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Coronavirus update: FEMA continues to provide funeral assistance to families

Pfizer is seeking FDA approval for a fourth shot of its vaccine

Funeral costs concept
Photo (c) Moussa81 - Getty Images
COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 79,587,313 (79,564,017)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 966,493 (965,149)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 461,937,132 (458,260,648)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,053,334 (6,047,784)‌

FEMA pays $2 billion for COVID-19 funerals

COVID-19 stimulus checks ended last year, but the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is still paying for funerals of Americans who have died from COVID-19. So far, the agency has written checks for $2 billion to support more than 300,000 applicants.

Rather than curtailing the program now that deaths are in decline, FEMA has launched a new outreach campaign and is continuing to process applications to ensure that the program -- already the largest offering of funeral assistance in FEMA’s history -- reaches additional eligible families in need.

“Our new outreach campaign is designed to reach families, especially across underserved communities, where the cost of a funeral can be a financial burden to a loved one,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “Our goal is to help families apply for assistance, as well as submit all required documents for existing applications.”

Pfizer seeks fourth shot approval

Just days after Pfizer’s CEO said everyone who is vaccinated and boosted will need a fourth shot to protect against the coronavirus, the drugmaker, along with partner BioNTech, has formally applied for approval for the extra booster.

The companies say they have submitted an application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) of an additional booster dose for adults 65 years of age and older who have received an initial booster of any of the authorized or approved COVID-19 vaccines. 

The application makes a case for a fourth shot by focusing on two real-world data sets from Israel, collected at a time when the Omicron variant was at its peak. The application cites evidence that an additional mRNA booster increases immunogenicity and lowers rates of confirmed infections and severe illness. 

Study tracks vaccine effectiveness with children

A continuing research study at the University of Arizona Health Sciences, in combination with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suggests that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been a moderately effective tool for preventing the spread of COVID-19. It has also been shown to reduce the severity of infection among children and adolescents.

Nearly 1,400 children ages five to 15 were tested for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, each week from July 25, 2021, to Feb. 12, 2022. Researchers found that vaccination with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine reduced the risk of infection from the Omicron variant by 31% in children aged five to 11 and by 59% in adolescents aged 12 to15. 

The report also showed that the vaccine was somewhat less effective against the Omicron variant. When the Delta variant was the dominant variant, the study found that protection levels were around 87%.

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday. The Democrat from Burlington County said he woke up in the middle of the night with a fever and reported on Twitter that he feels miserable. Kim said he was able to test himself because he had ordered an at-home rapid test.

  • Delaware: Gov. John Carney and other state officials have announced almost $17 million in financial support for citizens impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as aid for health care professionals at state facilities. The support includes housing assistance for the most vulnerable consumers.

  • Utah: Health officials report that the state continues to log fewer COVID-19 cases, recording fewer than 100 on Tuesday. However, about 20% of the new cases involved school-aged children. The largest number were among the 14 to 17 age group.

  • North Carolina: A North Carolina man has been sentenced to 20 months in prison for fraudulently obtaining over $1.7 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Prosecutors say the defendant secured loans for four different companies.

  • Oklahoma: An Oklahoma Air Force officer says he expects his military career to end over his refusal to be vaccinated. While mask mandates are expiring around the country, the Defense Department’s vaccination mandate is still being enforced.

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