Coronavirus Update

Ten months into the coronavirus pandemic and we are still in the thick of things, although there is now some light at the end of the tunnel. Many states, as well as other countries, are seeing a sharp rise in cases and hospitalizations, and the U.S. has now officially surpassed 300,000 deaths from the virus. This wave of the pandemic has led to some states enforcing tighter restrictions, such as mandating a 10-day quarantine for those who travel out of state and closing down indoor dining and gyms. Fortunately, though, less than a year after the pandemic began, there are now 2 vaccines authorized for emergency use, which will hopefully be distributed to the general public soon. 

Coronavirus Cases & Deaths Hit New Recordsvirus in the background with a blue arrow trending upwards

The US recorded 247,403 new coronavirus cases on December 16, a record for one day. On Thursday, December 17, The U.S. reported that 114,237 people were hospitalized, which is the highest number since the pandemic began. It is also the 6th consecutive day that the U.S. remained above 100,000 hospitalizations. The daily numbers of hospitalizations in the country for the last week were as follows:

  • Dec. 17: 114,237
  • Dec. 16: 113,090
  • Dec. 15: 112,814
  • Dec. 14: 110,549
  • Dec. 13: 109,298 

The nation averaged 2,569 deaths per day last week, which is the highest average we have seen to date. The total number of deaths reported on December 16 was 3,656, a one-day high. California shattered the record for highest number of COVID-19 deaths in a day in one state with 379 deaths.

COVID-19 Death Rate 3x That of the Flu

Research published last week suggested that the coronavirus causes more severe symptoms than does the flu. The study also shows that the rate of death is three times higher for COVID-19 than the death rate for hospitalized flu patients. 

“Our study is the largest to date to compare the two diseases and confirms that COVID-19 is far more serious than the flu,” said Catherine Quantin from the French research institute INSERM. “The finding that the COVID-19 death rate was three times higher than for seasonal influenza is particularly striking when reminded that the 2018/2019 flu season had been the worst in the past five years in France in terms of number of deaths.”

hands squeezing someone's arm while putting a shot in the arm
2 vaccines have been approved for emergency use. The first to get the Covid-19 vaccine are healthcare workers and nursing home residents.

Coronavirus Vaccines Rolling Out Across U.S.

The first doses of FDA-authorized Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine have been delivered to all 50 states, less than a year after the disease was first spotted in the U.S. This vaccine was the first to be authorized in the U.S. for emergency use, with healthcare workers and residents in long-term care facilities slated to be the first to get the shot. And, on Monday, December 14, the nation watched as the first doses were injected into healthcare workers. Each person who receives the vaccine will need 2 doses approximately 21 days apart.

Then, on Friday, December 18, a week after the Pfizer vaccine got the green light for distribution, the FDA granted emergency use authorization to the Moderna coronavirus vaccine. The difference between the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines is that Moderna’s does not need to be stored at extremely low temperatures. 

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn released a statement saying, “With the availability of two vaccines now for the prevention of COVID-19, the FDA has taken another crucial step in the fight against this global pandemic that is causing vast numbers of hospitalizations and deaths in the United States each day.”

Having two vaccines soon to be available to the wider public is great news, but as Dr. Peter Marks, the chief vaccine regulator at the FDA’s Center for Biologics Research and Evaluation, told a news briefing.“Our work evaluating the vaccine does not end with the authorization. And we’ve made clear we expect vaccine manufacturers to continue to study their vaccines and to move toward licensure.” 

Between the two vaccines, we will have 40 million doses available for 20 million people by the end of December.  

FDA Investigates COVID-19 Vaccine For Allergens 

There have been some reported cases of allergic reactions in people who have received the Pfizer vaccine. Dr. Peter Marks, who heads the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, is investigating what compound may be responsible for these reactions. caucasian woman with brown hair and a mask on grabbing her chest

At least three cases of anaphylaxis — a severe allergic reaction — have been reported in the first week of the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in the US, as well as two cases in Britain. The healthcare workers who experienced the reactions were quickly treated. Dr Marks said, “It is known that one of the components that is present in both of the vaccines, polyethylene glycol, can be associated uncommonly with allergic reactions.” 

