Good night. I’m Karen Kaplan, and it’s Tuesday, Dec. 13. Here’s the most recent on what’s occurring with the coronavirus in California and past.
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For most Americans, the pandemic appears to be getting higher (assuming they acknowledge it nonetheless exists in any respect). Sure, COVID-19 cases are rising throughout the nation, however the concept of catching the coronavirus is not as daunting because it was once. Aside from seeing somebody with a face masks as soon as in awhile, it won’t even happen to you that we’re within the midst of a public well being emergency.
Unless you’re immunocompromised, like Louise Lerminiaux.
The Thousand Oaks resident acquired a kidney transplant 14 years in the past, and he or she’s been taking medication to suppress her immune system ever since. Those medication stop her physique from rejecting the donated kidney. They additionally make her extra more likely to get COVID-19 and to turn into severely sick if she does.
Now that communitywide pandemic precautions are a factor of the previous, Lerminiaux has to work extra-hard to maintain herself protected. Not solely does she put on a masks in all places she goes, she hits the grocery retailer at 7 a.m., when the aisles are empty, and breaks out the PPE when she travels by aircraft.
“There is eye-rolling, for sure,” she instructed my colleague Melissa Healy. But she is aware of what it’s prefer to be close to dying, she mentioned, and “my life is more important.”
Cindi Hilfman, a kidney transplant recipient from Topanga, can relate. She recollects being sneered at for donning a masks when she went to Iowa this summer season. Reactions like which can be no enjoyable, however they gained’t persuade her to drop her guard.
“I do see myself wearing my mask for years,” Hilfman instructed Healy. “I’m not giving up that mask.”
Nor ought to she. A study revealed final month within the journal Transplantation discovered that individuals who acquired transplanted organs had been 4 to seven instances extra more likely to die of COVID-19 than U.S. adults as an entire. As luck would have it, kidney recipients had been on the excessive finish of this vary.
More than 7 million U.S. adults who take immune-suppressing medication are in an analogous predicament. Not all of them are transplant recipients. Some use the medication to deal with autoimmune illnesses like lupus and rheumatoid arthritis or to forestall irritation from reaching harmful ranges. Some are getting ready their our bodies for most cancers remedy.
More than half one million extra have cancers of the blood or lymph system, liable for sustaining a sturdy immune system. When these techniques are beneath assault, they will’t do their job. Another 400,000 or so have superior or untreated HIV, depleting them of T cells that will assist battle infections.
These 8 million or so immunocompromised Americans don’t get as a lot safety from COVID-19 vaccines as the remainder of us as a result of their weakened immune techniques don’t produce as many antibodies. Nor have they got as many B cells, which decrease the influence of an an infection.
A study of sufferers from10 states revealed this summer season by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that folks with compromised immune techniques accounted for 12.7% of grownup COVID-19 hospitalizations, despite the fact that they made up an estimated 2.7% of the grownup inhabitants. Even after getting COVID-19 vaccines, these sufferers had been 40% extra more likely to be admitted to the ICU and 87% extra more likely to die than sufferers with wholesome immune techniques.
They can’t depend on Paxlovid in the event that they get sick as a result of the antiviral isn’t protected with different medicines they usually take. As if that weren’t dangerous sufficient, the ever-evolving Omicron variant is sapping the efficiency of medicine immunocompromised folks depend on.
Evusheld, for example, is a preventive injection that helps make up for sufferers’ antibody shortfall. It was heralded as a lifesaving drug after it got here out a yr in the past. But now its effectiveness is simply 25% “and dropping,” in line with Harvard infectious illness specialist Dr. Jacob Lemieux.
The story is comparable for bebtelovimab, a monoclonal antibody remedy to assist folks with delicate to average instances of COVID-19 keep away from changing into severely sick. Newer iterations of the coronavirus have advanced some resistance to the drug, decreasing its effectiveness to 35% or much less and falling quick, Lemieux mentioned.
“It’s going to be tough times ahead” for immunocompromised folks, mentioned Dr. Camille Kotton, who makes a speciality of treating folks with immune impairment at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
By the numbers
California instances and deaths as of 5:45 p.m. on Tuesday:
Track California’s coronavirus unfold and vaccination efforts — together with the most recent numbers and the way they break down — with our graphics.
The spreading penalties of opposition to COVID-19 vaccines
Tomorrow marks the two-year anniversary of Sandra Lindsay’s historic shot within the arm. It was on Dec. 14, 2020, that the essential care nurse in New York grew to become the primary American to obtain a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
“I feel like healing is coming,” she mentioned on the time. And she was proper. Researchers estimate that the pictures saved 1.9 million lives within the U.S. in the course of the first yr alone.
