Coronavirus update: Booster sharply reduces Omicron death risk, study finds

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Scientists have found a new version of the Omicron variant

COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 73,429,392 (72,912,405)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 878,472 (876,078)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 366,974,484 (363,316,221)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,639,818 (5,628,898)‌

Booster reduces Omicron death risk by 95%

Previous research has shown that there is a lower risk of death from the Omicron variant for most people. But a new study found that getting a vaccine booster reduced the risk even more.

The study, which was conducted by scientists in the U.K., specifically looked at how older people fared against the Omicron variant. According to the findings, three shots of an mRNA vaccine in people aged 50 and older reduced the risk of death by 95%.

The researchers say their findings are important because the Omicron variant tends to be less vulnerable to the immunity created by vaccines. But they say the booster restores enough of those defenses to cut the risk of serious illness, especially in the older population.

Scientists identify new Omicron variant

Can a COVID-19 variant have its own variant? Apparently so. Researchers have discovered a “sub-variant” of Omicron they call BA.2.

"You could say they're like brothers in the same family," Duke University infectious diseases expert Cameron Wolfe told NBC News. "There are some subtle differences, but most of the genetics are the same in both."

Scientists don’t yet know much about BA.2 or how it behaves. So far, they say it has many of Omicron’s characteristics, such as high transmission levels and milder symptoms.

COVID-19 claims actor Vachik Mangassarian

Vachik Mangassarian, a popular character actor in Hollywood, has died of COVID-19 complications, according to his manager. He was 78.

Mangassarian, who was vaccinated, made regular appearances on N.C.I.S. Los Angeles, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The Mentalist. He was currently working on a new movie with actresses Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.

Mangassarian joins a long list of celebrities who have died of COVID-19, including Cloris Leachman, Dawn Wells, Charlie Pride, Tom Seaver, and John Prine.

Around the nation

  • New York: New York’s on-again, off-again mask mandate is back on again. This week, a state court judge overturned Gov. Kathy Hochul’s requirement to wear masks in public indoor spaces. Twelve hours later, a second judge ruled that the mandate will stand while the courts figure out its future.

  • Vermont: Hospitals across the state are still under heavy COVID-19 caseloads, so the Vermont National Guard is being deployed to help. The Guard’s duties will range from distributing meals to providing test kits and personal protective items to medical facilities and schools.

  • Oregon: The Oregon Department of Education has disclosed that the Alsea School District is losing its federal funding because it has ended its mask mandate for students and staff. The school board passed a resolution that makes wearing masks optional for staff, teachers, and students, except while riding buses. 

  • South Carolina: States across the country have faced delays while trying to process a huge increase in COVID-19. South Carolina health officials report that they are now back on schedule after falling behind. Private labs and testing vendors have reported that all backlogs have been cleared.

  • South Dakota: Gov. Kristi Noem has announced support for a bill to allow for religious, medical, and natural immunity exemptions to COVID-19 vaccine mandates. “This bill will specifically guarantee people in South Dakota the ability to declare a medical exemption based on a signature from a doctor saying that’s the appropriate action to be taking,” Noem said at a press briefing.

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