After more than two years of diligently following COVID-19 safety measures, the pandemic hit close to home over the weekend for Dr. Bob Wachter, UCSF’s chair of medicine. Despite millions of people suffering from long COVID, treatments for the debilitating syndrome are still in relatively short supply.
Pandemic gets tougher to track as COVID testing plunges
Testing for COVID-19 has plummeted across the globe, making it much tougher for scientists to track the course of the pandemic and spot new, worrisome viral mutants as they emerge and spread, the Associated Press reports. Experts say testing has dropped by 70 to 90% worldwide from the first to the second quarter of this year — the opposite of what they say should be happening with new omicron variants on the rise in places such as the United States and South Africa. “We’re not testing anywhere near where we might need to,” said Dr. Krishna Udayakumar, who directs the Duke Global Health Innovation Center at Duke University. “We need the ability to ramp up testing as we’re seeing the emergence of new waves or surges to track what’s happening” and respond.
COVID-19 cases soar at Stanford
Stanford University has the highest number of COVID cases since its spring quarter began in March, the Stanford Daily is reporting, with a one-week increase of 56% among students and 9% among employees. The spike follows several gatherings, including “Admit Weekend” April 29, when more than 2,600 admitted students and guests converged onto campus. Of those infected, 328 students are in isolation. Students’ rate of positive tests rose from 6% to just over 9% in one week. California’s overall rate is 3.9%. Since June 2020, 3,581 students and 2,114 employees have tested positive for the coronavirus through the university’s testing system, the newspaper reported.
California nears 90,000 COVID deaths, the most of any state
The cumulative COVID-19 death toll in California hit 89,957 on Tuesday, according to public health data — the most pandemic-related fatalities recorded by any state. That number increased by 106 since Friday, with Caifornia, the nation’s most populous state, now averaging about 12 virus deaths daily.
Another prominent pandemic expert tests positive
Dr. Peter Hotez, a dean at Baylor College of Medicine and nationally-recognized pandemic expert, revealed he has tested positive for the coronavirus amid the rise in sublineages of the omicron variant. In a brief statement posted to his Twitter account, Hotez said Monday he was isolated at home working remotely. “Looks like I’ve tested positive for COVID, moderate symptoms of fatigue, headache, sore throat, isolating at home doing zoom meetings,” he tweeted. “I’m grateful to have been vaccinated/boosted, which certainly prevented more severe illness. Just started Paxlovid. Transmission up, be careful.
COVID funding in limbo as Congress approves additional $40 billion military aid for Ukraine
As Congress tailored a $40 billion aid package for Ukraine, Republicans balked at the coronavirus aid package President Biden and Democrats wanted to include include alongside it, according to media accounts. The GOP said they would not approve new money to fight the pandemic without a vote on Biden’s decision to end a Trump-era border policy known as Title 42. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters he did not want COVID-19 aid to be part of a “clean” Ukraine bill. Biden pushed for quick movement on COVID-19 funding. “Without timely COVID funding, more Americans will die needlessly,” he said. “We will lose our place in line for America to order new COVID treatments and vaccines for the fall, including next-generation vaccines under development, and be unable to maintain our supply of COVID tests.”
Do masks work against COVID in a classroom where not all kids are wearing them?
The Chronicle’s Pandemic Problems advice column tackles a question from a reader who asked about masking in schools: “How protective are masks on kids in a room with unmasked kids?” With kids apparently catching colds in school, is there any way a mask, even a high-quality one, “would actually fend off catching COVID from a child in the same classroom all day?”
San Jose brings back mask mandate for city workers
San Jose city employees must wear masks again temporarily as coronavirus cases swell in the region, a spokesperson confirmed Monday. “The mask mandate was reinstated out of an abundance of caution due to the recent data from the County of Santa Clara showing an increase in positive COVID-19 cases,” Demetria Machado, the city’s deputy public information officer said. The guidance is in place until May 20 but could be extended depending on case rates within the county and organization, he said. Santa Clara County is averaging about 32 new daily cases per 100,000 residents, compared to 18 per 100,000 for California as a whole.
BA.2 accounts for nearly 62% of U.S. cases with BA.2.12.1 gaining fast
The BA.2 subvariant of the coronavirus is now dominant in the U.S., making up 62% of new cases reported last week. Its sublineage BA.2.12.1 accounted for 36.5% of cases sequenced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The original BA.1.1 omicron strain that drove the winter surge accounted for just 1.1% of the new COVID-19 infections.
State controller’s role in bid for state mask contract leads lawmakers to call for hearing
Some California lawmakers are calling for a new hearing into state Controller Betty Yee’s behind-the-scenes advice to a politically-connected company seeking a $600-million no-bid government contract to provide COVID-19 masks, the Los Angeles Times reports. The contract with Blue Flame Medical was scuttled, but Yee’s role went undisclosed for two years despite investigations into the deal. Documents from a civil lawsuit reviewed by the Times detail how Yee sought inroads for Blue Flame with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s adminstration and then worked to expedite the agreement.
Children’s COVID cases top 60,000 again
Reported COVID-19 cases among children numbered 62,467 in the U.S. last week, continuing a climb that started over a month ago. Children represented nearly 18% of cases being reported nationally, according to data published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association. Pediatric COVID cases dropped to their lowest point this year in the first week of April, with 25,915 cases reported, but have more than doubled since then with the rapid spread of the BA.2 omicron subvariant.
UCSF’s Wachter’s tale of wife’s infection shows complexity of living with COVID
Dr. Bob Wachter, the UCSF chief of medicine and a prolific dispenser of information and advice throughout the pandemic, now is even more up close and personal with COVID-19. His wife, Katie Hafner, tested positive after the couple took a trip to Palm Springs following her participation in a conference. They are double boosted, Wachter tweeted, and followed safety precautions like masking most of the time. She tested before and after the outbound flight, and Wachter tweeted a photo of her “hermetically sealed” in the plane. Among the carefully thought-out decisions they made after her positive test: they ditched their planned flight home and instead drove the nine-hour trip.
Millions of people suffer from long COVID but steps toward treatment are embryonic
The terrifying, conflicting paths that long COVID takes in the bodies of its millions of sufferers reveal the still-murky nature of the syndrome. It’s mystified doctors and left drug companies unsure about where to direct their treatment investments. Read how long COVID has bewitched and confounded patients, health experts and drugmakers alike.
Biden to speak at global COVID summit
President Biden will address the pandemic at a global COVID-19 summit organized by the White House on Thursday, two senior administration officials told CNN. The president will restate his request for wealthy countries to share their resources with poorer countries, according to the report, as he struggles to secure additional funding from Congress to bolster the supply of vaccines, tests and treatments in the U.S.
U.S. could see 100 million coronavirus infections starting in the fall, Biden administration warns
Another COVID-19 wave could crash over the U.S. starting this fall driven by new coronavirus sub-variants, potentially bringing another 100 million new infections with it, the Washington Post reported, citing an unnamed Biden administration official. The grim projection was part of a broader push by the White House to secure billions in new funding for vaccines, tests and other tools to combat the virus.