COVID-19 cases are rising quickly across the U.S. and hospitalizations are not far behind.
The rise in cases is caused by a new, rapidly spreading dominant variant, called JN.1, which currently represents more than 60% of cases. In an interview with PBS Newshour, infectious disease epidemiologist Jessica Malaty Rivera explained that the rise in cases is not unusual for an endemic virus that frequently mutates.
In the same way that we see flu kind of continued to reemerge in our community every year, we’ll probably have to be dealing with COVID outbreaks a couple times a year, maybe three, maybe four times a year. But the hope is that between our previous infections and vaccination, we will become better at preventing those serious illnesses and deaths.
But in this surge, many are forgoing the tools available to combat the severity of COVID-19 symptoms. According to the New York Times, a study of high risk people with COVID found that only 15% of eligible patients took Paxlovid when they contracted the virus. Researchers believe that the reason is both that doctors are hesitant to prescribe it due to concerns with mixing medications and patients are concerned about the drug’s metallic aftertaste.
Florida’s Surgeon General Joseph A. Ladapo called for a halt in the distribution of mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccines last Friday. The Washington Post reports that Ladapo contends the vaccine could contaminate patient DNA. The move was likely related to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s campaign for president and polling that demonstrates Republicans remain skeptical of the COVID-19 vaccine.
To assuage any fears of DNA contamination, Scientific American published an explainer cutting down faulty assertions made by the Florida Surgeon General.
In order to enter human cell nuclei, any such residual viral DNA would first have to enter the cell’s main compartment, or cytoplasm, which normally keeps foreign DNA out. Next it would have to cross the nuclear membrane; this would be impossible without an access signal, which these fragments don’t have. The residual DNA would also have to integrate into the nuclear DNA, which would require DNA-cutting enzymes that aren’t present in the mRNA vaccine. The chances that mRNA vaccination would in any way affect your DNA “are zero.”
Over the weekend, House lawmakers announced a government funding deal that included an agreement to claw back $6.1 billion in COVID-19 relief funds. STAT News reports that the claw backs will come from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, but others will come from broadband grants supplied by the relief bills.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that hospital admissions are up 20% in the past week and there was a 12.5% uptick in COVID-19 related deaths.