Four days after his initial comments following his positive COVID-19 test, Aaron Rodgers returned to “The Pat McAfee Show” on Tuesday.
In Colorado, where cases were up 30% in the past week, according to Johns Hopkins University data, Gov. Jared Polis declared the entire state to be at high risk of Covid-19 transmission or exposure and signed an executive order saying everybody over 18 was eligible for a booster dose of vaccine.
“We want to ensure that Coloradans have every tool they need to protect themselves from this deadly virus and to help reduce the stress on our hospitals and health care workers. Every Coloradan is now eligible to get the booster so they can protect themselves and their families,” Polis said in a statement.
Mokdad approves. “Science is telling us we need three doses to be immune,” he said. “We are losing our credibility as scientists unless you say it — we need three doses to be protected.”
The US Food
The coronavirus numbers don’t look so good this week. New Covid-19 diagnoses are up in about half of US states over the past week. Hospitalizations are up in 11 states, and deaths have risen in 17 states.
US coronavirus cases have plateaued in recent weeks, holding on to about half of the growth from this summer’s latest surge.
While new cases have fallen in some states, they’re rising in others, particularly some region’s cold-weather states.
Southern states that were a large driving force behind this summer’s surge now have some of the lowest case rates. Two months ago, Florida and Texas together accounted for nearly a quarter (22%) of all new cases. Now, those two large states account for just 6% of all cases.
Florida sliced new cases to a 10th of what they were two months ago and Texas to a fifth.
That should sound like good news. But with less dramatic decreases in other, less populous states — and slight increases in some others, particularly in the Northeast and Mountain regions — overall US numbers are holding steady on the whole.
It’s confusing, and the numbers may be sending a mixed message to people. They are not, however, sending a mixed message to epidemiologists, who do not foresee a good winter for the US or for the world.
Too many people remain unvaccinated, and too many continue to defy and even fight advice to wear masks when indoors with other people. This dangerous combination might mean more surges, even if not as high as in the recent past, and in areas beyond those currently seeing rising cases.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen over the next few weeks. But I have a feeling it’s not going to be pretty,” Michael Osterholm, who heads the center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN.
“Today is a really sad day,” epidemiologist Ali Mokdad, who has been tracking the coronavirus pandemic since the beginning at the University of Washington, told CNN. “Cases are going up. It was coming down. This is at a time when the United States has all the tools we need to prevent a surge, all the tools we need to save lives. We have the best vaccines, and we have plenty of them,” he said.
“And people are not willing to get them.”
“Florida has a large population of the elderly, who went and got vaccinated. And the young people simply got infected. So the virus ran out of people to infect,” he said.
But he said immunity on both groups is waning.
“There will be a lot of winter travel to Florida,” he said. “Infections will start all over again,” he predicted. “We are so interconnected.”
Diagnoses and hospitalizations are both headed upward in Michigan, with hospitalizations up 20% in the past week, according to state data.
“Metro Detroit once again is becoming a hotspot,” Dr. Nick Gilpin, director of infection prevention and epidemiology at Beaumont Health, a health system in southeast Michigan, told a news conference Thursday.
“I have a feeling we’ll be in this world for the next couple months because I don’t see much that can change this unless people start radically changing behavior. This could be a four or five month affair,” Gilpin added.
Like Mokdad, Gilpin blames the unvaccinated and a refusal to wear masks. It’s hitting hospitals and clinics hard, he said.
“I mean, it’s brutal. No one wants to see these Covid patients this late. But we’re masking up and trying to help people get better,” Gilpin said.
“That said, there’s probably no hospital in the state that isn’t dealing with staffing shortages. It’s difficult, especially as we look to a fourth surge that could last through the winter. This surge is shaping up more to be a marathon than a sprint.”
Millions still unvaccinated can fuel new surges
Researchers analyzed data from nearly 200 hospitals across the country, and concluded that COVID vaccines still offer better protection than a previous COVID infection. Specifically, the CDC report found that unvaccinated adults with previous COVID infection were 5.49 times more likely to be re-infected than fully vaccinated individuals with no previously documented infection.
Doctors say this study contains good information for vaccine holdouts, or people looking to gain immunity by simply getting sick with COVID-19. The latter, experts say, is especially risky, because it can lead to hospitalization or death.
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Marin County public health officer Dr. Matt Willis says people who are protected through the vaccine get sick less frequently, and are less likely to contract severe illness. Non-vaccinated people who have already been infected with COVID-19 should also understand that the amount and quality of those antibodies is hard to measure, he says.
Gaining immunity through the vaccine, meanwhile, has been proven to work through clinical trials, Dr. Willis notes.
