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Covid News Watch

Jan 13, 2022

COVID Vaccine for Babies to Roll out by April in Israel + More

COVID Vaccine for Babies to Roll out by April in Israel

International Business Times reported:

Babies and toddlers in Israel will be eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccines in a few months, according to the country’s health officials.

“In Israel, vaccines are available now for everybody aged 5 and over. I believe by April this will be expanded for any age above 6 months,” Dr. Asher Shalmon, the Israeli Health Ministry’s director of international relations, said during a press briefing to foreign policymakers and journalists this week, The Times of Israel reported.

Shalmon did not reveal which vaccine brands would be available to children in the age bracket should they become eligible for the jabs.

Pfizer, which co-developed the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, is currently in the process of conducting clinical trials to lower the approved age for its vaccine from 5 years to 6 months.

DOH: Breakthrough COVID Cases on the Rise During Omicron Surge

KIRO 7 News reported:

Breakthrough COVID-19 cases are on the rise during the latest surge in Washington state, the Department of Health said Thursday.

The DOH says current reporting shows a 43% increase in the number of breakthrough cases. While the majority experienced mild or no symptoms, at least 3% were hospitalized, a press release said.

Which Way to Go? Coping With Whiplash From CDC Guidelines

The Hill reported:

Part of the COVID-19 “new normal” is looking to public health officials for guidance on how to safely navigate the ever-changing pandemic landscape. With the rapid spread of the Omicron variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has adapted and re-adapted guidelines, leaving the public and healthcare professionals alike confused and questioning their intent.

To be sure, COVID-19 is evolving quickly and most everyone is trying to keep up, including leading healthcare professionals who look to the CDC for guidance. Yet the CDC has faced repeated backlash for unclear guidelines.

18-Year-Old Brazilian Model Valentina Boscardin Dies of COVID

Newsweek reported:

Valentina Boscardin, a Brazilian model, died due to COVID complications last week aged just 18. She had been fully vaccinated against COVID and was also healthy before falling ill with the virus, according to various Spanish-language news outlets. She reportedly passed away on Sunday.

CNN Portugal, as well as Brazilian journalist Felipeh Campos, via his Instagram account, reported that Boscardin had suffered a blood clot during her COVID infection. Newsweek has been unable to verify this.

Anthony Fauci Has Had Enough

Newsweek reported:

Dr. Anthony Fauci appears to have lost patience with his critics in recent weeks, reacting angrily to criticism of his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and suggestions that he has not been honest in his dealings with Congress.

Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), had angry exchanges with senators Rand Paul (R-KY) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) at a hearing of the Senate Health Committee on Tuesday and was heard on a hot mic calling Marshall a “moron.”

Fauci’s willingness to clash openly with critics contrasts with the avuncular image he enjoyed toward the beginning of the pandemic.

Biden to Send More Military Medics to U.S. Hospitals in COVID Hotspots

Reuters reported:

President Joe Biden on Thursday said he was deploying more military health workers to hospitals in six U.S. states, and would give Americans free masks and more free tests to tackle the fast-spreading Omicron variant around the country.

The phased dispatch of 1,000 military health personnel beginning next week comes as U.S. COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a record high with Omicron overtaking Delta as the dominant variant of the coronavirus and health facilities facing a staffing crunch.

In the first wave of the deployment, teams of military doctors, nurses and other personnel will head to Michigan, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio and Rhode Island to support at-capacity emergency rooms and free up overwhelmed hospital staff for non-COVID cases, the White House said.

NY Positivity Dips Again, Severe Case Growth Slows; 99% of U.S. High Transmission

NBC New York reported:

Cautious optimism that New York has passed the peak of this furious Omicron wave strengthened a bit more Wednesday, with Gov. Kathy Hochul reporting declines in daily positivity and slowing growth in hospitalization rates for a third straight day.

The rolling positivity rate has declined in eight of New York’s 10 regions for the last three days, while the two reporting increases have seen just mild infection growth.

