Coronavirus update: New surge would likely be handled differently

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New studies find that vaccine side effects affecting the heart are rare

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 80,486,936 (80,449,398)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 986,511 (985,826)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 501,199,108 (499,748,065)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,187,033 (6,181,560)‌

New surge would be different, experts say

Cases of COVID-19 have begun to increase again, but they are nowhere near the number reached during the most recent peak in January. Still, experts who are preparing for another spike in U.S. cases expect that the surge will be handled differently than before.

First, scientists expect any new surge to be less severe. That’s because new cases are being fueled by the BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant, which generally causes less severe symptoms in people who are vaccinated.

They also point out that so many Americans have now either been vaccinated or have been infected – or both – that there is growing immunity to the virus. There are also plenty of ways to fight the virus. A Pfizer drug called Paxlovid has been shown to cut the risk of hospitalization or death by about 90%.

Studies find heart side effects of vaccines are rare

Despite early concerns that COVID-19 vaccines could be linked to a heart condition in some people, two new studies find that the risk is very low.  One of the studies, which consisted of an analysis of 22 other studies, found that the risk of developing myocarditis was about the same as for vaccines against measles and other common diseases.

Another study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the risk of heart ailments -- including myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle -- was higher in people after they were infected with the virus than after receiving a vaccine.

Surveys show that concerns about vaccine side effects, including well-publicized reports of rare heart conditions, have contributed to vaccine hesitancy.

Airlines step up push to drop mask mandate

Top executives at U.S. airlines have renewed their push for the Biden administration to drop the requirement that everyone aboard commercial aircraft wear a mask. However, some foreign airlines that have dropped the mask mandate have run into turbulence.

CBS News reports that some international airlines that recently dropped the mask rule have had to cancel hundreds of flights because so many members of flight crews have been infected with COVID-19.

As an example, CBS cites data showing that EasyJet canceled 202 of its 3,517 flights scheduled to depart from the U.K. between March 28 and April 3. During the same period in 2019, before the pandemic, there were no flight cancellations.

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: Even though Philadelphia has reimposed its mask mandate, New Jersey probably won’t, at least according to Gov. Phil Murphy. Murphy said he would be “shocked” if the state decided to follow Philadelphia’s lead. He also said he was surprised by the action Philadelphia took.

  • Nevada: The Nevada Department of Corrections has resumed visits to inmates at prisons around the state after they were suspended during January’s surge in COVID-19 cases. The state said masking requirements, social distancing, barriers between inmates and visitors, and previously required sanitation measures would be suspended as visits resume.

  • Massachusetts: New cases of COVID-19 are rising quickly across the state, health officials report. Positive test results have risen more than 50% in the last seven days, and virus hospitalizations have also jumped. The positivity rate is now 3.42%, more than double the rate of 1.60% a few weeks ago.

  • Texas: Gov. Greg Abbott has announced that the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) has received approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a fourth round of federal Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) food benefits. The aid will go to Texas families with children who temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to COVID-19.

  • Illinois: Chicago health officials say they don’t expect the city to follow the lead of Philadelphia, which reimposed a mask mandate for indoor spaces after cases spiked. Chicago and the state of Illinois are both seeing similar increases, but Dr. Amaal Tokars, the acting director of the state Department of Public Health, says the return of a mask mandate isn’t expected any time soon.

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