COVID cases across Florida drop by 40% since last week; pandemic fatalities also down


The number of new COVID-19 cases reported in Florida continued to plummet this week and so, too, did the number of people getting vaccinated, according to Friday’s weekly update from the Florida Department of Health.

Another 54,109 people in the state tested positive for the coronavirus during the week ending Thursday, according to the report. That is a 40.4% drop from the 75,998 new cases reported the week before.

Another 2,340 deaths were reported, pushing the death toll to 53,580, state health officials said. During the previous week, a pandemic-high 2,468 fatalities were tallied.

US to send additional 500 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to foreign nations in 2022


The United States is set to significantly increase the amount of Covid-19 vaccines it will ship to foreign nations beginning in 2022 in an effort to end the pandemic worldwide, President Joe Biden announced Wednesday.

As part of a virtual Covid-19 summit on the margins of the UN General Assembly, Biden announced that the US is purchasing an additional 500 million Pfizer Covid-19 vaccines to donate to low- and lower-middle-income countries around the world, a senior administration official said, previewing the summit. The newly announced 500 million doses are on top of the 500 million the US had already committed to sharing with other nations.

Those vaccines will begin shipping out in January, and from January through September of next year, the US will ship out 800 million vaccines to the world, the official said. These vaccines bring the United States total to over 1.1 billion vaccines donated to other countries.

L.A. County records big drop in COVID-19 hospitalisations


The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in Los Angeles County has dropped below 1,000 for the first time in two months — underscoring the region’s slow but steady progress in turning the tide of the latest coronavirus surge.

On Tuesday, 991 coronavirus-positive patients were receiving hospital care countywide. That’s down about 40% from the start of September, state data show.

In mid-August — the height of the current Delta-variant-fueled wave — nearly 1,800 people countywide were hospitalized with COVID-19 on some days.

The region has also seen a significant decline in the number of people ill enough to require intensive care. As of Tuesday, 305 patients were in intensive care units throughout the county, a 31% drop since the beginning of the month.

Johnson & Johnson says additional dose boosts Covid vaccine efficacy


Johnson & Johnson said Tuesday that a large, global study showed its Covid-19 vaccine is more effective when given as a two-dose regimen, and that other data indicate the efficacy of the vaccine does not wane.

The two-dose regimen prevented 75% of moderate to severe Covid cases in all countries where it was tested — and 94% of such cases in the United States, where the vaccine probably had to grapple with fewer variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Importantly, the two-dose regimen was 100% effective against severe disease.

It appears J&J may use the data to argue in favor of making a booster broadly available to people who received the one-dose vaccine six months ago or more. A press release from the company did not say so explicitly, but stated J&J had submitted the data to the Food and Drug Administration and plans to submit them to other regulators and the World Health Organization.

Moderna vaccine protection staying especially strong


New research released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday shows that effectiveness of the Moderna vaccine is staying particularly strong.

Over the course of five months of research, from March to August, the effectiveness of all the vaccines at keeping people out of the hospital due to COVID among people without compromising conditions was highest for Moderna recipients, at 93%. Pfizer’s effectiveness was overall 88% and Johnson & Johnson’s was 71%.

Pfizer’s effectiveness decreased after 120 days of the study period, from 91% to 77%, while Moderna’s effectiveness did not see a similar decline. Initial effectiveness of 93% only declined to 92% with Moderna.

“Although these real-world data suggest some variation in levels of protection by vaccine, all FDA-approved or authorized COVID-19 vaccines provide substantial protection against COVID-19 hospitalization,” researchers concluded.

L.A. County sees big drops in coronavirus cases, hospitaliSations


Los Angeles County continues to see improvement in weekly COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations.

About a month ago, the county was averaging more than 3,400 new coronavirus infections a day over a one-week period. But as of Tuesday, according to a Times analysis of state data, L.A. County was averaging fewer than 1,800 cases a day, a 48% decline.

Unvaccinated people are also at far greater risk of being hospitalized. Of the hundreds of people admitted to L.A. County’s public hospital system since June 15 for a diagnosis primarily due to COVID-19, 93% have been unvaccinated.

Most of the vaccinated people who have been hospitalized have compromised immune systems, and thus “are not able to mount a sufficient immune response after vaccination,” county Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly said.