Cannabis Compounds Prevented COVID Infection in Laboratory Study

Bloomberg reported:

Cannabis compounds prevented the virus that causes COVID-19 from penetrating healthy human cells, according to a laboratory study published in the Journal of Nature Products.

The two compounds commonly found in hemp — called cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, and cannabidiolic acid, or CBDA — were identified during a chemical screening effort as having potential to combat coronavirus, researchers from Oregon State University said. In the study, they bound to spike proteins found on the virus and blocked a step the pathogen uses to infect people.

Germany Among First to Recommend COVID Booster for 12- to 17-Year-Olds

Reuters reported:

Germany’s vaccine committee recommended on Thursday that all children between the ages of 12 and 17 receive a COVID-19 booster shot as the country reported a new daily record of more than 81,000 coronavirus infections.

The move on booster shots makes Germany among the first countries in the world to make such a recommendation, following the United States, Israel and Hungary.

AstraZeneca Says Early Trial Data Indicates Third Dose Helps Against Omicron

Reuters reported:

AstraZeneca (AZN.L) said on Thursday that preliminary data from a trial showed that its COVID-19 shot, Vaxzevria, generated an increase in antibodies against the Omicron and other variants when given as a third booster dose.

The increased response, also against the Delta variant, was seen in a blood analysis of people who were previously vaccinated with either Vaxzevria or an mRNA vaccine, the drugmaker said, adding that it would submit this data to regulators worldwide given the urgent need for boosters.

Biden Administration Announces Additional Purchase of 500,000 AstraZeneca COVID Treatment Courses

CNN Politics reported:

The White House is “in the process of ordering another half-million courses of AstraZeneca‘s preventive therapy for immunocompromised individuals,” COVID-19 response coordinator Jeff Zients said at Wednesday’s COVID-19 briefing.

The US Food and Drug Administration authorized AstraZeneca’s Evusheld, a drug aimed at helping immune-compromised people from getting infected with the coronavirus, in December.

Evusheld is a monoclonal antibody, and doctors hoped to give it to their immune-compromised patients because it works in a different way than the vaccines.

Cutting the COVID Isolation Period to Five Days Is Foolhardy and Dangerous

The Guardian reported:

There have been many changes to isolation rules in England but the science of how COVID-19 spreads has remained the same. During the first waves of the pandemic, people were required to isolate for 10 days after testing positive.

This was subsequently changed to seven days, so long as the person had a negative lateral flow test on days six and seven. Although data is still being collected on the impact of this change, the isolation period has been cut again: today, the health secretary, Sajid Javid, announced that people with COVID will only need to isolate for five days, so long as they show two negative lateral flow tests by day six.

Denmark to Offer 4th COVID Vaccine Shots to Special Groups

Associated Press reported:

Denmark will offer fourth coronavirus vaccination shots to risk groups and vulnerable citizens as the pandemic situation in the country has worsened due to the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.

Danish Health Minister Magnus Heunicke said Wednesday that health authorities would offer fourth vaccine jabs to the “most vulnerable groups” such as those with weakened immune systems.

Effective Jan. 16, Denmark will ease some of its coronavirus restrictions as lawmakers agreed to reopen cinemas, entertainment parks, museums and theaters among other venues. Also, limited numbers of spectators will be allowed at indoor and outdoor sports events.

Jan 12, 2022

America’s COVID Death Rate Drops to Record Low as Cases Reach Pandemic High + More

America’s COVID Death Rate Drops to Record Low as Cases Reach Pandemic High

Newsweek reported:

The raging Omicron variant has pushed COVID-19 cases to record highs in the U.S., but America’s case fatality rate has dipped to 1.39%, its lowest mark since the first wave of cases struck in March 2020.

The U.S. mortality rate hovered around 1.6% from the end of August until mid-December when it started to drop.

