Covid News Watch

Sep 21, 2023

HHS Bars Wuhan Institute of Virology From Receiving U.S. Funding for Next 10 Years: ‘Obvious Step in Right Direction’ + More

HHS Bars Wuhan Institute of Virology From Receiving U.S. Funding for Next 10 Years: ‘Obvious Step in the Right Direction’

New York Post reported:

The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that it has officially barred the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV) from receiving U.S. funding for the next 10 years, as more evidence points to the COVID-19 pandemic leaking out of a Chinese lab.

The Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra sent a letter on Tuesday to WIV Director General Dr. Yanyi Wang informing her that the lab — which conducted risky gain-of-function experiments on bat coronaviruses — will be denied U.S. research grants until July 16, 2033.

“This is especially timely as mounting evidence and intelligence continue to suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic originated from a laboratory failure in Wuhan,” House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) said. “Rewarding the likely source of a global pandemic with American resources will only lead to more future health risks.”

“Further, the Select Subcommittee recently revealed that prominent public health authorities — including Dr. Anthony Fauci — knew about the risky laboratory conditions in Wuhan prior to the spread of COVID-19 worldwide,” he added.

U.S. taxpayers forked over $2,168,345 in grant funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to the Chinese research institutions from 2014 to 2021, according to a Government Accountability Office report released in June.

Biden Administration Announces $600 Million to Produce COVID Tests and Will Reopen Website to Order Them

Associated Press reported:

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is providing $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and is restarting a website allowing Americans to again order up to four free tests per household — aiming to prevent possible shortages during a rise in coronavirus cases that has typically come during colder months.

Twelve manufacturers that employ hundreds of people in seven states from California to Maryland have been awarded funding and will produce 200 million over-the-counter tests to replenish federal stockpiles for government use, in addition to producing enough tests to meet demand for tests ordered online, the department said.

It is also meant to complement ongoing federal efforts to provide free COVID tests to long-term care facilities, schools, low-income senior housing, uninsured individuals and underserved communities which are already distributing 4 million per week and have distributed 500 million tests to date, the department said.

New COVID Vaccine Campaign off to a Bumpy Start

The Hill reported:

The launch of the newly approved COVID-19 vaccines, the first campaign since the federal pandemic emergency ended, is off to a bumpy start.

Reports are piling up of insured Americans being stuck with the nearly $200 bill for shots, which were approved last week. The new vaccines are designed to protect against new strains of the coronavirus and are recommended for everyone older than 6 months.

Anyone with health insurance — either through private insurers or federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid — should be able to receive the new COVID vaccines for free.

But that’s not always happening, according to news reports and complaints on social media. As CBS News reported, the vaccines have new billing codes, and insurers are still updating their plans to cover the shots.

UN Delegates Approve Political Declaration on Pandemic Readiness

CIDRAP reported:

Following the first-ever head-of-state summit on pandemic preparedness at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly today, leaders approved a political declaration that spells out steps to better prepare the world for the next pandemic.

Among several measures, the declaration recognizes the need for member states to finish work on a Pandemic Accord, a legal instrument that would be used to ensure that countries are better prepared to prevent and respond to future pandemics.

Today’s pandemic declaration also covers population sustainable and equitable access to medical countermeasures, steps to address misinformation, protect health systems, strengthen the World Health Organization (WHO), and boost the healthcare workforce and surveillance efforts.

David Marlow, chief executive officer of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, said in a statement that the sad fact is that there will be future pandemics. “The only question that remains is — will we be better prepared next time? With this declaration, countries have taken an important step towards breaking the panic-neglect cycle and crafting a global framework to support future response,” he added.

Inhaled Glucocorticoid Flops for Speeding COVID Recovery in Outpatients — Fluticasone Furoate ‘Not a Favorable’ Therapy for COVID, Say Researchers

MedPage Today reported:

Inhaled fluticasone furoate failed to shorten recovery time for non-hospitalized adults with COVID-19, new data from the adaptive ACTIV-6 trial found.