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The results of the CDC’s study, published Friday, also indicate an even higher benefit for certain age groups or recipients of specific vaccines.
“In this study, the benefit of vaccination compared with infection without vaccination appeared to be higher for recipients of Moderna than Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is consistent with a recent study that found higher vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 hospitalizations for Moderna vaccine recipients than for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine recipients,” the study noted.
Vaccination benefits also “trended higher” for those over 65 than for vaccinated individuals between between 18 and 64 years of age, the CDC said. Re-infection odds were still higher, however, for unvaccinated individuals who had been previously infected, among both age groups.
The CDC said additional research is needed for further results regarding protection across different demographic groups, and protection in persons who were both infected and vaccinated.
Ah, winter ? a time where we find ourselves constantly asking if we’re sick or if it’s just a reaction to the weather and all that comes with it. And during the coronavirus pandemic, those average winter symptoms feel even more alarming.
“As we go into these winter months, symptoms may be due to different things and lines get blurrier,” said Stephanie Christenson, a pulmonologist and assistant professor in the division of pulmonary, critical care, allergy and sleep medicine at the University of San Francisco. “But we’re also seeing surges in COVID-19 all over the country, so there’s a greater chance of getting infected. Being as diligent as possible is so incredibly important.”
To clear up confusion about whether your symptoms should raise a red flag for COVID-19, we asked experts to share other potential causes of coronavirus-like symptoms. Here’s what to look out for and advice on how to stay safe this winter.
Breathing cold, dry air
Dry air and freezing temperatures can dry out your airway — which includes the nasal passage and part of the throat — and cause discomfort, producing a cough, runny nose or nasal congestion. Wintry air can also compromise the moist protective lining in your airway, added David Serota, an infectious disease physician in Miami.
“When these areas dry out, viruses and bacteria are better able to latch on and develop an infection,” Serota said.
Christenson said to monitor a cough, runny nose, sore throat or nasal congestion that may occur after breathing cold air outdoors. If it is solely due to the cold air, these symptoms should resolve after a day or two.
Indoor and outdoor allergens
As we stay indoors more to escape the cold, we face extended exposure to allergens such as dust mites, mold, pet dander and more, said Gerald Lee, an allergist and immunologist in Atlanta.
Dust mites are commonly found in beds or circulating through your home’s heating and cooling system. Humid or damp areas like trash cans, kitchens or bathrooms can harbor mold, as can a fresh Christmas tree and leaves or soil in your garden. Some places have trees that pollinate in the winter months, so those allergic to pollen can continue to experience symptoms, Lee said.
The arrival of coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna has offered a much-needed dose of optimism in an otherwise grueling pandemic. But many people have questions after reports of some instances of allergic reactions to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was granted emergency authorization use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this month.
Some people who were administered the vaccine reportedly experienced anaphylaxis or a less severe allergic reaction, which was not seen in the vaccine trials.
The FDA is investigating the cases of allergic reactions, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that anyone who had a severe reaction (which is defined as needing the medication epinephrine or treatment in a hospital) should not get the second dose of the vaccine.
So, does this mean we be super concerned? Here’s everything you need to know right now about the vaccine and any allergic reactions that may come up:
The percentage of people who have actually experienced an allergic reaction to the Pfizer vaccine is low.
The FDA is looking into about five cases of allergic reactions reported in people who received the first dose of Pfizer’s COVID vaccine. The cases occurred in several parts of the country.
This is concerning, yes. However, when you compare the number of these cases to the total number of people vaccinated so far ? roughly at least 128,000, or even more when you count the people who participated in the trials ? the percentage of people experiencing this issue is pretty small.
“With large numbers of people being vaccinated, reports of allergic reactions are very rare and have been easily treated with resolution,” Daniel Griffin, chief of infectious disease at ProHEALTH Care and national process expert for Optum Vaccine Administration, told HuffPost.
Most people, including those with specific allergies, shouldn’t be too stressed out about the vaccine right now, Griffin said.
“Only people with a severe reaction to a prior vaccination should be concerned, and we recommend they discuss this with a doctor prior to vaccination,” he said. “People with other allergies, such as to food, pollen or even antibiotics, need not worry.”
Is it safe to stay in hotels during the pandemic?
In a recent travel update, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention makes it clear: Staying home is the best way to protect yourself against the coronavirus.
If you do travel, the CDC says, sharing a rental home with people from your own household is safer than staying with friends or family who aren’t from your household or staying at a hotel where you would encounter more people. The riskiest option, it says, is a hostel or other dorm-like lodging with shared sleeping areas.