The case-fatality ratio measures the number of confirmed deaths against the number of confirmed infections. It’s an imperfect measurement, as it doesn’t factor in the true number of cases or deaths, especially in a fluid situation like the COVID-19 pandemic.

U.S. FDA Amends J&J Vaccine Fact Sheet to Include Rare Bleeding Risk

Reuters reported:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday amended the fact sheet for Johnson & Johnson‘s (JNJ.N) COVID-19 vaccine to include a rare risk of immune thrombocytopenia, a bleeding disorder.

“Reports of adverse events following use of the Janssen COVID-19 vaccine under emergency use authorization suggest an increased risk of immune thrombocytopenia during the 42 days following vaccination,” the regulator said in a letter to J&J’s arm, Janssen Biotech Inc.

The symptoms include easy bruising or tiny blood spots under the skin, or unusual or excessive bleeding, the FDA said.

Europe’s Drug Regulator Warns Excessive COVID Boosters Could Lead to ‘Problems With Immune Response,’ Joining WHO in Pushback

Fortune reported:

Here’s another influential voice joining the growing pushback against overdoing it on the COVID booster front: the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

On Tuesday, EMA vaccine strategy chief Marco Cavaleri said there was still no data supporting the need for a fourth COVID vaccine dose. And even if multiple boosters do prove to be necessary, they would need to be spaced out in the style of annual flu jabs, rather than delivered every several months. He also warned that overly frequent booster doses could potentially lead to “problems with immune response.”

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said this week that it is still unclear whether fourth doses will be needed. Despite the lack of supporting data, Israel has moved to fourth Pfizer/BioNTech doses for over-60s, health workers, and immunocompromised people. Bourla’s counterpart at Moderna, Stéphane Bancel, said last week that additional boosters could become necessary by the coming fall.

Fauci: Omicron Will Infect ‘Just About Everybody’

The Hill reported:

Infectious disease expert and White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Tuesday that “just about everybody” will eventually be infected with the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will, ultimately, find just about everybody,” Fauci told the Center for Strategic and International Studies during a “fireside chat.”

“Those who have been vaccinated and vaccinated and boosted would get exposed. Some, maybe a lot of them, will get infected but will very likely, with some exceptions, do reasonably well in the sense of not having hospitalization and death,” he added.

Omicron May Be Headed for a Rapid Drop in Britain, U.S.

Associated Press reported:

Scientists are seeing signals that COVID-19′s alarming Omicron wave may have peaked in Britain and is about to do the same in the U.S., at which point cases may start dropping off dramatically.

The reason: The variant has proved so wildly contagious that it may already be running out of people to infect, just a month and a half after it was first detected in South Africa.

“It’s going to come down as fast as it went up,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Bill Gates Says Countries Will Report ‘Far Fewer’ Cases of COVID After Omicron Hits Peak

Forbes reported:

Bill Gates predicted Tuesday that after the Omicron wave of COVID outbreaks dies down, countries will see fewer positive cases for the rest of the year, ultimately creating an environment where COVID could be treated like seasonal flu, the billionaire philanthropist said during a live Q&A session on Twitter.

A country should record “far fewer” cases of COVID-19 throughout the rest of the year after Omicron “goes through” it, in which case COVID can be “treated more like seasonal flu,” he said.

COVID Loses 90% of Ability to Infect Within 20 Minutes in Air — Study

The Guardian reported:

Coronavirus loses 90% of its ability to infect us within 20 minutes of becoming airborne — with most of the loss occurring within the first five minutes, the world’s first simulations of how the virus survives in exhaled air suggest.

“People have been focused on poorly ventilated spaces and thinking about airborne transmission over metres or across a room. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, but I think still the greatest risk of exposure is when you’re close to someone,” said Prof Jonathan Reid, director of the University of Bristol’s Aerosol Research Centre and the study’s lead author.

GOP Senators Seek China Sanctions for Blocking Probes Into COVID Origins

Newsweek reported:

Republican lawmakers in the Senate have introduced a bill to sanction Chinese officials who continue to obstruct independent investigations into the origins of the coronavirus. It would also end all federal funding for joint projects with the country’s national academy.