COVID-19 hospitalizations dropping in Florida


The number of people ending up in Florida’s hospitals with COVID-19 continues to drop this week, and that’s good news not just for strained staff but also patients who had elective procedures put on hold.

Florida looks to be in better shape now than a month ago when it comes to people hospitalized with the coronavirus.

“We’re looking at about a 40% improvement in the overall census over three weeks and about a 30% improvement in the ICU census,” said Justin Senior, the chief executive officer of Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida

Safety Net Hospital Alliance of Florida represents over a dozen of hospitals including Tampa General and Johns Hopkins All Children’s hospitals.

Vaccines prevented up to 140,000 COVID-19 deaths in U.S.


Three highly effective COVID-19 vaccines are available in the U.S. These vaccines have been shown to slow the spread of the virus and reduce COVID-19 deaths. About half of the population has been fully vaccinated as of August 2021.

A team led by Drs. Sumedha Gupta of Indiana University and Christopher Whaley of the RAND corporation analyzed how the vaccine rollout affected COVID-19 deaths. Their study is one of the first to assess the impact of state-level vaccination campaigns.

To determine the speed of vaccination in each state, researchers used data from government websites and official statements. The study analyzed the period from December 21, 2020, to May 9, 2021. They compared the amount of time each state took to reach a series of milestones—starting with five vaccine doses per 100 adults, up to 120 doses per 100 adults. They also calculated the number of vaccine doses per 100 adults at the end of each week.

Based on the model, COVID-19 vaccines prevented more than 139,000 deaths during the first five months they were available. About 570,000 COVID-19 deaths had occurred in the U.S. by May 9; the model projected about 709,000 deaths would have occurred without the vaccines. The researchers estimated that the economic value of preventing these deaths was between $625 billion and $1.4 trillion.

Delta variant vaccinated vs. unvaccinated: This new CDC chart shows how well COVID-19 vaccines work


If you are still unclear on how well vaccinations work against COVID-19 since delta became the predominant variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put out a new series of data and charts showing just how well the vaccines work against preventing infection, hospitalization, and deaths.

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To compile the charts, the CDC looked at data from 13 U.S. jurisdictions between the dates of April 4 and July 17, 2021. Researchers tabulated the number of infections, hospitalizations, and deaths among the not fully vaccinated and the vaccinated—and the results are compelling indeed. The CDC’s data shows that not fully vaccinated people are over 10 times more likely to be hospitalized from COVID-19 and over 10 times more likely to die from it. Not fully vaccinated people are also five times more likely to catch COVID-19 than vaccinated people.

In the timeframe and jurisdictions the data covered, 569,142 not fully vaccinated people caught COVID-19 versus only 46,312 who were fully vaccinated. Of those, 34,972 not fully vaccinated people required hospitalization, while only 2,976 fully vaccinated people did. And regrettably, 6,132 not fully vaccinated people ended up dying of COVID-19, while only 616 fully vaccinated people died from the disease.

The takeaway from the CDC’s data seems clear: Fully vaccinated individuals have a much greater chance of not being impacted by the disease, whether that impact is via infection, hospitalization, or death.

UAMS research team finds potential cause of COVID-19 ‘long-haulers’


Researchers with the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences have identified a potential cause of long-lasting symptoms experienced by COVID-19 patients, often referred to as long-haulers.

A press release stated that the team found an antibody that shows up weeks after the initial infection. The antibody reportedly attacks a key regulator of the immune system.

“Everything that we’ve found is consistent with this antibody as the instigator of long COVID, so it’s an exciting development that merits further study,” lead researcher Dr. John Arthur said.

Researchers tested plasma or serum for the antibody in 67 patients with a known COVID-19 infection and 13 with no history of infection, according to the researchers. In 81% of blood samples from patients in Arkansas and Oklahoma with a history of COVID-19, the samples had the antibody. In participants with no history of COVID-19, no antibodies were created.

“If our next steps confirm that this antibody is the cause of long COVID symptoms, there are medications that should work to treat them,” Arthur said. “If we get to that phase of research, the next step would be to test these drugs and hopefully relieve people of the symptoms they’re having.”