U.S. enters an ‘uncertain’ period for deaths,

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U.S. enters an “uncertain” period for COVID deaths, hospitalizations

Figures show the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths will remain stable or have “an uncertain trend” over the next four weeks, with up to 4,000 new deaths likely reported in the week ending July 16, according to the national ensemble forecast used by the CDC. Data show California may record up to 500 additional COVID-19 deaths in that time. Virus-related hospitalizations are also expected to have an unpredictable trajectory, with the national ensemble predicting that the number of new daily confirmed COVID-19 hospital admissions could fall anywhere between 1,600 to 10,400 by July 15. Many public health officials are uncertain about what impact the newer virus variants BA.4 and BA.5, which are expected to become dominant in the U.S. over the next few weeks, will have in terms of more severe disease outcomes.

Nearly 1 in 5 COVID survivors has long COVID, federal survey finds

Out of the more than 40% of adults in the United States who have reported having had COVID-19, nearly one in five currently still has symptoms of long COVID, according to an ongoing household survey by the Census Bureau, CDC and other federal agencies. New data show that overall, 1 in 13 adults in the U.S. has had symptoms lasting three or more months after first contracting the virus that they didn’t have prior to their COVID-19 infection. The survey also found that older adults are less likely to have long COVID than younger adults, and women are more susceptible than men, by 9.4% vs. 5.5%, to having had long COVID. 

FDA to review oxygen meters that delayed COVID treatment for those with darker skin

Following a study published in May that found lifesaving treatments were significantly delayed for Asian, Black and Hispanic patients with COVID-19 due to inaccurate oxygen readings, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is planning to convene a public meeting to discuss medical devices that may give less accurate results in individuals with darker skin. The Medical Devices Advisory Committee will meet later this year to discuss “the available evidence about the accuracy of pulse oximeters, recommendations for patients and health care providers, the amount and type of data that should be provided by manufacturers to assess pulse oximeter accuracy, and to guide other regulatory actions as needed.” The agency said it will announce further details of the meeting in the coming weeks.

Evidence of role vaccines play against long COVID “urgently needed,” study says

Data from multiple observational studies suggest vaccination against the coronavirus may provide protection from the symptoms of long COVID, but there is a lack of definitive answers, according to research published Wednesday in medRxiv. In a wide-ranging survey of 356 articles and six studies from three countries (USA, UK, France) tracking 442,601 patients, researchers from Australia found that there was no clear connection on the role vaccines play in reducing common long COVID symptoms such as fatigue, loss of smell, shortness of breath, headache, anxiety, and memory loss. “More robust comparative observational studies and trials are urgently needed to clearly determine effectiveness of vaccines in prevention and treatment of long COVID,” the authors write. They add that any new vaccine trial should include follow-up research on long COVID.

Maternal vaccination reduces severe COVID outcomes for newborns, CDC study suggests

Children born to mothers who were vaccinated with two doses of mRNA vaccine had a reduced risk of hospitalization for COVID-19, including for critical illness, according to a study funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A total of 1327 case infants and control infants younger than 6 months of age were enrolled at 30 hospitals between July 1 and March 8 for the study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. The risk of hospitalization among the infants who had severe COVID-19 was reduced by 80% during the period of circulation of the delta variant and by 38% during circulation of the omicron variant. Vaccine effectiveness against admission to an intensive care unit bed for COVID-19 was 70% overall. The levels of effectiveness shifted depending on when the mother received their shots, falling by 69% when maternal vaccination occurred after 20 weeks of pregnancy, as compared with 38% when maternal vaccination occurred during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Moderna says updated vaccine is effective against BA.4 and BA.5

Moderna says an updated version of its COVID-19 booster shot appears to be effective against the newer omicron subvariants. In a news release to investors Wednesday, the drugmaker said its bivalent vaccine, which it hopes will be authorized for use this fall, showed a significant increase in antibodies against BA.4 and BA.5, which are on track to become the dominant variants in the U.S. in the next few weeks. “In the face of SARS-CoV-2’s continued evolution, we are very encouraged that mRNA-1273.214, our lead booster candidate for the fall, has shown high neutralizing titers against the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants, which represent an emergent threat to global public health,” said Stéphane Bancel, the company’s CEO, in a statement. “We will submit these data to regulators urgently and are preparing to supply our next generation bivalent booster starting in August, ahead of a potential rise in SARS-CoV-2 infections due to omicron subvariants in the early fall.”