The Coronavirus Origin Validation, Investigation, and Determination (COVID) Act of 2022 submitted by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and co-sponsored by more than a dozen GOP colleagues was also put to Congress last year.

It gives Beijing 90 days after enactment to grant a team of international scientists unfettered access to laboratories in the first COVID-19 epicenter in central China, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV).

Dr. Fauci: ‘Universal Coronavirus Vaccines’ Could Help the World Tackle COVID — and the Next Pandemic

CNBC reported:

There’s a new kind of vaccine on the horizon — and it could help target all coronaviruses, not just COVID-19.

On Tuesday, White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci testified to Congress about the country’s efforts to develop a pan-coronavirus vaccine, meant to combat both COVID and other similar viruses that could emerge in the coming years.

The short-term applications of a vaccine that effectively tackles all forms of COVID could be significant, Fauci said: “We won’t be chasing after the next variant.” Longer term, Fauci said, the development of a universal coronavirus vaccine could help prevent the world’s next pandemic.

FDA Extends Shelf Life for Millions of Expired Coronavirus Test Kits in Florida

The Hill reported:

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) extended the expiration date for almost a million COVID-19 rapid tests that first expired in a Florida warehouse in September.

The FDA was able to extend the expiration date for the tests for three months using the product’s emergency use authorization. The tests had already expired once in September and were extended until late December by the federal government at that time, according to the Miami Herald.

White House Will Double COVID Tests for Schools

Reuters reported:

The Biden administration on Wednesday announced a new set of measures to keep classes open, including doubling COVID-19 testing capacity in schools with 10 million more tests, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly through the United States.

The number of COVID-19 tests available to schools will be increased by 10 million per month, the White House said in a statement, saying this will help schools more than double the volume of testing compared to November 2021.

Half of the new free rapid tests will be distributed each month to help kindergarten to 12th grade (K-12) schools remain open, the statement said, while lab capacity will be available to support five million monthly PCR tests for schools.

Jan 11, 2022

Over One-Third of Vaccinated Americans Became Infected With COVID After the Jab + More

Over One-Third of Vaccinated Americans Became Infected With COVID After the Jab: Poll

Newsweek reported:

Over one-third of Americans vaccinated against COVID-19 now say they became infected with the virus after being fully inoculated, signifying how the highly contagious Omicron variant has driven an increase in breakthrough cases.

In a new poll released by Axios/Ispos on Tuesday, 36% of respondents said they either recently tested positive or believe they had COVID after being fully vaccinated. That compares to just 22% of respondents in mid-December, and only 6% from last summer, according to the poll.

COVID Deaths in U.S. Military Spike in Last Four Months Despite 96% Being Vaccinated

Newsweek reported:

Over the 18 months between March 2020 to August 2021, America’s armed forces experienced 43 deaths attributed to COVID-19. Over the past four months, from September through December, the military has seen the same number of deaths, according to a report from the Pentagon reviewed by Newsweek.

This increase in military deaths comes despite the fact that 96% of active-duty soldiers being fully vaccinated, a memo by the Pentagon states.

Dr. Fauci, CDC Director Dr. Walensky and Other Health Leaders Testify Before Senate on U.S. Omicron Response

CNBC reported:

The top health leaders in the U.S. will testify before the Senate on Tuesday about the federal response to the Omicron COVID variant, as new infections and hospitalizations reach pandemic highs.

The Senate health committee will hear testimony from White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, and acting Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock.

Fauci Thought COVID Lab Leak Theory Was ‘Shiny Object’ That Would Go Away in Time

Newsweek reported:

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, advised against squelching the theory that the coronavirus originated in a lab because he believed the hypothesis would eventually go away.