Alas, this isn’t a narrative with a easy glad ending. More than 784,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since Lindsay’s first dose. Some of these deaths had been absolutely unavoidable, however tons of of 1000’s might have been averted if the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rate hadn’t stalled out below 70% and if greater than one-third of Americans had opted to obtain a vital booster shot.
“The number of Americans who lost their lives because they refused the COVID vaccine is just staggering,” Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, instructed my colleague Michael Hiltzik. “It’s the greatest self-immolation in American history.”
If you’re a daily reader of this article, none of this may come as a shock. But this may: The anti-vaccine sentiment stirred up in the course of the pandemic is threatening childhood immunizations that don’t have anything to do with COVID-19.
“Anti-vaccine activism is giving parents second thoughts about giving their kids all vaccines,” Hotez mentioned. He’s not the one one who’s seen this.
“COVID served as an accelerant for anti-vaccine activists,” Rekha Lakshmanan, technique director for the Houston-based Immunization Partnership, instructed Hiltzik.
Her proof comes from across the nation, the place legislators tried to water down public well being legal guidelines associated to vaccines.
This yr alone, 26 states enacted 51 payments about vaccination mandates, in line with the National Council of State Legislatures. Some of these payments had been geared toward strengthening necessities in faculties and workplaces, however many had been handed to make it simpler for folks to keep away from mandates by claiming a non secular or different nonmedical exemption — or to get rid of the mandates altogether.
Lakshmanan mentioned efforts to weaken COVID-19 vaccine guidelines had been significantly notable in purple states, together with Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Utah. On their face, the payments seem to give attention to COVID-19 pictures; in reality, their goal is broader, she warned.
“Those kinds of bills served as a Trojan horse for what the opposition is really trying to do, which is undermine the public health infrastructure and push vaccines and vaccination into the shadows,” she mentioned. “The ultimate goal is to go after all childhood wellness vaccines.”
Indeed, childhood vaccinations have taken a success because the arrival of the coronavirus. In half, that displays the truth that every kind of routines had been disrupted by pandemic lockdowns, and a few nonetheless haven’t returned to regular.
But that’s not the entire story. Refusing to observe the recommendation of medical specialists relating to vaccination has turn into a technique to present allegiance to a specific model of Republican partisanship.
(It ought to be famous, nonetheless, that former President Trump was instrumental within the speedy growth of the COVID-19 vaccines and even urged his supporters to take them, like he did.)
In a method, the vaccines themselves are accountable. They’ve finished such an excellent job of eradicating scourges like polio and measles that some dad and mom fail to understand how harmful these illnesses might be.
They might get a reminder quickly. A rising measles outbreak in and round Columbus, Ohio, has unfold to 74 kids as of Tuesday, according to local health officials. None of the contaminated kids have died, however 26 had been admitted to a hospital.
Health officers say 69 of the 74 sufferers had by no means acquired the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, and 4 others had been partially vaccinated. (The vaccination standing of the remaining affected person was unknown.) Eighteen of the sufferers had been lower than a yr previous — too younger to get the primary of two recommended doses of the MMR vaccine.
Nationwide, the CDC counted 88 measles instances this yr as of Thursday, up from 49 in all of 2021 and 13 in 2020. This even though MMR pictures are 93% efficient at stopping the illness that kills more than 140,000 people all over the world annually. Most of the victims are beneath 5 years previous.
It’s not laborious to think about the scenario getting worse. In 2019, the U.S. recorded a whopping 1,274 measles instances in 31 states.
“What we really need is help from the National Academy of Sciences, scientific and professional societies, university presidents,” Hotez instructed Hiltzik. “We need voices to say, ‘Enough: We’re a nation built on science and technology, and we’re not going to stand for this anymore.’ ”
California’s vaccination progress
See the most recent on California’s vaccination progress with our tracker.
In different news …
Let’s begin with some hopeful news for a change. It comes from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, the place researchers have developed an experimental COVID-19 drug that’s designed to stay efficient irrespective of how a lot the coronavirus mutates.
To perceive the way it works, it’s a must to know that when the virus enters a human physique, it seems to be for a sure kind of receptor on the floor of cells with a view to bind with them. Once joined with that receptor — often called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, or ACE2 — the virus jabs in its spike protein and initiates an an infection.
The new drug, dubbed DF-COV-01, is supposed to impersonate the ACE2 receptor so it may lure the virus away from actual ACE2 receptors on cells. When it succeeds, the drug completely disables the virus’s spike protein and renders it innocent. It was described last week within the journal Science Advances.
