POST 234. February 2, 2022. CORONAVIRUS. “Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell demanded an end to the COVID-19 state of emergency on Wednesday , saying it was time for Americans to get on with their lives after two years on a ‘hellish highway.’” McConnell said ‘The virus appears to be heading endemic…’It’s time for the state of emergency to wind down.’” (B)

“A study (in CELL) has identified four predictive factors of Post Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), often called long COVID.” (I am the proud Uncle of Jason Goldman, M.D., the lead clinical author of this study!)

for links to POSTS 1-234 in chronological order highlight and click on

“Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell demanded an end to the COVID-19 state of emergency on Wednesday , saying it was time for Americans to get on with their lives after two years on a ‘hellish highway.’

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency in March 2020 as the virus spread. And President Joe Biden subsequently extended the declaration.

But McConnell said the impact of the disease was waning and that the virus was heading towards endemic status.

‘In February 2022, we know we are currently facing an Omicron variant that seems both significantly more contagious than its predecessors, but also significantly less severe,’ he said.

‘Even in hard hit states like my own, where hospitalizations remain too high, the curve of cases and hospitalizations appears to be starting to bend back down.’

He added that vaccinations continue to make the difference between life and death. 

‘But from a society-wide perspective after two years on a hellish highway it appears our country is finally arriving at the off ramp,’ he said.

‘The virus appears to be heading endemic.

‘Seventy percent of Americans agree with the statement: “It’s time we accept that COVID is here to stay and we just need to get on with our lives.”

‘It’s time for the state of emergency to wind down.’” (B)

“Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) said in an interview the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines spell “the end of the medical emergency” as it relates to the virus, and he will not implement a statewide mask mandate in response to the Omicron variant.

Why it matters: Polis told Colorado Public Radio he prefers pushing vaccinations versus mask mandates, and that the latter should be left to localities. He added that public health officials “don’t get to tell people what to wear.”

“You don’t tell people to wear a jacket when they go out in winter and force them to [wear it],” he said. “If they get frostbite, it’s their own darn fault. If you haven’t been vaccinated, that’s your choice. I respect that. But it’s your fault when you’re in the hospital with COVID.”

“The data we have so far shows that the vaccines do hold up well against the omicron variant. Obviously, if that changes, we want to look at what other techniques we could use to reduce the spread of the virus. We want to see what new information emerges about the omicron variant and how well vaccines and natural immunity hold up to it.”..

What they’re saying: “We see [the availability of vaccines] as the end of the medical emergency,” Polis said.

“Frankly, people who want to be protected” have gotten vaccinated, he added. “Those who get sick, it’s almost entirely their own darn fault.”

“Eighty-four percent of the people in our hospitals are unvaccinated, and they absolutely had every chance to get vaccinated.” (C)

“Nine states — California, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Oregon and Washington — require most people to wear masks in indoor public places, whether or not they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have similar orders in place…

To date, 29 states that had orders broadly requiring residents to wear masks in public have lifted them. Eleven states have not imposed mandates at any point during the pandemic, and some, including Florida, Iowa, Montana, Tennessee and Texas, have moved via legislation or executive action to prevent local governments and school districts from doing so.” (D)

“On Feb. 1, San Francisco will become the first Bay Area city to end indoor mask requirements for office workers, gym members and other stable cohorts of people, but everyone needs to be fully vaccinated and boosted when eligible…

San Francisco is taking this step due to the high vaccination rate. 82% of San Franciscans are fully vaccinated…

San Francisco is also allowing people who are unvaccinated due to religious or medical reasons to enter a mega event of at least 500 people if they wear a mask and test beforehand.” (F)

“Governor Phil Murphy announced Monday that he is lifting New Jersey’s school mask mandate starting next month.

It comes as case numbers continue to decline in the Tri-State area following the omicron surge.

Murphy announced on Twitter that the mandate will be lifted starting March 7.

“Balancing public health with getting back to some semblance of normalcy is not easy,” he wrote. “But we can responsibly take this step due to declining COVID numbers and growth in vaccinations.”

The governor said that officials will plan to provide guidance to New Jersey schools to help them make the best decisions on when masks should or should not be worn.