House Republicans are requesting an interview with Fauci regarding the origin of the virus, a contentious topic between GOP members and the nation’s top infectious disease expert. Republican Representatives James Comer and Jim Jordan accused the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of “hiding information” about the pandemic’s origin, and top public health officials have dismissed the lab theory as the least likely scenario.

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, the Republicans said seven questions need to be answered, including what led public health experts to dismiss the lab leak theory.

House Republicans Release Damning Fauci Emails Suggesting Concealed Knowledge of Lab Leak

ZeroHedge reported:

Republicans on the House Oversight Committee have released several emails which suggest Dr. Anthony Fauci may have known that COVID-19 originated from a lab leak, and that it may have been “intentionally genetically manipulated.”

“We write to request a transcribed interview of Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Excerpts of emails we are making public today (see enclosed Appendix I) reveal that Dr. Fauci was warned of two things: (1) the potential that COVID-19 leaked from the Wuhan Institute Virology (WIV) and (2) the possibility that the virus was intentionally genetically manipulated.

It is imperative we investigate if this information was conveyed to the rest of the government and whether this information would have changed the U.S. response to the pandemic,” reads the letter from Reps. James Comer and Jim Jordan to HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra.

‘Comorbidities’ Meaning Explained as CDC Director’s COVID Comments Go Viral

Newsweek reported:

A comment about “comorbidities” in relation to COVID-19 deaths made by Rochelle Walensky, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during a recent interview sparked backlash after a clip of the interview went viral.

During an interview Friday with ABC‘s Good Morning America (GMA) show, Walensky said: “The overwhelming number of [COVID-19] death, over 75%, occurred in people who had at least four comorbidities,” during her answer to GMA co-host Cecilia Vega’s question about whether it’s time to “start rethinking how we’re living with this virus.”

Jake Tapper Rails Against ‘Misleading’ CDC COVID Hospitalization Numbers

Newsweek reported:

CNN anchor Jake Tapper has criticized as “misleading” the admission by the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that it counted COVID patients who had been admitted to hospitals for something else.

Tapper was reacting to comments CDC director Rochelle Walensky made on Fox News on Sunday that “up to 40%” of patients had been admitted to hospitals with another medical emergency but had been later detected as having COVID.

Tapper said if up to 40% of patients in hospital “don’t necessarily have problematic COVID” and are there if “they bumped their head, and they’re being included as [being] in the hospital with COVID. That number seems kind of misleading.”

United Cuts Flights as About 3,000 Workers Call out Sick From COVID

CNBC reported:

United Airlines is trimming its schedule to address a surge in sick calls among employees, CEO Scott Kirby told employees.

U.S. airlines canceled thousands of flights over the year-end holidays through early this year due to COVID infections among crews and a series of winter storms. United first cut some flights before Christmas.

United has about 3,000 workers who are currently positive for COVID, Kirby said in the staff memo. That is about 4% of its U.S. workforce.

3,700 TSA Screeners Have Active COVID Infections, a 1,243% Jump Since Thanksgiving

Forbes reported:

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is reporting 3,694 employees with active COVID-19 infections, according to agency data, roughly 7% of the agency’s screeners. For context, the week before the Omicron variant was first identified in the United States, there were 275 positive COVID-19 cases among the TSA’s ranks.

November 22, 2021 was the deadline by which all federal employees must either be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get a religious or medical exemption, per President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.

Over 96% of TSA employees are currently fully vaccinated, a statistic that has likely saved many from serious illness and hospitalization. “The chief objective remains full compliance with the vaccination requirement and a workforce protected against hospitalization and death from COVID-19,” Langston said.

Free Families From Closed Schools

Newsweek reported:

Closed schools harm children. Children are COVID‘s lowest-risk demographic, but our nation’s elementary and high-school students have suffered the most throughout the pandemic thanks to negligent and callous policymakers.

COVID-era school closures and abysmal remote learning endanger children academically, emotionally and physically. Closing schools leads to devastating learning loss, significant mental health issues, and higher rates of suicide and obesity. As David Leonhardt wrote in The New York Times, “American children are starting 2022 in crisis.”

