USA TODAY follows COVID-19 news as a pair of vaccines join the US fight against a virus that has killed nearly 385,000 Americans since the first reported death in February. Continue to refresh this page for the latest updates regarding the coronavirus, including who receives vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, as well as other news from the USA TODAY Network. Subscribe to our Coronavirus Watch newsletter for updates directly to your inbox, join our facebook group or scroll through our detailed answers to reader questions for everything you need to know about the coronavirus.
In the headlines:
► The Johnson & Johnson COVID single-dose vaccine is safe and generates an immune response, based on early-stage clinical trials, according to a study published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
► The Vatican has confirmed that Pope Francis received the first vaccine against the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus on Thursday. The 84-year-old advocated that everyone get the vaccine, calling it an “ethical option” made not just for his own health but for the “lives of others.”
► A global team of researchers arrived in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus was first detected, on Thursday to investigate its origins.
► Pfizer, which together with BioNTech developed the first COVID-19 authorized for use by the federal government, increased the prices of 193 brand name drugs this month. While the median increase is a modest 0.5%, the price increase was around 5% for several of Pfizer’s most popular drugs.
► The Mississippi Department of Health said the state could no longer book appointments for coronavirus vaccinations due to a “monumental surge” in demand after Gov. Tate Reeves announced that more people were eligible for vaccines.
► Montana Governor Greg Gianforte announced on Wednesday that he was removing the pandemic warrants issued by his predecessor. Under the new rules that will take effect on Friday, restaurants, bars, breweries, distilleries and casinos will no longer be required to close at 10 p.m. and will not be required to limit their capacity to 50%.
► A new Ipsos survey has found that residents of several other countries are more reluctant to be vaccinated against COVID-19 than Americans. China ranked first in vaccine acceptance with 80% of respondents saying they would get it. France ranks lower with just 40%. The United States stayed somewhere in the middle with 69%.
► Coronavirus deaths in the United States reached another one-day high at over 4,300. The overall coronavirus death toll in the country has eclipsed 384,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. It is rapidly approaching the number of Americans killed in World War II, around 405,000. The United States recorded 4,327 deaths on Tuesday.
► California Governor Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday that the state was removing restrictions on COVID-19 vaccines for all residents 65 and older. But Los Angeles County, the hardest-hit region in the state, has already said it will continue to prioritize health workers. About 1 in 3 people in the county have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, officials said on Wednesday.
📈 Today’s numbers: The United States has more than 23 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 384,600 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Global totals: over 92.3 million cases and 1.97 million deaths.
📘 What we read: Seasonal flu is all but gone, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That says a lot about the transmissibility of COVID-19, according to health experts. Learn more here.
Researchers Discover New Variants of U.S. COVID-19 Virus
Research teams from two universities announced on Thursday that they had found a new variant of COVID-19.
A research team from Southern Illinois University has discovered a new variant of the COVID-19 virus that is specific and dominant in the United States, adding to the growing list of mutations such as those found in the United Kingdom and South Africa. South, the university said in a statement.
“It’s here. We found it,” said Keith Gagnon, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry at SIU. “It’s really local and widespread, and we’re the first to characterize it.”
It could be more easily transmitted than other variants, and its impact on vaccines is uncertain, the university said.
Additionally, scientists at Ohio State University have discovered a new variant of SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The new variant carries a mutation identical to the strain in the UK, but it likely appeared in a viral strain already present in the US.
More students got COVID than preschool and school-aged children when they return to class
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday released a study suggesting that the transmission of COVID-19 may be of greater concern among college students than among young children in school.
The study, published in the agency’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, found that the case of COVID-19 was not increasing in preschool and school-aged children aged zero to ten in the summer and in autumn.
In contrast, cases increased significantly among young adults aged 18 to 24 in mid-July and early September, “suggesting that young adults may contribute more to community transmission than young children,” the CDC said.
The agency admits that cases of COVID-19 are likely underestimated in children and adolescents, as asymptomatic infection is more common in these age groups.
Moderna needs at least 3K adolescent volunteers for vaccine trial
Not enough teens are signing up for Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial, a federal official said this week, potentially delaying vaccine approval for this age group.
Moncef Slaoui, the scientific chief of Operation Warp Speed, the government’s vaccination effort, said Tuesday that while an adult vaccine trial recruits 800 volunteers per day, the adolescent trial only receives ‘about 800 per month.
The study needs at least 3,000 participants, he said, to provide valid data on safety and efficacy and gain FDA clearance.
“It’s really, really important for all of us, for the entire American population, to realize that we can’t have that indication unless teens between the ages of 12 and 18 decide to participate,” Slaoui said.
– Karen Weintraub
Some hospitals in Wisconsin offer vaccine to staff who do not care for patients
Faced with no-shows at immunization clinics and doses remaining, some hospital systems in Wisconsin are offering COVID-19 vaccines to staff who do not work with patients or in medical settings, under a interpretation of vaccine prioritization guidelines that federal advisers consider exaggerated.
At least one hospital system – Advocate Aurora – has set up vaccine appointments for all employees. In other healthcare systems, employees listed as administrators or public relations specialists have been given vaccines, according to social media posts.
Wisconsin is still completing the first phase of its vaccine deployment plan, which includes long-term care facilities and healthcare staff, with a focus on frontline hospital staff.
Decisions by some hospitals to include employees who work from home and don’t interact with patients have raised eyebrows in Wisconsin and other states.
– Daphne Chen, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
What will COVID-19 look like in the future? Maybe another cold, study finds
SARS-CoV-2 “could join the ranks of benign and long-term cold-inducing human coronaviruses,” according to a model developed by scientists at Emory University and Penn State University.
The model, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Tuesday, compares the deadly virus to four common cold coronaviruses plus SARS and MERS viruses, which surfaced in 2003 and 2012, respectively.
Researchers determined from the model that if the coronavirus continues to circulate in the general population and most people are exposed to it since childhood, it could be added to the list of colds.
The study’s authors admit that the model makes assumptions about the coronavirus and the common cold that are not yet known, but a take home message is that “the critical need for large-scale vaccination may diminish in the short term.” , said study author Ottar Bjornstad, who teaches entomology and biology at Penn State University.
Contribute: The Associated Press