Murphy said school districts and childcare facilities can continue to implement universal masking policies after the mandate is lifted in March. Schools will not be permitted to bar the use of facial coverings by individuals and will be expected to take disciplinary action in instances of bullying should they arise due to an individual’s choice to continue wearing a mask.

“We are not going to manage COVID to zero, we have to learn how to live with COVID as we move from a pandemic to an endemic phase of this virus,” Murphy said. (E)

“Mayor Ravi S. Bhalla, the Hoboken Office of Emergency Management (OEM), and the Hoboken Health Department today announced the repeal of OEM’s Executive Order requiring face masks in indoor locations of public accommodation. The end of the mask requirement will take effect Wednesday, Feb. 9. Hudson County’s positivity rate fell below 5% as of Monday, Feb. 7, which provided the basis for the order’s repeal. 

“Since the very first decision to shut down at the beginning of the pandemic, Hoboken has used science and data to guide decisions on keeping the public safe,” said Mayor Bhalla.  “In recent days, the numbers make it clear that cases are significantly falling in the region, which is welcome news. This data point, combined with Hoboken’s high vaccination rate, robust testing options, and low hospitalizations, make it possible for us to lift our indoor mask requirement. I thank the many residents and businesses who adhered to this safety precaution as we navigated through the Omicron phase of the pandemic.”  

 Local Hoboken businesses will continue to have the option to require face masks for entry into their business.” (P) 

“There is more good news Friday in New York’s battle against COVID-19 and particularly the dominant omicron variant, as the state’s positivity rate has dropped below 10% for the first time in over a month.

Governor Kathy Hochul says she expects school districts will no longer enforce mask wearing in classes once the statewide mask mandate ends.

“That’s actually what we expect,” she said. “When the state mandate lapses, I expect all school districts will say, ‘We don’t have to do this anymore.'”

It is currently slated to end next month, though it could be extended.” (M)

“A study (in CELL) has identified four predictive factors of Post Acute Sequelae of COVID-19 (PASC), often called long COVID. These ‘PASC factors’ can be identified at the initial point of COVID-19 diagnosis and can anticipate if a patient is likely to develop long COVID. Additionally, researchers found that mild cases of COVID-19, not just severe cases, are associated with long COVID, and that administering antivirals very early in the disease course may potentially prevent some PASC.” (A)

“Covid-19 will never become an endemic illness and will always behave like an epidemic virus, an expert in biosecurity has warned.

Raina MacIntyre, a professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, told CNBC that although endemic disease can occur in very large numbers, the number of cases does not change rapidly as seen with the coronavirus.

“If case numbers do change [with an endemic disease], it is slowly, typically over years,” she said via email. “Epidemic diseases, on the other hand, rise rapidly over periods of days to weeks.”

Scientists use a mathematical equation, the so-called R naught (or R0), to assess how quickly a disease is spreading. The R0 indicates how many people will catch a disease from an infected person, with experts at Imperial College London estimating omicron’s could be higher than 3. 

If a disease’s R0 is greater than 1, growth is exponential, meaning the virus is becoming more prevalent and the conditions for an epidemic are present, MacIntyre said.

“The public health goal is to keep the effective R — which is R0 modified by interventions such as vaccines, masks or other mitigations — below 1,” she told CNBC. “But if the R0 is higher than 1, we typically see recurrent epidemic waves for respiratory transmitted epidemic infections.”

MacIntyre noted that this is the pattern that was seen with smallpox for centuries and is still seen with measles and influenza. It’s also the pattern unfolding with Covid, she added, for which we have seen four major waves in the past two years.

“Covid will not magically turn into a malaria-like endemic infection where levels stay constant for long periods,” she contended. “It will keep causing epidemic waves, driven by waning vaccine immunity, new variants that escape vaccine protection, unvaccinated pockets, births and migration.””  (G)

“The extraordinary surge exposed understaffing problems at the (New York) city’s hospitals, particularly among nurses, to a degree unseen earlier in the pandemic. For several weeks, tens of thousands of patients were treated by health care teams severely depleted by illness and burnout.