Even in areas with open schools, parents and students are subjected to complicated and excessive COVID testing and quarantine requirements, which keep students out of classrooms and extracurricular activities.

Chicago Teachers Union Leaders Strike Deal to Resume In-Person Classes

CBS News reported:

Chicago Public Schools could resume in-person classes this week after Chicago Teachers Union leaders agreed to a new set of COVID-19 protocols. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced Monday that teachers would return to campuses on Tuesday with in-person instruction restarting Wednesday.

The agreement still needs to be approved by the full union, but the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates voted to suspend the online learning plan they launched last week as rank-and-file membership votes. The tentative agreement comes after four days of canceled classes.

Last week’s attempt by CTU to swtich to remote learning amid a surge in COVID-19 cases prompted Chicago Public Schools to cancel all classes. The district, the third largest in the country, locked teachers out of their online teaching programs and withheld pay for the days they did not report for in-person instruction.

Home COVID Tests to Be Covered by Insurers Starting Saturday

Associated Press reported:

Starting Saturday, private health insurers will be required to cover up to eight home COVID-19 tests per month for people on their plans. The Biden administration announced the change Monday as it looks to lower costs and make testing for the virus more convenient amid rising frustrations.

Under the new policy, first detailed to the AP, Americans will be able to either purchase home testing kits for free under their insurance or submit receipts for the tests for reimbursement, up to the monthly per-person limit.

A family of four, for instance, could be reimbursed for up to 32 tests per month. PCR tests and rapid tests ordered or administered by a health provider will continue to be fully covered by insurance with no limit.

Later this month, the federal government will launch a website to begin making 500 million at-home COVID-19 tests available via mail.

U.S. Secures 600,000 More Doses of GSK-Vir’s COVID Therapy

Reuters reported:

The United States has agreed to buy 600,000 more doses of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK.L) and Vir Biotechnology’s (VIR.O) COVID-19 antibody therapy for an undisclosed sum, as the country bolsters its arsenal of treatments against the Omicron coronavirus variant.

The U.S. government in November had signed contracts worth about $1 billion for an unknown number of doses of the treatment, after saying it would control the distribution of sotrovimab in the country.

The drug belongs to a class of medicines called monoclonal antibodies which are lab-generated compounds that mimic the body’s natural defences. Tests have indicated sotrovimab works against the fast-spreading Omicron variant.

Jan 10, 2022

Almost Half of Reported NY COVID Hospitalizations Not Due to COVID + More

Almost Half of Reported NY COVID Hospitalizations Are Not Due to COVID

Fox News reported:

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul released data Friday breaking down COVID-19 hospitalizations by those who were admitted due to the virus and those who were admitted for other reasons but were found to have the illness.

Included in the data was a chart showing “how many hospitalized individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 were admitted for COVID-19/COVID-19 complications and how many were admitted for non-COVID-19 conditions.”

According to the provided statistics, in approximately 43% of hospital admissions “COVID was not included as one of the reasons for admission.” According to the same data set, a staggering 51% of COVID-19 hospitalizations in New York City were not due to COVID-19 or related symptoms.

Common Cold Could Protect Against COVID Infection, Study Suggests

Forbes reported:

The immune response generated by previous exposure to common colds could protect against COVID-19, according to a new peer reviewed study published in Nature Communications Monday, an early but promising finding researchers say could pave the way to more long-lasting vaccines that protect against current and future variants of coronavirus.

People with high levels of T cells — a type of white blood cell that is a key part of the immune system — from other coronavirus infections like the common cold are less likely to contract the virus that causes COVID-19, according to a study by researchers at Imperial College London.

For the study, which took place in September 2020 (before most in the U.K. had been infected or vaccinated against COVID-19), the researchers followed 52 people living with someone who had COVID-19, half of whom went on to contract the disease.

