COVID-19 tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)
Total U.S. confirmed cases: 77,919,052 (77,740,239)
Total U.S. deaths: 922,473 (919,694)
Total global cases: 413,746,208 (412,262,713)
Total global deaths: 5,827,947 (5,818,207)
Pandemic-related supply issues raise producer costs last month
Inflation is getting worse, largely because persistent supply chain bottlenecks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are creating shortages. The Labor Department reports that producer prices, the measure of costs at the wholesale level, rose a full percentage point in January.
It was the biggest increase in the Producer Price Index (PPI) since last May. Producer costs have risen 9.7% over the last 12 months and are almost certain to be passed on to consumers.
Economists say the latest report shows that price increases are spread broadly throughout the production system, suggesting inflation could persist even after supply chain problems ease.
CDC study makes a case for vaccinations
The debate and controversy over COVID-19 vaccines could well last longer than the pandemic itself. Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued another report that makes a case for getting the jab.
The study found that, in January, COVID-19 incidence and hospitalization rates in Los Angeles County among unvaccinated persons were 3.6 times and 23.0 times higher, respectively, than the rates for fully vaccinated people with a booster. During both Delta and Omicron predominance, incidence and hospitalization rates were highest among unvaccinated people and lowest among vaccinated people who received a booster.
“COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, as well as severe COVID-19–associated outcomes in real-world conditions,” the authors concluded. “The risks for SARS-CoV-2 infection and COVID-19–associated hospitalization are lower among fully vaccinated than among unvaccinated persons; this reduction is even more pronounced among those who have received additional or booster doses."
Study: Antibodies improve months after vaccination
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that antibodies produced by immune cells become steadily stronger and more precisely targeted against COVID-19 for at least six months after COVID-19 vaccination. Earlier research suggested that the protection from the virus declines over time.
While it’s true that antibodies decrease in number, the researchers say those that remain are of a higher quality. The study suggests that declining antibody levels in the months after vaccination primarily represent a shift to a sustainable immune response.
“The antibody response we saw is exactly what we’d expect from a robust immune response,” said Senior Author Ali Ellebedy. “We never thought that six months following that second injection, many people would still be actively improving the quality of their antibodies. To me, that is remarkable.”
Around the nation
New York: New cases of the coronavirus have dropped sharply across the state. State health officials report that there were 33,811 new cases in the week ending Sunday, a decline of 38% from the previous week. Gov. Kathy Hochul ended the statewide mask mandate late last week.
Minnesota: Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 tracking model currently shows that the rate of average daily cases per 100,000 people is still pretty high in most areas of the state. However, they're down considerably from January. The clinic’s 14-day outlook predicts an even steeper decline.
Georgia: Gov. Brian Kemp has sent a bill to the legislature that would allow parents to opt out of a requirement that their children wear masks at school. The measure would be in force until June 2023. “We got to continue to move back to more normal operations,” Kemp said.
California: State health officials say they will reassess the COVID-19 situation in schools at the end of the month. At that time, officials say they may lift the mask mandate that has been removed for other indoor public spaces. The decision for schools will be based on factors such as pediatric COVID-19 related hospitalizations, hospital admissions, and test positivity rates.
Alaska: Officials say the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on children in the state’s overburdened foster home system. “Children are sleeping in offices, in OCS offices, because they test positive for COVID, and there’s no one available to take them,” said Amanda Metivier, interim director of the Child Welfare Academy.