COVID-19 tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)
Total U.S. confirmed cases: 78,800,469 (78,732,363)
Total U.S. deaths: 944,849 (941,962)
Total global cases: 431,877,721 (430,270,835)
Total global deaths: 5,931,056 (5,920,665)
CDC tweaking mask guidelines
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is revising its guidelines for the use of masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The agency in recent weeks has found itself behind many states, including those controlled by Democrats, that have unilaterally ended mask mandates for indoor public spaces.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the updated guidelines from the CDC will include new ways to measure the threat from the virus to help communities set their policies. The metrics will include how many people are in hospitals and the number of hospital beds in a community, one official told the Journal.
According to current guidelines, based on transmission levels, the CDC recommends masks be worn in just about every part of the country. But most states have dropped those mandates or plan to do so on Monday.
After two years, the virus has taken a toll on children
Children may not suffer the worst health effects of COVID-19, but new research shows just how much they have been affected in other ways. Researchers at the CDC estimate that 5.2 million children worldwide have lost a relative or caregiver to the coronavirus. More than 3 million lost a parent.
Three out of four parents lost in the pandemic were fathers, according to the analysis of international data. Children between the ages of 10 and 17 were the most likely to have lost a parent. In the U.S., there have been instances where both parents died from COVID-19, leaving children behind.
CDC researchers, who led the study, said the estimate of the number of children affected by the pandemic is probably low since many counties included in the analysis lack a strong system for counting deaths.
Scientists look more closely at COVID-19 and dementia
Millions of Americans have been infected with COVID-19 and recovered quickly, suffering few if any lingering effects. Others have experienced prolonged symptoms, known as “long COVID.”
Scientists are also looking more closely at another aftereffect of the virus that some patients appear to be experiencing – a decline in brain function. Symptoms have been described as "brain fog," a reduced ability to think clearly, anxiety, and difficulties with memory and concentration.
According to Medical News Today, research is underway to see if these conditions are a precursor to dementia. Early research has pointed to the infection of cells within the central nervous system.
Around the nation
Massachusetts: The state is losing teachers at a rapid rate, and some are blaming COVID-19. Specifically, the head of the Massachusetts Teachers Association blamed Gov. Charlie Baker and Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley for what they called “rock-bottom morale” that is causing many teachers to quit.
Tennessee: New cases of the virus have fallen sharply across the state, but especially in Nashville. City health officials have confirmed an average of 185 new cases per day over the seven days ending on Feb. 19. It's a 48% drop in new cases compared to the previous week.
New Jersey: In another sign that things are beginning to return to normal, Gov. Phil Murphy has announced an end to the daily COVID-19 briefings that have been a fixture for nearly two years. Murphy pointed to declining case counts and hospitalizations, as well as the state’s high vaccination rate.
Florida: Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to make distinctions between how his state and the rest of the country are dealing with COVID-19, announcing an additional relaxation of pandemic protocols. "People want to live freely in Florida, without corporate masking creating a two-tier society and without overbearing isolation for children," DeSantis said.
Montana: Money allocated to the state to protect prison inmates and staff from COVID-19 has reportedly not been spent. Kaiser Health News reports that none of the $2.5 million has been spent, despite the Omicron surge that led to a new outbreak of COVID-19 cases among Montana State Prison inmates in January.