Variants surge; IRS tax deadline; Israel vaccine

COVID-19 cases in the US have decreased from a peak a few weeks ago. 83,321 new cases were reported on Saturday – the first time since November 2 that the country reported fewer than one new case every second.

And on Sunday, data from Johns Hopkins University show, the pace slowed even further to 64,938 cases. Cases are generally reported more slowly on weekends, but the rate at which cases were reported has decreased by more than half since last month’s high.

However, the number of known cases of coronavirus variants is increasing sharply. The vast majority is variant B.1.1.7, which was first discovered in Great Britain and is widespread there. The CDC has announced that it could become the dominant strain in the US by March.

Scientific advisors to the UK government said Friday that the variant could be up to 70% more deadly than previous variants, underscoring concerns about how mutations could alter the characteristics of the disease.

On Sunday, the U.S. reported 1,193 cases of coronavirus variants that can spread more easily, evade some treatments and immunities, or both. It is nearly 200 more cases than reported Thursday evening, and the number has almost doubled since February 4.

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In the headlines:

►The IRS says it will not postpone the April 15th deadline for filing taxes this year, as it did last year in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.

► Travelers arriving in the UK must be quarantined in hotels from Monday as the UK government wants to slow the spread of new coronavirus variants. The country has hit the milestone of 15 million people, including those in the healthcare sector and people over 70 who received their first dose of vaccine, and is not extending eligibility to people over 65 and people with underlying conditions.

►California reported the lowest number of hospitalizations since December 1 on Sunday, according to the California Department of Health. However, the state’s death toll remains high.

►Both New York’s daily and seven-day average case rates stayed below 4% on Sunday for the second consecutive day, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office.

► Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has extended coronavirus restrictions until mid-March in Hawaii’s most populous city, but said that could change if confirmed cases stay low.

►Newland’s largest city was locked down for at least three days on Sunday, and police set up checkpoints in eight locations on the Auckland border. The crackdown comes after three family members test positive. Fewer than 50 cases are currently known across the nation of approximately 5 million people.

📈 Today’s numbers: The United States has more than 27.6 million confirmed coronavirus cases and 485,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The global total: more than 108.7 million cases and 2.39 million deaths. According to the CDC, more than 70 million vaccine doses have been distributed and about 52.8 million administered.

📘 What we read: The life cycle of a COVID-19 vaccine from DNA to dosage is a complicated, month-long process. This is how Pfizer does it.

The WHO noted signs of a major outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019, the report said

The World Health Organization’s team of scientists studying the causes of the coronavirus and the COVID-19 pandemic in China has found evidence that the original outbreak in Wuhan was larger than previously thought, the lead investigator told CNN.

Peter Ben Embarek, who led the WHO mission, told CNN that investigators had found several clues pointing to a major outbreak in the central Chinese city, including clues to over a dozen strains of the virus that were already in circulation as of December 2019 .

A preliminary report from Ben Embarek and a team of WHO scientists who recently completed a trip to China is expected this week, WHO head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Friday.

According to an Israeli study, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine is effective in reducing symptomatic infections

An Israeli study of 1.2 million people found the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine reduced symptomatic infections by 94% and cases of serious illness by 92%, said one of the country’s largest healthcare providers.

Clalit’s study looked at 600,000 people who were vaccinated with the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine and 600,000 who were not.

“The effectiveness of the vaccine is maintained in any age group,” especially one week after the second dose of the vaccine. The aim of the study is to “emphasize the population who have not yet vaccinated the vaccine” to be highly effective and prevent serious diseases. “

Variant cases are increasing in the US, including new reports in Maine, Illinois, Texas

COVID-19 variants continue to infiltrate the US: Variant B.1.1.7 first introduced in the UK was first reported in Maine, New Hampshire and Washington, DC, while variant B.1.351 was first seen in the US, South Africa now reported in Illinois, Texas, and DC

Variant B.1.1.7 spreads quickly. Michigan had reported 29 cases as of February 4; Another 32 cases were reported on Sunday evening, more than doubling the burden. Florida also reported 32 new cases, making a total of 379, or about a third of the country’s cases. California reported 27 new cases, bringing the number to 186. Colorado added 26 cases to hit 67; Massachusetts added 19 cases to nearly triple the reported number to 29. Texas added 14 cases to reach 49.

There are now 1,173 known cases of B.1.1.7 that the Centers for Disease Control claimed could become the country’s predominant burden in March. Variants are spreading rapidly, although all coronavirus case numbers are reported half as fast as last month.

– Mike Stucka

New Orleans gets tough with Mardi Gras celebrations

New Orleans is putting down its annual Mardi Gras celebrations this week, and health officials in other cities are warning potential revelers to do the same amid an increase in cases of coronavirus variants across the country.

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell ordered that the bars be closed during Mardi Gras weekend, which started on Friday and runs through Tuesday. Parades are canceled and there are limits to gatherings.

Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday is the annual pre-Lent bash that is celebrated across much of the Gulf Coast. The celebrations over the past year are believed to have contributed to an early surge that has made Louisiana a coronavirus hot spot.

Contributor: The Associated Press

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