When used daily for 2 weeks, a quicker COVID-19 recovery time — considered at least 3 consecutive days without symptoms — was no more likely with fluticasone furoate than with placebo (HR 1.01, 95% CI 0.91-1.12), according to Susanna Naggie, MD, MHS, of Duke University School of Medicine in Durham, North Carolina, and colleagues.

Yet a numerically higher rate of urgent care/emergency department visits and hospitalizations was observed in the fluticasone furoate group (3.7% vs 2.1%, respectively; HR 1.90, 95% CI 0.90-3.50), the researchers reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Combined, the lack of treatment effect and that possible increase in healthcare usage suggest that the inhaled glucocorticoid is “not a favorable” therapy for COVID-19, wrote Naggie and co-authors.

Sep 20, 2023

Fauci Making Millions During COVID Pandemic Sparks Backlash + More

Fauci Making Millions During COVID Pandemic Sparks Backlash

Newsweek reported:

Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser during the COVID-19 pandemic, and his wife saw their net worth go up $5 million from before the start of the health crisis through 2021, according to financial disclosures from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIH financial records obtained by the website OpenTheBooks show that the couple’s net worth increased by approximately $5 million from 2019 through 2021, from about $7.6 million to over $12.6 million. Fauci and his wife, Christine Grady, a bioethicist who heads the Bioethics Department at the NIH Clinical Center, had a net worth that exceeded $11 million in 2022, according to the U.K.’s Daily Mail.

“During the pandemic years, the Faucis became deca-millionaires, with their household net worth exceeding $10 million,” OpenTheBooks CEO Adam Andrzejewski told Fox News. “Last year was a tough year in the markets. However, Fauci’s net worth is still up sharply from $7.6 million in 2019.”

Fauci is estimated to be collecting a federal pension that rivals a presidential salary, Andrzejewski added, calling it “the largest federal retirement package in history.”

The Anti-Vaccine Movement Is on the Rise. The White House Is at a Loss Over What to Do About It.

Politico reported:

A Biden administration that vowed to restore Americans’ faith in public health has grown increasingly paralyzed over how to combat the resurgence in vaccine skepticism.

And internally, aides and advisers concede there is no comprehensive plan for countering a movement that’s steadily expanded its influence on the president’s watch.

“There’s a real challenge here,” said one senior official who’s worked on the COVID response and was granted anonymity to speak candidly. “But they keep just hoping it’ll go away.” And the impact is clear: As another COVID vaccination campaign gets underway, fewer Americans than ever have kept up to date on their shots. Child vaccination rates against the flu are measurably lower than before the pandemic.

Even standard childhood inoculations to prevent diseases like measles are subject to deepening partisan divisions, with recent polling showing Republicans are now more than twice as likely to believe the shots should be optional than they did in 2019. Democrats, by contrast, remain overwhelmingly in favor of childhood vaccine requirements.

Northeastern Among Sites Chosen by CDC to Establish ‘National Weather Service’ for Infectious Disease

The Boston Globe via MSN reported:

Northeastern University has been selected for a leading role in a new national network formed to better forecast the spread of a future pandemic.

The university announced Tuesday the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded it $17.5 million over the next five years to develop a center focused on detecting and preparing for the next outbreak of infectious disease, especially in rural areas.

Alessandro Vespignani, director of Northeastern’s Network Science Institute, is leading the project, called “EPISTORM: The Center for Advanced Epidemic Analytics and Predictive Modeling Technology.”

The money comes through the CDC’s Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics, which was formed last year with the goal, Vespignani said, of creating “what would be a National Weather Service for epidemic threats.” NU is among 13 centers in the CDC’s new outbreak response network. Boston University is a subcontractor working with NU.

U.S. Government Awards $45 Million for Long COVID Clinics

Reuters reported:

The U.S. government is awarding $45 million in grants to help clinics treating long COVID develop new models of care and expand access, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said on Wednesday.

Nine clinics will receive $1 million in grants annually over the next five years through the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) within HHS, the department said.

