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Coronavirus update: WHO endorses Paxlovid

A new mRNA vaccine has shown good results in a trial

Paxlovid pill
Photo (c) Rafmaster - Getty Images
COVID-19 ‌tally‌ ‌as‌ ‌‌compiled‌‌ ‌by‌ ‌Johns‌ ‌Hopkins‌ ‌University.‌ ‌(Previous‌ ‌numbers‌ ‌in‌ ‌parentheses.)‌

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌confirmed‌ ‌cases:‌ 80,854,446 (80,804,068)

Total‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌deaths:‌ 990, 691 (990,237)

Total‌ ‌global‌ ‌cases:‌ 508,013,743 (507,165,448)

Total ‌global‌ ‌deaths:‌ 6,213,459 (6,209,165)‌

WHO endorses Pfizer’s treatment drug

If you become infected with COVID-19 and are a member of a vulnerable group, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that your doctor prescribe Paxlovid, an antiviral drug created by Pfizer.

The international health agency said it is making a “strong recommendation” for the drug after trials showed that it was highly effective at keeping people out of the hospital. In the trial, it reduced the risk of high-risk patients being admitted to a hospital by 85%.

The drug is a combination of two other drugs – nirmatrelvir and ritonavir – and is currently used to treat people with mild and moderate cases of COVID-19, but at risk of hospital admission. In its endorsement, the WHO called Paxlovid the “best therapeutic choice for high-risk patients to date.”

New mRNA vaccine shows good results in trial

Arcturus Therapeutics, based in San Diego, reports positive results of its new mRNA vaccine against COVID-19. In a clinical trial involving 17,000 people, the company said it showed 55% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 and provided 95% efficacy against severe illness and death. 

The company cited what it said were other advantages when compared to the vaccines produced by Pfizer and Moderna. It’s easier to store and is “self-amplyfying,” allowing for smaller doses.

“This represents a key milestone for the company and provides significant clinical validation of our STARR platform,” said Joseph Payne, CEO of Arcturus Therapeutics. “We believe self-amplifying mRNA combined with our LUNAR delivery technology will create a path to better mRNA medicines.” 

Mandates vary by location

The overturning of the federal travel mask mandate has created some confusion about where and when to put on a mask. Some local leaders have their own ideas.

Starting today, masks will be required on all Los Angeles County mass transit services. New York never ended its mass transit mask mandate, with Gov. Kathy Hochul extending it “for a short time.”

In Philadelphia, days after reinstating an indoor mask mandate for public spaces, city officials have announced that they are dropping the mandate again starting Monday. Mayor Jim Kenney cited decreasing hospitalizations and falling case counts as the reason for the shift.

Around the nation

  • Missouri: State Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Lincoln Hough of Springfield won committee support for cutting $500,000 from Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s budget because of his aggressive lawsuits against localities enforcing COVID-19 rules. “As our attorney general continues to sue most of the citizens of this state, I don’t know why we are giving him another half million dollars,” Hough said.

  • Pennsylvania: New cases are spreading quickly across Pennsylvania, health officials report. In the most recent tally, cases were up nearly 30%. Despite that, Pennsylvania still ranks 23rd among states with the fastest transmission of the virus.

  • South Carolina: Health officials are cautiously optimistic that the state has turned the corner on COVID-19. Cases in the Charleston Tri-county area were both low and stable over the past week, according to the Medical University of South Carolina’s COVID-19 Epidemiology Intelligence Project. 

  • Maryland: Maryland is apparently a good place to be if you want to avoid the coronavirus. In a ranking of the 50 states, based on five metrics, Maryland led all states with a score of 80.79. The metrics include transmission rate, positivity rates, hospitalizations, deaths, and percentage of eligible residents vaccinated.

  • Alaska: Cruise line operators planning to visit Alaskan ports this summer have said they will require most passengers to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The virus avoidance protocols have been made optional since last summer, but all lines have indicated that they will follow them.

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