Coronavirus update: Scientists say ventilation upgrades are needed, confusion about where to wear a mask

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A former FDA commissioner says the pandemic is winding down

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 32,945,821 (32,919,878)

Total U.S. deaths: 586,001 (584,779)

Total global cases: 163,174,951 (162,566,700)

Total global deaths: 3,381,317 (3,354,194)

Authorities now agree that virus spreads through the air

From the very beginning of the pandemic, scientists argued that COVID-19 easily spread through the air. Now the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree.

The two health organizations have joined scientists in arguing that many ventilation systems need updates. Not only will it reduce the spread of COVID-19 they say, but it will also minimize other health risks.

“We are used to the fact that we have clean water coming from our taps,” Lidia Morawska, a distinguished professor in the school of earth and atmospheric sciences at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, told Bloomberg. “We should expect clean, pollutant- and pathogen-free air.” 

Shoppers need to hold onto their masks

Even though the CDC has said fully vaccinated Americans no longer need to wear masks in most public places, corporate America isn’t so sure. While Walmart and Costco are among the chains that have embraced the new guidance, Target, Home Depot, and many other chains still require everyone to continue masking up.

Besides some confusion on the part of consumers, some health experts say the guidance came too quickly and was too sweeping. They also point out that not everyone has been fully vaccinated.

"I think the CDC meant to say something really good, which is these vaccines are really protective," emergency physician and CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen told CNN. "The thing is though, there were unintended consequences of their actions."

Gottlieb: No one will be wearing masks by June

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), is one health expert who isn’t that concerned about the CDC mask guidance. On CNBC this morning, he predicted that no one would be wearing a mask by June -- essentially two weeks from now.

The exception might be young children, Gottlieb said. Noting there is no protocol yet for vaccinating children under 12, he recommended that mask rules for kids should probably remain in effect.

Gottlieb also repeated his belief that the CDC’s guidance may serve to encourage many adults who have not yet been vaccinated to get the shots.

Clinical trials for five-and-under vaccine

The FDA has approved the use of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for adolescents. Now, the vaccine is being tested on the nation’s youngest children. Clinical trials for children five and under have begun in the U.S.

Pfizer said it plans to ask the FDA in September for emergency authorization (EUA) for the vaccine for children aged two to 11. Moderna is also conducting clinical trials in small kids for its vaccine. Children 12 and older are already approved for the vaccine.

Will alcohol sales fall as the pandemic winds down?

Surveys show that alcohol consumption rose sharply last year as millions of people tried to cope with pandemic-related stress. A study published in JAMA Network Open estimated that drinking increased by 14% over 2019.

Now that the pandemic appears to be winding down, will that behavior change? It might, says Chris Marshall, who operates an alcohol-free bar in Austin. He says there has been an increase lately in people reaching out to manage their alcohol consumption.

“Everyone’s feeling this stress, everyone’s looking for that tool to help them navigate that stress, and a lot of people are using alcohol,” Marshall told MarketWatch. “But they’re also finding that tool can really become a vice and something that hinders them from achieving the things that they want.” 

Around the nation

  • Colorado: Gov. Jared Polis has joined other state governors in lifting most COVID-19 restrictions, despite Colorado experiencing a spike in infections. The Colorado Sun reports that the state has the worst seven-day average of new cases in the nation.

  • Minnesota: Not everyone shunning job openings is doing it because unemployment pays better. Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon says the state has seen about a 20% increase in new business openings as many people who lost jobs are striking out on their own.

  • Virginia: Gov. Ralph Northum has lifted many of the state’s virus mitigation rules, including a requirement that residents wear masks in public. The governor also lifted limits on alcohol sales and said restaurants may now operate at full capacity.

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