President Joe Biden had tasked HHS last year with developing a national action plan to tackle long COVID, a complex, multi-symptom condition that arises months after a COVID-19 infection and leaves many of its sufferers unable to work.

The funding will be used for increasing in-person and virtual visits, establishing new satellite clinics, and an education initiative aimed at growing referrals. Limited knowledge and acceptance among clinicians have contributed to delays in diagnoses and referrals.

COVID Leveling Off in Some Areas of the Country, Despite Uptick in Cases

NBC News reported:

Wastewater data suggest that the recent uptick in COVID cases may have peaked, at least in some areas.

Biobot Analytics, a company that tracks wastewater samples at 257 sites nationwide, said that the current average COVID levels across the United States are approximately 5% lower than they were last week.

“All fingers crossed,” Cristin Young, a Biobot epidemiologist said, “this wave is plateauing and may be declining.”

After a mid- to late-summer rise, the CDC‘s COVID wastewater surveillance now shows declines in mid-Atlantic states, such as Virginia and Maryland. Wastewater collection sites in the Midwest and the Northeast, however, show a steady uptick in COVID spread.

Moderna to Cut mRNA Drug Substance Production at Lonza Facility

Reuters reported:

Moderna (MRNA.O) said on Tuesday it will cut production of mRNA drug substance for its COVID-19 vaccine at Lonza’s (LONN.S) facility in Switzerland this quarter as part of a plan to align manufacturing of the shots with lower post-pandemic demand.

The U.S. company had said last week it was in talks with its partners that fill vials and syringes globally to downsize vaccine production.

Such a move will help Moderna adjust to the sharp fall in demand for COVID vaccines as payers cut back orders for the shots, partly following the end of the public health emergency for the disease.

Sep 19, 2023

‘Nightmare,’ Some Planning to Get New COVID Vaccine Getting Bills for Nearly $200 + More

‘Nightmare,’ Some Planning to Get New COVID Vaccine Getting Bills for Nearly $200

CBS News reported:

​​When Glen Cote of Acton drove to his appointment at CVS for the new COVID-19 vaccine, he was shocked to receive a text on his phone minutes before his appointment, letting him know that the vaccine would cost $190.99.

“Nightmare is the first word that comes to mind,” he explained to WBZ-TV. Cote is covered by MassHealth, the state’s program for Medicaid.

The new COVID-19 shot was approved by the FDA and CDC about a week ago, with the vaccine to be shipped to area pharmacies. Signs outside many CVS stores read “FREE FLU & COVID-19 vaccines here.”

Instead, posts on social media show that several people nationwide are getting charged for the shot, anywhere between $125 and $190.

WHO Chief Pushes China for ‘Full Access’ to Determine COVID’s Origins, Financial Times Reports

Reuters reported:

The chief of the World Health Organization urged Beijing to offer more information on the origins of COVID-19 and is ready to send a second team to probe the matter, the Financial Times reported on Sunday.

“We’re pressing China to give full access, and we are asking countries to raise it during their bilateral meetings — to urge Beijing to cooperate,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the newspaper.

The WHO chief’s comments come as health authorities and pharmaceutical companies across the world have been racing to update vaccines to combat newer emerging coronavirus variants.

Ghebreyesus has long been pressing China to share its information about the origins of COVID-19, saying that until that happened all hypotheses remained on the table.

Why Officials Aren’t Calling This Year’s New COVID Shots ‘Boosters’

CBS News reported:

Earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic, as signs of waning immunity and changes in the virus prompted the rollout of additional doses of vaccine, health authorities took to urging Americans to seek out “booster” shots to improve their protection against the virus.

Now, with an updated vaccine formula rolling out for the fall, officials are changing that message to move away from the word “booster.” Instead, doctors and health departments are now working on getting used to calling this year’s newly recommended shots the “2023-2024 COVID-19 vaccine” or simply the “updated COVID-19 vaccine.”

Virtually all Americans ages 6 months and older are now recommended to get one dose of these updated shots from Moderna or Pfizer, regardless of what vaccines they have or have not received before.

