Public Health Emergency Extended Into October
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra announced that the nationwide public health emergency is being extended for another 90 days. The continuation of the PHE means that, among other contingencies, the use of telehealth by PTs and PTAs can continue under Medicare. The new expiration date for the PHE is Oct. 13, 2022. This is the 10th renewal of the PHE since it was first declared on Jan. 27, 2020.
New in Research
COVID-19 Pandemic Takes a Toll on Children's Rates of Physical Activity Worldwide
A systematic review and analysis published in JAMA Pediatrics estimates that, on average, children's duration of daily physical activity dropped by 20% during the pandemic, with an even sharper decrease — 32% — for higher-intensity activities, equivalent to a 17-minute reduction in moderate-to-intense PA per day.
Researchers Say Booster Effectiveness Wanes "Substantially" Over Time
A new clinical trail published in Cell Reports Medicine revealed that while COVID-19 vaccines and boosters offer protection, levels of SARS-C0V-2 neutralizing antibodies can decrease by as much as 5.3 times at three months post-booster. Additionally the Omicron BA.5 sublineage, currently the dominant variant in the U.S., was found to be 12.4 times less susceptible to neutralization compared with the early D614G strain.
Likelihood of Long COVID Higher for Delta Versus Omicron Variant
Researchers tracking patients diagnosed with either the omicron or delta variants of SARS-CoV-2 found that those who were infected with the omicron variant were less likely to develop long COVID than those with the Delta variant. Among the omicron variant patients, 4.5% experienced long COVID, compared with 10.8% of the delta patients. Results were published in The Lancet.
Overall, 23% of COVID Cases Associated With Long COVID
A study from University of Southern California researchers estimates that as many as 23% of patients diagnosed with SARS-CoV-2 will experience long COVID as defined by the World Health Organization, with some characteristics increasing the odds of the condition. Specifically, researchers found that patients who were obese or experienced hair loss, headache, or a sore throat during infection were at higher odds of long COVID. The odds were lower for patients who experienced chest congestion. The study's authors found no strong correlation between odds of long COVID and preexisting health conditions such as diabetes or asthma. Results, which were based on an internet survey of 8,000 respondents, were published in Scientific Reports.
Inflammation of the Olfactory Bulb: A Key to Long COVID?
In research conducted on golden hamsters, researchers found that SARS-CoV-2 was associated with high levels of inflammation in the animals' olfactory bulb, which is associated with not only smell, but emotion and learning. The inflammation remained well after the infection had cleared and was associated with behavioral changes in the hamsters that researchers say were akin to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. Golden hamsters are often used to study respiratory infections. Results were published in Science Translational Medicine.
U.S. COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalizations, on the Rise Again
Total coronavirus cases in the United States have reached 89,329,839 as of July 17, according to the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker. The seven-day average of new cases is 124,348 as of July 17, an upward trend from a mid-June rate of about 103,00. Deaths are also on an uptick with a 336 seven-day average as of July 17, up from a 276 seven-day average a month earlier. The most recent available seven-day averages for hospitalizations, July 10-16, is 5,658, a 2% increase from the previous average, and a continuation of a rise that has been taking place as the prevalence of the BA.5 subvariant. As of July 14, 71.9 of% of the U.S. population five and older has been fully vaccinated. Half of the booster-eligible population has received a booster dose, and 28.5% have received a second booster. The death total from COVID-19 is now estimated at 1,019,210.
In the Media
BA.5 Subvariant Takes Over as Dominant Strain in the U.S.
From Wall Street Journal: "The highly contagious Omicron BA.5 subvariant has taken over as the dominant version of the virus causing new Covid-19 cases in the U.S., the latest federal data show. BA.5 represented nearly 54% of U.S. cases in the week ended July 2, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Tuesday. It surpassed BA.2.12.1, the version of Omicron partly responsible for a persistent springtime surge in cases, which is now estimated to represent closer to one in four cases. Virus experts believe BA.5 is particularly adept at evading immune protections built up from prior infections and vaccines, giving it an advantage as it takes over as the major subvariant. This adds to the possibility people will contract Covid-19 repeatedly while facing the risk of developing complications like long-running and sometimes debilitating symptoms."
Most Prevalent COVID-19 Symptoms: Sore Throat, Cough
From WebMD: A study of COVID-19 patients in the United Kingdom has found that loss of taste and smell were no longer among the most telling symptoms of the virus. The recent survey of about 17,500 patients who were asked about their symptoms found that 58% reported a sore throat, 49% a headache, 40% a blocked nose, 40% a cough with no phlegm, and 40% a runny nose, the BBC reported.
Slow Uptake on Vaccines for Children Under Five has Some Doctors Worried
From Politico: States where parents have hesitated to inoculate their children against Covid-19 are now ordering fewer doses of the vaccines for children under 5 than other states, underscoring the challenge facing the Biden administration as a highly transmissible variant sweeps the nation. Experts broadly agree states shouldn’t order more doses than they think they’ll use. But they worry the low demand in states such as Alabama and Mississippi is a warning sign of the widening ambivalence among many parents about the benefits of vaccinating children against the virus and continuing politicization of health care.