All administration sites that provide the vaccine must keep treatments, such as epi-pens, on hand for any allergic reactions.

Trial Designs Underway To Assess If Vaccine Can Prevent Carrying Of COVID-19

The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have both been proven to reduce the risk of the disease. Moderna has stated that data suggests their vaccine can prevent asymptomatic as well as symptomatic infection.

Dr. Francis Collins, director of National Institutes of Health said that a trial is underway assessing whether the coronavirus vaccines can prevent people from carrying and spreading the virus. “There is a trial getting designed right now about how we will assess whether the vaccines actually prevent people from having any virus in their airway, because you want to know that,” Collins told CNN.

black calculator on top of different amounts of money bills.
A second round of stimulus checks of $600 has been approved and set to be sent out as early as next week.

Second Round Of Stimulus Checks

Lawmakers have come to a finalization on the second round of stimulus checks. Individuals earning up to $75,000 and couples earning $150,000 in 2019 will receive a $600 check, half the value of the first round of checks issued under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Stability, or CARES, Act. Taxpayers will also receive an additional $600 for each child under age 17. If individuals make between $75,000 and $95,000 annually, then they may be getting a portion, but not the entire $600.

According to Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, checks might be rolling out as soon as next week.

Coronavirus Update: Week 17

The debate over the economic stimulus package continues, despite the fact that Congress is in recess. President Trump has been saying that he would step in if there was no agreement reached, and he has now signed executive orders related to stimulating the economy. It is still unclear what will happen with the House’s trillion dollar package, as well as what will happen to the U.S. Postal Service. In the meantime, the struggling economy is not the only thing our country is dealing with. While Americans wait for financial help, the coronavirus continues to rampage throughout the country. Testing doesn’t seem to be high on the government’s priority list, so there has been a decrease in testing numbers.

CDC Projects Nearly 189,000 Deaths By Sept. 5

The U.S. has reached more than 5.2 million coronavirus cases and a death toll of over 167,000. On Thursday, August 13, the CDC published its projection that over 188,982 deaths are possible by September. “State- and territory-level ensemble forecasts predict that the number of reported new deaths per week may increase over the next four weeks in Colorado and may decrease in Arizona, the Northern Mariana Islands, Vermont, and Wyoming,” the CDC said on its forecasting website.

U.S. Testing Numbers Falling In Recent Weeks graph going downawards

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, officials have been working to expand testing in the U.S. in order to help slow the spread of the virus. But for the last 2 weeks, the country has fallen short on testing. Testing numbers have been averaging about 733,000 people per day, but the recent seven-day average dropped to 709,000, which is the lowest in nearly a month. 

CDC Advises Those Recovered To Not Quarantine

In recently updated guidance, the CDC has said that those who have recovered from the virus do not need to quarantine or get tested for 3 months after recovering. Instead, they should just continue to socially distance and wear masks around others. 

people's hands putting a sheet of paper in a ballot box
Trump is hoping to block funding in order to stop people from voting by mail, a voting method that he sees as a threat to his reelection

Trump Opposes Election Aid For States & Postal Bailout

On Thursday, August 13, President Trump said that he opposes much-needed funding for the U.S. Postal Service. He is hoping to block funding in order to stop people from voting by mail, a voting method that he sees as a threat to his reelection. He also said that if the USPS does not receive the additional $25 billion in funding that Democrats have requested, then he believes that the Post Office will not be able to handle the influx of mail-in ballots.

“They want three and a half billion dollars for something that’ll turn out to be fraudulent, that’s election money basically. They want three and a half billion dollars for the mail-in votes. Universal mail-in ballots. They want $25 billion, billion, for the Post Office. Now they need that money in order to make the Post Office work so it can take all of these millions and millions of ballots,” Trump said, repeating his false claims that mail-in voting would be “fraudulent.”

“But if they don’t get those two items that means you can’t have universal mail-in voting because they’re not equipped to have it,” Trump added.

