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Coronavirus update: Groups with highest severe COVID-19 risk identified

Pfizer says there are limits to its drug Paxlovid

COVID-19 virus concept
Photo (c) Radoslav Zilinsky - Getty Images
COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 81,382,356 (81,349,665)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 993,767 (993,312)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 514,943,304 (514,497,665)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,236,985 (6,235,580)‌

Study identifies groups most at risk from severe COVID-19

A study involving 2.3 million adults, published in the journal Nature Communications, has identified groups of people who may be the most vulnerable to severe symptoms of COVID-19.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers at Imperial College London identified several factors that increase the risk of hospitalization and death from the virus. Those groups are older people, males, and people from Asian and Black ethnic backgrounds.

Among those groups, the people at the highest risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 were those with long-term conditions, including learning disabilities and mental illness.

Paxlovid more effective at treating than preventing COVID-19

While there are high hopes for Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid, the drugmaker says recent trials show that there are limits. While the drug is an effective treatment for mild to moderate symptoms, Pfizer says it’s less effective at preventing infection.

In the trial, compared to a placebo, Pfizer observed risk reductions of 32% and 37% in adults who received Paxlovid for five and ten days, respectively, to prevent infection. But the company said those results were not statistically significant. As such, the company stated that the primary endpoint of reducing the risk of confirmed and symptomatic COVID-19 infection in adults who had been exposed to the virus through a household contact was not met. 

“While we are disappointed in the outcome of this particular study, these results do not impact the strong efficacy and safety data we’ve observed in our earlier trial for the treatment of COVID-19 patients at high risk of developing severe illness, and we are pleased to see the growing global use of PAXLOVID in that population,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Inflammation may cause loss of sense of smell, study finds

Some people infected with COVID-19 lose their sense of smell while others don’t. Scientists are trying to determine why that is.

New research conducted at Johns Hopkins University suggests that there is a fairly simple reason. They have concluded that inflammation caused by the virus, not the virus itself, is responsible for sensory loss.

The condition is known in medical circles as anosmia. The loss of smell is a frequent and often long-term symptom associated with COVID-19 that can severely burden a person’s quality of life, making it extremely difficult to taste foods, detect airborne hazards in the environment, and carry out other functions.

Around the nation

  • New York: The masks are back on in wide areas of New York State. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has classified 37 New York counties as areas of moderate to high transmission of COVID-19, the most of any state.

  • Colorado: The number of people hospitalized for COVID-19 treatment continues to go down, but health officials say there has been a change in which people get severely ill. The Colorado Department of Public Health reports that 57% of hospital patients have been vaccinated, while only 43% are unvaccinated.

  • Florida: Thanks to the fast-spreading BA.2 subvariant, cases of COVID-19 are rising again in Florida. However, one important number is going down. The number of patients admitted to intensive care units (ICU) as a result of the virus fell to 88 last week, the lowest amount since the beginning of the pandemic.

  • Connecticut: State health officials reported a sharp rise in new cases of COVID-19 last week. They say the rate of positive tests jumped to nearly 10%. Despite the sudden rise in cases, hospitalizations remain fairly low, suggesting many of the new cases are less severe.

  • Tennessee: Gov. Bill Lee refused to sign a new law passed by the state legislature that gives “acquired immunity” from a previous COVID-19 infection the same status as a vaccination. The measure became law without the governor’s signature, requiring governments and businesses to treat immunity from a previous COVID-19 infection as equal to getting vaccinated. 

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