Vaccines have dramatically lowered the spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. during the winter and spring, and warm summer weather will make it even harder for the virus to spread, according to a projection released this week by an influential model.
Even as Americans are expected to rapidly ditch masks following updated Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicts virus deaths and cases will continue to plummet through the middle of summer.
But the model warns that millions of unvaccinated Americans will help give the virus “a large enough pool of individuals to sustain transmission” as the summer weather winds down. More contagious variants could worsen matters, the model warns.
Summer’s end will also bring the vaccination requirements for many college students heading to campus. Currently more than 350 colleges across that country have required vaccinations for at least some students or faculty, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education.
In many other countries worldwide, however, the pandemic is heading in the wrong direction. India this week reported more COVID-19 deaths in a day than any other nation has at any point in the pandemic. And Argentina imposed its first strict lockdown of the year Saturday due to surging levels of infections and a soaring death toll.
“We are living the worst moment since the pandemic began,” President Alberto Fernández said in a televised message Thursday.
Also in the news:
►California no longer will require social distancing and will allow full capacity for businesses when the state reopens on June 15, the state’s top health official said Friday.
►Many businesses are ending mask requirements only for fully vaccinated customers, and they can legally ask if patrons have been vaccinated. Such rules do not violate HIPAA, despite widely circulated misinformation.
► For the first time since March 2020, the 7-day average for deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. has fallen below 500, White House coronavirus response senior adviser Andy Slavitt tweeted Friday.
►The Department of Homeland Security says the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico will remain restricted through at least June 21, with only trade and essential travel allowed until then. The restrictions had been set to expire Friday.
►Thailand has deployed sniffing Labrador retrievers in canine virus-detecting squads in order to identity people with COVID-19 as the country faces a surge in cases.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has more than 33 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 589,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 166 million cases and 3.4 million deaths. Nearly 355 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 281 million have been administered, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 127.7 million Americans have been fully vaccinated — 38.5% of the population.
📘 What we’re reading: There are three COVID-19 vaccines authorized for use in the U.S. – from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Here’s what we know about all of them.
New cases across the U.S. have tumbled to rates not seen in more than 11 months, sparking optimism that vaccination campaigns are stemming both severe COVID-19 cases and the spread of the virus.
As the seven-day average for new cases dropped below 30,000 per day this week, Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, pointed out cases have not been this low since June 18, 2020. The average number of deaths over the last seven days also dropped to 552 – a rate not seen since July last year. It’s a dramatic drop since the pandemic hit a devastating crescendo in January.
Every time he hears the phone ring, University of Cincinnati professor Rajan Kamath says he feels a tingle down his spine. “You don’t know whether the phone call is from someone in India who you know has been touched by this virus,” Kamath said. “Most of us have known somebody who’s received bad news.”
Earlier this week, India reported more COVID-19 deaths in a single day than any other country as it battles its second wave and a new, deadly variant. The B.1.617 variant first discovered in India is believed to spread more easily than other variants. Friday, the country reported over 270,000 new cases and more than 4,000 deaths.
Thousands of miles away, Indian families in the Cincinnati area are feeling the impacts of the second wave in India as it touches their family and friends overseas. Read more.
— Briah Lumpkins, Cincinnati Enquirer
Last summer, after several months of being locked out of facilities due to the coronavirus pandemic, regulars visitors grew increasingly concerned that their loved ones were suffering from prolonged isolation. Advocates from New York to California don’t want it to happen again.
Advocates have rallied state and federal lawmakers to enact laws that will permit such essential caregivers to enter long-term care settings, even during a public health emergency. They’ve organized email blasts, rallies, even a traveling yard sign campaign. Their efforts prompted New York to pass a bill this spring. Arkansas, too. About a dozen other states have had essential caregiving bills at least introduced.
“I think some of our elderly simply gave up. They were in for days, months, without anybody,” said state Rep. Julie Mayberry, a Republican legislator who sponsored the No Patient Left Alone Act that Arkansas passed in March. “I believe more people would be alive today if they had a loved one in there helping them.”
— Anne Marshall-Chalmers
Ohio vaccinations jumped after Vax-a-Million news
The number of people in Ohio age 16 and older who received their initial COVID-19 vaccine jumped 33% in the week after the state announced its million-dollar incentive lottery, though an analysis shows vaccination rates lag well behind what they were in March and most of April.
In the week after the May 12 announcement about the lottery, 119,394 people age 16 and older received either the one-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine or their first part of the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna vaccination, according to Ohio Department of Health data.
That’s an increase of nearly 30,000 from the 89,464 people in the same age group who received a first shot during the seven-day period from May 6 to May 12, according to an analysis of state data by The Associated Press.
The analysis did not include vaccination numbers for children ages 12 to 15, who only became eligible for the vaccine the day the lottery was announced.
One Ohio lawmaker, however, wants to call the whole thing off, according to the Ohio Capital Journal. Republican Rep. Jena Powell is drafting legislation that would prevent the state from administering any vaccine lottery program. The bill proposes to redirect the funding used for these drawings toward either children’s mental health initiatives or to small business relief grants, according to the outlet.
Tinder, Bumble, other dating apps to offer boost to vaccinated singles
Dating apps are making it easier for singles to find others who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, the Biden administration announced Friday in what may be the first time the White House promoted digital matchmaking.
The administration says new features — including badges and other premium features — launching over the next several weeks by Tinder, Hinge, Match, OkCupid, Bumble, BLK and other dating sites will help Biden reach his goal of getting at least one shot in the arm of 70% of adults by July 4. More than 60% of U.S. adults have had at least one shot, according to the government.
— Maureen Groppe
Contributing: The Associated Press