The Debate On The Stimulus Checks

The Senate recently adjourned for recess until September, leaving the stimulus bill up in the air. In the meantime, President Trump has signed a series of executive orders, which included $400 in weekly unemployment benefits, but it is unclear whether these executive orders will be put into effect. . 

After both sides of the aisle blamed each other for the stalemate on the stimulus package, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to her Democratc colleagues criticizing Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on his unwillingness to put the package to the Senate for a vote, and on Republicans’ refusal to help keep the USPS afloat. Pelosi wrote,”In the time of pandemic, the Postal System is Election Central. All patriots, Democrats, Independents or Republicans, should reject the President’s assault on the Postal System in this election season.”

Obesity Raises Risk Of Death In Men

doctors hands wrapping a measuring tape around a mans belly.
A new study shows that obesity is an independent risk factor of dying from coronavirus among adults aged 60 and younger.

A new study shows that obesity is an independent risk factor of dying from coronavirus among adults aged 60 and younger. Obesity causes restricted breathing, which can further complicate the respiratory symptoms of Covid-19. The risk seems to be much higher for men than for women.

“Body mass index is a really important, strong independent risk factor for death among those who are diagnosed with Covid-19,” said Sara Tartof, the study’s first author, a research scientist at Kaiser Permanente of Southern California. But “the impact is not uniform across the population,” she added. “You don’t really see it for the older ages, and we didn’t see it as an important risk for females at any age.”

Mitt Romney Criticizes Trump On Handling Of Coronavirus

Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) has offered his disdain regarding Trump’s handling of the coronavirus, saying that Trump left it to spiral out of control. 

“Short term, I think it’s fair to say we really have not distinguished ourselves in a positive way by how we responded to the crisis when it was upon us,” Romney said in a video interview with the Sutherland Institute. “And the proof of the pudding of that is simply that we have 5 percent of the world’s population but 25 percent of the world’s deaths due to covid-19.”

Coronavirus Update: Week 3

As of April 14, total global deaths from Coronavirus have surpassed 100,000, with the U.S. accounting for about 31,000. Also on April 14, President Trump decided to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), claiming that they mismanaged the response to the coronavirus, and that they covered up information about its spread. At the same time, scientists, physicians, funders and drug manufacturers from around the world have pledged to collaborate with the WHO to help find a vaccine against COVID-19. The U.S. economy continues to suffer, with unemployment claims climbing to 22 million and one-time stimulus checks being issued to help Americans. Trump, meanwhile, is hopeful that some business will be able to  reopen sooner than May 1. 

Coronavirus & The Brainpersons hand over a white drawing of a brain with a gray background.

There is now some evidence that COVID-19 may not only affect the respiratory system, but also the brain. Doctors at Mount Sinai hospital in New York have  noticed a spike in the number of strokes suffered by coronavirus patients. There were around 45 strokes in a 4 week period, which is nearly triple the normal number. Half of these patients had coronavirus, and were on average 12 years younger than typical stroke victims. Some coronavirus patients are now receiving blood thinners. A limited study of COVID-19 patients in China also found that more than a third suffered from neurological symptoms, including loss of taste and smell, dizziness, headaches, and strokes.

Trump Halts Funding To WHO

On Tuesday, April 14, Trump announced that he was halting funding to the WHO due to what he claims was mismanagement of the coronavirus. The U.S. provides  $400 million-$500 million in funding to the WHO each year. 

“Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source with very little death,” Trump said.

Reopening America

The US Captiol building.
Trump told the nation’s governors that they could begin reopening businesses by May 1 or earlier. 

The Paycheck Protection Program, a federal loan program that was created  to help small businesses keep workers on their payrolls during the pandemic, has run out of money. $349 billion had been allocated for the program, but that  money quickly ran out, leaving millions of businesses unable to even apply for the loans. 

Instead of announcing plans to reup the funding for the loans, President  Trump revealed federal guidelines on Thursday, April 16, to restart the economy by “reopening” the U.S. Under his three phase “Opening Up America Again” plan, states would not begin to relax stay at home orders until they had 14 consecutive days of decreases in coronavirus cases. He told the nation’s governors that they could begin reopening businesses by May 1 or earlier. 

