COVID-19 Updates: WHO Focuses on Care Partnerships as Potential COVID-19 Surge Hits, Labcorp Releases COVID-19 and Flu Combo Test

Priest in a medical mask and protective gloves holds a mobile phone with information about online meetings during COVID-19 pandemic.

At least 254 million cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) have been diagnosed worldwide as of Monday evening, Nov. 15, 2021, including more than 5.1 million deaths. Healthcare officials in the United States have reported more than 48 million positive COVID-19 cases and more than 784,000 deaths. Source:

At least 7.51 billion individual doses of COVID-19 vaccine have been administered worldwide as of Monday evening, including at least 441 million in the United States. Source: GitHub

Related: Moving from COVID-19 Pandemic to COVID-19 Endemic

WHO focuses on care partnerships as potential COVID-19 surge hits

The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported an upward trend (1% increase) in new weekly cases of COVID-19 during the week of Nov. 1-7.

More than 3.1 million new cases have been diagnosed over that span, including 48,000 new deaths, which marks a 4% decrease from the previous week.

According to the WHO, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of partnerships in responding to health emergencies. Strengthening National Responses to Health Emergencies, a global conference co-hosted with Religions for Peace, has spotlighted some of these partnerships with faith partners and national governments.

The conference looks at the diverse contributions of faith partners in the COVID-19 response, including the ways in which those partners have provided spiritual care, worked with national governments and the WHO to support national responses, and advocated for vaccine delivery.

The newly published WHO strategy for engaging religious leaders, faith-based organizations, and faith communities in health emergencies outlines their commitment to continue working together with the goal of protecting more people and enabling them to enjoy increased health and well-being.

The strategy is a milestone for strengthening collaboration and national responses, the importance of which was demonstrated in country case studies.

Labcorp releases COVID-19 and flu combo test

Officials with Labcorp Diagnostics have announced the release of a kit that will allow individuals who qualify to test for COVID-19 and influenza at home simultaneously.

Available to anyone ages 2 years and older, the kit is offered at no upfront cost to those who meet clinical guidelines, which may include experiencing symptoms, being exposed to someone with COVID-19, or if asked to be tested by their provider, according to the company, which received emergency use authorization for the test kit from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in October.

“In time for flu season, the single test helps doctors and individuals make more informed treatment decisions, given that symptoms of COVID-19 and flu are similar,” said Dr. Brian Caveney, chief medical officer and president at Labcorp.

The kit uses a short nasal swab that is inserted into the lower nostril, making it more comfortable and easier for individuals and parents to collect samples. Patients and parents can be directed online to order the kit. Physicians can also order the kit from their electronic medical record systems.

The kits are shipped via FedEx Priority Overnight and include a prepaid return envelope. Test results are available on average between 1-2 days after the lab receives the completed test. In most cases, results are available one day after the kit is received, according to the company, and can be accessed through an individual’s online account profile or Labcorp Patient™ app patient portal.

The kit uses the Roche cobas® SARS-CoV-2 & influenza A/B Test for use on the cobas 6800/8800 Systems. It simultaneously identifies and differentiates SARS-CoV-2, influenza A, and B, and enables labs to provide reliable, consolidated, and accurate answers by leveraging the high-volume cobas 6800/8800 Systems, according to the company.

The cobas SARS-CoV-2 & influenza A/B Test is a multiplex reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction assay intended for the simultaneous qualitative detection and differentiation of SARS-CoV-2, influenza A virus, and influenza B virus in nasal or nasopharyngeal swab samples collected from individuals suspected of a respiratory infection.

However, this test is not intended for the detection of influenza C virus. The test has a full-process negative control, positive control, and internal control. Multiplexing will reportedly increase lab efficiency and save resources within labs.

Related: COVID-19 Vaccines: What You Need to Know

CDC says vaccine boosters can be mixed

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has announced that eligible patients can be administered a COVID-19 vaccine booster with any of the three available vaccinations authorized in the country, regardless of type that was received initially.

As of Nov. 9, the following groups of patients are identified as eligible for boosters:

  • Patients who received a primary mRNA vaccine series and are ages 65 years and older, aged 50–64 years with underlying medical conditions, or aged 18 years and older who live in long-term care settings: At least six months after completing the primary series (which may include an additional primary dose in persons with moderate to severe immunocompromise).
  • Patients who received a primary mRNA vaccine series and are ages 18-49 years with underlying medical conditions, or aged 18 years and older who work or live in high-risk settings: At least six months after completing the primary series (which may include an additional primary dose in persons with moderate to severe immunocompromise).
  • Patients who received the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine and are aged 18 years and older: At least two months after receiving their primary vaccine dose.

Booster shots are the same formulation as the current vaccines. However, the Moderna vaccine booster shot is half the dose of the vaccine for the initial series, according to the CDC.

Reactions reported after a booster are similar to that of the two-shot or single-dose initial series, with the most commonly reported side effects being mild to moderate fever, headache, fatigue, and pain at the injection site. Serious side effects are said to be rare, the CDC states. Additional populations could be recommended to receive a booster as more data become available, the CDC states.

New Zealand island ends no COVID-19 streak

For nearly one year, New Zealand’s South Island, which is home to more than 1 million people, went without a community-spread case of COVID-19. That record is no more, according to a recent report by Reuters. New Zealand reported 104 new coronavirus infections on Saturday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said that the country will end a strict lockdown when 90% of its eligible population is fully vaccinated, according to the Reuters report.

Stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news developments. Visit our Resource Center each week for new COVID-19 updates—plus a variety of other resources for healthcare professionals.

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