Try to find a rental that guarantees a 72-hour buffer between guests, says Dr. Natascha Tuznik, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, Davis. Airbnb will require hosts to commit to enhanced cleaning by Nov. 20. That includes scrubbing floors and other surfaces with soap and water; washing linens on high heat; disinfecting high-touch items like door knobs; and ventilating rooms.
Rentals might also have more access to fresh air than hotel rooms, Tuznik said. But she said there have been very few reported coronavirus outbreaks connected to hotels.
If you stay at a hotel, check to see what safety steps it’s taking. Many hotels have adopted enhanced cleaning procedures, for example, and are encouraging social distancing in common areas.
You can also use disinfectant wipes to clean the surfaces that are most touched, like light switches and faucets, Tuznik said. And consider omitting housekeeping services to ensure fewer people enter the room.
Outside the room, experts suggest avoiding common areas and taking the stairs instead of the elevator if you can.
The AP is answering your questions about the coronavirus in this series. Submit them at: FactCheck@AP.org.
Read previous Viral Questions:
Does weather affect the spread of the coronavirus outside?
Does the flu vaccine affect my chances of getting COVID-19?
Do I need to wear a mask if I’m 6 feet away from others?
The revenue grew 20% Y/Y, and EPS increased 96% Y/Y. The company increased the revenue and earnings forecast, now expecting between US$47.4b and US$47.9b.
The majority of the positive revenue trend was driven by the cancer treatment and vaccine segments.
Antiviral Pill and New Cancer Research Partnership
After Atea Pharmaceuticals hit the road bump with their Phase 2 trial, Merck is looking to win FDA’s approval for oral antiviral COVID-19 treatment – Molnupiravir.
The drug is under development in partnership with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics L.P. The advisory committee meeting is scheduled for November 30 to discuss the medication and its effectiveness. Potential Molnupiravir sales are not part of the current revenue guidance. Furthermore, Merck is looking to price the treatment so it will be affordable for 105 developing countries.
Yet, it is not all about COVID-19. As mentioned, the company is driving revenues with the cancer treatment segment. This position might get stronger as they’ve entered into a clinical trial collaboration with Gilead Sciences (NasdaqGS: GILD). The latter will sponsor a global Phase 3 trial to evaluate triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) treatment.
Outlining Total Returns
One flawed but reasonable way to assess how sentiment around a company has changed is to compare the earnings per share (EPS) with the share price.
Over half a decade, Merck managed to grow its earnings per share at 5.9% a year. This EPS growth is lower than the 8% average annual increase in the share price. This suggests that market participants hold the company in higher regard these days. And that’s hardly shocking given the track record of growth.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorizing Pfizer (PFE)’s COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds on Friday is welcome news for millions of parents across the country.
Roughly 28 million children are now eligible for vaccination, according to the New York Times.
“If you look at a lot of the data, you’ll see that younger people, teenagers, small children, they’ve been responsible for a lot of the transmission of coronavirus,” Dr. Adrian Burrowes, a family medicine physician and CEO of CFP Physicians Group, said on Yahoo Finance Live (video above). “And while a lot of people will argue that children tend to do fairly well when they are infected, they are the center point, a lot of the time, for the adult infections.”
US drugmaker Merck will allow low- and middle-income countries to produce a generic version of molnupiravir, an antiviral drug shown to reduce hospitalization and death in covid-19 patients by 50%.
The pharmaceutical giant entered an agreement with Medicines Patent Pool (MPP), a United Nations-backed nonprofit which will act as an intermediary and license the patent to generic drug manufacturers outside wealthy countries. According to the agreement, no royalties will be paid to Merck as long as covid-19 remains a pandemic according to the World Health Organization.
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This makes Merck stand out in a landscape where other pharmaceutical companies have refused to waive covid-19 patents irrespective of the global need for treatments. And at a time when all drug companies are fighting to improve their reputation, it’s arguably the best way for it to capitalize on molnupiravir.
Merck’s free licensing helps make treatment available in poor countries
Earlier this month, Merck announced it expected molnupiravir pills to be available in the US for about $700 a course per person. This pricing, as well as the convenience of the oral treatment, make it more accessible than antibody cocktails, which require transfusions and cost up to $2,100 per person per treatment.
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So far, about 50 companies in low- and middle-income countries have signaled their interest in getting a sublicense to manufacture the drug, which is very inexpensive to produce. According to a report from Harvard, the cost of producing a course of molnupiravir is below $18 in the US, and it would be much cheaper in developing countries where labor and materials cost less.
This would make it affordable even for governments with little resources to invest in covid-19 treatments. MPP doesn’t have pricing requirements for generic manufacturers, it told Quartz, though some independent analyses have suggested the drug might cost as little as $8 per course in low-income countries.