“Some states will open sooner than others,” Trump said. “Some states are not in the kind of trouble that others are in. Now that we have passed the peak in new cases, we’re starting our life again. We’re starting rejuvenation of our economy again in a safe and structured and very responsible fashion.”

Ideas To Make The Most Of Your Stimulus Check

Caucasian hand holding a pen on an open checkbook.
The stimulus check will be a one-time payment, and can be incorporated into your budget in multiple ways. 

This week people have started receiving their stimulus checks, which are valued at $1,200 or more, depending on family size. This check will be a one-time payment to help ease financial burdens during the pandemic, and can be incorporated into your budget in multiple ways. 

For the millions of Americans who have lost their job, this check can help pay some of their bills. If you are one of these Americans and are able to get a bill deferment for a couple of months, then the money will help families buy groceries and other necessities in the interim.

For people who are financially secure, they may be in the position to use the funds towards their savings, a child’s education, or retirement. If you still have a job, or are financially secure, then you should consider using the money to pay off debts such as credit cards and student loans. If you are well off, then consider donating to those in need. You can do this by donating to a charity, a local food bank, or the CDC to help find a cure for the disease.

Coronavirus Update: Week 1

As everyone is now aware, we are currently in the middle of a global pandemic. This week, Italy recorded its lowest death toll since the beginning of the outbreak, but other countries, including the U.S., cannot say the same. Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have now surpassed those of China and Italy, leaving the U.S. as the global leader in cases. As of April 1, the current total number of cases in the U.S. was 186,101, with 3,603 deaths. 

face mask on top of 100 dollar bills.
Health insurance providers Cigna and Humana have waived cost-sharing fees for treatment of and testing for the coronavirus.

The spread shows no signs of slowing down, with some reports indicating that the number of cases is doubling every two days. New measures are being taken to help slow the spread of the virus, to ensure more Americans are receiving healthcare, and to boost the economy.

Cost-Sharing Fees Waived

Health insurance providers Cigna and Humana have waived cost-sharing fees for treatment of and testing for the coronavirus. Patients will not have to pay any deductibles, copays, or coinsurance. Aetna has also signed on to some of this arrangement, but will only waive cost sharing for inpatient hospital admissions related to the virus.

New Telehealth GuidelinesCaucasian woman sitting in her bed with a laptop open in front of her.

Under the president’s 1135 waiver authority and the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations (CARES) Act, telehealth services have been expanded. The expansion is considered temporary and is on an emergency basis. Services and costs will be covered in order to prevent people making unnecessary trips to the doctors’ office. Medicare will also cover these services for their beneficiaries so that they will be able to speak to their doctor from the safety of their own homes.

Job Loss & Stimulus Checks

With many states issuing “stay at home” orders, many businesses that are considered nonessential have been forced to close and Americans have been losing their jobs at record rates. The number of jobless claims, currently 3.3 million, continues to rise, marking the largest unemployment rate jump in U.S. history. To help with this situation President Trump has signed a  $2 trillion bipartisan economic stimulus bill. The bill includes $1,200 government checks for individuals making under $75,000 a year, and an expansion of unemployment insurance.

Malaria Drug Trials

Box filled with pills in cases
The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine showed promise in fighting coronavirus in a small trial of patients.

The malaria drug hydroxychloroquine showed promise in fighting coronavirus in a small trial of patients in a Chinese study. Those who received the drug experienced a quicker  spike in their fevers and coughs than those without the treatment. This faster spike meant that the patients experienced shorter periods with coughs and fevers, suggesting that the drug can help speed recovery time. The FDA has issued an emergency authorization for experimental treatments of this drug. Hydroxychloroquine  will be “distributed and prescribed by doctors to hospitalized teen and adult patients with COVID-19, as appropriate, when a clinical trial is not available or feasible,” HHS said. The FDA has allowed New York to begin using the drugs to treat seriously ill patients as part of an “observational” trial.