The shape-shifting coronavirus has a observe document of mutating in ways in which decreased the effectiveness of vaccines and antibody remedies. But right here’s the intelligent factor concerning the new decoy: If the virus had been to evolve in a method that made it proof against the drug, it will additionally turn into much less adept at binding to cells. If it may’t bind, it may’t unfold itself contained in the physique.
The drug has been examined solely on animals, and the ends in hamsters had been promising. Independent researchers mentioned the work was “elegant,” however there was an extended technique to go to show DF-COV-01 into an actual remedy. “The devil is in the details,” one mentioned.
And now for the dangerous news. Just final week we had been lamenting the truth that Los Angeles County’s “low” COVID-19 group degree had been downgraded to “medium.” It was good whereas it lasted — as of Thursday, the extent in California’s most populous county is taken into account “high” by the CDC.
L.A. County has firm — San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Benito, Imperial, Kings and Tuolumne counties are additionally within the “high” zone. Orange County nonetheless has a “medium” COVID-19 group degree, together with San Diego, Riverside and Ventura counties, amongst many others.
Despite this worsening trajectory, L.A. County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer mentioned final week that when she checked out all of the related metrics, she discovered motive to consider we will flip issues round in time to keep away from a brand new indoor masks mandate. “I’m feeling more hopeful that our metrics might improve before they tank,” she mentioned.
Her optimism wasn’t off-base. The county’s case charge over the previous week is eighteen% decrease than it was every week earlier. Even higher: New hospitalizations of individuals with coronavirus infections are down 9% week-to-week.
If you wish to issues to maintain transferring in the correct path, Ferrer’s recommendation is straightforward: Choose to put on a masks indoors despite the fact that you don’t should (but).
“We all need to wear our mask now,” she mentioned. “There’s just too much transmission, and it’s creating a lot of risk. And the time to mitigate the risk is actually now.”
Remember, it’s not simply COVID-19 that’s straining the healthcare system proper now. The “tripledemic” of COVID-19, flu and RSV is in full swing.
To accommodate the demand, Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Westwood is doubling up sufferers in rooms designed for one. Pomona Valley Hospital Medical Center turned its auditorium right into a flu clinic. Children’s Health of Orange County has transformed playrooms into affected person rooms and arrange beds in corridors.
At Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, some ER sufferers have been compelled to stay round for hours whereas medical doctors wait to discharge sufferers to expert nursing amenities.
“We can’t discharge them until we have a place to put them,” mentioned Dr. Kimberly Shriner, medical director of an infection prevention at Huntington Health. “And so you can see what happens — it just backs up. And then we don’t have enough beds. And then people sit in the ER for 10 hours.”
You don’t have to go to a hospital to understand how a lot viral exercise there may be now. Just go to a drug retailer and attempt to purchase cough syrup or fever-reducing medicine.
Johnson & Johnson mentioned its factories are operating 24 hours a day, seven days every week, to supply Tylenol. Other firms are making chilly and flu aids as quick as they will, the Consumer Healthcare Products Assn. assures us. In different phrases, the commerce affiliation says, the issue isn’t too little provide, it’s an excessive amount of demand.
Shoppers have been snapping up no matter medicines they will discover to make sure that they gained’t be empty-handed later, exacerbating the issue for others. Antonieta Garcia of East Los Angeles has been shopping for what she will be able to for the sake of her two youngsters. (One has bronchial asthma; the opposite is immunocompromised.) “I decided I had to stock up,” she mentioned.
It form of reminds you of the run on bathroom paper within the pandemic’s early days.
The commerce affiliation emphasised “the importance of responsible purchasing practices.” Otherwise, fears about shortages will turn into right into a self-fulfilling prophesy.
Let’s flip to a product that has the other downside: COVID-19 vaccines. Versions that focus on the Omicron variant are now accessible to kids as younger as 6 months. The Food and Drug Administration approved tiny bivalent doses from Moderna and Pfizer on Thursday, and the CDC endorsed them on Friday.
The guidelines for this youngest age group are a bit difficult. Children beneath 6 who’ve had their two major doses of Moderna’s vaccine can get the corporate’s bivalent booster if at the very least two months have handed since their final shot.
But kids beneath 5 who’ve had their three major doses of the Pfizer vaccine should wait at the very least a month to be taught once they can get one of many new boosters. Children who’ve began — however not but accomplished — their three-shot collection will get the bivalent components for his or her third dose.
It stays to be seen whether or not the flexibility to focus on Omicron will entice extra dad and mom to vaccinate their younger kids. As of final week, solely 3% of children beneath 2 and about 5% of these 2 to 4 had been absolutely vaccinated, in line with the CDC.
