Vaccinated Americans will be permitted to go to Canada again, but the US will keep its side of the border closed as Delta continues to spread, particularly in the South.
Meanwhile, it’s becoming clear that kids can develop lengthy COVID, and some Americans are self-medicating with illicit booster doses.
Here’s what’s new in COVID this week.
Vaccination coverage is around halfway across the country, yet cases continue to grow
Months after the first COVID-19 vaccines were made widely available to the public, the United States has reached a significant milestone: 50% of the country’s population has been fully vaccinated.
This percentage, however, is not fairly spread among states: Vermont leads the way with 68 percent of its people fully vaccinated, while Alabama and Mississippi trail behind with only 35 percent each.
The extremely contagious Delta strain is destroying states with low vaccine uptake while immunization rates steadily improve.
On Friday, Florida recorded 23,903 new cases, the highest single-day number since the pandemic began, with 49 percent of residents completely vaccinated.
COVID-19 patients occupy 44 percent of ICU beds in Florida hospitals, according to NPR, compared to only 19 percent overall.
In Louisiana, where only 37% of people are properly vaccinated, the number of cases has nearly doubled in the last two weeks.
The remainder of the country is also in poor shape.
For the first time since February, the United States is reporting an average of more than 110,000 new cases per day, and COVID-19 mortality has nearly doubled in the last two weeks.
While the vast majority of new cases have been reported in people who have not been vaccinated, so-called breakthrough cases in persons who have been vaccinated can occur and are happening more frequently thanks to the Delta strain.
Even if you’ve had COVID previously, be vaccinated
According to a new CDC analysis, unvaccinated individuals who were previously infected with the coronavirus are more than twice as likely to re-infect as those who were previously infected but received the vaccine earlier this year.
While prior research has demonstrated that antibodies produced during an unvaccinated person’s immune response to the virus can protect them against reinfection, this current study backs up the assertion that vaccines provide more consistent and robust protection than natural antibodies alone.
The study compared pooled case data from March to December 2020 with pooled case and vaccine data from May and June of this year, using data from the state of Kentucky.
It compared those who were infected last year but did not report a second positive test this spring to a control group of people who were infected last year but did not report a second positive test this spring.
Only 20% of those who were twice infected were vaccinated, compared to 34% of those who did not have a second illness, implying that unvaccinated people are more likely to get another infection.
However, the authors admit that the study’s scope is limited and that it should be replicated with a bigger data set.
The researchers recommend that all eligible patients get a COVID-19 vaccine to lower the risk of infection, even if they have already been infected with the virus, especially now that the infectious Delta form is circulating.
Unvaccinated people who have contracted COVID-19 should wait until their symptoms have improved and at least ten days have passed after their positive test before getting vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Individuals who have received monoclonal antibodies or convalescent plasma to treat the virus should wait 90 days before getting an injection.
Long COVID can be harmful to children as well
Despite early reports that most children will not become very ill if they contract the virus, doctors and families are concerned about the long-term effects of the infection.
According to research published last week in The Lancet, 5% of children aged 5 to 17 who contracted COVID-19 had symptoms for at least 28 days after receiving a positive test.
According to the study, this percentage dropped to 2% after 56 days. Younger children were less likely to experience long-term symptoms.
Even though our understanding of extended COVID is poor, it is well accepted that the condition affects adults far more than children.
Its rarity, on the other hand, does not diminish how frightening some of the long-term symptoms can be for children.
In the aftermath of coronavirus infection, the New York Times published tales of teenagers having new, profound memory lapses, high anxiety, terrible weariness, and recurring nausea.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke’s chief of infections of the nervous system, Avindra Nath, told the New York Times, “The potential impact is immense.”
“I mean, they’re still in their formative years,” she says. It’s difficult to catch up once you’ve fallen behind since the kids’ self-confidence suffers as well. The National Institutes of Health announced last month that they have allocated $40 million for a study in collaboration with Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., to study long COVID in children to decipher the unknowns of pediatric long COVID.
Bill Kapogiannis, program director of the National Institutes of Health’s Maternal and Pediatric Infectious Disease Branch, told CNN, “You need a concentrated, large-scale effort that has a systematic approach to get the answers.”
The CDC changed its masking rules late last week to protect children from the first infection as they return to school in the autumn.
CDC recommends universal indoor masking by all children (age 2 and older), staff, instructors, and visitors to K-12 schools, regardless of vaccination status, because of the circulating and highly contagious Delta strain, according to the report.
Beginning today, vaccinated Americans can go to Canada
As of August 9, our northern neighbors are allowing vaccinated travelers to enter with a few pre-travel formalities.
Before traveling, travelers must submit a negative COVID-19 test in addition to being fully vaccinated and providing confirmation of vaccination.
Before boarding an aircraft or crossing a land border, this information must be submitted online.
Falsified documents might result in significant fines. Unvaccinated children under the age of 12 may enter with a fully vaccinated parent or caretaker.
While fully vaccinated passengers are not needed to quarantine upon arrival, those who show symptoms will be requested to, and all travelers must give a detailed quarantine plan before arrival.
Visitors must follow all local public health regulations, including mask requirements in some provinces such as Quebec and Ontario.
The United States has yet to reciprocate the relaxation of travel restrictions and will continue to do so until at least August 21.
The border shutdown was prolonged late last week after it had been slated to end on Thursday.
Despite the FDA’s refusal to approve booster shots, some Americans are getting them
The Associated Press stated that several hundred Americans have sought out and obtained an extra dose of one of the mRNA vaccines in recent weeks.
Because reporting is voluntary, the actual amount of third-dose administration is unknown, but an AP investigation found at least 900 cases of patients receiving a third shot in the CDC’s vaccine-tracking system.
There is a lot of skepticism about boosters. Even though boosters are neither approved nor suggested by the FDA, several people have expressed concern about the circulating Delta version.
Last Monday, San Francisco public health officials said that those who received the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine will receive a dosage of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine as a supplement rather than a booster.
Pfizer started the process of obtaining FDA clearance for a third shot last month, and several research institutes are actively looking into the impact of boosters for at-risk groups.
According to Michelle Barron, senior medical director for infection prevention at UCHealth in Colorado, “the verdict is yet out on whether the general population could need them.”