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Discovery of Separate Monkeypox Strain Suggests Two Outbreaks Are Happening

Newsweek reported:

A monkeypox strain has been spotted that is different from the one behind the ongoing outbreak in the West, raising questions about just how long the virus could have been around.

A total of 23,620 confirmed cases of monkeypox were reported globally as of August 1 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of an ongoing global health emergency that scientists are still working to understand.

Monkeypox is a virus first discovered in 1958 in colonies of monkeys kept for research. Since then the virus has remained endemic to West and Central Africa, with only a handful of cases ever discovered elsewhere. Even then, almost all such cases were linked to international travel to countries where the disease commonly occurs or through imported animals.

This year is different, with monkeypox spreading widely across the globe in people with no reported travel links to endemic countries for the first time.

Tennis-Djokovic Likely to Miss U.S. Open Over COVID Vaccine Status

Reuters reported:

There is a petition circulating to allow Novak Djokovic to play at the U.S. Open but the Serbian appears likely to miss the entire North American hardcourt swing barring a sudden change in COVID protocols in the United States and Canada.

Djokovic has refused to take the COVID vaccine yet the 21-times Grand Slam winner remains on the entry lists for the ATP 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati that serve as tune-ups for the Aug. 29 – Sept. 11 U.S. Open in New York.

In the case of the U.S. Open, which does not have a vaccine mandate, organisers previously said that per the Grand Slam Rule Book, all eligible players are entered into the main draw based on their ranking 42 days prior to the first Monday of the event.

U.S. Open organizers also said that while they do not have a vaccination mandate in place for players, they will respect the U.S. government’s position regarding travel into the country for unvaccinated non-U.S. citizens.

Monkeypox: Here Are the Places Declaring Health Emergencies — and What It Means

Forbes reported:

California and Illinois became the latest governments to declare monkeypox a public health emergency on Monday, following in the footsteps of several cities and New York state, while President Joe Biden named a new White House coordinator for monkeypox as the U.S. struggles to contain a spike in infections.

Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) Monday declared a state of emergency to help “bolster the state’s vaccination efforts” and coordinate a “whole-of-government response” to monkeypox as the state had 827 confirmed cases as of August 1.

Also on Monday, in Illinois, which has the third most infections in the U.S., Gov. U.B. Pritzker said he was declaring a monkeypox emergency to prevent the spread of a “rare but potentially serious disease.”

New York City — which has the most cases of any U.S. city — and San Francisco were the first two cities to declare public health emergencies last week to strengthen government responses to the outbreak.

U.S. Rules out Summer COVID Boosters to Focus on Fall Campaign

AP News reported:

U.S. regulators said Friday they are no longer considering authorizing a second COVID-19 booster shot for all adults under 50 this summer, focusing instead on revamped vaccines for the fall that will target the newest viral subvariants.

Pfizer and Moderna expect to have updated versions of their shots available as early as September, the Food and Drug Administration said in a statement. That would set the stage for a fall booster campaign to strengthen protection against the latest versions of omicron.

The announcement means the U.S. won’t pursue a summer round of boosters using the current vaccines for adults under 50, as some Biden administration officials and outside experts previously suggested. They had argued that another round of shots now could help head off rising cases and hospitalizations caused by the highly transmissible omicron strains.

Biden Names Team to Manage U.S. Monkeypox Response as Outbreak Grows

CNBC reported:

President Joe Biden on Tuesday named a team of disaster management and health officials to lead the U.S. response to the monkeypox outbreak as infections continue to rise.

Biden appointed Robert Fenton, an administrator with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as the head of U.S. efforts to quash the outbreak. Fenton currently leads the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) region that includes California, one of the states hardest hit by monkeypox.

The president named Demetre Daskalakis, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) division of HIV prevention, as the U.S. deputy monkeypox response coordinator. Daskalakis is an expert on health issues affecting the LGBTQ community, the White House said.

COVID: Is Omicron Less Lethal Than Delta?

The BMJ reported:

Death certification data support an intrinsically lower case fatality rate for omicron

Soon after the omicron SARS-CoV-2 variant of concern was first reported to the World Health Organization on Nov. 24, 2021, preliminary observational studies in South Africa suggested this highly transmissible variant was associated with lower hospital admission and mortality rates in people with COVID-19 infection. However, given omicron’s increased propensity to cause reinfections and vaccine breakthrough, it was unclear if this effect was due to previous immunity in the population or an inherent property of the genetically divergent variant.

Subsequent analyses further supported a lower risk of severe outcomes in infections with omicron compared with delta, although these data were limited to all cause deaths within 28 days of diagnosis. Additionally, many public health measures previously enacted to curb SARS-CoV-2 transmission were being relaxed in early 2022, potentially resulting in more infections in relatively low risk populations. These limitations complicated efforts to assess the true risk of severe disease and mortality associated with omicron infection.

The linked retrospective cohort study by Ward and colleagues takes a further step towards addressing this question. The study reported new evidence that mortality rates were lower for infections with the omicron BA.1 subvariant than for the delta variant of concern, even after controlling for patient demographics, previous infection, and vaccination status.

NorthShore Agrees to Pay $10.3 Million Settlement in COVID Vaccine Lawsuit Over Religious Exemptions

Chicago Tribune reported:

NorthShore University Health System has agreed to pay $10.3 million to settle a lawsuit brought by employees who alleged the hospital system wouldn’t let them keep their jobs after they objected to getting COVID-19 vaccines for religious reasons.

Fourteen workers — including nurses, a pharmacy technician and a senior application analyst all named anonymous in the lawsuit — sued NorthShore in October alleging that NorthShore refused to grant them true exemptions from the mandate that all its workers get vaccinated.

NorthShore is not admitting to any wrongdoing as part of the proposed settlement agreement, which was filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. The agreement must still be approved by a judge.

As part of the settlement, NorthShore is agreeing to re-hire workers who were fired for refusing to get vaccinated for religious reasons.

Biden COVID Case Highlights Confusing CDC Guidance on Ending Isolation

The Washington Post reported:

Before President Biden emerged from coronavirus isolation Wednesday, he made double-sure he was no longer contagious. He received negative tests Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. To test at all meant Biden was going above and beyond the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for exiting isolation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has built that guidance around a timeline — a prescribed minimum number of days of isolation — rather than the direct, personalized evidence of virus shedding that rapid antigen tests provide. But the usefulness of these tests was highlighted anew Saturday when Biden, who had taken the antiviral during his illness, tested positive again and returned to isolation in the White House residence.

More than 2 1/2 years into the pandemic, and with a highly contagious version of the virus circulating, the CDC guidelines for what to do when falling ill — and when to return to public life — continue to stoke as much confusion as clarity. That’s a reflection of the changing nature of the virus, the inherent unpredictability of an infection, and the demands and expectations of work and home life.