U.S. government could run out of vaccines, therapeutics

As COVID-19 becomes as familiar as influenza, health experts warn that the comparison has its limitations, and that COVID is still no ordinary flu. Ten San Francisco police officers have been fired to date for refusing to get vaccinated, in accordance with city policies. Another 13 may soon follow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention expects the number of COVID deaths to rise over the course of this month. And as the US COVID death toll approaches 1 million Americans, at least 32,500 children in California and more than 214,400 nationwide have lost at least one parent or primary caregiver to the virus.

Bay Area COVID cases, hospitalizations climbing

Coronavirus infections and hospitalizations are again climbing in the Bay Area as the region enters what public health officials say is the sixth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. San Francisco now has the second-highest rate of infection in California, with an average of 40 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, according to state data published Friday, behind nearby Santa Cruz County, which reported 43 per 100,000. Read more about why public health experts are concerned about rising case counts.

Army officer convicted in first known COVID court-martial

1st Lt. Mark Bashaw, who formerly served as the Army Public Health Center’s headquarters company commander, was convicted by a special court-martial Friday for refusing to comply with COVID-19 protocols at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, according to the Army Times. He reportedly came into his office without submitting to a coronavirus test or providing a negative result, according to an Army spokesperson, which is required of unvaccinated troops at Aberdeen. Bashaw was also found guilty of failing to wear a mask indoors. The military judge who oversaw his trial decided not to punish Bashaw, but the conviction gives him a criminal record. The Army has dismissed 426 active duty troops for refusing to receive the mandated COVID-19 vaccine. An additional 3,381 have received official reprimands.

US government closes to running out of COVID-19 vaccines, therapeutics

The Biden administration could run out of COVID-19 vaccines if it moves forward with a plan to offer all eligible Americans booster doses this fall, according to nearly 400 pages of budget documents obtained by media company STAT. To offer additional doses, the White House would need 87 million more vaccines for adults and another 5 million more for children. But it may not have enough funding to cover further doses with a $10 billion bipartisan deal for pandemic response in limbo. The document also suggests that the federal government is poised to stop purchasing vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel already told investors this week, “We’re also working toward assuming that there’s no government order — or American order for vaccines.” The Biden administration still owes Pfizer around $5 billion for the doses of the antiviral Paxlovid it previously committed to buying. The government may not have the funds for additional supply. The documents show most of the government resources were drained by the omicron surge at the beginning of the year. “It says something about the state of our COVID response when the Biden administration has to dig for change in between sofa cushions, basically, at this stage of the pandemic,” Zain Rizvi, a research director at Public Citizen, told STAT.

These four Bay Area counties are in the CDC’s “yellow” community level as coronavirus cases rise

San Francisco, Santa Clara, Marin and San Mateo counties — as well as Santa Cruz County — had all fallen within the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “yellow” tier as of Friday morning, signaling that more than 200 cases were reported in the last week for every 100,000 residents although hospitalizations per 100,000 still remained below 10. The designation signals a medium level of coronavirus in each county, with the CDC recommending that high-risk individuals use face masks. Alameda, Contra Costa, Sonoma, Solano and Napa counties, along with the rest of California, were all in the “low” community tier, with fewer than 200 cases per 100,000 people. On the separate CDC “community transmission” rating, based on case numbers per 100,000 and test positivity rates, all nine Bay Area counties as well as the counties surrounding the San Joaquin River Delta and virtually the entire California coast, are classified as “high, “the worst level.

Opinion: A new COVID shot could make “normal” safe again. So why am I one of the few to get it?

“Last week, I became one of a select few Americans to receive prophylactic monoclonal antibodies that will protect me from COVID if I am exposed to it,” writes Dipti S. Barot in a Chronicle op-ed. The primary care physician in the East Bay is immune compromised and received an injection of a new drug called Evusheld that does not depend on the immune system’s ability to make antibodies. It has shown a reduction of symptomatic cases of COVID by over 80% — even six months after treatment. But the treatment is not widely available or known, just another in a series of public health failures during this pandemic, where missed opportunities at the policy level are augmented by failures in education and implementation at the level of providers and patients. Read more about what has gone wrong in getting Evusheld to patients who would benefit from it.

As US nears 1 million COVID-19 deaths, numbers show who virus hit hardest

Out of the nearly 1 million Americans to die from COVID-19, three out of every four deaths were people 65 and older, according to US data analyzed by The Associated Press. In nearly every 10-year age group, more men have died from COVID-19 than women. White people made up 65% of the total deaths, the largest proportion of any race by far, but Native Americans, Pacific Islanders and Black people had higher death rates when looking at COVID-19 deaths per capita. The surge that began in late 2020 was particularly rough for rural America, where people have been less likely to get vaccinated, more likely to be infected and more likely to die. Looking at deaths per capita, Mississippi had the highest rate of any state.

