Coronavirus update: U.S. at pandemic crossroads, Americans get travel warning

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Vaccines may provide relief for ‘long haulers’

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

Total U.S. confirmed cases: 31,741,301 (31,672,240)

Total U.S. deaths: 567,759 (567,233)

Total global cases: 142,252,661 (141,544,240)

Total global deaths: 3,033,225 (3,022,288)

U.S. at a pandemic crossroads

As far as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is concerned, it’s “the best of times and the worst of times.” In some states, new cases are rapidly declining. In others, they’re rising at a worrisome rate.

According to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. is at a “complicated stage.” She says the seven-day average of new cases is at more than 67,443, up 1% from the previous week. A month ago, the seven-day average was 53,000 cases a day. Walensky says vaccinations are critical.

“The more people get vaccinated, the fewer infections there will be, which means fewer variants will emerge and fewer breakthrough infections will occur and the quicker we can get back to doing the things we love,” she told reporters.

State Department issues travel warnings

While cases of COVID-19 are slowly rising in the U.S. they’re surging in many other countries where vaccination efforts have been slow to ramp up. The State Department has issued a travel advisory that urges Americans to reconsider all foreign travel.

The new travel guidelines are intended to discourage visits to approximately 80% of countries worldwide that are seeing big increases in cases. There may be additional guidance later this week, the department said in a statement.

Cases of the virus have been rapidly increasing in India, Brazil, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, Turkey, Italy, Spain, and Germany. People planning a trip can check the status of their destination here.

Vaccines may help COVID-19 ‘long haulers

There’s more anecdotal evidence that getting a shot of one of the vaccines could help people who are still suffering symptoms of the coronavirus months after becoming infected.

Angela Keen, co-founder of the Kapu Quarantine Breakers Group on Facebook, which includes members who battle extended symptoms of COVID-19 long after they should have fully recovered, said she immediately felt much better after receiving her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

Dr. Todd Seto, director of Research of Academic Affairs at Queen’s Medical Center in Hawaii, is studying 2,000 Queen’s employees to test for their antibody levels. He says the anecdotal evidence that vaccines help with COVID-19 “long hauler” symptoms is promising, but he is advocating for a formal study.

Consumer product companies still see strong demand

How’s your supply of toilet paper holding up? A year after consumers made a run on essential items like toilet paper and household cleaners, consumer product companies are still scrambling to keep up with demand.

A new report from the Consumer Brands Association shows that sales of consumer packaged goods jumped 9.4% to $1.53 trillion last year. Analysts believe demand is just as strong in 2021. In reporting first-quarter earnings, Procter & Gamble confirmed that belief and stated that consumers are likely to see price hikes soon.

“As the world was swirling in chaos, companies had to focus intensely on output because people needed their products to stay home,” said Consumer Brands’ CEO Geoff Freeman. “The 2020 economic data is the paper trail of a year when the CPG industry rose to the occasion and delivered.”

Rocker Ted Nugent tests positive

Musician Ted Nugent, who was an unabashed pandemic skeptic from the start, disclosed on Facebook this week that he has COVID-19. 

“Everybody told me that I should not announce this, but I have had flu symptoms for the past 10 days. I thought I was dying,” he said in a video post.

In previous posts, Nugent said COVID-19 was “not a real pandemic” and at other times suggested it was all a scam.

Around the nation

  • New Jersey: Cases of COVID-19 are falling again, but Gov. Phil Murphy says this is no time for residents to let down their guard. For now, restrictions will remain in place. “We just don't have the latitude that other states that don't have that density and weather reality have," Murphy said.

  • Texas: Texas A&M University researchers have identified a new COVID-19 variant called BV-1, related to the U.K. variant. Of special concern, they say the new variant doesn’t seem to be contained by antibodies.

  • Iowa: “No thanks, we’re good.” That was the response this week from 43 counties that turned down their allocation of COVID-19 vaccines. The counties, double the number from the previous weeks, told state officials they have plenty on hand to meet demand.

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