Some Providers Who Missed COVID Relief Funds Deadline Could Get a Second Chance
HRSA may allow past-due spending reports based on extenuating circumstances, but applications need to be in by April 22.
In the Media
Federal Judge Strikes Down Mask Mandate for Travelers; CDC Order Suspended
From CNN: "A federal judge in Florida struck down on Monday the Biden administration's mask mandate for airplanes and other public transport methods, and a Biden administration official says the order is no longer in effect while the ruling is reviewed."
Developer Says New App Can Detect COVID-19 By Listening to Coughs
From Business Insider: "Scientists have developed a smartphone app that they say can detect COVID-19 when an infected person coughs into their phone. In a trial of 741 people, the app correctly detected 92% of participants who were COVID-19 positive, ResApp said in a press release."
Antiviral Nasal Spray Shows Promise
From SciTechDaily: "The new protein therapies thwarted infection by interfering with the virus’ ability to enter cells. The top protein neutralized the virus with similar or greater potency than antibody treatments with Emergency Use Authorization status from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Notably, the top protein also neutralized all tested SARS-CoV-2 variants, something that many clinical antibodies have failed to do."
COVID-19 Cases Rise While Hospital Admissions Decline, Leading to Uncertainty About the Future
From NBC News: "People may want reassurances about the virus and what's coming next, but they are hard to find in the data. Instead, the numbers point to a murky picture of Covid, particularly looking at case counts and hospital occupancy. At this point, hospitalizations are probably the most solid measure of where the country is on Covid, and they are still low nationally. Hospitalizations are up very slightly from the previous week but still nearly at the lowest they have been in 21 months and nowhere near previous spikes."
CDC Unveils Center for Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics
From PBS: "A new U.S. government center aims to become the National Weather Service for infectious diseases — an early warning system to help guide the response to COVID-19 and future pandemics."
FDA Grants Emergency Authorization for COVID-19 Breath Test
From Barron's: "A breath analyzer that can correctly detect about nine out of 10 positive Covid-19 cases won an emergency-use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday. The diagnostic tool, called the InspectIR COVID-19 Breathalyzer, was tested on 2,409 people with and without symptoms of the infection. It correctly identified 91.2% of the positive samples, and 99.3%, or almost 100%, of the negative ones. A follow-up clinical study focused on the Omicron variant had similar results, according to the FDA."
As BA.2 Variant Cases Rise, Poll Finds Most Americans Unfazed
From The Miami Herald: "Coronavirus cases in the U.S. are on the rise again as infections from the 'stealth' omicron subvariant, BA.2, are ramping up. Despite this, most of the country doesn’t consider the COVID-19 pandemic a crisis as of April 11, a new Axios-Ipsos poll found. This comes as omicron BA.2 cases make up approximately 85% of infections nationwide for the week ending April 9, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data estimates show. In fact, less than one in 10 Americans see the pandemic as a crisis, according to the poll. Meanwhile, most (73%) said COVID-19 is a manageable issue, while 17% said the virus isn’t 'a problem at all.'"
Cases on the Increase, Deaths Continue to Fall, Hospitalizations About the Same as One Month Ago
Total coronavirus cases have reached 80,403,894 as of March 14, according to the CDC COVID-19 Data Tracker. The seven-day average of new cases is 34,778 as of April 15, up from a seven-day average of 29,816 as of March 15. Deaths are also continuing to slow, with a 399 seven-day average as of April 15, down from a 1,154 seven-day average a month earlier. The most recent available seven-day averages for hospitalizations, April 9-15, is 1,455, a 1.3% from the previous average. As of April 17, 82.2% of the total U.S. population five and older has received at least one dose of vaccination, with 65.9% fully vaccinated. Half of the booster-eligible population has not received a booster dose.
CDC Calls for More Attention to COVID-19 Animal Testing
In light of reported increases in animals found to be carrying a coronavirus, the CDC backed away from its recommendations to avoid routine animal testing. The agency's animal testing guidance document now calls for a "One Health" approach to testing, advises veterinarians to use their clinical judgment in deciding which animals to test, and advises that "testing … is appropriate for surveillance and other activities to ensure the health of threatened or endangered species."
HHS Extends Public Health Emergency Another 90 Days
On April 16, U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced that the COVID-19 public health emergency status will be continued for another 90 days, which would set expiration in mid-July. This is the fourth time that Becerra has renewed the status, preceded by four renewals under former Secretary Alex Azar II after the initial determination made on Jan. 31, 2020.
New in Research
Social Vulnerability Tied to Higher COVID-19 Mortality Rates
A systemic review published in Public Health Nursing analyzed 42 research articles and found that social parameters including racial or ethnic minority status, shelter or housing deficiencies, transportation limitations, lower socioeconomic levels, and less healthy environmental aspects were linked to higher rates of mortality due to COVID-19. Authors write that "the measures of effective hazard mitigation and emergency response must begin with an understanding of determined social vulnerability in hot spots of the COVID-19 pandemic."
Estimated 2.2 Million Deaths in the U.S. Averted by COVID-19 Vaccines
Researchers from The Commonwealth Fund have updated their estimates of the positive impact of the COVID-19 vaccination program across the United States. In addition to averting more than 2.2 million deaths between December 2020 and March 31, 2022, authors of the report estimate that vaccinations prevented 66 million infections and saved $899 billion in health care costs associated with COVID-19.
'Decoy' Nanoparticles a Possible Way to Battle Virus Variants
Scientists from Northwestern University analyzed the use of so-called "decoy" nanoparticles that act like normal cells but take in viruses, making it difficult for the viruses to escape and infect the rest of the body. The nanoparticles were also 50 times more effective than protein-based inhibitor drugs at stopping mutant variants. Work on the idea is in its early stages, with preliminary results published in Nano-Micro-Small.
Researchers Find Evidence of Deer-to-Human Coronavirus Transmission
In a study that has not yet received peer-review, researchers from Canada assert that they have evidence of a "highly divergent lineage of SARS-CoV-2 in white-tailed deer and of deer-to-human transmission." The transmission occurred in Ontario. While previous studies have established the potential for human-to-animal "spillover" infection, authors of the study, published ahead of print in bioRxiv, believe that this is the first reported case of the virus being transmitted back to a human.