214,000 American children lost parents to COVID. They have “a lifetime of grievance ahead of them”

As the United States prepares to mark the grim milestone of one million dead from COVID-19, a close inspection of the data reveals one of the pandemic’s most heart-wrenching tolls: At least 32,500 children in California and more than 214,400 nationwide — more than one out of every 360 — have lost at least one parent or primary caregiver to the virus, according to a report from the University of Pennsylvania. At least 16,800 lost their sole parent or caregiver. Read about the people who’ve come to be known as “COVID orphans.”

CDC recommends boosters for all nursing home residents

Nursing home residents who received a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, or an additional primary dose, were better protected against infection during the omicron winter surge, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Between February and March, residents at 15,000 skilled nursing facilities who received boosters lowered their infection rate by about 50% compared to those who received only the primary series, the researchers found. “All immunocompromised nursing home residents should receive an additional primary dose, and all nursing home residents should receive a booster dose, when eligible, to protect against COVID-19,” the study recommends.

Anti-COVID drug Paxlovid may help with long COVID

A tiny, preliminary study out of UCSF followed three patients with persistent “long COVID” symptoms who took Paxlovid. The antiviral drug from Pfizer is intended to ease COVID-19 symptoms and is supposed to be taken within five days of the onset of symptoms. UCSF scientists researching long COVID instead gave it to two patients with ongoing symptoms weeks after infection. One patient (who had had a second exposure to the virus), got the drug after seven weeks and reported feeling almost back to normal. The second, who got Paxlovid after three weeks, reported feeling less tired but still had shortness of breath and muscle pain. A third patient received the drug within just 24 hours of symptoms — but went on to develop long COVID weeks later. Dr. Michael Peluso, the study’s first author, said the findings raise questions about when the drug should be given and for how long. He said larger, more rigorous studies of Paxlovid’s effect on long COVID are needed.

LA County tops 3,000 daily cases for the first time since February

Coronavirus cases in Los Angeles County have tripled off a low base in the past month, with the region reporting more than 3,000 new daily COVID-19 infections Wednesday for the first time since mid-February. The county reported just over 1,000 cases a month ago. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer characterized the current uptick as “a wave” but not a surge, as hospitalizations and deaths remain low. “All of our waves have seen an increase in hospitalizations and deaths and it’s four weeks now and we haven’t seen either of those,” she said during a virtual briefing. “I hope that we don’t see exponential growth.” The county is reporting an average of 245 people hospitalized with the virus, and four COVID-19 deaths daily. But Ferrer cautioned that new variants could quickly change that picture. “This is not the time to stop worrying about cases at all,” she said. Los Angeles County’s coronavirus test positive rate is 1.7%, compared to 7.7% in San Francisco.

J&J’s COVID-19 vaccine restricted due to blood clot risk

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday sharply limited who should receive the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine due to the risk of rare but serious blood clots. The agency said the one-shot vaccine should only be available to adults who cannot receive a different vaccine or who specifically request it. Use of the vaccine, developed by J&J’s Janssen unit, was paused for 10 days in April, 2021 after early reports of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, a life-threatening blood condition, but then resumed. Still, the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna shots have long been promoted as the preferable vaccine against the coronavirus by US health officials, who cited the lower effectiveness of J&J’s vaccine. “We recognize that the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine still has a role in the current pandemic response in the United States and across the global community. Our action reflects our updated analysis of the risk of TTS following administration of this vaccine and limits the use of the vaccine to certain individuals,” Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in a statement.

Omicron as deadly as previous variants, large study finds

Despite early assumptions made about its more transmissible but “milder” nature, the health impacts of the omicron variant of the coronavirus are as severe as previous mutations after adjusting for vaccinations, demographics and comorbidities, according to a study by scientists at Harvard Medical School. “We found that the risks of hospitalization and mortality were nearly identical between periods,” they said, in a comparison of omicron with phases when alpha and delta were dominant the US. The findings, which are awaiting peer review, were based on records of 130,000 COVID-19 patients analyzed over the past two years. What made the omicron surge apparently less severe was widespread vaccination and prior infections.

Ten SFPD officers fired to date for refusing COVID vaccines

Ten San Francisco police officers have been fired to date for failing to receive their COVID-19 vaccines, and 13 others may soon follow, according to records provided by the city’s Department of Human Resources. Read about how that’s playing into a city debate over police staffing.

Giants’ Mike Yastrzemski off the COVID list, back in lineup at LA

As he tried to maintain the good feeling he had just reached with his swing, Mike Yastrzemski hit foam balls and socks in his hotel room in Washington while in quarantine. And, after three days with a sore throat, the San Francisco Giants’ outfielder felt fine. Test after test for the coronavirus came up positive, though, and Yastrzemski remained on the COVID-19 injured list. COVID-19 “was the last thing on my mind,” he said, to the point that when manager Gabe Kapler asked him how he was doing, he told him, “When the test comes back negative, I’m ready to go. ” Read more about Yastrzemski getting back in the lineup and batting sixth Wednesday.

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