Coronavirus update: Small businesses oppose Congress’ move to reclaim aid money

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Researchers want to test a drug to see if it can be used as a ‘long COVID’ treatment

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 80,647,520 (80,627,545)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 988,695 (988,587)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 504,718,824 (504,435,540)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,199,113 (6,197,889)‌

Small businesses oppose Congress’ move to reclaim aid money

A battle is brewing in Washington between small businesses and lawmakers who want to reclaim unspent COVID-19 aid. In particular, a congressional proposal would “claw back” about $5 billion in unspent funds directed at three programs to support small businesses.

Lawmakers say the money would be best used by redirecting it toward providing free vaccinations and tests for Americans who lack health insurance. The administration sought additional funding last month, but it was rejected by the Senate.

Small business leaders say they continue to face many economic challenges caused by the pandemic. They've pointed to declining optimism among small business owners last month and argued that pandemic-related problems are being compounded by inflation.

Pressure builds to test Paxlovid as ‘long COVID’ treatment

Pfizer’s oral drug Paxlovid is used to treat COVID-19, but some researchers say it may also be useful for treating "long-COVID," a condition characterized by prolonged COVID-19 symptoms. One researcher suffering from the condition took the drug and said it relieved her symptoms.

“This provides really strong evidence that we need to be studying antiviral therapy in this context as soon as possible," Dr. Steven Deeks, a medical professor at the University of California, told Reuters. He is pressing for a clinical trial to determine if Paxlovid can help.

Long COVID is said to affect about 30% of the people who are infected with the virus but recover. These patients say some symptoms, such as fatigue and loss of sense of taste or smell, can persist for months.

Are U.S. cases really declining?

The official numbers show that the U.S. has turned the corner on the pandemic. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 has dropped sharply since January.

However, testing that is administered by medical and lab facilities has also declined. The U.S. has encouraged consumers to take at-home tests in recent weeks, and those results don’t always get recorded.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that COVID-19 cases are nearly 15 times higher than the official tally. However, many of those allegedly unreported cases appear to be less severe because hospitalizations have also declined.

Around the nation

  • Florida: Cases of the BA.2 subvariant of the Omicron variant are rising in Florida, but most cases are not severe enough to require hospitalization. Gov. Ron DeSantis says there will be no return to any kind of COVID-19 restrictions. “I just want to be very clear, as long as I sit in the chair in which I sit, no Floridian will be restricted, mandated or locked down in any possible way,” DeSantis said.

  • New York: Cases of COVID-19 are also rising in New York, but they have not put a strain on hospitals. Gov. Kathy Hochul says the situation is manageable and will not require extreme measures. “I’m not going to shut it down again, you can count on that,” Hochul said.

  • Delaware: The Delaware Division of Public Health (DPH) is launching the COVID-19 Test-to-Treat program in the state as part of a federal initiative aimed at providing convenient testing and treatment options combined in one location. Test-to-treat locations are designed to be a “one-stop shop” for individuals seeking diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19 within five days of showing symptoms. 

  • Oregon: Officials at Oregon Health & Science University have apologized to employees after they sent out a fake phishing email as a test of cybersecurity awareness. The email promised up to $7,000 in financial assistance to deal with COVID-19 expenses. Some employees were upset that it wasn’t for real.

  • New Hampshire: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has updated its threat levels for New Hampshire due to a recent increase in cases. Eight of New Hampshire’s 10 counties are now considered to have a “medium” level of community transmission.

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