“Bye-bye, booster. We are no longer giving boosters, and it’s going to be very difficult to stop using that word because that word has become pervasive,” Dr. Keipp Talbot, a member of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s committee of vaccine advisers, said. “We are beginning to think of COVID like influenza. Influenza changes each year, and we give a new vaccine each year. We don’t ‘boost’ each year.”

COVID Severity ‘Much Lower’ Now — but These 3 Symptoms Remain: Top NYC Doc

New York Post reported:

Despite the recent warning of a new variant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of COVID-19 are noticeably weaker than previous waves, a top NYC doctor has said.

“Just about everyone who I’ve seen has had really mild symptoms,” Dr. Erick Eiting, vice chair of operations for emergency medicine at Mount Sinai Downtown, told NBC News. The outlet also reported that the virus has become so light, it is hard to tell apart from allergies or just a common cold.

“The only way that we knew that it was COVID was because we happened to be testing them,” Eiting added, noting that current symptoms mostly include congestion, some sneezing and a mild sore throat.

“Especially since July, when this recent mini-surge started, younger people that have upper respiratory symptoms — cough, runny nose, sore throat, fever and chills — 99% of the time they go home with supportive care,” said emergency physician Dr. Michael Daignault, of Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, California.

Did You Have a Severe Case of COVID? Research Suggests That Neanderthal Genes Could Be to Blame

Insider reported:

Researchers in Italy say their study of people infected with COVID-19 shows that those with certain genetic variations attributable to Neanderthal ancestry were far more likely to experience severe symptoms requiring hospitalization, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.

Writing in the journal iScience, the researchers, associated with the nonprofit Mario Negri Institute for Pharmacological Research, reported that they examined the DNA of nearly 1,200 volunteers in the Bergamo province, which was especially hard hit in the early days of the pandemic. What they found is that the “Neanderthal haplotype,” a set of genetic variants associated with the human ancestor, is “the major genetic risk factor for severe COVID-19.”

The link between health and Neanderthal DNA has been suggested by other studies. A study published in June by the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution indicated a link between Neanderthal DNA and a genetic disorder known as Dupuytren’s disease. In March, a study published in Nature also found a connection between Neanderthal ancestry and an increased risk of an extreme immune response, or cytokine storm, from contracting COVID-19.

New COVID Variant BA.2.86 Spotted in 10 States, Though Highly Mutated Strain Remains Rare

CBS News reported:

People across at least 10 states have now been infected by BA.2.86, a highly mutated variant of the virus that causes COVID-19 that authorities have been closely tracking.

According to data tallied from the global virus database GISAID, labs have reported finding BA.2.86 in samples from Colorado, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Washington.

Estimates suggest BA.2.86 still remains a small fraction of new COVID-19 cases nationwide.

Too few sequences of the virus have been reported to show up on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s biweekly variant estimates, which still show that a long list of closely related XBB variant descendants is driving virtually all infections around the country.

Pence Says He Hasn’t Made a Decision on Whether to Get COVID Booster

The Hill reported:

Former Vice President Mike Pence said Sunday that he’s not sure if he will get the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine booster, but he encouraged other Americans to at least consider it.

“We haven’t made a decision on that yet as a family,” Pence replied when asked if he would get the shot in a CNN interview Sunday. “I think every family ought to make those decisions.”

The FDA approved an additional COVID-19 booster shot last week to specifically combat newer strains of the virus. COVID cases are on the rise nationally, raising concerns about another winter wave of sickness.

Sep 13, 2023

CIA Whistleblower’s Bombshell Claim About COVID Conspiracy + More

CIA Whistleblower’s Bombshell Claim About COVID Conspiracy

Newsweek reported:

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) whistleblower made bombshell claims against the U.S. intelligence agency on Tuesday relating to the origins of COVID-19.

The Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic and Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence announced that members heard testimony from a CIA whistleblower who alleged that the CIA “offered six analysts significant monetary incentives to change their position on COVID-19’s origin.”

