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Omicron Variant

CDC: What You Need Know About the Omicron Variant
A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention webpage focuses on the new Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, including history, current status in the U.S., and what's currently known about the variant. As of Dec. 7, the Omicron variant has been detected in 18 U.S. states.

Eight 'Key Things' To Know About Omicron
From c|net: An outline of some of the latest information and theories on the Omicron variant.

Study Poses Possibility of Link Between Omicron and Common Cold
From CNBC: "The omicron variant of the virus that causes Covid-19 likely acquired at least one of its mutations by picking up a snippet of genetic material from another virus — possibly one that causes the common cold — present in the same infected cells, according to researchers … This could mean the virus transmits more easily, while only causing mild or asymptomatic disease."

Preliminary Study: Omicron Variant Better at Getting Past Prior COVID-19 Infection
Researchers in South Africa tracking Omicron variant infection rates among unvaccinated individuals who have experienced a previous COVID-19 infection found that the antibodies from the earlier infection aren't as protective against the new variant. "Urgent questions remain regarding whether Omicron is also able to evade vaccine-induced immunity and the potential implications of reduced immunity to infection on protection against severe disease and death," authors write. (medRxiv)


APTA's Vaccine Practice Advisory Updated
As COVID-19 vaccine mandates issued by CMS and OSHA meet challenges in court, APTA is urging members to stay on top of these quickly evolving issues. As developments occur, we will update our CMS COVID-19 Health Care Staff Vaccination Rule Practice Advisory to be consistent with the latest information available. The most recent update was just completed.

From CDC

Hospitalizations Up, Cases Down, Fully Vaccinated Rate Tops 70% in U.S.
Total coronavirus cases have reached 48, 628,787 as of Dec. 1, according to the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker. The seven-day average of new cases is 86,413 [note: Johns Hopkins University's tracking program estimates this average at 121,437 per day, an increase from the previous week average] — an 8.5% decrease over the previous seven-day average. At the same time, the seven-day average hospital admission rate has increased from the prior week's average, from 6,082 to 6,386 — a 5% increase. As of Dec. 2, 83% of adults 18 or older have received at least one dose of vaccine and 71.3% are fully vaccinated (not including boosters). For those 12 and older, 81% have received at least one dose of vaccine and 69.5% are fully vaccinated. A total of 781,963 people have now died from the virus, with the seven-day average dropping by 12.6%, from an average 983 per day to 860.

From FDA

FDA Issues Emergency Use Authorization for Monoclonal Antibodies Treatment to Younger Pediatric Patients, Newborns
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration now says that monoclonal antibodies bamlanivimab and etesivimab may be administered to treat mild to moderate COVID-19 in all pediatric patients, including newborns. The change lowers the recommended age for use and revises the FDA position to state that the antibodies can be used together.


Labor Dept. Extends Comment Period on OSHA COVID-19 Vaccination Emergency Rule
The U.S. Department of Labor has extended the comment period on the OSHA vaccination rule until Jan. 19, 2022. That emergency rule, announced in early November, applies to employers with 100 or more employees and mandates coronavirus vaccination or weekly testing.

From HHS

HHS Study: Telehealth Visits in Medicare Increased 63-Fold in 2020
According to a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the use of telehealth in Medicare rose from 840,000 visits in 2019 to 52.7 million visits in 2020. Telehealth visits in 2020 made up one-third of all visits to behavioral health specialists, 8% of visits to primary care providers, and 3% of visits to other specialists.

In the Media

Federal Judge Blocks CMS Vaccine Mandate in 10 States
"From the Associated Press: A federal judge on Monday blocked President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing a coronavirus vaccine mandate on thousands of health care workers in 10 states that had brought the first legal challenge against the requirement. The court order said that the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid had no clear authority from Congress to enact the vaccine mandate for providers participating in the two government health care programs for the elderly, disabled and poor. The preliminary injunction … applies to a coalition of suing states that includes Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming."

Johns Hopkins Data Show Highest Level of New COVID-19 Cases in Two Months
From CNN: " For the first time in two months, the US is averaging more than 100,000 new Covid-19 cases each day, shortly after millions of Americans traveled for the Thanksgiving holiday. The seven-day moving average of new cases was 121,437 as of Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Prior to this week, the US last topped the 100,000-cases-a-day mark in early October.

Health Care Workers With Long COVID Symptoms Aren't Being Believed by Colleagues
From The Atlantic: "I’ve interviewed more than a dozen … health professionals from the United States and the United Kingdom who have long COVID. Most told me that they were shocked at how quickly they had been dismissed by their peers."

New in Research

Could Fibromyalgia Be Part of Long COVID Spectrum?
A study analyzing survey responses from 616 individuals with Long COVID found that 30.7% of respondents answered in ways that met criteria for fibromyalgia. Being male and obesity were the strongest predictors of the condition developing as part of Long COVID. (BMJ)

Severe COVID-19 Could Increase Mortality Risk Generally, Not Just Related to Respiratory or Cardiovascular Conditions
Researchers analyzing health records of 13,638 patients found that among those who experienced severe COVID-19 (defined as hospitalization within 30 days of an initial positive test) had a significantly higher all-cause mortality risk compared with individuals who experienced mild COVID-19 or who had tested negative for COVID-19, with 70.5% of deaths due to causes other than respiratory or cardiovascular conditions. (Frontiers in Medicine)

Health Inequities Skewed COVID-19 Related Deaths
A cross-sectional study that compared age-adjusted mortality rates of demographic groups with rates of death from COVID-19 revealed that if all demographic groups had experienced the same mortality rates as non-Hispanic white individuals prior to the pandemic, the overall death rate from COVID-19 would have been 48% lower than current levels. Among racial and ethnic minority populations, the death rate would have dropped by 71%, and by 89% among members of racial and ethnic minorities ages 25-64. (JAMA Network Open)

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