COVID-19 Update: Texas Lifts Mask Mandate; CDC Director Warns Against Pandemic “Fatigue”, and more

As of Wednesday, March 3, 2021, here are the latest COVID-19 numbers around the world, according to statistics aggregator, Worldometer. 

  • World Cases: Over 115.4 million.
  • World Deaths: 2,563,899 deaths.

Countries Outside of the US with Most Infections:

  • India: 11,152,127 confirmed cases; 157,447 deaths.
  • Brazil: 10,647,845 confirmed cases; 257,562 deaths.
  • Russia: 4,278,750 confirmed cases; 87,348 deaths.
  • UK: 4,188,400 confirmed cases; 123,296 deaths.
  • France: 3,783,528 confirmed cases; 87,220 deaths.

COVAX to Deliver More than 230 Million Vaccine Doses

The COVAX program will deliver 237 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to about 142 countries by the end of May, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced today. “When the Covid-19 pandemic erupted last year, we knew that vaccines would be a vital tool in bringing it under control. But we also knew from our experience with HIV, the H1N1 pandemic and other diseases that market forces alone would not deliver the equitable distribution of vaccines,” Tedros said.

Brazilian Variant is May Be 2.2 More Transmissible

A COVID-19 variant first reported in Brazil, known as P.1., might be 2.2 times more transmissible according to a modeling by researchers in Brazil and UK. Our results consistently suggest altered epidemiological characteristics of P1,” said Dr. Nuno Faria, reader in viral evolution at the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis at Imperial College London.

National News

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

  • US Cases: Over 29.3 million.
  • US Deaths: 529,371 deaths.
  • California: 3,563,618 confirmed cases; 52,782 deaths.
  • Texas: 2,657,614 confirmed cases; 44,072 deaths.
  • Florida: 1,918,100 confirmed cases; 31,142 deaths.
  • New York: 1,693,580 confirmed cases; 48,042 deaths.
  • Illinois: 1,189,416 confirmed cases; 22,803 deaths.

Texas Lifts Mask Mandate

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lifted the mask mandate in Texas, despite warnings from health officials not to ease COVID-19 safety protocols. Gov. Abbott also announced that businesses of any type will be allowed to open at 100% capacity starting March 10. “Too many Texans have been sidelined from employment opportunities. Too many small business owners have struggled to pay their bills. This must end. It is now time to open Texas 100%.”

US Conference of Catholic Bishops Tells Catholics to Avoid J&J Vaccine

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops – which is the official group representing the Catholic Church in the US – is urging Catholics to avoid taking Johnson & Johnson’s one-dose vaccine, saying the vaccine “raises questions about the moral permissibility”, per a Forbes report. The group says the J&J vaccine should be avoided since it was “developed, tested and is produced with abortion-derived cell lines.”

In response, J&J issued a statement to Forbes saying “there is no fetal tissue” in its vaccine, adding the company used an “engineered cell-line system that enables the rapid production of new viral vaccines to combat many of the most dangerous infectious diseases,” though it did not offer further specifics on its process.

CDC Director Warns Americans About Pandemic “Fatigue”

With the distribution of now three approved vaccines for COVID-19, and the development of others, the US is about to benefit from “historic scientific success”, but Americans must not give into pandemic “fatigue,” warnes Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC. “We are just on the verge of capitalizing on the culmination of a historic scientific success, the ability to vaccinate the country in just a matter of three or four more months. How this plays out is up to us,” Dr. Walensky said.

J&J Vaccine for Children Under 18 May Be Available by September

Johnson & Johnson is likely to produce a COVID-19 for children under the age of 18 by September, said its CEO Alex Gorsky. “I think it’s likely to occur right in that timeline. The good news is, is that the FDA is already working with companies to establish the clear regulatory guidelines, so that the appropriate data can be collected,” Gorsky told David Ignatius during a Washington Post Live event on Wednesday. Gorsky added that that this particular vaccine has been used in lower age groups previously. “The AdVac 26 was used extensively among broad age groups, young and old in Africa when we were developing this for other conditions such as Ebola and HIV. So it gives us reasons to be optimistic regarding the safety profile in that in that patient population, but we still have to do the clinical work.”

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

  • US Cases: Over 29.2 million.
  • US Deaths: 525,799 deaths.
  • California: 3,555,010 confirmed cases; 52,213 deaths.
  • Texas: 2,657,614 confirmed cases; 44,072 deaths.
  • Florida: 1,909,221 confirmed cases; 30,583 deaths.
  • New York: 1,680,688 confirmed cases; 47,827 deaths.
  • Illinois: 1,186,696 confirmed cases; 22,735 deaths.

Merck to Work with J&J to Manufacturer Vaccine

President Joe Biden is expected to announce that competitors Merck and Johnson & Johnson will help manufacturer Merck’s COVID-19, according to administration officials who reported the news to CNN.

Almost 70% of Americans Want to Get a COVID-19 Vaccine

An Axios-Ipsos poll shows that nearly 70% of Americans want to receive the COVID-19 vaccine once its availability to them.

NYC Mayor Pushes to Expand Vaccine Eligibility

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is calling for New York state to expand vaccination eligibility to include sanitation workers, lifeguards, district attorneys, courtroom staff, board of elections staff, building inspectors and New York City Housing Authority frontline staff among others, according to a CNN report.

More Americans Feel Hopeful About the Pandemic

More Americans feel better about the pandemic now compared to last year, according to new poll results from Axios-Ipsos. The poll found that 48% of Americans said that hopeful best describes their mood – which more than doubles the 20% who felt that way over the past year.

Monday, March 1, 2021

J&J Vaccine Approved

On Saturday, the US FDA officially issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the third vaccine to be approved for the prevention of COVID-19. “The authorization of this vaccine expands the availability of vaccines, the best medical prevention method for COVID-19, to help us in the fight against this pandemic, which has claimed over half a million lives in the United States,” said Acting FDA Commissioner Janet Woodcock, M.D. “The FDA, through our open and transparent scientific review process, has now authorized three COVID-19 vaccines with the urgency called for during this pandemic, using the agency’s rigorous standards for safety, effectiveness and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization.”

CDC Director Concerned About Virus’ Trajectory Shift

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said she is “deeply concerned” about the potential shift in COVID-19 cases. “Please hear me clearly. At this level of cases with variants spreading, we stand to completely lose the hard earned ground we have gained,” Walensky said during a White House COVID-19 Response team briefing on Monday. “Please stay strong in your conviction,” Walensky said. “Continue wearing your well-fitting mask and taking the other public health prevention actions that we know work.”

COVID-19: January/February 2021 Round-up