Amid another holiday season in the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are once again trying to figure out how to safely gather and travel.
The latest threat is the omicron variant, which accounts for more than 73% of new COVID-19 infections in the nation and has been canceling major events as well as forcing schools to go virtual.
Most of the U.S. is in the red, showing high rates of transmission. Northern states such as New York, Illinois, Wisconsin as well as Florida, Georgia, Alabama are among areas hardest hit. Areas reporting lower transmission include underpopulated areas such as Wheeler County, Oregon, Trinity, Country, California and Wayne County, Mississippi.
Vaccination efforts also vary by area. Vermont, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Maine and Connecticut continue to report the highest COVID-19 vaccination rates while Idaho, Alabama and Wyoming report the lowest.
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The U.S. has recorded more than 52.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 818,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Global totals total more than 281.5 million cases and 5.4 million deaths. More than 205 million Americans – 61.8% – are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
As the omicron coronavirus variant accounts for the majority of new cases, the CDC is altering their medications and defense against the virus. The Food and Drug Administration authorized on Dec. 22 the use of Pfizer’s Paxlovid, a series of pills, taken at home that prevent nearly 90% of severe COVID-19 among those at high risk.
And on Dec. 23, the FDA authorized use of a second antiviral, molnupiravir, which appears to prevent progression to severe disease about 30% of the time.
“As we face omicron, the nation’s medicine cabinet of treatments gives us more options to protect the American people,” said Jeff Zients, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. “We have tools to keep people safe and we will continue to use them.
The demand of molnupiravir is coming from all states, including Texas where supplies are already low. The Texas Department of State Health Services announced on Dec. 27 that its regional infusion centers in Austin, El Paso, Fort Worth, San Antonio and The Woodlands have run out of the monoclonal antibody sotrovimab.
CDC continues to recommend wearing a mask in public indoor settings in areas of high community transmission, regardless of vaccination status.
Here’s how the ratings break down overall by county:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Dec. 27 decreased the time it recommends people should isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 and quarantine after coming into contact with someone who tests positive.
The new recommendations are for:
Isolation: For those who are infected with COVID-19, isolation starts the day a person tests positive. The CDC now recommends isolating for five days and going back to normal activities if a person is not showing any symptoms after that period. Originally, the isolation period was 10 days.
Quarantine: For those who come in close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. The CDC is now recommending those who are vaccinated and received a booster shot can skip quarantining if they wear a face mask for at least 10 days. If a person is vaccinated and has not gotten a booster, or if they are partly vaccinated or not vaccinated at all, the CDC recommends a five-day quarantine, then wearing a mask in public for an additional five days.
Learn more: Changes to CDC quarantine guidelines
SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Kaiser Health News; Associated Press; nature.com
Contributed: Karen Weintraub, Janie Haseman, Mitchel Thorson, Javier Zarracina and Ramon Padilla USA TODAY,
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