S.F. wastewater shows virus retreat is slowing, Wachter says

Pharmacies urge Biden to keep COVID emergency powers in place

The National Association of Chain Drug Stores is urging the White House to keep its COVID-19 declaration of emergency in place for at least another year, according to a letter sent last week by its president and CEO Steven C. Anderson. “It would be deeply harmful to our nation’s public health to hastily unravel the flexibilities that enable pharmacies to provide key services patients have come to expect and need,” he said, noting the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act.

Women more likely to overdose during COVID pandemic

Women were more likely than men to overdose during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., according to an analysis of private insurance claims by FAIR Health to be published Tuesday. Drug overdose deaths have increased nationwide since 2019, while access to substance use disorder treatment services has decreased, the report found. While a greater proportion of males suffer a substance use disorder diagnosis, females accounted for up to 61% of patients with an overdose diagnosis, compared to 40% in males. During the pandemic, the percentage of patients with an overdose diagnosis increased by 4.3%. From 2019 to 2021, 42 states saw an increase in the proportion of patients with opioid and opioid-like drug overdoses compared to the total number of patients using medical services by state, the report says.

Wachter says S.F.’s wastewater shows virus retreat slowing

While the official number of daily COVID-19 cases reported by San Francisco’s health department continues to fall, the virus levels in the city’s wastewater samples — which do not depend on individual testing — appear to have stopped declining. Dr. Bob Wachter, UCSF’s chief of medicine, noted the discrepancy on Monday and in a Twitter thread highlighted that the hospital’s asymptomatic test rate has also plateaued. He said the numbers remain “fairly low” for now and that he will continue to feel safe dining indoors, especially two weeks after getting the updated bivalent booster, but that “it’ll make me more apt to continue masking in crowded places (which is getting harder & more lonely) — since there’s more virus in (the) air than case numbers indicate.”

Pelosi extends remote voting in House until after midterms

Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Friday extended proxy voting in the House until Nov. 10, saying in a letter to lawmakers that “a public health emergency is in effect due to a novel coronavirus.” The move will allow members to continue to vote remotely until after the midterm elections. The proxy voting rule, which was enacted in March 2020, was set to expire Monday. Even though members of both political parties vote from home, several Republicans criticized Pelosi’s decision in relation to President Biden’s “the pandemic is over” comment. “The big guy said, ‘C’mon, man, pandemic is over,’” Kentucy Rep. Thomas Massie wrote on Twitter. “Nevertheless, Pelosi extends proxy voting due to ‘novel coronavirus’ until the week of the election.” Republicans have vowed to end proxy voting if they win the majority in November.

One-day strike by dozens at Sutter Santa Rosa Hospital

Dozens of hospital employees Sutter Santa Rosa – including lab scientists who process COVID tests, social workers, pharmacists and dieticians – hit the picket line Monday to protest a proposed labor contract they call “unworkable.” The hospital’s contract with the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, Local 20, expired more than a year ago. Workers say the proposal, which would freeze most wages and offer no retroactive pay, would make the short-handed hospital less competitive than it needs to be. The employees expect to return to work Tuesday, union officials said.

New York reports an uptick in cases

Following a steady decline in new coronavirus infections, New York reported 34,988 COVID-19 cases in the week ending Sunday — an 8% increase from 32,513 cases the prior week. Several counties outside of New York City saw double-digit increases in cases last week — some as high as 31% — according to data analyzed by the USA Today Network. The state ranked fourth among the states where coronavirus was spreading the fastest, data from Johns Hopkins University shows. A total of 17 states nationwide reported an increase in cases last week, which could be a bellwether for a fall surge as new COVID-19 infections in the U.S. have slowed their rate of decline.

Pfizer seeks clearance for updated children’s booster shots

On Monday, Pfizer asked the Food and Drug Administration to authorize its updated bivalent COVID-19 booster shots for children ages 5 to 11. The company has not yet published clinical trials for the vaccines but said in a statement that the human data is similar to its previous shot that targeted previous omicron subvariants. On Friday, Moderna submitted its emergency authorization request to the FDA for its new booster shots for children ages 6 to 12. The shots will most likely become available in early October.

Canada won’t require masks on planes, drops vaccine mandate

The Canadian government announced Monday it will no longer require people to wear masks on planes to guard against COVID-19, the Associated Press reports. Transport Canada said the existing rules for masks will come off Oct. 1. Government officials also confirmed Canada is dropping the vaccine requirement for people entering the country at the end of the month. Canada, like the United States, requires foreign nationals to be vaccinated when entering the country. No change in the mandate is expected in the U.S. in the near term. Unvaccinated foreign travelers who are allowed to enter Canada are currently subject to mandatory arrival tests and a 14-day quarantine.

U.S. manufacturers regain jobs lost during the pandemic 

The U.S. manufacturing sector has regained the jobs shed during the COVID-19 pandemic, and then some, the New York Times reported. 

Factories added a net gain of about 67,000 jobs above those lost during the pandemic, the Times said.

Pfizer CEO tests positive for COVID, again 

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tweeted that he tested positive for COVID-19 but was “feeling well & symptom free.”

Bourla said he had not yet received a dose of a bivalent booster, since he was following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to wait three months following his most recent bout with COVID, which was in mid-August.

“While we’ve made great progress, the virus is still with us,” Bourla tweeted.

I have tested positive for COVID. I’m feeling well & symptom free. I’ve not had the new bivalent booster yet, as I was following CDC guidelines to wait 3 months since my previous COVID case which was back in mid-August. While we’ve made great progress, the virus is still with us.

— Albert Bourla (@AlbertBourla) September 24, 2022

COVID is in a lull, again. Experts say it’s still a time of ‘trade-offs’

The long summer coronavirus surge is winding down, with case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths falling sharply.

But nearly three years after COVID emerged and quickly swept across the globe, it’s still premature to claim victory, health experts warn. Arguing whether the pandemic has ended is largely a matter of semantics, these experts say, and there’s little doubt that COVID remains a stubborn and wily threat — no matter how badly the public wants it to be gone. Read more about where the pandemic goes from here.