AstraZeneca said Monday that advanced trial data from a U.S. study on its vaccine shows it is 79% effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 and 100% effective in stopping severe disease and hospitalization.
The early findings are among the information AstraZeneca must submit to the Food and Drug Administration. An FDA advisory committee will publicly debate the evidence behind the vaccine before the agency decides whether to allow its emergency use. The U.S. study comprised 30,000 volunteers, 20,000 of whom were given the vaccine while the rest got dummy shots.
Use of the AstraZeneca vaccine was suspended in several European countries last week amid reports of blood clots in a small number of patients, but the European Medicines Agency subsequently said the vaccine was safe and effective.
Scientists have been awaiting results of the U.S. study in hopes it will clear up some of the confusion about just how well the shots really work. Investigators said the vaccine was effective across all ages, including older people – which previous studies in other countries had failed to establish.
Also in the news:
►On Sunday, Florida became the first state to have more than 1,000 known cases of coronavirus variants. The U.S. reported another 834 variant cases since Thursday alone and now has 6,638 known cases, with almost 6,400 of them being of the B.1.1.7 type, the one first found in the United Kingdom, CDC data shows.
►Students in California classrooms can sit three feet apart instead of six under new guidelines adopted by the state, which follows Friday’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations.
►1 in 4 Americans in recent weeks has seen someone blame Asian American people for the coronavirus epidemic, a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll finds. The nationwide survey was taken Thursday and Friday, in the wake of last week’s mass shooting in Georgia of eight people, six of them women of Asian descent.
►Indianapolis celebrated the city’s largest event since the pandemic began as it hosted the opening round of the NCAA Tournament this weekend, but revelry surrounding the games is causing consternation among public health experts.
►Republican Julia Letlow won Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District election Saturday in a landslide less than three months after her husband, Congressman-elect Luke Letlow, died from COVID complications before he could take office.
►Cancun’s tourism board is projecting 300,000 visitors from the United States in March based on results so far and reservations for the next two weeks. That’s more than the 222,731 in March 2020, when the pandemic took hold, but below 464,569 pre-pandemic visitors in March 2019.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has over 29.8 million confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 542,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: 123.1 million cases and 2.71 million deaths. More than 156.7 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the U.S. and 124.4 million have been administered, according to the CDC.
📘 What we’re reading: From grade school to graduate school, developing young minds in close physical proximity halted abruptly in mid-March 2020. Here’s what happened next.
Miami Beach declares state of emergency due to spring breakers
Miami Beach declared a state of emergency in its entertainment district Saturday because of an influx of spring breakers who have inundated the city.
A curfew went into effect at 8 p.m. Saturday and will last at least until the same time Tuesday, Miami Beach Interim City Manager Raul Aguila said. All restaurants, bars, and businesses are required to be closed by 8 p.m.
“At the peak of spring break, we are quite simply overwhelmed in the entertainment district,” Aguila said. “Folks, this is not an easy decision to make. We are doing that to protect the public health and safety.”
After one year of Canada and Mexico border closures, pressure grows for White House to issue reopening guidelines
On the anniversary of the United States’ closing of its borders to its neighbors to the north and south, lawmakers and families across the country separated by the border continue to languish with no clear end in sight.
“This has been a year of struggle for binational families,” said Devon Weber, founder of Let Us Reunite, a campaign of 2,200 families lobbying the U.S. government for greater travel exemptions for communities separated by the border shutdowns.
“Your life is in limbo and it’s extremely frustrating. Heartbreaking is the word that comes to mind,” Weber said of the situation affecting families on both sides of the border. Each month during the pandemic, border restrictions have been reauthorized with no clear end.
– Matthew Brown
Schools already testing students and staff for coronavirus say it’s crucial to in-person class: ‘It’s worth it’
As part of the push under President Joe Biden to reopen schools, the administration announced last week that it would make $10 billion available for K-12 schools to expand coronavirus screening of staff and students. Quick, rapid antigen tests that offer results in 15 minutes, like the ones used at McSwain Union Elementary School in Northern California, are likely to be adopted more broadly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention this week released new recommendations in tandem with Biden’s school-testing initiative. Biden administration officials say more details are coming, but the lack of national coordination so far has states and districts charting their own paths.
Schools that already set up testing regimes adopted different practices. Medical technology companies have raced to meet their needs with testing products and services. Health experts are split on what tests are best. And some staff and students’ families have balked at testing.
Public health experts are optimistic widespread vaccination will drive case counts lower, but testing remains critical to track new cases and variants that might make the virus more contagious or deadly.
“It’s something that would have made a world of difference months ago,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “And it will make a world of difference if we can do it today.”
– Erin Richards, Ken Alltucker
Telemedicine’s boom may not end with pandemic
The coronavirus pandemic has changed many aspects of the American health care system, but nothing changed quite as drastically as the rise of telemedicine. While virtual care existed before COVID-19, the practice boomed after state-mandated stay-at-home orders and has since remained strong.
Prior to the pandemic, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts received about 200 telehealth claims per day. That number reached up to 40,0000 claims per day from April to May 2020, and the insurer is still receiving about 30,000 claims per day almost a year later, according to spokesperson Amy McHugh. Athenahealth, a health tech company, released an interactive dashboard that delivered insights on telehealth trends from 18.4 million virtual appointments by 60,000 providers.
“The pandemic has necessitated a new era in medicine in which telehealth appointments are a core aspect of the patient-provider relationship,” said Jessica Sweeney-Platt, the company’s vice president of research and editorial strategy.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Contributing: Morgan Hines and Mike Stucka, USA TODAY; The Associated Press