COVID delta variant mutation reported in India; TSA sees travel uptick

As July 4th approaches this Sunday, health officials are concerned about the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in those parts of the nation where vaccination rates remain low.

President Joe Biden had hoped to have 70% of adult Americans at least partially vaccinated by the holidays, but the White House said last week it misses the mark.

Now that the Transportation Security Association’s screening numbers are trending up, including the highest number reported since Friday since Jan.

Dr. Jayne Morgan, executive director of the Coronavirus Task Force at Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta, told CNN that children under the age of 12 are still not eligible for the vaccine, the Delta variant.

“These mutations have the ability to keep learning, get smarter, and eventually bypass the vaccination status of the rest of us,” Morgan said.

Also on the news:

The delta variant now accounts for 14.5% of cases, according to the latest statistics from the California Department of Health. On June 19, it accounts for more than 20% of cases in the US

► The US began shipping its first doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine overseas on Monday, CNN reported; Send 2 million cans to Peru. Delivery comes weeks after the White House announced it would buy half a billion cans to donate to 92 low-income countries.

►Malaysia’s leader says the country will extend an almost full lockdown that has been in place for a month indefinitely as coronavirus infections remain high.

► UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who led the country’s response to the coronavirus, stepped down on Saturday, a day after apologizing to a counselor he was allegedly having an affair with for violating social distancing rules would have.

►Although 40% of Americans said they prefer to work full-time from home last month, large corporations across the country encourage or require their employees to return to the office by Labor Day.

📈 Today’s numbers: There are more than 33.6 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 603,000 deaths in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global totals: more than 181 million cases and more than 3.92 million deaths. More than 153 million Americans have been fully vaccinated – nearly 46% of the population, according to the CDC.

📘 What we read: Although COVID-19 vaccines work incredibly well for the vast majority of people, around 10 million Americans whose immune systems are weakened from drugs or illness may not be well protected. Read the full story.

Keep updating this page for the latest updates. Want more? Sign up for our Coronavirus Watch newsletter to get updates in your inbox and join our Facebook group.

Make-A-Wish grants air travel, large gathering wishes vaccinated families from September 15th

The Make-A-Wish Foundation plans to expand its wishes to include air travel within the United States and its territories, as well as large gatherings for children and families who were vaccinated on September 15, according to a statement released on Sunday.

The nonprofit’s president and CEO Richard Davis said on a video circulating on social media that families are being asked to sign a letter of intent attesting that adults and children who participate in the request have been vaccinated.

The foundation said no one needs to be vaccinated to get a wish, but has not set guidelines for air travel and large gatherings for unvaccinated children.

The announcement sparked backlash on Twitter as the COVID-19 vaccine is not yet approved for children under the age of 12 and some parents are not vaccinating their children. Make-A-Wish did not respond to USA TODAY’s request for comment.

Make-A-Wish has granted over 6,500 wishes to vaccinated and unvaccinated children since the pandemic began, including road trips, virtual celebrity get-togethers, stays and more, the foundation said.

Deleted gene sequences confirm that COVID-19 was circulating outside Wuhan’s seafood market

The virus that causes COVID-19 didn’t come from the Wuhan fish market, confirms a new study of deleted gene sequences from the virus’s earliest days.

The sequences were posted on a National Institutes of Health website, but removed for reasons unknown.

Jesse Bloom, who studies viral evolution at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, does not propose an answer to the question of whether the SARS-CoV-2 virus jumped directly from animals to humans or accidentally leaked from a research laboratory in Wuhan , China, in its new report, which has not yet been peer-reviewed.

But by studying how the viral genes mutate over time, researchers like Bloom can reconstruct their history, find out which cases came first, and how the virus changed as it moved through the population.

“These sequences are informative to understand the early spread of SARS-CoV-2 in Wuhan,” said Bloom. “They’re not transformative, but they fill in some really important gaps.”

Bloom knows the deletion of the sequences will arouse suspicion among the public, but he says there are many reasons a researcher might request that material be taken offline, including the fact that the Chinese government should do so on the week that the study was published, issued a requirement that it review all scientific information on SARS-CoV-2 prior to publication. Continue reading.

– Karen Weintraub and Elizabeth Weise

India has concerns about a new mutation in the Delta variant

A mutation of the Delta variant, called Delta plus, is increasing in a dozen countries.

Officials in India asked Maharashtra, Kerala and Madhya Pradesh, three states in the country with the highest number of cases, to increase screenings on the strain. Indian laboratories that have identified and tracked the spread of the COVID variant identified three main features of Delta plus: increased transmissibility, increased attack on lung cells and a possible decrease in monoclonal antibody response or possible resistance to vaccines and immunity.

Experts say more research is needed to fully confirm whether it is more daunting than the original Delta strain.

“I would stay calm,” said Dr. Jeremy Kamil, a virologist at the Health Sciences Center at Louisiana State University, told BBC News. “I don’t think India or anyone else in the world has published or collected enough data to distinguish the risk of the so-called Delta Plus as more dangerous or worrying than the original Delta variant.”

Contribution: The Associated Press

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