Here are the most recent COVID-19 headlines and helpful tidbits. As always, I’m happy to answer questions, accommodate requests, and take suggestions as they arise. This update will not publish on 12/24, 12/28, or 12/31. Please take a look at the newest additions to the Helpful Articles/Media section. If you ever find you’ve stopped receiving these updates, you can re-subscribe here. To access the most recent archives, click here.
- The FDA has authorized the first at-home COVID-19 test that doesn’t require a prescription and provides results within 20 minutes. The Ellume COVID-19 Home Test is an NIH-funded antigen test that detects fragments of proteins from the SARS-CoV-2 virus on a nasal swab and then reports results to your phone. The company says it will deliver 20 million at-home tests, which are manufactured in Australia, to the U.S. in the first half of 2021.
- The FDA has also granted EUA to Abbott for at-home use of its BinaxNOW rapid test, which it says can deliver “results in minutes.” The test will cost about $25 – the lowest available price for at-home testing – and will become more widely available in 2021, Abbott said. Thirty million tests should be available in the first quarter of 2021 and another 90 million in the second quarter.
- Following today’s positive advisory committee meeting outcome regarding the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, the FDA has informed the sponsor that it will rapidly work toward finalization and issuance of an EUA. The agency has also notified the CDC and OWS, so they can execute their plans for timely vaccine distribution.
- HHS and CDC said they will award $140 million for COVID-19 vaccine preparedness and almost $87 million for tracking and testing to 64 jurisdictions, including all 50 states and U.S. territories.
- HRSA announced it has completed review of Phase 3 applications from the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) program and will distribute $24.5 billion to over 70,000 providers. Up from the $20 billion originally planned, the addition of another $4.5 billion in funding is being used to help with each applicant’s reported lost revenues and net change in expenses caused by the coronavirus pandemic in the first half of 2020.
- The latest NIH Director’s Blog talks about the new HHS/NIH/OWS website called Combat COVID.
- The most recent COVID-19 Science Update from the CDC is here.
- The CDC has published and updated a significant number of COVID-19 and vaccine materials and resources on their dashboard. Please continue to check these for information on things like recommended quarantine periods and return-to-work guidance. To highlight a few of the recent updates:
- As of today, 304 tests and sample collection devices are authorized by FDA under EUAs; these include 232 molecular tests and sample collection devices, 62 antibody tests, and 10 antigen tests.
- Vice President Pence led a discussion with the chief executives and senior leaders of approximately 50 states, territories, and the White House Coronavirus Task Force to discuss local, state, and federal COVID-19 response and recovery efforts including the continued collaboration on vaccine distribution and administration planning and execution. View a readout here.
- The ACL and CMS host a monthly webinar series that invites subject matter experts and practitioners from across the home-and-community-based services (HCBS) spectrum to share insights and best practices to develop high quality HCBS services and programs. Next month’s webinar will be, “Reducing Food Insecurity and Nutrition-Related Chronic Diseases During COVID Among Medicaid HCBS Beneficiaries.”
- Reps. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Mike Rogers (R-AK), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), and Joe Wilson (R-SC), and Interior Sec. David Bernhardt have all tested positive for COVID-19.
- Vice President Pence and Second Lady Karen Pence will publicly receive the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday.
- The question of supplemental COVID-19 funding has shifted from an “if” to a “when”. The few remaining sticking points are expected to be ironed out in the next few days. While a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers released text of two proposals on Monday, leadership has continued to negotiate adjust the package. Attached here is the text for the $748 billion proposal that includes another round of Paycheck Protection Program assistance for small businesses, an unemployment benefit, and more money for schools, vaccine distribution and other widely agreed-upon items. Attached here is a section-by-section summary of the $748 billion proposal. Attached here is the text for the $160 billion proposal that ties together funding for state and local governments and protections for businesses from coronavirus-related lawsuits. For more detail on the legislative landscape, please refer to Sierra Fuller’s COVID-19 Legislative Update.
Updates from the States
- Out of the cases under investigation detected by U.S. surveillance, there are 16,756,581 total cases and 306,427 deaths. The CDC data closes out the day before reporting. Most sources are now reporting that the U.S. has passed 17 million cases.
- Wednesday was the deadliest day of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. to date, with over 3,360 fatalities reported across the country. The U.S. also set a single-day record for newly reported cases, tallying more than 245,000. Three times as many people in the UU.S. are dying each day now than three months ago, and the number of new cases is six times what it was then.
- Hospitals and ICUs across the country are under major strain. There are currently 113,069 people hospitalized with COVID-19 across the country, according to the COVID Tracking Project, marking the 11th consecutive day that the nation has hit a record high of current hospitalizations. Roughly 23 percent of all hospital inpatients have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
- In New York City, public hospitals have canceled elective surgeries in response to a surge in COVID-19 cases. In Boston, pediatric wards are being consolidated to fit all the adults battling the coronavirus. And in Philadelphia, hospitals are once again barring family visitors due to transmission worries.
