Coronavirus update: New 'Mu variant' is under scrutiny, FDA issues another warning about ivermectin

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Cutting enhanced jobless benefits didn’t increase employment, researchers say

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 39,431,142 (39,220,117)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 642,255(640,281)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 218,666,686 (217,947,269)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 4,546,775 (4,523,447)‌

Mu variant is the latest on the WHO watch list

While the Delta variant continues its rampage across the U.S., the World Health Organization (WHO) says it’s keeping an eye on the Mu variant, which may be the next mutation of the coronavirus to cause trouble. It was first identified in Colombia in January.

"The Mu variant has a constellation of mutations that indicate potential properties of immune escape," the organization said in a bulletin.

WHO scientists are concerned because they say the Mu variant has mutations that suggest it could have resistance to vaccines. The scientists stressed that further studies were needed to better understand the variant and its risks.

FDA increases criticism of ivermectin as COVID-19 defense

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has stepped up its campaign to discourage people from using an animal drug to prevent or treat COVID-19. The drug, ivermectin, has become a social media sensation, with advocates encouraging its use. Popular podcaster Joe Rogan reported late Wednesday that he had used it after testing positive over the weekend.

But the FDA said it is ineffective and could actually cause harmful side effects. The agency points out that the drug is used to treat parasitic infections in livestock and has not been tested on humans.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Mississippi’s State Department of Health reports that at least 70% of its recent calls have been related to ingestion of ivermectin formulations intended for animals. It says many consumers purchased the drug at livestock supply centers.

Cutting jobless benefits didn’t send people back to work

In the early days of the pandemic, when millions of people were thrown out of work, Congress approved an extra $300 a week in unemployment benefits, then renewed it before it was set to expire. About half the states ended the benefits early after small businesses complained that it dissuaded people from returning to work.

But an analysis by the Wall Street Journal calls that hypothesis into question. It found that states that continued paying the extra $300 a week have seen the same job growth as states that ended it early.

“If the question is, ‘Is UI (unemployment insurance) the key thing that’s holding back the labor market recovery?’ The answer is no, definitely not, based on the available data,” Peter Ganong, a University of Chicago economist, told the Journal.

The benefits expire next week.

Around the nation

  • Illinois: Illinois health officials have reported their findings of an investigation into an outbreak of COVID-19 cases linked to an overnight church camp and a two-day men’s conference. The report documented a total of 180 cases of coronavirus, including 122 that occurred among attendees. Neither event required vaccinations or testing.
  • New Jersey: State officials say they expect to begin administering the first COVID-19 booster shots to the most vulnerable consumers in three weeks. Gov. Phil Murphy said the state will reopen large-scale vaccination sites for a limited time to accommodate those who want boosters.
  • Maine: Ten of Maine’s 16 counties are reporting COVID-19 transmission rates that federal health officials categorize as “high.” At midweek, the state reported 475 new cases over a three-day period.
  • Oklahoma: Oklahoma doctors expressed concern this week about the surge in COVID-19 cases in the state and how it is affecting hospitals. The president of the Oklahoma Hospital Association, Patti Davis, says hospitals are preparing for what’s coming. “We very much follow these trend lines and we know that positive cases, when those are on an uptick, there is a lag until hospitalizations start ticking upward as well,” Davis said.
  • Mississippi: Data shows that the state continues to struggle to contain the coronavirus. The New York Times’ data chart of COVID-19 cases ranks Mississippi second in the nation in rate of COVID-19 deaths. It is tied for last place with Alabama for the lowest percentage of fully vaccinated individuals.

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