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Good Morning. We look at four new virus developments – two encouraging, two worrying.
There is two new encouraging news about the pandemic – and two worrying developments. Let’s take them one by one and start with the positive.
1. The deaths in nursing homes are way down.
They fell, falling more than 60 percent between late December and early February. The main cause is straightforward: nursing home residents were among the first people to be vaccinated.
This table – from my colleagues Matthew Conlen, Sarah Mervosh, and Danielle Ivory – tells the story:
It’s another sign of how strong the vaccines are. The decline in deaths has been surprisingly rapid, said Dr. Sunil Parikh, epidemiologist at Yale University. It occurred even though most nursing home residents and employees have not yet received both vaccinations – and it has likely continued for the past two weeks, which are not shown in this table.
“I’m almost speechless about how amazing it is and how exciting,” said Dr. David Gifford, the American Health Care Association’s chief medical officer, representing long-term care facilities.
The data from the nursing home shows that the vaccines not only work in research studies, but also in the real world. (A new study on Israel published yesterday in the New England Journal of Medicine offered the same message.)
2. Another vaccine looks great.
The Food and Drug Administration released a report on a vaccine it has not yet approved – from Johnson & Johnson – and the data has been extremely positive.
Like the two vaccines already administered in the US – Moderna and Pfizer – Johnson & Johnson eliminated both death and hospitalization in its research study: Approximately 20,000 people received the vaccine in the study, and not a single one got with it Covid hospitalized -19 symptoms a month later.
“I will never cease to wonder about zero hospitalizations among patients vaccinated in study after study,” wrote Dr. Aaron Richterman from the University of Pennsylvania. “It is amazing.” Dr. Infectious disease expert Isaac Bogoch described the results as “great”. Dr. Kavita Patel wrote, “I would definitely recommend it for me and my patients.”
The Johnson & Johnson vaccine also significantly reduced the number of moderate and asymptomatic Covid cases. It didn’t eliminate them, but vaccines don’t have to eliminate all Covid cases to end the crisis. A strong reduction – and a sharper reduction in severe cases – can eventually turn this terrible coronavirus into another manageable virus.
(The data from the nursing home also makes this clear: the number of confirmed cases has fallen by more than 80 percent, which is even greater than the decline in deaths.)
A key benefit of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine is that it only requires one shot, which makes it easier to administer than the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines, which require two vaccines. An FDA committee will meet on Friday, and the agency could approve the vaccine shortly thereafter.
3. But the number of cases is no longer falling.
The number of new cases in the USA is no longer falling:
The same happens worldwide:
I don’t want to overreact to a week of data. But you can see a change in these lines. The most likely explanation is the more contagious variants of the virus, such as the B.1.1.7 variant that was first detected in the UK.
Significantly, in large parts of Europe, where this variant is more widespread, the cases initially no longer occurred. On Friday, a leading health official in Germany warned that the country could be heading for another “turning point” after weeks of infections.
It’s a reminder that the pandemic is far from over. The variants can lead to new outbreaks, especially if unvaccinated people become negligent about wearing masks and social distancing.
4. And the vaccinations have stalled.
This is not a good trend:
Last week’s storms are the main cause of the slowdown in vaccination as sites have been temporarily closed and vaccine deliveries have been delayed. Whatever the reason, there will be consequences: fewer vaccinations mean more deaths.
The Biden government’s biggest task over the next two months is to accelerate the pace from the current 1.4 million vaccines a day to about three million a day.
Other Covid developments:
The federal government supports the test of an online portal to support the public in their search for vaccines.
Moderna said it would test vaccines modified to protect against a variant first discovered in South Africa.
A new variant is spreading in New York City, researchers say.
Ghana and other West African countries will begin vaccinating people as part of Covax, a global vaccine exchange initiative. As rich countries buy most of the supply, inequalities persist.
Corruption scandals show how powerful and well-connected people in South America have jumped the vaccination line.
THE LATEST NEWS
President Biden appointed three people to the board of directors of the United States Postal Service. If this were confirmed, they would give the Democrats the power to oust Louis DeJoy, the postmaster general appointed by President Donald Trump.
Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell said the economic fallout from the pandemic had hurt women disproportionately and suggested that improved childcare policies could help the economy.
Repairing the damage caused by the Capitol Rebellion – including overturned 19th-century lanterns and damaged busts – could cost more than $ 30 million.
Biden lifted a green card freeze and ended the Trump administration’s ban on legal immigration.
Other great stories
Podcasting Hollywood Moment
In 2005, the New Oxford American Dictionary named “Podcast” – a portmanteau of radio and iPod – as word of the year. Some viewed it as an odd choice, as reported by The Chicago Tribune, “Few of us have come across it, and it certainly hasn’t gained the public visibility that made it a defining word of 2005.”
The industry has come a long way. You can now choose from around two million podcasts. Celebrities and former presidents have come into the medium. Big companies like Amazon and Spotify have invested a lot of money in podcasts. And Hollywood is exhausting the rights to shows and turning them into TV series.
To understand all of this, The Times is publishing a series this morning on podcasts. These include: Ben Sisario on the state of the industry; Margaret Lyons on the advantages of podcasts over television; Jemele Hill and other podcasters offer referrals and interviews with kids who are already running their own shows.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to cook
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was anarchic. Here is today’s puzzle – or you can play online.
Here’s today’s mini crossword puzzle and a clue: coffee additive (five letters).
If you feel like playing more, all of our games can be found here.
Thank you for spending part of your morning with The Times. Until tomorrow. – David
PS The New York Times published a report calling for changes to make the workplace more diverse and inclusive.
You can find today’s print homepage here.
Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about Merrick Garland. On “Sway” Kara Swisher interviews Sacha Baron Cohen.