Yet now, with Omicron receding rapidly and virus cases plummeting more than 90 percent from their recent peak, health officials are also reaching an encouraging assessment: The city’s hospital system, although critically stretched, did not break. Experienced health care workers treated patients more effectively, and deaths were limited to a small fraction of the number recorded during the virus’s first wave in 2020…

The Omicron wave nonetheless strained the city’s hospitals, which still proved resilient because health care workers, despite widespread exhaustion, had learned from hard-won experience in 2020 how to limit severe illness and death, officials and workers said.

They knew to avoid intubating patients when possible, having learned that many people who are put on ventilators never come off. Instead, they relied on less invasive ways of providing supplemental oxygen and made better use of high-dose steroids to control inflammation. Hospital administrators activated emergency plans to open surge units, and consulted one another regularly to share advice or ask for reinforcements…

Still, while many people hope that the waning of the Omicron surge is a turning point in the pandemic, the health care system’s gaps and shortages could prove far more devastating if another variant emerges that is equally contagious but more virulent, epidemiologists warned…

Still, the Omicron variant showed that hospitals remained vulnerable to being overwhelmed by a surge in patients — and that help is not always quick to arrive. A voluntary system that encourages better-financed hospitals to take patients from poorer ones resulted in some transfers, but too few to equalize conditions…

At some hospitals, the number of nurses has shrunk during the pandemic, and the staffing gaps were exacerbated when between 2 and 10 percent of hospital staffs were infected with Omicron at the same time. Emergency room nurses were especially beleaguered, caring for up to 18 patients at once at one safety-net hospital.” (H)

“Although COVID-19 cases are dropping across the U.S., the number of COVID-19 deaths will continue to increase this month, potentially climbing 75,000 by the end of February, according to the latest CDC national forecast.

The U.S. could reach a total of 933,000 to 965,000 COVID-19 deaths by Feb. 26. Increases in deaths tend to lag surges in cases by about 3 weeks, and the recent Omicron peak happened in late January.” (I)

“Sir Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust, who stepped down as a government scientific adviser in November last year, warned the idea of simply “exiting” a pandemic is not realistic.

“I just don’t think you wake up on Tuesday and it’s finished. It’s not going to happen like that,” he said in an online meeting of the Royal Society of Medicine.

“The transition from [the] acute phase of the pandemic to something new, not yet defined, it’s really difficult – bumpy, different around the world, different within a single country, with the degree of inequity that’s happened globally, but also nationally,” he said.

Farrar noted one problem is that while some people may argue the pandemic is now in the past, and the situation in the middle of the pandemic was exaggerated, others believe it’s far from over.

“And so the tensions, I think, within societies are going to be very difficult to handle,” he said.

Farrar added that while he has sympathy with the disruption of education and the health and economic impacts of Covid he is concerned about the speed at which some want to move on.

“My concern is that there will be too fast a shift to saying it’s all over and we will lose the humility of accepting that we’re only two years into a novel human pathogen, that is still a huge amount of uncertainty,” he said, adding it is also crucial to resolve the problem of vaccine inequality.

While Farrar said the most likely scenario is that there will be a transition to Omicron becoming endemic, as the variant is less severe than others, it is not the only possibility.

“My worry in the push to try and move on from this [is that] we ignore those other scenarios, which are less rosy but we should be absolutely prepared for,” he said.” (L)

“Cases of the Omicron variant are on the decline in U.S. and worldwide—but a different version of Omicron is now gaining traction. This so-called stealth variant, officially known as BA.2, is armed with even higher transmission potential, and possibly a greater ability to evade the immune response, than the original Omicron, leading experts to fear it could further prolong the COVID-19 pandemic.

The World Health Organization does not yet consider BA.2 to be a distinct “variant of concern” but is continuing to monitor its spread. BA.2 is beginning to replace the original Omicron strain in many countries. It is now the dominant variant in Denmark, which recorded more than 50,000 new infections in just one day last week. BA.2 also appears to be the major Omicron lineage in parts of India and the Philippines. It has already caused about 250 cases in the United States and been identified in more than half the states…

However, BA.2 has been sometimes dubbed a stealth variant because it is missing key mutations in its spike protein that are necessary for rapid PCR tests to distinguish it from previous variants, such as Delta. This difference also may be why BA.2 escaped attention earlier.

