Coronavirus update: FDA expands use of remdesivir

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The Omicron variant has slowed down food deliveries

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 70,716,716 (69,495,875)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 866,621 (865,969)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 352,266,210 (349,507,365)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,598,651 (5,592,934)‌

FDA expands use of treatment drug

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken two actions to expand the use of the antiviral drug remdesivir for some adults and pediatric patients for the treatment of mild-to-moderate COVID-19. The agency said it acted to reduce the risk of hospitalization. 

"On the heels of the FDA's recent authorization of two oral antiviral drugs, today's actions bolster the arsenal of therapeutics to treat COVID-19 and respond to the surge of the omicron variant," said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. 

The FDA said remdesivir, one of the first treatments approved in the early days of the pandemic, is not a substitute for vaccination. Officials repeated their pleas for people to get a vaccination and booster shot. 

Pandemic is affecting food shipments

Empty spaces on grocery store shelves have appeared once again, and economists say the Omicron variant of COVID-19 is to blame. Employee illnesses at production centers, transportation companies, and supermarkets have reduced the workforce.

In Arizona, the Wall Street Journal reports that one in 10 processing plant and distribution workers at a major produce company were off the job because of illness in recent days. In Massachusetts, supermarkets and restaurants have fewer fish because of illnesses in that supply chain.

Unlike shortages early in the pandemic that were mostly caused by hoarding, economists say empty shelves now are the result of not enough workers. They say the situation is likely to continue for a while.

Nurses say they are facing burnout

Food industry workers are not the only ones feeling the stress from COVID-19. In hospitals across America, nurses on the front lines of the pandemic say they are facing burnout and need their employers to do more to help them cope.

Erin Williams is among 39 respiratory therapists at Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh. She told the Wall Street Journal her team had about 64 workers before the pandemic. The smaller team, she says, is dealing with double its normal case load.

“It’s an overwhelmed, heartbreak feeling,” Williams told the newspaper. “You know that you’re not able to give all the time that you want to and that just eats away at you as a caregiver.”

Around the nation

  • Texas: The Texas Health Department has released data that it says makes a convincing case for people to be vaccinated. A new department webpage shows that unvaccinated Texans are 16 times more likely to die from coronavirus-related illnesses than people who are fully vaccinated.

  • Maine: State health officials say the backlog of unprocessed COVID-19 tests is giving Maine an artificially low case count. They say that’s a problem because the low official numbers mean federal authorities have reduced the state’s allotment of a life-saving drug to treat the virus in high-risk patients.

  • Tennessee: Schools in Bristol are closed today and for the next two Mondays as a way to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the Northeastern part of the state. “By closing on Mondays, part-time educational assistants will work full days on Tuesdays-Fridays of these weeks,” the school system said in an announcement.

  • Utah: State lawmakers have done an about-face, reversing the statewide “test to stay” program for public schools. The program would have required all students at a school to be tested for COVID-19 if a certain number of students contracted the virus. Under the new law, individual schools are free to implement “test to stay” rules.

  • Georgia: At least sixty teachers and school staff members across the state have died of COVID-19 since the start of the 2021-2022 school year, according to a report by WSB-TV in Atlanta. The youngest was 24-years-old.

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