Coronavirus update: Hitting ‘pause’ on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, tough advice for Michigan

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Having COVID-19 seems to offer immunity against reinfection

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 31,280,880 (31,202,818)

Total U.S. deaths: 562,655 (562,096)

Total global cases: 136,857,385 (136,181,468)

Total global deaths: 2,949,096 (2,938,829)

Feds ask for ‘pause’ of Johnson & Johnson vaccinations

The coronavirus vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has proven to be popular with consumers, but federal health agencies have asked for a “pause” of these shots while they investigate a potential blood clotting issue.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have issued a joint statement saying they will investigate six instances where women who have received the vaccine developed blood clots. The cases were described as “rare” but “severe.” The probe begins Wednesday.

“Until that process is complete, we are recommending a pause in the use of this vaccine out of an abundance of caution,” the agencies stated. 

CDC to Michigan: ‘Shut it down’

As many states continue to see a decline in cases of the coronavirus, Michigan is one of a handful of states that is experiencing a dramatic rise. This week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer asked the Biden administration to “flood the state with vaccine.”

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, says more vaccine doses aren’t going to solve the state’s problem. To flatten the curve, she says Michigan needs to shut down again.

“I think if we try to vaccinate our way out of what is happening in Michigan, we would be disappointed that it took so long for the vaccine to work, to actually have the impact,” Walensky said. “It takes several weeks for immunizations to kick in and reduce the caseload. 

Study finds previous infection provides significant immunity

A new study published in the British medical journal The Lancet found that people who recovered from COVID-19 were much less likely to become reinfected. They were 84 percent less likely to test positive and 93 percent less likely to display any symptoms if they did get reinfected.

The study involved 25,661 workers at public hospitals throughout England who were tested for SARS-CoV-2 every two to four weeks and antibodies against the virus at enrollment and every four weeks. Volunteers also completed questionnaires on symptoms and exposures every two weeks.

"This study shows that previous infection with SARS-CoV-2 induces effective immunity to future infections in most individuals," the authors wrote. "The importance of understanding the nature and rate of SARS-CoV-2 reinfection to guide non-pharmaceutical interventions and public health control measures is essential in this evolving pandemic."

Cost of living jumps in March

Preparations for a reopened economy amidst a surge in vaccinations are putting upward pressure on the cost of living -- especially food costs. The Labor Department reports that the Consumer Price Index in March rose 2.6 percent year-over-year.

The biggest increase was in the cost of gasoline, which surged 9.1 percent. But that’s explained by the fact that gas prices had plunged and were sinking fast in March 2020. In contrast, gas prices were going up last month.

Food costs, which rose 3.5 percent, might be a more reliable indicator of how the wind-down to the pandemic will affect inflation, but prices seem to be rising slowly. Compared to February, March food prices were 0.1 percent higher.

Study: U.K. variant not more severe

Health officials now say the U.K. variant of the coronavirus is present in all 50 states. The good news is that a study suggests its effects are not any more severe than the original strain.

British researchers say the U.K. strain, known as  B.1.1.7, did not result in more severe symptoms of patients hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19. But the study did show that people infected with B.1.1.7 had more of the virus in their blood, explaining why it is more contagious than the original.

“If you need hospitalization, you’re not worse with this variant compared to the previous virus strain,” said Eleni Nastouli, senior author on the paper. “Of course, if you’re requiring hospital admission, that is a worry.”

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: New Jersey has surged to near the top of the states with the most new cases of the virus. The CDC ranks the state number two in the nation in coronavirus cases per capita. Gov. Phil Murphy says the troubling trend could prevent more reopenings or capacity expansions in the coming weeks.

  • Arkansas: If New Jersey is near the top in new cases of the virus, Arkansas is near the bottom. In fact, the state’s 72.6 new cases per 100,000 residents rank it lowest in the U.S. in a measure that also includes the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

  • Texas: A year ago, long-term care facilities were being ravaged by cases of COVID-19. Today in Texas, these cases have largely disappeared. On Monday, state health officials reported only 12 new COVID-19 cases in the state's nursing facilities and assisted living facilities.

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