In fact, the two Omicron lineages have greater evolutionary divergences from each other than the differences between the original virus and the Alpha variant, the first variant of concern. “BA.2 shares over 30 mutations with BA.1, but it also has 28 unique mutations,” says Shay Fleishon, an evolutionary geneticist and advisor to the Central Virology Laboratory in Israel.” (K)

“The number of patients hospitalized in Israel in serious condition as a result of COVID-19 rose to 1,229 on Saturday, the highest number since the onset of the pandemic, according to new Health Ministry data.

The last time the number of serious patients was close to that figure was in late January 2021, with 1,193 serious COVID-19 cases.

The ministry reported 37,985 new cases identified Friday, with a test positivity rate of 25.48%. Another 15,304 cases had been identified as of 9 p.m. Saturday….

On Friday, the cabinet voted to approve a rollback in requirements for the Green Pass, further easing COVID restrictions alongside a slowdown in the Omicron-led wave.

Starting on Monday, Israelis will no longer have to flash their Green Passes — which show proof of vaccination, recovery or a recent negative COVID-19 test — to enter restaurants, movie theaters, gyms and hotels.”  (O)

“A broad and bipartisan group of senators is coalescing around legislation to create a high-level independent commission, modeled after the one that examined the Sept. 11 attacks, with broad powers to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic and the response across the Trump and Biden administrations.

Under a plan proposed by the top Democrat and Republican on the Senate Health Committee — Senators Patty Murray of Washington and Richard M. Burr of North Carolina — a 12-member panel would have subpoena power to “get a full accounting of what went wrong during this pandemic,” Ms. Murray said in an interview, and make recommendations for the future.

The legislation, being circulated as a draft, is still in its early stages; Ms. Murray said she hopes to get feedback from colleagues within a month, followed by a hearing and a markup. In this highly polarized environment, both she and Mr. Burr acknowledged that politics could derail it…

The Murray-Burr bill is carefully drafted to avoid partisan divisions. The panel would be made up of 12 “highly qualified citizens” — preferably, but not necessarily, nonpartisan subject matter experts in relevant fields like public health, manufacturing of medical products, supply chain issues and national security. They may not be government employees.

Democrats and Republicans in Congress would each appoint half the members, who would name their own chairman and vice chairman. The White House would not make any appointments. The panel would hold hearings and take testimony, as the Sept. 11 panel did, and would be expected to produce a report within a year, with a possible six-month extension.” (J)

“Republican attacks on Dr. Fauci are not new; former President Donald J. Trump, irked that the doctor publicly corrected his falsehoods about the virus, called him “a disaster” and repeatedly threatened to fire him. Senator Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, has grilled Dr. Fauci in nationally televised hearings, and Dr. Fauci — true to his fighter-from-Brooklyn roots — has punched back.

But as the 2022 midterm elections approach, the attacks have spread across the nation, intensifying as Dr. Fauci draws outsize attention in some of the most important state and local races on the ballot in November…

For the 81-year-old immunologist, a venerated figure in the world of science, it is a jarring last chapter of a government career that has spanned half a century. As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a post he has held since 1984, he has helped lead the response to various public health crises, including AIDS and Ebola, and advised eight presidents. He has never revealed a party affiliation. President George H.W. Bush once cited him as a hero….

Still, Mr. Ayres said, Dr. Fauci remains for many Americans “one of the most trusted voices regarding the pandemic.” In a Gallup poll at the end of 2021, his job approval rating was 52 percent. On a list of 10 officials, including Mr. Biden and congressional leaders, only two scored higher: Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Jerome H. Powell, the chairman of the Federal Reserve.” (N)


POST 230. January 20, 2022. CORONAVIRUS. “Dr. Fauci also said that the world is still in the first of what he considered to be the five phases of the pandemic. The first is the “truly pandemic” phase, “where the whole world is really very negatively impacted,” followed by deceleration, control, elimination and eradication.”…to paraphrase Churchill – “This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”..

POST 233. February 2, 2022. CORONAVIRUS. “The same virus can cause endemic, epidemic or pandemic infections: it depends on the interplay of a population’s behaviour, demographic structure, susceptibility and immunity, plus whether viral variants emerge.”


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