- California reported 53,711 new coronavirus infections Wednesday, a roughly 50 percent jump from the state’s recent averages. Patients are overwhelming hospitals and ICU wards across the state, particularly in the hard-hit San Joaquin Valley. The state has bought 5,000 extra body bags and set up 60 refrigerated storage units around the state to help local coroners accommodate bodies that won’t fit in morgues.
- Nurses in some hard-hit Southern California communities are planning a strike in response to alleged conditions including: “aggressive rationing” of PPE and dirty PPE, insufficient testing for staff and patients, full shifts without a break, and not enough housekeepers, leading to poor sanitation.
- California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) launched “Vaccinate All 58,” the state’s campaign to distribute COVID-19 vaccines equitably across California’s 58 counties.
- Two trays of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines that were sent to Alabama were not released to hospitals due to deviations in the recommended temperature during shipment, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health.
- Several major cities, including New York, Baltimore, and Hartford, temporarily shut down COVID-19 testing sites due to major snowfall and heavy winds. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) said the storm delayed the delivery of vaccine doses to some hospitals by several hours.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced updated COVID-19 micro-cluster focus zones in the state. Niagara County’s Yellow Precautionary Zone will be expanded. New Yellow Precautionary Zones will be added for Batavia, Genesee County, and for Rome and Utica, Oneida County.
- Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) announced he would require Marylanders to limit travel to essential purposes only over the holidays. The state’s department of health also issued a new advisory that lowers the state’s limits on social gatherings from 25 to 10 people.
- Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D) on Wednesday eased several COVID-19 restrictions across the state following a four-week “pause.” Outdoor social gatherings with a maximum of 15 people between three households and indoor gatherings with a maximum of 10 people between two households are now permitted; gyms and fitness centers can open at 25 percent capacity; youth and adult sports will resume on Jan. 4; and elementary schools will be permitted to reopen on Jan. 18. Indoor dining is still banned, though outdoor dining may resume at 50 percent capacity. Bars, restaurants, and breweries will continue to be closed for indoor dining through Jan. 11.
- Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) has announced several adjustments to the state’s emergency health disaster proclamation. Bars and restaurants can resume their normal hours of operation; the 15-person limitation for indoor gatherings and the 30-person limitation for outdoor gatherings will be lifted, but social distancing will still be required; and spectator limitations at high school, youth and adult sports events will be slightly expanded to allow a member of a participant’s household to attend. The state’s limited mask mandate will remain in place.
- Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) amended an EO that requires individuals to wear a mask. The amendment clarifies that individuals who are completely alone in a room do not need to wear a mask.
- Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) on Thursday announced changes to Utah’s school quarantine guidelines and an end to the 10 PM curfew for selling alcohol at bars and restaurants.
- New Mexico’s emergency public health order was amended to accommodate slightly increased capacity inside essential retail spaces, such as grocery stores and certain other large “big box” retailers.
- Rhode Island’s Department of Education announced a staggered return of students in January 2021.
- Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D), Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D), Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R), Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear (D), Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R), Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D), and Gov. Walz joined together in a social media video to encourage everyone across the region to remain safe heading into the holiday season.
- State health officials in Oregon said they had been told that they were scheduled to get only 25,350 doses next week — significantly fewer than the 40,950 the state received this week. Multiple other states reported similar issues.
- Useful state data:
- Use Johns Hopkins University’s COVID-19 U.S. map as a resource for media, policymakers, and communities to view a collection of critical public health data in one online destination and better understand and track the COVID-19 pandemic in populations both large and small across the country. NPR’s map can also be used to monitor you state’s heat wave.
- NASHP has developed a COVID-19 State Action Center which serves as a state-level policy dashboard. Governing is also keeping a running tally of coronavirus news and impacts at the intersection of the health and economic crises in the states and localities.
- This site from the Kaiser Family Foundation provides state-level information on cases/deaths, social distancing measures, health policy actions, and more.
- This series of maps shows how states are responding to COVID-19.
Science, Lifestyle, and Economy
- A new MMWR release outlines the estimated resource costs for the successful implementation of CDC’s recommended COVID-19 mitigation strategies in Pre-Kindergarten through Grade 12 in public schools.
- Based on early data, COVID-19 is now likely the leading cause of death in the U.S., ahead of heart disease and cancer, according to a research letter in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
- A Johns Hopkins University medical expert estimates that between 53,000 and 54,000 U.S. hospital workers could become infected with COVID-19 during the course of the pandemic. His team also projects the number of U.S. hospital worker deaths for the same time period to be approximately 1,600.
- Nearly 50 Georgia kids may have been exposed to COVID-19 after posing for a photo op with Santa at an annual Christmas parade.
- Like the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, New York City Marathon, and other iconic events in 2020, New Year’s Eve in Times Square will take place this year without the crowd.
