On October 5, there were 101,668 new cases of COVID-19 reported across the entire United States and 1,808 new deaths. At least 65% of Americans of all ages have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and 56% are fully vaccinated. Transmission rates remain high nationwide, largely due to the spread of the more-contagious Delta variant.
This information comes from The New York Times COVID-19 data tracker Coronavirus in the U.S.: Latest Map and Case Count.
Even in remote Alaska Native villages, the COVID-19 pandemic threatens to overwhelm community access to health facilities. According to the Associated Press, the surge in Alaska is made worse by the state’s limited healthcare system and reliance on hospitals in Anchorage, the state’s biggest city.
One reason the virus is reaching more remote locations in stronger patterns than the original strain of the coronavirus may be that it is evolving to spread more effectively through the air, the New York Times reports. Two new studies suggest the virus can now be carried through much smaller droplets projected by respiration, called aerosols. The findings signal the need for better masks and suggest the virus is changing in ways that makes it even more difficult to control. From Vincent Munster, a virologist at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:
It is like a modification of the virus to more efficient transmission, which is something I think we all kind of expected, and we now see it happening in real time.
Current masking behaviors still provide a good amount of protection, ABC News reports. One recent study that was led by Arizona researchers and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that the odds of an outbreak were 3.5 times higher in learning environments that did not institute a masking mandate. Schools that instituted the policies before the school year began have had fewer outbreaks than those that recently adopted the policy.
A new report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services shows that COVID-19 vaccinations have been crucial in preventing 100,000 hospitalizations and 39,000 deaths among seniors. From HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra:
This report reaffirms what we hear routinely from states: COVID-19 vaccines save lives, prevent hospitalizations, and reduce infection. The Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized getting vaccines quickly to pharmacies, nursing homes, doctors’ offices and even provided increased reimbursement rates for at-home COVID-19 vaccinations, so that seniors and others can easily get vaccinated.
New data from the Centers for Disease Control also suggests that seniors aged 65 and older are still the most likely to experience hospitalizations and death even if fully vaccinated, according to Microsoft Start. While the vaccines do not specifically prevent a COVID-19 infection, they offer a great deal of protection to the older age group.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published new guidance saying that employer group health plans cannot deny benefits to customers who have not gotten the COVID-19 but may offer discounts to customers who do. Fierce Healthcare reports that plans that increase premiums on the unvaccinated will have that increase count toward that coverage is affordable under the Affordable Care Act.
The Federation of American Hospitals (FAH) also issued “critical recommendations” to CMS and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on developing policy regarding the federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The recommendations highlight the “need for hospital flexibility in implementing the requirements” and asks for exemptions for hospitals already subject to state or local requirements. according to an FAH statement.
Food and Drug Administration
Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has asked the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve extra doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for use as boosters in people 18 and older who previously received the company’s one-shot vaccine. J&J did not recommend a single booster individual to the FDA, but submitted data on intervals ranging two to six months, according to NPR.
AstraZeneca also requested authorization for an antibody treatment known as AZD7442, which would be the first long-acting antibody treatment to receive a COVID-19 emergency use authorization. If authorized, the drug would likely be for exclusive use for people with compromised immune systems that do not get sufficient protection from the vaccine, AP reports.
The FDA authorized additional over-the-counter home tests in order to increase access to rapid antigen testing, according to an FDA release. The manufacturer, ACON Laboratories, plans to produce more than 100 million of the brand name Flowflex tests per month.