Coronavirus (COVID-19) tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)
Total U.S. confirmed cases: 69,366,460 (68,578,066)
Total U.S. deaths: 860,564 (857,781)
Total global cases: 343,385,893 (338,375,610)
Total global deaths: 5,577,111 (5,567,534)
Analysis suggests COVID-19 cases are declining
After a month-long surge, new cases of COVID-19 are in decline over wide stretches of the U.S. that were hardest hit by the highly-transmissible Omicron variant. An analysis conducted by Reuters suggests that the virus, at least for now, could be fading out.
The analysis shows that new cases of COVID-19 have fallen in 15 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico. In Northeastern states, new cases are down 36% compared to last week. For the first time in weeks, health professionals are expressing some optimism.
"Certainly it bodes well for us in terms of the trajectory of Omicron," said Wafaa El-Sadr, a professor of epidemiology and medicine at Columbia University in New York City.
Getting reimbursed for COVID-19 tests not easy, some consumers say
The federal government is requiring private health insurance providers to reimburse policyholders for the purchase of COVID-19 tests. Some policyholders say it’s a complicated process.
According to a report by Vox, which analyzed social media comments, many Americans are baffled by the process, especially if they are required to print a piece of paper that resembles an IRS form, fill it out, and then either send it to their insurer through the mail or by fax.
“Our health care system is mind-numbingly complex,” Larry Levitt, executive vice president at the Kaiser Family Foundation, told Vox. “That complexity takes its toll on patients in terms of time, access, and affordability.”
Drug company ramping up Omicron treatment
GlaxoSmithKline, working with its partner Vir Biotechnology, is working overtime to meet the increasing demand for a COVID-19 antibody drug. The reason? The drug, sotrovimab, appears to be in a class by itself. It’s the only approved U.S. drug that works against the Omicron variant.
The two drug firms say they have taken steps to ramp up the production of sotrovimab. They hope to double the number of doses they can deliver in the first three months of the year to 600,000.
Even before they are produced, those doses have already been allotted. The U.S. government has agreed to purchase all 600,000 doses and distribute them to state health agencies based on need.
Around the nation
Alabama: It’s been a rough week for children with COVID-19. State health officials say 97 Alabama children were hospitalized with the coronavirus this week. Fourteen of the young patients were in the intensive care unit (ICU) and four were on ventilators.
South Carolina: The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is sounding the alarm over the pace of test results in the state. Officials say some people are waiting more than a week for results due to the increasing number of tests being performed. DHEC calls the delays “unacceptable.”
Connecticut: Gov. Ned Lamont has issued an executive order directing all nursing homes in the state to require visitors to either show proof that they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have recently tested negative for the virus in order to enter. “We know that some of the people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19 include those who live in nursing homes, which is why we need to be doing everything we can to protect them from this virus,” Lamont said.
Iowa: The Iowa Restaurant Association is sending up a distress signal by reporting that last year’s aid for eateries impacted by COVID-19 wasn’t enough. The group is asking the state’s congressional delegation to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.
Florida: Orange County Health Director Dr. Raul Pino has been placed on administrative leave after he sent out an email urging staff members to get vaccinated. “I have a hard time understanding how we can be in public health and not practice it!” he wrote.