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Coronavirus update: Omicron has links to the common cold

Two antibody drugs have been cleared for wider use for children

COVID-19 Omicron variant test
Photo (c) DMEPhotography - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 49,101,715 (49,052,458)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 788,436 (787,821)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 266,145,318 (265,560,801)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,259,488 (5,251,790)‌

Omicron has similarities to the common cold, researchers say

While there is still a lot of unknowns surrounding the Omicron variant, researchers at a Massachusetts biotech firm say the variant appears to have a genetic code that is found in the common cold. The cold is also a coronavirus.

The scientists say that could explain why most cases involving the new variant have been associated with mild symptoms. They also say its similarity to the common cold might also make it spread faster.

The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, suggests that the similarity between the two coronaviruses could make the Omicron variant “more accustomed to human hosts” and more able to avoid immune system responses. The variant has now been identified in about a third of U.S. states.

FDA clears antibody drugs for wider use in children

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revised the emergency use authorization (EUA) of bamlanivimab and etesevimab for the treatment of mild to moderate COVID-19 in all younger pediatric patients who have a positive COVID-19 test and are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19, including hospitalization or death. 

Previously, the drugs were cleared for use by pediatric patients 12 years of age and older who weigh at least 40 kilograms. The revision also authorizes the drugs for post-exposure use for the prevention of COVID-19 in all pediatric patients, including newborns. 

"Now all patients at high risk of severe COVID-19, including children and newborn babies, have an option for treatment and post-exposure prevention,” said Dr. Patrizia Cavazzoni, director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

New York City declares vaccine mandate for private companies

New York City is imposing a vaccination mandate on private companies, a step no other city has taken. Mayor Bill de Blasio told MSNBC that the mandate will take effect on Dec. 27.

“We in New York City have decided to use a preemptive strike, to really do something bold to stop the further growth of COVID and the dangers it’s causing to all of us,” de Blasio said. “So as of today, we’re going to announce a first-in-the-nation measure. Our health commissioner will announce a vaccine mandate for private sector employers across the board.”

In addition to expected court challenges, the mandate may be influenced by a change in administrations. Mayor-elect Eric Adams issued a statement saying he will “evaluate” his predecessor’s move once he takes office.

Around the nation

  • Virginia: A Richmond school teacher credits an adverse reaction to the Moderna vaccine with saving her life. A medical exam determined she had early breast cancer. Now on the road to recovery, she told a Richmond TV station that she’s looking forward to getting a booster.

  • Michigan: The U.S. government is sending doctors, nurses, and others to Michigan to support certain hospitals that are dealing with rising COVID-19 cases. Over the weekend, the state’s caseload and hospitalization numbers reached their highest levels of the pandemic.

  • Colorado: Health officials have set up a mobile clinic outside Denver’s Ball Arena and say they will offer vaccinations at every event during December. “We were at the event and it was an easy option to just get my booster and just put this all behind me,” Jenny Adelman told KCNC-TV.

  • California: A Bay area school had a COVID-19 outbreak after officials said parents of one child sent him to school for seven days, even though they had been told he had tested positive for the virus. The head of the Larkspur-Corte Madera School District in Marin County said “corrective action” will be taken.

  • South Carolina: Federal prosecutors have charged a Columbia nursing director with making and distributing phony vaccination cards. Authorities charged 53-year-old Tammy McDonald, the Director of Nursing Services at a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center, with two counts of producing fraudulent COVID-19 vaccination cards and one count of lying to federal investigators about her role in making the records.

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