Coronavirus update: Moderna promises more vaccine doses, new daily cases still under 60,000

Photo (c) Andriy Onufriyenko - Getty Images

Arkansas children are being infected by virus variants

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 32,235,827 (32,179,505)

Total U.S. deaths: 574,383 (573,452)

Total global cases: 149,766,134 (148,859,866)

Total global deaths: 3,153,812 (3,138,755)

Moderna steps up vaccine production

Moderna, the maker of one of three approved coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines used in the U.S., says it will spend up to $1 billion to increase production. It said it may triple its annual output of vaccine doses by next year.

Demand for vaccines in the U.S. has begun to decline slightly, but the rest of the world -- particularly India and Brazil -- are desperately in need of more doses. Moderna said the increase in production is aimed at meeting that need.

“As we follow the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, we believe that there will continue to be significant need for our mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and our variant booster candidates into 2022 and 2023,” said CEO Stéphane Bancel.

New daily cases in the U.S. still under 60,000

In a testimonial to the effectiveness of the vaccines, new cases of COVID-19 remain manageable. An analysis of data compiled by The COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University shows that Wednesday’s reported cases totaled fewer than 60,000 for a fifth straight day.

The pace of vaccinations may also be playing a role. The U.S. has vaccinated almost 40% of its adult population nearly two weeks after eligibility was opened to this group, with even more having received at least one shot.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today reported that 301,857,885 doses of the three vaccines have been distributed in the U.S., with 234,639,414 of them finding their way into people’s arms.

Arkansas sees a rise in variant infections of children

While COVID-19 cases are trending lower in many areas of the country, the improvement is not universal. Some states have reported unexplained surges in new cases.

In Arkansas, physicians are expressing concern about a rise in infections among children that has been caused by one of the variants of the virus. Dr. Jennifer Dillaha with the Arkansas Department of Health said there are currently 43 cases of the U.K. variant that she knows of in at least 25 counties. Health officials also found 21 more cases of other variants.

“Every week, you know, we have a larger group that we identify, and that's concerning to us,” Dillaha said.

Researchers discover how the virus turns off the immune system

More than a year into the pandemic, scientists are continuing to learn how SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, operates and why it’s so difficult to contain. Researchers at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine have found that the virus has the ability to order the immune system to “stand down,” allowing the infection to rage unimpeded.

The researchers say their discovery helps lay the groundwork for new antiviral immunotherapies — treatments that work by boosting a patient’s immune system rather than directly killing the virus.

“It’s very smart of this virus to use host machinery to simultaneously go into stealth mode and get inside more cells,” said Tariq Rana, Ph.D., professor and chief of the Division of Genetics in the Department of Pediatrics at UC San Diego School of Medicine. “The more we know about how the virus establishes itself in the body, the better equipped we are to disrupt it.”

New York to be “100% reopened” on July 1

New Yorkers are marking the date on their calendars. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced COVID-19 restrictions will be lifted and the city will be 100% reopened on July 1.

“We are ready for stores to open, for businesses to open, offices, theaters, full strength,” De Blasio said on MSNBC

New York was among the first U.S. cities to curtail business activity because the city was the first epicenter of the pandemic last year. The bright lights of Broadway have been dark since March 2020.

Around the nation

  • Wisconsin: The state supreme court has overturned Gov. Tony Evers’ statewide mask mandate, ruling that he exceeded his authority. "The question in this case is not whether the governor acted wisely; it is whether he acted lawfully," Justice Brian Hagedorn wrote in the court's majority opinion. "We conclude he did not."

  • Mississippi: Vaccine eligibility has been opened to everyone age 16 and older, but a survey by the state health department suggests that not all young people in the state will get it. The survey showed that 73% of respondents said that they would definitely or likely receive a coronavirus vaccine. However, only 52% of Mississippians intend to vaccinate their children.

  • Nevada: Las Vegas is back, baby! The Washington Post cites data from Priceline that shows the entertainment Mecca has been one of the most popular domestic travel destinations so far this year. The number of visitors is up sharply, along with the Strip’s gambling revenue.

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