COVID-19 Updates: CDC Amends Public Health Recommendations, Another New COVID-19 Variant Found in Florida

Health professional wearing PPE tests man for new COVID-19 variant at drive-up testing site

At least 199 million cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been diagnosed worldwide as of Monday evening, August 2, 2021, including at least 4.23 million deaths. Healthcare officials in the United States have reported at least 35 million positive COVID-19 cases and approximately 613,000 deaths. Source: Johns Hopkins University & Medicine

At least 4.18 billion individual doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide as of Monday evening, including at least 346 million in the United States. Source: GitHub

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CDC amends public health recommendations

As the Delta variant of COVID-19 circulates throughout the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its guidance information for fully vaccinated people.

Among the current recommendations, the CDC calls for wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas recording substantial or high rates of community transmission. Added guidance also suggests that fully vaccinated people consider wearing a mask regardless of the transmission level, particularly if they are immunocompromised or at increased risk for severe disease from COVID-19, or if they have someone in their household who is immunocompromised, at increased risk of severe disease, or not fully vaccinated.

Fully vaccinated people who have a known exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 should be tested 3-5 days after exposure and wear a mask in public indoor settings for 14 days, or until they receive a negative test result.

The CDC also recommends universal indoor masking for all teachers, staffs, students, and visitors to schools, regardless of vaccination status, at this time. According to the CDC, infections happen in only a small proportion of people who are fully vaccinated, even with the Delta variant, but preliminary evidence suggests that fully vaccinated people who do become infected with the Delta variant can spread the virus to others.

Fully vaccinated people can continue to participate in many of the activities that they did before the pandemic; resume domestic travel and refrain from testing before or after travel and from self-quarantine after travel; refrain from testing before leaving the U.S. for international travel (unless required by the destination); refrain from self-quarantine after arriving back in the U.S.; and refrain from routine screening testing if feasible.

People who are immunocompromised should be counseled about the potential for reduced immune responses to COVID-19 vaccines and to follow current prevention measures (including wearing a mask, social distancing from others they don’t live with, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated indoor spaces) regardless of vaccination status to protect themselves against COVID-19 until advised otherwise.

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U.S. adult vaccination rate reaches 70% for first dose

With nearly 470,000 vaccine doses being administered on August 2, the United States has now logged more than 180 million people with at least one shot, or 70% of the adult population, according to the most recent data from the CDC. The vaccine rate has now also risen for four consecutive weeks and the daily rate has climbed from 430,000 doses per day to 550,000 doses per day, the CDC reports.

The rate of first doses specifically has risen by approximately 75%, as more than 5 million Americans have been newly vaccinated in the last two weeks. Much of the increase has come in undervaccinated states, including 1,000 per day in Louisiana, where the rate is now 37%. Other “hot spot” states include Alabama (34% vaccinated), Arkansas (36%), Missouri (41%), and Texas (44%).

Another new COVID-19 variant found in Florida

A yet-to-be-named variant of the coronavirus has been identified in Florida, even as the Delta variant continues to garner most of the focus across the country.

According to a recent report by the Washington Post, the B.1.621 variant is on the rise in South Florida likely due to international travel between Miami and Colombia, where the variant was first found. The report claims that B.1.621 has accounted for about 10% of coronavirus patients in the state.

The earliest documented samples of B.1.621 occurred in January. The United Kingdom has also recorded cases of the variant. To date there is said to be no evidence that the variant causes more severe disease or evades the vaccines.

The European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has named the variant as a “variant of interest,” although that is not currently the case in the United States.

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Study seeks to understand risk of treatment side effects

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have conducted a new study that examines which patients could be more susceptible to the side effects of glucocorticoids used to treat serious cases of COVID-19.

According to a recent report, researchers used human cells from different patients, which were converted to liver and fat-like cells, to locate genetic differences that determine whether some people are more likely than others to experience the side effects of steroids.

Researchers then tested individual genetic differences by studying a group of leukemia patients who received dexamethasone, a type of glucocorticoid that is said to be the only treatment proven to improve the outcomes of patients hospitalized with COVID-19, as part of their chemotherapy. Findings include that the genomic information of the patients also determined who experienced side effects, such as increases in blood sugar.

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