COVID-19 tally as compiled by Johns Hopkins University. (Previous numbers in parentheses.)
Total U.S. confirmed cases: 78,532,101 (78,312,881)
Total U.S. deaths: 935,992 (934,796)
Total global cases: 426,551,362 (425,430,279)
Total global deaths: 5,898,442 (5,892,174)
Research suggests vaccine protection still strong at six months
Researchers who have analyzed various COVID-19 studies found that while COVID-19 vaccines lose some effectiveness in preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection, the vaccines retain nearly all of their ability to prevent severe disease up to six months after full vaccination.
The study, which appears online on in The Lancet, was a joint effort by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the World Health Organization. It examined research conducted before the Omicron variant showed up in late 2021.
“There is an indication here of waning vaccine effectiveness over time, though it is encouraging that protection from severe disease, the most worrisome outcome, seems to hold up well,” said Melissa Higdon, the study’s co-first author.
Children have better innate immunity than adults
Since the start of the pandemic, children infected with the COVID-19 virus have generally fared better than adults who get the disease. Doctors haven’t known why.
But in a new study, Yale University scientists found that children are better at managing the first line of defense known as the innate immune system than adults. That’s not to say that some children don't get very sick and even die from the virus, but most of them have very mild symptoms if they have symptoms at all.
Scientists say innate immunity serves to coordinate the first response when a patient is infected with the virus. It’s different than adaptive immunity, which develops more slowly and usually targets a specific disease or ailment.
Health expert sees little threat from Omicron subvariant
Health officials expressed concerns earlier this month when a subvariant of the Omicron COVID-19 variant, called BA.2, began to appear. But now one health expert says it doesn’t appear that the new subvariant is going to be much of a threat.
“I think it’s important to note that while case numbers of BA.2 are increasing, they’re not increasing anywhere close to the way that the BA.1 cases increased,” Dr. Andy Pekosz, professor at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, told WTOP Radio in Washington.
While the Omicron variant spreads very easily, that doesn’t appear to be the case with the subvariant. Pekosz said early evidence suggests that BA.2 may not be as efficient when it comes to how it spreads.
Around the nation
Connecticut: Gov. Ned Lamont has released a COVID-19 update that underscores the progress the state has made in the last two weeks. The report shows that the rate of positive tests has dropped to 3%, about the same as it was in the early days of the pandemic.
Louisiana: In a sign that things are getting back to normal in New Orleans, organizers say the French Quarter Festival will go on. The event had been canceled for the last two years because of the pandemic. The event will serve as the lead-in to three weeks of music, including the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival in March.
New Mexico: Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has lifted the statewide requirement for face coverings to be worn in most indoor spaces, effective immediately. The governor says the state appears to have turned the corner. “I want to express my gratitude to every New Mexican who has steadfastly worn a mask, gotten vaccinated, and done everything in their power to protect their neighbors,” Grisham said.
Illinois: State officials say they are on track to lift the statewide mask mandate on Feb. 28, but Chicago remains on the fence. However, city health officials now hint that they may follow suit. Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said she is "feeling optimistic" and could make a formal announcement this week.
Nebraska: Nebraska has suddenly gotten a lot healthier. The state’s 81% drop in cases over the past two weeks is the nation’s largest. Nebraska’s infection rate is down 94% from when the wave caused by the highly contagious Omicron variant peaked a month ago.