And lastly, we’ve an enormous replace from China. After months of home complaints concerning the nation’s “zero COVID” coverage, and two weeks after the lethal house fireplace in Urumqi that sparked the largest protest in a era, the federal government responded by easing some guidelines round coronavirus testing necessities and isolation procedures for folks with lively infections.
The rollback was greeted with each aid and apprehension. Almost instantly, folks had been capable of do mundane issues like going to the gymnasium with out having their smartphones scanned or their whereabouts tracked. Children in areas with out outbreaks had been in a position to return to highschool.
Some folks took benefit of their newfound freedoms to purchase medicines they’ll want if fears of a widespread outbreak come to move. Some pharmacies in Beijing ran out out of chilly and fever medication.
“Every country in experiencing their first wave will face chaos, especially in medical capacity, and a squeeze on medical resources,” mentioned Wang Pi-sheng, who leads Taiwan’s COVID-19 response.
Within days, reviews of outbreaks in faculties and companies had been cropping up on social media. But they weren’t mirrored within the official statistics now that fewer persons are required to get to necessary testing.
“Half of the company’s people are out sick, but they still won’t let us all stay home,” an unnamed particular person from Beijing mentioned in a put up on a Chinese microblogging website.
In Beijing, the variety of folks visiting hospital fever clinics grew by an element of 16 in a single week. A waitress within the capital mentioned buyer site visitors at her restaurant was down as a result of so many had been sick. “The first one or two months are definitely going to be serious,” she mentioned. “Nobody’s used to this yet.”
Undaunted, Chinese officers proceeded with extra rollbacks on Monday. They disabled the app that tracked folks’s journey between cities, immediately decreasing the quantity of people that might be instructed to quarantine if a brand new COVID-9 sizzling spot emerges.
Officially, China remains to be dedicated to zero COVID. But the modifications recommend a willingness to just accept extra sicknesses with a view to get the nation transferring once more. In an ominous signal, the federal government is opening further intensive care amenities to are likely to severely sick sufferers.
Your questions answered
Today’s query comes from readers who wish to know: What would it not take for L.A. County to deliver again its masks mandate?
The standards are the identical as they had been this summer season, when officers had been on the verge of amending the county well being order to require that masks be worn in indoor public areas. They embrace:
Lots of infections. Specifically, the county must see at the very least 200 new instances per 100,000 residents per week. (There’s a technique to set off a masks mandate with a decrease case charge, however that will require a mixture of things that’s extraordinarily unlikely to happen.) As of Tuesday, the case charge in L.A. County is near 272 per 100,000 per week.
Lots of contaminated folks being admitted to hospitals. “A lot” means at the very least 10 new sufferers per 100,000 residents per week. It’s necessary to notice that the coronavirus doesn’t should be the factor that despatched them to the hospital so as to rely towards the whole. Even if a affected person is admitted as a result of they’re having a child or bought right into a automobile accident, they’ll deplete extra healthcare sources in the event that they’re contaminated. As of Tuesday, the brand new admissions charge for L.A. County is slightly below 15 per 100,000 per week.
Infected folks taking on a major share of hospital beds. This is a method of measuring the county’s capability to take care of folks with critical instances of COVID-19 in addition to everybody else who may want an inpatient mattress. The threshold for coming into mask-mandate territory is having at the very least 10% of beds being taken up by coronavirus-positive sufferers. (That 10% determine is measured as a seven-day common.) As of Tuesday, contaminated sufferers stuffed 6.9% of hospital beds in L.A. County.
If the county had been to satisfy all three standards, the countdown towards a masks mandate would start. If we stay within the hazard zone for the next two weeks, the mandate would go into impact.
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The pandemic in footage
The picture above exhibits members of the Dallas Cowboys taking the sector in a recreation towards the Philadelphia Eagles. The undeniable fact that the hometown stands are principally empty ought to clue you in to the truth that this recreation was performed in 2020, in the course of the NFL’s first pandemic season.
That’s related due to a new study that examined the general public well being implications of that season’s 269 video games. Unlike different skilled sports activities leagues that instituted momentary bans on followers within the stands, the NFL allowed residence groups to determine for themselves whether or not to permit spectators to cheer in particular person. About 43% of the video games had been performed earlier than crowds, which ranged in measurement from 748 to 31,700. Some of the biggest had been on the Cowboys’ AT&T Stadium.
Researchers discovered that greater crowds had been related to greater will increase in COVID-19 caseloads. In the 2 to 3 weeks after a recreation, these will increase had been greater than twice as excessive in counties the place greater than 20,000 followers attended than in counties the place attendance was beneath 5,000.
“Given what we knew about COVID-19 and the way it spreads, we weren’t terribly surprised by our findings,” examine co-author Wanda Leal instructed my colleague David Wharton.
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