“The whistleblower, who presents as a highly credible senior-level CIA officer, alleges that of the seven members assigned to the CIA team tasked with analyzing COVID-19 origins, six officers concluded that the virus likely originated from a lab in Wuhan, China,” the House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic said in a press release. “The CIA, then, however, allegedly offered financial incentives to six of the experts involved in the investigation to change their conclusion in favor of a zoonotic origin.”

The announcement on Tuesday comes several months after the Wall Street Journal obtained classified intelligence reports in February, which found that the U.S. Department of Energy determined that COVID-19 likely originated from a lab in Wuhan, China.

“The whistleblower further contends that to come to the eventual public determination of uncertainty, the other six members were given a significant monetary incentive to change their position,” House’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner said in a joint statement.

CDC Recommends Updated COVID Vaccines for Everyone 6 Months and Older

CNN Health reported:

Everyone ages 6 months and older should get an updated COVID-19 vaccine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday, to help lower the risk of severe illness, hospitalization or death from the coronavirus.

Dr. Mandy Cohen, director of the agency, signed off on recommendations from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices or ACIP, a panel of experts that advises the CDC on its vaccine recommendations.

The CDC said in a news release that the shots from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna will be available this week.

Additionally, clinical trial data presented Tuesday on the effectiveness of the updated vaccines didn’t include children under 12, which left ACIP member Dr. Pablo Sanchez, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio, feeling uncomfortable about making a blanket recommendation for everyone 6 months and older. He was the committee’s only no vote.

Fauci’s COVID Vaccine Comments Spark Furious Backlash: ‘Prison Now’

Newsweek reported:

Comments made by Dr. Anthony Fauci about the updated COVID-19 vaccine have sparked a backlash on social media, with critics falsely claiming that he had admitted for the first time that it is linked to myocarditis.

Fauci appeared on ABC‘s This Week on Sunday, a day before the Food and Drug Administration approved the newest shots from Moderna and Pfizer for most Americans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday recommended that virtually all Americans should get the new vaccine, which is expected to be available within days.

In Sunday’s interview, Fauci said that there was a risk of myocarditis with the vaccine but added that it was very low. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle, most commonly caused by an infection in the body, that can lead to chest pain, shortness of breath and heart palpitations. Most cases are self-resolving, according to a Johns Hopkins cardiologist.

Fauci spoke about the risk of myocarditis from COVID-19 vaccines in an October 2021 interview with NPR. Younger children “are at risk, but a very, very, very rare risk,” he said in that interview. “I mean, the myocarditis that has been seen as a rare adverse event is … predominantly in young men, not generally as young as 5 to 11, but there certainly could be some overlap there.”

COVID Vaccine Manufacturers Set List Price Between $120-$130 per Dose

Reuters reported:

U.S. COVID vaccine manufacturers set list prices for their shots between $120 and $130 per dose, company executives said at an advisory panel meeting of U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday.

Pfizer (PFE.N) and German partner BioNTech (22UAy.DE) set the list price at $120 per dose, while Moderna (MRNA.O) said the list price for its shot is $129 per dose, for their respective COVID vaccines.

Novavax (NVAX.O) said the list price for its COVID vaccine was $130 per dose.

Fox News Hits Awkward Silence Over Host’s COVID Vaccine Status

Newsweek reported:

Fox News viewers were hit with an awkward silence during a discussion between The Fivehosts Jeanine Pirro and Jessie Tarlov about the coronavirus vaccine on Tuesday.

Discussing the responsibilities of social media firms’ content moderation policies around coronavirus misinformation, the two hosts butted heads when Tarlov said that the COVID-19 vaccine is safe — and that Pirro, who scoffed at the remark, had received one.

Previously, Pirro had said she would not take the coronavirus vaccine. Speaking on the YouTube show London Real in August 2020, she said: “You know, until you tell me that that vaccine is safe — and only time will tell — until you tell me what the long-term consequences of that vaccine are, I’m not interested in putting it in my body.”

Public Less Concerned About New COVID Variants: Survey

The Hill reported:

Americans are less concerned about newer variants of COVID-19 in comparison to 2021, according to a new poll.

