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Coronavirus update: New drug may keep COVID-19 hospitalizations down

Cases may be surging, but deaths are declining

Paxlovid pill
Photo (c) Rafmaster - Getty Images
COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌  84,022,711 (83,984,644)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 1,004,770 (1,004,733)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 529,487,333 (529,066,607)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,289,298 (6,287,992)‌

Paxlovid plays role in keeping virus in check

There’s no denying that new cases of the coronavirus are rising rapidly around the U.S. At the same time, severe cases requiring hospitalization are not rising. Experts think the therapeutic drug Paxlovid may be partly the reason.

The Wall Street Journal reports that supplies of the drug improved at pharmacies nationwide in recent weeks and that doctors have written 412,000 prescriptions for it through early May. The drug is intended to be taken soon after infection and is most effective for patients with underlying conditions who have mild to moderate symptoms.

A clinical trial showed that Paxlovid, made by Pfizer, was 88% effective at preventing a patient from being hospitalized.

New cases are surging but deaths are falling

The U.S. once again leads the world in the number of daily cases of COVID-19. There were at least 12 countries ahead of the U.S. a month ago, but that changed drastically in May.

At the end of May 2021, the COVID-19 Tracking Project at Johns Hopkins University counted only 20,000 daily cases. On Monday, the count was 91,000. And as we previously reported, infectious disease experts say the actual number of new cases could be even higher. 

However, a higher infection rate than officially reported may hold a silver lining because fewer of those cases are likely severe. While the U.S. is recording nearly twice as many new cases as a month ago and four times higher than this time a year ago, today's death rate is half the rate of late May 2021.

Survey pinpoints most likely long COVID victims

Scientists continue to be baffled by the condition known as long COVID, which consists of lingering symptoms after the patient has recovered from their COVID-19 infection. Who gets it and who doesn’t?

A new survey from 23andMe appears to shed some light on that question. The voluntary survey suggests that women are far more likely to experience long-term symptoms, and so are people with a prior diagnosis of depression or anxiety.

More telling, perhaps, is that half of the people who reported a diagnosis of long COVID had a history of cardiometabolic diseases, such as heart attacks or diabetes. The survey collected data from 100,000 people who had been infected with the coronavirus.

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: State Sen. Nia H. Gill, a Democrat from Essex County, has joined with Republicans in the state legislature to seek an investigation of COVID-19 deaths in New Jersey nursing homes. Opponents said federal and state investigations are already underway.

  • Colorado: In the last few days, Boulder and Jackson counties have been designated as having high rates of COVID-19 transmission by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Health officials worry that other counties could join them now that the people who traveled over the holiday weekend are back home.

  • Florida: The Florida Inspector General has concluded that claims about a data scientist being fired for refusing to manipulate COVID-19 numbers are “unsubstantiated.” Rebekah Jones said she was pressured to fudge the numbers to support lifting COVID-19 restrictions.

  • Ohio: Researchers working with the Dayton Daily News say Ohio could recover its pandemic-related job losses by early 2023, though the Dayton area may take longer. “Dayton has recovered a smaller share of jobs than the state so far, though I’d say it’s close,” said Michael Shields, a researcher with Policy Matters Ohio. 

  • Washington: The masks could be coming back on in Washington state. Health officials report that new cases have surpassed the level that Gov. Jay Inslee used to determine the lifting of a state-wide mask mandate in March. Meanwhile, both Inslee and Lt. Gov. Denny Heck announced last week that they had contracted COVID-19. 

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