For the half that did not get infected, blood samples taken shortly after exposure revealed higher levels of T cells from previous coronavirus infections, such as colds, that could also recognize proteins in the virus that causes COVID-19, the researchers said.

Fox News Host Confronts CDC Director Over Sotomayor’s Claim About Children With COVID

Newsweek reported:

Fox News anchor Bret Baier confronted Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Rochelle Walensky on Sunday, urging her to counter inaccurate claims about children hospitalized with COVID-19 made by Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor during a hearing this week.

Sotomayor faced significant criticism, however, after she incorrectly claimed that “over 100,000 children” were seriously ill with COVID-19, with “many on ventilators.” Government data actually showed as of Jan. 8 that only a few thousand children were hospitalized with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 — as some awaited the results of a laboratory test.

Baier, while hosting Fox News Sunday, confronted Walensky with Sotomayor’s inaccurate statement and urged her to fact-check the misinformation.

“What we can find from Friday suggests there are fewer than 3,500 current pediatric hospitalizations from COVID-19. Is that true?” Baier asked the CDC director. Walensky agreed before quickly shifting the topic to point out that most of the hospitalized children are unvaccinated.

Pfizer CEO Says Omicron Vaccine Will Be Ready in March

CNBC reported:

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Monday said a vaccine that targets the Omicron variant of COVID will be ready in March, and the company’s already begun manufacturing the doses.

Bourla said the vaccine will also target the other variants that are circulating. He said it is still not clear whether or not an Omicron vaccine is needed or how it would be used, but Pfizer will have some doses ready since some countries want it ready as soon as possible.

Could This COVID Anti-Viral Pill Fuel the Emergence of New Variants?

Newsweek reported:

Some concerns have been raised about the drug’s safety and the possibility that it might alter human genes. While the risk to adults, according to data from animal studies, is low, the FDA has not authorized the drug for under 18s or pregnant individuals as a result.

In addition, some experts have raised concerns about the possibility that the use of the drug could fuel the emergence of new COVID-19 variants, like Delta or Omicron, that are highly transmissible and/or may evade protection afforded by the vaccines to some extent.

Molnupiravir works by interfering with the replication of the SARS‑CoV‑2 virus — which causes COVID-19 — after it has entered the cells of the body. It does this by introducing errors into the genetic code of the virus. Introducing enough errors eventually prevents the virus from replicating and the patient can clear the pathogen from their body.

But some scientists have warned that during this process of mutations, there is a possibility that new variants could emerge under certain circumstances — although other experts have downplayed such fears.

Moderna Working With World Health Leaders on COVID Booster for This Fall That Targets Omicron, CEO Says

CNBC reported:

Moderna is working on a booster shot that will target the Omicron variant of COVID for this fall as nations around the world prepare to distribute annual vaccinations against the virus.

CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday that the Omicron-specific booster will enter clinical trials soon, and Moderna is discussing whether the shot needs to contain any other components to fight the virus.

Moderna has signed advanced purchase agreements with upfront payments worth $18.5 billion with the United Kingdom, South Korea and Switzerland recently ordering shots for this fall. Bancel said the company can supply 2 billion to 3 billion booster doses this year.

Rising Alcohol Consumption During COVID Pandemic Projected to Cause More Liver Disease, Deaths

Fox News reported:

Increased alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to cause 100 additional deaths and 2,800 additional cases of liver failure by 2023, according to a team of researchers led by investigators at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had many unintended consequences with unknown long-term impact,” a co-author of the study, Dr. Turgay Ayer, said in a news release.

According to research published in the journal Hepatology, the researchers also projected that a one-year increase in alcohol consumption during the pandemic will result in 8,000 additional deaths from alcohol-related liver disease. The investigators also projected 18,700 cases of liver failure and 1,000 cases of liver cancer by 2040.

Pope on COVID Vaccines Says Healthcare a ‘Moral Obligation’

Associated Press reported:

Pope Francis suggested Monday that getting vaccinated against the coronavirus was a “moral obligation” and denounced how people had been swayed by “baseless information” to refuse one of the most effective measures to save lives during the pandemic.