S.F. Mayor London Breed tests positive for COVID-19

San Francisco Mayor London Breed has tested positive for COVID-19, her office said in a statement Wednesday. She is vaccinated and boosted and feeling well, the statement said. She will be conducting meetings from home and will follow all isolation and quarantine protocols as recommended by the San Francisco Department of Public Health, not attending any public events while isolating. This week, Breed attended the Golden State Warriors championship parade, posing with many of the team’s star players. She also met with San Francisco’s department heads and commissioners at City Hall, attended a Juneteenth celebration in the Fillmore district, and hosted an outdoor movie night in the Presidio with State Sen. Scott Wiener. Follow the emerging story here.

Israel enters the “sixth wave” of pandemic due to BA.5

Public health officials in Israel said the country is experiencing another COVID-19 surge as they reported the highest number of daily cases and hospitalizations since April, according to news site Haaretz. “We are in another wave, the sixth wave of the pandemic, which is characterized mostly by the infection of at-risk groups. We attribute the rise in infection to the BA.5 variant of the omicron family, which is found already in over 50 percent of the [genetic] sequencing test results,” Salman Zarka, the country’s COVID czar said in a briefing on Wednesday [in Hebrew]. The BA.5 omicron subvariant made up about 70% of the sequenced cases in Israel last week. No pandemic restrictions have been reinstated but Zarka said if there are more severe outcomes “it is possible that we will have to not only recommend wearing masks in closed spaced, but require it in a regulation. But I hope we won’t need to do so.”

COVID surges across Europe as newer variants take hold

Several countries in Europe are reporting a fresh wave of COVID-19 cases driven by the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants of omicron, which are 10% to 15% more infectious than BA.2, according to The Guardian. French vaccination chief Alain Fischer said on Wednesday that the country is nearing a two-month peak of daily cases, with 95,000 reported on Tuesday. “The question is, what intensity does this wave have?” Fischer said, speaking on France 2 television. In one week, hospital admissions in France are up 27% and intensive-care admissions 17%. Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, the Netherlands and Denmark are also reporting a sharp upswing in cases and severe outcomes. The variants have led to significant excess deaths in Portugal, which also has the second highest new case rate in the world. “The holiday season is about to start, almost all restrictions have been relaxed — things could take off again very fast indeed,” French health expert Dr. Damien Mascret told France 2 television. “It’s concerning that only 29% of over-60s have so far got the fourth dose to which they are all entitled.”

Martha Stewart tests positive for COVID-19

Television personality Martha Stewart on Tuesday disclosed that she has tested positive for the coronavirus. “I’m sad to report that I tested positive for Covid-19,” Stewart, 80, said in a clip posted to her Instagram account. “I am feeling fine but I am sticking to the rules and isolating.” She added that she was “heartbroken” to miss a party for her signature skincare line in New York City. “Cheers to what I am sure will be a fabulous event.”

Children must show negative PCR test result to play in parks in Beijing

As part of China’s “dynamic zero-COVID” policy, families who want to take children over three years of age to play in public parks in Beijing will be required to provide a negative PCR test result within the past 72 hours to use the playground, according to CBS News, citing an announcement posted online Tuesday by the government agency that operates the parks in the capital.

Marin supervisors extend pandemic eviction protections past summer

With eviction protections from the state of California scheduled to expire June 30, the Marin County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to prohibit residential renter evictions in unincorporated areas effective July 1 through September 30, 2022. On several occasions during the COVID-19 public health crisis the Board has passed resolutions barring evictions for nonpayment of rent arising directly from the coronavirus. Since spring 2020, nearly 1,260 local households have received County-sponsored COVID-19 rental assistance. Rental assistance priority has been given to households that are considered extremely low income, which in Marin would be a family of three with an income of no more than $43,550. 

Bay Area infants and toddlers start getting COVID shots

Tuesday marked the first day that infants and toddlers 6 months to 4 years old could get vaccinated against COVID-19, following federal and state approvals for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines over the weekend. Inside Exposition Hall at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds on a sweltering afternoon, one-year-old Bert Avina helped make history: he became one of the first babies in the Bay Area to get his COVID-19 vaccine. Read more about the long-awaited roll-out of vaccines to the last age group in America to become eligible for the life-saving shots.