Coronavirus update: Study sheds new light on severe infections

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Pandemic-related job losses are at a record low

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

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 80,251,517 (80,219,035)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 983,869 (983,229)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 495,296,881 (494,264,883)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,167,708 (6,164,408)‌

COVID-19 triggers massive inflammation in some, study finds

Some people who test positive for COVID-19 have no symptoms at all. Others end up in hospitals on ventilators and are forced to fight for their lives. Scientists are now only beginning to understand why.

While compromised immune systems and underlying conditions play a role, a new study traces how immune responses in some patients overreact and cause severe damage to the lungs. The researchers found that the virus can infect certain kinds of immune cells called monocytes and macrophages, which are key elements of the immune system.

In some patients, the virus is not destroyed by the immune system and escapes into other cells, where they wreak havoc. Not only that, the researchers say the escaped virus starts replicating, damaging other cells and organs.

Fewer people are getting laid off

The labor market damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be over. The Labor Department reports that initial claims for unemployment benefits last week totaled 166,000.

That’s 5,000 fewer than the previous week’s revised total and is the lowest since the start of the pandemic. At one point early in the economic shutdown caused by the virus, jobless claims totaled more than 1 million.

The jobless claims numbers have been trending lower since the start of the year. The Labor Department’s four-week moving average of new benefit claims fell to 170,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's revised average. 

Some state economies dealt with pandemic better than others

The COVID-19 pandemic dealt a hammer blow to the U.S. economy, but a new report suggests that some states were able to handle it a lot better than others. The report from found that Vermont’s economy performed best.

Vermont was ranked number one in both consumer confidence and health safety and number three in job market strength. New England is well-represented on the list, with New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Iowa, and Wisconsin rounding out the top five.

Michigan ranked at the bottom, scoring 42nd in consumer confidence and 29th in health safety. It scored the worst of any of the ranked states in job market strength.

Around the nation

  • Texas: Texas’ chief state epidemiologist says about 99% of the state’s population has developed at least some immune response to COVID-19. That finding comes as hospitalizations dropped below 1,000 this week for the first time during the pandemic. "Less than a thousand is a good place to be and this is what we've kind of been waiting for and watching really closely," said Dr. Jennifer Shuford.

  • Nebraska: Noting that on-campus cases of COVID-19 have fallen sharply, the University of Nebraska has announced the end of its random testing program. In the last two weeks, the program turned up 34 cases for a positivity rate of only 1.36% in the last seven days.

  • Connecticut: Even with cases of the coronavirus in retreat, state officials are not letting up on their campaign to increase vaccinations. In his weekly update, Gov. Ned Lamont reported that 47% of the 117 people being treated for COVID-19 in Connecticut hospitals are not fully vaccinated.

  • Tennessee: Clinical trials have yet to provide convincing evidence that the antiviral drug ivermectin is effective at preventing or treating COVID-19, but the drug has its enthusiasts. The state legislature is considering a GOP-backed measure to make ivermectin available without a prescription in Tennessee.

  • Maine: With severe cases of COVID-19 in decline across the U.S., the once scarce supplies of the treatment drugs Paxlovid and Molnupiravir are now plentiful. They are so plentiful that health officials in Maine say the drugs are being underused. “Initially we had to be very selective about who got it,” Erich Fogg, the clinical director of York Hospital’s walk-in services, told the Bangor Daily News. “For 10 people who requested it, maybe only two got treated. Now we’ve relaxed and are able to prescribe it more.”

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