Some Catholics, including some conservative U.S. bishops and cardinals, have claimed that vaccines based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses were immoral, and have refused to get the jabs.

The Vatican’s doctrine office, however, has said it is “morally acceptable” for Catholics to receive COVID-19 vaccines based on research that used cells derived from aborted fetuses.

Nurses Union Slams ‘Return-to-Work’ COVID Guidelines in California

Newsweek reported:

California healthcare workers are hitting out at new “Return-to-Work” COVID-19 guidelines in the state, with some saying the guidance is “dangerous” and will ultimately drive up transmission in hospitals.

Under the latest guidance issued by the California Department of Public Health on Saturday, healthcare workers who test positive for COVID-19 or were exposed to a COVID-19-positive contact, but are asymptomatic, are allowed to return to work without isolating or testing negative for the virus.

The California Nurses Association, an affiliate of National Nurses United, and a trade union labor union with some 100,000 members, said the guidance will “put our nurses and healthcare workers at risk.”

‘We Will Weather This Storm’: Omicron Wreaks Havoc on Broadway

The Guardian reported:

Last month, shows including Aladdin, Freestyle Love Supreme, Hamilton, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, The Lion King and Tina were forced to cancel performances. The musicals Ain’t Too Proud, Diana, Jagged Little Pill, Trevor and Waitress, and the play Thoughts of a Colored Man, decided to shut down earlier than planned because of infections and weak ticket sales.

The fresh surge is cruel timing for Broadway, which reopened with fanfare — and vaccine mandates for cast, crew and audiences — in September after a record 18-month closure because of the pandemic. For a while it seemed the triumph-over-adversity, the show-must-go-on spirit was unstoppable. Then Omicron came like a kick in the teeth.

Chicago Schools Closed for Fourth Consecutive Day

The Hill reported:

Chicago Public Schools closed for a fourth consecutive day on Monday as negotiations continue between the district and teachers union regarding COVID-19 safety protocols.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) announced on Sunday evening that classes would be canceled again on Monday “Out of fairness and consideration for parents who need to prepare.”

The standoff between Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers Union began on Wednesday, when the union told teachers not to report to work in person as part of a push to transition instruction to remote learning due to a surge in COVID-19 cases. The district, however, opted to cancel classes instead of moving to virtual instruction.

Classrooms were shuttered on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week, affecting roughly 350,000 students.

Novartis to Seek FDA Approval for COVID Treatment After Positive Data

MarketWatch reported:

Novartis AG and Molecular Partners AG on Monday reported positive topline data from their antiviral COVID-19 treatment ensovibep, and will seek expedited regulatory authorizations globally.

The results from a Phase 2 study of 407 patients receiving a single intravenous dose of ensovibep showed a 78% reduction in hospitalization or emergency-room visits related to COVID-19 compared with a placebo, and a improvement in time to a clinical recovery, Novartis said.

The ensovibep treatment continues to maintain protection against variants of concern identified so far, including Omicron, the Basel-based drugmaker said.

It also plans to seek expedited regulatory authorizations globally, first via the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s emergency-use authorization. If approved, ensovibep will be the first multispecific antiviral molecule for the treatment of COVID-19, Novartis said.

Omicron Spikes, Mexican President Calls It ‘a Little COVID’

Associated Press reported:

As coronavirus cases spike in Mexico and tests become scarce, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told Mexicans Monday to just assume they had COVID-19 if they had symptoms.

López Obrador claimed the Omicron variant is “a little COVID,” noting hospitalizations and deaths had not increased at the same rate. Reading advice posted on Twitter, the president said Mexicans with symptoms should just stay at home, take paracetamol and isolate, rather than going out and trying to find tests.

López Obrador’s administration has long refused to implement mass testing, calling it a waste of money. He called on companies not to require COVID tests for employees.