POST 184. August 1, 2021. CORONAVIRUS. “The coronavirus could be “just a few mutations potentially away” from evolving into a variant that can evade existing COVID-19 vaccines, CDC director Rochelle Walensky said..” (A) “The Delta variant is more transmissible than the viruses that cause MERS, SARS, Ebola, the common cold, the seasonal flu and smallpox, and it is as contagious as chickenpox..” (I)

Our Lady of the Lake, Baton Rouge’s largest hospital:  “These are the darkest days of this pandemic. We are no longer giving adequate care to these patients…”  (J)

for links to POSTS 1-184 in chronological order, highlight and click on

“According to research published Friday in the journal Scientific Reports, vaccinated people — counterintuitively — play a key role in that risk.

The best way to stop coronavirus deaths and severe illness is to roll out vaccines quickly. However, the researchers concluded that the chance a vaccine-resistant strain will emerge is highest in a scenario that combines three conditions: First, a large portion of a population is vaccinated, but not everyone. Second, there’s a lot of virus circulating. And third, no measures are in place to curb potential viral transmission from vaccinated people. Sound familiar?

Before the rise of Delta, which is now responsible for more than 80% of US coronavirus cases, that situation wasn’t a concern because research suggested vaccinated people weren’t likely to transmit other versions of the virus. But according to a CDC study released Friday, vaccinated people may transmit the Delta variant just as easily as the unvaccinated…

The researchers created a mathematical model that predicted which conditions are associated with the highest risk of new variants emerging that can evade vaccines.

They found if a chunk of people are vaccinated but many unvaccinated people remain, a variant that can either evade or partially evade vaccine-induced immune defenses has a competitive advantage over other versions of the virus. So over time, those less fit strains — which can’t infect  vaccinated hosts — die out, leaving vaccine-resistant ones to dominate the viral landscape. Then if viral transmission goes unchecked — lots of people partying maskless, say — those newly dominant variants can easily spread and further evolve…

Virologists call variations of a virus that slip past vaccine- or illness-induced immune defenses “escape mutants.” So far, no coronavirus variants can fully escape COVID-19 vaccines.”” (A)

“The amount of breakthrough cases we’re seeing actually suggest that the vaccines “are still working great,” but too much is being asked of them, said Dr. Drew Weissman, who spent nearly two decades conducting research that led to the development of the mRNA vaccines manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna to stop the coronavirus.

Mounting research suggests the variants are placing greater strain on the vaccines. When people are infected with the delta variant, Huffman said they produce a thousand times greater viral load than seen from the original COVID-19 strain. That means the delta variant is more efficient at spreading and every time an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks, they potentially release much more of the virus — and opportunities to get someone else sick — than earlier in the pandemic.

With only about half of the nation’s population — 163.3 million people — fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, the vaccine’s advantages begin to erode, said Weissman, a physician and infectious disease expert at the University of Pennsylvania. And in some pockets of the country, fewer than a third of people have received full vaccine protection.

“You can’t control a pandemic when 30 percent or even half the people are immunized,” he said.” (B)

“With the recent increase of Covid-19 infections and hospitalizations due to the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant, health experts and officials expect the surge to worsen as long as large segments of the country remain unvaccinated.

“We will see this big, steep acceleration,” Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director for the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children’s Hospital, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Friday. “As bad as things are right now in the South, they are about to get worse for lots of unvaccinated individuals.” “ (C)

“Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s chief medical adviser, on Sunday discussed new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data that showed the levels of coronavirus in breakthrough cases of the delta variant among those who are fully vaccinated are “almost identical” to the levels seen among unvaccinated individuals.

Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Fauci stressed that the majority of breakthrough cases involving the delta variant saw “minimal symptoms or no symptoms at all.”…

According to Fauci, these findings differ from what was observed in cases involving the previously dominant alpha variant.

“So we know now that vaccinated people who get breakthrough infections can spread the virus to other people,” Fauci said. “The fundamental basis for the CDC modifying their guidelines and saying now, ‘If you’re an area of a high or substantial trend of level of virus, namely a red or an orange zone, when you’re in an indoor public setting, you need to wear a mask.’ That’s the fundamental reason for that change.”” (H)

“At least 125,000 fully vaccinated Americans have tested positive for Covid and 1,400 of those have died, according to data collected by NBC News.

The 125,682 “breakthrough” cases in 38 states found by NBC News represent less than .08 percent of the 164.2 million-plus people who have been fully vaccinated since January, or about one in every 1,300. The number of cases and deaths among the vaccinated is very small compared to the number among the unvaccinated. A former Biden adviser on Covid estimated that 98 to 99 percent of deaths are among the unvaccinated.

