to the call, visit FDA’s YouTube channel.
  • Testing updates: 
    • As of today, 393 tests and sample collection devices are authorized by the FDA under emergency use authorizations (EUAs). These include 281 molecular tests and sample collection devices, 84 antibody and other immune response tests and 28 antigen tests. There are 52 molecular authorizations and one antibody authorization that can be used with home-collected samples. There is one molecular prescription at-home test, three antigen prescription at-home tests, five antigen over-the-counter (OTC) at-home tests and two molecular OTC at-home tests.
    • The FDA has authorized 11 antigen tests and three molecular tests for serial screening programs. The FDA has also authorized 560 revisions to EUA authorizations.

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