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Coronavirus update: U.K. approves Merck treatment pill

Doctors are concerned about unvaccinated pregnant women

COVID-19 pill concept
Photo (c) OsakaWayne Studios - Getty Images
Coronavirus (COVID-19) ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 46,261,126 (46,182,380)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 750,578 (748,943)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 248,311,594 (247,799,743)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 5,025,920 (5,017,977)‌

Merck COVID-19 pill cleared for use in the U.K.

Health authorities in the U.K. have cleared the way for doctors to prescribe Merck’s COVID-19 pill to treat symptoms of the coronavirus. Doctors have hailed the release of the drug because it can be taken at home, and tests have shown it can reduce the risk of hospitalization and death among high-risk patients.

“This will be a gamechanger for the most vulnerable and the immunosuppressed, who will soon be able to receive the groundbreaking treatment,” U.K. Health Secretary Sajid Javid said in a statement.

The pill, molnupiravir, could be available to Americans within weeks. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is reviewing the drug, and an advisory panel is scheduled to meet later this month to decide whether to recommend its approval as a COVID-19 treatment.

Doctors worried about pregnant women who refuse vaccine

Since August, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that pregnant women get vaccinated. The agency points to research showing that the vaccine is safe and effective during pregnancy and that unvaccinated pregnant women tend to fare badly when they get infected.

But the CDC reports that only 35% of pregnant women have been vaccinated against the virus. That compares to 68% of the eligible population.

CDC doctors have begun to publicly urge pregnant women to get the shot, saying pregnant women with COVID-19 symptoms are more than twice as likely to be admitted to a hospital intensive care unit. They also have a greater than 70% risk of death.

Aaron Rodgers sidelined after testing positive

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will miss this weekend’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs after testing positive for COVID-19. The Packers placed their starting quarterback on the Reserve/COVID-19 list late Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Rodgers announcement has reportedly triggered an NFL investigation of the Packers’ virus protocol. Rodgers is unvaccinated and should have been subject to strict rules for unvaccinated players.

"The primary responsibility for enforcement of the Covid protocols within club facilities rests with each club," the NFL said in a statement Wednesday, obtained by NFL Network. "Failure to properly enforce the protocols has resulted in discipline being assessed against individual clubs in the past. The league is aware of the current situation in Green Bay and will be reviewing the matter with the Packers."

Around the nation

  • California: It’s high school football playoff time, but Crenshaw High School in Los Angeles will be sidelined, not because of their record but because of the team’s vaccination status. Only 13 of Crenshaw’s players are vaccinated. The rules require 18 vaccinated players in order to participate in the playoffs.

  • Indiana: Gov. Eric Holcomb has signed two executive orders that will extend Indiana's COVID-19 public health emergency until at least Dec. 1. "I'm extending the public health emergency for another 30 days to maintain critical assistance to our neediest Hoosiers as we come out of this pandemic — all directly tied to its continuation," Holcomb said.

  • Tennessee: The state legislature has passed a sweeping bill that would place major limitations on mask mandates and vaccine requirements. It would also put age restrictions on who could get vaccinated without parental consent. The bill now goes to Gov. Bill Lee’s desk.

  • Colorado: COVID-19 cases continue to surge statewide, and hospitals say they will probably have to ration health care. Hospital officials say they are having to postpone elective surgery on some patients because of a shortage of available beds.

  • Minnesota: Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan announced that she has tested positive for a breakthrough case of COVID-19. “I wanted to share with Minnesotans that I tested positive for COVID-19 after caring for our 8-year-old daughter who tested positive last week,” Flanagan wrote in a tweet. “While I'm under the weather, our family is doing well, and we're thankful for the support of friends and family.”

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