- Twitter said that starting next week, the company will “prioritize the removal of the most harmful misleading information” and begin to label Tweets that contain potentially misleading information about COVID-19 vaccines.
- The start of the Australian Open will be delayed by three weeks due to the pandemic. The first Grand Slam tournament of the year, the Open usually takes place in the last two weeks of January. Now, it will start on Feb. 8, 2021.
- The NFL plans to invite health care workers who have received the coronavirus vaccine to February’s Super Bowl as guests of the league.
- The WHO keeps a running list of COVID-19 vaccine candidates, which you can view here. STAT News also has a resource tracking COVID-19 drugs and vaccines. The New York Times has a very helpful vaccine tracker as well, which you can view here. This AVAC pipeline tracker is great, too.
- The Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security has an extensive list of commercial and lab-developed tests.
- Continue to look at the NIH Office of Portfolio Analysis’s (OPA) expert-curated portfolio of COVID-19 publications and preprints. The portfolio includes peer-reviewed articles from PubMed and preprints from medRxiv, bioRxiv, ChemRxiv, and arXiv. It is updated daily with the latest available data and enables users to explore and analyze the rapidly growing set of advances in COVID-19 research.
- Here is the most recent edition of the WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Update and here is the most recent edition of the WHO’s Weekly Operational Update.
- French President Emmanuel Macron has tested positive for the coronavirus. Several E.U. leaders, including Portuguese prime minister António Costa, Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez, and European Council president Charles Michel, will self-quarantine after meeting with Macron on Monday.
- The WHO said Thursday that an international team of scientists will visit China next month to investigate the origins of the coronavirus pandemic, about a year after it emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
- The global scheme to deliver vaccines to poorer countries, called Covax, faces a “very high” risk of failure, potentially leaving billions of people with no access to vaccines until as late as 2024, according to internal documents.
- Once approved, the E.U.’s vaccine rollout will begin on Dec. 27. The rollout will depend on authorization by the E.U.’s drug regulatory authority, the European Medicines Agency, which is set to deliberate approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Monday. The bloc’s 27 member states have delegated the entire vaccine acquisition, authorization, and distribution process to the European Commission, its executive branch.
- Saudi Arabia began administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Thursday in an initial stage of vaccinations that will include people who are older than 65, obese, or immunodeficient, according to the state news agency.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin said his government was considering giving each member of the public just one dose of its main coronavirus vaccine, instead of two, in order to get the vaccine to more people quickly.
- China has purchased 100 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, its first order of a foreign-made COVID-19 vaccine.
- Indonesian President Joko Widodo announced Wednesday that he will be the first in the country to be immunized against COVID-19 and that the vaccine, once approved, will be available at no cost to all citizens. Earlier this month, Indonesia received 1.2 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by Chinese pharmaceutical company Sinovac Biotech. The vaccine, called CoronaVac, is still awaiting approval from Indonesia’s food and drug agency.
- South Korea is struggling to contain its biggest wave of COVID-19 cases since the start of the pandemic. The country reported more than 1,000 new cases for the second straight day on Thursday and saw its largest daily death toll, with 22 deaths.
- South Africa has entered sweeping new COVID-19 restrictions All gatherings are limited to a maximum of 100 people for indoor events and 250 people for outdoor events; the total number of people in a venue must not exceed 50 percent capacity; a national curfew from 11 PM to 4 AM has been extended; and bars and restaurants across the country must close by 10 PM.
- Poland will enter a national lockdown on Dec. 28. All shopping centers, hotels, and ski resorts will be shut, there will be a curfew on New Year’s Eve, and anyone entering the country from abroad will have to quarantine for 10 days.
- Portugal’s prime minister António Costa said the country will enter an overnight curfew from 11 PM to 5 AM on New Year’s Eve that will remain in effect from Jan. 1 to Jan. 3.
- Tokyo raised its alert for medical preparedness to the highest level on Thursday for the first time, as hospital beds across Japan’s capital fill up with COVID-19 patients.
- Northern Ireland will enter a six-week lockdown on Dec. 26 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases. Ambulances had to queue outside of all Northern Ireland’s 11 hospitals on Wednesday because emergency departments were at full capacity.
- A new case of community transmission has been confirmed in Sydney, Australia, breaking a 12-day streak of no new reported COVID-19 infections.
- Uruguay will close its borders for three weeks beginning later this month due to a COVID-19 surge that has now reached all of its 19 provinces. The country will be closed to all noncommercial traffic from Dec. 21 to Jan. 10.
- China’s aviation authority announced Wednesday it will suspend inbound international flight routes if five or more people on board test positive for COVID-19 upon arrival. An airline will be banned from operating that flight route for up to two weeks if five or more passengers are found to be infected with the virus after landing in China. The suspension period extends to four weeks if 10 or more passengers test positive.
- Global Cases: 72,851,747 Total Deaths: 1,643,339