A CBS/YouGov poll found that 48% of Americans say they are “somewhat” or “very” concerned about the variants. This is in contrast to the level of concern in late 2021 when 58% were concerned about Omicron.

The survey results also show that only 45% of Americans are concerned about getting COVID or their families being exposed to the virus. This is more than a 30% drop since the height of the pandemic, when between 68% and 77% said the same, according to the poll.

Other findings in the research included a majority of the respondents saying they would not get an updated booster shot this fall, at 57%. Forty-three percent of the respondents said they would get it.

ICON to Partner With U.S. Government Agency to Test COVID Vaccine Candidates

Reuters reported:

Contract research firm ICON Plc (ICLR.O) said on Wednesday it is partnering with the U.S. government for a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of next-generation COVID-19 vaccine candidates.

As part of the collaboration with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, ICON will conduct a mid-stage trial of 10,000 participants to assess the efficacy of a next-generation COVID-19 vaccine relative to currently available shots.

The U.S. agency will select the vaccine candidate for the trial. The trial is part of a $5 billion U.S. government initiative called “Project NextGen”, which aims to provide better protection from coronaviruses, including the one that causes COVID-19.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer (PFE.N)/BioNTech (22UAy.DE) and Moderna (MRNA.O) that target the XBB.1.5 subvariant of the virus.

Vaccine Skeptics Dominate South Carolina Pandemic Preparation Meeting as COVID Cases Rise

Associated Press reported:

A meeting Tuesday of South Carolina lawmakers considering how to best counter future pandemics was dominated by vaccine skeptics pushing concerns about COVID-19 immunizations that are unaccepted by the greater medical community.

Members of the all-Republican panel seeking more independence from federal health regulators were receptive to speakers who sewed doubt about vaccine safety and efficacy, as well as distrust in the scientific establishment. Testimony began with an hourlong presentation from Aaron Siri, the managing partner at a New York law firm that 2021 tax filings show received over $3 million from an influential Texas-based group that campaigns against vaccine requirements.

While the FDA has not approved the use of ivermectin to prevent COVID-19, Republican state Sen. Tom Corbin said “We all know now” that it works. Corbin, who chairs the six-person committee, wanted more information on the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines.

“If the scientists can proclaim that the vaccination is safe and effective, we can also proclaim that the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) is underreported,” said Corbin, referring to the national program co-managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA that monitors adverse reactions to vaccines.

COVID: New ‘Pirola’ Variant BA.2.86 Continues to Spread in U.K. and U.S.

The BMJ reported:

The new BA.2.86 variant of SARS-CoV-2 — nicknamed “Pirola” — is now likely to be spreading in the community in the U.K., the government has said after an outbreak was reported at a care home.

The variant, which contains many mutations to the spike gene and was first detected in Denmark in late July, has been identified in several countries including Canada, Israel, Portugal, South Africa, and Sweden, as well as the U.K. and the U.S.

In the U.S. the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had reported cases of the variant in nine states as of September 8. Despite this, it has been said that the current increases in COVID-19 cases and hospital admissions “are not being driven by BA.2.86 and instead are being caused by other predominantly circulating viruses.”

U.S. Jobless Aid Programs Bilked of up to $135 Billion During COVID, Watchdog Says

Reuters reported:

Up to $135 billion of jobless benefits paid out by U.S. states during the coronavirus pandemic may have arisen from fraudulent claims, Washington’s top government watchdog said on Tuesday in a report suggesting the problem is much bigger than previously estimated.

Waves of fraudulent claims for unemployment insurance benefits have episodically inflated the volumes of new filings reported each week to the Labor Department by all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, often confounding economists tracking the data for a read on the health of the job market.

But a new General Accountability Office report estimates the problem is much bigger: Between $100 billion and $135 billion of the roughly $900 billion in jobless benefits payouts from April 2020 through May 2023 may have been fraudulent. At the high end, that would equal about $1 of every $7 paid in aid over that time.