But the total number of breakthrough cases is likely higher than 125,683, since nine states, including Pennsylvania and Missouri, did not provide any information, while 11, like Covid hotspot Florida, did not provide death and hospitalization totals. Four states gave death and hospitalization numbers, but not the full tally of cases.

And vaccinated adults who have breakthrough cases but show no symptoms could be missing from the data altogether, say officials….

Critics of the agency (CDC) like former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, said federal officials are failing to capture the overall scope of infection of Covid cases. Gottlieb told CNBC Friday, “I suspect probably one in 10 infections is actually getting reported.” (D)

“”It’s too late” for Florida to mitigate its latest COVID-19 surge “meaningfully,” Thomas Bossert, who served as former President Donald Trump’s homeland security adviser until 2018, tweeted Saturday.

The state is in “unchartered territory,” he explained, noting that it just recorded the highest number of cases in a 24-hour period since the pandemic began. More significantly, though, more than 10,000 people are currently hospitalized with an infection, which accounts for 83 percent of Florida’s all-time pandemic high. New York Times’ data shows hospitalizations are up 123 percent in the last 14 days, the fourth highest rate in the country.

Bossert warns that there’s not much Florida can do to stop the spread at this point…” (E)

““At Tampa General Hospital, the 90-plus patients hospitalized with COVID already exceeds the previous high of 86, said Dr. Seetha Lakshmi, medical director of its Global Emerging Diseases Institute. She said the hospital, like many, can’t hire enough staff and it is leaving those working exhausted.

“It feels like we are getting hit by a train, the pace is so fast and uncontrolled,” Laskshmi said. “I just don’t have any words anymore. This is awful, just awful and it is going to be awful.”

She said last year, her patients’ median age was in the 70s. Now, it is just over 50, with the younger patients getting sicker than in the past.

She pointed to a patient in his early 30s whose lungs “sound like Velcro” being pulled apart. A father of young children, he will likely have permanent damage and might need a transplant eventually, she said.

She said 83% of Tampa General’s COVID patients are unvaccinated while the others have immune-deficiency issues that prevented the vaccine from working.” (F)

“During the worst of 2020′s deadly summer COVID-19 surge, Florida hospitals added about 8,000 new patients infected with the virus in about 60 days.

This year, as the delta variant of the virus rampages through the state, Florida hospitals have added more than 7,000 new COVID-19 patients in just 21 days. The hospitals in the worst shape are in the Jacksonville and Orlando areas, but they’re quickly filling elsewhere, according to Mary Mayhew, a former top DeSantis health official who is now the CEO of the Florida Hospital Association. It’s unclear whether the surge is close to its peak…

According to the coronavirus case numbers released by the state on Friday, nine in 10 cases reported in Florida this week were in people younger than 65.

Deaths are not increasing as quickly as the numbers of Floridians hospitalized. According to the New York Times, the two-week average of daily Florida coronavirus hospitalizations was up 123 percent as of Friday. The two-week average of daily deaths was up 77 percent, that newspaper reported…

The state’s hospitals are filling up. According to Tiffany Vause, a spokesperson for the Agency for Health Care Administration, nearly 84 percent of the state’s inpatient hospital beds are in use, and nearly 86 percent of its intensive care unit beds. COVID-19 patients make up about one-third of the people admitted to intensive care. Both inpatient and intensive care usage rates are approaching the state’s overall pandemic peak from last July, leaving short-staffed hospitals scrambling.” (G)

“The Delta variant is much more contagious, more likely to break through protections afforded by the vaccines and may cause more severe disease than all other known versions of the virus, according to an internal presentation circulated within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the agency, acknowledged on Tuesday that vaccinated people with so-called breakthrough infections of the Delta variant carry just as much virus in the nose and throat as unvaccinated people, and may spread it just as readily, if less often.

But the internal document lays out a broader and even grimmer view of the variant.

The Delta variant is more transmissible than the viruses that cause MERS, SARS, Ebola, the common cold, the seasonal flu and smallpox, and it is as contagious as chickenpox, according to the document, a copy of which was obtained by The New York Times.

An internal document from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the Delta variant is much more contagious than other known versions of the virus.

The immediate next step for the agency is to “acknowledge the war has changed,” the document said. Its contents were first reported by The Washington Post on Thursday evening.” (I)

“Our Lady of the Lake, Baton Rouge’s largest hospital, has run out of hospital beds amid an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations, according to the hospital’s staff.

“There are no more beds left,” Chief Medical Officer Katy O’Neal said at a press conference on Monday. At that same press conference, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the state would bring back its mask mandate and encouraged residents to get vaccinated.

Representatives from other hospitals in the state said they were having staffing shortages or dealing with COVID-19 outbreaks among staff.

“These are the darkest days of this pandemic. We are no longer giving adequate care to these patients,” said O’Neal.”  (J)


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