Coronavirus update: Pfizer says its COVID-19 pill is 90% effective

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California orders everyone to mask up

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 50,164,035 (49,938,379)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 799,090 (797,456)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 271,173,538 (270,339,576)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,317,639 (5,309,203)‌

Pfizer says its pill is 90% effective

Pfizer has issued its final analysis data of a pill to treat COVID-19, declaring that the pill showed an efficacy rate of 90% in preventing hospitalization and death. In a clinical trial, it said none of the patients who took the pill died.

“Emerging variants of concern, like Omicron, have exacerbated the need for accessible treatment options for those who contract the virus, and we are confident that, if authorized or approved, this potential treatment could be a critical tool to help quell the pandemic,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

The Pfizer pills are meant to be taken with the older antiviral drug ritonavir every 12 hours for five days beginning shortly after the onset of symptoms. If authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the drug will be sold under the brand name Paxlovid.

California orders masks regardless of vaccination status

The state of California has issued a sweeping mandate that requires masks to be worn in indoor public spaces regardless of vaccination status. The measure takes effect Wednesday.

Several jurisdictions in the state, including Los Angeles County, already have a similar mask mandate in place. The statewide requirement will expire on Jan. 15, if it is not renewed.

California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said the measure is necessary to cope with a 47% spike in COVID-19 case rates in California since Thanksgiving. According to Ghaly, the rate of daily new cases has nearly doubled since the holiday.

Pandemic set off a wave of entrepreneurship

Millions of Americans quit their jobs during the pandemic’s “Great Resignation,” and it turns out many of them started new businesses. A report by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that new business startups increased by 24% last year when compared to 2019.

The report found people thrown out of work early in the pandemic were open to significant life changes. In particular, low-income workers began taking stock of their situation and looked for opportunities.

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: State health officials are grappling with a sharp increase in new cases of the coronavirus. Gov. Phil Murphy reports that serious cases are also increasing, with a 25% increase in hospitalizations in the last seven days. The latest positivity rate is 8%.

  • Michigan: With winter break just ahead, the University of Michigan has issued guidance to students, faculty, and staff for staying healthy over the holidays. “COVID-19 case activity on campus has returned to the elevated levels seen before the Thanksgiving break,” said Robert Ernst, associate vice president of student life and director of the Campus Health Response Committee. 

  • Ohio: Anti-poverty groups are appealing to state officials to free up some of the $5 billion in Ohio’s COVID-19 relief money to help low-income residents. “We’ve so far spent a huge portion of our funds to stabilize businesses. We need to spend the remaining funds on those who are most in need,” said Zach Schiller, of Policy Matters Ohio.

  • Oklahoma: Cases of the coronavirus have risen over the last month. State health officials say about 20% of the cases are in patients who had been vaccinated. Interim Health Commissioner Keith Reed said many of the cases involved patients who would have been eligible for a booster shot but didn’t get one.

  • Virginia: Virginia passed a milestone at the start of the week, recording 1 million cases of COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. The Virginia Department of Health now reports that there have been 1,000,694 total cases, 734,937 of which are confirmed and 265,757 that are probable.

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