COVID-19 claims 900,000 US lives: Omicron may live longer
The U.S. has surpassed 900,000 COVID-19 deaths, as health officials urge for more people to get vaccinations and boosters.
STAFF VIDEO, USA TODAY
Less than two hours before a hearing Friday asking the Ontario Superior Court chief judge to order an end to the weeklong protest on a bridge at the U.S.-Canada border, demonstrators began moving trucks to open a single lane.
In a sign of good faith, the convoy, which is protesting COVID-19 restrictions and mandates, opened the lane after officials in the Canadian city of Windsor said they hoped to resolve the standoff peacefully but had police reinforcements ready if necessary.
However, Ontario Premier Doug Ford on Friday declared a state of emergency over the blockade at the border and another in Ottawa. Protesters have also closed border crossings at Coutts, Alberta, opposite Montana and at Emerson, Manitoba, across from North Dakota.
Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens said Thursday the city government had filed for an injunction with the Superior Court as U.S. and Canadian officials discuss how to end the blockade on the Ambassador Bridge.
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg both spoke with their Canadian counterparts Thursday, the White House said, and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reiterated her concerns about protest Friday morning, telling WXYZ-TV that «we’ve been burning up the phone lines» talking to federal and Canadian officials.
Looming is the threat of a similar protest reaching the Super Bowl this weekend in Los Angeles and, later, President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address next month in Washington, according to an internal Homeland Security memo issued to local and state law enforcement.
The convoy formed in Ottawa late last month to protest vaccine-related border mandates. Throughout the week, the group has been blocking the way off the bridge and are walking around the area, waving Canadian – and American – flags and interacting with police over barricades.
The Anderson Economic Group in Lansing calculated an initial estimate for lost direct wages in the Michigan auto industry at more than $51 million as a result of the protest beginning Monday.
Also in the news:
► New York City is expected to fire some 3,000 unvaccinated workers Friday, less than 1% of the city’s workforce, the New York Times reported.
► Expectant mothers who contract the coronavirus are at risk of stillborn deliveries because COVID-19 can lead to placental failure, according to a new study that supports the CDC’s conclusion that the virus enhances the chances of adverse perinatal outcomes.
► Some local fans are getting to watch the Beijing Games in person, though it’s not clear exactly how they were selected for a visit inside the tightly controlled Olympic bubble.
► French President Emmanuel Macron refused to take a Russian COVID-19 test when meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin over fears the country would take his DNA, Reuters reported.
📈Today’s numbers: The U.S. has recorded more than 77 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 915,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals: More than 405 million cases and over 5.7 million deaths. More than 213 million Americans – 64.3% – are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
📘 What we’re reading: USA TODAY asked a dozen public health and infectious disease experts whether it makes sense for people to continue to wear masks and under what conditions. The answer, they say, depends on how much someone wants to avoid infection, the rate of COVID-19 where they live and who else is around them.
Keep refreshing this page for the latest news. Want more? Sign up for USA TODAY’s free Coronavirus Watch newsletter to receive updates directly to your inbox and join our Facebook group.
Pfizer and BioNTech pushed the pause button Friday on the process of authorizing its COVID-19 vaccine for the youngest children.
The companies said in a press release that they want to wait until data becomes available on a third vaccine dose for children under 5, likely in early April.
They had originally said such data would become available in late March or early April and they would ask for vaccine authorization then. But under pressure from the Food and Drug Administration, the companies submitted their data and requested authorization for the first two doses, saying they could add a third in the future.
An FDA advisory committee was planned for Tuesday to consider the request, but has been canceled. No new date has been set.
Early results from the trial suggested that the vaccine was effective in the youngest children, but not in those ages 2 to 4, and the companies had said late last year that they expected a third dose of the 3-microgram vaccine would be needed to provide sufficient effectiveness to justify FDA authorization.
– Karen Weintraub, USA TODAY
A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study found that the effectives of booster shots wanes after four months but protection against hospitalization and severe disease still remains strong.
The study, released Friday, includes data from the latest omicron surge of the virus and provides an early but limited look at booster shots’ performance over time.
Boosters provided better protection against visits to the ER and hospitalization than only two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, the study found. But the effectiveness against hospitalization in people who had received their booster two months earlier was 91% compared to 78% for those who had received it four months earlier. Effectiveness against an outpatient visit was 87% at two months and 66% at four months, the study found.
The study’s population of people who had been boosted for at least four months was fewer than 200 patients, and it’s possible those people had underlying conditions that made them more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19.
A new study released by Moderna found that its vaccine was 93.2% effective in reducing symptomatic coronavirus infections.
The research, released Thursday, studied over 800 volunteers who caught COVID-19. Some trial participants received Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine, while others received a placebo.
Researchers found that volunteers who received the placebo had 100 times as much virus in their bodies compared to those inoculated with Moderna’s COVID vaccine.
Those who received the placebo were also much more contagious than those who received the real vaccine: while the vaccinated shed the coronavirus and remained contagious for a median of four days after infection, participants with the placebo were shedding virus for seven days.
The study took place between July 2020 and May 2021, before the delta and omicron variants infected residents of all 50 states within the U.S.
Nationally, cases and hospitalizations from COVID-19 have dropped markedly after peaking earlier this year amid the spread of the highly transmissible omicron variant, and the vast majority of Americans are protected against the virus by effective vaccines and boosters.
Contributing: Josh Meyer, USA TODAY; Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press; The Associated Press