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Coronavirus update: Updated boosters to be available by the fall

The CDC says the pandemic exposed some of its shortcomings

COVID-19 booster shot concept
Photo (c) Ratana21 - Getty Images
COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 92,278,387 (94,147,210)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 1,039,027 (1,038,002)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 592,403,643 (593,438,867)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,446,012 (6,441,888)‌

Updated booster shots could be available soon

People waiting to get a COVID-19 booster until the vaccine has been updated may not have much longer to wait. White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha says the updated boosters will be available to teens and adults "in a few short weeks."

"I believe it’s going to be available, and every American over the age of 12 will be eligible for it," Jha told NBC News.

The revised booster has been developed to target the Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5, along with the original strain of the virus. Subvariants account for nearly 90% of new COVID-19 cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

CDC director says pandemic exposed shortcomings

The CDC has been criticized for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, and CDC Director Rochelle Walensky says some of the criticism is justified. On Wednesday, Walensky announced some changes to address what have been perceived as shortcomings.

Walensky says the agency will undergo some top to bottom changes that are designed to “transform” the organization and its work culture by improving how the agency shares information, develops public health guidance, and communicates with the American people.

“For 75 years, CDC and public health have been preparing for COVID-19, and in our big moment, our performance did not reliably meet expectations,” Walensky said. “As a long-time admirer of this agency and a champion for public health, I want us all to do better.”

The government is ending vaccine purchases

Since the start of the pandemic, the U.S. government has paid for COVID-19 vaccines. In the weeks ahead, vaccines will only be available in the commercial market.

Federal health officials say the U.S. government will stop buying vaccines and test kits and will no longer foot the bill for treatments by this fall.

In some cases, that trend has already started. Tests to detect the virus have been available at pharmacies for several months. Of the four approved vaccines, only two have received FDA approval to be sold commercially – Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech.

Around the nation

  • New York: New York City schools start up again in a few weeks, and education officials won’t be as strict as they were during the last school year. Starting next month, the Department of Education will require vaccinations for all employees, visitors, and students who play in high-risk extracurricular activities. Daily health screeners are not needed, but officials are strongly urging sick people to stay home.

  • California: A study by the CDC found that 71% of all children in California have had COVID-19 since the outbreak of the virus in March 2020. Health experts expressed surprise at that rate. Schools remained closed for much of the pandemic in order to prevent childhood infections.

  • Colorado: It’s not a clean bill of health, but officials say it’s close. For the first time in months, no Colorado counties are on the CDC’s highest level for community spread of the coronavirus. COVID-19 rates are continuing on a downward trend across the state.

  • Massachusetts: State health and education officials say they will scale back COVID-19 restrictions with the start of the new year. While the virus is still spreading, it’s seen as less of a threat. Officials say they will focus efforts on protecting children who are at high risk for severe symptoms.

  • Ohio: Ohio University has revised its mask policy for the upcoming fall semester. The new policy, which takes effect immediately, will continue to be based on CDC COVID-19 Community Levels. If there is a high transmission rate during the year, masks will be required during scheduled class and class-related activities in classrooms, laboratories, studios, clinical settings, other learning spaces, and the Child Development Center.

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